Friday, August 30, 2013

An Open Letter to the Postmaster General

Patrick R. Donahoe:

I am writing to express my dissatisfaction with the United States Postal Service.  The quality of service is severely lacking in many areas, especially in St. Augustine, Florida.  Thinking that a gift card had been removed from a birthday card I received last week, I queried on Facebook as to whether anybody else had found that things were missing from their mail.  I was shocked by the responses I received:

     "I've had two packages go missing this month; I reported them as stolen, but they didn't do anything."

     "I got an empty box delivered last spring."

"I've had checks and gift cards not show up that I did not even know about until my Mom asked if I got them months later. This has happened, I think, 3 times at my current address."

" My parents sent a Valentine card to my son with a gift; it never arrived. In March my family sent birthday cards to us that were not received.  There must be some theft issue..."

"I have had a couple of packages never get to me."

"My mom sent my daughter a birthday card with money that we never received."

"I have had multiple gifts partially opened with things missing, and they say they can't do anything about it."

"They never delivered my daughter's birthday card with check enclosed. We later found out that the check was cashed."

Months ago I also heard a story from a friend of mine whose father sent her $300 worth of gift cards in the mail.  She never received them.

There is definitely a problem here.  Considering that tampering with the mail is a felony punishable by jail time, I would think that those who work for the USPS would morally be aboveboard.  Sadly, in some cities, this appears to not be the case.  In a day and age when the USPS is struggling financially and continues to need to raise the price of stamps, it would make sense to attempt to hire individuals who are not morally bankrupt.  I understand that some folks who work for the postal service are struggling, as many of us are, but those who purchase these gifts for friends and family members are not purchasing them for the postal workers.  How, you may ask, do I know that the post office is to blame and not some random person pilfering mailboxes?  The mailboxes in our neighborhood are locked, and the origin of the packages that were missing items was a post office where they were weighed and paid for.

I find myself wanting to pursue any other avenue for sending things.  I will use the Internet for as much as possible as these things do not need to go through the hands of fallible human beings.  When I need to send a package, I will probably be looking at Federal Express or the United Parcel Service.  Of course, I could always purchase insurance for the items that I send, but that would mean more of my hard-earned money would be going to the USPS just to protect myself against thieves.  Maybe, though, if the Postal Service has to spend enough of its own money to pay people back for things that have gone missing, it will do something about the theft that occurs.

I do know that there are post offices around the country that are extremely trustworthy.  I never had an issue with the post office in Canonsburg, PA, and I have a friend who gives kudos to her post office in Eighty Four, PA, as well.  However, the St. Augustine Post Office on King Street is despicable.  It is frustrating, as a consumer, to have no choice but to hope that the important mail reaches me, to hope that the day it is supposed to come the one responsible for the theft decides he is not in the mood or is not working.  There are post offices elsewhere that have issues; it is not isolated to St. Augustine.

Allow me to apologize, though, to the hard-working and honest people who work at the St. Augustine Post Office.  I mean no offense.  Unfortunately, that one bad apple has ruined the whole batch.

Postmaster General, if you have any control over the system, can you please help the consumer as that is why you are in your position, that is why the post office exists?  If you want people to feel confident in the service they are receiving and that the mail they send will reach its destination, can you please enforce some rules and hold accountable those who are committing crimes?

Thank you,
A Concerned Citizen

Note to victims of mail fraud:
If you have had an item stolen, go to the following website and report it.
If the Postal Service receives enough complaints, maybe they will do something about the problem.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Doorposts: Because You Are Strong - A Review

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Doorposts is a company that strives to help parents who want to raise their children with a "deliberately Christian upbringing" by providing Bible studies, character training resources, books for moms, books for dads, and Bible-based toys, among other items.  Because You Are Strong is a Bible study (and so much more) that boys 12 years old and up can read and write in.  The regular price is $14.00, but it is on sale for $12.00 at the present time.

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This study is subtitled, "A Study of Godly Strength for Young Men," and includes chapters on Hebrews 11 and 12, the omnipotence of God, wisdom, temptation, being valiant, our weakness, battle, serving others, "Gray Heads," and faith.  The studies are divided into daily readings and activities and should take 15 weeks if a study is done every day.  The book can also be used with girls as spiritual strength is important for them as well.  There are alternate questions throughout the book which are marked for girls to answer.

This Bible study is different from any others I have seen.  It doesn't teach just one Bible study method but several.  It introduces the reader to different methods and the tools that can be used for each: simple meditation, a topical study, a character study, a word study, a verse study, a chapter study, character plus topical, and a book study.  The steps are outlined at the beginning of the chapter, and each day's activity allows the reader to practice a step in the process.

In the margins are gray boxes that provide further explanation.  Some of the boxes discuss apps that help with Bible memory, online Bible programs, different types of Bibles that can be used in studying Scripture, concordances, Bible dictionaries, Bible maps, tips for looking up original Greek or Hebrew words and their meanings, online commentaries, parallel Bibles, and sermons on audio.  Some of the boxes define various words, and some give further study activities.

