Logic of English Essentials: Review

Homeschooling three children at varying levels of reading, spelling, grammar and vocabulary can be a daunting task. The Boy is beginning to read; Sweetness has a good reading foundation but struggles to decipher unfamiliar words; and although Bookworm Beauty is an advanced reader, she doesn’t always know why she knows what she knows. When the opportunity came to review Logic of English Essentials 2nd Edition, Volume 1, I had initially planned on using it primarily with The Boy and possibly as a resource to help strengthen Sweetness’s skills.

We received the Complete Set which included: Essentials Teacher’s Guide, Volume 1, Essentials Student Workbook, Volume 1, Spelling Journal, Morpheme Cards, Set 1, Basic Phonogram Flash Cards, Spelling Rule Flash Cards, Grammar Flash Cards, Advanced Phonogram Flash Cards, Phonogram Game Cards, Phonogram Game Tiles, Spelling Analysis Card, and a Phonogram and Spelling Rule Quick Reference

I had high expectations for Logic of English Essentials and it certainly did not let me down. I have long been a firm believer that phonics is the best method for teaching the English language and I hoped that it would truly be a solid program. Throughout the years I have homeschooled six children through different parts of the early elementary school years. Of those children I have found that those that had a solid foundation in phonics have remained the best at reading, writing and spelling as well as deciphering unfamiliar words. The second element I believe firmly in is an understanding of the Greek and Latin roots. I had not yet taught root words in our homeschooling but Princess and Angel had an outstanding fifth grade teacher in the public school system that threw out the standard curriculum and taught his classes Greek and Latin roots. This proved a valuable resource for them for the remainder of their schooling.

When I received the huge package of materials for Logic of English, I was initially a bit overwhelmed! I spent a full two days just reviewing the materials before I even considered beginning the program. This was a bit of a turn-off for me initially but I came to understand the value of it. This program is extremely thorough and although it appears to be a single curriculum guide, it has three different levels. One could easily go through the program three times, reviewing concepts and going deeper each time. While I was previewing the program I revised my initial plans and decided that I was going to use it with all three kids simultaneously, each at a different level. Fortunately, I did not need to do any of the ten pre-lessons so we were able to jump right in.

At first I found the program a bit difficult to teach from. This was a personal thing because I am usually not one to follow a script. I like to use curriculum guides as guides. With Essentials, I found that it was better for us all when I just followed the plan as it was laid out. In a lot of ways, this was much simpler as they lay everything out for you.

Essentials is laid out in 15 lessons, each broken up over five days. I was pleasantly surprised when I was able to witness improvement in all of the kids by the time we had completed lesson 1. The Boy had been reading simple words for over a year but still did so at a slow pace, contemplating each word. After the first lesson, he was showing great confidence in his reading of simple words. He was also more willing to take risks with trying to figure out more difficult words. Sweetness was already a great reader, reading far above her grade level. However, her spelling was far behind her reading ability. I noticed that she was spelling more accurately in that short period of time and continued to improve as we went along.

Bookworm Beauty surprised me all around! First of all, I didn’t think that she would enjoy working through the program because it started with simple phonics and I felt that she would be resistant. However, she not only participated but was engaged and told me later that she was glad that she was learning actual rules such as the rules for “C” and for “G”. Learning the word roots was another thing she appreciated and I have witnessed her using those learned skills to decipher word meanings. Lastly, she enjoyed the activities and games that we played throughout the lesson. Of all of my kids, she is usually the least kinesthetic however she felt that she got a lot out of the activities.

To go even further, my bonus mom is 70 years old and has always struggled with her reading and spelling. She is literate, she just struggles with proper mechanics. She has taken time to review some of the lessons and has shown improvement. She is finding it exciting to be able to uncover some of her educational holes.

I believe that the greatest gift we can give our children is a solid foundation for learning to read and write and the best way to do that is with a program that teaches everything needed to decipher 98% of the English language. Logic of English will become a mainstay in our homeschool. We will be completing this program in it’s entirety and look forward to the second volume.

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A Kite in the Wind: A Journey of Surprises

mountain sunset
Our prairie sunset view
elvis and chicks
Elvis meets chicks

We love our little house on the Colorado prairie. I have dreamed of having a small spread like this most of my life. The desire to feel dirt between my toes as I plant and live off of the land is a yearning that I simply can not explain. I have known many people in my life that could not begin to understand those desires… but there are equally as many that get it.

first eggs
Dos Huevos!

One of my desires has been to have farm animals. It all started with our nice little flock of chickens that we brought home for the kids on Easter 2015. We enjoyed our chicken entertainment far more than we could have imagined! We watched them all summer long, impatiently awaiting that first egg. It was fun to find not one, but two that very first time!

