Thursday, October 24, 2013

Become a Homeschool Product Reviewer!

Over the past 4 years, I have been incredibly blessed to be a part of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Review Crew. The most obvious benefit has been the wonderful assortment of homeschool books and curriculum to try out in our home and to share with my readers. I’ve tried products that were just what we needed, but couldn’t have afforded or that I just didn’t know about. I’ve tried other products that weren’t a great fit for us, but that might be just what another family needs. I share about all of these through my blog and in person.

Another benefit has been the relationships I’ve formed through the TOS community. Our private forums are a great place to share concerns, look for ideas, or to support each other.

Additionally, I’ve grown as a writer and learned a lot about navigating and using various forms of social media as part of my blogging.

That said, here is the official announcement:

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

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

Then you might be perfect for the Crew!

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

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

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

Come be a part of The Old Schoolhouse family!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Unspoken by Dee Henderson (Book Review)

Unspoken  -     
        By: Dee Henderson

Unspoken, Dee Henderson’s latest book, tells the story of Bryce Bishop, a businessman and coin dealer, who is unexpectedly  thrust into a business dealing with a young woman who has a rare, multi-million dollar coin collection to sell. When Bryce makes the connection between her and a famous kidnapping 20-year-old kidnapping case, learns about her changed identity and numerous unanswered questions, the intrigue deepens.

Meanwhile, Ann Falcon, a writer and former detective, re-opens an investigation on a long-cold case of a kidnapped baby. The baby was found dead, and the only clues to the kidnapping and murder were some questionable eye-witness accounts and a phone call recording.

I enjoyed this book, finishing all 440 pages in just a few days. The story lines were unique, keeping me wondering what would happen next. The casual mentions of millions of dollars being spent and given away throughout the book was quite foreign to me, of course, but added a peek into the lives and burdens of the very wealthy. There was no violence in the book, and really no intense suspense. It was more a mystery story and the examination of relationships developing through difficult circumstances.

Fans of Dee Henderson will appreciate that characters from previous books show up in this one as minor characters, allowing the reader to revisit previous storylines. Unspoken is not a sequel, however, so it will be equally enjoyable to new readers as well.

I received this book free from Bethany House in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Diary of a Real Payne (Schoolhouse Review)

Diary of a Real Payne Book 1: True Story is a novel (Barbour Publishing) that is sure to delight an elementary-aged child. E.J. (Emma Jean) Payne, the spunky, imaginative heroine finds herself in all sorts of adventures as she attends school, church, and camp and daily life with her 5 year old brother, Isaac. Each chapter opens with a diary entry that expresses E.J’s blunt 10-year-old opinion, complete with pictures.

E.J. has a tendency to get herself into trouble when she gets lost in her imagination, such as when she pretends to be a race car driver, roaring down the aisles of a store or pretending to be an astronaut while dangerously perched at the top of monkey bars. Meanwhile, her adversary, the “perfect” CoraLee, always seems to do just the right thing.

Funny books like Diary of a Real Payne: True Story are a popular genre with children. What makes this one stand out is its Christian worldview. While not being preachy or moralistic in any way, Christianity and faith are incorporated into the story in a natural way—E.J.’s father is a preacher; the family attends a church camp together; and the children participate in their church’s nativity play. There were also no bad attitudes modeled. While E.J. is sometimes irritated by her younger brother, she still obviously loves him, and while she misbehaves, she is still respectful to her parents.

Emily says:

I like this book a lot. It was very silly, fun, and adventurous. I’m just like the girl in the story, which made it way more fun to read. I love adventures and envision my future, so that sometimes I have to be brought out of it! The girl in this book was very confident and loved to imagine she was a race care driver and I jumped right in to the book! I really enjoyed this book!

This is the first of a great new series for children and I highly recommend it! It is written for ages 8 to 12, but, as you can read above, my 13 year old enjoyed it, too! I’m sure that children as young as 5 would enjoy this book as a read-aloud.

Diary of a Real Payne: True Story is currently on sale for $4.49 (reg. $5.99).


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


Monday, October 21, 2013

Bridgeway Academy (Schoolhouse Review)

Bridgeway Logo photo bridgewayacademylogo_zps8c2d62cc.jpg

This fall, Emily has been taking an online “Learning Lab” class at Bridgeway Academy. Bridgeway’s  8-week classes use Jigsaw Meeting as the online location for teachers and students to interact. With this format, students and teachers can interact through voice or through a “chat box.” The instructor is able to show videos and power point presentations, and the students can see her in one of the on-screen boxes.


