Monday, November 22, 2010

TOS Review for Bright Ideas Press: Hands on Geography


Today I will be reviewing Hands on Geography by Bright Ideas Press. Bright Ideas is a family based company that began when a mother created curriculum to help her homeschool her two boys, way back when homeschool curriculum was practically unheard of because homeschooling was practically unheard of.  Bright Ideas Press is not a new company, in fact you’ve probably heard of their Mystery of History series or their Timeline & Figures products.

If you visit their online store you will find they offer 11 different categories of curricula: Science, Audio Downloads, E-Books, Fine Arts, Fun and Games, Geography, High School, History, Illuminations, Literature, and also some miscellaneous resources and products found under Other Resources.

For this review I will be concentrating on a Geography product called Hands on Geography. This is a 142 page book with loads and loads of handsongeographyideas to make your geography course more interesting, fun, and sticky. What do I mean by sticky? Well, when my kids learn something using their hands, eyes, ears, and mouth, it usually STICKS, they retain it, remember it, understand it fully. With this book they use all of their senses and it suites all different learning styles.

This book would be a great supplement to any geography course or could be used as a stand alone course since it’s designed for the lower levels (K-5) where geography is usually not considered a high priority subject. There are enough projects and units to keep you busy for several years and at $14.95 you can't beat the price.

This is not a grab and go type course. You have to put in some time (not much) and effort for most of the activities (not all of them). There are many options to choose from when using this book. Here are a few:

  • You can choose an activity or game to go along with what you’re learning in your separate geography course. Example: if you’re studying China you can use the Passport Fair in chapter 4. Each child would create/collect posters, artwork, crafts, costumes, postcards, brochures, currency etc for the fair.  Then everyone sets up their ‘booth’ and displays a fact sheet and all the items they’ve collected. You can offer snacks using recipes from China. (This would also be great for a co-op project with each family focusing on a different place).
  • You can use an activity or game to go along with something you’re studying in a different subject. Example: If you’re studying about primates in science you can make a Homemade Book using the suggestions found in Chapter 2, there are 8 types to choose from to suite all ages. ABC book, Shape book, Once Upon a Time fiction book, and more.
  • You can use it ‘as is’. Example: Chapter 12 covers the 5 different Themes of Geography: 1) Location   2) Place  3) Relationships within Places   4) Movement and  5) Regions. Included in this chapter is an activity to teach each of these themes.
  • You can use it to learn more about Christmas! Example: Chapter 7 has a section entitled Christmas Around the World. What an amazing way to study geography, history, Bible, literature, and writing. all at once!

I could do this all day. This book just spurs my mind in so many different directions. I can find a dozen different ways to use almost any chapter in this book, and there are 13 different chapters including chapters to cover, Missionary Geography, Genealogy Geography, Language Arts Geography, Nature and Geography, and more!

So what did we do with it? We used it as a Bible study! Chapter 5 is called Joseph’s Journey. I used the referenced scripture to assign reading each day then there were questions he could answer and a map to trace Joseph’s journey. Speaking of maps, there are maps for each of the 7 Continents, the US, the US by Regions and by States, Canada, and Mexico.

So in conclusion here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of Hands on Geography:

  • Includes all learning styles
  • Could be used for several school years
  • Can be used by multiple grades at the same time
  • Affordable ($14.95)
  • Fun for Kids!!!

I really only have one disadvantage, and it is:

  • Most (not all, see below) of the activities require some work on your part. Not an easy, grab it and do it, type of program. So if you’re a busy or overwhelmed mom, you may not want to try this. Then again, for only $14.95 you could probably find several activities that would be easy enough to do even with a busy schedule.

I can’t end this review without mentioning the Field Guides. Now this one would be easy for the busy mom. Let your child choose what they want to study, print off an observation sheet (there’s one for critters and one for plants) give them a container for specimens, camera for pictures and then send them out to observe. (There are more detailed instructions to help with this in the book). What child wouldn’t enjoy learning this way? Especially boys! My boys would much rather have school in the woods/yard than in the house!

To hear what other homeschool reviewers thought of this product, click here.

**Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received this product free of charge, in exchange for my honest opinion/review. For more honest reviews from real homeschoolers, visit the TOS Crew website.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Book Samaritan

God has provided a wonderful ministry to help my family with our homschooling needs and I just want to share it. It’s better than anything you can imagine. It’s called The Book Samaritan. They are non-profit organization that helps homeschooling families with curriculum. 
I have sent requests the past two years and they have helped meet my needs. They tell you to put what you need but not to expect to have it all filled.  This year they really blew me away by fulfilling EVERYTHING I asked for including Math U See and Queen Homeschooling! I didn’t expect that at all, but felt very blessed.
The only rule they have is you cannot resell items you must give them away. So here are some items they’ve given me over the past two years. These are miscellaneous items they sent to help fill in the gaps. These are free for the taking, just send me an address and list of items you want. If you have a few extra bucks to help with shipping that’s fine if not, no worries Smile


Life of Christ Bible Study

Family Guide to the Bible (this is a large hardback book by Readers Digest)

Electing our Presidents by Helen Stone Peterson

Scholastic Art Magazines (these are from 2000)

Social Studies: Regions and Resources (by Silver-Burdett Ginn)

Leadership for Students ages 8-18 (by Karnes & Bean)

If you see it and you want it…let me know and it’s yours!

Thursday, November 18, 2010 Giveaway

My kids have been spending a lot of time on the computer lately…with my permission! We have been given a subscription to a fun and exciting program from JumpStart. It’s an online game that keeps changing and growing and becoming more and more interesting, or at least it seems that way to my kids.
With our subscription we were able to set up an account for each of my four children, ages 10-.3. They designed their little man to look howeverJumpstart boy they wanted (the one pictured on the right is dressed for Thanksgiving), then they picked a name that consisted of a real name, a color, and an animal. Example “Charlie Black Horse” My younger two kids were not able to play without me but my 10 and 8 year old boys had a blast all on their own. One would play while the other watched. We did have some difficulty at first but I talked with tech support and they were quick to jump in and help me solve my problem right away (the problem was in my computer, not their program). Excellent customer service!
Once you set up your little person, then your head Down Town and choose whatever adventure your heart desires. They have many to Jumpstart mayflowerfrontcroppedchoose from such as: Enchanted Sanctuary, Future Land, Adventure Land, and Marine Land (just to name a few). It’s now Thanksgiving in Down Town, so there are many Thanksgiving themed activities for the kids to enjoy.
I love the idea of learning while playing and the computer offers many opportunities for that. JumpStart has proven themselves over and over with their CD-ROM's (JumpStart Kindergarten, First Grade, etc) and now their online site. In Science Land you can learn about anything from Ants to the Solar System. There are quizzes and you earn points for prizes. Over in Future Land you can experiment with how things may be inJumpstart earning the future. Playing games earn you money for clothes, cars, skateboards, etc JumpStart Stadium has games on reading, shapes, math and other important skills.
In addition to your online games you also receive 4 Downloadable Games with your subscription. My First Adventure, The Legend of Grizzly McGruffin,Trouble in Town, and Quest for the Color Meister.
The Jumpstart Blog is the place to go to keep up with all the latest and greatest happenings
In the few weeks my kids spent playing, there were at least two new adventures added. One had a Halloween theme, and the other was a Thanksgiving theme. Main Street was decorated for autumn with scarecrows everywhere.  They also have a treasure hunt going on that changes, I believe, with the seasons and/or holidays. Right now there is a Thanksgiving treasure hunt and the leaves are steadily falling. Can’t wait to see what Winter and Christmas will be like.Smile
JumpStart offers three different options for purchasing a subscription:
Monthly $7.99  Yearly $74.99 or Lifetime $149.99 With each of these subscriptions you can add 6 children to the account.

What my kids thought of
Jordan’s Fav(age 10): “The best part was getting a Mythie from the Enchanted Sanctuary. I played with it, fed it, petted it, put it to sleep, just like a real pet. Now my Mythie (Silver Shark) is all grown up.”
Jordan let me wake his Silver Shark Mythie from his nap and feed him and I tell you, it was pretty fun having this little dog-dragon-like creature tag along with me Smile
Josiah’s Fav (age 8): “Jumpstart Stadium is my favorite part. I enjoy playing Volleyball. Using the arrow keys you hit the balls, but the trick is, you have to tell if the ball is a real word or not. In basketball you do adding, subtracting and other math skills. Football is shape learning and color skills.”
I would recommend for anyone who doesn’t mind a little learning media style. It was great!
If you would like to win a Free 3 Month subscription please leave a comment here and link this to your blog. Drawing will be November 30!!
Edited Dec 3 CONGRATULATIONS Paula! Winner of a 3 Month subscription to JumpStart!!
  “Disclosure: I was provided with a JumpStart membership at no cost by Knowledge Adventure in order to test the products’ abilities and give my own personal opinions on it. The opinions I have given are mine and may differ from others but were not influenced by the company or the free product provided.”

