Friday, October 28, 2016

Friday Freebie! American Revolution Game


One of the best ways to reinforce knowledge is through games. This is a game I designed to quiz your children’s knowledge on the Revolutionary War. It’s a fun way to wrap up a unit or even to review information that you have studied in the past. Download Road to Revolution here!



Did you have fun playing Road to Revolution? Use this link to learn about the 13 US colonies and purchase Colony Quest for only $1 (reg. $3.50)  Or buy all 15 of my learning games for only $15 at CurrClick.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

CrossTimber (Homeschool Review)

CrossTimber Logo

CrossTimber is a company dedicated to “name meaning gifts.” One of their primary products is the   Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse, but they also offer mugs and music boxes, as well as some smaller items like cards and bookmarks.

Names are special. As CrossTimber explains, “When your name is spoken before God, it represents who you are, and brings to His mind your reputation, identity and relationship with Him.” Our names will be written in the Book of Life.


What makes CrossTimber unique? We see personalized items everywhere, so why is this company different?

  • They will put any name on your product. If you have an unusual name or spell your name in an unusual way, that’s no problem.
  • Every item includes the meaning of your name and an encouraging Bible verse that corresponds to that meaning. Every name is fully researched, making the item special and unique.
  • Hundreds of options are available for background art, allowing the purchaser to choose a favorite scene or motif even to choose a picture that reinforces the name meaning, such as rocks for the name, Peter.
  • Items can be even further personalized. You can ask for a different Bible verse from the one usually assigned to your name or to leave off the verse. You can have an extra message printed on the back of a mug.Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse {CrossTimber} Reviews

I was given a coupon code toward the purchase of any item on the site and decided to order a personalized mug. Before I even started shopping, I contacted the owner and asked about the meaning of my name and of Emily’s name. I received a reply within minutes.

I knew my name meant “queen bee.” Blah.  But when John from CrossTimber sent me my name meaning, it was much more special:

Debbie --Hebrew

Honey Bee, Enabler of Fruitfulness:

One of Leadership and Organization

Psalms 19:9  The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and altogether righteous. They are to be more desired than gold, than much pure gold: they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.

I love that! It is so uplifting. And the leadership and organization definitely sounds like me!

Here is Emily’s name meaning:

Emily --German

Hard Working, Industrious, Creative:

She who Devotes All Skill and Strength to God's Work

Galatians 6:9 Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

I chose to order a mug for Emily because I though she would appreciate something she could use rather than something that would hang on the wall. The hardest part of the ordering process for me was choosing the background design. There were SO MANY choices! I almost ordered a mountain scene that reminded me of Glacier National Park, where we visited recently. I didn’t see a picture that particularly illustrated her name meaning or verse, but that would have been a good option. There were some that were cute, but I didn’t know if they would seem to little kid-ish to her. I finally settled on the “Fanciful Lamplight” background. Pretty, a bit unique, and I thought the lettering would contrast well with it. 

This is the finished product. Isn’t it special? I haven’t yet given it to Emily—it will probably be a Christmas gift if I can wait that long! I’m hoping that as she drinks her tea or hot chocolate, this mug will remind her of how special and unique she is and encourage her to live up to the challenge of her name.


Here is a name card that came with the mug, also beautifully defining her name and encouraging her to “not grow weary of doing good.”




CrossTimber is sponsoring a “giftaway” for 10 different prizes, including a free plaque or mug  and $10 gift certificates. This contest ends on Dec. 4, so be sure to go enter soon! Their personalized items will make great Christmas gifts!

CrossTimber 2016 giveaway

Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse {CrossTimber} Reviews
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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Middlebury Interactive Languages (Homeschool Review)


Emily has used the Middlebury Interactive Languages program for the past two years and we have been very impressed with the courses. Emily completed the first semester of the regular High School Spanish 2 course last year. I’ve always been curious about the difference between the “competency” and “fluency” courses, so we decided to try out the High School Spanish 2 Fluency Course this year as she continues with the second semester of Spanish 2.

