Thursday, December 17, 2015

Throwback Thursday - Virginia Soaps and Scents - A Great Company Owned by Some Great Friends!

I am going to be writing a blog post in the next couple of days about some last minute Christmas gifts that husbands can get for there wives. These could easily be bought for Valentines Day as well. So, wives, you may want to leave the computer on with my blog post on the screen so that when your husband gets on the first thing he sees is a "hint, hint" from his wife.
Well, anyway, Virginia Soaps and Scents is on of those products that I am going to feature. We reviewed their products way back in 2009 and we have been using them every since. In fact, I just received an order last week! Their laundry soap is pretty much what we exclusively use to wash our clothes, and I still use their Shampoo Bars. However, the old review was on my old blog so I decided to feature it again here as a Throwback Thursday post. I've changed the prices because some of the things have gone up slightly (the laundry bars haven't gone up at all) but, otherwise, the review is exactly the same as when I wrote it six years ago.
Since reviewing their products, we have become good friends with the family that started Virginia Soaps and Scents, the Spargers. They are a fantastic homeschooling family. Enjoy this Throwback Thursday post and seriously consider purchasing from them. You won't regret it!
Friday, 30 October 2009
Virginia Soaps and Scents
Mood:  smelly
Topic: Homeschool Product Review
Granny's in the cellar
Lordy can't you smell 'er
I was thinking of that song tonight. Before I reveal why, let me just tell you that I have loved being on the TOS Homeschool Crew so far. Yes it's been hectic, and sometimes I haven't felt like writing a review, but I have met so many new friends; tried out so many new homeschool items that I would have never thought of trying; and done so many new things that, if you would have told me a year ago that I would be doing them, I would have called you "crazy".
Tonight was one of those nights. That's why I was thinking about the song. I, Tim Tinkel, yes, little old me, along with the help of John Allen and Joshua, made laundry soap! Don't get excited! I didn't destroy the house! I didn't even destroy any of Sarah's pots and pans. And, no, it wasn't really home made from scratch, it was from a kit...let me explain.
Several weeks ago, as part of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I recieved a box from Virginia Soaps and Scents with three different types of home made soap, a home made shampoo bar, and a small kit to make home made laundry soap. I received them free of charge in order to try them out and review them on my blog. 
And, boy was the TOS Homeschool Crew treated royally! All of the items in the box were especially packaged just for us, and came with a three page letter explaining the company and their products. Great treatment from a company always gets a plus in my book, so they were already ahead of the game. 
Let me just preface this review before I start. We have been using home made soaps for many years now. We have a friend who also has a soapmaking business and we buy from her and have been gifted with many products from her, so hand crafted soaps are not new to us. We love using them and we love that most of them don't irritate our kids sensitive skin. But, I was anxious to see how Virginia Soaps and Scents measured up, and, the shampoo bar and the laundry kit were definitely new to us.
In 2008, the homeschooling Spargur family was doing a unit study on Colonial Life in Virginia and, lo and behold, what should be included in the study? Soapmaking! The soap was a success and they continued experimenting until, six months later, Virginia Soaps and Scents was born. They vowed from the start that everything about their new business would be done in house, from the soap to the printing to the web site, and they have stuck by that vow. 
So how did their soap stack up against our friends soap? Very well.
The Virginia Soaps and Scents website says "Our soaps are made with all natural oils – no chemicals. Each bar is hand cut, so no two are exactly the same." I am not a smelly soap type of person, so I chose the Oatmeal, Milk and Honey bar to personally use. It was the most manly smelling of the bunch that we received Smile. I really liked it! It lathered well and did it's job. According to the rest of the family the rest of the soaps were a hit as well. We set the Coconut Lemongrass bar by the sink, and John Allen, just today, said to give the soap two thumbs up. If my thirteen year old son likes it, it's got to be good!
Now for the Shampoo Bar. I was a bit skeptical of this one. Some of the other members of the crew received their packages before I received mine, and their was quite a lively discussion about the Shampoo Bar on the crew forum. Most liked it, and said that even their husbands used it. That piqued my curiosity, and I was anxious to get the package. I was not disappointed. The letter claimed that all you had to do was wet your hair, rub the bar over it a couple of times, and "you'll have lather clear to your toenails". And, they were right. It did lather well, and got my hair just as clean as using shampoos with a bunch of additives that aren't needed. The Virginia Soaps and Scents site says that their shampoo bars are made with "no added color - only a light oil-based fragrance or no fragrance at all." They also claim that, depending on your type of hair, you may not have to use conditioner anymore after using their Shampoo Bar. John Allen tried it out and gave it two thumbs up as well. He's really getting into this homeschool review stuff Laughing!
Finally, the Laundry Soap. We were sent a kit that made half of a gallon of the liquid soap. Their normal kit, however, makes two gallons. The boys and I had a blast making it. It came with simple instructions and you use everyday pots, spoons and buckets to make it in. The final product is heavier than most laundry detergents, and finally thickens into a gel like substance. But, the litmus test was whether it got our laundry clean or not. I tried it with a bunch of towels first. I measured the required 1/2 cup in the washer, and put the towels in. Sure enough, the towels came out clean and fresh. It was also unscented which made it excellent for our boys who, as I mentioned, have sensitive skin. And, once again, we gave this one two thumbs up.
Wow, three out of three isn't bad! Virginia Soaps and Scents is a hit in our book. And their prices are a hit with us as well. Their 4.5 oz. soap bars sell for $5.95 a bar, 3 for $16.50, or 10 for $45.00. They also have a special - buy 4 bars and get one free. Their larger 5.5 oz Shampoo Bar also sells for $5.95 for one, 3 for $16.50 or 10 for $45.00 and can be mixed with the soap bars for the multiple bar discounts. According to their letter, each bar should give you as many washes as a regular 32oz bottle of shampoo. Finally, their Laundry Soap kits sell for $4.95 or six kits for $25.00. The website says that "you should get 64-72 loads for less than seven cents per load."
Please check out their website for these and many other products. You can find it by clicking here or on any one of the hi-lighted links above. You can also check out what the other TOS Homeschool Crew is saying about this product by clicking here. And, finally, as the Virginia Soap and Scents Website so aptly puts it "Happy Lathering"!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

