TOS Crew review — New Monic Books

I had already decided that I needed to find a good vocabulary book to help my son boost his knowledge of words and to add into his Language Arts curriculum. When this book arrived in my mailbox we had found the perfect fit.

How could you ever forget that “abduct” means “to kidnap or carry off by force” when you have forever emblazoned in your memory a masked man running off with a duck under each arm? See their methodology? Take a word that rhymes with the vocabulary word, make a funny picture linking the definition with the rhyming word (the mnemonic device), and create an impossible to forget image.

Product: Vocabulary Cartoons by New Monic Books
Details : Vocabulary Cartoons offers 210 words taught and reviewed in 21 quizzes using mnemonic devices geared toward students in grades three through six.
Price : $12.95 (bulk discounts available)

What we loved . . .

  • Easy to use. Older students can even use this independently. They can read through the page and quickly and easily remember the new word.
  • Really works. Each entry has the definition, a picture to help you remember it, a rhyming word that corresponds to the picture, and a few sentences to hear it in context. After seeing the page, you quickly associate the rhyme with the vocabulary word and have quickly added a new word to your vocabulary.
  • Built in review. Every 10 words the book offers a simple review test over the previous words. Answers are included in the back of the book in case your child’s vocabulary is surpassing your own at this point.
  • Word list available. To see if these words are on your radar for your student to learn in the months ahead, check out the full list of words covered in this text.

Some considerations . . .

  • Review tests are a little easy. I found the review tests a little easy, but they might be good for younger students. They have the word written along with the mnemonic device and then students must match them correctly to their definition. Then they must fill in the blank in sentences for each word. However, I felt that if the system was really working (which it did with my kids and myself), a quiz should not include the mnemonic devices. I preferred to quiz my kids by simply saying the word and having them write it in a sentence of their own creation. This was very easy and my kids came up with some creative sentences, even my “non-writers.”
  • Just a years’ worth. Although this is a great book for a variety of ages (3rd-6th), it has 210 words in it which would not last much more than one school year. So, it should definitely have a place in your homeschool, but you will need to find something else once your child has mastered these 210 words. Maybe then you could move on to their SAT vocab prep books.

Vocabulary Cartoons has been a great fit for our family and I definitely plan to look into buying the next book when we finish with this one. My students can easily learn the material on their own, and I check in with them and administer a quick quiz every week or two. And, they learn words that we might not come across in their every day reading, but they should begin to learn — cultured vultures, buffoons of baboons, etc.

For more TOS Crew reviews on this product, check out the TOS Crew blog.

Disclaimer: This book was provided to me free of charge through New Monic Books as part of my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew. I received no additional compensation and the opinions expressed here come from my personal experiences and sincere thoughts.

Race to Nowhere

The Race to Nowhere screening October 2nd at 10 a.m.

A group of local parents have teamed up to bring the Race to Nowhere to Oak Park.

It is a groundbreaking documentary about how the high-pressure culture that has schools and  children’s lives.

Here’s the link to the trailer (please note that while the trailer is for all audiences, the movie is rated PG-13):

From the website:

Director Vicki Abeles turns the personal political, igniting a national conversation in her new documentary about the pressures faced by American schoolchildren and their teachers in a system and culture obsessed with the illusion of achievement, competition and the pressure to perform. Featuring the heartbreaking stories of young people across the country who have been pushed to the brink, educators who are burned out and worried that students aren’t developing the skills they need, and parents who are trying to do what’s best for their kids, Race to Nowhere points to the silent epidemic in our schools: cheating has become commonplace, students have become disengaged, stress-related illness, depression and burnout are rampant, and young people arrive at college and the workplace unprepared and uninspired.

Race to Nowhere is a call to mobilize families, educators, and policy makers to challenge current assumptions on how to best prepare the youth of America to become healthy, bright, contributing and leading citizens.

Featured in the film:

  • Dr. Madeline Levine, Clinical Psychologist and author of the best-seller, The Price of Privilege
  • Dr. Wendy Mogel, Clinical Psychologist and author of The Blessing of a Skinned Knee
  • Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg, Adolescent Medicine Specialist, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
  • Dr. Deborah Stipek, Dean of the School of Education at Stanford University
  • Dr. Denise Pope, Co-Founder, Challenge Success, Stanford University
  • Sara Bennett, Founder, Stop Homework

The Oak Park Screening will be:
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 2ND at 10 am at the Lake Theater.

Daniel Ryan is going to participate in the Q&A after the screening.  Please forward this information to others who would be interested.

Thanks, Kimber for passing this along!