A semester of a high school Middlebury Interactive Language course has 90 lessons, each taking 30-60 minutes to complete. The Fluency course that Emily is using is broken up into 12 units for the year. Each unit includes 8 lessons, a review, 2 evaluations, and 2 projects involving research and writing. Each unit is focused around a theme: food, celebrations, travel, etc. and includes one or more topics of grammar instruction as well. All of the instructions for High School Spanish 2, written or spoken, are given in Spanish.

The student proceeds through a variety of activities each day, including watching short videos that introduce the lesson, matching, fill-in-the blank, and recording answers to questions. Lessons frequently include cultural information as well as vocabulary, grammar, and comprehension.









The Spanish 2 Fluency Course shows days in the the lives of teens that live in  Spanish speaking countries. Through video, the student is introduced to these teens and follows them through various scenarios. These actors don’t slow down their speech or necessarily use only vocabulary that has been previously taught, leaving the student to pick up as much as he can as he watches. Each lesson begins with a video and asks the student to answer several questions about the content. Then the activities teach and reinforce new vocabulary and grammar, often using shorter clips of the original video. This creates an immersion effect, requiring the student to listen carefully in order to get the general meaning of the conversations if not the whole conversation, much as he would have to do if visiting another country. Fortunately, the video and audio clips may be listened to multiple times and we found that we both were able to understand a bit more each time we listened.


I don’t see a huge difference between the traditional course that Emily took last year and the fluency course, but she is enjoying this one more. There is still some direct grammar and vocabulary instruction, but each unit is centered around one main video vignette. Cultural education seems to be more incorporated into the story than presented in a separate, unrelated lesson. The conversations that the student listens to are very realistic. The speakers speak quickly and chatter to each other instead of the camera, just as in real life. This really stretches the student’s abilities.




Emily is really enjoying her Spanish course this year. She often completes more than one lesson a day and is making great scores, which tells me that she is mastering the material. She says:

I like Middlebury a lot this year because they have really improved on it. I am able to understand the audio more and it repeats things that I have already learned, so that I really get it worked into my mind. The evaluations at the end of each unit are also very helpful because they pack a lot of the information I learned into the test. I find it very helpful that it is repetitive. I learn better if I hear something over and over again.

We are very pleased with Middlebury’s High School Spanish 2 Fluency Course. It is a good mix of listening, speaking, reading, and writing, with possibly the largest emphasis on listening. The teaching is challenging, thorough and enjoyable, and there is plenty of review. It is designed to be used independently, so parents don’t have to know the language in order for their students to use the program.

Want to learn more? Read my previous reviews of Middlebury Interactive Languages Spanish 1 and Spanish 2 or visit the Homeschool Review Crew blog to read reviews of other languages.

Spanish, French, German or Chinese {Middlebury Interactive Languages}

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Friday, October 21, 2016

Five Minute Friday: Park


I’m trying something new this week. I’m joining the “Five Minute Friday” challenge to write for just five minutes on a topic. This week’s word is “park.”

“Park” immediately brought me back to earlier days in my parenting life when we often spent afternoons at a neighborhood park. It was a treat for the kids to get out of the house to play elsewhere. They would run around and climb on the play equipment. In my breaks between supervising and pushing little ones on swings, I would sit on the bench and enjoy a good book.

For a while, when my oldest ones were toddlers and preschoolers, a group of church friends and I had a weekly play group. That was a special time of fun and fellowship for kids and moms alike. Some weeks, we’d meet at homes; occasionally we’d all go to the park for the morning. Now that our children are grown, we have gone our separate ways, but these young adults that were babies and toddlers together still have a special bond. These days, it seems like the only time we all get together is when another of our “babies” gets married!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Come Join the “Crew!”


Are you a homeschooler with a blog? Would you like to review some fantastic homeschool products? The Homeschool Review Crew is currently accepting applications for next year. I’ve been a part of the Homeschool Review Crew for over six years now and it has been a wonderful experience. Great (free) products to review, an active forum that offers the support of other homeschool reviewers and blogging encouragement. It does take time and commitment, but it has been great fun and an important part of our homeschool and lives for a long time. I’ve discovered curricula that has been just what we needed, learned about dozens of products that I can recommend to other families, and made some great online friends through the experience.