Learning Labs are offered for elementary through high school students. The cost for the elementary and middle school level courses is $145. Bridgeway Learning Labs also offer 0.5 credit high school labs for $275 and up. Classes include such subjects as Geography, Magic Tree House Science, SAT Prep, and Public Speaking.

The class that Emily took was Marine Biology (for middle school students). Since she loves animals and is obsessed with sharks, she was quite excited to have the opportunity to learn more about ocean life! The weekly topics included:

  • What is Marine Biology image
  • Osteichthyses (bony fish)
  • Chondrichthyes (cartilaginous fish)
  • Invertebrates
  • Marine Mammals
  • Sea Turtles
  • Marine Ecosystems



We loved our instructor, Carla Berg. She presented the material in a variety of ways, including lecture, Power Point, and video. She often asked the students for input, either by turning on the microphone for them to speak, or by allowing them to write on the whiteboard or in the text box. The students were given homework each week, which required 1-2 hours of time and included such varied assignments as quizzes, classifying invertebrates, designing a food web, and creating an animal profile pamphlet. Emily enjoyed almost everything. (She had trouble and became frustrated with one of the homework assignments, but enjoyed the rest). She even did some extra reading and research that wasn’t assigned!

The Learning Labs were definitely a new form of school for Emily. Not quite a classroom experience, but close. The ability to interact with the other students was unique, and she has had few other activities in which she’s responsible to a teacher other than me. I think that, and the reminder that her work would be compared to the other students’ helped her to be more conscientious about her assignments.













There are so many opportunities out there for homeschooling families now and the Bridgeway Learning Labs are a great option to consider for families who want some outside classes or just a different learning experience for their children.


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

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Zoo and Aquarium Guides—Great for Animal Lovers!

(contains affiliate links)


I wanted to share these two amazing resources that I have found. We own the Complete Aquarium Adventure. It’s a hardback, spiral-bound guide that is packed with colorful photographs and information about ocean life. Tabs divide the subject matter into birds, invertebrates, fish, mammals, and so on. There is also a devotional guide that would be perfect to use with a sea-life study. A pocket in the back of the book hold cards with more animal facts that can be just enjoyed, or can be taken to an aquarium as reference or even to use as a “find the animal” hunt.  There are also cards for the different ocean zones. My daughter has spent hours poring over the pages of this book.

Both books are designed to be used alone, or as an aid in planning field trips to zoos and aquariums.

I’m about to buy the Complete Zoo Adventure because my daughter loves the Aquarium book so much. They are high quality books that are a bargain even at the new prices of $15-$17, but Amazon also has used books for sale for much less!

(Click pictures below for links.)

The Complete Zoo Adventure ($15.29; used starting at $1.70)

The Complete Aquarium Adventure ($17.09, used starting at $5.59)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Motivation for Learning

I’ve been thinking this week about what motivates a student to do well in school and about how I, as the parent and teacher can encourage and support my child. I’ve listed these motivators in the order that I, personally, think result in the most effective education (and happiest home).

  1. An Intrinsic Desire to Learn I think this is by far the best motivator. In fact, one of my reasons for teaching my children at home was the hope that they would enjoy learning and would become lifelong learners. I think this motivation is likely to produce the best retention and the happiest students.
  2. A Sense of Responsibility I have to admit—school can’t always be fun. Sometimes it’s just work. Some subjects just won’t be favorites and some facts just need to be memorized or learned, interesting or not. I’ve heard that commitment and responsibility are traits that predict future success more than innate intelligence. Having the ability to stick to something and to do one’s best work is a very important life skill, one that will be needed long after school days are over.
  3. Grades and Competition I think this is probably the most common motivation for students in traditional school. I know personally that after each of my three older children went to public school, they did their work for the grades, but seemed much less interested in actually learning or retaining the material for the long term. It seems to me that school can be a “game”—study, test, forget, repeat. Yet this motivation can still be useful if it gets a child to apply herself. Hopefully it won’t be the only motivation.
  4. Parental Pressure, Threats  Not a great motivator. This can work short term to get children to complete projects and catch up on work, but it ends up putting all the responsibility on the parent. Yet, when the above motivators aren’t working, I find myself resorting to this one.

Now….confession time. I am having a terrible time with my 13 year old. She’s outright refusing to do most of her work. She will sit with a math page for a full day and work 2 problems. Actually, her main priority seems to be defying and aggravating me. So much for the idealistic homeschooling family!

