Friday, November 27, 2015

D is for Deal!

(This post contains affiliate links.)
I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving! 

I don't get much into the Black Friday crazy, but this is a really good deal for anyone who is looking to buy a membership to Notebooking Pages!

This site has a *huge* number of resources for every age/grade level. Not sure how to use these resources? These tutorials are what sold it for me. I could see them in action, and understand how useful they could be.

Here is the special:

Not sure? Click here to see their free sample pages!

Happy Shopping!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

C is for Comfort

I don't know about you, but recent events have let me a little shaken. There are so many losses, and so much suffering, in so many different places around the world.


God is a God who is never shaken. He is never disturbed. He is never surprised. He is our rock, and our strong fortress, our bulwark never failing! He is the Great Comforter to His people.

I go to scripture when I need to remember just Who I serve. He is the God Who saved me from the depths of my sin, when I was lost and unable to find Him on my own. He freed me into a life of faith and thanksgiving through the shed blood of His Son - the sacrificial Savior.

If you are His child, the promises of eternal life are yours. My daughter needed to look these verses up today, for her school work. They ministered to me as I read them from the Bible online.

Come and Blog Through the Alphabet with us!

Monday, November 16, 2015


I have wrapped up my role as head of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, but the 2015 Crew Team were given the chance to vote on their favorite resources used throughout the year.
I voted too! Some of my personal favorites won! I have not listed all of my favorites, but there are some of them. Enjoy!

Favorite Writing Curriculum:

Favorite Vocabulary Program: Dynamic Literacy

Favorite History Supplement: Heirloom Audio Productions: In Freedom’s Cause 

Favorite Math Curriculum: CTC Math 

Favorite Elementary Product: Star Toaster 

Favorite Middle School Product: The Critical Thinking Co.

Favorite High School Product: Writing with Sharon Watson 

Favorite Parent Product: Koru Naturals 

Favorite Planning Product: Apologia Educational Ministries:
The Ultimate Homeschool Planner 

Best Online Resource: Super Teacher Worksheets 

Best e-Product: Home School in the Woods 

Just for Fun: USAopoly 

These are things we are using in our home! If any of those look good to you, click the link, and read how the Crew used them! You can see the rest of the results of the Crew-wide voting;
just click the graphic below!

2015 Schoolhouse Review Crew Blue Ribbon Awards

Saturday, November 14, 2015


In the midst of the horror in France yesterday, a friend of mine posted this. It is just as true today as it was in Calvin's time. If you are going to read it, read the whole thing. When I began it, I wasn't sure where it was going. It is a powerful truth. May God reveal Himself to His people in France.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Fun-Time Phonics! ~ The Critical Thinking Co. ~ A Review

The Critical Thinking Co. offers a huge variety of products and curriculum from pre-K all the way to 12th grade. We have used a few things from them and I have always been very impressed. The company has been around since 1958, and are known for their ability to add critical thinking skills in to their curriculum. This is the philosophy of the president:

One of the new products the crew have been reviewing is Fun-Time Phonics! it's designed for Pre K through 2nd grade and includes Critical Thinking and Language Arts skills. It's a non-consumable book and so a great resource for any parent with a child or children that are learning to read.

Fun-Time Phonics! is based on the findings of the National Reading Commission. It includes game-like activities that engage students through listening, thinking, speaking, and reading skills. It explains how print works as a code and then how to figure it out. The pages are bright and colorful and so can be fun for young students. There are 100 activities that you can work through quickly or spread out over a longer time frame. The book is non- consumable and so you can use this for more than one child which makes it really cost efficient. There really isn't any preparation for the teacher, it focuses on vowel patterns and aims for the child to achieve complete phonemic awareness mastery.

The 100 lessons are taught with a spiral approach, because of that it is important not to move on until each lesson has been mastered. I think this is sometimes a difficult concept because of traditional school methods. However, if you are patient and truly wait until till the child knows the material it is so much easier in the long run. That is why this curriculum is a self-paced program you can go as fast or slow as the child needs. When teaching a child to read I have always tried to ensure that they are enjoying the experience. I have never wanted to push reading or turn it into a chore. I find that reading is an experience that a child will learn to love if it's handled this way.

The book would be perfect to use with a young non-reader as it introduces things slowly and methodically. It builds on the students natural speaking skills and then helps them develop auditory skills needed to be a fluent reader. However because it gives the child bright images to look at while working on auditory skills it combines the two senses providing a higher likelihood of success for the child whether they are a struggling reader or excelling.

