Tuesday, August 29, 2017

End of summer

One of our summer traditions is to go to the New York State Fair.  My kids participate in poultry science contests and have done robotics competitions there in the past as well.  It's a really HUGE fair and so so so much fun :) :) Kind of an end-of-the-summer tradition for us!  This year we got to see the Beach Boys (at a free concert!  yay!)

How about you?  What marks the end of summer for you?

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Dear Homeschool Mom...

Dear Homeschool Mom,

Guess what? 

We (other homeschool moms) don't have it all together. (Okay, maybe a few do, but not most of us!). You know all those posts you see that make you feel like you're not quite good enough?

          And make you question your path

          And make you worry

          And make you feel like you're maybe 
                                         your kids

Guess what? We all feel that way. Really. Some days, not all, of course, but those days we're feeling a little insecure seem to be the same days we happen to see other homeschoolers' blogs or Facebook or Instagram posts and they look so idyllic and, well, perfect. They seem to have their (happy, of course!) children involved in everything, they are all dressed in cute outfits, working on projects you would see in a magazine article... And you start to question and doubt.

But you know what? Thats just the enemy. Don't let yourself forget your priorities and why you started homeschooling. You will always be able to find someone to compare yourself unfavorably to. But there's no reason at all for you to.

Focus on your priorities instead of what others are doing. And remember that those you view as having figured it all out probably don't!!!

Back to Homeschool Annual Blog Hop - 2017

Check out some other homeschool moms notes!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017



Depending on what aged children you are homeschooling, you may spend a lot of time thinking about grades or maybe none at all.  The philosophy I have had about grades for my children (prior to the high school years) is that the purpose of grades is for the parents to know how the student is doing...and the way we homeschool, I was intimately comfortable in my knowledge of how each child was learning/performing.  For this reason, I did not keep grades for my chidren's homeschooling all the way through 8th grade (I know you're horrified!!)  :)  Well, the exception was Algebra 1.  Since it's technically a high school course, though they took it in 8th grade, it was graded and recorded on the beginning of the transcript.

SO -- now, high school.  Knowing that there would be more people than just my husband and I who were interested in grades, I started giving tests (oh yeah, I didn't give them tests till high school either!!), grading essays, and evaluating work.  I kept track of these grades on a loosely-named transcript.


Until my daughter wanted to apply for college.  At this point I took a brief hiatus from my mindset of doing things simply and had a few momemts of panicking.  Transcripts for college must be very complex and highly-perfectly formatted, right?  I polled friends and acquaintances, asked for advice, had some people look over the transcript I had for her.  Basically everyone has a different idea of what a transcript should look like and what it should contain.

I'm not really a person who freaks out too much about stuff like this, but I was feeling definitely stressed.  What I had was a 2-page document which listed my child's demographic info, then listed (by year) the classes she had taken, the # of credits for each one, and the grade assigned for that class.  Each year had a GPA figured.  The only other thing I included was her SAT and ACT scores.

Some homeschooling parents mentioned that I ought to include her activities, community service, and volunteering.  Others directed me to (different) complex formats.  Several told me that it all must be on one page.  Okay, still panicking .

Then my logical side prevailed and I emailed the admissions office of the college she was applying to and told them that I was a homeschooling mom and I was getting a transcript ready and asked if they had a preferred format or required anything particular.  They said that they just wanted a listing, basically like what I already had.  We submitted that and she was accepted the next day!

She also wanted to take her senior year of high school dual enrolled at the community college near here, so, once again, the transcript question appeared.  This time my daughter called the admissions office and asked them what form they'd like for the transcript.  They told her they were looking for just a basic list of course/credits/grades.

SO--the moral of the story is to not freak out, just include the basics, ask the admissions office if you are concerned, and give the class names/credits/grades and SAT and ACT scores and that should cover you!

To read more about peoples' thoughts on record keeping and planning, read this article and check out these links below!

Also linking up with
Back to Homeschool Annual Blog Hop - 2017Keeping Records and Giving Grades Round UP

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Writing implements (and our favorite pencils!)

