Monday, October 28, 2013


I blogged about AdCamp this summer but I recently received an email with a video link to the new promo being used to advertise AdCamp 2014. My lovely daughter is featured at second 41-44. proud of her.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Bridgeway Academy

Bridgeway Logo photo bridgewayacademylogo_zps8c2d62cc.jpg

My family received a wonderful opportunity to review Bridgeway Academy’s Learning Lab course.  The courses are a way for your student to participate in a live, online interactive learning environment devoted to one subject.  My student participated in the Marine Biology lab.  There are courses available for elementary, middle, and high school courses.  A sampling of what is available includes:

Magic Tree House Series:  The Arctic (elementary course)
Fun with Science:  The Rainforest (elementary/middle school course)
Fun with Science:  Marine Biology (elementary/middle school course)
Web Design (high school course)
Elementary and Middle school courses are $145
High school courses are $275

My student enjoyed this course.  The instructor was knowledgeable and upbeat.  She has extensive experience in her field and it showed throughout her lectures.  My student learned quite a bit in this course and was challenged by the homework assignments. My student showed up for class one day a week for 8 weeks.  Each class session lasts about an hour.  I didn’t have to remind her of her class time.  She was on time ready to work each week.  However, we did receive an invitation each week to attend the next class session which was nice.  I listened in the first couple of weeks but let her go on her own after that.  PowerPoint slides are available for review after attending class through the Moodle platform but my student took notes during class and used her notes to complete her homework assignments.

One thing this course challenged her to do was to meet deadlines each week.  The homework assignment was due each week by 9 am the day of the next class session.  My dear daughter missed the first week’s deadline and one other week’s deadline.  I have to remember she isn’t used to deadlines and perhaps I should have double checked her completion of assignments.   I did receive an email from the instructor when the very first assignment was not turned in.  That is helpful especially for the homeschooling parent who may be out of pocket on occasion. 

Bridgeway Academy has an exciting line of academic offerings.   A perusal of their website reveals a myriad of options for homeschooling parents.  Some of their homeschool options include Schoolyear in a Box; this option comes with a lot of other services including an individualized curriculum plan and placement tests; full year and half year packages are available; dual credit enrollment and so much more.  The only thing I was looking for that I didn’t find was the option to take individual courses online.  I am an eclectic homeschooler often pulling from many resources to meet my students’ needs.  Sometimes I just need an online or outside course for one or two subjects only.  I would like to see this option among their many other academic offerings available in the future.  One other suggestion I would make is to keep adding topics to the learning labs course offerings. 

When I asked my daughter what she liked and disliked about this program she said, “it was fun and interactive.  Talking with other students via chat was cool.”  She often told me what students were saying via the chat board even when the instructor told them to keep their chatter on topic.  I’m sure keeping class order in an online class is no different than it is in a brick and mortar classroom – a challenge for any teacher.  My daughter said she could think of no negatives about the learning lab experience.    My other daughter who didn’t take this class wanted me to add that the field trips to youtube were fun to look at.  She peeked at the computer now and again during class time when she heard “wow…that’s cool” coming from the actual student in class.

Check out all of their class offerings.  It's a great course for homeschooled students.  I noticed during the last class session many of the students commented that they were sad the course was over.  The interaction is really that great.

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Family in Transition

Sometimes I think about the children of Israel living in the desert in tents.  They had to be ready to pack up at a moment’s notice when Moses said it was time to move.  Likewise, I think about how we live and if God was calling us to move how ready would
we be?  Perhaps that is why so many people are leaning toward living simpler lives.

For different reasons, we’ve moved 3 times in the last 5 years.  I knew the first two moves were temporary so I was very conscientious about not accumulating things.  I thought we were settling in for a long while when we moved last but circumstances have changed which means we are moving again.  Now I know how military families feel.

There is some excitement and anticipation for experiencing new places and meeting new friends but the transition is never easy.  Packing is no fun but purging is liberating.    Homeschooling during a transition isn’t easy either.  In our last move I remember we didn’t do school for an entire week.  We needed that week to set up our new home.  This go around I have 3 extra kids who will transition with us and that just adds a different dimension to the whole move.

The next time I get settled perhaps I will remember how I feel right now.  Determine to live simply so it isn’t such a challenge to just pick up and go wherever God may lead.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

God's World News

 photo godsworldnewslogo_zpsbc5c7163.png

Using the resources produced by God’s World News is a great way to make sure your student of any age is aware of what’s going on in the World from a Christian worldview.  I received a full year subscription to the high school print publication entitled Trak to review for the OldSchoolhouse magazine review crew.

