Heirloom Audio Productions: With Lee In Virginia . . . A T.O.S. Review

We were so happy to once again be given the chance to review an adventure from Heirloom Audio Productions!

This time, we were transported to a time in our own country’s history, the War Between The States. We received a double CD package of the audio drama “With Lee In Virginia.”

Given that so much is being discussed in the media regarding the War Between The States, I found this to be a very interesting time to be doing this particular review, to say the least!

This is a masterful G. A. Henty story, written from the point of view of Vincent Wingfield. Vincent is portrayed by ​​Justin Shenkarow, an actor I have never heard of. However, Wakefield truly drew us into this period of time in our history!

At the age of fifteen, Justin goes off to join the cavalry of the Army of Northern Virginia, in the Confederacy. Before this even happens, though, Justin, whose own family does own slaves, fights with a neighboring slave owner regarding his treatment of them. He later helps keep a family of slaves from that neighbor’s plantation from being split up, and helps the husband get to freedom.

All during the war, as Vincent is reading his father’s Bible, he is finding passages which cause him to feel much differently about slavery, though he continues to fight for the state’s rights and sovereignty as guaranteed in the constitution.

Along the way, Justin fights alongside the likes of General Stonewall Jackson, and General Robert E. Lee, as well as at least two of his friends who joined up with him. He even suffers betrayal at the hands of his former neighbor, after they have been captured, but Justin has a lot more fight left in him before the whole thing ends!

Some of the cast will be immediately familiar to many. Kirk Cameron, as General Stonewall Jackson, was really great! I remember him from all the way back in his sitcom days as a teenager! He has really grown as an actor. James Cameron (Kirk’s son) portrays Justin’s friend, Will Upton, Sean Astin is General Jeb Stuart, And Brian Blessed as G. A. Henty. There are many more, and I think you will find them to be wonderful in this audio drama!

Here is a little video to give you a bit of an idea of this program . . .

As I said above, this is an interesting time to be reviewing this program. I think it should remind us that we cannot “rewrite history” because it suits us as a result of political correctness. The War Between The States happened. Slavery happened. And yes, even if they were wrong in their beliefs regarding slavery, there were, in fact, many, many good and godly men on both sides of the war. In fact, history shows that slaves were held on both sides, too. This war was primarily about states rights. Listening to it during all of our country’s present turmoil SHOULD make one want to delve even deeper, not make one want to erase every sign of the side which lost.

When we received our package, I looked inside and saw that the separate CD’s were different colors, one blue, one grey. Perfect, right? We listened to the first disc one day, and the second disc another day, to give time for thinking about the story. Interestingly, my kids, especially the one who thought it would be boring (“Mr. Loquacious”) because it wasn’t a movie, was the first to say “oh boy, I can’t wait to hear what comes next!”

We are in an interesting position to be reviewing this one, as two of my kids, “Mr. Loquacious” and “The Puzzler” are black, teen boys. I work very hard in today’s climate to help them learn that this does not give them a pass if they do wrong, as so many appear to believe, judging by the media.

“Mr. Loquacious” wanted to know things such as “would he be a slave if he were alive back then?” along with “would we be allowed to be adopted by you?” So we talked a lot about things like that, as well as going off on (little) rabbit trails regarding how laws didn’t allow black men to vote until way later than this part of history, in fact, even in the north, black children were not allowed to go to school with white children until the 1950’s, and the fact that there were many other ways of keeping them separate as well.

Along with the audio drama, we received an mp3 download version of the audio drama, the With Lee In Virginia Ebook (Henty’s original story with new color graphics), the official soundtrack, a study guide and discussion started, and A beautiful, printable copy of the inspirational quote from Robert E. Lee to his son.

Although we have the study guide, we found a lot of discussion starters just listening, as I told you above, so I will save the rest, and do a further in-depth study as my kids are better able to get more into the guide.

This is a wonderful, wonderful program. I love G. A. Henty stories, and Brian Blessed is masterful at the portrayal of him! I wholeheartedly recommend this, along with both of the other Heirloom Audio programs (Under Drake’s Flag and In Freedom’s Cause). We can barely wait until Heirloom Audio brings out yet another adventure!

To read what 99 other crew members thought of this audio drama, please click the banner just below!

With Lee in Virginia Audio Drama Review

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Baptism!

