Tuesday, September 29, 2009




The free portion of abcteach contains over 3,000 free printable documents. However, for $40/year you can have access to over 30,000 printables on the member site. You also have access to over 60 abctools in a variety of subjects and categories. These tools allow members to create custom documents tailored to their children's interests and learning styles. You can create custom math worksheets, spelling sheets, crossword, etc. There are actually too many options to list.

We do not use a lot of worksheets in our schooling, so this site was not as useful to me. But for any teacher, homeschooler, child care provider, or anyone that works with children and uses worksheets, this site has a lot of potential. So whether you need something for math, science, or social studies, you will most likely find it on abcteach. There are also several teacher helps like clip art, desk signs, and lesson plan templates. There are other such sites on the Internet and I do not know how abcteach compares to them. 

You can read how other Crew members used abcteach here.

Disclosure:This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. No further compensation was received. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are my own.A

Saturday, September 26, 2009

College Prep Genius - Our Experience

I wrote a product description of College Prep Genius earlier so I won't repeat that here. But I will tell you about my 9th grader's experience.

This course has a lot of information to process and remember and has been pretty overwhelming. The method taught seems to be at odds with how her brain works.

Each DVD section teaches several acronyms to memorize and associate with certain types of problems. Then the student completes the problems in the workbook. The DVD then explains the answers to those problems. My daughter found that several times she came up with the correct answer but in a different way than the DVD showed. She was already thinking through the problems logically and the acronyms actually confused her.

We will be putting our study of this program on hold until later this school year. She is scheduled to take the PSAT on October 14th and I would like to find a baseline of where she is at. When we pick College Prep Genius back up, we will do so at a much slower pace, perhaps studying one acronym and then one problem each week.

I was very surprised and a bit discouraged when the program caused more confusion than clarity. So I have been thinking why that might be happening. I don't have any concrete answers, only musings. I do know that we need to slow it down A LOT. And I also wonder if how a student is used to learning makes a difference. Perhaps this method would work better for a student who is used to material that teaches formulas, showing the student step by step how to get the correct answer. We use material that teaches the big picture and the theory behind the problem. The student then uses the understanding of the theory to solve the problem instead of following a step-by-step formula.

I do know that to use the program, the student needs to be dedicated to investing a lot of hours preparing for the PSAT/SAT. If this is not the goal for your family, then it may not be a good fit. If high test scores is a priority for your student, College Prep Genius might be a God-send.

If you do order, make sure to use this free shipping code: HSBlog09. (The code is expires November 15, 2009.)

You can read here what other Crew members experienced.

Disclosure:This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. No further compensation was received. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are my own.

The Complete Career, College, and High School Guide for Homeschoolers

Being a parent of a child entering high school can be a scary thing. We may worry if our child is going to be prepared for college and the future. And without some input, it can be overwhelming. But thankfully all that negative need not occur. We just have to look in the right places for direction.

One of those places is The Complete Career, College, and High School Guide for Homeschoolers by Jill Dixon. Put out by Educational Diagnostic Prescriptive Services, this book provides a well laid out plan for discovering what careers might best fit your personality and what classes and activities you should complete to prepare yourself.

Your first step is to take 4 assessment tests. The Work/Service Preference Test tells you if you are a builder, solver, creator, organizer, helper or leader. The Concise Learning Styles Assessment helps you know if you are an auditory, visual, or tactile/kinesthetic learner. The Personality Profile indicates if you are outward or inward, if you rely on thoughts or emotions, and if you are more structured or flexible. Following each of these assessments is a list of careers that match the different results. There is also a Work Environment Questionnaire to help you understand in what environment you function best.

With the career choices discovered from your assessments, you are ready to begin your high school and career planning forms. Recommended middle school/high school courses are suggested for many popular careers and college majors. Also included are activities to consider being involved in for your career choices. It also lists candidates to interview to learn more about your chosen fields. It even includes questions to ask in those interviews. A list of the usual college preparatory requirements is provided to make sure you are including the necessary classes. As some states require high school graduates to have community service hours, the author has given a list of volunteer opportunities.

