Friday, May 27, 2011

Read for the Heart--TOS Review

To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.  Victor Hugo

If you know me at all, you know how much I love to read and how important it is that my kids love to read as well.  I have three favorite parts to my day: 1.) when I do read-aloud time with Amélie during our school day.  Right now, for example, I am reading the Newbery-winning book, Moon over Manifest, and I can't wait for that time each day to read to her to see what is going to happen next.  I also love it when she reads to me--at the moment she is reading Encyclopedia Brown, and neither of us is very good at solving those mysteries!  2.) when I read to Jack before his nap.  At the moment he is obsessed with The Three Little Pigs, so I read it  Somehow the story is new to him every day, and his enthusiasm for the story can't help but be contagious.  3.) when we read books to the kids before bed.  Jack picks out a picture book, and Matt is reading through the Little House on the Prairie books with Amélie.  We also find minutes during the day to read, and honestly, if I could spend my whole day reading I would.

Needless to say, then, I was thrilled to receive the book Read for the Heart: Whole Books for Wholehearted Families by Sarah Clarkson.  I have wanted to buy a reference book for good reading materials, because honestly, when I get to the library, I am sometimes both over- and underwhelmed with my choices.  This book has definitely helped me narrow down my choices and pick out some treasures for us to read.   

This book is not just a list of books, however; it is also a heartfelt and convincing challenge to read to our kids because of the reading's importance in our lives.  Clarkson's words at the end of the first chapter echo the words of my own heart: 

"I read to live.  Every book I've read and every story that has made itself a part of my imagination has taught me something about what it means to live life well.  I'm passionate about reading because I'm passionate about life.  Great stories influence the way I live in the here and now."

That paragraph nearly makes me cry.  sniff.  sniff.

Obviously, I am a wee bit passionate about reading.

And, not to tell you what to do or anything, but you should be passionate about you and your kids reading, too.  According to Clarkson, "Less than one third of 13-year-olds are daily readers, [and] 15- to 24-year-olds spend only 7-10 minutes a day on voluntary reading, [yet] spend two to two and a half hours per day watching TV" (32-33).  Scary.  Very scary.

There is hope, however, and if you don't know where to begin in introducing good books to your kids (or even if you do, but love to have suggestions) then this book is for you!  You can find suggestions for books in the following categories:
  • Picture Books
  • The Golden Age Classics
  • Children's Fiction
  • Fairy Tales and Fantasy
  • History and Biography
  • Spiritual Reading for Children
  • Music, Art, and Nature
Each entry provides a brief summary of the book as well as an appropriate age level.  There is also an appendix in the back with award winners and some of her favorite books. 

This book is available for $17.00 from Apologia.  You can even check out a sample chapter and the table of contents.  This is my last review for the year, and honestly, I think this is a case of saving the best for last.  Out of all the things I have reviewed this year--and there has been some great stuff--I think that I will probably glean the most value from this book. 

If you would like to see what my fellow crewmates are saying about Read for the Heart, check out there reviews here.

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I was provided a free copy of this product for my honest evaluation. I was given no other compensation for this review.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Go Trybe--TOS Review

As a homeschooling mom, physical fitness has definitely been a concern of mine.  Amélie doesn't have an official "Physical Education" class, nor does she have "recess" time.  I put "Physical Education" and "recess" in quotes, because while those are not official parts of our homeschool day, we try to spend a lot of time outside playing or walking our dogs, and she has had PE time with some of the homeschool-related activities we have done this year.  Even with those activities, however, I have wondered if that time is enough.  I was excited to try Go Trybe, because I thought this might be a nice supplemental activity to the exercise-related activities she does on a day-to-day basis.

