Saturday, January 31, 2009

IF your kids fall off their chairs ... for no reason at all ...

One of the blessings of being a part of the TOS Homeschool Crew has been the relationships established among crew members. This group of parents is one of the most generous groups I've encountered, offering encouragement, advice, hints, sharing from their hearts, sometimes from very personal places. The cyber-fellowship has been so sweet! ;)

I have spent (probably) too much time the past eight years researching anything and everything autism related. Ask anyone who knows me in real life, and they'll tell you that one of my skills is being able to point folks to research and resources quickly, because I have read so much and retain what are sometimes odd and obsure pieces of information.

Being on the Crew has shown me that I still have a lot to uncover, and being connected to this wonderful group of parents has given me information and resources that I don't know if I would have found on my own. I have discovered that I am NOT the only mom on the planet who struggles with a child who is active, full of movement and energy, distractible. There are a lot more of us that I realized!

One of those moms is April, who shared some resources that are new to me, and I want to bless you with them, too (with April's permission). Here's part of what she shared with me:

"IF your kids fall off their chairs ... for no reason at all ...

...and they're those active, kinesthetic, distractible, creative types ... "

says April, "you should check out Carol Barnier's books and websites. She blessed me so much when I heard her at a homeschool conference. Until I heard her speak, I had no idea WHY my kids would just fall off their chairs during supper and school. I'd say, 'What were you doing?' They'd say, 'Nothing. Just sitting.'

At the conference when she talked about that, I just laughed and laughed because I could so relate to it. I didn't know it was because they were active or kinesthetic. I had no idea. I just thought I had the clumsiest kids on earth.

Through the rest of her sessions (I attended every single one) ... I cried. I cried because I was relieved, and she restored my hope, and helped me learn to be positive and see the good in the personality traits that go along with those ADHD and ADD type kids. The dreamers ... the kids who are just "more" ... to combine a few different book topics.

Here are the web sites:"

As I began to look over the web sites, one title caught my eye and made me laugh out loud: How to Get your Child off the Refrigerator and on to Learning: Homeschooling Highly Distractible, ADHD, or Just Plain Fidgety Kids. I may have to order that one!

Thanks, April, for allowing me to share with others what you shared with me!

Y'all check out Aprils' blog, located here, that includes posts on teaching the distractible child. Here's one.

Monday, January 26, 2009

All About Homophones, A TOS Crew Review (PLUS $10 off through Feb 2nd)

All About Spelling's Marie Rippel offers another goodie for parents and teachers, a tool kit that teaches homophones, called (what else?), "All About Homophones". The "All About Homophones" web site is here, where you can look inside the product for a sample.

Our TOS Crew reviewed the e-book version ($27.95), and Rippel has available a soft-cover version ($29.95) as well.

I'm not sure that anyone has ever attempted the concept of homophones with my daughter who is on the autism spectrum. I certainly had not, and when I learned that I would be reviewing this product, I honestly did not know what to expect.

I love it! My priorities involve products and resources that my daughter and I can use together, guided participation style, and they need to be products that scaffold my part as guide, so that I can devote more time to the together part than the planning part. This product meets my criteria.

When I printed the first few sets of worksheets, I somehow managed to print two sets of each page. I wish I could say that printing two sets was on "on purpose". It was not. Since I had two sets, I decided to sit down and complete the same page that I gave my daughter to complete. When she saw that I had the same worksheet that she had, she joined me willingly, and she and I worked through the homophones together. I was able to get a glimpse into what she already knows and what she needs to grow. Note to self: Always print two copies of the worksheets.

The workbook is set up by grade level, covering grades 1-8, beginning with graphic organizers, followed by leveled worksheets that consist of ten fill-in-the-blank questions about sets of homophones, followed by puzzles, games and other teaching tools that include tongue twisters, riddles and puns.

We will continue to use "All About Homophones" for a long time -- I like that it covers 1st - 8th grades, and Rippel's games are a fun way to incorporate learning into "between you and me" time! I do like the 239 page e-book option because I can print just the parts I need and save the rest until later without taking up room on a bookcase.

I continue to be impressed with information made available on vendor web sites, and "All About Homophones" is no exception. Make sure you check out the homophone machine on the web site!!!

I really like this product -- it's given me some direction and competency in a new area of learning for my daughter!

A note from Marie Rippel:

And this is the big news: to celebrate the launch of All About Homophones, your readers can get $10 off any order at! To receive the discount, visitors to the site need to enter "FUN" in the customer code box during checkout. The coupon code is good for one week, through February 2, 2009. Feel free to let your readers know about this coupon code. They can get their own copy of All About Homophones for $17.95 (e-book version) or $19.95 (print version) throughnext Monday.