The 100 activities covered are:

Activities 1-3 - Beginning and Ending Sounds
Activities 4-5 - Rhyming
Activities 6-7 - Putting Sounds Together
Activities 8- 14 - Short Vowel Sounds
Activities 15-19 - Short Vowel Letters
Activities 20-94 - Consonants and Co-Articulation
Activity 95 - Identifying Beginning Letter Pairs
Activity 96 - Co-Articulating Initial Sounds
Activity 97 - Identifying Ending Letters
Activity 98 - Identifying Middle Letters
Activity 99 - Reading First Words
Activity 100 - Reading For Meaning

This book is also the winner of the Tillywig Brain Child Award, 2015. It looks simple to use but effective for the child making it really appealing. Reading is such an essential skill. It really leads all other education. If a child can read they can learn anything and the world is theirs. This program looks like an excellent way to teach reading in a way that promotes joy and a love of reading.

The Schoolhouse Review Crew have reviewed five different products from The Critical Thinking Co.



The Critical Thinking Co. has a huge assortment of products. Make sure you click on the link below and check them out. Don't forget to follow the company on social media.

(This review was written by Lisa Maynard, from Chickens, Bunnies, and Homeschool, for the Schoolhouse Review Crew.)

The Critical Thinking Company Review

Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Eat Your Science Homework - A Review

My family recently received Ann McCallum Books' spectacular Eat Your Science Homework cookbook to use and review in our homeschool. What a delightful experience that has been!

A kids' cookbook to teach science?

Yes, that's exactly what Eat Your Science Homework is!  But it's much more.  The full title of this book is Eat Your Science Homework: Recipes for Inquiring Minds.  Ann McCallum has written a book that will allow parents to teach children kitchen skills, recipe preparation, and scientific principles....with loads of fun.  With this cookbook, parents and kids will experiment with recipes and learn about science-y topics like:

  • The Scientific Method
  • The Periodic Table of the Elements
  • States of Matter
  • Density
  • Fingerprints
  • Invisible ink
  • Geology
  • Space and black holes
  • and more!
With Leeza Hernandez' entertaining and colorful illustrations of animals cooking and Ann McCallum's clear and simple lessons and fun recipes (not to mention the delicious food they produce), Eat Your Science Homework will give families hours of great times in the kitchen, as they learn scientific principles in ways that they'll remember for a long time.

Each recipe is designed to teach a specific science lesson.  So, while they're making the Atomic Popcorn Balls, for example, they'll be learning about atoms and molecules and the way atoms combine to make them.  Or, while they create a delicious lasagna for dinner, they'll be seeing a clear visual example of sedimentary rock, and how it forms.

And, if you'd like a little extra help in teaching the concepts included in Eat Your Science Homework, Ann McCallum has provided it for you!  You may download an Educator's Guide from the Eat Your Science Homework web page that will help you with this.  (Just click on the Downloadables tab on that page.)  This wonderful guide has everything from Science Bingo, to more experiments, to worksheet pages, to vocabulary sheets for the homeschooling parent (or schoolteacher!) to use.

Stirring up a Recipe
Here's how we
used it:

Rather than proceed chapter by chapter in Eat Your Science Homework, we decided to select a few recipes to start with that sounded intriguing to us.  So, we began with Atomic Popcorn Balls, Invisible Ink Snack Pockets, and Black Hole Swallow-Ups.  (I have to admit that I picked the invisible ink one, while my 13-year-old son selected the other two.)

As we dove into each recipe, we followed the same pattern of steps.  First, we'd read the "preface" of each recipe/topic, which introduced us to the topic we'd be learning about.  Next, we'd read the recipes, which told us what tools and ingredients we'd need, as well as the steps we'd follow as we cooked.  Then, of course, we'd prepare the recipe!  When we finished, we'd read a couple more pages of Eat Your Science Homework, which would tell us a bit more about the process and the scientific concept.  (This might happen before OR after we ate what we'd made!)
Atomic Popcorn Balls!

This is what we thought!

Our family has been Ann McCallum fans for awhile.  And Eat Your Science Homework definitely encouraged us in that fandom!  This book clearly teaches science, but adds the fantastic component of cooking to what kids are learning from the book.  The cooking provides one type of experiments, while the Educator's Guide gives parents some extra ones to reinforce the lessons.  It's a great combination---and our family loved every minute of the cooking and reading from this book!


