Tag Archives: literature

HEROES OF HISTORY, George Washington: True Patriot . . . A T.O.S. Review

I had never had any experience with materials from YWAM Publishing, but when I saw what was being offered as a possible review, I really wanted to give this one a try.

I was curious as to what YWAM stood for, and before I had the chance to find out, my husband (who puts all of my review deadlines into my phone calendar with reminders for me) looked it up.

YWAM, according to their own website, stands for Youth With A Mission. They are one of the largest Christian charitable organizations in the world. To learn more about them, go here.

We were given the choice between HEROES OF HISTORY George Washington: True Patriot

along with the Heroes of History Unit Study Curriculum Guide: George Washington to go with it . . .

Or the CHRISTIAN HEROES: THEN & NOW: “Jim Elliot: One Great Purpose, with the matching CHRISTIAN HEROES: THEN & NOW Unit Study Curriculum Guide: Jim Elliot

After taking a look at the descriptions for both, I decided that George Washington would be the best choice in our family, for a variety of reasons. First, we have been studying early American, and also, because my kids are very interested in the period covered by this book because of some other things they have been doing.

I received this book as a pdf download, along with the curriculum unit study guide, which came as two separate pdf downloads. The book is available as a paperback, for the current price of $6.99 (regularly $$8.99), and the curriculum unit study guide for $7.49 (regularly $9.99). The book HEROES OF HISTORY: George Washington: True Patriot is also available in a Kindle edition, a Nook edition, and as an audiobook edition.

You may click here for a sample of the unit study curriculum guide.

We received both the book and the curriculum unit study guide in pdf format, and have been using the book as a read-aloud. It is actually amazing to me (though it really ought not to be!) how much even I have been learning (especially about George Washington’s early life) while we have been reading this book together! I have read a great deal of it to my kids, but some of them have taken turns at the reading as well, including my reluctant reader, “Mr. Loquacious”, who actually ASKED to have a turn after listening to “The Puzzler” read for a bit, lol!

Here is “Mr. Loquacious” reading a portion from the book . . .

Here is “The Puzzler” reading some of the book . . .

The Curriculum Unit Study Guide came in two parts. First, there was a four page download with a fact sheet, two outline maps and a timeline, and second, a 64 page unit study guide with a good number of possible activities which included things like:

chapter questions

Key Quotes (for copy work or memorization), but which WE used orally, to get discussions going.

Ideas for doing a display corner (this was not a good fit for us, but would be great in a class room, or for a family with access to artifacts having to do with this story)

Student Explorations, which included things like essay questions, creative writing, hands on projects, audio/visual projects, and arts & crafts projects.

There is also a section called Community Links, with suggestions for field trips and other resources, such as having a guest speaker come into a classroom.

There is also a Social Studies section in the study guide, with suggestions for incorporation social studies using the five different categories given:

Places . . . covering significant places related to the story and mentioned in the book

Terms/vocabulary . . . ideas for studying some of the terms used in the book

Geographical characteristics . . . suggestions for mapping some of the physical characteristics of places where George Washington lived

Timeline . . . so the students can, if they like, choose to research the time period in which George Washington lived

Conceptual questions . . . that a teacher (or parent) can use to have their students write a paragraph or two in response to a given question, present an oral report, or discuss the question as a group.

Related themes to explore (to make this into a cross-curriculum study)

Culminating events (which we have yet to attempt)

There is also an appendix listing many additional books and resources, and an appendix which gives the answers to the chapter questions.

As we generally do, because of the various special needs in my group, we did these things orally. I was surprised (and very pleased!) at how enthusiastically my boys got into answering the chapter questions and discussions, as well as the many times, especially once we got past the section of the book which deals with George Washington as a child, my boys frequently exclaimed about what they thought was about to come next, because they recognized what was happening. This was because of their obsession with a certain animated series set during the American Revolution, which we own in its entirety on DVD. 🙂

We have very much enjoyed reading HEROES OF HISTORY, George Washington: True Patriot, and I believe we would most likely enjoy many other of the books offered by YWAM. I also believe that the price for them is such that they are very affordable to use as read-alouds, and although I am not sure I would use the unit study curriculum other than orally at this point in my children’s lives, I also believe they are a good value for the price.

To read what other Schoolhouse Review Crew members thought of George Washington: True Patriot and matching curriculum unit study guide, and of the YWAM book and study guide for Jim Elliot: One Great Purpose book and study guide, please click on the graphic below!