Along with career choices and help for class planning, you will find information such as a cutting edge job list, fastest growing jobs, and occupations with the most new jobs. The author does provide curriculum suggestions for different high school subjects. And there is also a small section on CLEP testing and the ACT and SAT.

One part of this Guide that I appreciate is that the author is not saying that every student is going to go on to college or technical school. Nor is she advocating girls to pursue careers at the expense of being a wife or a mother. In fact, one of the careers listed is marriage/mothering with suggested classes that would be helpful. She also lists part-time jobs that combine well with being a homemaker.

This Guide is not just for high school students but can be very useful for adults who are wanting to change their career direction. It is also not just for homeschoolers. I am very impressed with this program and will be implementing it as part of our 8th grade schedule. At $34.95 (E-book) or $39.95 (Printed), the cost of this Guide is well worth the final result of having a roadmap for your children. You will want to read their e-book disclaimer before deciding what format to purchase.

Other products available from EDUDPS include Write With the Best (see my review of level 2) and Roots and Fruits along with several assessment products.

The Career Planning ebook is currently on sale for $26.90.

Please also read other Crew Reviews on EDUDPS' products.

Disclosure:This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. No further compensation was received. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are my own.


I did want to add that this Guide does not address the needs of those headed into ministry as that is more a calling than a career.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Special Wish

About a week ago, we received The Special Wish, a book about friendship. It is part of the Good News Express Series from Passkeys Foundation which is written for 3 to 5 year olds. I dislike stories that contain no purpose or moral. So I was very pleased to read this story to my 5 year old daughter and discover that not only did it have fun characters and bright illustrations, it also had a good message. My daughter has listened to the CD that accompanied the 31-page book every night since it arrived. The CD tells the story in different voices and includes 3 songs.

Other books in the Good News Express series include The Cheerful Grump (Cheerfulness), The Birthday Gift (Sharing), and Thanks, But No Thanks (Thankfulness). Each books sells for $7.50.

We really enjoyedThe Special Wish and hope you will enjoy this series too. You can read here what other crew members thought.

Disclosure:This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. No further compensation was received. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are my own.

Growing Healthy Homes

I have long been saddened by the state of the Standard American Diet. Many people deal with needless ailments because of how our society chooses to eat. Nutrition 101:Choose Life! from Growing Healthy Homes provides a different perspective on nutrition. The authors have a strong desire to use their backgrounds in nutrition and medicine to help others live healthy lives aligned with Biblical teaching.

Nutrition 101: Choose Life! is a three-in-one family nutrition and health program for all ages that presents the major body systems, how they function, their common health issues, the benefits of good food and the consequences of bad food. Its 448 pages include into six units:

1) The Brain and Nervous System
2) Digestion and Elimination
3) Respiration and Olfactory
4) Muscular and Skeletal Systems
5) Cardiovascular and Immune Systems
6) Endocrine System and Emotions

Biblically based and packed with hands-on activities, science and art projects and nearly 80 family-friendly recipes, this program teaches and reinforces the why’s of what we should eat, not just “because I said so.” Containing a complete reference guide filled with nutrition facts, charts, practical tips and an exhaustive index, Nutrition 101: Choose Life! will serve as a constant resource for improved health and abundant living.

Each chapter in Nutrition 101: Choose Life! has discussion questions, activities broken into elementary and secondary skill levels, and additional resources. A Power Recipe is included which also has elementary and secondary activities. Both the chapter and recipe secondary activities lend themselves nicely to deeper research. At the end of each unit are additional recipes.

Also included are 124 pages of appendices including the Choose Life! Food Pyramid and Shopping List, a detailed chart on How to Select Fresh Produce, Kitchen Safety, detailed Vitamin and Mineral Charts, an Alkaline and Acid Chart, Recommended Daily Allowances, Sugar Alternatives, and many more resources to assist you in choosing healthy products for your home.

