Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Canada! O Canada!

  Canada Collage
Canada stuff with Trish
Back home sharing some fun Canadian stuff with our special friend Trish
Most of you know we are full time missionaries. Sarah and I have both had a desire to be missionaries from when we were young. We prayed and prayed about where God wanted us to go. We were even willing to go overseas if God wanted us to go. Of course, God knows best, and, although we were willing to go to a foreign place, he led us to Livingston, TN where we work with low income folks.
Nevertheless, our international mission desires remained with us. Although we have always loved our ministry here, we still dreamed of taking short term mission trips to other countries. When God blessed us with two autistic sons, however, we thought going to another country was impossible. A long plane ride and another culture seemed out of the picture for kids who had a hard time even grasping our own culture.
However, again God had other plans. A few years ago we were sitting at BCM International’s (our umbrella mission organization) annual conference when some fellow missionaries came up to us and asked if we would consider coming to their camp for a week to teach Bible the next summer. We immediately said “yes”! And guess where their camp is located? Yep, you probably guessed from the title of this post – Canada!
Now I know that when you think of a foreign country the first one that comes to mind usually isn’t Canada, but, still, we were traveling to another country! A place where we actually had to apply for passports! We knew that Canada would be different. After all, it has a different currency, a different government, and it even had two national languages. However, we weren’t expecting it to be as different as it actually is.
Although out of all foreign countries Canada’s culture is probably the closest one to ours, there still are some major differences and many, many minor ones. I’m not saying you’ll suffer from culture shock if you visit Canada, but there are some common things from the United States that are hard to find there and there are some things that are uniquely Canadian as well. Enough little things to make it interesting to visit, and if you stayed there a long time, you might long for some things back home that aren’t readily available.
We can’t give any personal experiences of longing for something that can’t be found in Canada since, for the past three years, we have only stayed there for one or two weeks at a time. We haven’t been away from the states long enough to miss some of the things that can’t be found – like grits, biscuits and gravy, certain candy bars and snack foods. Nor have we been there during the winter time to experience the cold. We can, however, tell you what we love about Canada and look forward to seeing/doing every year.
Mill Stream 2015
Mill Stream 2015 2
Mill Stream Bible Camp
The first would obviously be beautiful Mill Stream Bible Camp where we serve for one week every summer. Over the past three years we have grown to love the staff and the campers as well as the camp itself. Sarah and I have worked in Christian camping for over 25 years. Christian camping is in our blood, and we love serving at camps. We can, without a doubt, say that this is one of the best camps we have ever served at. If you live anywhere within a days drive of Omemee, Ontario, Canada, then I would encourage you to look into sending your child to Mill Stream Bible Camp or sponsoring another child to go to Mill Stream.
Poutine 4
Another thing that we love about Canada is the food! Mind you, Canadian food isn’t all that different than food found in the United States. You can still find the same general things. However, there are a few things that are different. I mentioned some of the candy bars and snacks before, but there are main dishes and even whole restaurants in Canada that we don’t have in middle Tennessee. For example, Tim Horton’s. If you are a friend of mine on Facebook then you know we love our Tim Horton’s coffee. They are a cross between Starbuck’s and Duncan Donuts but we think they are better (and less expensive). There are some Tim Horton’s locations in the U.S.A., but for some reason it all tastes better in Canada. We think it’s the milk and cream which is pasteurized differently in Canada. We also love poutine, a French Canadian dish that is really simple – fries, cheese curds, and gravy! You can mix it up and use different sauces and gravies as well as different cheeses and even different fries.
Victoria Beach 3
Victoria Beach
Victoria Beach
Finally, I can’t mention Canada without talking about their scenery. They have beautiful lakes, parks, zoos and, just general beautiful outdoors! There is enough difference to make it interesting. We have been blessed to be able to visit a couple of zoos – Peterborough Zoo and Toronto Zoo – the former small and the latter huge. The town of Peterborough is beautiful in and of itself with it’s wonderful lakefront, marina’s and, of course, the world’s largest lock lift! This year we also got to visit gorgeous Victoria Beach in Cobourg, Ontario. Cobourg is a quant town with a great historic shopping area and the beach is wonderful. On Lake Ontario, Victoria Beach is beautiful, clean and fun, with a splash pad and playground for the kids, a marina and lighthouse to explore, and a food stand which serves delicious food. We got poutine of course. And the beach is right by the shopping area with the quant shops!
We could go on and on about the country to our north and it’s wonderful people. We haven’t explored much of this vast nation, but what we have explored has been fantastic. If the rest of the country is as great as Ontario, then we hope that God allows us to explore it someday as well.
Have any of you been to Canada before? What are your favorite spots? Leave us a comment and tell us about them. Maybe next year, Lord willing, we can explore them as well!

