Monday, October 29, 2012

Review: Beloved Books

Okay, I've been homeschooling for five years, I've had a son for nearly ten, and I've been reading books for 40!  So how is it I missed The Sugar Creek Gang books?  To make matters worse, I spent 14 years in Indiana--just a hop, skip, and a jump from the real Sugar Creek. Author Paul Hutchens began writing about the gang in 1939, but I'd never heard of the series till we received a set to review from Beloved Books

First, a bit more about the series and then I'll share specifics about the audio set.

The stories are shared in first person by a character named Bill Collins, a red-headed, country boy who dreams of becoming a doctor.  He and his best friends (usually referred to by their nicknames) make up the gang:  Poetry, who's memorized hundreds of verses; Circus, the acrobat of the group, Big Jim, the leader; Dragonfly, who has the keenest eyesight; Little Jim, the best Christian boy of the group; and eventually Tom Till, a fellow red-head.

It's evident that the stories take place in a different era of American history--the boys attend a one room schoolhouse and Bill's dad plows behind a team of mules .  It was an era before political correctness--,  elementary school-aged boys carry a gun and kill a bear (and keep the cub for a pet), school begins with a Bible story and prayer, the whole town attends a multi-week tent revival . The stories are decidedly evangelical.  Bill relates how he prays for his friends father to be saved, a teacher uses a lamb who follows one boy into school as an illustration about the Lamb of God,  we sit alongside the boys at church, pray meetings and tent revivals. 

With titles like The Swamp Robber and The Killer Bear you may think the stories are all action or would be too frightening to younger kids.  But really Bill's stories are more slow and meandering like the namesake creek.  He talks about doing chores, eating lunch with the parents, swimming in the creek.  I think the most gruesome tidbit we heard was how Bill's dad rang the neck of the ol' rooster they were going to eat for supper.

We received Volume One of the audio version of the Sugar Creek Gang.  It contains six stories on 12 CDs, each story lasting about 2 hours.  These must have been aired on the radio at some point because there is music at the introduction and at intervals throughout, but its mostly just the narrator speaking.  I've also noticed a few recapping the plot moments which must have been the start of a new episode.  Bill introduces the members of the gang at the beginning of each story for the benefit of new listeners, but there are some plot points that continue from one story to the next so its best to start at the beginning and continue in order.

We love radio theater and audio books in our home already. I've credited my son's active imagination to the fact that he has to see the stories in his head as he listens (he'll also act out scenes as he listens, draw pictures of story events, or build "sets" with his Jenga blocks.  Schnickelfritz would listen to the Sugar Creek gang at bedtime and we'd pop them in the car on errand day.   I've been listening too and found some teachable moments to stop and discuss--Bill gets in trouble for forgetting to return home right after an errand and for forgetting to close the gate to the pigs.  We've been struggling to help Fritz  remember to check the dog's water and food regularly.

Beloved Books has six volumes of Sugar Creek Gang stories selling for $54.95.  Each set has 12 Cds and about 12 hours of material so that works out to just over $4 per hour/CD which is actually quite a bargain  (and don't worry about once and done, my son's been listening to them over and over).  I'm not going to give a suggested age--there's nothing too scary for little ones and I've enjoyed listening too.  The main characters are all boys, but I believe girls will find plenty to relate to.

There other audio titles include homeschooler's favorites like Little Britches, Gene Stratton Porter books, and G.A. Henty titles.  And here's the best news--you can use discount code OZARK-20 to receive a 20 percent discount on your order.

I received a free copy of Volume One of the Sugar Creek Gang  through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review now was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Science Co-op Week 7

My Co-Op class
Wow!  Two weeks in a row I've had to drive the kids away from our science experiment and on to their next classes.  I even heard several kids ask their mom's if they could try this at home.  Last week made sense as they were playing with a marble coaster.  This week they were "playing" with food.  Our topic was electricity, and for once we actually did the experiment included on the Science of Disney Imagineering DVD.

The Toolman had helped me tape together four 9V batteries and connect them in a series.  The DVD didn't give much instruction on this point, but it appeared they soldered the wires.  We connected them with alligator clips I'd picked up at Radio Shack (where I also got a pack of LED lights).  Here's the set-up...jab a fork into either end of a pickle.  Use alligator clips to connect the battery pack to the forks  ( I didn't want to use my nice forks, but it was easy to find junk forks at Goodwill).   To "see" if current is flowing through the pickle, stick some of the LED lights in the top and see if they light up.  It is helpful to use several lights in each piece of food.  They only light if place in the right direction, and you can't tell by looking at them which way that is, so increasing the number of lights increases your chances that one is correct.  Then you can turn the unlit one around.

