Wednesday, October 9, 2019

A Progeny Press Study Guide Review

Giving a child a complete education is more than checking all the boxes and completing all the tasks.  What we are trying to do here - especially as homeschoolers - is to grow them!  Growth can come from a rigid schedule and all the right drills, but a deeper growth can come from a great conversation  with your family about something they've just read together.  It's easy and very tempting to get caught up in the concrete and quantitative, where we can see and testify that they 'learned' something today.  Slowing down to read something together and discuss things about it is sometimes hard, not because it is a complicated thing, but because we are so busy.  There's always more chores to do, errands to run and distractions to get hung up on.  My latest review highlights a beautiful process that has the potential to do more than just widen vocabulary and reading comprehension.  Today we're talking about The Long Way to a New Land Study Guide from Progeny Press.

What We Received:

We were given access to one digital file containing a 50 page document entitled The Long Way to a New Land Study Guide by Colleen Schreurs.  This document included activities like fill in the blank worksheets, short answer questions, definitions, crossword puzzle, family heritage activity suggestions, and a lot of discussion ideas pertaining to the students feelings if he were in the character's position.

How It Works:

A study guide is a document of exercises intended to aid the reader in pulling as much understanding out of the original text as possible.  How you use it is largely up to your discretion, but this study guide is divided up into before you read activities, activities based on each chapter and after you read activities.  In the Notes to the Instructor section, they recommend students reading the entire book first while doing some of the before you read activities and then reread each chapter as they go along in the study guide.  The exact order, while natural to go through sequentially, isn't vital for learning since all of the activities and subjects are related within the text.  This study is a great example of individualized education based on each student's pace and needs.  With 5 chapters and a host of pre and post reading activities, this study could be spread over several weeks if desired.  For most students this will require some parental involvement and some great discussions certainly enhance their learning.

What We Thought:

The most challenging part of this project was simply finding the book! Neither of the library systems we have access to had the book so we finally found a proper reading of it on the internet.  Everything past that was well-organized, straight-forward and value-added to the reading of the book.  My son is in 8 (almost 9) and all the activities seemed appropriately leveled including some easily done while others more challenging. For example, the vocabulary words were not a problem, but the pages that asked about the student's own feelings or how they would feel if certain things happened to them took a little more time.  Still, the empathy inducing questions were some of my favorites!  My kids struggle with appreciating how good they have it and tend to complain.  These types of discussions are important to keeping their perspective accurate rather than distorted by our culture's standards. 

According to their website, Progeny Press' mission is "To teach our children to think clearly, to understand literature, and to rely on the scripture for truth and values, and enjoy themselves while they do it!"  Based on this singular study guide, I can say that they are succeeding! From asking students to apply scriptures to characters actions to encouraging them to empathize with the characters, this study guide supports character building and alongside the initial reading comprehension! 

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The Homeschool Review Crew reviewed a variety of study guides spread over several age levels.  If you are interested in another age or simply looking for another perspective, go ahead and click below! 
Study Guides for Literature {Progeny Press Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

HiGASFY Art History Video Series: A Review

On the surface art history probably sounds pretty dry to most people and I would agree that it certainly wasn't my most memorable class in school, but I think it's all about your perspective.  No matter the subject, I always love a good story and the product we're reviewing today capitalizes on the skills of a great story teller.   The  HiGASFY Art History Video Series is hosted by  Mrs. Beth and her animated friend Gasby who take viewers on a tour of 4 different art eras over 48 videos.  My kids were always asking to watch another video so they certainly didn't get bored with it!

What We Received:

We were given a 3 month subscription to the HiGASFY Art History Video Series  which includes access to all episodes covering 4 eras (Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, Renaissance, and Baroque) - a total of 48 episodes, each about 20+ minutes long.  As a part of our subscription we were also given access to downloadable lesson plans, downloadable flashcards, and a game designed to test students retention of information called "Name That Artist." 

