November 25, 2015

Ten Gifts Under $25 for the Star Wars Fan

It's that time of year. The time when the sounds of the light sabers, the Imperial March, adorable robot whistles, and "May the Force be with you!" fill the air! Yep, the newest installment of the Star Wars movie franchise is around the corner and the atmosphere is fandom filled to be sure! If you are looking for gifts for that Star Wars fan in your life, here is a collection that I have put together sure to bring a smile to their face--and they are all $25 or less!!
10 Star Wars Gifts Under $25

The links on this blog and in the posts may be affiliate links
Please see my disclosure policy for full details and thank you for your support!

Star Wars Classic Peel and Stick Wall Decals

Admit it. These are cool. And talk about easy to use for decorating a room! Whether for a bedroom or office, these decals are sure to put your wookie into a good mood! There are 31 decals in the set AND it's a USA made product!

Star Wars Silicone Ice Tray-Set of 6

Cookies, candies, soaps, crayons and even just basic ice. You could make them all with these silicone trays! The set of six trays comes with one tray each of: Darth Vader, Stormtrooper, Millenium Falcon, X-Wing Fighter, R2-D2 and Han Solo Carbiner. Seriously. Who WOULDN'T want to float the Millenium Falcon in their glass? 

Playskool Mr. Potato Head Star Wars: Darth Tater Toy

The perfect gift for the younger Star Wars fan (okay, who am I kidding? ANY fan!) is this adorable Mr. Potato Head that is garbed with Darth Vader's attire. Wouldn't this be fun to have on your shelf at work? Prefer to avoid the dark side or go for a different character? Then make sure you check out Luke Frywalker, Spudtrooper, and Mr. Potato Head R2D2!

Star Wars Yoda Golf Club Driver Head Cover

Got someone who loves golf and Star Wars? Why not let them add this darling little Yoda to their golf bag?! It's sure to start a conversation out on the course! Yoda may remind them of this darling catch phrase as they line up their ball: "Try not. Do or do not. There is no try." 

Star Wars Episode 7 The Force Awakens Backpack and Blanket

What school-aged Star Wars fan wouldn't enjoy this delightful bundle? A backpack, cup, and fleece blanket is sure to bring a smile to the face of your young Jedi! 

LEGO Star Wars Stormtrooper Figurine Alarm Clock

Wake up your sleepy Jedi or Resistance Fighter with this Stormtrooper alarm clock. The clock features a digital, lighted display and alarm clock. The snooze and backlight functions are activated by pushing down on the minifigures head. At 8" it's perfect for the shelf or bedside table! You could also go for a Yoda or Darth Vader version too!

Battleship: Star Wars Edition Game

I always loved playing Battleship when I was younger--I still do! Here is the latest Star Wars Edition for your game night! It has a portable storage case and you can choose to play as the light side or the dark side. It also includes ships from Star Wars: The Force Awakens!

RISK: Star Wars Edition Game

When I was little, we always had a crowd of family gathered around the table at Thanksgiving. Around another table, was the group of cousins and uncles ready to conquer the world in their annual RISK challenge. If you love the game, you might consider taking it to the next level of "world domination" with this Star Wars edition! Available with three theaters of combat, you can play it as two players or two teams--choosing to be either the light side or the dark side!

Star Wars Darth Vader Talking Money Bank

Seriously. It looks cool, and when you put money in it, you activate the trademark breathing sound effect. Totally cool! Stands 5" tall, so it's perfect for on top of a dresser or shelf. 

Star Wars Character Apron

May the Force be with You as you create a meal for your family! These Star Wars Character Aprons are very fun, and are sure to be a conversation starter the next time you invite friends over for a cookout! Cotton and Machine Washable. Available in Boba Fett, Hans Solo, Darth Vader, C-3PO, Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker X-Wing Pilot, Stormtrooper and Yoda.

I hope that gives you an idea on some good inexpensive ideas for gifts perfect for the Star Wars fan in your life---even if it's you!

