Sunday, May 31, 2015

Blogging Woes

I have been a long time user of Live Writer. I find it easy to compose my posts offline, especially since I may work on a post off and on for days, especially for reviews. I was dismayed to discover earlier this week that suddenly, Live Writer wasn't able to post to Blogger. Google has changed their authentication system, and suddenly Live Writer, which hasn't been updated in several years was not compatible. After considering several options, including composing directly in Blogger; composing in Live Writer, copying the HTML to Blogger, then adding in the pictures manually; and posting from MS Word (still no good because it won't upload pictures in a post), I learned of a simpler solution.
Apparently, I can upload posts through email. This video explains the simple process:  This is a test post, so I'm hoping it will work.
And here is a test photo:

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Evaluating Our Year

Recently, I had a new idea to involve Emily more in the evaluation of our past school year. I pulled out all of the resources we have used this year and spread them on the kitchen table. I wrote the names of online resources on index cards so that they would be represented as well.


Then I gave Emily a pad of sticky notes and asked her to rate and label each item with numbers from 1 (high) to 5 (low) according to how well she liked each book or program. I was actually a bit surprised with some of her assessments—quite a few programs/book received 1’s or 2’s. We discussed why she liked or disliked each item. Then we talked about learning styles and about which learning methods were most helpful for her.

Not surprisingly, her favorite activity was reading—anything from a novel to a textbook. (Her Apologia Biology is actually the only traditional-type textbook we use, though.)  She also thought she learned well through videos. She also enjoys writing and some computer-based instruction.  Hands-on activities tended to be her least favorite (and the assignments she tends to procrastinate on). She really enjoyed these when she was younger, but I’ve noticed that her tastes have changed in the past few years. Since we’re going back to Sonlight Curriculum next year for history and English, I anticipate a great year with all those wonderful books!

This was a fun way to evaluate our year and to get Emily thinking about how she learns best and I plan to make it a yearly tradition.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

New Michael W. Smith CD! (Giveaway)

Sovereign (Deluxe Edition), Michael W. Smith
Michael W. Smith is one of my all-time favorite Christian artists, so I’m excited that he has a new album, Sovereign, that just came out. He released a video of the song, Sky Spills Over, today. Fun video—you have to watch it. (It even stars 3 of his grandchildren!)
And….enter here for a chance to win a copy of “Sovereign!”
 a Rafflecopter giveaway
  "Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Monday, May 25, 2015

Have you Built Your Bundle Yet?

Over 200 products in 19 bundles priced starting at just $10!
I’m excited this year to be involved with the Build Your Bundle Homeschool Sale. The Build Your Bundle Homeschool Sale is NOT a typical bundle sale. Every bundle has been hand selected to contain curriculum from popular homeschooling publishers. Many of these products are on Cathy Duffy's Top Picks lists.

I am so excited to be participating contributor this year with my Super Star Speech: Expanded Edition. This $26.95 book is included in the Special Needs Bundle of 8 different books that sells for only $10! Seriously, if you have ever thought about purchasing Super Star Speech, you’ll never find a better deal on it!


Some of the other great things that I love about this sale:

  • Something for EVERY budget, starting at just $10.
  • Buy more and save more with the "Buy 2 Get 1 Free offer! "
  • 19 individual bundles to choose from. Want to see a list of the bundles? Click here!
  • Pick and choose what YOU want to purchase at huge savings with the "Build Your OWN" Bundles!
  • Classes & Memberships at 50% off (math, foreign language, government & elections, core curriculum classes, planning and recordkeeping, and more!)
  • Every customer who makes a purchase (even just $10) will get the "Bundle of Bonuses Book", which contains hundreds of dollars worth of free stuff and exclusive coupons for homeschoolers.

Some of my favorite publishers participating are: Journey Through Learning, Math Essentials, and Homeschool Legacy.

