Sunday, November 22, 2015

Meet the Blue Ribbon Winners–And the Tinkel Family Winners as Well!

Blue Ribbon Awards 2
When I first began reviewing for the Schoolhouse Review Crew about six and a half years ago there was no such thing as the Blue Ribbon Awards. Now they are a big thing for the crew and the vendors that produce the great products that the crew reviews. Let me explain how the Schoolhouse Review crew works.
The Schoolhouse Review Crew is made up of 200 bloggers that have established blogs with a dedicated following, are homeschoolers, and can write a quality review. We also have to be willing to test out new homeschool curriculum and other products for a six week period. For example, if we were given a math product to review that may mean that we have to either set aside our regular math curriculum or use the new math product alongside our regular curriculum and use them both together. After using the product for six weeks we write our reviews, post them on our blogs, link them to crew blog and then share them on social media. Since there are 200 Schoolhouse Review Crew members that have 100’s and sometimes 1000’s of followers each, then potentially 10s of thousands of people could be reached and read these product reviews. The more exposure the products get, the happier the homeschool curriculum companies are.
It really is a win/win situation all the way around. The vendors get exposure and the bloggers are sent some great curriculum that they otherwise would probably not purchase on their own.
One of the pleasures of being on the Schoolhouse Review Crew is getting to vote on our favorite products at the end of the crew year. This is a big thing for the crew members and a big honor for the vendors if they are chosen. As Schoolhouse Review Crew members, we do not take lightly our jobs of voting for these awards. Because the crew members like to have the holidays off to enjoy them with their families without having to worry about crew responsibilities, the crew year starts in January and ends in November. Therefore, we just got done voting on our favorites for the year.
Let me tell you, whenever I go through the process of thinking about and evaluating all of the products we have received for the year I always get emotional. God always knows what we need when we need it. I remember the times of sitting down with my children and trying out great curriculum with them. I remember the supplemental materials that we received that made our learning that much richer. I remember the breakthroughs that happened when we finally found something that worked with that child that was struggling in a particular subject. I remember the fun products, the challenging products and the products that might not have worked for our family but might be a blessing to another family with a different set of learning difficulties.
At the bottom of this post is the list of the products that the Schoolhouse Review Crew awarded with the 2015 Blue Ribbon Awards. First however, I wanted to list our favorites for the year and tell you why. Don’t worry, I don’t have nearly as many categories as the actual Blue Ribbon Awards. In fact, I really only have two - what I liked, and the kids top choice. So, without further adieu, here are the Tinkel Blue Ribbon choices followed by the actual Blue Ribbon Award winners.
Tim’s Favorites
(not in any order)
ASD Reading – ASD stands for Autism Spectrum Disorder so ASD Reading was developed for kids on the Autism Spectrum. The developers are the folks that created Reading Kingdom and ASD Reading is similar but not exactly the same. Jacob is developmentally delayed and we have been having a difficult time getting him to read so I decided to try this with him. He loved it and, before we knew it, he was actually reading! The other day I picked up the phonics reading book we were using with him before starting ASD Reading and he was able to read stories from the middle of the book where as just a couple of months ago it was a chore for him to sound out the words at the beginning. This, alone, makes ASD Reading deserve an award in my book! Click on the highlighted name above to get to ASD Reading’s website and click here to read my full review on this great program.
YWAM Publishing – YWAM stands for Youth With A Mission and they do excellent mission work all over the world, but they also have a fantastic publishing arm that publishes Christian biographies and unit studies of historical figures, missionaries and famous people from around the world. We were given a biography and unit study of Mary Slessor, a Scottish missionary that went to Africa in the 1800’s to serve in very dangerous sections of Calabar. I wasn’t sure how my children would do with a biography, but I used it as a read aloud with them and they absolutely fell in love with the book and we had so much fun with the unit study that it prompted me to develop my own history curriculum using great biographies this year. YWAM Publishing has great material. To find out more about them click on the highlighted text above. To read my full review on YWAM Publishing click here.