**As of the publishing of this post, all the above items were $25 or less. Price is obviously subject to change. Please let me know if you discover it is no longer available for under $25!

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November 24, 2015

Fresh from the Bookshelf: A Respectable Actress by Dorothy Love {Book Review}

A famous and beautiful actress fighting to uphold her un-spotted reputation after unjustly being accused of murder. A widowed lawyer trying to save his family plantation, who is hired to defend her. Throw in the Georgia low-country and the beautiful islands near Savannah set in the late 1800's and you have a making for a beautiful romantic mystery in the book A Respectable Actress by Dorothy Love.

The links on this blog and in the posts may be affiliate links
Please see my disclosure policy for full details and thank you for your support!

A Respectable Actress by Dorothy Love, is a book set in the 19th-century post civil-war era about India Hartley, a famous and beautiful actress, and Philip Sinclair, a widowed lawyer--the best one in Savannah, GA. Philip and India meet after India is falsely accused of murdering her co-star during their stage production. One of her loyal benefactors, pays for India to be defended by Philip. Philip agrees because of the potential clients he will reap from a successful defense in this highly publicized case...and he needs the money since he's trying to pump life into his family's worn down plantation on St. Simon's Island. 

In order to protect India from the mobs of people trying to get her in town, Philip gets the judge to let him take India home with him until her trial date. What follows is a rich story of mystery, lost loves, and oh so many secrets. Secrets which when revealed could very well hold the key to India's freedom.

What Are My Thoughts?

At first, I wasn't sure how I would like it. It didn't sound highly thrilling, and Dorothy Love isn't an author I am very familiar with. But I adore St. Simon's Island and the Georgia low country and was interested in the location the book takes place in. I was surprised that I really was enthralled from the get-go! There was no lag time to set up the story--something that makes my eyes glaze over at times. I liked that the plot started immediately!

I think the plot was interesting and multi-faceted. There was a primary story, but then a background storyline continuing throughout the plot--coming to a climax when both plots join each other! I think India is a good character, though I probably would have enjoyed a bit more about her backstory. It's scattered here and there, but you sort of have to piece it together. The same is true for Phillip. But it doesn't really take away from the story...

I was bummed to learn this book has characters in it from an earlier book The Bracelet by Dorothy Love. I hate reading books out of order...but I don't think it would have made one iota of difference in the story because they weren't even really supporting characters in this book. (But it did make me want to make sure I snag The Bracelet so I can read about the characters in more detail.)

Who was my favorite character? India. I thought her story of being an actress in a time when they were considered to be less than respectable was creative. She was spunky and fun. I enjoyed watching her story play out to the very end.

I didn't hate the book. I liked the book. I thought it was a good book. It has suspense and mystery. But, I think it was really just average for me personally. I don't know that I would recommend it to my friends as being a "you have to read this", but if they asked I would tell them it was a good story. Would I read a book by Dorothy Love again? Yes. But I probably won't pick this one up again because I didn't LOVE it.
A Respectable Actress
by Dorothy Love
ISBN #9781401687595
Available on Paperback and Kindle

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November 16, 2015

2015 Schoolhouse Review Crew Blue Ribbon Awards ~ Who Won?

It is hard to believe that I have finished my final review for the 2015 Schoolhouse Review Crew! All in all, I shared THIRTY-SIX product or curriculum reviews this year as part of the team! It was a great experience and our family found many favorites (and some we didn't like) in the products. As is the annual tradition, the entire review crew of over 100 bloggers and their families, voted in 34 different categories to name what their favorite products were in order to award the winning companies a much coveted Blue Ribbon Award. Who won? Did any of my favorite's win? Here is the complete list for you to check out--and I've made side notes regarding the ones that I voted for!

Let's kick it off with LANGUAGE ARTS! 

Most of the ones I voted for won in each category, which tells you how we all thought the products were! If I used it, I linked you to MY review so you can get more information!

