Friday, May 27, 2011

Great Resources from The Schoolhouse Store

Are you looking for some great resources for next year? I know I always am! Here are some of my favorite resources from The Schoolhouse Store:

This section of the store is great! Lots of e-products for only $1. Learn about zombie fire ants or red tides with The Curiosity Files. Learn about various professions with the “I Wannabe” series.  Or look over the dozens of unit studies or lapbooks available.



The Schoolhouse Planners are amazing products, offering hundreds of pages to be printed to create customized planners. Emily has been using the Intermediate Student planner and loves it.



And what’s better than free? Many companies are offering product samples to enable you to try out their curriculum before you buy. My own Super Star Speech is participating here. If you’d like a free Super Star Speech L Sampler book, click this link.



I am an affiliate with This Old Schoolhouse, so I will receive a commission if you make a purchase using these links (except for the Freebie Directory).

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Happy 11th Birthday, Emily!


A Kid’s Guide to Drawing the Presidents of the USA


Would you like to draw your way through American History?  Timberdoodle Co. is featuring a series of 42 books entitled A Kid’s Guide to Drawing the Presidents of the USA covering every president from George Washington to George W. Bush. Each library-bound book features biographical information about each president and step-by-step instructions for drawing the presidents and important events of the time. This set is available for a limited time with a discount of over 80% off of the list price!

We received  How to Draw the Life and Times of William McKinley to review.  Each page of text is followed by a page of drawing instruction.

The large print text summarizes the highlights of McKinley’s life. I found the sentences to be short and choppy. If you wanted your child to read a brief biography, this would do the trick, as plenty of information is included. However, I don’t think this is something my child would pick up for fun. It was factual, but just not terribly interesting. Here is a typical passage: 

“….at the time Cuba was fighting Spain for independence. McKinley did not want to get involved. He was forced to take action when Spain was accused of blowing up the U.S. battleship Maine, shown above, which was in the harbor of Havana, Cuba. On April 25, 1898, the United Sates went to war with Spain.” (You might notice that this particular passage was also missing a couple of commas.)

I must note that, despite my observations about the writing style, Emily said that she “loves!” the book.

The drawing lessons, however, were excellent and very enjoyable. This particular volume teaches the student to draw the Maine, a carnation, McKinley and his wife, his “full dinner pail” campaign button, a “gerrymander” cartoon, and more. Each drawing included step-by-step instructions that are probably appropriate for children ages 9 and up.



Emily and I both followed the instructions—Here are our finished drawings.


This series might be just what you are looking for to supplement your history curriculum or art curriculum. I know that we will enjoy continuing to use this volume.

As a member of Timberdoodle's Blogger Review Team I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a frank and unbiased review.

Monday, May 16, 2011


Lately, inspired by a couple of blogs I’ve discovered, I’ve been on an organizing campaign. Here are some “before” and “after” photos…

This is my school supply cabinet. It wasn’t too bad, but was overcrowded and cluttered with end-of-school-year mess.


I pulled out everything we were through with that needed to be sold or given away. I pulled out a stack of items to list on ebay or or to give away. I put all our card games and file-folder games into the striped fabric box and a multi-pocket vinyl file envelope. The shallow fabric box holds markers and colored pencils.



This is the inside of my game file. It contains my Super Star Games plus a few others.


Our vitamins, supplements and medications were taking up WAY too much space in my kitchen cabinet. Besides, some of them were way out of date and needed to be thrown out.


I organized everything that actually needed to be kept into 2 baskets—The smaller one on the middle shelf holds everything we use frequently.



I added this basket to the side of my nightstand to corral some of the tabletop clutter:


This little table in my bedroom is actually “built” of cartons of Super Star Speech books covered with a tablecloth. I do my morning Bible study here.


I added a pretty box to hold my books, pens, and reading glasses. Much neater!


Do you have any organizing projects planned?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Do You Lapbook?

Lapbooking has become quite popular among homeschoolers in recent years. Emily has completed several lapbooks this year and we’ve found that they make a fun hands-on way to reinforce what she’s learning. In case you are not familiar with lapbooks, they consist of a collection of creatively shaped mini-books, each with a brief topic or set of facts. The typical way to display the mini-books for a lapbook is to use 1-3 file folders taped or stapled together. Lately, Emily has preferred to put the mini-books in a spiral notebook. We’ve found that a bit simpler as well as easier to store. Either way, the choices until now have been home-made solutions.