Back to Homeschool Annual Blog Hop - 2017

Do you have favorite "tools" that you use for homeschooling? (or regular school, I suppose) Pens and pencils are always being used, and we have found that in our family we favor certain types of pencils! Sounds kind of weird or picky, doesn't it? :) I'm laughing at myself a little for writing a post about pencils, but, hey! We like them!

Before pencils, though, let's talk about pens. In our household we are not too particular about pens. As long as it writes fairly nicely and smoothly we're not too picky. Because of this, let me tell you where most of our pens in this house come from...the fair! Or farm show or some such event! Haha!! All those pens that vendors give out to advertise their businesses...those are what fuel our inkiness in this family!
Here's a random selectoin of pens from around the house :) Notice the advertising...

Now pencils...well, we DO get some of those at the fair also, but we're pretty consistent with what we use in our schoolday (and preferred pencils for most days!)  The ones we use are mechanical pencils, but not just any mechanical pencil!  We LOVE the papermate mates easy to hold with 1.3mm lead.

The lead in these pencils is thicker, so there is not much breakage, and we find that although the point is not super sharp, the writing is smooth and we get a lot more writing out of it than a skinny lead.  They also sell replacement lead, which is a great thing.  The barrel of these pencils is a triangular shape, which makes it easy to hold (comfortably) when writing.

We love these pencils so much that I actually buy a bunch of them on Amazon when they're a good price and use them for gifts (I figure if we love them so much, others will as well, right?!)

There IS one other pencil that I (mom) personally like more.  It's a mechanical pencil as well, the lead is a little thinner (though not as thin as most) and the lead seems to write very smoothly. The pencil is comfortable to hold and write, the eraser always erases nicely, just a great pencil.  This one is also by Papermate and is called sharp writer.

So, there you have it!  My suggestions for pencils! 

How about you, any favorites?

Monday, August 14, 2017

Curriculum (again!)

Back to Homeschool Annual Blog Hop - 2017

Choices of curriculum are wide and varied. As homeschooling parents, we have the luxury to choose which materials we will use with our children to assist their learning for the schoolyear. And it IS a luxury! We can evaluate our students and use materials that will enhance their learning styles.

For many years my homeschooling family used a curriculum which they could participate in much of together. This program was called My Father's World, and we really loved it! When we finished the "cycle" we started drawing more from different programs to kind of piece together our program. With highschoolers, we have had to look at requirements and college-prep lists and focus a little more on classes that are suggested/recommended/required for college prep.

If you have read my blog for the past few posts, you will have read my true confession about curriculum for this year :) :) Although I haven't settled on everything that we will be using this year, here are a few of our favorites!

Saxon Math! Yes, we love Saxon, and by "WE", I mean "ME" haha :) No, really, the kids like it too, pretty much. That's all they've had so that's "math" to them! Saxon style is textbook--lesson + explanations followed by problems that the student has to copy out into their notebook (or paper) and solve. What do I like so much? Great explanations, wonderfully complete variety of topics, and tons of review in every lesson.

Apologia Science! Beginning in 9th grade we use Apologia science. Biology in 9th, Chemistry in 10th, Physics in 11th ... that's as far as we've gotten thus far! What do I like about it? Well, first of all the Christian slant. Plus it's GOOD SCIENCE!! It has wonderful explanations and is very thorough. I was especially impressed with chemistry.

Wordly Wise: My kids just plain enjoy this curriculum, and if they like doing vocab, why not keep using it?!

So--that's where we are at this point. We will, of course, be adding things like grammar, history/social studies, Bible, and more.

OH, and I get a "curriculum break" this year as well--my oldest (12th grader) is going to be taking the early college (dual enrollment) at the community college, so I don't need to pick out curriculum for her this year!

One more note, about buying curriculum. Schoolbooks are very expensive! We usually buy as many books used as we can. Different places I look for used books are websites such as ebay (have found most of my daughter's college books on here for a fraction of the cost in the college bookstore!), homeschoolclassifieds.com, Amazon or bn.com (look under the "used" option), and a few facebook groups. It takes a bit of digging and searching, but you can save a lot of money buying used. If your child is taking a class that needs a particular edition, however, make sure that you pay attention to that and purchase the right one.

