Tuesday, July 31, 2012



How does one describe what SchoolhouseTeachers.com is about?  It is hard to describe but I would describe it as a huge online learning community.  It took me a while to wrap my head around all of the resources available at the site.  The very first thing I did on the site was peruse the recipes tab where I found a recipe for zucchini fritters – shredded zucchini, shredded carrot, egg.  I made them right away as my garden has produced zucchini in abundance.  What a tasty, healthy treat.  I added a twist by adding parmesan cheese to the recipe, so much for healthy but altogether delicious.  There are many recipes to choose fun if you are looking to shake it up a bit in the kitchen.

Another one of my favorite tabs is the “SchoolhouseDailies” which includes daily grammar, writing prompts, and math drills among other things.  It is my goal to add these assignments to the beginning of my school day this fall.  I’ve seen classroom teachers do this before they start their lessons with students in the morning.  It is a great way to warm up the brain and get the mind in learning mode before the academic day begins.  I wish I could view the prompts at least a week before I actually use them but the assignments are added on a daily basis so I can not jump ahead.  Having the ability to review the lessons beforehand would be a tremendous help for planning purposes.  


I discovered the downloadable e-books next.  I couldn’t stop reading Turning Points as I was so encouraged reading story after story of different homeschoolers’ educational journeys.  I saw a little of myself in each story.  It was just what I needed to spur myself on as I try to get myself organized for a new year quickly approaching.  One of my favorite bible quotes from one story included, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”(Psalm 90:12).  In this journey, we all have times of doubt.  Are we doing the right thing?  Did we choose the right curriculum?  Are we missing something?  How comforting was the following quote from Natalie Crabtree, a homeschooler in Georgia, who chronicles her journey in Turning Points:

I know that God “gently lead[s] those that are with young” (Isaiah 40:11), and      gentle leading does not involve panic, worry, or comparisons to other kids. God’s gentle leading and perfect timing mean I don’t have to wear myself out figuring out the best plan for each child. God is completely in control, and He prompts, directs, and guides us where He wants us and “he addeth no sorrow with it.” (Proverbs 10:22)

WOW!  How encouraging.  Perhaps I should mount this to the wall in my classroom as a gentle reminder that He has it all under control.

My next stop on the SchoolhouseTeachers site included the Pre-School Activities tab.  There are weekly activities here that extend the study of one book.  Books like If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, and The Button Box. I made a list of these books to check out from my public library to keep the preschooler who is temporarily at my house busy for the duration of the summer.  I don’t have a lot of experience teaching preschoolers nor am I familiar with library book titles aimed at this age group.  I am grateful someone else did the work of putting together plans for me to follow. 

One of the most popular uses of SchoolhouseTeachers.com is the lesson plan downloads for elementary, middle, and high school students.  I downloaded the middle and high school books as this is the age of my kids and found some pages very useful.  The high school planner is 401 pages long!  However, I managed to
skim each and every page.  This isn’t just a plan book.  It is a book of lists, pre-printed forms, and a book of hopes and dreams.  Anything you can think of you can put in this plan book.  I put a few forms to immediate use.  My favorite form is on p253 – the GPA form.  I haven’t seen a more straightforward form to calculate GPA.  I am also used the Volunteer Service Hours log and the Community Service Record.  You can type directly onto the pre-printed forms and save it to your hard drive.  These forms are very professional looking and will look great as an attachment to the high school portfolio or college application. 

My thoughts
SchoolhouseTeachers.com is one of many tools in the homeschooling toolbox one can pull out to add to or mix up the main plans one has in place.  It doesn’t replace the core of most of our homeschool plans – Math, Science, History, Language Arts, but it is the added stuff we need sometimes to break up the monotony of our day in and day out routine.  I believe most moms would purchase a subscription to this site for the lesson plan books alone.  I can definitely see the benefit of doing so.  It is a great way tool for recordkeeping, especially for the high school student.

From their website: Membership is yours for the first month for just $1! You’ll have full access to daily, weekly, and monthly assignments for your students and tons more material for you. Every month after the initial one, it keeps coming—new daily, weekly, and monthly lessons—all for the price of one fancy coffee ($5.95 each month).