With Lee In Virginia – I really like G.A. Henty. He has become one of my favorite historical authors and John Allen loves him as well, so we were thrilled to get the audio production of one of Henty’s books, With Lee In Virginia, from Heirloom Audio Productions. However, I was wondering how the two youngest would do with listening to it. G.A. Henty can get a little deep for very young kids so I wasn’t sure if Jacob, especially, would get bored. I had nothing to fear. Heirloom Audio Productions does a first class job with their audio dramas. I mentioned in my review that I used to work at Walt Disney World and this recording reminded me of something that Disney would do. It is absolutely fantastic and my kids were enthralled. We listened to it on our way to Canada and they liked it so much that we ordered another Heirloom Audio Production drama of another Henty book to listen to on the way home. And . . . shhhhhh . . . don’t tell them, but I’m thinking about ordering yet another one for them to listen to on our holiday travels. To read my full review on With Lee In Virginia click here. To find out how to purchase With Lee In Virginia click on the name above.
Progeny Press – Progeny Press was another literature unit study company that we had the opportunity of reviewing this year but it wasn’t a study of a biography, it was a study of the novel Sarah, Plain and Tall. This was another one of those books that I wasn’t sure that Jacob and Joshua would like and, since the unit study was different than the unit study listed above, I wasn’t sure how they would do with it either. Again, I had nothing to worry about. They absolutely loved the book and the study. It was exciting to see their eyes light up when reading an excellent piece of literature and doing a study on it. The absorption of the book and the Progeny Press unit study was another reason I decided to scrap the boring history text book and use good novels and biographies to teach history this year. Again, to find out more about Progeny Press, click on the highlighted name above, and to read my full review click here.
Institute for Excellence in Writing – The Institute for Excellence in Writing is last on my personal favorites but it certainly isn’t least. We actually got to review several different products from IEW this year during two different review periods and we were blessed by them all. The first was one of IEW’s great writing curriculums. John Allen had used one a few years ago and it really helped him, but now it was Joshua’s turn. I selected an easier one for Joshua because he’s not quite at the stage John Allen was when he used it. Still, I wasn’t sure if Joshua could handle this fun but challenging course. He did great with it. We have put it aside while we review other things, but are definitely going to pick it back up and continue to use. Click here
for that full review.
The second time we reviewed IEW we were given three products to review. One, was a book and DVD on using games in your homeschool, another was a very unique thesaurus that really isn’t a thesaurus at all, and the third is a fantastic timeline of great historical books to be used for history. Wasn’t that last one timely since, as I’ve mentioned a time or two before, I am developing our own history curriculum this year? All three have been great additions to our homeschool. Click here to read my full review on these resources and click on the Institute for Excellence in Writing name above to find out more about all of IEW’s great products.
All Around Tinkel Favorite
Finally we come to the family's all around favorite this year. When I sat the boys down to talk this over with them I expected them to say one of the unit studies or one of the audio books that we have reviewed. I was somewhat surprised as to what their top choice was. All of them unanimously said the same math program – CTC Math!
CTC Math – is a program that is actually out of Australia and my boys absolutely love it and have advanced leaps and bounds in math already this year. All three of them are enrolled in it as it covers kindergarten through high school. The boys watch a short video that explains a math concept and then they do an online worksheet that covers that concept. They love the gentleman who humorously but excellently explains the concept, and they love doing the worksheets and earning certificates when they do well. This is an all time keeper for us. We have pretty much scrapped our other math curriculums and are solely using this. Click on the name above to find out more about it and, of course, click here to get to my full review of CTC Math.
Well, those were the Tinkel Family favorites for this year. There were some other crew members that blogged about their personal favorites as well. You can find what they had to say by clicking on the banner below.
2015 Schoolhouse Review Crew Blue Ribbon Awards
So, you’ve read the Tinkel Family favorites for 2015 but who were the actual winners. Here they are - the all around Schoolhouse Review Crew 2015 Blue Ribbon Award Winners. Click on the highlighted links to find out more about each product.
Favorite Reading Curriculum: Reading Kingdom
Favorite Writing Curriculum: Institute for Excellence in Writing
Favorite Vocabulary Program: Dynamic Literacy
Favorite Penmanship Program: CursiveLogic
Favorite Literature Curriculum: Progeny Press
Favorite History Curriculum: Home School in the Woods
Favorite History Supplement: Heirloom Audio Productions: In Freedom's Cause
Favorite Science Curriculum: Visual Learning Systems
Favorite Science Supplement: Ann McCallum Books: Eat Your Science Homework
Favorite Math Curriculum: CTC Math
Favorite Math Supplement: SimplyFun
Favorite Christian Education Curriculum: Grapevine Studies
Favorite Christian Education Supplement: Brinkman Adventures
Favorite Foreign Language Curriculum: Middlebury Interactive Language
Favorite Fine Arts Product: Maestro Classics
Favorite Elective Curriculum: Apologia Educational Ministries: Field Trip Journal
Favorite Audio Drama: Brinkman Adventures
Favorite Video:

Favorite Preschool Product: La La Logic
Favorite Elementary Product: Star Toaster
Favorite Middle School Product: The Critical Thinking Co
Favorite High School Product: Writing with Sharon Watson
Favorite College or College-Prep Product: Freedom Project Education
Favorite Parent Product: Koru Naturals
Best Resource I Didn't Know I Needed: Homeschool Planet
Best Online Resource: Super Teacher Worksheets
Best e-Product: Home School in the Woods
Just for Fun: USAopoly
Kids' Choice: La La Logic
Teens' Choice: YWAM Publishing
All Around Crew Favorite: Institute for Excellence in Writing

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

What in the World Do The Tinkels Do? Part 2–History of our Ministry


What do we do 3

There are 100’s of missionaries that serve with our mission organization BCM International. Several of their ministries have their own name, but most do not. So, how is it that our ministry has a name? Well, it wasn’t named by us because the ministry that we are directors of was not started by us.

Good News Ministries was actually started by two couples that had a burden for the people that live in the low income housing areas (projects) of Livingston. They saw that an old “mom and pop” grocery store with a house attached was going up for auction right across the street from the projects and they went to a local doctor friend of theirs to see if he would bid on it so that the could start a ministry their. He did, and he, praise be to God, won the bid and the ministry was started. For a few years they held the ministry in the house. Every Sunday they served them breakfast and then held Bible studies with them. We began helping them about six months after they started. The goal was to remodel the storefront and eventually move the ministry into the store.

Finally, the storefront was done and the ministry was moved from the house. We were working full time with another ministry at the time but it was time for a change so, by mutual agreement, we became the full time directors of the ministry and moved into the house.

Over the years the ministry took on many different forms but there were some elements that always stayed the same. We continued serving meals for a long time but by that time the meals and the Bible study were Sunday afternoon so the meal was more like a dinner than a breakfast. We also continued to do a Bible Club for the kids during the week. Some things we added, though, were day camps during the summer for the kid; cooking classes for the ladies; a food and clothes closet; individual mentoring and help for those who were in need; and more.


Sometimes the needs were very different. For example, there was a drug raid where several residents of the projects were arrested for selling prescription drugs, etc. Sarah then took on the ministry of visiting them in jail for a while. Another time a family that were regular attendees of the mission had the children removed from the home. We worked with the family over several months to try to teach them to better their lives, get jobs, and get the children back.

We also did seasonal ministries such as the day camps in the summer, a holiday meal between Thanksgiving and Christmas, a special Christmas meal for the attendees of the mission and various special activities during other holidays. Often, during the year, we would get food donated to us that we would bag up and pass out to the residents.

People don’t realize how busy one can be and get when running a ministry such as that. We would often get calls at all hours of the day and night from people that needed help or just wanted to talk. I remember one day waking up and walking over to the mission only to find that one of our regulars had let themselves in through the back door, made coffee and was using the internet to job hunt. Soon another lady came looking for food. Then one of our volunteers (that came up through our ministry) called in tears saying that her best friend had been taken to the hospital and wasn’t expected to live. Right after that, a homeless man came in looking for food. Finally, we got a call from the daughter of one of our ladies asking if we had seen “Mom”. She had been trying to get a hold of her but couldn’t. So I went to check on her. We then took another lady out for supper that needed some support and a shoulder to cry on.

Those days weren’t unusual, they were the norm. We stayed quite busy.

