Sunday, August 26, 2012


There is so much I need to do to prepare my kids for life that I don't know how to fit it all in.  SAT prep is important but with foreign language requirements, science labs, essay writing, and extra curricular activities when do we get it all done?  I jumped at the chance to review Time4Writing's composition classes.  As a 10th grader, this was the perfect time to expose my daughter to the Essay Writing for the SAT course.  Princess feels comfortable with writing essays but she has never written a timed essay.

Time4Writing courses are 8 week courses.  We are in the middle of the course and it has been a good experience.  It is also the first time my high schooler has taken an online class.  The online format is easy to navigate so submitting her work has been a breeze.  We've received great feedback from the instructor usually within 48 hours.  She suggests ways my daughter can improve her writing.  Then she revises and submits a final copy for grading.  I enjoyed receiving a status report of how my child was doing with her grade mid way through the course.

My daughter enjoys the fact that she can do the assignments at her own pace and the teacher is quick in grading her assignments.  She says she also enjoys how precise and specific the instructor's directions are (her words exactly).

Time4Writing offers basic, intermediate, and advanced writing courses for elementary, middle, and high school students.  Courses include grammar and mechanics, paragraph writing, and essays.  All 8 week courses are $99.  I am familiar with a lot of companies that offer online writing courses and this has to be the most economical.  Their price structure has to be my most favorite feature.  The price makes it affordable for your student to take multiple classes in an academic school year. 

Find out what my other crew "mates" thought about Time4Writing 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.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Christian Liberty Press

I haven't had the privilege of using a lot of Christian Liberty Press products with the exception of one history book which was included in a package curriculum by another company.

I have an avid reader in my 8th grader so I asked her to read Mr. Pipes and the British Hymnmakers for my review of this book.  My 8th grader usually reads Young Adult Fiction.  I jokingly call her books junk food.  She also reads classics and good literature that I schedule as part of her Language Arts program.  Mr. Pipes was a hard read for her.  If a kid likes junk food it's really hard to sell them on spinach no matter how good it may be.

The book is actually part of a 4 part series that can be purchased for $38.99.  All the books tell a different fictional story of Mr. Pipes and his young companions and their many adventures as they learn about different hymn writers from different historical time periods.

 In her opinion the story starts off slow and although she enjoyed learning the background of the hymns the story was boring.  We think the book is more for a younger audience although it is marketed to grades 7-10.  Books are kind of like movies so they are hard to recommend.  It is just so subjective.  We didn't care for Mr. Pipes and the British Hymnmakers so you really have to examine the book for yourself to decide if it is a good fit for your kids. read the pdf version which sells for $8.79.  However, a print version of the book is available for $9.89.

See what my "crew mates" thought of  Mr. Pipes and the British Hymnmakers by clicking on the image box below:

 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.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Athiest

In my experience, so many people come to believing faith in God and Jesus Christ through personal experience.  There is a need in their life and they find solutions in the God of the bible.  It is an experiential faith.  However, what happens to the man that has no visible need? He feels that he is getting along in life without needing a God?  I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Athiest is the answer for such a man. 

 It is objective and steers one to the five most consequential questions in life:
  1. Origin:  Where did we come from?
  2. Identity:  Who are we?
  3. Meaning: Why are we here?
  4. Morality:  How should we live?
  5. Destiny:  Where are we going?
It is impossible to know 100% that any belief system is correct.  Because we have limited knowledge as human beings we live in the world of probability to support our claims and beliefs.  There is overwhelming evidence that can be examined that God’s existence is true.  What evidence supports the belief that he isn’t?  It actually takes more faith to believe there is no God than it is to believe there is; hence, the title of the curriculum.
The book is organized around 12 points that each chapter examines and proves through established evidence.  So much of what is believed about God is based on faith and experience.  This book sets out to appeal to human intelligence and challenges the reader to examine the evidence regarding the existence of God and biblical events.
It is a great study for a high school student as they prepare to go out into a world that is rather hostile to the Christian faith.  The accompanying workbook is a nice companion to the text for the student to review and critically think about the material he has just read.   You can also download tests from Apologia's website.You can find all of these products and many more at Apologia Educational Ministries' website.  