Other reviews of "All About Homophones" by our crew are available here.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Review: Molly's Money Saving Digest

I've been eyeing Molly and her money saving ideas ever since she was introduced to subscribers of the TOS magazine and the e-newsletter, "The Homeschool Minute". What kind of money saving tips is she offering, I wondered? Because we've got one child on a gluten free, casein free diet (we have other allergies to consider, too), I was afraid the money saving digest would be heavy on tips that I can't take because of our dietary needs. I do very little food shopping in a "regular" grocery store and I can't head to the store with the priority to stick with the sales, because the foods on sale may not be on our "safe" list. And a section on how to bake my own bread would not be helpful at my house!

I jumped at the chance to review a digest--I really wanted to know if, in our situation, if Molly has ideas that will work in my family.

We continue to move away from using chemicals for cleaning at home, because I believe that a lot of cleaning products are more poison than positive. I was delighted to open the February, 2009, issue of Molly's Money Saving Digest to see that this issue is called, "Gardening Basics and Natural Cleaners"!

The "Molly's Minute" section tells readers that this particular issue is longer than most. In the "Begin With The Basics" column, Lisa Vitello provides readers with a background into a time in history where being frugal not an option: The Great Depression. The digest includes a list of items on sale in February, followed by a section on coupon organization. I used to be a big user of coupons -- and then I had children! Molly offers several ideas, including one method of organizing coupons that I have never heard before! A section on becoming more fiscally fit builds on an article from last month's digest. (And I noticed a teaser for next month's article about how to make money from home, too!) The February issue contains a lesson in decoupage in the "Feather Your Nest-Frugally" section along with some simple decorating ideas.

One of my favorite sections of the digest is the "Pull Up A Chair" section where readers are offered a list of holidays and special days in February and March! The lists provide lots of great excuses for GFCF cookie, cake and cupcake baking! ;)

I am always skeptical when I reach the recipe section of a magazine or newsletter -- I find that most recipes offered tend to be difficult or impossible to convert to GFCF +++, because the recipes rely on cheeses and flour and products that are off limits at my house. This particular issue of Molly's digest, though, is different--the first two recipes are "safe" for my family and the third recipe is easily converted. (I don't know if all issues are so GFCF friendly, but this one is!)

"Parenting that Pays," is an article that is rooted in "guided participation" from a Biblical perspective, and offers information and ideas for parents that are both important and practical.

Dena Wood's contribution, "Something Old, Something New" describes ways in which she has recycled old items into new. I like her clever pot rack!

The gardening section is full of short cuts to links filled with information, and offers tips for folks with lots of space and for folks with notsomuch space for gardening. From an herb garden to a salad garden, the "how-to's" are provided here.

The raise-your-own-chickens section is a little "out there" for me. We live in a suburban setting where we cannot consider chickens in our back yard! If you are in a rural area and are considering your own chickens, Molly has the information for you!

The digest offers a section on spring cleaning that includes ideas on what to do now and what to tackle in the fall. Here's another of my favorites in this digest--the recipes for making your own cleaning products. Readers get recipes for potpourri, window/glass cleaner, furniture cleaner, carpet fresheners, a general floor cleaner, and a room/linen spray.

The digest concludes with a "Goal Getter Story", a testimony from a family who's been there in terms of setting financial and life goals and how they went about reaching them. Beginning in March, Molly will host a Q&A section in the digest.

Molly does a nice job weaving verses from scripture among parts of the digest, for encouragement and inspiration, and for instruction. Cost is $4.95 per e-book, available through the tab here.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Write Shop Story Builders, a TOS Homeschool Crew Review

Children with autism often have challenges with comprehension of meaning, both spoken and unspoken, and related to that, challenges with imagination and creation of novel storylines. My child with autism is no exception, and I am always looking for ways to help us practice and grow in those areas. And I am always looking for resources that allow me to build competence and confidence as teacher and guide with my daughter, and Story Builders are products that meet all of those criteria!! (I have really enjoyed these cards!)

I was introduced to Write Shop's Story Builders when I was given a story builder last spring as one of many free gifts that came with a new subscription to TOS magazine. I signed up for their e-newsletter at that time. I got so many free gifts w/ the magazine subscription that I downloaded a bunch of them and forgot about them as summer arrived and we took a break from homeschooling. In downloading them and forgetting about them, I missed some wonderful opportunities to work on story creation, story telling, and imagination throughout the summer and fall.

Write Shop returned to my radar screen again in December, when the company sent a freebie, a holiday mini-story builder, inside their e-newsletter. I promptly downloaded and printed that one onto plain copy paper and my daughter and I plopped ourselves on the floor and created several stories. I was hooked, which sent me looking for the free story builder I'd been given in the spring w/ that subscription. Ironically, Write Shop signed on with the TOS Homeschool Crew, and I was offered story builders to use and review, World of People and World of Animals. There is a sports-themed story builder available as well.