There are other screenings as well (in Chicago and Glen Ellyn) in the coming week, check out the full listing on the website for Race to Nowhere.

Homeschool Speakers in St. Charles

Raising Real Men: Surviving, Teaching and Appreciating Boys

Come Hear Hal & Melanie Young, authors of Raising Real Men: Surviving, Teaching and Appreciating Boys

When: Friday, September24, 2010
Time: 7:00PM
Where: Glenwood School (in the Field House)
41W400 Silver Glen Road
St. Charles, Illinois

Event is free and open to everyone!

In spite of what the culture is telling us, boys and girls are different. Have you ever had a war break out in the middle of supper, or had a single math lesson take three hours? Then you’re probably raising boys! If the world seems intent on gender-bending and forcing our sons into a feminized mold, Hal and Melanie, parents of six boys, explain the Biblical way out – and a better way to turn wild little wigglers into Christian men!

Authors’ Bio:

Hal and Melanie Young have been blessed with six real boys (and two real girls). They frequently speak on parenting, education and family policy issues across the nation, and their articles have appeared in publications in the U.S., Canada, and New Zealand, including Homeschooling Today, Homeschool Digest, Homeschool Enrichment, The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty, School Reform News, and Conservative Citizen. They are the authors of Raising Real Men: Surviving, Teaching and Appreciating Boys, already in its second printing.

“I loved having you two there. I have never heard of you before, and rest assured you will never be forgotten. What a blessing you both are!! I laughed, I cried, I was strengthened by your testimonies and the Word of God you shared! I know I will make it the next 10 years…” – Carrie Fisher, Missouri Homeschool Mom

“Raising Real Men is long overdue… In an era when the church has lost a biblical concept of masculinity and femininity this book is a breath of fresh air.” –Dr. Tedd Tripp, Pastor, Author, Conference Speaker

Join us as we learn and fellowship together. Expect to be refreshed and have a renewed vision to raise your sons for the glory of God. Please invite others! We don’t want anyone to miss this incredible opportunity. To learn more about the Youngs and their ministry, visit

Completely free! A love offering will be taken to bless the Young family. Children are welcome.

Elmhurst Park District classes

Many area park district’s offer educational and PE classes for homeschoolers. They are trying to reach out to the homeschool community, but often the info isn’t getting far enough. Please share this information with other homeschoolers, support groups, and co-ops. Elmhurst just canceled one due to low enrollment, and we want to make sure these aren’t just canceled because of the lack of knowledge about these events. Spread the word!

(Thanks again, Kimber, for letting us know about these opportunities!)

Elmhurst Park District
Home School Curriculum Sample

Each session is comprised of four lessons that take place over a two-week period and
include classroom instruction, laboratory and field activities, and homework
assignments to reinforce topics. Each lesson meets age appropriate state learning
standards for science and, depending on the topic, mathematics, social science,
language arts, and physical development and health are also covered.

All classes will take place in the lower level of the Eldridge recreation building. Located
in the Southwest corner of Eldridge Park, 363 Commonwealth Elmhurst, IL 60126.

Class Times:
Grades K-2 9-10:30 am
Grades 3-5 11am-12:30pm
Grades 6-8 1-2:30pm

Session Structure:
Day 1, Classroom work, In-class activities
Day 2, Review, Lab (indoor and outdoor)
Day 3, Review, Lab exercise, Classroom work
Day 4, Review, Lab, Assessment
– Homework will be assigned daily or bi-daily depending on the session.
$30 resident/ $38 non-resident per student, per session
Based off the resident rate, students will be paying $5 per instruction hour.

This Fall we will be offering 5 sessions starting September 21, we are now accepting
online registration under the environmental heading

If you have any questions please email or call Matt Poole, program manager at: or 630-993-8980

Check out their brochure for more class details and further information.

Electronic Field Trip


Thanks to Kimber for forwarding me some great materials from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. I’ll be posting it in bits and pieces throughout the week to come.

Next week we have a unique opportunity to take an electronic field trip. You do need to register in advance to join this focused learning on pollination and bees. Check out all the details:

Join PollinatorLIVE on Wednesday, September 29, 2010, for an electronic field trip to the Washington Youth Garden at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, D.C. for a series of webcasts exploring “Native Bees, Honey Bees, Gardening, and More.”  PollinatorLIVE will be webcasting from 11 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. (EDT).

The website, for more information and to register, is Pollinator Live.

If you happen to be studying pollination or insects at any point this year, you will want to check out their site for other resources as well. They have a number of web seminars archived and available for instant viewing. They also have a place to register with their site to keep posted on upcoming events.