There are so many different curriculum options. Pray about it, do your research, find out what works well with your children, and don't be afraid to switch if it isn't working for your family!

I'm sure you would like to read more about curriculum from other homeschooling folks, and you can! Just click the links below:

Blog Post Link: http://schoolhousereviewcrew.com/curriculum-back-to-homeschool-annual-blog-hop-2017/

Back to School Blog Hop! :) It's that time of year...to get ready to begin!

Surely I can't be the only homeschooling mom who's in denial about the start of the schoolyear, can I? Wow, the summer has zipped by so fast! Here we are looking at starting school in a few weeks...and this year I have a 12th grader, a 10th grader, and an 8th grader! I am sometimes surprised at how old my kids are getting!

Just before the start (or at the start) of the new schoolyear is a great time to check out what other people are doing/using/planning/experiencing for this schoolyear! Lucky for you, there's a whole series of blog articles that a group of folks are writing to share with you!

The series of posts will have a different theme for each day:
August 14 – Curriculum
August 15 – School Supplies
August 16 – Planning / Record Keeping
August 17 – Outside the Home
August 18 – Dear Homeschool Mom

Click on the link below and you will be directed to a series of great articles to inspire you as you begin your schoolyear!
Back to Homeschool Annual Blog Hop - 2017

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Fatal Trust by Todd M. Johnson—my REVIEW

Sometimes I get into a rut with my reading.  I do like several different genres, mysteries, some adventure stories, some dramas, contemporary fiction, historical fiction…it seems like mostly what I’ve been reading lately has been kind of fluff fiction—and honestly, my life is so busy and dramatic with 3 teenagers (hahahaha!!) that fluff fiction is appreciated J J .  This book, Fatal Trust, was different than what I’ve been reading, and I appreciated that!

SO what kind of a book is this?  I guess I’d say a legal drama, a bit of a mystery, a suspense novel.  Kind of mob-like.  Kind of tense.  Definitely interesting!

In Fatal Trust, Ian is a new-ish lawyer who is struggling to keep his deceased father’s legal practice going while taking care of his mother who is slipping into Alzheimer’s.  He is plagued with financial difficulties and just when he appears to have no hope, he receives an offer he cannot refuse.  It seems too good to be true, but his father initiated it many many years ago, so he jumps on board.  As things that seem to be too good often turn out to be otherwise, so does his situation.  Ian is plunged into a family trust with stipulations for disbursement that he is to untangle.  Upon looking into these, he finds his own family mixed up in the matter, possibly criminally, as well as associating with other shady types. 

You’ll have to read the book to find out more…it’s a story I don’t want to give away! 

I would definitely recommend this book.  It’s a suspense story that will keep you guessing as you see parts unfolding.  I really liked it and my husband is looking forward to reading it next!  It’s not a quick read, you have to think a bit while you are reading it, but it is good!  It’s published by a Christian company (Bethany House), and while there are not really overt Christian messages, there is definitely a lack of profanity and other elements that you may find distasteful in many suspense stories.  

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Catching time

Okay, here's a game for you. What's going on in this picture?



Pretty much a normal thing these days...

Really? No guesses?

We'll, here I am again, sitting in my car, waiting for my kids to finish with whatever event they are participating in.  Tonight it's ballroom dancing--all 3 of my teens plus a friend.  I'm staying out in the car out of respect for their wishes :)

I'm surprised with myself and how many things we allow them to participate in, but glad that we are able to offer them these opportunities.  We live kind of far from many events, which is why I don't just drop them off and go home.

Sometimes I do grocery shopping or other errands.  Tonight I have my laptop (and phone! No WiFi here) and I'm writing some product reviews.

