Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Home School in the Woods

Our family gets excited every time we get to review for Home School in the Woods. Their products are detailed, hands-on, and so fun, making them well-loved history materials in our home. We've used their Project Passport titles for full curricula of both Egypt and the Middle Ages and studied the presidential election process with a Lap-Pak. This time though, we were introduced to one of their newest options--the À La Carte projects.

Home School in the Woods is a family business that was started as a way to make history real, understandable, and applicable. Using timelines and realistic illustrations as a foundation, they've created many resources to make learning history an enjoyable process.

While the full curricula options are fantastic, sometimes you just need a filler for another study or more information for a personal interest. Those are the times when the À La Carte activities are perfect. These resources are individual activities that are pulled directly from the larger curricula downloads of History Through the Ages. The projects include timelines, authentic crafts, lap booking, games creative writing, and much more. The hardest part is choosing which activities to get!

My house is filled with little boys, so pirates are a big deal around here. I knew my kiddos would enjoy the Pirate Panoply Game. This simple game teaches all about a pirate's clothing and accessories during the age of exploration. To play, you roll a die and dress your pirate with the assigned numbered article. Roll a 1, your pirate gets his hat. Roll a 5, and he gets his breeches. The first player to get fully dressed wins. This activity is for an unlimited number of players and was first found in Time Travelers: New World Explorers

This was an easy game for everyone and was enjoyed by the little ones all the way through the adults. It's a fast-paced game, too, so it is great for times when you have only a few minutes. The kids enjoyed coloring the various pieces and then mixing-and-matching them while dressing their pirates. Each time is a different combination.

Also part of that study is the Merchant Marauder File Folder Game. Though the two games originated from the same study which is geared toward 3rd-8th graders, this one is more for the older crowd. Players practice their math skills as they shop for items to set sail across the seas. They learn how to find the value of Spanish cobs as they pay with doubloons, pieces of eight, escudos, and reales. The first player to purchase five of his needed items wins.

This game is more complicated than the other. Trying to keep track of all the tiny pieces of cob was confusing and converting the types into what they needed could be frustrating. I would say this game is more appropriate for the 6th-8th grade crowd. The kids and I decided to change it up. Instead of making a player pay for an item, he automatically got it when he landed on it. This took the mathematical learning out of it, but made it more enjoyable for my kids. It was still just as exciting when they landed on an item they needed.

As soon as I saw The Art of Quilling (3D), I knew I needed to get it. My daughter loves crafts--and that's putting it mildly. She enjoys various arts from knitting to origami to drawing to sewing, but she had never tried paper quilling. This download, which was originally for the Time Travelers: Colonial Life, gives a history of the paper rolling art, when it was created, who mastered it, and which types of materials were used. It briefly explains how to do the art and what you can use if you don't have an actual quilling tool. There are instructions and pictures for forming 8 different shapes and tips for embellishment. There is also a quilling pattern included.

I purchased a quilling tool and then handed it and the instructions to my daughter. She was thrilled! She read the page and got right to work. The instructions are clear and easy enough for my new 10-year-old (today is her birthday!) to understand. She has had so much fun rolling the paper strips and creating designs. I do think the activity should include two more patterns though for the price.

All of the À La Carte projects include detailed instructions and tips for both printing and assembly. My only concern with the Home School in the Woods products in the past was the printing hassles. I was so excited to see that they now include the option for duplex printing! It didn't affect these materials specifically, but will make a huge difference for the bigger studies. Now I can say that I love everything about this company.

Home School in the Woods is a fantastic option for history learning. The À La Carte options are inexpensive enough to fit any budget. I'm already trying to decide which to use next. The Passover Seder Game to enhance our Easter study or The Penny Rug 3D Project to please my crafty girl or a Colonies Timeline to complement our current read aloud biography. No matter what, I know that the activity will be high quality and thoroughly enjoyed.

You can connect with Home School in the Woods on the following social media sites:

 You can read more reviews of the À La Carte products on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

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Friday, March 16, 2018

Things That Make Me Smile 2/16/18

Jake (12), Alyssa (9 1/2), Zac (8), Tyler (5 1/2), Nicholas (3)

Happy Friday! We had a smile-filled week. How about you?

1. Alyssa, excitedly, watching popcorn kernels pop in a pot while I was making kettle corn: "This is more exciting than watching paint dry!"