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As always, I would just love it if you would join me on all of “My Journeys Through Life”, by simply going to the “sign me up” button at the top of the page. Just enter in your email information and never miss another update! 🙂


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America The Beautiful . . . a T.O.S. Review

Oh my, were the boys and I excited when we opened the box from the Notgrass Company containing the complete American History curriculum we were going to review!

Book after book came out of that box, beginning with two thick hardcover books containing 75 lessons, which are put together in a series of 30 units between the two. “America the Beautiful: Part 1” covers the year 1000 to the year 1877, while “America the Beautiful: Part 2” covers the late 1800s to the present. We also received another large, hard cover book, “We The People: Words From The Makers of American History”, a wonderful collection of excerpts from biographies, articles and pieces of American literature. Next, we found the America the Beautiful Student Workbook, a very nice wire bound book, and the America the Beautiful Lesson Review, also a very nice wire bound book, which we will use in later years when we re-do this curriculum at a time my boys can do more in-depth work. Next out of the box was the book “Maps of America the Beautiful“. This book is full of very nice outline maps to be used in the different lessons. We are liking that we don’t complete a whole map at one sitting, in fact, we go from map to map, depending upon the lesson we are in. Next, we have the “Timeline of America the Beautiful” book, which I just love! I’ve wanted to do some form of timeline work in our home-schooling, but really wanted it to be in a book, and this perfectly fits what I wanted, and what my kids can handle. Last, but not least, I found the “America the Beautiful Answer Key” book, with answers to everything. From the website:

“America the Beautiful by Charlene Notgrass is a one-year American history, geography, and literature course designed for students in grades 5-8. It combines the flexibility and richness of a unit study with the simplicity of a textbook-based approach to history. Daily lessons guide your child chronologically through American history, highlighting key events, people, and places.”

This curriculum is absolutely beautiful, and so very easy to use! I really don’t have to do any teacher prep, other than to make sure we have the materials for the family activity listed for each unit, if we choose to do it. So far, we’ve done just one of them, because the others either didn’t interest us or were a bit overwhelming for our household.

We’ve chosen to work on this as a group, since my boys are at different levels of ability due to ages and varying special needs, and we take from two to four days per lesson. I read the actual lesson out loud, while we all look at the illustrations and photos given (which takes perhaps more time than it’s supposed to, because my boys love to ask questions and discuss what is in the lesson as we go). Then, there is generally a selection to read from “We the People: Words From the Makers of American History”, which is also a read-aloud. After that, we do the various end of lesson activities, which range from “thinking biblically” (for which they each have their own 3-ring binder), to vocabulary (which we often do orally), to a map page, and a page in the Student Workbook. All of this, as I said, usually takes us anywhere from two to four days, but we stretch it like that primarily because I have found that for my boys, the knowledge will stick better that way. The author of this curriculum, Charlene Notgrass, makes a point in the introduction to tell us not to be a slave to the written schedule, but to make it work for us, so that’s precisely what we are doing, and it’s working! Therefore, although this is written as a one year curriculum, we will be stretching it out for as long as it takes to go through it, and then, perhaps go back and do it again, using the “America the Beautiful Lesson Review” Book when the boys are older.

There are ten novels assigned at different times during the course of this curriculum, beginning with Unit 4. They are:

The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare (Units 4-5)

Amos Fortune: Free Man by Elizabeth Yates (Units 6-7)

Brady by Jean Fritz (Units 9-10)

Bound for Oregon by Jean Van Leeuwen (Units 12-13)

Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt (Units 14-15)

Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder (Units 16-17)

All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor (Units 19-20)

Blue Willow by Doris Gates (Units 21-22)

Homer Price by Robert McCloskey (Unit 25)

Katy by Mary Evelyn Notgrass (Units 29-30)

The first five books go with “America the Beautiful: Part 1”, with the second five going along with “America the Beautiful: Part 2”. To get us started, I purchased the first three novels, and will get the rest as we get close to needing them. All are easily available at bookstores or your library, with the possible exception of the final book assigned, which was written by the daughter of the author of this curriculum.

I was a little bit nervous about whether or not my boys would (a) enjoy this curriculum, and (b) be able to do the work involved, but they really do like it, and because we are doing it together, and they are taking turns on each map lesson and student workbook lesson, they are handling the work quite well. Of course, if anyone looked at either of those books, they would immediately be able to tell that four different people had written on each and every page! 🙂 Doing the workbook and map book this way makes it much more manageable for my children. We do the timeline book orally together, and then “The Artist”, who has the easiest time with writing things down, actually writes the entry into the space provided.

