icRKphJXQm-ezth8lntKydifkDg The Loose Screw: September 2011

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Review: Aletheia Writing Magazine

I remember as a young girl, before computers, receiving a subscription to a literary magazine in the mail that was all children's submissions.  I devoured it each time it arrived, and even sent in a few submissions myself that didn't get published.  I also enjoyed my junior high and high school collections of student's stories, poems, and artwork.  So when I found out I was going to be able to review Aletheia Writing Magazine,  I was excited to be able to share it with my daughter Alyssa, 16. 

I received the Fall 2011 edition of the magazine, as well as a link to a digital copy of the summer edition.  Aletheia Writing Magazine is described as a quarterly publication focusing on the literary and artistic works of Christian teens, ages 13 to 19.  The name Aletheia is Greek for 'truth' or 'unveiling'.  Included in each edition is a Writer's Challenge (teens submit a poem based on a picture or a story based on a proverb), a Featured Contributor, a book review, Glory to God for the Beauty of Nature (photography), Ancient Ink(words from people of the past), and an interview or other feature for edification and enjoyment.  From the publishers:

"We are excited to offer Christian teens a healthy platform in which to express themselves, especially in a culture that so definitively shapes and saturates their worldview with unhealthy imagery and values."

What did I think?  I enjoyed reading Aletheia Writing Magazine and looking at the beautiful artwork.  Many of these teens are very talented.  I think it is a wonderful way for Christian teens to have an outlet for their creativity.  Personally, I would be careful with younger teens, based on individual maturity level, reading this magazine.  There are some darker stories/images that may be too much for less mature/younger teens.  Aletheia publishers do point out:

"Aletheia Writing Magazine is geared toward youth ages 13 to 19. Because contributors’ ages vary, the maturity level of situational content may likewise vary."

What did Alyssa (16) think?  She found it interesting in that she had never seen a publication like this, where teens could submit their creative work and have it published. She liked many of the stories and artwork, but without me sharing any of my thoughts, she immediately said she would be concerned for a younger teen to read some of the writings, saying they were 'dark'. 

Overall, both Alyssa and I give Aletheia Writing Magazine a thumb's up! We think it is a beautiful magazine, very well done, and a great platform for Christian teens. If you are a teen interested in submitting your work to Aletheia, click here.  There are also writing tips on the webpage. Click here to view a sample of Aletheia magazine.  If you are interested in subscribing, the cost is $26 for four issues a year, each 40 pages and full color.  This price includes shipping and handling. Click here to subscribe.

I received Aletheia Writing Magazine free in exchange for my honest review.  If you are interested in reading other crew member's reviews, click here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Product Review: Before Five in a Row

Before Five in A Row by Jane Claire Lambert is a beautifully written book I wish had been around when my  older children were preschool age.  Here is a description of the book from the back cover:
"What is Before Five in a Row?  Let's begin with what it isn't.  It isn't a curriculum.  Neither is it an aggressive, academic training regimen designed to turn your preschooler into a scholastic super-achiever.  It is a rich treasury of creative ideas designed to help you gently, consistently prepare your children for the life-long adventure of learning.  For children ages two to four, Before Five in a Row is better than a curriculum!"

All three of my children loved being read to. There is just something so special about that quality time between a parent and child.  Before Five in A Row is all about enjoying that special time together.  In the first half of the book, there are activities to go along with 24 classic books written for young children.  Some of the activities for after reading each story are Art, Bible, Science, Math, Health, and many others.  There are many fun things suggested to do with your child, and it is also recommended to just talk about what you have read. 

The books used with Before Five in A Row are:
Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear?
Yellow Ball
My Blue Boat
The Little Rabbit
Ask Mr. Bear
Blueberries for Sal
Goodnight Moon
The Big Green Pocketbook
The Runaway Bunny
The ABC Bunny
If Jesus Came to My House
Caps for Sale
The Carrot Seed
The Snowy Day
The Quiet Way Home
Play With Me
Prayer For a Child
I Am An Artist
Angus Lost
Katy No-Pocket
We're Going On A Bear Hunt
The Red Carpet
Jenny's Surprise Summer
Most, if not all, of these books should be available at your local library.

