Saturday, January 31, 2009

Curriculum Review: The Latin Road/The Bridge to The Latin Road

We have wanted to study Latin in our home fro quite some time. I was, therefore, super excited when I found we were going to receive The Latin Road to The English Language from Schola Publications to review for TOS Crew!

We were graciously allowed to choose which curriculum we wanted, and I first chose The Latin Road, which is a full-on Latin Curriculum. After a few days of being overwhelmed, (this is an INTENSE and thorough study of Latin that treats it as a full language study) I decided for my crew of 12, 11, 9, and 6 year olds, The Bridge to The Latin Road was our best bet, and exchanged. What we received is an in-depth grammar program based on the idea of creating framing keys to help students form a solid foundation for their coming Latin study.

Provided in the curriculum are student text, worksheets, answer guides, CD's, flashcards, as well as a Teacher's Guide which has instructional DVD's.

As students learn "framing codes," they work their way through parts of speech through dictation, sentence analysis, and diagramming.

What I love: extrememly thorough. A student who completed this program would have a superior grasp of English Grammar. Includes pronunciation guides, lots of handwriting practice, and oral drills.

Not so much: I personally found this a bit dry and complicated, though I suspect this may be more my teaching personality at work (which is why a variety of reviews is a GOOD thing!)

I would NOT recommend this as a follow-up to another grammar program (as we tried to do) - for our family it was overkill. However, for a family who is searching for a complete and thorough grammar curriculum, and a teacher who has lots of time to prepare and teach, this is a strong consideration.

FOR SURE, visit the Schola Publications website. It is a wealth of information on both the curriculae offered and the study of Latin in general!

Note: The author also offers The Phonics Road for younger students. For a classical teacher, this might be an excellent consideration.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

thankful thursday

i am thankful for the keyboard i'm typing at. i'm thankful that soon i'll be shutting it down and moving on with my day. i'm thankful for the little boy with goggles on his head who doesn't even know what a film cannister is to use for his science project. (ahh, digital.) i am thankful for the big bro who leads the way, for #2 who is the tender funny guy, for princess girlie and baby Blue... for the man who loves us all, for the families that built into our life, for silly blond friends who make me want to be more a "fun mommy..." for sisters in the journey. for renewed friendship with the sister of my birth. for my Dad. for good books and pistachios and red wine and aged cheese and dark chocolate. for my camera(s) and beautiful things and people to shoot with them. i am thankful for the beach and that it's so close. i am thankful for my Papa who made it all.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

six feet under...

the title and explanation for this blog gave me the giggles the other day... i visited following my buddy jodi from MCP ACTIONS, one of my favorite photoshop gurus. jodi was the guest blogger last week for tess over at six feet under,

i wanted to post my "six feet under" morning. silly me... wanted to get my photography website up and running... so i stayed up ALL NIGHT. i mean, as in, i watched the daylight steal in as i typed away. as in, i think my bottom is permanently glued to my comfy new (did i tell you about it?) bargain chair.

oh, Lord, bless me in my stupidity and bless my children for their patience with me today!

and THIS is what happens when mommy doesn't sleep, and then blogs in the morning. um, yeah. that's my little secret stash of gourmet dark chocolate with dried cherries. which he spit out. i guess he doesn't like the cherries, just the chocolate. see the blur? i had to catch him fast. little Blue is like a jackrabbit when he's been caught with forbidden indulgences. plus we still have some carpet that hasn't been "decorated" by our kids. man, i gotta JET!!
seriously, now, i am off to be mom. and teacher. although i suspect they'll do more teaching than me today. and i PROMISE i will take a nap.

while i do, go visit my new blog sister tess and leave some nice comments!!!
oh, and thanks for the lovely portrait, JRB!!

nourishing soups carnival...

