Tag Archives: Schoolhouse Review Crew

The End Of My First Year As A Review Crew Member . . .

And it has been such a blessing to our family! We have reviewed approximately 50 products and/or curricula, much of which was new to us, and much of which we had heard of, but never really had the budget to buy it without checking it out thoroughly.

The Schoolhouse Review Crew recently voted for the Blue Ribbon Awards, given to the top choices from all of the products reviewed this year, and the results were announced this morning on the Schoolhouse Review Crew Blog.

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Many of the crew have decided to publish our own posts telling you about our favorites from this year, and I am no exception, so here we go!

If you click on the title of any of the following, it will open my review in a separate window so you can refresh your memory as to why we liked it. πŸ™‚

As I said, we reviewed nearly 50 products this year, and it has been hard to narrow it down to what we will be using for our homeschool this year, and what will be set aside for future use. I’m going to tell you what we are now using as our homeschool curricula!

“The Batman” will be using Time4Learning at least twice a week. He is also doing Handwriting Without Tears two or three days per week.

“Mr. Loquacious” and “The Puzzler” will be continuing on with Reading Kingdom at least twice a week, along with Math Rider and Adventus, both at least twice a week.

“The Artist” will be continuing his way through Writing Fiction (In High School) by Sharon Watson on a weekly basis, and will be doing A+ TutorSoft, which we like so much that we purchased the remaining grade levels for him and for the other boys when they are ready! πŸ™‚

I will be continuing TouchMath with “The Batman”, “Mr. Loquacious” and “The Puzzler” until they complete the level we were reviewing, and then they will move on to A+ TutorSoft.

Everyone will be working through America The Beautiful by Notgrass. We really, really enjoyed this one, and it works for us in the area of history, geography, and social studies. We will also be using our God‘s World News subscription in our homeschool, as well as games we reviewed, such as The Presidential Game and Chess House, both of which our children thoroughly enjoy using! All four boys will continue with VocabularySpellingCity for language arts.

We (and this time I include myself in the “we”) will be completing Song School Spanish, and will then continue on with See It And Say It Flip Flop Learning Spanish, which we all enjoyed, and found easy to learn with.

I loved the Homeschool Mom’s Bible, and will continue using it forever, I think! πŸ™‚

All in all, without the blessing of being a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I think our homeschooling would not be as enjoyable as it’s becoming, not to mention the friends I have made as a result.

I am also very happy to announce that last night, I received my email inviting me to be part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew again for the year 2014. To read a bit about what membership means to me, please go here. I can hardly wait to see what products we will have waiting for us when we start back up again in January! Until then, dear readers, I’ll just be writing about what’s going on around here, along with possibly my thoughts on current events and things in the news.

As always, I would love it if you would join me on all of “My Journeys”! Just go enter your email information into the “sign me up” button at the top of the page, and never miss another update! Also, if you enjoy this blog, please go to our Facebook page and “Like” it! I sure would appreciate it if you do! πŸ™‚

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Filed under education, educational games, family, home education, homeschool products, Kids, Schoolhouse Review Crew Post, TOS Post

At Home In Dogwood Mudhole Volume one: Nothing That Eats . . . A T.O.S Review

Well, and isn’t that a mouthful of a title, LOL! However, the title of this book was precisely what intrigued me enough to want to read it when it was offered for review to those of us who are members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, so I was very happy to be chosen as one of the reviewers!

I am going to admit to you, my readers, right here and now, that I have been totally dragging my feet when it came to writing up this review. You see, getting it written up would mean getting it posted and linked to the crew blog, and I really, really don’t want to. Why? Because, this is my very last review product from the crew for the year 2013, and while I HAVE applied to remain on the crew for the year 2014, I am truly going to miss doing this in the interim! I will be writing a post about my time on the crew very soon. πŸ™‚ But, I digress . . .

Back to “At Home In Dogwood Mudhole Volume One: Nothing That Eats“, written and published by Franklin Sanders from At Home in Dogwood Mudhole, which is quite a read! As I said, the title alone made me want to check it out!

This is a BIG book, coming in at 379 pages. It is not a novel, and I knew this from the description, but rather a collection of letters written by Franklin Sanders . . .

which were then published in his monthly newsletter, The Moneychanger over a period of 17 years.

In this, the first of three volumes to be published, Mr. Sanders tells us, in a series of letters about, well, his life, and that of his family. We read about their several moves closer and closer to being where they can live off the land, and how, when they get there, his wife’s consistant admonishments that they bring home “nothing that eats” end up being quite useless, as he and the children do, in fact, keep adding to the collection of farm animals and pets.

The family winds up in a place called Dogwood Mudhole, Tennessee, which, as I discovered in the book, is a real place, not just the name of their farm, which is what I had thought before reading the book. It all began with the desire of Franklin and his wife Susan’s desire to “go back to the land” when the Y2K scare was looming. I happen to be part of the generation that remembers when that non-event happened, and how my own mother was so worried about it that she filled her tub and all the sinks with water just in case all of the utilities went dead at midnight on December 31, 1999. Of course, that did not happen, but I guess I understand the concern a lot of people had, after all, we had never lived through the changing from one century to another before!