See what my "crew mates" thought of SchoolhouseTeachers.com here.


Disclaimer:  As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are mine.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

College Already?

Not yet.  Three more years to go.  However, Princess got a wonderful introduction into the culture that is college over the last 2 weeks.  She was part of the Leadership Institute at James Madison University (my alma mater).  She was busy from sun up to sun down each day and wanted nothing more than to sleep after arriving home.  The girls weren't allowed to call home the first couple of days and when she finally called, she could only talk for a few minutes.  However, she filled us in on all the details on the 2 hour drive back home.

Here is what our girl looked like the day we dropped her off.

On her very first call home she made mention of how good the food was as they ate at the college's main dining facility.  Nothing has changed about that since the mid 90's when I was there.  JMU continues to be ranked in the top10 for the best University food.  It is really good.  True to form, Princess ate the same breakfast every morning.  She knows what she likes and tends to stick with it. 
Eggs, Ham, Tater Tots, Yogurt
soft serve chocolate ice cream

Hot Dog, Mac n Cheese, Greens
My potato loving girl

my girl is not a dessert fan but she said every other girl raved over this cheesecake

The first morning back from this experience Princess commented "Oh now I have to make my own breakfast!"  Yes ma'am the ready made buffet is no longer open. 

One of the many highlights of her stay included working out at JMU's new University Recreation Center (U-REC).  Princess likes to work-out and got her chance everyday.  They didn't get to use the pool but she enjoyed the indoor track, Zumba classes, and Yoga.  If I could go to a work out facility as nice as this I would workout everyday too (uh...maybe).

 Indoor track
 Racquetball courts
 This facility was actually off limits but she wanted a shot of it.
She was not a fan of the rockwall.

Every morning the girls attended Math, History, and Creative Writing classes.  Her class assignments included business planning for a new business, mock interviews, and resume writing.  Projects included oral reports with powerpoint presentations with video inserts (great for public speaking). Math was mainly review but there were Geometry concepts introduced that Princess wasn't too familiar with.  We will be doing Geometry next year. 

The weekend between the 2 week stay the girls enjoyed a trip to Washington DC/Baltimore.  This trip included a visit to the MLK memorial, the Black Wax Museum, and a theatre trip to see the stage play Greece.  My family's favorite movie is Greece so although the play was entertaining, Princess says it falls short of the movie.  The trip ended with a visit to Six Flags America. Princess forgot her camera when she left for the trip so I have no pictures of the excursion.

Other activities during the two weeks included a cultural dinner at a local Ethiopian restaurant.  Princess couldn't understand why everyone else didn't like it because she enjoyed the food.

They volunteered at a childrens' center and a elderly care facility and of course there was plenty of time for goofying around with new friends.


 This program was absolutely phenomenal.  For all the activities the girls were involved in, it was a great value. It is my goal to have Princess do something like this every summer to widen her perspective and experiences. I am very pleased with this first experience.  There is a male institute as well on campus.  Both programs are a minority student initiative so if you have a student who is part of a minority population check out the Female Institute at JMU.

JMU has doubled in size since I was there.  They were building the new engineering school when I left.  There is a complete second campus there - new buildings, new outdoor recreational facilities, new dining halls.  It is absolutely phenomenal.  I have to go back just to tour this new side of the campus.  I fell in love with my alma mater all over again.  You better believe JMU will be on our list of schools to apply to in 2 years. 

Bust of James Madison

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Math Essentials No-Nonsense Algebra

No-Nonsense Algebra
My 9th grader is still working through the Algebra curriculum she started in the beginning of the school year.  Some Algebra topics were tough so we added supplemental resources to help learn the material.  I wish I had known about No-Nonsense Algebra by Math Essentials as it would have really helped with some of the topics we had difficulty with.  Unlike the primary Algebra curriculum we use, No-Nonsense Algebra is very concise and introduces concepts in a straightforward manner.  We started in Chapter 6, Polynomials, as a way to review material my daughter had just finished in her main text.  She found it easy to get through as there are approximately 20 problems in each lesson.  She completed a lesson daily.  