a little inspired by the carnival over at The Nourishing Gourmet, and a little inspired by some yummy organic and seasonal ingredients we got this week, i made the warmest, most comforting soup last night. it started with some idaho potatoes (because that's what we had - i think my favorite yukon gold might have made me happier). i chopped up some jalapenos and onions and sauteed them with the potatoes in a little olive oil.
i love the browned bits in the pan - so much flavor. (oh how i love my le creuset pot...)
adding broth, we simmer this till the potatoes are nice and soft, then use the hand blender to puree.
in a separate skillet, we saute portobello mushrooms and a bit of spicy sausage.
anna adds plenty of kosher salt and fresh ground pepper for flavor in each layer.
these get stirred into the creamy soup.
because we still have beautiful tomatoes, and to add some crunchy contrast, i made a quick salsa to serve with our warm soup.
the tomatoes joined avocado, more jalapeno, a bit of onion and garlic, sea salt, olive oil, and lime juice.
we topped our soup with a bit of sharp cheddar, a scoop of sour cream, and the cool, crunchy, spicy salsa. (and my hubby said we didn't even need the cheese and cream! wow!) warm buttered wholegrain rolls were perfect for scooping the last bits.
of course, eating with the people we love is the best part of all!


school days, school days...

e decided he wanted to make his own castle today (we're still in knights and castles and the middle ages...) from a picture he saw in a book. out came the straws and scissors and such. it's gonna be a few days of mess, i can see.
after i warned him sternly, he kept saying, "somebody, isaac's got a choking hazard." so we'd have to run and grab the runaway straw remnant before he could continue! it amazes me often, the gentle way they have with Little Blue... even when he's destroying their projects (or "helping" them!) they are tender in voice and action. of course, the fact that yesterday he started calling them by name (he's been saying "anna" for weeks...) in his language made their adoration even sweeter!

still (and probably always), one of my greatest delights is the pleasure of seeing my children engrossed in a good book.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


as my love for photography grows, i find i am studying Papa's creation so much more intently. i love the subtle differences in reds in unknown berries. i am awed at the shadows cast by the late afternoon sun, and the rays glistening through the varying shades of green leaves. the kids point out the interesting outline in the sky made by the live oak... and isaac makes me giggle out loud as he slaps back the branches and gingerly sidesteps holes made by mysterious animals (snakes? turtles?).
there's something so amazing about trooping through palmetto bushes, stepping carefully around cacti (wow, we had no idea there were so many around here!), and following all my favorite people through sand and brush...

amidst all this, we stop to be amazed by the creativity of some person who's taken the time to glue or plaster real wood bark onto a pvc pipe with screw-on lid, inside of which is a long skinny strip of paper filled with the names of complete strangers who've signed the log in this "byop" cache! (go to to learn what byop means.)

we got a super fun toy for Christmas... well, daddy did, but the whole family is enjoying it. we now own our very own GPS - and we're taking great advantage of it to explore the geocache "stash" near our home. in one of our favorite parks near here we've discovered 4 caches so far, and we'd guess there are at least 20 left to discover! here are some pictures from our latest adventure.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

sunset kiss.

i had the privelege to shoot a wedding for the niece of my good friend michelle on thursday and thought you might like to peek at the gorgeous bride on her day! click here to see the rest of the sneek peek at my photography blog!

Friday, January 23, 2009

the man of my dreams.

when i was growing up, men were not highly regarded in my family. a series of dysfunctional relationships, some of which i will never know the depths of, led women in my family to choose disrespect over honor, "ruling" over submission, and competition over desiring the best for the men in their lives. i grew up longing for a man i could love and honor, and yet fearing that a man would hurt me or desert me.

i am the cinderella in each of us - in my broken state, i have longed for my prince charming. he's big and strong and handsome. he's gentle and will never hurt me. he places me on a pedestal of honor and earns my submission with his kindness and protection for me.

over time, my hope in the existence of prince charming eroded, and i lost faith in ever having my fairy-tale husband. gently my Papa reminded me that every girl's first dream man is her daddy, and ultimately, He is the perfect Daddy. still, i believed He longed to bless me with the prince who would hold my hand and heart here in the Shadowlands.

flash forward - my dream wedding night, i said "i do" forever-ish to the man i knew would be the fulfillment of all those fantasies. he loved God and promised to love me. unfortunately - fortunately - for me, he also came to the altar with broken dreams rekindled on our meeting. and unfortunately - fortunately - for me, he was just as humanly ill-equipped to meet my desires as i was to meet his.

