TOS Sweet Critique: Visual Latin

Visual Latin
What:  Visual Latin

Contact:  Contact Information

Cost:  Varies.  You can get four intro lessons and two regular lessons for free, ten lessons at a time as a single family download for $25, the first ten lessons on DVD for $30, all 30 lessons on DVD for $80, or take live classes starting at $115.  Basically, you have quite a few options!

Recommended Ages:  Nine and up, although Babydoll wasn’t quite nine and enjoyed it, and I think she would have been fine doing it at age seven as well.  It’s totally up to your kid; as long as they can read and have a basic understanding of grammar and the English language they’ll be fine.

The Basics

Visual Latin is a Latin language curriculum taught by Dwane Thomas, either via download {computer or iPod/iPhone/iPad}, DVD, or live classes.  Worksheets for the student {and answers for the teacher!} are included and provide a way to practice what is learned in the lessons.


Visual Latin is divided into Latin 1 and Latin 2, each taking approximately one school year to complete.  Each video lesson is divided into three sections:  grammar, sentences, reading.

Options are available to create a high school foreign language course out of the curriculum.

What We Thought

Overall we enjoyed Visual Latin!  I’ve been wanting to try out a Latin program for quite some time, but didn’t have to chance to evaluate which one I wanted to try.

I like the fact that I was able to download the lessons to my computer and then use them either on the computer or on the iPod {extra practice, car schooling, etc.}.  I’m a big fan of the video format.  This could have easily been put in print form, but there’s definitely no way I could have a) gotten pronunciation down and b) made it nearly as interesting and animated as Dwane did.  He seems very excited about Latin {which I definitely would not have been} and that comes through in his teaching.


I found that the video moved a bit too fast for us at times, meaning we had to pause it and review what we had just learned, but that really was a non-issue since we can pause and play the video whenever we want.  Again, the beauty of the program:  you can play it and pause it and review it as often as you’d like!  I think this really wouldn’t have been the case for an older student, but since Babydoll is only nine, we had to take it a bit slow.

I also liked the fact that the worksheets helped reinforce the learning, but they weren’t a big component of the process.  I think something like Latin would bore someone to tears if it was worksheet-heavy.

Final Thoughts

Babydoll and I really enjoyed the program and would highly recommend it.  I like the fact that it is available for purchase in small chunks, so we can take it as we can.  This probably will not be a regular part of our school week right now, but I definitely want to incorporate it as a fun extra as we have time, and having it available in smaller portions helps.

I also think this helps reinforce the English language {and other language learning for that matter} really well.  It can help with spelling and several other subjects; it ties things together nicely.  Definitely give it a try!

Also, be sure to check out what the rest of the Crew thinks about it!

True Confessions:  I was provided with Lessons 1 – 10 for free in exchange for my honest review of the material as part of The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Review Crew.  You got my honest opinions!

Sweet Critique: Project Happiness

A couple of months ago I was sent the documentary Project Happiness to review.  I’ll be honest:  I was concerned.  Sure, it sounds like a great thing, but then again, happiness always does.  The problem comes when we try to tell each other what brings happiness to us, and assume that’s what they need as well.  Plus, this type of discussion can get really heated if religion becomes a factor.

Well, I am happy to say I was pleasantly surprised.  Project Happiness far exceeded any expectations I had for it, and I really can’t quite put into words why you should see this.  It’s just a feeling, a connection, something that honestly can’t be described.  Is that vague enough for you?

What is Project Happiness?

This is a documentary that follows high school seniors from three different schools: one in CA, one in Nigeria, and one in India.  They are on a quest to find what makes people happy.  Through the magic of the internet, the students began to interact with each other, as well as their teachers, and we get to see the process.

The students visit with George Lucas, Richard Gere, a neuroscientist, individuals at the Tibetan Children’s Village, as well as many others.  Their final destination is a meeting with the Dalai Lama.  I feel I must add something here, something that probably wasn’t done intentionally:  The students asked for an interview with the Dalai Lama and they got it.  Fear of failure or feelings of inadequacy should never stop you from pursuing something you’re passionate about; you never know what out there in the works for you.  I should take my own advice…

Here are a few brief snippets of what I picked up on during the interviews:

  • George Lucas – There is a difference between pleasure and joy.  Pleasure is fleeting, instantaneous.  Joy is lasting.
  • Richard Gere – We’re all striving to move towards happiness and away from suffering.  If you look at people and their actions from this point of view, you can begin to understand them more fully.
  • Nigeria – We’re all connected, we’re all constantly searching for companionship, and we all need love.
  • Dalai Lama – Someone who is angry and full of hatred is not mentally free.  Mental freedom allows us to use our suffering as a way to make ourselves and others better.  And more importantly:  he doesn’t know the answer to finding happiness.  It’s different for all of us.

