Wednesday, June 30, 2010

An awesome deal from The Old Schoolhouse Magazine

One of my favorite ways to keep up on new curriculum choices and teaching ideas is to read homeschooling magazines. So far, my favorite homeschooling magazine is The Old Schoolhouse (TOS) Magazine. I have been a subscriber for many years now, and still look through my old issues when I have some free time (like in doctor's offices, waiting for the kids, etc.) Some of my favorite days are the four days each year that I receive the magazine in my mailbox. Sometimes I tear open the plastic protective wrapper and dive right in. Other times, I save it for a special occassion and savor the knowledge that it is waiting for me to brew a cup of Earl Grey, find a quiet chair, and curl up with it for a few hours...Weird, I know, but us homeschooling moms take our moments where we can find them...and we really do appreciate the effort that is put into this colorful and professional publication.

Each issue is packed with great information and advice from homeschooling experts. From those product reviews to tips for the homeschool beginner, every homeschooling parent or grandparent can find something to enjoy. Other regular features include lessons on art and science, a Freebie Directory, information on the ABCs of homeschooling, write ups and interviews about different homeschooling styles and topics, and a homeschool show and tell column. The Old Schoolhouse Magazine has a decidedly Christian tone, which I very much appreciate. Many of the column writers have challenged me on a personal level on different occassions, and I appreciate that, too.

Yes, I AM part of the TOS Homeschool Crew this year and YES, I do receive some free products through them for review purposes, but I promise you that they are NOT paying me to say nice things about their magazine. I just LOVE it!! I really do!!

So, if you are new to homeschooling, or if you are a veteran who has somehow missed out on this gem in years past, this is a deal you will not want to miss. For one day only, you get a two year subscription for $17.76 AND a free Homeschooling With Heart book bag PLUS five free downloadable e-books from TOS. HERE is a link to the offer page where you can see the titles of the five e-books and get more information about them. HERE is a nice picture of the free bag. ENJOY!!

**The sale continues on through July 4th, but the best deals and the most FREE stuff are what is available today, July 1st, only, so if you think you might be interested in claiming one of these subscriptions, ORDER TODAY!!

1776 was a spectacular year, and it's a smashing, save-more-money price! Grab your subscription to The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine during their four-day Fourth of July sale, and check out the craziest price on July 1 only! Receive a 2-year subscription, free Homeschooling with Heart tote bag, and five FREE E-Books for just $17.76! While supplies last. U.S. and Canadian residents. July 2 through July 4 the unprecedented savings continue. The sparks are flying at TOS Magazine . . . join in the celebration and savings! Get the details HERE.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Blog Walking---Week Three

Blog Walk Week 3 June 28 - July 3

Here are the links for this week's blog walk. I am enjoying visiting new blogs each week, and joining the ones with authors whose educational philosophy seems similar to mine. I am even picking up a few followers myself, since some folks have a courtesy policy of joining anyone's blog who connects to theirs. Awesome! (and thank you!).

With our heat index up near the hundreds today, it is a fine day for catching up on a little indoor "exercise." I hope you will join me on this walk. I'd love to have a bit of friendly conversation about it, so if you have a comment about some gem you find, please feel free to leave it. At lease wave when you pass by!

1. All American Family

2. Growing Fruit --if you have an autistic child, this blog may be for you. Even if you don't, you should check out some of her thoughts. She's quite fun. So is her autistic son. He reminds me of my friend's autistic boy who walked up to me the other day and said, "You are Superwoman. Can you fly?" He's awesome!

3. Learning to Teach

4. Codex Young Author's Publishing Program

5. Stairsteps Homeschool Academy

6. Kingdom Academy

7. Living Sola Gratia

8. Wynfield Christian Academy

9. The Cow Queen-- I wish she could send some of her cows' hay over here for my horses. Or at least just the haying machine!

10. Peace Creek on the Prairie--She has six kids, just like I do. She is co-hosting an online book study group called Holy Housewives. You should jump over to her blog and check it out. They just started studying Holy Housewives by Jennie Chancey and Stacy McDonald on June 21st, so you haven't missed much. This sounds like a lot of fun. If I can find a copy of the book, I think I will join up, too.

Monday, June 21, 2010

It's a REAL Curriculum Fair!

If you think surfing the net and looking at vendors' curriculum choices is fun, you should try going to a REAL curriculum fair. "Fair" warning, need to either walk in with a budgeted amount that you MUST spend (lol) or you might walk out with your wallet uncomfortably lighter (and your charge card burden uncomfortably heavier). This year we are going through a Dave Ramsey Financial Peace Seminar, so we had the foresight to budget for the HEAV Convention ahead of time. The budget wasn't as large as I would have liked, but the money was free and clear, set aside for JUST curriculum. What a wonderful concept that is. It was as if I HAD to spend that money. No worrying about if it was too much, or if I was taking money from somewhere I needed it more (like the dinner table, for example). Just free and clear license to use it all up (and I did!).