Two of my boys, “The Batman” and “Mr. Loquacious” received assurance of their salvation while away at teen camp. They returned home on a Friday, and were Baptised the Sunday morning after.

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They are very happy to be definitely assured! We do not teach (or believe in!) a “one, two, three, repeat after me prayer for salvation, and they both felt that was all they had done when younger. We can definitely see differences in them, and they are paying more attention, learning, and trying harder to keep a good testimony. :-)

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Project Passport: Ancient Egypt . . . A T.O.S. Review

Although our family had had one (very good) experience with the company Home School in the Woods, we had never seen any of their “Project Passport” products.

I was intrigued at the idea of trying out Project Passport World History Study: Ancient Egypt, because my eldest son, “The Batman” is very interested in ancient Egypt.

We received this program as a digital download for review purposes, though it is also available in a CD version. The download version allows immediate satisfaction for those of us who suffer from delayed gratification syndrome, though, so I was glad to receive it in that form! :-)

When I first received my download, I was extremely overwhelmed. Home School In The Woods provides so much in this study! It is meant to be an eight to twelve week study, but we are tweaking it somewhat, in order to accommodate “The Batman’s” special needs. Also, our tendency of going off onto rabbit trails when something interests us or we have a question that has been raised by something we read in a study.

Passport Project: Ancient Egypt is put together as if your student is going on an actual trip, beginning with creating a passport and a luggage folder. Each “lesson” is referred to as a “stop” on the trip itinerary.

With each “stop”, we are given the following:

1. An itinerary

2. Reading material

3. Color pictures and printables of projects

4. Dramatized audio tours

According to the Scope And Sequence, by the end of this study your student will have covered many things, such as:

  • History and Social Studies
  • Language
  • Geography
  • The Arts

For more detail, you may read the scope and sequence in its entirety here

With “The Batman”, I am really taking my time on this study because I didn’t realize it would be so intense for him. He has anxiety problems whenever he feels as though he isn’t getting something “perfect”, even when I tell him it doesn’t have to be perfect. Also he has serious problems with handwriting because of his lack of fine motor skills. However, he really loves the reading, and he enjoys the audio “tours” as well.

We’ve not yet attempted the 3-D projects; we are working up to that. Plus, he and his brothers were away at youth camp for a week. We will be doing them, though. Also, I promised him he would have help; when he looked at the complexity of the 3-D projects (for him) he got scared of even trying.

The very best thing about Project Passport: Ancient Egypt in our opinion is the Lap Book! We LOVE Lap Books! Anyone who has been reading here for long has seen pictures of beaming faces when my kids were showing off a completed Lap Book. :-) In fact, the Lap Book is what I am using as “The Batman’s” incentive to do the different projects.

Wherever possible, I am allowing him to type rather than hand write. If it is not possible, then he dictates and either his brother “The Artist” or I will copy what he wants written down. This is just one way of tweaking any study for a special needs child.

We will also, as I said above, help him with any of the 3-D projects he chooses to do. One thing he thinks will be fun is making the “newspaper,” so I am looking forward to working with him on that.

Here are some shots of “The Batman” reading the text during a lesson:

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As I said above, he really doesn’t mind the reading involved; in fact, he quite enjoys it. This thrills me given that when we adopted him, we were told he would probably never be able to read, etc . . . Homeschooling has done wonders for him and for our other kids, and Home School In The Woods is a company I would very heartedly recommend to any homeschooling family . . . whether you have special needs children or not.

To read what other Review Crew members thought of this and other Passport Projects, please click on the banner below.
Home School in the Woods Review
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Final Night of VBS . . . Do You “Sense” The Theme?

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This post is being linked up for “Wordless Wednesday” at

Wordless Wednesday at Life at Rossmont

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CursiveLogic . . . A T.O.S. Review

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Once I read about how, and why, Linda Shrewsbury created the CursiveLogic method, and the CursiveLogic Workbook, I was very eager to get a chance to try it out. When she explained about her “special” student Josh, it made me think about my own son, “The Batman”, who also just wants to be able to sign his name “the right way, mom”.

Right away, I could see by the way CursiveLogic is arranged, that it would be a good fit.

By using two key features, this program is helping my boy to get much quicker results than other programs.

