Friday, October 28, 2011

Review of Memoria Press' First Form Latin

Thanks to Memoria Press, my son is getting to experience the best in formal Latin instruction with First Form Latin.  There are many Latin programs out there.  Even before I was fortunate enough to join the Homeschool Crew and review some of them, I was familiar with almost all of them.  Latin is one of those subjects that I consider indispensible.  Not only is it the foundation of our own language, but for Roman Catholics, it is also their lingua mater (mother tongue).  It was my favorite subject in high school, and I have always known that my children would take Latin, even before I knew that they would be homeschooled!

Why is Memoria Press an excellent Latin choice for your child? It is thorough, thorough, thorough, but, especially in the case of First Form Latin, gentle as well.  Many people know of my difficulties with my 2e (twice exceptional) son.  He is 8, but he is also frighteningly gifted and has many symptoms of ADHD.  That adds up to the need for a very specific kind of curriculum.  In his case, it usually means something several grade years ahead, but still suited to the maturity of an 8 year-old.  In this way, First Form Latin is wonderful.  The lessons are not long, but they pack a ton of information into each one.  Thus, a child can get his Latin fix without getting bored.  

The instructor of First Form Latin delivers each lesson in a straightforward way. While some Latin instructors focus on the humor aspect of the lesson (and I love those!), Memoria Press takes a more serious approach, letting the beauty of the Latin be the star of the show.

There are several components of First Form Latin, and while not all of them are necessary, there really is an advantage to having the complete program.

At a minimum, you will want the entire base package.  The Teacher Manual relieves you of so much work that it is worth the price.  Further, if you use First Form Latin with another child in the future, you will only need a new Student Workbook and Quizzes and Tests book.  The textbook itself is very special.  It is small and easily managed so the individual lessons don't overwhelm a student.  My favorite aspect of the text is just how clearly it explains things in such a small amount of space.

Just look at how much you get out of this one snippet.  You review the perfect stem of a first conjugation verb.  You see the conjugation (with the stem remaining in black and the ending in blue, a great visual cue). Further, you see exactly where the stem comes from (the third principal part of the verb).  Finally, you are told what the perfect tense means in Latin (essentially, the equivalent of the past tense in English).  For a longer look at this lesson, see the Memoria Press site.

Although I received First Form Latin free in exchange for my review, I would have purchased the program, as my son has been using Memoria Press since he started doing Latin.  I will continue to buy the First Form series as we get to it.  Third Form Latin was just released.  As Memoria Press envisions it, a student will finish the "Form" series and then transition into Henle 2.  I am confident that my son will be well-prepared to make that transition when the time comes.

We are a Memoria Press household.  To see other opinions, visit the Crew blog!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Review of Say Anything

Northstar Games is the king of family game night! Last year, my family had the great privilege of reviewing Wits and Wagers Family, an awesome Northstar Games product.  This year, in exchange for my review, we were so thrilled to receive Say Anything from Northstar Games.

To anyone familiar with Wits and Wagers, Say Anything's basic appearance will not be a surprise.  If your kids are anything like mine, they'll go bananas seeing another game with wipe-off boards and their own dry erase markers!  The premise of the game is simple, but the way it plays out is great fun.

Recommended for 3-6 players ages 8 and up, Say Anything is easy even for younger children to learn.  A player draws a card and asks one of the three questions on the card.  All of the other players write an answer on their individual dry-erase boards and turns them face up.  The question-asking player silently chooses his favorite answer, and then everyone else tries to guess which one he picked! If you're thinking Apples 2 Apples, the premise is similar, but the way the game plays out is different.  The format of Say Anything is perfect for families (just make sure you get the family edition shown above! The regular edition is for ages 13+!).

Example questions from Say Anything Family include the following:

  • What's the best way to spend a Saturday night?
  • What food should never be eaten on the couch?
  • What's the most important quality in a parent?
  • What's the best animated movie?
Obviously, these questions can be answered by any family member.  Thus, the only real qualification for playing the game is the ability to write an answer.  My six year-old twins played Say Anything quite happily, as did our whole family!

Say Anything family is a great game.  It comes in a very solid box (so important to families used to box corners breaking almost immediately) with sturdy, laminated-like cards and durable white boards.  Having owned and played Wits and Wagers Family for a solid year, I can promise that this game will stand the test of time.  Say Anything is available from various retailers, and sells for around $19.99.  To see what other Crew members thought of Say Anything, visit the Crew blog!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Review of EMealz

Happily, there are many aids available to help busy moms plan and execute their shopping trips and weekly menus.  I have personally tried several of them! I have to say, though, that e-mealz is one of my absolute favorites.  I received a free subscription to e-mealz in exchange for my review, but I would have paid for this service anyway (and will continue to do so when my free subscription expires!).  e-mealz truly is a complete no-brainer.  Every bit of preparation and meal planning is done for you.

