Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Come to The Tiki Room. Fly to The Tiki Room. This has been a recording.

I was reading some posts on Facebook today and something triggered my memories of working at Walt Disney World from 1979 - 1992. For about two years from the summer of 1980 to the summer of 1982 I had the great pleasure of working in the shops of Adventureland. I loved working in Adventureland. For most of my time there I worked in two specific shop. One shop, called "The Magic Carpet", sold items from the far east and the other, named "Oriental Imports" featured merchandise from...well...the orient. Still today many things bring back memories of those shops. The smell of Brasso (we used to have to shine the brass items with Brasso), the feel and smell of soft leather, the site of inlaid wooden boxes with hidden compartments, the smell of incense from India or the orient, the sound of oriental music...all take me back to those wonderful days.

Another great memory is "The Barker Bird" that once perched outside of The Enchanted Tiki Room. The shops that I worked at were right across the courtyard from that wonderful attraction and the equally wonderful food stand - The Sunshine Tree Terrace. We could hear "The Barker Bird" all day long. I think at one point I had his entire spiel memorized. That and the Adventureland Drum music were what we heard day in and day out. It brings back pleasant memories now, but back then I'm sure we considered them a curse.

Now things have changed a lot in Adventureland. "The Barker Bird" is gone. The shops have been rethemed, remodeled and renamed. The courtyard is gone and in it's place is The Magic Carpets of Aladdin. Many things are different, but I still have the memories.

Here are a couple of videos that I found on YouTube that feature both "The Barker Bird" and the Adventureland Drum music. Enjoy!


Monday, March 25, 2013

The Art of Poetry - A Poetic Review


Well, okay, it's not a poetic review, but I did think about it. It was a fleeting thought, but still a thought. At any rate, I was glad when we got to do this review of the Classical Academic Press course The Art of Poetry.

I have mentioned over and over again that we love to read in our home. At lest three of us also love to write (the two youngest have wild imaginations that they haven't quite learned to put into writing yet).We have reviewed many items that include reading and writing. Unfortunately in all of the items that we have been given to review, there has never been a curriculum that includes poetry...something that we also love to read but don't have a lot of experience with writing.

Although The Art of Poetry doesn't focus a lot on writing poetry, it is, kind of, a poetry appreciation course. I say "kind of" because really it is much more.


We have reviewed many things from Classical Academic Press in the past and one of the things that I really appreciate about them is the Freebies. They always include so many supplemental items that are always. The one that I found extremely helpful was perhaps the smallest one. It was the download on suggested ways you could use this curriculum. The Art of Poetry was written for older students in middle school or high school, but could also be adapted for younger students. The download had suggested lesson plans for the course to be used over a half year period, a full year period, as a four year Poetry Appreciation course that could be added in to an already existing course. I like the way that they only gave a few weeks of plans but during those weeks a pattern of how much to do each day and how much time to spend on this course each day. Of course, the time spent each day would depend on how you are using this course.

Another really neat Freebie was the download of someone reading all of the poems included. It was a fairly large download but can be extremely helpful. It is always nice to hear a different person read poetry. It's a nice break from the usual student or teacher. If a high school homeschool student is doing a lot of independent work it is also very nice to have a recording of the poems.

We did not delve too much into this Freebie, but there is also a Art of Poetry blog that the students and teachers can explore.

Classical Academic Press always produces excellent Teacher's Manuals and Student Books and the ones for The Art of Poetry are no exception. Both are very easy to use. The Teacher's Manual is very much like the Student Book, but contains much more explanation along with suggested answers to the questions and activities.