Mayan Mysteries - A Marvelous Way to Learn About History - A Schoolhouse Review Crew Review

Dig It! Games Review

We love history in our household. We talk about it. We read about it. We visit historical sites. We go to museums. We have a lot of really neat history curriculum. My three boys even hone in on historical facts from the video games that they play - and, oh, do they like to play video games. A few years ago we were chosen to review a great online game called Roman Town  from Dig-It! Games and Joshua loved it. It had everything that he loves about video games. When we found out that we had a chance to review another online adventure from Dig-It! Games called Mayan Mysteries, we jumped at the chance to review it. We weren't disappointed. Joshua loves Mayan Mysteries just as much as he loved Roman Town. So, what makes these games so special? What are all the things that Mayan Mysteries has that Joshua loves about video games. Let me see if I can describe them.

Dig It! Games Review

Well, the first thing that will keep Joshua's interest in a video game is a great story line. What's the story line? Well it begins like this. Someone has been stealing Mayan artifacts and excavation tools from archeological sites. Professor Alex Quinn has been called in to help. He needs to come immediately. Only there is one problem! Professor Quinn is watching his two 12 year old twin niece and nephew along with a friends for the summer. Who are the nice and nephew? Fiona Quinn - who loves archeology and Charlie Quinn - who love solving mysteries. And what about the friend? Who is he? Why its YOU of course. Professor Quinn has no choice but to bring you all along. So you all form "Team Q" and you're off to solve Mayan Mysteries!
Dig It! Games Review
The first thing you have to do is look for clues. Most of the clues seem to be popping up around and leading to different archeological sites. So, one by one you visit different Central American archeological sites where you are taught how to dig for clues and then, research what you have found. All along looking for different signs as to who the thieves could be. It really is fascinating to learn all about Mayan history and about archeology. Joshua has learned a lot. And, don't fear, this isn't any fly by night game with lousy graphics. This is professionally done and the graphics are fantastic!
Dig It! Games Review
What makes this game so unique, however, is that you aren't just learning fantastic information about the Mayan culture and about history, but you are also learning problem solving skills through solving the mystery. In this game the mystery is who is who the thief is. Well, you kind of know at the beginning who the thief is because he/she purposefully leaves clues for you to find. Kind of a taunting type thing. The clues seem to be coming from someone named "Ladrone". Unfortunately Ladrone means "thief" so that doesn't help much. However, I'm sure you and Team Q can decipher everything.
Dig It! Games Review
What would any game be without achievements that you have to accomplish. This game has several of them. You receive achievement points by finding artifacts and clues, solving puzzles and by answering questions that reinforce things that you have learned.
This game really has everything that kids like about video/computer games. However, it is hard to even call it a game because it is really a fantastic learning tool and can easily be added to your homeschool curriculum. Your kids will wonder why they never had as much fun learning before this! I know Joshua loves it and sometimes doesn't ever realize he's learning. To find out more about Mayan Mysteries and about Dig-It! Games. Just click on any of the highlighted links above. Oh, and do you remember the other game that I said we reviewed from Dig-It! Games several years ago - Roman Town. Well, some of the other crew members got to review it as well as Mayan Mysteries and you can find what they had to say by clicking on the banner below. Happy game playing...umm...I mean learning!
Dig-It! Games Review
Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

My Son the YouTube Sensation!

Joshua 3

Joshua, our middle child, has always been his own person. “Aspies ” people with Asperger’s Syndrome – on the Autism Spectrum) always tend to march to a different drummer and Joshua is no different. They are sometimes referred to as “little geniuses” because they will become interested in something and then want to learn all they can about that particular topic. They become obsessed about their new found interest and do internet research, read books, watch videos, talk to people – you name it – about their fascinating topic. Joshua’s topics have ranged from Thomas the Train when he was little to helicopters, football, WWE Wrestling, trains, and, more recently, geography and languages. He is presently in 8th grade, is a geography expert (at least compared to me) and is learning Russian.