a few more years, and sweet moments, and yelling moments, and teary nights, and tender snuggles, and sweet love, and five babies, and lost jobs, and new hopes, and here we stand.

lately, my Papa has been showing me in a new way that through these 13ish years, this son of Adam has been my friend. he has been my brother, and he has become my true love - the man of my dreams. and my dreams have changed.

now my fantasy prince is a man who is strong and quiet (except when he's not). he is tender and kind to our children (except when he's human). he is faithful and honors me. he pushes me to become more like God and he cheers me on to pursue my artistic dreams... no matter how many times they shift and morph into new ones. he holds my hand, and he provides for me, and he is not perfect.

more than anything, though, i have been awed to see our Papa working in him in new ways. markedly (for me) he has shown me grace repeatedly when i don't deserve it. yes, like me, he has lashed out in moments of frustration. in those moments, i forget all the good and still, like the little girl afraid of desertion, i want to run from this man. sometimes i silently vow i will never trust again.

but gently, my Papa pries open my heart and through this man He shows me what grace and forgiveness look like.

love always hopes. love always perseveres. love never fails.

my trust is not in this man - it is in my Prince of Peace. but while i walk here in the Shadowlands, i am in awe that He has sent me this prince to walk alongside me.

(thank you, bren, for your post that inspired me to put those niggling thoughts and thanks to the keyboard... and to beth, whose post inspired you!)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

yes, God does love the sinner.

i was reminded by a precious woman after reading the last post that God does love the sinner... as much as he does my little anna. i want to never forget this... He is the God who came for the lost, the broken, the angry, and the rebellious. (and i am one of "them.")He is the God who gave His life for those who would take and trample it. yes, it is my tendency even in fear for my child's life to cast blame on others for my life's bumps and bruises. i want to throw my anger at "that person" who seems to create difficulty for me and mine. and one cannot argue, a president who is anti-human life and anti-sacred marriage and pro-government control, with the support of a system of leaders with the same "value" system, could, indeed, make my life difficult. it is not all right to keep silent, or to pretend the reality doesn't exist.
for me, the battle is in the mind, as scripture asserts. the challenge is to recognize the reality of a world forsaking its creator, a nation handing its authority and hope from God to a broken human and rotting set of beliefs, and remembering that this same God allows it. that in seemingly hopeless situations He springs forth hope. that He looks at ugliness (in each of us) and sees the beauty of His original creation. that out of ashes He brings beauty. and my calling is to somehow, in His power alone, find strength to love as He does - no holds barred. to speak the truth, and to do it in love. to pray that He will blow his breath into the lungs of His enemy as He has done for me, and God willing, if He calls, that i would be willing to be his instrument.

trust in the Lord...

with all your heart. lean not on your own understanding. in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.

today our new president took office. today in the midst of a recession, our nation spent more money than in history to celebrate that inauguration.
today the news magazine covers celebrated this man, who spits in the face of God with his beliefs and passions, as "the hope of America."
this man is not our hope.
God Almighty is our hope, and it is in His plan to use this time in history to shape and mold and prune His people, to teach us again to trust in Him, and to be glorified.

trust in the Lord. with all your heart.

today i sent my three oldest to ride their bikes to our garden plot a few blocks away for only the 4th or 5th time without my watchful eye. as i read with my #4 while littlest was napping, my husband called. "she's okay, but anna's been hit by a car. your friend faith is with her."

trust in the Lord. with all your heart.

i screeched down the street, after cupping e's face and demanding he "be brave and wait here - brian will be right home."
i closed the door on my poor scared boy, leaving him to wait for his big brother to come. i floored my vehicle over speed bumps and ignored stop signs.

i wrapped my tiny little angel-girl in my arms and held her tight. listened to the strange woman say, "i was looking down the road for other cars coming. praise Jesus, she's okay." took the stranger's card in my hands in case we needed to contact her.

lean not on your own understanding.

today i hastily stated,
"well, that proves it. i can't let them out of my sight."
remembered "bad" things can, and will, happen to them again. asked my Papa to give me clarity. and wisdom.
heard my husband give council.

watched as e. wrapped his arms around her and, tears running down his cheeks, told her, "when i heard what happened to you anna, i started crying."