How It Works:

This program is designed for 1st - 8th grade students and can be as intense or light as you would prefer.  The videos are a strong education all by themselves where each one reviews what was learned last time and picks up where it left off.  Each video is a conversation between Mrs. Beth and Gasfy that switches between her art studio and various artworks and artists she's talking about.  Gasfy is cute and a fun element my kids enjoyed. These could be spread out to once a week or sometimes even watch two at a time.  The lesson plans, flash cards and Name That Artist game can all be used as much or as little as needed.  The lesson plans include art activities, vocabulary words, writing assignments, cross-curricular in Geography, History and Science.  With all of the video and downloadable content, you have more than enough for a great art curriculum! The Name That Artist is an easy and fun way to evaluate how much information is sticking.

What We Thought:

Since we were just starting a new science, history and Bible curriculum at the beginning of this review period, we opted to dive into the videos and see how it went.  Like I eluded to above, the kids loved the videos and always stayed very engaged.  My favorite has always been the Impressionist period so that's where we started and honestly I think I learned more (and cared more about what I learned) than I ever had before.  My 8 year old son told me it made him really want to paint realistically when I asked him what he thought of HiGASFY.  Since we didn't utilize the lesson plans or other materials much this time around, I do see how it would be fun to go through the videos again in a couple of years with the added activities and tests to increase knowledge and understanding.  I can especially see adding in painting activities being really fun and useful.  

We loved this series and would highly recommend it to anyone in the market for an art history curriculum!

 Keep Up With HiGASFY on Social Media:


Are your kids older than mine?  If you would like to get an older students perspective, check out all of the other reviews through the link below.

Have I Got A Story For You Art History Video Series {HiGASFY Art History Video Series Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Monday, September 23, 2019

Cultivating Community as a Homeschool Family: A Fall Love Letter

All of us fall lovers have our reasons for getting so excited about this pumpkin spice and turning leaves time of year.  Cooler temperatures, cozy clothes, and harvest activities are all things anyone in their right mind would look forward to, especially in the midst of a still sticky September.  Still, there is something deeper about fall that can draw the heart in.  It makes tender moments feel closer and harsher times farther away somehow. My favorite thing about fall is also my favorite part of homeschooling - the opportunity to cultivate richer relationships.

When educating my children at home, the majority of our life is done in each other's presence with each other's input and help. Nobody is perfect and we're all growing, but since we are witnesses to the ups and downs, we celebrate and mourn together.  Isn't that what a community is for?  The fall is the a perfect time to see and be seen within our community - something that is sorely needed. I'm sure there is plenty of blame to go around, but our current culture is losing its sense of community and individuals are suffering every day because of it.  Anxiety, depression, and suicide aren't rare anymore.  Feelings of loneliness and insecurity are the rule - no longer exceptions.  With the rise of social media, we all felt like we were adding to our communities, but it is backfiring because we're losing our skills and opportunities to invest in those around us.  A Facebook group of filtered people that only live like I do is much more comfortable than the melting pot of people in my neighborhood or at the local places I visit.

As we enter this yummy season, take some time to think about ways you can cultivate a deeper relationship with your community.  As homeschoolers we are already doing that with our families, but don't miss the chances to spread it around further.  Have you ever thought about the community elements you might be creating by going to the same grocery store every week or taking 5 minutes to chat with someone while you wait rather than dive into your phone?  We're good at hiding on Instagram, but the statistics are screaming that we all just want more connection.  We want to feel a part of each others lives - especially those of us that are buried in nothing but disconnection.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Offer a hand.  Fall brings leaves to be raked, pruning to be done, and plenty of chores.

Make a seasonal treat.  Pumpkins and apples are everywhere, especially flavoring our favorite treat!  Make some apple butter or a few extra loaves of pumpkin bread to share with your neighbor.
 Having extra is a great excuse to connect!

Ask for help.  Whether it's a school activity or around the house project, asking for help is an easy way to include someone else in your miniature community.

