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Mar 30, 2016

Logic of English Foundations A TOS Crew Review

Merrick just turned four and has been begging me to do school with him.  He loves the workbooks the big boys have and getting to sit at the table with us at school time.  I was very excited when I was given the opportunity to review Foundations Level A for Logic Of English.  I've been using Essentials at a very relaxed pace with both Mal and Xav and it's an amazing program. 

Pssst. Part 1 of the seriously expanded 2nd edition of Essentials is just out now.  Some of The Crew are reviewing that as well, so check them out.  Link at the end of this post.

I wasn't the only excited person when the Foundations A box arrived at the house.  Merrick was beside himself, opening the huge box of school goodies!  We had to start right away.
This is what we received:
  • Foundations A Teacher's Manual
  • Level A Student Workbook*
  • Doodling Dragons ABC Book
  • Phonogram and Spelling Quick Reference
  • Rhythm of Handwriting Quick Reference Chart*
  • Rhythm of Handwriting Tactile Cards*
  • Phonogram Game Cards*
  • Lined Whiteboard
  • Basic Phonogram Flash Cards
  • Phonogram Game Tiles
  • Spelling Analysis Card
*These resources are available in your choice of cursive or manuscript.

Opening his treasures
I had told Micah I wanted to find a writing curriculum for Merrick that would teach lowercase letters first and I was debating about cursive because more of those homeschool writing programs teach lowercase first.  I had been kicking the idea back and forth for a long time and it was about time I made a decision which way to go.  Mal and Xav both learned to print capitals first and they *still* at 9 and 10 write mostly capitals when they print, I ended up teaching them cursive in an attempt to get around that!  Looking over Foundations, I liked the order and the print font is nice and leads into their cursive well, so I went with manuscript at this time. Merrick had already picked up many print letters on his own.  Some are capitals and some are lower case.  He usually begins letters at the base line and draws upward.  I knew it was time to start really working with him before these issues became bad habits that would be difficult to break.

One side of the 8"x11" student whiteboard has four lines for writing and the other side has one tall line for practice.

The hardcover Teacher's Manual is over 210 pages.  Each of the 40 regular lessons and eight review lessons is scripted for parents who like that.  Personally, I love that for some subjects and this is definitely one of those times I prefer it.  There are plenty of boxes in the sidebar loaded with teacher tips, book recommendations, and activities related to the lessons.  In lesson 25, your child will make his or her first reader.  The pages are in the back of the workbook and they can either use the illustrations in the workbook or draw their own.

Workbook and Teacher's Manual
 The student workbook is 155 pages long, plus the pages for six readers.  Most lessons are two or three pages.  The handwriting pages have lines of various sizes, enabling children of all abilities to choose a template that is comfortable for them.
Reader pages

I've actually been in the progress of making tactile alphabet cards, but the only precut burlap letters I could find were uppercase (of course!) and DIY sand paper letters seem so work intensive, so I had put that project on hold for now.  Happily, tactile cards came with the program!  The cards are 4.25"x6" which makes them a tad smaller than LOE's phonogram and other assorted cards.  I am keeping the tactile cards in with the big kids' cards, but I quickly realized I'm in serious need of a larger box!

He's not a lefty, but every once in a while he just prefers that hand.
The sandpaper texture tactile card set includes upper and lower case letters, ten numerals, and 13 stroke cards for learning parts of letters separately from the full letters. The reverse side of the card shows all of the sounds made by the phonogram and which strokes are used to write the letter(s).

Doodling Dragons: An ABC Book of Sounds is a nicely illustrated ABC book with a twist.  Rather than the typical "A is for apple" page, each two page spread shows examples of all the sounds made by the letters.  It's fun to read and fun to look at.  Sadly, our copy went for a walk somewhere in this house and I've yet to find it again.

This curriculum is loaded with activities to reinforce the lessons.  Merrick is a very busy guy and he was able to spend part of each day doing something active.  Even the listening parts often incorporated activities.  He played Simon Says games and games that involve listening to the sounds in a word, figuring out what the word is, and doing the activity.  Here, he is playing a ball game.  Each time he was a good listener and was able to "glue" the parts of a word together and tell it to me, he was allowed to throw the ball into a basket.  Of course, BooBear had to play too!