2. Nicholas: "Mama, I need you."
Me: "You need me?"
Nicholas: "Yeah, on the couch and read."

3. Nicholas, in the bathroom: "I get toilet paper for you."
Me: "It's ok. I can handle it."
Nicholas: "I do it. Let me do the honor."


5. Nicholas, watching the big kids have a snowball fight: "Oh, no! Jake frew a 'nowball on Zachy hat! Dat not nice! He a bad boy!"

6. Nicholas, eating a glazed donut: "Dis taste like watermelon."

7. Zac: "I spy something beautiful."
Alyssa: "Mom!"
Zac: "Wow, you got that fast."

8. Nicholas, telling us his story from church and calling manna "nana bread." (banana)


10. Nicholas, pointing to a pear: "Mama, can I eat parrot?"

11. Tyler, because he dropped his water bottle in slush on the ground before getting into the van: "Ewe, it has ice on it."
Me, wiping it off: "I thought you liked ice with your water."
Tyler: "Mooooom, not like that. Ewe! . . . That was a funny joke though."

12. Nicholas, pointing: "I did dat, Mama. I sorry."
Me: "You got yogurt on the wall? How did you do that?"
Nicholas: "I bless you-ed on my 'poon."

What made you Smile this week?

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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Taming the Lecture Bug

Many of the products we review are geared toward the kids--new curricula, fun games, books, and online resources--but every now and then, I get something for me. Presents for Mom are great, right? But what about when those new things just for Mom are humbling and sting a little?

I'm sure that wasn't exactly the intent of Joey and Carla Link when they wrote the book Taming the Lecture Bug and Getting Your Kids to Think and then created the accompanying instructional DVD. Their goal in these resources is the same as the name of their company: Parenting Made Practical. They aim to "encourage and equip parents to practically raise obedient, respectful, and responsible children in today's world." The couple has been ministering for over two decades including youth groups, family services, and social work. More than helping others though, they have raised three children of their own and have had much personal, hands-on experience.

Taming the Lecture Bug is a book to help parents stop lecturing their kids, and instead, get them to think. The Links explain what a lecture is, why parents resort to them, and how they are harmful. They don't just leave you there though; they replace that useless behavior with positive, beneficial solutions. The book is filled with personal examples and biblical teaching. You can get an idea of their teaching style by the choice of chapter titles:

  • Blah, Blah Blah
  • Kids Need to Think
  • Responsibility = Ownership
  • How Parents Stop Kids from Thinking
  • Why Kids Don't Think
  • The "Me, Myself, and I" Syndrome
  • Re-Training a Stubborn Heart
  • The Art of Asking Questions
  • Put Your Child's Thinking Cap On
  • The Why Questions
  • Children Can Escape Temptaion
  • Getting Your Child to Own His Behavior

The Taming the Lecture Bug video is a condensed version of the book. The video is part of the Links' "Parent's Night Out" series and was recorded live. The audience can be seen engaged and taking notes through the 53-minute session. The teaching is not scripted, but real. Joey seems comfortable in front of people and is a natural speaker. Carla is more reserved. I get the idea that she prefers to work one-on-one to help people, instead of being in the spotlight. That is in no way a negative in the video as it shows how passionate she is about this subject. She's willing to step out of her comfort zone to teach the truths that she and her husband have learned over the years. 

The video often shows what looks like notes on the screen. It lists key points with blanks that are filled in with a text of a different color. I'm assuming they are part of the night out series, but could easily be jotted down on your own. There is also an example situation with one of their daughters. First, Joey shows how not to respond when your child does something she should not. Then, they go through the scene again, but with a proper discussion between the two. It's one thing to read advice, but even more helpful to see it put it action. 

The Links have filled their resources with much practical knowledge. I am not normally one to mark in my books, but I have highlighted many portions of this one.

"The lessons we learn from poor choices are memorable."

". . . not just about disobeying their mother, it is about determining the character of who they are going to become as they grow and mature."

"When kids don't learn to think, process information, make decisions and be responsible, 
they are dependent on others to do it for them."

"Parents need to be more concerned with the motivation behind their kids choices 
than what the choice actually is."

That's just a sampling of the wise council that can be found in their teachings. One thing that they stress is asking your child questions. Those questions help you understand your child, expose the sin in their heart, get them to think, help them to take ownership of their choices, and strengthen the bond between you both. This is something that my husband and I have been doing for a long time. It's encouraging to see when you are doing something right.

