Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Math Mammoth Light Blue Grade 1

This year I decided to use Math Mammoth Light Blue Grade 1 with my 1st grader. I have used other Math Mammoth products in the past and really liked them. It is turning out to be a very good fit. I wanted to ensure that my daughter was being taught to understand math in addition to being able to do the drills. But I also wanted a traditional scope and sequence. Math Mammoth does a great job of bridging the gap between traditional math programs and those that teach conceptual math (like Singapore or RightStart).

Here are a few of the reasons I am liking Math Mammoth this year.
  • It teaches the process involved in each concept working from concrete (pictorial/manipulatives) to abstract.
  • It focuses on addition and subtraction to 10 the first half of the year.
  • It uses fact families which is the method that makes the most sense to me. An example of a fact family: 3+5=8, 5+3=8, 8-3=5, 8-5=3.
  • It uses wording such as one ten, two tens, three tens, etc. and one-ten one, one-ten two, one-ten three, one-ten four when first teaching tens and the teen numbers. This is the same concept that RightStart Math uses and is a great bridge to ensure that students really understand what the numbers mean.
  • It teaches completing the ten within equations. Example: 8+5 = (8 + 2) +3.
  • It uses story problems.
  • It includes game suggestions to further cement the topics.
The second half of the year teaches addition and subtraction with tens, clocks with whole and half hours, shapes, measuring in inches and centimeters, graphs, and money. You can see the complete table of contents here.

Monday, September 6, 2010


My hubby is amazing! And the finish detail is excellent!

Upstairs Bedroom #1 BEFORE


Upstairs Bedroom #1 AFTER



Downstairs Closet BEFORE


Downstairs Closet AFTER


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Whom Should Our Children Marry?

Our pastor has been preaching a series on the Sermon on the Mount. The overriding message has been that living the Christian life is not about behavior modification or fitting a code but about having a change of heart and being led by the Holy Spirit. This obviously affects all areas of our life but sometimes we forget that this includes what our desires for our children should be.

It is easy to have expectations for them that they will only date a certain type of person, attend certain schools, or follow a certain path. But which is the bigger priority – what WE want or what GOD wants? Does He want them to marry or to stay single? Does He want them to attend college or go a different direction? If college, which college? These questions cannot be answered with the checklists to which we can become so attached.

I had a lady once tell me that she would only allow her children to date someone who belonged to their denomination. But doesn’t this limit God? What about desiring a spouse-to-be who exhibits humility and has a heart that desires to serve God where ever He leads? You might find that spouse who lines up perfectly with the church’s creed, but what about the heart? If it’s all about rules and not relationship, you are setting your child up for a miserable life. And who knows, maybe God has a spouse picked for your child from a different church? How much better to desire what God wants instead of what meets OUR criteria of the perfect mate.

It is easier, on the surface, to be tied to creeds, checklists, and our ideals. But in reality there is no freedom in that. Until we let go and let God change our life from the inside and lead us moment by moment, we are missing out on His plan for us (and our children). So what kind of life do we desire for our children? One led by our expectations or one led by God’s eternal plan?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Kinderbach Sale – ONE DAY!


Didn't you hear!? This is a ONE DAY ONLY sale!
The LAST OPPORTUNITY for the 50% off sale!
50% OFF all KinderBach at Home products!
There will not be a better sale this year.
You will never see prices this low again!

Okay, the sale starts TODAY!
Friday, June 25, 2010 at 12:01 am CT.

HURRY because the sale finishes TONIGHT!
Saturday, June 25, 2010 at midnight CT.

That's right ONLY TODAY!
Use the coupon code:

(You can use the link on the top of my blog.)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Brown Rice Blues

So you hear a lot about brown rice being so much healthier than white rice. And I don’t dispute that. However, if you can’t cook a healthier food so it is palatable, what good is it? That was my dilemma with brown rice. My family didn’t like how it turned out and neither did I.

So I decided to investigate a better way. The first solution I came across was to sauté the uncooked rice with an egg until dry before cooking. This turned out well enough to try again. But I also wanted to keep looking to see if there was an easier way than having to include the egg.

One method said that to improve the brown rice texture you should presoak the rice for 7 hours in an acid base. Another method I came across was “Perfect Brown Rice” posted on the Saveur website. Since I didn’t have time to soak my rice for that evening’s meal, I went ahead and just used Saveur’s recipe. Based on what I had read on this blog, I cut the water down from 12 cups to 6 or 8 cups. (I figured I would go in between the two sets of instructions.) It turned out with a decent texture.

Tonight, since I actually planned ahead, I soaked 1 cup brown rice in 2-1/4 cups water and 2 tablespoons lemon juice for 7 hours. I then drained and cooked it using the Saveur method. I will have to experiment with the boiling time after soaking because I think the rice was a little bit soggier than my first attempt in which the rice was not soaked. But it still turned out very useable. Next time, in addition to experimenting with the boiling time, I want to use chicken stock instead of water.

I am encouraged that with these new soaking and cooking methods I can come up with brown rice that my family pronounces edible.

PS. I read somewhere that you should never use brown rice in stir fry. Well, I have made at least 3 batches with brown rice and they have all tasted just fine.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

It’s been a Fun Week!

This week has been interesting. I have felt really good and have gotten a bunch of things accomplished.

  • Cut up a bunch of celery and carrot sticks to keep in the fridge. It is so handy having them ready.
  • Washed 3 heads of lettuce and put the leaves between paper towels in plastic bags. I am hoping this will help them stay fresh long enough for me to use them.  Plus I was left with a bag ready for salad or green smoothies.
  • Made a batch of bread which finally turned out good. The last couple batches had been too dry. I have no idea what I did differently.
  • Cut up and packaged a ham ready for the freezer. That should give us about 7 meals. I like to use it in scrambled eggs, omelets, and macaroni and cheese.
  • Thursday brought about my yogurt experiment. I used a whey-based drink mix in place of the milk and used an acidophilus capsule for the starter. That didn’t work at all. So I added 2 tablespoons of yogurt to the already hot “milk”. That didn’t set up but it will work in place of buttermilk. For the final batch I boiled new “milk” and added more yogurt and extra whey-based powder. It is currently in the fridge setting up. It looks pretty liquidy.
  • Made refried beans to put in the freezer. I put it in 1-1/2 cup servings and use it in chili. I like them on tortillas with cheese but no one else does.
  • Broke down a bunch of cardboard boxes.
  • Read 3 books. This was a surprise as I can hardly get through a book these days.