Merrick is an eager student, but he also has a somewhat short attention span.  He did just turn four after all.  So, we stop as soon as he starts getting distracted.  We use Foundations A two or three times each week and completed just over one lesson in a week.  By the end of Foundations A, I expect Merrick will be reading short vowel words of three to four letters.

 We haven't gotten to all of the components of the curriculum yet.  Some of them are coming up soon and some will be many lessons ahead of where we are right now.

We've actually used the Basic Phonogram Cards with the bigger littles already. This card pack teaches the 74 basic phonograms of the English language.  The sturdy cards are a large size.  One side shows the letter or phonogram and the other lists the sound(s) it makes, *in the order of frequency,* and examples of words using each of the sounds.  With this deck, 98% of English words can be decoded.

The Phonogram Game Card decks are in use here also, though we haven't gotten to them in Foundations A.  Mal's favorite game is Dragon.  Two decks are recommended for some of the card games, like dragon, go fish, and memory.  These decks are much smaller than the flash card decks.  They are available in cursive, manuscript, and bookface.  They include phonogram cards and game-type cards like rotten egg, draw 2, and snatch it.  These cards come in a variety of typefaces.

The Phonogram Game Tiles are very sturdy cardstock phonograms used for spelling words.  They're perforated tiles and easy to separate.  The single and multi-letter vowels are red, consonants are blue, silent Es are green, and bossy R vowels are purple.  You might notice in this picture that the Y tiles come in red and blue because sometimes Y is a vowel and sometimes not.

There is nothing I've ever gotten from Logic of English that I haven't been incredibly pleased with.  Every single component is high quality.  I'd recommend Foundations for beginning and struggling readers.  This is a complete phonics, reading, and writing curriculum for little ones.  If your gang is a little older (seven and up), Essentials would probably be the way to go.

Find The Logic of English on social media.

Logic of English Review

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Mar 24, 2016


I made some potatoes that are a combination of loaded baked potatoes and twice baked potatoes.  I'd like to make them again and thought maybe others would like them, too.  What better place to put them for quick reference than here?

Preheat oven to 350* (unless you are baking the potatoes in the oven already).

2 large russet potatoes
2 cloves of garlic (this might be a little much for some)
2-4 oz of cheddar, shredded
3 strips of cooked bacon (plus more for nibbling)
some rough chopped broccoli, steamed
about 3 Tbsp butter
about 1/4 c milk, half and half, or cream
salt and pepper to taste
(Aaaaaaaand I forgot the scallions!)

I "baked" the potatoes in the microwave, ahem.  Don't forget to poke some holes in them.  You don't want to have an Almonzo Wilder moment*.  Cut them in half the long way.  Scoop most of the inner potato into a bowl.  I used my Pampered Chef garlic press to add the garlic.  Crumble the bacon, eat some.  Crumble more bacon.  Mix in the steamed broccoli, butter, milk, salt, and pepper into the other ingredients.  Divide the filling between the four potato halves.  Place the potatoes on a baking sheet and put in the oven until heated through, about 15 minutes.

*In Farmer Boy, a hot potato blows up in Almonzo's face!

Mar 22, 2016 and My Son, My Savior DVD TOS Crew Review

Read to the end for a terrific giveaway from! sent out a selection of Christian movies to The Schoolhouse Review Crew a few weeks ago.  We were able to watch a film called My Son, My Savior in exchange for an honest review. is an online Christian and family movie store.  You'll find a variety of documentaries, children's cartoons, holiday movies, educational and apologetics films, and the latest releases on DVD and blu-ray in their store. was started by Dr. Enis Sakirgil who wanted to teach Christians in the west about the Biblical history so abundant in his home country of Turkey.  He was involved in the making of a film Apostle Paul and the Early Churches which he sold online.  Eventually, he sold other Christian movies online as well. is based in Minnesota. Review

