Saturday, September 29, 2012

Box of I.D.E.A.S. (Review)

If you’re a fan of unit studies, then you’re really going to enjoy Box of I.D.E.A.S. It is literally that—a box full of 10 -12 standalone Ideally Dynamic Enrichment Activities on one particular subject.  The subject we were chosen to review was “salt”.  Yes, salt—the element necessary for human life—and almost anything you wanted to know about it was contained in this kit.  

Each lesson is labeled in its own large Ziploc bag and everything needed (minus a few household items, including salt) is contained within.  We chose several of the activities that looked like the most fun and starting doing one per day during our science time. 

Some of the lessons were most definitely geared for middle school to high school students, but we did find several that worked for 4th-grade-level science. Here are the different ways salt is studied in this one box: 

The History of Salt
The Science of Salt
Preserving with Salt
Salt of the Earth
The Salt March 
The Need for Salt
The Wall that Salt Built
Too Much Salt
Where Salt Lives
The Language of Salt

Abbey has become a label reader now, thanks to the lesson "The Need for Salt".  During this lesson, she was asked to research the amount of sodium found in our daily diet and keep track of it.  She raided our pantry, looking for every label she could find. We were both very surprised by some of the sodium levels in the food in there.  Without totally confessing how much junk food we eat, I will tell you this: Sprite has more sodium than Vanilla Coke. Who knew?? The nice, wipe-off food log and dry erase marker were included in the lesson. Here’s how her daily log of food looked that day: 

One of the other fun activities, again with all things included inside the bag, was "Preserving with Salt".  It included a fast-paced board game called  "SALT."  The object of the game was to collect the “S”, “A”, “L”, and “T” cards before your opponent did.  In order to earn a letter, you had to roll the dice and answer the question about salt on the space on which you landed.  We both learned some fun facts about how many ways salt is used for preservation purposes from playing this game.  There were more than a sufficient number of question cards included, so playing the game a second or third time would not have the players seeing the same questions over and over. Abbey was quite pleased when she beat her mama in this game.

Our favorite lesson to date is "The Science of Salt" lesson.  This one contained three Ziploc bags, one was labeled “Control”, and the other two came with instructions to label them “Rock Salt”, and “Ice Melt”.  There were also bags of actual rock salt and ice melt included.  We filled the three empty Ziploc bags halfway up with water and waited for them to freeze.  We then poured rock salt in one, ice melt in one, and nothing in the control bag.

  Then we started the timer for 10 minute increments and recorded the amount of water that melted after each interval.  As you can see from the chart below, rock salt was the star of the party.  Our hypothesis was that ice melt would win. We were wrong. :) 

Bottom Line: I like having everything at my fingertips with the individual bags.  I love the quality of the materials provided and I very much like that the kit will allow me to use the lessons for many years to come with Abbey. Each lesson has web links and book suggestions that brought several of the harder lessons to life for her. There is even an SAT-type test for the entire box to make sure the student grasped all the material covered. 

I can appreciate the time it took to put together each kit.  The only criticism I have is that I would like to see a little more clearer instructions on some of the lessons, as a couple had us scratching our heads trying to determine the best way to use the provided materials, but overall this is a wonderful investment to save you a TON of time and headaches! It has made me love unit studies even more than I did before!  

Details: The retail price for the Box of I.D.E.A.S. Salt Kit: $79 for the physical box, $49 for the PDF download, and $4 for extra student modules.

Other subjects offered by them: World War II, Pine, Olives, Laundry and more!!

Best ages with which to use: 3rd grade and up

Don't just take my word for it, check out what my fellow homeschooling bloggers thought about this and other Box of I.D.E.A.S. subjects by clicking the banner below! 

Disclaimer: I was given this product in exchange for my honest review.  No other compensation was received.

A Pan Full of Comfort Food

Here's a favorite recipe around this house. It's easy-peasy and sooooo good.  Betcha can't eat just one! 