remembered that my Papa allows strange things to happen sometimes to remind us He is, and He loves. more perfectly than I can.

tonight i kissed Little Girl on the neck and told her it's okay to go to sleep. told her to ask Jesus to help her learn what she needs to (look more carefully) and thank Him that He protected her. that her brothers were there to comfort her. that a dear lady we know was driving by just as it happened. thanked God in my heart she was wearing a helmet. that He chose to let us keep her longer.

in all your ways acknowledge Him. acknowledge me, little one.

today i thank my God that it is He who is in control. now matter what our nation's status, no matter what the economic state, no matter who is in office, no matter what others think, no matter how dangerous the world seems.

You are God, my Papa.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

i can hardly breathe.

i am NOT melodramatic. at all. but i must tell you, i am in love. meet lily, who came to our house to live today, and join her little sister, my dear friend who shall now be called betsey. i named them because a friend suggested it and because when i met her, she had to have a name. besides, i think the three of us are going to be very, very good friends.

she came with a 50mm lens, my first prime. i used it on betsey to take this shot (it doesn't autofocus on her, so please forgive that it isn't tack-sharp) and i actually have butterflies. i'm giddy because this is my biggest investment ever, and because photography is the most technically difficult thing i've ever studied, and because i'm still amazed that i love it so much. when i walked in the door and saw her lovingly displayed by my husband, i couldn't keep my hands off her. my kids acted like they were just as excited - anna had the first privelege to hold her. (she's pretty heavy compared to my sweet little D40, who will join us on our shooting adventures.)

it's official for the whole bloggin' world to see: i've lost my mind. yippee!

Oh, boy, here we go...

always wanted to learn Latin. isn't that a good reason to teach the "bigs"? actually, we are going to study it for greater language grasp, to improve our spelling, and to widen the opportunities if they want to study other languages. wasn't i a happy little bird when this arrived as a product to review for our journey with the TOS Crew?!

on another note (sort of), it's been a really awesome couple of weeks back to school. i think the gang was ready to be done with our "break" and back to our routine. there's nothing in the world sweeter than curling up on a giant beanbag next to a few of my little people and reading together. i think it might be even cooler (okay, didn't i just say that was impossible?) when they're engrossed in their own books. it's a Marco Polo week... joshie says, "mom, this guy was kind of wierd!" and there you have it.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Core Learning

Crayola Art Studio from Core Learning is perhaps the most purely FUN product my kids (they won't let me at it much!) have had the chance to review this year.

"Core Learning has partnered with Crayola® to produce an outstanding art software program for children. Based on the Basic and Junior Levels of Core Learning’s award-winning corefx Three Level, Crayola® Art Studio provides children with powerful, yet easy to use drawing and painting tools. Select from 12 realistic art brushes including Crayola® Pencils, Paints, Markers, Crayons and more! Learn to edit and transform digital images with several hundred Crayola® creativity starters. Make invitations, decorations, greeting cards and much more! Adaptable to any user,regardless of artistic ability and computer knowledge. Ages 4 and up." The product costs $24.95.

This is the blurb you can read on their website. The blurb I can give you is that it's pure digital artistic fun for my 11, 10, 8, and 5 year olds. They've used the different tools to draw all kinds of artwork, and the desire from EVERYONE to use the program has sharpened our sharing skills, as well!

A note: Core Learning also offers additional programs for art/creativity, as well as tools for Health, Language, and Critical Thinking. This is not an inherently Christian company, so parents (as with any company!) need to view products before passing on to their children. In the case of the Crayola Art Studio, however, I give my unreserved "thumbs-up!"

Motherboard Books

"Imagine your kids building web sites. Imagine their sense of competence. They can do it!!" This comes from the homepage of Motherboard Books, a company founded by Phyllis Wheeler, producing computer science curriculum specifically designed for homeschool students. (Rest assured, though, that ANY student would benefit from this program.)

