For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not of yourselves it is the gift of God, not of works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

Monday, May 9, 2016

Top 5 Bible and Devotional Resources for the Middle School Years

As a Christian family, teaching the Bible and a christian worldview is a very important element in our homeschol. When one studies Scripture, it is not just about reading the stories and making up our own interpretations. Studying the Bible is about discovering God's story and His plan for our world. It is about finding out what God has to say about the world, ourselves, who He is and about His plan of salvation for His people. There are many Bible curriculum and devotional books out there, but not all are equally solid or usable in a homeschool context. Today I thought I would share with you my to 5 recommendations when it comes to choosing a devotional or Bible curriculum to use in your homeschool.

Bible Road Trip - This is a three-year Bible curriculum that takes you through the whole Bible in three years. It is theologically rich and sound. You get to read through your Bible and complete notebooking pages to help you remember and truly grasps what it teaches. Bible memory is an integral part of it.

See all the great Firmly Planted resources.

Firmly Planted - This is another rich and sound in theology Bible curriculum. You can read my review of it here.

Write Through the Bible
Write Through the Bible - What I love about this curriculum is that you get to tackle several subjects at the same time, vocabulary, Bible Memory, and handwriting practice. This is more of a complementary resource, but if that is all you can get in, that is better than nothing.

536915: Exploring Grace Together: 40 Devotionals for the Family

Exploring Grace Together - I love this devotional! It is about what the title says, exploring grace and the wonderful news of the gospel. This is really good in helping your kids truly grasps what the Gospel is all about in practical terms applicable in their day to day lives.

946720: What"s Up? Discovering Jesus, the Gospel, and Who You REALLY Are, Participant"s GuideWhat's Up? - A more systematic study of who God is and what he has done for us. This a really Gospel-centered curriculum  worth checking out.

Here are a couple other resources highly recommended (because 5 is just not enough!)

*****   What's in the Bible DVD series - one of the best products out there to give your children an overall picture and overview of what the Bible is all about.

*****    The Gospel project You tube video - This a resource great for both adults and children. Always wondered or unclear about certain books of the Bible, or about certain biblical concepts, they've got you covered!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

If I Had to Give a Talk at a Homeschool Convention

This month's theme for the Canadian  Homeschool Blogging Team is about what we would say if we had to give a talk at a homeschool conference. There are lots of topics that can be touched on at a homeschooling conference, but I would like to focus my talk on homeschooling the Middle School age kids.

I have two boys, one in 7th grade and one in 5th grade. Next year I will have two middle schoolers. I have found that homeschooling the younger grades is somewhat easier that the older grades. Teaching your kids to read, count, reading books on the couch, doing science experiments, exploring nature through nature walks, baking cookies together, playing games, make the whole experience exciting, rewarding and fun. As the kids gets older, they become more independent and develop their own interests, which may or may not be the same as your own, and definitely vary from child to child.

I have found that as the kids get older, it becomes harder to steer them in the same way as you did in the younger years, where they were more impressionable and malleable. Can you tell I miss this stage of learning? However, as much as I miss it, I do love the stage  that my kids are in right now. They are owning their studying and their learning, and it is beautiful to see and rewarding in its own way.

The middle school years are the years in which you need to teach and train your kids to think for themselves and take responsibility for their learning, and their actions. This is a process that starts in the elementary years, but that needs to be fully developed in the middle school years, so that once they reach high school, they sort of can make decisions for themselves and fully work independently on their goals for life.

I have to admit, it is not easy. Every child is different. Some are naturally inclined to be independent and achievers, some not so much. I have one of each. With my achiever, go-getter son, all he requires from me is a list of what he needs to do each day. Just recently, because he likes to schedule his work himself, I started to give him a list for his weekly load. Then, on Monday he parses it out throughout the week in a planner. My role with him is to check from time to time how the learning is going and where he is at.

With my other son, it is another story. He is highly dis-tractable, his mind is full of projects and creations, so I have to minimize the distractions around him and constantly checking that he is doing what he is supposed to be doing. The goal though is for him to control his impulses to take too many breaks or let himself be distracted. So, to that end, some days I am less directive than others. When his work is not completed, or if he is caught doing something else than his work, he gets a consequence. This is really a matter of self-control and discipline.