Read about the details at the Homeschool Review Crew blog and if you apply, let them know that Debbie Lott sent you!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Educeri (Homeschool Review)

Educeri Lesson Subscription Service Reviews

We have recently been supplementing our homeschool curricula with ready-to-use lessons from the Educeri Lesson Subscription Service. Educeri .......  Educeri a division of DataWORKS, is a source of online lessons for grades K-12. Over 1000 lessons cover topics in English, Math, History, Science, PE, Music, and more. Our focus was on the lessons available for high school students.

We primarily used the English lessons from the site and I found plenty of great material to keep Emily busy! Just the high school English category includes over 50 lessons with topics like “Analyze the Development of Theme,” “Determining the Figurative Meaning of Words and Phrases,” “Evaluate Influences on American Literature,” and “Analyze and Evaluate Multiple Interpretations of  a Literary Work.”  The lessons were meaty and very relevant. I really prefer that English courses, particularly at the high school level, consist primarily of reading and writing, rather than short lessons “about literature” or worksheets. I felt that most of the lessons gave Emily tools to interpret and write about literature, and to improve her writing skills in general. They never felt like busywork.


What is an Educeri Lesson like?

While the lessons are designed for classroom use, they were just as easy to use with one student. Each lesson is tied to a Common Core ELA standard. (While I don’t care about following Common Core, the topics were relevant for us, and were ones that I wanted Emily to cover.)

First, an opening page provides an overview of lesson content, usually in chart form. This slide can be referred back to for reference at any time during the lesson.


Subsequent slides provide practice in analyzing written material in regards to the topic. Typically, the student is asked to not only answer multiple choice or short answer questions, but to identify sections in the text that support his answer. Each click of the “next” button reveals another answer in red for checking answers as “the class” proceeds.


Discussion questions are provided in the margins for teachers to use, ensuring that students understand the terminology and are applying the concepts.


Each lesson took about an hour, but could be easily completed over two or more days if desired. The last three slides are designed for periodic review, although we’ve generally been completing the whole lesson, including the review slides at one time. A few of the slides referred students to longer works found online to use for analysis, but generally, the text was a paragraph from a longer work and was printed on the lesson page.

While a high school student could do a lesson independently (and Emily usually prefers to work independently), we did these together because I felt that discussion of the topics was an important part of the lessons. We found that most of the target literature selections were ones commonly assigned for high school reading, such as Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Walden, and Moby Dick, and other writings by Jonathon Edwards, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Edgar Allen Poe,  that Emily was already familiar with.

Other Subjects:

There were only six history lessons, covering the American Revolution, Principles of Democracy in Historical Documents, The Cold War, and Great Awakening.

The history lessons followed a similar format with passages to read, questions to answer, and identifying key phrases in each passage to support the student answer. There was also independent practice with application and compare contrast essay questions. We didn’t use any of these, but probably will when the lessons coordinate with what Emily is studying.

16 Science lessons cover a variety of lessons in earth science, biology, and chemistry. Over 60 lessons cover topics in algebra and geometry. If a student needed extra help on a particular topic, these could be useful. The teaching style is very much what a student might see as a teacher explains a topic and works out problems on a white board or smart board in a classroom.

What we thought:

The ELA lessons were very useful to us. Unless a homeschooling parent has an English degree, he or she may not be entirely comfortable teaching topics like development of character and theme, literary periods, structure and tone of a text, or figurative language. These lessons are a very nice resource that teaches concepts that can be applied to any literature.

Likewise, although the other subjects didn’t include content areas that were useful to us right now, they seem like a good supplement to other curriculum.

Other Homeschool Crew members used other subjects and levels of Educeri, so be sure to check out some of their reviews as well!