This curriculum is co-authored by homeschool mother Debra Raybern, N.D., M.H., C.N.C., I.C.A.; homeschool mother and researcher Sera Johnson, B.MU; mother and writer/editor Laura Hopkins, B.S.; and mother, grandmother and former Home Economics teacher Karen Hopkins, B.S.

I have not had a chance to delve into this curriculum as deeply as I would like. But what I have seen I am impressed with and am looking forward to studying it more closely and doing the activities for myself. I can see its strength being at the high school and adult level, and it will definitely be a part of our high school health program. It will also be a resource we will use for years to come.

If you are wanting a life long nutrition resource, Nutrition 101:Choose Life! is worth checking out. You can purchase this 448-page, full-color book on CD-Rom for $79.95, Printed form $99.95, or both for $129.95. There is also co-op pricing available.

Please make sure to read the other crew reviews.

Disclosure:This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. No further compensation was received. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are my own.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

List A

The spelling lists are all done from dictation not from copying. The student does not see the word written until she is finished.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sue Patrick's Workbox System

Sue Patrick's Workbox System gives a framework to providing an organized, fun way of covering your school material quickly without frustration while providing your student a rich education. Mrs. Patrick provides numerous tools and visual aids to facilitate these goals. In her book, Mrs. Patrick not only explains this framework but provides suggestions for encouraging learning. She also gives tips on how to make your current material more useful.

My approach to Sue Patrick's Workbox System User Guide was one of trying to understand the big picture. It would be easy to get lost in the minutia of the system. But I wanted to look at the broader perspective to truly understand what the goal was. This would allow me to implement the system for my family in an effective way.

Every family is different and each child within that family is unique. So how each family uses this system may look different. If the original setup is what is most effective, then use that. But if a part is not effective or is overkill, then change it. You know your children best and the goal is to provide an efficient, enjoyable learning environment for them. Personally, the clutter of using the shoe boxes would drive me batty. We also don't have a "classroom" nor do we have individual desks. So the system as written does not fit our family.

This system can be used at any age. At the junior high and high school levels in our house, however, the actual daily planning is done by the student, not by me. The skill of time management is a crucial one to learn. And part of that learning process is not having someone else plan each step of your day. Initially this planning process will be done with the aid of the parent. But by high school, my students should have the maturity to plan their days.  This does not mean that I will no longer be teaching. But it does mean that I will not be organizing their workload.

Our goal is to provide the necessary components so that my children can move through their day with direction and purpose while learning their material with maximum retention. For my youngest daughter that means presenting the material in small units interspersed throughout the day with fun activities and review all while maintaining the proper balance between independent work and teacher interaction. For my older girls it means giving them the tools to stay on task and a check-in point so I know where they are in their day.

One part of the book that I was greatly disappointed in was Mrs. Patrick's recommendation to teach children 1000-2000 sight words before teaching them phonics. I have seen a child learn to read with phonics and it is a beautiful sight. The student is truly equipped to read. But for a child to have to rely on words he has memorized instead of giving him the tools to decode all words just does not make sense to me. Why confuse the brain with sight words when you can give the building blocks right from the beginning? In The New Illiterates, reading expert Sam Blumenfeld writes, "There is probably no way more calculated to confuse, discourage, and finally frustrate a child than teaching him to “read” via the whole-word method. Not only does this method not teach the child to read, but it places almost insurmountable obstacles to his ever learning to read. The amazing thing is not how many child fail to learn how to read by this method, but how many manage to circumvent the method and learn to read despite it." (31) The goal is to make learning easier for a student, not harder.

The part of Sue Patrick's website that I thought really neat is that she offers Starter Sets and Center Kits. For someone like me, that is great. I do not always have the time, energy or desire to create these and really like the option of purchasing them ready made. You can also purchase consulting from Mrs. Patrick if you need someone to help walk you through streamlining your homeschool.