She does like to learn much of the time. She’s happy to spend time looking up animals on the internet or reading about historical figures. She says that she doesn’t like school, but when I ask her about specific subjects or topics, she will admit, “Yes, I am interested in that.” Right now, I think her desire to be in control overrides her willingness to do even activities that she enjoys.

So, we’re down to Motivator #4. I’m taking away privileges, TV, phone, seeing friends, free time. Pretty much everything. I’m bargaining, helping, trying to reason with her. In other words, all the responsibility is on me, not her. And I’m the one who’s stressed, because I’m the one who cares about achievement and goals and pleasing people. Not good.

We’re taking some time off right now so I can regroup and figure out what to do next. I’m refusing to engage her in any conflict and am just leaving the room when she acts rude or defiant.

You’d think that by child #4, I’d have this figured out, but they are all so different in personality! Have you been here? I’m open to any suggestions!

Monday, October 14, 2013

God’s World News (Schoolhouse Review)

 photo godsworldnewslogo_zpsbc5c7163.png photo topstory36_zpsc24ac656.jpg

God's World News is a monthly publication for students K-12 that helps to keep them informed about current events and the world around them. It is written from a Biblical worldview, so that Christian parents won’t be having to explain or revise the text order to defend their beliefs. God’s World News is offered in six different age-appropriate editions.

We were given a subscription to Top Story (Middle School). This colorful and engaging 32-page magazine included both full feature articles and news “bits” of a few paragraphs in length. Stories ranged from US and world current events to human interest stories to political cartoons and focus articles on famous people.

There is a strong geographical emphasis to Top Story. Each subscription comes with a world map poster so that students can locate and label each place on the map that they read about. Some of the articles have small maps on the page that highlight the region being discussed.

Many features help the students think more critically or reinforce other curriculum areas. The political cartoons are accompanied by explanations that help students understand the humor and the points that the illustrator was trying to make. Graphs and charts are included when appropriate. There is a vocabulary quiz at the end of each issue that includes vocabulary from the magazine.

I like the way that Christian history and beliefs are woven throughout the magazine. For example, the October issue focus is “On the Move Through the Ages.” Articles teach about Australia’s boat people, refugees fleeing from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran. There is a feature on Sergey Brin, who is a Jewish immigrant to the US from the former Soviet Union. There is also an article on the Jewish Diaspora (scattering) and a timeline of God’s people moving to new locations throughout the Bible, from Adam and Eve leaving the Garden of Eden to the Babylonian Captivity to the Great Commission.

When topics such as robots and other technology are discussed, the ethical implications are discussed as well. Additionally, many articles have a “Bible to Life” insert that uses Bible verses to help the reader relate the topic to God’s plan for his own life. Each issue also includes quizzes to  assess comprehension.

We subscribed to God’s World many years ago when it was a weekly publication. Certainly that was a better format for keeping up with more current news features, but we did tend to get behind in our reading when we had them arriving every week. God’s World Publications has  tried to compensate for the issue of timeliness by including an online feature to the magazine.  The online site includes answers for the quizzes as well as hundreds of articles, including one new timely article each day.

Online Feature



As soon as we have received each issue, Emily has disappeared with it, only popping up occasionally to say, “Mom, did you know that…” It has been a big hit here.

Individual subscriptions to the God's World News student magazines cost $28 for 10 issues. Discounts are given for multiple subscriptions (even of varying levels).



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

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Samaritan Ministries

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I’m hearing many stories of health insurance costs skyrocketing with the implementation of Obamacare, so I thought I’d share our experience with the hopes that it would help someone.

About a year ago, I started shopping around for health insurance alternatives. The Blue Cross/Blue Shield individual policy I had was going up in price every year. Additionally, although it paid for preventative care and office visits (with a $40 deductible), I felt that the coverage for emergency room or hospital visits was poor. As there was no way that I could cover my portion of the costs for a hospitalization of just a few days, the policy that I couldn’t really afford did not make me feel secure or protected!

Then, I discovered Samaritan Ministries. (I also looked into two other Christian health care sharing programs, but Samaritan Ministries seemed to meet my needs best.) It’s actually not health insurance; it’s a health sharing organization. Each month I make my $230 (single parent rate) contribution directly to another family. I receive instructions from Samaritan Ministries about who to send the funds to, and what the medical need is. That way, I can even send along a card or note and can pray for the family’s need.