As summer progressed, our awareness of rattlesnakes quickly heightened! Although our awesome cat had been a great mouser, sometimes it just seemed like she could use some help. We didn’t feel that we had a set-up yet that would be conducive to barn cats so we decided that we would add a Rat Terrier to our farm to help with rodent control. After months of searching, we found Pepper. She was eight months old and although a high-strung puppy, she proved herself rodent worthy very quickly.

Samson and Pepper
Samson and Pepper after a long day’s work

With our long-term animal plan, we knew we would need predator protection. So, I drove all of the way to Illinois to Red Gate Farm, LLC to pick up our precious Colorado Mountain Dog. After many puppy behavior setbacks, Samson is becoming a reliable and trustworthy LGD-Livestock Guardian Dog.

All of these puppies came to Colorado. Samson is front and center!

Handsome was enjoying the new activity bustling around the property but reminded me often that he really wanted to pace ourselves with the growing a farm. I, on the other hand, couldn’t wait to obtain more and more. Yes, he is the boy flying the kite (keeping my grounded) and I am the kite riding the wind…

A picture of Handsome and I
Here comes Sunflower and Joseph!

Things were quiet on our little prairie for the following few months. Unfortunately, Samson was having some difficulty adjusting to the new property and needed animals to bond with and to “guard”. We needed to be mindful of our investment in a guardian dog. The earlier he could be working with animals to guard, the better in the long run.  So, we began searching. It wasn’t long after that we had an opportunity to obtain a couple of Dwarf Nigerian goats. We were blessed with Sunflower and Joseph, a doe and a whether. I could already taste the sweet milk that wouldn’t come until at least next fall. Again, Handsome gently tugged on those kite strings. I understood.


And then Sunday came. A gal at church informed me that she had two roosters and needed to get rid of one. Ooooh, I always wanted to hear the rooster crow! I would also like to try and hatch eggs some day… Handsome was OK with it… what’s one more chicken, right?

New babies!

But then the baby chicks began to arrive at the feed store! This time it was Handsome that reminded me that we needed to start earlier with the chicks this year so that we would get more eggs in late spring instead of early fall. Yes, baby chicks. Oh yes! So, I drove on down to the feed store (45 miles away) only to find that they were already gone. It was a sad moment until they told me of the chicks that would come in the following weeks. We had so much fun looking at all of the varieties of chicks that would be arriving and placed our orders. The four chicks quickly became a dozen which quickly turned into two-dozen! I had to cancel a few orders after Handsome reminded me that we had limited coop space and he really didn’t intend on building another coop this summer.

Come meet your girlfriend!

Life on the Colorado prairie was such a joy as we watched the cold winter days warm into spring. While making plans for moving our pen area I realized that Sunflower was quite possibly in heat. Oh my… I knew we had to move quickly as their window of opportunity is very short! I contacted a gal that I had made previous arrangements with about doing a driveway service (I still giggle at that term) and she asked me if I was interested in a buck that was of age. Hmmm, I knew I was going to be in trouble! I was there in less than an hour and brought him home to meet his new girl. Handsome ended up being OK with the new addition because it meant that it would lead to kidding and then milk. I don’t know if they have done the deed yet, but with him here full time, I am sure he will take care of her when the chance comes.

elvis and bunny
Bunny time!

Things then began to settle again… until the day that I got a welcomed notification from a friend that someone was needing to find someone to take their breeding rabbit buck and doe. Hmmm, I just knew I was the someone that she was looking for. Rabbits were high on my farm endeavor list, but not on Handsome’s list at all. I had also made a promise to Handsome. I decided, for once, that I would let him know the details and make the decision instead of jumping into it on my own. I know, it’s taken me eight years to figure that out. He took the details, thought about them and gave me the green light.

I’m ready to slow down. I need to prepare for the upcoming goat kids this fall and the rabbit kits. We bred the rabbits and made plans to provide her with a nesting box the first week of April. However, last week I noticed a dead kit in her hutch. It was definitely full-term, this was not a miscarriage! I quickly made a box for her and she went to work making her nest. The next morning there were six healthy kits in her box. Apparently she was pregnant when we got her! This was quite a surprise, but one that we are truly enjoying.

An Easter surprise!

Our little animal farm has grown from one dog and one cat a year ago to one cat, three dogs, 26 hens, 1 rooster, 3 goats and now 8 rabbits! Yes, there are a lot of mouths to feed. However, they all have a job and are earning their keep! Eggs are a huge part of our diet. Milk will be a welcome addition. Two animals keep the rodent population down (less rodents = less snakes). Two dogs offer protection to us and our animals, and do quite well. The rabbits will provide awesome meat. Beyond all of the work that each performs, there is joy in just being around animals. There is something so very fulfilling being around life.

