Nothin' 2 Prove

The building of Gunn Ranch Academy one caliche rock at a time; our friends, family, passions, learning adventures and our little piece of HIStory in the making!

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Our Crew Favorites and Thank You’s for the 2009-10 Voyage


Today as our 09-10 TOS Crew pulls into the harbor, docks, and we all say our goodbyes for the second voyage-year, it’s time again, to post a list of our family favorite products and vendors .   I have been greatly blessed to have been on the Maiden Voyage 2008-09 as well as return for the 2009-10 cruise,  and I am overjoyed to have been chosen to be  Firstmate for the upcoming 2010-11 adventure! This next few weeks will allow me to unpack, do some laundry, and organize some stuff around the house as well as get my blog in order (hopefully!!) before we set sail again. I’m so excited to have a mini-crew next year to mentor, and I’m looking forward to getting to know a brand new crew, as well as some new and returning vendors. 

For the 2009-10 TOS Homeschool Crew Voyage, our famiy favorites in no particular order were:

*Great Latin Adventure I and II by Classical Legacy Press (ongoing- watch for updated posts on our progress!)

*Grapevine (finished Old Testament for review and bought New Testament- we’re half way through that one!)

*Nutrition 101 – Growing Healthy Homes (continuing to work through it)

*Virginia Soaps and Scents (ordered more soap and laundry soap and will continue to order their products!)

*Mathletics (bought a year subscription for both girls once review time ran out!)

* Homeschool in the Woods–  Olde World Style Maps (continuing to print off maps for our history studies, and will use these throughout our homeschool years)

*Graphic Toolbox by Great Software Tools ( Morgan has continued to design cool projects, and I’m looking forward to using it eventually too)

*Beehive Readers by All About Spelling (I purchased the newest reader in addition to the two I reviewed and will add the whole collection as it comes out)

*Sarah Books (purchased the next two books and will continue collecting the series as they are written. We also get the cool newsletter!)

*Hank the Cowdog by Maverick Books (love these so much we named our own Head of Ranch Security (Great Pyrenees puppy) Hank)

*ABC Teach (purchased a year subscription after our review time ran out!!)

 Some personal favorites in addition to our family favorite:

Morgan (13)


*Web Design for Kids

Taylor (almost 10)

*Presidential Penmanship Italics by Zeezok

*Christian Keyboarding

Levi (4)

*Time 4 Learning Preschool

*Kinderbach (still his very favorite even though we couldn’t use it with our country-fried internet )

Thank you so much to the awesome vendors and talented people who have graciously blessed our family with these fabulous products this year. Our family would also like to extend our gratitude to The Old Schoolhouse magazine, and especially to Heidi and Brenda for allowing us to be a part of a larger family of caring and supportive friends. 

See ya soon, as we set sail for another fun-filled year of reviews!



Great Latin Adventure by Classical Legacy Press


**Let me just begin this review by saying I truly don’t know where to begin!!  I don’t find myself speechless very often, but occasionally when an exceptional product comes along that adds richness and the perfect flavor to our studies, I feel it a great privilege to represent it appropriately.

Classical Legacy Press is a company created by Norman and Katharine Birkett, both Princeton graduates who are devoted to writing and publishing high quality Christian and classical education materials for homeschool and classroom use. Their vision in creating accessible and teachable classical curricula was to “further the revival of Christian classical education” which they believe can truly be a “springboard to the love of language and the mastery of clear thought.”  You can read more about these fine folks, their vision, what they believe and their dedication to providing quality educational products to our students and homeschool community here.

A bit about classical education….

As I wasn’t a student of the classical education style in my formal education years, I didn’t really consider it or even really know what it was until I began researching materials to use in our homeschool journey. As I ran across different aspects of classical education, I became intrigued by the idea of incorporating the rich historical and academic features of our ancient forefathers into our education, through a Christian perspective. Even if you are not a fan of the classical camp, I would encourage you to read the Birkett’s ideas on history, Christian classical education “flavors”, and flexibility in adapting to our children’s learning readiness if you, like myself, are a connoisseur of fine teaching materials and a collector of ideas to nurture our children and homeschools.

