Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Aletheia Writing Magazine: Creativity For Christian Teens Review

Aletheia Logo - Oval border

Jacob, my 13-year-old, loves to write.  He is in the process of writing a novel.  I was thrilled that he could have an issue of this writing magazine to encourage him in his efforts.

Aletheia has a webiste - - where you can go to check out reviews of the magazine, testimonials, writing tips, etc.  You can also subscribe to the magazine from their website.  It costs $26 for a year's subscription which includes shipping and handling to a U.S. address.  A year's subscription is 4 color issues that are 40 pages each.  It is $29 for a subscription to a Canadian address.  If you want it shipped to a European address, you need to email them at
Aletheia Spring 2011 Magazine Cover
For some of Jacob's language arts classes, I assigned him reading from this magazine.  I figured he could only get better in his own writing by reading things other teenagers had written that were worthy of publishing.  The magazine and the website both detail how to submit poems and stories.  Not only that, though, students who are artistically inclined can submit original artwork and photographs.  It is nice that Christian teens have an outlet for their talents like this.

The magazine is for students 13-19 years old and, as such, contains articles on a variety of subjects.  All stories and poems are clean without any vulgarity, but I was not pleased to find a poem written to two teenage girls who had been forced into prostitution in Cambodia and then rescued in the magazine without so much as a warning at the top of the poem.  The things a 19-year-old will write about are often subjects of a deeper nature than a 13-year-old even thinks about.  I would like a little warning before an article that may not be appropriate for younger readers.  They put in a disclaimer at the beginning of the magazine about this, but I would rather specific stories/poems be marked.

The magazine comes with a writer's challenge.  The prize is 3 issues of the magazine to pass out and just being published.  If my novel I'm writing gets published, I will be ecstatic.  For me, just getting published would probably be enough.  I'm not sure a teenager feels that way.  I could be wrong.  The magazine is $26 for four issues.  It seems perhaps a very small cash prize could be awarded.  Just a thought.

There is also an article every issue by an adult in the business who provides tips and insight into the world of writing and/or art.  The magazine does have some ads throughout for Christian schools and businesses.

So, I like the outlet these kids have with Aletheia, but I am not sure I would be interested enough to pay $26 for four issues a year.  My son didn't seem overly excited about the magazine either and, since I would be buying it for him, it doesn't seem he'd get enough out of it to make it worth it.

Aletheia can be reached at Aletheia Writing Magazine, PO Box 1602, Lansdale, PA 19446.

DISCLAIMER:  I received this product free of charge in order to provide an honest review after use.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Tricross Strategy Game Review

My kids love to play board games, so in mid August 2011 when we received Tri-Cross we were thrilled.

We received this standard board game and the travel or eco-edition which comes in a bag with a cloth board instead of the hard cardboard seen above.

This game was produced by "Games for Competitors."  You can view their website at:

Tri-Cross is available in 3 different versions.  The standard board game is $24.95.  The wooden version is $35.95.  The eco-edition which can be easily taken on long trips is $19.95.

When I first received this game, the kids opened it up right away hoping to play.  When I took out the directions and began to read, I was immediately confused.  The website also has directions and frequently asked questions, and they sent along a CD tutorial as well.  Once I was able to understand the directions, the game was very easy to play.

You can easily play with 2, 3, or 4 players.  The directions give rules for game play with each.  The directions also give rules for easy play and more advanced play.  I appreciate this because I am always looking for the next thing since my kids catch on pretty quickly.  Once the directions are understood and you choose your colors, game play is simple.  Sometimes the game goes rather quickly, and sometimes it takes maybe 20-30 minutes.  I noticed while playing that it caused siblings who were not in the center waiting to win to cooperate with one another to get the other sibling (or mom) out of the center tri-cross.

The first person to play is determined by pulling a colored piece out of the bag.  Each person puts one of their pieces in the bag.  The person whose color is pulled is the one who starts the game.  There is a rule that states, "You may not turn over your piece without being challenged.  If you turn over your piece or your opponent's piece when it should not have been, you automatically lose the game."  There are a few other rules that speak to fairness and honor.  I appreciate this in rules for a game.