Yes, this is our prairie farm E-I-E-I-OOOOOO!

More than Entertainment: A FishFlix.com Review

We love movies! Hands-down it is one of the greatest forms of entertainment we engage in. Yes, we love the outdoors. We love to play sports and board games. We love to take the kids to the park or to the zoo. Movies however are our go-to entertainment staple. So you could imagine how thrilled we were when we found out that we would be reviewing Superbook: A Giant Adventure – David and Goliath a DVD provided by FishFlix.com.

FishFlix LOGO_zpslr8bk7fy

Our greatest difficulty with being a movie-loving family is that there are simply too many types of movies. Some are great, yet purely entertaining. Others have fantastic story lines with great moral lessons. Still others are simply disappointing. It can be difficult to navigate the world of movies and to know what is going to appropriate, especially for the children.

FishFlix.com can make our lives so much easier by taking the guesswork out of the equation when choosing a worthy film. They have over 1,300 movies to choose from, everything from family entertainment, biblical movies, inspirational movies, to health and fitness. Their focus is providing quality christian home entertainment. What a great way to help families reclaim family time!

The Superbook: A Giant Adventure – David and Goliath is a fantastic movie retelling one of the best heroic stories of all time! I was surprised at the quality of it’s animation. If you are anything like me, then as a movie buff, you may have come to expect high-quality animation such as is produced by the bigger names out there. I can say for certainty that the animation in this movie rivals those. I was not surprised to discover that the Superbook series is created by award-winning artists that are credited with some of the features we compare animation with.

Christian-movies-superbook-a-giant-adventure-david-and-goliath-dvd_zpsuhjuph1bThe story itself gives a unique spin on the old classic. Instead of simply retelling the story of David and Goliath as told in the Bible, it focuses on courage, faith and overcoming fear. A modern-day boy struggling with the fear of performing in front of others is followed as he, his friend and their robot friend travel through time. They end up just outside of Bethlehem around 3,000 years ago where they stumble upon David. While they spend time with David they not only witness his victory over Goliath but also his courage and his faith. David teaches the young boy that he should never be afraid to use the talent that God has gifted him with because the size of the giant doesn’t matter when God gives you the ability. It was refreshing to have a story line that gave a modern-day example which children can identify with for defeating the giants in their own life.

The DVD comes with a Family Discussion Guide to facilitate conversation with kids, or anyone really. Topics covered are discovering your own talents and having the courage to use them; daily battles and how we can face them with boldness; and being victorious through faith in Christ.

FishFlix.com also carries five additional DVDs in the Superbook Series including In The Beginning, The First Christmas, ROAR! Daniel and the Lion’s DenLet My People Go, and The Ten Commandments.

Our home movie collection is always growing. If DVD-Anonymous was a real club, we’d probably need to participate. Since we don’t watch television (except during football season), our ability to see previews is limited to the ones on DVD’s or at a theater. Consequently, there are a lot of movies available that we really know nothing more about than what is presented on the carefully crafted cover and the few short paragraphs on the back. Sometimes it feels like we are gambling, always risking our hard-earned money hoping that the DVD will be worth it. It is a nice feeling to visit FishFlix.com and know that all of the movies will have acceptable content for it’s intended audience.

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That Time of the Year is Approaching

There are some things that many of us have to deal with, regardless of how we feel about them. Mandatory testing of our school-aged children is one of those things that sparks a lot of heated discussion. People are oftentimes passionate about how they feel about standardized testing, yet it is still an event that many of us have to deal with.


Personally, I like the mandatory testing. Or should I rephrase that to say that I like what testing could provide? I like to know where my student is at and whether or not we need to focus on anything in the future. However, our focus in school is not all about testing. I feel that with the right standardized test I can get a pure look at my student’s overall development.

Most states have some sort of testing requirements. In Colorado I am required to have my students either complete a nationally standardized test at various intervals including grades three, five, seven, nine and eleven or have an assessment completed by a qualified professional. I then need to be submit the testing results to either the local school district, a parochial or independent school.

I have invested a lot of time perusing the multiple tests available for purchase. Some tests have administering requirements, others do not. I could take my student to a local testing center and have her assessed there, and pay a nice fee for doing so. Or as a Master’s Degree holder, I have the ability to order and administer any test that I have looked at thus far, which makes things easier for me and less stressful for her.