 The I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Athiest sells for $16.00.
The I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Athiest workbook sells for $33.00.

This year my daughter is using Apologia's high school science.  My middle daughter is using Apologia Physical Science curriculum.  We have used the elementary series in the past with great success.  I love many of their products and they are very popular in the homeschooling community.  Many high schoolers are well prepared for college level science after using Apologia's texts.  They not only have the high school Apologetics course reviewed here but an elementary series as well. 

See what my "crew mates" thought of  I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Athiest by clicking on the image box below:

 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.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Vocab Videos

Vocab Videos presents the 500 most frequently used SAT words to teach high school students vocabulary to be successful on college entrance tests, specifically the SAT.

Each video consists of 20 words presented in vignettes linked together to tell a story.  Some videos are amusing and got plenty of laughs from my girls.  Others videos are set in situations that I wouldn’t necessarily use to teach my girls academic content. 

What I like most about the service is the study resources tab that is available to help reinforce the vocabulary introduced.  My favorite is the list of vocabulary words organized by definition groups.  For example, the words alleviate, appease, mitigate, and temper are listed under the category “feel better.”  This gives the student another way to learn the words through grouping by definition.  Crossword puzzles and study worksheets that can be saved as flashcards are also available under this tab to reinforce learning.  After viewing the video of 20 words that are grouped, students are able to take an online quiz.  These quizzes are also available in pdf form under the Study Resources tab at

I have seen similar type videos produced by a high school language arts teacher and thought it was a very creative way to teach SAT vocabulary.  By comparison, the teacher’s approach used lots of random animation to teach vocabulary.  I can still remember some of the words we reviewed while viewing that program because of the images.  However, the reinforcement tools available with Vocab Videos offer that extra something to help with mastery of the words.

Overall, I like the program.  I plan to use the videos, quiz pdf files, and crossword puzzles with my high schooler this year as a gentle introduction to SAT review.  There is a dashboard to manage your student’s progress through the program should that appeal to you.

Much of the curriculum in our homeschool includes Christian content.  I am not opposed to using secular materials but some of the situational comedy included in the Vocab Videos isn’t my preference.  However, my high school student is mature enough to handle the content and it opens up discussion between us.  Her comments during some of the videos have been “that is so unnecessary” and “huh?”  For the ultra conservative it may be an issue so my advice is to view them first and decide on what is right for your family. 
You can sign up for a 30 day free trial to learn more. 

For an educator account you get unlimited access for a 12 month subscription for $74.99 which includes:
  • Teacher Dashboard to monitor student progress
  • Individual student accounts
  • Access to all videos and study materials
  • Digital Quizzes, Multi-media Flashcard Maker, Digital Worksheet
For a student account you get either a 6 month subscription ($24.99) or a 12 month subscription ($39.99) which includes:
  • Access to the entire video library of 500 Vocab Videos
  • Total access to an extensive suite of study resources and tools: digital quizzes, digital worksheets, multimedia flashcard maker, downloadable crossword puzzles
See what my "crew mates" thought of Vocab Videos by clicking on the image box below:
 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.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Math Made Easy

Math Made Easy written is a simple program for helping students in Grades 1 – 6 master addition and multiplication facts.  I was given a copy of the multiplication student workbook to review. 
I like the way the book is organized around learning several facts together for the student to master within a week’s time.  There are worksheet activities that reinforce learning the facts.  My rising 6th grade is a worksheet person so she loves the different activities.  It remains to be seen if she will continue to count the facts that she hasn’t quite mastered yet on her fingers.  We will continue to work through the worksheets because they are a good supplement to our math lessons.  I even allowed my rising 8th grader to get in on some of the lessons as I noticed she hasn’t completely mastered her facts.

The Multiplication workbook is $24.95 and includes lesson plans, six weeks of daily activity sheets, a pretest, a posttest, games, and flashcards.  Everything is included in one workbook to help your student master their facts in six weeks.

See what my "crew mates" thought of Math Made Easy 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.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Summer's end is quickly approaching

It is really a challenge to do a weekly wrap up with so many product reviews going on around here but I have a lot of neat things to share.  I was literally twittling my thumbs last summer looking for things to do to keep busy.  This year I can barely keep up.  I've had 3 new children join my household since July 6th so I know that has a lot to do with it.  We went from consuming 1 gallon of milk in 10 days to 3 gallons in a week!  BIG adjustment and a lot of store runs but that is a story for another time.