As I mentioned before, this course is very much like a poetry appreciation course. It teaches you how to read, feel, analyze, enjoy, and even write good poetry. The book is divided in to three sections: The Elements of Poetry section talks about how poets use Images, Metaphors, Symbols, Sound, Rhythm and much more in their poems. In fact, the reason I capitalized the previous words was that those were some of the chapter names. Each chapter really makes a student think about a certain aspect of poetry as they read it. The chapter begins with an short explanation of the element that is being emphasized along with a main poem that uses that particular aspect.The author does a good job of focusing the students attention on that element. There are then several poems in each chapter that use the detail that the chapter is focusing on. After each poem their are several questions that, again, focus the students attention on how the author uses that particular element in that poem. Finally, at the end of the chapter their are what I call "hands on" activities where the student gets to use his different senses to discover even more about a particular element. You might be asked to listen to someone and note the metaphors they use, cut out pictures that represent different symbols, or rewrite a poem using a different animal other than the one that was originally used.

The section section talks about The Formal History of Poetry. Although, John Allen and I haven't delved too much into this section, I am looking forward to it. It obviously talks about the history of poetry but talks about different types of poetry such as Verse Forms and Open Verse. I am particularly excited to get to this section because two of the chapters talk about two of my favorite poets, Emily Dickinson (A Case Study in Forms) and Walt Whitman (A Case Study in Open Verse). The chapters are a bit different but contain most of the same things as what was in the first section. There are poems that emphasize the different styles with questions after each, and there are activities at the end of each chapter.

Finally, the last section, is short and talks about the Application of what was learned. It talks about how to start a poetry group, hosting a reading series or even hosting a poetry summer camp. It also gives suggestions on starting a writer's journal or having a favorite poem notebook. There is even a section talking about Finding Dead or Live Mentors!

Classical Academic Press also offers a DVD that goes along with the course. Although it is optional, John Allen and I really enjoyed it. It is much like the DVD's that they include in some of their other courses. There is a very friendly teacher sitting at a table with four students. I love the dialogue and the teaching that goes on. It is wonderful and very much like sitting in on a class but, I think, much more intimate. The DVD's would be great for those parents who don't feel that poetry is their strong point or to just have as a supplement.

I think I should add that the manuals that are used in this course were written to be used in a classroom setting. Many of the activities suggested are activities that would be used with many students. That being said, I have never found it difficult to adapt the activities to be used in a homeschool setting.

Many folks like cookie cutter curriculum that only covers the things that are required for their high school student to take. I think that it is unfortunate that many schools, including homeschools, don't take time to concentrate  on learning how to really read, analyze, and just enjoy poetry. I'm glad that we were sent The Art of Poetry. John Allen and I have really enjoyed it.

The price makes it reasonable for anyone to have a concentrated poetry course. The student edition is just $24.95 and the teacher edition is only $29.95. As mentioned before, the DVD is optional and can be purchased for $69.95. If you would like to bundle all three together - the student, teacher and DVD - the price is just $99.95. Just click here or on any one of the hi-lighted links above for more information.

There were actually a couple things from Classical Academic Press that were being reviewed by the TOS Review Crew and you can find out what the other reviewers had to say about The Art of Poetry and the other review items by clicking on the banner below. Happy Homeschooling!


 photo DisclaimerGraphic1_zpsf612f371.gif 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Together We Can Make A Difference!

Most of you know that I am a big supporter of Compassion International as well as the mission that we are with, BCM International. Both seek to make a difference in our world. Since Compassion Sunday is coming soon, I'd like to highlight a video from Compassion International. Watch it and then go out and make a difference today. It doesn't matter if you support BCM International or Compassion International just make a difference in whatever you do!

There is so much to LIKE about Essentials in Writing. It Should Be Essential in Your Homeschool!

Essential in Writing logo photo EssentialsinWritinglogo_zps7affe1cf.jpg 

Okay, I'm going to be honest here. After all, I have always been taught that honesty is always the best policy, so, here goes. I really didn't want to review Essentials in Writing. Over my years of being on the TOS Review Crew, John Allen and I have reviewed a ton of writing curriculum and, frankly, we just weren't up to reviewing another. We were already using a great writing curriculum and really didn't want to take the time out to review the Essentials in Writing Tenth Grade Essay Writing/Research Paper curriculum. However, when we heard that we were going to receive the CD's to review, we decided to bite the bullet and try it out. I'm glad we did. We found a lot to LIKE about this curriculum.

