Friday, October 28, 2011


Becky B won the Jeremy Riddle FURIOUS CD! Congrats, Becky! She was the only entrant.

Entrant #8 won the Caterpillar's Math House giveaway. That's Gigi at The Last Six Brain Cells.

I'll contact both of you for snail mail addresses.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

NorthStar Games: Say AnythingFamily Edition

Say Anything from NorthStar Games is a game of perspective taking for 3-6 players ages 8+, retail priced at $19.99. If you're looking for a fun family game that works for a family that includes an individual on the autism spectrum, this is it.

The set up and rules are pretty simple. One player each round is the judge. The judge draws a card from the stack of Question Cards and chooses a question to read aloud. All of the players write an answer on a mini dry-erase board and each player places the dry erase board face up on the table (or floor - we like to play games on the floor) in front of them as quickly as possible. The judge chooses his/her favorite answer by marking it on the game piece called the SELECT-O-MATIC 6000 (which looks like a teeny spinner from a game, except it doesn't spin - the judge dials the arrow to the color of the player whose answer he likes the best).

The players guess which answer the judge chose - and that is how points are earned.

The player who wrote the answer that the judge chose earns a bonus point, so there is an additional level of perspective taking and strategy here if you know the judge well and know what answer he or she might choose.

Here's an example of some questions:

What would be the worst place to talk on a cell phone?
Who is the greatest musician or band ever?
What animal would it be the most fun to be?

The game is over once everyone has asked two questions. The winner is the player w/ the most points.

This is my kind of game. It's short and sweet. Say Anything is the type of game that autism moms, professionals who work with kids with developmental delays and with individuals w/ autism like. We rarely play any game out of the box by the rules, and Say Anything has outside-the-box value. The little question cards are little gems in terms of practicing shared attention and perspective taking.

And yes, of course I used the question cards outside of the game. ;) They're great dinner questions or riding in the car questions that can be used to grow perspective taking for actually playing the game.

One aspect that I really like in terms of playing w/ a child who has autism is the context of question-asking in the game is a context that does. not. require. the one-right-answer. (So much of our early autism intervention involved bombarding my kid with questions to which there is only one right answer, something that doesn't happen to the rest of the world in real life.)
In order to play the game w/ my homeschooler, I must preview the cards and questions. There are vocabulary words she doesn't know (yes, this is a great way to learn new vocab in context). For example, there is a question about the strangest aquatic animal in the deck of question cards. We got an opportunity to talk about the word "aquatic".

The game is really easy to set up and to play - and it is super easy to customize, as well, to grow perspective taking skills when you create your own questions to which there are really obvious answers. In fact, if you have a child who needs practice and experience in this area, I suggest your creating your own sets of questions as a first step. Here are questions from our house: "What is the best instrument in the marching band?" (I have a really good guess what my marching band student will say or what she would vote for if she were the judge of the round and I can spotlight that for my child w/ autism.) "What is the best sport in the world?" I know what my baseball player would say. "If you could move to any state in the United States, which would it be?" (I'm pretty sure my kids would want to return to Michigan.)

I'm not sure why, exactly, but my child w/ autism tends to like games that come with little dry erase boards and markers. And Say Anything does.

The downsides of the game are the fact that some of the vocabulary is difficult for my child w/ autism - I think the 8+ age recommendation is spot-on - and I have another wrinkle in that getting the other players to slow down and interact at a pace where my homeschooler can keep up can be a challenge.

This is fun family game; a fun game for groups of teens and preteens, may be a good travel game (I wouldn't use the tokens to show player guesses of what answer the judge best likes - the tokens will be lost, I'm sure), and I think speech therapists and special ed professionals will like it a lot, too.

To read my Crewmates' reviews of Say Anything, please go here.

NorthStar Games sent me Say Anything to review as part of my participation with The Old Schoolhouse Crew of reviewers. (I get to keep the game.) I was not paid for this review and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Break a Leg!

The marching band rehearsed last night in preparation for a competition today.
What is the marching band equivalent of "Break a Leg!"?

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Mighty Macs

The Mighty Macs opens in theaters nationwide today. My high schooler and I had the opportunity to preview the movie online last weekend. (There's something really neat about getting to view a movie before it is released. *grin*) Yes, the opportunity was free to us and it was for the specific purpose for telling you about the movie on my blog. I am not paid for this review and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

The press release does a super job of explaining the plot:


It's 1971. Cathy Rush is a woman ahead of her time ... and she's about to embark on an adventure for the ages. A new era is dawning in the country and in collegiate athletics, where a national champion will be crowned for the first time in women's basketball.