You'd probably love to know where you can find this book, wouldn't you?  Easy peasy.  Just visit  Ann McCallum's website, Eat Your Science Homework , where you can purchase this awesome resource for $16.95.

(This review was written by Melanie Reynolds, from FinchNWren, for the Schoolhouse Review Crew.)

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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Fall is here again!

B is for Baking! This week, I am hitting the "keep it simple" button for the Blogging Through the Alphabet post.

I pull this recipe out each fall (and at other times of the year when I want a little fall in my diet.)

Virginia Apple Pudding

½ C butter (NOT margarine – if you can't use butter, use coconut oil. Margarine changes the flavor and it is not a good change.)
1 C sugar
1 C white flour
2 t baking powder
¼ t salt
¼ t cinnamon
2 t vanilla
1 C milk
2 C sliced apples

Preheat oven to 375. While heating, put butter in a 2 quart casserole pan and put in the oven to melt it. (I usually double this recipe and do it in a 9x13 pan.) Combine all ingredients EXCEPT the apples and stir to make a batter. Once the butter is melted in the pan, remove it and place on the stove. Pour in the batter all around on top of the melted butter. Then, put the apple slices on top of the batter and press it into the batter. Bake until the batter rises over the apples and the crust is browned; about 30-40 minutes (a little longer if doubled). Cool for ten minutes and enjoy as-is or add vanilla ice cream. 

This is a REALLY good recipe. J

Come and Blog Through the Alphabet with us!

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Teaching with Games ~ Timeline of Classics ~ A Word Write Now - A Review

One of my all time favorite homeschool companies is Institute for Excellence in Writing. I was introduced to them about 15 years ago and I have loved every single one of their products.  I highly recommend their products to both new and veteran home educating families alike.  IEW is a company that is committed to helping families to equip their children to succeed in every area of life.  In order to accomplish this task they provide materials to support parents and students in the task of learning to communicate in both the written and spoken word.

Recently IEW gave The Schoolhouse Review Crew  the opportunity to use their resource set which consists of:

Teaching with Games

Games do not come naturally to me and creating games in order to cement learning is not a skill I posses so I was grateful to discover this resource from IEW. Games are a fun way to teach and reinforce the facts and build the skills learned. Games also help to develop and refine critical thinking skills.

The DVD is a how to coaching session for you the parent on how to create games. In the presentation you will watch the author author teaching a seminar/workshop to about a dozen ladies where she talks about the types of games, and demonstrates playing the ones that are included in the book. The DVDs let you go through and see all the types of materials she suggests in action.

The eBook is a a treasure trove of teacher support. The book contains games that provide multipurpose use with any subject, in any grade with any number of students.

Each area of the book follows the same format:
  • Name of the game
  • Game Summary
  • Supplies needed to play the game
  • The process of playing the game
  • Variations of the game.

 It is divided up into six main sections
  1. "No-Prep" Games
  2. Marching Card Games
  3. Question Games
  4. Math Facts Games
  5. Make as you teach games
  6.  Appendix

 The details

  • ISBN: 978-0-9779860-7-1
  • Edition/Printing: Second Edition, March 2012
  • Copyright Date: 2007
  • Specifications: 130 minutes / 118 pages
  • Download a .PDF sample 
  • By: Lori Verstegen
  • Copyright: Home use: You may copy the contents of this Teacher’s Resource for use by multiple children within your immediate family. Disc media may not be copied.(for a full disclosure of Copyright please see the IEW product page)

Timeline of Classics

Along my journey as a home educator I have had two dreams: one is to collect beautiful twaddle free classical books for children and the second passion is chronological history with the ultimate goal of  marrying the two together. This has been a dream until now. I have been delighted to be introduced to Timeline of Classics.

This treasure trove of homeschool organized for you uses a spreadsheet format which lines up classical books in relation to the time periods of history! It includes audio and video resources and the books are lined up in both historical relevance as well as when the book was actually written. Gail also provides information on the author and appropriate reading age for each classical book.