My Son, My Savior is a 42 minute film based on Jesus' life.  It's basically described as the Gospel from His mother Mary's point of view.  The acting and production are OK.  The movie is just like many other similar movies and *if you already own a movie of the entire Gospel,* I recommend you put your money into one of's many other quality DVDs.  Bruce Marchiano has appeared in many Christian films, often as Jesus, whom he portrays here as well.  I really expected a lot more of the film to be based on speculation of Mary's feelings and experiences according to society at that time and based on the feelings most mothers do or might go through during her son's lifetime.  While this movie stuck close to Gospel accounts of Jesus' birth, life, and ministry, I think the film fell quite short of delving into what might have been happening with Mary.  There were only several brief moments where we heard Mary's thoughts about what was happening.  There was good continuity through that though.  The film began with Mary as a girl discussing the Passover lamb with her father and later, during Jesus' ministry, when someone mentioned John the Baptist referring to Jesus as the Lamb of God, you see (and hear) the wheels turning in Mary's head as the implication starts to become clear to her.  Later at the cross, she touches Jesus' feet and flashes back to touching his little infant toes.

What did the boys think of My Son, My Savior?
  • Mal (and his sensory issues) - I liked the whisper parts, like bodies and when Mary spoke to her father about the lamb of God.  When I asked him what he meant by bodies, he said, "You know, 'This is my body broken for you...'"  I'm not sure why he called those whisper parts.  The movie isn't overly loud and I don't think those scenes were particularly quiet.  
  • Xav - I did not like the cross part!  Or how Joseph ignored Mary when he found out she was having Jesus.  The angel was weird.
The My Son, My Savior DVD includes an extended version of about 55 minutes.   A Spanish version is also on the DVD.  Subtitles are available in English.

A four session study guide is available from  It was a bit difficult to know exactly where to begin and end the video for each study which read, "[Watch “My Son, My Savior” – Chapter 2 – The Prince of Peace is Born]".  The DVD was not broken into chapter selections on the menu.  The study involves the four weekly chapters of the Bible study sessions, the small group leader and participant guides, and the Bible study lessons leader's guide.  The Bible study leader's guide *does* tell which scenes are covered in each of the four sessions, but you will have to fast forward to the point in the DVD to start each lesson.

Enter to win a five pack of Christian family films from, which includes War Room, Owlegories, The Ultimate Gift, Superbook: A Giant Adventure, and My Son, My Savior.  You can find out what the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought of all of these movies and more at the "read more reviews" button below.

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Pinterest Review

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Mar 19, 2016

Movement and Muscles

So, I haven't blogged a lot about our co-op in a long time.  I may have mentioned that my boys are pretty active.  Almost six hours at Friday School this year makes for a long day with a lot of sitting.  Near the end of last year and over the summer, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what we would do to get some of the energy out in the middle of that day.  The end result was my class, Movement and Muscles.  It's based on a well established class for the littles that we call Wiggles & Giggles.  Our little ones learn to take turns and raise hands while they practice listening activities like musical chairs.  They tumble and dance, play with hoops and jump on a small trampoline, they roll on mats and hop on one foot. 

Movement and Muscles is for the older active kids at co-op.  My two boys are in and as well as a few other kids in the seven-12 age range.  I think I would have had more students, but *someone* decided to offer a Lego class the same period.  Drat!  If I would have let them, I would have lost Mal and Xav as well, but since I designed the whole class for their benefit and they can play Legos all day at home, I nixed that idea.

The class begins with a lesson about a muscle group.  It's very short, just 5-10 minutes, usually followed by an activity or two that involves using those specific muscles.  I think it's really important that they get used to recognizing what muscles are being engaged as they participate.  The remainder of the one hour class goes by quickly, as that's when we go a little crazy.

Some of our activities this year included:
  • Jump ropes
  • Hula hoops
  • Dribbling balls with our feet around cones
  • Chinese jumprope
  • Exercise bands
  • Mats
  • ABCs of exercise (I've found a lot of these lists online)
  • Beanbag games
  • Threading nuts onto bolts
  • Juggling

 It has been a very busy year!

Unfortunately, Mal often misses out on half of the activities.  He's really having a hard time reigning himself in for the class and not just losing all control.  And, like every class lucky enough to get both of my boys, I have to keep them separated.  They are learning that we are a team, but like most of us, some lessons are harder for them than others.

