Thursday, June 30, 2016

Family Wedding Pictures

It was so wonderful to have the whole family together for Allison and James’ wedding last week. Now that three of the kids are grown, it is so rare to have them all in one place at one time.


Tuesday, June 28, 2016 (Schoolhouse Review)

Notebooking Pages LIFETIME Membership

Are you familiar with notebooking? Notebooking is a method of homeschooling that encourages students to write and draw about what they learn instead of using more dry traditional classroom methods such as answering questions at the end of textbook chapters. It allows students to feel more ownership of their work, work more independently, and provides a great record of what they are learning. I received a Lifetime Membership from to review and found that the many resources here make the process of notebooking even easier and more fun to implement.

About Notebooking

Notebooking fits in well with our homeschooling style. We have always followed a literature-based approach for history and preferred discussion, “real books” and hands-on activities for science. I have had my children write reports, draw, make timelines and label maps rather than writing short answers to questions. That’s what notebooking is about—allowing the children to demonstrate what they’ve learned in a way that allows creativity and follows their interests. We’ve never used pre-printed notebooking pages, but found them easy to incorporate into our schedule.

What is included in a Notebooking membership?

Basically, hundreds of ready-to-use pages on a huge variety of topics. In addition to generic pages with pretty borders, your choice of standard or primary rule lines, and boxes for adding drawings, you have choices of dozens of topics in:

  • Alphabet pages
  • Bible characters
  • Famous People
  • Fine Arts
  • Geography
  • History
  • Holidays
  • Language Arts
  • Science/Nature

Each of these pages comes in several formats. You can choose pages with or without a picture or picture box in several layouts and choose standard or primary ruled lines.

A book of centuries is also included for creating a timeline in a book format. Just this item alone can cost $10-$30 dollars from other companies. (We have one from another company that we’ve used for years. It’s a great alternative to a wall mounted timeline.)

Free Notebooking Pages Product Sampler from

A FREE MEMBERSHIP is available to that provides a generous sampling of pages. It’s definitely worth a try. You may discover that the free membership is all you need or it may tempt you to buy the Lifetime Membership to have access to all the materials (with more still being added!)


How did we use Notebooking Pages?

Our primary focus for this review period was American history. I printed out a stack of pages on topics and people that we had recently studied or would be studying soon. Some, I assigned to Emily; others I just made available for her to choose. That way she could write about topics that were most interesting to her. We found pages on all the early presidents, Santa Fe Trail, Lewis and Clark, the War of 1812, the Constitution, and so on. As she learned about a topic, she’d choose a notebooking page that corresponded or a generic page if there wasn’t a pre-designed page for that topic and wrote a few paragraphs to summarize what she had learned. She really enjoyed doing this and it was a great way to record what she is studying and for me to see what she had retained from her reading.


Notebooking will be a big part of our school plans for next year and I’ve already printed out a lot of pages to use. Emily will be doing a human anatomy and physiology course using Great Courses videos and some other non-textbook resources. I plan to have her “make her own textbook” by notebooking what she has learned each day. I was thrilled to discover that in the human anatomy topic, in addition to the simple notebooking pages available for other topics, there were many diagrams with parts to label. These will be very useful!


The following semester, she’ll be doing a “history of science” course, again with non-textbook resources, so we won’t have access to ready-made comprehension questions or tests. I plan to have her do pages for each scientist she studies as a record of what she is learning.

I think it would be fun to do a poets study as well that would include poet biographies and copywork of poems. Really, one could incorporate notebooking into almost any subject.

Navigating the Site

Immediately upon signing up for my Lifetime Membership, I received several emails. The first, the “Membership Tour and Important Info.”  included very specific instructions for logging on and navigating the site.



The second email was an “EasyStart Guide” that provided a 5 day plan for getting started with notebooking.  Daily instructions included tutorials to work through, how to start a notebook, and creating the first notebook page. These guides were wonderful for easing the “Aack! Now I have access to thousands of notebooking pages. I don’t know what to do or where to start!” reaction. If you are new to notebooking, you won’t have to worry—these tutorials will get you started without any stress. There are even videos that give tips on how to incorporate notebooking into your school!


What we thought:

I was impressed with the wide variety of pages available. And of course, there are many many generic pages with a variety of formats and borders for use with any topic you can dream up. I loved that there were so many topical pages with illustrations—that makes the finished product so much nicer. Emily said that she is enjoying notebooking because it “helps her remember what is is learning better.”

If you are looking for a way to document informal schooling or if you have never tried schooling outside of the textbook approach, I encourage you to try out notebooking….and makes the process very easy!


