Saturday, November 19, 2016

Mermaid Tail Sale!

Does your little mermaid need a tail for Christmas? My handmade with love mermaid sets are on sale right now at my Etsy shop. Save 10% off your purchase with the code, “MERMAID10.”

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green mermaidh3jill

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Physics 101 (Homeschool Review)

cover of Physics 101 DVD set 

Are you looking for a fun way to tackle high school science courses? The 101 Series offers video based courses in Biology, Chemistry, and Physics, with a General Science scheduled to come out soon. I received the Physics 101 course to review and it has been a hit in our home!

The core of Physics 101 is the video instruction. 20 videos, each ranging from 20 to 40 minutes long make up the primary “textbook” for the course. For some students—those who want to use the videos as a supplement to another course or students who are younger than high school age—the video content will be sufficient. For high school students who want to use Physics 101 as a complete high school course, the DVD set includes two additional pdf resources.

The Guidebook is a 106 page resource that includes a 2-4 page summary of the content for each video, discussion questions, and a quiz. The Accreditation booklet pulls everything together, with schedules and assignments for video, research, labs, and quizzes. The schedule even includes space to document the required 120-180 hours to earn a full credit. While completing the course, students do a significant amount of research and write reports on their findings. The videos demonstrate each of the labs and the students are then expected to perform the labs on their own as well.

Physics 101 is divided into 7 topics, with 1-4 lessons within each topic. I think that you could complete the topics in any order, although lessons within the topic should be watched in sequence. Topics include:

  • Light
  • Sound
  • Heat
  • Electricity
  • Motion
  • Physics of the Weird
  • The Future of Physics

The 101 Series is a family enterprise. The concepts are all taught by Wes Olson, a filmmaker, science buff, and homeschool dad. Filming is done by family members. You would never peg this as an amateur production, though. The videos are top quality, professional films. Video lectures by Wes Olson, animations, experiment demonstrations, and photos combine to clearly explain and illustrate complex concepts.


How did we use Physics 101?

Emily watched a video, read through the corresponding summary pages in the Guidebook and took the quiz orally. She aced all the quizzes, which tells me that the material was taught well. She tried out a couple of the experiments, but hasn’t done any of the online activities or research reports yet, since at this point we’re using Physics 101 as a supplement instead of a full curriculum.

Our thoughts:

Emily loved this series. Seriously, this is an actual quote, “Physics makes me smile. I love physics!”  My original intention was to complete a small portion of the course this year, then to save the rest for next year, but since she keeps asking to watch more videos, I now expect that we will finish it this year!

I think that Physics 101 is ideal for an average student who wants a non-math based physics course. We’ve watched 6 of the 20 videos so far and find the teaching clear and solid. The concepts are related to their usefulness in daily life, answering questions such as “How does electricity get to our homes?” and “Why does light pass through some materials and not others?” Because the experiments are all demonstrated on the videos, students who choose to skip performing some or all of the labs will still get to see the results. All the experiments that we watched, however, were fairly simple. While this made them easy to do with household objects, they seemed more like middle school level labs. I would prefer that the labs be explained in the written course materials as well as demonstrated on the videos. It was sometimes difficult to remember exactly how a lab was done after viewing it one time and having written instructions would be more convenient than having to find and re-watch the lab on the video.The additional research activities in the Accreditation Booklet are helpful for building Physics 101 into a more solid course. This course would be easy for a student to study on his or her own without a lot of parental guidance other than grading or looking over the research reports.

We plan to have Emily do a more intense math-based physics course next year since she is strong in math, but will definitely use this video series as a supplement (if she doesn’t finish watching them all this year.)

The Physics 101 Guidebook includes summaries of each video segment that are work well for review or as a study aid.



The schedule in the Accreditation Booklet suggests additional activities and research assignments and provides a easy way to document study time.


The Homeschool Review Crew reviewed all three of these courses, so be sure to hop over to the Crew blog to learn more!

Physics 101
Chemistry 101
Biology 101

Physics, Chemistry & Biology 101 {The 101 Series}
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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Commissioned (Homeschool Review)

Commissioned {Chara Games}

Our family has the pleasure of trying out a new game this month, Commissioned, produced by Chara Games. Right out of the box, it was obvious that Commissioned is a quality game. The game board is beautiful and two-sided, each side featuring maps of the areas visited by the early Apostles. The game includes wooden game pieces, tokens and Apostle cards of heavy cardboard, and good quality game cards.


Players of Commissioned aim to “spread the gospel’' across areas of the Middle East as described in the book of Acts. While the game is Christian-themed, no prior knowledge of the Bible is assumed or necessary. Players are likely to learn a bit about the geography and actions of the early church as they play, but the game is primarily a cooperative strategy game rather than an educational one.