Children thrive with structure and boundaries. They like to know where they are headed and they do not like surprises. If you are lacking a structure system in your homeschool, Sue Patrick's Workbox System may provide this much needed part of your child's life. The User Guide is an inexpensive introduction to her system and can be purchased as an e-book ($19) or printed book ($19.95). With the purchase of the book you will have access to download the basic forms she mentions.

You can view how other Crew families utilized Sue Patrick's Workbox System here.

Disclosure:This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. No further compensation was received. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are my own.

My 5yo daughter is doing well with her phonics program. And her reading is improving every day. Here is the page she created today learning about the consonants and vowels. If you click on the picture it will enlarge it.

The red checkmarks indicate consonants that make more than one sound. The "qu" is underlined because it is one sound but more than one letter. The "y" is circled because it functions both as a consonant and a vowel depending on the word.

The underlined vowels indicate that the vowel is saying its long sound at the end of a syllable.


Studying can be a "pain in the neck" but it doesn't need to cause literal pain in the neck. Good ergonomics are not only important in an office. They are also important to students. Studying is hard work and you need to give yourself every advantage to make it as efficient and as effective as possible.

One tool that can help is the STUDYPOD Bookholder from GENIO. Designed by a teacher with student input, this book holder is easy to use and very versatile. Its compact format not only holds your book but the tools you need to study that book. Yet it becomes just another one of your books when closed, making transport easy. The STUDYPOD allows you to concentrate on your studies instead of fiddling with keeping your book open and at a comfortable angle.

My oldest daughter has been the main user of the STUDYPOD in our house. She uses it to read her book while eating breakfast and lunch every day. My other daughter uses it to hold her music while practicing the piano. That works well for them both. I like the fact that it holds the book at a comfortable angle. I have had trouble arranging the arms onto the book without it seeming awkward; however, my daughters have not had that experience. I also noticed that the page holder arms leave little dents in the pages of some books. I have not been able to determine if they are temporary or permanent. I am looking forward to using the STUDYPOD in other areas as I can see it being a real asset to good study habits.

The STUDYPOD (BookPod) is available in black, blue, pink, grey and beige for $19.95 or 2 or more for $16.95. If you are not satisfied with the STUDYPOD in any way send it back within 30 days for a full refund.

Read here to see what other Crew members found.

Disclosure:This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. No further compensation was received. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are my own.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Journey Through Learning

I will begin by saying that lapbooks are very much NOT a favorite at our house. So when I received lapbooks to review from A Journey Through Learning I was in a quandary. However, my 12 year old daughter said that she would complete one so that we could see how they worked. The one she chose is called The Desert.

The lapbooks from A Journey Through Learning look fun enough to get even a non-lapbooker like me excited. With many topics to choose from your child can experience hours of hands-on, enjoyable learning.

Included in our lapbook kit was a study guide. This is such a neat feature as I do not like to have to search elsewhere for the information to complete the mini-books. There were also complete templates for the mini-books including clear and thorough directions of how to put the lapbook together. The booklets are colorful and the activities among them varied. The only negative comment that my daughter had about the lapbook was that some of the pieces were challenging to cut out and for a perfectionist that might prove frustrating.

The beauty of these lapbooks is their flexibility. If you want to just read the study guide and complete the mini-books, that is great. You will still learn plenty. However, they are also perfect for including extra material and expanding the topics. You can even purchase copywork and notebooking pages to enhance your study if your particular lapbook does not already include them. Several forms are provided to assist your expanded study. A book list form, note organizing and outline forms as well as narration forms make extra studies easy. There are even additional reading material suggestions.

