Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Cat of Bubastes Audio Drama (Homeschool Review)

Heirloom Audio Productions ~Cat of Bubastes

G.A. Henty’s novels are a favorite way for many homeschool families to learn history. These classics bring history to life through engaging stories set against a backdrop of wars and ancient civilizations. Over the past few years,  Heirloom Audio Productions  has converted several of Henty’s novels into high quality audio dramas, featuring well-known actors, vivid sound effects and musical scores. Their latest production is The Cat of Bubastes,  a story of ancient Egypt.

The Cat of Bubastes tells the story of a boy, Amuba, who is captured into slavery in Egypt.

The Cat of Bubastes  2-CD set ($29.97) includes three free bonuses:

  • The 47 page The Cat of  Bubastes eStudy Guide and Discussion Starter for families who would like to expand the educational value of the story
  • A printable poster featuring of 1 Chronicles, 17:20
  • An MP3 download of  The Cat of Bubastes.

The audio drama is also available in sets of four (for sharing with friends or family) or as an MP3 download without CD’s.

The Cat of Bubastes follows the story of a boy named Amuba who is captured into slavery in Egypt, then purchased to be the slave and companion of a boy his age who is destined to become a priest. His adventures include exploring tombs, saving a girl from a crocodile, helping to cover up the accidental killing of a sacred cat, and subsequently fleeing for his life. Even Moses, the prince of Egypt, makes a “cameo” performance!

Although we have enjoyed all of the Heirloom Audio Production stories that we’ve listened to, Emily and I both agree that The Cat of Bubastes is our favorite. The plot seemed easier to follow than some other Henty stories featuring lengthy battle scenes where the storyline was carried by crashes and shouts rather than dialogue.  the storyline moved quickly, keeping us on the edge of our seats at times. It was certainly educational with the focus on Egyptian life and traditions, but families will choose to listen to it over and over just for fun. I would recommend this drama for all ages. Even younger elementary-aged children would enjoy the story, although there are some deaths of major characters that could be disturbing to sensitive children.

Study Guide:

The PDF study guide that accompanies the Cat of Bubastes audio drama provides parents of younger children with discussion material to help their children understand the story better. Alternatively, the guide can be used as written assignments for older children, expanding the story into a fuller study of Egypt.

The guide includes several components:

  • Listening Well questions assess comprehension of the story.
  • Thinking Further questions require the student to think about the events, culture, and principles in the story and  analyze them or to relate them to modern times.
  • Defining Words include a list of the more difficult words in each section for students to look up.
  • Expand Your Learning is my favorite section! These fascinating tidbits of information teach more about related concepts, from dung beetles to hieroglyphs to ancient Egyptian diet. Although we didn’t spend much time using the study guide for this audio drama, I had Emily read through these sections.
  • Bible Study exercises are located a at the end of the guide and consist of lists of Biblical truths (“Throughout Scripture, God wage was against false gods and the demonic powers behind them.”) and several references to support each premise.
  • The guide concludes with Historical Background Information about the story. These pages discuss early Egyptian civilization, the stories of their gods, and how their beliefs influenced their life practices.

The study guide is an excellent resource for families who want to expand the Cat of Bubastes into a fuller literature or unit study.

We have previously reviewed Heirloom Audio’s  With Lee in Virginia, In Freedom’s Cause, and The Dragon and the Raven, so visit these links to read about these exciting dramas or visit the Homeschool Review Crew blog to read more about The Cat of Bubastes.

Connect with Heirloom Audio:

Instagram: @HeirloomAudioOfficial


Heirloom Audio Productions ~Cat of Bubastes
Crew Disclaimer

Monday, September 26, 2016

Creative Scheduling

It’s easy to get into a rut. Do you study math, language arts, history and science every single day? Sometimes it is more successful to pull ourselves out of that traditional school mindset of every subject every day at the same time and experiment with some different scheduling ideas.

Why might you want to arrange your school year differently?