As Nate started working through this, he didn't read the information in the gray boxes.  It just seemed like "optional" reading to him, so I made sure he knew that it was a big part of the Bible study.  He also is not one to spend a long time thinking about something.  He is very matter of fact, so the questions that asked him to observe were hard for him to answer, especially since he was given an overabundance of space in which to write his answer.

There is a great deal of valuable information contained in this study.  The chapter that does a word study works great for Nate because it is to the point.  The references like Strong's concordance are a bit difficult for him to figure out, but good instructions are provided.

Perhaps, though, there is too much information.  I would rather see two or three study methods at the most or a shorter study using just one.  Nate is extremely intelligent, but I'm not sure he'd retain all the details for all the different methods.  He'd choose one and stick to it, probably the easiest, but if he were to, say, do a three-week word study on several words, he might find that he likes it more than the easiest method.  There is value in all methods, and some of them can be done at the same time like a word study during a book study.

When I asked Nate what he thought of this study, he said, "It was kind of dull.  I didn't like the questions it asked, and I felt like it repeated itself a lot."  Based on the small amount of writing that was in the book, I didn't expect a great response from him.  I would say for Nate, this wasn't the best Bible study.  We'll keep looking.

Be sure to check out the other products that Doorposts sells and their freebies as well.  You can also request a catalog.


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Summer Series: 50 States - Illinois


Located in the midwestern United States, this state joined the Union on December 3, 1818, as the 21st state.  It is the 25th largest and the 5th most populous.  The largest city is Chicago, but the capital is Springfield.  Because Abraham Lincoln called this city his home, it became the capital in 1837.  Lincoln was one of many famous Illinoisans.  Some people born in this state include: Walt Disney, Wyatt Earp, Harrison Ford, Benny Goodman, Dorothy Hamill, Herbie Hancock, Ernest Hemingway, Wild Bill Hickok, Ronald Reagan, A.G. Spalding, and Robin Williams, to name a few.  There have been many politicians and activists who were born in Illinois as well.

The world Illinois comes from "Illini," which was a confederation of six Indian tribes living in the area.  The nickname is the Prairie State, and the state motto is "State Sovereignty, National Union."  This motto is seen on the state flag which was designed by Lucy Derwent in 1913.  She won a design contest.  It was redesigned in 1970 and contains the state seal which was created in 1868.
Illinois' industries are mainly agriculture, producing corn and soybeans primarily; hogs and cattle; manufacturing of machinery and processed foods; and coal mining.

The first skyscraper in the world was built in Chicago in 1885.  It was called the Home Insurance Building and was just 10 stories tall.  Elisha Otis, an American inventor, helped to quell the fears of the public regarding the elevator.  Fourteen years earlier, Chicago had been all but burned to the ground.  As the story goes, sometime in the evening on October 8, 1871, Mrs. O'Leary's cow knocked over a lantern and began the Great Chicago Fire.  Read about it here.

Illinois' state bird is the Cardinal, and the state mammal is the white-tailed deer.  The insect is the Monarch butterfly.  (What other states that we have studied have the Monarch butterfly as their state insect?)  The Illinois Native Violet is the state flower, and the White oak is the state tree.

Illinois has a number of very interesting places to visit.  The Navy Pier in Chicago, along Lake Michigan, is 50 acres of entertainment, shopping, dining, etc.  While in Chicago, travel to the top of Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower.  It stands 110 stories tall and is the tallest building in the U.S.  Read some facts about this skyscraper here.  Sports enthusiasts will want to visit Wrigley Field, which has been in operation for 99 years.  Learn about Cahokia Mounds, the site of an ancient civilization, near Collinsville, Illinois.  While in Springfield, visit the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum to learn more about our 16th President.  In Volo, there is an auto museum which houses movie cars, celebrities' cars, and antique cars, as well as cars that are for sale.  There are also five antique malls on the site.

Visit Robie House in Chicago, a dwelling designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright.  Wright's Home and Studio is located in Oak Park, Illinois.  The Hull House offers a trip to the past.  The John Deere Historic Site is located in Grand Detour.  See a list of historic house museums in Illinois.

Here are some games for learning about Illinois.

The following selections come from  

DISCLAIMER: I am an affiliate, so if you purchase through my blog I will receive a small commission.

495127: Illinois My First Book, Grades K-5 Illinois My First Book, Grades K-5
By Gallopade International

An "early bird" intro to basic state facts. Covers state basics such as state nickname, seal, song, bird, motto, flag, regions, industries, neighbors, and weather, plus an intro to state history, people and more. Includes: drawing, mazes, matching, coloring, and more! Reproducible. Available for all 50 states. Grades K-5; ages 5-10.

912101: State Shapes: Illinois State Shapes: Illinois
By Workman Publishing

These colorful, fact-filled books are irresistible! Die-cut in the shape of the state, each one takes readers on a fascinating journey to visit intriguing places, meet famous and historic figures, learn about animals and wildlife, and experience the culture that makes each state unique. Packed with fun facts, exciting history and fascinating folklore, State Shapes are illustrated with a warmth, humor, and flare that will appeal to kids and parents alike. Hardcover, 47 pages.