So exactly what am I reviewing here?…

We received The Great Latin Adventure, Levels I and II (with our deepest gratitude to the Birketts for this GENEROUS offering!!) student  books, teacher books, and pronunciation cds.

The Great Latin Adventure Level I Student BookLevel 1 student book $15.00 (hole punched pages without binder)

The Great Latin Adventure Level I Teacher's ManualLevel 1 teacher manual $30.00 (hole punched without binder)

The Great Latin Adventure Level II Student BookLevel II student book $15.00 (hole punched pages without binder)

The Great Latin Adventure Level II Teacher's ManualLevel II teacher manual $30.00(hole punched without binder)


Before receiving my package, I was relieved to see that this curriculum labeled for beginners in grades 4-6 claimed to have great teacher support with no Latin background required. I was particularly excited that this program was coming to us as we were finishing up an intensive English grammar program designed to be an introduction to Latin, but only teaching a few prefixes, suffixes and roots integrated into the English grammar.

Upon receiving this package, I unwrapped each shrink-wrapped package, placing both levels of student pages and teacher pages into their perspective notebooks, along with sliding the included front and spine covers in place. (I thought that was pretty cool they included those!)

Grabbing my teacher manual, I plopped down on my bed and took off on my Great Latin Adventure. I began reading through a very thorough Introduction of just what this program is and isn’t, who it’s for, why, how and when.

  1. *For Latin beginners grades 3 or 4 and up.  My daughters are 9 and 13, and it was well suited for both of them as we just finished a very complete English Grammar program together. In my opinion, this program could be used for any student ready for or who has a good grasp of English grammar- late elementary, Jr High or even High Schooler who wants to learn Latin. It is recommended that if the student hasn’t had much grammar, to use it concurrently with an English Grammar course, but it’s not a requirement. Personally I think my girls are enjoying this course so much because they already understand basic grammar, and I LOVE seeing the language skills they just worked so hard on being reinforced and extended! For those homeschoolers that are of a more relaxed/eclectic mindset,  or Charlotte Mason or other educators who don’t introduce formal grammar until later on, this program would work well with older grades, really. My point here, is not to let the grade level description fool you- it has the content and complexity to work for upper grade levels, or the ease of use for late elementary ages.

  2. *For new or experienced teachers- I noticed many references to experienced teachers throughout the notes on ways to adapt the teaching to different theories such as the two different schools of pronunciation. Since I’m in the “new teacher” camp, I don’t know the difference in Ecclesiastical vs. classical pronunciation (GLA uses classical pronunciation because the author feels it best represents the way the Romans pronounced their own language), nor do I have a preconceived opinion on use of macrons, first declension, English-to-Latin translation pages, or other formalities of teaching such as these. I do love that the author takes the consideration to explain why she chooses the methodology she does, and I believe this makes this program even more teachable for new and experienced teachers alike. 

  3. *Challenging yet incremental- as I alluded to before, this program begins at the beginning, but it doesn’t stay there for long. The authors clearly state that one of their main goals in creating teaching material is to “set the bar high, but help children achieve it.” 

  4. *Not a self-teaching program- plan to spend some time preparing lessons, and get excited about learning Latin right alongside your kids!! You won’t be able to just assign lessons, or expect your kids to get out their notebooks and work on this themselves (except of course the worksheets which are to be completed independently). But your teacher manual is fully equipped with EXTENSIVE instructions on how to teach, what to teach when, and has all the answer keys right there for you, as well as a sample schedule to get you started in adapting this to your own homeschool schedule.

  5. Not a video program- while there are programs out there that include a video you can pop into your computer or dvd player of an instructor lecturing or showing how to teach the program, this is not one of those. It does, however, have a super easy to follow format, and step by step instructions on how to proceed through the program. But you, not an image on your computer, will be teaching your kids.

  6. Not an immersion program, and not a Roman culture or history program- this leaves you room to teach the language like other foreign language programs, adding your own cultural flare and history as you see fit.

  7. Family friendly, supporting the goals of Christian parenting- you won’t find references to mythology, or predominantly war-related themes. This leaves you to teach your children about Zeus and Caesar if and when you choose.