The film ends with the realization that while there are guides to happiness {human relationships and sacrifice for and service to others}, it is a moment to moment thing for each of us.  It is molded by our thoughts, which are very powerful, meaning we control our own happiness.

I love this quote, by Howard Thurman, found at the end of the film:

Don’t ask what the world needs.

Ask what makes you come alive,

And go do it.

Because what the world needs

Is people who have

Come alive.

Why this is Pertinent to All of Us-Homeschoolers or Not

First, there’s the obvious connection:  there are curriculum resources and programs to go along with the documentary.  There are tons of ways to use this to further the experience:  a handbook, a handbook study guide, a film study guide, a 15 minutes a day series, and a Jump Start series for educators.

Project Happiness HandbookThe study guides and 15 minutes series are available for free to everyone, and the Jump Start series is available to educators for free {as a homeschooler, you must be able to provide proof which varies from state to state}.  I’ve had the opportunity to review all of the resources and I must say, the handbook itself is my favorite; there is great information in there and it really can be personalized.  It’s got tons of open-ended information so it guides you, instead of telling you.

Even without considering the educational materials, this is still pertinent to every single one of us.  It really makes you sit and think about your life, whether you’re living it to the fullest, and how you interact with others.  The great thing, though, is it does this in a gentle manner, without forcing anything on you.

I think all of us strive to teach our children {and ourselves, for that matter} character, values, compassion, etc.  I know many homeschoolers have that as an actual part of their curriculum.  I think the materials provided, along with the film, can greatly assist anyone in doing just that.  I highly recommend it!

And YAY!  The folks at Project Happiness are giving away a DVD to one of you!!

To enter, use the Rafflecopter form below!
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Three Totally Awesome Homeschool Pinterest Discoveries

I haven’t been a great pin-er, but I spent some time on Pinterest tonight and remembered why I try to stay away:  it’s like heroine.  Man, that thing can suck you in and never let you go…  Oh, but I love it.  It’s so full of win.

And while product reviews and giving away awesome stuff to you guys is superb and all, I was missing my personal time with ya so I found a few pins that I wanted to share.  From me to you, no giveaways, no review stuff, just awesome homeschool stuff:

  • My Plant Observation Book – We’ve been learning plant parts and just planted a bean seed, so this will come in very handy!
  • Journal Pages – This is seriously one of the best things ever.  Really man.  Awesome.  At first I thought it would be awesome to do one of these everyday with Babydoll.  Then I realized what a tremendously bad idea that was and decided on once a week.
  • Contraction Cupcakes – Have to find some appropriate cupcake clip art and then I’m going to town making these!

Sweet Critique: Dove Chocolate Discoveries


I absolutely love chocolate and I absolutely love working with chocolate campaigns!  LOVE it!  I’m doing the whole clapping my hands while bouncing up and down wildly thing here.  SO excited!

So, why exactly am I excited about this campaign?

Well, why not?  People LOVE Dove chocolate, they love parties, and they love fun exclusive products.  It’s an uber-win situation.

What Am I Talking About?

Dove Chocolate Discoveries!!!  Dove Chocolate Discoveries {DCD} is a direct sales business designed to empower individuals to become their own boss and do something they enjoy.  As Discoveries consultant, you are a chocolatier tasked with bringing the joy of Dove chocolate to chocolate lovers everywhere.  Shoot, you could probably convert a non-lover or two with this stuff…

Why Dove Chocolate Discoveries?

DCD was started in early 2007 and has quickly expanded across the country.  I really like the mission statement:

At DOVE CHOCOLATE DISCOVERIES™ we believe in the power of chocolate to transform. We believe there’s nothing that comes close to the universal appeal and shared joy found in chocolate. Our mission is to offer a unique opportunity to turn the world’s passion for premium chocolate into an independent business and a fun, social chocolate experience. We believe that a career in making people happy has the potential for great personal growth and unlimited financial rewards.

People love chocolate.  It makes them happy, it helps them reminisce about another time in their life, and it brings people together.  Let me tell you, that is a fun job.

As a small business owner and a woman, I think it is so important for women to have something that is their own and that is their means of supporting themselves and their family.  That doesn’t mean you have to go out and work {I don’t work a traditional job}, but if something like this is your passion, jump on this!