Thinking about all of the fun and goofiness we've had in this class brings a huge smile to my face.  I really appreciate the moms who have been so helpful to us and were/are so willing to participate.  Mid-year we lost Ms. Jane, who Malachi absolutely adored, but Mrs. Anderson is still jumping jacking her way through school with us and I really appreciate her help.

Mar 14, 2016

Math-U-See Digital Pack TOS Crew Review

Have I ever mentioned how much I dislike teaching math, and Mal and Xav dislike learning math?  Well, short answer is "a lot."  Like, a really lot.  About the only things that make math enjoyable around here are videos and manipulatives.  Demme Learning's Math-U-See has both of those things.  You've probably heard of Math-U-See.  They've been around for over 20 years!  We used Alpha before and it was enjoyed, but for reasons I'll discuss below, we stopped after that.

Recently, we had the chance to look over Math-U-See's Digital Pack for Gamma: single and multiple-digit multiplication.  The boys were (almost) ecstatic to get to pull out their old math rods again.  Of course, about half of the time is spent building things that have nothing to do with math!  Luckily, or not, our rods are so ancient, they don't hook together like the newer physical rod sets do.  Makes it a little more difficult to get off track that way.

What is included in Demme Learning's Digital Packs?
  • Online access for one year to streaming instruction videos at the level chosen (Gamma, in our case),
  • Instruction Manual PDFs, 
  • Lesson and test solutions, 
  • Skip Count Songs MP3s,
  • Skip Count Songbook PDFs, and other online resources from any browser. 
You'll also have access to the Math-U-See Digital Manipulatives, using Chrome or Safari browsers.  *Note: I was able to use the Digital Manipulatives on other browsers without issue.

These are the control buttons on the manipulatives screen.  You can change to one of four different backgrounds and lock in your selection, change from whole numbers to decimals, make notes, get help, erase notes, or throw away all of your hard work. I just had to use the note button to write on the screen!

Here are three of the backgrounds.  The final one is just blank, no dots or anything.  If you're familiar at all with Math-U-See, you might recognize Decimal Street.  We still have a huge tri-fold street that we made.  Just grab hold of the rod you want to use and pull it onto the screen.  They can be flipped over and rotated.  Just like you might do with the physical set.  When you've finished, click on the garbage can to disappear 'em!

Another thing you can use the digital rods for that we would do with the physical set is play.  Sigh...

We also used the worksheet generator, which can be printed for most lessons in each of the levels.  You select the number of columns and rows and the range of lessons for each worksheet.  I used this a lot for Alpha pages for Merrick's "school" while the big boys worked on their Gamma worksheets.

I found tons of other files available under the Parent Resources tab.  There are webinars, worksheets for each level, and an online fact drill app.

Demme Learning Math U See Review

What is *not* included?
  • Student Pack (workbook and test booklet - This piece is necessary to use the Digital Pack.),
  • Physical Integer Block Kit (manipulatives),
  • Physical Instruction Manual and DVD.

Demme Learning does not use grades, but levels, in both Math-U-See and Spelling You See.  You'll definitely want to take the placement test to get an idea of where you should start.  Mastery is expected as students move on at their own pace in Math-U-See.  Their manipulative rods are a necessary component of the multi-sensory curriculum.

The digital format makes the lessons completely portable.  Using a laptop or tablet, we can access the lesson videos anywhere with internet.  We can sort of use the digital manipulatives on my Kindle as well, but once I scroll to access the rods at the bottom, I can't seem to get back to the top. All I *really* need up there is the trashcan, though.  We just scroll the background up a bit and use a new area.

How we used the Digital Pack for Gamma.
To access "My Digital Packs," I created an account at the Math-U-See store.  There I select the level of instruction and a lesson number from the drop down boxes.  Even though this is a streaming product, I like having the instructional videos on the TV, so I plugged the laptop into our television for that.  The video lesson is actually for the teacher to watch and learn how to present the concept to the students.  However, we all find Steve Demme to be an engaging and amusing kind of guy, so we watch together.  I pause the video to work through the problems he is solving on the lesson and after, the boys complete a worksheet for that lesson.  Right now, Gamma is more practice and review for them, so we aren't dawdling, but we aren't rushing through it either.  I am able to check their work myself at this time, but the Digital Pack includes the answer sheets.

