Gryphon HouseGryphon House may not be a familiar name, but you probably have heard of some of their products.  I was lucky enough to receive Global Art by MaryAnn Kohl for the purpose of this review.   In case you haven’t heard of this author before, MaryAnn Kohl is known for the quality of her children’s art books and this one is no exception.

This book has about 150 pages of art projects in it that are broken down into chapters (7 chapters total) based on the continents that the projects originate from…even Antarctica has 8 listed.   For example, chapter 4 is for projects that originate from Europe and includes ideas for 20 different countries.  Of course several of the more “well-known” countries are represented by multiple projects (eg. there are 4 listed for England).  I was a bit surprised by how few projects are mentioned for Middle Eastern countries since Islamic art has a rather rich tradition.

Global Art by MaryAnn KohlThere is also a rating system for each of the projects for both the artist experience level recommended and the amount of planning and preparation needed for each.  After looking through the book and attempting several projects I would say that I mostly agree with rating system.  Although the book does not explicitly state an age for each project, my 4 year old son was able to complete the one star/beginning level projects with some help from me while my daughter who is 6 years old could mostly complete those projects on her own while requiring help for the level 2 projects.  At times the planning and preparation ratings were not quite what I would have expected (I don’t keep wet sand or matte board around our house), but overall they do provide some general guidance as to which projects will require advance planning and purchases and which can probably be completed with what you already have on hand.

My daughter is an art fanatic and I feel like I can never keep up with her need to create.  Unfortunately, I am not the most artistic mother and so I need explicit directions and ideas when it comes to art time.  I found the instructions in the book to be easy to follow and, for the most part, my daughter was able to follow them by herself (level 1 projects).  We also enjoyed the range of activities in the book.  Aside from painting there were also drawing, collage, sculpture, printing, and construction (eg. mobiles, necklaces) projects.  The indexes in the back of the book also list the projects based on the art medium, the experience level suggested, the preparation each project requires, a general index, and by country and continent.

I love when art can be combined with other studies and this book just fits so perfectly into our history and geography studies.  For example, we are currently talking about China and Japan in our history studies and I was able to flip to the Asia chapter and look for some projects for us to complete.  One of my daughter’s favorites was when we created a Moribana Flower Scenery (p. 66); we went out on a nature walk and collected some flowers, grass, and twigs and then arranged those into a shallow baking dish to create a little woodland scenery.  For anyone looking to supplement a world geography curriculum this book would be an excellent addition to your home library.

Although there is no explicit age range stated I would say that children from preK up to the middle school years will find something that is doable and interesting.

Price: $16.95

 

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Preschoolers and PeaceI received another e-book to review.  This one is from Preschoolers and Peace and is titled Circle Time: Plan the Best Time of Your Homeschool Day!  At 33 pages this is a quick read and it only took me about 15 minutes to get through it.

Before I read this e-book I didn’t really have much of a notion as to what was circle time.  In my mind I had visions of preschoolers (and maybe Kers) gathered on a rug, in a circle at the local school, sharing stories and doing calendar work.  I believe that I participated in something like that myself when I was little, but my memories are quite foggy on that one.  So, it was with great interest that I read this book.

Circle Time E-bookI was expecting to read all about show-and-tell ideas for the family setting and how to get everyone to sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star together nicely, but that is not the goal of this book.  Instead, Kendra reminds us that it is a great thing to combine our children together in their studies where possible.  This doesn’t mean that all children must do the exact same work, but that each child should work on their level on a given topic.  For example, your little ones may enjoy a read-aloud while an older child would also narrate and illustrate the story after it has been read.

If you have a toddler in your house, then there are some specific tips on what to do with that age range and how to keep them included.  There are also two sample schedules: their full circle time schedule and then their summer light schedule.  In addition, Kendra includes a few printables as well to help organize your thoughts and goals for circle time.

For me, if it is not planned and laid out in advance then it will not get done.  I began by thinking about our memory time and some things that my son could begin memorizing.  We have always used an index card box to contain my daughter’s memory work and I decided to make my son his own box.  I have also tried to have a Wednesday tea party where we incorporate poetry readings and faith studies, but more often than not someone would be taking a nap or we would end up skipping it for another reason.  Now, I schedule in circle time M-F and if we only get it done 3 times per week I am still quite pleased.

Did this book revolutionize our homeschool?  No, it didn’t.  But this e-book served as a great reminder to simplify homeschooling where possible by combining my children.  It also gave me a few ideas to help add my son into the day a bit better, instead of constantly trying to distract him while my daughter is doing her work.  Now my son is content with about 10 minutes of circle time before going off to play with his toys, giving my daughter and I the one-on-one time that we need.

Price: $4.99 for a PDF download

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I recently received an ebook from Christi the Coupon Coach entitled Couponing Made Simple.  This ebook (also available as a physical book) is a super quick read as it is only 64 pages long.  Still, there are 10 chapters that cover the couponing mindset, how to set up your organizational system, tips and tools, and some more.

A little bit of background on my family situation: I have a household of 4 people (2 adults and 2 younger children), 1 dog, and some fish.  My children are a bit odd in that they do not like meals with ground beef in them and my husband does not like pasta.  None of us eat cereal or drink coffee in the morning and I am also trying to buy at least 80% organic food.  Most meals that I prepare are made from scratch and they only processed foods that we tend to buy are things like granola bars and goldfish crackers.  In addition, I do not buy any paper towels or napkins.  I have been couponing for a few years now, but in a casual manner.