Send Letters.  Your children have many people of service that impact their life every day, even without them realizing it.  Taking time to send them a letter from your kids thanking them and even asking questions about their job can be an important way to reconnect with those close yet so far away.

Look around.  From pumpkin patches to parties, you are likely to be bustling around your local community this fall.  Take some time to look up and really see the people around you.  Do they need help?  Could they use a smile and some encouragement?  The rich relationships you are building with your family are something everyone around us are craving for, even when they don't realize it.  So, let's be mindful of the blessing we can be just by living in a community.

This content was originally posted as a part of The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Review Crew.

Monday, September 16, 2019

When Marriage Gets Worse Before It Gets Better

The refining years.

You don't know what you don't know.  That sums up marriage, doesn't it?  We're all good-hearted people here, but there is so much baggage that we're carrying with us that we don't even realize is there until it's silently causing problems everywhere.  With all the variables of jobs, kids, moves and extended family elements, every couple's timeline is different, but generally speaking there is a stage where a marriage gets worse before it gets better.  We don't usually like to talk about it because it feels like admitting to failure somehow, but I think that is a misconception.

You have likely read a story about how silver is refined in a fire and that it isn't purified until everything else is burned off at very high temperatures.  Marriage is a continual picture of this.  Our marriage may begin with impurities and it certainly can pick up dirt and unproductive films.  As we are going through life together we often have at least two choices.  We can all sit in our filth, allowing it to poison us against each other or we can endure the fires that allow us to throw off all the junk allowing this relationship to become this entirely new thing.  Your marriage just might get worse before it gets better, but it may be the only way for it to truly get better. 

Friday, September 13, 2019

Easy Grammar - Grade 1: An Easy Grammar Systems Review

Grammar is the kind of subject that a lot of people remember learning at some point, but that doesn't mean it stuck.  If you're like me, maybe you know what sounds right, but the details and rules of why are a little blurry.  The company behind today's review has designed their products for mastery learning - meaning you should expect it to stick!  Easy Grammar Systems, authored by Wanda C. Phillips, came from a teacher's experience in the classroom that just wasn't cutting it and prompted her to utilize a different way to teach grammar.  As a result we have Easy Grammar Systems and today we are getting to talk about Easy Grammar:  Grade 1.


What We Received:

We were given one soft-covered book, Easy Grammar Grade 1 - the Teacher Edition.  The book is divided into three sections.  The first section is Scope and Sequence that includes notes and suggestions for each day.  The second section is the student section with 180 pages of reproducible worksheets.  The last section is the Answer Key for all of the worksheets.

How It Works:

With 180 pages of worksheets, it is clearly designed for a complete school year.  Each daily lesson is 5-10 minutes of teacher led instruction and student practice.  However, within the Scope and Sequence it isolates different elements and indexes them for you as well.  For example, if you wanted to brush up on commas, all of the lessons and their various uses are listed for you.  Each lesson includes Capitalization, Punctuation, and Grammar principles and often revisits what was introduced the day before.  Since this is the Teacher's Edition, I do make a copy of the day's student worksheet.  If that is more time consuming than you would like, they do offer consumable student workbooks as well.

What We Thought:

While these lessons are very short and straight forward, if you are looking for something to teach itself, this might not be for you.  Sometimes I would print off a page and just tell my first grader to follow the instructions, but other times I would introduce each element before asking her to do anything.  Regardless of how I approached it, she usually had questions that required me to explain something.  So, it's not a hands-off program, but the book goes over and above to prepare the teacher  for all that will be required of them.

We really enjoyed the simplicity of this program.  As you have seen, the worksheets are nothing fancy, but the content is direct and short.  With every day reinforcing similar concepts in slightly altered ways, there was nothing burdensome about any of it.  My first grader felt confident and I was comforted that she was grasping some important concepts - especially as a foundation for the future.   Easy Grammar is an easy addition to any curriculum that ensures these important concepts are introduced and mastered.