So after my extensive introduction to the whys and hows of the program, I moved on to the Master Chapter Plan. As I tried to stay focused on the many pages of how to teach the program, including a great little nine-day chapter plan (rec. three days a week for three weeks per chapter making it possible to complete a level in a typical school-year), I found myself a bit frustrated with the complexity of it all.  This, however, is merely a manifestation of my hands-on “let’s just get started already” nature. So I did a quick overview of the Chapter 1 Teaching Notes, and sat down with my girls to get started. As I am taking the “learn along with the kids” approach to this program, I read the teachers notes to my girls and we worked through the beginnings of the program together. As with any new program, it took a minute to figure out how to put it all together, but the teaching notes really take you step by step. There were parts that kind of expected me to come up with some extra teaching steps on my own- that would certainly benefit experienced or particularly classroom teachers, but these parts are easily skipped over when teaching to just a couple of students at the table. Again, the author is VERY considerate to include ideas for both classroom or coop teachers who might be teaching many students with a blackboard approach, and homeschool teachers who are sitting at a table with just one or two kids.

We begin each chapter by looking at the new vocabulary words, and listening to them on the pronunciation cd a few times, participating and learning correct pronunciation together. Next , we make flashcards of the new words for study. Then onto the grammar lesson.  After reading through the lesson together, we move onto the study sheet. This is basically a worksheet reinforcing what the grammar lesson taught. After the study sheet is completed, we work through the first derivative worksheet, which is probably our favorite part. There are Latin to English ones as well as English to Latin. Next comes the pre-quiz to help the students learn the vocabulary and reinforce learning before moving onto the second derivative worksheet. Lastly, after all the worksheets and review has been completed, the quiz is given.  

As for the scope and sequence of the program, I’ll leave that for you to review for yourself on the website, along with sample pages.

In closing, I will say if you would like to add a richness and quality to your language and learning no matter what style of schooling you choose, then I would definitely recommend you check out the Great Latin Adventure. It may just be the adventure you’ve been looking for.

See what my crewmates had to say about the Great Latin Adventure on the Crew blog.

Check back for updates on our very own adventure through GLA!


We were blessed with these materials as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew for review purposes. No other compensation was received, and opinions expressed here are my own honest thoughts and feelings.



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Lobster Network- Bless and Be Blessed!!


I have no doubt your first question is probably the same as mine when I first saw the name Lobster Network.


I’ll sum it up as easily as it was for me, take a look:

**IT** being your personal belongings: books, homeschool items, dvd’s, cd’s, computer software,  vaccuum cleaners, hairbrushes, hair clips, saddles, bridles, bits,  stethoscopes,  scrub shirts, egg  cartons, canning jars, fly swatters, barbque grills, family jewels,  costumes, horse trailers, yachts, baby brothers, etc…

Ok, well maybe not baby brothers- that was on the keep list 🙂

So now that you know a little about Lobster Network, let me explain a bit more.

This is a FREE networking site where you and your friends, neighbors,  homeschool groups, coops, churchs, scouts or 4-H groups or even Bunko group, can create communities of “friends”- each setting up  a personal account to list an inventory of your personal stuff. You can choose to keep the personal items you list as private (for inventory and insurance purposes), or share them through lending or selling. You can look around at your friends stuff to see if they have anything you need to borrow (you have to approve your friends).  The nice part is when you lend something out, you no longer have to wonder who that was you lent it to, or how long they’ve had it. Here you can set time limits for keeping tabs on your stuff so that when another friend asks if you happen to have a certain book they are wanting to read, you can find out whether the borrower is finished and pass it on.

I can’t wait to spend some time over the summer to enter my items into my account. I will definitely start with my homeschool books, as it will give me a nice place to see what I have and what I need to complete our studies in preparation for next year.  I am really excited about the potential of having a place to borrow and purchase things we need to add to our school. I also love the idea of sharing the blessing of books and materials that I have grown from spiritually with others, so that they might be blessed too!!

There are so many possiblilities and so much potential in this unique idea of  item networking, that I really urge you to click on over to Lobster Network  and take a video tour, then create your free account and get started. I know once you discover all the possibilities of this little jewel-of-a-website, you’ll want to invite all of your friends to join you!

Take a look at what my crewmates had to say over at the crew blog.

Happy Sharing!!