From the CursiveLogic Website:

1. Letters grouped by shape ― Four foundational shapes underlie the entire lowercase alphabet. Rather than teaching the letters alphabetically, CursiveLogic groups the lowercase alphabet into four groups based on the shape of the initial stroke of the letters and teaches all of the similarly-shaped letters in a single lesson. Letters are also taught in a specific order that reinforces the pattern. By teaching all of the similar letters together, CursiveLogic captures the natural synergy of the alphabet itself, allowing each letter in the series to reinforce the proper formation of all the others.

2. Letter strings ― CursiveLogic captures the flow of cursive by teaching all of the similarly shaped letters in a connected string rather than as individual letters. CursiveLogic’s letter strings teach students to connect letters from the first lesson, allowing students to internalize the flow of cursive handwriting even before they have learned all 26 letters.

These two things alone make so much sense to me, that I wanted to try it just based on them. But wait, there is more!
Also from the CursiveLogic Website:

CursiveLogic also uses visual and auditory cues to reinforce the shape patterns:

Theme colors — Each shape string has a color—orange ovals, lime loops, silver swings, and mauve mounds—that reinforces the formation of the basic common shape.

Verbal task analysis — Students learn a simple, rhythmical chant that describes the path of the writing instrument as the letter shapes are formed. The process of verbally describing a motor task while performing it aids the acquisition of new motor skills.

We very much like that because of the way the lessons are grouped, the student sees immediate progress. Instead of learning the letters in alphabetical order, practicing each one a page at a time, and THEN learning to put them together, the student is immediately attaching them with “strings”, and thus is able to write complete words very quickly.

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All in all, I think this is a great program, whether you have special needs kids like me, or you have kids who struggle with cursive. Cursive is being taught less and less, and that’s a pity. If our next generation doesn’t know cursive, how will they be able to read important documents displayed in our founding fathers actual handwriting? Cursive will just appear to be so much giberish to them. Don’t let that happen! :-)

I really like CursiveLogic, and at only $29.00, I think it’s a bargain.

Check out what other crew members thought about CursiveLogic by clicking the banner below!
CursiveLogic Review

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SmartKidz Media . . . a T.O.S. Review

Have you ever heard of SmartKidz Media?

I have to say that until this review came up, I had not ever heard of this company, but I sure do wish that I had! We have been using the SmartKidz Media Library for Homeschoolers here at our home for several weeks now, and let me tell you, this is a VERY extensive resource!

SmartKidz Media Library For Homeschoolers has so much content that it is really difficult for me to narrow down what I want to share with you without this becoming an extremely rambling style post, but I will try! :-)

My kids really do enjoy visual learning, and there are so many choices when it comes to video topics. For example, under the “World Of Discovery” tab at the top left of the page, you will find such things as:

Animals & Wildlife

Magic of Nature

Documentaries & Culture

Miracles of Nature

Health & Fitness

History: World War II History

The Cold War History

Lifestyles & Cuisine

Travel & Adventure World Wide Discovery

And oh, so much more!

Now two of my boys (The Artist and The Puzzler” really love to watch nature type videos, so of course they think the amount of content in that area is wonderful! We all enjoy the fun materials you’ll find under the “My Animal Family” tab. Here, we found delightfully narrated, real life video story books of a day-in-the-life of a baby animal as she interacts with her family. They are about the following animals at this time: Leo the lion, Korow the chimpanzee, Ella the elephant, Tahi the dolphin,and Nanuq, the polar bear.

Just below the video story books, you’ll find the “My Animal Family” Fun Facts, a group of short videos about each of the animals mentioned in the story books, filled with lovely still photographs and video from the BBC. These are scored with music and sound effects, which I find really enhances the experience of checking them out! this segment offers lots of interesting facts about each of the animals and their lives in the wild, and they are approximately 5 to 10 minutes in length.

For the younger set, there are also the “My Animal Family” Story songs, one for each of the aforementioned animal families. Each one is a live action Sing-Along Story Song with streaming BBC video as a backdrop. Your littles can learn about each animal by singing along, following the highlighted words.

It seems as though almost every time I log on, I see something new on the SmartKids Media Library For Homeschoolers! For example, I’m seeing a category which I KNOW will appeal to my eldest, “The Batman”. Under Family Media, World of Discovery, it now says Action Sports: Coming Soon! Now, “The Batman” is just going to love this one! Actually, I think “Mr. Loquacious” will enjoy this one as well, since he also loves playing video games about sports.

