Friday, December 9, 2011

Air Hunterz Z-Curve Bow

Ryan (12) loves all kinds of guns and bows and when he heard about the Air Hunterz Z-Curve Bow he really wanted to get one.  So, with some birthday money we ordered it.  It would be an understatement to say that he loves this bow.

This is the video we saw that introduced us to the bow

Kind of silly..but gives you a good idea of what the bow is like.

The Air Hunterz Z-Curve Bow shoots over 100 feet and comes with 1 foam suction cup arrow and 2 foam bounce back arrows.  It also comes with a clip so you can clip the arrows on your belt loop.  It is made of sturdy plastic with tubular bands that draw back. The bow hooks on two loops that are connected to the bands. It seems to be well made (unlike the toy bows I've seen in the stores).

I am taking the picture from the spot where Ryan shot the arrow from
and he is under the black arrow in the picture retrieving it.
I added the arrow because he was so far away and wearing
camo that I didn't think you'd be able to see him. He is well over 100 feet away!


shooting an arrow

Z-Curve bow and arrows. 
The bow is about 4" by 22" and the arrows are 9 1/2" long. 

clip the arrows right to your belt loops

When I asked Ryan if there was anything he didn't like about the bow he thought long and hard but the only thing he could think of was the color.  He thought it should be camouflage since it's for "hunting".  He then added that he thinks the grip would be better if it was turned around. (but it seems fine to me)  I gave it a try and he is definitely the better of the two of us with it. :)

Air Hunterz Z-Curve Bow is recommended for ages 8 and up. It would make a great gift for kids young and old.  (I think a lot of Dads will like this one too!)

I have long been a fan of Timberdoodle for homeschool curriculum and cool games and toys.  It is one of my favorite places to order from and I love their catalog.  You can order a free catalog here or just check it out online.

You can order your own Air Hunterz Z-Curve Bow from Timberdoodle for $26.99 or buy a set of 2 for $49.95.

Order this or other great gifts from Timberdoodle by Monday, December 12 (noon PST) to get your order by Christmas without upgraded shipping.  Plus free shipping on all orders over $99.


Fractazmic Review

Fractazmic is a learning game from I See Cards that we recently received.  The first time we played we used the directions that were included for a simple game but it wasn't all that much fun.  THEN we found the online directions for playing Fractazmic Trap and now we're hooked.  (You can find the directions to Fractazmic Trap and other games by downloading the free e-book Dr Ron's How to Succeed in Mathematics. You will also find directions for a gin rummy type of game called Fractazmic Rummy.)

Here is a video explanation of Fractazmic Trap

and a video of how to play Fractazmic Rummy

The cards are sturdy and durable.  They are also bright and colorful and each suit features a different graphic to show the fractional part.  In the blue suit a box of eggs is used, the green suit shows liquid in a bottle and the red suit uses a ruler.   (no pies for this game)  Each fraction is shown on the top and bottom corner of the card but printed facing up.  So when the cards are dealt you have to turn them all the right way (unlike regular cards where the number on the bottom is upside down so that the number in the corner is always right side up).
You can see what a hand might look like after being dealt.
I guess you could play with them upside down but I need them all facing up.

Here you can see the different measurements used on each card.

The cards in the deck are:

Sixteenth suit (red): 1/16, 1/8, 3/16, 1/4, 5/16, 3/8, 7/16 and 1/2
Twelfths suit (blue):1/12, 1/6, 1/4, 1/3, 5/12 and 1/2
Tenths suit (green): 1/10, 1/5, 3/10, 2/5 and 1/2

Fractazmic teaches fractions, numbers and measurement.

Even though the basic game of Fractazmic will seem very simple, the game and the cards took about a year of development. The mathematics reinforced here is the addition of fractions. The game also goes one step further in that it reinforces the addition of fractions that are used in common situations.  Even though mathematics texts often have problems where children are forced to add fractions such as 1/7 and 1/25-I have never in 30 years had the requirement to add these 2 fractions. In Fractazmic there are 3 suits; tenths, twelfths, and sixteenths. In each of these suits there are cards ranging from 1/10, 1/12 and 1/16 up to ½.   -quote from Dr. Ron's How to Succeed in Mathematics

You can try an online Fractazmic  as well as Pyramath speed.  Both online games are free! If you can score in the top 10 you will win a free set of cards!

We are really enjoying Fractazmic.  It's great for a variety of ages. It makes a good review for anyone who already knows fractions and a great way to get younger kids familiar with fractions before they are  even introduced in their math curriculum. I highly recommend it.