Essentials in Writing Grade 10 photo EIW10thgrade_zpse9ce70e0.jpg 

There are so many things to LIKE about the Essentials in Writing curriculum that, instead of putting my usual list of why you should buy the Essentials in Writing Tenth Grade Essay Writing/Research Paper course, I just decided to talk about what is to LIKE about it. I am going to capitalize and bold all of my LIKES so that you can easily find all of the things that there is to LIKE about it and I'm sure you are going to see a lot of LIKES!

Folks will LIKE it because it is very easy to use. Our Essentials in Writing course came as a three disk set. Disks One and Two were teaching DVD's while Disk Three finished the teaching, but also included a letter to the parents and the printable worksheet files. All you need to do is print out the worksheets for the day and, then, have your student watch the video and complete the worksheet. It's as easy as that. If you would rather have the worksheets already printed out, you can purchase them from Essentials in Writing of just $20. What's not to LIKE about that.

Students will LIKE that the worksheets are very easy to understand and there is not a lot of fluff and extra tedious work for them to do. There are two or three pages of easy to follow notes that reexplain what the teacher taught and provide examples. The student can either use these pages to look at while the teacher is teaching, or use them as a review after watching the days lesson. Students will also LIKE the assignments. A couple of choices are given that adds to the flexibility of the program. The parent can choose which assignment their child is to do or you can give the student a little control over his education and allow him to choose. A third choice would be to assign the first assignment and then, if the student needs more help then the second assignment could be given. I LIKE having choices.

In the past, some of the things that we have DISLIKED about lesson videos or audios have been the quality of production and, sometimes, the actual teacher. However, the lesson videos for Essentials in Writing are very well done with a very nice teacher - Matthew Stephens. In a very kind and thorough way, he explains the lesson and draws out needed examples on a wipe erase board. I LIKE good, friendly, well understood teachers.

Another thing that I LIKE is how sequential and well thought out this curriculum is. The curriculum begins with section containing several lessons on how to write a good sentence. It then progresses to another group of lessons on writing proper paragraphs. Next, the student will learn to write different types of essays. Finally, they will learn to produce a well written research paper. I LIKE that nothing is taken for granted. Before a student can write a good essay or research paper he has to know how to write a good paragraph. AND, before a student can write a good paragraph he has to know how to write a good sentence.

I also LIKE the small details that you might at first overlook but are very important. When I say that the program starts out with lessons on how to write a good sentence and paragraph, I'm not talking about just any old sentence or paragraph. The sentences and paragraphs that the child learns to write are sentences and paragraphs that would make up a good essay or research paper. Although learning how to write sentences and paragraphs for works of fiction are important, the Essentials in Writing program has chosen the 10th grade year to focus on writing essays and research papers. Other years in the program focus on writing other things. I really LIKE the programs focus on thoroughly covering one aspect of writing in one year.

Finally, I really LIKE the fact that John Allen is learning things that I didn't learn until college. It wasn't until my college basic English course that I learned how to write a proper research paper using note cards, a bibliography, etc. I don't know if one of my high school Language Arts teachers dropped the ball on that or not, but I never learned how the proper steps of writing a research paper until my college years. I really LIKE the fact that Essentials in Writing Tenth Grade Essay Writing/Research Papers does such a thorough job of teaching those things to a high school student. I think that you will LIKE that as well.

We didn't think anything could top the very popular writing program that we were using, but John Allen said that he LIKES this curriculum just as much as he likes the other curriculum. That really surprised me! For that reason alone I would have to give Essentials in Writing Tenth Grade Essay Writing/Research Paper an A+!

Another A+ (and another LIKE) is the price! The Essentials in Writing Tenth Grade Essay Writing/Research Paper is just $40! For $40 you get the DVDs with lesson-by-lesson video instruction and a CD-ROM with printable worksheets/assignment sheets/answer key in PDF format. Just click here or on any one of the hi-lighted links above for more information.