I am not certain which test I am going to order but I am leaning heavily on the ITBS-Iowa Tests of Basic Skills. It looks as though I can order it online, administer it over several days in timed increments, and then return it to the provider for scoring. I like how it provides a diagnostic look at how the student is progressing in key academic areas and traces student achievement.

Last year we were not required to have Bookworm Beauty tested as she was in the fourth grade. However, she was enrolled in a home school charter school that offered the ITBS testing for free. We had her take the test for our own records. It ended up being of great benefit to us because it helped us to see that she has progressed quite well and was above the average norms in virtually every area but one. She scored low in the capitalization portion of the test. This was understandable as she spent two years in a language immersion school studying Spanish and unfortunately the rules for capitalization in Spanish are quite different from English. I am thankful for the test as it helped us to identify a hole she had in her education and allowed us to focus on that area over this last year.

The tests are fairly inexpensive. At $29 for an ITBS test in her grade level, it is an economical record of her annual growth. I may end up administering it annually,qw regardless of the state requirements.

I’m wondering what tests others use and why…

A Journey Through the Rainforest

Our kids enjoy anything science related, so they were thrilled when I informed them of our ability to review Rainforest Journey from EdTechLens. The Rainforest Journey is a life science online curriculum. Being a digital product, made things more interactive and lively in our homeschool. Although we were able to work through multiple levels of the Rainforest Journey: first, second and fifth grades; for this review I will focus primarily on our fifth grader’s experience.

Rainforest Journey Collage rectangular with logo Edtechlens Rainforest Journey_zps6pmhoq42

After receiving notification of our access to the program we eagerly set up our account. Setting up the classes was simple, as the program is very user friendly. It was nice that all three of the students received their own login, giving them the ability to each work at their own pace.

Product Highlights

Although there are several features that are well appreciated about this product, of greatest importance to me is that Bookworm Beauty not only has the ability to work independently, but is able to do so successfully. She has gained much confidence in her ability to work independently over the last year, yet not all programs are as conducive to it as others. EdTechLens was one of the better ones in that aspect. For review purposes she and I went through half of the first unit together and then I gave her the freedom to work entirely by herself.

This product can be set up for classroom settings with multiple students as well as for home users with as little as one student. As the teacher, I have the ability to manage my classes and monitor the progress of each individual student. I can tell how many times they have logged in, what lessons they completed, and their quiz results.


Rainforest Journey_6-Animal-Types-Collage-HR-1-3_zpsblucxlp3The content was not only rich but also extremely engaging. Bookworm Beauty has shared numerous facts with me over the last several weeks about the rainforest. She has gained an understanding of plant life and a basic overview of the climate and ecosystems of various rainforests. Each lesson includes outstanding photos or video footage of the various plants and animals that are being covered and we were simply amazed at the quality of photography provided in this program.

Although each level has the same basic studies, the content both photos and text at each level is a bit different. Since we had access Rainforest Journey Ipad-Graphic-HR-play-button_zps7ly6jnpnto three levels, we enjoyed doing some of the lessons simultaneously to go deeper in our studies with each other.

Customer Support

It is always a bonus for me when I get to contact customer support for one reason or another when I am doing a review. Everyone appreciates knowing whether they can count on receiving support in a timely manner. During our review, I contacted support with a few questions about the product and also regarding an issue with my login (which ended up being my error). Both times I received a response in a very short time. They were personable, attentive and resolved my issues.

Area for Improvement

I found only one area in this program that I believe could be improved upon. Each lesson oftentimes consisted of four or more pages of content. This was typically a photo and up to a few very brief paragraphs of information. The content never fit on the screen, meaning that you had to scroll through it and the text was not readily visible. To view the text on each page, you had to click on an hour glass icon to get some brief information and then click on a light bulb icon to get the brief enrichment content. Furthermore, by the time you scrolled down to select the content icons, the photo being referred to was oftentimes no longer visible. After completing the entire page, you then had the option of moving forward to the next passage or back to a previous passage.

This seems silly to complain about, yet it truly felt choppy and was almost a hindrance. By the time you completed a page you have had 4-5 clicks per page (including scrolling). I would have appreciated having the text fully visible, instead of having to click on something to expose it on each and every page. I also would have appreciated having the ability to see more on the screen at one time.

The Cost

There are multiple purchasing options for this product, depending on the need. Licenses for one grade level are good for one full year. The introductory pricing is as follows: 1 student – $50; 2 to 5 students – $75; up to 35 students – $180; up to 100 students – $300. Keep in mind, these prices are per grade level. To select the best grade level for your students, you can view lesson samples and a video intro on the Rainforest Journey page of their website.