Difference in philosophy.
I mentioned earlier that we had used Alpha in the past.  The reason we skipped Beta is that Math-U-See is a mastery based math curriculum.  I have given up on Malachi memorizing his facts anytime soon.  That doesn't mean I don't believe he ever can, only that I don't see that happening at this time.  If we followed the Math-U-See philosophy, I would still have him in the first half of Alpha.  At his age, there are so many more concepts to learn and experience.  He thrives on the non-arithmetic parts of math; measurement, geometry, patterns, etc.  Ask him to add 17+19 or subtract 52-28 and things get very difficult.  Every day we practice.  Every time, I remind him to borrow or carry, pay attention to the sign (+, -, x).  And he struggles.  It breaks my heart.  And he's frustrated.  But I'm more sure of myself than I was two years ago.  I'm more confident.  I don't worry about the memorization.  I'm OK with giving him the videos and manipulatives that he enjoys even though the facts aren't mastered.  And that's why I've already ordered his books for Delta.  :)

Check out this "Demmestration" (<~~~See?  Funny guy.) of Gamma.  I really like the explanation used for multiplying two digit numbers.  In my *head* I understand how the tens place times the units (ones) place means starting that second row in the tens place, but I seemed to not explain it very well to Mal and Xav.

Find Math-U-See on social media.


Demme Learning's Math-U-See Review

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Mar 12, 2016

Merrick at the Pediatrician

I. Am. Kicking. Myself.

Merrick and Xav had their yearly physical last week and I forgot my phone!  I will sometimes snap a picture or three while we're there.  Poor Merrick had a nervous breakdown when we pulled into the parking lot that day.  In fact, every time we get near it now he asks if I'm taking him there unless he knows *exactly* where we're going.  It was heart breaking.

Well, he had brought BooBear with him, which is unusual.  He doesn't generally drag him to the car anymore.  Merrick spent Xav's entire physical hiding under my coat and peeking out to watch what was happening.  When it was finally his turn, he wouldn't let them touch him until BooBear had a physical.  The nurse obliged and checked our little bear's ears and even found a tiny, baby blood pressure cuff.  Merrick still wasn't thrilled, but he did submit to the nurse's prodding, poking, and coordination and drawing tests.

Once our pediatrician came in, Merrick was feeling much better about the physical.  BooBear didn't need everything done to him that Merrick had done, but his ticker got a listen and his spine and reflexes were tested.  Everyone at the office was so kind to take an extra couple of minutes to put a little boy at ease.  I just can't tell you how much we love our pediatrician and her staff.

That's one healthy bear!

Mar 9, 2016

Grapevine Studies TOS Crew Review

Birth of John to Jesus' Ministry {Grapevine Studies Review}

I'm always on the lookout for ways I can study the Bible with all three of the littles.  Ages four to ten is a huge gap, educationally speaking.  Stick Figuring through the Bible with Grapevine Studies seemed like a great way to try to teach to all the boys.  Merrick actually draws a stick figure Jesus fairly often, so I knew it would be something he could do.

Grapevine Studies offered The Crew a choice of a Resurrection study or their New Testament Overview 1.  With Easter on the way, I chose Resurrection:Multi-Level.

Take a look through the teacher's manual before you get started with the kids.  You'll find loads of helpful guidance and suggestions.

This is where they chose their favorite part of each lesson.  This creativity section is my favorite.
Mal and Xav may have been a bit creative with their drawing pages.  I like to call their stick figuring "embellished."  The first lesson is a timeline of each of the events covered in the study.  We began with The Evil Plan (I wish you could read that the way I'm typing it!) and followed Jesus through his arrest, trials, crucifixion, on through The Ascension and His promise to one day return.  I stapled the sheets together, so each of the boys has a nice long time line of several sheets and events.

