Saturday, October 30, 2010

2010-2011 Secondary Schoolhouse Planner

The Old Schoolhouse Store (c) has their new student planners out!! They are amazing.

The Student planners retails at US$9.95

I'm always on the lookout for that something to make life easier, more organised, less chaotic.... you get the picture. I received a copy of the planner a couple of weeks ago to review and needless to say I really like it.

So what's so amazing about this planner?

The planner came with a student pack as well as a parent pack.

The parent pack gives some advice on how to manage things around the house a bit easier, such as using sticky notes, creating stations or work boxes for specific subjects and my favourite idea is the 'pre-flight' checklist in the car - creating a checklist for ballet / piano... Check that you've got all the items in the car / bag BEFORE you pull off.  My daughter and I are making one for ballet as she has two different classes on one day.

The other part of the parent pack is "Sowing Servant Hearts".

Now to the student calendar.... over 200 pages of it!

Sounds scary? It does not need to be : )  The calendar is great in that you only print out the pages you need or want to use.

There are numerous lists and forms to help you with time management, planning and basic information.

The planner begins with an article on time management and one on writing. The time management article has step by step ideas in helping you and your student to plan well for the day. I'm going to get my daughter to tweak hers as I reorganise my plans too : )

The Planner has monthly Calendars from September '10 untill August 2011.

Some of the planner can be filled out on file and then printed out.

The forms is what we are finding really great. The weekly planning schedule gets done when I do mine for the following week. Although Lydia has kept close to my schedule I want to give her a little bit of flexibility and allow her to decide when she wants to do her subjects for the next week. We'll see how she goes.

I like the End-of-Year Evaluation Form in the calendar and will definitely use this at the end of this term (term 4 in NZ). I think that I'll give this to both the kids and I'll fill one out too. We can then compare notes and plan better for next year.

Other forms include reading, video and field trip logs. Nature journals, Lined pages for writing practice and many, many more. It has a place for writing down personal goals, family rules and important contact information.

The Calendar also contains lists of the Miracles, Parables and Time-line of Jesus, Writing prompts, Good books to read and basic Info on the 8 planets; PLUS a table to help with measurement conversions, which is helpful when living in NZ and using US recipes. ; )

We've enjoyed using this calendar so far and has so much more to get out of it.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

To foster or to foster - significant experiences

A few years ago Blayne and I attended a training course at Open Home Foundation. We were going to be foster parents. 

To foster means:

1. to promote the growth or development of
2. to bring up (a child, etc.); rear
3. to cherish (a plan, hope, etc.) in one's mind

Over the last few years we've had 4 foster kids living in our home at various times for various lengths. We fall in love with these kids and continue to pray for them when they leave. We've also had plenty family living with us : )

So at the moment our house is quite full and we don't have extra room for more foster kids ... so how do we then continue on our 'foster journey'? God had the answer : ) 

A couple of months ago OHF sent an e-mail asking if there were families who could spend some time away from their own homes to be respite foster parents in a family home. This home exists mainly for sibling groups who wait for a more permanent placement. We decided to e-mail and say that we can do ti for a few days...

It's been a week now since we've come home from the foster house and we have still so much to process.

When asked how our week was the answer is complex and long:

"It was exhausting and busy, heart-wrenching and completely out of our comfort zones, it was phenomenal and amazing, it was a relying-on-God-on-a-whole-new-level-living-under-His-grace-alone was utterly one of the most significant experiences of our lives!"

So many questions and thoughts run through your mind during these times of interacting with children who are so desperate for love and acceptance. Children who are so desperate in need of being told that they are ok, that they matter. It is easy for anger to grip your heart and mind and to wish all sorts of plagues on those who SHOULD be the ones to love, hold and encourage these precious treasures of God. It is heart-wrenching to think of the things they've had to endure in their short lives. 

Why is not a question worth asking because it is one without an answer. 

How is a better question: 

How can we be involved?
How do we love these kids while we are with them?
How do we keep our own sanity?  ; )
How do we honour God in this?
How do we put 'us' aside and focus on others?
How do we stay true to our own families and be involved in others' lives? 

There are many more 'How' questions, but these questions have answers if we take the time to reflect on them.

So what was it like?

I like knowing what I'm getting myself into before I get myself into it, but with these things you just don't know. We had to be in the house on Sunday. Friday prior I received a phone call to say there will be 6 kids in the house, ages 1 - 14. We have 2 under 10!  Lord, help please!