Friday, June 18, 2010


I just wanted to pass on an easy chili recipe that has tasted really good the last few times.

  • 1 pound ground beef, cooked
  • 2 cans tomato soup
  • 1-1/2 cups refried beans
  • Onion, chopped
  • Garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin, optional
  • Hotdogs, sliced and cut in quarters (I only like Sinai 48 or Hebrew National-type)

Heat thoroughly. Serve with cornbread and raw vegis or a salad.

(The cornbread baked in my new cast iron pan turned out awesome!)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Importance of Understanding the Process

We all want to live up to our potential, right? Without understanding the processes we undertake, we limit our potential. The rules are important but to truly apply the rules we need to understand the workings of that process. It is amazing to me how many areas of my life in which this principle is apparent. From my cooking to schooling to my Christian walk, all these areas shout to me the importance of true understanding.

Using is not always understanding. My mom has made sourdough pancakes since I can remember. And I have made them since I’ve been on my own. But that is all I ever did with my sourdough starter. And even there, all I knew was that I took the starter out of the fridge the night before, put milk and flour in it, and let it sit overnight. Then the next morning I was to take a portion of the starter out to put back in the fridge and continue on making the pancakes. I didn’t know that sourdough is actually alive and putting it in the fridge puts it into a dormant state. So taking it out of the fridge just wakes it up so I can use it. It is adding the flour and milk (or water) that feeds those little critters and makes the starter grow.

I wanted to try sourdough bread but was always afraid I would ruin my starter somehow. All because I did not understand how it worked. So I never ventured out past pancakes . . . until recently. I found a book that had a recipe for bread that started out the same as the pancakes. This led me to investigate sourdough further. Wow! Was I missing a lot. What is sourdough? How does it work? How do you know it is weak or strong? You get the picture. What does this understanding do for me? It makes it so I can experiment with replacing the leavening in my other recipes with sourdough. It makes it so I can experiment with different rates of feeding and different amounts of flour and water to see what keeps my starter the healthiest. It makes it so I can leave my starter on the counter and use it day to day for muffins, biscuits, bread or even pizza dough.

Does understanding the process negate the need for the recipes? Definitely not! But without the understanding of how sourdough worked, I was locked into a box fearing to venture out lest I ruin my starter which I received from my mother, who has had hers for over 40 years. Thus my potential of using this nutrient-rich food was greatly diminished without truly understanding the process.

But not only does the importance of understanding present itself in my kitchen. It shows up in my homeschooling as well. The first area it manifested itself was in math class. Using math in real life is more easily accomplished when you truly understand how the formulas work. You can go through your math classes clicking through the math facts and working all the right steps of the formulas. You can even get the right answers. But a student can do all those things and still be unable to explain the process. Understanding is crucial to being able to use math where it really matters – the real world. There is no way you are going to be able to take a real life situation and apply the correct formula to it if you do not understand what the formula is all about. So knowing your math facts and formulas is very important. But if you cannot identify which formula applies to which situation, the rote information is pretty useless in helping you find your solution. Thus both elements are important.

The attitude that all we need to know are the facts and formulas can permeate into our Christian life as well. We can have our checklists and formulas for being the perfect Christian that we are continually striving to meet. But is that what Christianity really is? Do we really live in the fullness God has for us if we are just walking a facts and figures path? Do we truly understand that God wants a relationship with us and that our righteousness is not won through any of our checklists being completed? Is it important that we follow the rules as a Christian? Yes, it is. James 2 clearly states that faith without works is dead. However, we follow the rules because of our love for God not because it earns us our salvation. And it isn’t even a following of the rules. As we live in relationship with Christ being led by the Holy Spirit, we automatically do the deeds that fulfill the Law because they are what please God.

So just knowing the rules or the formulas isn’t enough although they are important. Whether I am cooking, learning, or living my Christian life, only through true understanding of the process can I be free from a life of rigidity and become open to the possibility of venturing into heights and depths unknown.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Crew Days Are Over

Well, my days on the TOS Homeschool Crew are officially over. Thank you to those of you who followed me on this journey. It was an interesting time for me and it may take a while to realize the lessons gained. It is a bittersweet parting. I do know that it will be good to get back to concentrating on other aspects of life. The Crew took a lot more time and energy than I anticipated. But I am also walking away from a journey that is continuing. And that is hard to do.

So where do I go from here? I’m not sure. I hope to continue to blog at least once a week although I am not sure on what subject matter. I did learn from being on the Crew that I only like to write on things about which I am passionate. So it might be a little bit about school products I am really liking, methods that are really working, or topics that I have been cogitating on for a while. We will just have to see what happens.

To those of you who will be disembarking at this point, thank you for reading. I wouldn’t mind hearing if anything I’ve posted has been helpful. For those of you who will continue on with me, hopefully something I post will be a blessing or at least helpful.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Need Encouragement in Teaching Writing?

I have been so strengthened by all the Susan Wise Bauer seminar sessions to which I have listened. I always come away with a concrete plan and an assurance that I can prepare my children academically for their future. These sessions have been well worth the few dollars each one costs. I hope they might encourage you as well.

Writing Without Fear

A Plan for Teaching Writing: Focus on the Middle Grades

A Plan for Teaching Writing:Focus on the High School Years

What is Literary Analysis? When, Why, and How Should I Teach It?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Deceptive Simplicity

It is surprising when an education method that seems so simple actually produces a broad foundation that allows a student to learn at a deeper level all through his life.

When I first read the suggested Language Arts Scope and Sequence at Ambleside Online, I was not convinced that it could really produce strong results. How can a child get ahead with only doing phonics, oral narration, and copywork until third grade? Yes, they add in written narration and beginning grammar in upper elementary. But to wait until junior high for formal grammar and high school for formal composition? Shouldn't a student be doing a lot of writing and have had several years of grammar instruction by then? That just doesn’t make sense . . . or does it?

Looking back on the journey of my two older daughters (just finishing 7th and 9th grades), I see the beauty in AO's suggestions. It is much easier to tackle grammar in a short period of time after the student has entered the logic stage. He is then able to think abstractly instead of trying to analyze grammatical concepts with a concrete thought process in the early years. We’ve experienced that and I have no interest in beating my head against the wall for multiple years again.