Fractazmic is recommended for Grades 1-8 and Fun for All Ages.  The games are for 2-4 players.

I See Cards offers other educational card games: PyraMathPrimeBomb and I See Cards.  Fractazmic is only $6.95. See what others on the TOS crew are saying about Fractazmic.

disclaimer:  I received Fractazmic in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Christ-Centered Christmas

Christ-Centered Christmas:The Ultimate Guide to Celebrating a Christmas Your Family Will Never Forget is a recently released e-book from Hal and Melanie Young, the authors of Raising Real Men.

Hal and Melanie Young have written this wonderful 80 page full color e-book to help you find the true meaning of Christmas.  It is filled with practical ideas you can implement this year with your family along with menus and recipes meant to help your family to truly ENJOY this season and to make it about Christ.  I absolutely adore the chapter, "What about Santa?"  It puts into words the exact reasons that we have chosen not to pretend Santa is real with our children.

The chapters include:

The Ornament of the Year
Granny’s Christmas Tea
The Advent Season
The Christmas Story
Caroling Parties (including the lyrics to 16 hymns with clickable links to the tunes)
Christmas Baking
Christmas Eve
Chrismas Eve Menu (with recipes)
What About Santa Claus?
Christmas Gifts
Christmas Day
Christmas Feast Menu (with recipes)
Old Christmas
Other Great Resources

I read most of this book on my Kindle.  I used my free Kindle address and sent the pdf file to it.  The font was a little small but I could read it without any trouble (like you sometimes have with pdf's on the Kindle).  I read the rest of it right on my laptop. This would be a wonderful book to print out and have bound but I love  keeping things on my Kindle because my bookshelves are too full as it is!

I highly recommend this book if you are looking to make this Christmas and the ones to come very special in your family. Lots of great ideas!

Christ-Centered Christmas is available at the introductory price of $6.00 (regular price will be $15.00).  Buy Christ-Centered Christmas and find some new traditions to bring you and your family closer to Christ and have many fond memories for years to come. Other titles by the Youngs include Raising Real Men and We Gather Together.  Visit the store for books, CD workshops and character building gifts for your children.

disclaimer: I received a free copy of Christ-Centered Christmas in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Medieval Machines by Pitsco

Medieval Machines by Pitsco includes a model catapult and a model trebuchet with a teaching guide explaining the history behind the machines as well as experiments and mathematical problems and activities to go along with it.

This is what it all looked like when we took it out of the box.

Rob building the catapult while Ryan looks on.

Fun with the packing materials that were in the box
more fun...a giant tail

The finished catapult
I am not mechanically minded at all and didn't even attempt to build these.  Rob built them (much to his chagrin I have to say).  The catapult didn't take all that long. The pieces are precut they just need to be punched out. We had some quick grab glue that worked pretty good.  The trebuchet on the other hand took a long time and he was pretty frustrated.  We didn't have the glue we used for the catapult.  He tried a super glue (Gorilla) but it wouldn't stick and ended up using wood glue (hence the longer time because he had to wait for things to dry).  I did help with the strings because it takes tiny fingers and fine motor skills to make small loops (though I think he did end up doing some of that too.)  Anyway, this is not the kind of thing you can buy and expect your child to put together.

Ryan (12) was a little disappointed with the size of the catapult. I think he wanted a life size model. HA!  I took a picture of it next to the pencil so you can see the size of it.  It's actually a perfect size for having around and nothing is getting wrecked and there have been no injuries! :)

the trebuchet

the catapult and trebuchet side by side
The catapult worked exactly as it should.  The little tab that holds down the arm broke off but it still works.  We just have to hold it down manually...not a big deal.  In the Siege Machines book there are 5 pages of information about catapults followed by 6 pages of experiments and activities to go along with it. It covers mass vs. distance, averages, data gathering, tension vs. torsion, converting English to metric, graphing, and elasticity. Click here to see sample pages from the book.

Ryan preparing to shoot projectiles for our experiments.

You will need a balance or scale to measure your projectiles.  

The Trebuchet section of the Siege Machines book is 9 pages long and gives information about trebuchets and experiments to go along with it.  It covers gravity, levers, prediction, force, motion, scientific method and hypothesis.

A few other topics are included and the back of the book has 6 pages of standards for grades 5-8, 6-8 and 9-12 separated into ITEA, NCTM and NSTA standards.  It also has a list of additional resources including books, websites and videos to further your studies.