In the lead up to this historical season, major universities are preparing their game plans to win that first title. Meanwhile a tiny all-women's Catholic college in Philadelphia has a more modest goal: find a coach before the season begins. Providentially, Cathy Rush is about to find Immaculata College.

Recently married, Cathy is dealing with the aftermath of a truncated playing career. While cultural norms would have her staying at home, she's willing to do the hard work necessary to help her new team reach their goals—or perhaps she's just trying to achieve her unfulfilled dreams through them.

From the beginning, her challenges are as imposing as the big-school teams Immaculata will face on the court. Cathy learns there is no gymnasium on campus, she receives little support from the school's Mother Superior, and the school is in dire financial straits. To top it off, she may not even have enough players to field a team!

While it appears the Macs don't have a prayer, all hope is not lost. With the help of Sister Sunday—a spunky assistant coach—and the support of a booster club of elderly nuns, Coach Rush creates a new game plan that just might bring the team—and the school—together.

Will this pioneer buck cultural norms and spur her rag-tag team to unexpected heights? Or will her hard-driving ways create a wedge between the coach and everyone around her? One thing's for certain: there's never been anyone like Cathy Rush at Immaculata!

My high schooler and I really enjoyed the movie. My laptop was having some hiccups (we are having problems with it) and we had to reboot it twice during the show - even though we were pretty sure we knew how the move would end, we both were anxious to get the show going again so we could see how the story played out. Yes, it's predictable, and it is predictable without being boring.

I was in elementary school in 1971; women were not playing a whole lot of basketball or sports that men played. The movie is interesting to me as I think about how many more opportunities there are for women in sports today.

The Mighty Macs is rated G, is for the whole family, and my girl and I enjoyed it. Every time we see a commercial on TV for the movie, we look at one another and grin from our shared experience.

You may watch a trailer here:

Why You Should Never Punch A Shuttle Bus

I follow Jon Acuff's blog. He makes me laugh. He makes me think.

Yesterday, he wrote about a discovery that I am making in my own life.

He begins, "Anger makes you blind and sometimes it even makes your hand hurt. I learned that lesson a few nights ago." Read the blog post, here: Why you should never punch a shuttle bus.

We left Michigan in April. We'd been there more than a decade. Michigan is a state where folks generally don't look to move with a child on the autism spectrum. Services and supports aren't that great there. I figured anywhere would be better than Michigan. Boy, was I wrong. Our new state is worse. I feel angry and sad, especially for the many parents here who just don't know better. And there are times when I feel like that angry man punching the shuttle bus.


The distinct lack of services and supports here has forced me to look outside the box for opportunities for my 12-year-old on the autism spectrum in this state I consider so backwards in terms of all things autism.

I am piecing together a new plan and I suspect that it will be better than we ever thought about having in Michigan in terms of opportunities and experiences and learning for my girl. I'm hopeful, anyway, and I am definitely looking for the stretch limo instead of screaming after the shuttle bus.

Thanks, Jon, for the reminder to look outside the box of what is right in front of me.

GF Pie Crust

On GMA this morning, Emeril featured a pie with a gluten free crust.

The recipe is here.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I ❤ Miss Amelia

My Princess 'Rella is enrolled in an art class with a small group of homeschoolers. The class meets once a week for almost two hours.

The studio has not enrolled a student on the autism spectrum before, I was told. (I suspect they've had some Aspies but no students with the challenges my daughter has.)

Our primary goal with the class isn't art. It's self-regulation.

And in the beginning, 'Rella had no problems.

However, she had one class where she was dysregulated and her behavior showed that she was dysregulated. To an outsider, she appeared to be "acting out". To the other kids in the class, she was misbehaving and out of line.

That kind of behavior embarrasses her. And me, too. And I understand that when her dysregulation and anxiety rise, she has little control over the behavior, which presents mostly with lines from TV shows (delayed echolalia) that come from the evil villains on cartoons. Not a pretty picture.

One challenge for us is that this course is a year long. She's better with short-term classes. She is ready to "be done" with art.

She has expressed to me that if she acts out in class, she won't have to go any more.

I don't want her to have to act out to get out of events that are difficult. And I believe that she is competent to handle this art class and I want her to stick with it.

So, this week, Miss Amelia, the teacher, warned me that this week's lesson would be challenging and that it would begin with a lot of her talking. The lesson was drawing a cube, and Miss Amelia talked about all the different aspects of drawing a cube.

Miss Amelia told 'Rella that she could draw while Miss Amelia talked. I am so glad that Miss Amelia understands that 'Rella simply is not able to sit and attend without something to do with her hands, something tactile and kinesthetic.