In the DVD, Asa demonstrates a current flowing through a pickle, a candy bar, and a glob of mayonnaise.  I told the students to bring a food item to class and we ended up with: a russet potato, a sweet potato, a yellow onion, a Twinkie, an apple, some string cheese, and a slice of French bread.  Before each student took his or her turn, we'd vote on what we thought the outcome would be.

There was a cheer from the crowd every time the LED's lit up.  I was surprised with our results.  Which  ones do you think worked?  Well I'm not going to tell you.  You need to try it yourself!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Review: Crossbow Education

If I had to choose to teach my son just one of the three R's of education it would be reading.  After all, if you can read well you can gain information about any other subject in print!  I love reading--and books (just ask the moving men) and I read aloud to Schnickelfritz all the time.  When Fritz's turn to read came, he often skipped words, inserted words that weren't there, and missed whole lines entirely.  He was having difficulty learning how to track from left to right and from one line to the next.  So we began using plastic bookmarks with tinted windows to help isolate the line of text he was reading.  He said that it really helped keep the words from "jumping around the page."   His reading has improved so much that he's often the first to volunteer in his Prairie Primer co-op.  He hasn't used the isolating tool in a while, so when we recently received a shipment of a similar product from Crossbow Education I was curious to see if his reading would make another leap of improvement.
The Eye Level Reading Ruler is an 8" X 3" flexible piece of plastic.  The two long sides are tinted but transparent, The narrow window isolates a line or two of standard text while the wide end can highlight about five lines.  The 10 pack we received allowed us to try a variety of colors to see which one was most helpful.  The color choices are:

Yellow, Celery, Grass, Jade, Aqua, Pink, Purple, Magenta, Sky,  and Orange.

Schnickelfritz chose his rulers based on his favorite color--blue.   He preferred using the narrow side and highlighting each line one by one.  It was the perfect width for his textbooks.  When I asked him to try the wider window he got distracted from the text by trying to determine when to move the ruler--when he was in the middle of the window or waitint till he reached the bottom.  It was simplest to just move the ruler after reading each line so the additional tinted area was unnecessary.  I forced him to try other colors and asked if he noticed any difference.  He didn't perceive any and I didn't notice any missed words or jumping lines as he read aloud no matter which color he used.

When Fritz was reading out of something other than a textbook, the ruler was more of a distraction than a help.  It would stick out way beyond the edge of the book and seemed cumbersome.  Fritz stopped using the ruler for free reading and I didn't force the issue.  In the end, he didn't use it in school either unless I reminded him, but I didn't really see a difference in his reading performance either way.  I suppose he's overcome the tracking obstacles he used to have.  If we were to continue using the Reading Rulers, I'd buy a set of his optimal color and trim some of them to a paperback width.

But we had such a nice set of rulers and I didn't want them to go to waste so I started using them and was amazed at the benefit I received.  As I mention at the beginning, I love to read and by the end of the day my eyes are quite tired.  I found that certain colors, especially the purple, made the text appear sharper and I didn't feel the eye strain in the evening.  The rulers also make a great straight edge when I want to underline or highlight in my Bible study.  The makers even thought to coat the sides of the ruler--one side glassy and the other matte finish so I could glide it over the page easily or have a little more grip when I pushed against it with my pencil.

I really do think these tinted tools can help beginning readers with tracking and now I know they work well for "more mature" eyes too.  One suggestion I have for Crossbow is to label the colors on the rulers.  If I want to order a set of just purple, that's pretty easy, but if I found the most benefit from one of the green tones I wouldn't know if it was grass or celery.  There was a flyer in the packet that shows the names and colors, but that's just another thing I can't keep track of.

A 10-pack of reading rulers (variety or single color) sells for $16.95.  A 5-pack is available for $9.45 (the variety pack includes Yellow, Grass, Aqua, Purple, and Pink).  Check out their website for other helpful tools for dyslexia and visual stress.


I received a free set of Eye Level Reading Rulers through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review now was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Little Elbow Grease Pays Off!

As you've probably noticed, we like bargains in this family.  There was the $400 set of dishes I picked up at a garage sale for $5 because one plate was missing (I asked for a replacement for Christmas).  There's our beautiful deck we furnished for absolutely free (okay, we paid for spray paint).  And we refurbished a garden bench for my parents.  We're not afraid of a little work to make used items seem new again.  Recently we found a sofa/love seat combo for free on Craig's List.  Believe it or not, we had to email why we deserved the set and he would pick the winner.  The post did mention that the furniture needed to be cleaned. 