You choose the plan you want from the following options (there are so many!):

The available meal-type choices include Low Carb, Low Fat, Portion Control, Vegetarian, Gluten-Free, and Regular.  If you choose the Regular plan, you have the further choice of preferred grocery store.  Why is the store important? Because e-mealz matches the current store sales to its recipes, meaning that you will be preparing meals whose ingredients are on sale! If you happen to be one of those couponing geniuses, this can only be a great thing for you!

I am blessed not to have finicky eaters, so I can't comment on whether the e-mealz choices are finicky-friendly.  I can say that the regular family plan includes very family-friendly meals like cracker-coated chicken, gumbo, and pastas.  The meals are all extremely easy to make (much easier than the meals I am accustomed to making, but that's the perfectionist in me), include easy to find ingredients, and include side dish suggestions.  While you can see examples of each menu on the website, this review would not be complete without a little sneak peek of my own meal plan.

The meals are all listed first (and for my OCD friends, they are listed as "Meal 1, Meal 2, etc." rather than by days of the week!), followed by the store-specific shopping list -- including prices! Speaking of money, seeing this guy on the site

just cements what a good deal e-mealz is! For $1.25 per week (billed in $15 installments every three months), you can have the plan of your choice.  Actually, you can have as many plans as you want, provided you pay for each subscription!

My family loves e-mealz.  It makes me life much easier, it adds variety to my family's dinner hour, and it might even be saving me money! If you still have questions about e-mealz, make sure to visit their FAQ.  If you want to read other moms' views of e-mealz, check out the Crew blog!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Although I try very hard not to complain, people who know me well (the few! the chosen!) know that I almost always hurt.  If it's not a migraine, it's my ankles.  If I can sleep at all, I wake up feeling like I got hit by a truck.  Anyway, you get the picture.  I went to the doctor today, and after running down my list of symptoms (which was positively embarrassing!), she immediately said, "fibromyalgia." I have mixed feelings about this diagnosis.  It doesn't really do anything for me.  I still feel rotten.  On the other hand, though, it validates my eternal exhaustion and pain issues.  I need to digest.

So what does a girl diagnosed with a vague illness do? Craft! I don't scrapbook - I'm scared of hurting pictures.  I do, however, have an unnatural obsession with paper, stickers, pens, etc.  Hence, I journal with them.  I spent a lovely afternoon with my girls and my "stuff" while my boys and dog played outside.  It was a wonderful afternoon.  Of course, I will be hating life tomorrow when I face down all of my work deadlines, but for today...perfection.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Homeschool Mother's Journal

Posted from The Homeschool Chick...come over and link up!

In my life this week…
Henry was out of town for a couple of days and, while we were very busy, I missed him.  The kids had book club, which Therese loved.  For a shy child of mine, she sure does love social events.  I spent all of Thursday in bed with a hellacious migraine until I had to drag myself out in order to take the kids to dance and TKD.  I loved watching Therese do lyrical last night.  She is a beautiful dancer.
In our homeschool this week…
Not enough happened.  The three youngest don't spend a ton of hours doing school, but they do get everything done.  I am beginning to see the disconnect between Therese's age and her ability, though.  Ability-wise, she is completely capable of doing 8th grade work.  In fact, with the exception of Algebra 1/2, she loves it.  She is, however, just barely 10.  It's a lot to ask her to do that much school work.  I am torn.
What’s working / not working for us…
The whole Therese thing above.  I'm thinking about doing some sort of schedule where she only does two subjects per day.  Even if it slows down her progress, it still allows her to do the right level of work.
Questions/thoughts I have…
How can I resolve my health issues to make exercise a priority? I know it's a circular argument, but how can you exercise to feel better when you are too exhausted/head-pained/joint-pained to exercise? At least I broke down and made a doctor appointment with my parents' doctor.  I have seen the same one exclusively for 10 years, and while I love him, I think he's developed tunnel vision regarding my health.
My favorite thing this week was…
Making Molly's Home Team for reviews! I love Molly (Econobusters), and I feel so privileged to have made that review team.
I am inspired by…Anyone who is consistently positive in her life.  I am not she.
A photo, video, link, or quote to share…
On the feast day of St. Teresa of Avila, "Pain is never permanent."

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Review of Visual Latin

Anyone who knows me knows that I love Latin.  My love of Latin didn't start in the homeschool years.  I was one of the lucky ones who took Latin in high school.  It was, in fact, Tish Dilworth (AKA Magistra Optima) who taught me to love Latin.  Naturally, then, when I started homeschooling, teaching my kids Latin became my top priority.  Another thing most people know about me is that I am a curriculum junkie.  To that end, I own most Latin programs out there.  Imagine my delight, then, in finding a Latin program with which I was previously unfamiliar! Through my participation in the Homeschool Crew, I received a download of Visual Latin, a computer based Latin program, free in exchange for my review.  My review in one word: Awesome.