Final Thoughts

Overall we have been pleased with EdTechLens Rainforest Journey. All three of our students will complete the program in its entirety over the duration of our one-year license. The information is fascinating and they have thoroughly enjoy it.

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Teaching Math is Easier with Math-U-See: Review

We have just taken our homeschooling math experience to a new level! I am not just referring to moving our 5th grader to the next book in a program after the completion of a level, but rather the whole mathematical experience! We have been reviewing Demme Learning’s Math-U-See Pre-Algebra Digital Packs program with Bookworm Beauty.

Math U See Building Understanding_zps65k2otme

The timing could not have been better. She was in public school for her first two years, then a language immersion school for the next two years, and she was being taught from the same math curriculum in both schools. It was easy to make the decision to continue with the same program that she was already used to when we decided to homeschool. Over the two years of homeschooling I have invested little time in researching math curriculum; I only looked into the specific program that she had been utilizing. That held true until January of this year when I realized that the program she was using did not have a next level in the series, but instead made a shift into a completely different program with the secondary math options. I knew that it was going to be a good time to make a decision to continue with the same product or to begin looking elsewhere as it would be a logical breaking point if we wanted to make a change.

Timing always amazes me… I was notified about the opportunity to review Math-U-See during my research time. Bookworm Beauty took several of the placement tests offered and we determined that Pre-Algebra was the appropriate level for her to start at.

preA-universal_zps7axhc8n4I continued to spend hours researching multiple math programs before the arrival of the Math-U-See Pre-Algebra Universal Set, a value of $169.00, which included everything we would need to be successful with the program: the Pre-Algebra: Instruction Manual with complete solutions, Instruction DVD, Student Workbook, Tests booklet, Integer Block Kit, Algebra/Decimal Inserts and 12 months of access to the new Pre-Algebra Digital Pack. Although I was hopeful that this program would work for us, I did not have any preconceived expectation that we would continue with it following our review. I did not want to make a long-term decision on a curriculum based solely on having the opportunity to receive the products for a review. We decided to withhold any decisions until we saw how well the program worked for us and specifically for Bookworm Beauty.

20160209_131548It was like Christmas morning when Bookworm Beauty received the giant box of materials. She opened up the box of manipulatives and immediately wanted to start her first lesson, just so she could use them! Unlike Christmas morning, her enthusiasm for this product and completing math lessons did not seem to wane at all during the review period. This is a definite plus!

One thing that was new to us was having a math program that included video instruction by another teacher. Steve Demme, the developer of Math-U-See, instructs the students via pre-recorded video lessons. Having taught math at virtually every level from elementary to college, he has a quite an ability to simplify mathematical concepts and make them easy to understand.

20160212_160947Another thing that was greatly appreciated was that although Bookworm Beauty was moving into secondary mathematics, there was actually less dependence upon me for seeing it through. I was always good at math and entered into secondary math at the same age so it would not have been difficult for me to teach. However, having multiple ages of students to teach at home, all independent work is a bonus! I typically allow her to attempt working independently to see how far she can get without assistance. My waiting for her to let me know that she needed help was long and only ended when I finally made decision to check in on her. It was a great feeling to realize that she could truly work independently with this program. She has successfully done so during the entire review period. My only involvement has been to check her work and to be fully engaged when she teaches me the concepts that she has learned (the final step a student has before moving forward to the next lesson is to teach the concept to their parent). Pre-Algebra_zpsko8oc4br

Although we had the instructional DVD and textbook, we also had the ability to access our lessons digitally. We found that this was a very handy feature as there are times that the television is either unavailable or the family room is just not the ideal location for working through a math lesson. It gave her the freedom to complete a math lesson wherever she chose as she was able to access it on multiple electronic devices. This was a convenience that I was not initially looking for, but found that it was highly appreciated and now a necessity to any math program we ever look into.

The math manipulatives became a highlight for Bookworm Beauty. She appreciated having the ability to see the newly introduced concepts, which better enabled her to fully grasp them. I like the fact that they are usable with each level of instruction Math-U-See offers. This is important as I am certain we will be moving Sweetness and The Boy over as soon as they complete their current books.

We are no longer withholding our decision. I am confident that Bookworm Beauty will continue with this program and since they offer instruction through Calculus, Math-U-See will be a household name for a long time to come.

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Blogging Helps Me to Homeschool On Purpose

Word Cloud***Please note before reading this post that I have in no way been asked to write this. I will not receive any sort of compensation or benefits as a result of what I have to share. These are entirely my thoughts that I choose to share with you. I only hope that someone somewhere will benefit greatly from what I am about to share… I know I sure have.   ~Nancy***

Anyone who knows me knows that I desire to do things purposely. You simply can not expect great things in life without taking the time to do them on purpose. This applies to everything from a successful marriage, to the raising of children to adulthood, growing spiritually, and virtually anything else worth having in life.

