Thursday, July 30, 2015

With Lee in Virginia



We were able to review the newest product from one of our favorite companies. Heirloom Audio Productions has created another exciting audio adventure that's sure to be a hit with the whole family.

Our schooling is very literature-based. Our family loves read-alouds. I've mentioned dozens of times how the kiddos will sit and listen to various novels for hours on end. I love reading them quality literature and sharing that time with them. Not only does it teach them life lessons, it also introduces them to new vocabulary. The only problem is that I don't always have the time to spend the day reading. We love to incorporate audio books and dramas into our days. Whether we're folding clothes, driving in the van, or just needing some downtime, audio books are perfect. With Lee in Virginia  is no exception.


With Lee in Virginia is a theater-quality production based on the novel with the same name, written by G.A.Henty. Between the music, the quality of the actors reading the lines, and the background sounds (horses neighing, cannons firing, water splashing, train whistle blowing, whips cracking, etc.), it sounds like a movie production, and a good one at that. It's easy to visualize the scenes: horses galloping the countryside, men engaged in battle, people fighting for their lives and beliefs. We were immediately pulled into the story.

The story starts in 1861. Fifteen-year-old Vincent Wingfield is appalled as he watches slaves get beaten. Though it's common to have slaves, he believes they should be treated fairly and is angered when they're not. As the country is split and the war starts between the Union and the Confederacy, Vincent joins the fight. It doesn't take long before he's greatly injured and sent home to recuperate. Time passes and he begins to lose his zeal for the war. Nearly a year goes by when General Robert E. Lee pays him a visit, both to encourage him and to inform him of his promotion to sergeant. Renewed, Vincent returns to battle, only to be shot, captured, and sent to prison. With the help of a friend, he escapes, gets into a fist fight with a known criminal, falls in love, is captured as a spy, and has many more adventures, all while looking to God for guidance. It's during this time, while studying his father's Bible, that he begins to question slavery. Though they lose the war, both Vincent and Lee remain men of honor and give God the glory for what He's done.


With Lee in Virginia single package costs $29.95 (+ shipping and handling). Along with the 2-CD set, you will receive 3 bonuses:

  1. With Lee in Virginia Study Guide (digital download) -- This complete guide is used to enhance your learning and complement your study. Each section, which correlates to the tracks on the CDs, is  filled with review questions, ideas to get you thinking deeper, and vocabulary words. There is more information about the G.A. Henty, General Lee, and Stonewall Jackson; multiple Bible studies that coordinate with the story, and many pictures from the times. 
  2. Printable Copy of a Robert E. Lee Quote (digital download) -- "Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more, you should never wish to do less." This inspirational quote was found in a letter from Lee to his son. The quality of the copy is high enough that you can simply print, frame, and enjoy.
  3. With Lee in Virginia Soundtrack (MP3 download) -- Our family loves soundtracks. This beautiful music was written by Emmy-winning composer John Campbell (creator of the original score for C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia). We've enjoyed listening to this moving music while doing school, cleaning house, and folding laundry.

The 2 1/2 hour audio production is ideal for ages 6-adult, but our entire family enjoyed listening to it. We used the study guide questions to review the story and tackle difficult topics. We stopped the CD multiple times to discuss things like slavery, bigotry, the reasons behind the war, johnnycakes, and more. Of course, the little ones didn't quite understand everything, but it's never too early to introduce quality literature. This will be a story that we reference throughout the years.



You can connect with Heirloom Audio Productions on the following social media sites:


If you'd like to see how other homeschool families used these products, you can read more reviews  on the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Project Passport Review



Have you ever wanted to go on an exotic vacation? Visit someplace exciting and experience the culture? Or how about travel back in time and witness events as they took place? We've had that opportunity to do just that the past few weeks.

Ok, maybe we didn't truly travel back in time, and, honestly, we haven't even left the house, but Home School in the Woods has made us feel that we've gone on a thrilling and educational journey through Project Passport World History Study: The Middle Ages



Home School in the Woods is a family business that was started as a way to make history real, understandable, and applicable. Using timelines and realistic illustrations as a foundation, they've created many resources to make learning history an enjoyable process. I, like Amy the driving force of the company, did not enjoy the boring textbooks in high school. It wasn't until we started our own homeschooling journey that I started to realize that learning history wasn't boring, but, in fact, could be quite interesting. I was excited to download this study and travel to the Middle Ages.