413932: Illinois Classic Christmas Trivia Illinois Classic Christmas Trivia
By Carole Marsh / Gallopade International

State-specific Classic Christmas Trivia makes a great coffee table book, classroom read, or display for your business. This book --- in an edition for each U.S. state---shares a wealth of fascinating historical material and trivia about everything from holiday traditions to how we got the Christmas tree, recipes, and much more. 

818482: Lincoln: A Photobiography Lincoln: A Photobiography
By Russell Freedman / Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Winner of the 1988 Newbery Medal, this eloquent work brings vitality to the story of Abraham Lincoln's life. Filled with photographs of Lincoln, his family, home, and children, they perfectly complement the engaging and easy to understand text. Covering his humble beginnings in Kentucky and Illinois to his final night at Ford's Theatre, children and adults will appreciate this photographic portrait of Lincoln's life and accomplishments. 150 pages with index; softcover.

002796: Heroes of History: Abraham Lincoln, A New Birth of Freedom Heroes of History: Abraham Lincoln, A New Birth of Freedom
By Janet & Geoff Benge / Emerald Books

The Heroes of History series chronicles the true stories of fascinating men and women who changed the course of history. Abraham Lincoln had never set his sights on becoming president; after all, he'd grown up in a log cabin on the frontier and had hardly any formal schooling. But as the question of slavery threatened to destroy the United States, this self-taught lawyer with a sharp mind and passion for justice found himself at the center of the greatest debate the nation had ever faced.
For ages 10 and up.

448862: Who Was Abraham Lincoln? Who Was Abraham Lincoln?
By Janet Pascal / Grosset & Dunlap

Who was Abraham Lincoln? How did he guide the nation through the Civil War and the abolition of slavery? Learn about his life as the sixteenth president of the United States up until the time of his tragic assassination. Over 100 black-and-white illustrations and maps are included. Ages 9-11. 112 pages, softcover.

987951: Ronald Regan Our 40th President Ronald Regan Our 40th President
By Winston Groom / Regnery Publishing

Learn about Ronald Reagan, from his birth in 1911 in Tampico, Illinois, through his presidency, up until his death in 2005. You will learn fun facts about his college years, his time as a soldier, and even his stint as a Hollywood movie actor, and so much more. Includes full-color photographs from throughout Reagan's life. Written for young adults, now the next generation can learn more of one of America's greatest presidents.

670740: Ronald Reagan Ronald Reagan
By Michael Burgan / DK Publishing Inc.

Learn all about the beloved conservative president, Ronald Reagan. From his early days in Illinois, to his movie star days, up until his last days, this book covers it all, giving fun facts about Reagan and sharing pictures of him throughout his life. An excellent look into life and presidency of Ronald Reagan. 128 pages, softcover.

833859: Journey Around Chicago from A to Z Journey Around Chicago from A to Z
By Martha Day Zschock / Applewood Books

868754: Great Chicago Fire of 1871, The Great Chicago Fire of 1871, The
By Coughlan Publishing

593503: Skyscrapers! Super Structures to Design & Build Skyscrapers! Super Structures to Design & Build
By Carol A Johmann / Ideals Publications Inc

Ready to reach for the sky? Be a Kaleidoscope Kid and take the Kaleidoscope Scraper Challenge! Fill a gaping hole in the ground (so huge it takes up a whole city block!) with a tall, efficient, awesome building that you design and build - one that will truly scrape the sky! The sky's the limit when you take the Kaleidoscope Kids Challenge! Plan a model city! Make decisions and solve problems. Design your own skyscraper- Build your own skyscraper! Ages 8-14.

117476: Cahokia: Ancient America"s Great City on the Mississippi Cahokia: Ancient America's Great City on the Mississippi
By Timothy R. Pauketat / Penguin Putnam Inc.

Almost a thousand years ago, a Native American city flourished along the Mississippi River near what is now St. Louis. A thriving metropolis at its height with a population of twenty thousand, a sprawling central plaza, and scores of spectacular earthen mounds, Cahokia gave rise to a new culture that spread across the plains; yet by 1400 it had been abandoned.
In Cahokia, anthropologist Timothy R. Pauketat reveals the story of the city and its people as uncovered by the excavations of American corn-belt archaeologists. These digs have revealed evidence of a powerful society, including complex celestial timepieces, the remains of feasts big enough to feed thousands, and disturbing signs of large-scale human sacrifice.  Drawing on these pioneering digs and a wealth of analysis by historians and archaeologists, Pauketat provides a comprehensive picture of what's been discovered about Cahokia and how these findings have challenged our perceptions of Native Americans. A lively read and a compelling narrative of prehistoric America.