Through their many publications, God’s World News provides news and interesting information for children so they will know God has the whole world in his hands.  The following publications are available:

God’s Big World (Grades PreK-K)
Early Edition (Grades 1 & 2)
News Flash! (Grades 3 & 4)
News Current (Grades 5 & 6)
Top Story (Middle School)
Trak (High School)

A home edition of the Trak publication includes 10 monthly issues (doesn't include December and May) for $28 and includes student website access at The first publication I received contained one national news story about the bankruptcy of Detroit, Michigan.  Other news stories were interesting but I wouldn’t consider them “news.”  The cover story for one magazine discussed the limits and lessons of artificial intelligence.  The cover story for another issue explored the methods border control agents use to track immigrants trying to enter the US at its borders.  All of the monthly issues cover a topic in technology, a sports topic, a business topic, and some sort of social issue.  Other tidbits sprinkled throughout the magazine include “Last Words,” including quotes from notable people and political cartoons. 

In my opinion the magazine is too light for high school.  There isn’t enough depth for real discussion and critical thinking.  Frankly, I would let an elementary aged student read the Trak magazine intended for a high school student.  There isn’t enough “real” news for my liking.  That isn’t to say it wouldn’t be a good fit for another family with a high school student but for us it’s just not enough.  My 9th grader agreed.  She said she liked the magazine there were a lot of interesting stories but not any “real” news.  The editors of God's World News encourages its readers to write the editors giving students experience in writing editorials and responding to the information they read.

(update) - I received my most recent magazine and it was like a different magazine!  Lots of what I consider current events.  There was the fairly recent shooting at the Navy Yard, Jerry Sandusky's recent appeals court appearance, Detroit mayor sentenced, the food stamp debacle, etc. 
Then there were social news stories that captivated my attention. The story of Jennifer Bicha, sexual abuse victim; and the story about Pastor E.W. Jackson who I'd never heard of.  The movie reviews were very informative and the notable books about American culture interested me.  I immediately felt the need to update my review.  I am really baffled by why this issue seemed so different from the other issues I'd already received up to now. 

My current events curriculum includes watching the local and world news with the kids at night.  I don’t think you can get any more current than that.  It gives me and my husband a chance to help them interpret what is going on as they watch.  While the local news is definitely not from a Christian worldview, the discussions we have help my kids understand the news from our biblical worldview.  I get more detail from the television news which I believe is important to get a better understanding of what's going on in the world. 

Now here is where God’s World News really wins me over – online!,, and have lots of web content that isn’t included in the print magazines.  However, you can still find a full digital copy of the print magazine.  I love that you can visit any one of these sites and tab over to the others.  You can literally jump from one article to the next on these sites.  

The teen website carries a lot of the stories I was more or less looking for in the print version like information on the recent federal government shut down.  All the articles on this site are under headings entitled SciTech, Must Know, Beliefs, Fun Stuff, Live Culture, and Arts.  Each section has various articles with biography information on notable people from the past and present.  There is an abundance of political satire as well.  I only wish it was balanced humor with many political leaders getting a fair share of attention.  It seems to be all about our President.  
The kids website is organized around the following headings:  MySci, Creation, Time Machine, People/Places, Know Me?, and Fun Stuff.  The Time Machine has many articles on information that is historical in nature. MySci contains articles related to science topics.  The Know Me? Section contains the biographies I mentioned previously from the teen section.  There is overlap between the three sites where appropriate.

Other resources online include tons of pdf files that can be used on various topics in Bible, Biology, Astronomy, Geography, and History just to name a few.  A teacher could really get creative in using these resources.  Immediately I thought the files would be great source material for outlining or teaching younger children how to summarize information.  

Many more resources from God's World News includes:
Write with WORLD writing curriculum
WORLD Magazine Today's News | Christian Views Online news site
The World and Everything in It news radio/podcasts
WORLD on Campus Online news site for college students

Overall the magazines are great reading material for students working alongside their main curriculum.  The online resources carry an abundance of resources and information to be used in creative ways.  Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Chess House

Starter Chess Learning KitI received a  Starter Chess Learning Kit from Chess House to review for the The Oldschoolhouse Review Crew.  This starter kit retails for $39.95 and can be purchased from the vendor's website.  I was quite impressed with the packaging when it arrived.  The kit includes a vinyl mat, 32 plastic chess pieces and Elliott's Chess School DVD  Pawn level 1, all in a nice carrying case with detachable shoulder strap.  The Starter Learner Chess Kit is for all ages.

My husband picked up a glass chess game years ago but none of us play.  He just likes shiny, glass things.  My 12 year old daughter wanted to play with it and he told her if she learned how to play chess she could have it.  So when the Starter Chess Learner Kit came up for review I had a great idea and my eager beaver 12 year old was all for it.


