Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Roots and Fruits: An Abundant Garden of Vocabulary Words!

Raise your hand if you love dead languages! Ok…not an overwhelming response…can’t say my hand shot right up either. Well, I think we will have to settle for learning to appreciate the value of dead languages instead. That I can do. And so can your children.

We all know that an understanding of Latin and Greek can make a huge difference on tests, particularly an SAT or ACT. However, daily reading comprehension in all school subjects in another benefit of learning these languages; after all most of our English language is built upon the foundation of Latin and Greek. (By the way, Greek is NOT a dead language, though ancient Greek is considered dead by many sites I googled.)

This is where a valuable tool, Roots and Fruits by Jill J. Dixon, comes in quite handily. A former teacher and a homeschool mother that was alarmed by the lack of comprehension that many students exhibited, Ms. Dixon set out to fix the problem by writing this helpful curriculum.

The great thing about this program is that the one book is used for all grades, K-12. It contains 673 roots and prefixes as well as 1716 vocabulary words, many of which will appear on the SAT and ACT. Using English forms of Latin and Greek words, as well as offering many helpful tips and games to make the roots stick, this user friendly book needs only 15 minutes a day to enhance your child’s ability to read with understanding from any subject.

We have incorporated this into our daily routine and things have been going swimmingly. The kids really do complete the suggested routine on time (introducing the new prefix etc. writing the meaning, giving some words as an example and then splitting the words up that they will hunt for in the dictionary). There are no complaints and the process of becoming little geniuses has been painless.

The root list compiled by Ms. Dixon is very extensive. I have used other programs that needed several volumes to complete. The nearly 700 prefixes and roots in Roots and Fruits will easily fill most of a child’s school career. There are asterisks next many words that are recommended for younger students. Year after year, you can work your way through this book and build that vocabulary that will impact their school career as well as provide enjoyment in leisurely reading as well.

At only $19.98, Roots and Fruits is a no-brainer investment to make in your homeschool. You can currently get the eBook of Roots and Fruits downloaded right to your computer for just $11.25 (25% off), and this is one book that would easily translate into an eBook without loss of usefulness. Visit their website at to order and while your there check out the plethera of products to help with all of your English and writing needs!

Kudos to Ms. Dixon for a great vaocabulary program! ("Kudos" is Greek for praise or extol...hey, I am picking this stuff up quick!).

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Nutrition 101. Getting Back to Basics

“Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” (3 John 1:2) How has our soul prospered, my friend? If we have come to the saving knowledge of Christ, then we are rich in every way, reborn in the image of Christ and able to overcome the power of sin. That’s just a quick summary! But, the apostle John also writes in this verse that he prays for our health to prosper! Can you look at yourself and your family and feel confident that they are prospering in health?

It doesn’t take a genius to look around our society and notice the obesity problem that plagues our country. According to the World Health Organization, the in the world for obesity in males and 8th for obesity in females (as of January 2009). This is not something to be bragging about! And we have all seen the rising problem of childhood obesity making headlines, diabetes and all. No doubt we can thank the S.A.D. way we eat (Standard American Diet), the fact that we are fast food and convenience food consumers, as well as being a nation that has little knowledge, in general, about natural ways to heal, banking instead on a magic pill that the doctor can prescribe for most anything. ranks 5

So, how do we change the momentum in the lives of our families? This isn’t something that can happen by “tweaking” a few things here and there. We need a paradigm shift in our understanding, conviction that will lead to action and then tools to implement the changes we know are life-giving, even life-saving. Hosea 4:6 states that “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” This implies that the knowledge is there to be discovered, if we are willing to make the effort.

Enter a wonderful program that makes living healthy attainable: Nutrition 101: Choose Life! (Taken from Deuteronomy 30:19 “…now choose life that both you and your children may live.”) A bit anatomy and biology book, a bit health course, recipe book and bible study this informative volume makes renewing your mindset in these areas a breeze! The authors, Debra Raybern N.D., Sera Johnson, Laura Hopkins and Karen Hopkins have packed this 448 page book with everything you need to be able to make these longed-for changes. They are also all homeschooling mothers that have used this material in their home and know that it works.

This curriculum can be used at home, as a unit study approach, or used in a coop just as easily. Although it is designed to take a chapter a week to complete, it could be done several years in a row, choosing different enrichment activities and recipes to give it variance. There are a wide variety of suggestions, good for different ages, which will keep things fresh for everyone. Really, good habits will come from repetition so everyone would benefit from hearing this information and being reminded of it as they swim upstream in our junk food society.