One thing that he became interested in (that thankfully didn’t become an obsession) was video challenges. You know, the ones where someone tries something unusual, like the salt and ice challenge or the cinnamon challenge? Most of those challenges are gross and can be dangerous so I won’t allow him to do them unless I have done some research and there is adult supervision. One thing that I do allow, is tasting hot sauces or hot foods. You see, one of the unique things about some aspies is that they have very acute senses. Joshua loves very hot foods and even takes his medications with things like Worchester Sauce and Soy Sauce. So I have allowed him to tape himself tasting hot things and posting them on YouTube.

I am pleasantly surprised at how well he does. It almost seems like he has a natural presence on camera. He even posts his bloopers that can be quite funny. He has developed a small following on his YouTube channel. Below are a few of his videos for your viewing pleasure. If you like them then please subscribe to his YouTube Channel. His goal is to get 100 subscribers. Here is the YouTube Channel address - Thanks ahead of time for becoming one of his subscribers if you should choose to do so. I know that he would absolutely be thrilled to have you follow him. Let me know in the comments what you think.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Horizons First Grade Spelling and Vocabulary Set - A Schoolhouse Review Crew Review

Alpha Omega Review

I have been known to daydream! I know that comes as a complete surprise to those of you who know me well. After all, you all know me as a serious, get down to business, no nonsense person don’t you? No? Oh well.

But seriously, as a homeschool parent I do think about the teachers, teaching methods and curriculum that really clicked with me as a learner, and how I can make learning fun and affective for my kids. When we were given the opportunity to review the Horizons First Grade Spelling and Vocabulary Set by Alpha Omega Publications I really liked what I saw. It reminded me of the spelling and vocabulary books that I had and loved when I was a kid. I thought it would be a perfect fit for my youngest Jacob. Unfortunately it wasn’t, but that was not the fault of this wonderful curriculum, it was completely my fault. Let me explain by telling you why I like Horizons First Grade Spelling and Vocabulary and then I’ll explain what I did wrong.

Why I Really Like Horizons First Grade Spelling and Vocabulary Set.

It reminds me of the spelling curriculum that I used to use. – As I mentioned above, it worked for me and I loved it. A lot of good advancements have been made in home education and, if you do your homework, you can find curriculum and teaching styles that will fit any child and make them soar. However, sometimes the old tried and true ways are the best ways for a child.

Do you remember the spelling books where things were sequential? Where you took a pretest at the beginning of the week, had review activities throughout the week, then took the real test at the end of the week? Horizons First Grade Spelling and Vocabulary is that type of book.

  • It is very sequential. – It starts out with short vowel words, continues with long vowel words, then goes in to diphthongs and blends. This is no willy – nilly list of words that don’t make sense together. I like that and learned best that way.
  • There is an activity to do every day. – The child first takes a pretest to see what they know, and then have activities to do each day. They might be spelling out the words that match a picture, filling in the blank in a sentence, finding words that rhyme or doing some other creative activity. On Day One they assess the child’s knowledge and introduce the words. Day Two they examine and explore the words. Day 3 they look at the context and meaning of each word. Day 4 they apply understanding of words in writing. Day 5 they assess and evaluate progress. Every few weeks is a review week to review words previously learned. The tried and true way that I learned spelling.
  • The student workbook is to be used up. - The neat thing about this curriculum is that it comes in a workbook where you can write in the workbook itself or tear out the pages and fill them in. I remember when I was young we had to have a separate notebook to copy things into. Copying is a pain and is hard for some kids to do.
  • This is a Christian Curriculum. – Unfortunately even in my day, many many moons ago, curriculum companies couldn’t use much that was religious in their books. I like how there are sentences and activities that are Christian based with Horizons First Grade Spelling and Vocabulary Set. It isn’t forceful or trying to stretch things to put something Christian in, but it is definitely there and definitely used. That is something that I didn’t have in my day but really like.
  • The Teacher’s Manual and Spelling and Vocabulary Dictionary that comes with this set are great. - The teacher’s manual is very easy to use. There is nothing left to chance. Everything that is to be done is spelled out and the answers to all of the workbook pages are there. There are even extended activities that can be done if a child needs extra help. The Spelling and Vocabulary Dictionary is very handy and contains every word that is used and covered in the spelling and vocabulary book.
Alpha Omega Review

Why Horizons First Grade Spelling and Vocabulary Set didn’t work with Jacob.