Connect with

Twitter:  @NotebookingPgs

  Notebooking Pages Lifetime Membership Reviews

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

Thursday, June 23, 2016 (Schoolhouse Review) Review

During the past month, I’ve been trying out a new (to me) homeschool record-keeping program. provides a system for online record keeping and planning for nearly every aspect of your homeschool. My School Year (Homeschool Record Keeping) costs $40 a year, which is a reasonable price for a subscription-based record keeping program. A subscription cover an unlimited number of students, which is great for large families.

My School Year manages and keeps records of many aspects of your homeschool:

  • Lesson plans
  • Attendance
  • Grades
  • Materials used
  • Book lists
  • Activities
  • Awards
  • Transcripts

To get started with My School Year, you need to enter basic information, student names, address, school name, dates for the current school term, etc. This will be used when creating transcripts. Then subjects and classes are added for each student. At this point, you will be ready to start creating lesson plans.

Individual lessons can be created by choosing the class and entering the information for each lesson. A couple of short cut options are also available. “Quick split” can take a resources with a specified number of pages and divide equally it among a specified number of days. For example, if you want your child to read a 346 page book over two weeks, the program will schedule an equal number of pages to be read each day. Rapid repeat allows you to schedule items with the same resource and different lesson numbers for a period of time (Saxon Math, lesson 1; Saxon Math, lesson 2; and so on). This is fairly limited, though, since the numbers need to be sequential. If your curriculum is divided into “Week 1, Days 1-5,” for example the only way to handle that is by scheduling one week at a time, or all the “day 1’s,” and so on. The feature still saved me some time over entering each subject individually.

Additional lesson planning features include the ability to reschedule lessons for a later date or to copy lesson plans for use with another child.

Each lesson can be marked as complete and grades entered. The program keeps track of progress.




Here is an assignment sheet created from the lesson plans. It was quick to print out and I liked the check-off boxes for each assignment.


I found the entering of lessons to be rather slow and tedious. I felt that it would have been quicker to do on paper. It is nice that the program keeps track of attendance and grade averages, though.

In addition to lesson planning, there are more report features. My School Year can create keep track of book lists, materials used, grades, extracurricular activities, awards, and so on. It can also create a transcript based on your student’s classes and grades. Reports can be as specific or as general as you desire.

As books are entered into the reading logs, you have the options to include reading level, page count, price, author and other notes about the book. A report can be printed at any time for the book list or any other list.













The “Teacher’s Aid” tab offers warnings and suggestions for action. You can see below that I have a warning that my term is ending and that I need to set up a new term, and suggestions that I add awards, reading lists, or events attended to my records.


My Thoughts:

Overall, My School Year wasn’t a good fit for me. It took me quite a while to figure out some of the features. Although there is a “need help” button on every page that gives tips for using that feature, the way it worked wasn’t intuitive to me and I found it to be time consuming. After I accidentally entered Emily’s book list into materials/book list, I never could figure out how to transfer it onto her reading list for this term. Nor could I even view the list other than creating a pdf report of it. (It probably can be done, but I couldn’t figure it out.)

I really liked the reports that I printed out. The lesson plans are attractive and have check-off boxes. They were helpful to give to Emily each day with her assignments and it was just as easy to print off a week’s assignments at one time. Likewise, the book list report was attractive and ideal for including in a portfolio.

The program has a lot of features, more than some other record keeping programs that I’ve used, but just wasn’t easy enough for me to enjoy using.

My School Year has made several improvements to the program just in the short time that I’ve been a member, so the company obviously has a commitment to improving their product to meet the needs of their customers. If you want to try out My School Year to see if it is right for your family, a free one-month trial subscription is available.

Homeschool Record Keeping { Review}

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

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

LearnBop (Schoohouse Review)

LearnBop for Families Review

LearnBop for Families Review

As we are finishing up our school year, I needed something to give Emily just a bit more practice in Algebra 2 because I want her to be very solid in the subject before she goes on to pre-calculus next year. LearnBop provided me with a subscription for review that came at just the right time! The program was already available for classroom teachers, but LearnBop for Families is brand new, though. We reviewed the single student plan, but a family plan is also available.

LearnBop is an adaptive online math program for third grade math through Algebra 2 that is designed for helping students catch up in math, work ahead at their own pace, or to fill in gaps in knowledge. It is Common Core aligned and each concept is tied to a specific Common Core standard.