And now on to the book!

The first chapter gives a few success stories, mainly from the author.  She details two of her shopping trips where she was able to save a significant percentage on her purchases and, of course, we would all like to be able to do the same.  Taking a closer look at the included pictures you can see that the purchases included things like spaghetti sauce, pickles, cleaning solutions, notebooks, and first aid items.  I have to say that although I was excited about saving more money I was disappointed to find nothing in those pictures that I regularly buy.

It’s in the next chapter where I think that most people get tripped up.  When you are really trying to save a significant amount of money by using coupons then you must realize that the way you shop has to change.  You can no longer shop for just the items that you need for the week, but you have to shop for only those items that are on sale.  So, if spaghetti sauce is discounted this week, then you wouldn’t buy just 1 jar for that week, but several jars that will last you until the next spaghetti sauce sale.  In addition, you cannot be overly brand-loyal or else you will need a place to stockpile your purchases until your favorite brand next goes on sale again.  For me this chapter is the hardest one.  I don’t really like to menu plan and sometimes I struggle to come up with a plan for just a week.  I feel like if I were to really take advantage of couponing that I would need to have a reasonable monthly plan for what we were going to eat and then choose meals each week based on what is on sale.

Chapter 3 is all about some key terms that you will run across when looking at couponing sites.  Don’t know what a blinkie or a peelie is?  Chapter 3 discusses these terms and a few more.  One term that I stumbled across in my searches that wasn’t covered was “catalina.”  So while this is not an exhaustive list of terms, it certainly helps you to decipher the (sometimes) cryptic couponing websites.

Chapter 4 addresses organizational systems for coupons and I really had to think about how I wanted to set up mine.  I personally do not like taking a bunch of coupons with me whenever I shop, so I prefer a small accordion coupon organizer for shopping trips.  I also do not like clipping a bunch of coupons that I may never use.  From reading the ebook I found that I really liked the idea of filing the whole inserts based on date into a hanging file folder.  Then when I see a good match up on my couponing websites I can just check the date of the insert, pull out that folder from my hanging file, and thumb through until I find the relevant coupon to clip.  This one tip alone has saved me quite a bit of time.

Chapter 5 runs down the step-by-step process from buying newspapers to heading out to the stores to bringing your items home.  One tip that I had never thought of is that you should buy the Sunday newspaper in multiples of two in order to capitalize on buy one, get one (BOGO) deals.  The book goes even further to recommend that you buy at least one paper per person in your household.  This is also the chapter where there is a list of helpful internet search terms to find sites that give coupon matchups for your geographical area, the stores you shop, and the products that you use.

Chapter 6 lists a few more tips and tools to use, but it is rather light in content.   Chapters 7-10 cover the ethics of couponing and some other ideas for saving money.  There was little in these chapters that was new for me and probably for most people they can be skipped.

How was it in practice?

I didn’t have too much time to implement my modified system since we were on vacation in the UK for several weeks.  Unfortunately, when you don’t get newspaper inserts for several weekends it really puts a damper on subsequent couponing.  My best shopping trip only boasted a ~35% savings, but that is because I do not go on sale-only shopping trips.

I did find a few good tips in the ebook though that I will continue to use, such as getting two Sunday newspapers (4 papers as the ebook recommended is just too much for my family) and filing inserts by the date.  I have even been looking around for a website that details organic food matchup, but I haven’t found one that I love yet.

I also really wish she had talked more about what to do when first getting started.  Obviously, I cannot walk out of the grocery store with a bunch of bananas, yogurt, and bread that was on sale and think that I was done for the week.  When you first begin to use coupons you need to strike a balance between loading up on sale items and still buying those food stuffs that you need to make it through the week.

I felt like chapters 3-6 can easily be beefed up a bit.  I wish the ebook had addressed things like shopping clubs (eg. Sam’s, Costco), online retailers (sometimes Amazon cannot be beat if you use Subscribe and Save), and how to organize/remember all of those deals that are floating about on coupon apps.

Overall, I think that if you are new to couponing then this ebook will give you a basic introduction to the world of couponing.  However, if you have already started a bit or are a veteran couponer then you may be disappointed with the content.

Price: Kindle ebook is $4.99 and the paperback version is available for $18

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Over at TWTM boards there has been some talk about an app that teaches algebra concepts to children that is also super fun to play.  After hearing rave reviews about this app several times I decided to download for my daughter when she started saying that she wanted a new game.  It was a hit!  And she still has no idea that she is practicing math concepts.

I had to sit with my daughter and talk her through the first few screens, but she quickly caught on.  Now she calls me over every once in a while when she gets stuck.  Since DragonBox is difficult for me to explain adequately I thought that I would share a video from their website.

If you are looking to buy this app, then you need to know that there are 2 different apps: one targets young children (about age 5+) while the other is geared for students tackling middle school math.

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On the return home from our trip I found the Rainbow Resource, CBD, and CHC catalogs waiting for me.  This time of year is so difficult for me as a year round schooler that considers our year to start in January.  All those lovely pages filled with goodies that will enhance my children’s futures beyond belief!  But, it is just clever marketing and what we have works well for us.  As difficult as it can be at times, I flip through the pages quickly, fantasize quickly about ordering new materials, and then put the catalogs in our recycling bin.

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