As I said before, this book is a collection of letters, written and published in Franklin Sanders newsletter The Moneychanger, so it really is more of a picture of the life of himself and his family written as it happened, rather than as a recollection or memoir would be.

I got a very interesting (and different!) picture of southern history, as Franklin Sanders is very much a history buff when it comes to the Confederacy. For myself, as the adoptive mother of biracial children, the enthusiasm for the Confederacy made me uncomfortable.

Franklin Sanders is unabashedly Christian, and makes no bones about it, however, his troubles with the IRS and jail time as a result, bothered me. As a Christian, I believe the Lord says we must obey the laws, unless the laws DEFINITELY go against God’s laws. I’m not so sure that the issue of whether or not one must collect tax when selling gold or silver should be considered to go against God’s laws. I think Mr. Sanders is right when he says that the constitution declares gold and silver to be money, and therefore you should not have to collect taxes when exchanging money (gold or silver) for money (paper), however, I think that by God’s law, he would have showed a better testimony to follow the law and then protest it afterwards.

At Home In Dogwood Mudhole Volume One: Nothing That Eats” is a very good read, if you are not expecting something to read like a novel. It doesn’t. One of the things I actually enjoy about it is that because of the way it is written, as a series of letters written as they happened, this is a book that you can pick up and read whenever you have a free moment or two. I do like having books like that around, as frequently, my reading time comes in unexpected little patches of time these days! πŸ™‚

There is even a “no-risk” guarantee offered on the website:

No Risk Guarantee

If you don’t laugh, cry, gasp, hug your spouse or jump up and down, we’ll refund your money and you can keep the book to use as a door stop.”

I thought the guarantee was just hilarious, myself, having never read one quite like it!

At Home In Dogwood Mudhole Volume One: Nothing That Eats” is available here. The oversized paperback costs $22.95, and is also available in pdf, Kindle and ePUB versions for $ 16.95.

To read what other Schoolhouse Review Crew Members thought of the book “At Home In
Dogwood Mudhole Volume One: Nothing That Eats
, please click the graphic below!
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As always, I would love it if you would join me on all of “My Journeys Through Life”! Just go to the top of the page and enter your email information into the “sign me up” button. Also, please, do go to our Facebook page here and click on the “Like” button! I’d surely appreciate it, and you will never miss an update again! πŸ™‚

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Filed under At Home In Dogwood Mudhole Volume One: Nothing That Eats, Christian faith, Franklin Sanders, Schoolhouse Review Crew Membership, Schoolhouse Review Crew Post, TOS Post, TOS Review, Ultimate Blog Challenge 2013

French Essentials . . . A T.O.S. Review

When I was offered the chance to review French Essentials in our homeschooling environment, I thought about it for a little while first. My kids and I have been trying really hard to learn another language, but I thought it would be fun to take a break and see how we would do with French.

For this review, we received the Full Access Online Program, which has given me everything they have to offer. You can purchase the Full Access Online Program for $149.95, which will give you every one of the modules (there are four so far, with module five on the way), for a total of over 90 lessons and an entire year to get them all downloaded to your own computer! This is a savings of over 57%, as opposed to purchasing one module at a time for the cost of $69.95. Also, with the single modules, you get only 90 days to get all of the lessons and workbook materials downloaded to your computer.

From the French Essentials Home page:

“French Essentials is a complete, downloadable French curriculum with online features that include culture, fun exercises, lesson tests & more.
Designed by experienced French teachers specifically for home learners, it is clear and easy to use and does not require previous knowledge of French. The well designed lessons teach French in an easy to follow, gradual, step-by-step method with video & audio instruction that allows students to interact with the language in a fun and engaging way.”

French Essentials takes your homeschooler through all four language acquisition skills:

reading
writing
listening comprehension
speaking

They use a multi-sensorial approach, beginning with audio. We were able to read the lessons, then click on various characters, letters and words in order to hear the correct pronunciation. These sound files are embedded right in the pdf that we downloaded for each lesson.

Also embedded in the pdf lessons were little videos of a French-speaking teacher giving us time to “watch, listen and repeat”.

We also were able to download the workbook and workbook answer key for each module, which give us the opportunity to practice our reading and writing with the printable exercises, which are there to help us to reinforce speaking and comprehension as we learn to correctly understand the grammar and sentence structures in the French language.

In addition, included in the package for registered users are the following components:

Online quizzes, learning activities and French Culture. The online quizzes include things like online flash cards, listening comprehension & spelling, 2 challenging games (Scatter & Space race) and a test section that gives parents 4 different evaluation options.

The authors of this program are a married couple who are teachers living in St-RΓ©dempteur, QuΓ©bec, a suburb of Quebec City with their two children, who both attend school in French and are homeschooled in English. They are so passionate about French culture and the French language!

In their own words, here is how they began this endeavor:

“We began as a small tutoring service which came about through requests for tutoring from friends in the homeschool community. This eventually led to the development of a DVD French curriculum for home use. In August 2010, in order to make it more affordable and accessible, French Essentials was converted from top to bottom into a new downloadable format and http://www.frenchessentials.com was launched.”