Princess needed to recover from her 2 week leadership institute 2 weeks ago at JMU but she only got one week's rest before we I signed us all up to volunteer at a summer camp for kids.  It was only two days, 2.5 hours each and lunch was provided.  It wasn't bad and a lot of fun to work with an agency dedicated to bring great programs to underprivileged kids.

Then she started an 8 week SAT writing class through (review coming up in a few weeks).  Lastly, she has been attending a Math & Science camp all this week at George Washington University.  I have to drive every morning during morning rush hour to drop her off by 8:30 am then back again to pick her up by 3:30 pm.  I use the HOV lanes so I am able to get there in about 40 minutes if I don't take a wrong turn which I do  If anyone has ever driven in the metro DC area you understand!  The things we do for our kids.  

She has spent the week designing and constructing a bridge model.  She has tinkered with computer design software, she budgeted funds for material costs and built a mini-model to withstand weight.  It has been a great experience for her.

mini model
the final bridge
She is so tired and I feel a little sorry for her but I know it is all good practice for her.  She is using the skills we learn during the school year and putting it to work in the outside world with kids her own age.  Her one consistent response to me about her experiences this summer is "now I remember why I hate group projects!"

While Princess is all work and very little play, we spent a day at Kings Dominion.  The weather was perfect and there were no long lines.  I didn't feel bad leaving Princess behind since she went to Six Flags while at JMU without us. 

It been a good week.  Curriculum planning looms in the back of my mind but I just can't bring myself to pick up any books.  I'm praying it will just all come together when I need it to. 

Head over to weirdunsocializedhomeschoolers to see what other moms were up to this week.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

King Alfred's English

King Alfred’s English by The Shorter Word Press is designed for students Grades 7-12 and Adults.  It is a relatively short book and reads much like a well written novel.  If one wants to use it as primary text for a middle or high school English course there are supplemental materials available at the publisher’s website.  The supplemental material includes chapter worksheets, unit tests, and links to online literature, articles, images, and videos. 
I used the text for my own pleasure reading.  I gleaned a lot of interesting tidbits about the English language and various cultures.  For example, did you know that the word bodacious comes from a Celtic queen who led her people in successful battles against the Roman Army?  Bodacious, meaning outlandishly bold, describes the personality of this queen.   That’s a piece of interesting trivia.

The story of the English language is a long one with many winding roads and pit stops along the way.  I had to often backtrack in my reading to understand how one path led to another.  It is a story of ancient people groups being constantly invaded by other people groups, pushed out, spreading and mixing their language and culture with the surrounding area.  Language invasion after language invasion brought with it changes that are evident in our current English language. 

There is a lot of Biblical history woven throughout the text as well with stories about the impact Christianity had on developing language.  One piece of Christian trivia included the fact that the Irish used three-leaf clovers to explain the concept of the Trinity to Christian converts.   I didn’t know that.

The publishers do not claim to teach geography but I got a nice geography lesson reading about cultures that influenced Great Britain.  Great Britain itself is an interesting story of different cultures occupying the same country.  This relatively large island has separate areas with their own distinct language and culture.  Whenever you see distinct differences in culture between areas that are close together on a map, you can bet there are some geographical features that separate the two, something hard to cross like a wide desert or a rugged mountain range," (White, p4).

We studied the middle ages a year ago.  A lot of the historical information in the text was a review of our study.  It was really interesting to match this knowledge with the language changes occurring around this time.  In a homeschool setting, I would use this text as a supplement to a study of the middle ages.  It covers so much history of the time but focuses on the language and cultural influences that each people group brought to England.  For example when William the Conqueror, the Duke of Normandy, ruled in England he moved many French aristocrats into government.  Consequently, French was spoken among the cultural elite.  Anyone who wanted to be anybody spoke French. The influences of this time period had lasting effects on the English language. We use such words as “a la carte,” “coif,” and “lingerie” – all words that entered the English language because of the influence of this time.