Just because you don't teach "formal" grammar until junior high does not mean the student is not learning any. There are plenty of opportunities to teach proper sentence structure, capitalization, punctuation and more while you are working with written narrations. But it is all done in a concrete manner that your grammar student can understand. Then when the student reaches the logic stage of thinking, he is ready to analyze those concrete things he has previously learned. Just this time it is in the abstract way that formal grammar requires. No wonder grammar is such a struggle for some students. We are trying to teach them logic stage material when their brains are not ready for it.

Now about composition - you have been teaching it all along in the form of oral and written narration. I did not fully grasp the power of narration until I started using it in our homeschool. It seems so simple on the surface. "Tell me what we just read about."  But have you ever stopped to think of the skills required to do that? You have to listen intently, recognize and remember the important details, and organize and put that information into your own words so you can tell it back. Sounds like a whole lot of skills necessary for composition.

When you look at what skills narration produces, it really is not so simple. It requires active mental participation on the part of the student. And that takes hard work and discipline. These character traits, along with the academic skills acquired, provide the student a strong foundation allowing him to go on to a deeper life of learning.

So it is not about giving your student piles and piles of writing assignments. And it is not about doing grammar lessons year after year. It is about the student being actively involved in the process of learning. And the best way to accomplish that is to teach your child the necessary concepts when his brain is most able to absorb the information. We have experienced that this “simple” method is very effective in building a strong foundation for deeper learning.

You can find further information on Charlotte Mason's language arts methods here.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Lobster Network


How many times have you lent an item to someone only to forget whom you gave it to? Or have you ever wished for a place to keep track of all your stuff? Well, there is now a free website that can help you with that.

Whether you want to track items, loan or borrow items, sell, buy, or trade items, LOBSTER NETWORK has many features to help you manage your personal inventory.


Item Search: Browse all items by name, category, or location.

My Inventory: Add, edit or delete items. Items can be tagged as Lending (Communities only), For Sale, For Trade, Wanted, Free. Or you can just have them for your inventory list. There is an option to upload pictures and lots of choices for details.

Lend: You can enter the borrower's name and email address and the  lend period to have an email reminder sent if the item is not returned on time.


Communities: This can be a great feature for a co-op or other small group that lends materials back and forth.

Message Center: Receive friend requests or communicate with other members.

Reports: Who do need to return items to? Who has items to return to you? Just run a report and you will be able to tell at a glance.


The best way to tell how Lobster Network works is to just sign up and give it a try. You can also 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.

Great Latin Adventure


Why study Latin? Well, for us, it is because Latin is the foundation of so many other languages. It is because learning Latin roots can open up the world of English exponentially more than just studying a list of vocabulary words. So I wanted a program that taught Latin but also worked heavily with English vocabulary.

When I looked at the sample pages of Great Latin Adventure from Classical Legacy Press, I definitely wanted to see more. Because even though it is targeted for grades 4-6, I could see if being a fit for my 7th and 9th graders.

So I was very happy to be selected to receive this program to review as part of the TOS Homeschool Crew. I was generously sent both Levels 1 and 2 which each include a Teacher Manual, Student Manual, and Pronunciation CD. The levels come shrink-wrapped, 3-hole punched, and binder ready. They even include front, back and spine inserts, a feature which I thought was really neat.

There is plenty of introductory material which helps you get a good feel for the program before you try plan your first week. One important point to know about Great Latin Adventure is that it is NOT a self-teaching course although I am sure there is a way you could tweak it to be one for an older student. Teacher interaction is planned into the text. However, the teacher material is laid out very clearly and answers to all student material is provided.

For those of you who have been around Latin programs more than I have, here is what GLA is NOT:

  • Not an immersion program
  • Not an inductive program
  • Not steeped in educational novelty
  • Not a Roman culture or history program

Classical pronunciation is used instead of ecclesiastical although it can be used no matter which is your preference. Suggestions for how to do this are given in the introductory material.

Using Great Latin Adventure will take some of your time. In addition to teaching the lessons, you will need to set aside time to read and understand the 28 pages of introductory material including the Master Chapter Plan.This probably took me about a day as I like to take notes while reading to help things become clearer. This is a one-time process unless, of course, you need a refresher from time to time.

Then each week you will need to take some time to prepare for the next lesson. You will want to read the teaching notes, study the grammar lesson, review the worksheets, learn the vocabulary, and be ready to teach lesson.



  • Teaching Notes
  • Vocabulary List
  • Grammar Lesson
  • Study Sheet Key
  • Derivative Worksheet Key
  • Translation Worksheet 1 Key
  • Translation Worksheet 2 Key
  • Pre-Quiz
  • Pre-Quiz Key
  • Quiz
  • Quiz Key
  • Latin to English Glossary  Chapters 1-12 (Level 1)
  • English to Latin Glossary Chapters 1-12 (Level 1)
  • Latin to English Glossary Chapters 1-25 (Level 2)
  • English to Latin Glossary Chapters 1-25 (Level 2)


  • Vocabulary List
  • Grammar Lesson
  • Study Sheet
  • Derivative Worksheet
  • Translation Worksheet 1
  • Translation Worksheet 2



Day 1
Review quiz from previous week
Introduce new vocabulary, Begin Grammar lesson
Homework: Begin derivative worksheet

Day 2
Continue grammar lesson
Begin study sheet
Homework: Finish derivative worksheet

Day 3
Complete grammar lesson and study sheet
Do sample of translation worksheet
Homework: Begin first translation sheet (TW1)

Day 4
Homework: Continue TW1

Day 5
Go over answers for completed portions of TW1
Homework: Finish TW1

Day 6
Finish going over TW1 answers
Homework: Study for vocabulary pre-quiz; Begin TW2

Day 7
Give vocabulary pre-quiz; Review portion of TW2 completed
Homework: Complete TW2

Day 8
Go over remainder of TW2; Review for chapter quiz
Homework: Study for chapter quiz

Day 9
Give chapter quiz. Begin vocabulary cards for next chapter.


MY SCHEDULE for a 7th and 9th grader

Day 1 (My time: Apx 45 minutes)
Previous chapter quiz review
New vocabulary
Grammar lesson
Study Sheet
Homework: Derivative worksheet

Day 2 (My time: 0 minutes)
Homework: Translation worksheet 1 (TW1)

Day 3 (My time: 10 minutes)
Go over TW1 answers
Homework: Translation worksheet 2 (TW2); Study for vocab pre-quiz

Day 4 (My time: 10 minutes)
Go over TW2 answers
Give vocabulary pre-quiz
Homework: Study for chapter quiz

Day 5 (My time: 0 minutes)
Chapter quiz

If the Great Latin Adventure sounds like something that fits what you want in a Latin program, check it out further on the Classical Legacy Press website. Also take a look at their Logic Curriculum.