Educeri Lesson Subscription Service
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Monday, October 10, 2016

MyFreezEasy (Homeschool Review) Freezer Meal Plan Membership {MyFreezEasy} Freezer Meal Plan Membership {MyFreezEasy}

How often do you realize it’s 5 p.m. and you haven’t yet made dinner plans?  If you’re like me, this happens fairly often and you find yourself scrambling to get something on the table. When I cook, I often make an extra meal or two for the freezer, but have never tried out a serious freezer meal prep plan. Frankly, spending half a day or more in the kitchen just sounds exhausting, even if I do end up with 10 or 20 meals for the freezer. MyFreezEasy has taken the freezer plan cooking concept and simplified it greatly. In only an hour, the user can prepare and put 10 meals into the freezer for later use.

I received a Freezer Meal Plan Membership to try and found that the program has greatly simplified my daily meal preparation!

How does MyFreezEasy work?

A membership to MyFreezEasy provides the user with eight different meal plan options each month: traditional, gluten-free, all chicken, all ground beef, slow cooker, “clean eats,” 20 meal plan, and all pork chops. Each plan includes 5 recipes. Following the plan will yield two meals to serve four for each of the five recipes. Each meal plan includes recipes, shopping lists, and directions for freezer prep. for 5 recipes. A basic monthly membership costs $7 a month or $77 a year.

Although the regular membership offers ready-to-use menus for every taste, the Premium monthly membership ($10 monthly or $95) a month adds a lot of versatility to menu planning, allowing the user to customize serving sizes, customize existing meal plans or even create her own meal plans from dozens of meal options. Just choose your meals and number of servings for each, and the program will automatically create shopping lists, directions, recipes, and even labels for the meals!



Our Experience:

The first thing I did was to browse the monthly recipe plans. I decided to try the traditional plan for the month and to also take advantage of the premium membership feature to create my own plan. The meals in the traditional plan for September were Slow Cooker Spicy Mango Tacos, Chicken Fajita Bake, Lazy Lasagna Bake, Slow cooker Teriyaki Pork Tenderloin, and Slow Cooker Spanish Rice. I substituted Slow Cooker Vegetable Beef soup for the Spanish Rice, which my premium membership easily allowed me to do. The recipes I selected with the Build Your Own Meal Plan feature were Baked Crunchy Coconut Tilapia, Corn Chicken Chili, Dutch Oven Italian Chicken and Potatoes, Lemon Dijon Salmon, and Stovetop Taco Soup.

Once a meal plan was chosen, all I had to do was click “print,” and I had a complete shopping list, individual recipes, a freezer prep plan, and even stick-on labels for each dish. Super easy!


I checked my pantry and evaluated what I still needed to purchase from the shopping list, made a quick trip to the store and was ready to start!


Even with Emily’s help, it took about 2 hours to get all the meals ready for the freezer. That’s more than advertised, but still pretty good for having 10 meals ready to pop into the oven or slow cooker on a busy day.

The following day, I did the prep for the next set of meals. Again, the process took about 2 hours, including kitchen clean-up. This time, I put one of the two vegetable soup recipes straight into the slow cooker instead of a freezer bag for dinner that night.

Most recipes go into gallon-sized freezer bags, which will stack easily in the freezer, although some recipes require disposable baking pans. (I used regular pans or casserole dishes.) I was able to use quart-sized bags for a few of the meals.

Here are the results of 2 cooking sessions:


I loved the printable labels for each recipe. They include the post-freezer cooking instructions, so there’s no need to look up the recipe or do any guesswork about heating time.

I love having so many meals in my freezer. All I have to do is pull one out early in the day to thaw. Then, following the directions on the label, I just have to put the prepared meal into the slow cooker, oven or stovetop for the specified amount of time and prepare a side dish such as rice or salad. Most of the meals so far have been quite good. I didn’t care for one recipe that included carrots and potatoes. Freezing the raw vegetables, then cooking them, really reduced the quality. I think that if I make anything with carrots or potatoes, I’ll cut them up and add them on the cooking day. The Chicken Fajita Bake and Crunchy Coconut Tilapia were fabulous and I’ll definitely be adding them to the list again. We found that serving sizes were generous, leaving us with leftovers, which we always enjoy for lunches.

Here are a few of the finished meals.