Favorite Reading Curriculum: Reading Kingdom

Favorite Writing Curriculum: Institute for Excellence in Writing
**Yep. No brainer here. This writing curriculum was incredible and we absolutely loved using it and continue to use it in our classroom.

Favorite Vocabulary Program: Dynamic Literacy
**Ding ding ding! Another one that I voted for and one we continue to use!

**See? I told you it was a great program...and most of the crew agreed with me!

**This one was a no brainer for everyone. It is just a fabulous program--and this is the second year in a row it won in this category! One of the few products that I actually bought more of after we finished our review product. You can read my more detailed Fix-It! Grammar review from 2014 too.

Favorite Penmanship Program: CursiveLogic
**This was exciting as this is a very new company--so to win the first year is a great accolade! We enjoyed using it.

Favorite Literature Curriculum: Progeny Press
**While I didn't love love this program, I definitely felt it was very well done. I personally voted for YWAM Publishing in this category, because I felt is was even better than Progeny Press for our family.

What about the favorites for HISTORY, SCIENCE, AND MATH? 

We reviewed quite a bit in these categories...who won?

Favorite History Curriculum: Home School in the Woods
**We didn't use the winning curriculum, but I voted for YWAM Publishing again in this category, as I felt the depth of history it provided was phenomenal!

**Yep--We used this one! It was so hard to vote because both of the Heirloom Audio Productions audiodramas were up for nomination! I personally picked With Lee In Virginia as my choice, but only because I couldn't pick them both--and because Little Britches helped me with that one.

Favorite Science Curriculum: Visual Learning Systems
**Woot! This was the one I voted for because it was MY favorite of all we used this year. We are still using this one in our school year.

Favorite Science Supplement: Ann McCallum Books: Eat Your Science Homework

Favorite Math Curriculum: CTC Math
**We did not use CTC Math this year...but we reviewed it last year and we LOVED IT! It was another product that I actually purchased after our review subscription was over. We are using it as our math core. This is the second year in a row that CTC Math claimed this award for this category!

Favorite Math Supplement: SimplyFun

What about the extras? The products for BIBLE, FINE ARTS, and FOREIGN LANGUAGE?

Favorite Christian Education Curriculum: Grapevine Studies
**Ding ding ding! Here was another one that I voted for and we are continuing to use!

Favorite Christian Education Supplement: Brinkman Adventures

Favorite Foreign Language Curriculum: Middlebury Interactive Language
**We did not use this program this year, but we had experience with it last year

Favorite Fine Arts ProductMaestro Classics
**I voted for ARTistic Pursuits because I just love their art books...but Maestro Classics is a definitely close second!

Favorite Elective Curriculum: Apologia Educational Ministries: Field Trip Journal

Favorite Audio Drama: Brinkman Adventures

Favorite Video:
**Absolutely! No contest here...they were fantastic! We reviewed Metamorphosis/Flight and Living Waters and loved them all!

The winners of the generic GRADE LEVEL products:

Favorite Preschool Product: La La Logic
**Totally deserving of this! My youngest adores being able to do La La Logic and I love having a critical thinking program for his age level for him to work on!

Favorite Elementary Product: Star Toaster
**While not the one I voted for (I can't remember what I DID vote for. LOL) this was a program that a lot of the crew's children enjoyed!

Favorite Middle School Product: The Critical Thinking Co
**Not a surprise. I love our The Critical Thinking Co. product!

Favorite High School Product: Writing with Sharon Watson

Favorite College or College-Prep Product: Freedom Project Education

Favorite Parent Product: Koru Naturals
**Totally deserving! I reviewed their products twice: A shampoo/conditioner set, and a skin care cream, cleanser and toner set!

**Totally!!! I love love love love this product!

These are the ABSOLUTE BEST OF EVERYTHING winners! 

They were so hard to vote on! I changed my mind several times!

Best Resource I Didn't Know I Needed: Homeschool Planet
**I picked something else--I think I picked The Critical Thinking Co. because I was just blown away by how great this product was and how it helped us.

