Review of Expedition China DNG Unit Study  

Posted by: Laura Delgado in

It is getting so that anticipating Amanda Bennett’s Download N Go™ unit studies is becoming one of the highlights of my homeschooling month! While I know that somewhere online I can find out what is coming next from the DNG team, I love the surprise of finding the unit that I next get to review waiting in my inbox. It’s like a double treat: I get the surprise of finding out the subject to be studied, followed by the actual study itself. You see, if you are unfamiliar with Amanda Bennett’s shorter, bite-sized (as I have come to think of them) unit studies, it really doesn’t matter what you are currently studying in your homeschool. You always have time either to take a short break to work on the current Download N Go™ topic or, as is more usually the case, to work the current Download N Go™ topic in to your present course of study. Amanda’s and The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine’s current offering is no exception.

There are so many ways to make Expedition China relevant to any homeschooling topics of study. Geography is an easy and obvious one, but what about world cultures, ecology, history, biology, and languages? One of my favorite features of Download N Go™ unit studies is their adaptability. Yes, they are specifically designed to lead you through a complete unit in one week’s time; however, you are completely free to use any part of the unit, at any time, in any way that you see fit! More than any other of this series that I have yet seen, Expedition China particularly lends itself to this type of flexibility. Now that it is abundantly clear that I am entranced both by this form of unit study (I think I need either to put Amanda Bennett on my Christmas Card list or friend her on Facebook!) and by the choice of China as a subject for Download N Go™, let’s look at exactly what makes this unit study so compelling.

First, as with all of the studies in this series, the book list alone justifies the price. With so many books for children available on the topic of China, winnowing the list can be a daunting project at best. Recently, I returned from a trip to the library with no less than 13 books – on Marco Polo alone! That list doesn’t even include the older narrative stories that I had already downloaded and marked on my Kindle! Really now…I don’t have a semester just to study Marco Polo. I need someone like Amanda Bennett working for me! Another wonderful part of this unit study is the animal and geographical features of the day. My children couldn’t wait to find out what the animal would be each day. Even better, these animals are tied in to the optional, but included, lapbook component of the unit study! Finally, and in keeping with the winnowing benefit I so love, Expedition China contains several videos featuring aspects of China that my family will only ever see over the computer. Once again, there are thousands of such videos online. Amanda Bennett has done all of my legwork (fingerwork?) for me, and has found examples of the best videos which correlate to the relevant portions of her unit study. All my children and I have to do is sit back and enjoy. Well, the kiddies have to pay attention so that they can answer the questions which follow the videos! Given that this is a Download N Go™ unit study, the clickable links to the videos are right there in the download itself. One quick click, and you’ve downloaded your unit study, and all relevant materials (well, you may have to make a trip to the library, but what homeschooling family doesn’t welcome any excuse for that outing?). You could spend triple what you would spend on this unit study, or more, quite easily, and still not get the concise, quality study of China that you will get when you purchase the Expedition China Download N Go™ unit study. As you wind down your school year, do yourself a favor and take a vacation to the Orient!

You can purchase this unit study here

Review of The Old Schoolhouse's 2010 Planner  

Posted by: Laura Delgado in

Having owned both the 2008 and 2009 TOS planners, it was with great anticipation that I eagerly accepted a copy of this year’s incarnation of the planner in return for my review. The best part of the 2010 planner is that all of its familiar features have returned this year! Once again, it checks in at a whopping 600+ pages – intimidating if you plan to print the whole thing all at once, but why would you? TOS makes it so easy to find and print only the forms you need at the time you need them. Rather, it’s a joy to see all of those pages, because one surely knows that each one contains a valuable, homeschool-enriching treat!