I personally love the clear, vibrant photos that are used in the book. From close up, 3-D renderings of nerves to beautifully prepared meals, the book encourages study by being well put together. Each chapter ends with Discussion Questions, Activities (including Power Recipes to put into practice what you are learning), and Additional Resources to delve deeper, if so desired. I really appreciate the emphasis on natural health care, using food to synergize your body systems for optimum performance and self healing, too. The Appendix also contains a variety of worthwhile articles on topics ranging from microwaves to minerals and from mold to milk. There’s just so much good stuff in this book, I really hope that you will get your home a copy and prayerfully use and apply it.

As Christians, our standard and statistics should be much higher than the worlds in all areas of life (we are, after all, children of the Creator of all life, with a great Instruction Book to follow!). Instead, we are sadly mirroring the world in so many ways; divorce rates and loss of purity within our youth included (don’t even get me started!). I would venture a guess that we may be ahead of the game on the obesity scale since potlucks and fellowship meals can be one of the main ways we commune together as a body. Please don’t think that I have all of this down either. It is one of my biggest struggles! I love food, I love to cook and I have a serious sweet tooth. Eating right is a continual battle, but one I can take the offensive on thanks to the thoroughness of Nutrition 101: Choose Life! and by maintaining a dependence on the Lord for strength to make good, daily choices.

To obtain your own copy of this terrific program, visit their website at where you can order the hardbound book for $99.95, the CD-Rom for $79.95 or both for a discounted total of $129.95.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

My Crazy Life!

There's "busy" and then there's my life lately: "busy on steroids". Things have been blowing and going all the way through Labor Day in my household and the dust is just barely starting to settle now that school has begun.

Not that it is terribly interesting to anyone else, but by way of explanation we have experienced a graduation, a house full of company, swim team (this being our first year I was astounded to find it took the better part of the day to accomplish a swim meet!), a family trip to Colorado and Wyoming which ended with dropping my oldest off for missions training, returning home to leave a week later to Mississippi for a family reunion, and somewhere in the midst of all this, ordering school material for my 6th and 9th graders. I think there's more but that's all my blurry, overloaded brain can recall at the moment!

Oh yeah, the other biggie has been being a reviewer for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine! That has been my time-consumer (what little free time there is!). Don't get me wrong, I am honored to be able to review all these fun products and thrilled that I get all these surprise packages in the mail with lots of wondrous homeschooling items! However, there has been way more books and charts etc. to fit into our lives than I had ever imagined. It has been fun but challenging to juggle. So, basically anytime I have some time to write on this blog of mine, it is in order to review an item rather than write for my own purposes.

So, I guess today I am just writing out of frustration! I am thankful to know that the Lord doesn't desire for me to just keep my head above water and dive exhausted into bed each night. I realize that some of this is our own doing, my own doing, in the life of our family. It is now my prayerful desire to streamline life into a workable schedule and take back control of things that have taken control of me. Well,then give them to the Lord, of course. He's the one that needs to be in control, not me! All I would do is add another thing that we could maybe squeeze into an available 15 minute time slot. Crazy.

But, I do hope that I will be back more often. I will continue to post product reviews, but I plan to have more personal fun and thoughtful articles as well. Thanks to those of you who have been checking in!

In the tonight...volleyball game tomorrow...exercise? No way, I'm too busy...correct math...make dinner...finish laundry...don't remember the last time I mopped so probably need to find time for that...Did you say something? Was that a chicken? Do I have ADHD???

Friday, September 11, 2009

Scholarship Central: College Prep Genius!

They say big things come in small packages…I believe that may be true in the case of College Prep Genius. Two booklets and one DVD pack a big punch for students looking to improve their score on the SAT (as well as the PSAT and the NMSQT). Highly recommended for parents that would like their child to go to college sans full-priced tuition too!

College Prep Genius has scoured the secrets to maximizing higher test scores while giving confidence to the student by arming them with information on recurring patterns and red herrings found in the SAT et al. You see, these tests are not I.Q. tests, they are tests of logic and reasoning and they are specifically designed to throw students off by the way the problems are stated. However, “the tests are always objective and never subjective” so with well-honed reasoning skills and familiarity with concealed codes, students can greatly increase their test scores and get some serious scholarships!

We are in the process of using some of this material with my freshman-aged daughter, so this post just serves as an introduction to College Prep Genius. It really hit me, when looking over this information, that the time to start working towards SAT preparation is now, not when she is about to take the SAT! This may be obvious to some, but it seems way too sudden to find that my third child could already be in high school! Hello!

Jean Burk, author of College Prep Genius (as well as speaker and teacher of “Master the SAT” classes) uses a series of acronyms that help a student memorize the keys embedded with each section of the SAT and other tests. From writing a great essay in 15 minutes, to “how to eliminate two to three math answers right off the bat”, there are acronyms for every situation. It also includes college scholarship contest information with many helpful tips.