Miss Amelia began to talk about the cube.

'Rella was quiet for a few minutes. I was holding my breath, waiting for an outburst and hoping it wouldn't happen.

From the library-slash-parent lounge, I heard my kid screech out, "I hate my mother and father!" out of nowhere. I knew her anxiety had spiked. Crap. :(

I slipped into the classroom and set three lifesaver candies down beside 'Rella and returned to the lounge.

And waited. Miss Amelia talked a little more and then she gave the entire class a drawing break, something my girl needed.

Then they went back to the lesson.

And my girl completed it. Quietly. Regulated.

A small victory; yet it is a big victory, too. She needs lots and lots and LOTS of these little victories.

I slipped back into the classroom and whispered into 'Rella's ear, "I am so proud of you."

The remainder of the class was artist's choice - the kids got to do whatever they wanted. 'Rella drew a little longer and wanted to leave. I was fine with that. She wanted a smaller art pad and we headed to the craft store to buy one.

Art class is a setting with mostly typically developing children, one where the staff members have had no "autism training", a setting where my child could be viewed through the lens of behavior without understanding the issues that lie beneath the behavior. And the staff seems to "get" it - at multiple levels - without that training, and they want my child to be successful.

I ❤ Miss Amelia.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Cooper and Me (review and giveaway)

I hesitated when I was offered "Cooper and Me" to review. The story is about a child who is anxious about the first day of school, and my homeschooler has been asking to go to school. I was concerned that the book would increase her requests to go to school.

I'm so glad I requested the book. "Cooper and Me" is adorable and we learned a new vocabulary word from reading it and have a story to relate to in terms of being anxious about going somewhere we've never been before.

From the press release:

About Cooper and Me:

Cooper and Me was illustrated by 11-year-old Alexa Peters and co-written with her mother, Monique Peters. The idea was inspired by Alexa's own experiences on her first day of school. A talented young artist and writer, Alexa wanted to give back to others in a meaningful way through her art. Starting at a very young age, Alexa created illustrated stories about her daily experiences, and from the pages of her sketchbooks came the idea for her first book, Cooper and Me.

Through rhythmic verses, Cooper and Me tells the story of a young girl who is nervous as her first day of school approaches. She is frightened about leaving home and doesn't want to go without her best friend, her dog Cooper. Fortunately her mother finds the perfect solution to help the little girl overcome her fears – a small replica of her beloved pet she can take to school with her. In Cooper and Me, the story of a child’s fears about starting school has evolved into a timeless tale about overcoming separation anxiety and trying new things – basic emotions all people experience throughout their lives – but this time, written by a child, for children.

The story behind Cooper and Me also offers an inspiring example of families working together to help others. In addition to helping young children gain emotional resilience and confidence through their books, Alexa and mom Monique wanted to go beyond that to help less fortunate kids. Their search for an organization to which they could donate a portion of the proceeds from the Cooper and Me book led to a charitable alliance with the Happy Hearts Fund, founded and run by Petra Nemcova, the supermodel who was directly affected by the tsunami in Thailand. Happy Hearts improves children’s lives through education and sustainable programs in natural disaster areas.

Please take the time to look at the web site for games and coloring pages and fun stuff:

I asked 'Rella to read the book to me. She came upon one word she did not know and did not sound out correctly. The word is "miniature". I had her pronounce it several times and guided her to guess what it might mean, using the context of the book. Then I wrote "miniature = small" and "miniature = tiny" and had her copy it. Last, I had her choose something from the book to try to draw and color. We enjoyed the story and got some good homeschool value from it, too!

If you'd like to enter a drawing to win a copy, leave a comment. I'll pick from those who've commented by midnight, Friday, October 20th.
"Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Always Ice Cream

Always Ice Cream is an virtual-world type online game for girls.

In some ways, it is very much like other online virtual-world type games my children have played.


Always Ice Cream differs from other virtual-world type games in that there is a specific emphasis on learning (academics) as part of point-earning and playing. The bonus at my house for my homeschooler is that Always Ice Cream is enough like the (mindless) games she's played that she will push through the learning pieces in order to earn points (scoops) to play the virtual-world part.

She hates math. She screeches in protest at math. And yet she happily counted on her fingers to do the addition for a game. I had to pick my jaw from the kitchen island when I saw that. She had resisted my showing her how to add on her fingers, and all of a sudden, she was doing it, and it was her own idea.

'Rella asked for help identifying the states in the geography game; I am embarrassed to admit that I get some of the states mixed up when I am given a blank map. 'Rella and I learned together. Always Ice Cream covers other subjects, too, including science, language arts, music and art.