Your budding entomologist will definitely want to check it out.

Video contest

HSLDA holds numerous contests especially for homeschoolers. This one involves making your own video: (follow links for more details and to submit your own!)

HSLDA Video Contest

2010 Commercial Video Guidelines

Submission Dates: August 16, 2010 to November 15, 2010

Entries received before August 16 or postmarked after November 15 will not be accepted.


  1. Each entrant will submit a video commercial that illustrates the value of HSLDA membership to a family. Videos will be a minimum of 60 seconds and may not exceed 90 seconds.
  2. Up to two entries per person or team will be allowed.


This contest is open to anyone.

Crew Guidelines

  1. Your project is to be completed by a team which may include, but is not limited to, a director, producer, writer, camera crew, actors, technical crew (lighting, etc.), and post-production crew. While there may be more than one person involved in the project, we ask that the individual taking the role of director fit into the specifications above. The director will send us the finished product, will take responsibility for the project, and will be the individual awarded at the end of the contest. A single cash prize (see prizes below) will be awarded to each winning entry regardless of the number of individuals who participated in the entry/project.
  2. Your work needs to be completely original.

Submission Format

  1. Please email your YouTube clip link to the following email address: Be sure to include your name, address, and phone number.
  2. We require that you also mail us a hard copy DVD in QuickTime format.


  1. $20 for HSLDA members
  2. $40 for non-HSLDA members

Final Checklist

  1. Entries must include a completed and signed entry form and permission form.
  2. Entries must include an entry fee (payable by check or money order only).
  3. Entries must include a YouTube link of the video along with a hard copy DVD in QuickTime format.


Attn: Commercial Contest
One Patrick Henry Circle
Purcellville, VA 20132-3197


  • Video submissions will undergo two rounds of judging:
    • Round 1: By a panel of critics selected by HSLDA.
    • Round 2: The People’s Choice. The critics selected by HSLDA will make their top choices. Those choices will be put online, and made available for the people’s vote.
  • The HSLDA panel of critics will judge the videos on originality of thought, style, adherence the requirements, and production quality. The panel may be composed of both professional and amateur filmmakers.
  • Results of the contest will be released by the spring of 2011.

Prize Information

  • One “Critics’ Choice Award” in the amount of $1,000.
  • One “People’s Choice Award” in the amount of $1,000.

Other Information

By submitting a video you:

  • Grant Home School Legal Defense Association the right to publish all or part of your submission, (see permission form for more information.)
  • Agree to all rules and the decisions of the judges and sponsors.
  • Agree to not use copyrighted music or other media without explicit permission by the owner.
  • Do not hold Home School Legal Defense Association responsible for any lost, damaged, misdirected, delayed, mutilated, incomplete, illegible, or postage-due entries or mail.
  • Realize that all profits from this contest will go to the Home School Foundation’s Special Needs Children Fund.

Please contact Contest Coordinator at with any questions.


The Drama Group in Chicago Heights Proudly Presents

Celebrating Shakespeare!!

Performed by the Stable Theater Company of England right here in Chicagoland thanks to an 11 year old tradition involving a theater exchange program.

Celebrating Shakespeare explores the beauty of Shakespeare’s language, rich
in pathos, emotion, and comedy!!  This performance will give you insight into how Shakespeare has left a historical impact. A hilarious take on the Bard by true British Actors.

September 16, 17, & 18th at 7:30 pm
September 19th at 2:00pm

Drama Group Studio Theater
330 W. 202nd Street
Chicago Heights, IL

Call 708-755-3444 for tickets
$18 adults — $17 Seniors — $10 All homeschool students (be sure to request this special rate for homeschooled students)

Received from: Alicia Joebge

Free webinar

The following is from an email from Lee Binz, the HomeScholar:

I’m pleased to announce a free webinar with Dr. Jay Wile, author of Exploring Creation with Chemistry.  Please join us – it’s sure to be encouraging, motivating, and meaningful!

Save the Date!
Tuesday September 21
4:00 pm Pacific Time

Join our Free Webinar with a Leading Homeschool Expert!
“Homeschooling: Discovering How and Why it Works”
By Dr. Jay Wile

Dr. Wile became involved in the homeschooling movement because of the excellent homeschool graduates he encountered  while he was on the faculty at Ball State University.  Over the years, he has followed the academic and professional literature to see how others have evaluated homeschooled students, and the results are clear: homeschooling works very well.  On average, homeschooled students are academically superior to their peers, and they are also socially well-adjusted.  In this talk, Dr. Wile reviews some of the studies that demonstrate these facts, and he also discusses why homeschooling works so well.

