Monday, November 17, 2014

The Old Schoolhouse Blue Ribbon Awards for 2014

2014 Blue Ribbon Awards

The results are in!!!

We are excited that some of our favorites won in several categories.

Would you like to see what home school products were voted the very best by the Crew this year? Check out the list of Blue Ribbon Award winners on the Crew blog.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Review: Word Up Latin

This past year we experienced a really neat introduction of beginning Latin into our home school, through our review of Visual Latin. Introducing Latin was not nearly as intimidating as it sounds, thanks to this simple, fun program.

When we had the opportunity to review a new product from Compass Classroom called Word Up, I was very interested. I remember back to my middle school years, and Latin class was a grueling mix of learning seemingly antiquated statements and memorizing long lists of prefixes, suffixes, and root words. I certainly did not appreciate the assistance it would give me later on in life, when I needed to decode long, puzzling words. While I desire my girls to possess this valuable knowledge, I certainly was seeking an easier way for them to obtain it!

Word Up! The Vocab Show from Compass Classroom

Since we already had some experience with the zany Dwane Thomas from the Visual Latin videos, the girls laughed when they saw his character come back in the Word Up videos. (I am not sure if they were laughing at him or with him though!)

What is Word Up? This is a series of ten short videos that teach the Latin and Greek roots of some commonly used words in our English language. Each video is about 15 minutes long, and teaches twenty new vocabulary words from two roots. It is set up like a common TV show. In fact, the introduction is that of a TV host, played by Dwane Thomas.

Following the short introduction on the 'set', it is turned over to the Latin & Greek scholar (also played by Dwane Thomas), who is 'out in the field' teaching that lesson's new words. 

Each lesson is set against a backdrop that reinforces the words of the lesson (the above example is "urban").  The backdrop quickly switches as each new word is introduced.  For example, in the first lesson, the roots 'aqua' and 'hydra' are introduced. Of course, we realize these have to do with water, so the lesson continues on teaching ten words that use 'aqua' and ten words that use 'hydra'. There is a short review built in as well. 

Here is an example of a word that comes from the Latin root 'aqua':

Each lesson is also very entertaining. These are lessons that your children will ask to watch over and over again. Dwane Thomas takes a difficult subject and makes it easy and fun to master!

Why is learning Latin important? Did you know that approximately 60% of our modern English language has been directly influenced by Latin? Understanding Latin helps the student to decode and understand English! And those endless lists of vocabulary words? If a student knows their Latin, they can easily remember those new vocabulary words without much effort. 

What ages are these videos for? The recommended age is 10 and up. High schoolers will be entertained, and the instruction is incredibly helpful for those who are studying vocabulary lists in preparation for SAT testing. I do have to say that my 9 year old is mesmerized by these videos too, and definitely remembers what she is learning, so possibly students even younger than 10 can appreciate them as well. 

What else is available? With the purchase of Word Up, you also get access to an online review with flash cards, games, and quizzes. Using these will cement the words down in your student's mind, and give you objective means to use this video as an actual Latin course with grading if you desire to do so. The online review does require the student to be able to spell the words correctly to complete most of the games, so this could also double as a spelling/vocabulary course.

How did we use this program? We have watched the videos several times over now. We did try out the online flashcards and review games as well. All my students, while laughing and saying how silly Dwane Thomas is, have not been able to tear themselves away from the videos. Personally, I think they are hooked, and the silly word associations and antics of Dwane Thomas really helps to reinforce what he's saying, because it really holds the student's attention. 

Can I try a sample? There is a sample lesson that can be downloaded from the website.

What does it cost? Word Up Latin sells for $15.00. It can be downloaded or purchased as a DVD. Volume 1 is already available, and Volume 2 will be coming soon. 

Special Alert: Compass Classroom is having a special sale this coming Black Friday week. Click the banner below for special pricing. 

Last words: This is the way I wish I could have learned Latin when I was younger. I am so glad it is available now for my children to use, and I am grateful for people like Dwane Thomas who are so passionate about learning Latin that they will make these videos available for home schoolers! 

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product from Compass Classroom in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own, or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC regulations. 

Please Note: This post contains affiliate links. Because I believe so strongly in this company and it's products, I have joined as an affiliate. Purchasing these items through my blog will earn me a small commission on each sale. Thank you. 