6 + 1 Great Audio & Audio/Visual Resources Your Kids Will Love While Traveling this Holiday Season!


Are you planning on traveling with your kids this holiday season but dread it? Trust me! I know the feeling. Having two special needs kids in the same car poses it’s challenges when we are in the car for long periods of time. There’s always the bickering and fighting, not to mention the constant “How Much Farther?” and “I’ve got to go to the restroom!”
As full time missionaries we travel a lot. I gave a lot of suggestions for family traveling in my five part series “Traveling With Kids”. In this post, however, I want to focus on six great resources that we have found with-in the last six months and one bonus resource from a few years ago.

Audio – We were blessed to be able to review three great audio CD’s this past year with the Schoolhouse Review Crew. Now, before you turn up your nose and think that audio productions are old fashioned, you need to check these out. There is nothing old fashioned about them. Audio has come into the modern era and these three suggestions are fantastic!

Brinkman Family Adventures – If you are a missions minded family, then you need to check out this missions minded family! Actually the Brinkman family is fictional but they are based on an actual family. This family really believes in missions and their stories are based on true missionary stories sometimes involving themselves and sometimes involving other missionaries. One thing is for sure, though, their radio dramas are exciting. My kids were hooked on the first episode they heard. Check out my review of Brinkman Family Adventures by clicking here and check them out by clicking on the link above!