Since those consulting reviews generally wish for a little more information, I'll provide some (but "awesome" really is the best descriptor I have).  Visual Latin lessons are conducted by instructor Dwane Thomas and are comprised of three parts: grammar, sentences, and reading.  Although a ton of information is packed into each lesson, the lessons are only ten minutes each, making them ideal for even the youngest of elementary school children.

The best thing about this program is definitely the instructor.

Not only does he look like the boy next door, he teaches like the boy next door.  What do I mean by that? Male teachers sometimes risk coming across as too serious or too severe.  Mr. Thomas is the antithesis of that stereotype.  Instead, his manner is lighthearted and fun, and you really get the sense that he loves both what he's doing and Latin itself.  Mr. Thomas' method of instruction proves that Latin is neither a dead language nor a stuffy one.  Lovers of Latin already know both of these things, but sometimes it takes some effort to convince the uninitiated.

Visual Latin is different from other Latin programs in that it combines the two most common approaches: learning through grammar and learning through reading.  By focusing first on a couple of grammar concepts, and then incorporating them into sentences, Mr. Thomas gives you the best of both worlds.  Combing the lectures with corresponding downloadable PDFs gives your child (and you!) and well-rounded Latin lesson in less than 30 minutes.

Visual Latin lets you try a lesson, so you really get an idea of the flavor of the program.  I think that one lesson will be enough to sell you! The program offers both downloadable and DVD options so you can choose what works best for your family.  They also offer different purchase options.  You can buy all of Latin I on DVD for $80.00 (a very competitive price if you've looked at other Latin programs).  Alternatively, you can download the lessons ten at a time for $25.00 per set.  Choosing the DVD option will add $5 to the cost.

If you think Visual Latin may be just what your family has been looking for, be sure to visit the website and sample the lessons! Also, check out the Crew blog for other opinions!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Review of Scruble Cube

With a name like Scruble Cube, it has to be good...right? For the past month, my children have had the opportunity to play with a Scruble Cube, which we received free in exchange for my honest review.  The premise of Scruble Cube is simple: imagine the game of Scrabble and a Rubik's Cube having a baby.  You would get...
Just as in Scrabble, each letter has a value.  Just as with a Rubik's Cube, you turn the cube to create a pattern (in this case, words!).

Scruble Cube looked fun from the outset.  It arrives packaged in a way that shows its dynamic possibilities, complete with rules and a score pad.
I thought my kids would love Scruble Cube.  They love all kinds of games and puzzles, especially word games and word puzzles.  For some reason, though, they haven't really taken to the Scruble Cube.  I have several ideas as to why this is so.  It is entirely possible that my kids dislike the idea of mixing their games; that is, they would prefer either a word game or puzzle game, but not both together.  Alternatively, the cube itself feels kind of delicate.  It does not turn as easily as a Rubik's Cube by any means.  Also, because the letters themselves rotate (a really cool feature), it almost feels like the game will fall apart.  I am forever cautioning my kids to be careful and not to break things (I'm beginning to feel more and more that this is actually more detrimental than helpful), so it is entirely likely that they eschewed playing with the cube more simply for fear of injuring it.

The idea of Scruble Cube is wonderful, and I'm sure that there are kids (and adults!) who would really enjoy it.  The fact that my kids didn't should not deter you from learning more about it.  Scruble Cube is recommended for ages 8+ and can be played alone or with up to three friends.  It retails for $24.95.  To read some very different opinions of Scruble Cube, see the Crew blog!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Blog Frustration!

There are some times when it positively pangs me that I am not very techie.  This is one of them! I want to design my own cute blog! I want to control how it looks! Am I savvy enough to do that? No.  Thus, I have always relied on Blogger templates for my blogging needs.  However, I have received several emails telling me that people are unable to comment on my blog.  I thought I had solved this problem, but obviously not.  I am, hence, switching (temporarily, I hope!) to a straight, no-frills Blogger template to see if that *somehow* enables comments properly.  Sadly, I don't know if I can make it retroactive, but this post, at least, should be commentable.

Would you be so kind as to try to comment? Oh, and if you're so inclined, could you point me toward a "dumb-as-dirt" tutorial on creating a blog?! Thank you, and have a wonderful Friday!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Recipes Your Kids Will Love!

Some of you know that I am also the editor of the "sons" site over at  Much of what I write over there is not as relevant to homeschoolers as my reviews are, but if you ever have trouble getting your kids to eat, try some of these ideas! Recipes Your Kids Will Eat is over at Bellaonline!