The amount of time I have to review this material is not sufficient enough to do a thorough litmus of all areas of SAT testing. So, I have decided that we will concentrate on one section, the Critical Reading Section, and work on memorizing the acronyms there (“USE”, for instance, stands for “Unquestionably Substitute Each answer choice in sentence”). We’ll give it the old college try (pun intended!) and I’ll report back in a couple of weeks on our progress.

In the mean time, if you are anxious to get your young adult started on the road to SAT success, check out the College Prep Genius website at where you can order the set (textbook, workbook and “Master the SAT Class” DVD) for $79. The website a great place to read some testimonials of students that have actually used the curriculum and had excellent results! Can you say “full ride scholarship”?


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Review: Aleks Math Curriculum, a Very Complete Aproach to Math.

Math sans textbook? Could there be such a thing? Well, this is the computer age and as we move to a more “paperless” mode of operation in many realms of our lives (“so long” snail mail, “hello” making payments online!), it stands to reason that school subjects will do the same.

Enter Aleks Math. A complete math curriculum for ALL levels of math (including college level and business math) and not a single bulky textbook to be had! Aleks is a computer based program that uses an “artificial intelligence engine and adaptive questioning…” it “assesses a student's knowledge and delivers individualized instruction on the exact topics a student is most ready to learn. As a result, ALEKS targets gaps in student skills and enables immediate success in learning new material.” Aleks seems to have thought of everything. It is very user friendly and my kids really enjoyed it, much to my chagrin.

I am admittedly a textbook gal. Not because I like lugging around the textbooks but because the textbook is used much like a storybook; you start on the left side and keep going until you get to the right. Concepts are taught sequentially. I am told, “Here, do this.” Since math is really not my thing, I find security in the structure. Therefore, having a math curriculum completely online was pushing the envelope a bit, for me!

Well, since I am not the one actually doing the math, my computer-phobia is not the bottom line here. What did my kids think of Aleks? Other than the fact they had to do math during the summer (gasp!) in order to review the program; they loved it!

Beginning their math journey by taking an assessment test (which took around 30-45 minutes to complete), they enjoyed seeing their results in their own personal “pie”. Not the kind of “pi” that is divisible to the zillionth degree, but a colorful picture of a pie that represented what they know and what they need to know.

Each subject to be mastered for the year has a different portioned and colored “slice”. What they have mastered thus far is shown in a darker version of the color that slowly fills in the “slice” as they show understanding of the ideas. My kids (grades 6 and 9), really liked being able to choose the subject they were working on for the day. However, if they weren’t ready for a section, Aleks was smart enough to tell them they weren’t ready to work on that quite yet; there were other things to master first.

Furthermore, as the teacher I can easily look at their work and see what has been accomplished and what they need to concentrate on. Aleks also sends the teacher an email update on what each student is doing, how long they have worked and what they may need to focus on, among other summarized things.

Aleks is like having a tutor, trapped right their in your monitor! (That’s what I have secretly wanted to do to all of the brainy math-whiz sorts out there! Ha-ha!). Not sure what obtuse or acute means? Click on the word and an explanation, with examples, is given. Not sure how to use a particular formula? Click on the help button and watch a demonstration. Still can’t solve for the correct answer? Click on the “explain” button and see the entire problem worked for you. Afterward you can try and solve it yourself. Then keep working on similar ones to show mastery. A continual wrong answer will prompt a pop-up that says something like, “Let’s work on something else for awhile and come back to this later.” Which is a nice way of saying, “You are about to get really frustrated! Why don’t you take a break!”

This is math for the modern, computer savvy kids and, although “savvy” may be a stretch in describing my girls, they caught on quickly and really seem to really like it. At $179.95 per year with family discounts available, it is comparable to the cost of most math programs out there. Furthermore, you can get a free 48 hour trial through their website at where you can also get a good feel for everything Aleks has to offer by clicking around on the bells and whistles that will help you get to know the plethora of material they offer. There’s even a special section dedicated to homeschoolers.

Personally, it was a bit too much information and too many choices for my non-math mind. I think because math doesn’t come naturally to me, it made me feel rather overwhelmed to have so many options. As I said, there is security in buying a book that says, “Start here” and then builds on each concept until you get to the end. However, that is a selfish reason not to consider using the Aleks program. Especially if your kids are motivated by doing math in such an innovative way! They are the ones that need to be excited to conquer math and do their work without pulling their/your hair out. I know that, though it may take me awhile to find my way around their website, eventually the familiarity and comfort level will change as I work the site regularly.

