Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Birthday Fun

I can’t believe my “baby” is sixteen years old! It’s been a joy to see her grow into a beautiful young lady.



Thursday, May 19, 2016

Memoria Press: Traditional Logic I (Schoolhouse Review)

Logic, Greek Myths and Astronomy Memoria Press Review

Traditional Logic I Complete Set, published by Memoria Press, is a formal traditional logic course written for 7th grade and up. It doesn’t cover the more commonly taught informal logic (informal fallacies), but instead teaches the system of  logic taught and studied by the ancient Greeks and later by medieval Christians in their pursuit of truth.


The course includes four components:

  • The Student Book is the heart of the program. It includes 14 chapters with teaching material and daily exercises.
  • The Quizzes and Tests Book provides a quiz for each chapter and a final exam.
  • The Teacher Key includes answers for the lessons, quizzes, and tests.
  • The instructional DVDs feature the author, Martin Cothran teaching each lesson.

This is a pretty tough course. It focuses on vocabulary and abstract concepts. Surprisingly Emily has really enjoyed it and it’s often the first subject she completes each day. The introduction and each of the 14 chapters begin with 5-6 pages of text in which the topic for the chapter is taught. The text is followed by exercises for  4 days plus a review exercises. The Quizzes and Test book includes a test for each chapter.

The text requires students to think very abstractly about concepts. For example, in the first chapter, the student learns the difference between sensing a chair, holding the mental image of a chair in his mind, and understanding the concept of a chair, even when one is not physically present. Then he reads about the difference between simple apprehension and judgment (affirming something about the chair).

We really liked that the lessons were short. Emily often did more than one lesson in a day. Once she had read the chapter, the lessons often took only a few minutes to complete. (That’s probably one reason she liked this course so well!) Each lesson explains the topic well and provides sufficient examples.  Although the concepts are abstract, the student is required to learn the definitions and to apply the knowledge in the daily exercises enough times to ensure that it sticks. There is sufficient review from week to week to make sure the student retains the material from earlier chapters.


The recommended grade level for this course is 7th grade and up, but my personal opinion is that it is better suited for high school students. I think that Emily would have been in over her head if she had attempted it in 7th grade! Now that she’s older, she is finding the study of logic quite interesting and is enjoying the challenge.

The only component we didn’t enjoy was the DVD.  Most of the content from the DVD lessons was the same as that found in the text, down to the same examples, so Emily didn’t feel that the video lesson helped her. The teacher/author also discussed and answered a few of the actual lesson questions, giving the viewer a head start on the question sets. While many students benefit from having a teacher or video lesson, Emily prefers to read the text and teach herself. She found the presentation style a bit dull as well. If your child benefits from hearing a lesson explained, the DVD set might be useful for you, but we decided that, for us, the course was just fine without it.

Read more about this program and several other Memoria Press products by visiting the Crew Blog below. 

Logic, Greek Myths and Astronomy Memoria Press Review

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

Monday, May 16, 2016

Linguistic Development Through Poetry Memorization (Schoolhouse Review)

Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization  IEW Review

Institute for Excellence in Writing offers some wonderful products, so I am always happy to try something new from IEW.  For the past month or so, Emily has been working on Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization, which is, as the title indicates, a program for memorizing poetry. The program is useful for all ages, even non-readers, and includes several components:

  • The Teacher’s Manual explains the benefits of memorization, which include developing confidence, strengthening the mind (including building new neurological pathways), and improving the ability to learn and memorize from any content area.  The Teacher’s Manual explains how to implement the program and includes 96 poems and speech to memorize, divided into five levels. It also includes explanatory notes or definitions in the margins of many of the selections, short poet biographies, and optional lesson enhancements. Purchase of the Teacher’s Manual includes download links for audio MP3’s of seven of Pudewa’s talks and the e-book version of the Student Book.
  • The Student Book includes the same selections of poetry. Each poem is on a separate page, many with illustrations. Each level has a chart for keeping track of progress and practice sessions. The Student Book is available spiral-bound as a separate purchase, or may be downloaded free with the purchase of the teacher’s guide. (We were given the spiral bound guide for this review, so it was wonderful not to have to print it out!)
  • The CD/DVD Set includes 6 discs: 5 CD’s with the poems read aloud by Andrew Pudewa and one DVD with a talk on “Nurturing Competent Communicators.”