I created a free account on Lobster Network as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew for review purposes. No other compensation was received, and opinions expressed here are my own honest thoughts and feelings.


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U.S. Gov & Politics AP Exam Prep by Cerebellum

Cerebellum Corporation is a company dedicated to learning through providing a vast  dvd learning library and  instructional systems for home use as well as classroom use.

Our Crew was asked to review the Advanced Placement DVDs from their Light Speed series. Crewmates received one of four subjects in this exam prep series.

AP English Language & Comp. Exam PrepHistory of the U.S. AP Exam PrepU.S. Gov & Politics AP Exam Prep

Our family received Light Speed U.S. Gov & Politics AP Exam Prep.

The material contains 2 discs, one being a video program and the other a digital workbook of outline and notes, practice questions, games, and quizzes.

While we are a long way from AP prep at our house, I thought it would be interesting to pop the dvd in and let my 13 and 9 year olds watch. I explained the idea of AP testing and told them that  I actually took the Language Arts Advanced Placement test when I was in high school ( many moons ago),  earning college credit from a qualifying score on the test. Then I explained to them that this high school level program is designed to give a review/overview of High School US government and politics course material to prepare to take the AP exam, not to actually teach the material.

So here we go- the first thing they mentioned was the “light speed” at which the material was presented! It is, indeed, appropriately named, and I do believe quite a quick yet thorough review of the given course material. The age appropriate students presenting the material were animated, well spoken, engaging, and even funny at times to make this a far from boring review. The graphics and backgrounds were colorful and pleasing to the eye, again, lending to an entertaining and fun format as opposed to sitting at a table flipping through a boring text or course notes.

The topics covered are arranged in an easy to view “30 in 30” format. This means that 30 essential topics are presented in a total of 30 minutes. While I do think this gave my girls a lightening speed introduction to government, I can positively say they didn’t “learn” anything from it, LOL. It will, however,  be a very useful tool as we do move into government in the future years. I especially love having the digital workbook that accompanies the video program to print out quiz material and outlines as we are going through the course.  I’m thrilled to have this valuable tool on our bookshelf for future use, and will certainly be recommending it to others who have high school students preparing for exams, or even struggling through these subjects.

I will also say I am planning to order the Language Arts program since I took the AP test myself in high school. I would also be interested to see how much of it my girls comprehend after just finishing up a rather extensive grammar program, as well as give them an overview of what they need to accomplish in the area of writing skills.

This company really has some GREAT products to offer, and I am so grateful to know their products are available to add that extra boost of  success in many areas of study.

Light Speed AP exam prep programs normally retail for $14.98, but are currently on sale at just $11.24 per program!  They also have free shipping over $50.

You can also use the code OSH20 to get 20% off any Cerebellum product through the end of the year.  How cool is that??

As always, don’t forget to check out what my crewmates had to say about the AP exam series by Cerebellum over at the Crew Blog!

Happy Studying!


This product was sent to our family free as members of the Tos Crew for purpose of review. Opinions expressed here are our own; no other compensation was received. Continue reading

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Ideal Curriculum for Preschoolers

If you have preschoolers in your house, or run a daycare, preschool program or coop and are interested in a formal teaching program for them, then check out Ideal Curriculum’s website.

They have a variety of well-researched products. The product our TOS Crew focused on came from their set of 9 monthly themed kits which are designed to build on each other. Each kit contains Literacy, Science/Social Studies, Math and Calendar subjects. For review, we were given Month 1 Transportation downloadable unit.

They have several different purchase options which you can see here, but the unit we downloaded can be purchased as a download for $30.00 or print version $55.00. For the month of May, our loyal TOS Crew readers can get 10% off a first purchase by using the code welovekids.

    Upon downloading our month 1 kit on Transportation, I opened the zip file to find four files: Music Files, Read Files, Print Files and Teacher Files. There were also two pdf files: Overview of monthly files, and "Read This First".

      I naturally began the process by opening right up the music files .   Within this file I found six mp3 songs that accompanied the program which I remembered I knew nothing about, so after my 4 year old danced around to the abc song several times, I decided I should really open up the "read this first" file to see what this was all about. I liked the fact that their mission is to make my job as an educator easier, and prepare my child for success. I was having visions of my four year old climbing on my head, using me as a jungle gym while I was trying to teach Latin to my 9 and 13 year olds.   Could they really make my job easier? I wondered.

