Thursday, May 29, 2014

Progeny Press Guide—Hunger Games (Schoolhouse Review)

Progeny Press Review


Product: The Hunger Games Study Guide

Publisher: Progeny Press

Price: $21.99

Age: Grades 8-12




I’ve long been a fan of Progeny Press Guides, so I was glad to have the chance to review The Hunger Games Study Guide. Emily has wanted to read The Hunger Games for a couple of years, but I didn’t think she was quite ready, given the amount of violence and the mature themes of the book. Now that she’s almost 14, and we had a study guide to aid in discussing the book, the time was right.


Progeny Press suggests that the student read the entire book before beginning the study. We didn’t do this; I made sure that Emily kept ahead of her assigned sections in the guide, and she did actually finish reading the book in less than 2 weeks, while we took 4 weeks to complete the guide.

Progeny Press guides are published in two formats: print and PDF. We received the PDF to review. I normally prefer print items, but this guide is an exception. Because the PDF is “writeable,” I didn’t have to print it. Emily was able to type all her answers directly into the guide. She really enjoyed doing this, and I think it was easier for her to do than to have to write everything out in a workbook. I put the guide in a shared Dropbox folder, so she could do the work on her computer and I could check it on mine. The answer guide was in a separate PDF, which I eventually did print, deciding that would be easier than switching between the 2 PDF’s while checking her work.

The Hunger Games Study Guide opens with ideas for pre-reading activities, which include learning archery, researching edible plants, and learning about utopian and dystopian societies. Emily chose a few of these to do—learning about archery and practicing with her “backyard set” bow and arrow, and writing a short paper about her idea of a utopian society.

The study guide chapters themselves chunk 3-4 of the book chapters together, and include vocabulary exercises, comprehension questions, and questions that require deeper thinking and application of the material, about 12-20 questions per section.  Also included are questions that teach literary concepts such as flashbacks, similes, and exposition, then ask the student to find examples of each in the book.  Each chapter concludes with optional writing or research activities to expand the topic.  The guide suggests having the student complete one page per day, but I didn’t want to spend two months on the book, so Emily completed 2-3 pages per day to finish the book in a month. This was very doable. We skipped most of the optional end-of-chapter assignments in the interest of time, but they are a great way to add more writing to this literature study and to fill it out more.


The guide ends with 10 suggestions for essays and writing assignments. I let Emily choose which one she wanted to complete, so she researched the Greek legend of the Minotaur and wrote an essay that compared and contrasted that story with the Capitol and its Hunger Games.

Although Emily did most of the work independently, I checked her answers and discussed any that were incomplete. We had some good discussions sparked by topics in the guide. I really liked that the questions helped her understand the book as a piece of literature, by analysis of plot, characters, and so on and that the questions often required higher levels of thinking than simple comprehension questions. Many asked, “Why do you think a character acted this way?” or “What is the paradox in this scene?” Other questions required her to look up Scripture passages and compare the actions of characters to the teachings of the Bible.

We found the Progeny Press The Hunger Games Study Guide to be an enjoyable way to study a book, and plan to use more studies in the future.

Click to read Crew Reviews
I received a copy of the product in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

What on Earth Can I Do? (Schoolhouse Review)

Apologia Review 

Apologia Educational Ministries’  What We Believe series was written to introduce children to the basic truths of the Christian faith. It is one of the few products I’ve seen especially designed to teach a Christian worldview to elementary-aged children. What on Earth Can I Do?, the fourth book in the series, teaches children what it means to be a “good and faithful servant” of God. The set, suitable for students aged 6-14, includes these components:

What on Earth Can I Do? (hardback book)                       $39.00
What On Earth Can I Do Notebooking Journal               $24.00
What on Earth Can I Do? Junior Notebooking Journal   $24.00
What on Earth Can I Do? Coloring Book                           $8.00

Each of the 8 lessons (chapters) in What on Earth Can I Do? includes a variety of readings and questions that help students learn about Biblical stewardship.