Join our Free Webinar!
“Homeschooling: Discovering How and Why it Works”
Presented by Dr. Jay Wile

Tuesday September 21
4:00 pm Pacific Time
5:00 Mountain Time
6:00 Central Time
7:00 Eastern Time

Register Here

Enjoy this free webinar!  And please share this information with your friends and your support group!  There are more free resources available on my website here: HomeScholar Freebies.

Homeschool Hikers!


Chicagoland Homeschool Hikers Fall/Winter 2010-2011 Hike Schedule

To join their group, just show up for a hike! All hikes are “drop-in” –
you don’t need to register! They meet at 10 am and usually hike until
around noon. Most families bring a lunch to enjoy following the hike.
All ages are welcome. To follow their group and get messages, photos, details
regarding upcoming hikes join their online community:

Friday September 17 – Hammel Woods, Shorewood Illinois

parking lot on Black Road (Crumby Recreation Area)

Friday October 1 – Indiana Dunes State Park, Chesterton Indiana

parking location TBA

Friday October 15 – Sag Valley/Swallow Cliff Woods, Palos Park Illinois

park in lot near 96th & 119th (see bottom of map)

Friday November 5 – Channahon State Park, Channahon Illinois

park in lot off of Story St.

Friday November 19 – Fullersburg Woods, Oakbrook IL\
park off of Spring Road near the Visitors Center

Friday December 3 – Rock Run Preserve, Joliet IL

Use Paul Nichols Access – Essington Road & Ingalls Ave.

Friday January 7 – Plum Creek Nature Center, Beecher IL – SLEDDING HILL!
– let it snow!
parking at the Nature Center

Friday February 4 – Monee Reservoir, Monee IL – SNOWSHOEING! Snowshoes
are available to rent –
park near the visitor center

For more information  go to
and join the list to receive info on all of the hikes, including the next 6 month schedule.

TOS Crew Review — I See cards


We love games in our house, especially when they tie in academic subjects and can legitimately enhance our school day.

And, we also have found that speed drills rank right up there with folding laundry for activities most desired to be avoided.

Pyramath cards attack both these issues in one hit. Kids can practice their math facts in a fun way, competitive or solo with this creative deck of cards.


Product: Pyramath
Details : Pyramath is produced by I See Cards and offers a fun, easy to learn card game for one or two players. Players must use a variety of math operations and thinking skills to complete their pyramid of numbers
Price : $6.95 for one deck, also comes in various bundles with their other products

What we loved . . .

  • Fun, fun, fun. Some educational games are a bit of a stretch in the fun department. Not in this case. Pyramath is simple, really does help build math skills, and is downright fun. My kids liked playing and watching, while trying to bite their tongue so as not to give away any moves that the players missed.
  • Easy to learn. About all you need to do is open the box — okay, and spend less than five minutes reading the basic rules. Deal out seven cards and the game begins. Players simply flip over one card at a time from the pile and try to find a place for it by adding, subtracting, multiplying, or dividing any pair of numbers next to each other.
  • Online version available. Don’t spend too much time there, but they do have an online version that you or your kids can play. This was a great hold-me-over while I waited for my deck to arrive.
  • Reasonable price, and a discount! These cards present an affordable addition to any math curriculum, and a discount is available if you join their fan page on facebook and use the code provided there.
  • One or two player. This is great for kids to pull out during a little dead time during the school day. Maybe they are waiting for you to finish with another student to give them a hand with their work, or they want a change of pace for their speed drills, or maybe they are motivated by a little competition. Pyramath fits the bill in all those situations.

Some considerations . . .

  • Sometimes the cards don’t work out right. We have played MANY times and every now and then you just get stuck. Just the way the cards are dealt as the saying goes, but in this case it is literally so. No problem, just pick them up and start again. We’ve never gotten stuck twice in a row.
  • Limited with younger kids. If your kids are only learning their addition or maybe subtraction facts, you will find fewer options for card placement. You can still play with them and they will likely enjoy it, but it is best used with kids already using all four math operations.

Pyramath brought us a simple solution to the continuing issue of solid math computation. The fact that kids enjoy it makes it a keeper. Loving this handy little deck of cards!

For more TOS Crew reviews on this product, check out the TOS Crew blog.

Disclaimer: This card game was provided to me free of charge through I See Cards as part of my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew. I received no additional compensation and the opinions expressed here come from my personal experiences and sincere thoughts.