These colorful lapbooks are very complete, allowing the parent and student to enjoy learning the material instead of worrying about the structure or flow of the lapbook. By completing one mini-booklet per day, a 3-folder lapbook will take you approximately one month. Or you can work through it at any speed that fits your family. I can see one of the history overview unit studies being a great history class when my little ones get into early elementary.

The lapbook topics range from science to history to Bible. There are even ones for preschoolers. If you are interested in a lapbooking class, the folks at A Journey Through Learning would love to book one for you. There are sample pages of the different lapbooks on the website. If you want to see one in its entirety, sign up for their newsletter and you will receive a lapbook free. (Scroll to the bottom of this screen.)

A Journey Through Learning offers free shipping on orders. Most lapbooks cost $13 (instant download), $14 CD, and $21 Printed copy (including 3 color file folders). They also have mini-lapbooks and unit studies.

So if your schooling could use a little spicing up, check out your options at A Journey Through Learning. I know I will be keeping them on my list. You can read here what other families have to say.

Disclosure:This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. No further compensation was received. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are my own.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Write With the Best, Volume 2

Write With the Best, Volume 2, for 6th-12th graders, teaches expository and informative writing. Students learn these skills by modeling great authors of world literature.

Included in these 20 weeks of lessons:

* Free Verse Poetry - Emily Dickinson (10 lessons)
* Business Letters - Helen Keller (10 lessons)
* Notetaking, Outlines, Summaries (10 lessons)
* Persuasive Essays - Thomas Paine (10 lessons)
* Expository Essays - Francis Bacon (10 lessons)
* Literary Critiques - Edgar Allan Poe (10 lessons)
* Book Reviews (10 lessons)
* Newspaper Articles - Ernest Hemingway (10 lessons)
* Speeches - Marcus Tullius Cicero (10 lessons)
* Dramatic Monologues - Shakespeare (10 lessons)

Clearly defined objectives lead the student step by step through analysis of the featured literature then through the writing assignment. A "How to Write Guide" and a "Proofreading Checklist" are included for each writing genre. These can be used both in this course and future writing practice. There are also additional literary passages included so this course can be completed more than once by the same student if desired.

Volume 2 builds on foundations taught in Volume 1 so it is recommended that you start at the beginning unless your student is very strong in descriptive writing.


  • Material is written directly to the student
  • Clearly defined lesson objectives
  • Step by step instruction
  • How to Write Guide
  • Proofreading Checklists
  • Inexpensive ($24.95 Ebook) - Currently on sale for $18.65


  • The text layout may be a little difficult for visual learners (One reason why the generous free samples of their products are nice.)

My 9th grader daughter is currently using another writing program, but I hope to return to Write With the Best in the near future. I feel the age range of 6th-12th grade is fairly accurate. You would obviously expect more detailed work from a 12th grader than a 6th grader. And a less skilled student may need more assistance.

Stay tuned for my review of The Complete Career, College, and High School Guide for Homeschoolers, also an EDUDPS product. For now you can read these EDUDPS reviews from my Crew mates.

Disclosure:This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. No further compensation was received. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are my own.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Guardian Angel Publishing

Andy and Spirit Go To the Fair by Mary Jean Kelso
(Andy and the Albino Horse series)

An encouraging book about a boy who has challenges but still wants to participate in the horse activities at the Fair. It shows that even if something seems impossible, if we will push past our comfort zone and stretch our limitations, great things can be accomplished. Other books in the series include Andy and the Albino Horse and Andy and Spirit in the Big Rescue.

Hamster Holidays: Noun and Adjective Adventures
by Cynthia Reeg
(Pet Parade Grammar series)

Nonsensical holidays help children learn about nouns and adjectives. The adjectives are all in red and the nouns are in blue. The illustrations are very colorful. There are also a few noun and adjective activities at the end. I prefer teaching children with real information so this book was not on my favorites list. But the book does have a lot of color and life.