  • Each chapter begins with the big idea that introduces the theme (You are part of God’s story; God owns everything; you are God’s steward, etc.).
  • The “big idea” is followed by a continuing story that helps to illustrate the theme. The first four chapters focus on a family living in Great Britain during World War II. The last four chapters tell the story of an African farm family.
  • Interspersed throughout each chapter are pages highlighting famous people in history and scientific and cultural concepts, including Corrie Ten Boom, Winston Churchill, Maria Von Trapp, Victory Gardens, Fabric, and the Little Ice Age.
  • Additional features such as “What Should I Do?” explain and elaborate further on the theme of each chapter, helping children relate the ideas to their own lives.
  • Bible memory verses, vocabulary, and questions further enhance the learning experience.

The course consists of a hardback text, and three additional optional components, a Notebooking Journal, a Junior Notebooking Journal, and a Coloring Book. Because the additional components are geared for different ages, the program is perfect for use in families with children in the first grade through middle school, allowing each child to be given assignments at his or her own level.  Emily used the regular Notebooking Journal since she’s in eighth grade, and at the older end of the suggested age range .

Although the text is wonderful all by itself, we found the Notebooking Journal to be a huge asset to the course. This beautiful, full-color, spiral-bound book includes questions about the reading assignments, word searches, crossword puzzles, lapbook components, and drawing and journaling opportunities. These allow the student to think about and process the concepts more fully as he or she writes, draws, and recalls information from the text.


The Junior Notebooking Journal, ideal for younger elementary students, is simpler, with word searches, coloring pages, mini-books, and short fill-in-the-blank summaries of chapter concepts.













The Coloring Book includes 64 pages of line drawings illustrating scenes and stories from the text, each with a simple caption. It would be perfect for preschoolers who want to feel included, or for any child who enjoys coloring.

The Notebooking Journals include suggested schedules for completing the readings and notebooking assignments. Following this schedule would provide 48 days of assignments, so What On Earth Can I Do?  could be finished in a semester or less, or spread out over a full school year, depending on how many days a week it is used. The schedule is totally optional, so families are free to move at their own pace. In my opinion, the suggested pace is good for a middle schooler, but would be ambitious for a younger student.

Emily has been using the program independently, although we are discussing some of the stories and concepts as she progresses. I am expecting her to complete all of the comprehension and application questions in the Notebooking Journal, as well as the memory verses and vocabulary. I letting her decide whether she completes the other activities, such as the lapbooking components, word searches, and drawings. She has chosen to do most of the pages, but there are a lot of activities in each chapter, so I don’t mind if she skips a few. I want her to learn and enjoy the course, instead of feeling pressured to do every single activity. She’s also outgrown her interest in lapbooking activities. While many children love these, she’d rather just write than include the cutting and pasting activities. She has chosen to do some of the lapbook activities, though. We’ve had some good discussions about stewardship, prisoners of war, life during World War II, Maria von Trapp, and more. This is a very rich course! 

I just can’t overemphasize how much we love these books! The book and the notebooking journals are beautiful, loaded with color pictures and attractive formatting. The fictional stories are very interesting, while still packed with historical and cultural information and practical illustrations of the main idea of each chapter. The Bible stories are fictionalized (by adding additional information and minor characters) but are still true to the original scripture passages. I especially love the sidebars with biographical profiles—several per chapter. I felt that Emily learned a lot of history as she studied the meaning of stewardship and how to view herself as a steward of God’s creation.

Want to read more? Click on the banner to read more reviews by other home schooling moms!

Click to read Crew Reviews




Monday, May 26, 2014

E is for Emily’s Big Week

It has been a busy and eventful week for Emily. On May 18, she was confirmed at church. I’m proud of my girl!



Then, on May 22, she had her 14th birthday. We celebrated by going out for breakfast, taking a day off of school, and then, she had a friend spend the night. I can’t believe my “baby” is this old!













blogging through the alphabet sm.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

D is for Diligence

Trying to teach the virtue of diligence to Emily has been one of the more difficult tasks I’ve attempted to do. As she gets older, I can see that her lack of diligence is seriously holding her back in the areas of both academics and life skills.

Diligence comes pretty naturally to me. I’m a rule follower. I don’t want to disappoint people. I’m a list maker. I like the feeling of having a job completed, and completed well. All of these qualities motivate me to work diligently. Some of my children are like me, and have been responsible and internally motivated.