Even though the principles described in this book are ones that we try to implement in our home, it's easy to slack at times. Taming the Lecture Bug and Getting Your Kids to Think helped me to be more consistent in training and understanding my kids. The Links have a conversational style that makes the book easy to read. Some other Crew members were able to review some of the Links' other books, like Why Can't I Get My Kids to Behave? and What Every Child Should Know Along the Way along with a few of the videos. If you have kids or work with kids, I'd encourage you to check out some of these resources for practical parenting help.

You can connect with Parenting Made Practical on the following social media sites:

If you'd like to see how other families use these resources or some of the other products offered by this company, please read the reviews on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

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Thursday, March 8, 2018

CursiveLogic Review

Handwriting is becoming a lost art. Many schools today are forgoing the teaching of cursive writing to students, even though there are numerous benefits as to why it should still be taught. Not only is it a faster and more fluid way of writing, but it also encourages brain development and removes the confusion of the lowercase letters and d, amongst other advantages. 

CursiveLogic still believes in the power of penmanship. Linda Shrewsbury created this program to help a struggling adult student learn cursive. After studying the letters, she realized that they seemed to fit into four distinct categories. She thought that learning small variations of a few shapes would be easier than learning 26 individual letters. Her innovative yet intuitive method worked so well that the student  caught on to forming the entire lower case alphabet in 45 minutes and was able to sign his name. From there, the CursiveLogic workbook was born. Since our review a few years ago, they have made changes to the book and created a teaching webinar which can both be found in the  CursiveLogic Quick-Start Pack and also designed an adult coloring book, The Art of Cursive.

CursiveLogic is different from other handwriting curricula because it focuses on the inherent structure of the cursive alphabet, instead of relying on rote memorization. The program is designed around the following features and visual and auditory cues.

Letters Grouped By Shape -- Four foundational shapes underlie the entire lowercase alphabet. The letter formations are taught by shape group based on the initial stroke of the letter, rather than alphabetically. In this way, the natural synergy of the alphabet is captured, allowing each letter in the series to reinforce the proper formation of all the others.

Letter Strings -- All the similarly shaped letters are taught by connecting them in a string, instead of individually. Since the students are taught to connect letters from the very beginning, it helps them to internalize the flow of cursive handwriting even before they have learned all 26 letters.

Theme Colors -- Each letter string has a theme color that helps the student remember the shape.

Verbal Task Analysis -- Students learn a simple, rhythmical chant that describes the path of the writing instrument as the letter shapes are formed. The process of verbally describing a motor task while performing it aids the acquisition of new motor skills.

The workbook is spiral-bound at the top so it never interferes with the student's hand and making it the best option for both right- and left-handed students. The beginning is filled with proper writing guidelines and tips, beginning exercises, and teaching notes. There are step-by-step directions throughout the book and occasional helps in colored boxed. The plain format ensures that the student is not distracted and able to better focus on the task. The lessons work through the entire lower case alphabet before moving on to the upper case. 

The webinar, given by Prisca LeCroy (Linda's daughter and co-founder of the company), teaches the CursiveLogic method in detail. This course is a nearly 50 minutes long and is filled with step-by-step guides through the program, from the method itself to why it works to how to teach it. There are different kind of learners, so if you're one who understands better when you see something in action as opposed to reading about it, this webinar would be a great resource. 

Art of Cursive is an adult coloring book. It is not an alternative to the workbook and does not replace proper instruction. However, it does have four quick lessons--one to cover each shape--and then incorporates those throughout the pictures. There are individual letter strings, double letters repeated, and even whole words hidden in the 27 drawings. The pages are thick and hold up to markers and pens. The book is designed for an adult or anyone who has previously learned cursive writing.  

I've used the CursiveLogic method with my first two kids, so it was the obvious choice to use with my third. I do appreciate the changes made from the first edition, which make the workbook easier to use and more streamlined. This was my 8-year-old's first experience with cursive. He was apprehensive to start, to say the least. I showed him the individual cursive letters (found on page 10) and covered the first stroke of each letter. Most of them he could figure out because they look so similar to print. Seeing the letters individually like that gave him the confidence he needed. He immediately was able to read whole words in cursive and was eager to learn to write it, as well. 

He did very well writing the first letter group shape, but started to struggle as we moved on. He naturally wants to start many of the other shapes in the same way. The CursiveLogic method is to write letter strings as opposed to individual letters, but I found that if I had him write some of those letters by themselves to fully master them, he did much better. If he started the string incorrectly, he wrote the entire thing incorrectly. He really just needed practice with that first letter or two. I know that they don't want to teach the letters by themselves, but I think it would be beneficial to have a dry-erase page in the back of the book with the others that is just the individual letters.