There is a whole section called “Miracles of Nature” with five videos which are approximately 25 minutes in length, each one taking us on a journey to see several very beautiful places, such as, for example, the largest coral reef in the southern hemisphere and a mystical cave system.

WE are still in “World of Discovery”, and there is just so much to see and do! There is a nice group of health and fitness videos, including one for kids, and one that I’d really like my husband to check out, for people with back pain.

World of Discovery has so much! There are three different sections with history videos so far, along with Lifestyles and Cuisine, which, once he finds his way to them, I’m thinking that “The Artist” will be checking out. He enjoys cooking, often helping with, or even cooking supper completely, as he is doing right now so as to help me get this review typed up! :-) I’m fairly certain he will enjoy the Bizarre Science videos when he finds them, as well!

“The Batman” loves classical music, and was so happy to discover the various collections under th Music and Fine Arts tab. I love many different styles of music, and was glad to find also that there are collections of cultural music, jazz and blues, and relaxation music.

If you never even left the “World of Discovery” and the “Music and Fine Arts” tabs, you would still have such a huge amount of content, but wait, there’s so much more! :-)

There is a nice collection of flash-animated eBooks under the “Mighty eBook Collection tab. From classics such as Aesop’s Fables or Mother Goose, to reading readiness for your littles, there is an abundance of material here.

Under “Quick Find Study Guides” we discovered language arts basics, math basics, science basics and more to come.

One of the things I especially love is that SmartKids Media clearly has a heart for our special needs kids. There is a whole section of books presented in two ways, “hear the book”, and then again as “interactive media”, with additional materials which may be printed out. I wish we had had this when my older kids were young!

In the Fun Zone, there are a good number of educational games, puzzles and even some “just for fun” silly books.

The SmartKidz Media Library For Homeschoolers is extremely easy to navigate, and can be used on a variety of systems. We have used it on the PC and on my android tablet, although was not able to use the flash content on the tablet. It is my understanding that we can also chrome cast the content to our television, however, my husband has not had the time to teach (non-techy) me how to do that yet.

I’ve given you a broad overview, here, which I didn’t plan to do, but I want you to know what is available, and haven’t even covered it all! :-) I’ve tried to let you in on the things that we, in particular, enjoy, but please be aware that there is so much, it very well could take a good long time to see everything! As always, there may be some topics or videos that do not fit with your family’s beliefs, so if that is a concern I advise using discernment and perhaps checking the content out with your child, or previewing anything you may have concerns about. You can also check out the Free 14 day trial to see if this is for you. But I warn you, you just may get hooked immediately! :-)

AS I said above, there is an extremely large amount of content available on SmartKidz Media Library For Homeschoolers. You will be able to see many varying ideas for use, and many varying reviews, by clicking the banner below and reading what the other 99 crew members who have been using this with their families have to say, so I do hope you will check them out! :-)
SmartKidz Media Review
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Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) . . . A T.O.S. Review

Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) believes in being there to help those of us who are educating special needs children. So much so, that they have created some wonderful curricula for us, two sets which I have been very fortunate indeed to have been chosen to review with my twins! :-)

I received their Primary Arts of Language: Reading Complete Package,

along with their Primary Arts of Language: Writing Complete Package .

You will find out more about how they help our special needs kiddos by going here and checking it out!

At first, I was really overwhelmed by what all was in the package we received! As I said, we were given BOTH the Primary Arts of Language: Writing, AND the Primary Arts of Language: Reading (PAL)

In the Primary Arts Of Language: Reading package was a DVD ROM, which gave me the following:

Videos presentations given by Jill Pike, mp3 presentations by Andrew Pudewa, &Anna Ingham, along with the PAL: Reading Student Book. We also received the Primary Arts of Language: Reading Teacher’s manual, which also has the student pages in it, along with a generous home use copy allowance, allowing me to print pages for both boys.

The Teacher’s Manual is laid out in the following sections:

1. Introduction, which goes into reading instruction stages, classroom management, and Home classroom management: materials needed and set up.

2. Lessons 1 – 80

Nine different appendixes

3. Audio handouts

Discovery Card Check Sheet and Discovery Cards.

We received as well, a very nice book, Primary Arts Of Language: Phonetic Games, which are very simple to assemble and use.

Finally, we also received The Phonetic Farm folder, with a link to get the downloadable pdf e-book word book that goes with it.

In our Primary Arts Of Language: Writing, we received a different DVD Rom. It has a video presentation from Jill Pike, mp3 presentations by Adam Andrews, Andrew Pudewa, Shirley George, and Richelle Palmer. The Primary Arts Of Language: Writing DVD Rom also holds the student materials.

We also received the book Primary Arts of Language: Writing Teacher’s Manuel, which again includes the student pages with a generous copy write use for home school families. We also got the All About Spelling Level 1 Teacher’s Manuel, and a Spelling Basic Interactive kit, containing color coded letter tiles, directions to download a Phonogram Sounds App, and a set of divider cards labeled: Phonogram Cards Reviewed, Phonogram Cards Mastered, and Phonogram Cards Future Lessons. Also included in shrink wrap was the Level 1 Student Packet (for spelling), which also had some little round colored tokens in it for later.

The teacher’s manual is broken up clearly into three sections:

1. Printing and Story Summaries

2. Copy Work and Style

3. Composition With Style

There is a scope and sequence at the back, along with numerous other appendixes, including one with recipes for fun hands on things to do! There are also hand outs to go along with the talks on the CD ROM.

I found the DVD ROM’s to be very good, and very helpful. They are for me, the parent. The one mistake I did make though, was to just sit right down and watch them straight through. That was very overwhelming, and now I am re-watching them piece by piece. I also tend to just open the box, pull out the student materials, and get going. While I suppose you COULD do that with IEW, I think we’re doing better for having the instructions, at least for now. I freely admit that I am, in fact, one of “those” people, the ones who need to see the “big picture”, as opposed to biting it off in bite sized chunks. Guess I need to work on that, huh? :-)

Although there is a suggested schedule, it didn’t work well for us because we have regular therapy appointments, things involving church, etc, but it isn’t that hard to adjust to work a schedule around your own life as opposed to working your life around a school schedule, and hey, that’s truly one of the very best things about home schooling, in my book.

I wanted this to use with my twins, “Mr. Loquacious” and “The Puzzler”, both of who struggle with reading and writing. I will say that I wanted it mostly for “Mr. Loquacious”, because he simply won’t read unless we make him, even though he can. He wasn’t much impressed, until he realized (along with his brother) that this could be a really fun program, given that they love the Farm Folder, and using the stickers with it. We also like the letters. which we had the choice to either leave as it, or to put the little magnets on the backs, so they can be moved around to practice making words. It does talk about using a magnetic white board, but I’ve also had success using a small metal baking sheet.

WE also really enjoy the Phonetic Games book which goes along with, and re-enforces what is being taught in the reading program, is terrific! Everything is already in the book, and there is no need to print it out! We can just cut the materials out of the book as needed, and make the game board using a file folder. How cool is that? My boys really like games, so anything which makes learning fun is, as you know, a great thing to me.

I like that we were also given All About Spelling, as well. This is a area the boys struggle with, and it is helping with things like “sounding out”, something I’ve been trying to work on for a while with them, with less success than I had hoped to have.

This is a multisensory program (seeing, hearing, & doing) in which my boys can use the letter tiles and the round game tokens, along with hearing the phonogram sounds on thee downloadable app. There are Step by step lesson plans for me to follow (although, as everyone who knows me is aware, I do tend to “loosely” follow at times, lol!), built in daily review, and my favorite thing with ANY educational product, customizable for any student. For me, that means we can go as slowly or as quickly as we are able. There is very little to purchase, other than stickers or colored pencils for a progress chart, lined notebook paper, an index box . . . things like that, some or all you probably already have on hand, as a home school parent. :-) Spelling is taken step by step, as I said before, so as not to be overwhelming to the child. Thus far, that has been good for my boys.

My final thoughts on the matter? I LOVE this product. I think this is something we can take our time with, and really bring the twins up to where they will be much better readers, which may well help “Mr. Loquacious” to become a child who reads for pure enjoyment, which is a definite goal for me when it comes to all of my boys.

Please click on the banner below to read about what my fellow crew members thought of this package, along with several other packages from the Institute For Excellence in Writing!
IEW Review

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