The Sojourner

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Cody's First Wrestling Match of the Season

I just thought I would share the video of Cody's first Varsity Wrestling Match of the season.  This match was an intersquad scrimmage so he wrestled a teammate who weighed at least 10 lbs. more than him.  He has improved SO much since a year ago!  It should be a great wrestling season and the next match is in a few days.

Stuffing in a Pumpkin Review

Thanks to a tip I heard from Alton Brown on their special Thanksgiving show, I decided to try baking my stuffing inside a pumpkin this year.  All I did was clean out the pumpkin (you know, seeds and strings), mixed up my stuffing and scooped it into the pumpkin.  I put the lid back on and baked it in the oven with the other side dishes.  The bottom of the pumpkin got really soft, so I would recommend putting the pumpkin on a pan of some type before baking so you can get it out of the oven easily.  Then just cook until the stuffing is cooked to your preference.  You can scoop out some of the pumpkin to eat with the stuffing or just eat the stuffing and puree the pumpkin for another pie like I did.  Plus, it saves on one baking/serving dish, too!!  And what a pretty way to serve the stuffing!!

So I give it 2 THUMBS UP!!!  Thanks, Alton!

Monday, November 14, 2011

College Prep Genius: TOS Review

When I found out about the opportunity to review this product, I was very excited because my son was preparing to take the PSAT in October and then the SAT or ACT in February or March of 2012.  So College Prep Genius "Master the SAT Class" was ideal to help him prepare for these big tests.  However, I did not receive it in time to help us for the PSAT.  However, I know that it will be of great value if he decides to take the SAT next year.

College Prep Genius "Master the SAT Class" DVDs with the accompanying Workbook and Textbook is a very complete and comprehensive way to study for the SAT.  The motto is "the no brainer way to SAT success" and although I still think you need a brain to do well on the SAT, this course certainly makes it alot easier.  The curriculum is divided into 6 parts: Introduction to the SAT, The Critical Reading Section, The Math Section, The Writing Section, Scholarship Search, and Journal for Test Success.  In my opinion, the most valuable help that this curriculum gives is in understanding how the SAT questions are written.  There are techniques and strategies for each section of the SAT that will make the test-taking procedure MUCH easier for the student!!  And College Prep Genius has thoroughly studied each section of the SAT and has many tips and helps to enable your student to get a great score on the SAT.  It uses acronyms to help you REMEMBER all those tips and tricks, too.

To be honest, the tips and tricks that College Prep Genius teaches can be found in many different SAT prep books available from many different sources, but what really set College Prep Genius apart is the completeness of the program.  With the DVDs, your student can listen to the instructions about each section before going over it in the textbook and then working the practice problems in the workbook.  The only thing lacking, in my opinion, are the complete SAT practice tests that you can take before and after studying this curriculum.  However, those ARE available online at, so no worries!  The other aspect of this curriculum that I feel is incredible is the Scholarship Search section which helps you and your student to find as many scholarships as possible to help with the financial burden of a college education.  And the higher the SAT score, the more scholarships your student will qualify for and receive.  So it is well worth the $99 (25% discount) that College Prep Genius is currently charging for this full curriculum to increase your student's score!

After all that I and my son learned about the SAT test via this curriculum and how the SAT test is created and set up, though, I think that my son will be taking the ACT test instead.  If your student is going to take the SAT, College Prep Genius would be a VERY valuable tool to help your student understand the test and what the questions are really asking.  The SAT is not a very straightforward test and they purposely include traps and tricks to fool the test-taker.  So, in my opinion, it is ESSENTIAL to give your student the benefit of going through this curriculum to help them learn these test-taking techniques and strategies to cut time in half, as well as recurring patterns and advice on a "perfect essay", which is the newest portion of the SAT test.

Go to the College Prep Genius website at for more information and to order this curriculum which is the newly updated and revised program featuring an easy-to-use format, bonus material including appendixes of must know math terms,  Latin roots, and prefixes and suffixes, new strategies, more detailed explanations, and a new motivation test.  All this comes with a 30-day, money-back guarantee.  They also have some other college prep products including VocabCafe.  You can read more reviews of this product and VocabCafe by other members of the TOS Review Crew here and see what they thought.

I received this product for free in return for an honest review. I have not received financial reimbursement for my review of College Prep Genius SAT Prep Curriculum.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Person I Marry: TOS Review


The Person I Marry by Bower Family Books is a book I wish I had known about when my teens were younger.  This gorgeous book by Gary Bower which is illustrated by his wife, Jan, is surely a lifelong keepsake!  I received this book as an ebook, but I assure you that I truly wish I had the hardcover book to keep and pass on to my children.  In fact, I think I might just have to buy one for each of my teens!

The Person I Marry is a 32-page picture book that is appropriate for all ages from young children to adults.  It would even make a really nice wedding or anniversary gift, "reminding us of what our partners really mean to us."  Throughout this beautifully illustrated book, in wonderful rhyming verse, the character traits that are most important in a spouse are portrayed and demonstrated in such an awesome way.

"The person I marry won't have to pretend
just to impress me.  I want a friend,
one who can share, but can also receive.
That is the marrying type, I believe."

This and similar verses portray without question the "true gems of character" to look for in a mate in a way that you can begin to share with your young children, your adolescents, and even your young adults.  The illustrations are incredible oil paintings of children by Jan Bower, wife of the author, Gary Bower.  She is incredibly talented as an artist and there is so much fun and feeling portrayed through her paintings used to illustrate this book.

My teen son and daughter read the book with me and were very impressed with the quality of the paintings and the way it shares those wonderful traits that they should be looking for in a mate.

The Person I Marry, part of the Bright Future book series,  is available through Bower Family Books for only $11.49 and you can order it, as well as see all the other beautiful books available, at

Here is a video where you can see excerpts from the book, as well as hear from the author and illustrator, Gary and Jan Bower, about the book:
The Person I Marry from Bower Books on Vimeo.

If you would like to read more reviews of The Person I Marry, you can hop on over to the TOS Review Crew linky page to check them out.

I received this product for free in return for an honest review. I have not received financial reimbursement for my review of The Person I Marry by Gary Bower.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Excellence in Literature: TOS Review

Even though I am in my third year of homeschooling high school, Literature has been a challenge as far as being sure that I am using the best curriculum for us.  So when I was given the opportunity to receive Introduction to Literature from Everyday Education, I was very interested to see what the course entailed.  I received the curriculum via download, so it was immediate and I can print out the pages to put into a 3-ring binder at my leisure.

At first glance, I was impressed with the selection of literature that is included as the focus works.  They are top quality classics that every child should read before graduating.  Then as I spent time reading and reviewing the 132 pages included in this curriculum, I became more and more impressed with the quality and content of the program.  Here is an excerpt from their website which gives a synopsis of the curriculum:

"Introduction to Literature is a college-preparatory literature and composition course. Focus works, including novels, short stories, poems, and drama, have been selected for literary quality, and for their place in the historical development of literature. Context readings provide background information about the author, the historical period, and the literary and artistic context of the focus work.
Students will gain an understanding of the development of literature and will practice the skills of close literary analysis through essays, approach papers, and other evaluative writing. You may learn more about how I chose the literature for Excellence in Literature in this blog post."
Introduction to Literature is a complete course that includes composition in many different forms such as compare/contrast essays, literary analysis papers, approach papers, poetry analysis and more.  This curriculum encourages the student to work independently and to learn how to delve into literature and analyze it.

We didn't get very far along in this curriculum yet, but I will give you an idea of what it is like and the schedule.  In Unit One, the student will begin by reading “A White Heron” by Sarah Orne Jewett as the focus text, which is a short story and is available via a link in the curriculum.  As context reading, there is a biography of Sarah Orne Jewett for the student to read.  The student will then learn to write an approach paper, and discover or review the five elements of fiction:  Plot, Theme, Characterization, Setting, and Style, in five great short stories.  The unit is set to be covered in 4 weeks, so there is plenty of time for the students to spend reading and writing as required, if they spend about one hour per school day on this subject.  The following units are all based on longer novels which are to be read over a 4 week time period, as well as the accompanying papers written.


By the end of the course, students will:

  • Understand the process of writing, including the use of tools such as a writer’s handbook, dictionary, and thesaurus.
  • Have specific understanding of selected representative texts by major authors of the periods studied.
  • Have a general understanding of the historical and cultural contexts of the works.
  • Be able to analyze literary texts and present thoughtfully developed ideas in writing.
  • Demonstrate competence in essay organization, style, and mechanics.
    Unit 1: Short Stories by-
    • Sarah Orne Jewett: A White Heron
    • Edgar Allen Poe: The Purloined Letter (This one is not scary, if you're concerned about that.)
    • Guy de Maupassant: The Diamond Necklace
    • O. Henry: The Ransom of Red Chief
    • Eudora Welty: A Worn Path

    • James Thurber: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

    Unit 2: Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne
    Honors: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

    Unit 3: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain
    Honors: The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain

    Unit 4: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
    Honors: Shirley or Villette by Charlotte Brontë

    Unit 5: Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
    Honors: Murder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot

    Unit 6: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
    Honors: Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson

    Unit 7: Animal Farm by George Orwell
    Honors: 1984 by George Orwell

    Unit 8: The Tempest by William Shakespeare
    Honors: A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

    Unit 9: Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
    Honors: The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan
There are five levels available in Excellence in Literature which together make for a complete college-prep high school study of Literature for 8th through 12th grades.  For a very reasonable price, Introduction to Literature: English 1 Print Book $29 + $4.95 shipping, you can receive an incredible Literature curriculum for your high school student.  Or you can choose the ebook version for $27 and receive it immediately via download.  If you are just beginning your high school journey, you may choose the complete comprehensive 5-year curriculum package which includes Introduction to Literature: English 1, Literature and Composition, American Literature, British Literature and World Literature all in a professionally printed binder with tabs for only $139 plus shipping.

If you would like to read more reviews by TOS Review Crew members, click here and you can read many more opinions of this product.

You can visit the website at and can even get a sample unit so you can see if this curriculum is a good fit for your family.

I received this product for free in return for an honest review. I have not received financial reimbursement for my review of Introduction to Literature from Everyday Education.