Sunday, October 30, 2011

Another George Washington? Marshall Publishing - George Washington Carver: His Life and His Works DVD - A TOS Review

George Washington Carver:  
His Life and His Works DVD


Marshall Publishing & Promotions, Inc.

Click here to purchase

2009 Marshall Publishing & Promotions, Inc, A Kaw Valley Films Production 
KVFD-106  Length 29 minutes, Color DVD
Subject Areas :  U.S. History, American Biographies
Age Level 4th Grade through Adult
ISBN 978-1-9636134-12-0 UPC 894190001868

Regular Price $24.95
Web Sale Price  $19.95

As a member of the TOS Review Crew I recently received a free copy of the DVD George Washington Carver:  His Life and His Work from Marshall Publishing.  Let me share a bit about this biographical DVD to give you an idea of it's content and quality.

First, a little bit of background about Mr. Carver:

George Washington Carver, often referred to as the "peanut man", was born into slavery during the Reconstruction years in the South and lived a life filled with poor health (whooping cough while young), poverty (when he finally did put his money in a bank he lost it all) and prejudice (due to his Negro heritage).  Carver is known for his research into and promotion of alternative crops to cotton, prompted by the destruction of crops by boll weevils and depletion of soil nutrients caused by not rotating crops.  He's considered an expert in  agriculture and horticulture and is an accomplished artist of the beauty of nature.  While researching and teaching at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama he worked with land management and compiled a list of over 300 uses for and by-products of peanuts (cosmetics, dyes and paints, plastics, gasoline and even nitroglycerin). 

George is an example of what hard work, a positive attitude and a good education can produce, even under hardship. George is commemorated on January 5, George Washington Carver Recognition  Day, the anniversary of his death. 

**Interesting tidbit:  George W. Carver only used the "W" to be recognized because there was more than one George Carver.  Although asked about the "W" and jokingly accepting the suggestion that it must mean "Washington", the W didn't mean anything--George never even used it.  Like our president George Washington, George W. Carver was, however, a man of many important firsts in his family, his race, and the agricultural field.

The first thing we noticed about the DVD started at the very beginning -- lots of bright, colorful nature pictures, especially flowers.  As we learned about George we found out that he was an artist and won a prize for his picture of a flowering yucca.  George's story unfolded, in chronological order, with a sprinkling of George's words and thoughts.  We also learned about the struggles George went through as well as opportunities he encountered.  Who knew peanuts could be used for so many things? 

We like historical and biographical books and stories of all kinds.  This DVD is a keeper.  At about one half hour long, it captures your attention, is informative, and is easy on the eyes with wonderful images.  There is pleasant music in the background too.  When it finished my daughter even said "That was neat.  It was good." (We also talked about how this story reminded us of a book we read about Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female doctor.  My husband commented that he had seen a different TV special on Mr. Carver but thought the Marshall DVD was much better.  We'll be watching this again.
In addition to the DVD there is also a Study Guide (see the website) which gives additional information and discussion questions. 

Keep or toss?  We will definitely be keeping this DVD.  The suggested age is appropriate.  The price is reasonable for the quality of the DVD.  I'm thinking this will be a good start to a science project at some point too -- something like 101 Things To Do With Peanuts.  Marshall Publishing has done a great job, and I'm interested in checking out some of the other DVDs they offer.

Marshall Publishing also offers books and DVDs about animals, fire trucks, jets and planes, monster trucks, motor sports, rockets, space ships, trains and trucks.  Music CDs are also available.  Other educational and historical DVDs include Lincoln and Gettysburg, the History of the Oregon Trail and the Pony Express, the Historic Expedition of Lewis and Clark and several more.  Go here to see more choices.

Interested in seeing what other TOS Review Crew members thought?  Click here

Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of the above-mentioned DVD in return for a fair and honest review.  I did not and will not receive further compensation for this review.  All comments and opinions are my own.  I am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

What Did You Say? NorthStarGames - Say Anything Family Edition - A TOS Review

Say Anything Family Edition 
Office: 301.493.4331
Fax: 866.433.8069
3-6 players - 8 years and up
30 minutes to play
$19.99  (Available at Amazon, Target or a number of other stores.)