There are a number of skills that this game is said to develop such as logical thinking, cause and effect, abstraction, and memorization, among others.  I could see the thinking going on in my kids' heads as they played their pieces.  They were trying to remember which piece they were moving if it was still turned over.  They were trying to figure which one of an opponent's pieces was left when all the rest were turned over. They were trying to figure out how they could kick their opponent of the center and get themselves in.

While I thought the game went too quickly sometimes, I agree it is a fun and exciting game the kids enjoy playing while learning vital skills without even knowing it.  Playing the other variations described in the instructions would add to the enjoyment and extend game play.

The website is helpful for rules, FAQ, reviews, details on the eco-edition, and a page where you can purchase the games.  Once clicking, you are taken to PayPal.

Their contact information is:
Games for Competitors
3069 McCall Drive, Suite 1
Atlanta, GA 30340
Phone: 770-452-7987
Fax: 770-452-8138

DISCLAIMER:  I received this product at no charge in order to use it and provide an honest evaluation.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Review of AIMS 3rd Grade Problem-Solving Strategies Activity Book


I received an interesting activity book to review from the AIMS Education Foundation.  It is the Solve It! 3rd: Problem-Solving Strategies book for 3rd grade.  The bottom of the front cover states "Activities Integrating Math and Science."  This company sells many products created to improve "the teaching and learning of mathematics and science through a meaningful integrated approach."  This particular product sells for $24.95 on their website.


The back of the book lists 73 other publications related to math and science with additional publications for history and about mathematicians and some in Spanish.

My daughter is in fourth grade, but I was asked to use this book with her.  We did not make it the whole way through the book, as there are 29 separate activities, and we were doing some other things for math along the way.  What we were able to accomplish, though, has left me with some mixed thoughts.

I love the idea of tangible math.  I find that my kids have always learned better when they can use manipulatives, and this book is chock-full of activities using them.  Sometimes the manipulatives are as simple as copying a sheet in the book and cutting parts of it out.  Sometimes extra supplies are required such as balances, colored card stock, counters, etc.

Each activity has an introductory page that explains the topic, asks a key question, states the learning goals, lists the guiding documents that helped to create each lesson, lists the topics that are covered in each lesson and the processes the student will think through.  It lets the teacher know what materials are needed and some background information on the topic.  It provides a procedure to follow and gives suggestions for extending the lesson and questions to ask following the lesson in order to evaluate your child's understanding.

Each time I opened the book, I was overwhelmed by ALL the information in it.  I rarely read through everything on the introductory page that comes before EVERY lesson.  I appreciate the purpose of it all, but I am not normally looking for all of the background information.  If the instructions are clear then the purpose of the activity is usually clear as well.  I usually look for instructions on the student page, but there were times when instructions weren't provided there or weren't clear.  This was because I was required to read through them on the introductory page.  Yet there were times when I read through them and they still weren't clear.  The procedures oftentimes were written for use in a classroom setting, so some adjustments had to be made on my part.

I appreciate the effort the creators of this line of products put into developing them.  They have tried to make learning fun with such silly titles as "Schmoos 'n' Goos" and "What's the Scoop?"  The book is also filled with great illustrations.  They have also tried to provide products for learning that, in my estimation, are above and beyond what most curricula do.  Their idea of learning math is not rote facts in a book and black and white number problems but is done through the use of the child's senses.  It is learned by weaving science and history into it.

This activity book could not stand as a curriculum by itself.  I don't think it is intended to be.  These are activities that extend the learning process.  Because of this, I do not see myself using this type of math book.  If there were more activities and perhaps less wording throughout the book, if it were laid out in such a way as to provide a flow from one topic to the next, I might choose this as a stand-alone curriculum.  Perhaps if a consumable student workbook could be provided as well it would seem more appropriate for use in a homeschool setting as I do not like the idea of having to photocopy all the pages for every lesson.  There is a CD in the back of the book which includes a PDF file for each page of the book but, again, it would necessitate that I print it out.

