NotebookingPages.com ~ Review

AJ is a reluctant writer, but we found out a few years ago that she writes a lot more when she is making a lapbook or using a notebooking page. As she has gotten older we have started to move past lapbooks and into notebooking for some of her subjects. We were given a Lifetime Membership to NotebookingPages.com and I was anxious to see all of the different notebooking pages that were available.

Notebooking is a great way to let your child show what they have learned. The process lets them explain what they really know about a subject with a combination of writing and drawing. Notebooking can be used for kids of all ages. Kids in kindergarten and lower elementary may draw pictures about what they have learned and dictate something for you to write where older kids may draw diagrams to explain things or write full pages of information about a topic. NotebookingPages.com has pages for all ages and offers specialized pages in so many different topics.

Notebooking Pages Lifetime Membership Reviews
With a Lifetime Membership to NotebookingPages.com you are given access to all of the notebooking pages that currently exist and any that are added in the future. The site is very organized making it simple to find the perfect page for what ever topic your child is learning about.

When you log on to NotebookingPages.com you will see that there are ten categories that the notebooking pages are divided into.

Any Study – Here you will find pages that are not specifically meant for a certain subject. You will find numerous designs including pages with colorful borders and different set ups. This section also has 3D notebooking pages and mini books. These are wonderful for those who are transitioning from lapbooking to notebooking. It is a fun way to add mini books right onto the notebooking page. These pages were AJ’s favorite, she enjoyed being able to still fill out the mini books because they help her to organize the information that she is writing about.

A to Z – These pages are great for younger kids who are starting to use notebooking pages. It includes coppywork and pages about sports, animals and transportation.

Bible/Character – Here you will find pages about characters and events in the Bible as well as pages dedicated to learning about character traits. There are quite a few different designs with beautiful pictures. There are over 500 different pages to pick from in the Bible category alone!

Famous People – This section has pages about different people. There are pages about presidents, scientists, missionaries, artists, composers, and other famous people throughout history. The artist pages even contain full color pages of art prints from the artist and picture studies. This section could keep you busy, it is well set up so you have what you need right at your fingertips to easily put together a great study.

Fine Arts – This section also includes the artist and picture study section. You will also find pages about composers and musical copywork.

Geography – This was my favorite section! There are maps, country study packets, and USA notebooking pages. There are pages about the different states, monuments, parks, and memorials.

History – These pages include timeline pages and pages to make a Book of Centuries. It also contains pages on; Ancient History, the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation, and Modern Times. There are pages about important people and events in each era of history.

Holidays – This section has holiday themed pages for each major holiday. You can search by month and find pages for that month’s holidays.

Language Arts – This section has Latin and Greek word study pages and 13 different categories of copywork pages.

Science/Nature – This was another one of my favorite sections. There are notebooking pages for science experiments, plants, nature studies, astronomy, animals, and anatomy. But these pages go way past simple notebooking pages. There are diagrams of the body and different body systems for your child to fill out, and pages where they can write about each body system. I really think that the anatomy pages and a few good books would be perfect for a high school Biology course. They are very well done. I see us using quite a few of these pages over the next few years.

As you can see there is a very large variety. Most of the pages come in different line styles so your older and younger children can be working on the same topic with pages that fit their writing needs.

Simplify your homeschool with NotebookingPages.com!

With so many pages available and our school year coming to an end we used pages from a variety of sections. I had AJ pick out some of the basic designs to write summaries about books she was reading. She used a few science themed pages to write about what she learned after watching some Bill Nye the Science Guy episodes, and used some of the experiment pages after doing some quick experiments. It is amazing how fun designs make writing up experiment reports so much easier. She has been learning about Greek and Latin words in vocabulary and used the notebooking pages to keep track of the words she was learning. She also used a few of the 3D pages to create some fun pages about animals. She also used some of the blank copywork pages to practice the poetry she is memorizing. In just a few weeks we got a lot of use out of NotebookingPages.com. But I have even more plans for next year.

I picked up a high school World Geography book at the Good Will and was creating a course for AJ to complete, the problem was that I couldn’t find any good maps to go along with it. But there are hundreds of different maps available on NotebookingPages.com. I found labeled maps for her to color and blank maps for her to label. There are so many different maps that I was able to find exactly what I needed. There are world maps and continent maps. When she is learning the world oceans I can print out a world map and when she is learning about Africa I can print a map of the continent. It has made planning so much easier.