Our family (well, specifically, oldest!) had the opportunity to try out a downloadable study called "Let's Make a Web Page." Designed for ages 8-12, this 60 page e-book is available here for $19.99. In working through the book, Brian is able to download a trial software for free (30 days), and then learn various aspects of building a web-page. Created by a veteran homeschooling mom, it is a really neat little study that has taught him quite a bit of basic computer knowledge, and gives opportunity to "have something to show for it" at the end.
Brian's spending a good bit of time here these days!

I like that it is easy to understand, and gives hands-on project experience. For moms who have little-to-no computer knowledge, this is a great study to work through together! My only note is that for us, the availability of blog-building, etc, will preclude the need for a web-building software in the short-term. The graphics/design, also, on the book we tried, could use some updating in a computer-savvy generation in which everything they view has visual bells and whistles!

Nonetheless, this is a great computer text that would build a quick knowledge base. Other offerings from Motherboard include Web Site ABC's (for adults and older teens), Logo Adventures (ages 8-12, but I might try this one!), and Let's Make a Web Page Jr. (ages 7-9.)

Alphabet Alley

A sweet little game we received from a company called Alphabet Alley. This is perfect for my "bigs" to play with Ethan and, soon, Isaac, too!

"Alphabet Alley is a faith-based company that produces high quality toys for the early childhood market. We use all original graphics to illustrate solid values in a fun and entertaining way. Children choose Alphabet Alley products because they are fun! Parents, teachers and schools choose Alphabet Alley products for their educational, motivational and spiritual values," says their web intro.

Their toys are sweet and old-fashioned, and could be simple, easy conversation-starters for little people and their grown-ups.
We received both the Two by Two matching game and the
Noah's Ark Go Fish card game. Both were sturdy and had cute illustrations.

In a time when it's all too easy to find objectionable philosophy tucked into every little corner of our children's world, it's neat to find a company that has such lofty goals, and to find products that focus on "whatsoever is true..." even for the littlest set. The online store also offers neat stacking wooden blocks puzzles, and magnet sets with Bible story character illustrations. If you're looking for a little something extra for your little ones, and you're tired of mass-marketed secular character offerings, check out Alphabet Alley!

Salem Ridge Press

I LOVE to read. I don't dare pick up a fiction book more than once in a great while when we're "in session" with school, or I'm no good to the world. School assignments, dishes, and laundry go by the wayside while I delve in to a good plot. This is my distinct joy with the books I was able to review for Salem Ridge Press.

"We are a publishing company, established in November, 2005, dedicated to bringing back quality children’s books of the 1800’s and early 1900’s for a new generation of readers. We strive to republish books that are well-written, interesting and wholesome, and we hope that you enjoy these books as much as we have!" says their website.

Salem Ridge was founded by homeschool graduate Daniel Mills, with the support of his parents. Their mission is to produce books that are high-quality, with a distinctive Christian thread. "While not every title that Salem Ridge Press publishes is explicitly Christian, all of our titles have strong moral values and encourage positive character."
The American Twins of the Revolution, one of our review books, was written by 1900's children's author and illustrator Lucy Fitch Perkins. It chronicles happenings in the life of twin brother and siser from the time of George Washington, and is exciting and suspenseful, and based on a true story! It is filled with complementary line drawing illustrations (my children always clamor to see the illustrations when we read aloud!) and both captures the imagination and teaches as we read! You can even read the first chapter online here if you have Adobe Reader. (Warning, you'll be hooked!)

Other books we've received and can't wait to delve into: (You can read the first chapter of each online at the above site. Grab the kids first!)

(Girl mommas, especially, check this one out. It's so sweet and old-fashioned, not to mention funny!)

The Little Man in the Map

A box came in the mail one Friday just as my husband was beginning his Friday night taco-cooking-ritual. He's pretty busy during that time, as he chops, stirs, preps a veritable taco frenzy, especially when he's flying in from a late work night. Well, apparently he was feeling pretty confident on this particular night, because he pulled out the book that came in the box and began to read, as he stirred his taco meat. Pretty soon, we sat down at the table and began to eat, and to stimulate our dinner-table conversation, he began to recite the 50 states. All of them... with a seemingly-nonsensical story to accompany his recitation. I'm pretty sure he didn't know the 50 states consistently before this.