Other members of the TOS Review Crew reviewed other grade levels of  the Essentials in Writing series and you can find what they had to say by clicking on the banner below. Happy Home Educating!

 photo DisclaimerGraphic1_zpsf612f371.gif

Monday, March 18, 2013

With TouchMath, Math is a Touchy Subject Around Our House!

logo photo touchlogo_zps5760f524.jpg
Almost since the beginning of our homeschooling journey, I heard about Touchmath. We even were given or downloaded bits and pieces of the Touchmath curriculum. It always looked interesting and looked like something that I might want to try with my children at some time in their homeschool career, but the opportunity never seemed to present itself. When I found out that the TOS Review Crew would be reviewing different levels of the Touchmath program, I jumped at the chance to try the Touchmath Kindergarten curriculum. We were given a free download to all four of the Touchmath Kindergarten units containing 6 modules in each. We were also separately shipped the complementary Touchmath Tutor Kindergarten Software and two different types of manipulatives, the Touchmath 3-D Numerals and the Touch Shapes. Our main goal was to review the Touchmath curriculum, and that's what Jacob and I concentrated on. I will, however, touch on the complementary materials at the end of this review.

First, however, let me tell you what I liked about the Touchmath program that we used.

Like #1 - Ease of use - This is an extremely easy curriculum to use. Everything is explained in detail. That is very important to us. We are very busy and, with two children on the autism spectrum, I don't have time to have to sift through curriculum in order to figure out how to use it. Oh, Touchmath does have all of the extras. For those of you who like to sift through reasoning behind the curriculum, detailed scope and sequence charts, overviews, etc., it has those. I have a teaching degree, and, when I have spare time, I enjoy reading those types of things as well. However, most of the time I just like being able to pick up a curriculum and run with it without having to do a lot of preparation.

Touchmath Kindergarten is like that. It has complete instructions on what to do each day. It even has pictures of the completed worksheets right beside the instructions so that you know exactly what is expected and what the correct answers are. I really like that! It even has a stop sign for when you are to end the day.

Usually there is an introductory activity using items that around the house. Usually the activity has to do with counting or some type of math operation like adding or subtracting so the items required are small. Since Jacob enjoys using colored pencils, I generally used those, although you could easily use buttons, toothpicks, counting bears or what ever you enjoy using. After that, there is a series of worksheets that are to be done. Again, even dialogue to be used with you and your child to explain the worksheet and the concept is suggested. Sometimes Touchmath produced manipulatives can be used but are not required. I will touch more on this in a minute, but I really like the fact that Touchmath is not just a pencil and paper curriculum. It involves all of the learning styles. After a few worksheets, you are done.

It all took really no more than about a half an hour for us. The curriculum is made, however, to be flexible. I'll talk about the different units and modules next, but, as stated, there are four units with six modules in each. Although I can't speak for how long the later modules will take, we have found that each module so far takes about six days. So, if you do the math (pun intended!), then you will figure out that there are a few days left over. That allows for you to break up days if your child is getting restless or not understanding, review trouble spots (in fact the curriculum tells you to do that), or, if you have co-op days or something like that, then you can easily work with Touchmath four days a week and still finish in one year.

Like #2 - It covers everything! - As mentioned above, there are four units that make up Touchmath Kindergarten. Unit A covers Counting, Adding, and Subtracting Within 5. Unit B covers Adding and Subtracting Within 9. Unit C talks about Understanding Numbers 1-20. Unit D finishes with Measurement, Data, and Geometry.

I was quite impressed with how much this kindergarten program covered. I don't recall learning that much math in kindergarten. In fact, one of the reasons we began homeschooling (a small reason, but a reason nonetheless) was that I felt that public schools were really pushing kids too hard but not producing results. So, teaching a heavy math curriculum to Jacob was not on my radar. However,
Touchmath eases the child along so nicely that it's not a strain for them to learn. I don't feel like I am "pushing" Jacob when I use their curriculum. I am enjoying it and so is he!
Kindy photo 252441_10151402041329867_1022020412_n_zps5216bf56.jpg