93629: Famous Buildings of Frank Lloyd Wright Coloring Book Famous Buildings of Frank Lloyd Wright Coloring Book
By Bruce LaFontaine / Dover Publications

Enrich your child's imagination and creativity with these 44 line drawings on some of the finest architectural achievements of the 20th century in the work of Frank Lloyd Wright. Each page is suitable for coloring and includes information about each structure.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

MacPhail Center for Music Review

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My daughter took her first year of violin at our co-op this past year.  Since she enjoyed playing and wasn't going to have any lessons during the summer, I was happy that we received four lessons through Macphail Center for Music.  The online lessons are performed through Skype with an instructor trained in the instrument the child plays.  The instruments available are piano, guitar, violin, viola, cello, harp, flute, clarinet, trumpet, low brass, saxophone, and percussion.

The Center pairs the student with a teacher and creates a schedule depending on your availability.  They also get in contact with you through email and then Skype to be sure that your Internet connection works properly.  The woman we worked with on this step was very friendly and professional.  She was knowledgeable about the system and computer technology so that we were able to get the best connection possible.  Our Skype often freezes or looks like the person on the other end is underwater.  We ended up using our Android tablet instead for the first two lessons.  Forgetting about the tablet for the third lesson, we had to use the laptop.  For whatever reason it worked wonderfully, and we didn't have to go back to the tablet.

Each of the four lessons lasted a half hour.  We made sure we were available at the time that Paige's teacher, Jeremy Swider, called.  He began her lessons by asking her about her playing experience and having her play a piece she had been working on.  Since she had not yet perfected "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," he worked on that with her.  He taught her some techniques to make the song easier and also gave her some new songs to practice.

Over the four lessons, Jeremy was a wonderful teacher.  He was professional and patient.  For example, Paige did not know the names of the notes, and she did not know many musical terms.  He took the time to teach her a lot of things she did not know previously.  Her playing improved as well with the different techniques he taught her.  Through the Skype lesson, he was able to see exactly how she held her violin, and Paige was able to watch him and see the correct positions.  He could see when her finger placement was off even slightly and coach her.

The lessons are over now, and Paige is excited to return to our co-op this year and participate in her second year of violin.  She knows that she will be ahead of where some of the other students are, and this is because of Jeremy and MacPhail Center for Music.  She said, "It was very educational."

The first online lesson is free when you sign up for at least two.

They do have special introductory pricing for individual instruction - four online lessons are only $111.
You will receive four 30-minute online lessons from an outstanding teaching artist, from the convenience of your home. All K–12 homeschool students are eligible to participate in this package, a 25% discount from standard tuition rates.

Daytime Flex Packs for Live Online Lessons offer flexibility to accommodate your busy schedule and help you achieve your unique musical goals. Simply schedule 8 Live Online Lessons during the 18-week semester on any weekday from 9 am – 3 pm CST. Unexpected scheduling conflict? Our cancellation policy gives you the option of canceling your lesson up to 48-hours in advance, without forfeiting the lesson. Whether you travel for work or leisure, juggle kids' extracurricular activities, or live in an area where options for studying your instrument are limited, MacPhail's Daytime Flex Pack can help you experience the joy of music-making. Standard pricing will apply after introductory lessons at $37 per 30-minute lesson.


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Friday, August 23, 2013

Summer Series: 50 States - Idaho


Our 43rd state is Idaho, abbreviation ID.  It entered the Union on July 3, 1890.  It ranks as the 14th largest state by area and the 39th most populated state.  Boise is the capital.  Boise is said to have gotten its name from the French word for wood, bois, since it was a heavily forested area.

Idaho lies in the northwest region of the United States and is famous for growing potatoes.  In the produce section at the grocery store, you are able to purchase bags of Idaho potatoes.  Wheat, sugar beets, and barley are also grown here and shipped throughout the country.  Idaho is also known for lumber and mining.

The nickname is the "Gem State," and its motto is "Esto perpetua," which means "May It Endure Forever."  The state bird is the Mountain bluebird, and the fish is the Cutthroat trout.  Idaho has a state horse - the Appaloosa.  The insect is the Monarch butterfly.

The state flower is the Syringa, or Lilac, and the state tree is the Western White Pine.  Idaho is covered in forest, and much of the state is protected land.  Outdoor enthusiasts have an endless supply of things to do here.  Craters of the Moon National Monument is a place where people can go to see a lava field.  Hells Canyon is North America's deepest river gorge; it is 7,993 feet deep.  Bogus Basin, Bald Mountain, and Tamarack Resort are areas famous for skiing.  Shoshone Falls, located on the Snake River, is referred to as the "Niagara of the West" and is actually higher than Niagara Falls at 212 feet tall.  There are quite a few dams in Idaho: Dworshak Dam, Lucky Peak, Arrowrock, American Falls, and Albeni Falls Dam.  The Minidoka National Historic Site is where people can go to learn about a not-so-stellar time in America's history.  After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 (Hawaii), Congress, acting in fear, rounded up Japanese-Americans and sent them to one of 10 internment camps in order to "keep an eye on them."  Minidoka was one of the 10.

Visitors to Idaho can also visit the Idaho Potato Museum, of course.  Would any visit be complete without it?


Idaho's flag was adopted in 1907 and shows a miner carrying a pick and shovel, a woman holding the scales of justice, 2 cornucopias, an elk head resting on top of a shield, and a sheaf of grain.  The motto is written in the banner flying in the sky.