Easy Grammar Systems on Social Media Links:


The Review Crew looked at several products at various grade levels so make sure to check out the rest of the reviews if you are looking for something other than 1st grade.

Easy Grammar, Daily GRAMS & Easy Grammar Ultimate {Easy Grammar Systems Reviews}

Friday, September 6, 2019

200 Reading Skills for Third Grade: A Reading Eggs Workbook Review

Have you heard of Reading Eggs?  If you haven't, you're in for a treat and I would encourage you to read our review of the program and last year's review of their Kindergarten workbook.  For those of you who know what a fun AND educational online curriculum they offer, you have probably seen them advertising their line of workbooks. Today we're going to discuss another workbook, 200 Essential Reading Skills for Third Grade that complements the online component nicely.  

What We Received:
We were given 1 workbook, 200 Essential Reading Skills for Third Grade and a trial subscription to Reading Eggs (which included Math Seeds too!) for both of my kids since they had both previously used the program.

How It Works:

This workbook includes 36 weeks (5 days a week) of Spelling,  Comprehension, Grammar and every 9 weeks a comprehensive review.  Every week on Day 2 they highlight an excerpt of a book that can be found in the Reading Eggspress library.  Students are encouraged to go online and read the rest of the story as a part of the Reading Eggs program.  Each week there are a variety of activities including short answer, fill in the blank, multiple choice, opposites, missing letters, word clues, etc.  Answers are provided at the back of the book.

As a standalone book, it is perfectly fine used by itself.  After our Reading Eggs trial expires, I will continue to have my third grader use this book with no concerns whatsoever because the work in the book has merit all on its own.   At the front of the book is a table of contents separated out by weeks, making it easy to pick out pages applying to a specific topic when needed.

What We Thought:

When I think of Reading Eggs, I automatically associate it with online games and 'fun learning', but this workbook is full of grade appropriate, challenging work.  My son who winces at a lot of writing gives heavy sighs on pages like the one above, but I appreciate the fact that it is so thorough and complete.  The colors and graphics are bright with great quality paper.  J is a great reader, but in typical boy fashion doesn't always want to slow down enough to capture the details.  This book focuses a lot on comprehension and has highlighted his deficiencies in that area from day one.  As it circles back around to comprehension every week, I've seen him slow down and muster up more understanding little by little.  That's a big win!

Have you ever tried Reading Eggs before?  To go along with my review, Reading Eggs is giving away 4 free weeks for my readers to try out the online subscription!  It's a perfect way to decide if  the online program is a right fit for you without having to pay anything first!

Keep Up With Reading Eggs on Social Media:


Are you interested in their Math Workbooks or possibly a different grade level for reading?  Check out the link below to read reviews for the book you're looking for.  It's a great way to get a fair perspective!
240 Essential Reading Skills & 200 Essential Math Skills  {Reading Eggs Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Monday, September 2, 2019

Have you ever witnessed someone get really upset and lash out about something only to later determine that the anger and frustration wasn't really about the thing in the first place? Often the original complaint is valid, but the reaction to it is out of proportion. This phenomenon takes place in all ages and highlights something really important we need to understand and be teaching our children.

Emotional responses to life cannot simply be stuffed or stamped out with no later repercussions.  From minor disappointments to major traumas, our emotions are tools to help understand what's happening in us.  When we ignore them and resist any attempt to express them in a healthy way, they will creep out in any, albeit weird, place it can.

A simple example is a 5 year old child who doesn't get his usual amount of sleep, claims he's not tired but then has fits of rage or meltdown because his banana got ketchup on it.  Any of us would be frustrated that we got ketchup on our banana, but  throwing a fit is out of proportion.  The truth is the child is very tired and emotionally working overtime to keep going.  Adults are no different, but sometimes we can hide the truth a lot better - even from ourselves! Insecurity, feelings of abandonment, abuse, any manner of trauma that isn't understood and properly dealt with emotionally can and will make it's way into your life in a destructive, misplaced way.  