The Sum of Our Parts:No Bones About It
by Bill Kirk

A silly poem throughout the book helps readers learn the bones in the body. The "Factoids" add further information to the lessons. There are plenty of illustrations throughout although I did feel the skull drawings erred on the side of creepy.

Rainbow Sheep
by Kim Chatel

Fiber art illustrations are plentiful in this story about a little shepherdess. After tickling the rain clouds away, Genevieve met a sad rainbow. Turns out the rainbow was bored. But Genevieve was able to show the rainbow that life is never boring if you just have a little imagination. This made the rainbow so happy it cried tears of joy which fell on the sheep and turned them from dingy white to the colors of the rainbow. There are lessons on felting at the end of the book.

Maybe We Are Flamingos
by Safari Sue Thuzman
(Safari Sue series)

Even children deal with feeling insecure at times. And this book can help them realize that just because they are unique does not mean they don't belong. It also teaches the lesson that things aren't always as they seem and sometimes we just need to be patient. The illustrations are really bright and fun.

Of the 5 ebooks I reviewed I thought that
Andy and Spirit Go To the Fair and Maybe We Are Flamingos had good lessons for children and were worth reading. I would recommend purchasing a printed copy to receive the full benefit of the books.

Prices (before shipping)
Printed Books $10.95
PDF Ebook Download $5.00
Ebook CD $9.95
Some are even available as a DVD Book Video $9.95

There are many other books available through
Guardian Angel Publishing so if you are in the market for these types of children's books make sure to visit their website.

You can also read what other Crewmates thought of their books.

Disclosure:This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. No further compensation was received. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are my own.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Nature Friend Magazine

Nature Friend Magazine

I was absolutely delighted to receive the August and September Study Guide editions of Nature Friend, the magazine that is helping children explore the wonders of God's creation.

The quality of the publication was the first thing that caught my attention. Beautifully colored pictures are found throughout and the pages are made of heavy duty paper.

Another part that impressed me was the reader participation. Many subscriber submissions are printed in each issue including drawings, poems, and even articles. There is also an annual reader's edition which is comprised of reader submissions from cover to cover.

The short articles in Nature Friend make for easy reading. The "Scavenger Hunt" is a great way to keep a child interested in the magazine, and the puzzles make learning fun. Readers are encouraged to submit for publication their drawings from the "You Can Draw" feature.

The Study Guide includes exercises to reinforce the information learned in the articles. Bonus features include "The Photo Critique" teaching photo tips and "A Study in Nature, a Lesson in Writing" encouraging writers to cultivate their creative writing skills.

Nature Friend Magazine, begun in 1983, was first published by the Stanley Brubaker family of Goshen, Indiana. It was born out of Mr. Brubaker's desire to encourage children to believe in God as their Creator and to seek out, recognize, and appreciate His handiwork. It is a monthly publication for both young and old that includes monthly art lessons and features such as "Learning by Doing" and "Creation Close-ups." Half of the issues are geared more toward older family members.

A yearly subscription (12 issues) costs $36.00. The Study Guide can be added for $2 per issue. Back issues and hardback volumes are also available.

I was hoping to use Nature Friend Magazine with our 5 year old daughter as I was looking for material that would expose her to the magnificence of God's creation without being too "schoolish." When I first saw the online samples of Nature Friend, I knew I definitely wanted to give it a try. However, I am finding that she is a little young to absorb the value of the magazine content. I am thinking the perfect ages would be from about 3rd to 6th grades although the articles are interesting even for adults. And there is definitely meat for the older student in the study guide photo and writing lessons. I am hoping as time goes on that my teens will find those tips and lessons useful.

Take some time and check out the Nature Friend website for yourself. And read what other families thought of it.

Disclosure:This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. No further compensation was received. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are my own.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Swine Flu Hysteria Getting Out of Hand

This gave me a laugh that has lasted through the day. I am not minimizing that the flu can be very serious for some people. But I do not think that hysteria is healthy for anyone.

Three Column Modification courtesy of The Blogger Guide