Timeline of Classics is divided into four main sections:
  1. Ancients (5,000 BC -AD 400)
  2. The Middle Ages (AD 400 - 1450)
  3. Renaissance and Reformation (1450 - 1850)
  4. The Modern World (1850 - present)

The details

  • ISBN: Spiral: 978-1-62341-118-3, PDF: 978-1-62341-119-0
  • Edition/Printing: First Edition, February 2013
  • Copyright Date: 2013
  • Specifications: 192 pages
  • Download a .PDF sample 
  • By: Gail Ledbetter

A Word Write Now

This is my favorite new resource from IEW. Years ago I acquired a thematic thesaurus when Timothy and Jane were working through the writing course.  This thesaurus is an excellent companion to my original thesaurus and I highly recommend you add it to your bookshelf. The best part of this thesaurus is the way it helps you find words to help you build the character traits of the different character roles within your compositions. It has opened up a whole new world of describing the attitudes and emotions of people within the stories we are writing.

For example if we are writing a fable about the tortoise and the lazy hare. Looking up the word lazy we discover that a lazy person is also known as a dawdler, dullard, laggard, plodder, sluggard and slacker.  Lazy people are characterized by indolence, neglectfulness and lethargy. They are boring, idle, indifferent and inactive and find life to be tediously monotonous.

A Word Write Now is divided into four sections:
  1. Section A - Character Traits - when writing a story character plays an intricate roll in story formation. By organising a thesaurus by character traits it makes it easier for the student to use excellent descriptive words to communicate the character and emotion of their story.
  2. Section B  - Descriptive Words
  3. Section C - Words for Movement and Senses
  4. Appendix - here you will find:
    • Teaching  ideas and tips on making words a fun part of every day.
    • Words not related to time. Prepositions.
    • Literary Genres.
    • Definitions and examples of Literary Devices.
On each page you will find:
  • A definition of the original word.
  • A thought about the original word.
  • Excerpts from Classical Literature. (helps to give contextual reference to the word)
  • Words are classified by parts of speech (adjective, adverbs, verbs, etc).
  • Space to add new words which are descriptive.
  • A famous quote about the word.

The details

*This book comes with permission to photocopy and make a thesaurus for each of your children.

This year the Schoolhouse Review Crew have had the pleasure of using a few other IEW products. You can read a review of them here: Phonetic Zool Level A and IEW Deluxe Combination Level A

(This review was written by Chareen Rushworth, from Every Bed of Roses, for the Schoolhouse Review Crew.)

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Thursday, November 05, 2015

All the history!

I love history. All the history!
(This blog post contains affiliate links.)
Book of Kells,  Gospel of John
There is very little that has happened over time that does not hold a special fascination for me. Some time periods are more powerful and moving than others, but history is a passion for me. When I read a history book, I often wonder what wondrous library resources the author had the privilege of reading. Were they able to spend hours pouring over books at the British Library? Did they get to hold an ancient manuscript? What would it feel like to cradle a book in your arms that was written by monks over 1,000 years ago? More than that, what was it like to live over 1,000 years ago? I turn to historical fiction for a taste of that. Do you?

We just wrapped up a wonderful Time Travelers: Explorers lapbook study from one of my very favorite homeschool companies, Home School in the Woods. Amy Pak is the author of this delightful series, and as usual, she knocks it out of the park. The kids enjoyed putting together a lapbook that detailed the study of 12 explorers, geography mapwork for their journeys, various nautical navigation equipment, identified the parts of a ship, five reasons for exploration, and so many other things. It was great fun.

What blows me away is that the explorers, for all their faults and mistakes, were astonishingly brave. This was the way the world looked to them. (Click to enlarge.)

Ptolemy's Map, 1482
It is hard to decipher this map, but essentially, before the earliest explorers faced the dangers of the ocean waters, this was all they knew of the world. So little is actually on this map! Can you imagine leaving your family, and all that you knew to be true in the world, and sailing west? or south? The land mass in the lower left of the map is the very top of Africa, and of course the Americas were not even known to these folks. It is amazing to think of what was still unknown in the 1400's.

It is these facts that astonish me. What do we not know today? What are we missing in our world?

We are heading into one of the most powerful time periods for me, the Renaissance and Reformation. So much beauty and talent, and so much turbulence in a time of great faith. We just studied John Hus this week in our BiblioPlan text. He was one of the bravest Reformation heroes you will ever study! What a stand he made for God's truth, and for God's word! If you don't know who John Hus is, click through to our church's newsletter, and scroll to page three, and read about this astonishing man. You might find yourself wondering as I did, would you stand as firm as he did, and suffer his agonizing death for your faith?

It is humbling, isn't it? This is one of the reasons I feel it is so terribly important NOT to skip out on studying history. History is the lifeblood of the present, for what happened in the past paves the way for the future.