Heirloom Audio Productions – Can I say “Wow! Wow! Wow!”? These Audio Adventures are A+, #1, Fantastic! There are four of them now and own three out of the four. The newest one just came out last week. The first one we heard, “With Lee in Virginia”, we listened to on the way up to Canada last summer. I’m telling you, you could have heard a pin drop in that car! Every member of this family was transfixed including our three very active boys! After listening they begged us to buy others so we ordered one so that we would have it to listen to on the way home. These audio’s are called audio theater because it is said that these CD’s are “theater for the mind”. The child actually imagines what is going on in their heads as the audio production is playing. It’s hard to explain. Watch the video below and is should give you an idea of what I am talking about. Click here to read my review of “With Lee in Virginia” and click on the Heirloom Audio Productions name above to get to there BIG sale that they are having where they offer all four of their CD’s at a special rate with a lot of added bonuses!

Maestro Classics – We were introduced to Maestro Classics a few years ago when I reviewed one of their great CD’s with John Allen. Joshua was young and didn’t remember it so it was really a new thing for him and Jacob when we got to review another one this past year. What Maestro Classics does is takes great classical pieces such as “Peter and the Wolf” and “The Nutcracker” and tells the story while the music is playing. The kids and I have learned a lot of really neat things about the way music is written. We now understand these musical pieces so much better because are hearing the story along with the music. We realize now why the music sounded so scary or so jubilant. We’ve learned that you can actually “hear” stories in music if you know what to listen for. These are really quality productions and my kids love them. Click here for my review of “The Nutcracker” and click on the name above to get to their website.

Visual – I know that there is are a lot of great and entertaining movies out that you can get for your children to watch while traveling. This is something entertaining and educational both at once.

Living Waters Intelligent Design – If you have a DVD player in your car, then you need to check Living Waters Intelligent Design out. It is fascinating and beautifully done. It gives the example of four sea creatures and how they speak of God’s design for the universe and not evolution. The younger ones will love the video of the great sea creatures and the older ones will love the fascinating facts that are given. Our whole family loves it for those exact reasons. Click here for my review and click on the name above to find out more about it.

Internet  in the Car – Okay, I’ll be honest. I thought it was really neat when cars came out with video players for the kids to watch in the backseat. Now, believe it or not, many cars feature wifi so that passengers can hook up with the internet. If you are one of those that are blessed with those cars, you might want to check out the two companies below that feature great online videos.

Smartkidz Media – Smartkidz Media is not a Christian company, but it is a family company so you shouldn’t find any objectionable. Instead you will find some fantastic videos on Science, History, Geography, Music . . . you can almost find videos for anything! Jacob loves the educational animal videos and Joshua loves the geography and country features. I wish we had internet in the car because they would be entertained for hours on this website alone. Click here for my review of Smartkidz Media and click on the name above to get to their website.

RightNow Media – RightNow Media is another website that features videos but this one is Christian so the videos are mostly from a Christian perspective. There are some wonderful Christian biographies on there and some great science videos produced by Phil Vischer from Veggie Tales fame. And, speaking of Veggie Tales . . . yep! . . . you can find them there as well! Plus there are Bible studies, missionary stories, educational stuff . . . I could go on and on but I will let you explore yourself. I haven’t written an official review on RightNow Media yet, but, trust me, it is great. Click on the name above to get to their website.

Bonus – As I was getting ready to write this blog post I thought about the many travels that we have enjoyed and some of the things that my kids really loved. One of the first things that popped into my mind was Hank the Cowdog so, even though it is from years ago, I wanted to include it as a “Bonus”. ‘'

Hank the Cowdog   - If you have never read a Hank the Cowdog book or, especially, listened to one of the audio books, you have really missed out. They are hilarious and entertaining. The audio books are actually read by the author and he gives different voices to each of the characters. We still joke around about Hank the Cowdog and it is one of Jacob’s favorite series of books. Click here to get to my very old review, and click on the name above to get to the website to find out more about it.

Folks I am not an affiliate for any of the above companies at least not YET! I haven’t had time in the past few months to reevaluate my affiliates, do away with some, and add others. However, when I do, you can guarantee the above companies will be some of the first companies I affiliate with. Remember, I don’t recommend or affiliate with anything that I don’t like or think is appropriate and you can trust that the above products meet my standards. Enjoy browsing around and leave a comment to let me know what audio and visual products that you like to use while traveling.