Chicken Crescent Wraps

8 oz cream cheese, softened
3 - 4 boneless chicken thighs, cooked and shredded
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 tsp salt 
1/2 tsp pepper 
Dash of hot sauce (optional)
2 cans of crescent rolls (16)
1/4 stick of butter, melted
Seasoned bread crumbs

Mix all the ingredients except rolls, butter and bread crumbs together.  Spread 2 - 3 TBS of mixture on each roll and wrap up. Place them all on a large, greased cookie sheet. Brush each one with a little butter and sprinkle a few bread crumbs on top. Bake at 325 degrees for 18 - 20 minutes.  Let cool for a few minutes--IF you can wait that long--and enjoy!

I was out of bread crumbs, so I made mine without the topping.  And the reason you see a space there on the pan--I ate one before I remembered to take the photo!

You will probably have a lot of the filling left over, but it is great on crackers and even on croissants, bagels or sandwiches, and it keeps for up to week in the fridge.  

Later, gators!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Exceeding the Limits

I got a speeding ticket last week on my way back home from the vet’s office.  Those who know me well know this is not a total shocker, as I have always had a bit of a lead foot.  But I got the stinking thing in the EXACT same place by the EXACT same police officer that I got my last one, some four years ago.  No lie. 

You see, there’s this hill, right outside of Evergreen on the back road towards home, that I always coast down.  I am beginning to rethink that whole coasting thing. . .at least not on the hills that fall within Evergreen City Police jurisdiction. Mmmm hmmm.  

My husband was not thrilled with me, of course.  As I was driving home after being pulled over, I was dreading talking to him and was trying to think of how to justify it—err….defend it.  I started thinking about how many speeding tickets I had gotten since I narrowly passed my license test at age 16 years old.  The short answer is too many! I’ve gotten six in that time period so that averages out to about one every four years.  Ugh! Is that above or below the national average? 

The point that really struck me though, as I was driving very s-l-o-w-l-y the rest of the way home and trying to overcome the nausea that had found its way into my belly, was what a terrible example I was setting for my nine-year-old daughter and six-year-old dachshund about how NOT to obey authority. Well, okay so maybe Bonnie wasn’t as affected by this as Abbey was, but still. I should not have been driving so fast.  And I confessed my shame to Abbey.  I know it's important for her to see her parents not be perfect. 

Almost every day in our homeschooling life, Abbey and I are in a constant tug of war.  It’s me asking her to “Get started,” “Get back to work,” “Stay focused,” “Stop dawdling,” “Stop playing with the dogs,” “Focus focus, focus!” It is a battle of obedience; a battle of the wills.  And ultimately, I am trying to teach her that obeying your parents is the first form of learning to obey the Lord, and the Lord expects us all to obey the laws set before us, both Biblically and governmental.  Laws and boundaries are there for our safety.  Although one could argue that 40 mph on a straight, back road in the country is not exactly a realistic boundary. *Sigh*

And oh my goodness, I have sped through too many of God’s laws in my life because I thought I knew better than He.  I thought I could control my actions and could be completely okay in doing so.  I am still paying for some of those choices of disobedience, because even when we are repentant, we still have to walk out the consequences of our sins.  But God in His mercy has still lavished blessing upon me and is allowing me to experience mercy in ways I could have never imagined. . .

I called the municipal court to find out about my court date because I couldn’t even read the ticket that had been written to me—apparently legible handwriting is not a requirement of being a police officer, but I digress.  The clerk of the court told me I could go before the judge and ask for defensive driving school, but there was a chance I would lose and have to pay extra fees above and beyond my ticket fees. [Greaaaat.] Then he asked me the oddest thing: “Do you give blood?” I was like, “You mean to the Red Cross? Yes, sir. I just gave some last month.”  “Good, let me see if I can set you up a meeting with our local prosecutor prior to your court date. He often allows you to give a pint of blood in exchange for the ticket.”  I couldn’t believe my ears! But he was dead serious.  I am actually meeting with that lawyer in a couple of weeks to ask if my blood is enough to pay for my sin.  I am praying that it is, as our budget has zero room in it for such fees I will have to pay if I lose.  But how odd of a sentence is that? And how much clearer of a picture could I get about the beauty of the cross??!!!