I haven’t had a lot of experience with cooperative games, where all the players work together to accomplish a goal and wasn’t sure at first how fun this concept would be, but we actually did enjoy working together. After several game plays, we still haven’t won, though, which is making me even more determined to figure this out and win next time! If you really feel the need for competition between players, there is an “adversary variant,” which we haven’t yet tried.


Commissioned is NOT a game with “quick start” instructions or one that you will intuitively figure out. The 10-page rule book clearly explains how to play the game, but it took us a while to actually master the rules. The first time we played, I skimmed through the instructions, then studied the rules as we played through the first few rounds. After the game, I read back through the rules to clarify some of the choices we made as we played. My older children were home for the weekend, so we had a group of 5 to play the first game. My son-in-law did a pretty good job of interpreting the rules or guessing what to do next while my daughter, confused by the rules of game play, grumbled, “Where is the Ban**** game?”  Chara Games has also provided several videos that show how to play the game that will clear up some of the confusion and simplify matters. You can see them right on the product page to get a better idea of how the game is played.

Game play was much easier the second time through, and by the third time, Emily was begging to play! There’s a bit of a learning curve to the game, but it’s worth the effort!

Basic play required each player to take on the persona of one of the early apostles. Each apostle comes with game cards that perform different feats, so even before the game starts, choosing your character is part of the strategy. Using the apostle, missionary, and church member playing pieces, players work cooperatively to plant churches in cities around the map. Trial cards offer setbacks to the team progress and faith cards can offer help in growing new churches and multiplying members.

There are actually five different variations for Commissioned, each with  different requirements to beat the game. After we played the first variation, Acts of the Apostles, a couple of times and felt that we had a grasp on it, we tried Peter’s Gentile Outreach, and found that our strategy needed to change quite a bit to achieve the new goals. I really liked that this game is ever changing with the different game options!


We really enjoy playing Commissioned. The game is unique, and, while a bit difficult to learn at first, has been a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to trying out all five of the game play options!

Chara games also sent me a brand-new, hot off the presses card game called 3 Seeds, which I will be reviewing very soon. It is for ages 12 and up,  and players compete to earn the most points as they “sow seeds” and aim for the highest harvest returns. It looks like fun, too! image001
Please read more about Commissioned at the Homeschool Review Crew Blog!
Commissioned {Chara Games}
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Friday, November 4, 2016

Five Minute Friday—Journey

5 minutes of pondering on the topic of “journey”…


Life is a journey. A long, winding one with unexpected twists and turns.

When I plan a trip somewhere, the first thing I do is plan. I read the guidebooks, research on the internet. I make an itinerary, reservations, and notes about what to see and do. I pack carefully, thinking about what I might need. Because of all this planning, things usually work about more or less according to schedule. I may forget to pack something or have minor car trouble along the way or catch a cold, but the trip turns out more or less as planned.

To me, the word journey somehow seems to connote a more difficult or longer experience than a trip. I think of winding paths, uphill struggles, and coasting down the easy parts. I think that’s more like life. I like to think I can plan everything out (and would love to do so), but life takes unexpected turns that I can’t plan for—some wonderful detours, and some more difficult times as well. But doesn’t that really make life better and richer and more interesting?

Read more or write your own post and link up at:

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Accountable2You (Homeschool Review)

Accountability across all your devices {Accountable2You}

This month we have been trying out the Accountable2You internet accountability plan. Accountability software differs from filtering software, which actually blocks sites and search terms. Filtering software can be very helpful, especially for children who may accidentally stumble upon inappropriate content during their web use. Accountable2You offers a different approach. It does not filter, but instead it monitors activity and app usage, then sends alerts or reports to a specified accountability partner of any questionable activity

Accountable2You offers several different plans: Individual, Family, Small Business, and Group. We reviewed the Family Plan. The benefits of this particular plan include monitoring of up to 20 devices, child user accounts, unlimited accountability partners, and the ability to set time limit alerts. Like all the account options, it offers a choice of daily or weekly email reports, instant text alerts, real time reporting, and management of objectionable word lists.

The user is responsible for making good choices while on the internet. Determined users can sometimes disable or get around filtering programs and “beat the system,” but accountability programs teach the user to self monitor. If the user knows his password, he can change settings himself, but his partner will get a notification that he did so!

Accountable2You works with many different devices, including computers, tablets, and android phones. Unfortunately, the features are more limited for iPhones and iPads because of Apple’s own restrictions. Apps cannot be monitored and internet usage is only monitored through a specially designed browser on Apple products.