We have reviewed several keyboarding programs and I was concerned that she would not want to do this game. It isn't her favorite, but she will do this one.


And Pet World is her favorite; it is the most like the games she has played before.


The part of Always Ice Cream that brought me the most pleasure is the chat feature. Children are able to chat with one another and 'Rella has been engaging in simple exchanges with other children about what games they like to play. For a child on the autism spectrum, the ability to chat online can be good practice for real life conversations and she and I talk about what to answer and what she might ask next in the ongoing conversation that happens over the course of several days. The online aspect gives us lots of time between exchanges to process and decide what to answer and ask next.

The recommended age range for Always Ice Cream is 7-12; my 12 year old is developmentally delayed and this product has been a fun way for her to learn. Always Ice Cream is priced at $4.99 a month; $29.99 a year; or $99 for lifetime access.

Always Ice Cream offers a parent account where we follow progress (there are weekly emails for this as well) and we can set/limit chat options.

We continue to enjoy Always Ice Cream. The product has been a neat way to let my girl experience fun and learning at the same time; it helps her discover that she is, indeed, a learner.

To read my Crewmates' reviews of Always Ice Cream, please go here.

Always Ice Cream provided my homeschooler lifetime access so that we could review it for you here. I was not paid for this review and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Raising Real Men, a Timberdoodle Review

Timberdoodle sent me a copy of Raising Real Men, Surviving, Teaching and Appreciating Boys, by Hal and Melanie Young. As a member of Timberdoodle's Blogger Review Team I received a free copy of Raising Real Men in exchange for a frank and unbiased review.

Raising Real Men was on my longish list of "to buy" books and I was pleased to have been chosen to review it. My book list is longer than my book budget is funded, unfortunately.

The book arrived at a good time for me, personally, as I parent my son through the ups and downs of adolescence and the challenges of settling in, making friends, and dealing with all of the changes (many of them negative) of a cross-country move. I need encouragement right now.

Of course I read the chapters out of order. (I usually read magazines from the back to the front, too.)

Hal and Melanie Young write from a Christian perspective. Sometimes Christians can be, well, preachy, and I feel worse after hearing them or reading their books. I was hoping this would not be a preachy book. I feel guilty enough about parenting mistakes without a preachy book reminding me where I mess up. AND they homeschool all of their kids (I homeschool one of mine). Would they look down on folks who don't homeschool?

And I got the book I wanted, needed. Hal and Melanie Young guide me through how to think about parenting this boy of mine, how to guide him, and they give me practical ideas on how to go about smoothing bumps and handling challenges. Yes, the book is helpful to homeschoolers and non-homechoolers alike.

I'll give you an example. The Youngs describe the challenge son John had with completing schoolwork. (The Youngs are homeschoolers. My son is in a school-building school.) My son is struggling with completing homework and preparing for projects and quizzes. This section jumped out at me as I read chapters out of order: "Melanie realized...that boys really need a goal, some purpose for the day. She learned that giving them a list can help them see what has to be done and allow them to take charge of doing it. It also gives them hope that there really is an end to the school day, if they don't prolong it themselves." p 152

A list? That's ironic. That's what we do for kids w/ special needs, too. Why didn't I think of that? He has a school planner. With some insight and encouragement from the Youngs, I get an opportunity to guide him to use his planner in ways that are effective for him, to include homework and instrument practice.

Here's another example: Page 182 addresses an issue we have dealt with in a huge way since our move, and not just with the kids. I was raised in the South; my kids were not. I did not program my children to generously pepper conversations with adults with "yes m'am" and "yes sir" like kids do here. Since we returned to the South in April, I, quite frankly, find all the "yes m'am"-ing and "yes, sir"-ing from children to be annoying, silly, and insincere. (I cannot believe how much I have changed in the 20+ years away from the South. I surprise myself.) The kids sound like robots to me and all of the m'amming and sirring get in the way of a conversation. HOWEVER, I have kept my mouth shut about my feelings and have encouraged my children to "yes m'am" and "yes sir" alongside their peers. It is expected here in this culture. (I think they'd have been ridiculed in the Midwest.) Hal and Melanie tell me, "Teach your sons to study carefully what the prevailing standard appears to be, and to adjust their address to keep in step with the best expectations of the present culture."