When The Toolman pulled up with borrowed trailer full,  I nearly burst into tears.  The furniture didn't just need to be cleaned--it looked like we should wear a haz-mat suit to approach it.  The stuffing was gone from one arm, the recliner cables were broken and some of the springs were loose.  Where did this guy come off making us "plead" to receive his goods?  I was afraid we'd just saved him the hauling fees to the dump, and now we'd have to pay those too.  Cue the Mission Impossible music....

The stuffing was no problem.  When we flipped the couch over (there was no fabric covering the bottom) we could see the cardboad that had been holding it in place had broken.  Most of the stuffing was still in the side section, but I ran out and bought some more at the fabric store (when it was on sale 50% off of course) to make it extra full.  Once we had it in place we could install a piece of plywood over the opening to prevent reoccurance.

The Toolman figured out how to reattach the springs and secured them with some of those plastic ties.  And we found replacement cables on Amazon.  Of course, all this would be for naught if we couldn't get the fabric clean.  I couldn't imagine how much a professional service would charge--so much for a bargain couch.

Well the sofa was in our basement and we really had nothing to lose so I researched how to clean microfiber on the Internet.  Fortunately, I ran across a blogger who'd already tackled such a problem.  Chris and Robin's Nest gives detailed instruction on using rubbing alcohol to clean their sofa.  I went to Sams Club to buy large quantities of the stuff.  We went a step further and used a Shop-Vac to suck up as much liquid as we could.  Here's the result----
Surely I don't have to label the "Before" and "After" for you. 

Jan 2014 follow up:  After having the couch and love seat for a year, we decided they weren't all that comfortable.  We took it to the consignment store and they sold them for $400!  After taking out their commission, and accounting for the stuffing and rubbing alcohol we still came out waayyy ahead. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Science Co-op Week #6

Yesterday's topic was Energy--kid's have it in bucketloads, this mom could use a little more.  Just kidding!  Our Science of Disney's Imagineering DVD covered  potential, kinetic mechanical, and renewable forms of energy as well as the Law of Conservation of Energy.  

I've discovered our 20 minutes doesn't allow for intricate experiments so we didn't try building a Newton's Cradle   Instead I pulled out one of Schnickelfritz's favorite toys.  When he told us his life's ambition was to build roller coasters we bought him a Skyrail Coaster set by Quercetti.

I divided the class into teams and gave each a looping section of track and their choice of ball--I had a steel ball bearing, a glass marble, a plastic marble, a small rubber ball, etc.  Each team needed to build a "lift hill" for their coaster that built enough potential energy for their marble to stay on the track through the loop.  Would the mass of the ball  make a difference in the length and height needed?  We didn't detect much difference but then our tracks were in set lengths at we couldn't add it incrementally. After each group built their own, we started combining loops.  The boys had to stand on chairs and hold the track near the ceiling to get a marble to conquer three loops in a row. 

The experiment was a success. For once, I had to force the kids to stop experimenting and move on to their next classes.  Incidentally, the building manual that comes with the set has several pages of scientific principles in the back and shows you how to construct samples showing momentum, centripetal force, etc.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Review: Dayspring Christian Academy

Let's play a word association game!  What pops into your head when I say "Thanksgiving?"  Since my audience is made up mostly of homeschoolers, I'm going to assume it wasn't football.  I'll bet there were a lot of "family" and "pilgrim" responses.  Everyone thinks of the first Thanksgiving meal at Plymouth and traveling home to share another meal with loved ones.  In our household, the two ideas are really merged because the pilgrim story is our family story.   My son and I are the 10th and 11th generations descended from Gov. William Bradford.  Every year we take time from our normal history to read about "great-grandpa" and the courage and perseverance of the pilgrim fathers.  This year we're using an online computer class by Dayspring Christian Academy

If you believe the story of the pilgrims begins with the Mayflower voyage and ends when they sit down to eat turkey then you've done yourself a great disservice.  We know they wanted to come to the new world to be free to worship their own way--what was that way and why did they choose it in the first place?  Did you know the Mayflower voyage wasn't the first time they left England?  Why did the first time fail?  What happened after  the Thanksgiving dishes were washed and put away? 