Best Online Resource: Super Teacher Worksheets
**I think I picked this one as well. I just know that it was fabulous and I loved it.

Best e-Product: Home School in the Woods
**I think I picked Grapevine Studies for this one. It was one of the main ones that we continued to do in our curriculum of all the e-Products we reviewed.

Just for Fun: USAopoly
**The boys sure loved these games!

Kids' Choice: La La Logic
**I let Little Britches vote for this one...He picked Standard Deviants Accelerate as his personal favorite.

Teens' Choice: YWAM Publishing

All Around Crew Favorite: Institute for Excellence in Writing
**This was the most difficult to vote on. I had to pick from ALL the companies for the whole year!! So I just tried to think which company scored more of my votes than any other, as well as what company had the biggest impact on our curriculum for the year. Institute for Excellence in Writing was my pick hands down. They revolutionized our Language Arts in Spelling, Writing AND Grammar!


So there you have it! Have you experienced all the winners in your home yet? Do you see any new companies that you need to check out? It's always fun to explore these lists because they are being voted on by over 100 different families!

Later this week, I'm going to do a post where I share my top 10 most favorite products I reviewed this year as part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew--It will be fun to check them out again!

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November 12, 2015

Grapevine Studies: Stick Figure Through the Bible {Curriculum Review}

I love to work through bible studies with my boys to get them familiar with God's word. I have tried a lot of different materials, and sometimes it is hard to find something that allows me to do age appropriate lessons all at once, with their 4 year age difference. I prefer open-and-go programs if I can find them. My boys love adding art/drawing to any of their subjects, but that's a bit difficult at times with the bible lessons. Needless to say, I was very interested in giving Grapevine Studies a try and eagerly anticipated a successful review of Old Testament 1: Level 2 Creation to Jacob for Little Britches and the Old Testament 1: Level 1 Creation to Jacob traceable version for Baby Britches, with the teacher book for myself.
Grapevine Studies: Bible Curriculum Review

Product Summary

Grapevine Studies is a leading Bible method and curriculum for teachers desiring to teach biblical studies with simple, practical, and easy to implement studies for children of all ages. Their method for the early students of "Hear-Draw-Review" ensures an understanding of the stories even from a pre-school age. As the child gets older, the program switches to a Read-Draw-Review approach to encourage them to dive into the Bible themselves. One thing that sets the curriculum apart is the use of Stick Figures to help share the Bible stories! With simple drawings, even the youngest biblical scholar can document the stories they are learning! All of the products are available as printed or digital books.

The company has this great graphic to give you an idea on how the program changes in difficulty with each level...

Grapevine Studies offers the following curriculum:
*Biblical Feasts and Holy Days
*Birth of Jesus
*New Testament Overview (7 units)
--John to the Apostles
--Birth of John to Jesus' Ministry
--Jesus' Ministry
--Jesus' Ministry to His Trials
--Jesus' Last Week
--The Cross to the Upper Room
--Acts to Revelation
*New Testament Catechism
*Old Testament Overview (8 units)
--Creation to Babel
--Creation to Jacob
--Abraham to the Tabernacle
--Joseph to the Promised Land
--The Twelve Spies to Solomon
--The Jordan River to the Temple
--The Temple to Nehemiah
--The Prophets to Nehemiah
*Old Testament Catechism
*The Ressurection
*Timelines (6 different units)
*Moses and the Exodus

Each unit contains from 9 to 14 weekly lessons which are laid out for you in a very easy to each manner. In fact, the company provides you instruction on How To Teach their program to make it even easier for you to get started. You can also visit their website to figure out which level to start with!

There are several levels within each unit which can be purchased to match the age range and ability of your child:

Traceables (Age 3-5)
Beginners (Age 5-7)
Level 1 (Age 6-8)
Level 2 (Age 8-10)
Level 3 (Age 10-13)
Level 4 (Age 13+)
Multi-Level (Age 7+)

We were given the digital downloadable curriculum for Old Testament 1: Level 2 Creation to Jacob, as well as the traceable version of Old Testament 1: Level 1 Creation to Jacob, and the accompanying teacher book. All were downloadable e-Books.