Emily, on the other hand, not so much! She tends to avoid tasks that are difficult. She wanders off in the middle of an assignment to “take a break” and may or may not come back to it. I don’t think she looks to the end result and is willing to work hard to achieve a goal. It is frustrating, because she is very different from me and it is often difficult for me to understand what motivates her. Yet I know that developing the ability to stick with a difficult or unpleasant task until it is completed is a necessary part of life.

Some things I have tried (with varying success) to encourage better habits are:

  1. Making lists for her to check off as she completes tasks
  2. Rewards when tasks or milestones are accomplished
  3. Praise when I see her working hard
  4. Talking with her about the long-term advantages of diligence
  5. Looking for opportunities for her to work for others—She loves the attention she gets for being a “hard worker” for other people!
  6. Pointing out examples of others being diligent…or not

Do you have this issue with your kids? Do you have any words of advice for me?

blogging through the alphabet sm.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Micro Business for Teens (Schoolhouse Review)

Micro Business for Teens Review

Do you have a teen with an entrepreneurial spirit? Learning to run a business can be a great project for a teen, teaching self-discipline, time-management, and financial management while enabling the young person to earn a bit (or a lot) of money. I received three 3 e-books to review from Micro Business for Teens that were written to help teens (ages 10-18) learn how to start, run, and manage all aspects of running a micro business.

Starting a Micro Business (e-book)     $4.95
Running a Micro Business (e-book)     $4.95
Micro Business for Teens Workbook (e-book)   $9.95

Starting a Micro Business, as title indicates, teaches young people how to start a small business, beginning with brainstorming a type of business to start, and continuing through the processes of writing a business plan, advertising,  and financial management.

Running a Micro Business goes deeper, teaching about topics such as bookkeeping, filing taxes, obtaining business licenses, and customer service. This book is quite detailed and would be very helpful for teens (or even adults) whose businesses have grown beyond occasional babysitting or lawn mowing jobs. The advantages of paper bookkeeping vs. spreadsheets vs. accounting software are discussed. The reader will learn about obtaining business licenses, filing quarterly tax installments, and keeping monthly records about all aspects of the business.

The Micro Business for Teens Workbook is a very helpful accompaniment to the books that helps the teen to apply each concept to the business of his or her choosing.  Most of the workbook chapters actually correspond to Starting a Micro Business, but the last few are meant to accompany Running a Micro Business.

Emily read through Starting a Micro Business, completing each corresponding chapter in the workbook. First, she learned what a micro business actually is (a small, one-owner, low-risk, home-based business). Then, she brainstormed business ideas, thinking about possible customer needs, her interests and talents, and her experience. I think she had fun with this part, coming up with both practical and more exotic, impractical ideas. The questions and charts in the workbook helped her come up with ideas and to assess their practicality. Some of her ideas included:

  • washing cars
  • babysitting
  • yard work
  • opening a bakery!
  • breeding and selling guinea pigsP1040386

I had her choose just one of these ideas to develop further. As she progressed through the chapters, she wrote about the possible problems and pitfalls of her idea, then wrote up a business plan. The idea she chose to develop was breeding guinea pigs. This actually wasn’t the most likely business for her to pursue, but it was a good one to develop for the purpose of this course, since it would involve buying supplies, advertising and customer relations, competition, and start-up expenses. She also had to figure out her costs, selling price, and profit or loss. Then she came up with ways to advertise her product.


Although she’s not starting a business right now, the course has certainly gotten Emily thinking about business opportunities. Just last week, she and her friend were looking for a craft item that they could make to sell! In the past, she’s done a lot of yard work and car washing for neighbors to earn money, so she was able to apply her experiences there as she read and used the workbook. (She’s no longer doing that micro business because of some people not paying her and taking advantage of her, although she may try again with different customers.)  I’m hoping that she will come up with just the right idea for a micro business to pursue in the next few months. When she does, she can just start back through the appropriate sections of the workbook to draw up a brand new business plan!

As an owner of several micro businesses myself, I found the Running a Micro Business book helpful, finding some information that I could use to improve my bookkeeping and advertising. I didn’t have Emily read that one yet, because of the more advanced concepts. I think it will be of more interest and use to her after she actually starts a business.