He is requiring a bit more practice than what is given in the book, and that's ok. He's writing well and able to read just about anything in cursive now. More importantly though, he is eager and willing to keep learning. CursiveLogic is designed in a way that does not discourage or overwhelm him.  

Now through the end of March, you can receive a 20% discount off the Quick-Start Pack (webinar and workbook combo) with code CREW2018. If you have a struggling writer, this might be the program for you.

You can connect with CursiveLogic on Facebook or their website

If you'd like to see how this program worked for other homschool families, please read more reviews on the Homeschool Review Crew blog. 

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Friday, March 2, 2018

Things That Make Me Smile 2/9/18

Jake (12), Alyssa (9 1/2), Zac (8), Tyler (5 1/2), Nicholas (3)

Happy Friday! This week was pretty typical for us--lots of Lego, lots of reading, lots of family board games. Did you make time to Smile?

1. Jake: "Mom, if it weren't for you, I'd be a pack rat."

2. Nicholas, standing on the kitchen table singing: "My God so big! My God so mighty! My God so mighty and big!"

3. Nicholas, looking outside after a big snowfall and the sun reflecting off it: "I can't see my eyes out dere!"


5. Me: ". . . I don't know, Nick."
Nicholas: "My name Nicky."

6. Tyler: "I want to play (professional) football!"
Alyssa: "No you don't. They play on Sundays."

7. Tyler, earnestly: "I have lightning feet; I run pretty fast. I'm really strong, too."

8. Watching the kids dissect a singing stuffed parrot

9. Leighton built a Nerf wall.

10. Nicholas, because his van window was snowy and foggy: "My window yucky. I want a new one window."

11. Tyler: "When I drink a lot, I get faster and faster!"

What made you Smile this week?

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Thursday, March 1, 2018

Drive Thru History Adventures

Our family was thrilled to once again review for Drive Thru History Adventures! These homeschool videos are a fantastic way to learn history and a favorite in our house.

Dave Stotts, the host of the award-winning television series Drive Thru History, has been involved in professional video and media production for two decades. In 2004, he began driving "thru history"  to bring the past to life in a fun and unique way. Using storytelling as the driving force behind his work, he creates engaging videos that are full of content. Our family is learning while being entertained.

The company is not simply about entertainment though. Through Drive Thru History Adventures, you can take that learning much deeper. There are full curriculum courses for Bible history, American history, and ancient history. We have access to all three, but we've been focusing on the American history content, which covers "Columbus to the Constitution." There are twelve episodes in the course:

  1. The Discovery
  2. Pilgrim Search for Freedom
  3. Beginnings of Revolution
  4. Whitefield & Boston's Freedom Trail
  5. William Penn & Early Philadelphia
  6. Founding Fathers of Philadelphia
  7. Fighters of the Revolution
  8. Early Colonial Virginia
  9. Founding Fathers of Virginia
  10. Revolution in New York
  11. New York and the First President
  12. New Jersey and Epilogue

Each video is right around a half an hour long. Dave teaches facts as he travels to the historical sites. You'll see graves of famous people, the oldest surviving public building in Boston, Independence Hall, America's "smallest national park," Fort Mifflin, Jamestown, Monmouth Battlefield, and much more. Dave weaves the stories with humor and wit. He wears various costumes and isn't afraid to make himself look comical. His humorous tactics do more than make us laugh though; they help to solidify the information to recall later. I think my kids will always remember now why the American flag is shown with five-pointed stars instead of six. And though it's not historically relevant, the kids often reference how much Dave likes cheese, ha.

Dave's commentary is complemented with reenactments, pictures, paintings, and documents. He incorporates famous quotes and excerpts from important writings. He teaches about many influential people including Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Betsy Ross, Paul Revere, Pocahontas, Peter Muhlenberg, and Molly Pitcher, to name a few. You'll learn how these stories come together to shape the course of our nation and pick up facts along the way, like the story of when the lightning rod was created, how the Liberty Bell was cracked, why Valley Forge was "a blessing in disguise," and the "most brutal bombardment in American history." 

Full curriculum plans accompany each lesson video. There are additional quotes and pictures, a summary, and suggested readings. There are "side road" sections that teach further about certain aspects that are briefly mentioned. Discussion questions, worksheets, and dig deeper readings are also included. You could easily spend much time studying the topics with the given information.