How Did We Use the Product?

Because this was a digital product, I was able to access it right away with a simple download to my laptop. It came in four parts clearly labelled in the file name. I was expecting the Level 2 version, but was pleasantly surprised to see I also was given the Level 1 which allowed me to compare them. After looking at both, Level 2 was definitely the better choice for Little Britches (Age 9). It had more difficult memory work, included biblical memory facts, and allowed for him to do four drawings per page. My teacher book was designed for both Level 1 and Level 2 which was perfect, since I had the Level 1 traceable version for Baby Britches.

To begin, I printed off the pages of my teacher manual, hole punched them and put them into a binder for easy reference. I recommend doing this in COLOR as there is a system to the colors used on the stick figure drawings, which is shown in your teacher notes. Next, I printed out the first two lessons in both the traceable (for Baby Britches) and Level 2 (for Little Britches), and also hole punched them.

The next step was simply reading through the great introduction to the program and getting a feel for what was going to be going on. It is set up for the following schedule:
 Daily Schedule                                                Weekly Schedule  
 Day 1: Timeline Review  Page                         Timeline Review  Page (5 -10 minutes)    
 Day 2: Lesson page 1                                      Lesson Pages 1 and 2 (30-35 minutes)    
 Day 3: Lesson page 2                                      Student Drawing Page (5-15 minutes)    
 Day 4: Student Drawing Page

I really liked that this was set up for a 4 day a week program as that is how we homeschool, so it was going to be easy to plug right into our schedule. I also appreciated the approximate time to allow in general for each day's work. I quickly noticed I could plug it into our daily bible study time at the beginning of each school day.

Each curriculum shares the supplies needed to teach the program--it's pretty simple:
Student: Bible, Colored Pencils, Student or Traceable Book
Teacher: Bible, Bible Dictionary, Dry Erase Board & Markers (8 colors), and the Teacher Book

I have both a wall sized dry erase board and lap sized dry erase boards, as well as quite a stash of dry erase markers, so I was set to get going!

The teacher book shares notes on how to go about teaching the curriculum, as well as little tips to remember. It describes what each portion of the lesson is for and how it can be done. It also gives you visuals of what the child's completed work will/should look like in every day's lesson.

It was time to get started. I glanced at the first lesson (the timeline) and noticed that it was set up to give the information, and then tell/show the students what to draw:

Sample from my teacher notes--gives the read aloud, the discussion, and then the drawing
This method is continued throughout the curriculum for the lesson. After the first week is over, the week starts with a review over the Timeline thus far and memory work practice. Day 2 is the beginning of the lesson where the first illustrations are made. Day 3 is a continuation of the lesson AND then the question review over the lesson. Day 4 is the day for remembering what was learned with the creating of a lesson card (we used 5x7 cards), picking a favorite drawing for the week's lesson for the student drawing page, and then reciting the week's memory verse/bible fact.

I used both the dry erase boards (when we weren't in our classroom) and the white board for this and found they both worked successfully. A simple drawing pad would work just as well!

Here are some pictures from our time with this curriculum:
Timeline on the white board

Timeline on the lap white board
Working on the traceable version

Working on a Level 2 version

Working on his timeline (traceable)

Little Britches not so simple version of his timeline
The boys event cards for Lesson 3: Picture on the front and their summary on the back
As of today we are in finishing Lesson 5 (Noah and the Flood). We have been working on these over the last few weeks--roughly 4 days a week.

What Are Our Thoughts About This Product?

Little Britches: "I like this! It's fun to draw the pictures after mommy reads."

Baby Britches: "I like using my colored pencils and markers!"


I found that this program was very easy to implement in my schedule. It matches the time frame pretty well, though I found my boys were able to do the drawings pretty quickly. A couple weeks we did the timeline review and the first day of lesson on the same day if they finished the timeline super fast and wanted to do more.