I have also went through and printed out pages to go with topics she is going to learn about in history and science next year. NotebookingPages.com has made planning for the next school year so much easier.

The site is well organized, easy to use, and full of well made pages. One thing I really enjoyed is that I didn’t need to save anything to my computer. I could simply open the file in Adobe Acrobat and print the pages I needed. I know that NotebookingPages.com will be a resource that we use for years to come. I originally thought that I would find a few good pages, but the site has exceeded my expectations. If you use notebooking in your homeschool, NotebookingPages.com will be a great addition have.

Notebooking Pages Lifetime Membership Reviews
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VeritasBible.com ~ Review

I am always looking for ways to make learning fun for AJ. One subject that I don’t want her to dread doing on a daily basis is Bible. I want the time she spends learning more about God’s word to be enjoyable, but I also want her to really be learning. I have heard wonderful things about Veritas Press so when we were given the chance to review a one year family subscription to VeritasBible.com I was eager to get started.

Old and New Testament Online Self-Paced Bible Veritas Review
VeritasBible.com is a fun and interactive way for your child to learn about the Bible. The family subscription lets you have up to five students working on the program. There are three courses that your child can work on, Genesis to Joshua, Judges to Kings, and The Gospels. Each course covers 32 major events in the Bible. With the subscription to VeritasBible.com you have access to all three courses, you can skip around and work on a little of each course, or stick to one. The choice is yours. Each course has enough lessons to last an entire school year.

VeritasBible.com - The best way to learn the Bible!

When you first start on VeritasBible.com your student picks an avatar and then decides the course that they want to start with. During the review period AJ jumped around between the courses, but the course she worked on the most was Genesis to Joshua.

The student follows a path where they need to complete lessons in order to move on. AJ said that the paths reminded her of a video game.

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Each lesson is comprised of videos, games, Bible reading, review, and memory work. Each lesson has about 15 parts but they are all a little different.

In the beginning of the lesson characters from Biblical times introduce the topic in short videos. These are well made and funny. Both AJ an I were giggling a few times. The Bible event is talked about and explained by one of the characters.

After the event is described there is often a section of the Bible that the student is asked to read and answer questions about. Sometimes they may be multiple choice questions, matching questions, or ordering questions. There is instant feedback and the student isn’t able to move on until the correct answer is given.

VeritasBible.com - The Best way to study the Bible

In between the activities there are short videos where the characters explain more about things in the Bible.

The student often is asked to apply knowledge from their own life to the event in the Bible. In this lesson the student is asked which thing would be an example of moral decay. Again, the student can’t move on until the correct answer is given.

VeritasBible.com - The Best way to study the Bible

There is review in every lesson. In this lesson about Noah and the Flood, the student plays a game where they need to answer questions about the Fall in the Garden of Eden. For each question they get correct they earn more time to play a game. The questions aren’t all simple, but because there is so much review AJ is really retaining the information and able to answer almost every question correctly.

VeritasBible.com - The Best way to study the Bible

There are also activities that help the student remember where everyone fits in the story. This activity had her put the people in order on the time line.

VeritasBible.com - The Best way to study the Bible

There are Bible Cards to go with each course that are sold separately. During the lesson the Bible card for the event is read. Since we didn’t purchase the cards I have AJ write down the information from the cards and keep them with her notes. I think they would be a good item to purchase.

VeritasBible.com - The Best way to study the Bible

The lesson ends with a multiple choice quiz about the lesson. The student is shown their grade, but it is not recorded in the system.

VeritasBible.com - The Best way to study the Bible

Most of the lessons also include the memory song. It is a slightly annoying but catchy song that lists all 32 of the events in order. AJ loves the song. I think it is a great way to help remember the order of the events in the Bible.

As you can see, this is a very thorough way to learn about the Bible. I had AJ take notes on each lesson so that she was able to remember all of the details. The student is kept engaged, there are a variety of activities, and plenty of games to make learning fun.

The only issue we had with the program is that because it is so vibrant and full of information, it can take a while to load. When AJ did the program on the desktop computer she never had any problems, but when she used it on the laptop with wireless internet the lessons often loaded slow and had issues. I am sure it was because of our internet, but if you have issues with your wireless internet that may be something you want to consider before purchasing. There is a free trial, and you don’t even need to give a credit card, I recommend that you try is out and see how your kids like it.

One thing that I wish would change about the program is the fact that it has to be done in order. I wish that we could skip to the 11th event, “Sodom and Gamorah” if we wanted without having to do all of the lessons before that.

