Saturday, April 28, 2012


I may be crazy, but I'm going to try to chronicle our adventure with our new Blendtec super-blender. Well, okay, the manufacturer isn't calling it a "super-blender." We are.

Because I'm going to try to post a new recipe every day (except Sunday -- we take Sundays off), I called the blog "365 Days of Blendtec Adventures." Catchy, eh? Maybe not catchy, but descriptive, at least, if not completely accurate. Oh, we'll most likely be using the Blendtec on Sundays as well, just not blogging. In any event, "365 Days" sounds catchier than (what's 365 minus 52?) "313 Days" of something.

If you're curious, hop on over to the new blog. We'll be posting recipes as we make them up, and reviews of recipes provided by Blendtec, and at the very least we'll be having some yummy fun.

Hopefully I'll start remembering to take pictures before we eat the results.

Monday, April 23, 2012


I don't have a picture, because we've already drunk up the results, but we just christened our new Blendtec with strawberry smoothies. It was a little rough -- rather scary sounding, wanted to turn it off but it was runing an automatic cycle so we didn't dare, but wonderful results.

A's recipe:

8-oz carton strawberry yogurt
1/4 cup milk
1 cup frozen strawberries
1 banana

This made three servings, blended twice on "Smoothie" setting because the frozen strawberries didn't break down the first time through.

Amazing stuff. Yum.

Now the kid is experimenting with oranges and crushed ice, with an eye toward sorbet... (2 small oranges, 1 tsp agave, 1-1/2 cups ice)

I'd like her to read the recipe book just for some ideas on how to use the settings, but she's actually doing pretty well on her own, copying what the demo guy at Costco did. (We had already ordered this blender when we saw the demo, but stopped to watch, excited that we'd get to see the new blender, ordered sight-unseen, in action.)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

TOS Crew: Write with World

Members of this year's Crew had an exciting opportunity: reviewing the brand-new Write with World middle school writing program, so new that we received a pre-release copy of the first year of the two-year curriculum. This means that what we got was not the final version; there will probably be some improvements made before the Summer 2012 release, though the program is already impressive.

World magazine logo
World Magazine is a bi-weekly, full color news magazine written from a Christian worldview. On its pages you'll find news articles, political cartoons, book and movie reviews, commentary, and more. We've been reading World  for years, and our girls have been reading the student news magazines God's World News during the school year. There are editions for all grades, from preschool through high school, each edition crafted for a specific level of understanding, maturity (meaning that the news stories are presented in a way appropriate to the target age), and reading ability.

We appreciate the thought that goes into World, and the high quality of the publication, and so we expected no less of this writing curriculum.

Even so, Write with World far surpassed my expectations.

The purpose of the curriculum is to develop competent writers who can think and express their thoughts to others. Unlike some of the contrived curricula we've seen (you've heard the cliches, like "How I spent my summer vacation" or "A description of my bedroom), this course is intensely practical, for example, with assignments based on current events, multiple assignments to choose from, and models of writing (both good writing, and models that need improvement) for practice. Critical thinking and reading skills are incorporated, based in a Biblical worldview.

We received two books, the teacher/parent guide and the student workbook. It's hard to tell from the picture of the book cover... but when you open the book you find multi-colored pages with wide margins that invite note-taking. The main text is black-and-white, with accents in red, and the occasional color illustration, which might be a photo or drawing.

The student book is written directly to the student, from the general introduction ("Don't skip this part!") all the way to the end ("Congratulations!" on finishing the final exercise). All along the way there's give-and-take between the student and the authors (World Magazine editors and writers, and fellow students who instruct, ask guiding questions, and provide thoughts about how they approach writing, along with writing samples that show how they approached the same assignments as the student working through the course.)

The teacher/parent guide contains all the pages of the student text, along with teaching helps, including introductory material for each of the four units (content and purpose of each lesson, grading guidelines, suggestions for offering feedback, helping your student succeed and build skills) and specific comments on lesson material in margin notes -- there's no paging back and forth as you are literally on the same page with your student as you're going through the material.