The download (also available as a CD) comes as a zip file. Once you open it, and see the multiple folders, click on the "start" file. At that point, the entire program will open in your browser, making it very easy to use. Instead of clicking through multiple folders, trying to bounce back and forth among the resources, everything is laid out as you need it.  


Using Project Passport is like taking an actual trip to a specific time period. The program is divided into 25 stops or destinations:
  • Stops 1-3 Laying the Foundation
  • Stops 4-7 Everyday Life
  • Stops 8-9 Business
  • Stop 10 Science & Invention
  • Stop 11 Education
  • Stop 12 The Arts
  • Stop 13 Medicine & Disease
  • Stops 14-16 The Church
  • Stops 17-18 The Crusades
  • Stop 19 Knights & Chivalry
  • Stops 20-21 The Vikings
  • Stops 22-24 Battles, Wars, & Conflicts
  • Stop 25 Packing Up


The first few stops require a bit of work. What makes this study so well-done, also makes it so much work. Laying the Foundation is where you create many of the things you'll need for the trip: a realistic passport, a luggage folder complete with tag, a scrapbook of sights, a postcard rack, a newspaper, timeline, and more. This study is recommended for grades 3-8, but, as with many things, we adapted it to be used as a family project. That means that I was completing each step for a 4th grader, 2nd grader, and kindergartener. It required much paper and cardstock and even more preparation. Since we are doing the trip together, I printed certain things (souvenir cards, newspaper, Medieval cookbook, etc.) only once and keep it in a separate 3-ring binder to be used by all. Other things (timelines, maps, puppets, postcards, etc.) I printed a set for each child to be kept in their own binders.     

For each stop, there is a guide book text, which contains all the reading material for learning, and a travel itinerary, which gives thorough step-by-step instructions for the activities. A sample stop might be like this: reading text, adding snapshot moments to the timeline, writing a newspaper article or a postcard, and one or more other activities like playing a game or creating a souvenir craft. Another impressive feature at some of the stops is the audio tours, where the "tour guide" and background noises make you feel like you're really in Medieval times.    


I am amazed at this study. Truly. I have learned, after the first few stops, that we need to slow down to complete this. I had been trying to complete one stop a day, a few days a week. The problem is that along with the 3 older kids, my 3-year-old is usually with us as we're completing the lesson, and sometimes the baby is as well. It was taking well over an hour to get through the reading and activities. I'm sure we could fly through the stops quicker, but we've been enjoying expounding on the reading text while reenacting the Barbarian battles with toy army men and drawing out the feudal system on the dry erase board and  just sitting around and discussing various aspects about the time period. My little ones are soaking this up. We've skipped a few of the big activities for now, but fully intend to complete them all by the time we reach the end of our journey. 

Zac, 5 years: I like the activities. I can't wait to make the candy food-thingies (marzipan) that we're going to make!

Alyssa, 7 years: It's fun. I like making the castle, having the folder that holds our stuff, the passport, Technically, I like everything about it.

Jake, 9 years: It's cool. I like all the things that you make. I really like learning about the Middle Ages.


The only frustrating thing I have about this study is the breakdown of the PDFs. Because everything has very specific printing instructions (regular paper, colored paper, white cardstock, colored cardstock) each page is its own file. I understand that need for the "special" pages. The problem comes in when you have to print lengthy things like the timeline or newspaper. Because of the individual files, you have to open the file, print one page, turn it around, open another file, and print the back (yes, I "leap-frog" printed, but it still requires much work). To make things simpler, I would like to see those entire resources as one file so I can choose the double-sided printing option and my printer can do the work for me.

That issue aside, I love this program. The amount of information and the varying activities are astounding. Yes, it is a lot of work. Yes, it requires a lot of paper and supplies. But, yes, my kids are excited every day to learn history. And, yes, they are retaining the information and talking about it through the day. Yes, I can't say enough praise about this study. We will be taking another trip through history in the future, for sure.