Merry Christmas and Safe Traveling!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Throwback Thursday–Hank the Cowdog–One of Our Favorite Reviews!

There is a reason that I am posting this now that you’ll find out in my next post. However, this really was one of our favorite reviews and it is timely to post this right before Christmas when you are thinking about Christmas gifts. If you have never read a Hank The Cowdog book you are missing out. Even better, listen to one of the audio CD’s done by the author. They are hilarious! I could go on and I but then you wouldn’t read this classic review from . . . oh my . . . could it actually be six years ago? BTW, even after six years, Jacob still loves Hank the Cowdog!

Families Again Tuesday, 11 August 2009 Maverick Books - Hank the Cowdog!
Mood: happy
Topic: Homeschool Product Review

When I first found out that I would get to review Hank the Cowdog, I was really excited, but when I found out that we would be receiving not one but three Hank items, I was ecstatic!

My introduction to these fantastic books was years ago when I was still substitute teaching in the local public schools. I had gone into the school library and found one of John Erickson's Hank books. The assistant librarian immediately began to sing the praises of this series. She encouraged me to get one of the books on tape to entertain the kids during a trip that we were about to take. I checked one out of the library and we were not disappointed! Hank considers himself "head of ranch security" for the large ranch that he, Drover (his dog sidekick), Junior the buzzard and a host of other characters live. Hank and his friends get into all kinds of trouble and adventures that will leave you rolling with laughter. But, although they help, it isn't the cast of characters that make the audio books so fun to listen to. What is it you ask? I'll reveal that later! 

Since I joined the TOS Homeschool Crew, we get, on average, about a package a week containing homeschool items to review. Whenever one arrives it is like Christmas, and everyone crowds around to see what is in the box. This was no exception. We tore open the package and on top was Hank's "Tornado" game.

Tornado game
The subtitle for Tornado is "The Wildest Race and Chase Game Ever" and they are right. Tornado is similar to Sorry or Aggravation but with a twist. Along with moving Hank, Drover and Junior around the board and trying to reach home without being landed on and sent back to start, you may end up on a tornado space, which could send you flying anywhere. Based on the book "The Case of the Swirling, Killer, Tornado", the game includes a tape with a 30 min. hilarious segment from the book. I was a little concerned that the sending back part would throw Joshua (our Asperger's child) into a tizzy, but I was pleasently surprised that he took it all in stride and both he and his older brother, John Allen, loved it. Little three year old, Jacob, even tried to play. Although he didn't understand the strategy or really what was going on, he loved to spin the spinner, and count how many spaces he was to move. It can also be played while you travel, so the kids even played in the car! The game board folds shut and all of the pieces are stored inside! It, along with the audio tape, can make for some fun and wacky family nights!

Taking the game out of our "Christmas" box revealed our next great gift - "The Case of the One Eyed Killer Stud Horse"!

Hank #8
Since Joshua was in the midst of another reading project, I handed this short chapter book to John Allen. Now, let me tell you, John Allen has never complained about reading. I can assign him to read a book, and he will read it, usually without a problem. But, it takes a special book for him to want to pick it up to read on his own instead of playing one of his favored video games. This was one of those books! It's about an untamed stud horse who keeps escaping from the neighbors field and finding it's way onto the ranch. As head of ranch security, Hank, ends up saving the day, but not before some amusing events. You'll have to read the book to find out about the poison bacon, Sally May's "fundamental disagreement" with Hank, and what Hank is wearing when he confronts the wild horse. Now, although the boys love the Tornado game, and John Allen loved "The Case of the One-Eyed Killer Stud Horse", the family favorite has to be the treasure that we found at the bottom of the box...
  Hank logo

 ...a CD titled "Tales and Tunes fron Hank the Cowdog"! This recording contains story excerpts from ten of the Hank books along with nine original songs. We brought this out to take with us on a recent trip to Grandma's house and were, once again, entertained by the selections. What makes the audio books so great you asked? John Erickson, the author, reads the books himself, but gives each one of the characters a hilariously funny voice. From, Pete the cat's "Paul Lynde" voice to Rip and Snort's (coyotes) untamed, uneducated voices, they are all very entertaining and fit the character to the T!