Since I have a high school student, I’m looking at the High School Bundle that includes full courses in Nutrition, Brititsh Literature, Art, and Government, as well has many shorter studies. Impressive for $39!

IMPORTANT: This sale is a once-per-year event that lasts for only one week. Trust me when I say you do NOT want to miss this! Sale dates are May 25 - June 1st, 2015. Click here to view the bundles!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

15 Years Old!

I can’t believe my baby is 15 years old! Where did the time go?


Monday, May 18, 2015

Unbroken (Schoolhouse Review) Review Review

We were recently offered the opportunity to review a movie from Looking over the options, I realized that Unbroken Legacy of Faith Edition would be a perfect supplement to our current World War II study.

Unbroken is the true story of runner and World War II hero, Louis Zamperini. Zamperini was a troubled child, a juvenile delinquent who was smoking, drinking, and stealing well before his teen years. Few people had hope for a positive future for this young man. While he was a teenager, his brother encouraged him to try out for a track team. He was a very good runner and this new talent turned his life around, giving him goals and focus for the first time in his life. He qualified to compete in the pre-World War II 1938 Olympics in Berlin, and although he didn’t win a medal, he attracted the attention of Adolf Hitler.

When World War II began, he went into the military, fought in the Pacific Arena, and was involved in a plane crash in the Pacific Ocean. After floating on a raft in the ocean for 47 days, surviving on raw fish, beating away sharks, and being shot at by Japanese fighter planes, he and his remaining crewmate were picked up by the Japanese and sent to a prison camp. The movie chronicles the story of his experience with several years of abuse in the camp at the hands of a infamous guard who was nicknamed, “The Bird.” After the war, the 68 lb. man was sent home to rebuild his life. At this point, he was not a Christian, although he had repeatedly promised God that he would serve Him if God saved him from his ordeals. After coming back to the U.S., and struggling with post-traumatic stress syndrome and alcohol abuse, he eventually turned his life over to God and became a new man.

We really enjoyed the movie. It told an amazing story…one we would have believed to be fictional if we hadn’t known differently. It was rather graphic at times, as one would expect from a movie depicting plane crashes, starvation, and beatings. Because of this, I would suggest parental discretion, especially for more sensitive students. I think it’s fine (and a valuable story) for high school students, but elementary aged children would probably find it too intense.

The edition we viewed included an disc of additional content, which included various interviews of  Louis Zamperini, as an old man, by Pastor Greg Laurie, CNN, and the Billy Graham Evangelical Association.  This additional content was quite worthwhile and fleshed out the story by providing more detail about Zamperini’s faith journey. What really struck me was how accurate the actual movie was. Typically, movies fictionalize much of the story, but all the events Zamperini described on the interviews were depicted exactly the same on the movie.

Zamperini died just last year at age 97.  In the interviews, at the age of 90+, he was still a sharp and active man with a wonderful sense of humor, who obviously enjoyed telling stories of his youth and of his faith journey and we enjoyed watching the “extras” as much as the Unbroken movie itself. Review

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

Motivate Your Child Action Plan

Action Plan book image

A few months ago, I reviewed the Motivate Your Child book. This very helpful book focuses on helping children develop internal motivation rather than relying on parent-initiated behavior modification techniques.

I just had the opportunity to review the brand new Motivate Your Child Action Plan. This book takes the principles of Motivate Your Child and turns them into a step by step process to help you reach the heart of your child. The book includes access to 12 audio sessions—one per chapter. I found these very helpful, since the authors provided even more examples and ideas. Reading Motivate Your Child is not necessary to implement the Action Plan, but the Action Plan does suggest which chapters to read in Motivate Your Child for each topic if you’d like additional support.

Implementing any plan for change first requires identifying the problem, so this is where Motivate Your Child begins. The parent chooses one character quality that the child to needs work on, and develops a plan, using five motivators:

  1. Firmness
  2. Visioning
  3. Teaching
  4. Spiritual Energy/Prayer
  5. Coaching

The child is involved in the process of change through frequent discussions and is encouraged to take responsibility for help develop a plan for change.