I personally am not so great at direct sales, but I know some women are awesome at it.  And really, I can’t think of a more fun company to get involved with when it comes to direct selling.  If nothing else you’ve got a lot of great chocolate to eat

If you’re a stay-at-home mom looking to reenter the workforce, what a great way to ease into it!  You set your own hours and your own rules and can do something you love.

My Qualifications

I don’t know if I’ve really talked about this much {and this will help explain the cupcake theme going on around here}, but a few years ago, while we were living in Seattle, I had a custom cake business {that’s one of my cakes below}.  It grew rapidly and I enjoyed it so much {although it was hard work}.  Part of the reason I enjoyed it was because cake, chocolate and sweets are almost always associated with happy times.  I loved being a small part of these celebrations.

I also consider my blog to be my business.  I know I put in the hours…  Sharing my joys, triumphs, failures, and everything else with other women is great.  I’ve come to know quite a few other women bloggers who I enjoy sharing these things with, and I enjoy learning about them and their families.

DCD allows you to share in that joy and sharing and the love of chocolate with others.  I mean, really, who isn’t happy to sit around and sample chocolate stuff?  I know the ladies I invited over were.

My Chocolate Tasting Party

I had the option to just eat all the chocolate in the kit myself, or share it, so I went with the responsible thing:  share it.  I invited a couple of women over for a very informal tasting and we set out to try everything in the kit.

It was a ton of fun!  I had nothing ready when they got there, so they got a cooking demonstration and a tasting party in one!

We tried everything in the kit:

  • chocolate mousse
  • chocolate covered almonds and cashews
  • chocolate truffle brownies
  • chocolate martinis
  • chocolate fondue
  • chocolate chai tea

It was all so stinking good.  Really.  Honestly.  OMG, it was so good.  I think the mousse was by far the hit.

That is some really fabulously good mousse.  And it is by far the easiest mousse to make.  I like to consider myself somewhat of a mousse expert, since I’ve also worked as a pastry chef in my day.  We had some good mousse, but it was made the traditional way and it was not easy.

This stuff literally takes about five minutes and I really truly cannot convey to you how good the stuff is.  We’ve got one packet left and it’s like gold around here; several people want their hands on it and I’m holding on to it for dear life.  I’m on a mission to find a chocolatier in my area because we must have more of that mousse.

Want to Become a Chocolatier?

It’s easy, just contact DCD!  You can get started for just $79 right now {a savings of $80}.  If you’re looking for work and this is your kind of thing, I highly recommend it.

If you decide to sign up, let me know!  I would love to hear how it goes, and I need a chocolatier…

Want to Win a Starter Kit?

Yes, yes you do.  Trust me.  You do.  DCD is giving one away!!!!  How awesome are they?!?!  Again, the hand clapping and bouncing is going on right now; I’m so excited for you guys!!!

Use the Rafflecopter form below to enter to win!

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What Are You Doing to Bring Awareness to Domestic Violence Prevention?


October is a great month to find worthwhile causes to support.  You’ve got:

  • Dwarfism Awareness Month
  • Breast Cancer Awareness Month
  • National Arts and Humanities Month
  • Fair Trade Month

And then there’s the cause which I choose to support:  Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  Domestic violence is one of those things that people don’t like to talk about, despite the fact that everyone knows it happens…at an alarmingly frequent rate.

Here in Alabama, 14% of the homicides in 2010 were domestic homicides.  That number is entirely too high.  There are 67 counties in Alabama and only 18 domestic violence shelters, with Alabama ranking 2nd in the nation for women killed by men in domestic violence cases.

Domestic violence is a complicated thing.  It is not simply a matter of, “Why doesn’t she/he leave if they’re being abused?”  It doesn’t just involve women being abused, it doesn’t just involve physical violence, it doesn’t just involve one race.  It crosses all boundaries and it’s far past time for people to work to end it.

The Allstate Foundation and the YWCA are working on a brand new project called Purple Purse, launching on October 10th.  This month, in seven cities across the nation, tweet-ups will be held to launch the Purple Purse campaign.  For each attendee, Allstate will donate $100 per person {up to 100 people per event} toward the domestic violence awareness cause.

Many other organizations are sponsoring wonderful fundraisers and education events.  Maybe attending events or making donations are not really your style.  That’s OK, volunteer your time instead.  Give gently used clothing to shelters.  There are so many ways you can help!

Please join Sweet Phenomena in raising awareness about this problem and empowering women {and men} to leave behind the mentality of being a victim.

It takes extreme courage to bring yourself out of a situation involving domestic violence.  Please educate yourself on how to recognize the warning signs and how to help others who might be in that situation.