The Trebuchet
We had some trouble with the Trebuchet but it was completely our own doing. I had attached the sling incorrectly so it wouldn't work. I contacted Pitsco and was very impressed with the promptness and the helpfulness of Pitsco's customer service.  Once I fixed the way the sling was attached it worked.

Setting up the Trebuchet.  We used the backside of wrapping paper
and a measuring tape to see how far our projectiles would go.

I think this set makes a wonderful addition to all kinds of studies....from history to math and science.  It just happened that we were talking about how the Romans used catapults during this study.  The book that comes with it is informative and covers so many topics and is very affordable.

Kit assembly requires: Hobby knife, needle-nose pliers, ruler, scissors, sandpaper, and white glue such as HD Bond II. Siege Machines book activities require: Tape measure; digital scale or balance; 15'-20' of white roll paper such as the plain side of wrapping paper or Pitsco’s Range Paper Tape; cool-melt glue gun and glue; straw; ruler; scissors; extra rubber bands: 4 –  3-1/2" x 1/16" (#19), 1 – 3-1/2" x 1/4" (#64) (not including the one on the catapult), and 4 – 3" x 1/16"; target – either an 8.5" x 11" piece of color paper or one pack of Target Pieces; 2" x 12" sheet of balsa wood or basswood; 2 – 2.5-inch-long axles, 4 nylon axle bushings, small washers, and model car wheels (such as those for CO2 cars) (We didn't use the last few items. There was plenty to do in the book without that. I imagine we will do that some time soon though.)

Pitsco, founded in 1971, offers Science, Technology, Engineering and Math materials.  They carry an amazing array of kits and materials.  Sustainable Energy, Robotics, Engineering, Aerospace and more!


You can purchase a Medieval Machines pack at Pitsco for $21.95. (This set does not include the modeling clay that I received but any modeling clay will do.)  Be sure to check out other products from Pitsco or request a catalog. They also have a homeschool section on their website. See what others are saying about Medieval Machines on the TOS crew blog.

disclaimer: I received a free Medieval Machines pack in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Slim Down Sunday

I haven't posted for Slim Down Sunday in a while for no reason other than busyness (or laziness).  I am always amazed at when the weight comes off.  I hadn't lost anything since before Thanksgiving and was up a few ounces even though I was still following my diet (except for Thanksgiving Day.)  Yesterday, my brother in law got married and I ate everything on my plate including cake and I was down .4 more lbs.  I'll take it.

Goal: Continue losing weight at a steady pace. 

Pounds Lost: 56.4 lbs (down 1.8 from my lasts SDS post)

How is it going this week?  Still going along steadily.

My Plan for the Week Ahead: Just keep doing what I've been doing.(Which is 400 calorie meals 4 times a day.)

If you would like some encouragement or to encourage others in their weight loss join us at Heartfelt Homeschooling for Slim Down Sunday.  You can link up here

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Artistic Pursuits-Review

Artistic Pursuits is a non-consumable art curriculum written for homeschoolers. It is available in 10 levels: Preschool, 3 books for K-3, 2 books for grades 4-6, 2 books for junior high and 2 for senior high.  We received Grades 4-6 Book One: The Elements of Art and Composition. It is a comb-bound, soft cover textbook with 88 pages.

What I really love about this course is that it is not just a drawing course.  It is art instruction and also features the art of American artists. I also like that it didn't require a lot of expensive supplies.  I purchased what we needed at a craft store. I did end up going twice because I originally just bought drawing pencils because I didn't know what Ebony pencils were (and couldn't find anyone to help me in the store).  I looked them up online the next time and found them without a problem because I knew what I was looking for. (See below for information about ordering an art supply pack that goes along with each book.)

One other great feature is that it is non-consumable which is wonderful for a large family like ours!

Book One: The Elements of Art and Composition covers:
  • Space
  • Line and Shape
  • Texture
  • Value
  • Form
  • Form using Value
  • Local Value
  • Contrast
  • The Shapes of Natural Forms
  • Edges
  • Balance
  • Rhythm
  • Overlap
  • Depth
  • Proportion, the Face
  • Movement
The following media is introduced through this year long course:
  • Ebony pencil
  • white pencil
  • black markers with point and wide tip
  • scratch paper
  • silhouette

This book is written for the student and ideally they can work on this by themselves. (I find that for most things I like to work with my students at this age.) It is designed for 2 lessons per week. Unfortunately, this book didn't click with Ryan (my 6th grader).  We worked on some of the lessons but he really didn't enjoy it. I am hoping that over time that will change because I think it is an excellent curriculum. This is no fault of the curriculum though. He just doesn't want to learn to draw right now.