You can also read what other Crew family’s experienced with Great Latin Adventure.

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.

Peterson Directed Handwriting


Peterson Directed Handwriting’s teaching method makes a lot of sense to me, and I am currently using it to teach cursive to my kindergarten daughter. There are many teacher helps on their website and they are always willing to meet and help you through bumps in the road.

I did find that the material itself could be laid out better in order to make use of the material.

More time will need to pass before I will know if this method produces good results but what I have seen so far is promising.


Handwriting is an important subject in our house. To me it is more than just learning how to make the shapes of the letters. It is an integral part of the whole foundation of communication. It is not just about the letters looking nice on the page. Good penmanship is the beginning step of strong composition.

Thus I was very interested in trying Peterson Directed Handwriting. I had watched a video on their website several months ago about only using finger tracing and it made a lot of sense. Their method of locking the movements into muscle memory then moving toward actually writing on paper intrigued me.

During my online meeting with Rand Nelson, VP of Marketing for Peterson Directed Handwriting, we determined that the best level to try with my 6-year old daughter would be Cursive 2. She had previously learned both printing and cursive, but her foundation was not very solid.

Thus began our journey with Peterson Directed Handwriting. The road has been a bit rocky; however, it is starting to smooth out. But not without a lot of brain work on my part.

I do much better when material is organized with a clear, logical progression. Unfortunately, my Cursive 2 E-book was not such a book. I had already watched the tutorial videos on the website so I knew there were crucial parts of the program that were not being presented on the pages. I was expecting an overview of the method and then a clear progression of movements and letters that I was supposed to teach. Instead there was no overview and the worksheets started at the 3rd step in the process, finger tracing. And, even then, it taught a stroke with one wording then changed the wording of the stroke on the next exercise. It does not make sense to me to change the wording if you are trying to lock a sequence of words that when verbalized will drive the writing.

So I did what so many homeschoolers do when material doesn’t fit their needs. I tweaked it. I took the 4 major components of the Peterson Method, used the stroke wording from our current handwriting program, and started teaching my kindergartener. For each letter, we are working on large muscle memory, finger tracing, writing without lines, then writing with lines – all the while making sure the voice is driving the pencil. When we write without lines on the white board, I have her close her eyes and do it. This helps me gauge if the muscle memory is strong before moving onto using the finer muscles. Even with the few letters we have done, I am seeing the importance of each step, especially the large muscle memory. The first couple letters my daughter worked on, we did much work with each step. She is very confident when writing them. The next letters we rushed through the first steps and prematurely moved to pencil and paper. She was not near as solid with those letters. We went back and worked more on the large muscle memory and she is now more confident with the newer letters as well.


I feel that Peterson Directed Handwriting’s method of teaching has much merit and is worth investigating. The part lacking is the organization and clarity of the material which, unfortunately, for me is a huge block. The company is very willing to meet with customers to help them through any frustrations or struggles. So it isn’t about a lack of customer service. I just don’t have time to set up a personal online session, scour a website reading online instructions, or to watch training videos. I need everything to all be clearly spelled out in the material so when I am preparing for class at 9 o’clock at night I can easily see what direction I am going and what I need to teach.

Great method – Material needs a little work.

You can read here what other Crew members experienced with Peterson’s Directed Handwriting.

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, May 13, 2010

LightSpeed Chemistry AP Test Prep


In the world of college preparation, you will most likely hear about Advanced Placement classes and tests. I won’t take the time to tell you what AP is all about, but you can visit the College Board website for more information.


Cerebellem Corporation has just released a new series of four AP Exam Prep DVDs. We were sent the Chemistry DVD to review. Also available are U.S.Government and Politics, History of the U.S., and English Language and Composition. Each DVD is regularly $14.98 but make sure to check their website for sales.

Included with the DVD is a Digital Workbook with handouts, quizzes, and activities to reinforce the topic before and after the video. It seems that for this product to be useful, the digital workbook MUST be utilized. The DVD itself contains 3 sections. It first gives an overview of the AP test along with some test taking tips such as how long to take on each problem in the sections. It then talks about the free response question sections of the test providing students with key pointers on how to get the most points possible. The third part of the DVD presents 30 chemistry topics in 30 minutes. Topics include but are not limited to Atomic Theory & Structure, Chemical Bonding, Nuclear Chemistry, Gases, Stoichiometry, Equilibrium & Kinetics, and Thermodynamics.

Even though the DVD is very fast paced, the speakers all present their material clearly. Words are printed on the screen as well as being spoken to help those who learn better visually. However, because of the speed in which the material is presented, the key to it being a helpful study tool will be in using the digital workbook. Unless you are incredibly talented, it would be extremely hard to absorb enough information from just the DVD to be helpful. And the DVD is definitely not a replacement for taking an AP class. You can see a sample of the DVD here.

My nephew, who just took the AP Chemistry test, said he felt this DVD missed some important topics in the 30 topics in 30 minutes. But he confirmed that the test setup was portrayed accurately and that the tips could be helpful. His AP class had already done a lot of study sessions so he did not really know if the DVD was a helpful tool or not.

Cerebellem Corporation also has instructional videos in many other subjects. So be sure to check out their website. Also make sure to read the other Crew reviews on the AP Exam Prep DVDs.

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, May 12, 2010

Homeschool Expo Vendor Hall

If you're researching or buying homeschool curriculum, you have to check out the Vendor Hall at the Schoolhouse Expo! It's open to everyone. Browse through companies such as Rainbow Resource, WriteShop, Apologia, Latin Road/Phonics Road, Multiplication Shake, Go Phonics, and MANY MORE!

Latin Road/Phonics Road has freebies in their booth. Rainbow Resource has a free shipping offer. Spears Art Studio has a free CD. Real Science by Gravitas has a 25% discount coupon.

There is just so much to see. Stop by and meet the virtual hostess from each company, browse their selection, and look for "conference specials".

Andrea Carter and the Trouble with Treasure

Andrea Carter and the Trouble with Treasure, the latest book released in the Circle C Adventures authored by Susan K. Marlow, follows the adventures of a group of California teens in early summer 1881. What started out as a two week trip to a logging camp turns into quite an adventure as the teens cross paths with outlaws. You can read an excerpt of this book here.

My 13-year old daughter liked the book. She thought the plot was interesting and kept her attention. She would have liked the story to be longer, but since it is written for 8 to 12 year olds the shorter length is understandable.