The second half of Before Five in A Row is 'Parent's Treasury of Creative Ideas for Learning Readiness'. There are Activities for Reading Readiness, Coordination, In the Kitchen, At the Store, Toys, and The Arts. Each of these sections contains many suggestions and activities for each area.  Last, there is also a section titled 'Learning to See Through Children's Eyes with examples and suggestions, as well as a list of more books and tapes you might use.

Although my youngest is 8, he still loves being read to, and so I knew he would enjoy this book. Chad's favorite story and activities from the book was 'We're Going on a Bear Hunt.'  This doesn't surprise me as there is lots of action you can act out in this story.  The author gave many great ideas we used, and we had a wonderful time together.  There were a few activities that were too young for him, so we just skipped over those.  Even though the Before Five in A Row is suggested for ages 2-4, I found it was engaging for my older child as well. 

There are many other Five in A Row products designed for a variety of ages.  You can learn more about these products at their website here.  Before Five in A Row is sold by Rainbow Resource for $35.00. If you'd like to read more reviews of this product, click here.

Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this product free in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Product Review: Big IQ Kids!

Let me just start off this review of BigIQkids by saying this program is a favorite in our home! Any educational product that my kids ASK to use during their free time is a favorite of mine!
Here is a description of BigIQkids from their website:

BigIQkids.com turns your computer into an online learning academy by providing daily academic lessons for young learners in an interactive, easy to follow format. 

BigIQkids is for kindergarten age-adult. Their spelling and vocabulary programs are completely free, and their math and geography have both free and premium versions.  There is also a premium spelling junior program. The cost on the premium programs run from $39.99-$49.99 per year for each program. For BigIQkids pricing, as well as the difference between the free and premium versions, go here.

Chad enjoyed all the different programs, but I think his favorite was math:
He liked that the drills were timed, and enjoyed trying to beat his best time.  What I liked about the math program was that I could customize it to what we are working on right now.  Chad also loved customizing his 'buddy':
By the way, this is not his buddy, just a representative one! Chad also really enjoyed playing the games he bought with his coins.  What I liked about the games was that he earned coins for doing his lessons (only 10-15 minutes each), and then he could spend his coins on quick games.

I was very impressed with the spelling and vocabulary program. I customized Chad's spelling lists myself with high-frequency words we have been studying. Then BigIQkids would create lessons around my words! Here is a description from the website:
With a over 40,000 word dictionary, BigIQkids spelling & vocabulary program comes pre-loaded with 40 lessons for K-adult appropriate word lists. Or, as a parent or teacher, you can easily enter your own word lists and the program will automatically create a week’s worth of lessons, quizzes and tests around your own list with the goal of achieving 100% on the Friday spelling and vocabulary tests. The program includes tracking and progress reports. You can build your own curriculum or use our default settings. The program is completely customizable and goes around a student's progress.

The bottom line:  I think BigIQkids is a great supplement to our homeschool.  If I'm having a bad pain day with my illness, I would feel completely comfortable having Chad work on BigIQkids on his math facts, spelling, vocabulary, and geography (states). BigIQkids sends me emails on Chad's progress, which is helpful. I'm impressed with all of their programs and plan to continue using BigIQkids.  The only negative in my opinion is the premium price.  Being a one-income family, we could not afford to pay for all of the premium programs.  I could see using the free programs, and possibly upgrading one of the programs to premium.  I'm also planning on trying out the SAT vocabulary prep program with Alyssa (11th grade). I will definitely continue using all of the free programs in our home. To find out more, click on any of the links highlighted above, or go to http://www.bigiqkids.com/.  To find out what other TOS reviewers thought of BigIQkids, click here.

Disclaimer: I received this product free in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

And The Winners Are.................

The two winners of the FREE Purex Complete with Zout are  Lynn (Lynn at TDHGP) and Sarah (Baby Mama)!!!  I have emailed both winners-congratulations!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Product Review: R & R Games Flea Circus!

We love games at our house-especially games that the entire family can play.  When R & R Games Flea Circus arrived at our house, it was quickly opened up to be played!  Here is the description from the box:

"Step right up!  Calling all cats and dogs!  The flea circus is about the begin!  It's a wild time under the Big-Top as dogs and cats race from one show to the next!  Players use their best Flea cards to attract the most dogs and cats.  Play your cards right and you can steal the audience away from your neighbor! But watch out for the Animal Catcher-he'll snatch your cats and dogs away! With all this excitement...how's a Flea Ring Circus supposed to keep up!  When all the dogs and cats are gone, whoever ends up with the most animals at their show wins the game!"