If you would like to view samples of the different books in this curriculum, you will find them here. You will find the table of contents and a sample unit from “America the Beautiful: Part 1”, the table of contents, a sample unit and the index from “America the Beautiful: Part 2”, sample pages from “We the People”, sample maps from ” Maps of America the Beautiful”, sample pages from “Timeline of America the Beautiful”, and you may view the “America the Beautiful Answer Key”.

The Notgrass Company also offers a family newsletter, for which you can sign up using your email address here. It is emailed every couple of weeks, and includes “family activity ideas, articles, information about our products, and special offers.”

Here is “The Artist”, copying an entry into the timeline . . .

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“The Batman”, coloring in a section of one of the maps . . .

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“Mr. Loquacious”, also doing map-work . . .

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and “The Puzzler” working with “The Artist” on one of the Student Workbook pages . . .

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One of the end of unit family activities was to make Navajo Flat bread, which we did one evening when my husband had offered to make “breakfast for dinner”. It was very easy, and the boys and I all worked on it together.

This is all that we needed to make a batch of Navajo Flat Bread . . .

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Here are pictures of each of the boys taking a turn at hand mixing the dough . . .

First up, “The Artist”

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“The Batman” . . .

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“The Puzzler” . . .

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and “Mr. Loquacious”!

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Then, I kneaded the dough . . .

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after which we were instructed to let it rest for ten minutes. Then, we divided it into ten balls and began rolling!

“Mr. Loquacious” . . .

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“The Artist” . . .

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“The Batman” . . .

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and “The Puzzler”!

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Here are the boys with all ten circles rolled out . . .

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and finally, a piece of Navajo Flat Bread in the process of being fried!

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The bread was soft, and tasted very good with butter and honey on it. It was a tasty addition to our scrambled eggs with sweet onion and ham!

The “America the Beautiful” curriculum is available to purchase here for $99.95, and includes the following books:

“America the Beautiful: Part 1”
“America the Beautiful: Part 2”
“We The People: Words From the Makers of American History”
“Maps of America the Beautiful”
“Timeline of America the Beautiful”
“America the Beautiful Answer Key”

The “America the Beautiful Student Workbook” is available here for $11.95, and “America the Beautiful Lesson Review” is available here for $9.95.

For the most part, “America the Beautiful” is definitely a hit in our house, and we highly recommend it! The only thing I wish would be different would be to have (especially in the workbook!) Bible verses to be from the KJV. That’s the only Bible my family, and my church uses, so when a workbook page uses a different version, I either have to re-create the page, or go ahead and do it, using it as a lesson in why we believe as we do. I chose to do the latter here, because the only way the rest of the page worked was by using the verse as given.

Other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew reviewed this and other products from the Notgrass Company. Please cruise on by and see what they thought!


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Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura . . .a T.O.S. Review

I was really pleased to have the chance to review the DVD Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura, as I’ve been a long-time fan of Little House On The Prairie. I am old enough to have watched the television show every week when it was first broadcast, and now my children enjoy watching as well! My children and I are also going through all of the books as read alouds, and we began with Farmer Boy in preparation for this review.

This documentary is produced by Dean Butler and Legacy Documentaries, who portrayed Almanzo in the TV series, and has for nearly 30 years had an ongoing association with the series and the Laura Ingalls Wilder community.

From the website:

“ALMANZO WILDER: Life Before Laura” is an all-new documentary produced in partnership with the Almanzo and Laura Ingalls Wilder Association in Burke, NY. The program offers a unique look at Almanzo’s early life through original footage and re-creations shot on location at the Wilder Homestead, supported by visual and text excerpts from Farmer Boy”

This DVD documentary runs almost an hour, and is hosted by Dean Butler. Some of my kids were excited that we were going to sit down and watch it, although “The Batman” wanted to forgo this in favor of playing his Nintendo 3-DS. Mom prevailed, and we settled in one afternoon to view Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura.

It really didn’t take very long before even “The Batman” was enjoying it, because we had, as I said, prepared by reading Farmer Boy. The documentary is filled with re-enactments from the book, and my boys were quick to point them out, talking all throughout the program about each one as it was shown, and what they remembered from the book.

Three of my boys are very literal children, and the two younger ones, “Mr. Loquacious” and “The Puzzler” kept asking how come “Laura” didn’t look like Laura. I had to explain several times that this was not the TV show that they watch, but that it was a program telling us about the “real” Almanzo when he was a boy, and (briefly) the “real” Laura, when she first met Almanzo.