My 14-year old daughter thought the book leaned on the side of being too modern for the year 1881. But, even so, it is still quite realistic. She liked it very much and wants to read the rest of the series. She said that even though this book is written for younger children, it has a good plot that is intense enough to keep an older reader’s interest.

There are 4 other books in this series available from the publisher at a cost of $7.99 each. It appears that a sixth book is set to be released in possibly Fall 2010.

You can read here what other Crew members thought of their book from Kregel Publications.

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, May 11, 2010

Ideal Curriculum

I was sent an e-product of Ideal Curriculum Level 1, Month 1 to review. Included were teacher’s manuals for literary lessons, math lessons, calendar lessons, and science lessons. Also included were print files, music files, and reading files.


The literary and math/calendar lessons are set up the same. The directions are straight-forward.

Each activity includes:

  • Why This Lesson is Important
  • Preparation
  • Direct Teaching Lesson
  • Practice Throughout the Day
  • Student Workbook (when applicable)
  • Weekly Assessment


The science lessons are listed by day instead of by activity. Each day includes Preparation, Dialogical Reading, and an Activity. Each day also has a special emphasis such as the following. The non-obvious activities are explained in the teacher’s manual.

  • Experimentation
  • Shared Writing
  • Art Activity
  • Dramatic Play
  • Story Sequencing
  • Matching


Already having a strong math and language arts program in place, those portions of the Ideal Curriculum did not appeal to me. This was especially true because it presents a different teaching philosophy than I have found is best for our family.

I see Ideal Curriculum being a good fit for someone who wants something simple that is all laid out for them. Unlike many boxed programs, the Ideal Curriculum covers a reasonable amount of material allowing the teacher and student not to be overwhelmed by everything that has to accomplish. It could be a good starting place for beginning homeschoolers. However, the price is quite high for material at this level, especially if you purchase the print option.

Monthly kit price: Download $30, Print $55. As you will see each month has its own theme.

One year (9 months) price: Download $240, Print $440

You can read other Crew families’ experiences 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.

Saturday, May 8, 2010


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Beeyoutiful Tension Tamer

As someone who prefers to treat her family with natural remedies whenever possible, I am always on the lookout for new products that work well. So when I received the Tension Tamer from Beeyoutiful I was very curious what we would experience.
The first thing we noticed was that it has a very strong smell. Fortunately, it is one that we really like. It seems to be mainly the wintergreen essential oil that we smell but the peppermint might be blending in with it as well. Whatever the scent, it sure does open the nostrils. I’m sure the eucalyptus essential oil plays a part in the smell but it isn’t distinguishable.

The second thing that we noticed was that a little goes a long way. The bottle seems small but it takes very little to have an effect. If you use too much, your skin gets really warm.

Sometimes it can be very difficult to know if a product is really working or if is just a coincidence. And that is kind of where I am with the Tension Tamer. We have been using it for about a month now and it seems to make a difference. I tend to get a very tight neck and shoulders which at times threatens to turn into a headache. It seems that the Tension Tamer has helped relax me some. We have also used it on sore muscles with success. Fortunately, we have not had the opportunity to try it on clogged sinuses although I am guessing that it would at least be a help based on the effect just the smell has.

So Tension Tamer is not a product I am discounting. We will continue to use it and see if we can confirm our preliminary findings.

Beeyoutiful carries an array of different products. You can read here what other Crew members experienced with them.

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.

01/25/2011 Update - The Beeyoutiful Tension Tamer is a product I continue to carry in my purse. If I feel my neck tightening up I apply a little of the oil to my neck and shoulder and the discomfort quickly subsides.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Super Star Speech


















One of the hard things that parents go through is suspecting their child is not developing normally. One area this can occur in is speech. Licensed speech language pathologist Deborah Lott knows that parents need tools to first determine if there is a problem and second to help their child.

Super Star Speech was developed to give parents such tools. Three different books are available depending on your needs. They are Super Star Speech, Super Star R & L, and Super Star S, Z, and Sh. You can also buy them all together in a package.

Also available on the website are Super Star Games. These education enrichment games come in e-book format for a cost of $3.50 each.


Thankfully we did not have a need for the speech therapy material. The only game that fit our age range was All About Animals. This is a bingo type game where the child can match the picture of an animal to its description and its category. The pages print up nicely on card stock and work well for laminating.

You can visit the Super Star Speech website for more information. Also please read the Crew reviews.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Sue Gregg Cookbooks

Did you know that you should presoak AND boil you dry beans before cooking with them to decrease lectin concentration? (This is especially true of kidney beans.) Or did you know that presoaking, fermentation, or sprouting of whole grains is important to unbind valuable nutrients in digestion? Sue Gregg explains how to modify your recipes to include this Two-Step Process. These are just two examples of the nutrition and cooking tidbits presented throughout Sue’s material. It is important to use healthier foods, but how you prepare them makes a difference as well. All of Sue’s books I have seen include tips to help you get the most nutrition from the foods you cook.

The Sue Gregg products specific to this review are Lunches and Snacks With Cookbook for Children (on CD), Introducing Whole Foods Cooking (on CD), and Meals in Minutes. I will attempt to give you an overview of these books which will hopefully help you determine if they might be a helpful addition to your kitchen.

Lunches and Snacks

Planning for Lunches includes: Breaking the Sandwich Syndrome, Sample lunch menus, Sample snack menus

Planning for Teaching includes 5 Keys to Success with Children and What Children Can Learn (at various ages)

Children’s Cookbook includes ABC’s of Food Preparation, Kitchen Safety and Food Storage, Nutrition Quizzes after recipes, and Menu Planning Guidelines

Also included in this cookbook are sections for:

  • Beverages
  • Breads
  • Crackers, Dips & Snacks
  • Salads
  • Sandwiches & Spreads
  • Soups
  • Desserts

The CD has step-by-step instructions with pictures for 60+ recipes and processes such as kitchen safety, washing the dishes, and setting the table.

Introducing Whole Grains CD-ROM

Includes a Personal Guide with 12 weeks worth of Lesson Plans

Includes a Leader’s Guide for 6 lessons

Includes a semester-long class called Whole Foods Menu Planning and Meal Preparation
   -Suggested prerequisite: Baking with Whole Grains (Semester)

Meals in Minutes (from Freezer to Table)

Meals in Minutes starts off with a Basic Stock List. It then continues on with instructions on how to freeze main dishes including how and when to add seasonings, how to prepare different types of ingredients, and methods of freezing. It also shows thawing and reheating methods. Extra timesaving tips are also included.