With Samaritan Ministries, preventative care and minor injuries or illnesses are not covered. But everything over $350 is! I no longer have to worry about how I would pay for a major illness. And the monthly savings over my former $600 health insurance easily pay for preventative care or other minor needs. Fortunately, we haven’t had any needs yet, so I can’t attest to how that end of it works, but I’ve heard nothing but positive reports from those that have had needs. I love the idea that when a family member gets sick or has an accident, many people will be praying for them!

Health Care Sharing ministries ARE legal under the new “Affordable Health Care Act” legislation, so even though it’s not exactly insurance, members are not subject to fines.

If you decide to join Samaritan Ministries, please mention my name as a referral (Deborah Lott), so I will get credit. Thanks!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Fall Cleaning Project

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of BISSELL Homecare, Inc. for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

As winter approaches, I like to give my house a thorough top to bottom cleaning. I guess it's kind of a "nesting" thing, so that everything is spic and span for the upcoming holidays and for the cold winter days when we will be inside all day.

I find the prospect of doing a huge cleaning job in a day, or even in a week overwhelming, though, so I break it up. First, I walk through the house making a chore list, trying to include those out-of-the way corners that I don't think about cleaning on a weekly basis. Every day, I try to do just one extra job from my list and before long it's all done. Here's what I'd like to get done in the next couple of weeks:

  • Clean ceiling fans.
  • Oil the stair railings and trim.
  • Vacuum vents.
  • Touch up kitchen cabinets with stain.
  • Wipe off floor base molding.
  • Scrub kitchen and bathroom woodwork.
  • Vacuum couch cushions.
  • Vacuum or wash curtains.
  • Clean above kitchen cabinets. (This collects a lot of dust!)
  • Clean window jambs. (Spider webs have been accumulating this summer.)
  • Clean out bathroom cabinets.
  • Organize linen closet.

Do you have any more cleaning tips to add?

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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Adventures in Dissection!

Dissection is one activity that many homeschoolers avoid. The thought of the mess, the smell, the “ick” factor scares them away. I confess—Emily has never gotten to do this, other than dissecting an owl pellet. I have wanted to, but I just haven’t made it happen up to this point. If she homeschools next year, she’ll be taking biology, so at that point it will definitely be in the plan.

A few years ago, when my older three children were all homeschooling, I organized a science club and we did a dissection unit. The students ranged from 8 to 13. I charged $5 or so per family to cover expenses, then I ordered dissection tools and specimens. A couple of places to find these items are and

We divided the students into groups of three and each group had a specimen and a set of tools. We did this outside on our deck to minimize the mess and smell. However, I was pleasantly surprised that after the animals were preserved in formaldehyde, they were rinsed in a glycol solution that removed most of the odor. It was a much better (less smelly) experience than what I remember of my high school biology classes!

Each specimen came with detailed instructions of how to cut, what to look for, and diagrams. As a teacher, I found the process very easy to do. The kids loved it! P1030552

The elementary-aged children jumped right in, while my group of middle school girls were a bit more squeamish. That’s my daughter, Allison, with the Beanie Baby frog on her shoulder. (I think she was protesting cruelty to animals, or something. Smile)  She overcame her squeamishness and is now an M.D.


Each week, we dissected a new creature, including a grasshopper, fish, frog, and cow’s eye. Honestly, I was the most squeamish about the eye ball, but it turned out to be the neatest and most fascinating!

I highly recommend dissection as a family or homeschool group activity. It’s easier than you might think!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

K-Cup Bargains and a Free Coffee Recipe Book

A couple months ago, I did a review for Cross Country Café coffee. Yum!

Cross Country Café has some great bargains right now that you may be interested in:


Free Fall Coffee Recipe Book

Free Fall Coffee Recipe EbookI just downloaded this recipe book and it has some scrumptious recipes for dressing up coffee and tea—Pumpkin Spice Latte, Smoresuchhino (S’more flavored cappuchino), Tiramisu Coffee and more.

Download the free Fall Coffee Recipe ebook and receive a special coupon for 20% off the fall custom variety pack!






These new K-Cup Flavors are only $7.49 for a 12 pack

New arrivals for fall- Pumpkin Spice Chai and Spiced Apple Chai tea Kcups are here!

Pumpkin Spice Chai Tea Keurig KcupsSpiced Apple Chai Tea Keurig Kcups









Wacky Wednesday Weekly Coffee Sale! Shipping is free when you spend $59. or more!

Green Mountain coffee $11.99/ 24 pack              Twinings Pure Camomile Tea $9.99/ 24 pack

Green Mountain Our Blend Keurig Kcup coffeeTwining Pure Camomile Keurig Kcup tea