There is a lot of talking that goes into this process of training our middle schoolers to be independent and owning their learning. I talk a lot to them about their future goals, what they would like to be when they grow up, what they like doing and what it would take to succeed in that particular activity or interest. I explained to them the need and value of hard work and perseverance, the danger of self-gratification, the value of sacrifice and self-denial, the christian virtue of doing all things for God's glory not for our own sake. These principles are vital for them to understand if you want them to join you on this venture. They have to be on board for this to work and stick. My oldest, who struggles with staying on track when doing school, understands these and it motivates him to work at it and not fight me as he discipline him. He actually welcomes the consequences because he wants to beat it, and become more self-disciplined.

To be honest, really the ground work is set in the elementary years. At a young age there are some elements that need to be firmly planted:
  • A love of learning
  • A love for books
  • A respect for authority
  • A love for God and His demands on our lives
  • A value of hard work
  • A proper understanding of pleasure and entertainment and its place in our lives
These will go a long way in helping you to train them to be independent learners when they reach the middle school years and beyond.

There is still a lot to talk about on this topic, but I will stop here for today. Hopefully I will write more in the coming weeks. Meanwhile here is a book worth mentioning when parenting teenagers as parenting and homeschooling are closely intertwined: Age of Opportunities by Paul Tripp.

My Full Heart: Junior High Junction

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A+ Interactive Math Mini-Courses - TOS Review

Today I have a Math curriculum review for you. By now, you know that on the crew we get to review quite a few Math products, and some we even get to review several times. They are that good!

This time around we are talking about A+ Interactive Math. They have a new product out, and we got to try it: Math Mini-Courses

A+ Interactive Math is an online Math Curriculum that offers you a variety of Math Curriculum for homeschool math needs for grades 1 to 12. They also offer products such as the Adaptive Placement Test with its own Math associated program, and their new Math Mini-Courses.

A + Interactive is an online  Math program, so you will need a computer with internet access and log- ins for each students. Setting up was easy since we already had an account with them. When using this curriculum you have to remember to always have your kids sign into their own account to do their Math work otherwise you won't get a report. The full program is also accessible on the teacher's account.

So what are the mini-courses?

The mini-courses are what the name says they are: mini-courses. They are courses that focuses on specific math topics for a short series of lessons, varying according to the topic (the two that we used had 12 and 14 lessons respectively). The topics covered through the mini-courses are as follow:
  • Counting and Identifying Numbers
  • Place Value and Number Combinations
  • Naming, Comparing and Arranging Numbers
  • Early Elementary Fractions
  • Early Elementary Addition
  • Early Elementary Substraction
  • Elementary and Middle School Multiplication
  • Elementary and Middle School Division
  • Tables, Charts and Graphs
  • Elementary Geometry
  • Elementary Algebra
  • Advanced Algebra
  • Advanced Fraction
  • Percentages
  • Time
  • Money
  • Number types and Coversions
  • Ratio, Proportions, Probability & Statictics
  • Measurements and Conversions
These topics are not by grade levels. They cover a range of grades (1st-3rd, 2nd-6th, 4th-8th, 5th-8th, 1st-5th) depending on the topic, which allows them to be more comprehensive is nature.

Math Mini-Courses {A+ Interactive Math Review}   

I chose to have the boys work on the Percentage and the Ratio, Proportion, Statistics and probabilities ones. For one of the boys, he worked on it daily, for the other boy he did the mini-course as a supplement.

The Mini Courses work just like the regular Math program from A+ Interactive. The lessons consist of multimedia lessons followed by a Q&A type quiz. If you want the child to have more practice you can also have him do extra questions or the extra worksheets provided.

This is what the student dashboard looks like:

The concept of focusing on a specific topic for a while is a great addition to the line up from A+Interactive. From reviewing this program before, that was one of the thing I thought was needed: more in depth learning of some of the topics.