Mr. Erickson even sings all of the songs in the character's voices. The excerpts include selections from such titles as "The Case of the Swirling, Killer Tornado" and "The Case of the One-Eyed Killer Stud Horse".

Some of the song's are "Drover's Tornado Safety Song"- Turn me loose, turn me loose, I'm as silly as a goose - for barking at a thing that's bigger than a moose

and Rip and Snorts "We Don't Give a Hoot" - We don't give a hoot - We don't ever wear a suit

Our personal favorite, however, has to be "I'm Trapped in Madagascar"  They left me here to rot and to be broiled by the sun, - But only if I'm lucky and the pirates do not come.

The kids continue to beg to play the Tornado game and to listen to the CD. John Allen has even asked for another Hank book to read. Hey, anything is better than him playing video games all day! These books would be great for reluctant readers. Better yet, you could even have them read along while listening to the tape!

To find out more about these great products just press on any one of the highlighted titles above, or here, and you will go straight to the Hank Website. On their website, Hank's paperback books range from $4.24 (for older editions) to $5.24 (for Hank's newer adventures), the Tornado game is only $12.99 and the "Tales and Tunes" CD is just $3.00. You'll also find deals on Hank the Cowdog plush items, t-shirts and other Hank themed games. Have fun shopping, and happy reading.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

6 Ways to Teach Your Family About Giving and Not Just Getting During This Holiday Season

I am by nature a very selfish person. I’ll tell you that right up front. I won’t deny it. Often times I catch myself thinking about myself and what I can get out of situation. There are many times that my selfishness steals the joy that could be had by unselfishly giving to others.
Have you ever heard the old saying that the negative actions of others that most bother you are usually the exact negative things that you don’t like about yourself? Well, I realized that some of the things that I don’t like about my kids is the attitude of want, want, want that they have especially during the holiday season.
As I thought about it, I thought about how many people there are that are less fortunate than we are in our town, country and world, and I know parents often have a difficult time combatting the “give me” culture that we live in. So I thought of six ways that I could get my kids to start thinking about giving and not about getting and I wanted to share those things with you all.
Ways to Share Abroad
Compassion International
When I was in college, I remember a young man named Kees Boer speaking in chapel about sponsoring children from Compassion International. I remember picking up a couple of packets and looking them over and longing to perhaps sponsor some of the kids but knowing that I couldn’t afford it at that time. Years later I reconnected with Kees on Facebook. He was still working with Compassion International and was looking for a sponsor for a young boy from Bolivia named Marcelo. After a little prayer and talking it over with my family, we decided to sponsor Marcelo. Marcelo has changed our life and blessed us in so many more ways than you can imagine. Now, that young boy is in college and we are still sponsoring him. We love Marcelo just as we love the other seven . . . yes I said seven . . . other children that we have sponsored or do sponsor in one way or another through Compassion. My children have been blessed and have learned so much through their correspondence with their brothers and sisters from around the world. Trust me, it will be an investment that will change your life as well. Just click on one of the links above to find out more. If you would rather sponsor through another organization there are many more great ones out there. Compassion International is the one we know the most about and trust them completely.
compassion gift
Give a Goat!
Can’t afford to monthly sponsor a child? Give a goat instead! Or a cow, or a pig, or . . . the list goes on and on. Compassion International publishes a Christmas Catalogue every year where you can help a child in many different ways from providing a Bible to a child for $10 to providing a goat to provide milk for an entire family for $100. Check out the catalogue by clicking on the highlighted link above to see the different options and watch the video below for more information on this great program.
When you give a gift through Compassion's Gift Catalog... from Compassion International on Vimeo.
Fair Trade Friday