The interactive plan includes checklists and spaces to write out ideas, insights, and results. Instead of writing in the book, I used a notebook, thinking it would be easier to have everything together to look back on instead of thumbing through the book. If the book had not provided space to answer questions and document our journey, though, I probably wouldn’t have bothered with the notebook.


I chose to focus on the character trait of “responsibility.” We defined responsibility as taking the initiate to complete schoolwork in a timely and conscientious manner and as remembering to clean bedroom and bathroom in the morning before breakfast and to keep them clean. The area of responsibility is broad, but I started the project by limiting it to something more manageable. We have been making some progress, although Emily has a long way to go. I think the visioning step was helpful to her as I explained that developing responsibility would allow her greater independence to make her own decisions, more privileges because I would trust her more, and less nagging from Mom. I have had to put forth more effort as well in being firm with consequences and making the effort to praise positive behavior, tying it to growth in responsibility. I’m hoping to achieve good results with the Motivate Your Child Action Plan and to begin work on another character trait soon.

Interested in learning more? The book is on sale right now ($29.95 or $36.99 for the original Motivate Your Child plus the Action Plan.) Use the coupon code, AP5BGT for an additional $5 off. The original Motivate Your Child e-book is currently on sale for $2.99 from May 18-20.

Also, the mega-giveaway that includes this book and lots of other goodies is still open until Wednesday.

I received this book to review in exchange for my honest opinion.

Friday, May 15, 2015

We The People/ Homeschool Legacy (Schoolhouse Review)


Homeschool Legacy Review

Homeschool Legacy publishes a variety of units studies for grades 2-12 on a variety of subjects, including pirates, birds, horses, and American history.  These studies are unique in that they are designed to be used “once a week” for 4-8 weeks, depending on the study. “Once a week” means that the bulk of the activities are done on one day. On the other days of the week, the student will read (or listen to) books about the subject and possibly watch a related movie. This set-up makes it great for families who want to try out unit studies on a trial basis or continue using a textbook approach four days a week, but add a little “fun” or group activity to their existing schedule.Homeschool Legacy Review

Emily has been using We the People: Getting to Know Your Constitution, for the past few weeks. This 8-week study of the Constitution is designed for grades 4-12 and is in PDF format. Each weekly lesson includes:WTP

  • A list of suggested books and videos. Other resources may be substituted if your library doesn’t have the suggested ones.
  • A recommended book for family read-aloud
  • A family devotional
  • Research activities
  • Other activities, such as cooking, matching games, field trips, art appreciation, and drama.
  • Links to online resources, such as short videos, paintings, etc.


The 8 lessons in this study cover the state of the new nation (under the Articles of Confederation), Constitutional Convention, Bill of Rights, legislative, executive, and judicial branches, amending the Constitution, and national symbols.

We’ve used unit studies before and they have been family projects. This time, I decided to have Emily work on the study by herself, since she prefers to work more independently now these days. Although this isn’t exactly how the study was designed, it worked well for us. My main responsibility was locating a variety of books on the weekly topic. Some were recommended resources from the library and others were similar books that we already owned. She could have done this herself, but I did it as a time saver. I was happy to see that using the specific books listed isn’t required. Our library didn’t have some of them, but similar books worked just fine.

We started each week by doing the devotional assignment together. The devotional for this particular study focused on the faith of the founding fathers and how their faith affected their views and the writing of the Constitution. Many quotes were included that reflected or repeated passages from the Bible. We looked up each of the corresponding verses and had some good conversations about how Biblically literate our founding fathers were and how many people today might hear these quotes and not take note of the references to scripture.

We also watched some videos together, including a movie about the writing of the Constitution and National Treasure.