Both the boys did not mind working on the Mini-Courses, but they were not extra thrilled about it. It is very straight forward as an interactive Math program. As older kids (10 and 12) they both thought the voice was too robotic. For younger kids that could be a plus, but my boys did not care for it much. They wish you could have the option to mute it since the question is on the screen.  The beginning lessons were quite easy for them, but I am hoping that as they dig deeper, it will get more challenging (there were already hits of it). For my oldest, the benefit of this program is more guided practice on the topic of percentage with which he struggles a bit. They liked how right after you got answer wrong they explained to you what you did wrong, but did not like how they would ask you the same question again, since basically you just got the right answer from them

Otherwise the way the lessons run is the same as their other programs. It contains the same great features:
  • It is interactive though videos.
  • You get feedback right away.
  • It is a rather independent program. No parent involvement needed and you can check their progress on the parent portal page (parent log-in or student log-in accounts)
  • It is pretty comprehensive in nature.
  • You can retake the lessons and go through the Q&A again.
  • There are printable AND online worksheets available for extra practice.
  • The answers are well detailed.
I love that you can download a printable copy of the lessons to keep as a reference, or go over with your child if you want or need to.

As a whole I would recommend this program if your child lacks in any of the topics I mentioned earlier. These allow for your child to review and cement topics that he might be weak on and practice these with more depth and intensity. As such they are perfect for closing learning gaps or even as review if you feel they need it. On top of that they are actually quite reasonably prices ($9.99 - $19.99, depending on the topic considered).

You can check A+ Interactive on their social media:

Twitter @aplustutorsoft

Math Mini-Courses {A+ Interactive Math Review}

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Homeschool Copywork - TOS Review

The teaching of Language Arts in homeschooling is comprised of a lot of subjects, and can take a lot of different forms. This includes Grammar, spelling, handwriting, literature, reading, and writing. One practice that is really useful in improving handwriting is copywork. This is where Homeschool Copywork, one of our latest review product comes in. We were blessed to have been given a Lifetime Membership to their site. As a classically minded homeschooler, I am a strong believer in copywork not only as a great handwriting practice tool, but also as a tool to consolidate the other aspects of the Language Arts through the copying of right spelled words, good punctuation, and well phrased sentences. I have not always included copywork in my homeschool, but it has always been one of those subject that I value as a great benefit to my boys. That is why I was very glad to receive this membership.

What is Homeschool Copywork and what do they offer?

Homechool Copywork is a homeschool curriculum that offers you a collection of copywork worksheets gathered in e-books, spanning a wide and interesting array of themes. Their copywork worksheets can be used by elementary (early and/or upper), as well as Middle and High school students.

At Homeschool Copywork, you will find copywork worksheets on:
    Homeschool Copywork Membership Banner - Vertical
  • Animal Alphabet
  • Transportation
  • The Armor of God
  • 1 Corinthians 13
  • Quotes by different authors and artists such as Jane Austin, Claude Monet, Van Gogh, Da vinci and others
  • Character Building
  • Star-Spangled Banner
  • Human Body
  • Human Life
  • Hymns such as All Creatures of Our God and King, Amazing Grace
  • And many more ....
These copywork worksheets comes in print or cursive and are very nicely illustrated. The worksheets are perfect for handwriting practice, both for young and older children. I used this with both my 10 and 12 year old, as a way for them to practice their handwriting, which can certainly be improved. The bonus with these is that as they practice their handwriting they get to read and write Scripture, or great lines of literature, and as such these worksheets are great additions to any homeschool curriculum. Each page is not too long, so the actual writing does not take much time out of the homeschool day.

It is very easy to include it in the daily routine. This works really well for any homeschool, but especially in Charlotte Mason and classical homeschool homes. They fit really well with any study as well,  as they can be used as notebooking pages for a variety of topics, and be included in unit studies. These also include pictures that your younger children could color in as well.

For this review I had my boys work on the Armor of God copywork e-book and quotes from composers. I printed all the pages, and they work on one page everyday, which consisted of one verse each. My boys being older they did not care so much about the pictures, but enjoyed the quotes they copied. I like that this can be used quite independently of the parent. It is nice to check their writing as they copy in order to correct any wrong hold or strokes, but by and large, it is a quite independent curriculum.

Check their website and try out the free membership which allows you to check out some of their worksheets.

Also, visit Homeschool Copywork on their social media:

Twitter   @AmyBlevins

Homeschool Copywork Review

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Freebies for you!

I have been a member of the Schoolhouse review crew for over 5 years now, and it has been a blessing and joy to be able to try out so many products and share them with you.

The Old Schoolhouse has been quite generous this month, and has decided to allow me to offer to you 1-3 digital downloads from their store for FREE.