If your child (or you, for that matter!) have had any exposure to the French language, there is a placement test you can use here in order to find out where you need to begin. WE began at the very beginning, of course, lol!

Here is what you’ll see when you log in after purchasing . . .

You can also go to the online exercises . . .

Or to the section on French culture!

If you go here, you can see a sample lesson from module one, and here is a sample of one of the videos, also from module one . . .

For more information about how the program works, what you can expect, and several sample lessons and videos from later modules, you can go here

What I like about the French Essentials Full Access Online Program is that as I said above, it has allowed me to download everything to my computer. I like that the sound and video files are actually embedded right into the downloaded lessons, enabling us to read it, hear it, see it, and say it.

What I didn’t like was that for some reason I couldn’t do either the sound files or the videos on the laptop computers my boys use for homeschooling, so we had to crowd around my desktop (which is newer) for our lessons. I had no problem at all on my desktop when I was prompted to install needed programs in order to use the sound files and videos, but on the laptops, I got nowhere.

While my kids were able to follow the read it, listen to it, view the video, and then repeat what was being said, at this time the worksheets are proving to be too much for them. But as I’ve said before, I often need to tweak homeschool curriculum to accommodate their various special needs, and it is my hope that a little later on, they’ll be able to handle them. πŸ™‚ Right now, though, I’m hearing an awful lot of “French is too hard, Mom!” πŸ™‚

I believe this is an excellent program, especially for the home learner. In fact, even though this one turned out to be a bit too much for my kids, it isn’t too much for me, and I think I will continue on with it myself to see how much *I* can learn! πŸ™‚

To read all about what my fellow Schoolhouse Review Crew members thought of French Essentials, 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”. Just go to the “sign me up” button at the top of the blog and enter your email information. And please, if you enjoy “My Journeys Through Life”, go here and “like” our Facebook page. Never miss another update! πŸ™‚

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Filed under education, Foreign language homeschooling, French Essentials Full Access Online Program, home education, homeschool products, homeschooling, Language Arts, Schoolhouse Review Crew Post, special needs education, TOS Post, TOS Review

Exploring Creation With Chemistry and Physics . . . A T.O.S. Review

If you are looking for a hands on, Charlotte Mason Style Homeschool Science Curriculum with a definite Christian world view, you will certainly find it in Exploring Creation With Chemistry And Physics, written by Jeanie Fulbright and published by Apologia. This curriculum is written for children anywhere from kindergarten through grade six, and is perfect, in my opinion, for working together as a group, even in a multi-age group.

As reviewers, we were allowed to select any two of the notebooking journals which go along with the text book. Because I had hopes that at least one of my kids (“The Artist”) would be able to use the Regular Notebooking Journal, I asked for it . . .

Along with a copy of the Junior Notebooking Journal.

Because of a mistake in shipping, I actually received two of the Junior Notebooking Journals. Apologia was kind enough to replace the missing journals for those of us who received the wrong ones, and ESPECIALLY kind enough to allow us to keep the wrong ones! In the meanwhile, I was able to acquire two more Junior Notebooking Journals from other reviewers. πŸ™‚ As it happened, this turned out to be a real blessing, because although “The Artist” probably CAN handle the regular Notebooking Journal, he definitely preferred the Jr. one.

The Notebooking Journals are very similar, but the Junior Notebooking Journal actually has a lot more in it for someone who likes art, and the Regular Notebooking Journal has significantly more writing to do, something “The Artist” gets balky about if he has to do it with handwriting as opposed to using the computer.

One of the best things about the Apologia is that when we use it as a read-aloud (and we do!), the text is very easy to understand, and there are plenty of good quality color pictures to go along with the text.

Spread throughout each chapter (Lesson) are boxes with the heading “Try This!”. It may be a small experiment, a game, or something else, but it always goes right along with what is being taught in that section. Some of the “Try This!” sections we have done are:

The 20 Questions Game, which teaches the skill of being able to describe the properties of matter.

Figuring out the volume of a small rock using the method discovered by Archimedes . . .

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during which we discovered that this small rock from our yard came in at about 50 cubic centimeters.

We began learning about density using two eggs, two glasses of warm water, and one half cup of salt . . .

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We learned more about mass, volume and density by seeing whether different objects would sink or float in a bowl of water . . .

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And we also did one other “Try This” to learn about buoyancy. The idea was to build a foil boat, put it into our “ocean” of warm salt water . . .
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then begin adding pennies (pirate treasure) to see how many it took to make the boat sink . . .
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In case you were wondering, it took 56 pennies!

In the main text-book “Exploring Creation With Chemistry and Physics“, there are 14 lessons. The breakdown of the lesson plans are in the Notebooking Journal and the Junior Notebooking Journal, with the suggested pace of two days per week, doing one lesson per week. As usual, we are slowing this down quite a bit, in order that all of my children can really get as much as possible out of this curriculum. I think that’s one of the best things about homeschooling, the fact that we can go at our own pace, tweaking here and there as needed to accommodate the various special needs my kids have.