Copyright 2012-2014 - "Be The One" -  All rights are reserved. No text, photos, or content may be reproduced without direct permission from the author.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

My Top Ten Home School Products of 2014

Our home school has been so blessed this year to try out so many new things! This week I posted my last reviews for The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew. Through the Crew, our home school was blessed with 38 different products that we tried out, not to mention two other items we reviewed outside the Crew. What a blessing! Were we busy? Yes! Was it worth it? A thousand times yes! We have found some really neat things that have worked for us, and really made our home school a well-rounded and enriching experience for the girls. I have also learned about many products out there that maybe didn't work for us, but we were able to help someone else by recommending them.

2014 Blue Ribbon AwardsAs you may know from following the blog, we use A Beka as our core curriculum, and then enhance our curriculum with a number of different items to make it a well rounded education for the girls.

The voting is in - check out The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew's list of "Blue Ribbon Awards" for the 2014 Crew year. It was so fun and exciting to vote for our favorites, and I can't wait to see which products take top honors!

We compiled a list of our own favorites though, and I would like to share the best, the funniest, and well....the on my blog.


1) Barrel of Belly Laughs Award: Hands down, this goes to Snake Oil from Out of The Box Games. We have so much fun playing this game, where players come up with the most outrageous inventions and then make a sales pitch to the unsuspecting customer.

2) Kid Favorite: This one kept coming up repeatedly when we were voting for the Blue Ribbon Awards. It is an audio drama called The Brinkman Adventures. These audio dramas features a family telling real life missionary stories. They are fascinating (and shhh...educational!) and the girls love listening to them over and over.

3) Cool Mom Award: Yes, using the treasure hunts from Clued In Kids elevated me to coolest mom on the planet status. We only reviewed two different hunts, and I can't even tell you how many times the girls have asked me to set up more treasure hunts since then! Since I lack the creativity gene to set up one on my own, treasure hunts from Clued In Kids has found it's way onto my Christmas shopping list.

4) Best Book (that I didn't even know I needed): Well, I might have suspected I needed something, but I really wasn't sure what....But after reading Flourish it really opened my eyes to the need for more balance in my life. No amount of wishful thinking and planning will take care of my family unless my time and priorities are balanced. This was a great read and a great help.

5) Best Movie: I found the movie Captivated from Media Talk 101 to be a great help to us, teaching us the place that  screen time should have in our life, and why controlling it is so important. We ended up purchasing more copies to loan out. This movie is a great help and I encourage everyone to watch it.

6) Kelly's favorite: Besides the overall favorites of Clued In Kids and the Brinkman's, Kelly really loved almost everything she tried out this year. It was incredibly hard for her to pick a favorite, but I think we will have to go with the self-paced online History course from Veritas Press. The characters are quirky and the history song they sing every lesson is cheesy, but I think that's what makes this program so endearing. Our whole family can sing the song, listing all the important historical events of the New Testament: Greece and Rome era.

7) Melissa's favorite: Melissa has really taken to her French lessons from Middlebury Interactive Languages. We have tried out several foreign language programs over the past year, and this is the one that really stuck and worked for her. She loves her French and is making tremendous progress.

8) Laura's favorite and the Biggest Surprise Award: Laura mentions weekly how grateful she is to have taken the Personal Statement Writing Course from Fortuigence. This program indeed was a big surprise. We almost passed it over, but Laura needed to write personal essays for her college applications and was really struggling to write about herself. I welcomed an opportunity for her to work with an outside writing instructor and step away from having to give feedback about her essays. This course made writing come so easily and naturally for her, and her essay came out superb! She has already used it for a number of scholarship and college applications.

9) Kid Tested and Mom Approved Award: While this program is NOT the favorite of the kids, it's value is so great that it makes my top ten list as the mom and teacher. Practicing math facts is never fun but it is necessary, so UberSmart Math Facts comes in very handy. This program is simple with no frills, but it is effective. It's an easy alternative to daily flash cards, and Kelly's math skills have increased exponentially by doing it several times a week. This is the math facts review program I have always dreamed of, but never found until this Crew year.

10) In The Trenches Award: The best product we tried out that gets used daily and eliminates stress from my life is the Trident iPad Case. This military grade case completely encloses the iPad. Seriously, the iPad has survived accidental drops and water spills and hasn't skipped a beat thanks to this awesome gadget. I am really happy we have it.