P1050282Other than that, Emily read through the material, followed the web links to learn more, read through the books I had gathered for her, and wrote out definitions and essays as assigned. She also did a hands-on activity each week. The first week, she made hoecakes, as George Washington may have eaten. Other activities included doing a “Preamble Puzzle” to help her memorize the P1050304Preamble to the Constitution (which she did in a surprisingly short time), playing a matching game to learn the Bill of Rights, and coloring a political map of the US with red and blue states. There was generally only one hands-on activity per week, which suited us well, since Emily prefers reading, discussion, and videos to hands-on learning.

Emily spent about 2 hours a week on the unit study in addition to reading and video time. After she finished, I asked her questions about the material to find out what she had learned.

Each week included a memorization assignment, such as related Bible verses, the Preamble, and part of the Declaration of Independence.

One unique characteristic of the Once-A-Week Studies is that they are aligned with American Heritage Girl and Boy Scout badges. Activities that fill badge requirements are marked so that students are able to earn badges while doing their schoolwork. It’s great to be able to count schoolwork to meet scouting requirements as well.

We really liked all the included links that are embedded into the PDF file. They included informative videos, maps, articles, and even a fun video of Barney Fife trying to recite the Preamble to the Constitution.

We found this Homeschool Legacy Once-a-Week study to be enjoyable and easy to use. I think it might be a challenge for many students at the lower end of the age range, but it was just the right amount of challenge for my ninth grade student.

Homeschool Legacy Review

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

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Learning as much as my kids

I’ve been homeschooling for over 20 years now.  I was attracted to homeschooling for many of the typical reasons—individualized education, flexible schedule, more time with my children, the ability to impart my values and shelter my children from influences and values with which I don’t agree. One perk of homeschooling that I didn’t foresee when I began, though, was the learning I, myself, would be doing! I am well educated, with a master’s degree, but I have learned so much through the years, even while teaching at the elementary level.

I’ve taught through the cycles of  U.S. and world history several times; I’ve taught all areas of science; art history, Spanish, and more. Because we’ve primarily used a literature based approach, I’ve spent hours reading to my children, and more hours reading the books that they read on their own. I’ve found myself more and more interested in history as I’ve covered it, even at a child’s level. My grasp of world history, especially, was poor before I began this homeschooling adventure.

Recently, I’ve been making an effort to educate myself in different areas that I don’t necessarily have to learn with Emily. Using a couple of products from Crew reviews, I’ve been working on my Spanish with Mango Languages (reviewed last year). I’ve been trying to spend about 10 minutes a day on this. It’s not a lot, but it’s helping to refresh my very rusty high school Spanish.

I’m thrilled to have access to a PianoWithWillie subscription as part of an upcoming review, I’m working on my also rusty piano skills. Although I can learn to play pretty much anything (with practice), my theory skills are abysmal. I know nothing about chord theory or improvising. I can’t play by ear other than a simple right hand melody. I’m hoping to remedy that with this great program. (Yes, Emily gets to use it, too, but I’m probably going to be the primary user this time!)

I’m even thinking about doing some math with the CTC Math program that is a new review this week. I’m pretty solid through algebra and geometry, so I haven’t had any trouble helping Emily with math this far, but I don’t remember much beyond that. I always liked math--way back in high school when I last studied it--so it might be fun as well as useful to relearn some higher math. If I can just carve out some more time in my day!

What have you learned in your role as a homeschool teacher?

Monday, May 11, 2015

What does a day in our home school really look like?

Here are some scenes you might see in our home on a typical school day:
Reading in bed!
Eating breakfast on top of a biology book!
Working wherever she is comfortable


Wearing pajamas all day!


And yes, Emily often does get dressed and sit at a desk to work. But as long as her work gets done, she has a lot of freedom to move outside of traditional schooling parameters. One of the many advantages of homeschooling!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Animal Lover!

Out of my 4 children, Emily definitely holds the title of “animal lover.” This is her little parakeet, Kiwi, that she rescued from a neighbor’s garage. He loved to sit on her shoulder as she did her schoolwork. (The parakeet she has now is not very friendly, sadly, and bites her when she tries to play with him.)