So, why didn’t this fantastic curriculum work with Jacob? Well, there are three reasons and none of them has to do with this curriculum.

1. Dad was too optimistic. – I did my research before requesting this review and thought that Jacob was ready for this level. He wasn’t. Close, but not banana. We could struggle through it and get by, but that would be torture for Jacob and for me. That is the main reason why this great curriculum didn’t work for us.

2. It doesn’t fit his learning style. – I have always been an advocate of making sure that you fit curriculum to a child, you don’t try to force a child into a curriculum. That’s one of the reasons why we homeschool. We can choose what is best for each of our children. This is a fantastic curriculum that I believe will work wonderfully for most children, but this just didn’t fit Jacob. He fought tooth and nail every time we tried to sit down and work.

3. Jacob has some small motor issues. – Not as bad as our middle child, but still enough to make extended writing activities painful. Horizons First Grade Spelling and Vocabulary Set doesn’t have a terrible amount of writing, but it was a little too much for Jacob.

Okay, having said all of that, guess what? I am still going to use this with Jacob! I love the sequential system that Horizons First Grade Spelling and Vocabulary Set uses so I am going to adapt some of the activities and use them orally and even have him do some of the pages that don’t require as much writing. It may be a slow process and we may not do a week’s worth of pages in a week, but I really think he can learn from this!

As I said before, I think that Horizons First Grade Spelling and Vocabulary can be used in almost any homeschool with almost any child. To find out more about this great curriculum, click on any of the highlighted links above. To read about what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought about this and other curriculum by Alpha Omega Publications click on the banner below. Happy Homeschooling!

Alpha Omega Review
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Saturday, August 15, 2015

Well I’ll Be A Slender-Tailed Meerkat!

We have been blessed to be able to spend a week in beautiful Omemee, Ontario, Canada at Mill Stream Bible Camp for the past three years where I have taught Bible and Sarah has worked in the kitchen. It has been a real blessing to our family. Each year, after our week of camp is over, the director and his wife, Larry and Cindy Chupa, graciously allow us to stay a few extra days and explore the surrounding area. Our first year, when enquiring as to where to go that would be interesting, Cindy suggested the Peterborough Zoo. Peterborough, a town about a half hour away, actually has it’s own zoo and park owned by the city called the Riverview Park and Zoo or The Peterborough Zoo. It is a fantastic little zoo that not only has over 135 animals, but also has a huge playground and a lot of picnic space. And it fits right into our budget since it is absolutely free! Our first year we took a really nice picture of our three boys in front of one of the climbing rocks in the playground. It turned out so well that we decided to recreate it last year and then again this year. However, when putting together the collage below, I noticed one strange thing. See if you can figure it out before I tell you what it is.
Peterborough Collage
No, I’m not talking about my terrible perspective of how far to stand back when taking each picture. It’s something completely different. You  see there are two rocks of different heights in the playground. This year, we had a “not heated but getting close to it” conversation about which rock we used every year. I was convinced that it was one rock but the boys were convinced that it was the other. So, we took pictures in front of both rocks and, of course, when putting together the collage, I chose the picture from the rock that I was absolutely sure was the correct one. It turns out that we were both wrong! Somehow, last year we took the picture in front of the other rock than the one we did in the first year! Notice the buildings behind and how John Allen has nearly reached the top of the rock in the second picture. That’s because it was the shorter rock. No wonder we were all confused. Ah, well, so much for that. I still think that the picture is pretty neat and, God willing, we will continue with our tradition again next year.
Or could it be that the zoo staff put more mulch down last year and that’s why John Allen looks so much taller. I mean, after all, the rock does look the same. Of course there’s that mark on the rock that isn’t showing in the second picture. But Joshua’s leg could be covering it up. Look at that notch beside Jacob’s left arm. Does it seem the same to you?
OH! Never mind! Now I’m even more confused than ever! HELP!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Science Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers–A TOS Review Crew Review

  Funtastic Unit Studies Review

One of my weakest subjects to teach is science. I liked science pretty well in school, and there are certain aspects of science that I really love, but to teach it, I need a good curriculum to guide my efforts. We have used some excellent homeschool science curriculum in the past, but many of them have ginormous lists of items you need to complete the experiment and many are just plain over the heads of Joshua and Jacob my two autism spectrum kids. I need something that is easy to use, easy to teach, and easy for Joshua and Jacob to grasp.