There are also a multitude of lapbook style things in both of the Notebooking Journals for the student to cut out, fill in, and then glue to the appropriate page of their notebook. We are just getting ready to begin one of them, in fact!

There are vocabulary activities, such as crossword puzzles, word find puzzles, match-up sheets, vocabulary puzzle pieces, etc, and, should you need them, the answers are all in the back of the Notebooking Journal!

Here are just a couple of pictures from our Notebooking Journals:

From the Junior Notebooking Journal, you can see that my kids are not carbon copies of one another when it comes to coloring!
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Here is the one picture I managed to get of “The Artist” beginning a crossword puzzle in the regular Notebooking Journal, before going back to the Junior Notebooking Journal, which he very much prefers! πŸ™‚
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Apologia is a good fit for my family, and we will continue to use it, but with one small adjustment in addition to slowing the pace down quite a bit. The only other change I will make is that when they have a copywork page with a Bible verse, I will be having them use our King James Bible, rather than the version used in the curriculum. As my regular readers are aware, that is my one pet peeve with Christian homeschool curriculum, it is mostly written using other versions these days. I would love it if this were offered with the option of being published using the King James Version for those of us who will use no other version of the Bible. In the meantime, I guess I will just continue to adjust for that by typing the verses out from the King James Bible and then adhering them to the Notebooking Journal over the other version.

The Textbook “Exploring Creation With Chemistry and Physics” by Jeanie Fulbright can be found here at the cost of $39.00.

The “Chemistry and Physics Notebooking Journal for Exploring Creation With Chemistry and Physics” can be found here for $24.00.

The “Junior Chemistry and Physics Notebooking Journal for Exploring Creation With Chemistry and Physics” is available here for $24.00.

My children and I are very much enjoying this Homeschool Science Curriculum, and I hope you will, too!

To find out what other Schoolhouse Review Crew members thought of “Exploring Creation With Chemistry and Physics“, please click on the graphic below!
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As always, I would love it if you would join me on all of “My Journeys Through Life”! Just go to the “sign me up” button at the top of the blog and enter your email information. Also, if you enjoy “My Journeys”, please, go here and “Like” our Facebook page. Never miss an update again! πŸ™‚

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If You Were Me and Lived In . . . A T.O.S. Review

We were sent four cute little books from Carol P. Roman with Away We Go Media to review in our homeschool.

We received:

If You Were Me and Lived In . . . South Korea . . .

If You Were Me And Lived In . . . France . . .

If You Were Me And Lived In . . . Mexico

and . . .

“If You Were Me And Lived In . . . Norway . . .”

The author was also kind enough to gift us with an inflatable globe, a couple of pencils with international flags printed on them, and a play passport set, all of which my boys thought were very cool, most especially the globe. πŸ™‚

These books are the beginning of a series of books that can be used to introduce other countries and cultures to younger children. They are intended for children ranging from Pre-K through age 8, but my kids enjoyed them as well.

They range in price from $8.99 to $10.79 in the paperback editions, which is what we received, or $.99 to $1.99 in Kindle format, which some of the other Review Crew Members received.

Each of these books follows the same basic formula. It is a short book, approximately 25 to 30 pages long, exploring the culture of a different country.

At the very beginning, we get a picture of the country featured in the book, which has a star marking the capital. Then, we go right into the little story with a boy and girl pointing to their country on a globe. This is followed up by talking briefly about the capital city, and a picture of a scene from that city. Next, there is a picture of the boy and girl in a scene relating to where they are, and talking about three different names you might have if you are a boy, and three names that would be popular for a girl in that country. Next, along with a cute picture of the children doing something with their parents, we learn what you would call your mom and your dad in that language! From there, we next see the children in a place of business, and we discover what their money is called, what they might be buying there, and what the business would be called in their language. In the different books, we learn about a popular sport, a favorite vacation place, a holiday, special things they might eat, and their school. All of these things use words in the language of the country the book is covering.

At the end of the book is a page with a glossary of all of the foreign language words. This is perhaps the one thing I would change, I would have preferred to have the translations perhaps within parentheses right next to the actual words, that way, we would not have needed to go back and forth every time we came upon a word in a different language. πŸ™‚

we did do our best though, to try to guess what the words meant, and occasionally, we were actually successful!

I think these books are nicely done, and very cute. As it turned out, they were a bit young for my older kids, but my twins like them, and I’ve seen them reading them again. And, the bonus is that all of the boys were looking for, and finding the different countries on the globe and on a map we have from a previous review. πŸ™‚

To read what other Schoolhouse Review Crew members thought of these books, 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”! Just enter your email information into the “sign me up!” button at the top right of the blog, and please, also go here and “like” our Facebook page!

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Filed under Away We Go Media, education, family, Foreign language homeschooling, home education, homeschool products, homeschooling, Kids, Language Arts, Learn to Read, read-alouds, Reading, Schoolhouse Review Crew Post, special needs education, TOS Post, TOS Review, Ultimate Blog Challenge 2013

Weekly Wrap-Up . . . A new Series For us

I have been following the blog “Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers for some time, ever since I stumbled upon it a while back. This blogger turned me on to a weekly link up called “Weekly Wrap-Up”, which I’ve decided to take part in, beginning now.