  • To allow more time to really dig into a subject. Sometimes, there is an advantage to having a long block of time to spend on research, hands-on projects, or even read-alouds without the pressure to “get to the next thing.”
  • To alleviate boredom. Staying with one routine day after day, year after year can be dull. When a student’s schedule changes from month to month or even day to day, it can keep interest higher.

What are some ways to schedule creatively?

  • Block scheduling. When my children were in elementary school, we did unit studies or topical studies for history and science. I found that planning was easier for me and that all the subjects actually got done if we alternated history and science. Although we continued to do math and language arts daily, we might spend 8 weeks studying the solar system. Then we’d immerse ourselves in the Middle Ages for 6 weeks, and so on. 

This year, Emily spent the first 6 weeks of school studying human anatomy and physiology. We used a Great Courses video series, notebooking, research, and a Moving Beyond the Page unit. This was an intensive study for which she’ll receive a  full semester’s credit. During that time period, she had a lighter load in some of her other subjects and we didn’t start some subjects, like Spanish, until her human A&P course was finished.

  • Schedule variations within a week. One method that is gaining popularity in public schools (and that has always been the practice in colleges) is to study different subjects on different days. Math might be scheduled for Monday through Thursday. Science might be Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and History might be on Tuesday and Thursday. This allows for some variety from day to day and gives the student longer blocks of time to focus on a subject.
  • Combining subjects. This is one of my favorite ways to both save time and to make education more meaningful. Once your children are reading fairly well, they don’t necessarily need a full language arts or English class. It is so easy to combine language arts into other subjects. Use science vocabulary as spelling or vocabulary work. Assign your children biographies or historical fiction to read. Not only will this enrich their history lessons, but the assignments do double duty, counting for two subjects. Have him write reports about what he is learning in history or science and skip those end-of-chapter questions. You can still use a spelling, vocabulary, or writing curriculum as needed, but you don’t necessarily need one every day or even every year. Of course, unit study curricula are great for combining multiple subjects, from science to art.
  • Daily scheduling. Want to start small? If you always begin your day with math, surprise your children with a read-aloud or art project first thing. Take a walk or go to the park for a break mid-morning. Little surprises or daily variations can keep routines from becoming dull. Keep in mind that your children may need to do math or harder subjects earlier in the day when they are fresh, but there is probably still some room for variety.
  • High school credits. I’ve found myself doing a bit of creative bookkeeping as I award my daughter’s high school credits. She has some subjects, such as critical thinking and art that she does as she has time, depending on what else is going on with her other subjects and extra-curricular activities. Although she did both of these subjects last year, I didn’t feel that she had yet earned a half credit for the courses. She is working on art this summer to finish up a credit. She’ll complete credits for critical thinking and logic next year. I’ll just put them on her transcript in the year in which they were completed.

What ways have you found to schedule creatively?

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Pray-ers (Homeschool Review)


The Pray-ers / Book 1 Troubles, written by Mark S. Mirza, and published by CTM Publishing, Atlanta, is a novel that follows the lives of three Christians, Epaphras, a first century contemporary of Paul, a nineteenth century preacher, and a modern-day new believer. As the reader follows the lives and struggles of these men, she “meets” the angels and demons that are assigned to respectively encourage and to tempt each man.

The purpose of The Pray-ers is not only to entertain, but to give the reader explicit instruction in the art and practice of prayer. As one character teaches another about prayer, about discerning God’s will, and about leading lives that honor Him, the reader also learns the lesson, and witnesses the characters growing in their faith. As Mirza states in his Preface, “I want you to learn prayer. I don’t just want you to learn ABOUT prayer.”

The book is also a look into spiritual warfare. The three demons refer to God as the “Holy Enemy,” follow their human charges around, and strategize how to tempt them into sin or how to distract them from practices such as sincere prayer that will cause the humans to follow God rather than practice sin and selfishness. The demons fight and compete among themselves, demonstrating the results of rebellion against God. This aspect of the novel reminds me of C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters. Meanwhile, three angels encourage the lead characters, occasionally even appearing to them. The appearance of the angels strikes fear into the demons because they realize that they cannot effectively fight God or His messengers. I find it fascinating to think about the spirit world around us and enjoyed this aspect of the novel.