Our Experience

Until this year, Emily had done almost no memorization. She has always been rather uncooperative about doing so and I haven’t pushed it. Several months ago, she realized that she could memorize, and could do it very easily and has been learning whole chapters of scripture. I knew that the Linguistic Development Through Poetry Memorization program would be enjoyable for her and take advantage of her current interest in memory work.

First, I watched the included DVD,  “Nurturing Competent Communicators,” which gave me a lot of motivation to incorporate memory work into our lives. This is a talk given by Andrew Pudewa, that explains the importance of good literature to the development of communication skills, including writing. He explains that memorizing good literature, especially poetry, improves focus, helps with building brain connections, improves writing skills, and has many more connections to other learning areas.

We have listened to the first cd several times to become familiar with the poems from Level 1. Later, when I read them, I can “hear” Pudewa’s voice and intonation when I read each poem! The first day, Emily memorized the first two poems, “Ooey Gooey” and “Celery.” On subsequent days, she skimmed through the poems she had already memorized and studied a new one for about 3-5 minutes. Then she would recite each of the poems that she has memorized thus far. She has already almost completed Level 1. When she starts Level 2, in addition to reciting the Level 2 poems, she will practice the odd numbered Level 1 poems on odd days and the even numbered Level 1 poems on even days. Through Levels 3, 4, and 5, she will continue to practice the poems from earlier levels occasionally to keep them fresh. Each level includes a chart to direct this practice.


The poems for Level One are all poems that would appeal to young children. They are fairly short, easy to understand, and most are funny and rhyme. They are all older poems, so many are familiar, such as Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Swing,” and “My Shadow.”  Others are new favorites for me, such as “The Yak,” by Hilaire Belloc.

As a friend to the children, commend me the Yak;

You will find it exactly the think;

It will carry and fetch, you can ride on its back,

Or lead it about with a string.


The Tartar who dwells on the plains of Tibet

(A desolate region of snow),

Has for centuries made it a nursery pet,

And surely the Tartar should know!


Then tell your papa where the Yak can be got,

And if he is awfully rich,

He will buy you the creature—or else he will not

(I cannot be positive which).

Level 1 is a great warm-up for any age because the poems are simple. As the levels progress, the poems become longer and more difficult and will appeal more to older children. Level 4 includes selections like “The Tiger,” by William Blake,  “The Quality of Mercy” from The Merchant of Venice, by William Shakespeare, and “Lockinvar,” by Sir Walter Scott. I am looking forward to Emily reaching the higher levels and at the rate she is progressing, it won’t be long. A younger student would be expected to take several years to complete memorization of all 96 poems and speeches.


We have used Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization solely for memorization. Because Emily is memorizing the poems so quickly and because we otherwise have a very full schedule, that works well for us. For families who want to spend more time with each poem, the Lesson Enhancements in the Appendix include instruction on literary and poetic devices, additional literature tie-ins (such as Treasure Island to go with Robert Louis Stevenson’s poems, or At the Back of the North Wind to go with Rosetti’s “Who Has Seen the Wind?”  Map, art and science activities are suggested for some poems. I think we’ll be likely to use more of this resource when we get to the more difficult poems.

Emily has enjoyed using Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization and I have seen significant results in only 5-10 minutes a day. Although the program is quite simple (and is easy to just pick up and do), having the sequence of poems laid out for us with a practice chart ensures that poetry memorization actually happens! I wish we had discovered the program years ago.

I’m adding this program to my list of IEW programs that I love! If you’d like to read more reviews, visit the crew blog.

Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization  IEW Review

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

Friday, May 13, 2016

Free Science Resources Across the Web


free science resources

I’ve come across some amazing free science resources over the past few years. Some are online sites and others are actual science kits and materials that you can have sent to you.

  • Science Teaching Experiments/Edison Awards Program has directions for dozens of practical and unique experiments, like testing the effects of weatherstripping, building a solar water heater, and a sun-powered hot dog cooker.
  • Physics Central is an awesome site dedicated to teaching students about physics. Once a year, they send out kits to teachers (including homeschoolers) that include a comic book with a mystery to be solved and all the equipment needed to do several physics-related experiments to solve the mystery. We’ve done this several years with a group of homeschoolers and really enjoyed the projects.
  • The Happy Scientist has some fun science videos for free, and a larger selection with membership.
  • Exploratorium is sponsored by the San Francisco science museum of the same name. You can find hundreds of experiments and learning opportunities here.
  • Do you have a student interested in forensics? The ACS ChemClub has links to lots of hands-on projects to explore the topic.
  • ACS also includes learning topics and experiments for all ages of students to help them learn about chemistry.
  • Make your own soda with these instructions.
  • Go on electronic field trips at APT IQ Learning Network.
  • Find free downloads and videos at Ellen McHenry’s Basement Workshop.
  • If you own the Burgess Bird Book for Children, this companion site includes links and activities for each chapter.
  • Handbook of Nature Study is packed with inspiration  and ideas for doing nature study with your children. Many ideas are linked to the book, Handbook of Nature Study, by Anna Botsford Comstock. This could be your science curriculum for a full year!

What are your favorite science resources?

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Purex plus Clorox Giveaway!

What do you look for when choosing a laundry detergent? If you are like me, two qualities are important: It gets my clothes clean and it is easy to use. That’s why I like 2 in 1 products like Purex plus Clorox. I save both time and money if I can use one product instead of two.

P1050655When I received a free bottle of Purex with Clorox detergent to try, I decided to do a stain test. I took two scraps of fabric and stained them with red clay dirt, coffee, and mustard. I then washed one scrap in a load with Purex with Clorox detergent and the other in a load with store brand detergents. They both did fairly well. The mustard and coffee stains were gone. The red clay was harder. Both fabrics had a small amount of stain left, but the Purex plus Clorox did a better job with the stain. The Purex stain was too faint to show up in the photo, but the generic detergent stain is somewhat visible. The fabric washed in Purex also came out whiter. I know which bottle I’ll be reaching for when I have tough loads to wash!


Close-up of remaining stain:


Would you like to win 2 coupons for free bottles of any Purex detergent (up to $7 value each)? Enter here!

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I received a free bottle of Purex from  Purex Insiders in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Zeezok Music Appreciation (Schoolhouse Review)

Music Appreciation for the Elementary Grades {Zeezok Publishing LLC Review}
Zeezok Publishing LLC sells an amazing music appreciation program called: Music Appreciation Book 1: for the Elementary Grades. This program is written primarily for elementary-aged students, but we found that the quality is so good that it is quite beneficial even up to high school age students.IMG_20160321_1822476_rewind[1]
The program includes 7 biographies of musicians: Bach, Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, Paganini, Schubert, and Hayden. (We started our study with Paganini.) The biographies are older books, written in the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s by Opal Wheeler and Sybil Deucher. I remember reading some of these books when I was a child! They are wonderfully written, interesting stories, based entirely on the lives of these great classical musicians. Even my 15 year old proclaimed that, “These books are addicting!” The books are heavily illustrated with black and white drawings and each includes several easy pieces of music that children who play the piano could actually play as they learn about each musician!