Like #3 - It covers all learning styles! - Okay, I didn't talk about this at the beginning for one main reason. This type of learning has always been commonplace to me and so, I just kind of forgot. There is a reason for the name "Touchmath". I remember adding when I was a little kid. I would use little tricks like counting the three points on the number 3 or the four points on the number 4. Well, that is the whole idea with Touchmath. They have different touch points. The numbers one through five have single touch points while the numbers six through nine have double touch points. Here is an example using the numbers four and six:
So, I child not only hears and visualizes the numeral and what each numeral stands for, but he touches it as well. I really like using curriculum that uses different learning styles. When I taught school, I taught learning disabled children. We always tried to use the different learning modalities.
Touchmath Kindergarten does this and does it well. From the 3-D Numerals that we received to review - which are just like the pictures above but made of sturdy plastic and actually have the bumps and circles that Jacob can touch - to the Touch Shapes that we received that can be used with different worksheets to help visualize the problem - all materials are thought out and work excellently together. The Touchmath Tutor Kindergarten Software that we were sent even offers a way for students who learn well on the computer. As mentioned above, the main thing that we were to review was the curriculum. The curriculum can be used excellently without these added manipulatives by using the worksheets and other suggested activities. However, if you are able to, I would highly recommend purchasing some of the manipulatives as well.

prek k photo 395383_10150712263749867_108422559_n_zps79bb7fd9.jpg  
So, what does Jacob like? He likes the whole thing! When a child asks to do math, then you know the curriculum has to be good. He has enjoyed the worksheets, and always runs to show Mommy as soon as he is done, and he enjoys the manipulatives as well. He loves it all!
Although Jacob is just in kindergarten, we have tried many, many other math programs and math helps over the years. I have never been one to have a cookie cutter curriculum that I use with all children. I always try to choose curriculum that matches the child's strength. We have had this only a few weeks, but already I think that this curriculum is an excellent match for him. We plan on continuing to use it.
So, how much is this excellent curriculum? Each one of the four units sold separately is just $59.95. However, if you buy all four units together the price is only $199.95. The manipulative mentioned above are priced at $79 for the 3-D Numerals, $30 for the Touch Shapes, and $99 for the Touchmath Tutor Kindergarten Software. You can find out more about Touchmath Kindergarten by clicking  here or on any one of the hi-lighted links above.
Many other members of the TOS Review Crew and their families reviewed other grade levels of the Touchmath curriculum and you can find what they had to say by clicking on the banner below. Happy Homeschooling!
 photo DisclaimerGraphic1_zpsf612f371.gif

Friday, March 8, 2013

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Our Crazy, Mixed Up, Fantastic, Wonderful Trip to Kansas City, MO

If you are a friend of mine on Facebook, you will know that we recently went to a super Team National convention in Kansas City, MO last month. Although Sarah, John Allen and I had been to Missouri in the past Joshua and Jacob had never been and none of us had been that far west - we even drove into the Kansas side of Kansas City.

So why was it a "Crazy, Mixed Up, Fantastic, Wonderful Trip"? Well, let me take them one by one and I think you will understand.

After dropping Jojo off at Grandma's we headed out toward MO. We wanted to get as far as we could before we stopped to spend the night but also wanted to see the sites along the way. We traveled through always beautiful Tennessee into scenic Kentucky only stopping for gas, food, and potty stops when we absolutely had to. Well, soon after crossing into Illinois, we needed to stop for another break so we stopped at the first rest area that we could find. Imagine the questions we had when we saw a Superman cutout where a person could take pictures of their head on Superman's body.