These are what I picked for you:

Communicate, Write, and Organize Your Way to Homeschool Success

(A value  of $15.60)

Learn how to organize your homeschool, overcome writing woes, and teach writing skills all in one amazing e-book bundle. Bring success to your school one skill at a time.

Communication Skills

E-Book #1: Just How Important are Communications Skills
E-Book #2: Play What You Mean
E-Book #3: Communication Skills and Your Gifted Child

Writting Woes

E-Book #4: Growing Authors and Illustrators

E-Book #5: Helping the Reluctant Writer

E-Book #6: Why Does My Child Hate to Write

The Organizational Bundle

E-Book #7: Organize Your Homeschool

E-Book #8: Inexpensive Organization

Living and learning on one income: how twelve families make it work

(A value of $12.45)

Perhaps you are convicted and grounded in your decision to be a one-income family, but you’d love to learn how other families make it work for them. Then this is the book for you.

Secrets of successful homeschooling

(A value of $12.45)

“Can you homeschool?” Paul and Gena Suarez bring you this E-Book,  to show you that, “Yes! You CAN homeschool!” Whether you are a new parent, or a veteran, this E-Book holds something for everyone.

All you need to do to get these is got to the Old Schoolhouse online store and use the coupon code: JUCREW16 at checkout!
This code is valid until the end of April, so get it as soon as possible! And while you're there don' forget to like their page on Facebook, as well as the Schoolhouse Review crew Facebook page.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Stopmotion Explosion - TOS Review

My boys love Legos and they also love lego animations. Not only do they like watching these animations, they also love making them. That is why when the chance came up to review a animation kit, I jumped on it. This is where  Stopmotion Explosion comes in and their Stopmotion Animation Kit.

What we received

  •  720p HD video camera with internal microphone, manual focus, and clip,  
  • a  290+ page Stopmotion Explosion book
  • an animation software.
This kit works with both Microsoft and Apple computers. Even if you do not have a CD drive, downloads are available from the website through an access code.

The use of this kit assumes that you do know your way around a computer, but that said it is a good way for young children to learn. When it arrived I handed it over to my 10 and 12 year old sons and let them run with it. My youngest started researching the book and watching the tutorials available on the website. My oldest started making up his background for what he was planning to shoot. It took them quite a while to figure out how the whole thing works, but eventually figured it out, with some minimal help from me.


The way this camera works is that you shoot your motion, frames after frames, then press the button that says "make movie" to turn it into movie. Most scenes takes quite a bit of frames/shot to produce, so it quite intense to produce. The animation below took my son close to 100 captures to produce. Once you've got your movie, you import it into a movie making program (imovie for apple or windows movie maker for Microsoft), and start editing your movie, and add sound if you wish. They had to do a few tests before getting a hang of how the whole thing works, but it just takes a bit of patience to study how it all functions.

As useful as the camera is, with its zoom, the Stopmotion Explosion Animate Anything and make Movies is the heart of this kit in my opinion. It really teaches the how of making great animations as well as all the technical aspects of putting it together. The chapters includes topics such as these:
  • Creating stories
  • Building sets
  • Lighting
  • Flight
  • Animating
  • The art of war
  • Sound
  • Video editing
  • Files and formats
  • Frame conversion

My boys really learned a lot playing with this kit. My oldest has been learning about filming, what is needed for a good film, script and the like, and using this kit allowed him to get his hand at actually working on a project and see all the work that is required. The book will definitely add to his knowledge in this field, once he gets to delve into it more deeply. There is a lot to learn and delve into. The boys will have quite a bit to explore in the next few months before they can make something that they really will be happy with since they have big dreams. A definite keeper!

If your child loves animation, this is a wonderful tool to have to hone or improve skills in this field.

Here is the video, they ended up making

Check them out on their social media:


Twitter:   @stopmoexplosion

Stopmotion Explosion Review

Friday, April 1, 2016

5 Days of Tips for Homeschool Parents

I did not have a post today, but the bloggers participating in this blog hops have wonderful topics covered so make sure to hop on over and visit their blogs over the week-end. Grab your coffee and happy reading.
5 Days of Tips for Homeschool Parents
Here are a few to get you started:

Jeniffer @ Thou Shall Not Whine
Jennifer @ A Peace of Mind
Jennifer @ Faithful Homestead
Joesette @ Learning Curve
Kari @ Random Acts of Boyhood
Katie @ Katie's Daily Life
Kemi @ Homemaking Organized
Kim @ Homestead Acres
Kylie @ Our Worldwide Classroom

In this series on the blog:

Homeschooling Tips
Housekeeping Tips
Budget Tips
Family Fun Tips

Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Logic of English - TOS REVIEW

I was really excited to have made it on the review list for the Logic of EnglishEssentials 2nd Edition, volume 1. A few years ago I was blessed to be able to review the first edition of the Logic of English and was really looking forward to see the new improved one.