We already have our math program set for this year but Aleks is in strong contention for the year following. My kids have already expressed their desire to give Aleks a try and that ranks really high with this reviewer!

Invasion of the STUDYPODS!

Something cool and smart, brilliant yet simple has just invaded my home! I just received a STUDYPOD from Genio to check out and review. This nifty little invention is long over due and something I was happy to encounter. So handy that all of my kids will want their own!

So what is a STUDYPOD? It is a simple, portable book holder that makes studying or typing a breeze. Though compact in size and able to fit in a back pack, this little gem will hold a book (of virtually any size, though if it was extremely thick it would not work), at an angle that gives your neck a rest by keeping what you’re reading at eye level.

It will be a huge help to anyone who needs to work on the computer and look at documents or books while they type. Forget being hunched over and straining your neck, you can easily stand the book near the screen and keep your eyes up and your body comfortable! Furthermore, there’s a mesh pocket inside to carry around iPods, pencils, etc. and the items won’t get lost because the STUDYPOD folds and seals securely when not being used.

It works in other ways too. For instance, if you want enjoy reading in a relaxed position, there are many ways to prop your book using the STUDEYPOD that will allow you hands-free comfort! I predict it is one of those items that your kids may just fight over if they don’t each have their own. It’s just a handy little thing that makes you wonder why you didn’t think of inventing it yourself!

Right now you can enjoy $5 off the list price of $19.95 when you enter the coupon code TOSBLOG5 at the STUDYPOD website: . With three colors to choose from (black, blue and pink) you can help your kids keep track of which one is theirs.

Of course, moms and dads will find many uses for the STUDYPOD as well, from holding up a cookbook in the kitchen, to how-to manuals in the garage; you may need a “his-and-hers” set! Simple gadgets that make life and school easier are always appreciated in this busy day and age. I think you will find this a worthy purchase!

At the Intersection of Creation and Evolution: A Dream

The alliterating story below is based on a dream I had several years ago. Please contact me for permission to reproduce.

Darkness devours me.

I am enveloped in emptiness.

Are my eyes open or are they closed? I strain against this shroud of night and still see nothing.

What is this place?

An image illuminates in front of me. A large, leafy tree streaks past and vanishes.

It deserts me to the darkness again.

In a moment, more images appear. A rapid succession of snapshots and thoughts clamor before my eyes and mingle in my mind.

I see seedlings. Several supple shoots have emerged before me and then swiftly stream away.

“The first trees on earth were not seedlings”, my mind observes. “They were not created as small insignificant saplings.”

That thought is rapidly replaced with a vision of a man.

He’s maybe 30; he is muscular and needs to shave.

He fades away.

In his place I see an infant.

A tiny bundle of pink skin upon a soft blanket flickers briefly in my brain.

“Man was created with age,” is the next statement I hear. “Adam did not begin his life as a baby, he began as a grown man.”

The voice seems like my own.

The thoughts do not.

Reeling before me now is a blur of rivers, forests, mountains and even layers of the earth. It is like a movie rushing rapidly before my retina.

The soundtrack of this epic is proclaiming a peculiarly plain concept:

“The earth was created with age. Creation and evolution are not in total opposition. There is a reason that science finds the earth to be quite old: it was made that way.”

Thoughts continue to tumble through my mind; pictures parade before me. I listen in amazement to what seems to be puzzlingly profound and yet rather apparent all at once.

“Adam was created as an adult. Trees and plants were made fully grown.”

I suddenly feel quite certain that, if I were to chop down some of the trees that had been spoken into existence, I would find a range of rings running through their trunks.

“The earth was brought to life with age built into it… just like Adam. He did not begin life as an infant. The earth came into being with what it would need to sustain the life that was created. It was old when it was young. The world was
made with maturity; it was also produced with purpose.”

These thoughts are thrilling. Why had I not seen this before? It seems so simple. Obtusely obvious. Had others not observed this correlation? If they had, why wasn’t it being candidly conveyed?

In the span of thirty seconds I have been ravaged by a radical revelation. I feel the weight of its worth resting on me; it is tantamount to tangible.

I am neither a theologian nor am I a scientist. I don’t claim that the ethics of evolution are completely compatible with the Bible’s account of creation. But certainly Science can come concurrent to creation and affirm our faith with facts.

Of course, the Omnipotent Originator of the Universe is exceedingly elusive to what our mind could ever envision. Above what science could ever extensively elucidate.

Accordingly, creation is confounding too. Each diverse discovery deems it more marvelous to grasp. Many scientists have reluctantly relented to the theory of Intelligent Design.

That’s why, alongside those facts, we also need faith.

Lying inexplicably at the intersection of those two essential elements is an exceptional endowment: the intermittent insight of our dreams.