What we didn't realize was that this rest area was in Metropolis, Illinois, home to the Super Museum! On our way out we saw a sign that pointed the way to a giant Superman statue and of course we couldn't resist.
And, yes, not to be left out, across the street was a Super Woman cut out for our always super mother and wife.
That was the "Crazy" part of our trip. Now for our "Mixed Up" part.
Who knew that Missouri could be such a different place? After traveling a few hours more we got to the middle of MO and spent a not so delightful night in an absolutely terrible hotel. No, we don't blame MO for the hotel. We blame the owner, which I plan on writing to as soon as I finish here (this blog post reminded me of the need to). At any rate, the mixed up part came the next morning when we stopped at a McDonald's, and ordered our usual chicken biscuits only to find that they don't have chicken biscuits in MO! NO CHICKEN BISCUITS! What are we to do. Sarah doesn't eat red meat and the rest of us try to stay clear of it except for a treat here and there. Thankfully, the Hardees next door to the gas station we stopped at did, indeed, serve chicken biscuits and or breakfast was saved!
Finally we arrive in fantastic Kansas City, MO. This time our hotel was fantastic! We stayed at the Kansas City Marriott Downtown and the staff was wonderful. Our very-friendly-with-a-lot-of-personality Joshua became friend with everyone and one concierge, Robin, was especially friendly to all of my boys and made an effort to talk to our boys, even remembering their names, every time he saw them. The convention we attended was held over Valentine's Day and the hotel celebrated by putting on a wonderful light show.
We also had a great time visiting Fritz's Railroad Restaurant. The whole restaurant is train themed and a train actually delivers your food to the table! After ordering over a phone at your table, a sever delivers your drinks, then you watch a train overhead come to your table, drop off your food in a kind of elevator, and the elevator come down to your table. Watch this video and I think you'll figure it out.


This video was obviously done while the restaurant was being built and they had a camera attached to the train so the noise is magnified. When we were there we hardly noticed the noise at all. It sounded just like any other restaurant. The noise, however, was the only normal thing about this eatery. The atmosphere, food and fun were all fantastic! Our boys enjoyed it, and when the kids are happy, Mom and Dad are happy!
Last but certainly not least was the convention. It was fantastic as well. Team National is a wonderful company and it is teaching Sarah and I how to dream again. Take a look at the pictures below and I think you'll understand what I mean.

As you can see by the pictures above, we had a fantastic time on our trip. We had a wonderful time on our way home as well. We stopped by the St. Louis Arch. Did you know that the arch is actually part of a National Park? I didn't. The actual name is the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial and it includes the "Gateway Arch" and the "Old Courthouse" where Dred Scott sued for his freedom. We didn't have time to visit the courthouse, and to Joshua's dismay, we weren't able to go to the top of the arch because the ticket's were all sold out. We were, however, able to see a fantastic movie at the Odyssey Theatre about the Lewis and Clark expedition and then visited the Museum of Westward Expansion which showed artifacts from that time period. We also bought some souvenirs at the museum shop. We enjoyed the old type candy and other food treats on the rest of our trip home. As you can see below it truly was a wonderful time with a wonderful view!

This trip truly was a Crazy, Mixed Up, Fantastic, Wonderful Trip! If you want to know about any of the things mentioned above, just click on one of the links. Thanks for reading and enjoy!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Abraham's Journey - A Celebration of the American Dream


We didn't start homeschooling John Allen until he was in fourth grade. Before that, he went to a great public school and had some wonderful teacher. His second grade teacher, who is now retired, had saved all of the old reading books every time the school system changed curriculum. So, she had five or six sets of reading books on her shelves and, let me tell you, those kids read almost all of them. They didn't just read the regular story for the week but they read three or four stories every week. That year John Allen grew to love books and reading.

When we finally chose to homeschool and I was looking around for good curriculum, I decided on a literature based history curriculum. I love history and am constantly discussing it with my children so the mixture of reading and history was a hit. Now John Allen loves both reading and history. When we found out that we would be getting the book Abraham's Journey: A Celebration of the American Dream from Inspiring the American Dream, we were excited. Since he loves both history and reading, this seemed like a good fit, and it was.

John Allen snatched the book almost right away and read the whole thing in one setting. Since he is also a good writer, I asked him to write a review for Abraham's Journey: A Celebration of the American Dream that I would include in this review. Here is his review. I will elaborate and comment more afterward.