You can connect with Home School in the Woods on the following social media sites:
Facebook
Twitter
Pinterest
Google+


If you'd like to read more reviews of this study or see how other homeschool families used the Ancient Egypt and the Renaissance and Reformation studies, go to the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog. 



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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Homeschool Buyers Co-op Review



Are you wanting an easy way to keep your life organized? A way to keep track of homeschooling, housework, activities, and appointments? Or how about a central location for tracking grades, reports, and records? You can have all this and more with a subscription to Homeschool Planet through the Homeschool Buyers Co-op.

Homeschool Buyers Co-op is the world's largest buyers club for homeschool families. They are a family-owned and -operated business that is dedicated to supplying quality curriculum at the lowest price. By joining the co-op for free, you can purchase an individual product with thousands of other homeschools and take advantage of the lower cost of purchasing in bulk. They offer great deals, great products, free resources, and a rewards program.     

Homeschool Planet was my first experience using the co-op. Joining the membership was easy and took only a few minutes. I feel confident knowing that they won't sell my information or send me unwanted emails. Within minutes of making my "purchase," I had access to the product and was able to delve into setting up my planner.


Adding accounts for each family member was simple. I was even able to upload and crop pictures, so I can see those cute faces of my little ones every time I open the planner. I admit though, after the family portion was complete, I was a little overwhelmed. Don't get me wrong, there are tons of valuable tutorials to make the process smoother, but there is just so much you can do with this planner!

  • The calendar view lets you see anybody's or everybody's calendar on the screen.
  • The planner view shows a simple list of all the tasks and when they need to be completed.
  • The resource view allows you to look at any books, DVD, websites, or the like that are needed for lessons.
  • Separate logins can be created so kids can view their assignments and chores and check them off as completed.
  • The Daily Digest email can be sent to everyone with their personal schedule for the day. 
  • Emails and text messages can be sent as reminders.
  • Lesson plans can be created with assignments, web links, notes, and more.
  • Shopping lists for individual stores can be kept and either emailed or texted for convenience.
  • Multiple widgets are supplied for to-do lists, daily Bible verse, daily quote, weather, messages, and more.
  • A mobile version lets you view and edit on smartphones and tablets.
  • Calendar sharing allows you to link your calendar with your spouse's online calendar.

So what does all that mean? Homeschool Planet has a way to organize and track everything for both your home and your homeschool. I've been using it for the past several weeks, and I'm still finding new options and ways to make my life simpler. I've always been a big I-need-a-physical-planner-that-I-can-write-in-and-hold-in-my-hands girl, but this one is making me truly appreciate the power of a digital planner. I'm keeping track of church activities, doctor appointments, birthdays, vacations, blog deadlines, and more written in specific colors, just like my physical paper planner. I can quickly flip through the months to see what's in the future, just like my physical paper. And since I have the option to print the week or month schedule, I can mark things off, just like my physical paper planner.

But the ways in which this version is different?  I can input assignments once and tell it to add it to "every day of the week" or "every Monday" or "every first Wednesday of the month" or any other option you might need. I can type in every every assignment the kids need to complete daily, but choose to hide it from my view so the calendar isn't cluttered. I can print individual calendars for my kids so they can easily see what schoolwork and chores need to be completed each day of the week, without my having to handwrite it all daily. If something doesn't get completed, I can quickly reassign it to a different day. Or time. Or just simply delete it without having unsightly scribble marks on my page.


There are too many features--and options to customize those features--than I can describe here without writing a novel. Pretty much, if you want to do it, this planner will let you. I highly suggest giving this planner a try. I'm thankful to have it.

You can get a FREE 3 month subscription to Homeschool Planet, if you sign up by Friday, July 17. This planner is a useful resource, so I suggest you take advantage of this offer.

You can connect with Homeschool Buyers Co-op on the following social media sites:
Facebook
Twitter
Google+


If you'd like to see how other homeschool moms are using this planner, you can read the reviews on the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

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Friday, July 10, 2015

Things That Make Me Smile 7/10/15

Jake (9½), Alyssa (7), Zac (5½), Tyler (3), Nicholas (6 months)



Happy Friday! I hope you've had as great of a week as we did, full of lots of laughs and Smiles.


