Wednesday, April 29, 2015


Have you ever looked at some of the individual seller prices on Amazon and thought, “What in the world?!”  $80, $100, $200 for a $10 item! Do these items actually sell? Do buyers possible purchase without looking at the price?

I’ve been selling my Super Star Speech books through Amazon for years. This month, they’ve had some sort of glitch and the books have been out of stock for 2 weeks; nor has Amazon sent a purchase order to me for more books. (I did just contact them and they ordered 2 books, despite my pointing out that over 60 copies usually sell per month.) I have no idea what’s going on.


Suddenly the price of the few copies sold by individual sellers has skyrocketed. If you wish to buy a copy of Super Star Speech (list price $39), you now must pay from $215 to $999!  I think my book is pretty good and I’m proud of it, but please don’t expect to receive $999 of value from it!

I just listed Super Star Speech: Speech Therapy Made Simple--Expanded Edition myself for $39 on Amazon, and sell them on the Super Star Speech website for only $28, if you prefer a reasonably priced version.  To the seller of the $999 copy: Sorry!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Spy Party

When Emily turned 9, she had a spy party. We took photos of all the girls dressed as spies, and the main activity was a treasure hunt which kept them running around the house and yard for quite a while hunting, climbing, crawling, and burning off energy.  After the treasure hunt, they watched Harriet the Spy. Fun memories!

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Saturday, April 18, 2015

Biology Lab—Botany Week

We’re coming to the end of our biology course; just one more week of labs to go! Modules 14 and 15 have been on plants. I think all the students (and I) thought that these modules have been a bit easier.

Over the past few weeks, the students have dissected flowers, drawn them, and labeled the sepals, stamen, ovaries, ovules, pedicel, anther, stigma, and carpel.


Observed and drawn slides of cross sections of Zea mays (corn) and Ranunculus (buttercup) roots and stems. Although they are all tired of doing microscope studies, they did agree that the plant slides were the easiest to observe of the year.


They completed leaf collections and identified leaf mosaic, shape, venation, and margins of each leaf.


And they identified types of fruit. I put out 16 different varieties of fruit, from apples and bananas to wheat kernels, to maple seeds and holly berries and they tried to categorize each type as a berry, pome, grain, capsule, pod, drupe, and so on. Then they compared their results and debated any discrepancies in identification.


plants game


We used our remaining class time to play “Climb the Vine,” a game I designed several years ago. This was a good review of the material from the two botany chapters.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Artistic Pursuits High School Book One (Schoolhouse Review)

ARTistic Pursuits Review

I’m a big fan of ARTistic Pursuits curriculum and was very happy to have the chance to review High School 9-12, Book 1: The Elements of Art and Composition. We’ve previously used ARTistic Pursuits Sculpture Technique: Construct and some of the elementary level books and have really enjoyed them.  Emily has recently shown more interest in drawing, so this particular book was the perfect choice for her.


The Elements of Art and Composition is written directly to the student and requires no adult instruction. I did skim through the lessons she was working on and as she worked on each assignment, I would ask her about it and about what concepts from the lesson she was including.

Each of the 16 units has 4 parts: Building a Visual Vocabulary, Art Appreciation and Art History, Techniques, and Application. Each of these lessons includes both instruction and a drawing assignment for a total of 64 assignments  in the course. The suggested schedule for the course is completion of 2 1-hour lessons per week for a full school year. The course teaches the use of both drawing pencils and charcoal.

Each unit focuses on one concept, such as space, line, texture, shape, or proportion. The concept is explained and illustrated and the student is given a “challenge your vision” assignment that helps the student see the world in a different way. The assignments include tasks like taking a walk to look for particular shapes or colors,  crawling in the grass looking for and drawing different shapes of leaves, and drawing random squiggles on a page and shading them.

A lesson from each unit includes technical instruction and opportunity for students to practice using techniques like shading, drawing with perspective, and drawing shadows.


The third and fourth lessons of the unit give assignments at allow the student to further practice the unit concept and to produce a more “finished” piece.