Doesn't that sound fun?  Included in the Flea Circus box is 55 Amazing Flea cards, 20 plastic cats, 20 plastic dogs, and the instructions.  Everything is very sturdy and colorful, and the size of the box would make it a great game to take along for a trip.  The little blue dogs and white cats are simply adorable!

The first two or three times we played Flea Circus, we had to refer to the instructions often to look up point values for some of the Flea cards, but we quickly got the hang of it.  I love that this game is quick to play-10 to 15 minutes only, and the math practice makes it educational!  With my animal-crazy son Chad, 8, the dogs and cats are his favorite part of the game.  Even if he doesn't have someone to play the game with him, he likes to line them up, stack them, and just play with them!!  A word of warning: Puppies love Flea Circus too!!  So if you want those cute little dogs and cats to not disappear, keep them out of your puppy's reach!!

Flea Circus is for 2-6 players, ages 6 and up, and retails for $15.95 at the R & R Games Website..  R & R Games is offering my readers a 20% discount-just use the coupon code CREW20!  Do you want to read what other TOS crewmembers thought of Flea Circus?  Click here

Disclaimer: I received this product free in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Book Review~'Treasuring Emma' by Kathleen Fuller

Emma is a single young Amish woman who has been through much heartache.  Both of her parents have passed away, and Adam, the boy she loves, has left her and the Amish church to live in the modern English world.  Being plain-looking and heavyset, Emma doesn't hold out much hope for finding love. She is buried in medical bills from her mother's cancer, and is worried how she and her aging grandmother, who she lives with, will survive. Her relationship with her sister is strained, and her sister is trying to push Emma into a new business together.  Emma's grandmother continually encourages her to stay strong in her faith and trust God's will for her life.When Adam returns and a mysterious new man comes to town and shows interest in Emma, she is more confused than ever. 

'Treasuring Emma' was fun to read-it was very suspenseful and had lots of twists and turns in the story.  I'm looking forward to reading more from the Middlefield Family series by Kathleen Fuller.  I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Book Review~'How to Have a H.E.A.R.T. For Your Kids'

The first product I received to review for The Old Schoolhouse Crew this year was 'How to Have a H.E.A.R.T. for Your Kids' by Rachael Carman of Apologia Educational Ministries. Let me just say-PERFECT timing!  This beautiful hardcover book was just what I needed to begin my homeschooling year!  Most homeschoolers relate Apologia to science curriculum (as I did), but they have science and so much more to offer!

Rachael Carman is a wife and homeschooling mom to seven children.  She begins the book by telling her story of how she reluctantly (yelling and screaming, she says) came to homeschool her children. She referred to her homeschooling journey as 'Mr. Toad's Wild Ride', which I can very much relate to.  The book is based on the word 'heart':

H-Have a heart for the things of God
E-Enrich your marriage
A-Accept your kids
R-Release them to God
T-Teach them the truth

Each letter of the word heart has its own chapter in the book, and at the end of each chapter is a 'Heart Check-up'-questions to reflect on where your own heart is at relating to the topic of that chapter.   Although all the chapters were impacting, chapters 3 (A) and 4 (R) impacted me the most.  Having teenagers, I really needed to be reminded to accept my children as uniquely designed by God for His purpose. Also to continually point my children toward God and ask them what they think God's directions for their lives are-  not just the typical "What do you want to do after you graduate?" 

Rachael Carman's writing style made me feel as if I was an old friend sitting down visiting with her.  She pours out her heart and communicates with such genuineness and transparency, the book is hard to put down.  I didn't plan to take notes-maybe put post-its here and there on things to come back to.  Well, I ended up with two full pages of notes, AND the post-its!!  'How to Have a H.E.A.R.T. For Your Kids' has already enriched my relationship with my children.  I believe non-homeschooling parents would enjoy and learn from it as well. 

How to Have a H.E.A.R.T. for Your Kids is available for $13 from Apologia Educational Ministries. You can also have a peek at a sample chapter here.  Be sure to check out their website for more great information and products.  You can read other TOS crew member's reviews of this product at The Old Schoolhouse Crew's website.

Disclaimer: I received this book free of charge in exchange for my honest review.