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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Sweet Critique: Chippy Chipmunk: Parties in the Garden


I’m not a big science/animal/outside person, but there are some things that are just too darn cute to avoid.  Chipmunks fall into that category.  I tell ya, I wish I could have one as a pet!

No, that’s a lie.

I wish I could have a domesticated chipmunk that would sit on my shoulder and follow me around and eat food from my hand as a pet…

Anyway, I was recently sent Chippy Chipmunk-Parties in the Garden {winner of 15 different awards!} to review.  Oh man, this is such a cute book!!!

Babydoll sat down and read it before I ever had a chance to and I heard her chuckling forever and talking about all these cute things.  I still didn’t really know what the book was about, so I was curious to know more.

A couple of nights later, Vince and I read the story together.  So cute!!!  You follow a chipmunk through the garden and see what he finds!

The pictures in this book are amazing!  Not only is it great photography, but the shots fit the story perfectly!  I love that they are actual pictures taken in nature.  It really makes the story.

I definitely recommend this book, especially if you’ve got a kid that a) loves chipmunks or b) is studying animals such as chipmunks.  Shoot, you could go so many places with this:  gardening, animals, and on and on.

Kathy has another Chippy Chipmunk book coming out on October 21st called Babies in the Garden; just click the link above to pre-order!

True Confessions:  I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  Receipt of this book did not sway my opinion one way or the other.

Sweet Critique: Multiply and Divide with Sticks and Steps


I’m not a fan of book-work math.  Love it in real-life application {like baking/cooking}, but I can do without the rest of it.  Blech!

Babydoll liked math…until we got to multiplication.  And it is here we seem to be stuck.  Well, not necessarily “stuck,” but it’s slow going and I’m wondering when we’ll hit division.  I’ll quiz her on each set of facts and she’s got it down, then two months later she doesn’t remember them…  Maybe I really suck as a math teacher.

At any rate, I was recently given the opportunity to review Multiply and Divide with Sticks and Steps, a book that touts an easy method for teaching multiplication.  Maybe this could help?

The method is easy; it literally took about five minutes to teach.  Out of respect for the author, I have chosen not to give specifics about the method, but I will say it is similar to things a student might do when they can’t remember the answer and need to “count it out,” such as tally marks, however, it is much easier, smaller, and cleaner than that.  It is a multi-sensory approach.

I really like that the book doesn’t just deal with basic multiplication, but shows you how to use the method with an unknown value, multi-digit multiplication, and division.  That really excited me.  I think this will come in very handy when we get to things like that.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love Math U See, but as many of you know, sometimes you need to send in the reinforcements to really get something through, and that’s what I love about this book.  It’s a great supplement and I highly recommend it.

The book retails for $14.95, but is listed on Amazon right now for $11.66 and free shipping.  Don’t worry, the parent site links to Amazon to purchase.

And yay!  They’re giving one of you guys a copy of the book!!!  How sweet is that?

The Rafflecopter form below has all the info you need to enter!

True Confessions:  I was provided with a copy of this book in exchange for a review.  This did not sway my opinion one way or the other.

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Sweet Critique: Planet Explorers


As most of you know, we homeschoolers are usually looking for a way to incorporate learning into everything.  That doesn’t just include your “typical” learning like math facts, literature, and grammar done with books or worksheets while sitting somewhere.  We really love to get down with some real-life-application learning.  That’s why I love Laura Schaefer’s Planet Explorers.

These books are travel guidebooks for kids!!  How genius is that?!?!

Oh, and they’re eBooks, available in a variety of formats, and super cheap {$2.99}!

Each book includes a wealth of information that will allow your child to help plan a family vacation such as maps, attraction tips, and tons of other random and important information.  Curious about height requirements?  Laura’s put that info in the book.  Want to know if an attraction might be too scary for your child?  That’s in there.  Want to know how exactly a Disney FastPass works?  Yep, in there, too.  I’m telling you, the amount of information she’s packed into these things is crazy!

Want to know my favorite thing, though?  Well, here’s a quote from the site:

She also wants each book to act as a springboard to further learning about geography, history, and science. To do this, links are provided throughout each guide to give readers more information about everything under the sun.

What more could a homeschooler want?  Laura has provided a rich resource that would be useful even if you weren’t planning a vacation.  Such a fun way to incorporate geography into your homeschool {or study time with your kid}.

I really recommend these books whether you’re planning a vacation or not.  They’re super awesome.

True Confessions:  I was provided with two Planet Explorers books in exchange for this review.  That didn’t sway my opinion one way or the other, I promise!