P1050276One of the features that I love with Artistic Pursuits program is that it includes not only art instruction, but art history. European art is the focus for this particular volume. Within each unit is a print of a work of art that is used as an example of the technical focus for the unit. The use of active vs. passive space is analyzed in this medieval painting. Da Vinci’s horse drawings are used to demonstrate the use of light and heavy lines in a drawing.

Lessons also include biographical information about artists. The student will learn about Leonardo da Vinci, Renoir, Durer, and many more artists.






The works of art in the book include masterpieces, professional examples, and student art. I like that the student art is included because it gives the user of the program examples of what might be accomplished and examples of art that are not perfect, but still show the concepts and give the user a realistic idea of what a teen might be able to produce.








Emily’s Thoughts:

Emily tells me that she likes that the program is teaching her techniques like shading and drawing texture. It doesn’t  teach step-by-step how to draw something, but directs her to incorporate different concepts into her drawings. It’s helping her think about how objects feel (texturally) when she draws them.

She thinks it is improving her drawing and helping it to look more realistic by using lighter and darker shades as she draws.

I am happy to have this  Artistic Pursuits volume for Emily to learn from because drawing and art are definitely not an area I have much expertise in, so it is wonderful to have a self-directed program that doesn’t require me to teach the subject. I know she will continue to use and to enjoy this program through the upcoming year.

High School 9-12, Book 1: The Elements of Art and Composition sells for $47.95.

ARTistic Pursuits Review

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

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Orphs of the Woodlands (Schoolhouse Review)

Star Toaster Review

Emily has spent many hours over the past month playing a new educational online game by Star Toaster, called Orphs of the Woodlands.  Although the purpose of this game is primarily to encourage reading, it also includes content in the areas of math, science, Latin, vocabulary, critical thinking, and life skills.


To begin the game, the student “applies” to be part of a spy team. Then he or she may start reading the story, which stars the student as a squirrel spy-in-training who is trying to battle “night creatures” and to rescue the many orphs (orphans) of the woodlands. Throughout the chapter, vocabulary words are highlighted and if the student hovers the mouse over the word, its definition will appear. Most of the definitions appear as lists of synonyms for the target words, so the student is actually exposed to several potentially new vocabulary words. The vocabulary words are repeated several times throughout the story for additional reinforcement.


Each chapter also includes pop-up links for quotes, recipes, and math and science video lessons.


Elements like letters that open when clicked on make reading more interactive and fun.  It reminds me of those books that have envelopes and mini books inside them.


At the end of the chapter, the student is offered the opportunity to do “jobs” to earn gold stars. These gold stars enable her to care for orphs by providing them with shelter, food, medicine, etc. Each job begins with a short lesson. (Many of these lessons are also linked to in the chapters, so the student may have already viewed them while reading.)






(Reading big numbers lesson)






Then the student answers a question or two about the topic and is awarded 6 or more gold stars. She may complete a few or all of the available jobs, earning additional stars for each job completed. More jobs appear after reading each additional chapter and any jobs not completed can be returned to at any time. We did discover, though, that if the student answers a question wrong, she may not return to it to earn stars. Emily was guessing her way through the jobs (Yep, that’s my lazy child) and missed out on earning a lot of stars in the first few chapters..


The recipes can be printed and prepared. We haven’t done this yet, but there seem to be some good recipes for foods like goulash, nut bread, and vegetable soup. There are also several tea recipes, as one of the characters is a prolific tea drinker. The recipes include health tips (peppermint is good for digestion, red peppers are good for your skin) and cooking tips (how to determine when pasta is cooked “al dente.”)

The Thinking Skills topic includes comprehension questions about the different characters. I had difficulty myself with this task, since it expects the reader to remember many physical characteristics of the characters. It also teaches tips for memory such as making moving mental pictures or associating silly words with a character to help remember traits.

Students will learn common Latin phrases like “Caveat Emptor” and “Carpe Diem.” Some of the longer phrases were rather difficult to remember for someone with no Latin background.

Star Toaster uses the Memorytyper system to help students learn quotes. I’ve used this before to memorize scripture and have found it very effective.