Blogging is oftentimes seen as a hobby of sorts, something that just takes up time. Yes, it gets information out into cyber world and just may make a difference in the life of someone out there, but the real question is… does it really help anyone reach their goals? For me, yes… yes it does.

We have several goals in our household, goals that require some purposeful planning. If I hesitate to take the time to be purposeful about those plans, I will most likely fall very short of reaching them. There is no accidentally missing goals when I am not purposefully moving towards them. Accidentally is just a nicer way to say I neglectfully avoided responsibility. Now don’t get me wrong… I am not a type A, driven, structured person (although Handsome probably wishes I had more of those traits). I am random. Left to my own natural tendencies, everything would get half done. Although they would definitely be half completed with great adventurous enthusiasm! I have learned however, the value of being more purposeful or my life would simply be filled with all of those half completed projects… imagine a half raised adult… hmmm… I digress.

I must be reminded that anything worth seeking greatness in requires purposefully planning and moving towards it.

Homeschooling is something that I  desire greatness in. Therefore, I know that I absolutely must be purposeful in it. If I am not going to plan and purposefully educate our children, then what would be the point? This is one of the most important tasks in our home and blogging helps me to accomplish this in ever-increasing measure. For example, because I am a homeschooling blogger, I have been invited to join The Old Schoolhouse – Schoolhouse Review Crew. What this means for us is that in exchange for posting an honest review on my blog, we get the opportunity to enjoy many educational products, curriculum, games, digital content and more!

Imagine how this has impacted our homeschooling budget! It’s the beginning of March and we have already had the ability to utilize over $1,000 worth of quality, award-winning products, literally transforming our homeschool experience. We are using curriculum that I could have only dreamed about a year ago. Bookworm Beauty has been rapidly advancing in Pre-Algebra through the awesome instruction provided by Math-U-See. Although The Boy had already known his basic sounds and was able to recognize and write the letters of the alphabet, he we was not yet confident in reading, until we began using the Logic of English Essentials. Even my bonus mother, that struggles in reading, has been benefiting tremendously from this program – showing it’s never too late to learn! All of my children have been advancing far beyond my expectations in writing with the help of Here to Help Learning. Take the time to read about our incredible experience with this writing program and our previous writing woes here.  We have also been blessed to be able to witness spiritual growth in the kids with our Grapevine Stick Figure Through the Bible studies as well as the Faith Builders bible. It is remarkable for me to realize that this is just the beginning of the list of things we have had the privilege of enjoying in our homeschool!

I sit here to write this and am literally astounded as I look ahead at the upcoming vendor list of products and curriculum that the Schoolhouse Review Crew will be able to review. It makes me giddy. I am blessed.

The part that is truly mind boggling is that the opportunity to be part of such an amazing crew has very few requirements… one must homeschool and blog about homeschooling. Of course there’s still an application process, but it’s worth every hoop required to participate.

Schoolhouse Review CrewIf you are a homeschooling blogger, continue to post a minimum of one post on your blog weekly. Then watch for the invitation to apply for the Schoolhouse Review Crew during early fall 2016. The crew will be selected before the end of the year and the new crew will start with the new year. I know it may seem far off. Keep in mind that if you want to be a part of something great, then it pays to take the time to plan and purposefully move towards it. Imagine how different your homeschool would be with the awesome ability to review so many great products. You are literally only 42 blog posts away from The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew being a hope realized! Hmmmm, it’s only 2 weeks longer than awaiting the arrival of a little one and if you are a homeschooler then you most likely know how fast that waiting passes by. (Smile).

Feeling grateful.

Stick Figure Through the Bible – A Grapevine Studies Review

We have had a lot of creative fun working through the New Testament Overview Part 1, Birth of John to Jesus’ Ministry. Although all three children completed the same subject matter, each worked at their own level through their own book. Collectively we worked through Level 1 Traceable, Level 1 and Level 3. For the sake of time, convenience and working together, we utilized the Level 3 Teacher Guide and found it to be a perfect fit for us overall.

The Product

level 1 book picGrapevine Studies offers their Stick Figure Through the Bible studies both as physical workbooks for $12.50, and  Family Licensed eBooks for $10.00. Physical Teacher Guides are priced at $22.50 while the Licensed eBooks are $18.00. Unless an individual prizes physical mail, this is a no-brainer. Not only is there a savings with the digital copies but there’s also the license to print as many copies as are needed for a family.  We received a digital copy of the student books and the teacher guides and were able to download them immediately. We printed the lessons as we went along.