I’m looking forward to preparing a new batch of meals as soon as I finish more of the 20 meals from my overstuffed freezer! MyFreezEasy has been a hit in our home! Freezer Meal Plan Membership {MyFreezEasy}

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Thursday, October 6, 2016

Friday Freebie! Super Star Speech Sampler



Does your child have trouble pronouncing the /l/ sound? Or would you just like to get a free peek at my Super Star Speech program that helps parents work with their children’s articulation errors at home?  This week, I’m offering my Super Star L Sampler for free. This volume includes teaching tips, picture cards, and practice activities for the /l sound. Please share with anyone you know who might benefit!



Book covers-002

Until November 15, 2016, you can use this link to purchase the e-book format of Super Star Speech: Expanded Edition for only $14 (reg. $21.50).  The spiral-bound print version is available at the Super Star Speech website.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Excellence in Literature Handbook for Writers (Schoolhouse Review)

Beautiful Handwriting, Literature and Poetry {Everyday Education, LLC}
Beautiful Handwriting, Literature and Poetry {Everyday Education, LLC}

Our latest review product is the Excellence in Literature Handbook for Writers by Ian Johnston and Janice Campbell. This handbook is published by Everyday Education, LLC. This amazing tutorial and reference book for student writers is actually two books in one, each with a a different focus.

Part one of the Handbook for Writers is an introduction to essays and arguments. Over 200 pages are devoted to teaching the student how to structure an essay. Campbell emphasizes that the thesis of a good essay must be “arguable.” If the reader, or the population in general, already agrees with the point being discussed, then the paper will be of little interest to the reader.

She then takes the student step by step through the writing of a quality essay from the introductory paragraph through each paragraph. The techniques she teaches are much more rigorous than the writing of a typical three-point, five paragraph essay. She encourages the writer to include paragraphs that define important terms, give background information, and provide detailed examples. She also instructs the student to outline the entire essay, including topic sentences for each paragraph before beginning the actual writing process. I am certain that a student who masters these essay techniques will produce exceptional writing.

Part two includes a more than 200 page Usage and Style guide that includes hundreds of tips and guidelines for grammar and word usage. Each topic is listed in the lengthy table of contents, making it easy to locate information quickly. Topics such as spelling, punctuation, parallel structure, formatting, and APA and MLA guidelines are all covered here.


A page from Part 2: Usage and Style


Emily is in love with this book! In fact, she asked if she could write the review herself—I’m not sure that has ever happened. Because she hasn’t been home much over the past 2 weeks, she didn’t get the whole review written, but did type up some comments on her phone and sent them to me from a mission/service trip she is on this week.

Emily’s Thoughts:

Before reading Excellence in Literature Handbook for Writers, by Janice Campbell, I was always not the best at writing reports or essays. I always had some strangely worded sentences, or kept saying the same thing. Sometimes I would even wander off the topic . After reading this book, I went back through an essay I had written and edited it, making it so much better. The book taught me how to make the essay arguable and also something that I wanted to read myself many times. Not just something that would be interesting to someone else, but also something that struck me as interesting too.

I've never read a book about writing and gotten so much out of it that it really made a difference in my writing. I feel a lot more confident with the information and tips I have now and it makes me want to use them to see how good of a writer I really can be. Not only will this help me with normal essays and reports, but it will also be very helpful with the writing part of the ACT and college essays. I can't wait to keep reading this book to learn more tips. It has helped me a lot so far, so who knows what it will bring in future chapters!

Debbie’s Thoughts:

We received the PDF edition of Excellence in Literature Handbook for Writers for review, and while it is formatted well with a clickable table of contents for navigation, I think it would certainly be worth the extra money ($39 instead of $29) for the print edition. This is a book that you will want to keep on your shelf and flip through for reference and that is so much easier with a print book. (I also tend to forget about my e-books since they are not on a shelf in front of me!) Other than that one drawback, this is a fabulous book for reference as well as actually teaching the process of essay writing.


Beautiful Handwriting, Literature and Poetry {Everyday Education, LLC}
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