BIG PICTURE: The examples I shared (above) are little picture. We need work on big picture, and I welcome insight on how to do this as we settle into our new home and community. (When does the new normal set in, anyway?) With my son feeling so down about our move and all of the changes involved in the move, his attitude often reflects how he is feeling inside. His self-esteem is low as starts from scratch making friends in our new town. Joining established groups of friends is not easy at the middle school level. I needed to be reminded the insight and how-to suggestions about how to make the main thing the main thing and how to reach his heart, and not by preaching. And Raising Real Men delivers.
I wish I'd had this book several years ago. From allowances and money management to team sports and competition to boasting to chores and "doing real things" to manners to sex to dealing with adventure - the Youngs address these issues and more, issues that we parents of boys meet day in and day out and give us insight on how to guide in a loving, gentle, practical way. Raising Real Men is very relationship focused as the Youngs guide parents from their own experience. It is a must read for parents of boys.

Raising Real Men is list priced at $15; Timberdoodle offers it for $12.75.

Timberdoodle is on facebook here. Be sure to contact Timberdoodle for a free catalog here.

Raising Real Men has a web site and facebook page.

Friday, October 14, 2011

e-Mealz, a TOS Crew Review


My food-related blog posts start with gluten-free and lean toward allergen free. My daughter is sensitive to many (not all) of the foods on the list of the big 8 allergens. Feeding a family when one of you has special food challenges is complicated. For years, I have been searching for recipes that I can serve all of us so that I do not have to make a special meal for the child with food issues.

We moved across the country in April and I lost access to a lot of gluten-free and allergen-free products. The area we moved to is very backwards in terms of gluten-free and allergen-free compared to the area we left. I am shopping in stores that I'd never even heard of before we moved, still trying to become familiar with what each store is and has to offer.
Additionally, I am looking for recipes and ideas that I can make for the entire family. I am tired of running what is the equivalent to a coney-island type restaurant out of my kitchen. I am not a short-order cook, although I seem to be playing one at home most days.

When the opportunity to review e-Mealz came along, I was thrilled, and got in line to offer to review it.

What is it?

e-Mealz is an online subscription to a weekly menu plan, recipes and grocery lists designed to make meal planning easier, simpler, and cost effective, with meals planned around store sales.

Subscription options vary to include some specific stores and some general lists, with pricing varying, too, although pretty much any 3-month subscription is $15.

Menus for the week are two pages long, black & white, simple to print, don't require a lot of toner. The first page holds seven dinner options, one for each day of the week, with recipe/how-to instructions. The second page has the shopping list that includes the staples you should have (and not have to buy) along with recipe ingredient proportions (which allow you to see if you have that much mayo in the refrigerator).

I hoped e-Mealz would be a partial answer to my challenges of special diet and being a newcomer to the area as I try to learn my way around the grocery stores here.

I had hoped for more whole food cooking. That seems to be the type of cookbook that supplies the most variety for a family with lots of food challenges.

I knew going into the review that I wouldn't find every recipe useful. I am accustomed to making substitutions in recipes. I am skilled at quickly scanning recipes to rule out those that rely on ingredients that I am unable to substitute.

I had hoped that the e-mealz people understand that many folks who are gluten free are also dairy free, too. I had even hoped that the e-mealz people understand that many folks who are gluten free are also sensitive to other common allergens.

My hopes are dashed.

I am disappointed in a major way. e-Mealz is not for me. e-Mealz is a waste of time and money for me.

If your family has no food allergies and is not picky, you may like e-Mealz. If you are only gluten-free, you may like it. But if you have gluten-free plus anything else (particularly dairy or nightshades), it is probably a waste of time and money.

A problem right off the bat: I set up my subscription (pretty simple, although the site kept asking me for payment info when I was using a free-trial code, which is bothersome, but I did find a way around giving them cc info) and looked over the meal plans. Subscribers pay individually for each different subscription. I thought I'd be able to compare plans to pick and choose what works for our situation. WRONG. I had to choose one subscription. Additionally, within a 3-month subscription period, I may change plans just one time. So, if you're like me, with a list of foods to avoid, you can plunk down $15 and be stuck seeing just two subscription plans with neither being something you can actually use at your house.

I chose the Kroger plan for my new area. We have a long list of foods to avoid and foods we limit, and when I looked over two weeks of Kroger menus, my heart sank. Pretty much useless. The recipes require things I can't use or we don't like: Dairy (the e-Mealz folks use lots of dairy), tomatoes, Mexican, onion soup mix, gluten... in the first 14 meals I browsed, there exactly two that I might use (pre-cooked ribs or chef salad). Not a positive sign.