So, even though I do not particularly care for this one book, I am intrigued by the philosophy of the company enough and by the other products that I have seen that I am going to seriously consider purchasing some of the other items they sell.

AIMS Education Foundation can be reached at 888-733-2467 from 8-5 Monday through Friday PST.  Their mailing address is

AIMS Education Foundation
PO Box 8120
Fresno, CA 93747-8120

DISCLAIMER:  I received this product free of charge so that I might provide an honest evaluation of it after use in my home.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Deeper Roots - Discovering Who I Am In Christ - A Review

     I have searched long and hard for a decent Bible study curriculum for my kids.  I was given the opportunity to review one through Deeper Roots Publications over the last month with my oldest son who is in 8th grade.

     The website for this company is  This company sells much more than the particular product I was reviewing.  Deeper Roots sells missions resources, evangelism resources, all types of Bible curriculum, and also bargain books.  The authors of the curriculum have served in the missions field and are deeply grounded in God’s Word.  The website has many links to reviews; information about the three authors; their statement of faith; a link for new customers to sign up for an account; a link for returning customers to log into their account; a link to an order form PDF for those who would rather mail their order; a link for info about shipping and returns; their privacy notice; a link to contact them which provides fields to enter your name, your email address, and your concern or question to which they can then reply.  You can also click the “Search” link to search their entire website to find something specific you are looking for.  At the bottom of the page, there is further contact information that includes their address (2100 Red Gate Rd., Orlando, FL, 32818) and their phone number (407-797-8557).  The number on the website is different than the number on the back of the teacher’s guide.  The copyright on the website is 2011; the teacher’s guide is 2002, so I would assume the phone number on the website is the current one.  Their email address is

     I received the Discovering Who I am in Christ workbook which was coauthored by Jan L. Harris and Howard and Bonnie Lisech.  I used this with my son who is in 8th grade.  It comes with a student workbook and a teacher’s guide.  Located under Home School Bible Curriculum on the website, it can be found by scrolling down the list of items for sale.  The teacher’s guide and student workbook are sold separately for 28.95 and 19.95, respectively.  They can be used for students in 7th-9th grade.  This book, the second in the series, is meant to help students understand their personal identity in Christ.  The website allows someone interested in the book to download sample pages before actually purchasing it, after entering your email address.
Photobucket                The student workbook includes a page in the beginning of the book that describes journaling.  It lets them know the purpose of journaling is to allow them time to reflect on things they are experiencing or thinking.  They can then go back to it later and reflect on how God worked in different situations.   Journaling is encouraged at the end of each lesson under the heading of “Reflections.” 
                Each new chapter has a profile on an unreached people group.  They are described to the student so that they can understand how these groups live, where they live, what they believe, and how they are currently being reached for Christ.  They are also given a number of ways they can pray for the particular unreached people group being studied.
                The lessons begin with a scripture memory verse.  Students are encouraged to memorize two scripture passages each week.  Lessons are separated into 6 days with questions about passages the student needs to look up and various activities with a study sheet to be completed on the 7th day of the week.  There are black and white drawings included throughout the book of the unreached people groups and various illustrations to enhance understanding of the passages studied and provide for a break simply reading words.
                Students are encouraged to write stories or poems on different topics throughout the book.  Some of the lessons have students interviewing a variety of people about their views on topics being studied that week such as what it means to be born again or how God answers prayer, etc.
                Some of the topics included in this book are “Sinner or Saint?”, “Precious in His Sight,” “Citizen of Heaven,” and “A Branch Full of Fruit.”  As the book continues, the number of pages given for reflection increase.
                The teacher’s book includes all of the same questions and information as the student workbook, but it provides answers to the questions for each day’s lesson and for the study sheet.  Sometimes the answer to a question isn’t obvious, so it is nice to have the teacher’s guide.
                The content of the curriculum, I believe, is appropriate for 8th grade.  I appreciate knowing that I can assign a day’s lessons to my son and don’t have to worry about the Scriptural content that is provided in it.  I know that he will be learning from the Word of God in a manner that is consistent with our beliefs as well.