The Pilgrim Story  consists of 17 lessons organized into 5 units.  Believe it or not, the Mayflower voyage isn't even covered until lesson ten--there's that much background material.  We begin with Henry VIII and the separation from the Catholic church and formation of the Church of England.  Queen Mary and her bloody reign forced many Protestants to flee to Geneva, Switzerland where they produced the Bible translation of the same name--the Bible of the pilgrims.  The lessons go on to cover the attempts to leave England and the pilgrims' life in Leiden, Holland.  We sat together at the computer two to three times a week to view and discuss the lessons.

The lessons are presented like an online PowerPoint presentation.  You advance from slide to slide viewing text and pictures and listening to the accompanying audio.  Occasionally the student will be force to answer questions or click on pictures in a timeline before they're allowed to click the next button.  With each lesson are a number of downloadable PDF files that will form a student handbook:  note sheets with blanks to be filled in, vocabulary lists, maps, quotations, etc. To Fritz, just words and pictures wasn't that entertaining, but at least he could hear rather than read the material. Having to fill in the blanks forced him to pay attention.  You can expect a complete lesson to take 45-60 minutes to view.  Then there are activities to be done away from the computer: while younger students may just click yes or no to the question "Is a king the ultimate authority in the land," older students may write a persuasive essay on the subject (I didn't ask my son to do any of the writing assignments).
Schnickelfritz has been enjoying some of the other enrichment activities though.  When we studied the Geneva Bible there was an opportunity to translate a Bible verse from Greek.  Fritz began to understand why a literal word for word translation is so hard--each language has its own sentence structure so the English words appeared jumbled.  While we don't doubt the reliability of the original Bible, each translation is tainted slightly by the words choice of the translator.  (King James also took exception to the side notes--that's why he ordered the creation of the version that bears his name).

I'll be honest that Fritz already knew a lot of the material presented about the pilgrims themselves (we've studied it so often), but there were new opportunities to develop empathy with their hardships. Here's Schnickelfritz rolling out the dough to make hardtack biscuits.  The recipe was included in the lesson resources.  I wasn't sure if the stone ground meal called for was whole wheat or a combination of grains so we ground a mix of oat groats, rye and wheat berries.  We baked the biscuits but then I used our dehydrator to finish the drying process rather than leave them out for a few days.  Our humid climate tends to mold foods quickly (and while that may have been authentic, I wasn't willing to go that far).  Our conclusion:  they tasted pretty good, but we wouldn't want to eat them day after day after day.....

I do want to add a word or two for those of you who don't have the latest and greatest computer systems...  We still live in dial-up country and every time we watched a lesson at some point the screen would lock up.  We couldn't click next, we couldn't click back page.  Our only option was to disconnect, close all the open web pages and then reconnect and go back to the lesson.  Lessons always restart at the beginning but you can click the content tab and go to the screen you were working on.  I contacted Dayspring about our problem and they are aware that the Flash doesn't work well with dial-up.  The program is do-able though sometimes inconvenient.  There are no plans to make the lessons available on a CD.

Since we were having issues with our home connection we went to my mother's to use her DSL line and discovered another inconvenience (still overcome-able though).  Her not-so-new computer has a square monitor rather than the newer wide screen versions.  At 100% zoom (normal viewing) we were not able to see, let alone click the next button or the content/resources tabs.  If we wanted to see the whole image we had to zoom to 50%, but then the image was only the size of a 4X6 photo.  We compromised at 75% and were able to get just enough of the next button to click it.

We decided to make our setbacks part of the lesson--after all, great-grandpa Bradford and the others didn't give up at the first sign of trouble.  We would learn patience and perseverance in our own must-less-mortal way.  I do believe the lessons and information are worth the effort to complete.

The Pilgrim Story is targeted to 3 - 6 graders (although I believe that older students wouldn't find the presentations too beneath them and they could do the essay work).  A six-month subscription for lesson access is $99.  Normally, that would put this course out of our price range, but consider that the 400th anniversary of Plymouth Colony is only 8 years away.  Do you want your kids to learn about Plymouth by the revisionist historians that will be trying to downplay the Christian aspect of the colony?   Or being taught the liberal agendas of those that currently gather on Thanksgiving in Plymouth to mark a National Day of Mourning?

The course is self-paced and you can access any of the lessons at any time. Other courses currently available are A.P. Statistics and Teaching Literature using the Princicple Approach.

