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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Exploring Creation Field Trip Journal (Apologia) . . . My T.O.S. Review

I love The homeschooling products from Apologia Educational Ministries.

I mean, I REALLY, REALLY, love them. I also love the books I’ve gotten from them which are for the mamas among us, but this time, it’s one for everyone in the family!

The Exploring Creation Field Trip Journal is a wonderful resource, and I feel very fortunate to have been chosen as one of the lucky Review Crew members to check it out with my kids!

As always, Apologia does not disappoint when it comes to the quality of the construction of their products. This is a spiral bound (which means it will lay flat, yay!) book, approximately 8 1/2 x 11 inches. The cover is glossy card stock, giving it an expensive look and feel. However, in reality, it is quite reasonably priced at $22.00.

This is a very well laid out book, giving you lots of options. To me, it’s part field trip journal and part nature journal, actually.

There are pages with ideas for when you are preparing for your field trip, most of which I would never have thought of. We tend to just go off and do something like go to the zoo, or other places, and just call it a field trip! This book gives me things to do the week before the trip, the night before the trip, on the way to the field trip, and finally, at the actual destination! I won’t detail them here for you though, as I would be doing a disservice to the publisher if I gave spoilers which would allow duplication, lol! I CAN tell you though, about many of the wonderful sections in this journal. I am looking right now at the terrific two page chart which gives GREAT ideas for different field trips, and how they relate to specific things such as animals, earth, space, the human body, history & government, business, culture and so on. This chart alone is worth my time, since it helps me to figure out different things to do, and how they work into our education. On the same page of the chart is a link for those who own the book to go to the Apologia website with a special password. There, you will receive additional materials to go along with your journal, making it an even better buy.

When I first looked at the journal, flipping through it, I immediately thought, “scrap booking”, because I am a scrap booker, and the pages remind me of scrapbook layouts. This is something my kids also find to be attractive, as when I find time to scrapbook, they often want me to show them the pages I’ve done.

This journal has three sections I particularly like. The first one is “Places I’ve Explored”, my state. There is a place to write in the state name, and to place a map of the state. After that, there is plenty of room to list dates and destinations of all the places we go in our state. Given that we’ve been wanting to learn more about our state ever since we moved here about 3 years ago, I think this might just be the incentive we need to plan out some day trips. After all, not only are we in the “wild wild west”, we live right where part of the historic Route 66 goes through! :-)

Next is the same idea, places I’ve explored in the United States. When we have time, I would really like to, with my kids, go through and use this to document all of the states we went through during our move across the country three years ago.

Finally, we have places I’ve explored in the world. It may be a while before we use that, as my kids haven’t been out of he country, and the only “out of the country” I’ve been to was to go shopping in Canada when we lived in a border city, lol!

The next section covers field trip pages, for specific trips. There is enough room to document ten trips, with space for a map, a photo or drawing, and a section to show books read to prepare for the trip. There is also a place to write in the emergency contact plan, along with what the child (or family!) wants to see and do. There is plenty of room to write about the field trip on each two page lay out.

My favorite section is the “My Special Spot” section. The idea is to choose a place where you will go four times a year, once in each season. We are using our front yard, as we found it interesting how a tree there bloomed pink flowers in spring, yet only a few weeks later, the blossoms went away and the tree is covered with beautiful purple leaves! We also have an abundance of southwest wildlife going through our yard on a regular basis at this time, like little blue tailed lizards, and sometimes, even a road runner! There is space to draw an aeriel map of our space, plus to put in a photo is we like. We can list the location, the date, the temperature, and the rainfall, and on the facing page is a chart where we will list the changes that we observe. I’m counting on “The Artist” to help there, as he is our “go to” guy when it comes to nature things!

The “As I See It” section is a lot less structured. this is working well with some of my kids, and not so well with others. These pages are for the times we may not want to document our experience in the exact way given on the specific field trip pages. Some of them have fun prompts, and others have only the scrap book-y format, leaving it up to the kids how the want to document our field trip for that day. I quite like those pages, but as I said, I am a scrap booker, so I am used to working from the blank page without the prompts.

All in all, we really like the Field Trip Journal from Apologia, and will continue to include it in our education! :-)

Exploring Creation Field Trip Journal Review

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One Of The Views From Our Church . . .


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Famous Men of Rome . . . a T.O.S. Review

When I saw the Famous Men of Rome set come up for review, I thought it would be perfect for “The Artist”, so I had him take a look with me. After he agreed it might be interesting, I applied for it.

This set is from the company Memoria Press.

Memoria Press is well known for Classical Education Curriculum, and since we do not follow that method of homeschooling, I have up until recently, never had any experience with this company. When we received our set, though, “The Artist” was pleased with what came out of the package! First, there was the text, a large, glossy cover, soft bound book. This is “Famous Men of Rome” by John H. Haaren & A. B. Polland. This is a beautiful text, just chock full of stories about many of the most famous men of Roman history, not to mention all of the absolutely BEAUTIFUL color paintings throughout the book to go with the stories! THis book was barely out of the package, and “The Artist” was already sitting on the floor reading it, which bode well for having asked for this review, wouldn’t you think? :-)

We also received the “Famous Men of Rome” Student Guide by Cheryl Lowe & Leigh Lowe, along with the Teacher Guide, also written by Cheryl Lowe & Leigh Lowe. The main difference between the two is that the teacher guide has all of the answers printed in it, along with the tests. Since we don’t use tests, we did not utilize that section.