People from Idaho are called Idahoans.  There have not been many famous people actually born in Idaho, however.  A few are Sarah Palin, Ezra Pound (a poet), Sacagawea, and Picabo Street (an Olympic skier).  The town of Rigby is known as the birthplace of television because Philo T. Farnsworth called it home for a time (he wasn't born there, though).  Farnsworth was a pioneer in the technology that led to modern-day television.

Go here to play some games related to Idaho.  Test your knowledge and learn more.

The following items are available at  I am an affiliate.  If you purchase through my blog, I will receive a small percentage.

514171: Idaho Idaho
By Coughlan Publishing

417814: Idaho History Project Book, Grades K-8 Idaho History Project Book, Grades K-8
By Carole Marsh / Gallopade International

History projects include: creating a cartoon panel describing how our state name may have come about; dressing up as a famous explorer and recreating their main discovery and more! Grades K-8; ages 5-15.

22640DF: Idaho State History Lapbook - PDF Download [Download] Idaho State History Lapbook - PDF Download [Download]
By Cyndi Kinney & Judy Trout / Knowledge Box Central

Get to know your home state! Comprehensive state history lapbook resources from Knowledge Box Central are designed so that children of all ages can study together. Explore state symbols, songs and landmarks, famous people, geographical regions, timelines of historical events, and more. The included state-specific study guide provides background information, history, and other factual information; this study guide is the same for both lapbook (Grades K-8) and lapbook journal (Grades 6-12) students, so that the parent only needs to go over the information once.
This lapbook includes a list of all the supplies needed if following the included base guide. Blackline masters are provided for students to cut out and paste into their lapbook, while a photo of a finished lapbook provides a visual example. This Lapbook is structured for use with K-8th Grade Students.
Get started on your lapbook immediately with this PDF Download.

743742: Outlaw Tales of Idaho Outlaw Tales of Idaho
By Globe Pequot

24850: Who Was Sacagawea? Who Was Sacagawea?
By Dennis Fradin / Grosset & Dunlap

Sacagawea was a sixteen-year-old who made one of the most remarkable journeys in American history. She is a woman who has mountains in three states named after her. Her face is on the new U.S. golden dollar coin. Find out more about the real Sacagawea in this fun and exciting illustrated biography.

470050: Potato Recipes, Edition 0002 Potato Recipes, Edition 0002
By Mary Beth Owens / Tate Publishing

443906: Math PotatoesMath Potatoes
By Greg Tang & Harry Briggs(Illustrator) / Scholastic Trade

The follow-up to the beloved Grapes of Math and Math Appeal books, Greg Tang has come up with another set of riddles to help kids learn common sense strategies for solving math problems. Math Potatoes emphasizes three strategies: making math sums that are easy to work with (such as 10 and 15), to patterns and symmetry, and to look for groups of equal size to multiply instead of add. Helping kids to think about math creatively--in effective, engaging ways-short, illustrated riddles teach kids strategies rather than simple counting. Hardcover with dust jacket. Grades 1-4. Answer key with reduced riddles and explanations are included. 

114825: Potato Chip Science Book & Stuff Potato Chip Science Book & Stuff
By A. Kurzweil & Son / Workman Publishing

The "WARNING! High in saturated FACTS" label says it all. Expand your mind and not your waist with this bag of Potato Chip Science! With the instructions and some harder-to-find-pieces needed to complete 29 experiments and 1 edible project, kids will have a blast learning about physics, biology, chemistry, and earth science. The book inside the bag has all the instructions and science information you need: learn to build an air rocket out of potato chip bags; create a CSI detective kit (to fingerprint a chip thief); create optical illusions; grow a potato pal; and more. Any additional materials needed for the experiment are clearly listed.
This Kit Contains:

  • 1 book that includes 29 snacktivities, 5 "spreads", 1 glossary, and 6 optical stickers
  • 1 sound chip and 1 clock
  • 1 biodegradable starch knife
  • 1 propulsion pipe
  • Other items that allow you to blast bags, burn chips, spin lids, and more. (Even the packing "chips" can be used as ammo for the confetti can-non)

  • 755573: The Boy Who Invented TV: The Story of Philo Farnsworth The Boy Who Invented TV: The Story of Philo Farnsworth
    By Kathleen Krull & Greg Couch (Illustrator) / Dragonfly Books

    Thursday, August 22, 2013

    In the Hands of a Child: Honing Your Study Skills Review

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    In the Hands of a Child is a company specializing in lapbooks, notebooking, and project packs for a wide variety of topics for all age ranges.  We received Honing Your Study Skills which is geared towards students in fifth through tenth grade.

    A lapbook is known by many different names and is made from file folders which end up containing mini-books, graphics, and worksheets related to the topic being studied.  It is a unique storage solution and works well in portfolios.  Notebooking utilizes three-ring binders and notebooking pages which the student can fill out with what he/she has learned.  A project pack includes activities and lesson plans, as well as research guides.  Project packs can incorporate a lapbook or a notebook.