The game is intended for grades 4-7, so some of the content has been easy for Emily who is in 9th grade. I still considered quite a bit of the content beneficial for her, though. She’s an avid reader, so she didn’t need the motivation to read the story, and improving reading skills was not really a need, but she did enjoy the story, was exposed to new vocabulary (SAT Prep?), learned some Latin phrases, and was exposed to some famous and motivational quotes. Many of them encouraged persistence and other positive character qualities, and I enjoyed reading them as well. Additionally, she reviewed math and science concepts that she has already studied.

I think that Orphs of the Woodlands is a great combination of learning and fun. It is very creative, the story is well-written, and it covers a lot of subject areas. I find that many educational games are too heavy on the fun and light on learning, but this one has a good balance. The whole experience is learning, but it doesn’t feel like “school.” It would be a great summer reading program or homeschool supplement.

Orphs of the Woodlands: The Treasure of HighTower costs $19.99 for a 60 day subscription. For 15 chapters of learning fun, this is a lot of content. You can sign up for a free trial and get the first 100 pages to try it out for yourself.

Star Toaster Review

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

Thursday, April 9, 2015

A Day in the Life…

This is what a typical school day in our home looks like:
I get up, then poke my head in Emily’s room to wake her up. My goal is actually to get up by 7:15, so I have more of a head start on her, but I’ve been seriously slacking lately! It takes me about about 15-20 minutes to get ready in the morning and takes Emily 45 minutes, so I still have a head start on her. Don’t ask me why—I can get dressed, put on make-up, and make my bed in 15 minutes, but it takes her so much longer to get downstairs, typically with an un-made bed and in her pajamas!
Quiet time for me. I make coffee, put the dog outside, then spend time with my Bible/devotional/prayer.
Breakfast. Occasionally I will cook, but we typically make our own…cereal, oatmeal, leftover muffins or banana bread.
This is when Emily is supposed to start school. Sometimes it happens! She usually starts with Fix-It Grammar or Greek Morphemes Lessons vocabulary. We’re alternating weeks for grammar and vocabulary study. Then she does her math lesson (Singapore New Elementary Math 2).  She continues working until lunch time. When she’s ready for a break from the books, we watch the CNN student news show for the day. This week, we’re also trying to get back in the habit of doing PE, so 3 days a week, she’ll be taking a PE break for Family Time Fitness.
I do a bit of housework, take care of emails and perhaps work on my blog or reviews.
I finish up sewing any outstanding mermaid tail orders and get the days’ shipments ready to send.
Lunch. We used to do read alouds during lunch, but Emily outgrew this last year. Now she just prefers to read on her own. Sad smile
12:45  Emily reads in her room. Sometimes this is an assigned book, like historical fiction or a literature book. Sometimes she chooses to read her history or biology textbook. Sometimes, she reads whatever she wants. She is theoretically supposed to read for an hour, but she would rather read than do anything else, so this tends to stretch out longer.
2:00-5:00 Finish schoolwork. I would love for Emily to finish her work by 3:00, but sadly, this seldom happens. With her increased load for high school, her tendency to dawdle and be inefficient in the morning, and tendency to stretch her afternoon reading time out for hours, it usually takes her all day to finish (if that even happens).
I spend the afternoon sewing or doing computer work. Sometimes I run errands or schedule meetings for the early afternoon. If I’m lucky, I can eke out an hour or two to just sit and read. With the wonderful spring weather we’ve been having lately, I’ve been indulging in some time sitting out on the deck to read.
In the evenings, we occasionally watch a movie or a history documentary (more school!). When Emily heads to bed at 8:00 or 9:00, I spend another hour or two sewing.
That’s our day! It’s a pretty quiet life, since it’s just the two of us at home. We sometimes have school group activities or field trips and have a biology lab class every Friday afternoon that add a bit of variety to our days.
Real Life Homeschool Blog Hop

Discover real life in other homeschools with the Schoolhouse Review Crew bloggers! Join the blog hop to read more! Here are a few of the other blogs that are participating.