Monday, August 26, 2019

The Super Power of Homeschooling: Resources

Taking charge of your children’s education is an overwhelming venture some days. Compared to a public school counterpart, we may be doing the work of several people all by ourselves. Whether you are just starting your homeschool journey or have been at it for years, there are seasons that can feel really lonely and daunting. Doing life differently is just like that. The good news is that modern homeschooling has a superpower we forget about sometimes: Resources.
Are you looking for age-appropriate read-aloud books? Maybe you need a different way to approach Algebra? Wondering when anyone has time to clean their house? Is your child struggling with communication and social skills? Can you afford to homeschool? Do you need help heading into high school, and wondering what to do about a transcript? These are all things that can burden a parent down when they don’t know where to start. Homeschool parents get used to sifting through things that won’t work, in order to find a great thing that will. When you are overwhelmed, find those that have done some of the sifting for you. Through social media, organizations like and The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, and local co-ops, you have access to hundreds of parents just like you working to get the little souls entrusted to you pointed in the right direction.
Sometimes in our feelings of isolation, we end up bemoaning how different our situation is, rather than celebrating the freedoms we have in being different. As a homeschool parent, you are afforded a wide berth in determining and pursuing what is best for your children. Whatever their need or interest is, there is an internet and homeschool community full of possibilities. From worksheets to schedules and methods to mentorship, homeschooling parents are establishing this village of resources and support for other parents venturing out onto this unique path.

Every homeschool parent you meet will have a bag of resources to share with you, if you ask them. They have tried, failed, succeeded, and shifted so much that they have advice and experiences that can help you. For the lean times, the challenging times, and the wonderful times, every home educator has resources to share with you. We all have experiences we’ve learned from, and love the chance to share the fruits of our struggles with someone who could really use it! It usually isn’t a problem getting other home educators to talk with you, it’s getting them to hush about it that is the hard part!
Every time you start to feel burdened and overwhelmed by the unique needs of your job, remember the myriad of people and places you can call upon for help!
-Originally published at Homeschooling with Heart, a blog of The Old Schoolhouse.

Friday, August 23, 2019

My School Year Homeschool Record Keeping: An Online Planner Review

Planning is the worst and also my favorite!  New planners, color coded dividers, and a handy new app can always get me excited.  However, actually using the new method or supplies long term is another thing altogether and something I'm sad to say that I struggle with regularly. Today we're reviewing the Annual Membership Plan from My School Year Homeschool Record Keeping.  We talked about this online planner back in 2016 and this time around they have added some elements so we are happy to revisit it!

What We Received:

We were given a the  Annual Membership Plan to My School Year Homeschool Record Keeping which includes online access across all platforms to their program for unlimited students.

How It Works:

From first login, the program prompts you set up your school, school year/semesters, students, subjects, classes and lessons.  This program can do an enormous amount of record keeping and reporting for you depending on how you set it up and how you use it.  There is a lot of work to get everything set up properly which can be overwhelming at first.  Thankfully, they have a searchable blog full of tips, video tutorials, FAQs, downloadable guides and email/phone support for help.  The most useful and pertinent thing it can do is track courses and create a transcript, an important element on all homeschooling parents of high school students.

It also can be a great assignment tracker where students can login and check their own schedule for the day/week.  This can be especially helpful for older students working independently.  In the lesson section, it will even divide up pages and activities and assign them strategically over a section of time.  

Whether you are just keeping track of attendance,students' reading or a full grading system, this program can give you a picture of where everyone is at with a click of a button.

It also is a complete online calendar that color codes all student activities, including mom's chores and to-do lists.