The student activity book is a hefty, 354 page guide that turns the wonderful children’s classics into a curriculum. It includes 4 weeks of activities for each musician, including reading comprehension activities, maps, additional information about each composer, character studies, lessons that teach about the instruments, reading music, elements of music, and musical eras, and even a few period recipes and complementary science experiments.  A cd with lapbook printables provides even more hands-on activities for these topics.
Finally, a disc set of cd’s features music for all of the composers (including the pieces that are printed in the biographies) and additional music that corresponds to various music appreciation activities in the student activity guide. We really enjoyed listening to this quality music during the day.
How We Used Music Appreciation: Book 1 for the Elementary Grades:
Emily is in high school, so she’s well outside the target age group (K-6) for this program. I knew that she would still gain a lot from it, though. She did most of the work independently, taking 2 weeks to cover each musician instead of the expected 4 weeks. I allowed her to skip a few activities that were particularly easy, but she completed and benefited from most of the assignments. I thought about having her do additional research on the musicians, but decided that after she had read a biography plus additional information in the workbook for each musician, that I didn’t need to require more.
We began with Paganini, the only musician in the set with whom I wasn’t familiar. In this study, Emily learned about the diligence required to become excellent at anything, even if you begin with great talent. She learned about Italy, and even made spaghetti soup for dinner one night—one of the dishes mentioned in the biography. She learned some Italian words, listened to a variety of music of her choice and made a chart labeling the style of music, sound quality, and song’s message. She learned some musical terminology, read about Napoleon, and compared music from different cultures.
Next, we skipped back to the beginning of the course (because Emily wanted to proceed in order instead of studying the musicians in random order) and began our study of Bach.  She enjoyed learning about Bach’s large family and his faith, the geography of Germany, and older keyboard instruments, such as the clavichord, harpsichord, spinet, and virginal. She was introduced to the Baroque period, learned about different types of songs, such as fugue, minuet, gavotte, cantata, and bourree,  reviewed musical note names, and learned that a recording of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2  was sent into space aboard the Voyager in 1977.
When Emily studied Handel, she learned about melody and harmony, dynamics, rhythm, and tempo and did exercises to learn the musical terms and symbols to describe these. Much of this was a review of what she has learned in her piano studies. She learned what timbre is and described the timbre of various instruments. She learned a little about the city of Venice and listened to pairs of songs and contrasted the musical styles ( march vs. lullaby, classical vs. folk, etc.) She completed a timeline of historical events that occurred during  Handel’s lifetime and learned more about his composition of his Messiah. She says that Handel has been her favorite musician so far. (And I am very much enjoying listening to his music!)
I was disappointed that there were only two recordings on the cd’s for Paganini. We really enjoyed his music and would have liked to hear more. There were many more pieces for the other musicians, though—as many as 35 for some musicians! We have enjoyed listening to the recordings and immersing ourselves in each artist as we study him. Each of the pieces printed in the composer biographies is included on the cd. The cd’s also include other pieces for listening and music appreciation in addition to the focus musicians. We compared styles of music, listened to music from different cultures, and Emily even drew pictures and designs to visually represent some pieces.
Emily has a little bit of piano playing experience, but plays at a very basic level. I am picking out some of the easiest songs from each book for her to learn as she studies the composer. That is probably the most difficult part of the study for her, but she is sticking with the challenge to master these new pieces. I think that learning about the composer, listening to his works and then learning to play one or two makes  a rich program. I’m so glad I didn’t have to hunt for easy piano music to supplement the curriculum!
Music Appreciation: Book 1 for the Elementary Grades is a very impressive and comprehensive programs. I’ve seen other music appreciation programs that don’t begin to cover this scope of information and that don’t include recordings. The biographies are wonderful all by themselves, but the full curriculum really adds to them. The depth of the program is enough that I feel good about giving high school credit for it. We plan to use this program toward a music  appreciation 1/2 credit course for Emily. At the same time, it is easy to use and simple and colorful enough to engage even children of younger elementary ages.

Music Appreciation for the Elementary Grades {Zeezok Publishing LLC Review}
I received this product free in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Homeschooling for Free

homeschool for free

As you can probably tell from this blog, I’m a bit of a homeschool curriculum “junkie.”  There are so many wonderful products available and I love to try out new things! To tell the truth, though, I think some of my favorite homeschooling years were ones when we spent very little money. There really are many resources for homeschooling that cost little or nothing.