Initially I thought that Bookworm Beauty would be a bit bored with the stick figuring and would want to utilize her talents for greater creative expression. I was wrong, very wrong. She and Sweetness both wanted The Boy’s traceable sheets that had the faint outlines of the stick figures pre-printed. I was surprised and got quite a level 3 book picchuckle out of it. I was even more surprised with the amount of fun they all had while drawing simple stick figures!


The Content

The story line was a fantastic review of familiar material. What wasn’t familiar however is the transformation that takes place while kids are leaning over their worksheets being creative! Our time together quickly became lengthy dynamic conversations. It was a joy to be a part of this experience with them. It was also fun for me to begin reading the scriptures associated with a lesson and then be interrupted as one or all of them began to recite those same verses that were already committed to memory.20160309_065841


Although the material we covered was already familiar to the kids, the approach was different from anything we’ve ever done. First and foremost, the initial lesson was centered around the creation of a timeline from the beginning of time through to the ministry of Jesus. This gave us a phenomenal opportunity to talk about many different events with the visual perspective of time. We then were able to talk a bit about the fact that we are on the same timeline. It is a great eye opener for kids to realize that they are participants in the same story… at a much later date. We even had an opportunity to talk about other events that they are learning about in their school time as well.20160309_07022320160309_070210


The Personal Touch

When I have the luxury of being able to review any type of curriculum, I am typically either sent the product or an email with the digital link to download the item. With this particular review, I also received a personal email from the owner herself. It wasn’t just a hello, thanks for reviewing our product either. It was a personal note. She took the time to actually read my blog, made personalized comments and thanked me for my participation in the review.

I am sure many will read this portion of my review and say, yeah, but it’s because she wants a good review. To those with that mindset, I’d like to remind you that good business is all about relationships… and it isn’t very often that people actually take the time to build them. I appreciated the connection and her warm welcome. There is so much unsaid that it actually says. For example, it tells me a lot about the heart of the individual behind the product itself and that is one of the most important, yet often overlooked, details.

To go even further, there was a mix-up with my initial product order for the review. I contacted Grapevine Studies and was immediately provided with a solution. In this crazy, detached online age, good quality customer service carries a lot of weight.

Moving Forward

Grapevine Studies offers a variety of topics in their Stick Figure Through the Bible studies such as Biblical Feasts and Holy Days, The Birth of Jesus, Esther, Joseph, The Resurrection, Moses and the Exodus, Old Testament Timeline, and more! There’s even the ability to download Sample Lessons for many of the different studies!

We are well on our way to finishing our current study of New Testament Overview Part 1, Birth of John to Jesus’ Ministry. The only thing for us to worry about now is which study do we want to do next…?

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How Here to Help Learning Was Here to Help-An Honest Review

I have heard it said that you never fully realize just how bad something is until you have something better in its place. For us, we knew that we were lacking in the writing area. However I am not sure I had any real clue exactly how bad we were doing until we began our review of Here to Help Learning. We have had an amazing time reviewing both Flight 1 Paragraph Writing and Flight 1 Essay Writing and with the help provided by Here to Help Learning, our writing pains have become a thing of the past!


Here’s our story.

Writing is something that has always seemed to come a bit naturally to me. I would not categorize myself as an exceptional writer, as I certainly have room for improvement, but it is something I rather enjoy doing and typically do rather well. Simply put, I have never experienced much difficulty in transferring my creative thoughts and ideas into printed words. In fact, I would say that my first writing defeat did not happen until I needed to teach my children. I wanted to see my children share their wild, storytelling imaginations with others through the written word! It has come so naturally for me that I not only believed I would be able to teach them to write, but to write well.

It wasn’t long in my homeschooling journey before I was facing the belief that I was a writing teacher failure, especially with the younger ones. Bookworm Beauty had spent 3 years in public and charter schools so although she was doing alright, she did not seem to be advancing. I was stumped. We struggled. I am sure if I was more frustrated or if they were. If skipping classes in our homeschool were an option, it would have been a unanimous decision to skip out on our writing class.

For more than a year we trudged through our meager attempts at teaching and learning to write well. I researched and optimistically tried different methods and programs. I had my awesome mother in law, a retired elementary school teacher; spend a day in our classroom to demonstrate to me the process for writing instruction. I shared my struggles with anyone who would listen in the hopes that someone… somewhere… would hear my plight and would steer me in the direction of a fabulous solution. It is no surprise that my optimism was reignited and I was hopeful when I was told that I was selected to review Here to Help Learning’s monthly membership. I had no idea what adventures we were about to embark upon. Not only did this program offer fabulous solution; it has proven to be everything I had hoped for and more.