Mal's drawings.  I especially like the helicopter with a spotlight hovering over the garden.
 Next, the lessons each cover one part of the timeline.  If I look at the timeline and see The Last Supper, the lesson will include two pages with four squares each that will have us look more in depth at those events.  The squares are for the stick figuring, but also have the meat of the lesson.  Each of the boxes list a verse or several verses explaining what the pictures depict.  The review questions are located after the boxes.  The third page of the lesson is one large square for the boys to draw their favorite part of that event, followed by space to write out a Bible verse.  Usually I, or sometimes Mal or Xav, will read the verses.  Next, I read a synopsis from the teacher's guide.  Usually, there is so much more to say and we discuss the details.  Sometimes, we get a bit ahead of ourselves!  The teacher's guide provides me with the key points and a new verse for each lesson.

Xav was also very creative.  The religious leaders obviously thought pretty highly of themselves.  He was also very concerned for Peter after the rooster crowed.

The nice thing was that I was able to use traceable sheets with Merrick.  At first, he thought he had coloring pages!  Do you know how difficult it is to color a stick figure?  Merrick does.  Once he understood the tracing part of this new Bible study, he was ready to go.  He'd trace the whole sheet and was very determined to finish along with his brothers.

The traceable option.
 You have two options for completing this study.  Choose daily (about 15 minutes) or weekly (less than an hour) lessons.  We chose a combo actually.  Sometimes we completed a whole lesson at once, sometimes we spread it out over two days.  I really like this method of Bible study for children.  The boys all enjoy the time we spend stick figuring.  This homeschool Bible curriculum also is a great choice for Sunday school and co-ops.  Resurrection Studies are on sale this month at Grapevine Studies.  It's a good time to start stick figuring through the Bible with your family.

Birth of John to Jesus' Ministry {Grapevine Studies Review}

Find Grapevine Studies on social media.

Birth of John to Jesus' Ministry {Grapevine Studies Review}

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Mar 7, 2016

Here to Help Learning TOS Crew Review

Do your children find writing boring?  Mine do.  And inevitably, the state wants more writing samples in their portfolios.  Last year, after I received the call asking for more writing, I ended up having the boys dictate to me and copy it in their very neatest cursive (another whole story!).  I can get a lot more out of them using dictation.  They're pretty imaginative, actually.

This past month, we've been watching Here to Help Learning videos, which are not only great writing lessons, but so very entertaining!  There are six "flights."  Flight 1, 2, and 3 Paragraph Writing is for grades first to third and up, while Flights, 1, 2, and 3 Essay Writing are all appropriate for grades fourth to sixth and up.  There are 32 lessons in each Flight.  I chose to complete Flight 1 Paragraph Writing first.  The order of the flights is not important.  Each of the three flights teach the same lessons at the level the students are on.

Here to Help Learning Review

Forrest and Beth Mora created Here to Help Learning for the youngest of their eight children.  What began as a small co-op adventure for Beth and their daughter, morphed over time into sixty families and eight different classes.  Serving all of those families and supporting all of those moms, led to the next step,  Mr. and Mrs. Mora and their two CENs (Chief Executive Nerds) have done an amazing job creating lighthearted videos using picturesque settings and Beth's animated personality.

The entire program is, as I mentioned, flight themed.  Mrs. Mora, as the flight attendant, opens each lesson with a brief bit of encouragement and ends each lesson with a review of the topic learned that day.  In between, she demonstrates each of the steps in the writing process for that lesson and then cheerfully invites the children to participate.  Mrs. Mora takes us to parks, train tracks, the kitchen, mountains, and many other locations on earth and in space while she explains the writing process.

With games like "Sentence, No Sentence," Flying Solo assignments from Captain Knucklehead, and the warm up pictures which are so comical, the boys generally guffaw at the first glimpse makes each lesson fun.  And then the laughter and exclamations begin.  It takes some settling down to get them writing their story, but once the timer starts they get right to work.  Mal always gets so upset when their seven minutes are up.  He could write for five minutes more most days.  Let me tell you, that is a BIG deal!  I love this homeschool writing curriculum and the boys don't dislike it!  As Xav would say, "Score!"

Technology is no friend of mine, which my regular readers probably know!  The first week I couldn't get the printer to print the student pages for me.  I think we have the most uncooperative printer on the planet.  I had no trouble printing after Micah worked some techno-mumbojumbo on it.  That was no reflection on the program!  I'm merely mentioning it here because Mal's warm up story in the photo is on plain paper.  I actually stumbled on a picture gallery on the website and the boys chose a snowboarder in space rather then the orca with a cheerleading penguin on his nose.  Told you the pictures are funny!