I enjoyed doing the stick figures and found they were easy for both boys to replicate--though they even typically added on to the drawings. We never had issues with this curriculum, as the boys both enjoyed working on it.

I liked how each color of the markers seemed to represent something. I read about the coordinating of the eight colors picked on the website FAQ and that helped make sure I lined up the colors the same throughout the curriculum.

The only real revision I made was that I didn't refer to the triangle as being God the trinity as that's not with what our family believes, but as they have no idea that the triangle represents the trinity in mainstream Christianity symbolism, I didn't bother to change the shape. I simply said God or the God-head.

We chose not to do the looking up the vocabulary words unless the boys didn't know what they meant or I felt it was important.

I enjoyed making the event cards for each lesson and it was a great way to see how much the boys remembered from the lesson.

The memory verses are well chosen and the boys had no problems learning them. I liked that each of them were a main point or theme of each of the lessons.

I loved how each week began by reviewing the timeline thus far, and the memory verses learned to date. This was a great way to keep the information fresh in their minds. As we learned and reviewed the verses, I had the boys write them out--Little Britches wrote them out in cursive, and Baby Britches copied a phrase for letter practice.

Each of the units sells for about $28 ($18 for Teacher e-Book, $10 for Student e-Book) which may be a bit steep for my budget if I want to continue to do the curriculum for future units; however, it's a 10-14 week curriculum, so it's going to provide lessons over a few months. It is really a very good program and reusable if you go with the digital version, which makes the cost not as difficult to swallow!

I really don't have anything seriously negative to say about the program, because it has worked well for us so far! I really like the idea of using this curriculum for the Old Testament studies as there is a lot to be covered and these units seem to break it down very well.

Will we continue to use this curriculum?
Yes! I plan on using it to completion and even possibly snagging the next one in the series.

Would I Recommend The Product?

Yes, I would! I think that if you are looking for a program that does the "hard work" for you by laying out the stories in small pieces for easy retention, this is perfect! If you want a program that incorporates memory work, this is a great one! If you want it to be fairly open-and-go, this is it! If you want to do one unit with age appropriate work for each child, this would be something to check out!

The only negative I foresee, is that someone might have a problem with affording the price--but if you want to do this with more than one child, this really is the way to go with the printable option!

Want to Know More?

We were given the Old Testament 1: Level 2 Creation to Jacob, as well as the Old Testament 1: Level 1 Creation to Jacob traceable and teachers book from Grapevine Studies. You have seen how much we have enjoyed using this program--but why don't you check out what the rest of my crew members did with their studies?!
Grapevine Studies Review
Want to stay up to date on the latest releases and sales from Grapevine Studies? Make sure you get connected on these social media outlets.

@Grapevine Studies

We will continue to enjoy this program as we study the great bible stories of the Old Testament! I like watching them sketch out the stories during church and hearing them say their memory verses. I have always heard about Grapevine Studies and am glad I had a chance to experience them for myself!
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November 9, 2015

The Basics of Critical Thinking {Product Review}

Critical thinking is something that society in general needs to work on, and something that is high on my list of priorities in regards to teaching my children. One of the top manufactures of products to help teach critical thinking is The Critical Thinking Co. I am always trying to find ways to get Little Britches to slow down and think more clearly--thus I was very eager to review The Basics of Critical Thinking by The Critical Thinking Co. to see if it was all it was rated to be!
Basics of Critical Thinking ~ Product Review

Product Information

The Critical Thinking Co. is a top-selling product for educators everywhere offering up award-winning products to help students achieve better academic results, with exercises to sharpen the mind! Offering up resources for reading, writing, science, math, and history, the products are easy-to-use, fun, and are guaranteed to produce better grades and higher test scores! The materials are geared for ages Toddler to high school, so there is something for every age!