I have to admit that when I initially looked at the program, I wasn't sure how interested Amélie would be.  It is not that I thought that the program was low-quality; in fact, I was impressed with its depth and span of activities.  However, we got this membership right on the cusp of Spring, and I figured she would rather spend her time outside than in front of the computer doing workouts.  Instead, I found that while she still spend plenty of time outside playing, she chose to use some of her free time doing Go Trybe fitness videos.  She truly loves them, and I have honestly considered joining her. :) 

The energy and "fun" level in the Go-Trybe videos are wonderful.  Kids can scroll through several options for warm-up, cardio, strength, and flexibility videos that they can then save to go back to later if they want to.  Amélie saved some videos, but she usually enjoyed making up new sequences of workout videos each time she logged on for some variety.  The videos include a fitness instructor as well as kids doing the exercises.  The fitness instructors are energetic and knowledgeable, and they also include other learning aspects in with their exercises.  For example, on some videos the instructor counts the exercises by counting by 5's, and another video counts in Spanish.  I like this multi-learning approach.

In addition to the workout videos, students can learn nutrition information as well as receive motivational inspiration from athletes and other "fit" stars.  We used this aspect a bit, but Amélie enjoyed the fitness videos the most.  She also enjoyed earning points to dress up her avatar.  With each video you watch or nutritional quiz you take, students can earn points to change the outfits of their avatar.  I don't know that a new outfit for my avatar would motivate me, but it certainly seemed to motivate my 7-year-old.  :)

Right now, Go Trybe is running a great deal.  You can try out Go Trybe free for a day by clicking this link.  If you decide to stick with the program, you can get a year's subscription for $19.95, which I think is a great deal.  Personally, I think this program would be great especially during the winter months, and I think that once cool weather hits again, I will renew my subscription so that Amélie can have a fun, heart-pumping exercise program to do during those days we are stuck inside. 

Take a peek at what my fellow crewmates are saying about Go Trybe here

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I was provided a free subscription of this product for my honest evaluation. I was given no other compensation for this review.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Yesterday's Classics--TOS Review

You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be—
I had a mother who read to me.
—Strickland Gillilan

This quote is listed at the top of Yesterday's Classics website, and I must say these words strike at the heart of my beliefs about reading to my kids and my own memories of my mom reading to me.  I was excited, then, for the opportunity to review the e-book collection of Yesterday's Classics, because I want to expose my kids to as many good books as possible, and here was an opportunity to download 225 of these wonderful books!  I could hardly believe my good fortune!  I don't have room in my house for 225 more books, so I was thrilled to download them to my Kindle. 

Yesterday's Classics is a company dedicated to offering quality, literary works that may be out-of-print or hard to find at a bookstore or even a library.  These books are well-written and engaging, and as their website states, they strive to "incorporate text of high literary quality, use story to engage the reader, cultivate the moral imagination, awaken an interest in the out-of-doors, furnish heroes worthy of emulation, and stimulate powers of observation." 

I was incredibly impressed with this company because their beliefs about books match my own, and if they match your ideas of what good books are as well, then I think that you should check out this company!

Here is what you can get:

You can download all 225 books in either Kindle of ePub format.  These books are in 22 different genres, including Children of the World, Ancient Greece, Science, Fairy Tales, and Shakespeare.  If you were to download all of these books onto your Kindle or other reading device individually, it would cost you over $600.  However, now through May 31st, you can download all 225 books for $99.95.  If you want to try out this program, you can even download a free copy of The Dutch Twins by Lucy Fitch. 

I do know that you can find some of these books online for free, but based on all of the other books available in this collection, that would not deter me from purchasing these books.  Also, I have to include the disclaimer that I am head-over-heels in love with "real" books, and merely have a platonic relationship with e-books.  Still, I believe that e-books can greatly contribute to the quality of one's library.  And sometimes, they just make life easier.  We are leaving for a camping trip today, and since Amélie has been reading, on average, a book a day, it is going to be a lot easier to let her read some of those books on my Kindle rather than loading our already weighted-down van down with her (and admittedly, my) books!  ;)

Take a peek at what my fellow crewmates are saying about Yesterday's Classics here.

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I was provided a copy of this product for my honest evaluation. I was given no other compensation for this review.