Pear Educational Products has recently brought out a line of supplies for lapbooking that make the results both more “professional” looking as well as a bit easier for mom and student.

The products include:

Fold up project bases (5 for $7.95-$9.95)

image image

Project Base Adhesive Strips (10 for $3.75)


Blank project books come in sizes 6x8”, 9x11.5”, and 12x12” ($3.25-$6.95)


We received a sampling of these items to try out. The project base is just a little smaller than a file folder, so it is a much easier size to store. Emily loved it—I’ve never seen her put so much effort into decorating a lapbook cover.


We adhered one of the Project Base Adhesive strips to the folder—Presto! Ready to put in a 3 ring binder! This is really a great way to organize lapbooks! I love love love these!







We look forward to trying out one of the project books next. I really  love the pockets that can store minibooks until they are mounted in the book.

These great lapbooking supplies can be purchased directly from Pear Educational Products or from Hands of a Child.

I received a sampling of Pear Educational Products free in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Desert Gift (Review)


“For every marriage that takes an unexpected turn”  …from the cover of Desert Gift, by Sally John. 

Jillian Galloway is nationally known marriage expert with a radio show and a just-published book about marriage. She is at the top of her career and home life, or so she thinks. Then, her husband drops the bombshell that he wants a divorce. Immediately, Jill’s personal life and career begin to fall apart. She works to determine what part she played in the breakdown of the marriage that she thought was good as she fights for the future of her marriage, struggles with the knowledge that her ministry to couples may be nothing but a fraud, and learns to truly submit to God.

I stayed up into the wee hours of the morning finishing  this book. It was filled with raw emotion, from fear to despair to hope. I lived along with Jill as she searched to find out who she really was and worked to heal past family relationships. Ultimately, this was a book about heartache and conflict, but more so, a story of hope. Furthermore, the novel was filled with insights and truths that I could apply to my own life. A great read!

I received a free review copy of this book from Tyndale House. All opinions are my own.

Monday, May 9, 2011


When we do a unit study, I gather together everything I can find on the subject, both from our home and our public library. I keep everything in a basket for easy access. Here is our collection from the study of Africa that we just finished:



Saturday, May 7, 2011

Homeschool Cleanout Winners

The winners of my Homeschool Cleanout Giveaways are:

Early Learner Books #3 Karen

The Organized Home Schooler #16 Jeanine

What’s in the Bible


Have you seen the new “What’s in the Bible series”? We have the first 4 DVDs and love them. You can find out more and enter to win episode #5 at Canadianladybug Reviews.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Paradise Valley, by Dale Cramer (Review)


Paradise Valley tells the story of an Amish community in Ohio in 1922 in which children were ordered by the court to attend public schools. When the families refused to comply, several of the men were put in jail and children were put in a state-run home. In response, some of the families moved to Mexico, where they started a new Amish community, Paradise Valley. In Mexico, the families encountered many changes and difficulties, including threats from marauding bandits. This fictional story was based on true life events. The author’s grandparents and great-grandparents were involved in this “Mexican experiment.”

I really enjoyed this book. The circumstances made it quite different from other “Amish books” that I’ve read and the dangers and cultural differences of life in Mexico made it interesting.  The characters were likeable and believable and there was just enough suspense to keep the story moving quickly. Although the conclusion was satisfying, there were some ends left untied which make me think that a sequel will follow. I will look forward to that.

I received a free review copy of this book from Bethany House. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Fun Learning DVDs (and 50% off deal)

Emily and I recently received two DVDs from the Cerebellum Corp. to try out in our homeschool. Last year, I reviewed the Light Speed AP English and Composition Test Prep DVD and we own several of the Standard Deviants Spanish videos, so I knew that Cerebellum Corp. likes to make learning fun with their products.

Standard Deviants: Learn World Geography ($19.98)


 Learn World Geography has 3 parts: “Africa: Safari, So Good,” “Russian Around Europe,” and “North America, Ho!!!” The  90 minute video is face-paced and jumps around between narrators, maps, cartoons, and photos in a way that will easily keep kids’ attention. Countries, economy, history, and climate are all covered. We’ve just finished studying Africa, so that segment was a good review for Emily and she enjoyed trying to name the countries and rivers before they were named in the video. I thought that a LOT of information was included in each 30 minute section.

My daughter thought that it was “alive and active.”  She said,“ It gave me facts that I didn’t already know. I liked that they told the countries by regions so they were  easy to learn.”   She frequently laughed at the antics of the narrators.