To start our lessons, I plug the laptop into the TV.  I love being able to see the videos large and in charge.  Then I print the student pages for that day.  I don't print the teacher's guide.  I can look at it on my Kindle while the video plays on full screen.  Though each lesson is a series of videos, they conveniently begin one right after the other.  That doesn't mean you just start the lesson and walk away.  You are the facilitator.  The videos are paused at several strategic moments to allow you to direct the students through the various activities and spend some time thinking out loud.  You'll also need a timer which you'll use a couple of times.  Watch the videos and do the activities one day, then choose another day to complete the flying solo assignment.  That is when the writing on the actual project will happen.

Here to Help Learning is Biblically based, encouraging students to honor God with their writing and their attitudes.  They're encouraged to memorize Colossians 3:17 "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."

At the end of the Flight, or year of instruction, your child will have completed six writing projects. Here to Help Learning covers five types of writing in each flight:
  • Narrative
  • Descriptive
  • Expository
  • Persuasive
  • And poetry.

We are not ready for Essay Writing here, but I did take a look at that section of the writing lessons.  Where the paragraph lessons focus on the types of writing, the essay lessons seem to include more about literary techniques such as mood, simile, hyperbole, and onomatopoeia.  (I never, ever thought I'd use the word onomatopoeia on this blog.  Ever.  I'm pleased to say, I spelled it correctly on the first try, too!)

Flight 3 Essay Writing, which is recommended only after completing either Flight 1 *or* 2 Essay Writing, is the Write a Book Project.  This Flight has the sole purpose of guiding the student through writing and publishing a six chapter book.  Interviews with authors Bill Myers, Brock Eastman, Nathan Hoobler, and Pat and Sandy Roy, make this Flight decidedly unique.

While we have enjoyed access to the full website and our choice of the six flights (which is $6.99/month), Here to Help Learning has also made each Flight available in a physical format.  A DVD set, the teacher's guide, and one student notebook is included in the Teacher's Kit.  Additional student notebooks are available individually, which makes this an excellent choice for co-op learning.

Here to Help Learning has just released their newest product.  Their first Literature Adventure, The Island of the Blue Dolphins filmed study guide, is now available.  This is also included in the website access.  How great is that?

For the remainder of 2016, Here to Help Learning and Crimson Pulse have teamed up to sponsor a writing contest with monthly prizes and a grand prize next January.  You'll find details at Here to Help Learning writing contest.

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Here to Help Learning Review

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Mar 3, 2016

Thursday Think - The High Cost of Healthy Food

A while back, I posted this Wondering post comparing the cost of a hamburger to a salad.  The comments on the blog and some of the conversations I had confirmed that most people agree that salads are more costly than hamburgers.  There are generally two thoughts about this phenomenon.

  1. Supply and demand.  People want burgers more, so they cost less (relatively).
  2. Storing fresh vegetables vs. storing meat and bread.  Meat and bread have a longer shelf/freezer life and can be purchased in larger, and therefore less expensive quantities than fresh vegetables.
Both of these thoughts have merit, but I was looking at this quandary a bit differently.

I don't think the comparison of a $1 hamburger and a $7 salad is valid.  Take fast food restaurants in particular.  A look at the value, or dollar, menu reveals not only a $1 hamburger, but also a $1 side salad.  WHAT?!  A comparably priced salad?  Yes!  And not only that, but the pricier salads often include a piece of chicken or other meat.

When I've dined at a fancier establishment, I've often found that burgers cost more than a salad, *unless* the salad comes with meat.

My assessment brings me to the conclusion that the original quote is faulty, in that it is comparing two vastly different things.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Mar 1, 2016

Heirloom Audio Productions TOS Crew Review

Once again, Heirloom Audio Productions has knocked the ball out of the park!  I absolutely love their amazing audio dramas based on the works of G.A. Henty.  This time around, we join our heroes as Mr. George leads them on an adventure to meet Alfred the Great, King of Wessex as he battles the invading hordes of pagan Danes.