Throughout the novel are footnotes for scripture verses that reference the stories, passages, and principles that are being taught. The reader could use the book as a Bible study by looking up each verse or could easily ignore most of them, just researching the few that provoked more interest.b

I found The Pray-ers to be both imaginative and instructional. Unfortunately, it was also in need of some serious editing. I found the wording to be awkward and repetitive and the book was littered with punctuation errors, spelling errors, and incorrect word usage. Because of this, I found it difficult to read and found my self frequently either editing passages in my head or rereading sentences that didn’t make sense the first time through. It was also a bit too preachy. I felt that the characters did a lot of “lecturing” each other in order to convey the message to the reader and this felt awkward in a novel. I was best able to follow the story by skimming, which certainly wasn’t the author’s intent. Perhaps with some revision, the story could better reach its potential.

Connect with Mark S. Mirza and the Pray-ers:

Twitter: @ThePrayersNovel


The Pray-ers / Book 1 Troubles
Crew Disclaimer

Monday, September 19, 2016

CurrClick Fall into Savings Sale

CurrClick started their Fall into Savings Sale today, featuring hundreds of e-products for homeschooling at 80% off.

My printable learning games are included in the sale, most at only 70 cents! If you’re studying American history, geography, ancient civilizations, planets, animals, or plants this year and are looking for a fun way to supplement your studies, be sure to grab a few games this week at their lowest price ever!

Galloping Through Ancient Greece GameAll About Animals gameExplorers of the World Matching Game

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Yellowstone Adventure


Roosevelt Arch—the original park entrance


Morning Glory pool




We encountered quite a few bison bulls wandering along the roadsides.

















It’s fun taking a vacation with a cousin!



    The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

(My niece was quite indignant that they copied the title “Grand Canyon” from the real Grand Canyon.)

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Notebooking and Human Anatomy

This month, Emily is working on  Human Anatomy and Physiology as a block-style course in which she’ll complete a 0.5 high school credit in just four weeks. She’s spending an intensive 2-3 hours a day on the subject, but will have the class completed by September.

We’re not using a traditional textbook for this class.  Her primary curriculum is the Great The Human Body Book (Second Edition) / Edition 2Courses “Understanding the Human Body” series. We recently got a membership to, which is a streaming service that includes hundreds of courses.  Each day Emily watches a lesson or two and writes a summary of the topic in her notebook. I found pages at that are perfect for this. The graphics make the pages so much prettier and provide some guidance on her topic for the day. She’s also using The Human Body Book for reference.



I’ve been impressed with how much she is learning from these very detailed videos and she is enjoying the notebooking style of documenting what she learns.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Spiritual Circle Journal (Schoolhouse Review)

The Spiritual Circle Journal is a journal for adults that helps guide their devotional time, record prayers, and see where God is moving in their lives. The pages include nine circles to represent different ways to talk to God and to listen to God, providing direction and focus for daily quiet time. 

The Spiritual Circle Journal for Kids & Teens is similar. Each page includes nine fun shapes (a car, light bulb, heart, shoe, etc.) that represent different areas of of focus. As the child has his devotional time, he writes notes in each shape to record prayers, insights from scripture reading, thank-you’s to God, favorite verses, concerns, and so on. There aren’t any rules, or any order to the process. The shapes are there to remind the child of the different topics he may want to think or pray about that day. As he prays, thinks about his day, or reads the Bible, he is free to skip around the page writing comments, notes, and prayers as they come to mind. Some of the journal entries will be introspective; others will hopefully inspire the child to action, creating a link between time with God and his relationships with others.