1. Jake: "Since there's spaghetti squash, there should be a meatball melon."

2 Jake, to me, after he finished eating lunch that he made: "Mmm, that was good, but not as good as if you would have made it"
Alyssa: "Did you put love in it?"
Jake: "No."
Alyssa: "Mom always does."

3. Zac: "Know how I know that he's his friend? They're both happy when they see each other."

4.

5. Me, because Zac and Tyler were having coughing fits: "Aw, my little sickies."
Tyler: "No, we're boys!"


6. Zac, because I made an American flag using blueberries, strawberries, and bananas: "That was the yummiest American flag in the world."

7. Leighton: "Where are your underwear?"
Tyler, smiling: "I don't know."

8. Zac: "I'm hungry every time I'm not stuffed."

9. Me: "Are you making a mess?"
Tyler: "No."
Me: "Are you getting chocolate on everything? Do you need a napkin?"
Tyler: "No . . . I'm just getting it on my shirt."
Me: "Tyler, we have napkins."
Tyler: "Yeah, but shirts will also work.
"

10. Jake: "I'm trying to be a tree stump, but Tyler keeps ruining it. Apparently my Elven cloak doesn't work."

11. Zac: "Can I play hide and seek with Jesus? {covers eyes with hands} One, two, three, four, five. {uncovers eyes} Hmm, where can He be? I can't find Him . . . Ohh, I know; He's here in my heart."


What made you Smile this week?

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Thursday, July 9, 2015

CursiveLogic Review



Many schools today are forgoing the teaching of cursive writing to students, even though there are numerous benefits as to why it should still be taught. Not only is it a faster and more fluid way of writing, but it also encourages brain development and removes the confusion of the lowercase letters b and d, amongst other advantages. CursiveLogic, a new company, still believes in the power of penmanship. Linda Shrewsbury created this program to help a struggling adult student learn cursive. Her innovative yet intuitive method worked so well that the student  caught on to forming the entire lower case alphabet in 45 minutes and was able to sign his name. From there, the CursiveLogic Workbook was born.

CursiveLogic is different from other handwriting curricula because it focuses on the inherent structure of the cursive alphabet, instead of relying on rote memorization. The program is designed around the following features and visual and auditory cues.


Letters Grouped By Shape -- Four foundational shapes underlie the entire lowercase alphabet. The letter formations are taught by shape group based on the initial stroke of the letter, rather than alphabetically. In this way, the natural synergy of the alphabet is captured, allowing each letter in the series to reinforce the proper formation of all the others.

Letter Strings -- All the similarly shaped letters are taught by connecting them in a string, instead of individually. Since the students are taught to connect letters from the very beginning, it helps them to internalize the flow of cursive handwriting even before they have learned all 26 letters.

Theme Colors -- Each letter string has a theme color that helps the student remember the shape.

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

Jake (9) started learning cursive a while ago. He did all right with it, but quickly lost interest. I didn't make it a priority and the lessons were soon forgotten. Since I believe in the benefits of handwriting, I knew we needed to focus on it again. Fast forward to a month or so ago. His penmanship was sloppy and he had forgotten how to form many of the letters.

He flipped through the 96-page, colored CursiveLogic workbook and was immediately excited. Excited? My I-always-complain-about-writing boy? The method shown in the book with its colored letter strings grabbed his interest. Better than that initial excitement though is the fact that his penmanship quickly improved and that eagerness to learn more and write better continued. He enjoys using colored pencils to form the letters according to the theme colored strings. Who knew that my boy who isn't interested in coloring and doesn't like to write would be happy to combine the two, in a sense.

We are thoroughly enjoying using this book. The teacher's manual (with step-by-step instructions) and student workbook (with lessons, practice sheets, and 3 dry erase surfaces) are combined in this one book. The CursiveLogic method seems so simple, yet works so well. Sometimes we complicate things too much. This truly is a logical way of learning cursive. 