However, what happens when, after 15 years, the landlord calls to say that he is getting old, got an offer on the property and has decided to sell so that his wife and kids wouldn’t have to bother with it when he was gone? What were we going to do now? Many people thought that was the end of Good News Mission, but we didn’t feel at all that God was ending the ministry. We had just begun!

Tune in to the Part Three when you will find out the new direction that Good News Ministries (what our ministry is now called) is going in. God has really blessed and we are excited!

If you missed Part One just click here to find out what our umbrella mission organization BCM International is all about.


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Six Great Homeschool Science Resources–That the Schoolhouse Review Crew Introduced Us To!



Many of you know that I have the great privilege of being on the Schoolhouse Review Crew and have the great opportunity to review homeschool curriculum and resources from some fantastic companies. Science has never been my thing, but this year I found three great Science curriculums and three great Science resources all through being on “The Crew”.

Science Curriculum

1. Surfing the Net: Science published by The Critical Thinking Co. – This is fantastic! It teaches you how to safely surf the internet for great information and it teaches you Science at the same time! It’s also very flexible. Jacob developmentally delayed in many areas and we are listing him as second grade. However, he is advanced in Science. Joshua has a lot of comprehension problems because of difficulties brought on by his autism. So, they kind of meet in the middle and I am using and adapting it for both of them. Click on the title of the book for more information from the company and click here to read my full review.


Funtastic Unit Studies Review

2. Science Unit Studies for Homeschool and Teachers published by Funtastic Unit Studies – Are you looking for something that is easy to use and easy to teach? Something that has experiments that basically involve things around the house and that don’t require you to mortgage the house to buy science equipment? If you answered “yes” to either one of those questions then this is for you. We love it because many of the units go right along with other things we are using so we can use them together! Click on the name of the book to visit their website and click here to read my full review!

schoolhouse teachers 2

3. – We absolutely love this site! It has opened the doors to us in so many ways that it is unbelievable! This wasn’t actually a review item, although I written facebook posts about how we use it, this was a perk given to us since I am a review for the Schoolhouse Review Crew, however, we are so glad that we have it. It has dozens (if not hundreds. I didn’t count.) of courses on every subject matter available developed by top name teachers from the homeschool and academic world. So, this isn’t just a science course resource, this is an entire homeschool resource. You could literally teach your entire homeschool with materials found here. Check it out by clicking on the name above. If you have any questions about how we use it, leave me a comment and I’ll get back to you.

Science Resources


SmartKidz Media Review

1. Smartkidz Media – This is a resource that has become invaluable to our homeschool. Again, it is not just for Science, but can be used as a resource for many other subjects. It has 100’s of videos, musical recordings, online books and other resources for you to use in your homeschool. And they are adding things all of the time. Just now I went to check them out and found a really neat video that goes along with something we are studying at the moment. I can’t wait to watch it with the kids! Just click on the name above to check this out for yourself and click here to read my review.

rightnow media 

2. Rightnow Media – is another resource that has become invaluable to us. This is another site that has 1000’s of Christian videos and Bible Studies on it. They have partnered with to develop homeschool curriculum around some of their videos. Jacob loves their science videos that are produced by Phil Vischer from VeggieTales. We have used some of their other videos for history this year as well. This is one of those that I didn’t review so I don’t have a full post about it, but, take my word for it, it is great! Click on the name above to get to their website.


Super Teacher Worksheets Review

3. Super Teacher Worksheets – is something that I know you will turn to time and time again as we do. It has more than just science worksheets, but I’ll just focus on the science for right now. Have your kids ever watched a video on something or read about something and wanted to know more about it? Well, Super Teacher Worksheets is just the thing that you need. It is much more than worksheets as well. You could almost build an entire curriculum around their 1000’s of worksheets! Check it out by clicking on the name above and click here to get to my full review.

I hope you find something useful! Let me know if you do. I’d love to hear from you! I want to add a bit of a disclaimer. I am an affiliate with some of the companies above and some of the links above contain my affiliate link. I only affiliate with companies that I really think are awesome and are family friendly. If you see something with any of these companies that is not family friendly or is questionable, please let me know.