    Honing Your Study Skills includes instructions for how to use a project pack.  The authors have included information on how to adapt the pack to your child's needs.  A schedule is included that has the study being completed in a week.  We took a couple of weeks, breaking it down a bit more than their schedule shows.  I printed every worksheet for my children and placed them in three-ring binders.  I did not print out the reading sections but just had them read from my computer.  There are two pages of "Activities and Instructions."  These pages detail how to complete each activity on the student pages.  This is necessary as there is no instruction on the worksheets.

    This study is broken down into two main headings: tips for successful study habits and reference materials.  Vocabulary words are also bolded throughout the unit.  A lot of them are words that older kids should know, so I did't have them write down definitions for ones they were familiar with.

    There are some very good tips given throughout the study.  First off, there were 13 tips for successful study habits.  Of course, the tip that told them to prepare snacks was a hit.  Each of the tips is then discussed in more detail in the following pages, and each of these has a worksheet to go with it.  They each evaluated their study area and brought me recommendations as to how I could help them improve it.  They learned about their own learning styles.  Mnemonic reminders were discussed.  Since they completed this study, mnemonics have come up a few times in different situations.  It's always exciting to see something you've learned at work in the "real" world.

    The section on reference materials helped my children learn about and/or remember the different sources that are available to them beyond the dictionary such as biographies, almanacs, magazines, firsthand information, encyclopedias, etc.  We had a conversation about thesauruses and how there are alphabetical and index thesauruses.  I just happened to have an index thesaurus at home, so I was able to show them how to use it.  They decided they'd stick to the alphabetical one.  This project pack also had them research a person.  

    Most of the activities were pretty straightforward, and the answers came right from the reading.  So, it is simple to complete, and it is definitely valuable information that will help them throughout their school years (and beyond).  Right now, it is on sale for just $5.00, instead of the regular $12.00.  This price makes it completely worthwhile.

    There seem to be a lot of items for sale right now at Hands of a Child.  Their unit studies include literature units, science, geography, math, etc.  They even have freebies and specials.  It is definitely worth taking a look at all they have to offer.


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    Tuesday, August 20, 2013

    Family Hope Center: Understanding Child Brain Development DVD Review

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     photo CBD-DCover_zps23501872.gifFamily Hope Center is unlike any doctor or therapy practice.  The name is correct; they give hope.  This organization, located northwest of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, focuses on children with developmental delays and special needs.  Understanding how the brain functions, they provide parents the key to unlocking their child's full potential.  I was given a DVD, Understanding Child Brain Development, to watch and review.  Approximately two hours and 10 minutes long, it details the mission and objectives of Family Hope Center and provides an introduction to understanding the brain.  It also begins to provide solutions.  The DVD is $19.00 and can be ordered one of two ways: 1) Call 610-397-1737 or 2) order through IEW, Institute for Excellence in Writing.

    The main speaker, Matthew Newell, is extremely knowledgeable.  I was completely absorbed in his description of the brain and how dysfunctions within it relate to visible behaviors.  I appreciated the care he took in making sure parents understood that their child's behavior did not relate to anything they, as the parent, did or did not do.  He said that the parent is the expert.  His job was to inform us.  He repeated this a few times in different ways throughout the video.

    The first 23 minutes or so was about the Center and their approach.  Mr. Newell didn't start talking about the topic, the reason I wanted the DVD, until that point.  The video quality was grainy, so the charts he displayed on the projection screen at his seminar, which were full screen on the video for the viewer, were very hard to read.

    I was eager to see if this video would provide any recommendations for ways to improve my son's social skills or equip me with techniques to homeschool him more effectively as I'm fairly certain he has Asperger Syndrome despite not having a formal diagnosis.  However, it was like reading a great book and not having the last few pages; I was left hanging.  Mr. Newell would present a negative behavior of a disorder and tell us what part of the brain was the area of physiologic dysfunction.  For instance, limbic system dysfunctions are seen in children who are on the autism spectrum.  The limbic system is 90% water, so we need to be sure these kids are drinking plenty of water.  He also talked about the limbic system being strongly related to smell and that the Center teaches parents how to stimulate their child's sense of smell by introducing different scents, from sweet to rancid, throughout the day.  That was all that I learned about that.  I would need to go to the Center to gain further instruction.  There is a program they sell called, "Your Thriving Child."  It sounds like there may be more equipping in this program than was on the video, but it is $379.  It's on sale; the regular price is $595.

    Since I live in Florida and won't be traveling to PA to attend any workshops or take my son to therapy and this video didn't really do much but whet my appetite for more instruction, I was left where I started.  The video had some very interesting information, but I have no tools.  I'm left wondering what the purpose of the video is except to make me aware of the services that Family Hope Center provides.  I'm sure if I were reviewing that I would rave about it.  The website has testimonials.  I believe them.  I am sure they are able to do remarkable things in the lives of these kids and their families.  If you are close to them, give them a call.  Use the $19, the cost of the DVD, to pay for a workshop or therapy at their office.