So, here is how OUR week has gone . . .

Sunday evening, our church‘s Sunshine Kids Choir performed the special music during service. My younger two boys, “Mr. Loquacious” and “The Puzzler” are members of the choir, and also had lines in the skit this time!

On Monday night, I got to go to a Mom’s Night Out with other moms from our church. This is important to me. As a homeschooling mom, most of my time is spent primarily with my children, so it’s really nice to have that monthly night out, just for a couple of hours to eat dinner and sit and talk with other moms. We had a great time! πŸ™‚

Tuesday night, I went to Ladies Bible Study, held at our church, We are studying the book ” Changed Into His Image: God’s Plan For Transforming Your Life” by Jim Berg. This study is very deep, and is really affecting all of us who are working through it! We are taking it very slowly, it may take us three or four sessions to complete it. Our current session will end the beginning of December, and the next one will start probably sometime in January.

Meanwhile, this week the boys and I worked on some Schoolhouse Review Crew products.

We worked on VocabularySpellingCity.com, we worked on a couple of upcoming review products, including a set of books called “If You Were Me And Lived In . . .”, an Apologia product, “Exploring Creation Through Chemistry and Physics”, and “French essentials”

In addition, “The Artist” has spent time each day adding to the story he is writing on the computer, “The Batman” has spent considerable time immersed in his “Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego” computer game, and the twins have been working on learning their song for the next time the Sunshine Kids Choir performs. Also, “The Artist” has a part in the upcoming Christmas drama which will be put on by our teens at our church, so he has been practicing hard on his scene, since he has to go to play practice beginning this Saturday.

Thursday, we went to homeschool parkday with a group of homeschoolers here in our area. Thursdays have now become definite slowcooker days, which will be even more essential in a few weeks when “The Batman”, “The Artist” and I begin piano lessons again, finally. Which reminds me, we got a nice piano bench to use with our keyboard this week from a fellow freecycler!

I would once again encourage you, no matter what part of the country you live in, to check out and participate in your local freecycle group! It helps keep things out of landfills, it allows you to bless others with things you no longer need or want, and you can get things (for free) that others no longer need or want, but which are still perfectly good!

I received an order for hand-crafted Christmas cards from my wonderful hairstylist, and I’ve also been planning my ministry cards for this week.

So, it’s been a full week! I wonder what next week will bring! πŸ™‚

If you’d like to join the “Weekly-Wrap Up” postings, check out the guidelines here. I hope to see you there! πŸ™‚

As always, I would love to have you join me on all of “My Journeys Through Life”. Please enter your email information into the “sign me up” button at the top of the blog, and please, go to our Facebook page here and “Like” it. Never miss another update! πŸ™‚

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Filed under education, family, home education, Homeschool Park Day, homeschool products, Kids, Mesa Baptist Church, Mom's Night Out, Schoolhouse Review Crew Membership, Ultimate Blog Challenge 2013, VocabularySpellingCity, Weekly Wrap-Up

Homeschooling? Want to “Try Before You Buy?”

I am coming to the end of my very first year as a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew team, and I have loved every second of it! It has been very interesting, being allowed to thoroughly test out all kinds of educational things with my children, as well as a few things that we were given to review that were just for us moms! My boys, “The Batman”, “The Artist”, “Mr. Loquacious” and “The Puzzler” have enjoyed this past year as well (mostly, anyway!), and have been able to give a good deal of their own input as to what was good, or not so good, about different products. Even my husband got into the act a couple of times, like when we reviewed a math program with “The Artist” which they both liked enough that my husband had me go ahead and purchase the rest of the grades we would need!

Why am I telling you this now? Well, I’m SO glad you asked that question!

The Schoolhouse Review Crew will be taking applications for the 2014 Review year from October 24 – November 8!

Are you a homeschool blogger?
Are you a curriculum junkie?
Do you enjoy writing reviews?


Then you might be perfect for the Crew! 



Some requirements for being a part of the Crew include the following: 

  • First of all you must be a homeschool mom or dad. You don’t have to homeschool all of your children, but you must homeschool at least one. 
  • You must be willing to use the review products for about six weeks in your homeschool, before writing your review. Review periods have deadlines and requirements for the reviews. You must be willing to follow these requirements. No, that doesn’t mean you must write a positive review. But it does mean that there are certain elements that are required. And the deadlines are firm. If you are often late for deadlines, the Crew is probably not for you. 
  • You must have a blog on which to publish your reviews, and be sure you have an active blog with a following. By active blog, I mean that you should be blogging regularly, at least weekly, about your family and homeschool (in addition to your reviews). Your blog should have followers β€” RSS feed or email subscribers, as well as in social media. The Crew does not accept brand new bloggers who just set up their blogs for the purposes of applying to the team. 
  • Are you using social media to promote your blog? Activity on at least one social media platform is a requirement to serve on the Crew. Which one is up to you β€” Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Google Plus are the options. You will need to be willing to promote your reviews there and post a widget or plug-in publicly on your blog, indicating how many followers you have in social media. 
  • You must be willing to check into the Crew’s Review Management forum. This is where information is disseminated to the team. The leadership does everything possible to make things easy for us, outside of writing the actual review, but you need to be willing to participate by checking in almost daily. 
  • Sample reviews are helpful. If you’ve never written a review on your blog, go ahead and write one for curriculum you are currently using in your homeschool. This will help the leaders see how you approach writing reviews. 