For This Season

 Unexpected Homeschool

For Him and My Family

 As We Walk Along the Road

Growing in His Glory

Homeschool Coffee Break

Daily Life

There Will Be A $5 Charge For Whining

 Proverbial Homemaker

ElCloud Homeschool

Dial Miracle Oil Hand Soap (Giveaway)

Dial Miracle Oil Soap Giveaway

This week, I tried out another variety of Dial Hand Soap—the new “Miracle Oil” variety. Miracle Oil is infused with Marula Oil to deeply hydrate skin and to protect it from skin damaging free radicals.

I wasn’t in love with the scent of Miracle Oil Hand Soap—it just smelled like soap. I prefer some of the other Dial varieties better. The soap did leave my hands moisturized  and seemed similar to other  moisturizing soaps that I’ve used. However, my daughter spontaneously commented that she LOVED the Miracle Oil Soap. She liked the smell and really noticed that her hands were softer after using it. Maybe that’s because she doesn’t use hand lotion as often so there was more a difference for her? I don’t know, but we have a split opinion in our household between “good” and “great” for this product!

Would you like to try it for yourself?

Enter here to win 2 free bottles of Dial Hand Soap!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Dial brand provided me with a sample of Dial Miracle Oil Hand Soap in exchange for a product review. However, all opinions are my own.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Compass Classroom Sale


Compass Classroom is now having a big sale right now with up to 50% off each of their products. From the brand new “Homeschool Made Simple”  video series to the entertaining Word Up and Visual Latin Programs to Economics for Everybody and Dave Raymond’s American History, Compass Classroom products are unique and entertaining. We actually already own almost all of them and have loved everything we’ve tried.

This is a good opportunity to stock up for next year. (affiliate link)


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Juggling Work and Homeschool

Real Life Homeschool Blog Hop

I have always loved being a homeschooling mom and homemaker. A few years ago, I found that I needed to start bringing in some income in addition to my homeschooling “job.” (The backstory in a nutshell is that my husband left me/us 8 years ago. Four years ago, he stopped sending any financial support at all, leaving me to fully support my children and myself on my own.)

I have been extremely blessed that I have been able to earn money from home. I’m definitely a homebody and introvert, so I know that working outside the home full time would totally wear me out, without adding in the challenge of homeschooling on top of that. I’ve also been able to work just part time for the most part, although I am juggling 3-4 different jobs!

Job #1

Writer/publisher. Shortly after Chris left, I started writing my first Super Star Speech: Speech Therapy Made Simple book. I self published the book, selling it on my website and on Amazon. That branched out into 4 books, which were eventually combined into one larger volume. Then, I wrote Language Lessons: From Listening Skills to Conversation, a companion book addressing language skills. These days, I’m not writing, other than blogging, so my commitment to this business has been primarily filling orders, which doesn’t take a lot of time.

Job #2

Two years ago, I became a counselor for our homeschool cover school. My duties here include attending school events, scheduling meetings with families to help them choose curriculum, collect attendance and grade reports and help in whatever way needed. We also have formal portfolio review committee meetings with high school students in May; I help give achievement tests, write the monthly newsletter, etc. Some meetings are at my home; some are at the school office, but I’m able to fit them in around my other responsibilities (or vice versa). Some months, this job requires only a few hours of work; other months, the time adds up to several full days.

Job # 3

I make mermaid tails that I sell on Etsy.  This job can get crazy busy through the summer and pre-Christmas.

Job #4

Speech pathologist. I sometimes do speech therapy from my home. This is an off and on endeavor.

So, how do I do it all?

I can’t claim to have it all figured out, but for me, the key is good time management. If I don’t make lists and schedules to follow, I get easily overwhelmed.  I schedule most meetings in the early afternoon. Some weeks, I’ll have several; some weeks, I have none. This has worked well for me, because I try to have Emily finish the most difficult of her schoolwork in the morning, so she needs less assistance later in the day. She actually does most of her work on her own now, anyway.

I try to keep a general schedule for sewing. If I sew for one hour in the morning, one hour in the afternoon, then two hours in the evening, the orders don’t overwhelm me, I’ve given myself permission to take breaks, and I don’t feel that mermaid tails are completely taking over my life. I would like to work out a stricter schedule-- for example, allotting a certain time period each day for housework, blogging, and other computer related activities. Dealing with customer questions and other email demands can suck up a lot of time. I really think I would be better off to sit down at the computer twice a day to deal with it all at one time. I haven’t mastered that, yet, though, and tend to be at the computer off and on all day long!