Abraham and his sister are devastated when they find that their family doesn’t have enough money to buy Christmas presents this year. So Abraham goes up to his room to try to find a way to earn money for Christmas. Abraham starts to text his friends to see if there are any part-time jobs around that he could do. Little did he know what he would find would change his life. All of a sudden a wise old man pops onto the screen of Abraham’s smart phone, the wise old man invites Abraham to take his hand and to take a journey with him through cyber space, acknowledging to him that he will find the answers to all of his questions on the way. From there they take an adventure to the past, and meet many historical people like Marten Luther King, Jr. and Amelia Earhart. They also meet people from the not so distant past like Mark Zuckerberg, and Bill Gates, all while learning Abraham’s secret talent and virtues to help him put that talent to good use.

What is this secret talent you might ask? Does Abraham take these teachings to heart? Will he put his talent to use? Will Abraham and his sister get presents for Christmas? What happens next!? You’ll have to read the book to find out. Take a journey through time and space . . . well cyber space, in this amazing book exciting for all readers of all ages.

Inspiring the American Dream is something that we have been talking about a lot in our home lately. In this day and age it is difficult to dream. In fact, I feel that many folks have forgotten what the American Dream is all about. I appreciate the author's, Robert and Kathleen Basmadjian, writing this book in the attempt to once again instill the American Dream in to our society and teaching our children to. . . well, dream again. I also appreciate how they emphasized that the American Dream should be obtained virtuously and not by undesirable methods.

I think that John Allen has been inspired by Abraham's Journey: A Celebration of the American Dream. I have been inspired as well. So inspired that I plan on reading it to his younger brothers. I want them to learn that they have God given talents as well that they can use to obtain their dreams.

John Allen is very impressed with Abraham's Journey: A Celebration of the American Dream from Inspiring the American Dream and I am as well. I am also impressed with the price. It is just $14.99 plus $5 shipping and handling. You can find out more about this book and it's authors by clicking here or on any one of the hi-lighted links above.

Other crew members from the TOS Review Crew reviewed this item as well and you can find what they had to say by clicking on the banner below. Happy Homeschooling!

 photo DisclaimerGraphic1_zpsf612f371.gif

Monday, March 4, 2013

Preparing for College Makes Sense with College Common Sense!


While reading through some of my notes for this review I was reminded of something. Children grow up too quickly! I can't believe that my John Allen is actually 16 and in tenth grade. It just seems like yesterday that he was born. We have been through so much together, from a very frightening bout with a rare childhood eye cancer to being the older brother to two children on the autism spectrum. John Allen has sacrificed much. Through all of our challenges, I have neglected something that was very crucial - getting him ready for college. Oh, I'm not talking about in the academic sense, although, like many teenage boys he would much rather be playing video games than doing his homeschool work. No, I'm talking about getting ready to enter college, and then pay for college once he got in. That's why I am so glad that we were chosen to review the Going to College and Paying for it Online Video and Workbook from College Common Sense.

Usually with the TOS Review Crew we review homeschool curriculum. However the Going to College and Paying for it Online Video and Workbook is not really a curriculum. Although it has weekly "lesson plans", and, I suppose, could be used as an elective, I would consider it more of just a a common sense approach to making sure that your child has enough money for college that could be started as young as elementary school. Of course, where else would you find a common sense approach than College Common Sense?


This curriculum was originally written only for high school students, but as the author became more aware that children and their parents need to and could begin preparing much earlier she revised it to be for children in their elementary, middle school or high school years but still focused on children who are in 9-12 grade. Although there are some free things that College Common Sense offers to go along with Going to College and Paying for it Online Video and Workbook, the videos and workbook are the main items and provide plenty of information, advice, assignments and college preparation checklists to last provide you with all of the things needed to ready a student for their college experience. The free weekly lesson plans are extras that are not needed but very helpful.

Let me say before I even begin that this video and workbook is very well done and very thorough. I went to a small private college that was two miles away from my home. I was blessed to not have to look far for a college that had the major that I wanted. I was also blessed to have a well paying job while going to college that allowed me to work my hours around my school. I didn't have to go through a lot to decide what school I wanted to attend and how to pay for it. Times have changed, however, and colleges are much more competitive and expensive than they were in my day. I couldn't imagine trying to navigate my way through this complicated system today. I am so glad that this video and workbook are here for my children.