I already have filtering software on the computer that Emily uses. However, since I don’t have a filter on her Kindle Fire, which is the device she is more likely to use anyway, I was excited to have the opportunity to give Accountable2You a try. I don’t have any particular concerns about her internet usage, but I do like to monitor what is going on just in case.


Accountable2You is easy to use.

  • Step 1: Set up an account.
  • Step 2: Add family members to the account. Each person will have his or her own sign in name and password.
  • Step 3: Install the app on each device. Each device is linked to a person and individual time controls, alert words, and accountability partners can be set for the device.

Devices are then monitored automatically. Depending on the setting, emails or texts are sent to the designated accountability partner. Notifications can be sent instantly, daily or weekly, depending on settings. I have Emily’s reports set to daily (although I will get an instant notification for time infractions or serious concerns). The daily report will show me any questionable activity and also lets me click onto the site to see ALL of her app activity. This could be a good way to see if your child is getting distracted during school time!

Emily’s alert activity has been pretty quiet. The first day I put it on, though, I got an alert that she was on the internet after 10 p.m. It was okay—she had a friend spending the night and they were listening to a song on YouTube shortly after 10:00, but I’m glad that I got the alert. I definitely want to know if she’s staying up late watching Netflix or browsing the internet at 1 a.m.!

I entered a few terms as alert words just to test the program. She’s currently taking a course in Terrorism and Homeland Security, so I chose “crime” and “terror.” I didn’t get an alert when she searched for “terrorism,” so I realized that I did need to specifically list forms of words.


Emily also has an iPhone SE. Her Safari browser  inexplicably stopped working recently, so she was happy to install the Accountable2You browser and I don’t have to worry about her using another browser to avoid being watched. The app does NOT monitor any other app usage, though. One feature that is supposed to work on the iPhone is tracking. This would be wonderful to have. I’d really like to be able to better monitor her location when she is out with friends. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get it to work. I sent a message to the company and they responded quickly and were very helpful, but after trying the suggested  solutions, it just didn’t work. If the tracking feature was functioning, I would be able to see a location map like this for her location over the past 24 hours or more.


I also installed the app on my Fire Phone to test the features. Here, I was very impressed. Although the location app didn’t work on my phone either, all the other monitoring features worked well. I was sent alerts for questionable activity, like disabling or enabling features and apps within the phone. Also, when logging onto the website, I could view data about all activity on the phone, including the content of text messages and senders and receivers of all phone calls and data about what times the phone was used. This was really awesome! I really wish all this data was available for Emily’s phone as well.


If you have any concerns about your child’s app or internet usage, I highly recommend Accountable2You for use on Android devices, tablets, or computers.

Plans start at $6.99 a month and a 10-day free trial is available.


Accountability across all your devices {Accountable2You}
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Friday, October 28, 2016

Friday Freebie! American Revolution Game


One of the best ways to reinforce knowledge is through games. This is a game I designed to quiz your children’s knowledge on the Revolutionary War. It’s a fun way to wrap up a unit or even to review information that you have studied in the past. Download Road to Revolution here!



Did you have fun playing Road to Revolution? Use this link to learn about the 13 US colonies and purchase Colony Quest for only $1 (reg. $3.50)  Or buy all 15 of my learning games for only $15 at CurrClick.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

CrossTimber (Homeschool Review)

CrossTimber Logo

CrossTimber is a company dedicated to “name meaning gifts.” One of their primary products is the   Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse, but they also offer mugs and music boxes, as well as some smaller items like cards and bookmarks.

Names are special. As CrossTimber explains, “When your name is spoken before God, it represents who you are, and brings to His mind your reputation, identity and relationship with Him.” Our names will be written in the Book of Life.


What makes CrossTimber unique? We see personalized items everywhere, so why is this company different?

  • They will put any name on your product. If you have an unusual name or spell your name in an unusual way, that’s no problem.
  • Every item includes the meaning of your name and an encouraging Bible verse that corresponds to that meaning. Every name is fully researched, making the item special and unique.
  • Hundreds of options are available for background art, allowing the purchaser to choose a favorite scene or motif even to choose a picture that reinforces the name meaning, such as rocks for the name, Peter.
  • Items can be even further personalized. You can ask for a different Bible verse from the one usually assigned to your name or to leave off the verse. You can have an extra message printed on the back of a mug.Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse {CrossTimber} Reviews

I was given a coupon code toward the purchase of any item on the site and decided to order a personalized mug. Before I even started shopping, I contacted the owner and asked about the meaning of my name and of Emily’s name. I received a reply within minutes.

I knew my name meant “queen bee.” Blah.  But when John from CrossTimber sent me my name meaning, it was much more special:

Debbie --Hebrew

Honey Bee, Enabler of Fruitfulness:

One of Leadership and Organization

Psalms 19:9  The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and altogether righteous. They are to be more desired than gold, than much pure gold: they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.