You can connect with Cursive Logic on the following social media sites:
Facebook
Twitter
Instagram


If you would like to see what other homeschool families thought of this book, please read the reviews on the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.


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Friday, July 3, 2015

Things That Make Me Smile 7/3/15

Jake (9½), Alyssa (7), Zac (5½), Tyler (3), Nicholas (6 months)




Happy Friday! And Happy Independence Day! We have much to be thankful for and many reasons to Smile.


1. Zac, licking an envelope: "Mmm, this part tastes good. But the blue part? It doesn't taste any good. It just tastes like paper." 

2 Jake: "I want to have 365 kids, one born each day of the year, and name them all Someone. Then I can say, 'Today is Someone's birthday,' because every day is someone's birthday."

3. Zac: "How does Santa not turn into a giant iceberg?"
Me: "Why would he do that?"
Zac: "Because he lives in the North Pool." 

4. I went to get Nicholas up from his nap and found him standing in bed. 

 
5. Tyler: "Mommy, is the sun a boy or a girl?"
Me: "Neither. It's not a boy or a girl."
Tyler: "It's a boy."
Me: "It is? And why's that?"
Tyler: "Because the moon's a girl.
"

6. Alyssa: "The best part of when Daddy leaves is that he always come home at some point."

7. Tyler: "Mommy, I'm going to Heaven!"
Me: "You are?"
Tyler: "Yeah, because Jesus died! Do you want to go with me?"

8. Zac: "I bet Dad is fast enough to catch a frog. How fast can he run? Probably 1 mile an hour!"

9. Tyler, putting together a puzzle: "This fits correctly."

10. Jake started reading The Fellowship of the Ring 3 1/2 weeks ago and finished it today.


11. Zac: "What's that?"
Me: "That's the antenna."
Zac: "What's it for?"
Me: "It brings the radio into the van."
Zac: "What's a radio?"

12. Zac, driving a car down my leg and stopping at my foot: "Are your toenails dry?"
Me: "Yes. Thank you for asking. It was nice of you to not want to ruin my polish."
Zac: "Yeah, I didn't want to get paint in my wheels."


What made you Smile this week?

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Saturday, June 27, 2015

Things That Make Me Smile 6/26/15

Jake (9½), Alyssa (7), Zac (5½), Tyler (3), Nicholas (6 months)


Happy Weekend! Today is a bonus day as I just posted a Smile list yesterday. You can never Smile too much!


1. Jake, because Nicholas bit my finger: "He thinks he's Gollum and you're Frodo."

2. Zac: "Do I have to wear my tie tonight (to church)?"
Me: "I guess not."
Jake: "He doesn't like being handsome. Zac, there a 3% chance you'll never get married if you're not handsome."


4.My mom giving Nicholas his first taste of a sucker.
 

5. Me: "Could you hold him for a minute, please?"
Alyssa: "Hold Nicky? It would be an honor."

6. Tyler, wearing Alyssa's sparkly purple shoes: "Mommy, can we go to church or Gwamma's?"
Me: "Not right now."
Ty: "But I'm wearing shoes!"

7. Zac: "I kinda don't like what I got from the store But I love it! Even more than I don't like it."

8. Tyler: "I'm hungry."
Me: "You are? How about an apple?"
Tyler: "Hmm, no. How 'bout ice cream!"
Me: "No."
Tyler: "Oh. How 'bout cookies?"
Me: "No."
Tyler: "Hmm, how 'bout Oreos?"
Me: "No, no junk."
Tyler: "Uuugh. Can I have someping to drink instead?"

9. Tyler: "Mommy, I'm making a train track! What are you making?"
Me, standing holding Nicholas: "I'm making a baby not cry."
Jake: "Good job."

10.

11. Jake: "If I got a dollar for every time I heard, 'Tyler Joseph!' I'd be rich. "

12. Tyler, to Nick: "If you want me, you have to catch me!"

13. Zac: "Why are red and green Christmas colors?"
Alyssa: "I know! Red because of Jesus' blood when He died on the cross and green because of evergreens. Evergreens remind me of Jesus because you can live forever."


What made you Smile this week?
 
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