Monday, November 15, 2010

Adventures in Odyssey: Cause & Effect

Adventure in Odyssey
I’m so excited to share the latest Adventure in Odyssey review. We were thrilled to be given this product because we LoVe Odyssey! My kids didn’t waste anytime diving into this 5 hour long CD set. There are 4 CD’s with 12 different audio programs and they finished them in less then a week I think.
Adventures in Odyssey was created by Focus on the Family and has been around since 1987 and If you’ve never heard them then you just don’t know what you’re missing.  Adventures in Odyssey are audio stories with biblical truths and character lessons built in. You actually begin to feel like you know the characters after awhile. Odyssey is the make believe town and most of the stories begin and end at Witt’s End, a soda shop run by the very wise, Mr. Whittaker. As you can imagine there are several interesting people that hang around Witt’s End.
The latest Odyssey series is called Cause & Effect and there are plenty of mysteries to be solved and laughs to be had. My kids thoroughly enjoyed Wooton’s Broken Pencil Show. They laughed and laughed (and they weren’t the only ones laughing, their Dad chuckled a time or too as wellWinking smile). Opposite Day was another big hit around here. It took me awhile to figure out what was going on when the boys were talking to one another and saying things like “it’s such a beautiful day” when it was actually raining outside. Or telling each other “Good Morning” before they went to bed. They had a good time with that one.
Cause & Effect also covered some serious issues as well. Topic’s included: Secret sins, Fear, Fasting, Friendship, All Powerful God, Trust, Thanksgiving, Responsibility, Honesty, and the true meaning of Christmas!
TyndaleI would highly recommend this or any other Adventure in Odyssey. You can pick up your copy of Cause & Effect from Tyndale Media Center today. The cost is just $24.99 and it’s worth every cent!

Disclaimer: Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of Cause & Effect,in exchange for my honest review.

TOS Review: Corps of Re-Discovery

The latest product/company up for review in the Pickrel household is called the Corps of Re-Discovery. Until doing this review I had never heard of this family run company. I have enjoyed spending time on their website and learning how Corps of Re-Discovery came to be. Apparently they began to dream of taking their family on a cross country trip in an effort to explore and learn all they could about America (her land, her history etc).

About ten years ago their dream became reality as they embarked on a 14 month trip, spanning 47 states, 20 national parks, and numerous museums. After digging deep into our nations rich history, this family felt a need to share what they had learned using exciting dramatizations and by developing hands on projects to aid children in “re-discovering” America.

They offer numerous products from three main time periods. Here are just a few of the items I found interesting:

American Indian: Moccasin Boot Kit, Leather Vest Kit, and Seneca Lite Throwing Knife

Pioneer and Colonial: Patchwork Quilt Kit, Quill Feather Pen Kit

Frontiersman: Flint and Steel Set, Frontier Craft Pack

The prices for these items vary depending upon what you want.            They start at $1.99 for a Coon Tail  Coon Tail $1.99                                                                                                             All the way up to $71.92 for a full Frontier Craft PackFrontier Craft Pack $71.92

We were given a small coin pouch that retails for $4.99

353  354

My 8 year old worked at putting it together during a long van ride one afternoon. He finished about half of it before he came up for air. I felt like this particular product was good for him because it forced him to use his small muscles and it helped with hand eye coordination,  which is something we can always use help with around here.


So when your doing your American history lessons and your kids complain that it’s boring, remember Corps of Re-Discovery has everything you need to enrich your history study.

If you’d like to see what other TOS reviewers thought of this company, click here.

**Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received this product free of charge, in exchange for my honest opinion/review. For more honest reviews from real homeschoolers, visit the TOS Crew website

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