So thankful for the opportunities that God has given us to allow our kids to become well-rounded people!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

I Can Study Jonah & Ruth Alone With God -- Bible study for kids -- my REVIEW

Alone With GodBible Study
Jonah & RuthNew International Version

How many of us study the Bible as much as we think we should?  What gets in your way?  Schedules, family responsibilities, work, sleep, recreation, etc etc and more, right?  I know for me, making Bible study at a certain time in my day a habit has really helped with maintaining regular times to read the Bible and pray.

How about kids?  Wouldn't it be great for your children to develop habits of reading the Bible and spending time with God, even apart from family Bible times or Sunday School or church?  One member of our family (my 12 year old daughter) received this Bible study book,  I Can Study Jonah & Ruth Alone With God Bible Study (13 week study) by Karen Mohs, produced by the company Greek 'n' Stuff  to use for the purpose of this product review.  We chose to review the study prepared for use with the NIV Bible, but there is also a similar publication for those who choose to use the KJV Bible.

The study is set up for use over thirteen weeks, Monday through Saturday.  The first 5 weeks the children will read/study from the book of Jonah, and the following 8 weeks from the book of Ruth.

There is an introduction for parents/teachers/students which explains the study and also directs the user to begin each devotion (or study) with praying to God and also reading or reciting the memory verse listed.

After beginning with prayer and reading the memory verse, the student reads a question with a Bible reference following it, as well as lines on which to write their response.    
 There are also boxes with additional information every week (things like "Is Jonah the only man to be swallowed by a fish?" and "How was barley threshed? Was it hard work for Ruth?" and "How was Obed in the line of Christ?") to further the study and give the student more contextual or historic information, or to assist them in applying the lessons to their lives.

Some of the questions are basically just read the question, read the verse(s), write out the correct answer.  Other questions are more thinking questions, such as "Do you think Jonah might have wished he had obeyed God in the first place?" 

Each week ends with a little "Think and pray about it" box, which related the learning they have done that week to application in their life.  

So what did we think?  I mentioned previously that my 12-year old (entering 8th grade this year) was the one to use this study.  When I asked her to write a little about it, she wrote: "I liked this Bible study 'cause I wouldn't  normally read the book of Jonah.  It was easy, and kind of not really in-depth.  I liked it, but it was kind of plain-ish (the book)."   This Bible study was intended for use with middle- to upper-elementary students, and I would agree.  At 12, she was a bit older than the intended audience, so it was not exactly what she was wishing for, but I think used in a younger setting it would be nice.  It IS plain, black and white, not really illustrated, but I really don't think that's a problem.  The focus is on the Scripture, the questions, and thinking it through.  It would make a great study for a child to do on their own and then review with a parent (who could then ask the types of deeper application questions appropriate to their child's age or level).  As an aid in a Sunday School setting or other classroom setting such as that, it would introduce the child to the material before group discussion.  

One thing my daughter got a little hung up on was the days of the week titles.  If she missed one day, she felt like she had to just skip that section and go on to the correct day.  We talked about that and how it is okay to either just go one by one or do two in one day if necessary.  I think that's just basically one of those things that goes along with growing up and realizing that you can do it as you wish to enable you to cover all the material.

I would definitely recommend this Bible study,  I Can Study Jonah & Ruth Alone With God Bible Study (13 week study) for children who are able to read and write.  I think it's a great way to begin a lifelong habit of studying the Bible on one's own.  There are many ways this could be used, individually, as a family, as a precursor to group discussion.  It is nicely bound in a spiral binding, so it lays flat whichever side you are writing on (definitely a good thing!)  

The name of the company who published this study is  Greek 'n' Stuff  which might sound kind of funny until you check out their website and see that they have many different curricula, including many Greek and Latin learning programs as well as more Bible studies.  They even have a curricula for French speakers to learn Greek!  

To see more reviews on this study, as well as some reviews on other products by this company, please click the link below! :)

Teach Me Some Greek {Greek 'n' Stuff Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Tuesday, August 8, 2017


It's that time of the summer that I usually begin thinking about the upcoming schoolyear.  By the end of the previous schoolyear I usually have the next year's curriculum in hand, or at the very least ordered.

This year I find myself here in the beginning of August without having ordered stuff yet!!  Yikes!  Better get on the ball!