Sometimes when changing cooking styles, all the different ingredients can be a little overwhelming. Meals in Minutes includes a Shopping Guide to Quality Ingredients to help you navigate those waters. There is even a section that teaches you how to cook chicken or turkey.

Then comes the Meals in sets of 5.

  • 5 Timesaver Meals
  • 5 Convenience Meals
  • 5 Quick Meals
  • 5 Make-Ahead Meals
  • 5 Ready-to-Serve Meals

Each of these sets of 5 has the following:

  • Menu List
  • Shopping List
  • Assembly Schedule: Day Before, Cooking Day, Complete Recipes

The remainder of this cook book includes various other helps:

  • Nutritional Goals section
  • Suggestions for Fighting the Battle of the Bulge
  • Nutrient Data Explained
  • A Caution About Microwave Ovens
  • Vegetarian Alternatives
  • List of Other Freezer Recipes (from other SueGregg Cookbooks)


Our family hasn’t been too fond of the recipes we tried, but there were two recipe that were hits. The Best Burrito Beans (Meals in Minutes) tasted good before freezing and were very good when thawed.  My Own Whole Grain Bread Dough Recipe (Lunches & Snacks with Cookbook for Children) is my newfound bread recipe. It uses the two-step process mentioned earlier. The texture is solid but soft (even on the third day). And the crust is soft even using my old metal pans. So even though most recipe flavors didn’t meet with the approval of our family’s taste buds, the method of presoaking grains, beans, and rice is one that I am adopting. And I am definitely sold on the two-step process for baking.

You can read more about Sue Gregg’s methods and cookbooks on their website. You can read other Crew reviews 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.

Lesson Planet

Why do we need Lesson Planet when there are many free websites that provide lesson plans and worksheets? Lesson Planet’s material is all reviewed, summarized, and rated by credentialed K-12 teachers specially trained in reviewing. The ratings are determined by a rubric. Lesson Planet is also member-supported and does not contain advertising.

Lesson plans can be found by subject, calendar, theme, or through lesson planning articles written by the Subject Guide Teachers. The calendar option, where you can find lessons that relate to a particular date, is neat. There are also worksheets available which can be searched for by subject or theme. A keyword search is available for lesson plans and worksheets where you can filter by grade level and/or by rating.  The advanced keyword search allows you to narrow your criteria further by the following:

  • Subject
  • Class design: Individual, Small Group, Whole Class
  • Technology Used
  • Lessons Include: Assignment, Bibliography, Form, Quiz, Resource Links, Rubric, Vocabulary, WebQuest, Worksheet
  • Lesson Duration
  • Lesson Creation Year

I thought the advanced search exclusion choices were neat.

  • Exclude lessons that require web access
  • Exclude all Subscription Sites
  • Exclude sites with advertising
  • Exclude lessons that are not printer friendly

As you look through the website, you have the option of saving results. These results are then accessible from your account. You are also able to see your search history.

A subscription to Lesson Planet is $39.95/year which is not bad considering you have access to over 150,000 teacher reviewed lesson plans and 75,000 worksheets. They also offer a 10-day free trial.


My teaching style is not one of putting together lesson plans from different sources to make a smooth flowing course. So even though Lesson Planet has their material arranged very nicely, it does not fit my needs. Now if you like to use a large variety of sources for your teaching or if you like to do supplemental lessons for special days, then Lesson Planet could be a gold mine. It is very nice that the material has been reviewed and rated so you can have some idea of its value without having to look over it completely yourself.

You can read what other Crew families discovered about Lesson Planet 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.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Time4Learning - PreK

My review for today is Time4Learning’s Pre-K program. I am going to say right up front that I have a very difficult time reviewing computer-based material. Unless I actually log in and work through many of the exercises myself I do not have a good grasp on what the program truly is like. So I am going to give you an overview of the structure. But as far as the value of the content I am not able to comment a whole lot. Our learning environment is very writing-focused and not object-focused. So programs such as Time4Learning are more for fun than educational benefit in our home. With T4L’s fun interface there is definitely appeal and fun involved.
Time4Learning Pre-K is broken into 2 sections. Each section has different categories which provide activities for the student to complete.
Time4Learning Pre-K Level 1 includes these categories.
  • School Supplies
  • Alphabet
  • Colors
  • Shapes
  • Rhyme Time
  • Numbers
  • Weather
  • On the Farm
  • Food
  • At the Zoo
  • Feelings
  • Vehicles
  • Tools
  • On the Playground
  • Sports
  • The Human Body
  • Space
  • Fruit
  • The Human Face
  • Garden
Pre-K Level 2 includes these categories.
  • At the Library
  • Insects
  • Color Mixing
  • Seasons
  • Playing Outside
  • More Letters
  • Healthy Habits
  • Your Self
  • More Numbers
  • Out to Sea
  • More Rhymes
  • Staying Fit
  • Manners
  • Pets
  • Days of the Week
  • Time
  • Making Music
  • Measuring
  • Nature
  • Money
  • In Your Neighborhood

Both levels include the same types of activities which are listed below. The Pre-K Scope and Sequence explains what each activity does.
  • Story Book
  • Showtime
  • Patterns
  • Memory
  • Paint It
  • Find It
  • Which
  • Recall
  • Syllable Drum
  • Idea Book
  • Match It
  • Puzzles
  • Stories You Write
  • Ordering
  • BrainyBots

There is also a Playground available with categories such as Actions Games, Kids Places (PBS games), Puzzlers, Activities, Educational Games, and Two Player Games. The parent can set the maximum amount of time that can be spent at the playground. I thought that the minimum lesson time had to be met before being allowed into the Playground but that hasn’t been our experience.
T4L offers programs from Pre-K to 8th grade. Lesson plans are included on the site to help you get the most out of your student’s studies. You can also have a child working in different levels based on his ability. The website indicates that T4L tracks progress and helps students advance along individualized learning paths. I am unclear how this works as I did not find that portion evident in the Pre-K levels.
You can view a demonstration of their program if this sounds like something that might be of value to your family. Subscriptions are billed monthly. I thought the price was a bit high for Pre-K material. But then paying for academics at the Pre-K level doesn’t make a lot of sense to me so that would cloud my view. But for a family who wants more of a structured Pre-K, T4L may be a good option. I would consider the price reasonable for higher levels if the content is what fits your needs. T4L does offer a 14-day 100% Satisfaction Guarantee.
You can read here what other Crew families though.
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, April 13, 2010

Carnival of Homeschooling

I participated in a Carnival of Homeschooling this week. You can find my entries as well as many other homeschooling topics at Our Curious Home.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Who Am I? – All About Reading Book 2

All About Learning, producer of All About Spelling, is getting ready to introduce the second reader in their All About Reading series. It is called Who Am I? The stories are about 10 pages long with much more reading on each page than in All About Reading Book 1 which I reviewed
here. Who Am I? follows the same sequence as All About Spelling Level 2.