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    Saturday, August 17, 2013

    Summer Series: 50 States - Hawai'i

    *My summer series has taken longer than I had anticipated.  I will continue through the fall until all 50 states have been completed.  Today, we will learn about my favorite state:


    Ranking as one of the most visited states in the Union, Hawai'i officially became a state on August 21, 1959.  Centuries before that, it had been visited by Captain James Cook who named the archipelago the "Sandwich Islands" in honor of the Earl of Sandwich.  King Kamehameha I unified all of the islands in 1810 and renamed them the "Kingdom of Hawai'i."  Protestant missionaries arrived in the early 1800s as did whalers.  The town of Lahaina on the island of Maui was an important whaling harbor and has retained the charm of this bygone era.  Colonists from America took control of the islands in 1893, and it officially became a U.S. territory in 1898.  Portions of the U.S. military were positioned in Hawai'i leading up to World War II, and the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese on December 7, 1941, forced the U.S. into the war.  In 1959, Hawai'i became the 50th state.

    Located in the Pacific Ocean almost 3000 miles away from California, Hawai'i is the southernmost state.  It is the widest state from east to west with 130 separate pieces of land spread out over 1600 miles.  There are eight main islands: O'ahu, Maui, Kauai, Lanai, Moloka'i, Hawai'i, Niihau, and Kaho'olawe.  O'ahu is the most popular island; this is also where the capital, Honolulu, is located.  Maui is home to the world's largest dormant volcano, Haleakala.  Kauai is where visitors will find the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific" and Mt. Waialeale, one of the wettest places on the planet (it receives more than 450 inches of rain per year).  Lanai is known as "pineapple island" as it is the world's single largest exporter of the fruit.  Molokai is a quiet island without the hustle and bustle of the tourism industry.  It also used to be the site of a leper colony run by Father Damien.  The island of Hawai'i is also known as "The Big Island" and is home to one of the world's most active volcanoes, Kilauea, and this state's highest point, Mauna Kea, which stands 13,796 feet high.  Niihau is a privately owned island that accepts few visitors.  Kaho'olawe is an island that was once used as target practice by the US Navy and Air Force.  People are not permitted to go on shore without permission.

    There are no majority populations in Hawai'i; everyone is considered in a minority.  Despite such a wide variety of cultures, there are just two official languages: Hawaiian and English.  The Hawaiian language uses just 12 letters - A, E, I, O, U, H, K, L, M, N, P, and W.  It also uses the symbol '.  There are several websites where you can learn Hawaiian.  I have not included them here, as none of the ones I found are free.  Aloha is the word most associated with Hawai'i, and it is the state nickname.  Aloha means "hello," "goodbye," and "love."  Mahalo means "thank you."  Many of the state symbols employ the Hawaiian language such as the state bird, which is the Nene, or Hawaiian goose.  The state tree is the Kukui, and the state fish (which is one of my favorite) is the Humuhumunukunuku apua'a, or the Reef Triggerfish.  A rule of thumb for speaking Hawaiian is that every letter makes a sound.  Therefore, Hawai'i, would be pronounced like Ha-wa-e-e (both e's are long).  The state motto is (are you ready for this one):

    Ua mau ke ea o ka aina I ka pono

    This is translated, "The life of the land is perpetuated by righteousness."

    Tourism and defense are two of the largest industries in Hawai'i.  Agriculture ranks at the top as well.  Sugar cane and macadamia nuts are grown here.  One third of the world's pineapples comes from Hawai'i, and it is the only state that grows coffee.  Beautiful flowers such as the Hibiscus are gown here; this is the state flower.  One of the staple foods is poi.  It is taro root that is ground and then cooked into a paste.  When I had gone to the Polynesian Cultural Center years ago, I watched a man make poi.  He asked for a volunteer from the audience to try it.  Upon trying the gray paste-like food, he turned his nose up at it and said something negative.  The speaker was highly offended and said, "We don't make fun of your mashed potatoes."

    Besides the places already mentioned above, other points of interest are Pearl Harbor on the island of O'ahu, the Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island, Diamond Head on O'ahu, Haleakala National Park, Na Pali Coast State Park, Iao Valley, the Hana Highway, and Iolani Palace which is the only royal palace on U.S. soil.  There are many other places to visit that provide history and adventure.  Visit The Hawaiian Islands page to see what each island offers.

    The state flag of Hawai'i was actually commissioned by King Kamehameha I in 1819.  There are 8 white, red, and blue stripes which signify the eight main islands.  The Union Jack is present in the upper left and honors Hawai'i's past relationship with Britain.

    Hawai'i is the only state that continues to grow.  This is due to the active volcano, Kilauea, which continues to produce new land as the lava flows into the ocean and then cools.  The state mammal is the monk seal, and the state marine mammal is the humpback whale.  Many people visit in the winter months to view these whales when they migrate to the warmer waters to mate and calve their young.

    The temperature in Hawai'i does not vary much throughout the year.  It is rarely above 92 Fahrenheit or less than 60 F.  July's average temperature during the day is 82, and January's is 72.  Hawai'i has its own time zone, and it does not observe Daylight Savings Time.  This state is the 43rd biggest and the 42nd most populous.