Much more than writing is covered, of course, for writing involves using language effectively, which means that your student will also be learning about grammar (not in isolation, but while actually using and applying concepts) and building vocabulary along with learning and practicing writing and critical thinking.

Lessons follow a standardized format, beginning with a materials list for the lesson. Invariably this includes the student's journal, a record of the student's work as well as a place to brainstorm, to answer prompts, to write down thoughts. Other materials needed, depending on the lesson, might be a dictionary and/or thesaurus, highlighter, personal photographs, a copy of World Magazine or Top Story (the middle school student magazine), notecards, or a glue stick.

An exciting facet of the program is the interactive website, scheduled to launch in September 2012, that will offer updated lessons and additional resources.

Our take? I love this program! It's fresh but not dumbed down. The assignments aim at being relevant to the student. The tone is conversational while also informative.

Some things I'd like to see in the finished version that weren't in the version we saw:
- Table of Contents
- Answer keys, for example, for the vocabulary exercises
- Index
- Glossary of terms

Pricing and availability

Write with World can be ordered at this link. You can order now, and the curriculum is scheduled to ship this summer. The full curriculum (Year One and Year Two) is available for $165, or you can buy the years individually for $95 each. The purchase price includes a set of books (one teacher and one student) plus online access to the Write with World website. Shipping and handling charges are extra.

Read more TOS Crew reviews of Write with World at this link.

Disclaimer: Our family received a pre-publication copy of Year One of Write with World for review purposes. No additional compensation was involved.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

TOS Crew: TruthQuest History

I was excited to have the opportunity to review the new TruthQuest Beginning. I've been happy to recommend TruthQuest to friends and fellow homeschoolers since I first became acquainted with their History Guides in 2005.

I had received the Middle Ages History Guide for review, and I took it over to a friend's house, as she was interested in booklists. We looked the guide over together, taking turns reading aloud from the introductory section where the author explained her approach to history: based on the foundation of Who is God? and Who is man? and why these questions are important.

Beginnings, as all the TruthQuest guides, is formatted after the same manner. An introductory section explains how to use the guides in your history studies. The author gives a list of "spines" to choose from (see the list for Beginnings here) -- using one of these books gives structure to your study, a skeleton as it were, to flesh out with further reading from interesting books, both non-fiction and fact-based historical fiction along with activity books and other resources such as related videos.

This is not just a glorified booklist. The author breaks up history into chunks, based on time and place, and offers an introduction to each section, with sort of a tour guide flavor that gives you the highlights (while reminding you of the foundational questions), with a breezy, conversational tone. I must admit, I was a little taken aback at the casual tone of the section titles, but don't be fooled -- there's meat to be found in the analysis that follows.

The author offers comments on the books listed, either her own experience, or what she's heard about a book she hasn't used herself. She provides guidance on sections to read, if only a section applies to the current time period under consideration, and sometimes offers caveats about the suitability of material, to allow parents to preview and/or edit the information for their students. Suggested grade levels are also provided for each book listed. Beginnings is versatile, providing resource suggestions for grades K-12, although the emphasis is on middle- and high-school studies.

Writing prompts are provided at intervals through the guide. (Beginnings has seven of these.) These are suited to further research, to essay writing, and intended to have the students integrate what they've been learning and synthesize the knowledge by considering and communicating their conclusions.

You can see the TruthQuest Beginnings Table of Contents at this link, and read a sample section of the guide here.

You could use TruthQuest guides to supplement your history study, but really, there's plenty of material here to stand alone as a history course. There's so much material, in fact, that you could slow down and make this a two-year study. This is history the way we like to study it in our family, reading aloud together, marking people and events on a timeline, doing projects, and discussing what we're learning.

Pricing and availability

The Beginnings TruthQuest History Guide is available at the this link. The book is available as a PDF download for $23.95, or in spiral-bound softcover for $29.95. At the TruthQuest History site, you can find more history resources covering periods from ancient times to the present day, as well as other helps.

Read more TOS Crew reviews of TruthQuest History Guides at this link.

Disclaimer: Our family received a PDF download of TruthQuest Beginnings for review purposes. No additional compensation was involved.