I am thankful that we were able to review VeritasBible.com AJ and I have both already learned so much. I am making it her Bible curriculum for next year because she loves it and I love that she is really learning. I think that Veritas Press really lived up to all the hype, they really do make amazing products.

Old and New Testament Online Self-Paced Bible Veritas Review
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MySchoolYear.com ~ Review

I am the first to admit that I am not the most organized homeschooler. I usually start off strong at the beginning of the year and plan to stick to a schedule, but I never do. Life happens and then time runs out and suddenly I realize we are not as far along in our curriculum as we should be. AJ will be starting 8th grade in a few weeks, and that means I need to stay more organized. This is the last year that I can wing it before I have to start tracking everything on her transcript. I can’t believe that next year she will be in high school! Since AJ is doing a lot more independent work, I need to be more organized. I have tried a few different online planners to help me stay organized, but none of them seemed to fit our needs. When I first heard of MySchoolYear.com I was a little hesitant, because I expected it to be just like all of the others that I have tried, but it isn’t.

MySchoolYear.com Review
I was given an annual membership to the My School Year (Homeschool Record Keeping). It has a lot to offer, but it is simple to set up.

When I first started to use the program AJ was still working on the last of her school work for 7th grade. I thought it would be a great idea to go back and add in lesson plans for what she had done for the year. It ended up taking me way too long to try and input everything she had completed, so I decided to try and set up her schedule for the upcoming year.

In just a few short minutes I was able to set up our homeschool, add AJ as a student along with all of her information, set up the classes that she was going to work on, decide the dates for the school year, and schedule her time off. Everything was simple to understand and I didn’t have any issues with getting everything set up.

MySchoolYear.com ~ A great way to organize your year!

The next thing I decided to do was to plan out the lesson plans for the year. Normally I don’t write out lesson plans very far in advance because we get to review and change up what we study throughout the year. There are a few different ways to input the lesson plans, and I found the options to be a big help.

Add a New Lesson – This is where you can add in detailed lesson plans. You are able to enter grades and the amount of time the student spent on the subject as well.

Rapid Repeat – This allows you to set up a lesson or activity that the student does on a regular basis. I set it up to have AJ work on Spanish in Duolingo each day. I also set up Bible this way. Since I know she will do one lesson in Bible three times a week, but I know that the program we use can change, I was able to set it up so that on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday it tells her to do 1 lesson in Bible. I liked that I was able to set it up so that even if our plans change I won’t have to change the schedule.

My School Year 2

Quick Split – This lets you put in a number of lessons, chapters, or pages that the student needs to complete in a time frame of your choice. I set up Literature and Math this way. I simply put in for her to read a book that had so many chapters over so many days, and the system figured out how to schedule it.

My School Year 3

Scheduling was a lot faster than I expected.  I love that I can print off reports that give me a printable schedule of the work she needs to do for the week or for a longer period of time. I can even print off the entire year of lesson plans to put with her records.

There are quite a few different options with My School Year, you can grade assignments with letter grades, a pass/fail, or leave them ungraded. There is also the option to have different types of work be weighted, like tests, so that they are worth more than daily work. I haven’t decided how I am going to do grades yet this year, but once I do I know it will be easy to set it all up.

MySchoolYear.com ~ A great way to organize your year!

There is more to My School Year than just scheduling and grading. You can keep track of a reading list, extra curriculum activities, track attendance, print off report cards, and create transcripts. When you log on you can see at a glance how much work your child needs to do in each subject to be finished for the year. I feel that My School Year has everything you need to organize your year all in one place. I look forward to using it this next year.

Find out what other members of the crew thought by clicking on the graphic below.

Homeschool Record Keeping {MySchoolYear.com Review}
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LearnBop ~ Review

AJ is at a difficult point in math. She has finished a few different pre algebra courses, but I don’t feel that she is ready for algebra yet. She will be finishing 7th grade is a few weeks and I felt a little lost as to where I should put her for 8th grade. I decided that for her 8th grade year I was going to go through all of the math standards that I could find for first through 8th grade and make sure that she was proficient in all of the standards so that she would really be ready for algebra. That sounded great in theory, but I knew it would be time consuming. Then I learned about LearnBop, and it sounded like exactly what I needed. We were given a 12 month subscription to LearnBop for Families, since I only have one student we were given the Single Student Plan.