I love that! It is so uplifting. And the leadership and organization definitely sounds like me!

Here is Emily’s name meaning:

Emily --German

Hard Working, Industrious, Creative:

She who Devotes All Skill and Strength to God's Work

Galatians 6:9 Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

I chose to order a mug for Emily because I though she would appreciate something she could use rather than something that would hang on the wall. The hardest part of the ordering process for me was choosing the background design. There were SO MANY choices! I almost ordered a mountain scene that reminded me of Glacier National Park, where we visited recently. I didn’t see a picture that particularly illustrated her name meaning or verse, but that would have been a good option. There were some that were cute, but I didn’t know if they would seem to little kid-ish to her. I finally settled on the “Fanciful Lamplight” background. Pretty, a bit unique, and I thought the lettering would contrast well with it. 

This is the finished product. Isn’t it special? I haven’t yet given it to Emily—it will probably be a Christmas gift if I can wait that long! I’m hoping that as she drinks her tea or hot chocolate, this mug will remind her of how special and unique she is and encourage her to live up to the challenge of her name.


Here is a name card that came with the mug, also beautifully defining her name and encouraging her to “not grow weary of doing good.”




CrossTimber is sponsoring a “giftaway” for 10 different prizes, including a free plaque or mug  and $10 gift certificates. This contest ends on Dec. 4, so be sure to go enter soon! Their personalized items will make great Christmas gifts!

CrossTimber 2016 giveaway

Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse {CrossTimber} Reviews
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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Middlebury Interactive Languages (Homeschool Review)


Emily has used the Middlebury Interactive Languages program for the past two years and we have been very impressed with the courses. Emily completed the first semester of the regular High School Spanish 2 course last year. I’ve always been curious about the difference between the “competency” and “fluency” courses, so we decided to try out the High School Spanish 2 Fluency Course this year as she continues with the second semester of Spanish 2.

A semester of a high school Middlebury Interactive Language course has 90 lessons, each taking 30-60 minutes to complete. The Fluency course that Emily is using is broken up into 12 units for the year. Each unit includes 8 lessons, a review, 2 evaluations, and 2 projects involving research and writing. Each unit is focused around a theme: food, celebrations, travel, etc. and includes one or more topics of grammar instruction as well. All of the instructions for High School Spanish 2, written or spoken, are given in Spanish.

The student proceeds through a variety of activities each day, including watching short videos that introduce the lesson, matching, fill-in-the blank, and recording answers to questions. Lessons frequently include cultural information as well as vocabulary, grammar, and comprehension.









The Spanish 2 Fluency Course shows days in the the lives of teens that live in  Spanish speaking countries. Through video, the student is introduced to these teens and follows them through various scenarios. These actors don’t slow down their speech or necessarily use only vocabulary that has been previously taught, leaving the student to pick up as much as he can as he watches. Each lesson begins with a video and asks the student to answer several questions about the content. Then the activities teach and reinforce new vocabulary and grammar, often using shorter clips of the original video. This creates an immersion effect, requiring the student to listen carefully in order to get the general meaning of the conversations if not the whole conversation, much as he would have to do if visiting another country. Fortunately, the video and audio clips may be listened to multiple times and we found that we both were able to understand a bit more each time we listened.


I don’t see a huge difference between the traditional course that Emily took last year and the fluency course, but she is enjoying this one more. There is still some direct grammar and vocabulary instruction, but each unit is centered around one main video vignette. Cultural education seems to be more incorporated into the story than presented in a separate, unrelated lesson. The conversations that the student listens to are very realistic. The speakers speak quickly and chatter to each other instead of the camera, just as in real life. This really stretches the student’s abilities.




Emily is really enjoying her Spanish course this year. She often completes more than one lesson a day and is making great scores, which tells me that she is mastering the material. She says:

I like Middlebury a lot this year because they have really improved on it. I am able to understand the audio more and it repeats things that I have already learned, so that I really get it worked into my mind. The evaluations at the end of each unit are also very helpful because they pack a lot of the information I learned into the test. I find it very helpful that it is repetitive. I learn better if I hear something over and over again.

We are very pleased with Middlebury’s High School Spanish 2 Fluency Course. It is a good mix of listening, speaking, reading, and writing, with possibly the largest emphasis on listening. The teaching is challenging, thorough and enjoyable, and there is plenty of review. It is designed to be used independently, so parents don’t have to know the language in order for their students to use the program.

Want to learn more? Read my previous reviews of Middlebury Interactive Languages Spanish 1 and Spanish 2 or visit the Homeschool Review Crew blog to read reviews of other languages.

Spanish, French, German or Chinese {Middlebury Interactive Languages}

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