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Surfing the Net: Science–A Schoolhouse Review Crew Review

 I really think God has a sense of humor!
If you were at my house and listened in on our homeschool for any length of time you would know that Science is not at the top of my list for favorite subjects to teach. There have been a few good years of Science instruction but there have been several bad years of science instruction. What seemed to work with my oldest doesn’t work at all with my two youngest. I have been floundering to find a good science program to use with them. Then . . . POOF . . . God sent us several Science curriculums to us through The Schoolhouse Review Crew this year. The latest one is Surfing the Net: Science from The Critical Thinking Co.
We have used several things from The Critical Thinking Co. over the years and have always been pleased. They tread that fine line of making kids think (critically think) while making the learning fun and they do a good job of treading that line. Surfing the Net: Science is designed for 3-6 grade students but I have found that my kids are actually learning things that I never learned until at least seventh or eighth grade and they are having fun doing it! So far they have dissected a frog and a fish, helped a species of hawk migrate, and learned about poison dart frogs just to name a few things and they have done it all on the computer. And this was all in just the first unit of this book.
So, what in the world am I talking about? Let me go into more detail about Surfing the Net Science.
Have you ever wanted to harness all of the knowledge, good knowledge of course, that is on the internet but didn’t know how? I mean there is a ton of good things to be learned on the world wide web. Kids could really benefit from the information, but how do you start teaching them? There are so many ways to go? Can there be a rhyme to the reason? YES! There can! At least in the area of science.
You see, Surfing the Net: Science is not an ordinary textbook. It is actually a book that teaches you how to surf the internet to learn all about science. In fact, the subtitle of the book is “Inquiry-based worksheets for free Internet videos, articles, and games”. It actually contains worksheets for you to fill out along with links to online games and experiments that help your students learn about a specific topic.
Each chapter begins with a keyword search where the student is to use keywords in the questions to do an internet search and look up the answers. For example, in the Amphibians chapter of the Animals Section, we found out what ectothermic meant and how habitats affect ectothermic animals; we learned about metamorphosis; we learned about the three main groups of amphibians; we learned about a couple of specific amphibians and what makes them so unique; and we learned about animal adaptations. And that was all in just the two page, seven question, keyword section. If you aren’t sure how to do key word searches, you are not to worry. The book even teaches you as a parent how to teach your kids how to do keyword searches.
The keyword searches were fun, but the next couple of sections were even more fun! In the last half of the amphibian chapter we learned about the life cycle of a frog and were encouraged to draw and label the lifecycle; then we watched a video on the “Water Holding Frog”; and, finally, we actually dissected a frog . . . virtually on the internet of course! For the videos, games and experiments, Surfing The Net: Science gives actual website addresses to type in and find them.
My boys have loved it! Although Jacob is younger than the third-sixth grade suggested age group, science is one of his big interests, the only problem is he is not at that reading level. Joshua on the other hand could read it and may be able to do the key word search, but he has a very literal mind and many of the things I knew would have to be explained to him. So, I decided to do it with both boys at once. I would read the questions, ask them what key words they thought we would need to use to find the answers, then I would type everything in and read the articles to them. Then, we would answer all of the questions together. For the online games and experiments, like the dissection, I would let them each have turns. We have learned so much!
There are seven science sections in Surfing the Net: Science:
  • Animals
  • Atmosphere
  • Ecosystems and Habitats
  • Energy
  • Geology
  • Plants
  • Space

Each section has six-eight chapters in each. For example, the Animals section included:

  • Amphibians
  • Animal Cells
  • Birds
  • Fish
  • Insects
  • Invertebrates
  • Mammals
  • Reptiles

As I have said, we have really enjoyed this book. There have been times when it was difficult to find the right websites after typing in the keywords, but as we have worked through it it has gotten easier since we have learned what to look for. It also helps that all of the answers are found in the back of the book, so if you aren’t sure if you have found quite the right information, just peak at the answers. I also appreciate how the author is doing her best to keep everything up to date for us which can be difficult when the internet is constantly changing and new things are added. At the beginning of Surfing the Net: Science there is a website listed where you can go and check on updated information for each chapter. Surfing the Net: Science is a keeper for us!