I can't wait to dive into this! We will be using the Artists Activity Pak and combining it with the Project Passport: Renaissance and Reformation study in addition to BiblioPlan. We are also currently reading, The Shakespeare Stealer, out loud. Up next on our historical fiction read-alouds is Danika Cooley's new book, When Lightening Struck! The Story of Martin Luther. The kids will be creating their own art too.

I asked them this week if making lapbooks was something they enjoyed, and all of them responded with a, "Yes!" These lapbooks help make history live for the kids. They bring small bits of it into focus for them. Diving into the past with the kids of the present - it is a real honest joy for me.

What is a joy for you?

Today's post is in part, for fun, part for the love of history, and in part to join up with my friends over at Through the Calm and Through the Storm and Adventures with Jude.

Come and Blog Through the Alphabet with us!

Monday, November 02, 2015

Drawing Around the World: Europe - A Review

Recently, my family was blessed to receive Brookdale House's wonderful geography curriculum, Drawing Around the World: Europe.  This is an unusual geography program for students in grades 4-12. Rather than just repetitive memorization done over and over, the student engages in creative work each day. This enables him to remember where countries are, what they look like, and a little more about each of them! The curriculum comes in both a softcover book and a PDF form. We received the PDF version for the purposes of review.


Brookdale House is a curriculum company that is beloved by many homeschoolers. Their products allow the students to learn inductively in a gentle manner. Brookdale House products include writing, grammar, rhetoric, Bible memorization, handwriting, history, and of course, geography! They even produce foreign language curricula. This geography curriculum is the first book in Brookdale House's "The Geography Drawing Series."

Because their products are created with the child in mind, and enable students to learn the way children naturally do learn, both students and parents find them inviting and very easy to use.  Homeschooling parents will love that they are very simple to teach with, as well.


Drawing Around the World: Europe, is a 24-week geography curriculum that teaches children to draw European countries, and learn some of the major information about each one. As they study and draw the individual countries, they also learn where they are located. By the end of the curriculum, students should have a good idea in their minds of where each country in Europe is located; and they'll be able not only to locate it on a map, but draw a map of the continent themselves! The lessons are organized so that the student spends four days per week studying geography, with one country, or a few countries, studied each week.

This is what a general week's study will look like:

  • Day 1:  Learn about the new country by reviewing its shape, and learning the major facts about it. Draw the country on the blank map included in the text.
  • Day 2:  Review the country and draw it again on a new blank map. If any other countries have been studied, draw them on the map as well.
  • Day 3:  Draw the new country again on a new map. Draw any other countries studied.
  • Day 4:  Write a list of all the countries studied thus far. Draw them all on a blank map.
Timed drills and other activities which encourage the student to learn are also recommended.  With this curriculum, your student will learn about the entire continent of Europe, including:
  • Iceland
  • Norway and Sweden
  • Russia
  • Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia
  • Turkey, Cyprus and Greece
  • The countries of Eastern Europe
  • The Netherlands
  • Western Europe and the United Kingdom
  • and more!

This is the second of Brookdale House's, "The Geography Drawing Series" that we have used and we are definitely confirmed fans! This simple method is extremely effective in teaching geography to kids. I am amazed at how quickly and efficiently the DRAWING AROUND THE WORLD approach enables children and teens to learn geography! It really does seem effortless. In just a few moments per day, the student is able to reproduce on a map the shape of a country, plus outlines of all the countries around it.

As a mom, I also really appreciate how easy for me it is to teach this course. After a week of working on the lessons together, my child is able draw the geographical areas and list their names, as well.  There is no stress in either the teaching or the learning of DRAWING AROUND THE WORLD: EUROPE.

In addition, this book/PDF is just gorgeous. Many of the pages are white (like the ones the students draw and the countries on repeatedly), but the reference maps themselves, which are used throughout the curriculum, are colorfully and beautifully rendered.


I really, really love DRAWING AROUND THE WORLD: EUROPE! It seems to be everything that I've always looked for in a geography curriculum. Simply memorizing states, continents, and capitals was never really that enjoyable or useful for me, or for my child, in our homeschool. Now, though, we've found the product that makes geography learning simply a pleasure. . .not to mention, incredibly productive. I believe I'll eventually be able to graduate a student who is a competent geographer!

You may purchase Drawing Around the World: Europe from Brookdale House. I highly recommend it! Enjoy!

(This review was written by Melanie Reynolds, from FinchnWren, for the Schoolhouse Review Crew.)

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