I try to keep a list of things to do, especially if it is a busy week. Just writing the to-do items down, then crossing them off the list allows me to move them out of my mind. From mailing packages to bookkeeping, to newsletter writing, if a task is written down, it’s more likely to get down on a timely basis and I’ll be less stressed.

Teaching my child to work independently. I like to be involved in Emily’s education. We’ve never been a “textbook” family, so just handing her a stack of books to work through hasn’t been my style. I prefer unit studies, hands-on activities and reading together. However, by high school Emily needs and wants to be taking more responsibility for her schooling, so expecting her to work more independently is working well. I check in with her every hour or so to be sure she is on track, and am flexible enough to take 30 minutes to go over a difficult math lesson with her whenever she needs me. We often watch documentaries together in the evenings, watch her Dave Ramsey Financial course videos together and discuss her literature and history reading assignments throughout the day.

I do miss the days when homeschooling finished at lunch time, the kids had a quiet time in the afternoon, and I had free afternoons to curl up with a book, but I also feel extremely blessed that God has provided me with opportunities to earn a living from home and I am able to make it work while homeschooling.

Discover real life in other homeschools with the Schoolhouse Review Crew bloggers! Join the blog hop to read more!

Life at Rossmont

A Stable Beginning

Happy Little Homemaker

Joyful Hearts and Faces

 Day by Day in Our World

Mama's Coffee Shop

 Delightful Learning

 Double O Farms

 Tales of a Homeschool Family

 Home Sweet Life

A Rup Life

Monday, April 6, 2015

Real life homeschooling

Real Life Homeschool Blog Hop
I’ll be participating this week in a blog hop on “real life homeschool,” sponsored by the Schoolhouse Review Crew. We all know that our “perfect plans” in any area of life seldom work out as perfectly as we had envisioned, especially when other people (especially children!) are involved. I’m also looking forward to reading about how other families REALLY experience homeschool on a daily basis!
When I started homeschooling 22 years ago, I had visions of  great organization and planning on my part, eagerness and high quality work by my children, lots of hands-on art projects and science experiments, and hours spent snuggling on the couch reading together. We have experienced these, but we’ve also experienced plenty of sloppy work, falling behind schedule, and skipping those fun time-consuming projects.
My older daughters were great students. They would have succeeded in any setting. They loved to read; they were attentive and motivated to check things off the list. They could focus and finish most of their assigned work by lunchtime. They were the easy ones!
My son was very smart, but was very wiggly and easily bored by long tasks. He was full of creative ideas and spent his middle school and high school years doing things like building computers and filming videos. Attempts to have him sit at a table and work for long periods were not successful. We had to try out different curricula to find something he would do well with. We used Saxon math one year—he hated it! Looking at that page of 25 problems was overwhelming, even if I only required him to do half. He didn’t need a spiral approach and knowing that he had to do long division every day, even if it was only 2 problems frustrated him. He didn’t need a lot of practice, but he needed to be challenged. When we found Singapore math, he thrived. The short lessons, different every day, and the challenging word problems kept him engaged. I really think he would have thrived with a more delight-directed or even unschooling approach, but I could never quite give up the control to go in that direction. Even today, as an adult, he is interested in many topics and will self-educate on anything that piques his interest. (Sitting through lecture classes in college was torture for him, though.)
Emily  is even more distractible. She can sit at the kitchen table for hours with nothing to show for the time! Day after day! She also forgets skills and topics that she’s learned before, so I find myself cycling through the same topics over and over again. She also gets easily frustrated with anything she finds difficult. I will readily admit—I am not at all patient about doing so! She is 14 and I am still trying to figure out how to get through our days with maximum output and minimum obstinence. I’m dealing with serious heart issues with her. I know that her attitude is the cause of many of the schooling issues and am in a lot of prayer about how to reach her and turn her in a better direction. I’m still convinced that homeschooling is the best option for her and that God has called me to homeschool, so I am pressing through.
Homeschooling has been a blessing for us and I have never (well, seldom) regretted making the choice. But it can be hard! It requires prayer. It requires being willing to change course when needed. And it requires giving up some of those dreams of being the “perfect family” for just doing the best we can and trusting God to do the rest.