In any case, along with my envelope of carefully budgeted money, I also went in armed with my "List." It is a much thought out list of all the things I needed to find at the convention that are much harder to find anywhere else, such as planners and manipulatives and some reading materials our library does not carry. I am all for free (you can check out my site homeschool-for-free if you doubt me), but some things are not made cheaper by getting them off the internet (such as planning pages), more long lasting by buying them at the dollar store (like counting teddies), and some things are just worth having in print (like certain books you will use again and again, especially ones you want to carry out of the house). "The List" made it much easier for me to NOT get too distracted by the many neat booths just filled with loads of cool educational materials GUARANTEED to make my homeschooling year better. I didn't realize how much easier it was until later when I realized that the usual anxiety over not having been to see absolutely EVERYTHING before closing time was missing. I zoomed in, surveyed what was there, made my choices, and I was outta there!

Here's what I accomplished at the REAL Curriculum Fair: I was able to cross a few things off my list of possibilities for next year after having seen them enough to know they would not quite work for me and my family (catalogues are great, but can't tell you the whole story). I was able to choose from several types of planners for next year and get what I really wanted, knowing I had seen almost every possibility. I was able to get a few freebies and to get an evaluation test to administer to one of my students to determine his math level for a later purchase. And finally, I was able to affirm a few choices I had previously made and take advantage of convention prices and no shipping costs. It was a real win-win situation.

Actually, it turned out that my adherence to my list was not only beneficial to my pocketbook and to my health, but as it turns out, my restraint was also rewarded. Can you imagine my excitement, when having walked out of the Used Curriculum Sale (conveniently located next door to the New Curriculum Vending Hall) having made only about forty dollars worth of purchases (and I got a LOT I can use for that much) AND feeling pretty darn good about not spending money I didn't need to spend, I later found out that they had opened the doors after final pick up to allow folks a chance to "glean" from the remaining items (rather than donating them or throwing them away)? AWESOME!! I was in the middle of a conversation when someone told me and believe me, my friend (who IS still my friend) is probably wondering if I have super-speed as a super power because I ran-walked down the hall and started looking for treasures faster than the speed of...something fast. Zooooooooooom! Now you see her, now you...hey, where is she going?

My oldest son thankfully found me immersed in a pile of potential freebie finds and followed me around carrying a box, good-naturedly ribbing me about dragging home more than our sagging bookshleves could hold...but don't think I didn't notice the two or five books he slipped into my box for himself! My number one best find of the day was a box of tapes from previous HEAV conventions and other convention speakers that apparently nobody else wanted (I was in there pretty close to the end of the line), so I grabbed the whole thing up and have been happily listening to the tapes as I drive along ever since. What a fun surprise and a fantastic end to a great convention. God is so good to us in so many ways. All thanks go to Him for that sweet treat!! (and to the organizers of the HEAV Convention Used Curriculum Sale).

Here are my top tips for surviving a REAL Curriculum Fair:

1. Budget ahead of time. It is so much nicer to spend money on what you need (or just want) when you are not causing a shortfall somewhere else. Talk it out with your husband and decide a reasonable amount to invest per child and determine how much you will need to set aside monthly to meet your goals. Find creative places to pull the money from, such as the grocery budget, by using coupons and putting the money you saved in the "Curriculum Account" instead. Sell old stuff you didn't like or use and put that money away, too. Clean a neighbor's guesthouse or watch someone's pet and save your pay. Let the kids start their own fund using money they earn doing jobs you want done around the house or by working for trusted friends and family. They'll have more fun shopping in your wake if they can keep their eyes peeled for a bargain, too.

2. Get informed. Do your primary initial research ahead of time. Do NOT wait until the day of the convention to get ideas on how you want to teach math to your third grader. Ask friends what they use, inquire at co-op or support group meetings, or post a query on a forum online, then take all the suggestions and start looking them up. Many sites offer trial versions, trial periods, or at least sample pages for you to look at. Request catalogues, compare prices, and see how much of any of the supplemental materials you need for any given program are available at your library (the more you can borrow for free, the better). You may wish to visit your local homeschool second-hand store (if you have one) or check out Craig's List or e-bay (or any other online vendor) before deciding to pay full-price at a Curriculum Fair. Swap meets, library sales, yard sales, thrift stores, and sometimes even public school discard boxes are good sources of cheaper (or possibly free) materials that may meet the needs you have.

3. Make a list. After you have compiled a list of "wants" that you haven't found yet, whittle it down to your actual "needs." Don't discard the "want" list. Just keep in mind that every bank account has a limit and even the strongest-willed person in the world can be sorely tempted to go overboard at a Curriculum Fair. It all looks so GOOD! Go to the fair armed with your two lists, shop for the "needs" first, then with what is left, HAVE FUN! I highly recommend taking a suitcase or rolling basket to carry your purchases so you don't break your back (or the back of your teenager). Take a bottle of is thirsty work...and PLEASE remember to give your kids a break once in a while by stopping at the booth with the cool science gadgetry. ;-)

Let me know how you made out at your REAL Curriculum Fair this year. I'd really love to know what cool stuff you found. I might want to get one, too.

Blog Walking---Week Two

Here's the Blog Walk List for the Week of June 21st- 27th. I hope you are enjoying seeing what others are up to this summer. I sure am.

