Mega Homeschool Giveaway Sponsor: Usborne Books

Durable, fun and an established name, with over 1,400 titles, Usborne Books, has something for everyone and is a name that is trusted.

From the Usborne website,

“In 1973, Peter Usborne decided that educational, non-fiction books would need to change in order to compete with TV and comics. He borrowed some ideas from those two media and hired educational consultants to oversee the writing to make sure that the books would satisfy the child’s interest, but also arouse it. Explanatory books which merely explain are doing only half the job; if a book fails to make its subject attractive and interesting to the reader, chances are the explanation will fail. Usborne Books are designed graphically to draw the students in, to make them want to learn the material and to help them retain that knowledge.

The magic of Usborne Books is that they make both reading and learning fun and not a boring or intimidating experience. Peter Usborne set out to break down a child’s resistance to reading and learning at home. These books are so well organized that children absorb and recall much of the vast amount of information presented.”

One of the many fabulous giveaways that is going on, “Usborne Books” is giving a lucky winner, the chance to win 21 different books from them:  a great way for a new homeschooler to start a library or for current homeschoolers, build up their current library. So drop by “Usborne Books“, discover all they have to offer! Don’t forget to participate in Molding Minds Homeschool-Mega Homeschool Giveaway and tell your friends about it too!

TOS Sweet Critique: Before Five in a Row

PhotobucketWho:  Five in a Row {created by the Lambert family}

What:  Before Five in a Row – 24 mini-units that make use of literature for children ages 2-4, as well as an extensive “learning readiness” section

Contact:  Message Board

Cost:  $35, plus any books you choose to purchase {can easily be checked out from the library, or you might have the titles already}

Ages:  2 – 4

Before Five in a Row is designed to be used by parents of children ages two to four.  The mini-units provide instruction and activities meant to be used in conjunction with books such as Goodnight Moon and Caps for Sale.  Unlike Five in a Row, the lessons for each book are not necessarily spread out over five days.  They are meant to provide bonding time with your child and a few learning readiness exercises to prepare your child for school in a few years.

Although Babydoll is much older than the suggested age, we took a look at the book because I know what it’s like to be a parent of a child aged two to four.  I definitely would have loved to have had something like this when she was little, as I’m one of those parents that needs direction when it comes to “play.”  I’m much more suited for parenting an older child…

Caps for Sale was one of my favorite books growing up, so I took a gander at that unit.  Although this is the unit I focused on, all literature mini-unit in BFIAR are essentially the same.  You are provided with title, author, illustrator, and copyright information, followed by a story summary.  The unit is then broken up into bible, math, language, sayings, science, art, character, and parent’s note.  It’s extensive!  Each component ties into the story.

In this particular unit, the science lesson focused on health and the way children used to walk around with a book on their heads to learn and keep good posture.  I know Babydoll used to love to walk around with things on her head, trying to balance them.  The lesson suggests letting your child do this, seeing how many things he or she can balance.  Why?  Because the man in the story balanced all the hats he was selling on his head!!

Math involved things like counting the number of hats of each color or introducing a brief money lesson.  Character lessons talk about the characters in the story and what we can learn from them.

My favorite part of the book was the learning readiness section.  There are a number of activities {it’s the largest section of the book} that include bath time activities, store activities, and my favorite, activities in the kitchen!!  Some of these things are things you might already do with your child, but it’s always great to have more suggestions, especially when you’re talking about things such as a two year old in the kitchen!

I also like the fact that, although this is produced by a Christian company, it does not contain doctrinal information and it is not pervasive in the book.  It’s a small part of each lesson and can easily be left out.

I would highly recommend this book.  It’s easy to use, concise, clear, and very well put together.  Like I mentioned before, I would have loved to have had something like this for use with Babydoll.  If you’re struggling for ideas of things to do with your young children or how to prepare them for more “structured” learning, this is the book for you!

True Confessions:  As a TOS Homeschool Crew Reviewer, I was provided with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  You always get my honest opinion!

Sweet Critique & Giveaway: Wonka Chocolates

Wonka Chocolates

Wonka ChocolatesI have never hidden my love for chocolate here on Sweet Phenomena.  Quite honestly, I believe it is as close to a cure-all as you can get.  Well, chocolate and delicious lemon drops and margaritas…  This is why I was so very excited when I was given the option to review {eat!!!!} Wonka Exceptionals.

My family was able to try the Chocolate Waterfall Bar, Scrumdiddlyumptious Chocolate Bar, and two new varieties:  Fantabulous Fudge & Triple Dazzle Caramel {my FAVORITE!!!}.