Discover real life in other homeschools with the Schoolhouse Review Crew bloggers! Join the blog hop to read more!
Every Bed of Roses
 Ben and Me
 Footprints in the Butter
Mountain of Grace Homeschooling
 Counting Our Blessings
Homeschooling for His Glory
 Ozark Ramblings
 Chestnut Grove Academy
Only Passionate Curiosity

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Improving Language Expression Skills


There are many aspects to the development of language skills, including auditory memory, vocabulary, comprehension, and language expression. Here are some activities to practice language expression and question answering with your child. These activities are excerpted from my book, Language Lessons: From Listening Skills to Conversation. I hope you will find them fun and helpful.

Answering Questions/Language Expression

Answering questions requires complex language skills, including auditory memory, vocabulary, and previous knowledge. Children sometimes need to be taught to listen for the wh-word that begins the question and to understand the difference between "what," "who," "where," and "when" in order to answer the question appropriately. The question exercises below are organized by type. As an added challenge, mix up the types when you ask the questions. Always discuss and explain the answers if your child has difficulty.

Give your child two or three words and ask him to put them into a sentence. For example: boat, fish --We went out on the boat to catch some fish.

· potato, soup

· finger, touch

· lemon, fruit

· book, hide

· smell, fish

· peas, meat

· cave, explore

· refrigerator, milk


If/ Then Statements: Have your child complete each statement.

· If you are hungry, then ________.

· If you are tired, then ________.

· If you are cold, then ________.

· If you are wet, then ________.

· If you are thirsty, then ________.

· If you need to write something down, then ________.

· If the doorbell rings, then ________.

· If the room is dark, then ________.

· If your teeth are dirty, then ________.


Show your child a picture and ask her "who," "what," and "where" questions about it.

Gather objects from around the home and yard and ask, "Where does this belong?" about each one.

Gather photographs of family members. Ask, "Who has blond hair?" or "Who is your sister?" or "Who likes to eat ice cream?"

Ask questions about the room around you. "What is on the shelf?" "Where is the piano?" "Which piece of furniture is the tallest?"

What? Questions:

· What do you do with soap?

· What do chickens give us?

· What do you pick from an apple tree?

· What do you use to draw a picture?

· What do you use to eat cereal?

· What animal swims and says, "quack?"

· What do you put on if you are cold?

Where? Questions

· Where do you keep milk?

· Where does a fish live?

· Where do ducks live?

Who? Questions

· Who helps when you are sick?

· Who cleans your teeth?

· Who takes care of animals?

· Who teaches children?

· Who cooks in a restaurant?

· Who grows food on a farm?

When? Questions

· When do you wake up?

· When do you eat breakfast?

· When do you go to bed?

· When do you wear a coat?

· When do you eat?

· When do you brush your teeth?

· When do you take a bath?

· When do you wear a swimsuit?

· When do you say, "ouch?"

· When do you use a towel?

· When do we put gas in the car?

Why? Questions

· Why do you brush your teeth?

· Why do you wear a jacket?

· Why do you wash your hands?

· Why do you go to bed?

· Why do you read a book?

· Why do houses have windows?

Ask your child to describe:

· his room

· a favorite meal

· a playground

· the beach

· a circus

· the zoo

· the kitchen

· a dog

· a family member

· a swimming pool

Give your child an "answer." Ask your child to ask a question that fits the answer.

· at the table (Where do you eat dinner?)

· wash your hands (What should you do after you use the bathroom?)

· moo

· meow

· at church

· in the sun

· at the beach

· to bed

· the doctor

Ask your child what he would say in each scenario. Discuss.

· You lost your sweater at the park. Mom asks where it is.

· You need to do your math assignment, but you can't find a pencil.

· You need to buy your friend a birthday present.

· You are going out of town and want to ask a friend to watch your hamster.

· The phone rings, but your hands are covered in paint.