All I can say is wow! And the team did a super great job in the revisions and additions they brought to Essentials.

What is the Logic of English?

The Logic of English is a comprehensive Language Arts Curriculum. It is primarily a phonic-based reading and spelling program that also covers grammar and vocabulary.

The full program - which is what we received - is composed of:

Yes, this is a lot! At first you feel rather overwhelmed but I assure you it all works together very smoothly. It is teacher's intensive as you have to teach the material, but it is a very engaging program requiring feedback from the students and incorporating lots of games.

This program is meant to teach you and your kids the why of English sounds and spelling. And it does it so very well. It is geared toward students ages 7+ , but is very useful for struggling readers and spellers, as well as adults struggling with the rules of English spelling and pronunciations. When I first used it, English not being my first language, it really helped me in a lot of ways in my spelling and speaking.

I used this program as a reinforcement/review for my 5th grader as we had , quite successfully, completed the first Edition of Essentials before. I was looking forward to the new additions and was not disappointed.

The new Essentials program comes in color, making the whole program more appealing.

I absolutely love the addition of the three learning levels - which are color coded in both the teacher's manual and student workbook:
A - Beginner
B - Intermediate
C - Advanced

I used the C level with my son given his previous knowledge of the phonogram sounds. He did test at the C level in the placement test that comes within the Teacher's book.

I also really like the improved expanded section of the vocabulary portion of the curriculum, which is the part we spent most weeks on, since the other sections were mainly review.

This program is multi-level so you can teach several kids at the same time, making it an economical choice. You also can redo the program over, moving on to the next level each year. Essentials focuses on teaching kids phonics the right way, through phonemic awareness, and spelling through rules that are thoroughly explained so that you can see the logic behind them and so that it all makes sense. Even the vocabulary is explained and taught in a very systematic and logical way.  Concepts of Latin and Greek roots are explored as well as stems, suffixes and prefixes, and how it all works together to give us the words that are in the English vocabulary.

The program, though bountiful, is actually easy to use, once you understand how it works.
The first step is to understand the color coded pattern and read over the material before each lesson. It is scripted, so easy to follow. At the beginning of each lesson it tells you what material you will need, which I found really helpful given the amount of resources that comes with the program. It is intended as a 5 days Language Arts curriculum, each day being laid out for you. That said, you can adapt it quite easily to your needs. This is what I did since I did not need to use every aspects of the program.

Day 1: Essential concepts - this is where you teach the sounds with new phonograms each week. You get to explore the sounds allowing you to go deeper into the why they make those sounds.  This is when you go over the spelling rule for that week as well.

Day 2: Building words - This is where, after reviewing the new phonograms of the week, as well as the spelling rule, you continue to explore the new sound and then go over the spelling list, which is a dictation of words using the spelling analysis method (breaking down of sounds and syllables).

Day 3: Words in context - this is where you do the grammar part, teaching and applying it to the words in the spelling list from day 2.

Day 4: Words in action - there is always review of phonograms, sounds and spelling. On this day you do the vocabulary part of the curriculum.

Day 5: Check your Understanding - This is the end review of what was covered that week.

I love The Logic of English Essentials  for its comprehensiveness and thoroughness. The updated edition makes it even more appealing and, includes more levels, making it reusable. That said, I think this curriculum could be overwhelming to some. It is best suited to teachers who value rules and rigor. It is quite intense because it covers a lot. If you have difficulty following a script or plan, this would be hard for you to use. It works well with auditory, hands-on and visual kids, as well as kids or parents who love to know the why behind things.

This curriculum definitely gets two-thumbs up from me!

If you want to read about the difference between the Essentials 1st edition and Essentials 2nd Edition here.

Visit the Logic of English on their social media:
Facebook: @LogicOfEnglish

Logic of English Review

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