Being boys who love to eat, they loved all of the descriptions of food in the documentary, as they had loved them in the book. One of the narrators talked about that as well, saying that most likely, a lot of those descriptions were exaggerated by Laura in her writing. She and her family had been poor, while in comparison, Almanzo’s family would have been considered rich by her, most likely.

The boys were really interested to see that the incident in Farmer Boy, when the new teacher restored order in the school with a big whip, was also in the documentary. As Dean Butler commented during that portion, it may seem harsh to some readers, but it certainly was a time when young people were held accountable for their actions!

My children enjoyed hearing about Almanzo’s growing up years, his longing for a colt of his own, how he spent his days. The descriptions of barn chores and such made them realize they are not as overworked as they sometimes make out to be, LOL!

The documentary Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura is available for $21.95.

My boys and I absolutely recommend this DVD to you! It would be a good addition to home-schoolers studying American History in the mid-1800’s, or doing a unit on Laura Ingalls Wilder. It’s great for learning about how people lived during that time! Beyond that, it’s a good, wholesome, family DVD! I will not hesitate to let my children watch it without me, anytime they like. In this day and age, that’s kind of a rarity, and we have to be careful of what we let them view on their own. I would say that this DVD would be good for any age, beginning with children who are old enough to sit and listen to the book Farmer Boy being read to them.

All in all, we really enjoyed this documentary, and now the boys are ready to finish reading the book and move on to reading the rest of the series. I think you will enjoy it, too!

To read what other crew members thought, please click below . . .

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Moving Beyond the Page . . . a TOS Review

During the past few weeks, my boys and I have had the pleasure of reviewing a “new to us” curriculum from Moving Beyond the Page.

Each reviewer from the Schoolhouse Review Crew was given two different unit studies, a language arts unit and either a social studies or science unit. One was a physical copy, and the other was an online unit study, with the necessary books being mailed to us.

My family received Unit 3, “American Heroes” (Language Arts), and “People Change the World” (Social Studies). These are both geared for ages 7 – 9, and are designed to work together, although any of the units sold by Moving Beyond the Page can also be stand alone products. In our case, the language arts unit was the one we received as an online unit, and the social studies unit was the physical copy mailed to us. This way, we would get a good look at how each works, and be able to tell you what we thought of each method.



Here is a picture of what we received, for use with both units.

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As you can see, we received the printed copy of the social studies curriculum “People Change the World“, and the accompanying story books “The Starry Messenger” by Peter Sis and “Miss Rumphius” by Barbara Cooney. The Social Studies unit we received sells for $32.97 if you want the physical copy mailed to you, and $28.91 if you wish to purchase the online version. We also received a physical copy of the book “50 American Heroes” by Dennis Denenberg and Lorraine Roscoe. As I said before, we received the online version of the language arts unit, which sells for $ 27.88, while the physical copy sells for $$31.94.

The only big differences between the online version and the physical copy were that with the online version, the curriculum and worksheets are online, so I read the lessons on my tablet and then printed out whatever activity sheets were necessary for each lesson, whereas with the physical copy, all of that was in the printed curriculum book. Because of copyright issues, you cannot make copies of the activity sheets from the book, which is the one downside to the printed version. However, the one downside to the online version is that you have access for only three months. Now, each unit is designed to be finished within about three weeks, so of course, that does give you plenty of time to complete your unit, but personally, my whole goal in purchasing online, downloadable material, is so that it can be used again with younger siblings. With access being given only for a few months, it feels more as if it’s a rental than a purchase. At the same time, because the download version is licensed to a family, you may print out activity pages for each child doing the unit, while the printed version doesn’t permit that.

In our case, we do a LOT of things as a group, because I have special needs children. Between that, and the fact that I am STILL recovering from surgery, and mostly stuck on the couch with my feet on pillows, we did this as a group, and mostly orally, which is one way I tweak a lot of curriculum to fit the abilities of my children. When there was an activity page that could be printed out that they were able to handle, that’s what we did.

Each day, my boys would gather around in the family room and listen while I read to them from the lessons. I read the story books out loud to them as well. Although most of the actual activities were too much for them, we WERE able to go through them orally, as a group, which led to lots of good discussions, and questions. In fact, pretty much every day when their dad got home from work, all of the boys went on their own and told him all about what they had learned, and talked about that day while doing these units. 🙂

Here are all of my boys working on an assignment . . .