Getting started with LearnBop is quite easy. From the parent account, you must choose a “roadmap” for your student. Roadmaps options include grade levels (Grade 3 through algebra 2) and subjects (measurement and data, functions, statistics and probability, etc.). When the student logs on from her account, she will do a “warm-up” exercise, which is a pre-test of about 10 questions for each unit. If any weaknesses are found, the student will need to complete some “building block” exercises before beginning the unit.

A nice feature of  LearnBop is that the parent can also set up a roadmap for herself. I did so, and have been working through Algebra 2 myself. I found this very helpful in assessing just how the program works.


The Algebra 2 Roadmap is divided into 5 units. Each unit is subdivided into multiple concepts. Within each concepts are several short teaching videos and problems (called “bops) to solve. The videos often included a “Common Misunderstanding” example, that demonstrated common errors and how to avoid them. I thought this was very helpful!


To achieve mastery of a concept, the student must receive a score of 90% or higher and complete at least 5 bops. I found that if I didn’t make any errors on the first 5 bops, I could master a concept in only 10-15 minutes. With such a high level of success, the program was quite fun, almost like a game. I found myself saying, “I’ll just keep going and do one more concept before I log off.”

Each bop has an option to ask for hints. The hint feature takes the user step by step through the problem. If the user completes all the steps, he receives credit for the bop. I really liked that aspect—it encourages the student to ask for help rather than guessing.

When bops are answered incorrectly, the user is also required to go step by step through a teaching sequence that will hopefully show him where he went wrong.












The user sees a progress chart after each bop that shows his progress.


There were aspects of LearnBop for Families that I loved. The teaching steps were very helpful. The progress charts were motivating. If the user has mastered a concept, he is not required to spend a lot of time on it to demonstrate mastery. The Warm Up tests identify concepts from earlier levels of math that the student may need to work on before completing the grade-level material.


Emily thought that the videos were very good—she said that the teachers “didn’t have boring voices” and that they explained things well. She also liked the way the program would walk her step-by-step through a problem after she missed it. She was also more enthusiastic about using LearnBop after she discovered that it would work on her Kindle Fire in addition to her (slow) computer.

We did experience a few frustrating issues with Learnbop. The answers to several questions were incorrect. Working through the required step-by-step help section might or might not register and give credit for the correct response. In one concept, after I had correctly answered 2 of the 5 bops, the program hopped me to a completely different concept, so there was no way to actually complete the first concept. If I hadn’t worked through the program myself, Emily might not have realized that the program’s answers were sometimes in error instead of her.  I feel like Learnbop needs to do more error checking of their software. Once these glitches are corrected, it will truly be an effective and fun way to practice math.


LearnBop for Families Review

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


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Wedding Day!

My daughter, Allison got married on June 18. We love her new husband, James, and are thrilled to welcome him to the family. Saturday was such a wonderful day of laughter, tears, reunions with family and long-time friends, and meeting new friends and family. As a bonus, she will now be moving to Nashville, which is only 2 hours from me instead of 6 hours away!







Friday, June 17, 2016

It’s Wedding Week!

After 1 1/2 years of engagement, it’s finally wedding week for my daughter, Allison, and her fiancé, James!  The wedding gifts are piling up; I have towers of reception supplies piled up in my dining room and filling the back of my van.

I met with her reception coordinator at her reception venue last week and have a few more last-minute details to attend to (like ironing a zillion tablecloths), but we are almost set. Allison has done most of the planning herself, so things have been remarkably calm on my end until this week!

We had talked about having me make her a veil, but there between the weddings of me and my 3 sisters, there were three veils already in the family. She made her selection long distance, so I hope she likes it in person!


She chose the one the my mother and I both wore. Doesn’t Emily look charming wearing it with a tee-shirt? (Attaching it to a comb instead of the headband is one of my yet-to-do jobs.)


We’re doing part of the reception prep and set up ourselves, so this week has been a frenzy of ironing tablecloths, packing goodie boxes for out-of-town hotel guests, organizing all the “stuff” that needs to go to the reception venue on Friday or Saturday, shopping for salad and beverage ingredients, and so on. I’ll be ready for a good nap on Sunday!


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Forbrain (Schoolhouse Review)

Forbrain – Sound For Life Ltd Review


Over the past month, Emily and I have been experimenting with Forbrain, a bone conduction headset designed to aid in attention, auditory processing, and memory. Forbrain – Sound For Life Ltd has designed this unique device to aid in attention, speech, and memory activities.

What is Forbrain?

