Friday, October 29, 2010

Yuck! (that is, Yuck by Buckets-O-Fun!) - TOS review

Recent conversation in our house:

Me:  "Guess what we're reviewing next?"

My kids:  "What?"

Me:  "Some stuff called "Yuck!"

My kids:  "Cool," followed quickly by squeals.

Note that I have *girls* and not boys - but I have girls who love science, and who love nothing better than messy science.  Yuck fit the bill perfectly.  Luckily I don't mind mess.

As part of the TOS homeschool review crew, I received small samples of four different types of "Yuck" from Buckets-O-Fun:  Chunky Yuck, Saucy Yuck, Sticky Yuck, and Snowy Yuck.  

Click here to see pictures of Yuck "finished products".

My sample of Snowy Yuck was very small, because it spilled a bit while in the mail.  (I chuckle when I think about it spilling out of the envelope and then getting exposed to water!)

In case you're wondering what Yuck is.  Yuck is a polymer - defines "polymer" as:
Any of various chemical compounds made of smaller, identical molecules (called monomers) linked together. Some polymers, like cellulose, occur naturally, while others, like nylon, are artificial. Polymers have extremely high molecular weights, make up many of the tissues of organisms, and have extremely varied and versatile uses in industry, such as in making plastics, concrete, glass, and rubber.  
According to the 4-page pamphlet sent with our Yuck samples, "poly" means many and "mer" means part or segment.  This small pamphlet also includes a material list (really just measuring gear and water), instructions and suggested observation topics for each form of Yuck. 

On its website, Buckets-O-Fun describes itself as "a one stop shopping with unique products for the creation of fun filled social and recreational events. BOF has brought together all of the products needed, saving you the time, energy, expense and frustration of searching.  The girls and I peeked at the rest of the products available on the website, and next on the girls' list (well, next after we buy some more Chunky Yuck) is a set of "belly bumpers" (see them here!).  The letter I received with the samples advised that the company is teaming up with a science teacher to develop affordable, easy projects for schools and at home - I'll be interested to see what develops!

Even though we talked about the definition of polymer and read about natural/artificial things that are polymers, the girls weren't too interested in the discussions - they wanted to get to the "fun stuff". 

We started with the Chunky Yuck.  

That big, green-rimmed bowl sure sees its share of science experiments. 

To say the girls were happy to get started was an understatement.

Following the instructions, we poured, measured, poured and observed.  The Chunky Yuck is about the size of rock salt, and we started out with a little less than 1 tbsp.

The Chunky Yuck started absorbing the water almost immediately, so Puddin couldn't *wait* to get her hands in it - Punkin was a bit more cautious, preferring to investigate with a measuring spoon at first.

But eventually she found her courage. 

 After 30 minutes, the Chunky Yuck had grown:

After a little more than an hour, all the water we initially added (2 c.) had been absorbed, so we added 2 more cups.

We put it aside and moved on to other things (including the other 3 Yuck samples).  When we came back to the Chunky Yuck, all of that second portion of water had been absorbed.  We added more water, and by the next morning noticed a significant size difference.  Look at how it grew (remember, it started out the size of rock salt) - the piece closest to the measuring tape was one piece of Chunky Yuck:

We have not yet let it dry out, simply because the girls are having so much fun just playing with it.  

While a number of my fellow crewmates noted that the 4-page pamphlet provided minimal information, I preferred it that way - the limited activities on the pamphlet let my girls' imaginations go wild with what they wanted to do next.  They want to get some more Chunky Yuck and do more in-depth experiments - their ideas include comparing adding water in a bowl kept at room temperature versus adding water in a bowl kept in the fridge (to see how it affects the speed of absorption), coloring it (Buckets-O-Fun actually has some Yuck tints in their Yuck "accessories"), comparing absorption time versus dehdyration time, comparing time to hydrate on a dry day versus time to hydrate on a humid day, etc.  I love that this project sparked so many ideas for other experiments.

We used the other three samples while the Chunky Yuck was absorbing the water, and basically did the same process.  One pic of interest - when we used the Sticky Yuck, Puddin insisted that My Hero try it out - pretty funny.  Be warned - the Sticky Yuck is a little tricky to clean  up.  In retrospect, I wish I'd not used my faithful green-rimmed bowl and rather used a disposable plastic bowl.

You can see Yuck demonstrations on YouTube here.   This page includes a link for Yuck games, but I could not get the link to work.  
A couple of things of note.  There are warnings on the packaging not to let this stuff go down the drain (can you imagine this stuff in the water system?).  Don't swallow it or get it into your eyes or open wounds.  Basically, just use common sense when using it.  You can find safety guidelines here.

A 1-lb. container of the various Yuck types ranges in price from $16 to $20.  Yuck also comes in 5-lb. and 50-lb. containers.

Contact info for Buckets-O-Fun:

6436 SE 134 th Ave.
Portland, OR 97236
503-760-8880 (local)
503-761-2052 (Fax)

Yuck was a big hit in our house.  The girls are already asking when we can order some more Chunky Yuck (which was their favorite), and we are thinking about how we might incorporate it into a science fair project.

To see other reviews of this product, click here. For giveaways, other product reviews and other fun things, follow the 2010-2011 TOS Homeschool Crew blog at:


Disclaimer: As part of the 2010-2011 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I received the product described in this review at no cost in exchange for my fair, honest and unbiased (and not necessarily positive) review. No other compensation was received.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

halloween or no halloween?

Do you allow your kids to dress up for halloween?  Many homeschool families I know are vehement about not "observing" or "celebrating" halloween.  We don't "celebrate" it either (at least not in the way that I think of a celebration), but I do allow the girls to dress up, with certain restrictions - no gore, no witches, no ghosts, no ghouls, etc.  I always loved trick or treating as a kid and my girls do too.  

This year the girls will have had four (yes, count them, FOUR) costumes by the time halloween comes and goes.

First, we went to Disney and we booked a makeover for them at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. CUTE!  They had so much fun getting their makeovers.  They both chose Ariel costumes - Punkin chose the Ariel bridal costume and Puddin chose the Ariel mermaid costume.  Here they are in costume waiting to have their hair and makeup done:

Next, our beloved Heard Nature Museum had a halloween event.  The girls wanted to wear their "real" halloween costumes, but knowing them I thought better of that idea.  Several years back I purchased poodle skirts, so we scrambled to find poodle skirt accessories and I think they turned out really wel:

Aren't they cute?  Unfortunately, the winners of the Heard's costume contest were the kids who dressed in blood/gore/witches/Harry Potter.  The girls were disappointed, but I used it as a teaching moment about the world and worldly influences.

This past weekend they informed me that Wednesday night (tonight) was favorite Bible character costume night at Awana (Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed!).  Punkin's costume of choice was Mary with Baby Jesus, and Puddin chose to be the angel Gabriel.  Again, they turned out nicely:

I love shopping at Ross - I found the perfect accessories to turn a white nightgown into a Mary costume.  Could that blue shawl have been any more perfect?  Add a patterned scarf for a headcovering and a light blue scarf as a belt (both of which perfectly coordinate with the blue shawl) and you have a Mary costume.

Next up?  The night of October 31.  Puddin will revise her angel costume slightly, and Punkin will be a gypsy, which I allowed this year even though it's getting awfully close to my off-limits line.  No pics yet - check back after halloween!  We'll "borrow" our cousins' neighborhood again for trick-or-treat since our own neighborhood tends not to do much for *any* holiday.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Lanschool Technologies (TOS review)

When we set up the new school room for the girls, I considered allowing them to have their laptops on their desks.  I quickly discarded that idea because it would have been too hard to keep tabs on them - call me controlling, but I like to keep a tight rein on my girls' online activities.  Their math program is CD-based so it requires a computer, and there are certain websites that they are allowed to freely visit.  However, I don't entirely trust our web-filtering set-up, so I keep a watchful eye when they are online.  

I decided to continue to have them access their computers in the living room - not ideal, but I didn't think I had a choice.  Once again God came to my rescue, working through the TOS homeschool crew.  I was chosen to review a software program designed by Lanschool Technologies (877.370.5546;; called LanSchool Home v. 7.5.  (The initial download I received was version 7.4, but I suppose along the way there was a software update that automatically downloaded without me noticing.)


At first glance, I didn't think this software would be useful to me since it's billed as "classroom management software".  I'm a homeschooler.  Then I realized I do have a classroom - a classroom of two!  So I started reading the material describing the software, and realizing all it can do.   Eureka!  If this software really worked, I could put the girls' computers on their desks!  You can find a description of the features here, but some of my favorites are:

See thumbnails of each screen on your computer/mobile device.  When using this, I could quickly see if either of the girls were "off task."  Webkinz, anyone? 

Internet history.  Keeps a log of all websites visited.  Note that on Macs, Safari is the only browser supported.  My girls are really not in the habit of just "surfing", but I know that these days even educational websites have clickable buttons in various locations.  I checked the website history occasionally to see if there were any websites they had accidentally clicked on that might need to be blocked.

Blank screens.  In a classroom,  this could be used to get a single student's (or the whole classroom's) attention.  You can blank a screen with a message - "Is this what you should be doing?", "it's not Webkinz time," "Do you need help?", etc.  I also used this for fun messages - "Take a 10-minute break," "I need a hug!", "You're doing great!", "How about a Hershey kiss?", etc.  The girls loved it.

Limiting.  You can limit the websites that can be accessed, applications that can be used (games, etc.), printing capabilities and access to USB and CD/DVD drives.  We have a networked printer, so I limited the girls' ability to print - they love to print silly things, and that printer ink gets really expensive!

Remote control.  You can remotely control each student's computer.  I used this to show the girls different things and to help them when they had problems.  Pretty cool.  Now I know how all those tech gurus in big companies feel!

Answer student questions.  I didn't use this feature a lot with my own girls, but I see tremendous value in this option in the classroom.  A student can communicate with the teacher without the rest of the class knowing it.  Remember in school when you wanted to ask something, but you felt it was a dumb question and you feared your classmates would tease you, so you didn't ask?  This eliminates that problem.  Sometimes getting the answer to one simple question breaks down a huge roadblock to learning - this is a great feature!

Power feature.  You can power on/off, restart or shut down the students' computers.

The home version I received for review allows monitoring of 3 computers.  Installation was fairly easy, according to my resident tech guru (my husband).  Installation is a multi-step process - a teacher version for installation on your computer, and student versions for installation on each of your students' computers.

LanSchool will run on a PC or a Mac, and also offers a free application for iPhone/iPad users.  You can find all the software specifications/requirements here, and can find the technical advantages here. 

There are very helpful tutorials on the website.  While I did not have any problems which required a call to tech support, some of my crew mates did and found tech support to be very helpful and quick in responding. 

The software has received several awards:
2009 Best in Tech - Scholastic Administrator
Readers' Choice - eSchool News 
2008 SIIA Finalist - CODiE
2007 Award of Excellence - Technology & Learning
Testimonials (from public schools and school districts) are here.  I predict they will soon add testimonials from homeschoolers!

You can take a guided tour here and sign up for and download a fully-functional 30-day trial here.

I downloaded the Teacher's Assistant app to my iPhone, but did not have an opportunity to fully utilize it for this review.  I am hopeful that I can get all the kinks worked out so that the app will allow me to monitor the girls' computers wherever I am in our home without being tied to my own computer for monitoring purposes.  Of course, it likely would have worked without kinks had I just read the instructions first.  :)  You can find out more about the app here.

One note of caution - one of the features of the software is that you can keep a log file of each computer's keystrokes.  This would be more helpful in a public school environment, I believe, but could also come in handy if you need to go back and check a particular time during the day when you were not keeping an eye on your screen.  My tech guru husband has a warning, though - if you are going to enable this, make sure your wireless network is *secure*.  If it is not, and there is an outside, nosy techie sniffing around, if you happen to forget and use one of the student machines to do something like, say, check your bank account or log into a credit card account, those keystrokes could be captured by someone outside your home.  

A subscription to LanSchool Home Version (considered a perpetual license for 3 years, including updates and support) for use in your homeschool for monitoring of 3 computers will cost $99 and for monitoring up to 10 computers will cost $299. 

I love things that make homeschooling my girls easier, and this software fits into that category.  I think of all the products I've reviewed so far, this is my favorite - it's a keeper! 

To see other reviews of this product, click here. For giveaways, other product reviews and other fun things, follow the 2010-2011 TOS Homeschool Crew blog at:

Disclaimer: As part of the 2010-2011 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I received the product described in this review at no cost in exchange for my fair, honest and unbiased (and not necessarily positive) review. No other compensation was received.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Ultimate Designer.

I am not fashion conscious - I gravitate toward comfort.  Our household does include a couple of little fashionistas, who are currently 10 and 8.    My little fashionistas are obsessed with a book that was given to them by their German cousin which has blank models on which you draw/design clothes. Amazingly, they have designed some very interesting (in a good way) designs on paper. 

On rare occasion I read something fashion-oriented, and today was one of those occasions.  It seems the fashion world is becoming quite enamored with Crystal Renn.  What's the interest? She's a novelty in the fashion world - she's a "plus size" model.

Please, people - she's a size TEN.  Since when is a size TEN considered plus-size?  

Check out a quote from the article posted today on (yes, I'm guilty of occasionally surfing the People website - once in a blue moon they have something interesting): 
"For Renn, who walked in Jean Paul Gaultier’s 2006 fashion show at a size 12, being treated as one of the pack, not as “the plus size model,” is “a real breakthrough,” she says. “I’m here being treated like any other girl. It doesn’t matter my size. It doesn’t matter who I am. I’m going on castings like everybody else.” Though Renn is now a slimmer size 10, she says she’s still “different from most of the girls at the castings,” but acknowledges that there is more diversity on the runway these days. “When I first started, the girls were all blonde, all emaciated and miserable looking,” she says. “Now, there’s more ethnic diversity. The girls are not as skinny as before. You do see size 6s and a couple size 8s. There is change happening in the industry. There is more allowance for people to be different. I’m so impressed. I can’t wait for next season."  (all emphasis mine)
I am just floored by this attitude.  Since when is someone whose hip bones, shoulder blades and ribs aren't glaringly obvious categorized as "plus size"?  I suppose since she looks normal and eats more than an apple and a couple of saltine crackers per day she's "different".  UNBELIEVABLE.   It's no wonder our young girls have such body issues these days.

This article is nowhere near newsworthy - it's just more worldly garbage promoted by the fashion industry that could influence our daughters for a moment or for a lifetime.

I pray that we, as mothers, will teach our daughters that God is the ultimate designer.  
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  Psalm 139:13-14 NIV

Father, thank you for planning every cell and strand of DNA and for delicately and masterfully stitching me together so that I would be formed according to Your plan.  May my daughters forever know that You planned and created them with perfection, and may they always look to You for their body image and self worth, and not the world.  Amen.