Fair Trade Friday and Mercy House
I remember when Kristen Welch went on a blogging trip to Kenya with Compassion International. It was a life changing trip. I remember reading her post about meeting her Kenyan Compassion child. I remember her heart wrenching posts about the impoverished living environments that these children and their families live in. Then, I remember her recalling that when she came home she wondered how she could live in a big home with all of the stuff when most families in Kenya were living in areas that were about the size of her garage. She longed to do something more and sought the Lord’s guidance. Soon, her family started a non-profit organization and Mercy House was born to help women and girls around the world. Fair Trade Friday is ministry of Mercy House. Here is what Fair Trade Friday’s website says about their ministry. “FTF exists as an avenue for women to empower women.  We are tackling poverty through job opportunity and empowerment rather than enablement. 100% of the proceeds support the artisans, more than 500 women and their children from all over the world. FTF is a ministry of Mercy House Kenya, a non-profit organization.” Check out their great program by clicking on any of the highlighted links above. It is a wonderful opportunity to buy gifts in a very unselfish way.
Bead for Life
Bead for Life
Bead for Life is another inspiring story of how three woman walking through the slums of Uganda met a woman sitting in front of her home and making bead necklaces. That chance encounter, with God’s help, turned into Bead For Life. I learned about this program through, yes, Compassion International and bought some of the jewelry for my wife. She absolutely loves it. Shhh . . . I’m going to buy more as a Christmas gift for her again this year. Check them out by clicking on one of the highlighted links above.
Ways to Share At Home
Missionaries 2
Volunteer at a local food bank, shelter, or soup kitchen
I once shared about Compassion International on Facebook and lost a friend. Before he deleted me from his Facebook account he wrote a scathing note to me about how we need to be taking care of the children and families living in poverty in the United States before we help those abroad.
Perhaps some of you feel the same way. I get it! I really do! You see, my family and I are full time missionaries who direct a ministry to low income folks in the town that we live in. We give out food, serve meals, do Bible Studies, and help the people to help themselves through things such as cooking classes and our annual CanDo Bazaar (I CAN DO all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13) where folks can sell craft items or baked goods to help make a little extra money for the holidays.
So, we do understand the need to help those at home as well. If you happen to live close enough to us, then please come and visit this year’s Cando Bazaar next Friday and Saturday, December 11 and 12, on the square in Livingston, TN in the storefront that is right beside Everything Sports.
If you don’t live close to Livingston, I’m sure there are many opportunities to give in your area. Ask around about local food banks or soup kitchens where you can volunteer. Perhaps a church is serving a meal to low income folks and you can volunteer for it. Some civic organizations such as the Jaycees put on annual toy drives for kids. The Salvation Army is always looking for bell ringers during the holiday season. Here is a website of locations that are currently looking for ringers – There are lots and lots of ways that you and your kids can be involved. Perhaps your local Chamber of Commerce can help you find a place as well.
Day Camp
Send a kid to camp
I remember going to camp as a kid and what a blessing it was to me. In fact, it was such a blessing and I enjoyed it so much that I have spent the last 30+ summers working at camps or directing my own camps. Camps are near and dear to my heart. Unfortunately, there are many families that can’t afford to send their kids to camp. Why not sponsor a kid to go to camp next summer? What a thrill that would be if a child opened up a card that contained an invitation to go to camp for free this next year! If you know of a local camp, why not call them up and find out how to sponsor a child (or two or three). If you don’t know of a local camp, the mission organization that we are with, BCM International, has camps in the United States and all around the world that are looking for people to donate to their camp scholarship programs. Just click here (click on the “designation” box and you’ll see the Camp Scholarship choice) or on the highlighted link above to find out more information.
Well, I pray that I have given you some food for thought and some good choices on how to teach your kids to give and not just get this Christmas. Perhaps none of the suggestions above work for you but your interest has been sparked and you have another way to serve this holiday season. Whatever you do, if you do something, leave me a comment below and tell me what you did and how it went. It would bless my heart to know that this blog post helped some other people. Thank you ahead of time!
Proverbs 19:17 New International Version
Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done.

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
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