Elliott Neff is a National Chess Master and he guides students through this level 1 DVD which includes 10 short episodes.  The introduction covers how the game board is set up in ranks and files and where each piece is placed on the board.  Episodes 1-7 introduce each game piece and discusses how the piece moves on the board, how the piece captures its opponent to rack up points in the game, and the best strategy for using each game piece.  If you are new to chess the game pieces include:
  • Pawns
  • Rooks
  • Bishops
  • Queen
  • King
  • Knights
Episodes 8, 9, and 10 go over special moves and concepts that can be used to help players win the game.

Activities are included with the DVD that allow you to practice what you learn from the DVD.  These activities include:
  • setting up the game board as fast as you can
  • playing a game of pawns 
  • playing a game of rooks vs pawns
These activities give you practice in using the game pieces and help you figure out the best way to position pieces to capture your opponents game pieces.  Elliott Neff encourages beginners to play the beginning activities often and to even enter beginner tournaments to try out your chess strategy. 
Once you complete this level 1 "pawn level," you are ready for level 2, "knight level."

20130919_154011.jpgMy daughter watched  the entire lesson DVD in one sitting.  The entire DVD is less than one hour.  One aspect of the video lesson that she really liked were the high quality graphics and video game like transitions between segments.  After playing around with the board using the knowledge she learned she exclaimed, "mom I know how to play chess now!"  I don't know how accurate of a statement that is but she definitely has a good understanding of the game to begin playing and play she did.   She grabbed her older sister and taught her everything she knew to start her first game.  

I haven't gotten in on all the action yet nor have we broken open the glass chess set yet.  However, I will say we know enough to start practicing the basics.  

This is a great program for any student of any age to begin learning the game.  Elliott has a easy going way of explaining concepts clearly.  He is enjoyable to watch and easy to follow.  I especially enjoy the high quality video production and graphics.  Great product!

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Fresh & Local

I'm not sure how common produce auctions are but there is one about 1.5 hours away from me that I absolutely love.  A friend took me 2 years ago and it was absolutely amazing. This auction sells seasonal produce 3x/week straight from the local Amish farms.  It is so much fun bidding on items and getting a steal of a deal.  I have to be careful because unless you use or freeze right away you end up throwing out your deals because fresh only lasts for a little while.

You can really taste the difference using fresh tomatoes and peppers picked that morning in your meals.  I froze green beans and tomatoes but used most of my kale.  Of course my potatoes will last for quite some time and we are still eating the apples.  This auction goes from April to October so perhaps I'll have a chance to make one more visit before the season ends.

Bona Appetit!

can't remember how much

box of green beans $5

& box of peppers $1

 Yes $1


3 bags of kale $3.50

Chili with the day's tomatoes & peppers 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

YWAM Publishing

I received an E-book pdf copy of Jim Elliot: One Great Purpose by YWAM Publishing for review.  I also received Jim Elliot: One Great Purpose Unit Study Curriculum Guide by the same company for review. 

I was first introduced to YWAM through my use of My Father’s World curriculum.  This company has a huge missions focus and a lot of their curriculum packages include mission biographies from YWAM Publishing.  The biographies I’ve read have left a huge impression on me and my children.  On many occasions a passage has leapt out at me and I stop to pray either for missionaries everywhere or for myself because of a personal response.   Giving to missionaries or missions in general has been another personal response I’ve had to reading YWAM biographies.  

I printed out the pdf copies of Jim Elliot chapter by chapter.  My daughter and I were unintentionally competing with one another to finish each chapter before printing out the next.  It was like an exciting novel we couldn’t put down.  We couldn’t wait to find out what happened next.  The secondary story in the biography was the love story between Betty & Jim.  I was intrigued by Jim’s longing for her friendship and ultimately realizing his need for her partnership in ministry.  Love that!

The Unity Study Curriculum Guide includes a lot of information to help make the reading of the biography an in depth unit study.  There are reading comprehension questions for each chapter, vocabulary, and scripture verses to memorize.  There are a few Spanish phrases the student can learn and many more activities.  Here’s a sampling of what’s included in the study guide:

  • Ideas for a display corner representing the country & culture of Ecuador
  • Creative writing suggestions
  • Arts & Crafts
  • Audio/Visual Projects
  • Hands-On Projects
  • Geography Assignments
  • Social Studies
  • Planning a Culminating Event
The Appendix includes additional books and resources to explore related to the many themes in the study.  The paperback book of Jim Elliot can be purchased for $6.99 and is recommended for ages 10 and up.  Kindle and Nook Ebooks can be purchased for the same price.  Many of the biographies are packaged together as a set for a discounted price.  We have purchased these in the past so I have quite a few biographies on my shelf that we must still read. 

The Unit Study Curriculum Guide can be purchased for $7.99 and can be used for a range of grade levels. 