Without having to meet with a prosecutor first, Jesus allows me to go before the Judge without fear.  He gave ALL his blood to cover ALL my sins—even exceeding the speed limit on a back country road in the middle of nowhere.  

I am a very blessed soul and of this I am fully aware. 
"The plan was that He give himself as an offering for sin so that He’d see life come from it—life, life, and more life. And God’s plan will deeply prosper through Him." Isaiah 53:10


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Marshall Publishing--Lots and Lots of Penguins DVD (Review)

My animal-loving nine-year-old could NOT wait to get this set of DVDs!  Because it arrived just as we started to get our new school year going, I was able to incorporate watching them into our science lesson plan for the first week.  I allowed Abbey to watch 15 -20 minutes per day of the videos.   

We started with the LOTS and LOTS of Penguins in the Wild DVD.  At first, when she put in the video, she was like, “Hey! There’s no narration or music!”  But after watching it for a few minutes, she became so enthralled with the raw video and the close-up views of the animals in their natural habitat, she totally forgot what she was missing.  She kept pausing the video and rewinding it to show me something she thought was "cute" or "hilarious" or "amazing."
From the Marshall Publishing website I printed off the supplemental information about each penguin being shown.  There is a title for each sequence of video, so we knew which penguin we were watching.  We really did have fun discussing the height and weight of each penguin and its habitat.  “Mama! Did you know there are penguins that are only 16” tall?!!!” It also amazed her that the big sea lions were laying around some of these penguins and they weren’t bothering the penguins.  It is so fun to watch her take delight in the world God has created, as I am sure He does, too.  

Click here for a sneak peek of the video!
The second DVD, called LOTS and LOTS of PLAYFUL PENGUINS and their TOE-TAPPIN' HAPPY FEET, was met with a lot of enthusiasm as well.  She loved the little animated character that guides them through the video, and she liked the music video feel of this one.  When I wasn’t looking one night, she carted this one off to her room to ‘party like a penguin’ in private.  (Hee-hee).   

There is a bonus DVD included in this set, called Party like a Penguin, had us dancing around the house for days on end. Such a catchy tune! That one was fun stuff for all ages! 

Abbey’s Bottom Line Review:  After viewing both videos, I asked Abbey which one she liked better.  She said, “Although the second one was fun with its music and narration, I liked the first one better because of the close-up views we got to see of the penguins.”   I was a little surprised, but then I realized that all that Hollywood glitz and glamour are not necessary to educate our children.  They really are so much smarter than we, or Hollywood, give them credit for.   

April’s Bottom Line:  While I really enjoyed watching Abbey enjoy these videos, I think the “In the Wild” DVD could stand just a wee bit more editing, and I would love to see the informational guides to each species included in PDF format on the actual DVD itself, rather than having to go out to their website to find it.  But other than those two issues, I am very happy we were chosen for this review! 

Best Ages for which to purchase: Early to Middle Elementary, but older children and parents will enjoy as well.

Price: Retails for $39.90 if purchased separately, but only $19.95 for package of two DVDs  and  a bonus music video DVD.  That’s a great deal! 

Special FREE Shipping Coupon: TOS27  (no expiration date!)

Other Titles by Marshall Publishing (for all varying ages) can be found here!  It is worth it to explore their site to see the HUGE list of DVDs they offer and take advantage of the free shipping coupon---these DVDs make wonderful, unique Christmas presents! 

And, please, please take time to see what other TOS Schoolhouse Review Crew members thought about it here

Disclaimer:  I did receive these videos at no charge in exchange for my honest opinion and review, however, no other compensation was given. 



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