                As my son has been going through the book, he has asked at various times, “Do I really need to do this assignment?”  There is a lot of writing so sometimes I say no.  While I like the idea of journaling and I understand the usefulness of it, he does have a lot of writing for his other classes.  Sometimes a long writing assignment in this curriculum is not realistic.  I know that my son is gaining insight into Scripture through the daily lessons, and I really appreciate the lessons that require him to dig into the Word; but I’m just not sure that writing assignments ought to be included in a Bible study curriculum.  The writing assignments that are included are not part of the “Reflections” or journaling as I see it.  They are separate:  write a story, write a poem, etc.
                If I were searching for Bible curriculum, this is definitely one that would be in the running as there does not seem to be a lot of really good Bible curriculum available, at least not that I’ve found.  I am glad that I have had the opportunity to review it though and have seen what is included in it.  If there were less “extra” assignments I would be more inclined to choose this as my Bible curriculum.  There are field trips included in it.  There are videos that are listed which the parent would need to locate.  This might be very difficult for some people, rendering those lessons completely useless.  I think the idea of using a Bible curriculum almost as a unit study is interesting, but unless I were looking for that I would not be able to use a lot of things that are in this book.  I am sure there are many who would find this approach very practical, but it would only partially eliminate the need for science, language arts, music, etc., curriculum in addition to what is already done in the homeschool setting; but I don’t think there is enough for “extra” subject matter to constitute a full week’s worth of lessons in other subjects.  You would still need to add more to your day.

                So, if you are looking for a Bible study that does more than just study the word, then this curriculum is for you.  If you are looking for Bible curriculum that is strictly Bible with no fluff, then this is not the program for you.

DISCLAIMER: I received this product free of charge so that I might use it and provide an honest review of it.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Big IQ Kids Review

I think my kids are smart, but I'm not going to talk about that in this blog.  You see, I have had the opportunity to review an online, interactive product intended to enhance the learning of children in grades K through 6 in the homeschool setting...
My daughter begged me at the end of school last year to find an online math program for her this year because she hates to do worksheets.  When given the opportunity to review Big IQ Kids, I jumped at the chance.  I was eager to see if this would be just what she wanted.

The first time I went to the Big IQ kids website, it looked pretty busy.  They list all of their programs right there on the home page for you to see.  Across the top of the page, underneath the logo, were links to pages about their products, testimonials, frequently asked questions, a page about how to use Big IQ Kids, and a very large link for the Member's Log In page.  They make it very clear and obvious where to go to sign in.  That was helpful on a page filled with so much other information.

Once to the member log in page, you simply have to enter your username and password if you are a member.  If you are not a member, the "Create an Account" button is directly below the log in fields.  There are three membership options.  The user can have access to math, spelling, vocabulary, and U.S. Geography through the free program, but the premium membership provides more features to the user.  The premium membership  allows the parent to keep track of their child's progress because the program sends the parent an email to let you know how your child did on a particular task.

It allows the user to play interactive games using virtual coins they collect by completing their lessons.   The user can create a buddy to use in the games.  People who have free memberships can upgrade to a plan that allows the user to play games with the buddy but does not provide any of the other benefits that a premium membership comes with.  The premium membership is $9.99 for one month and $49.99 for a year.  Folks who are interested can sign up for a 7-day free trial.  The upgrade to games only is $9.98 for a year.

Two of my children tried the Premium program and enjoyed it immensely.  They were able to solve addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems geared toward their level of learning.  The program is able to be changed by the parent to suit the individual need of the child if it is too easy or too hard.  The child is given a number of math problems to solve.  The number of problems, also,  can be changed by the parent.


There are timed quizzes and mastery enables them to proceed to the next level, although a perfect score does not seem to be required as the site states.

While I like that they can master these skills, I would like it more if they could learn other math topics like graphing, fractions, exponents, etc., especially for 6th grade.