   Next, I skimmed over the overview of monthly kits which lays out in chart form all the skills to be covered in each of the 9 kits. 

The Month 1 Transportation unit listed the following:

*Letter names, letter lines

*Listening skills

*Letter recognition

*Print is all around us


*Rote counting

*Concept of time

I’ll admit at this point I began to really struggle with the look of such a formal curriculum for this age group. It was really starting to look like a daycare or standardized education program to me. I immediately begin to wonder what one of my favorite mentors Charlotte Mason would think .

But onward we marched right into the teacher files. I found three seperate teacher’s manuals: literature, math and science.  Upon opening each of these I found formalized ideas of methods and tools of training your children, outlines and guidelines for using the lessons, printables, music, games, etc, and then the weekly lesson plans themselves.  The first step in the literature lessons was to administer an initial assessment. I printed off the required pages and found my 4 year old looking at me like I was a substitute teacher wondering where his cool critical thinking workbooks and Before Five in a Row story books had gone.  I found myself unable to assess an uncooporative preschooler. Of course since I have been homeschooling this child from birth, I really didn’t need this assessment to know where my child was in his learning abilities. I also found myself wondering just who made up these standards for my child- they don’t even know him, his learning style, or his interests. Hmmm.

So we skipped on to lesson one which had the children marching to the "Letter Song". We march and sing a lot, so he enjoyed this, but we didn’t stick to the 5 minute time limit given. Each lessons does begin with "why this lesson is important." At the beginning of the week, a possible schedule is included. This organization and lesson plan format seemed to look like it should make my job as an educator easier, but somehow the program seemed like it would take way more time than I had to give with two older students that required my attention in our homeschool.

The Science manual has 20 daily lessons, from art activities, to reading and writing, to experimentation. The ideas were very formal and certianly take quite a bit of preparation on the teacher’s part.

The Math and Calendar sections each had a page of ideas for teaching rote counting, numbers and calendar concepts for each week. I really found that most of what was mentioned were things we pretty much always do. I just feel it’s a natural thing to count with your child when they are little- but maybe it’s because I’m an older mom and I’m on my third preschooler? Not sure here, except that I suppose lesson plans and standards of development would be important in a group situation, maybe.

While I can see this type of regimented program being useful in a daycare or formal preschool situation, it doesn’t fit well for our family. I prefer to teach my littles according to their interests and readiness for skills to make learning fun, not structured. I also feel every child develops different skills at different times- especially when they are preschool age.

While there are many fun activities, games and songs that are much like what we are already doing, I prefer a more spontaneous and delight-driven basis so my child doesn’t feel as if I’m pushing him to do something he isn’t interested in.  While my 4 year old son could be pursuaded to enjoy the topic of transportation, wheels and axels- my girls wouldn’t have been so interested in this topic when they were preschoolers.  

    This material might be useful for someone who is just starting to teach thier preschooler who is looking for guidance and formal lesson plans, or a former teacher who is used to a lesson plan format of teaching.

    As for my preschooler, we will continue our storytime snuggling on the couch, some fun critical thinking and activity books to distract him while I’m trying to teach my older kids, and lots and lots of singing, dancing, playing and exploring outdoors (and yes, climbing on mom’s head while she’s teaching Latin to his big sisters- it’s just a season- preschool time is short- ENJOY IT WHILE YOU CAN)!

 In closing, I’d just like to add one tidbit of advice from this homeschool mom veteran: focus on the PRE in preschool and let your littles be littles. They grow up way too fast.


I received a free download from this company as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew for purposes of review. No other compensation was received, and opinions expressed here are my own thoughts and feelings. Thank you and good night. 🙂

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Hair Shine by BeeYouTiful

Hair Shine Spray-In Conditioner

     Our TOS Crew was recently introduced to a great little company called BeeYouTiful whose goal is to bring natural products to families that they *themselves* have tested out and used so that people can take charge of maintaining their own health and well being by "natural" means.