Visit NorthStarGames on Facebook or Twitter

What are you playing for family game night this week?  Lately we've been playing a fun game, Say Anything Family Edition, from NorthStarGames.  As part of the TOS Review Crew I received this game free in return for a candid review.  Let me tell you a bit about the game.  (We also received Wits and Wagers Family Edition at the same time.  For more information see my previous review.)

Say Anything Family Edition is a fun game that is fairly easy for young and older players.  The game is very quickly explained and contains short, easy-to-understand directions and rules.

The game contains:  360 questions on 60 question cards, wipe-off pens, wipe-off boards, a Select-o-Matic 6000 spinner, player Meeple tokens, a wipe-off score board and, of course, the directions/rules.

Each person takes a turn being "judge".  The person who is judge for the round reads a question from one of the game cards.  (Example:  What would make a long car ride more fun?)  Players then write down their answer to the question.  Players don't have to know a "right" answer--just "say anything" they choose as an answer.  The judge then spins the Select-o-Matic 6000 to the answer they would choose from the answers given--without showing their choice.  Players put tokens on the answer they think the judge will pick.  When the judge's choice is revealed, points are awarded according to which answer was chosen.  Points are then recorded on the scoreboard.

The game is quite easy and quick to learn.  Creativity and imagination are definitely a plus in this game.  Part of the fun is coming up with the most outrageous or likable answer to capture the attention of the judge. The price is reasonable.  The age suggestion seems appropriate since this game works best if players can read and write.   This is definitely a game we'll dig out frequently.  A thumbs-up all the way around at our house.  My daughter preferred Say Anything, but really had fun with Wits and Wagers too.  We like games that let the kids have a more even chance of winning against an adult.  NorthStarGames has another winner!

Visit the NorthStarGames site to check out the Say Anything and Wits and Wagers games.

Another great feature --Free Parts Replacement. - If any game parts fail or get lost within the first year of ownership NorthStarGames will deliver an identical or comparable replacement to you free of charge. All that is required is for you to e-mail a request for the needed part along with your mailing address, and the parts will be sent out within two weeks.

More TOS Crew member thoughts

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Review Crew I received the Say Anything Family Edition game free to play with my family in order to provide this review. I did not and will not receive further compensation. All comments and opinions are my own. I am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Cooper and Me - Book Review and Giveaway

Cooper and Me
Monique & Alexa Peters
Copyright 2009
Second Edition 2011
ISBN 978-0-9829418-0-5
Hardcover, 27 pages

Purchase the book here

For more information and fun stuff for children check out the website.

Check out Cooper and Me on Facebook too!

This is a sweet book which is illustrated by 11-year-old Alexa Peters and co-written with her mother, Monique Peters. Alexa wrote this story after thinking of her own experiences on her first day of school. The story tells about a girl who is nervous while waiting for her first day of school. The girl wants her best friend, Cooper, her Labrador Retriever, to go to school with her. Since that is not possible, her mother helps her get past her fear by providing a replica of Cooper to take to school.

This story deals with fears about starting school, separation anxiety and trying new things. A short but helpful story, Cooper and Me is written by a child, for children. The simple but colorful illustrations add fun to the story.  At the end of the story there is a page to record thoughts about the reader’s first day of school. Additionally, the authors have included a few other helpful sections including:
  • Life Lesson – Dealing with Separation Anxiety and New Places 
  • Connections – Ideas for Discussion 
  • Learning Together – Scripted Discussion Questions
Another neat thing about this book is that a portion of the proceeds from the book go to the Happy Hearts Fund, a group that helps children through education and sustainable programs in natural disaster areas.

Cooper and Me, Inc. has plans to continually expand their existing lines with stories and resources that address the many issues young children face. The company also is looking forward to expanding their franchise into other technology and entertainment platforms.