Learning to run a business can be a very beneficial experience for teens, and I think that this series would be a great tool to help any teen get started. I found it to be quite comprehensive and think it would be a great guide for any teen to learn more about advertising, accounting, organization, and planning for running a business.

Want to hear more? Read what my fellow Schoolhouse Crew members have to say about these books:

Click to read Crew Reviews

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

Monday, May 12, 2014

C is for Cartoons


When I was about 10 years old, I started collecting political cartoons and putting them in a scrapbook. This was in 1972, so about the time of the Watergate Scandal. I guess I continued saving them off and on for another 8 or 9 years, because I have cartoons featuring Presidents Ford, Carter, and Reagan, and other events throughout the decade.

At the time, this hobby sparked a little bit of political interest and helped me keep up with current events. The scrapbook is really fun to look at now that the events are in the pages of history. The collection will be great for Emily to look through when she studies 20th century history next year, too!

I really wish I’d had my older children do the same thing, but I am going to suggest the idea to Emily.


blogging through the alphabet sm.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mother’s Day Memories

This is one of the early Mother’s Day Cards I received. I’m guessing that my oldest two children were 1 1/2 and 3 at the time (23 years ago). I had forgotten that Allison (Lissie) used to write her S’s sideways. Sweet memories!


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

B is for Bear



This year, the yearbook committee for our cover school had a fun idea. At our back-to-school picnic in August, they passed out small stuffed bears to everyone with the instruction to include the bear in our school days, field trips, and activities. Photos of the bear enjoying school with each family were to be sent in for inclusion in the yearbook.

I will admit that we have been total failures at this project. Bear has never come on a field trip with us; he didn’t come on our vacation to Florida in February. He spent the school year quietly observing from our kitchen hutch. I am hoping that other families were more diligent so that the yearbook will be successful.

However, I still think it’s a great idea, even for an individual family as a fun way to chronicle a year. Maybe you’d like to try a variation on the idea. Or maybe we’ll try again next year even if it’s not an official “school assignment.”

blogging through the alphabet sm.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Improving Auditory Discrimination Skills


This is an excerpt from my book, Language Lessons: From Listening Skills to Conversation (available in PDF or Kindle format).

Auditory Discrim button

Some children have perfect hearing, but still have difficulty telling sounds or words apart, especially in noisy or distracting environments. These listening exercises may help improve your child's attention and auditory discrimination skills.


Help your child make lists of sounds that are loud and sounds that are quiet. Have him close his eyes while you make sounds. Have him discern whether the sound is loud or quiet. Some possible sounds to make are:

· crumpling paper

· sliding a foot on the floor

· slapping a hand on the table

· ringing a bell

· whispering

· shouting

· stomping foot

· coughing

· sniffing

· scratching table with a finger

Put on some distracting background noise, such as a running faucet or radio. Say words and ask your child to repeat after you. Gradually make the background noise louder.

Pat your legs rapidly to create background noise while you ask your child to repeat numbers after you.

Give your child commands to follow while there is background noise.

Choose one sound to focus on for a day or a week. Find objects and pictures that begin with the sound. Emphasize that sound when you pronounce words. Help your child to produce the sound and identify which words do or do not have that sound.

Say these word pairs. Ask your child to tell you whether the words are the same or different.


Ask your child these questions. (Pronounce the sound rather than name the letter.)

· Does this word start with /t/? tick, pie, toe, tall, cat, tan

· Does this word start with /s/? sock, sand, top, church, soda, thing

· Does this word start with /p/? bob, puppy, porch, pat, bite, tongue

· Does this word start with /g/? go, grumpy, gallop, cat, gun, donkey

· Does this word start with /ch/? tell, chin, church, share, ship, chop


Ask your child to listen carefully to the beginning of each word and to tell you which word does not start with the same sound as the others.

· tip, sip, tear, tame

· bean, bear, bat, cat

· sign, take, took, tap

· sip, sing, child, sister

· sorry, super, silly, taken

· man, no, manners, mat

· cap, car, cup, tap


Ask your child to think of a word that begins with the same sound as these words:

· sun

· big

· paper

· goose

· no

· man

· pipe

· kite

· dig

· fence