These are our favorites from the past year. Stay tuned as next week I will be posting the Crew favorites, and 2015 is already shaping up to be an exciting year for the Review Crew. I am so happy to be chosen as a member of the Crew again for 2015.

2014 Blue Ribbon Awards

Copyright 2012-2014 - "Be The One" -  All rights are reserved. No text, photos, or content may be reproduced without direct permission from the author.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Review: Out of the Box Games

Our family loves games and is always looking for new ones to try out. We recently had the opportunity to review Snake Oil from Out of the Box Games. This creative game is hilarious and different every time you play it!

What is Out of the Box Games? This company focuses on games that are out-of-the-ordinary and different than mainstream...hence the name! Their games all meet a certain criteria of being fresh, colorful, uncomplicated, able to be played in under an hour, and providing funny entertainment for families and friends. They have a unique game finder on their website that allows you to input the type of game, age range, and number of players that you are seeking, and it will match you to appropriate games that are available.

Where did the name snake oil come from? In the mid-1800's there were laborers that introduced actual snake oil liniment into the country and sold it to help soothe muscle pain. As word spread, and people traveled west, peddlers carried bottles of this 'miracle' potion around to new towns, and attempted to sell it to the unsuspecting folks. They would come up with vigorous sales pitches, and the reputation of snake oil grew beyond a muscle liniment, into a complete cure-all for all of life's woes. Eventually, it was discovered that much of this 'potion' that was being carried around, and sold, in the West was nothing more than just regular oil. It didn't contain any of the original snake oil and was nothing special, yet its salesmen continued to make their case to sell it. Soon, the term 'snake oil salesmen' came to be part of our American culture, denoting a person who would stop at nothing to convince you to buy their product.

What does that have to do with this game? This "Snake Oil" game makes for great entertainment by turning players into snake oil salesmen who must convincingly pitch their imaginary products.

How do you play "Snake Oil"?  Each round, one player is selected as the customer, and the remaining players are snake oil salesmen. All players receive a handful of cards that each contain one word. After learning the role of the customer, players peruse the cards in their hand and select two that 'go together' in a practical and funny way. They are given 30-60 seconds to make their sales pitch to the customer, telling them how much the imaginary product would help them, and trying to convince them to purchase. At the end of the round, the customer selects the product/sales pitch that he liked best, and awards his customer card to that player. Play continues until everyone has had an opportunity to be the customer, and play can continue for multiple rounds if desired. At the end, the player who has earned the most customer cards by his successful sales pitch is declared the winner.

Here is an example of a recent game played by our family:

Examples of customer cards - Players tailor their sales pitch to meet the customer's needs

A hand of item cards - select two to make your 'sales pitch'

Here was a winning sales pitch: a snake oil salesmen sold "toy pajamas" to a kindergartener. The sales pitch included details about "when mom makes you go to bed too early, just put on your toy pajamas and you will never be bored! They are full of nice, quiet toys you can play with in your bed until you are tired enough to fall asleep."

How many players can play "Snake Oil"? The game suggests 3-10 players. Our family usually plays with 5-6 which is a great number. There is an option to play "Snake Oil" in a group setting which seems like a fun activity for youth groups and schools.

What ages can play? The game is recommended for ages 10-adult. There is a good amount of abstract thinking and creativity required, so children much younger than that age might find it a little difficult to really jump in to the game. That being said, our 9 yr old enjoys the game!

How much is Snake Oil? The suggested retail price for Snake Oil is $19.99 and it can be purchased at many local retailers, using this store locator. 

What is our opinion? We have played Snake Oil a number of times since it arrived in our home. Each time we play it, it's different, based on the cards in each player's hand. This game will seriously bring out the belly laughs! Some of the sales pitches are so outrageous that you can't help but laugh until your sides hurt. We have had inventions of shower socks for aliens, fart vacuums for politicians, and rocket boots for cowboys, amongst others. I think having to quickly formulate creative thoughts and then pitch it to the rest of the group is really great training for public speaking! We think this game is fun, creative, and hilarious. Anytime we have had friends over and played it with new people, they share our opinion. They may start out cautiously, but once they get into the game, there is no holding back. 

One note: There may be a few word cards that may be awkward to use in mixed company so parents should flip through the cards before handing it over to the kids. There are a few that I removed to keep the game from quickly spiraling out of control when teens are playing it.