A bit about the author's background:

"In 2010, 11-year-old Alexa Peters, along with her mother Monique Peters, found a meaningful way to turn her passion and love for writing and drawing into an opportunity to “give back” to other kids. Starting at a very young age, Alexa created illustrated stories about her daily experiences, and from the pages of her sketchbooks came the idea for her first book, Cooper and Me. The story of a little girl’s fears about starting school evolved into a timeless tale about overcoming separation anxiety and trying new things – basic emotions all people experience throughout their lives – but this time, written by a child, for children. As retold in Cooper and Me, Alexa’s own story had a “happy ending” – a clever, compassionate solution that involved taking a small replica of her beloved pet to school with her. The first book introduced the family’s real-life dog, Cooper the Labrador Retriever, and the mother-daughter team began imagining a series of stories featuring Cooper that would engage little kids while guiding them through the ups and downs of daily life. In addition to the original Cooper and Me, four more story books are set to publish throughout the next twelve months, all containing relatable life lessons inspired by Alexa’s experiences, with illustrations based on her drawings of Cooper."

About the Happy Hearts Fund:

"While on their journey of writing and publishing, Alexa and Monique Peters felt it was important to apply their passion for helping children to a charity that truly made a difference in kids’ lives. Their search for an organization to which they could donate a portion of the proceeds from the original Cooper and Me book led to an alliance with the Happy Hearts Fund, founded and run by Petra Nemcova, the supermodel who was directly affected by the tsunami in Thailand. Happy Hearts improves children’s lives through education and sustainable programs in natural disaster areas. As of July 2011, the Happy Hearts Fund was active in nine countries, has built/rebuilt 50 schools and kindergartens, and has benefited more than 31,000 children and 335, 000 community members. Last year, Alexa and Monique accompanied Petra on a trip to Peru to see the Happy Hearts Fund in action, which they found truly inspiring.

In a related effort to help raise awareness for the Happy Hearts Fund, Bridget Mason Doran, Cooper and Me’s musical director, wrote a song called “One Heart” and recorded it with a group of talented young children. They were brought together because of their passion for music to help spread this important message of hope and giving back. The “One Heart” song is available on iTunes, and a portion of the proceeds from its sale is also being donated to Happy Hearts. Check out the Happy Hearts Fund and ways to donate at"

Love this book!  Even though we homeschool, I would definitely give this book to a child who is hesitant about starting public school.  I just love the story and illustrations.  I'm also excited to see a child who is reaching out to other children and on the way to helping out a great cause.   It's definitely worth visiting the website too!

It’s a Giveaway – It’s a Giveaway—It’s a Giveaway

I get to give one lucky person a copy of this delightful book. I will be drawing a winner, chosen randomly from all entries, at noon on November 3rd. Here is how you can enter the giveaway.

1. Leave a comment here telling me you’re interested.
2. For another entry, visit and tell me one thing included on the Fun For Kids section, leaving a comment here after your visit there.
3. For an additional entry follow me on Google Friend Connect and tell me in a comment.

Good luck to all who enter. Blessings!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Meeples, and Colors and Trivia, Oh my! Wits & Wagers Family Game - A TOS Review

Wits & Wagers – Family Edition

Office: 301.493.4331
Fax: 866.433.8069

3 to 10 players -- 8 years and up
20 minutes to play -- Family Trivia game

$19.99 US/$15.23 Canada
Visit NorthStarGames on Facebook or Twitter

Does your family have game nights?  Are you a trivia fan?  If you answered yes to either question you might want to check out this game that I received from NorthStarGames as part of the TOS Review Crew.