This is a unique way to introduce a child to having a quiet time or to offer a different approach for a devotional time. It’s not a Bible study, although it could be used as a supplement to one. It doesn’t teach or provide pre-written prayers. Instead, it unleashes the child or teen’s creativity, providing gentle guidance in developing a relationship with God and encouraging them to look for how God is working in their lives. The pages are a heavy weight, slightly glossy paper that would work well with colored pencils, markers, or even watercolors. An artsy child could have a lot of fun with this journal.


The journal instructions suggest that the child start by using the book once or twice a week at first. That way, there isn’t a feeling of failure if the child misses a day. Emily has been using her journal every morning, though. She begins with her usual Bible and devotional book reading, then follows up by recording her thoughts in the Spiritual Circle Journal. She says that she enjoys using it because it helps her get her thoughts and feelings out and that writing her thoughts helps to organize them instead of keeping them jumbled in her head. The Spiritual Circle Journal is helping her focus on God and her feelings about life.


I like this approach to journaling. While a blank page may seem intimidating to a child or teen, the smaller writing blocks are much less so. The suggested themes for each shape give direction on topics to journal about. Children and teens can choose to simply write their thoughts in the shapes, to color or paint the shapes to add color, or even to draw symbols or pictures that will illustrate their thoughts. If you are looking for an open-ended introduction to journaling for your child, this is a product you might enjoy.

Connect with Spiritual Circle Journal:

Instagram:  @spiritualcirclejournal
Twitter:  @liz_lassa

Spiritual Circle Journal

I received this product free in exchange for my honest review.


Friday, August 26, 2016

Friday Freebie! Planets Game


Studying astronomy? This week’s freebie is a trivia game that will test your knowledge of our solar system. This game is best for older elementary or middle school aged students, although if your first grader is a whiz with the planets, he might love it as well! Planets, Moon, and Stars

This is one of 15 games that I designed several years ago to reinforce our geography, history and science studies.


This week’s bonus deal…buy The Inventor’s Game for only $1 (reg. $3.50) Or buy all 15 of my learning games for only $15 at CurrClick.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Starting a New School Year!

Emily is ready to start 11th grade! And my baby’s kindergarten photo. We’ve come a long way in our homeschool journey!



Wednesday, August 17, 2016

FlipStir Puzzle (Schoolhouse Review)

FlipStir Puzzles Reviews

Recently, Emily and I had the chance to try out a fun and unique type of puzzle, the FlipStir created by Enlivenze LLC.  We received the FlipStir Statue of Liberty Puzzle to try, but there are several more variations: Rainbow Pencils, Tyrannosaurus Rex, and Solar System. The Statue of Liberty puzzle is a Level 2 puzzle because the picture itself is harder to solve and the edges of the pieces are wavy rather than straight.


How do you play with FlipStir? The directions are simple. Shake. Stir. Solve. That’s it! Well, the solving part is not terrible simple, but that’s where the fun is! A FlipStir is a 10 piece puzzle. Each piece is a semicircle and the pieces stack to create a picture. The catch is—the pieces are inside a plastic canister and the only way to manipulate them is with the attached stir rod. There are two skills needed to solve the puzzle—figuring out the order of the 10 pieces and actually moving them around inside the canister.


It wasn’t difficult to figure out the order of the pieces. Sometimes we had to put one in place before we could tell for sure if it was a match, but that part of the process wasn’t difficult. We found it a bit harder to figure out how to manipulate the puzzle pieces with the stick and Emily declared it “frustrating.”  She did enjoy it, though, and it took her a while to complete the process. It took me 15-20 minutes or so to put the puzzle together, although one of Emily’s friends picked it up and assembled it in 5 minutes! If we had more than one FlipStir puzzle, it would be fun to have races to see who could finish first.

The FlipStir puzzle is great for taking in the car or carrying in a purse because there are no pieces to lose. It’s a great tool for practicing fine motor and perceptual skills as well as for developing patience! Other crew members tried out some of the other FlipStir puzzles, so be sure to read about their experiences on the Schoolhouse Review Crew Blog.

Connect with Enlivenze and FlipStir:

Product Accounts
Company Accounts


FlipStir Puzzles Reviews

I received this product free in exchange for my honest review.