There is definitely a variety of stories in this book. The story about the snakes getting loose in the pet shop was kind of creepy, but I bet a boy would love it. Then there are stories about robots, skunks, horses, and more. There is even a chapter with poems.

I found the words to be on a good level but some such as “emit” and “silt pond” were unfamiliar in use to my kindergartner. But it makes a great opportunity for a vocabulary lesson even at this early age.


This book is a perfect fit for my 6-year old daughter who is reading at about a 2nd grade level. And she likes the stories.

You can read here what other Crew members experienced and be watching for the unveiling of this new reader.

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, April 9, 2010

The Terrestria Chronicles

Keeping our children supplied with good books can be quite a challenge when they love to read. So we are always looking for new authors who interest them.

The Terrestria Chronicles written by Ed Dunlop and published by Cross and Crown Publishing is one such series we reviewed. Targeted for ages 10 and up, the start of this allegorical series has proven to be interesting reading for my 13 and 14-year old daughters. Portrayed in a medieval-like setting, The Sword, The Ring, and The Parchment (Book 1) and The Quest for Seven Castles (Book 2) provided much enjoyment as well as food for thought as Josiah, the main character, is freed from sin and made a prince by King Emmanuel. He goes through his new life and must make decisions for good or evil at every turn. Amid the knights, ladies and castles, there are representations of the armor of God, the Bible, prayer and the other Biblical disciplines throughout the series. Each castle in the kingdom represents different virtues, such as Temperance and Knowledge. Characters with names like Encouragement and his twin Discouragement, as well as Doubting and his brother the Giant of Fear are prevalent throughout the books. The stewards of the castles have names like Sir Faithful and Sir Honorable. In these books,  Josiah learns important lessons like the dangers of the “Little Sins” of Envy, Greed, Discontentment, etc. as well as the need of prayer and faith. Although an allegory of the Christian life, these books have a different feel than stories such as Pilgrim’s Progress.

There are 7 books in The Terrestria Chronicles which can be purchased individually for $7.99 or as a set for $39.99. You can also order this set of 7 in hardback for $73.99. If you want to use this series for deeper study you can purchase Visits to Terrestria, A Study Guide for Parents, Teachers and Students. (There is a free answer key online.) If you find that you like this series, Ed has written another series called Tales from Terrestria.

My girls definitely liked the first 2 books in the series and would like to read more. Read here to see what other Crew families thought.

If you want to get a taste of Ed Dunlap’s writing, you can download his free Jed Cartwright Adventure Series.

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, March 31, 2010

Family Mint

One skill that we want to ensure our children possess as they become adults is good money management. Family Mint is one way that we can do that. It is a money management program for kids where the parents are the banker.

Each child has his own account which can be accessed anywhere there in an Internet connection. He can enter transactions such as deposits and withdrawals. He can also set and track financial goals. Parents can motivate their children through paying interest and matching fund contributions. They can even automate allowance. The parent also has the ability to approve or disapprove transactions. This feature can be disabled, if desired.

The website is straight-forward. In the parent interface you have access to all your children’s accounts. For the child interface you can choose between Junior and Advanced depending on the skill level of your child.

What I have described above is for the Free Edition. A Pro Edition is in the works which will include more features but will be charged a fee.

The thing I like about Family Mint is that each child has access to his account. He can learn to manage his money, but the parent still has oversight of the transactions. 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.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Math Galaxy

Galaxy of Education is a company that sells a variety of math games. Their Math Galaxy series goes all the way from addition to algebra. One of the first things I noticed about the Math Galaxy Fun programs is that there is always a visual as well as abstract element included. After a problem is answered, the problem is visually worked out, including the combining or borrowing tens, hundreds, etc.

A further strong point to me is that in the Addition Tables and Addition on Number Line screens, numbers are grouped to ten first then added further from there. Example: 6+8 = 6+4+4 = 14.

A third feature that grabbed my attention is that in the subtraction module, the corresponding addition equation is shown after the answer has been entered. Also, in the division module, the corresponding multiplication equation is shown.

These programs provide two different modes to work in. In the Step-by-Step Mode, the player is prompted through each step of the problem. This can be very helpful for someone just learning how to do a particular math process. The Total Answer Only Mode just prompts for the answer. Both modes visually work out the problem.

Math Galaxy is available for Whole Numbers, Fractions, Decimals, Word Problems, Pre-Algebra, and Algebra. They are $29.95 each.

There are also games included with the tutorial programs. All the games have a choice of different operations and subtopics.

In Word Jumbles, you match math problem answers to letters to spell the word. 1, 2 or 3-player options are available. “Money” is earned for each letter/word guessed. It is a bit cumbersome to use as several mouse clicks are required for each move.

Riddles is the same as Word Jumbles except you are solving a riddle.

With Bridge the Swamp, you work your way across the swamp by matching numbers to reach totals. However, the instructions are a little unclear and I haven’t totally figured out how to play it yet. You can compete one player against the computer or use two-player mode.

In Labyrinth, you use robots you have earned while working through other math problems.  

Math Riddler Worksheet Generators

Math Riddler Worksheet Generator programs are also available from Galaxy of Learning. With these you also have the choice of different operations including Whole Numbers, Fractions, Decimals, Proportions, Percents, and Algebra. They are $29.95 each.

Riddle Mode provides a printable worksheet with a riddle for the student to solve through answering the math problems. Worksheet Mode provides a randomly generated worksheet with straight math problems. You can print these worksheets with either answers or no answers.


These games don’t flow like top of the line programming; however, the information provided and the skills practiced make it worth using.

The Math Galaxy games are too hard for my Kindergartner and will be a better fit once she learns higher addition and subtraction. My 9th grade daughter really likes the Algebra labyrinth game and finds herself spending much longer on it than she usually spends on online math games.

You can see more detail on these products at the Galaxy of Education website. Also, please read the reviews of my other 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.

UPDATE 4/2/2010

I mentioned in my review that Math Galaxy was too hard for my kindergartner. What I didn’t consider was having her use the manipulatives from her math program. So today I had her try the Whole Numbers Fun 1-digit addition. She worked the problem using her cuisennaire rods and then entered the answer. Math Galaxy then confirmed with its visual display what she had found with her rods. So she got the visual reinforcement from two ends. It worked great!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Seasons of Faith Series

 “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.”

The Seasons of Faith illustrated book series from Children’s Bible Hour was written to help children through the different seasons of life. Each story also lays out the plan of salvation.

Spring is a time when people experience new life in Christ. Faith develops and Christians begin to share the Salvation message with others.

Summer is the season when faith grows under God’s love and care. Fruit is witnessed and triumphs are gained through applying His Word and striving to be the best we can be in Christ.

Autumn can be times of struggle and temptation, peer pressure, making mistakes, and scary transitions. Even though it might seem like nothing good can come from this time, God has promised us He will be there. He will teach us how to forgive and then grow in grace.

Winter is the most difficult. Deep struggles, mourning, trying to make it through difficult times, or the death of a loved one can pull us away from God. He teaches us to lean on Him for comfort and peace.

The stories, adapted from radio scripts of the Children’s Bible Hour, encourage children in their faith. These soft cover books are nicely done and have many illustrations. The included audio CDs provide page prompts so it is easy for your non-readers to follow through pictures while listening to the stories read by “Uncle Charlie”. The CDs brought back memories of hearing “Uncle Charlie” on the radio when I was young. There are currently four books in the series. You can find discussion questions on the CBH website if you want to discuss the stories further with your child but don’t know where to start.

Race with Midnight (Spring) is about a girl who wants to share her faith in God with her family but doesn’t know how she will do that. She prays for the opportunity to do so, and God opens the door for her to share what He has done in her life.


You Can’t Come In (Summer) provides a word picture of how sin keeps us out of heaven and clearly shows our need for salvation through faith in Christ.


Seventy Times Seven (Fall) is about our need to forgive so that we can be forgiven.



Braving the Storm (Winter) is about a boy whose family is going through a really rough time. He doesn’t understand why God would allow it to happen. Watching the trees during an ice storm helps him to understand that he needs to grow his roots of faith deep so that he can survive any storm of life that comes.

My 14-year old, 13-year old, and 6-year old daughters all really enjoyed these books. Seventy Times Seven is the favorite for my 14-year old. You Can’t Come In is the favorite for my 13-year old. Race With Midnight is my 6-year old’s favorite. My favorite is Braving the Storm although I like the others too. So as you can see the series appealed differently to each of us.

Each book in this series costs $10 which includes a 10”x5.5” book and an audio CD. You can read here what other families had 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.

Monday, March 22, 2010

History Odyssey Middle Ages Level 2 and 3

History Odyssey from Pandia Press is a literature-based study guide combining history, geography, and writing. It includes intensive writing opportunities but is not a writing course. This review will be for Middle Ages Levels 2 and 3. To give you an idea of what types of subject areas your student would be learning in both levels, here is a list of what sections are to be included in his binder.

  • Summaries
  • Men & Women
  • Wars & Conflicts
  • Religion & Mythology
  • Arts, Inventions, & Architecture
  • Maps & Worksheets
  • Timeline



The main tools used for learning in History Odyssey Level 2 are outlining, summaries, timelines, mapwork (outline maps included), and research. Literature reading is also included followed by some type of writing assignment or worksheet. Several biography reports as well as compare/contrast assignments are completed during the year. (Instructions for writing a biography are included in the appendix.) One fun project completed during the year is that the students make a Shakespeare book including pages they have colored (from A Shakespeare Coloring Book) and their rewritten versions of Shakespeare’s works. Another project that is completed during the year is the construction of a castle. Worksheets are use sparingly but effectively throughout the program. Many times in Level 2, the main outline points are given which help students learn to find the main and then subpoints of a passage. You can also adapt how detailed an outline or summary you require based upon your student’s skill level. A timeline analysis is completed at the end of the guide. The final writing project is the most complex writing assignment and consists of a multi-paragraph, persuasive paper.

One of the scheduled books, Viking World, has gone out of print so optional internet links are included for the assignments.

You can learn more about History Odyssey Level 2 by looking at the Table of Contents, Book list, and Level 2 Sample.



The main tools for learning in History Odyssey Middle Ages Level 3 are outlining, people research (Who’s Who Gallery), mapwork, timelines, literature analysis, essays, and research projects. As in level 2, worksheets are judiciously used. Research projects may be about a specific history topic, art, culture, travels, or other areas. Examples of other projects include making an informative brochure and preparing a 3-day lesson plan for teaching culture. The lesson plan must include Performance objectives, Materials list, Procedures, Discussion questions, and Evaluation.

One lesson does not necessarily equal one day of work. There are some really involved projects in this level.

Included in the appendix are instructions on how to write a thesis statement, an essay grading rubric, and blank maps.

You can learn more about History Odyssey Middle Ages Level 3 by looking at the Course Outline, Book list, and Level 3 sample.


On the surface History Odyssey Levels 2 and 3 look very similar. However, level 2 is like the tip of the iceberg to level 3. While level 2 uses outlines, summaries, and biography reports, Level 3 builds on those skills requiring the student to dig deeper.  The Level 3 outlines require much more detail and the research assignments are more involved. Instead of an emphasis on biography reports, Level 3 assigns several essays. The books used in level 2 are easier reading while the books in level 3 are more original works. Level 3 also requires deeper literature analysis. Both levels make judicious use of worksheets to solidify the topics being taught.

You can expect to spend 2 hours three to four times per week to complete this program in a year.


  • Literature-based but not a lot of resource investment
  • Minimal teacher preparation
  • Clear instruction written directly to student 
  • Blank outline maps included
  • Clean layout and presentation
  • Meaty


  • Might be more writing intensive than some want
  • Levels 2 and 3 do not correspond


I think that History Odyssey is very well done. Its clean layout and rich content make it a great choice especially for those who want a literature-based program but need the ease of self-directed material. You can purchase an e-book edition for $33.99 directly from the Pandia Press website. A print copy can be purchase from various vendors and has a suggested retail price of $38.00. It is non-consumable.

Pandia Press also carries a product called R.E.A.L.Science Odyssey.

You can read here what other Crew members discovered with their Pandia Press 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.

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