In the main text book, their are 30 stories, plus a glossary of people and places, along with maps of Italy, Rome, and the Roman Empire. This set can be used as a year long study, which is nice, because you can really take your time with it, and delve into learning about the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. This is something that bears learning, as any civilization can go the same way. As I said above, I think “The Artist” would have been thrilled to just receive the text book, given that he is very much enjoying reading from it, but we did also receive the student materials, so . . .

Now here is where things change somewhat . . . we really are not much of a “work book” type homeschooling family, though we have been known to use them at times. Because of that, I must be honest and tell you that for the most part, we did the book work stuff orally, through discussion. There is a definite order to the lessons, and how they correspond to the stories in the text book.

For each lesson, the student is told which pages in the text book to read. After that, they are given “facts to know”, which highlights the most important things they need to remember from the text book. This is a good section to use for memory work and for copy work, if you utilize that with your children.

Next, we have vocabulary, during which the student may learn new words by seeing them in context, as opposed to simply looking up a dictionary definition, they can become easier to understand, and your student may better remember the words and what they mean.

One of my favorites is comprehension questions. We use this a lot, especially when working through material orally, with a discussion method. It is much easier for me to know for sure whether they are understanding the material when I am given comprehension questions to use.

There is an activities section, where you and your child will find interesting enrichment activities. Just opening the student book to a page at random, I am seeing things like: identifying specific things on your map, answering a question that they may need to research, or a question about something specific in government.

In the back of the student book is an appendix, containing a worksheet, timeline, maps, a modern geography reference, and more.

WE have been enjoying our travel through Roman history, and I expect that this “text book” will remain a permanent part of our library, with the stories being read over and over as each child becomes interested!

To see what my fellow Review Crew members think of Famous Men of Rome, along with other Memoria Press products, please click the link below!

I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC regulations.

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Homeschool Legacy . . . A T. O. S. Review

One of the ways I favor when learning with my children is the unit study method. I had never heard of the company Homeschool Legacy until this review became available, but I am sure glad I have heard of it now!

We have been happy to have been given two unit studies from Homeschool Legacy. We received (in digital format) Westward Ho 1 AND Westward Ho 2.

Westward Ho 1 is a five week unit, and Westward Ho 2 is a four week unit. Both are able to be used for grades two through twelve, which, of course, makes it easier and more fun to learn as a group!

In addition, all of the unit studies from Homeschool Legacy fulfill all or most of the requirements for a boy scout badge or an American Heritage Girl badge.

Having moved west to New Mexico a few years ago, I thought this would be a great choice for us! On our trip across the country, we had stopped at the St. Louis Arch, and went through the Museum of Western Expansion, so we had already picked up on some history that would be involved.

There is a lot packed into these unit studies. All of them are “once a week unit studies”, so you do not feel overwhelmed, as I have on occasion with unit studies. I invite you to watch the short video below in which the author explains the way her “once a week” unit studies work.

In Westward Ho 1, we are learning about Frontiersmen such as Daniel Boone, Kit Carson and Johnny Appleseed.

All the way through each unit, we have been given reading lists to choose from, complete with Dewey Decimal numbers so that we can look for them at our library. It’s very nice, and a money saver, to be able to get your read alouds for free instead of having to go out and buy them!

There is a family devotional which goes along with the chapter, and the Bible verses are given as reference only, meaning it works wonderfully for us, as we use only the King James Version.

Beginning with the very first week, we were given the opportunity to start a History Timeline Notebook. This is one thing we have yet to do, as I am still working on the best way to do it in a way for all to participate.

Even though we have all boys, we love the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. They play a big part for us in going through this unit!

There are even recipes for things such as stew that pioneers would have made, and home made butter.

In Westward Ho 1, we cover the following:

Week 1: Frontiersmen

Week 2: Pioneer Life

Week 3: The Lone Star Republic

Week 4: The Life and Times of James K. Polk

Week 5: The Oregon Trail

In Westward Ho 2, we are covering:

Week 1: Gold Rush!

Week 2: Life on the Prairie

Week 3: The Great American Railroad Race

Week 4: Cowboys and Cattle Drives

I like that there really is very little prep work! At most, you would be going to the library for books, and picking up things while doing regular grocery shopping in order to incorporate any recipes that may be included in the unit.

I like that the Westward Ho units can either be used as a complement to your current curriculum or can be your main source for history, by adding some of the other units available from Legacy Homeschooling.

We have been wanting to learn more about the west since moving here, so we are absolutely taking our time with this one, as I don’t want to miss anything, if I can help it!

Legacy Homeschool has many Once A Week Unit Studies available . . .

And I very much encourage you to go take a look. You may find them to be a welcome addition to your children’s (and your own!) education!

Visit Legacy Homeschool on social media at:


Homeschool Legacy Review

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Feeling Sad . . .

We just received news last evening that a precious family in our church will be leaving, as the husband is definitely called to preach. He has been our choir director since we came to our church, and in charge of children’s ministries, and is resigning as a staff member in order to be free to candidate elsewhere.

His wonderful wife, who is a fellow blogger (I encourage you to follow her blog), serves in so very many ways, it’s really quite impossible to list them all.

On top of that, their children. Oh, their children, who are so delightful! Their two boys are such fun playmates for our boys at church, and their two little girls never fail to bring a smile to me. When I’m feeling down, it’s almost as though they know it, and come for a hug from me. I will miss them when they actually leave, as will everyone at Mesa Baptist Church.

Vaya con Dios, my friends, I love you!

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