As soon as I viewed the Kroger plan, I wanted to switch plans - but I get just one opportunity in a 3-month subscription to switch plans - so to what? e-Mealz suggests that I look at partial samples for each subscription (just three meals - disappointing, because I need to see more than that) and everything I look at uses lots of things I can't substitute (cream cheese, shredded cheese, cottage cheese, cream of something soup, sour cream) or things we limit (tomatoes - the menus seem to use lots of tomatoes). I see a lot of shrimp and pork, too, items we limit because they're unhealthy. (There is no option to remove pork or bottom-feeders from a week of menus. I am a little bit spoiled by the sites that allow me to eliminate items I don't want in a recipe search.)

The e-Mealz idea is a good one. The problem is that e-Mealz is not allergen-free friendly. e-Mealz isn't trying to be all things to all people. They are providing a service to families who have no food allergies or intolerances or picky eaters and who are able to feed families from sale flyers from the grocery store.

I contacted e-mealz to try to get insight before I used my one opportunity to switch programs. They were not very helpful. I wanted to know if there is a plan that is more whole foods in nature, with less dairy. There's not one, apparently.

I switched to the gluten free plan. The e-meals people are very literal. The menus are gluten free. And that's it. They offer no consideration for the fact that many gluten-free folks are sensitive to milk/dairy and other allergens as well. The do not have an understanding of foods for which there is no substitution. They use just as much cream-of-something soup, sour cream, shredded cheese, cottage cheese, etc etc etc, as in the Kroger version. Lots of Mexican recipes. (yuck-yes, a personal preference)

I need a whole foods version, I think. Whole foods cookbooks seem to require the least substitutions for me.

Go here to see samples (just three meals per subscription plan) to determine if these are meals you could make for your family. If you don't absolutely love the samples, don't waste your money on the program.


I could really, REALLY use a meal planner to help me simplify. I am looking to build a repertoire of recipes for a month or six weeks to rotate. Autism and special diets bring challenges that I'd like to simplify and I'd hoped e-Mealz would give me some assistance. Families with special circumstances could benefit from a planning tool like this one. But e-Mealz is for families without the special diet circumstances.

To read my Crewmates' experiences with e-Mealz, go here.

I was given a 3-month subscription of e-mealz to review here on my blog. I was not paid for this review. I am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Visual Latin, a TOS Crew Review

Latin class.
I automatically think a couple of things, "boring" and "why bother?".

A video based Latin program - really?
A talking head - oh my - all I could think was "even more boring" and "WHY BOTHER?!"

Guess who is surprised by how much she likes and enjoys Visual Latin, a Latin program in a video format? ME!
Visual Latin sent me a DVD with Lessons 1 to 10. (There is an online option as well.) The DVD contains 35 tracks that include five introductory tracks and the 10 lessons which are presented in three parts, a grammar lesson, a sentences lesson, and a reading lesson, with a worksheet (which I download and print) at the end. Each lesson is what I'd call short - between 4 and 10 minutes long - with yes, a talking head in front of a chalkboard - and it is a delightful, funny and interesting talking head at that. My favorite teachers were (are) the ones who are so excited about their topic that their excitement is contagious and sucks me into it. Dwane Thomas is that kind of teacher for me, even in video format.


SIDEBAR: When I learn that I am chosen to review a product, I like to find that company on facebook and "like" or follow them. I get a broader picture of the company and an occasional discount code.

I like trivia. Thomas offers little asides, more in-depth info about a root word or phrase that offers me insight that gives me deeper, richer knowledge about the meaning of a word in English. Here's an example that Thomas posted on facebook a couple of weeks ago (a word he mentions in the 11-minute-long "Why Study Latin?" opening of the DVD):
Impediment - an obstacle. From Latin, impedimenta (the baggage that followed the Roman army - the stuff) which is from two other Latin words. It is a combination of "in" and "pes, pedis", meaning to catch, or entangle the feet.
Dwane Thomas has an incredible sense of humor. I'll give you an example of something he said that made me laugh out loud. A couple of weeks ago, he tweeted, "My wife's favorite: Veni, Vidi, Visa - I came, I saw, I shopped."

I learned that I really like the video format, which allows me the opportunity to watch a segment multiple times. I like learning Latin meanings; yes, I understand English more clearly.

Visual Latin is recommended for individuals age 9 and up is a bit advanced for my homeschooler with special needs, and I encourage you to check out the free samples to get a feel for the program and whether it is developmentally appropriate for your learner. I do like the shortness of the segments - I think we'll be able to use this with my homeschooler sooner rather than later because of the structure of the lessons. I would have loved this program when I was in middle school or high school and I am enjoying it now as a 40-something mom. My school-building-schooled 7th grader would be able to use the DVDs with no problem (he doesn't have time now unless I pull him out to homeschool, although I am leaning toward having him do a few lessons over fall break as we are again considering homeschooling him).