If you’re familiar with this planner, then you already know that TOS has provided a form for virtually every need you can conceive of…and yet somehow, they have managed to come up with more than 25 new forms for the 2010 planner! Trust me when I say, if you can think of something you want to record, this planner has a form for it – and I mean that literally! There is a form for writing down the TV shows you want to remember to record! If, by some small chance, though, you have need of some form that has not been included, you can always jot down your thoughts on the beautiful journaling paper that is included. Once again, as with previous planners, there are numerous short articles on different subjects included in the planner as well. The articles cover a variety of subjects, all of which should be of interest to the vast majority of homeschooling families. Regardless of your homeschooling style or the size of your family, these articles should speak to you as you plan and execute your 2010-2011 homeschooling year.

Along with the articles, I was thrilled to see the return of my favorite feature of the TOS planner – the recipes! If your idea of dinner involves three courses and a wine pairing decision, not only is my homeschooling-mom hat off to you, but these recipes probably won’t make you rejoice the way they did me. If, however, you love finding that next great five-ingredient, 20-minute meal, then you will thrill to this group of recipes. An investment in this planner, then, not only guarantees you the most comprehensive planner you will ever own, but it also buys you inspirational reads each month from moms just like you, a mini-cookbook full of recipes you will actually cook that your family will love, lists and lists of research resources such as famous artists and famous composers, and enough blank forms for you to create anything else that you might need. Even if you were only to use one-third of the offerings in this planner, your money would have been well spent.

Oh, and for those of you who love your smart phones, and who can’t imagine needing any other date book or planner? Don’t think of this as a planner. Think of it as an E-book custom designed just for homeschooling moms, with monthly resources targeted at making your home life easier, and making your homeschooling life more meaningful. This planner truly is a tool for everyone. It gets better and better every year!

Review of March Molly's Digest  

Posted by: Laura Delgado in

Having received Molly’s Money-Saving Digest for March in exchange for my review, I find myself in an uncomfortable position. I must recant something I said in a previous review. I’ve been fortunate enough to review one of Molly’s Digests before, and in that review, I said that if you have never tried one of Molly’s Digests before, that that Digest was the one to try. I was wrong. As wonderful as that Digest was, the March issue of Molly’s Money-Saving Digest is better. Molly packs more money and time-saving and life-enhancing suggestions into the March Digest than one would believe possible. In its trademark format, with all of the usual category headings included, Molly manages to pack in so many recipes that I’m still not quite convinced that the Digest couldn’t double as a cookbook. The best part is that every single recipe is one that my four children and my husband will enjoy. In fact, I’ve already incorporated two of her recipes into my dinner menus this week!

For those of you unfamiliar with Molly, I have found that one of her finest skills is the ability to pass on information without condescension. Imagine my delight, then, when I discovered that Molly included in this digest step-by-step grilling instructions. As with many families, my husband is the grill master in ours. I don’t question his methods; I merely prepare the food that he carefully cooks on the grill. How lovely, though, to be led incrementally through the entire process of grilling, from lighting the coals (for a charcoal grill), to soaking the wood chips (with a convenient explanation as to why one definitely does not want to skip this step!), to cleaning the grill after use. I feel confident now that I could take over the grill and not make a single error; what a great feeling!

While I love to cook, and look first to the wonderful recipes Molly provides, one of the things I appreciate most about Molly’s March Digest is her frugal decorating/recycling section. In this digest Molly provides nine uses for a common household item which probably usually ends up in your recycling bin. It won’t anymore! You’ll be asking your neighbors to save theirs for you once you read what Molly (and you!) can do with this ubiquitous article!

Finally, although I often describe myself as having a black thumb, Molly’s upbeat style and gentle encouragement have given me the courage to take on one of the many backyard projects presented in this month’s Digest. If I can manage a container herb garden without injuring Rosemary or running out of Thyme, then maybe I’ll have the courage to take on one of the more ambitious projects that Molly makes seem so doable! Whether you love to cook, or prefer to garden; whether you love to repurpose old objects, or just can’t pass up a wonderful directory of Internet links, Molly’s Money-Saving March Digest has something in it for you! Molly just keeps getting better and better!