At the time of this review, we are working on an oral presentation so that my daughter can present to the other members of the family what she learned about Jim Elliot and his life as a missionary in Ecuador.  She is deciding on the content to present but we will include a large map of Ecuador including all the mission stations where Jim and his team worked and a table spread with the foods that the missionaries treasured.  We will also include customary Ecuadorian food like empanadas, fruits, and a stew.  
Since we love cooking around here we got a head start on homemade empanadas.  Since I had a chili type recipe leftover from dinner the night before, it was a perfect filling for the homemade empanada dough.  I just added cheese on top of the meat filling and voila!  Found a lovely website for Ecuadorian recipes here.    


This recipe was a hit for the family and probably a keeper on my menu rotation. 
 Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew

Friday, October 4, 2013



I Can Write Upper Case! Fundanoodle is a fun, hands-on learning system that prepares children for school.  The brand includes products for 3, 4, 5-6 year old students.  Color coded levels correspond to age groups.  I received one product in the blue colored series “I Can Write Upper Case!” to review.  I also received the Magnetic Dry Erase Lettering Practice Board for review.  The first product is one of 6 products in the blue series that includes:

I Can Do Math! Level II
Magnetic Dry Erase Lettering Practice BoardI Can Write Numbers!
I Can Build Upper Case Letters!
Muscle Movers I Upper Case Motor Cards
Max & Alphie’s Adventures! Activity Book 2

I Can Write Upper Case! teaches preschoolers to use commands like zip across, zoom down, hop to the top, and buzz around to teach children proper upper case letter formation. These commands make it easy for the parent to direct children’s learning by giving them specific terms to use while teaching their kids.  One of my favorite features of this product is the use of green “go” lines and “pink” stop lines so kids know where to begin and end their letters on a given line.  Each sheet has plenty of space to practice each letter.  Only one line of letters include the green and pink lines so I found myself using a colored marker to include these go and stop lines on other lines.  The go and stop colors seemed to be most helpful for my child. 

The entire learning system seeks to:
  • Help fine and gross motor coordination
  • Enhance eye-hand coordination
  • Encourage touch & visual exploration
  • Promote problem-solving, discovery, and self esteem

Personally, I can attest to the fact that it builds self esteem.  I have 6 kids in my home – 3 biological who are all homeschooled, and 3 foster kids, two of which are in school.  Kid#5 worked with this Fundanoodle product.  She is always wanting to do and know as much as the older kids.  She went to the Headstart program last year and would come home wanting to do homework like her older brother.  She would also see my kids doing their homeschool work and she always curiously looked on.  I’ve purchased workbook type things for her in the past (dot to dots, coloring, etc.) and we also taught her all her letter sounds.  My kids work with her as they have time but this was the first time she had her own “real” work to do. 

When we started working in I Can Write Upper Case! school hadn’t started yet.  So she eagerly worked through several pages in one sitting.  Now that school has started she worked on one to two pages a day.  She has completed the whole book and asked why the book didn’t have lower case letters!  I guess that means I need to purchase the I Can Write Lower Case! tablet that is in the green color coded series.  I almost forgot to mention the stickers in the back of the tablet you can use after you child has completed a page.  The stickers match a specific page and signifies a job well done.  I used the stickers sparingly.  I reserved them for the pages she did exceptionally well to ensure she took special notice to penmanship and neatness.  You may choose to praise each and every page as a well done page.  This is a personal choice.

Three year olds have a series of products in the orange color coded series; Pre K to K students have products in the blue color coded series; and K to First Grade students have products in the green color coded series.  Prices range for each product but the product I reviewed I Can Write Upper Case!, is priced at $5.99.  We didn't use the dry erase practice board until my K'er finished the writing tablet.  Then we broke open the dry erase practice board for her to practice writing whichever letters she wanted.  I noticed that she wanted to keep practicing those letters she had the most difficulty with, namely the "z" and "y."    Unlike other dry erase boards I’ve purchased, the Fundanoodle board includes the same grid lines and boxes the writing tablet has.   It is priced at the Fundanoodle website for $9.99. 

Another great feature of this learning system is the resources available at the Fundanoodle website.  Even after your child uses all the pages in the writing tablet, you can download extra pages from the website and print them out.  My K student enjoyed her tablet and I think it worked great in helping her form her letters. 

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Where is Fall?

National Harbor Bakery
I know its October but all week long we've had 70-80 degree weather.  I have one foot in the summer closet and another in the Fall closet.  You can't quite but the short sleeves away. 

Last weekend I had an unexpected layover at National Harbor.  Beautiful weather on the water.  I was able to capture a few shots.  This coming weekend may be the last "summer" like weekend before the cool, brisk weather sets in.

View of the Harbor

Cupcake Love!

Gaylord Resort Hotel

Mom, Brother, Me


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