First, I will review some basic information about the hearing process. The cochlea is a part of the inner ear. When sound vibrations reach the cochlea, these vibrations are turned into electrical signals that are delivered to the brain via the auditory nerve. There are two ways that sound vibrations are delivered to the inner ear.

The first is air conduction. Sound waves traveling through the air are funneled into the ear canal, vibrating the eardrum. This vibration is amplified in the middle ear by the ossicles (middle ear bones) and conveyed to the cochlea. Tiny hair cells (cilia) are stimulated in the cochlea, causing the auditory nerve to send a message to the brain.

The second method is through bone conduction. During bone conduction, sound waves cause the skull bones to vibrate and this vibration is conveyed directly to the cochlea. When we speak, we hear our voices primarily through bone conduction. Other sounds are conveyed to the inner ear primarily through air conduction. The sound that your brain perceives is slightly different for each. That is why your voice sounds different to you when you hear a recording of it.

Forbrain is a headset that does two things. First, the microphone amplifies the voice, sending it to the inner ear through bone conduction. (The “earphones” rest on the facial bones in front of the ears, transferring sound vibration to the bone rather than to the ear canal.) Second, the dynamic filter provides additional amplification for high frequency sounds. (Vowels are lower frequency sounds, while consonants, particularly unvoiced ones like /p/, /t/, /s/, and /sh/, are high frequency sounds.)

What are the uses for Forbrain?

According to their website, there are three primary uses for Forbrain. The first is for improving focus and attention. The dynamic filter and amplification focus attention on the voice, reducing the distraction of environmental noise and “sensory clutter” in the brain.

The second use for Forbrain is for speech improvement. The speech amplification provided by the device makes the listener more aware of his own voice, helping with speech discrimination, and hopefully improved articulation.  It can also be used for improving inflection and expression for public speaking.

The third use is for improving memory. Speaking or reading with Forbrain provides increased stimulus to the auditory pathways to the brain.



How did we use Forbrain in our home?

  1. Emily used Forbrain several days a week for practicing her Spanish. Honestly, her Spanish pronunciation is pretty poor as compared to her spoken and written comprehension levels. Part of this issue is that she really doesn’t try very hard. Foreign languages can be hard in a homeschool setting without anyone but Mom to talk to! I did see an improvement in her spoken Spanish as a result of using Forbrain. She admitted that it helped her listen to herself more carefully and she tried harder to use better pronunciation and worked on correcting her errors. They bothered her because she could hear them amplified!
  2. Emily wore Forbrain occasionally when working on her Bible or poetry memorization. I’m not sure that it helped, but she has a pretty good visual memory and I think she tends to rely on that rather than the auditory input when speaking aloud and trying to memorize. 
  3. In my role as a speech pathologist, I used Forbrain during a speech therapy session with a child who is working on her /r/ sound. I didn’t see dramatic results, but it did make her a bit more conscious of listening to her speech output. Since she is taking the summer off from therapy, we were only able to get in one practice session with Forbrain. I do see tremendous potential for using Forbrain in speech therapy. For spontaneous speech improvement, I’m skeptical, but think that it will be a wonderful tool when used in conjunction with traditional therapy techniques or even more informal sound practice. I will definitely be using this with future articulation clients.
  4. I am part of the praise team at church, so I used Forbrain when practicing songs at home and otherwise working on improving my tone and working out harmonies. I found it very helpful and fun to use.

The science behind Forbrain

If you visit the Forbrain site, you can find out detailed information about how Forbrain works, its many uses, and its effectiveness. There are not only testimonies from parents and professionals such as speech pathologists, but also some information about scientific studies in progress. Many of the claims sound quite plausible to me. There were a few claims that I had some doubts about.

For example “comprehension of the written word is greatly improved.” For an auditory learner, I can see that this could be very true. Personally, as a visual learner, I found the additional auditory stimulation distracting while reading aloud and thought it hampered my comprehension because I was distracted by my voice! I found Forbrain most helpful for me in tasks such as singing, when I was focusing specifically on my voice rather than meaning.

A possible suggested use for Forbrain is for improving fluency disorders/stuttering. As a speech pathologist, I know that any quick or easy “fix” for stuttering is very unlikely. At best, the device might prove as a distraction resulting in a very temporary improvement in fluency. Although I am skeptical of that particular claim, I’m sure the device would be helpful for articulation and voice disorders and for helping the normal speaker with minor fluency issues.

I’m very glad that scientific studies are being done with the device and will be very interested to read about the final results. (So far, the evidence seems to be promising.)

Learn more about Forbrain through their social media and by reading more Crew reviews!

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Forbrain – Sound For Life Ltd Review

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