One of the perks of homeschooling, in my opinion, is that I get to learn again alongside my homeschooler. This is one program that makes learning Latin fun for parent and student, and the ease of a video program means no prep-work for the parent, it means we can work at our own pace, and that we can revisit any lesson whenever we need to. I really like Visual Latin!

All of the specs are here, including how the course counts for credit.

Lessons 1-30 are priced at $90 here, on sale at the for $80.

Watch a sample lesson, here. There are more freebies here.

To read my Crewmates' reviews of this product, go here.Italic
I was given a copy of the first 10 lessons of Visual Latin on DVD to review. I was not paid for this review. I get to keep the DVD. I am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Where has she been lately?

Marching band competition#1 in our class
#1 General Effect in our class
#3 overall, behind #2 by .05

Friday, October 7, 2011

Grandma's Attic

My husband's grandmother wrote stories about her childhood and early married years. A Southern girl who married and moved to an industrial state in the Midwest for work, she had interesting and humorous insights about events that happened to her. I've often thought about putting her words into stories for children.

Arleta Richardson has done just that, has taken her grandmother's stories and shared them with us in her Grandma's Attic series. She writes about Mabel, who is just slightly younger than my 12-year-old, and her best friend, Sarah Jane, and their adventures in a world before TV, computers, and video games.

We were given the third and fourth books in the series (pictured here), Still More Stories from Grandma’s Attic and Treasures from Grandma’s Attic.

I love these books. I would have adored them as a child. I loved to read anything from 'back in the olden days'. The Little House series was a favorite of mine and like that series, I would have read Richardson's books again and again.

The series is a bit too young for my high schooler.

With my homeschooler - if you are familiar with our story you know she has autism and developmental delays - these chapter books are a bit too advanced for her to read alone and we have been reading them - very slowly - together as read alouds. At first, I was upset about having to go so slowly, but I as we go through them, I see how slowly my child processes information and she gives me confirmation that slowly is better than not at all. Sometimes, we get through a couple of paragraphs; sometimes, a big chunk of a chapter. It all depends on how she is managing on that day and on how much new vocabulary and vernacular there is in the story at any given point.

Richardson uses a lot of old-timey vernacular, words, terms, expressions that we do not use today. Too many in one section, and my girl shuts down. She sometimes stops me to ask, "What does that mean?" or I'll ask her if she can guess what something means - and the more that happens, the more her anxiety rises. So, we make that our stopping point.

It is fun to imagine together what it might have been like without bookcases filled with books or without TV, and to imagine things in the book happening to us. What if a really old person came to live with us? What would that be like?

I like this series, and will probably order more of them. Your daughter may like them, too!

Still More Stories from Grandma’s Attic and Treasures from Grandma’s Attic by Arleta Richardson

David C Cook/August 2011

160 pages/paperback/$6.99

ISBN: 978-0-7814-0381-8 and 978-0-7814-0382-5

We were given the third and fourth books in the series (pictured here), Still More Stories from Grandma’s Attic and Treasures from Grandma’s Attic. I was not paid for this review and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Caterpillar's MathHouse Review and Giveaway

Another item that arrived in the midst of our redoing the flooring in our second floor is Carlito C. Caterpillar's MathHouse Games.

I wish I had found this product sooner.

This is a brilliant flip-chart of 20 math games ($23.95) that you can do at home (or at school) with your child (or students) to build foundations for addition, subtraction, less than, more than, multiplication, and division.

I wish I had found this product sooner.

The activities are real-life, hands-on, sensory-rich.

I wish I had found this product sooner.

Carlito C Caterpillar MathHouse Games does developmentally what we at my house need to go back and get, what I have tried so hard to give my girl (if you're familiar w/ my blog, you'll know she has autism and developmental delays) - a way to give her opportunities to experience the concept so that the symbols will make sense to her.

I wish I had found this product sooner.

The age-range is pre-school to early elementary, and I strongly urge parents of older children who are developmentally delayed to consider this product.

We use items from our house with a few printables from the web site - the games are really easy to set up and adapt.

Did I mention I wish I had found this product sooner?

I have one to give away - just comment on this blog before midnight of October 13th, 2011 to enter.

“Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Jeremy Riddle: FURIOUS + giveaway!

I am late on this review (and a couple more). I'm embarrassed. I have a good excuse - real life got in the way. Marching band competitions and some remodeling on the house have had our days in upheaval. We had flooring replaced in the entire second floor, which involved a lot of packing-up and moving-around stuff and furniture, not once, but twice, as the whole event had to be completed during parts of two different weeks.