There are six segments to this video that must be watched. They cover everything that you can think of that pertains to choosing a college and preparing to pay for college. Each segment goes step by step into what you must do to complete the task has to be done to navigate the college preparation waters successfully. The workbook recaps what the author has said in the video and gives additional assignments.

I mentioned before that the author had originally written this for high school and college age students but had realized that much can be done to educate and prepare younger students so she revised it to include younger students as well. The suggested assignments are letter coded as to what aged student it would best benefit. Of course, many of these things aren't just suggested assignments, but things that must be done before you enter college. They are steps that you must go through in choosing and applying for a college as well as applying for scholarships and financial aid. However, this isn't just a step by step guide in how to fill something out. The author goes in to detail about what a student should do to make his chances of acceptance into the college of their choice or win the scholarships that would help them pay for their college experience. Many of these things must be done no matter what. The sooner you get started on them the better, but they must be done. Of course, a later elementary aged student will probably just watch the segments in order to begin their thoughts about what they may want to do in life and what needs to be done in the future to accomplish that goal. There are many things, however, that a middle school student can begin to do and those things are pointed out. While it might be true that the sooner a student begins working on these things the better, the author also points out that it is never too late to start. Even a senior in high school and, dare I say, even a student already in college can benefit from this video and the accompanying workbook.

The video/workbook segments with a brief explanation of each are as follows:

  • The Big Picture - gives a student...well...The Big Picture as to what they must do to select, apply for and pay for college. It goes in to detail about what must be thought about in selecting a college and provides links and assignments to help a student compare colleges and visit college campuses.
  • How Financial Aid Works - describes the often complicated and rough waters of what must be done to obtain money to help the student pay for college. It, again, gives many links and goes into great detail about FAFSA (the free application for federal student aid).
  • All About The Free Money - goes in to detail about the many different types of scholarships and grants that a student can receive. It talks about the lingo that is used and what must be done to obtain the money being offered.
  • The System That Works - I was going to try to abstain from adding my views into these brief descriptions and save my views until later, but I must say that I love this segment of the video and workbook. It is a fantastic method for applying for scholarships. It is a step by step system in how to apply and win scholarships. I am so glad that we were given this video/workbook to review. This segment is worth the price in and of itself.
  • You In the Process - gives a recap of what has been talked about so far and gives pointers as to how to keep out of debt and what to do if you do go in to debt while in college. Again, there are many wonderful suggestions and assignments to help you prepare for your college adventure.
  • Pull It All Together - gives some final suggestions and encouragement that wraps up everything that you have learned.

The segments mentioned above are short - the entire time to watch  them is about 2 hours - but they contain so much valuable information. There is so much that a student must learn to prepare for college in this day and age. These videos explained things and helped tremendously.

I must add a brief note. I mentioned that the workbooks give students many assignments. Many of these assignments are suggested to help the student find a career path and find the right college. The author notes that while all of the assignments are valuable, a student isn't expected to do absolutely everything. Even some of the major things listed are dependent on what type of major the student is going to have, what college they are going to go to and what type of scholarship that the student is applying for. There are some critical things that every student should do, however, and those things are pointed out in the texts.

John Allen and I give the Going to College and Paying for it Online Video and Workbook from College Common Sense two thumbs up! I feel like this is a must have for any student who is even thinking about going to college. The sooner you get it the better!

This program comes in two forms. The first is the online program which is what we reviewed. The cost for it is only $25 for 12 months of access to the online videos and downloadable workbook. You can also purchase a DVD of the video and workbook for $50 plus $5 shipping and handling. You can find more about this excellent program and how to purchase it by clicking here or on any one of the hi-lighted links above.

As always, many other reviewers from the TOS Review Crew reviewed this item and you can find what they had to say by clicking on the banner below. Happy Homeschooling!


 photo DisclaimerGraphic1_zpsf612f371.gif