To say that our family loves Drive Thru History Adventures is an understatement. My kids love the videos and Dave's style of teaching. His energetic personality, storytelling approach, and silly antics make this series a joy to watch. I appreciate all the extras that are included in the curriculum, along with the articles, expert papers, and links. There is also a whole community of resources that you can access, including a private Facebook group that is filled with additional videos and interaction from Dave himself. From being a member of that group, I've learned just how great of a company it is, too, as I've seen them respond to questions and suggestions from members. They've created a coloring page to keep the littles busy, added captions to some of their content, and more. They truly have a heart for their viewers.

One final aspect that puts this membership over the top is the addition of Adventures TV. Instead of just watching the episodes on our computer, we can utilize the courses through apps when we're on the go, or, as we do every time we watch as a family, through Chromecast on our television. It is so convenient to pull up the videos on the large screen rather than trying to all watch on a computer.

Currently you can take advantage of one of a couple specials that are being offered. First, you can get a DVD of The Gospels for FREE when you purchase an annual subscription to Drive Thru History Adventures. Or second, you can receive 20% off an annual subscription with a code in The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine (just look for the full-page ad). You can hear Dave's description about the membership and passion behind it here:

There is so much to offer and enjoy with a membership to Drive Thru History Adventures. They also offer DVD sets. You can read my review of The Gospels for an example.) I highly recommend it, for not just homeschoolers, but anyone who would like to delve into history in a fun and exciting way.

You can connect with Drive Thru History Adventures on the following social media sites:

If you'd like to read more reviews of this course or of the Bible or Ancient History options, please visit the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Starfall Review

As a mom of many, it can be challenging to keep my little ones busy learning during the school day.  I am a big supporter of learning through play in the younger years, but sometimes that play needs a bit of direction. I appreciate when I find online programs that teach through games and fun, especially during those times when I'm focused on the older kids. The Starfall Home Membership from Starfall Education Foundation  is one of those resources, as their goal is "Children Have Fun Learning to Read."

The organization was founded by Stephen Schutz in 2002. Having struggled to learn to read as a child, he was determined to create a way to help children thrive. His program focuses on exploration and positive reinforcement to give students the tools they need to become "confident, intrinsically motivated, and successful." Starfall is now a comprehensive program for pre-k and kindergarten and offers supplemental language arts and math for first and second grade. 

Starfall is user-friendly, so when I tell my 5-year-old it's his turn for the computer, he goes right to the site and gets to work, er, play. He can navigate the site through the pictures. When there is text that he cannot yet read, he can click on the picture of an ear to hear it read to him. There are many options for learning and exploring. The activities include songs, games, books, calendar work, rhymes, and more. 

While we are choosing to use this program as child-lead learning, there are detailed lesson plans in the new Starfall Parent-Teacher Center. My little guy is in kindergarten, so if we were to follow the guide, we would cover the following topics:

  • letter recognition
  • color recognition
  • pre-decodable text
  • short vowel recognition
  • letter/sound substitution
  • beginner reading
  • emergent reading skills
  • rhyme and rhythym
  • familiarity with literature genres
  • calendar concepts
  • holiday activities
  • reading along
  • phonics

The curriculum guide highlights activities from the website and the mobile apps and incorporates supporting materials that can be printed. There are also additional resources that can be purchased from their online store, such as games, instructional cards, posters, incentives, books, and more.

Starfall also offers many additional supplemental resources. There are worksheet generators, custom printables, projectables, books, posters, and more. These valuable tools are free and create a flexible and engaging learning experience.

Here is what my 5-year-old said about the program:

"My favorite game is the alien planet with the equals and the ups and the downs 
(greater than/less than) and the future and the past, because I'm learning about it. 
My second favorite is Halloween fractions. I like the pumpkins and the background. 
And I like the pluses, like 1/8 + 2/8 equals what? 3/8. I'm learning a lot."

My boy gladly heads to the computer each day for more learning. I often find his little bother sharing his chair, engaged in the screen. I know that the information is sticking, not only because he tells me about what he's learning, but because one (or all, ha) of the kids is walking around singing one of the learning songs.

If you're needing an online program for your young learner, Starfall Education Foundation might be just what you need.

You can connect with Starfall Education Foundation on the following social media sites:

You can read more reviews of this program on the Homeschool Review Crew blog. 

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