There is a bit of a trade-off for free homeschool, though. Generally, you will spend more time putting together a curriculum, searching the library catalogs, and even teaching when you go the “free” route. You could end up with a program that perfectly meets your goals and is as rich as anything you could buy, or you could just end up with “cheap” and substandard. That is why it is important to carefully evaluate your goals and choose materials that will meet them.

Here are some possible resources:

1. The Library—my absolute favorite resource! Your children will have a much richer education if they read “real” books instead of textbooks. You can pick a subject to study, visit the library and come home with a stack of books to browse, read, and study—anything from insects to pyramids! For the early grades, I love the Five in a Row curriculum. Many of the required books and supplements are available at most libraries, so all you need is the manual and you are ready to go! You can even put together your own phonics/reading program. Libraries usually have sets of phonetic readers (like the Bob Books) that help you teach your child to decode words in a sequential manner, one phoneme at a time.

2. Notebooking is a great way to solidify learning and to keep records. Just have your children draw or write about the topics in those great books that they borrowed from the library (see above) and keep their pages in a binder. You don’t need all those workbooks—notebooking is a fine way to learn and to document your learning. If you need some inspiration, sites like notebookingpages.com offer a variety of free pages.

3. Easy Peasy All-In-One Homeschool has a program laid out for homeschooling preschool through high school, all using free internet resources. Course include “extras” like art, foreign language, and PE in addition to core classes. If you want something that’s “open and go” and fully planned, this might be perfect for you.

4. Kahn Academy has full math programs and many resources in other subjects as well. Content in non-math subjects is more geared for middle schoolers and up, but even your little ones could do math here. If you sign up for a teacher account, you can direct your child’s learning and monitor their progress.

5. I’ve found many free Spanish Resources:

  • Salsa is a series of Spanish videos for younger children featuring puppets.
  • Destinos is a video series and course for high school students and above. The videos are free online, as are computer-based practice activities. You can make this into a full 2-year course with the addition of the text and workbook, which I found on Amazon for about $3 each. (We’re using the cheaper first edition, which works just fine.)
  • Mi Vida Loca also has videos and teaching activities for Spanish. We haven’t tried this one yet, but it looks like a lot of fun!
  • StudySpanish.com is a great resource for learning basic concepts and grammar. Because it offers direct instruction and grammar charts, it’s also helpful as a resource for quickly looking something up, such as how to conjugate a verb in a particular tense.
  • Duolingo offers free instruction in many different languages. It’s also available as an app for mobile devices. I’ve used this and it’s fun!

6. Want to teach geography? These sites have free map games that will have you naming off countries in no time!

7. We’ve been watching CNN Student news each day and have found this 10 minute show a great way to help teens learn about current events. Since I’m not a regular news watcher myself, it helps me keep abreast of what’s happening in the world as well.

This list is really just the tip of the iceberg of free resources, but I hope that you can find some useful resources here and get inspired to search for more!

Favorite  FREE / Cheap Homeschool Resources

Monday, May 2, 2016

Mermaid Tail Giveaway!


I’ve been making and selling mermaid tails for swimming on Etsy for a few years now, but I’m happy to announce that my Mystic Cove Mermaid store now has its own website! My fabric mermaid tails can be used with or without a monofin and are fun for swimming, dress-up, or bathtub play. (Swimming in deep water is recommended for strong swimmers only and with adult supervision.)


Tails can be used with or without a monofin. The bottoms are partially open to allow walking. Please visit my website to learn more!

Enter below to win your choice of a MERMAID TAILAND TOP ($50 value) or an American Girl DOLL MERMAID SET ($20 value). 



Don’t want to wait for the contest to end? The Mystic Cove Mermaid website isn’t currently set up to take coupons, but you can use the coupon code “DEBHSC” on my Etsy shop for a 20% discount on mermaid tails or doll sets.

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