Teenagers 'scare' me. Maybe it's because we don't have teenagers yet, but it is not my natural gifting dealing with these special blessings. But God is good and His grace abound and I fell in love with two amazing kids. Blayne was AMAZING with the teens.

Cooking for an army:
I had to learn to cook for a crowd! ... or so it felt : )  I am used to cook for my family of 5. To prepare 3 square meals plus snacks a day for about 10 people was ... well, out of my comfort zone. Luckily we had help during the day we managed to do it without starving anyone!

Crowd control:
Cooking is one thing, but 'controlling' everyone DURING a meal .... well.... it was an experience we can add to the CV... and it will gain us brownie points I'm sure : )

HUH? yawn....

Most days we had two amazing support workers to help out where needed. These women are amazing and without them we would have most likely fallen over completely!! Thank you ladies!!

Night time chats:
At night we tried to spend some time with the older kids. Blayne initiated it. It started out slowly, but by the end of the week it was something I looked forward to and enjoyed. It is amazing how people respond and change when you treat them with respect and dignity!  

Tears and Fears for their tomorrow:
It is difficult to find placement for children who cannot live with their own families - 
even if it's only one child...

Lack of resources
Lack of space
Lack of interest
... amongst others I'm sure

If it is hard to find a placement for one child, it is most difficult to find placements for sibling groups!

During our time in the house their was a sibling group of 3 kids and one of 2 kids. Where will these kids go? Who will open their homes to them? Will they need to be split up because there is no-one who will take all the siblings? 

This rabbit hole is deep and at times it makes me want to scream!
I want to scream because I can't fix it.
I want to scream because I don't know how it is that parents can do this to their own kids!
I want to scream because separating these siblings is wrong! 
I want to scream because there are many more kids who will come into this house and who will need somewhere else to live.
I want to scream because some placements fail and these kids go from one home to another and each time their grip on hope slips a little bit more.
I want to scream because many people don't care or choose to ignore it.
I can go on and on because negativity spirals down and fast.


Starfish (read HOPE):
Screaming all the time wont change the situation of course. 
Here is a story that coupled with our faith in God keeps me from screaming [too often]. 

The Starfish Story

Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.

One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.

He came closer still and called out "Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?"

The young man paused, looked up, and replied "Throwing starfish into the ocean."

"I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?" asked the somewhat startled wise man.

To this, the young man replied, "The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them in, they'll die."

Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, "But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can't possibly make a difference!"

At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, "It made a difference for that one.

It is our hope and believe that somehow the little bit that we do makes a difference to 'one starfish'.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

TOS Review - Soli Deo Gloria

Last term we did a Jonah study which the kids thoroughly enjoyed. It was an inductive study done in a very fun way. When we headed towards the end of the study I was wondering what we'll do next. It was during that very week that I was given my next TOS Review to do... Soli Deo Gloria's Pre-Inductive Study in Psalms. I love the heading for the manual ... 

Young Hearts Longing For God

Isn't this what we all want for our children?

This 30-lesson study of the Psalms is aimed at students between the 4th and 8th grade, however it can be 'tweaked' for younger students (which us home educators are good at). 

My mother lives with us and spent most of the holidays with my daughter (nearly 10), so I thought it would be a great opportunity for them to do this together while the rest of our family was looking after a foster home.

So what do you do with this study?

Every day for a week you read the Psalm that is being studied (one Psalm per week). The first Psalm being studied is Psalm 8. The NIV Translation is used for this study. After reading the Psalm you can choose some of the questions / activities to do or you can do them all at the end of the week. I think doing a couple each day keeps it interesting and opens it up for discusion. At the end of the study the student is asked to do a journal entry in a personal journal to reflect on the week's study. 

The basic layout of each page (which contains the Psalm to be studied and the activities) is the same and looks like this:

This is my daughter's journal entry after doing Psalm 8 (Published with her permission):

My daughter enjoyed the variety of activities that went with the Psalm. 

I like that it is flexible and that you can spend a short period of time (for those with short attention span) or a longer time on the questions / activities. This way it doesn't become a chore, but something the kids look forward to doing in the morning. By dividing the questions up over the week it also lends itself to the chance for deeper discussion or even doing something creative around the Psalm. Younger children could draw a picture instead of writing a journal entry in their personal journals.

I am looking forward to continue this study with both my children. (Nearly 10 & 7).

Soli Deo Gloria (Meaning: "Glory to God alone") offers various products other than Bible studies. 

Other products include studies on Map Skills, World War II and The Human Body: God's Amazing Design amongst others. Products can be purchased in Print form or as downloadable pdf files.