The book we received was The Little Man in the Map, written by E. Andrew Martonyi.
"A blank map of the U.S.A.
plus your imagination
are all you need to learn the states
all fifty in our nation,"
the cover says.

The imagination part is not exaggerated. This book is fun and lighthearted, and full of bright, colorful illustrations. The promise that you can learn the states this easily is founded, as well - Anna and each of the boys were spouting off the states and the story from this whimsical book.

Although it's not necessary, and there are plenty of "just do it" parts of our schooling experience, I'm all about a product that teaches a vital aspect of my children's knowledge base with little-to-no effort on my part, no assignment-giving, and just interest-motivated learning!

I love that the book is well-illustrated, that it is hardbound (we keep the books that others, especially in our family, might enjoy), and that it has an accompanying website with lots of extras. The book is $19.95, but I think it's a keeper.

I've Been Tagged!

So my VERY SWEET friend Bren gave me a little extra project this morning. The morning when I stayed home to give little stinker some much needed nap time, and catch up on my way-behind homeschool product reviewing. Well, imagine my surprise when I received this little assignment. I had to go to the 4th folder in my photo supply on my computer, and the 4th picture... then give you a little explanation!

Well, I have to be honest, I have hundreds of photo files, so I "fudged" a bit - I chose the most recent family folder (December), then the 4th sub-folder, 4th photo.

(Just a little encouragement here: if you've gone digital, be sure to organize your photos on your computer so you can find them!!)

I had a little trepidation at what I'd find, but here it is!!

I'm glad this was the photo, because I haven't touched our Christmas photos yet!

This is from Christmas Eve. Every year we attend our church's Christmas Eve service, and come home to enjoy some sweet family time. It's our time to "unwind" from the pre-Christmas rush and get focused again on our precious Jesus. This year we enjoyed most our devotion for the night from our Jesse Tree tradition.

After this, the kids traditionally open one present. A few years back, a fellow mom friend gave us a "pickle ornament," which is a Victorian tradition we embraced. It is hidden on the tree, and the first child to find it gets an extra gift. (Usually that's more of a family gift. This year it was an adorable egg-and-chick-shaped small liquid measuring cup; Joshua got it and loved it!)

"In the beginning," when we first had kids, I made jammies - pants - for each child, then they got those with store-bought t-shirts. That has become the Christmas-Eve gift, and we always take a photo of the kids in their new jammies in front of the tree. As life, and extra hobbies, and new businesses, and church ministry opportunities, have grown and shifted, we've moved into (GASP!!) STORE BOUGHT jammies. I still enjoy sewing. Maybe someday I'll get back to making them. Probably when my kids are married, and I'll be making them and their spouses jammies, and they'll be secretly rolling their eyes. That, or they'll be enamored with their sweet mom-in-law and the love and devotion she expresses through her silly handmade gifts. One can hope!

So here it is, Bren! Thanks for tagging me! (It was fun, but it was 30 minutes. That's because I also photoshopped the too dark photo. You owe me.) Now I'm off to tag some other unsuspecting friends!

If you've been tagged then this is how you play:
1. Go to your 4th folder on your computer where you store photos.
2. Select your 4th picture (no exceptions).
3. Post the picture with an explanation and a link back to your tagger.
4. Tag 4 people to do the same. I'm tagging Tracy K, Tracy R, Tami, and Julie. Haha, girls, your turn!!

It's a posting frenzy!!

We had the pleasure of enjoying some awesome extended family time over Christmas, as well as amazing growth for Loving Legacy Photography. As a result, I got behind in posting my homeschool product reviews for the TOS Crew! My apologies, both to the Crew for my delay, and to my readers, for the plethora of reviews in one big gulp!! Normally I like to spread out "school stuff" with "fun posts." Hopefully you'll find the reviews of these products to be helpful, though. Blessings as you dive into the new year, whatever your personal, parenting, or schooling journey!! And if you blog, I'll be visiting you soon!!