Even Katie, who used to be our animal-hater loved Kiwi.


Emily with Macy, as a puppy. Macy is “helping” Emily do her schoolwork. There’s a theme here!


Emily meeting a snake at our school science fair.


We also used to have guinea pigs as pets. They were sweet and cuddly. I miss them except for the cage cleaning! Emily would love to have more pets, but I think two is enough for now!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A+ Interactive Math (Schoolhouse Review)

A+ Interactive Math Review

A+ Interactive Math is an online site for homeschool math instruction from K1 through Algebra I. The Full Online Curriculum provides complete math instruction for each grade level through the use of teaching videos, interactive quizzes, and online worksheets.

We were able to review a new addition to the site, the Adaptive Placement Test and Individualized Lesson Plan. This program is intended to assess a student’s math skills and fill in gaps by identifying and specifically remediating weak areas.. This program ($29.99 for 3 months) can be used as a supplement to any math curriculum.

Although Emily is on, or even a little above grade level in her math, she has always needed a lot of review. She’ll seem to be solid on a concept, but if she doesn’t practice it for a few months, she may forget it. I feel like we’re on a spiral with her math education—pressing forward, but cycling back periodically to reteach areas that she may have forgotten. She is studying geometry this year for math, with some algebra review mixed in. I thought that the Adaptive Placement Test and Individualized Lesson Plan would be great for her to work on her algebra skills and bring them up to speed. Unfortunately, we signed into the program to discover that, although the full curriculum covers through Algebra I, the Adaptive Placement test only covers through Pre-Algebra. This was not clear to me from the website. Therefore, I had to sign her up for the Pre-Algebra test and lesson plans.

When you sign into the site, you will have options to take the Adaptive Placement Test, view reports (test results), view the lesson plans, or watch tutorials.


The first thing the student will need to do is to take one or more sections of the Adaptive Placement Test.  These 10-20 question tests cover many areas and the student can choose to do just one test at a time, finish several, or even complete all of the tests in one sitting. Emily did a few a each work session. It turned out that the Pre-Algebra level wasn’t a bad choice for her. Although each of the concept areas should have been quite easy for her, quite a few gaps in her math skills showed up. Although I’m sure many of the weak areas were pure carelessness, rather than lack of competence, she ended up with quite a lot of catch-up work to do (a good lesson in being careful the first time!) This adorable Progress Report demonstrates how close the student is to mastery of each concept. It is viewable from both the student page and the parent page. These are the results of her first assessment. The little men actually walk across the screen toward the goal when you load the page. So cute!



After Emily took a test, lessons were generated for each concept area, depending on what type of questions she missed. She was assigned from 2 to 10 lessons in each concept area that she didn’t pass.

Each lesson included a short multimedia video (Emily said that they explained the concepts well and that they were very helpful), followed by an interactive question and answer set. Then she was able to complete a 10-question online worksheet on the topic. She moved through these quickly, covering 3-4 topics a day.


This is one of the video lessons:



The worksheets show just one multiple choice question at time. When the worksheet is completed to the student’s satisfaction, she must click “finalize worksheet.” The results will then appear in the parent reports. Emily didn’t realize this at first, so it appeared that she hadn’t done any work. Fortunately, all work that was not finalized was saved under “pending worksheets” and could be marked as finalized later.  Although she scored 100% on most of her worksheets, if she made mistakes, or if the program glitched in the middle of a worksheet, she was able to attempt the worksheet again until she made a 100%.

After 4 weeks of daily practice with A+ Individualized Lesson Plans, Emily retook the tests and made significant improvement. She still has a few topics that need work, but I was pleased to see that she had many of the weaker areas have been brought up to grade level.