Story Builders are e-books that you print at home. Each page contains eight cards and each card holds a different word or phrase. Words and phrases fall into one of four categories that "provide students with the basic elements of a story—character, character trait, setting, and plot". Each set of cards is offered TWO ways, one in black and white, for printing on colored paper or card stock, and another version where the text is different colors by category (character, character trait, setting, plot) for printing on white paper or card stock. The "animals" and "people" story builders come with some blank cards so that you can add new words and phrases, as well. Because they look like a game, they don't immediately send off "SCHOOLWORK" signals to my daughter.

The full-size story builders contain 192 cards formatted two ways (b&w or color) and cost $7.95 each. (You print just one of the two sets, either the color set or the b&w set.) There are enough words and phrases, story pieces to build many stories, and you could combine the sets if you choose.

Obviously, there are other costs involved, whether you print them at home or take them to an office supply store to have printed. I printed the first set (the holiday mini) on plain paper, and immediately added card stock to my shopping list. Copy paper is too thin in my opinion, and the card stock is sturdier and easier to handle. I found a better deal on card stock at a warehouse club than at a craft store, although the warehouse club offered only white card stock, while the craft store offered a variety of colors. There is also a little bit of "assembly" time involved, as someone must cut out all of those cards! (I've done a lot of cutting this school year between the spelling program and Story Builders! I'm considering the purchase of a cutter at this point.)

I chose to sit on the floor with my daughter to "play" with the cards--it looks less like "school" that way. We've experimented with them a lot, using some of the ideas that Write Shop includes with each Story Builder, and using some of our own. We've spread them out around us by category and built the story that we wanted, carefully choosing the right cards. We've chosen cards blindly and built crazy stories, too.

I was pleasantly surprised when my daughter brought a notebook and marker to our story building time in order to write down some of the story. She typically resists handwriting and copywork, and yet, she enjoyed our story so much that she wanted to write down some of the words! ;)
I applied to beta test one of Write Shop's products after spending some time on their web site. I am impressed with everything I've seen. They prepare their products with both development and guided participation in mind. Spend some time on the "support" section of their web site--there are helpful articles there and links to discussion groups, also. If you look along the side of my blog, you'll see a list of blogs that I follow. Write Shop's blog, "In Our Write Minds", is one of them. Be sure to check out the links on the side of THEIR blog -- they introduced me to some wonderful resources!

Go to the TOS freebie page, where you'll find a link to free samples from Write Shop, including a sample of a Story Builder.

Story Builders have become another of my favorites, because the products are simple to use and they scaffold the teaching process for me so that I can scaffold the learning and discovery process for my daughter. I hope you like them, too!
Check out other TOS Homeschool Crew reviews here.

A Night Out (time out from homeschooling and reviewing)

The North American International Auto Show
Charity Preview

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Eldest performing in vocal music concert

Beautiful song, important message

Cold enough to...

The temp on my BRICKS is displayed, not the temp in my HOUSE, in case you're wondering!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Saying Goodbye (out with the old, in with the new)

Our old refrigerator/freezer expired yesterday.
We bought it new about 21 years ago.
R.I.P. Trusty Whirlpool!
I bought a new one last night.
While I waited for the new one to be delivered today, I organized and alphabetized my spice rack. The rack is a wood CD tower (I knew you were wondering about that).

There was an awkward moment at the end of the driveway where the two refrigerators met:

The empty space waiting to be filled again:
Bringing in the new appliance:

The new interior:


Tuesday, January 6, 2009


The holidays are over and we got back into the swing of our routine yesterday, gently. From last week's lesson in Terri Johnson's "Homeschooling ABCs" e-class, I printed a few stories from a living book download she offered as a freebie, and my daughter and I began reading them together. I continue to enjoy this six month long e-class and the helpful quick-links to information that I need plus the freebies that are included with every lesson!

I have been considering a purchase of a kitchen gadget after friend Amy posted about hers, here:

I have two items that we are using that will have reviews due soon:

All About Homophones


two of Write Shop's Story Builders, which I received as part of the TOS Homeschool Crew of reviewers *after* Write Shop sent me the free mini-story builder w/ a holiday theme, in their e-newsletter.

And, it's like Christmas after Christmas! I learned in the past few days that I'll be using/reviewing three more items (and maybe a fourth):

Math Tutor dvds - an Algebra 2 dvd, and a Word Problem dvd

something from Bible Story Songs


a book from Artistic Pursuits

and possibly something from David and Melinda Boring at Heads Up! I read Melinda's book, oh, two or three years ago. She's a speech therapist who homeschooled a child that sounded very similar a child I know on the autism spectrum. I'm hoping that even though I am an alternate on the TOS Homeschool Crew of reviewers, that I will be blessed to use and review something from Heads Up! If you have a child with unique learning needs, whether you're a homeschooler or not, check out the web site.


Saturday, January 3, 2009

Sights we saw on our drive home today

This statue is referred to by some folks as the "touchdown Jesus".
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