Here to Help Learning incorporates a completely different approach to writing. The first and one of the greatest, aspects of the program is that with the membership package there are no textbooks, no curriculum guides, and nothing that I would need to teach! It’s an internet-based digital program providing step by step lessons for developing fabulous writers. We have been spending time with Mrs. Mora (via digital pre-recorded sessions) learning the steps to writing, practicing writing skills and developing miniature masterpieces!

20160223_150156The Boy, whom has always been a wild story teller, wrote a 10 sentence paragraph for his very first writing project… and he’s in Kindergarten! Most of his writing is through dictation, which is encouraged for younger students. This is a valuable asset to this program. Youngers students are often in a quandary as their level of communicating through speech is far more advanced than their ability to write. Allowing him to dictate has really built his writing confidence. It is such a joy to see him wanting to write.

20160308_103901In fact, all three of our students are eager to write. They are enjoying the whole process!

Here to Help Learning offers six levels of pre-recorded writing instruction. Each level is identified as a “Flight”. There are three different Flight levels for both Paragraph Writing and Essay Writing. Each Flight includes 32 lessons, taking student through the process and completion of six different projects. The only exception is the student’s grand finale; in Flight 3 Essay Writing they are taken through a thorough Write a Book process!

We started with Flight 1 for all of the kids. Both The Boy and Sweetness started with Paragraph Writing while Bookworm Beauty started in Essay Writing. Although they were at different levels the project topics were along the same lines, which kept a cohesive feel to our classroom.

This multi-age writing program has continued to be a blessing in our home. I have noticed that my children are engaging in writing more than ever before, even beyond their writing assignments. They are writing in their own free time! It is almost as if Here to Help Learning unlocked the door between their wild imaginations and their fingertips. For me, this is the greatest mark of success to a good writing program. Giving students the confidence to write anything they desire, for any reason will enable them to tackle any writing task that comes their way.

My final point to this program is that I get to share with you that you too can experience these results first hand – FREE FOR ONE DAY! At first glance it may not seem like much, but how often do you get unlimited use of something for a full day for FREE? You would have the opportunity to peruse the lessons and watch first hand while Mrs. Mora takes your children on their own writing adventure – did I mention you could do that for FREE? If you are really adventurous, set aside a full day as a writing workshop, your students could very well complete their first project. Only you know if your students could handle a focused day of writing, as it may be too much for some writers.

I am confident that what you experience will convince you that this program is amazing and more than worth the cost. There are two options for purchasing this program. For those that desire tangible, hand held curriculum, each individual Flight is available on DVD’s and includes both a Teacher’s Guide and Student Workbook for $89.99. For those that appreciate wild savings, ease of use, and are okay with printing out some worksheets, then a Family Membership at $6.99 per month is an awesome way to go. With the membership, you can cancel anytime and you get the first 14 days free! The first 14 Days FREE with the Monthly Membership is enough time to complete up to two writing projects (11-12 lessons).

Here to Help Learning is here to help… the value is far greater than the cost… experience it for yourself!

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Staying Close Through Bedtime Stories

Mom has steadily declined over the last two years as strokes and dementia have ravaged her mind. It’s been a miserable journey. My sister is fortunate to have the ability to care for her full time. I have envied her. I know that it is a tremendous amount of work, but what a blessing to be the one to give so much love and care to an aging and declining parent!

bedtime story 3Being 600 miles and a state away, I am left with occasional visits and one-sided phone conversations. She used to say a few words or even offer up a giggle when you spoke to her over the phone. Not any more. Sometimes I get nothing at all and then all of a sudden I’ll get a hello or an ok. Lately, I’ve been fortunate to get a sweet kiss over the phone. These are moments I’ve been cherishing. I miss her voice, though. I  miss her witty sense of humor. I am sad that my three younger children will not know their grandmother.

Recently, my sister announced that mom is really needing some new “life” in her days. We’ve decided to make wonderful use of the children’s reading abilities. We call her at bedtime (or sometimes early in the day) and the kids take turns reading a bedtime story to bedtime story 2grandma. It has been such a blessing! My sister said that it is evident that grandma is listening as she watches the phone and actually reacts during story time. The kids are having a great time too. They feel so important and like they are doing something to provide care to grandma.

I really wish we would have thought of this sooner. I’m thinking of all of the empty nights that could have been filled with a child’s voice reading a story to grandma. I’ve been reminded though that all is well… this new activity has come about at just the right time.

We love you grandma (mom)… goodnight.