How about you?  Do you wait till late (accidentally or on purpose?) or order early?

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

In the Reign of Terror (audio theater) -- my REVIEW

Wow, that title sounds scary, doesn't it?

In the Reign of Terror

My family really loves audiobooks, especially when we are on a long car ride.  We were thrilled to have the opportunity to listen to and review this audio theater production of In the Reign of Terror by G. A. Henty.  This audio production was made by Heirloom Audio Productions and is a 2-cd set just about 2 1/2 hours long.  The story is dramatized, with different actors speaking the parts as well as sound effects.  It is very well done, the actors are professionals and it shows.  (for a list of some of the major actors, check out the cast and crew page and see how many of the names you recognize!)

SO what is it about?  It's about the French Revolution, told from the viewpoint of some of the nobility.  That description alone might catch some people's interest, but that doesn't do it justice.  It is a story told to a modern day boy about a boy in the time of the French Revolution.  This boy is British and plans to enter the army when he is of age, but his father has sent him to France for a season to live with a French family (nobility) and teach his son English and basically how to be a rough and tough boyish fellow.  Harry (the British teen) is warmly welcomed by the Marquis de St Caux, though his son takes awhile to come to respect Harry (he does eventually, due to some heroic actions).  Harry has a strong belief in God and His protection, as does the French family with which he makes his temporary home.

Tensions in France at this time begin to escalate, as the king and his family are essentially imprisoned, and the Marquis and his mother go to Paris to support their king and the law.  The lawless peasants (non nobility) quickly reach a point of semi-anarchy, basically using the upheaval to purge all who they dislike or don't agree with, namely anyone who has titles or money.  The Marquise and his family are attacked and they go different ways, trying to survive.  Harry pledges to assist them.

I don't want to give you much more of the story line, but suffice it to say, it is not a happy ending story, at all.  It's tough and makes you think.  So often when we hear about the French Revolution, I think that we kind of see the point of the peasants, hungry and oppressed, and see the nobility as the oppressors.  This story shows it from a different point of view, from that of certain nobility that were not oppressing, but rather followers of God who wish to uphold their laws, their heritage, and their dedication to God.

My family (my husband and I, and our 3 kids aged 17, 15, and 12) listened to this audio production in the car, on one trip.  The drama kept all of our attention and encouraged a lot of discussion.  The beginning and end of the story have two individuals discussing (teaching/learning) that the American Revolution and the French Revolution were basically nothing alike--listen to it and you'll see what I mean.

We all liked it, though it was quite sad (I usually like happy endings!).  My son, who loves the Lord of the Rings, wanted me to mention that he really liked that the actor who played Gimli the dwarf was in this production :) If you listen to it as a family and would like to do more than a standard discussion that flows naturally from listening to it, Heirloom Audio Productions also has produced a study guide to go along with the story.  This study guide divides the story into many parts, naming them with a location on the CD so the listener can do part by part.  It has a "listening well" section, which is kind of like a reading (listening) comprehension section--checking to see that the high points were caught.  Following this is a "thinking further" section which contains questions which incite more thought.  The next segment is a vocabulary section, entitled "defining words" which lists words to find the definition of.  These are occasionally followed by an "expand your learning" section which is a few paragraphs about something peripheral or slightly noted in the story (historical fact section).

There is another neat thing you will want to access with your children.  It is called the Live the Adventure Club   and besides the study guide, there are also neat things such as chapter quizzes, the scripts to follow along with, thinking further questions, vocabulary words (and if you hover over them you'll see their definitions), and more!  All of these enhancements make it much more than just a story or audiobook, but rather give the opportunity to easily expand this into a learning module.

So, yes, my family and I would DEFINITELY recommend this dramatized audio production by Heirloom Audio Productions.  It was easy to listen to, a good handling of the subject matter, encouraged family discussion, and gave us a lot to think about.  The way this is dramatized makes it very easy to listen to and visualize the story.  It's a great production!

Heirloom Audio Productions

To read more reviews of this audio drama, please click on the box below:
In the Reign of Terror {Heirloom Audio Productions Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer