Tuesday, September 28, 2010

FREE Homeschool Webinars ~ Graphics Toolbox

As some of you may know, I have started working with Great Software Tools. Great Software Tools creators of Graphics-Toolbox is an easy-to-learn-and-use graphics design program,  I first learned of Graphics Toolbox as part of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine’s  Homeschool Crew.  I fell in love with the program and am now working with them to intorudce Graphics-Toolbox to homeschool families across the country! As a homeschool mother and group leader myself, I see that, we as homeschoolers often lack in the area of Technology and Graphics Arts. With Graphics-Toolbox we can enhance the level of work our children are producing, as well as teach them skills they will use in their future college and professional careers!

Here at Graphics-Toolbox, we pride ourselves on Customer Service.  To that end, we would like to offer two opportunities for you to see some of what can be achieved with Graphics-Toolbox.

FREE Informational Webinars

We are conducting webinars, specifically designed to show you how to incorporate Graphics-Toolbox into your homeschool.  We will share with you projects created by students of all ages, from elementary school to high school.  We will also show you how you can use Graphics-Toolbox for all subjects and learning abilities.

We have two sessions for you to choose from.  The sessions are identical.  Please pick the time that would best suit your schedule!

Introduction to Graphics-Toolbox:  Where Learning & Creating Click!

Session 1:  Wednesday October 6th, 7:30am PST / 10:30am EST

Session 2:  Thursday October 7th, 10am PST / 1:00 pm EST

We will be hosting the webinars through gotomeeting.com.  Each webinar has limited capacity, so please email us to sign up and then make sure you attend.

We will accept you on a first come basis and the scheduled attendees will receive a confirmation e-mail from us with a link to the meeting.

Send your request to Jennifer@greatsoftwaretools.com. As a bonus, all attendees will receive a free downloadable bundle that includes step-by-step directions and the files needed to create a dynamic and comprehensive homeschool project.

The audio through gotomeeting.com is very good and if you have a headset on your computer you can hear and talk directly through the service.  If you do not have a headphone, you can use your telephone to call into the meeting as well.  Generally you will be asking questions through a chat box, so if you do not have a mic on your computer you can communicate with us that way.

I look forward to your feedback and hope to be "meeting" you soon!




Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Graphics Toolbox- What People Are Saying!!

Life has been justa speeding by!!! I had promised a Graphics Toolbox Tuesdays to share what my family is creating with Graphics Toolbox, yet our summer has just gotten away from us!

Throughout our summer, we have used Graphics Toolbox to make all of our Birthday Cards and Thank You notes! It has been so much fun to create unique and fun cards  for our family and friends!

Today, while working on crew stuff, I ran across a post about Graphics Toolbox that one of my dear Crew mates posted prior to our review of the product!

Please take a moment to visit Tim @ Families Again to see what he and his family think about Graphics Toolbox!

To learn more about Graphics Toolbox, visit our website! Or click here to see a video telling you all about what our program has to offer.

If you have any questions, please send me an email!!!


Friday, September 17, 2010

TOS Crew: Vocabulary Cartoons SAT Word Power

This year's voyage is off to a great start! Our next port of call is with the fine people from New Monic Books, Inc.  As part of the TOS Crew, we were sent a free copy of Vocabulary Cartoons SAT Word Power Learn Hundreds of SAT Words with Easy Memory Techniques, in exchange for our honest opinions... and here is mine....

First, let's talk about what are Vocabulary Cartoons? Are you familiar with mnemonics? A mnemonic device helps you learn something new, by using something that is familiar. Usually a picture and some sort of 'saying'. We, as a family, have used these to teach  geography and math, so I was excited to try this with my kids.

The purpose of Vocabulary Cartoons is to help your high schooler, really any age child, to remember unusual words that will be found on the SAT. Click here to see a few pages from the book.

As you can see, these 'Vocabulary Cartoons' are a lot of fun! Kids really do retain much more when they are having a good time!

How is this book used.......  (from the book introduction..)

" Each page has five elements:

1) The main word.  The word you wish to lean. It is followed by the phonetic pronunciation, part of speech, and a definition.

2) The link word. The link word is a simple word or phrase which rhymes or sounds like the main word.

3)The caption.  The caption connects the main word and the link word in a sentence.

4) the cartoon. The caption is illustrated in a bizarre or humorous cartoon which incorporates the main word and the link word into a visual mnemonic.

5) Each cartoon is followed by two or three sample sentences."

When you put all of these elements together, it really is a successful combination!

Now.. how did we use this book?

I simply handed the book, to two of my teenage boys. the instructions I gave them was to work on  2-3 words a day, and work their way through the book. To test each other, and do the little quizzes that are throughout the book.

The boys enjoyed the book, not only were they learning the words that were in the book, they had a good time doing it! They will never forget those visuals!  And in the end, they really did retain more words than they typically do! That scores points in my book!!!

And to top it off... the book is available at the ultra affordable price of $12.95!  Be sure to check out New Monic Books to see their whole line of vocabulary helps! Create a milieu of words in your home!

Take a moment, and visit the crew blog to see what my crew mates have to say about this neat product!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

TOS Crew: Math Tutor DVD Review

Well, I must say, that I have been thrilled each year that I have served on the TOS Homeschool Crew that Math Tutor DVD has decided to be part of our voyage! I have been a long time fan of Math Tutor DVD.You can read my first review here and my second review here.  For those of you who have read my blog (or know me in real life) know that math is simply not my thing!

So as a homeschool mom, I have been on the lookout for math help! And for me, that has come in the form of Math Tutor Dvd!  Jason Gibson, math tutor extra-ordinare, walks you and your children through math.  Math Tutor DVDs have been such a helpful tool to us. When I simply cannot explain something to my children in a way that they can understand, I pop in the DVDs and Jason explains it for me!

As part of the TOS Homeschool Crew this year we were sent 2 FREE DVD's in exchange for our honest opinion.

I was sent Pre Algebra Tutor and the Texas Instruments  TI-83/ TI-84 Calculator Tutor

Both of these DVD's are available at the links listed above for $26.99.

As in all the previous DVDs that I have either purchased or reviewed for Math Tutor DVD, your student will receive clear instructions on how to figure problems, or in the case of the graphong calculator how to use the calculator.

Now, I must admit, I do not have a child currently in Calculus so the Graphing Calculator DVD, I looked at, but we are not yet at the point where we need it. However, I put in on of the DVD's and Jason, once again, explains how to use the calculator in very clear and easy to understand terms.  There is an awesome screen shot of the calculator, which enables you to see exactly what he is doing, as he explains it!

If you are a family that will need help teaching math at any level, please look into Math Tutor DVD to help you teach your students! These DVD's have really blessed my family over the years!

Please visit the crew blog to see what my crew mates are saying about Math Tutor DVD!

Happy Calculating!

Sunday, September 5, 2010


?Now you can drive past your local sweet shop without looking back. Yoplait Splitz is the new yogurt that tastes like a sundae. Providing all of the goodness of 100% real yogurt, Yoplait Splitz is a good source of calcium and vitamin D. With no artificial flavors or sweeteners and no high fructose corn syrup, this 90 calorie dessert is the treat your family craves.

For an even “cooler” experience, just pop a Yoplait Splitz in the freezer and in a few hours you can enjoy a cool, creamy cup of authentic frozen yogurt. Available in three delicious flavor combinations including Strawberry Sundae, Strawberry Banana Split, and Rainbow Sherbet, Yoplait Splitz is sure to have your family screaming for more.

Recently I was sent from the fine people of Yoplait, a FREE sample of Yoplait Splitz! Along with an insulated tote and rolled up picnic blanket! Now to be honest.. my kids are not big yogurt fans.. so they were not even willing to try these! However, a fine little 7 year old boy, who my son gives piano lessons to, absolutely loved these Yoplait Splitz. We gave him the whole pack!!

If you are a yogurt loving family check out.. Yoplait on Facebook or Yoplait on Twitter and “Like” or “Follow” the brand to keep up with the latest news on your favorite Yoplait products.
In addition, you  can visit   http://www.myblogspark.com/uc/main/7b3a/ to download a printable coupon for $0.75 off any flavor Yoplait Splitz today!

*This coupon offer for Yoplait Splitz yogurt is not valid in some states, including California, Idaho, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Jersey, Nevada, North Dakota and Tennessee.

Would you like to win a prize pack, just like the one I received?  If so, the fine people at Yoplait are offering to send one to one of my readers!

Here is what you will receive..

A refrigerated sample of new Yoplait Splitz as well as a prize pack that includes an insulated carry tote and a roll up fleece picnic blanket.

To enter here is all you have to do... ( you may enter more than once!) Leave separate comment for each entry, and please include links!

1) leave a comment.

2) Follow my blog

3)Post on your facebook page ( send link please)

4)tweet about this contest  (send link please)

5)Post about this on your blog ( send link please)

6) Leave a comment telling me which flavor you would like to try!

Have fun! And good luck!

This Just In.....

******And the winner is.....................TRINA!!!!!!!   Congratulations! Enjoy your prize pack!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Moore Sprouts!!!!!

My Cousin has started an awesome blog called Moore Sprouts!  She is sharing  her love for food and attempts to appease a family with dairy and soy intolerance, Gout, Hypothyroidism, and particularly picky palates. She choose to approach our diverse needs with a plant based cuisine that is fun and family friendly, and gets the kids involved!

She has included awesome recipes and photos! If you are interested in a healthier life style no matter your circumstances, you will find some great ideas and resources here!!!


Fundamentals of Story Writing with Jim Baumgardner

This is the third and final installment of the series 'Fundamentals of Story Writing" by Jim Baumgardner of the Sarah Books Series.

Mr. Baumgardner, an award winning author, has shared with us over the last 2 months free lessons in story writing for our homeschool students of any age!  Thess articles have blessed my family, and many more! You can see the original articles by clicking here for #1 and here for #2.

Pull up a chair and and bring along your student and enjoy the final chapter of The Fundamentals of Story Writing!

Fundamentals of Story Writing

Part 3


What’s a story without conflict? What’s life without conflict? All of us have conflict in one form and to one degree or another. Sally is conflicted at breakfast. Does she have Cheerios or Wheaties? Sometimes it’s more serious. Which college should Sally attend?

Writing stories is life condensed onto a page. As a writer wanting to write a great story, ask what do people find interesting about others? Is it what Sally had for breakfast? I think not.

How about while Sally was eating breakfast she heard a thud against the outside wall and when she opened the backdoor a man fell through the doorway with a knife in his back? Trust me, the knife in the back story will keep a person reading longer, and with more interest, than anything you can write about the taste of cereal.

And, the reader will really be hooked when Sally finds a note in the man’s hand that reads ‘you are in grave danger’. Now what? Then, as she turns the note over Sally sees scrawled on the back the rest of the message—‘don’t go to the police or you will never see your children again’. Whoa!

This opening has satisfied two important elements in writing the beginning to your story: the hook and the conflict. The man with the knife in the back is the hook. It will keep the reader reading. The note produces the conflict which will make the reader want to know what happens next in Sally’s life. Of course, this scenario would be told over the first chapter. I have condensed it for illustration. Here are a couple of examples, and these are just excerpts.

From Sarah’s Wish chapter one:

The Hook - It all seemed to have happened in one of those slow-motion moments. Actually, the horse heard it first-the rattle sound. The sound that leaves goose bumps on a big man’s neck. By the time the girl caught eye of it, Blackie had instinctively shied to the right.

“Snake!” Rachel pointed at the coiled serpent, its mouth gaping, fangs laid bare.

Blackie bolted. The sudden jerk slammed Rachel against the seat, wrenching the reins from her hands. Immediately she reached for twelve-year-old Sarah. Careening wildly along the narrow lane they furiously clutched at the buggy seat.

The Conflict - Sarah leaned over and kissed her mother’s soft hand. “What will happen to Joseph and Polly? They need you, Mama. Tonight-what about tonight? I promised never to tell. What should I do now?” she begged, her tone frantic. “Tell me!  Please wake up, Mama. Oh, Please! I need you. Oh, Mama, don’t leave me.”

From Sarah’s Promise chapter one:

The Hook - Before the sun peeked over the horizon, while the morning star still shimmered in the western sky, they attacked. The earth shook under the pounding hooves as two riders whipped their horses furiously, pushing them to the limit. Out of the dim eastern horizon they raced across the field, swiftly closing in on Sam and Eliza. Slowly, the Negroes turned to the sound and squinted into the first gray light of dawn. Graybeard jammed his boot into Eliza’s side, the blunt force slamming her to ground. She groaned pitifully. Then, holding her side, she curled into a ball. Finally, after catching her breath, she screamed for her husband. Sam started for his fallen wife, but never made it. Tall Man pistol-whipped him, opening a bloody gash on the black man’s forehead. Crumpling into a heap, Sam lay dazed, eyes half-closed. The brutal, hardhearted bounty hunters had the devil in their eyes. While gazing down at their terrible work those ice-cold eyes turned mean—real mean. Unhurried, they swung down from their snorting horses.

From chapter two: The Conflict - “Sarah, I’ve brought bad news to your door. The slave catchers kidnapped Sam and Eliza. Esther rode to our place on her mule, and she’s in a bad way.” His lip quivered. “I’m sorry…

Sarah’s face drained of color and she felt her heart quake. The news gave her a queasy feeling in the pit of her stomach and questions raced through her mind...

Sarah touched her chest. “Granny,” her voice trembled, dropping to little more than a whisper. “My heart is breaking!”

Doc pulled her closer. In a quiet, soothing voice he assured, “God will provide. He always does.”

“I believe it,” her hushed voice broke with emotion. “The Lord promised to be with us, even to the end of the world. I know He will be with Esther and her parents. I will, too. I promise! Somehow, I’ll help get Mr. Sam and Miss Eliza back. I promise I will!” Putting on a brave face, she continued. “I don’t know how, but I will!”

So, in Sarah’s Wish, what happens to Sarah and her mother? What will happen tonight?  In Sarah’s Promise what happens to Sam and Eliza? Sarah promises to get them back, but how will she do it?

The first chapter is usually the most important in the book. For a short story the first paragraph or first page is critical. After that it becomes the writer’s job to resolve the conflict so the reader is satisfied with how the story ends.


Dialogue and action are the elements that put the wind in the sails of your story, propelling it forward. Without dialogue your story just sits there. Sure, you could tell your story without it; and then hand it out as a sleeping aid. “Read this if you cannot sleep at night.” To keep your reader engaged takes meaningful dialogue through which you develop plot, and in turn it develops your characters. The reader gains understanding of your characters through their words and actions.

In the Sarah Books the reader learns that Sarah has a sense of humor, can imitate voices, is caring, very smart, etc. This information about Sarah and other things is conveyed by means of dialogue and action. In writing your story, do not say: Jason is a jokester. Show the reader what makes him funny. Have him play practical jokes. Let the characters discuss it.

Always make the dialogue relevant to the story and what the characters are doing. Do not “throw in” paragraphs of dialogue or narrative that have nothing to do with moving the story along. Good dialogue has purpose.


I love cats. When I was a little boy I learned a cat is smart and very cagey. I came to know my cat’s feelings by her actions. When she lay on the floor with her paws up I knew she wanted to be petted. When she crouched low, creeping slowly next to the wall I knew she was about to pounce on something. Another thing—a cat doesn’t get its back up often, but when it does, look out. She’s ready to fight, and unless you want to wear claw marks for a few weeks get out of the way.

Actions tell a lot about cats, and so also people. Consider this statement: Sarah’s lips drew tight across her teeth. Depending on the context of the story you know she is angry or frightened. It is not necessary to tell the reader Sarah was scared. The action shows her emotion. Keep in mind that action is not all gunfights, car chases or throwing someone out a window. It is body movements, too. What do you think Sarah’s actions tell from the following description?

Sarah’s face grew ashen. Her eyes darted from one hard-faced man to the other; she swallowed hard. Taking a step back the girl slowly reached into her bag grasping the derringer. With shaking hand she raised it and eked out the words, “Don’t come any closer.”

I would think it is obvious what Sarah is feeling. Now, which is the better description? Is it the one written above or the following? Two mean-looking men confronted Sarah and she was scared. Hmmm, this also should be obvious.

Remember: action is as small as a wink or large as a train wreck. Write your story using actions and dialogue. An important writing rule is: show, don’t tell. As a reader I want to be shown that my hero is brave by what he does, not by being told that he is brave. As a writer you must give some examples—prove it.

So, you have a story to write. How are you going to approach it? Go back and review all three installments of my series on the Fundamentals of Story Writing. Then, take a sheet of paper and write down some ideas. Play the “what if” game mentioned under Ideas—Where Can I Find Them? Be sure to write what you know. This is a good way to start. Don’t pick a storyline that will take a lot of research. That story can come later after you have gotten your feet wet with an easier project.

Pick a setting for your story, one you know. And, as you write remember the five senses: hearing, sight, taste, smell, and touch. All five do not need to be in every paragraph, but make them part of the readers experience. Add to all of these things a likable character or two and you now have a beginning. Start writing your thoughts. Rough drafts are just that—rough. Later you can smooth it out with additional thoughts and remove other things that drag it down.

I hope these things will be helpful to you. I realize this is only a beginning and much more can be said and learned. If you love to write, do it. The more you write and use these methods the easier it becomes. It is like practicing your music lessons—repetition, repetition, repetition.

If you have any questions you are welcome to email me at: sarahbooks@cox.net

Please visit my blog and website:

http://kansasjimbo.bravejournal.com/ http://www.sarahbooks.net/

If you would like to read a little more about using conflict in a story go to my blog and read the post: In Sarah's Wish: Why did you have Sarah's mother die?

God bless, and may you always have happy trails, partner.

Jim Baumgardner, author of the Sarah Books