Puppetools is an interesting resource available to parents seeking to incorporate more "play" into their learning time.
The site is designed to give a rich resource to parents and teachers, offering education and templates for use in teaching. There is a plethora of research, presented in written and video form, which would be educational to those to whom the concept of creativity in learning was foreign.
There is a forum for discussion of the use of Puppetools. In addition, templates for puppet construction and design are offered. Video tutorials on puppet usage to help with problem solving, journal writing, and other aspects of the learning process are available.
For most homeschoolers, the notion that the traditional classroom is not the ideal place for many students to learn is not new or foreign, and creative play is a natural by-product of the home learning environment. In addition, most of the classroom teachers I know personally strive, as well, to incorporate innovative teaching methods, as well as creative opportunities, into their classrooms.
For this reason, I think this site might be more beneficial as an "eye-opener" to one who is stuck in a teaching rut, and needs both informed instruction and specific ideas to help them move toward a more exciting and effective classroom. The philosophies addressed are very distinct and require some research to determine if they are right for your family.
The bottom line: Check it out. See if it's for you! Individual annual memberships as well as group memberships are available for $20 and $99, respectively.

Aleks Learning

We have really enjoyed our journey as part of the TOS Crew, reviewing products produced specifically to benefit homeschoolers. Occasionally, there is some difficulty for us in reviewing a product. This was the case with Aleks web-based learning system.

We experienced difficulty accessing the program, and after several attempts to correct the problem, I have decided to review what I can access, to help interested parents gain some quick, easy information!

From their site: "ALEKS is a Web-based, artificially intelligent assessment and learning system. ALEKS uses adaptive questioning to quickly and accurately determine exactly what a student knows and doesn't know in a course. ALEKS then instructs the student on the topics she is most ready to learn. As a student works through a course, ALEKS periodically reassesses the student to ensure that topics learned are also retained. ALEKS courses are very complete in their topic coverage and ALEKS avoids multiple choice questions. A student who shows a high level of mastery of an ALEKS course will be successful in the actual course she is taking. ALEKS also provides the advantages of one-on-one instruction, 24/7, from virtually any Web-based computer for a fraction of the cost of a human tutor."

The concept is great - easy access, fair cost, and freedom to work on your own schedule in your own home.

Things that were cool:
Even though we had "technical difficulties," the first-time response was quick and clear.
When signing up, we received a parent account and a student account. This would make for easier management for mom, to oversee all (in our case, four) students.
Students can work at their own pace, and independently of parent time.
There is a large variety of math instruction available, topically, which would be awesome for hand-picking needed instruction.
No textbooks needed!

$19.95 per student per month

$99.95 per student every six months

$179.95 per student every 12 months

They also offer a free one month trial. And they have family discounts. Please see their website for more information.

KidsWealth Money Kit

Last year my husband and I attended Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University. We were overwhelmed (well, most of this comes instinctively to my husband - so I was most overwhelmed) by the simplicity and necessity of basic money-managing techniques. Imagine my excitement when I got my hands on the KidsWealth Money Kit, which is produced right here in Tampa.
Founded by a couple who has lived the "excessive-debt-to-disciplined-living" story, KidsWealth is a curriculum/program designed to help kids develop a wise perspective on money management, and we have been honored to review it for you!

We were so excited to open our box from KidsWealth: each child received their very own kit, which comes with pencils, calculator, activity tracker workbook, calendar, money envelopes, and other goodies, all neatly kept in a sturdy plastic colored binder (so they better know which is theirs!).

Things I love:
The kit itself is bright, colorful, user-friendly, and therefore attractive to my children. (A necessity to capture their interest, in my opinion.)

The concepts are balanced and powerful, and line up very closely with principles we are learning ourselves.

The program gives us a clear, concise "jump start" to principles we have been wanting to teach our children.

Thing (only one) that makes me pause:
This is not an intrinsically Christian program, therefore concepts are not directly aligned to biblical principles. Taking care to teach my children God's perspective on finances will be a concerted effort on top of this program.

Connecting to will give a wealth of information, not only on the program itself, but on the philosophy behind it. There is also a parents' forum and a suggested reading list that I have found extremely helpful!

There has never been a more appropriate or necessary time for grounding ourselves, and for teaching our children good financial management skills. This program (because we plan to continue using it beyond our review!) will have the added benefit of helping me keep my "own-self" in line with our family's goals and convictions, as well! Check it out!