Awards: Snake Oil has been awarded a number of prestigious awards, including the winner of the national game competition put on by Mensa:

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Watch a quick instructional video about Snake Oil on YouTube

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Review: Purposeful Design

What student of creation science has not embraced the term 'Intelligent Design'?  We know and believe that intelligent and common design demands an intelligent and common designer. Since no one was present to record the beginning of time and the actual events of how the world began, we choose, by faith, to believe the Biblical account: "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth" in Genesis 1:1.

In this unique, interesting book we were privileged to review, author Jay Schabacker takes us on a journey to understand that creation - this world as we know it - goes beyond intelligent design, and is actually 'Purposeful Design', a finely tuned world from the far reaches of the universe right down to the microscopic elements that comprise what we can see and handle. It was designed by our Creator with a unique purpose: to bring glory to God, and to reveal His nature in science to those who would study it. Creation reveals the love of God, and that is the author's purpose in writing this book.

What can I expect when I order 'Purposeful Design'?  This 91 page, hardcover book is full of glossy pages, beautiful artwork and photography, and interesting facts. It is "coffee-table worthy" and very appealing to look at. Written specifically to children, it starts at the beginning, just like Genesis, and systematically investigates all seven days of Creation.  Each chapter covers, in detail, one day of the Biblical account of Creation. It begins with the verse that describes the day, then goes on to examine the particular details of the elements created on that day. For example, on the first day, when God created the heavens and the earth, there is a good explanation of the foundational scientific principles of thermodynamics. Each chapter probes a different creation day, and its corresponding matter, including unique animals, and amazing, obscure facts about the human body on day six.

What reading level is the book? From my experience, I would say this book is at a middle school level of reading. Younger children would definitely benefit from having the book read to them, and enjoying the lovely pictures though.

About the author: Jay Schabacker is a retired NASA scientist and former businessman who is now spending his time traveling. He is also involved in Biblical education, with a myriad of contributions to many Christian organizations.

How did we use this book? When it first arrived, I was thrilled to see the author's signature inside the front cover. I always appreciate such attention to details.

After opening the package, I intended to briefly thumb through the book, and then leave it out for the girls to look at when they were done with their work. An hour later, completely captivated by this book, I had the girls clamoring to see what had so arrested my attention. I ended up leaving the book on the coffee table, and one by one, everyone spent time perusing the pages. This book is fascinating, and I just could not put it down! 

The writing is set up in short snippets, where we can easily read just a page or two and be thoroughly engrossed in the subject matter. It is easy to pick up this book for a few minutes or an hour, depending on how much time you have!

Some of our favorite sections: 

Kelly is learning about the water cycle in science this year, and this page explained it so clearly and thoroughly.  I love the connection between the rain cycle and the 2nd day of creation, where God designed the atmosphere.

On day five, when God created the fish, there is a page that tells of some very unique kinds of sea creatures! It points out how our God has a sense of humor. We found this page so entertaining, and were tickled by God's sense of humor just like the author was!  Check out these neat pictures:

Heather is currently studying BioChemistry in college, and absolutely was thrilled to see a small portion of the 'Metabolic Pathways' in a cell included in the 6th day study of the human body. There is so much going on in each cell of our body at any given moment! She actually had to memorize a large portion of this very chart for the class she's taking, so she was fascinated at seeing it in the book, and took a few minutes to explain some of it in more detail to the rest of the family.

Metabolic Pathways chart

Overall opinion: Purposeful Design is a science book that does not come off as a textbook. It serves to pique one's interest in the scientific details of creation, and really make the reader stop and ponder the One who designed it. I feel like Jay Schabacker is a very wise grandpa gathering children around him to pass on his scientific knowledge and love for the Creator and His creation. We absolutely adore this book, and keep it conveniently located right in the living room for the children to look through any time they wish. It is the type of book that you can look at repeatedly, yet 'see' new things each time. I truly appreciate the love, honor, and adoration for our Lord that is evident throughout the book.

Really useful bonus: In order to make this book useful as an addition to your Science curriculum, the author's website has a Young Explorer's Club for parents to download a free student workbook and teacher key. There are comprehension questions and short activities for each chapter. 

A typical worksheet page looks like this:

The teacher key has the answers in red: 

There is a certificate of completion at the end:

After reading the book, following up with these worksheets will truly give your students a "Creation Science" course that will fascinate them and leave them with a great appreciation for the God who designed it all.

Cost: The book is currently selling on the website for $18.95 and bulk rates are available if you wish to purchase more than one copy. 

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