To give these uber-fantastic bars the proper attention they deserve, I’ll go bar by bar:

  • Chocolate Waterfall Bar – I personally am not a big fan of white chocolate.  I liked the bar, though, and Babydoll loved it!  One of my favorite things about all the Exceptionals is the actual bar designs, and the Waterfall doesn’t disappoint.  I mean, take a look at the picture above; the Waterfall is in the foreground.  Doesn’t that look fun?  I believe the “official” description is “milk and white chocolate cascading together.”  Cascading.  Now that’s some serious word love right there.
  • Scrumdiddlyumptious Chocolate Bar – I was excited to try this bar since my absolute favorite chocolate bar of all time is one that contains toffee and almonds.  This bar has chunks of toffee, crispy cookie pieces, and peanuts inside.  Yum.  I love the way the chunks add great texture to the smooth chocolate.  I like having that crunch there.  And they sure weren’t stingy with the toffee pieces.  Win.  Chocolate with Milk
  • Fantabulous Fudge Bar – Fudge is yummy.  Fudge inside chocolate=double yummy.  This says it best:  “…like your own personal bar of truffles.”  Nobody else’s truffles.  Just yours.  A thing of beauty.  These were pretty sweet, but in a rich yummy way.  The fudge was nice and smooth and one square really gave you a good hit of chocolate that satisfied.
  • Triple Dazzle Caramel Bar – As I’ve already mentioned, this one is my absolute favorite.  There’s a distinct possibility that at any point caramel will surpass chocolate on my scale of sweet yumminess.  I love caramel.  And I really love salted caramel.  Triple Dazzle Caramel is filled with surprisingly good caramel, with a “dazzle” of sea salt.  I don’t say that to imply Wonka would make sorry caramel, but in all the caramel-filled candy bars I’ve ever had, I’ve never really found “worthy” caramel.  There’s is freaking delicious.  This thing was really, really good.  Perfect amount of salt.  Double win.

Wonka doesn’t just give all the fun to the candy either.  They’ve got a cool site and an uber-cool YouTube channel: The Imagination Room.  I played on this thing for quite a while…  Fun!!

Sure, making good chocolate is great.  But creating an experience, a truly unique and fun brand makes me far more likely to buy your stuff.  Kudos to Wonka!!

After we ate our supply of chocolate, Babydoll and I quickly ran out to our local stores to find more.  We now know exactly where to go to get our stash…

I really can’t express how much I enjoyed working with them; it was a blast!

So, I’ve told you how awesome these things were.  Wouldn’t you like some of your own?

Wonka Chocolates is giving one lucky reader four bars of each flavor!!!!  That’s $38 of chocolate sent right to your door!  They ship fast and they ship well, complete with cushioning and cold packs.

Use the Rafflecopter form below to enter to win!

True Confessions:  I was provided with chocolate for this review.  It was fun and awesome and amazing.  It didn’t affect my review, though.  Only honest opinions here.
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Nook Color Giveaway!!!


Want to win a Nook Color?  Sure ya do!!!

These things are awesome {so I hear}.  You can run apps on them, read, view magazines, among many other things.  It now has full-featured email and enhanced web access.

And then there are my two favorite things:  a color touch screen {drool} and the kids’ storybooks.  They have animated many of them so when you touch images, they do something.  So freaking cool!

I want one…  But I’d have to buy it.  You can enter to win it below!

Below you will find the Rafflecopter form used for entering and the list of participating blogs that made this all possible.

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Mmmm, Butter…and How to Make Your Own

Make Butter

Butter is wonderful and magical and versatile.  I *heart* it.  And no, I do not want to hear about how unhealthy it might be.  I’m still going to love butter anyway.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, who wants to make their own butter???

Of course you do, it’s sooooo yummy and easy to make!

Yesterday Babydoll and I made butter as part of our Prairie Primer study.  We didn’t do it the way Laura Ingells Wilder’s mother did, but our way was so much more fun.  We got a science lesson out of it to boot.

Make ButterThe first step is one that we didn’t do, because I didn’t read about it until it was too late.  Leave your cream out for 12 hours.  Just trust me folks, plus I have science to back me up on this one…

After your cream has soured {eeew, I know}, pour it into a mason jar.  You don’t really need to measure unless you want a specific amount of butter.  Generally, one cup of cream will make a half a cup of butter.

Now comes the really wicked part:  shake the jar.  A lot.  About one shake per second will be fine.  Make Butter

As you shake, you go from cream, to whipped cream, to butter bit and buttermilk.  You’ll also notice a difference in texture and ease of shaking as it moves through the process.  Whipped cream is probably the hardest part of the shaking process, but right after it gets amazingly easy when the butterfat separates.

Make ButterAt this point, you’ll want to drain out the buttermilk so you’re only left with butter bits.  We did this by pouring it into a fine mesh strainer.

Rinse the butter in cold water until the water runs almost clear.  Any leftover buttermilk can go rancid and spoil your butter.

Place your butter into a storage container {or butter mold if you’re feeling fancy-we were not} and press with a spoon, squishing out any last bits of buttermilk and draining it off.

If you prefer salted butter, mix in a bit of salt.

Make ButterThat’s it, you’re left with yummy homemade butter.  Babydoll sampled it three times yesterday on bread and has determined that we need to make our own butter all the time now!

It’s really helpful to check out the video below.  While the process is pretty much the same, the science behind this process is explained, and it’s actually quite interesting.