1. Second Star to the Right and Straight On Till Morning

2. Surviving The Testosterone

3. Family Style School

4. School Around The Table

5. 1628 The Story of The Goebels 5

6. Morris Family Madness

7. Homeschool Musings

8. Homeschooling (and then some!)

9. Heartfelt Homeschooling

10. following Him home

Blog Walking---Week One

There are over 200 members of the 2010-2011 TOS Homeschool Crew. That is a LOT of bloggers, homeschoolers, excited reviewers, potential friends...One way to get to know them all (in a small way) and to see what other folks out there are doing with what they have is to take a weekly "Blog Walk" of ten of the Crewmember's blogs. Here is the list for Week One. I hope you will enjoy "walking" with me.
1.  Reaping a Harvest
2.  Pink & Orange Coffee
3.  Live, Laugh, Learn!
4.  Mrs. Mandy's Musings
5.  The Fantastic Five
6.  Refined Metals Academy
7.  Just A Moment in Time
8.  Providence Farm
9.  My Journey
10.Petra School

I made the TOS Homeschool Crew!

A few months ago I noticed that TOS (The Old Schoolhouse Magazine) was having "auditions" for their 2010-2011 Homeschool Crew and I wistfully thought how much fun it would be to try out new products and give my opinions about them. Now, I like to write. If you have read any of my reviews here, you will be able to tell that. And I like to share my opinions...who doesn't? I even enjoy using the internet. Truth be told, the whole appeal of the "blog" idea didn't really sink in for me until during my last pregnancy when I was on limited activity and had extra time on my hands (you can visit my Blessing Farm blog if you want the details about that), but after watching the movie Julie and Julia, I had to admit that blogging might be fun to try.

However, busy as I am with six kids, managing a 15 acre hobby farm complete with animals and gardens, and trying to set up my homeschool-for-free website (PLEASE go check it out by clicking on the link in the sidebar), I wondered if I had time to even think about trying out. Finally, I decided that if I tried, and made it, that would be like God giving me his approval. If I tried and didn't make it, then that would be like God saying "maybe next year." I put time praying into this to keep the ball in His court, asking Him to move or not move, and set about the business of filling out the initial demographics sheet.

A few weeks later, much to my surprise, I received a notice that I had made the first cut. Wow! It was even better than when I made the Cross Country team in High School, because then they were so hard up for female runners, they took anybody, and I was still very excited about it! This time it was somthing in my demographics, I guess, that worked in my favor and gave me the opportunity to show what I could do when it came time to review a real product.

So I reviewed the test-products and those are the first two reviews you see here. I did not review them in a positive light on purpose, in case you are wondering. I reviewed them fairly, based on my use of them, and the benefit to my family. What would be the point of doing a review if it is not unbiased? That, my friends, is called ADVERTISING. In any case, I sent in my reviews after proofreading them at least a dozen times each (yeah, that was overkill, but I was nervous) and then I waited and waited and waited for what I figured must have been the usual amount of time for notifications of acceptance to be made and still I hadn't heard one way or another.

Awwwww, I told myself. I guess you didn't make it this time. Bummer. Oh well. I told myself that it was all right to not make it, because it just meant that God decided I wasn't ready for this. Too much to do, too little time, and all that. I was still a bit sad. Wouldn't you be? But I decided to be patient, to learn more about blogging and the internet, and then maybe next year I could try, try again. So I stopped checking my emails every day, twice a day for that acceptance e-mail, got busy putting in gardens and playing outside with the kids. My husband's grandmother passed away and he went away for a week, which made our schedules here that much more crazy and I spent a whole week without even loggin on once.

Then one night, when I was having trouble sleeping, I happened to check my BILLIONS of emails (okay, that is an exaggeration, but there were at least three hundered), and lo and behold, there it email telling me I made the TOS Crew. Yahoooooo! I can't tell you, how excited I was. Yippeeeee!! I was nearly doing cartwheels in the upstairs hallway, but our hallway is pretty short and I would have wound up falling down the stairs instead, so I thankully refrained. It was at least midnight when I found out, so I couldn't call anybody and share my good news. How frustrating!

Instead, I sent a prayer up to heaven thanking God, because I figured He had decided it was a good time to take this task on and made this opportunity possible. Wasn't that nice of Him? He does the nicest things for us, both big and small. I pray that I will always be mindful of the things He does for me and not forget to thank Him. I am so grateful that as my site, homeschool-for-free is growing, I will also be sticking my toes in the waters of this new forum. I am thinking this will be a good year in our homeschool. Adventures await around every corner!

In any case, here I am, suited up and ready to take on the waves...of curriculum samples, new ideas, enrichement activities, and so on. My mailboxes, both physical and virtual are open and waiting for things to inspect, examine, and ponder. Be prepared for some fun reviews and I hope some interesting dialogue. I'd love if folks would feel free to toss in their two or three cents on the products I am reviewing, or if anyone has a particular interest in a book or topic we come across, perhaps you can give me a heads up and we can do a virtual discussion group centered around it.

The possibilites are endless...don't you just love that? I do.