For several weeks, I have been listening to artist Jeremy Riddle's FURIOUS, a Contemporary Christian music CD in the car as I am going from place to place.

And FURIOUS has been the calm for me in the craziness of the schedule and the remodeling.

FURIOUS is a studio album from Jeremy Riddle; I would describe the music, 12 tracks, as "worshipful". Upbeat "worshipful". Every time I turn on the FURIOUS cd in the car, I am reminded that the drama of our schedule, that the frustration in the remodeling, that all the little upsets and disruptions are nothing. Zero. My focus should be on the One who made me. And the music instantly refocuses me, no matter what track I begin on.

Riddle describes Furious saying, “It’s hard to come up with words that depict the magnitude of Christ’s love – the depth and width of it. Furious doesn’t work outside of the context of love; we tend to translate the word as angry, but I see it as a super-powerful force; stronger, deeper, broader than our vocabulary can fully describe."
This is the kind of cd I would pop in as I sit down to work on a Bible study or do a daily devotion. While it is certainly not slow and dragging, it is not the type of CD I'd pop in late at night to keep me awake on a trip, which I write, not as a negative, but to try to give you type of CD this is. I am enjoying the worship of it.

I have been offered a copy to give away. If you want to enter a drawing to win this CD from my blog, enter a comment, below, before midnight, 13-Oct-2011. That's it! I think you'll enjoy this one, too!

Check out more about Jeremy Riddle and FURIOUS here:


"Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Scruble Cube, a TOS Crew Review


We naturally look for something familiar in the new. Scruble Cube is no exception. A blogger for Forbes calls it "Scrabble With A Twist". My first impression was a Rubik's Cube with letters. Upon closer inspection, our family has discovered that Scruble Cube has multiple uses for a wide range of ages and is lots of fun.


The makers of Scruble Cube have given us a letter and word based game that can be used simply for the fun of it or for academic purposes or both. The 4 x 4 cube twists vertically and horizontally like the puzzle cube with blank colored squares, and the object is to spell words on the sides instead of matching colors.

According to the company, Scruble Cube is appropriate for the 8+ age range, (there are ways to use it with younger children, too) and retails at $24.95, and comes with the cube, one pad of score sheets, and an hourglass (sand timer) along with a sheet of instructions and a getting started guide. The cube has 96 letters on rows that twist, and each letter has a point value. Scruble Cube gives players an opportunity to boost points with Wild Card and 2x and 3x word score cubes.

This statement is so important that I'm taking it straight from the press package:

"At Scruble Cube headquarters, we believe that 'engaging each other through play' is important. Many life skills, that are sometimes lost, come from playing together - team work, good sportsmanship, problem solving skills, listening skills, oral communications, and strategic thinking."

I agree. And Scruble Cube does the "play" part well. Any toy that makes play and interaction the focus with learning an important background piece rates high with me.

We have not played competitively against one another with the Scruble Cube at my house. I have one child who is a Rubik's Cube expert, who understands the algorithms for solving the traditional cube, and getting letters in the right places is easier for him. And I have one who knows more vocab than the sibs. And I have one who is developmentally delayed and struggles a bit with all of it. For families whose members whose developmental range is really wide or whose children who are poor losers (or who are poor winners), the fact that we are able to compete against ourselves, trying to beat our own best score, is a huge positive.

For a family with younger children, the cube is a tool for learning letter recognition or for linking sounds to letter shapes. (Which letter makes the "buh" sound?)

In our autism intervention, Scruble Cube is a super activity for practice sharing attention, for guiding and apprenticing, and for referencing a next step and for higher level objectives of creative problem solving. Scruble Cube is a really nice background activity for developmental, relationship intervention.

We have handled our Scruble Cube with care and it has remained in good working condition. The cube layers twist and turn with ease. My Rubiks Cube expert gives it a thumbs up in that department.

Scruble Cube is a two-fer, offering both play and academic value. Multiple-award-winning Scruble Cube offers owners an online bonus with "lessons to help teach math, language, logic, spelling and/or science" according to the press packet.

Scruble Cube would be a great travel toy, doctor's office waiting room toy, toy to put in the bag for a sib's baseball game. It would make a super Christmas gift or donation to a school or co-op class.

We continue to enjoy Scruble Cube.

To read my Crewmates' opinions of Scruble Cube, please go here.
Scruble Cube sent me a Scruble Cube to review. I was not paid for this review and am not obligated to provide a positive review. I get to keep the Scruble Cube.

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