I like the vocabulary section of Big IQ Kids, especially for my fourth grader.  She read the word and the definition and was able to learn synonyms and antonyms.  They asked her to spell the word while it was still on the screen.  My son who is in sixth grade played the spelling bee game.  He was required to spell correctly all 30 words before moving on.  He was not able to do that without help, so he got very frustrated.  Sometimes the voice that was saying the words was a little bit difficult to understand because it was a computer speaking.


This page is for the geography portion of the program.  It gives them the option of working through a map by clicking on the state or area that answers the question the program asks.  They can learn where states are located, how to spell them, what the capitals are, and what their abbreviations are.

As with the other portions of the program, these lessons can be modified by the parent.

I do feel my kids have learned a great deal from this program.  The idea that they can earn coins to play games is definitely a way to keep them interested.  I like that I can keep track of their progress without having to be in the same room watching them.  I also especially like that the premium plan does not display any ads during lesson times and that the ads that are displayed otherwise are NOT offensive in any way that I have seen.

When first signing up for the Premium membership, it asks you to make a buddy that your child can use while playing the games, but you need to go to the FAQ page to figure out how to do that.  It is not clear that they do this once they begin playing the games.

There were very few things I didn't like about this program, and those things weren't very important.  I would still recommend it to others.

DISCLAIMER: I received this product at no charge so that I might provide an honest evaluation of it.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A New Opportunity

A friend of mine approached me with the opportunity to join her company, Arbonne.  This is a company that produces and sells botanically based health and wellness products.  They are vegan certified (no animal by-products and not tested on animals) and are not made from any of the harsh chemicals or artificial anything that other products are made with.  I researched the company for a few days before making a decision.  The prospect of being able to quit my current job at some point in, hopefully, the near future was the selling point.  Besides, I love people and would enjoy being able to be around them more than I get to by sitting in front of a computer 39+ hours a week.  Also, I am looking forward to the opportunity to be able to spend more time with my kids.  I am thankful that I have been able to be home with them AND work all these years, but I want to be able to be in the same room with them and not be so busy with work that I don't have them time for them except a quick question here and there.

I will post more about Arbonne in future blog postings but, for now, the website is  If you  are interested in purchasing anything, you will need to use my consultant ID of 19475405.

If you are interested in hosting a party with 5 or 6 friends, let me know.  I would love to put one on my calendar for you!

God bless!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Finally Loving History

I decided to teach my kids this year about the westward expansion of the United States since it is a topic that Paige requested and because we hadn't discussed it much in the past.  We started with the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 and moved to other topics rather quickly with the book I was using.  At the same time, John and I were watching the HBO miniseries (on DVD) John Adams.  This movie is amazing.  There are a few scenes that should NOT be shown to children, but the other 98% of it portrays the life of a president about whom I knew very little at a time when our country was forming and then growing.  Because this movie also shows us Thomas Jefferson and because I knew he was president at the time of the Louisiana Purchase, I desired to learn more about both.

I borrowed a book from our local library called Jefferson's Great Gamble.  It begins the story of the Louisiana Purchase years before it happened.  It gives many historic facts to inform the reader of the events that led up to the purchase.

It has been very exciting to read.  SERIOUSLY!!  You say, "You must be joking."  Maybe that just means I'm a history geek.  I never used to be, but as I've gotten older I find the type of book I love to read above and beyond all others is historical fiction.  I enjoy learning as I'm reading a story about people's lives.

So, as I've been reading this book...

I have learned about the slave revolt on the island of Santo Domingue and about Napoleon Bonaparte.  I think the slave revolt would make for a very interesting movie, and I am now looking for a book on Napoleon Bonaparte to read because I know very little about him.

I don't understand why kids in school don't love to learn about history.  I didn't either I guess, but it is SO rich.  It is so interesting.  I guess it is how it is presented. It is so much more than dates and names, which is all I remember being stressed.  There are amazing stories that come to life when written about by the right author or depicted in a movie by the right production company.

I hope I never tire of learning, and I hope I can always find great books out there to read.  If you know of any really good ones, let the rest of us know about them!