Here are a few of the products that they offer:
*Fun-Time Phonics!  (Gr. PreK-2)
*Surfing the Net: Science  (Gr. 3-6)
*The Basics of Critical Thinking  (Gr. 4-9)
*U. S. History Detective, Book 1  (Gr. 8-12+)
*Practical Critical Thinking and Teacher Manual (Gr. 9-12+)

We were given The Basics of Critical Thinking to use with Little Britches (age 9).

How Did We Use This Product?

We immediately jumped in with using our book when it arrived. It is a consumable workbook that is broken up into lessons—each roughly 3-5 pages long depending on the practice problems. The set up is definitely open and go—simply read the lesson and look at the sample problems, then work through the practice problems. Though Little Britches was definitely capable of working through this on his own, I really wanted to go through the concepts with him to make sure he understood them. I decided to incorporate it into what I call our non-core morning work.

Before we began each day, I took a minute to look through the lesson myself to see what was being asked, so I could be ready for any questions he might have. It was very straight forward and I never had any problems understanding what was being asked, which made it very easy for me to work through with him.

We chose to work through one lesson/practice problems set per day at about 3 days per week, though the lessons with more practice problems, we spread out over the week.

The topics covered include:
• What Is Critical Thinking?
• Conclusions and Decisions
• Beliefs and Claims
• Finding (Identifying) Evidence
• Evaluating Evidence
• Inferring and Inferences
• Facts and Opinions
• Facts and Probable Truths
• False and Probably False
• Facts, Probably True, and Probably False
• Venn Diagrams
• Logical Connectives
• Advertising
• Agreements and Contracts
• Common Errors in Reasoning
• Arguments
• Valid and Invalid Arguments
• Fallacies
• Analogy Argument

Here are some photos of our work in the book:
Evidence vs. Inference

Figuring out an answer, based on rating the strength of the evidence

Teaching about truth in advertising
Learning about the difference in evidence and STRONG evidence
Teaching about emotional words to show faulty reasoning
As of this post, we are on Lesson #15 Common Errors in Reasoning (pg 90) 

What Are Our Thoughts on This Product?

I love that this is an open and go product, and that it’s a simple workbook with short and very basic lessons that are easy to understand. I found that all the examples used in the lessons were “real life” which made it immediately applicable. I also greatly appreciated having the answer key in the back, where I could verify an answer if I wasn’t sure of it myself. I appreciated that the book broke down some very advanced concepts into bite sized pieces that could be understood by Little Britches.

I was very happy to see that he “got” the concepts being taught, as displayed by a discussion we had while completing other work. In this example, he was working through a story and came to a point where the main character shot a man with his bow and arrow and ran away after hearing the man fall down with a cry after being hit. The main character reveals that he’s killed a man, however, Little Britches analyzed the story more and told me that the main character made an “inference” based on “evidence”. Little Britches then determined that really there wasn’t enough evidence to prove the character's inference as being true at this point. I was thoroughly impressed by the application of the lessons we had studied! 

As a side note, some of these lessons are concepts I struggled with in college Introduction to Logic. I wish my professor had broken down some of our lessons that well! I “re-learned” a few of them with this book, and understood them MUCH better this go around. I actually think that an adult could work through this book on their own and have a very good grasp of basic logic and critical thinking principles.

Little Britches didn’t object to the work—especially if it wasn’t going to involve a lot of writing (a few of them required a sentence or two), and he was very proud of himself when he got his problems correct (which he did 95% of the time).

I think one of my most favorite lessons we did was on advertising. I loved how the child had to analyze the claim of the advertisement, and then decide whether or not there was strong enough evidence to support the conclusion that was given. I think this is extremely valuable and possibly one of the most helpful lessons from the book in regards to future application.

Will we continue to use this product?
Absolutely! I plan on finishing the book, and then checking out what other books the company has to offer as I have been very impressed by this one.

Would I Recommend This Product?

Yes! This book was a great introduction to the basics of critical thinking and logic. The reading level was on par for the grade level (4th+) and believe the whole book was as well. If you want to start your child into simple and basic critical thinking exercises that are immediately applicable to their life, I highly recommend this book! 