I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Science Co-op Week 5

We've reached the half-way point in our science co-op now.  I've only lost one student who decided to switch to animal science.  This week I started the class by telling the kids if they want to impress people, tell them that today we studied trobology.  Know what that is?  The science of friction (another Disney Imagineering DVD I need to reviewin detail).   The Try It Yourself experiment dealt with making musical (I use that term loosely) instruments by rubbing strings.  I decided to find my own experiment,  one more practical.  And this time after I explained the procedure I was able to take some pictures!

We linked the concept of friction to traction on the road.  In this case our roads were two foot long lengths of 2 x 4's and our vehicles were plastic containers weighted down with sugar.  Our control piece was the plain board, a second board was coated with oil -- I likened it to the oil slicks raised when it begins to rain.  The final board was coated with ice to simulate winter driving.  I found the best way to prepare the board was to lay it flat in the freezer the day before and mist it with a spray bottle several times a day.

The kids placed their "vehicles" at one end of the board and slowly began lifting them.  They stopped as soon as the containers started slipping and measured the height of the board and the angle of the slope.   

I have to say I was surprised at the results (I was a bad teacher and didn't follow my own advice to always try the experiment before doing it with the kids).  The icy board did have the least friction, but the oil-coated board actually required greater height and slope than the plain wood.  In retrospect, I wonder if the rain actually lifts the oil off the road surface and perhaps I should have wet the board down before (or after) applying the oil.  If anyone tries this experiment, please let me know how this turns out.

Monday, October 8, 2012

A Walk Back in Time

The weather was just perfect last weekend for our family (Schnickelfritz, the Toolman and I were joined by my parents, Papa & Dida) to travel to Mexico,  not the country but the small town in central Missouri.  This wouldn't be a trip of geography but back in time as the event is named.  Most re-enactments deal with a specific event or era.  We've done several Lewis & Clark expeditions and Civil War battles.  A Walk Back in Time allows you to wander the grounds of the Audrain County Historical Museum and visit many eras in American history from Colonial times to Vietnam.  I've said it before and I'll say it again--the best people to teach you are the ones who have a passion for the subject.  These men and women gave up their weekend (and took vacation from work to teach school kids on Friday) to dress up and share what they've researched about their period of history.

We decided to start at the beginning and work our way forward through history.

The Toolman trying out a quill pen
These re-enactors are only human and occasionally break character, like this colonial ship owner/merchant with a digital camera in his hand.  He was taking a picture of a portable table & benches set.  When I told him why I was giggling at him he did said his wife had chastised him that morning about wearing his blue tooth in his ear.

Here's the table (which I also found fascinating).  The Bible says there's nothing new under the son.  Here I think we're lucky to have portable gear for camping, but this whole set disassembles and fits in the box that makes up the table surface.  I was told a vendor sold them at last year's event, but I'll have to try and find my own plans on the Internet.

Moving forward to the age of the trappers and mountain men we're ran into this shaggy character.  He told us about the mutual benefits of mountain men taking Indian wives.  They had the protection of family while hunting and trapping, the family gained access to guns and ammunition.

In the Wild West, Schnickelfritz found a whip in the General store.  We had recently let him see Raiders of the Lost Ark and he "needed" one of his own.  The vendor knocked the price down from $10 to $4--I guess it pays to be cute.

A couple of real desperadoes in the Wild West Jail

Fritz would have been a good candidate to be a Pony Express rider (assuming his Mama would let him).  This was one of several booths that offered free Bibles--which a real Express rider would have been issued as well.

After lunch, we headed to the more modern warfare side of the museum--if you can call the Civil War modern.  Papa & the Toolman were certainly more interested in the weapons of war on display.  And it was interesting that not all the re-enactors were "Americans."  There were German and Russian troops in the World War II areas.  I saw this girl playing with her puppy (who needed to work off some pent up energy). 

From a distance I thought the dog was carrying some sort of radio equipment.  Imagine my horror to learn the Russians had trained dogs to walk under tanks.  The wooden stick poking up was a detonation device that would destroy the tank when the dog passed under.  It was a short lived program because dogs couldn't distinguish the friendly tanks from the foes.   Of course,  not all of us have grown more civilized today when I think of women and children being trained to be human bombs.

The entire family had a good day.  There were also exhibits by the World Bird Sanctuary, period music and lectures on Tarleton (from the American Revolution),  the War of 1812, etc.  I wish that there was authentic food, but the re-enactors were only providing for themselves and we had to go to the modern food tents.  Fortunately for us there was an Amish family making ice cream.  Yum!!!

And you can't have a history event in Missouri without an appearance by one of its most famous sons.  Here's Schnickelfritz with Mark Twain.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Review: Beeyoutiful products

Let me be upfront with you,  this isn't the first time I've reviewed Beeyoutiful products and I hope it won't be the last.  My first year on the crew we received a bottle of Berry Well.  Earlier this year we had Hair Shine.  I love to read the articles in their catalog when it comes (yes, I'm a customer).  I'm currently receiving their email series,  101 Practical ways to use Essential Oils.  Okay,  I may not have a totally unbiased opinion about the company, but I promise to keep it honest.  This year I was thrilled to open a whole box of health and well-being products that can be used by the whole family.  NOTE:  Berry Well does contain raw honey which doctors recommend not be given to babies under one year old.

So let's go through the box together.......

Berry Well - 8 fl. oz.  ($19.75)

 A combination of Elderberry Syrup, Proplis, Raw Honey, Echinacea, and Raw vinegar designed to help fight colds, flu and other bacterial and viral infections.
The first time we received a bottle, no one got sick.  This year my husband came home from a trip to Chicago with a case of airplane crud--coughing, sinus pain, etc.  I started him on doses right away  (he also upped his vitamin C doses) and began taking it myself.  It's been three weeks and he still has a phlegm-y cough,  but I didn't catch it.  My son picked up a cough but I started giving him my dose and it disappeared after two days.  Full Disclosure:  My husband has had all the lymph nodes in his neck and upper chest removed while battling thyroid cancer as a teenager so he's already missing a key defense system in fighting disease.   My son and I, on the other hand, have a fairly strong immune systems.  I would say Berry Well gave me a boost to avoid the cold, but it's not going to be a miracle cure for everyone.

Ow! Ease Salve - 1 oz. ($15.00)

Olive oil, St. Johns Wort, Coconut oil, essential oils. Use on sprains, strains, bruises, sore muscles to reduce swelling and pain.  No heavy minty odor!!

 This fall a local church has opened up their recreational center for homeschoolers to use once a week.  The first day had a tremendous turnout and a few of us moms were teaching the kiddos the finer points of volleyball.  I was so caught up in reliving the glory days of our high school careers that we didn't notice the bumps and pains on our wrists and knees (no pads!)  until I got home.   What a perfect opportunity to try Ow!-Ease.  I rubbed the stick on my and my sons arms.  Before suppertime we both realized that the pain had stopped.  We were even more pleased when the bruises didn't appear the next day (we're both very fair skinned and show bruises easily).  It also relieved the pain from a superficial scrape from my son's bike riding accident. (According to the DVD that accompanied the products you should use Miracle, not Ow!Ease on open wounds).   I keep the stick in our gym bag now for immediate application.

Miracle Skin Salve-2 oz. ($15.00) OR 4 oz ($25.00).

Coconut Oil, Olive oil, Beeswax, herbs and essential oils to pomote deep healing and skin restoration.  Use on burns, bites and diaper rash.

This product was the real reason I wanted to review the Beeyoutiful set.  Without getting too graphic...ever since my hysterectomy two years ago I've had a reoccurring sore spot that burns when I use the bathroom.  The doctor says that it's a difficult area to heal because it's hard to keep dry and there's not much circulation in this spot.  I began applying the salve every time after I used the toilet.  As long as I'm consistent, the burning doesn't occur on my next visit.

I unexpectedly found a second opportunity to test the salve when something bit me at our bonfire.  I didn't even feel the bite, but the next day I had a bright red spot the size of a half-dollar covered with fluid filled blisters.  My husband popped all the blisters and I began applying the salve every time I was in the bathroom.     Two weeks later, the spot is almost healed on the outside although it's still sore to the touch.   I've also been applying it to my cuticle area to try and deal with soreness/hangnail issues.  You just rub your fingers over the surface of the product and then apply a thin film on the skin so this 2 ounce jar will last a long, long time!

Lip B.A.L.M  ($3.00)

A non-petroleum based lip moisterizer. 

We haven't officially entered chapped lip season, but I also received a tube of this last spring when I did have a cold.  I applied it regularly to my lips and used a finger to smear it around my nose which was raw from tissues.  I had relief right away.  I've tried both and prefer the orange, but that's just personal preference.

Beautiful Views DVD  ($3.00) 

In this DVD, Stephanie Tallent shares how she uses some of the most popular Beeyoutiful products in her home.

This is more than just a promotional video.  If I hadn't watched it, I wouldn't have known not to use Ow!-Ease on open wounds.  There was also a four part lesson on how to use Activated Charcoal.  I'm glad I saw it now so that  I can purchase some and know how to use it in an emergency--like a food poisoning.  There was another section on natural pregnancy that I skipped--having had a hysterectomy that stage of life is over.

I've been pleased with every product from Beeyoutiful.  While the politicians continue to ruin our heath care system, I'll be relying more and more on these natural remedies.  Let me update you on our use of Hair Shine.  I'd been told that it worked well to treat sunburns but it wasn't the right time of year to test that claim.  Since then, both my son and I have sprayed it on mild to moderate sunburns.  There was instant relief so he could go to sleep.  By morning a lot of the redness was already gone and another spritz stopped the pain.  You couldn't even tell we'd had sunburns by day three. 

Others on the Homeschool Review Crew tried out their make up and skin care products so you'll want to read their reviews as well.

Disclaimer: I received the products described above for free from Beeyoutiful for the purpose of completing this review.  There was no other compensation for my opinions.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Science Co-Op Week #4

This week was Levers & Pulleys in co-op class.  We always start class by watching the appropriate Science of Imagineering DVD only this week I couldn't get the dad-danged player to work.  I sent one of the other moms to find the minister's son, our resident A/V tech.  I was having to improvise and I'm not nearly as entertaining as Imagineer Asa.   Luckily, I had a demonstration on how pulleys make our work easier.  I had the two largest boys in class stand on either side of me, each holding one of Schnickelfritz's karate sticks and tried to pull them towards me.  I didn't make them budge.  Then I brought up the smallest girl in class.  We tied a laundry line to one stick and wound it back and forth between the two sticks.  The picture below gives you an idea--I couldn't take a photo while I was running the class...

If you try this yourself, use lots of rope and have the kids stand 3-4 feet apart.  That way they can be pulled towards each other without the risk of fingers getting smashed by the sticks.  Also, be sure the two helpers hold the sticks at the top and bottom with the ropes in between.  I didn't notice one boy had both his hands at the bottom and the first time the girl pulled, the ropes just slid off the top.

Thank goodness, after this the minister's son was able to hook up a new DVD player and we proceeded with the video.  (I just realized, I've never done a review of the Levers & Pulleys DVD so I'll have to share that with you later).

Our hands on experiment involved our other simple tool--levers.  I found it on a Cyberchase website and altered it slightly to suit our tight schedule.  Rather than give each group three different length levers I divided the class into three groups and gave each a lever of differing lengths.  The lever itself is made of foam board balanced on a dismantled binder clip.  The instructions call for Dixie cups, but I used the same cups as our fluids experiment and they worked fine.

To my mind this experiment worked backwards.  Rather than having a set load and seeing how longer levers made it easier to lift, the experiment used a set effort and saw how changing lengths allowed us to lift heavier loads..  We placed one penny in the effort end cup (which was placed in a down position).  Then the teams added one penny at a time into the load end until the seesaw shifted and lifted the effort end off the ground.

 Here's a better angle to see that the longer the lever the more pennies it took for the seesaw to shift.

If you try this, make sure the kids place the fulcrum under the line and have them recheck it throughout.  Sometimes it would shift to under the load cup and then nothing would make it shift.  (I couldn't find a way to attach the fulcrum to the board without interfering with the mobility).

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Review: Box of I.D.E.As.

I'm probably going to find myself nominated for Geek of the Month, but I love it when our schooling takes something simple and mundane and peels back the layers to reveal something really fascinating.  I'm willing to bet that every home in America has a shaker of salt somewhere, but have you really every thought about that kitchen staple.  Growing up, my father used to work for Morton Salt so I was at least aware of some difference kinds--kosher salt, rock salt, salt for the driveway, and (my personal favorite) ice cream salt.  When I learned we were going to be reviewing the Salt module from Book of I.D.E.As., I assumed we'd be covering its ability to lower the freezing point of water and other science experiments.  There was a lesson on the science of salt, but so much more I'd never considered in this salt study geared for 9-16 year olds.

The History of Salt

Can you believe salt could play a role in the outcome of a war?  During their retreat from Moscow, thousands of Napoleon's troops died because their wounds wouldn't heal properly and their lowered resistance to disease.  The cause--inadequate salt in the diet.  Cities were established and named for the salt nearby, world famous ones like Saltzburg, Austria and closer to home French Lick, Indiana.  Salt was a form of currency.  A slave was said to be "worth his salt" if he worked hard, since he was purchased with salt.

The Language of Salt

You've certainly heard and probably used phrases like "rub salt in one's wounds" or "back to the salt mines."   How about taking information "with a grain of salt."  Here's you chance to learn the origins of the terms.  I learned that the word "salary" is a derivative of salt because  Roman soldiers would receive salt as part of their pay.

The Need for Salt

All creatures need some salt in their diet, but this lesson goes on to cover that we can get to much of a good thing.  The activities for this lesson had us looking at nutrition labels for sodium content and planning meals with the recommended allowance for sodium. ( tasks near and dear to my heart as I try to lower my blood pressure).

Preserving with Salt

The main reason towns and cities grew around salt licks is because before refrigeration, salt was used to preserve food.  Of course, there's one culture that used it to preserve much more than food--Egyptian mummies!!  There was a link in the PDF file to an experiment with mummifying apples (I thought this was a much better plan than some labs I've seen that use a fryer chicken).

Producing Salt

Like many food staples, we only see what we buy in the package at the grocery store.  But how did it get on the store shelf in the first place?  We explore dry and wet mining and evaporation methods of collecting salt.

Science of Salt

Now we were in familiar territory--experimenting with salt lowering the freezing point of water.  The experiment compares rock salt to Ice Melt.  It follows the scientific method of coming up with a hypothesis,
details the materials needed and procedures, we record and analyze the data, and end with a page of open ended discussion questions and a place to write our conclusions.

The Salt March

Here was another lesson where I was surprised to connect salt with social studies/history.  I was aware that Mahatma Gandhi was famous for his peaceable protests of British Rule in India.  It was news that one of the many things he protested against was a Salt tax imposed on every person in India.  It inflated the price beyond what many could afford, but anyone who collected their own salt was subject to a 6 month jail sentence.  Gandhi led a 240 march to the sea where he manufactured his own salt in plain sight of the authorities.  The lesson activities includes making a timeline of events and a map of the march.

The Salt of the Earth

I confess a little disappointment that this lesson wasn't about Christ's reference to salt in the Sermon on the Mount.  (There is an exercise in The History of Salt lesson that has you look up Biblical references).  It's actually a geography lesson in countries that produce salt around the world.

The Wall that Salt Built

China was the first country to build an empire with money raised from the sale of salt.  It actually paid for most of the construction of the Great Wall of China.  A game in the lesson helps teach facts about the wall itself, but the rest of the lesson actually covers the economics of a monopoly.

Very Salty

A geography lesson about hypersaline (very salty) lakes.  I was able to share my first hand experiences floating in The Dead Sea.  The lesson covers a dozen such bodies of water around the world.

The other PDF files include an overview of the Box of I.D.E.As. products and how to use the curriculum in your school.  There's also a test and answer key.  Most modules provide flash cards to be printed and used for games and activities, but there are a few worksheets, lab sheets, and maps.  The lesson introductions give a brief overview of the topic, but most learning will come through the web links provided in the text.  It is unfortunate fact that web pages are moved or removed frequently and I received a fair number of 404 error messages.  I was able to go to home pages of these sites and search for the information I needed.  Another negative is the high price--$49 for PDF download and $79 for a hard copy.  That's a bit high for a study that falls outside our required core curriculum. 

Box of I.D.E.As. also offers modules on World War II--Pearl Harbor,  Quilting, Laundry, and a theme on the number Eleven (think Apollo Eleven for starters).  More topics are in development--Cemeteries, Olives, Pines.   Again, they seem to be taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary.  Salt is far from the mundane subject I had taken it for and now when someone asks me to pass it at the table I'll have an interesting story or two to share.


Disclaimer: I received a free PDF version of Salt for the purpose of completing this review.  There was no other compensation for my opinions.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Bookmarks: Simple but Effective

For the past several years, I've used my own modified version of work boxes.  Rather than number the boxes I assign a box to each subject and keep everything I need in it.  For example,  Schnickelfritz uses colored pencils for our inductive Bible study and for Mapping the World by Heart so we actually have two sets of pencils, one in each box.  That way we never have to go searching...a time waster and source of frustration that can drag down an otherwise good morning of school.

Now I've taken a further step and created bookmarks for each subject.  We can use them to mark where we are in each textbook--a time saver when you get to the thicker books like Mystery of History.  I also laminated them and left a space to write "Today's Assignment"  with a wet erase marker (the dry erase was smearing in the books). 

I can write the assignment on the bookmark so Fritz can start working while I'm busy elsewhere.  As an only child he's been spoiled by having the teacher always by his side and I need to work on his independant learning.

I used Graphic Toolbox to make these, but the concept is so simple you can copy and paste pictures of book covers into any program.

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