You can find these on their Products page which is available HERE. They even offer some free resources over HERE.

You can read HERE what other TOS Crew mates think about this product.

DISCLAIMER: I have received a free downloadable pdf copy of this product for review purposes in exchange for my honest opinion. I did not receive any other compensation.

Monday, October 11, 2010

I've been tagged.

My fellow TOS CrewMate, Marie from 'Our Best Daze' has tagged me in a fun meme. You are given 8 questions to answer and then you need to come up with 8 new questions to tag 8 others.

OK, here goes:

Here are the eight questions from Marie: (check out her answers HERE)

1. How did you decide to Homeschool? My neighbors homeschooled their kids and I marveled at their maturity, respect, confidence and love for learning. When it was time to enroll our first into school the school zones were changed and we could not get our daughter in our school of choice ... God slowly stirred a desire to homeschool in my heart and it snowballed from there.

2. What is something about you most people would be surprised to know? I used to be VERY SHY!!! Really!! No, Really!!!

3. What is your favorite praise and worship song? 'Oh to see the dawn' (aslo known as 'The Power of the Cross) by Stuart Townend.

4. If you had no children and homeschooling wasn’t necessary, what would your dream job be? As I said I used to be very shy, so my desire for public speaking (!!) is a God thing. I would be a full time preacher.

5. What book(s) are you currently reading? The Chronicle of Narnia and, Where Lions Roar at Night (written by Rosie Boom) admittedly I'm reading it to the kids ... Books I'm trying to read are" Growing great Girls" and 7 habits of highly effective people....

6. How has Jesus changed you? He's still working on me regarding patience, but He has increased my confidence and trust in Him. He has softened my heart... like from stone to jelly ....

7. How would you like to be remembered by your children? As someone who was 'real'. Hypocrisy and 'fake' are two things that really tick me, so I hope I will never be called any of those. I'd like to be remembered as someone who served God wholly, kept my word, respected life, honoured and served my family and opened my heart and home to others. I want to be remembered a fun mummy :)

8. How will your children likely remember you? I think I lack in the 'fun' department, but for the most part I think my kids will remember me as someone who loved God and loved people (even though she was a bit grumpy some time); someone who messed up some time but could admit that and apologized. Most assuredly they'd remember me as someone who LOVED chocolate. ;)

OK, so now I'm going to tag the next 8 people....

Now, I've tagged you because I've enjoyed reading your blogs. Please don't feel you have to take part in this if you don't want to. It's supposed to be a fun thing. If you do, please comment on this post with a link to your own.

Our Best Daze
Doxazo Prep
Tumbleweed News
Sister Tipster
The Steward's Steno
Clothesline Musings
Footprints in the Butter
Families Again

with the following questions....(with my own answers)...

1. Which is your favorite psalm? Ps 139

2. What do you want God to say to you at the end of your life? 'Well done, good and faithful servant'.

3. What would you like God NOT to ask of you? 'It used to be 'Go to the mission field'... now I'm not so sure. Although I think taking my kids to a 3rd world country would still be hard to do. Specially if it is really cold!!

4. Do you have an 'alter ego'? Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica.

5. Is there a movie that you would watch over and over again? and of course if yes, what is it? Sad to say I have several.... Dead Poet Society, Pride and Prejudice (BBC version), Prince of Egypt and now Avatar....

6. Who would you love to have met before they died? Anne Sullivan (Helen Keller's tutor).

7. What is your favorite thing to do by yourself? OK, so I now this is maybe a myth for most of us, but IF I had time by myself, I like to listen to worship music and write in my journal.

8. What is a favorite quote of yours? Helen Keller ~ "Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much".


Saturday, October 9, 2010

TOS Review – DigitalFrog International

As part of 'The Old Schoolhouse' Crew we get some of the most amazing products to review. We receive these products for free in exchange for using and reviewing it, providing them with our honest opinion about it. 

When I saw Digital Frog I thought that being in NZ I wouldn't get a copy of it as it is a physical product rather than software or an e-book. I was thrilled though to spot my name on the list of crew members who were chosen to review this product and the very kind ladies at Digital Frog International shipped the DVD all the way from Canada! THANK YOU SO MUCH!!

So you might think that Digital Frog sounds very much like a virtual pet and honestly how educational can that be???  BUT .... here in their own words is an explanation of WHAT DIGITAL FROG is... (drumroll please)...

What is Digital Frog anyway? We’re passionate creators of natural science software. We’re teachers of dissection and anatomy and ecosystems. We’re savers of frogs and inspirers of learners. We’re believers that you can’t care about a world you don’t understand. We’re Digital Frog International.”