The parent page is very helpful. Not only was I able to see whether Emily had passed or failed each test, I could view her answers to each question to see what she had missed. I was able to see the score and topic for each worksheet she had done and the date on which it was finalized. That helped me keep up with her progress without looking over her shoulder as she worked.

This would be a great program for short term use for struggling students or for any student who may have some gaps. Other Crew members reviewed the Family Math Packages, which is a complete math program. You can find those reviews on the Schoolhouse Review Crew Blog.A+ Interactive Math Review

A+ Interactive Math is currently running a great special—40-71% off both the Family Math Packages and the Adaptive Placement Test and Individualized Lesson Plan programs.

Spectacular Sale Event - A+ Interactive Math Onlie  - Building a Foundation You can COUNT on!

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



Monday, May 4, 2015

Huge Parenting Giveaway!

A few months ago, I reviewed a great parenting book, A Christian Parent’s Guide to Raising Kids Who Do What They Need to Do Without Being Told. The focus of this book is reaching the heart of your child in order to help him or her develop self-initiative and positive character qualities. The authors, Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, RN, BSN, have now published a new companion book, Motivate Your Child Action Plan. This new book goes beyond the helpful information in the original Motivate Your Child, to help parents devise a specific action plan to help their children. I’ve started reading and putting this book into action, and am finding it very helpful. Would you like a chance to win your own copy of this hot-off-the-press book plus a bunch of other goodies? Keep reading to find out more….

Motivate Your Child Action Plan Giveaway

To celebrate the release of Motivate Your Child Action Plan, we are joining other members of the Launch Team in a wonderful giveaway filled with an iPod Touch, $50 iTunes Gift Card and several biblical parenting products! A value of nearly $350! Here's what you could win: 

Apple iPod touch 16GB Black/Silver  ($195 value) 

  • In the Box - iPod Touch, Apple EarPods, Lightning to USB cable, QuickStart guide
  • Brilliant 4 Retina display with Multi-Touch IPS technology
  • Front-Facing FaceTime camera with 1.2MP photos & 720p HD video recording.  
  • iOS 6 features - Siri, Apple Designed Maps, Integrated Facebook, Shared Photo Streams, Passbook & more

iTunes Gift Card ($50 value)

Because you'll need apps and music for that iPod Touch!

The Christian Parenting Handbook and Companion Guide ($56.95 value)

The Christian Parenting Handbook contains nuggets of parenting wisdom condensed into 50 short chapters, each one biblical, practical, and relevant for parents of children ages 2-18. Learn appropriate ways to correct, instruct, and set limits. Glean wisdom for dealing with emotions, conflict, and developing closeness in your family… and much more. These 50 strategies provide you with hands-on tools for parenting children of any age.  The Companion Guide is a workbook of 50 lessons along with 50 audio tips to take you through The Christian Parenting Handbook step by step. Each lesson contains advice from Dr Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller in a 5 minute audio tip and then offers teaching, an assignment, a Bible verse, and a prayer to help you apply each idea or strategy in your family. The tips are available to you as MP3 downloads and access to them comes in the workbook.

Family Time Activities Book Bundle ($45 value)

Your kids will have fun learning about God's Word and how it applies to their lives. Science experiments, art activities, and games are all designed to reinforce spiritual truth. Each lesson is clear and simple, yet profound even for parents! You'll teach kids how exciting it is to learn about God and his ways. Your kids will love these books, but more importantly you'll build spiritual memories of Family Time in your home. Titles in this giveaway include:  Seeing Is Believing  Playing for Keeps  Running the Race Enter the Giveaway using the Rafflecopter below! This giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY to those 18 years of age or older. Void where prohibited by law. a Rafflecopter giveaway Join us for the Action Plan Facebook Party on Wednesday, May 20 at 9:00PM ET. There will be even more prizes and giveaways there and the authors of Action Plan will be present to answer your questions! The winner of this giveaway will be announced at the Facebook party!

RSVP here for the Party! 

Action Plan Facebook Party