Why should you want to be a part?

Our Crew of over 250 review bloggers has been serving the homeschool community for more than 5 years. As a respected review team, we take this job very seriously and will insist you do as well. The leadership provides an incredible amount of assistance to help us be the best bloggers, homeschool parents, and of course, reviewers we can be. They provide a mentoring program for new members, a social media networking group, many blog and social media tutorials, and lots of incredible opportunities for our team, including blog carnivals, the opportunity to guest post on the Crew blog, and the blessing of some incredible friendships.

Click here to read about how being on the Crew has specifically blessed ten different families, including mine! You will see each of our perspectives on being a crew member, and perhaps something that one of us has said will strike a chord for you! After reading what we have to say, consider applying to join us, I think it’s a huge blessing, and maybe it will be for you, too! πŸ™‚

How can you apply? 
After making sure you meet all of the requirements, if you believe you would to an asset to the Schoolhouse Review Crew and wish to join us, please click over to the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog to apply.

Come be a part of The Old Schoolhouse family!

I hope to see you join us for the 2014 year with the Crew!

As always, I would love it if you joined me on all of “my Journeys Through Life”! Just enter your email information into the “sign me up” button at the top of the blog, and please, go “like” my Facebook fan page, too! πŸ™‚

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VocabularySpellingCity . . . A T.O.S. Review

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Do you want a value packed, full of fun online language arts program for your homeschoolers? Well, the VocabularySpellingCity Premium Membership might just be what you are looking for.

When I first looked at this program, in the process of deciding whether or not to request the review, my reaction was W.O.W., there is SO much available there, and this program is good for any students from kindergarten through 12th grade!

I have four boys, with very different learning abilities and styles, and VocabularySpellingCity is a site they are ALL enjoying.

My twins, “Mr. Loquacious” and “The Puzzler” are, as you know, still working on learning to read. They are getting better, but VocabularySpellingCity seems to be actually helping them to comprehend the words a little better, as well. I have them working with “Word Family” lists, which are available in weekly segments, along with a great number of other types of lists, which you are free to import into your account and use.

With my older boys, “The Batman” and “The Artist”, I decided to use (at this time) themed lists, such as “October – Harvest”, for example.

VocabularySpellingCity takes a word list and wrings everything it possibly can from it. By the time they are done, your children will know pretty much everything they can about the words on the list you have assigned them!

Here is the assignment section from one of “Mr. Loquacious’s” weeks . . .

Activity Completed On Time on Task Status Score Missed Words Total 37 min
Spelling TeachMe 10/22/2013 4:11 pm 1 min Complete

Test-N-Teach 10/22/2013 4:12 pm 2 mins Complete

Audio Word Match 10/22/2013 4:15 pm 1 min Complete

HangMouse 10/22/2013 4:16 pm 7 mins Complete

MatchIt Definitions 10/22/2013 4:23 pm 4 mins Complete

Sentence Unscramble 10/22/2013 4:27 pm 13 mins Complete

Spelling TestMe 10/22/2013 4:41 pm 1 min Complete 100 %

Vocabulary TestMe 10/22/2013 4:46 pm 2 mins Complete 75 % get, set

WordFind 10/22/2013 4:48 pm 5 mins Complete

Word Unscramble 10/22/2013 4:54 pm 1 min Complete

As you can see, even though he doesn’t HAVE to do everything in one day, he was having so much fun, he just kept going! I will admit, though, that after the first couple of weeks, I realized they were all doing one or two assigned activities and then just moving right over to playing the games, so I’ve switched things around somewhat and told them they have to do the assigned things first! πŸ™‚

Some of the learning activities that can be assigned are pictured below:

The Word-O-Rama game . . .
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Flash Card . . .
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Letter Fall
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Full disclosure, neither “Mr. Loquacious” or “The Puzzler” were very fond of “Letter Fall”, and asked me to change to something else on their assignments. They had a hard time with this activity, and the speed of it.

It is very easy though, to switch up the activities in an assignment. You are given a good size list of options, each one taking your chosen word list and teaching all sorts of things with it, from spelling, vocabulary (definitions, use it in a sentence, etc), there are word find activities, crosswords, just so many ideas that you can use to keep your kids interested long enough to really learn those words!

Here is a look at what you can offer to them as assignments . . .
assignments

Here are “The Batman” and “The Artist”, both working on their VocabularySpellingCity assignments . . .

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And here are “Mr. Loquacious” and “The Puzzler”, working on theirs!
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Watch this short video to learn more about VocabularySpellingCity Premium Membership . . .

Now, while you CAN get a free membership to VocabularySpellingCity, which would definitely give you a lot, including spelling lists, the parent page, printables and spelling tests, along with some other resources, I think the VocabularySpellingCity Premium Membership is a great deal. The cost is just $29.99 for an entire year, which covers up to five students.