My thoughts:  King Alfred’s English is a great supplement to any European history class or Language Arts program.  Because the primary focus is the evolution of the English language, it works well with a study of English Literature.  It can be purchased from an online retailer like Amazon or Rainbow Resource for as low as $14.95.

See what my "crew mates" thought of King Alfred's English 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.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

Saturday, August 4, 2012


To really wrap your mind around a curriculum one has to read it, study it, and then read it again to really get a good grasp of it.  Once I wrapped my mind around CreateBetterWriters’ program it is really simple and easy to implement.  According to CreateBetterWriters, 

“The goal of this program is to give home school parents a single writing program that can be used with multiple grade levels simultaneously. This system is so easy to manage that you can use it to teach several students at once, whether they are at different stages in their writing development or all at the same stage. It is so comprehensive that your students will enter college with outstanding writing skills.”

CreateBetterWriters intrigued me because they insist that you can use their program regardless of any writing curriculum you already use.  I have a few writing curriculums on my bookshelves but I don’t use any of them in full.  I take bits and pieces from each to teach my kids to incorporate in their writing.

Although CreateBetterWriters has several products to include the Complete Writing Program (you can find the table of contents here), we reviewed How To Write a Paragraph, How To Teach theFive-Paragraph Essay, and The Home School Writing Action Plan.  Their program is for students in Grades 3 and up.

To start I asked my students to write a paragraph about one event that happened this summer.  I found that my rising 6th grader and rising 8th grader have a pretty good grasp of good paragraph writing.  My challenge is restricting them to only writing 5-7 sentences for each paragraph they write.  This is especially true of my 6th grader who I believe needs to be in a creative writing class.  Her imagination is so active that her writing lends itself to story telling.  But for academic writing the CreateBetterWriters “way” is good for honing in her tendency to ramble.  Writers need to learn all types of writing and CreateBetterWriters teaches simple paragraph writing and essay writing in a straightforward manner.  It keeps students focused – one main idea at a time throughout their writing. 

While other writing programs focus only on technique and style, CreateBetterWriters helps students to put words on the page in a meaningful way.  I like that.  I even typed out the formula outlined by CreateBetterWriters for paragraph writing and glued it on construction paper as a focal point for my students for this coming school year.   

Since my kids have the basics down it is fairly easy to expand the paragraph formula to teach writing a 5 paragraph essay to include an introductory paragraph and a closing paragraph.  The curriculum for essay writing even includes a pacing chart and detailed lesson plans so you know what skills to work on from Day 1.  You can progress at your own pace until your students master all the steps for writing an essay.  The basic format can then be tweaked to write other types of essays – persuasive, research reports, etc.  Once your student has mastered the basics you can work on the “bells and whistles” that give writing its unique style.  The appendix includes essay topics to give your student more practice, assessment sheets, and worksheets to work on the different skill areas.

My kids have had a lot of experience with writing so many of the introductory skills come easy to them.  They know how to better their writing as well with different style tricks, though I have to often remind them of that in the revision process.  We will linger on developing better introductory and closing paragraphs before venturing into some of the more advanced skills. 

The Home School Writing Action Plan helps you to see the entire plan and how all the different pieces work together.  It outlines the products and tells you which books to use when and the skills that are taught in each resource.  It also includes a Pacing Guide starting in Grade 3 and ending in Grade 12.  Many writing programs do not show you where you are going or where you will end up.  You will have no doubt with this resource. 

The Home School Writing Action Plan is $19.95 (softcover) or $15.95 (eBook)

The Complete Writing Program is $59 (softcover) or $54 (eBook) and each purchase includes a free ebook for How To Teach the Five-Paragraph Essay ($17.95 value).

How To Teach the Five-Paragraph Essay is $19.95 (softcover) or $17.95 (eBook)
How To Teach the Paragraph is offered as an eBook only for $7.99 or free with the Complete Writing Program or the Five-Paragraph Essay.

Of all of the writing programs I have or have looked at briefly, CreateBetterWriters is the simplest to implement!  It is so simple I have to ask myself why all programs don’t start this way.  By first teaching from the very simple building block of the paragraph, every other piece of writing builds on this block.  I will be pulling out these resources throughout our school year as my middle schoolers continue to enhance their essay writing skills.

See what my "crew mates" thought of CreateBetterWriters 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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