Wits and Wagers Family Edition is one of those games that you or your 8 year old can win.  The game is very easy to learn and does not require a lot of skill.  First each person picks what color Meeples they want to be. (colorful little wooden people-shaped pieces)  Next, one person reads a trivia question from the 300 family-oriented questions.  (For example, how many teaspoons are there in a tablespoon?)  Each person then writes what they think the answer should be on their own mini whiteboard with a wipe-off marker.  The answers are then lined up and all players put their Meeples on what they think is the correct answer--whether it is what they wrote or  what someone else guessed.  Finally, when the answer is revealed points are accumulated depending on whether Meeples are on the right answer.  There is also a wipe-off scoreboard to keep track of player results.  That's it!  This game is quite easy, lots of fun, educational, and can be played in about 20 minutes.

The game contains wipe-off markers, mini whiteboards for each player, trivia question cards, Meeples and a scoreboard.

So, what's the verdict on this one?  We really like this game.  Even though it is for ages 8 and up, my 6 year old likes to team up with one of the players.  The kids sure like it when they are right and mom or dad guess wrong.  We all found ourselves learning little tidbits about many things while having fun.  The price is reasonable, the age suggestion seems accurate.  We found that we could even play with 2 people, but I would     suggest at least 3 players.  We have been enjoying this game and will be playing it for some time.

You can purchase at Amazon  or Find a store near you 
Visit the NorthStarGames site to check out the Wits and Wagers and Say Anything games.  
Another great feature --Free Parts Replacement. - If any game parts fail or get lost within the first year of ownership NorthStarGames will deliver an identical or comparable replacement to you free of charge.  All that is required is for you to e-mail a request for the needed part along with your mailing address, and the parts will be sent out within two weeks.

Disclaimer:  As a member of the TOS Review Crew I received the Wits & Wagers Family Edition game free to play with my family in order to provide this review.  I did not and will not receive further compensation.  All comments and opinions are my own.  I am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Educating the WholeHearted Child - Apologia - A TOS Review


 Educating the WholeHearted Child, 3rd Edition
Clay Clarkson with Sally Clarkson
ISBN:  978-1-932012-95-8

Apologia Educational Ministries
1106 Meridian Plaza Suite 220
Anderson, IN 46016

For parents who are educating their children ages 4-14

As a member of the TOS Review Crew I recently received a free copy of Clay and Sally Clarkson's Educating the WholeHearted Child.   Let me tell you about this interesting and challenging book which is about discovering God's design for raising children. The book is meant to provide a homeschooling model based on biblical principles of nurture, discipleship, instruction and learning. The book I received is the newly revised and expanded version. The Clarkson philosophy is that Christian homeschooling should begin with the sure foundation of a Christian home. This book provides tools that are suggested to help parents ensure that foundation. The cover of the book says it all when it states "Discipleship, Whole Books, and Real Life! WholeHearted Christian Home Education for Ages 4-14".

  See the Table of Contents here

The Table of Contents Includes a Preface, Introduction  and  4 sections including Home, Learning, Methods, and Living.  These sections are followed by a Postscript Challenge about Keeping Faith in the Family.  The final part of the book contains Resources including suggested books and forms.


Take a peek at some of what is in the major sections of the book:


SECTION 1: HOME (Covers things such as Learning to Be at Home With Christ, Learning at Home to Be with Christ, Shepherding Your Child's Spirit to Long for God and more)
  • Ten Good Biblical Reasons for Homeschooling 
  • Biblical Principles to Consider
  • Specific Scriptures to Consider about parenting, your children, christian life
  • Be Ready to Live by Faith
  • Be Confident as a Homeschooling Parent
  • Answering the Legal Question
  • Answering the Education Question (chart - classroom vs. home education)
  • Answering the Socialization Question (chart - conventional vs. home school)
  • Answering the Qualification Question (chart - classroom teacher vs. parent-teacher)
  • The Biblical Case for Home Nurture
  • LifeGIFTS - Grace, Inspiration, Faith, Training, and Service
  • Feed Your Children with Fish (Faithfulness, Integrity, Self-Discipline, Humility) and Bread (Bible, Relationships, Eternal Perspective, Authority, Disciplines)
  • Leading with Sympathy (vs. Strictness)
  • Leading with Encouragement (vs. Guilt)
  • Leading with Love (vs. Neglect)
  • Leading with Instruction (vs. Information)
  • Correction (Spiritual, Verbal, Behavioral, Physical Discipline)
  • Protection (Unhealthy Appetites, Unwise Relationships, Ungodly Media)
  • Building Mental Muscles (Language, Appetites, Habits, Creativity, Curiosity, Reason, Wisdom
  • Cultivating a Positive Learning Attitude
  • Cultivating a Positive Teaching Attitude
SECTION 2: LEARNING (Covers things such as Living and Learning Together at Home, Creating a Home You Can Learn Within and more)
  • Giving Your Child a Designer Education
  • Schools of Schooling (Public, Private, Independent, Homeschooling)
  • Schools of Homeschooling
  • Curriculum-Centered - Printed Curriculum, Virtual Learning
  • Content-Centered - Classical Approach, Unit Studies, Principle Approach
  • Child-Centered - Unschooling, Moore Formula, Montessori Method
  • Home-Centered - Whole-Book Method (Living Books), Charlotte Mason Method
  • 12 Pillars of WholeHearted Learning
  • 5 Focused Study Areas (Discipleship, Disciplined, Discussion, Discovery, Discretionary)
  • Designing a Learning Room
  • Building a Home Library
  • Acquiring Good Books
  • Living Book vs. Textbook Chart
  • Books to Avoid
  • Managing Home Media
  • Evaluating Curricula and Workbooks
  • Deciding About Tests and Grades
  • Personality and Learning Styles (Doer, Helper, Mover, Shaper)
SECTION 3:  METHODS  (Covers Discipleship Studies Methods, Disciplined Studies Methods, Discussion Studies Methods, Discovery Studies Methods and Discretionary Studies Methods)

  • Discipleship (Bible Knowledge, Bible Reading, Bible Devotions, Bible Study, Bible Instruction)
  • Disciplined (Beginning Reading, Language Arts, Writing and Composition, Math, Thinking Skills)
  • Discussion (Reading Aloud, Reading Alone, Narration, History, Geography, Fine Arts, Unit Study, Context Study, Memorization and Recitation, Speaking and Presentation, Storytelling)
  • Discovery (Creative Arts, Drawing and Coloring, Creative Play, Nature Study, Creation Science, Hands-On Science, Foreign Language, Computer, Internet, Audio/Video Production)
  • Discretionary (Real-Life Learning, Private Lessons and Mentors, Library, Field Trips, Study Groups, Home Workshops, Living and Learning Notebooks, Standardized Tests)
SECTION 4:  LIVING  (Covers Family, Structure, Order and Support)

Father - The Head of the Home
  • The Godly Father (FATHERS - Faith, Authority, Training, Humility, Encouragement, Responsibility, Service)
  • 7 Secrets of the Home TEACHER (TEACHER - Time to Talk, Enthusiasm to Explain, Ability to Apply, Confidence in Christ, Humility to Help, Encouragement to Explore, Responsibility to Remind)
Mother - The Heart of the Home
  • Walking With God on his PATH (Purpose, Assurance, Trust, Heart)
  • Following God's Heart for Moms
  • The Life-giving Mother (LIFE - Love and Liberty, Inspiration and Imagination, Fun and Feasting, Engaging and Enjoying)

  • Knowing Your Purpose, Priorities, Plans, Principles, Personality, Breaking Point, Provider, Path
  • Characteristics of an Orderly Home
  • FIRST 5 Priorities of Home Management (Managing Family, Information, Rest, Stuff, Time)
  • Homeschool Support Groups, Books, Mentors, Small Groups
  Here's a peek at what is in the Resources section of the book:

  • A:  Books for the WholeHearted Family (Family Sampler list of Favorite Books including Classic Children's Fiction, Modern Children's Fiction, Illustrated Storybooks, Fables, Fairy Tales, and Fantasy, Poetry and Art, History and Biography and Miscellaneous Sets, Series, Readers)
  • B:  Books for WholeHearted Learning (Sampler of Books for Christian Homeschooling including Home and Parenting, Fatherhood and Motherhood, Young Men and Women, Devotions and Discipleship, Homeschooling and Books, Reading and Writing, Thinking and Speaking)
  • C:  Forms for WholeHearted Learning (Including Agenda, Overview, Planner, Task List, Project Planner, Reading Record, Book Report, DiscipleSheet, DependableList, 24 Family Ways (Godly Character), 24 Ways (Biblical Values), LifeGIFTS Discipleship Planner, Devotional ARTS Planner, Bible Reading Record, Bible Reading and Devotional Journal, 1 month calendar planner, 1 week calendar planner, Family Chores Chart

  See a Sample Chapter here

  My WholeHearted Opinion:  Once again I am impressed by another offering from Apologia.  I really like this book.  Filled with great ideas, models and forms to use, as well as some of the most relevant and encouraging scripture, this book is one that will stay handy at my desk or bedside.  The manner in which information is arranged in this book makes it quite easy to read in small chunks--which is what you'll most likely do too considering the 376 page length.    I really enjoyed the honesty and family tidbits in the "In Our Home" sections sprinkled throughout the book too.  Although I did not read previous editions, I think this 3rd edition is definitely a keeper to refer to often.  I found many ideas for personal growth and felt challenged to examine where we need to make changes in our homeschooling.  Great job Clay and Sally Clarkson!  

  See other TOS Crew Thoughts here 
  Order Your Copy here

   Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of Educating the WholeHearted Child from Apologia to read in order to write this review.  I did not and will not receive further compensation.  I am not obligated to provide a positive review.  All comments and opinions are my own.




Tuesday, October 18, 2011

E-Mealz - Mealtime Makeover - A TOS Review

This program is designed for parents, but could easily be used with older children learning about cooking, menus, and budgeting/comparison shopping.

To sign up for your E-mealz (pay with your debit or credit card)
For answers frequently asked questions

As a member of the TOS Review Crew I recently received a free 3 month trial of E-Mealz, a menu/cookbook/budget plan/grocery list online meal planning program. (Whew!!  Try to say that mouthful 3 times fast.)   Let me explain a bit about it to see if this might help you get your budget on track and meals on the table without the usual chaos.

The creators of E-Mealz were inspired to put together this program because of  frustration with getting dinner together for the family.  To add order around an evening meal and have face-to-face time were their primary goals.  This website, the ultimate accomplishment, is a system that puts together a weekly meal plan coordinated with grocery store current sales to maximize the grocery budget.  (Budget guru, Dave Ramsey, even endorses this one!)  The creators feel that families should be "making time for the family".  (see )  This program is how they propose to do just that.  This tool is quite easy to use and easy to customize.  Here's how it works:

First, Choose a Plan
Now, about those plans, you can pick from quite a variety including:

1.  Diet Specific
  • Low Carb
  • Portion Control
  • Low Fat
  • Vegetarian
  • Gluten Free
2.  Grocery Store Specific (based on weekly sales) :
  • Kroger
  • Aldi
  • Publix
  • Ralphs
  • Walmart
3.  Any Store

4.  Plans for Two

Second, Print & Shop
Once you've determined which plan you want to use, you just print coupons for that store's current sales and go shopping.   The program menus are available for download weekly (plus one additional week) after that they rotate off and a new week comes up to download.

Third, Cooking & Family Time
Lastly, you just cook the suggested meals with the ingredients purchased (and some of your own staples) and voila, easily put together family meal time.

There are regular family meal plans which serve 7 meals for 4-6 people, regular meal plans for two which serve 5 meals for 2 people, specialty family meal plans (Gluten-Free, Low Carbohydrate, Low Fat, Portion Control, and Vegetarian) which serve 7 meals for 4-6 people, and specialty meals plans for two.