To find out more about Surfing the Net: Science or about The Critical Thinking Co. click on any one of the highlighted links above. To see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew have to say about this book and other books by The Critical Thinking Company click on the banner below. Happy homeschooling!

The Critical Thinking Company Review
Crew Disclaimer

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

I Haven’t Forgotten!


What do we do 3

Recently I began a series titled “What In the World Do the Tinkels Do?” about what my family’s ministry is all about. I began by telling you all about our umbrella organization BCM International (you can find part one by clicking here) and mentioned that I would continue the series and tell you all about our local ministry called “Good News Ministries”. I haven’t forgotten to continue the series, I just got a little waylaid. I am planning on continuing the series within the next couple of days. Part two will be about how Good News Ministries began.

In the meantime, for my homeschooling friends, I am excited to say, that I am going to be writing a series about how we have developed our own history curriculum with inexpensive and often free things that my boys love. We have had so much fun choosing our own books and other materials and not being limited by a traditional curriculum. Please keep an eye out for the beginning of that series coming in the next week or so as well.

Until then, please accept my apologies for being late on part two of my “What In the World Do the Tinkels Do” series.


Sunday, November 8, 2015

We Are All Human


Fearfully and Wonderfully Made 2

I have not seen this entire movie. I have no idea if it has an agenda or not. All I know of it is this small clip. I saw it the other day on Facebook and it touched me greatly. I have read about the atrocities that took place during World War One and, of course, learned about it in history, but I had never heard this story. It reminded me once again that we are all human. We are God’s creation. Each of us is an individual loved by God. We need to love one another as Christ loved us. This video describes a small act of kindness done during a horrible time in history and how the giver was touchingly repaid years later for his kindness. We all need to remember that small acts of kindness may be only small to us. They may be huge to the recipient.

Psalm 139:14 

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

I Am Ashamed to Admit This

I am ashamed of this post.
Not really of the post itself, but what I am going to reveal in this post.
Over the years God has placed several special needs people into my life. I think the first special needs individual that I knew was Glen. Glen was a man that lived in the “County Home” where my parents were the superintendents. Glen only had one hand and was mentally handicapped. Because there were no other kids that lived nearby and because Glen was mentally on the level of a six or seven year old which was my age at the time, we became best friends. I never thought of Glen as special needs. We were best friends.
Later, when we lived in Pennsylvania, God placed other special needs kids in my path. I remember one girl, Valerie, who for some reason took a fondness to me and would call me at home to talk. Another special needs girl lived next door. I would always try to treat them kindly.
Of course, now, God has blessed me with two special needs boys and has put other special needs individuals in my life as well. Although my two boys are high functioning special needs and will prayerfully live quite successful lives on their own, many of the special needs people that I know will never be able to live on their own. I enjoy working with them all.
Here’s where the shame part comes in. Although I tried to always be kind to folks that were different than I was to their face, there were times that I was unkind behind their back. I don’t know when it began or why. Maybe it was peer pressure. Maybe I looked at other kids around me and saw the way they made fun of special needs kids and just went along with them. Maybe it was because I had the tendency (and still do at times) to blurt out things without thinking. I don’t know what it was, but I am embarrassed now about it.
I remember one time when I was in high school I was involved in a Christian Fellowship club that was led by one of the teachers. For a time I stopped going. When the sponsoring teacher asked me why, I kind of hedged around and said that it was because of all of the special needs kids that were attended. He immediately chastised me and deservingly made me feel like two cents for even thinking of such a thing.
There were other times that I was insensitive. As I mentioned, just the thought of me saying or feeling those things make me feel shame. I pray that I have learned lessons from those mistakes and I pray that people remember me for my soft heart rather than those few insensitive incidents.
One of the things that I do, and encourage others to do, is get involved in the special needs community. Today I was privileged to be able attend the Miss Fabulous pageant for our area of middle Tennessee. The volunteers and people that organize it make all of the participants feel like kings and queens. Our friend Patricia was a participant. She, as usual, hammed it up and was fantastic. Below are some pictures from this wonderful event. I would encourage all of you to volunteer at or just attend one of these events to cheer on the very special participants. I know you will be blessed.
fabulous 3
fabulous 5
fabuous 4