I will begin to assign lessons in No-Nonsense Algebra that cover topics she hasn't yet learned.  Then I will use our main text as review material.  I will definitely keep this resource around for my other children, one who will tackle Algebra in two years.  I’m not sure if I would use it as a main text as there just aren’t enough supplemental problems to work through to really flush out the concept.  However, there are final review problems included in the book but no tests.  The Algebra also includes free online access to video lessons.  We did not need these but may as we approach new material.  

Math Essentials produces many other books that cover other math topics - Fractions, Decimals & Percents, Geometry, Problem Solving, Whole Numbers and Integers. 

The website also touts an unconditional money back guarantee  It states to "use Rick Fisher's Mastering Essential Math Skills for 20 minutes a day as directed. If you don't see what you feel are dramatically improved math test scores, send us a note saying so. You'll receive a prompt, complete refund - no questions asked!"  With a guarantee like that, you really have nothing to lose if you use their products.

This from their website:
Free Online Access to Video Lessons!
1-10 copies $27.95 (Book and Online Videos)
11 or more copies $25.95

Prices for their other products can be found here.

Go here to find out what my "crew mates" thought of Math Essentials.


Disclaimer:  As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are mine.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Hewitt Homeschooling


For those of us who like a well drawn out curriculum plan with schedules, Lightning Literature is a great choice.  I love the no nonsense way this curriculum is laid out and structured.  Hewitt Homeschooling Resources has taken the guess work out of executing a college prep literature and composition program. 

The complete curriculum includes a student’s guide, teacher’s guide, and the novels that are assigned for study.  The novels are classics so you may already own them or can use the library to save money. 

There are several guides available but we reviewed the American Literature: Early-Mid 19th Century guide. 

This guide focuses on different literary devices to include the Autobiography using the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin; Rhyme and Meter in Poetry using the poetry of Washington Irving, William C. Bryant, Edgar A. Poe, and Henry W. Longfellow; Persuasive Writing based on Life of Frederick Douglass; and Character Development in Moby Dick by Herman Melville.  I like this approach to literary analysis focused on classics that every high school student should have exposure to.  Subsequent guides focus on different aspects of literature.  The course can be taught in one semester.  However, we are expanding the study to a one year study.  Schedules are provided in the Appendix of the guide so your student will know exactly what to do each week to complete the study within a semester or academic year.  I’m grateful to Hewitt for providing this option.  My student looks at her guide and knows exactly how many chapters to read for the day and what worksheets to complete.  I try to read along with her so that we can discuss the books but I’m usually behind. 

My thoughts:

The guide is broken into 4 units with 2 lessons in each unit.  Each lesson focuses on one author’s work complete with comprehension questions and plenty of writing exercises to choose from for each unit.  I am using this curriculum with a 10th grader so I expect weekly writing assignments.  Based on the 36 week yearly schedule my high school student will be writing three papers every 9 weeks.  However, comprehension questions are scheduled weekly.  My one and only criticism of this curriculum is the spacing of the writing assignments.  Ideally for a 10th grader I would like to see papers written weekly or at the very least bi-weekly.  There are some units where writing isn’t scheduled for 6 weeks.  During this time the student is focused on reading and answering comprehension questions.  This is where I may have to do some tweaking to see if I can spread out the writing assignments to suit my taste.     

I can see my family using many of Hewitt’s guides after we complete this guide.  We’ve already used the 7th grade Junior High guide and my 5th and 7th grade kids loved it.  As homeschoolers we tend to focus on the study of classic literature but poetry is tricky to work in the rotation.  I am thankful that Hewitt weaves this into their guides for a well rounded study of literature for a year.  I highly recommend it to families needing a structured, scheduled plan for the study of literature and composition.

The Lightning Literature and Composition Pack which includes the Student's Guide, Teacher's Guide, and the four books the student is to read sells for $46.56.
Separately, the Student Guide is sold for $29.95 and the Teacher’s Guide is $2.95.

I find the Teacher’s Guide is very helpful with rubrics for grading the student’s work.  

To see what other Schoolhouse Crew Members thought about various Hewitt Homeschooling products, check here 


Disclaimer:  As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are mine.


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