Want to Know More?

We have been enjoying the results from using The Basics of Critical Thinking ($22.99) from The Critical Thinking Co. There were a few other products reviewed by our crew, so make sure you check out the rest of the team!
The Critical Thinking Company Review
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I am so thankful for this product and how it has helped me with getting Little Britches to think more carefully about the decisions he's making, and the information he is given. I look forward to exploring more of the products offered by The Critical Thinking Co. in the very near future!
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November 8, 2015

Fresh From the Bookshelf~ Beanstalk: The Measure of a Giant {Children's Book Review}

I am a huge proponent of teaching children how their math and science studies are relevant to the "real world". Because of this, I looked forward to reviewing the book Beanstalk: The Measure of a Giant from Ann McCallum Books, a math adventure in a well known fairy tale. I hoped that the story would be catchy enough for Little Britches to enjoy, and for him to be able to learn a new math concept in the process!
Beanstalk: The Measure of a Giant (Children's Book Review)
Jack has a giant can a 4-foot boy and a 20-foot giant boy ever really be friends? Beanstalk: The Measure of a Giant by Ann McCallum is a math adventure to take your child through the beginning concept of ratio. The story follows a boy named Jack who awakens one morning to discover a giant beanstalk growing right by his house! Like the story you are familiar with, this mammoth vine came from magic beans, and naturally Jack decides he needs to explore. Unlike the story we are used to, Jack discovers a giant...boy! And this boy is sad because he doesn't have anyone to play with or to be his friend.

The rest of the book explores the new friendship between Jack and his giant friend Ray. How will they play together when one is so big and the other so small? Can they play hoopball? Checkers? How will they make a ladder big enough for the giant to come down to visit Jack? This book uses these scenarios to introduce the concept of ratio to your child. In each of the scenarios, the author uses real calculations for solving the problems, allowing your child to see math in action in the "real world".

Because this book is a storybook, I gave it to Little Britches to read on his own. He easily read it, and then he read it again, to enjoy the illustrations and story more thoroughly. After reading it, we discussed the concept being taught and evaluated times when we would need to use ratios in our daily life. Having a brother 4 years younger, makes this pretty easy to do, as he talked about ways to make games fair (like the story) for he and Baby Britches to play.

Showing Jack using ratio to calculate a beanstalk height
He thought the story was cute, but said it wasn’t very exciting. He said that it made the math concept of ratios easy to understand because it spelled it out very simply for him. His favorite part was Jack making the checkers to play with.

I think books where math is introduced in a “real world” concept is a great way to show children how math is all around us. I took Little Britches to a museum with a miniatures exhibit 2 years ago, and we recalled the experience after reading this book. We spoke about how they would use the concept to ratio in every aspect of creating a miniature world.

I look forward to pulling this book back out when we touch on ratios in our math curriculum later this year.

The only thing that I would wish was included in this book, is maybe a link to where you could print off your child coordinating practice problems based on the story. I think that would be a great extra. Or even just have it as an extra page or two in the back of the book.

About the Product and Author

Ann McCallum is the author behind Ann McCallum Books--a math teacher who is inspired to share education related adventures through reading and other fun activities--like eating! One of her newest series is the Eat Your...Homework where she explores concepts of math, science, and even U.S. History while cooking! Here is a list of the books available:

These books are easily designed to be used alone, or you could use them as supplements to your studies in school.

Want to Know More?

We enjoyed reading Beanstalk: The Measure of a Giant by Ann McCallum Books. There were several other Ann McCallum books shared with our review team, so make sure you visit our anchor post to check out the full line of product we reviewed!
Ann McCallum Books Review

Make sure you check out Ann McCallum's Facebook page to stay up to date on her latest releases!

I look forward to checking out some of the other books by Ann McCallum Books, especially the Eat Your Homework series--and I encourage you to consider adding them to your collection!
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