Although my daughter Emma is only in the third grade she is very interested in using this so I am going to slowly work through it with her.  I also have a very artistic senior and though she is well outside the age range of this book I think it will be of great benefit to her.  Book One: The Elements of Art and Composition is really packed with art history but more importantly, valuable instruction specifically in how to see things like an artist does.

Here is one of Ryan's drawings of our piano:

You can see sample pages by clicking on the pictures on this page. Here are a couple of pictures I took of the inside of the book in case you don't feel like clicking over.

Each level of Artistic Pursuits is available for purchase at $42.95.  They also offer links convenient art supply packs that can be purchased through Dick Blick in order to save you from going to a store to purchase individual supplies.

You can read what others on the TOS crew are saying about Artistic Pursuits on the crew blog.

disclaimer: I received a copy of Artistic Pursuits in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Menu Plan Monday

Monday: Amy's Minestrone from 400 Calorie Fix

Tuesday: Grilled chicken, potatoes,vegetable

Wednesday: Slow Cooker Italian Style Turkey Meatloaf (from 400 Calorie Fix)with rice and green beans

Thursday: Quiche

Friday:Spaghetti & bread

Saturday: Going to a wedding.  Kids will eat chicken nuggets/potatoes of some sort

Sunday: pancakes or sandwiches

Link up with your menu plan or see what others are planning this week at

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Reading Game-Review

The Reading Game is a memory card game and includes a series of 6 black and white storybooks that correspond with each deck.  There are 6 decks of cards and each deck builds on the previous one. The decks are divided into 6 groups of words.  The children progress through the 6 levels learning new words as they go. (So there are 6 decks with 6 levels each...I'm not sure that was clear. :)


Once all 30 words are learned in the first deck the child can read the first book.  The Skunk story book is the first book in the series and the entire story is written with only the words in the first deck.

From the website:

After completing Skunk, Game 1, the student has learned five words (can, cat is, me, not). Playing Game 2 adds an additional five words (sad, she, stay, this, with). The student is then tested by being required to read a couple of test sentences:

This cat is not a sad cat. Can she stay with me?” Similar test sentences are provided after each even numbered game thereafter. It’s important that the tutor move on only after the student has demonstrated proficiency in the words already covered. Some students will take a little longer; a few may take a lot longer; but ANYONE CAN LEARN TO READ. It’s not hard to persevere when the learning process is fun!

Jenna makes a match

Ellie (4) loves to play.
She can't read the words yet but usually she can tell when she has a match.
 It's only a matter of time before she knows these words.

Connor, Ellie and Jenna really like this game.
 I'm so happy to have this game for them to play.

What the decks look like in the box (minus the one we were playing with)

Jenna reading her first book!  

Each deck of cards in the series adds thirty more words for a reading vocabulary of 180 words by the time the complete series is finished. Of the twenty-five most commonly used English words, twenty-two are on that list; of the forty most commonly used English words –thirty. The multi-sensory teaching approach – through the card game play and the storybooks - works well for retention and student enjoyment.

The Reading Game is designed to be a supplement to your current reading curriculum and this is exactly how we are using it.  It also meets the Common Core Standards for Language Arts and Reading and Foundational Skills for both kindergarten and first grade.

On the Reading Game website you will find a free Pre/Post Assessment worksheet you can use to evaluate progress. The Test Sentences worksheet is used after play but before reading each book as a tool for seeing if the child is ready to read the book.  The test sentences are also included in the parent guide that comes with the game.

About the words used in the games:
• Dolch Word List of “service words” (pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, and verbs) that cannot be learned through the use of pictures. 60% of the words in “The Reading Game” are on the Dolch Word List for pre-k and k and makes up 54% of dolch words for Pre-K, K and 1st Grade.
 • Of the first 100 most commonly used English words (source The Reading Teachers Book of Lists, Third Edition by Fry, et al) “The Reading Game” incorporates 88% of the most common twenty-five words and 63% of the first 100.

Watch this video to see how to play and to see what the cards look like.

We just really love The Reading Game and think it would be a great addition to any phonics program.  The cards are a little thinner than I'd like to see, otherwise no complaints.

The Reading Game is from the author of Wordly Wise, Ken Hodkinson. Read more about Ken Hodkinson and how The Reading Game came to be here.