When the chance to review Science Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers from Funtastic Unit Studies, I was skeptical but I looked over a couple of the free units that were offered on their website and thought that it was something that might fit our homeschool. I am so glad that I did! So far it has fit everything perfectly! First let me describe what we received and then I’ll tell you why we really like it.

Science Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers is 201 page softcover book containing 20 chapters that discuss different science topics. The chapters build upon each other and are divided into two groups – ten chapters for ages 4-7 and ten chapters for ages 8-13. The topics range from things like “The Human Body”, “Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Life”, “Animals”, “Fun With Magnets” and “Stars and Planets” for the younger group to “Insects”, “Microscopes and Invisible Creatures”, “Atoms and Molecules”, “Chemistry Fun” and “Weather” for older kids among other things. Each chapter is divided into 4-7 parts and each part has three or four activities to do. Each part can easily be covered in one to two days so each chapter can easily be covered in about a two week time depending on how often you do science. There is a materials list at the beginning of each chapter and a short ten question test at the end.

Now, here’s why we really like it!

Ease of Use – Science Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers is super easy to use. It is easy to follow and everything is included. From the material list to the test at the end of the chapter, it is all there. There is not flipping between different books, no reading a complicated teacher manual, no books for your kids to read pages and pages of information and facts that they don’t need to learn. All of the learning is done through simple experiments and projects and the explanations included.

Easy to Teach – Science Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers is super easy to teach. The simple experiments really do use things that are found around the house or are very easy to find. Nothing that we have used so far had to be found in a specialty store or ordered. The only thing in this book that might be challenging to find is a microscope that is only used in the “Microscopes and Invisible Creatures” chapter.

The experiments themselves are also very easy. The explanations are easy to follow and teach. Since the last time we used this book was a couple of weeks ago, I decided to pull it out once again to look it over for this review. We are traveling right now but I was able to look at some of the activities and even do some of the experiments and projects in the car with the kids while Sarah was driving. It is that easy! I wouldn’t recommend doing that with all of the experiments, but that gives you an idea of how easy this curriculum is to teach.

Easy for my kids to grasp – After looking over the book when we first got it, I decided to start with chapter 11, “Insects” for ages 8-13. Jacob is 9 and Joshua is 14. I wanted to use Science Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers with both of them and the beginning units looked too simple for them and, although the author suggests doing them in order because they build off of one another, she also said that each chapter can be a stand alone chapter. From the very first activity in part one, my kids really got it and were learning! I was amazed at what my kids were learning by using simple objects and doing simple experiments. They learned all about Animal Classification by doing some easy pencil and paper projects. They learned about an insects exoskeleton by using a paper bag and a balloon for one experiment and a plastic egg and a wet paper towel for another. I was thrilled at what they were learning. They really did “get it”!

I could go on and on, but then this review would be too long. I think you get the picture that we are excited about Science Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers by Funtastic Unit Studies. In fact, we can’t wait to get back home from our ministry trip/vacation to use it more. This is a keeper. You can find out more about this great curriculum by clicking on any of the highlighted links above. To find out what other members of the TOS Review Crew think about this book, click on the banner below. Happy homeschooling!

Funtastic Unit Studies Review
Crew Disclaimer

Friday, July 31, 2015

Canada Bound!

We are on our way to Canada and a week of teaching Bible at Mill Stream Bible Camp. Thanking God for traveling mercies so far and good deals on gas, food, and hotel for the night since we are on a limited budget. More pictures and updates to come. Thanks for your prayers!

Tim Hortons 1

Of course we had to stop at the first Tim Hortons we saw. I’m sure it will be the first of many.

Tim Hortons 2