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In this assignment, they were matching contractions to the words they were made from, and then writing sentences that went with what they had learned that day, with each sentence containing one contraction from the list on their activity page. Off to the side, you can see a stack of drawings. They had each drawn three pictures of inventions or discoveries they felt had changed the world, an assignment from that day’s social studies lesson. Not surprisingly, each and every one of them chose television as one of the inventions! 🙂

From the website:

“All children can benefit from our unique approach to education. This is especially true for hands-on, creative, and gifted learners. A traditional or classical approach will often leave these children bored and uninspired.”

Now, my children are not considered “gifted” children, but even so, they did get quite a lot out of both of these units. I was actually very surprised, frankly, because I wasn’t sure at all that even with major tweaking (which I often need to do with purchased curriculum), that they would be able to handle it. But, I am very pleased to tell you that even with a curriculum that states right up front that it is at least in part geared to “gifted” students, if you take the time to do it in a different way, your special needs children can learn from this, too. My children learned more in-depth about several people (Harriet Tubman, Galileo, etc) than they might have otherwise, BECAUSE we did these units orally, and because I was stuck on the couch and couldn’t do much of anything else, we had the time to devote to their questions, and their discussions. My children were interested and eager each day to get to these units, which makes me happy, because as most of you already know, I am a firm believer that there is no reason at all that learning cannot, or should not, be enjoyable, if that is at all possible. My boys enjoyed this, so I enjoyed it, too.

To read what my fellow crew mates thought of this and other units from Moving Beyond the Page, please click the graphic below!


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Abraham’s Journey: A Celebration of the American Dream . . . my review

As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received a children’s book from Inspiring The American Dream.


From the Inspiring the American Dream website : “Abraham’s Journey – A Children’s Book That Celebrates The American Dream. The American dream is in jeopardy. Unless we, as parents, grandparents and educators, teach our children about this unique American ideal, the American dream will be lost forever.”

Abraham’s Journey: A Celebration of the American Dream can be purchased from the website at the cost of $14.99, and if you order right away you can receive a personalized copy, signed by the authors, Robert and Kathleen Basmadjian.

amer dream cover

This book is soft-cover, approximately 30 pages, with quite a bit of it taken up by very nice illustrations. It is written for children ages 7 – 12. At the back of the book is a three page section which is a glossary of terms used in the story, along with short bios of all of the historical people Abraham meets on his journey, and of the authors as well.

When we received the book, my four boys (whose ages range from 11 – 20, all with special needs and some developmental delays) gathered around and we used it as a read aloud, while discussing the events happening in the story.

This story takes place during “The Great Recession”, and is about a boy named Abraham who has just learned that both of his parents have lost their jobs. The story begins shortly before Christmas, and his parents have let Abraham and his sister know that they’ll not be able to buy them any gifts, as there is no money to spend.

In the story, Abraham wants to “save Christmas” for his family, and while texting with his friends on his smart phone, an old man, represented by Abraham Lincoln, pops up on the screen and draws modern-day Abraham into a digital world, taking him along on a journey back and forth through time.

Along the way, Abraham meets a variety of well-known people including Martin Luther King, Norman Rockwell, Amelia Earhart, Mark Zuckerberg, along with Bill and Melinda Gates. Each one of them shows Abraham their version of the American Dream, and along the way, he discovers his own special talent, something that he can use to make the money he wants in order to buy gifts for his family.

After Abraham’s magical journey, he is able to “save Christmas” for his family, and his story inspires his family to do something for others.

I personally was disappointed in the story. My very first thought was that if both parents have lost their jobs, why does their child have a smart phone with service? For me, not only would none of my children even HAVE a smart phone, I would think in a story like this that it would certainly be among the first things to be cut from the budget.

My children and I also discussed how Abraham did not learn through his adventure that presents are not what Christmas is all about. He learned from each character (except for one, who I will get to in a bit) that the American Dream is about money and/or fame. I don’t want my children to believe that.

The very first person he meets on his journey, Martin Luther King, does teach him about HIS dream, the dream of equality for all, no matter what color they are. I did like that.

My final thoughts? This is a well written story book, though as a soft-cover it is bit pricey for my budget, and it is one that espouses a world view that is the opposite of the one we choose for our family. For us, we want our children to learn that the American Dream is not about money or fame, or even home ownership, etc . . . rather, we want them to grow up believing that the American Dream is serving the Lord, being a good friend, being a good family member, and that all of that can happen even if one is poor. I would not purchase this book for MY children, but it would probably work very well for a secular homeschooling family.




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