The Reading Game is available for $24.95. Read what others are saying about The Reading Game on the TOS crew blog.
disclaimer: I was given a free copy of The Reading Game in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Time Timer

Time Timer is a timer that shows the passage of time.  It is very easy to use and can be used for a whole variety of situations.  The first place I thought of using it was on the piano as the kids practice their lessons.  Emma is supposed to practice for 20 minutes a day.  With the Time Timer she can see how much time she has left while she is practicing.

 It's also great for timed test taking, time outs, computer time and in a pinch you could use it as a kitchen timer.  It only beeps once but it's not very loud so you'd have to keep it with you.  The uses for this timer are endless. I also think it's a great way to teach children too young to tell time about the passage of time.


This short video will show you how to set the timer and how it works:

Watch this video for the story behind the Time Timer and uses for it:

The Time Timer does not tick.  It is completely silent (except for the small beep when time is up.)  This is especially nice because it isn't distracting when you are trying to concentrate. The only thing I don't like about that is that there is no way to tell if it's actually working until a few minutes pass.  Recently, the battery became dislodged so the timer was set but wasn't working and we didn't know it.  Other than that, I can't think of any drawbacks to having a silent timer.

You do have to be careful not to move the circle too far around or the red disk "comes out" and you have to put it back in.  It's an easy fix though.  It takes one AA battery and has an on and off switch on the back.  It also has a cover that snaps into place to protect it and that becomes the bottom stand when it is in use. It can sometimes be a little hard to open.  Overall, I like this timer and think the watch version of this would be wonderful for anyone taking an SAT or exams of any kind.


You can purchase Time Timer  in a variety of sizes.  The 3" timer is $30.00, the 8" timer is $35.00 and the 12" timer is $40.00. They also have a Time Timer watch for $40.00 and software and apps too! Read what others are saying about Time Timer on the TOS crew blog.

disclaimer: I received the Time Timer in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, November 7, 2011

What I've Been Knitting

A couple of years ago I started learning to knit.  I've known how to crochet for close to 13 years.  I learned when I was pregnant with Ryan and he just turned 12 this week.  Anyway, recently I learned of a new tool called the Knook made by Leisure Arts.  I bought it when I saw it in the store thinking it was something I could give my 8 year old for Christmas.  When I looked at it I thought it was a crochet hook on one side and knitting needle on the other (which really doesn't even make sense). I ended up trying it out myself.  It was too slow and if I made a mistake I didn't know how to fix it. (which was one of the major problems I have with knitting).

I had my 14 year old daughter sit down next to me with her knitting and I had my knook. We cast on the same number of stitches and had a race.  She was finished with her row before I was halfway done with mine.  I decided I should try knitting again.

Because I hadn't knit in a long time and didn't have that much experience anyway, I asked one of the girls to remind me how to knit. I automatically held the yarn in my left hand like I do when I crochet.  It was only later that I realized that most people knit holding the yarn in their right hand. That was always so awkward for me.  I have come to learn that there are names for each style of knitting depending on which hand you hold your yarn in (and other methods).  I consider myself to be a continental knitter (though I still don't hold the yarn exactly the way they do but, I don't hold my pencil correctly either.)'s what I've made in recent days.

me with my new coat and cowl scarf

closer up view of the cowl
The cowl is a knit only scarf made with a beautiful bulky yarn called Hometown USA in Phoenix Azalea. I only made this last week but I am drawing a blank as to where I got the pattern from.  I'll post it if I remember.

Prior to making the cowl scarf I attempted to make a different cowl without a pattern.  Once I sewed it up it wasn't big enough to go over my head so I turned it into a hat (which I haven't taken any pictures of.)  Ryan liked the hat and I had a skein of the yarn left so I thought I'd make him a matching scarf. I decided to make this one. BUT, I didn't have enough yarn to make a long scarf so I ended up turning it into this scarflette (or neck warmer). I really love it.  It's soft and comfy.  I didn't realize that the button wasn't all the way through when we took the picture.  (It's a toggle button)

Then I turned to dishcloth making.  I made this one:

I used this pattern for the "yellow dishcloth".  There is a mistake in it, but it's a's OK. :)

I made this one today.  I watched this video first.  I love knitting on circular needles.
 It was the first time I tried that. I love this pattern and will make many more of these.

This one is on my needles now. It's a dishcloth, knit with two strands.
Easy peasy-- all knitting.  

I'm also working on this one(blue pattern). I really like it but, I made a mistake and it's a nightmare
 trying to rip it out and fix it so I've set it aside for a bit.

my new 31 bag just for my knitting  :)
I have so many projects I want to try and I am really enjoying knitting.  I hope that over time I'll learn how to fix my mistakes and that will make it even more enjoyable.
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