Here, you can see a comparison checklist between the free membership and the premium checklist . . .

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As you can see, there is SO much available when you go with the premium membership! This has for sure turned into one of those products that the boys will have included into their educational schedule for this year, because, as you probably already are aware, I feel strongly that whenever possible, education can, and should, be fun. This is fun. When I have boys actually asking if they can go again after their brothers have finished doing their time on VocabularySpellingCity, well then, I think we definitely have a winner, don’t you?

To find out what other Schoolhouse Review Crew members thought of VocabularySpellingCity, please click the graphic below!
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Filed under education, educational games, home education, homeschool products, homeschooling, Kids, Language Arts, Learn to Read, Reading, Schoolhouse Review Crew Post, special needs education, TOS Review, Ultimate Blog Challenge 2013, VocabularySpellingCity

Diary Of A Real Payne . . . A T.O.S. Review

OK, full disclosure here . . . when I saw the description of this novel from Barbour Publishing, I applied for the review because *I* wanted to read it! I did not CARE if my boys wanted it or not, I thought it looked like a fun read-aloud! So I was very pleased to be chosen for this one. πŸ™‚

The book Diary Of A Real Payne Book 1: True Story written by Annie Tipton, is VERY entertaining!

Diary Of A Real Pain is written from the viewpoint of Emma Jean Payne (E.J. for short), a ten-year-old girl who dreams of leaving her small town Spooner, Wisconsin, so she can do BIG things when she grows up. She just KNOWS that small towns like Spooner are not where big things will ever happen, and that it is the “boringest” place there is.

The book goes back and forth between an entry in E.J.’s diary (which her mother thought would be a “good outlet” for her), and the story narration in the rest of each chapter. E.J. has big dreams, and they are regularly changing, as you’ll find out in both her diary entries and the continuation of the story within each chapter.

E.J.’s father is the pastor of the local church, and this novel has the Christian world view I prefer for my children to read whenever possible. Add to that the absolute hilarious-ness of E.J’s life, and all the trouble she finds herself getting into as a result of her extremely vivid imagination, and we had a winner for this particular read-aloud.

This story is about a girl, and I have, as you know, all boys, but they LOVED it! So many times, as I read from this book, one or another of my boys would suddenly exclaim “uh oh, I can see where THIS is going”, or “Oooh, she’s about to get herself into trouble again, isn’t she?”

E.J. zooms from career idea to career idea, and we get to have a front row seat as her imagination takes flight each time. Even when she, her little brother Isaac (or “the space invader”, according to E.J.”, and her friend Macie go door to door collecting for the school food drive, they decide to perform a mini circus at each home, complete with costumes. Of course, before long, we are reading E.J.’s account of their performance as if they are in a REAL circus!

As we read each chapter, the narrative goes immediately from what is actually happening right into E.J.’s imaginative account of what is happening in HER view, at least until something happens to bring her back to reality. And something ALWAYS does, too, like almost knocking down an entire store display while being a “famous female race-car driver”, for example.

Sometimes, E.J.’s imaginary interactions involve her nemesis, Coralee McCallister, the girl who is generally not very nice to her, and occasionally pulls a fast one to beat out E.J. at something (like deliberately making her nervous during the spelling bee, for instance)

We discover pretty quickly, as I said above, that E.J. believes nothing big ever can happen in Spooner, that she can never do the “big things” she is surely destined for. So, she imagines them, while waiting to grow up, move away, and then DO them.

When we got to chapter 14, though, something happened in the story that began to make E.J. realize this wasn’t necessarily true, that people can be part of doing “big things” anywhere, even in a boring little town like Spooner, Wisconsin. I’m not going to reveal to you what it is that causes her to realize this, but know one thing, although this book is juvenile fiction, when we got to chapter 14, it brought ME to tears.

Diary of a Real Payne Book 1: True Story by Annie Tipton is an EXCELLENT read-aloud. It is actually recommended for ages 8 – 12, but as we discovered, it was a fun experience for all of us. My boys were rolling with laughter, and even managed to learn a few things about how good their own life is, and how we never really know what others may be going through.

The novel Diary Of A Real Payne Book 1: True Story is 192 pages long, and is currently on sale for $4.49, with a regular price of $5.99. You may order it here.

We made the pleasant discovery at the end of the book that there is a second volume in the works, “Diary Of A Real Payne: Church Camp Chaos” which will be coming out in March of 2014. My kids and I are excited about that, as we really, really enjoyed this one!

In the mean-while, E.J. has her own Facebook page, where you can keep up with her “latest antics, diary entries, contests and more!”

To read what other Schoolhouse Review Crew Members thought of this book, please click below!
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As always, I would love it if you join me on all of “My Journeys Through Life”! Just enter your email information at the “sign me up” button at the top of the page, and never miss an update again!