     They carry a variety of products from vitamins and supplements to essential oils and products made from them, to natural soaps and lotions, books, and much more. They are committed to adding products to their  list as they use and "approve" them, providing a great resource for those looking to take charge of their famlies health naturally.

     Our Crew was asked to choose from a selective list of products for review. Our family decided to try the Hair Shine spray in conditioner. We currently use many products that are very similar to ones that they carry, so these natural products aren’t new to our family. I have used essential oils for many years, as well as naturopathic remedies and natural beauty products of all sorts.

    I was, therefore, quite excited to try out this combination of aloe vera concentrate, with lavender, rosemary, and orange essential oils.

    The first thing my daughter mentioned was how very small the package was. Upon opening it, she said, "that’s it?" I reminded her how very concentrated essentail oils are, but did make note that $15.00 (plus $6.00 shipping per order) seems a fairly steep price for 4 ounces, even knowing that natural products and essential oils can be somewhat costly.

     We tried the product out on both wet and dry hair, and found that it does, indeed create soft, shiney and manageable locks for the many different hair types in our household. While I understand that fragrance is a highly personal opinion, the general concensus in our household was that it smelled great. I especially like what the citrus adds to the overall fragrance. Again, our family is very accustomed to essential oils for household and personal use. My four year old son often commented to me how great my hair smelled! I would like to say this is the first product of this sort I’ve used that did NOT make my hair greasy or leave a residue. I really liked that I could spray as much as I wanted and never feel it on my hair except that it made it very soft and silky.

     We did try it on insect bites, and again, found the claims to help stop the itch to be true.  We have used a particular essential oil on insect stings for years and found it to be very effective at stopping itching and swelling.

     While we are so very careful and try to be conscientious of the damages of the South Texas sun, we do occasionally get a good old fashioned sunburn. After spending a day on horseback, both girls did end up with toasted skin, and used the Hair Shine to sooth their sunburns. We already have a product very similar to the Hair Shine which is actually made for sunburns, and the girls thought the Hair Shine worked just as well, without leaving any residue on their skin.

     All in all, I’m really sad  that I only have a small amount left in the bottom of my little bottle of Hair Shine. While I do understand the quality of ingredients in this product can be quite costly, I feel the product is just too cost prohibitive for our family. I would certainly recommend that anyone who has the budget for and is looking for quality natural health products click on over to BeeYouTiful’s website and check them out!

     Don’t forget to check out what my Crewmates chose for their families to review over at the Crew blog.


I received this product free of charge as a member of the TOS Crew for review purposes. No other compensation was received and opinions expressed here are my own, honest thoughts and feelings.

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Lesson Planet

Lesson Planet - Your lesson plan search engine. Find the best lesson plans for teachers including math lesson plans and science lesson plans.

Lesson Planet website

Lesson Planet is a search engine site for educators. Our Crew was given a three month membership to check it out.

Upon signing in to this website, I found a very well designed, user-friendly layout, and began to search subjects we are currently covering immediately. Lesson Planet basically helps find lesson plans and worksheets, but also has a section on state standards,  as well as a create your own lesson maker, online storage, newsletter maker, and a few other features classroom teachers might find helpful. A teacher can search subjects by grade as well as rating (one to five stars), and refine searches with specific areas of interest. One can also search by clicking on the subject categories on the homepage.

I can imagine that teachers teaching in classrooms or group settings might find this information helpful. After spending much time searching the subjects and topics we are currently working on now, I didn’t find anything I could use in our homeschool. Many of the links that I did click on were dead links, which can happen in any search engine. I then tried searching for extra-curricular or non-traditional type topics and still came up empty handed.  Our homeschool isn’t lesson plan driven, and we really don’t use many worksheets unless it’s something included in a particular program we might be using.  I have also learned to be pretty efficient at Googling extra materials we need, as well as utilizing our library resources.


For teachers or parents interested in this type of search engine, Lesson Planet has a 10 day free trial before commiting to a $39.95 per year membership.

While Lesson Planet wasn’t a good fit for our family, some of the Crew members did find it helpful. You can check out all of the reviews over at the Crew Blog.


As a member of the TOS Crew I was given access to Lesson Planet’s online service for 3 months. No other compensation was received and opinions expressed here are my own.