Sample plans are available at the website to give you an idea of how the system works.  Each week you download and print 2 pages.  The first page contains the menus for the week (for dinner only), ingredients needed, and instructions for making the food.  The second page is a shopping list, with required items listed, by department and price.  At the bottom of the second page is also a list of staples needed for each meal.

Some of the many meals you will find include things like Swiss steak, easy baby back ribs, pizza salad, chicken kabobs, crispy almond chicken, pork creole and rice, enchilada pie, Italian sausage loaf, savory ham and swiss subs and a variety of other tasty creations.  (There were a few recipes that weren't half bad, but they were not foods we would eat often.)
So, how did it work for us?
We don't have any of the suggested stores except Walmart so we chose the Walmart, regular family meal plans.  If the listed stores aren't in your area there is also an "any store" option.  We purchased the needed items for the meals, but we found that it would be hard for us to keep up with the program.

After reviewing the meals listed for the plan we came to the conclusion that this wasn't going to be an easy task with a family consisting of 2 picky eaters and 2 parents who grew up with German and Scandinavian foods.  While the meals were not outrageous or strange items, many items were not something the majority of the family would eat on a regular basis.

Granted, it is convenient to have a menu plan, recipes and your shopping list in one place--that's the part of the concept this mom thought would be great.  I really wanted this tool to be helpful, but ultimately decided it was not working for our family. Perhaps one of the biggest reasons, other than picky eaters, that we wouldn't probably continue the program is the fact that the plan is for the weekly dinners only.  At $65-$85 per week for just dinners our food budget would be pretty hard to manage.  We are pretty frugal, and we have had months where we may only spend around $150-$200 per month for food (getting harder to do that with the economy what it is today though). Ultimately, to continue this program, we'd have to most likely only be eating the one "real" meal, dinner, which likely wouldn't be very popular food for our family, and not spend much for other food monthly.  In addition, as a homeschooling family, we are home much of the time for 3 meals a day.  We have the time to cook, teach and encourage our children to cook, and make menu planning, shopping, and budgeting part of everyday learning.  We also take advantage of our own and other local garden produce, hunt and fish.  (Often gardening is part of our learning plan, and hunting and fishing are part of our science/zoology lessons.  We could dissect a fish to learn the parts, but we clean a fair amount of fish and check them out as we're doing it.)

Please don't take my comments to mean this couldn't work for some families.  I could see this being a good program for a family on the run a lot, eating out a lot, or perhaps not monitoring what they spend on food quite so closely.  The price is economical at $15 for 3 months (just $1.25/week).  If you need a coordinated menu plan to have variety and make meals a "family time" this could be a good option.  It would probably be more helpful somewhere where the other specific store options are available.  Just a note, the plan auto renews for the next 3 month period unless cancelled at your request, before end of 3 month period - no refunds for late cancellations (you will be charged).  I'm not one to go for auto-renewal plans for the most part (too easy to forget), but that is a personal preference.

You are allowed to make 1 menu plan change (for example, from gluten-free to vegetarian) per 3 month subscription period.  Although I do understand the reasoning behind this limitation, I suspect this might not be very popular with families with food allergies or a need to explore different meal options. 

The good news is that you can tweak the recipes to fit your family.  It is also possible to add another vegetable or side dish to adjust a meal.  The meals are planned with side dishes, salads, etc.  Keep in mind that the menus seem to use a fair amount of prepackaged food.  The prepackaged items would make this program easier for some, but we wouldn't likely use these items.  We make our own "cream of" whatever, mix our own spice mixes (think taco spices, salt-free seasoning, Italian seasoning, spaghetti spices mix, hot chocolate mix, pancake/waffle mix), grow our own salad ingredients, etc.  All in all, E-Mealz is a great concept and very likely a wonderful plan for some, but this was not real workable for our family.   But, then again, we already plan meals around sales according to our available funds, and it is unusual for us not to sit down to a "family meal" together every night.