The Dragon and the Raven {Heirloom Audio Productions Review}

Heirloom Audio always blows us away with exciting stories, a compelling soundtrack, and some of the best actors out there.  The Dragon and the Raven is no exception!  Some of the stars include Brian Blessed (Star Wars I and loads of Shakespeare, including a personal favorite - Much Ado About Nothing), John Rhys-Davies (Indiana Jones films and The Lord of the Rings trilogy), Helen George (Call the Midwife), and Sylvester McCoy (The Hobbit films and the seventh Doctor).  That is some serious star power!

Composer John Campbell wrote the moving soundtrack for this Active Listening Audio Adventure.  If you're a mom (and there's a good chance you are, if you're reading this blog), you might know some of his other work.  John Campbell has written music for Higglytown Heroes, Adventures in Odyssey, and Where on earth is Carmen San Diego? as well as films.  He also has arranged for and performed with many orchestras and bands over the years.

The boys and I have listened through the complete story several times.  Then we got out the study guide and have been working through it a few tracks at a time.  The guide is broken up for each CD and track.  Every page has the following sections. 
  • The Listening Well - questions based on the content of each track.  I found it *much* more effective to read the questions before we listened rather than just asking after.  It's amazing how much happens in just a few minutes of each track and they would quickly forget.  This way, they knew what to be listening for.  Xav was very good at this section.
  • The Thinking Further - This section was more about inferences and your opinions based on what you heard.  Mal excelled on this part, provided he was willing to think past his automatic, "I don't know."  There also are activities in this section, such as finding locations on a map, researching, writing traditional poetry, or drawing.
  • The Defining Words - vocabulary enhancement.
At the end of the guide, you'll find a book list to help you learn more about King Alfred, and three brief Bible studies related to The Dragon and the Raven.

The story of Alfred burning the cakes (biscuits) is well known across the pond.  It has been humorously included in this version.  Alfred begs food and shelter from a woman while he is avoiding the Danes.  She has asked him to watch the cakes on the hearth so they don't burn.  Being the King and all, and worried about his kingdom, he had things other than cakes on his mind.  He forgot all about them and when the woman returned, she was quite understandably upset with Alfred.

We made some Alfred cakes (the recipe is in the Study Guide) and were pleasantly surprised by their tastiness.  I am kicking myself for forgetting to buy the craisins, but I did add some little raisin faces to some of the scone-like treats.  Pssst...  Make a double batch.  My guys also drew the Alfred Jewel.  The inscription means "Alfred ordered me made."  It's believed the man in the image is Christ.

We love listening to audio books and dramas in the car when we take long road trips.  Heirloom Audio Productions are among our favorite ways to keep us distracted from an otherwise long, monotonous trip.

There are three options when purchasing The Dragon and the Raven from Heirloom Audio Productions.
  1. A single pack.  This option includes the 2 CD set and three digital resources: the Study Guide and Discussion Starter, the printable inspirational poster of Proverbs 21:31,and the soundtrack MP3.  $29.97
  2. The "instant access" MP3 download includes the Study Guide and Discussion Starter and the inspirational poster.  $19.97
  3. The Family Four Pack.  This option makes it easy to gift quality Christian audio theater to your friends and family.  In addition to four CD sets, you will receive the following free resources: The Study Guide and Discussion Starter, the printable inspirational poster, the soundtrack MP3, unlimited access to the Live The Adventure Letter e-newsletter, the G.A. Henty ebook with brilliant artwork created specially for this edition, a printable poster featuring the cast of The Dragon and the Raven, and a behind the scenes documentary.  $99.97
I just love all of the Heirloom audiobooks I've heard so far.  My one and only suggestion at. all. is that I wish the study guides were available as just text on white paper.  They tend to look like old paper which means printing on a black and white printer makes the pages very dark.  Of course, that doesn't stop me from doing it!  I truly appreciate the high quality that goes into every aspect of these productions and I'm really looking forward to many, many more Heirloom Audio Productions!

Follow Heirloom Audio Productions on social media to discover which G.A. Henty books are on the horizon.

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The Dragon and the Raven {Heirloom Audio Productions Review}

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