    Play some Hawaii State Symbols Games or do some word searches or crossword puzzles.

    Here is a list of books about Hawai'i from  I am an affiliate, so if you purchase any of these from my blog, I will receive a small commission.  Feel no obligation.

    454074: The Mystery in Hawaii: The 50th State The Mystery in Hawaii: The 50th State
    By Carole Marsh / Gallopade International

    806162: Magic Tree House #28: High Tide in Hawaii Magic Tree House #28: High Tide in Hawaii
    By Mary Pope Osborne & Sal Murdocca (Illustrator) / Random House Books for Young Readers

    Join Jack and Annie on another exciting adventure! This time the siblings are transported to Hawaii where they make friends with the local people and learn how to hula and surf. But when a tsunami threatens the island, will Jack and Annie save their friends in time?

    6707X: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
    By M.C. Hall / Heinemann Raintree

    498525: Hawaii Coloring Book, Grades PreK-3 Hawaii Coloring Book, Grades PreK-3
    By Carole Marsh / Gallopade International

    Have fun while learning about your state's history! This coloring book contains coloring pictures with captions of Hawaii's most famous people, history, state facts, flora & fauna, and fun facts! 32 reproducible pages, softcover. Grades PreK-K.

    345094: Pearl Harbor is Burning!: A Story of World War II
    Pearl Harbor is Burning!: A Story of World War II
    By Kathleen Kudlinski / Puffin Books

    Frank thought that he'd found a new friend--but he never expected a war to come between them. It's 1941, and Frank is miserable. If only his family had never moved to Hawaii. Everyone and everything on the island looks and sounds strange to him. Then Frank meets Kenji, a Japanese-American boy who just might become a friend. But the unthinkable happens--Pearl Harbor is bombed, and by the Japanese! Can Frank and Kenji even be friends?

    698391: #1: Aloha, Kanani
    #1: Aloha, Kanani
    By Lisa Yee / American Girl Publishing

    Ten-year-old Kanani loves living in beautiful Hawaii -and she especially loves sharing the wonders of her island home with visitors. So when her cousin Rachel from New York comes to stay for a month, Kanani is excited to get to know her. But no matter what she does to help Rachel feel at home, it only seems to make her unhappy instead. Can Kanani find a way to connect with her cousin?

    713890: Liberty Letters: Attack at Pearl Harbor
    Liberty Letters: Attack at Pearl Harbor
    By Nancy LeSourd / ZonderKidz

    Standing on the airfield in Hawaii, watching a boy her age taking his first solo flight, Meredith vows again to learn to fly. In Washington D.C.,her friend Catherine is equally determined to write real news stories for the school newspaper. As December 7, 1941, approaches, the girls have no idea that their faith and their dreams are about to carry them through one of the biggest events in the life of their nation.

    106296: Hawaii
    By Shelley Gill / Charlesbridge Publishing

    Join Patrick and his father as they tour the Aloha State. They kayak around the Big Island, drive to Haleakala Crater, visit the paniolos on Parker Ranch, and so much more. Learn historical, natural science, and cultural information as well as some Hawaiian words and fun facts.

    41551EB: Little Pineapple, the little Hawaiian truck discovers the sugar cane trains - eBook Little Pineapple, the little Hawaiian truck discovers the sugar cane trains - eBook
    By Karl Joseph Hill & Scott Thomas Lowe((Illustrator) / Pacific H&l Publishing

    058380: Volcanoes Volcanoes
    By Neil Morris / Crabtree Publishing Company

    432394: Let"s Hula! Let's Hula!
    By Suzanne Aumack & Connie Majka / Running Press

    85152: DK Readers: Journey of a Humpback Whale (Level 2: Beginning to Read Alone) DK Readers: Journey of a Humpback Whale (Level 2: Beginning to Read Alone)
    By Caryn Jenner / DK Publishing Inc.

    27621EB: A Boy at War: A Novel of Pearl Harbor - eBook A Boy at War: A Novel of Pearl Harbor - eBook
    By Harry Mazer / Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

    57344: At Dawn We Slept: The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor At Dawn We Slept: The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor
    By Gordon W. Prange, Donald M. Goldstein, Katherine V. Dillon / Penguin Putnam Inc.

    This is a monumental and definitive study of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. At 7:53 A.M.,December 7, 1941, America's national conciousness and confidence were rocked as the first wave of Japanese warplanes targeted the U.S. Pacific Fleet stationed at Pearl Harbor. As intense and absorbing as a suspense novel,"At Dawn We Slept" is an unparalleled, exhaustive account of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor that is widely regarded as the definitive assessment of the events surrounding one of the most daring and brilliant naval operations of all time. Through extensive research and interviews with American and Japanese leaders, Gordon W.Prange assembled a remarkable historical study that examines the assault that seventy years later America cannot forget.

    DISCLAIMER: I am an affiliate with  I receive a commission from any purchases made through my affiliate link.

    All photos above (not book photos) are from