As it is holiday time in NZ and our family is spending half of it looking after an emergency foster home with 6 busy kids we've unfortunately not been able to use this product to its full extent, HOWEVER, I am VERY keen to get back into it and continue where we've left off.

The Package:

I received one DVD / CD ROM with 3 digital field trips on it. This can be accessed from the disk or installed onto a Windows as well as Mac operating system.

The field trips are:

The Rainforest
The Wetlands
The Desert

Digital Field Trip.... no need to pack.... (unless you WANT TO), you don't need an umbrella... or mosquito repellant (now that I can live with!)
You can purchase these field trips separately or as an all-in-one product. (See pricing later on).

How wet did we get?

Because of time and the amount of information on the DVD we chose to focus on the Rainforest (and it seems we barely scratched the surface.....well, so to speak because you don't really want to scratch the surface else the disk wont work....)

Our opinion:

D I G I T A L F R O G 

Definitions a-plenty : Nearly every word you will read is well defined. Not only that, but some words even have a sound bite icon and you can hear how it’s pronounced.  

I G I T A L F R O G 

Informative: There is an abundant amount of information on each section. As you go through the field trip you find posts with various information about the plant and animal life in that region. Different concepts are explained in further detail. Animals are discussed in regard to life cycle, habitat, size, food source and where they are found. We have created mind maps around the animals we’ve encountered. Not only do you get what is on the field trip, but when you go into the file you will also find a pdf file with worksheets related to the specific field trip.
You can download a Printable topic summary of the topics that are being discussed in the field trips by following the following link:

D I G I T A L F R O G 

Graphics galore: The graphics on the CD are amazing. There are various pictures of the same animals from different angles. Different types of rainforests are explained with animation to go with it.

D I G I T A L F R O G 

Interesting! The information is all given in such a way that it’s not boring and neither does it ‘talk down’ to the child. Older kids would be able to read it by themselves, but even younger kids (early elementary) would enjoy this when Mum reads it to them. I found it amazing and enjoyed every minute of it.

D I G I T A L F R O G 

Time… flies when you’re having fun. It’s easy for an hour and a bit to fly by when we’ve gone through the next part of the rainforest. It is advisable to take it slow as there is so much amazing information in it.

D I G I T A L F R O G 

Affordable – These field trips can be bought separately at US$60 for a home license or all three at US$125. I think that for the amount of information that is available, the price is not steep. See the full price list for all the products.


Links page: The website has links to various resources related to the field trip series:

D I G I T A L F R O G 

Frogger Club, Frog Blog and FaceBook: you can join the Frogger club for free and get things like extra worksheet, crosswords and video clips. The club is still 'new' so I'm sure that this will expand. Apart from the club, you can follow the FROG blog HERE, Facebook HERE.

D I G I T A L F R O G 

RAINFOREST (Wetlands, Deserts) is the region we focussed on (it was a unanimous decision) and as I mentioned before we all love it! We will camp in the rainforest for a while yet before moving on to the Desert and Wetland areas. I'm sure it will keep us busy for a while. 

D I G I T A L F R O G 

Outstanding video footage. Yes, there are definitions, yes there are animated graphics, yes there are amazing photographs and yes, there are even video clips! 

D I G I T A L F R O G 

Great product! Honestly, do yourself a favor and have a look at the downloadable demo - the 'try-before-you-buy' option! I love when this choice is me it says that they are so certain of the quality of their product that they are happy to make a portion available, knowing people will love it. The demo is available by following this link:

System requirements:

  • Windows 2000, XP, Windows 7 or Vista (32 bit) (some features may not work in the 64 bit version of Vista) 
  • 32 MB of RAM (64 or more recommended)
  • 75 MB of hard drive space for QuickTime
  • Mac OSX 10.3.9 or later
  • 30 MB of available RAM
Other products:

Science Matrix: Cell Structure & Function (All about Cell Biology)
Digital Frog v2.5 (Digital Frog Dissecting)

How to Contact the Frog Ladies:

Digital Frog International, Inc.Trillium Place, 7377 Calfass Road, RR#2
Puslinch, Ontario, Canada N0B 2J0
Phone: (519) 766-1097 Fax: (519) 767-9994
Email: or

I always tell my kids that they should not just believe anything they read... As this is my personal opinion of this product, it will probably be good to see what others think about it. You can view what my fellow Crew Mates think about this product by going HERE:

DISCLAIMER: I have received a free DVD/CD Rom of this product for review purposes in exchange for my honest opinion. I did not receive any other compensation.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

TOS Review: Lanschool - I have the power

Lanschool Review: - I’ve got the power!!  Ha ha ha (creepy laugh)

I have received a free license of this product for review purposes in exchange for my honest opinion. I did not receive any other compensation.
Imagine the fun you can have if you can control your kids’ computers from the comfort of your own computer …(snigger snigger)

What Lanschool is:

Lanschool is a computer software program that once it is installed allows you to see and control what is done on the other computers in your home.
Lanschool v7.4 has two versions. Lanschool (for schools) and Lanschool Home for … well, you guessed it, home use : )  With the home version you can install it on up to 3 ‘student’ computers. For the sake of this review the parent’s computer will be referred to as the “Teacher’s console/computer” and the 3 other computers will be referred to as the “student’s” computers. This is also the wording that is used in the program.
When you get the link to download the software for this product, you also receive a link to a 41 page pdf UESERS file which provides you with a detailed description of how to install, uninstall and use this program.

Lanschool Home comes with two installations, one for the parent’s computer and one for the students’ computer. This installation comes with 3 years of free upgrades which can be done by just running the parents installation files again. If you need / want to, the parent’s installation can be done in secure mode which requires a password to access.

TAKE NOTE:  At the time of this writing, Lanschool v7.5 is available 

You can download a FREE 30 day trial version HERE

LANSCHOOL LITE - Free for Teachers, Librarians, Tech support and Administrators. You can learn more about this HERE and download the pdf manual as well. NOTE: Lanschool LITE is NOT available for homeschool use.

Lanschool Home v7.5 COST US$99 for a license for up to 3 student computers.

What you do with Lanschool:

Initially you’ll have a lot of fun ‘taking over’ the kids’ computers playing around with all the futures (because this is how you realy learn how to use it). WARNING: This might annoy the kids eventually…

On a more serious note, the following are the real functions behind Lanschool.

With Lanschool you can:

Monitor Family Computers

From the ‘Teacher’ computer you can view a thumbnail of all the other computers under your ‘control’ : )

Limit Computer Use

From your computer you can limit applications, internet access, USB drives and printing on the other computers. You can mute the other computers and even Blank Out any one or all the other screens…all of this at the press of a button.

Demonstrate Skills

Not only can you see the other computers, but at the press of a button the other computers can see the parent’s computer so everyone can ‘watch’ the parent’s computer. You can also upload files onto the student’s computer.

Remote Control

From the parent’s computer you can remotely take control of any of the other 3 computers by choosing the control button. This gives you control over the student’s mouse and you can help them out if needed.

Communicate and help

The parent can sent polls / questions /messages to all or selected computers from their own computer.

Any family member (or student) can also send the parent (teacher) a message / question / request for help. When this occurs a question mark appears on the parent’s computer and you can either use the chat future to have a private conversation with your child or you can remotely control their computer if needed.

Can I install Lanschool on my system?

The following specs are required to be able to install Lanschool.


PCs: 166 MHz Intel® Pentium® processor or faster
Macs: 700 MHz PowerPC G4, G5 or faster, any Intel-based Mac


- 48 MB for Windows 98
- 96 MB for Windows 2000
- 128 MB for Windows XP
- 256 MB for Windows Vista
- 512 MB for Mac OS X

Protocol stack

All computers running LanSchool Home must be configured with TCP/IP running static or
dynamic IP addresses. 802.11 wireless is supported, however enterprise class access
points are recommended.

What if I have computers running on different operating systems?

Fear not! Lanschool works with a combination of systems. 

If you have problems and updates:

With Lanschool Home you have access to 3 years of free updates, but if for any reason you need more help / information than what has been provided with the 41 page pdf. file you have access to Lanschool via one of three avenues:
Their website @
Through e-mail:
A Toll-Free phone call in the US on (877) 370-5546 during business hours (U.S. Mountain Time).

How have we used it?

We don’t have all our curriculum on computer, so probably haven’t used it to it’s full potential, but this is what we have done:
Shared certain websites so we could all see it.
I showed the kids each other’s screens when they did their math.
I was able to help them getting access to certain sites by remotely controlling their computers.
When they played too long on their pc’s / did not turn it off when asked I could blank out their screens and add a little message… like… .GET OFF the computer… and by the way.. I love you : ) – or something like that.

You can view what others think about this product by going HERE:

It is important to make informed decisions, so please visit their website HERE and have a look for yourself.