Check out E-Mealz on Facebook here

Connect with E-Mealz on Twitter here
E-Mealz also has a blog you can visit

Visit here to see what other TOS Crew members thought of E-Mealz

Disclaimer:  As a member of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew I received a free 3 month trial of E-Mealz to use and provide an honest review.  I did not and will not receive other compensation.  I am not obligated to provide a positive review.  All comments and opinions are my own.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Always Icecream - A $coop of Learning - A TOS Review

Always Icecream

Geared to girls ages 7-12
$4.99 per month or $29.99 per year
Life-time membership $99.99

As a member of the TOS Crew, I recently received a free membership to the Always Icecream website to use and review.  This is a play and learn website which covers a variety of topics including: language arts, basic math, advanced math, science, geography, history, music, art, foreign languages, computer skills and, if desired, religious education.  At Always Icecream girls have access to fun drills in core academic subjects within a safe community experience.

This site has cute girly graphics--colorful, modern and fun.  Your daughter can even create her own mini version of herself.  There is a Mini World, a Pet World, a Friends section, a Learn and Play section, Videos and more.

Many Always Icecream members are homeschooled, and many of the ideas for the educational content originate from the experience of the founders as homeschool parents.  However, homeschooling is not a requirement to use Always Icecream.

Here’s a picture for the geography page for learning the United States

Here’s a picture from Learning to Type

A Bit of Information for Parents

Parents receive a complimentary account which lets them decide whether to allow "community features" which allow girls to communicate with other members.  Parents also get to customize the educational content presented to their girls.  Parents can even use this site to reward their girls with the site's in-game currency for accomplishing "real world tasks" like practicing piano, exercising, cleaning, etc.  Parents also receive weekly email reports on the learning progress of their daughters.

Parents, click for overview
Click for a Free Trial
Click to Buy Now
Visit Always Icecream on Facebook

Fun Rewards For Your Girls

Girls can earn rewards such as achievement medals, virtual pets and ice cream $coops (virtual currency) by completing learning materials and videos. These $coops are then used to play games or access other fun content. 
Here’s an example of a pet purchased with $coops at Pet World.  Awww, what a cute seal!  A variety of care items for the pet are also purchased with $coops.

If you decide to enable the “social” features of Always Icecream, girls can participate in fun competitions based on their achievements too! 

Online Safety - Got it Covered!

Always Icecream provides a friendly Learning Community set of social features - if you choose to allow them - which allow your daughter to interact with other members on Always Icecream. With this option, girls play "social" games, such as babysitting each other's pets or buying artwork from other members. The communication is moderated, and strict guidelines are enforced about what communication is permissible on the site.

***Content on Always Icecream is subject to moderation, contains no advertising and is blocked to search engines. To assure your child's online privacy the site is certified by Privo.

Great Features + Great Rewards = Happy Girls

• Learning Games and Rewards
• Educational Videos
• Shops and Games to Spend Rewards
• Weekly Progress Report to Parents
• Friends and Profiles
• Comments and Messages
• Entertaining Games and Videos as Rewards
• Social Games like Pet Sitting and Arts Shop
• Moderation prior to being visible to other members

Always Icecream guarantees your satisfaction or you get your money back!!! If you’re not fully satisfied with the service, you just send them an email with a brief description about what you didn’t like about your experience with the site.

So, What Did We Think About Always Icecream?  This has become my daughter's favorite place to go on the internet.  It's a place I'm comfortable letting her visit.  It's safe, fun, and she's learning in the process.  This site gets a thumbs-up from this mom.  This is definitely a tween site, but 14 is not too old for this one. 

The games, the mini-world and the many other features are engaging and fun.  The $coops rewards are fun incentives to keep accomplishing sections in various learning areas.  This one is what it says it is and more.

We haven't really found anything that didn't work for us.  We also haven't found anything objectionable within the site content, and we're pretty conservative most of the time.  We really like Always Icecream.

To see what other TOS Crew members thought click here

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Product Review Crew I received a free copy of the above-mentioned product to use in order to provide an honest review of the product. I have not and will not receive further compensation for this review. Opinions and comments are my own. I am not obligated to provide a positive review.

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