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Filed under Annie Tipton, Christian faith, Diary of a Real Payne, education, family, home education, homeschool products, Kids, read-alouds, Reading, Schoolhouse Review Crew Post, TOS Review, Ultimate Blog Challenge 2013

God’s World News . . . A T.O.S. Review

For several years now, I have planned to subscribe to the magazine God’s World News, and then for one reason or another, just never did. So, when I found out it would be up for review by the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I of course requested the opportunity to review it with my four boys.

God’s World News Magazine, as it turns out, is a very good value for the cost. For a full year (10 months) subscription to the age range of your choice, you pay only $28.00. There is also no charge for regular shipping and handling.
With our subscription to the News Flash

we also received a 20″ x 30″ world map, which coordinates with the Map It! Locator maps in many of the magazine articles, allowing my kids to then look up where in the world the story is taking place. At my husband’s suggestion, I purchased a poster frame to put the map in, along with dry erase pens. That way, the paper map stays nice (I DO have all boys, you know!), plus, if they want to, they can now mark it up as we are learning, and the dry erase marker will wipe right off!

You can see the boys checking out the map below . . .

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God’s World News is available at several grade levels, all the way through high school.

I chose the News Flash edition because I thought it would be a good mid-range that all four of my boys would enjoy, and I was right. News Flash is actually written for kids in the 3rd – 4th grade range, and I have kids who range in ability from about kindergarten – 2nd grade all the way up to early high school level.

The various God’s World magazines are written to help your children build a biblical world view, when looking at stories in the news, at current events, and also at things in our history.

From the website:
News Flash emphasizes News, Knowledge and Wisdom while focusing on specific skills for students in this age range.

β€’Age appropriate stories illustrate for young students the truth that our merciful and sovereign God is active in the world.
β€’Lessons in the magazine and online use news stories as a springboard to teach concepts from Civics, Geography, Economics, Worldview and more.
β€’MAP-IT! Locator maps correspond with a full-sized (20″ x 30″) world map sent in September to each class, homeschool teacher, and homeschool group coordinator (five maps sent to homeschool groups).
β€’Creative puzzles build alphabet, number, sequence, and other skills.
β€’Grade-level website expands the God’s World News experience with ever-changing stories, editorial cartoons, and lots of downloadable activity sheets .

Our full year subscription included:

Ten, full color monthly issues (no issue in December or May), the afore-mentioned children’s website access, a weekly email newsletter for parents and teachers, which includes answer keys to the magazine quizzes and puzzles, and biographies and topical lessons to download and print, with quizzes and answer keys.

We have so far received the August, September and October issues of God’s World News Flash, and the boys are very much enjoying it! We have been reading stories about why people move (which discusses people who are illegally going into other countries to live, and the dangers when they do so), stories that teach some geography, stories about various animals and what they can do (for example, I did not know that dolphins use echolocation!).

There is often a “Bible2Life” section at the end of an article, like the one at the end of one of my boys’ favorite stories, “Hank Aaron: Natural Born Ball Player”. The article gave us two pages filled with his story and history, and then in the Bible2Life section at the end, talked about how God has plans for all of us. It used the verse Jeremiah 1:5, which tells us that the Lord knew us before we were even formed in the womb. The Bible2Life section of this story talks about how God “consecrates” us (and explains that to consecrate means to set apart for a special purpose), and asks the reader to think about what his or her special gifts might be, and how God wants him or her to use those gifts. Many stories in the magazine have a Bible2Life section, which helps the reader in developing a biblical world view, even when they move on to reading or viewing news stories from other sources.

You can download a sample issue of News Flash, a sample answer key, a sample lesson, and a sample of one of the biographies that are archived on the website

As you can see below, “The Batman”, “The Artist”, “Mr. Loquacious” and “The Puzzler” are all enjoying both the News Flash Magazine AND the large world map!

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I also received a copy of “World Magazine“, which is the adult version of God’s World News. There are articles dealing with things such as the government shutdown, the death penalty, common core in education, marriage longevity, etc . . ., and my husband and I are enjoying it very much!

To sum it up, I believe that at $28.00, God’s World Magazine is an excellent value, especially when you add in the online extras that come with the subscription. I also feel that the News Flash edition is a very good fit for my kids. They are all interested in things that are being talked about in the news, but we really try to be careful of what they watch and read. There are often stories in the newspaper and on the news which we don’t want them to see, feeling that either the stories themselves, or the way they are treated in the news, are not appropriate for our children (or any children, often-times!).

Reading God’s World News gives them an opportunity to learn about, and discuss, world events, current events, etc . . . within a safer environment, and from a biblical world view.

The only thing I would change (and I bet my regular readers know exactly what I’m about to say, lol!) would be that I wish the Bible references would be from the Authorized King James Bible, which is the only version our family uses. While I realize other versions have become very popular, it does seem to me that if nothing else, it would be more cost-effective for publishers to use the KJV, as it is my understanding that there is much less of a copy-write issue when using the King James Version of the Holy Bible than when using other versions.

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Filed under Bible Study for kids, Christian faith, current affairs, education, family, God's World News, home education, homeschool products, homeschooling, Kids, News Flash Magazine, Politics, Schoolhouse Review Crew Post, special needs education, TOS Review, Ultimate Blog Challenge 2013