In addition to all of the added tutorials and help, one of the biggest changes to the program since the last time we looked at it is the Teacher's Aid.  Under this heading, you receive notifications for things that need to be done like enrolling a student, adding lessons to a class or questions about attendance or awards.  It points out areas you may have missed or simply where you left off last.

What We Thought:

My oldest is 8 and we have yet to allow any of our kids a personal device so the immediate value of this program for our family is strictly record keeping and organization for mom.  Since I struggle with follow-through in record keeping, has become like a training program for me to keep track in preparation for older grades when it becomes absolutely necessary.

While this program can do a ton, it requires a ton of set up that seems daunting in the face of just a pen and paper.  However, the product of a complete record and organized assignments your independent kids can access themselves is an important thing too.  When you are willing to put in the time at the beginning watching the tutorials, reading the blog and getting everything set up, this program is a gem!  It's accessible everywhere so no matter what device you have access to, you can check someone's assignments or set up a new lesson.  

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Would you be interested in hearing from families with older children?  Check out other Crew Members' reviews to find out what their experience was.
Annual Membership Homeschool Record Keeping  {My School Year Homeschool Record Keeping Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

CTC Math: An Online Math Curriculum Review

For today's review, we are revisiting an old friend!  CTCMath was a great asset when we reviewed it in 2017 and this time we were able to put the Family Membership, to greater use since I have two students actively using it.  Since our review last time, they have added some great features that have enhanced the program quite a bit, including a fun game for practicing multiplication.  Wherever you fall in your math needs, CTCMath offers an online multi-faceted program to help students get caught up or get ahead in their math skills.

What We Received:

We received a 12-month Family Membership for up to 5 students.  Since I only have 2 children old enough to use the program, that means I have space left on the account.  The program goes through high school and even includes Calculus! I could go in and brush up on all my math skills in preparation for the day when my kids need help and I'm so rusty that I make it worse!

How It Works:

With the family membership, we set up 2 student accounts and I have one admin/teacher account.  Through the admin account I can assign tasks (lessons, diagnostic tests, etc.), track everything they have done, when they logged on, how many questions/lessons they completed, and their scores on everything.  Assigned tasks can have various due dates or length of time to work on it, making long range planning very doable.  A new addition this time around has been the User Guides.  This is a collection of videos that explain different administrative tasks and options.  I discovered that I could assign review sheets  - something I didn't know until I watched  some of the User Guide videos.  There are also a couple of videos about a new Question Bank Wizard option they have where you can customize worksheets. When you're new to the program and trying to figure out how everything works, these videos are super helpful!

When a student logs on to their account (each student has separate login info), they see this panel of choices: 
  • Lessons
  • Tasks
  • Results 
  • Settings 
  • History  
Tasks is where anything I have assigned the student will show up.  However, at any time the student can go to Lessons and pick from all grades and topics in order to learn, practice or test a concept.  So, if my third grader is suddenly struggling with subtraction concepts, we can revisit first or second grade lessons to clarify and practice.

An interesting note about CTCMath is that all of the lessons are voiced/taught by the same instructor which provides a certain level of continuity and familiarity that we find comforting.  Although, it may just be his fun accent that we like! Who knows?!

A new feature that we have really enjoyed is the Speed Skills and Times Table Shoot 'Em Up.  Speed Skills is a straight forward timed test of basic skills.  The Times Table game is a fun spaceship style game where you shoot the correct answer to the presented multiplication problem.  You have the option to practice a number family or play mixed to earn points and maintain lives.  My third grader definitely preferred this method of math practice!

What We Thought:

Since this wasn't a new program to us, jumping back in was very easy.  The new games were a big hit and not complicated at all.  The review sheets and new question bank wizard has increased the variety of assignment options which in my opinion keeps things interesting.  With clear explanations and plenty of excellent graphics, we have nothing but praise for this great program!

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Wondering what middle school and high school students think of CTCMath? Check out the Crew reviews below to see what families with other ages thought.

Math 12-month Family Membership {CTCMath Reviews 2019}
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