My 15 year old neighbor watched the Africa section with us and thought that it was aimed at younger kids, but said that he still enjoyed it. He particularly enjoyed the large range of African history that was taught. (It did, however, only touch on the past few hundred years of African history and European influence on Africa.)

The cd also covers geographic vocabulary.

Just the Facts: Inventors ($24.95)


This 30 minute DVD is a documentary featuring Benjamin Franklin, Robert Fulton, Samuel Morse, Alexander Graham Bell,  the Wright brothers, George Washington Carver, Nikola Tessla, and Thomas Edison. I found it to be a nice, factual introduction to each of these inventors. The narration is accompanied by colorful drawings and paintings of the inventors and inventions. This title is geared toward middle and high school aged students. It held Emily’s interest well.

Watching this DVD after the World Geography one, Emily commented that, “This one is too serious.”  and “It was educational and interesting and I learned a lot of things I didn’t know before.”

Cerebellum is offering a GREAT coupon for 50% off all items on their site! The coupon code is DVD50. It is valid until June 30,2011 and cannot be used with any other coupon code or promotion.

I received  free review copies of these videos from the Cerebellum Corporation.

No Work Spanish!


I’ve included Spanish instruction off and on in our homeschool for years. Unfortunately, Spanish is one subject that is easy to push aside. We have a variety of Spanish curriculums, games, videos, cd’s, etc. My goal for Emily (and for my other children at her age) is to expose her to the language and have her pick up some of it.  I’m not necessarily trying to earn credits or require her to master a curriculum at this point. I really prefer more natural learning. My older children all took Spanish in high school and found it easy because of their prior exposure. Because Emily is from Guatemala, I think it is even more important for her to learn Spanish because of the cultural connection.

I was excited to have the opportunity through Mama Buzz to review “No-Work Spanish audiobooks.” The concept fits right in with my desire for “natural” learning and, of course, “no-work” sounds great, too! Emily loves to listen to books on tape, so she was excited to try them out.

Two books are currently available at No Work Spanish, with a third title out soon. We received both Yaks March on Washington and Poster Girl. Each of these engaging stories is read in both English and Spanish. A sentence is first read in English, then repeated in Spanish. Then the chapter is repeated in Spanish only.

We listened to Yaks March on Washington  twice.  I found myself able to understand much of the Spanish if I concentrated and Emily could pick out a few words. She really laughed at the voices and sound effects made by the narrator. Then we listened to Poster Girl. Emily enjoyed this particular story more and told me that she could understand most of the Spanish! Poster Girl is a fun story for kids that reminds me of the Beverly Cleary books that we have always loved. I appreciated that Poster Girl began each chapter with a list of vocabulary words to listen for.

I just pop the cd in the player whenever we’re in the car. Emily asks to hear them and I have high hopes that this program will help to improve both our Spanish abilities. We will probably purchase the next cd (The Case of the Missing Poodle) when it comes out.

You can buy No-Work Spanish as a  CD or MP3 download at ($14.95-$17.96), Amazon ($8.99-$17.96) and CDBaby ($9.99).

You may also connect with No-Work Spanish on Facebook.

This was a Mama Buzz review. I received free review copies of these CD’s from No-Work Spanish.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Life in a Power Outage

We went for almost 5 days without power after the recent storms and tornados that swept through Alabama cutting off all the power feeds from TVA to our entire county. We also lost both house and cell phone coverage for 2 days, so were rather isolated for a while! I am so grateful that we escaped any injury or damage. My prayers go out to all who were not so fortunate.

My biggest concern was losing all the food in our freezer. Otherwise, it was a bit of an adventure and experiment in creative living.

Our lighting source after dark:


In the evenings, I read to Emily by flashlight. We went to bed early and got up early to save battery power.

I remembered that we had this wind up radio and dug it out of a box of stuff from when we cleaned out Chris’s office several years ago.


My son came over the first day, and desperate for “media,” played old ‘78’s on our antique Victorola.


I forgot to take pictures, but were able to cook on our propane-powered pop-up camper stove. Our neighborhood is all-electric powered, so most people weren’t able to cook. We invited some friends and neighbors over one night to help us eat up some of our rapidly-thawing freezer goods.

The weather was sunny and in the  70’s, so without the distraction of TV, video games, and computers, the neighbors were all outside, doing yard work, and visiting. That part was nice.

We’re back to normal now, and I am really appreciating hot showers and lights, but in a way almost miss some aspects of our power-less adventure as well as appreciating the conveniences I used to take for granted!