LearnBop for Families Review
LearnBop has been around for a while and has been used in public schools, but LearnBop for Families is a new product that can be used by homeschoolers and those who want to help their child catch up or get ahead in math. It is common core aligned, but I didn’t see anything that I found odd or different from the way math was taught when I was in school. The program adapts to where your student needs to be and focuses on mastery. It is geared for kids in grades 3 to 12, but there are some lessons available at the first and second grade level.

Learn Bop Review

When the parent logs on to LearnBop they create an account for their student and decide which Learning Roadmap the student should be placed in. You have three options:

  1. Roadmaps by Grade – These are available for third through eighth grade. Your student is given a number of units to complete based on the concepts they are expected to master in that grade.
  2. Rodemaps by Subject – If your student needs to brush up on a specific topic, or if you want to conquer math a subtopic at a time this is the roadmap you would want to pick. There are ten different options, each one varies on the grade level they cover, but there are concepts covered from first through eighth grade. I love that they offer the roadmaps by topic, they would have been great for AJ last year.
  3. High School Roadmaps- There is the option of; Algebra, Algebra 2, and Geometry. They are the same as the Roadmaps by Grade.

The Roadmap can be changed along the way and you can even switch the order that units are completed it. There is a lot of flexibility and personalization available with LearnBop. I decided to put AJ on the 8th grade roadmap. She worked on math about 30 to 45 minutes a day during this review.

LearnBop for Families Review
When the student first logs in they get to pick an avatar. The avatar doesn’t really serve any purpose, but AJ liked it.

The next step is for the student to do a warm up for the unit they are working on. AJ started with Developing Understanding of Similarity. From the title I had no idea what that was, but it has to do with shapes on a coordinate grid and how to flip them and change them to make the shape move to other places on a coordinate grid. As I have said before, we have had a mastery approach to math in the past and AJ didn’t learn a lot about geometry, so I knew that this would be a difficult unit for her.

The warm up is about ten to twelve questions. Some are multiple choice, some are fill in, some are matching and some had her plotting points. The results are not given from the warm up, but your student may find that they need to complete some Building Blocks before they are ready to work on concepts in the unit.

I normally don’t like warm ups or pretests because AJ gets frustrated when she is expected to answer questions that she doesn’t know how to do. Much to my surprise, we both liked the warm-ups. I think they were very accurate when it came to skills that AJ needed to work on. I wish they would have a button that says I don’t know how to do this problem, or a skip button because a few times when she didn’t know how to do the problem she was able to guess correctly.

Once the student finishes the warm up they are able to start on the first Building Block or Unit Concept that they want to work on.

Each concept has three videos that teach the concept to the student. The videos are like power point presentations with a teacher walking the students through the problems. There are different teachers that explain the concepts so there is a nice variety. There are also optional videos that the student can watch if they need additional help. The student doesn’t have to watch the videos, but they are the main teaching portion of the program.

Once the student watches or skips the videos they move on to the Bop Section. The student needs to complete at least five Bops and gain a mastery of 90% in order to master the concept. The Bops are just the problems that the student needs to work through.

If the student needs help they can be walked through the problem step by step. If they get the problem wrong the problem is broken down into bite size pieces that they need to solve. If there are a lot of mistakes made the student may be assigned additional Building Blocks to help them understand any concepts that then need help with.

LearnBop helps students master concepts.

AJ ended up being assigned more building blocks in the first unit. She was upset that she had to do more work, but after watching more videos on concepts that she needed help with she understood what she was doing wrong and was able to master the concept. She often doesn’t check her work and gets things wrong because she misreads problems. I noticed that she was always checking her work and making sure exactly what the problem was asking her for because it was a lot easier to go down in mastery than to go up.

LearnBop helps students master concepts.

It took her over five hours to master the first unit because there were a lot of concepts that she didn’t understand, but unit three only took her 29 minutes to master. I like that concepts she understands can be finished quickly and that she is given more practice when needed. AJ enjoys watching the mastery graph go up and will often work on a concept until she passes it.

LearnBop helps students master concepts.

As the student moves along they are able to earn badges for mastering concepts, staying focused, being persistent, and other good qualities. AJ is really motivated by these badges. She also likes the fun Growth Mindset section that gives an inspirational quote to her when she logs on.

LearnBop motivates students to master concepts.

We both found LearnBop to be a great program. I am assured that she is learning the same things as her friends in public school, I can instantly see where she needs extra help, and she isn’t stuck working on concepts that she has already mastered. The parent can easily see the student’s progress and detailed feedback on problems that they got wrong. I think that LearnBop is a solid program. We plan to continue with the 8th grade plan over the summer and then work through the subject roadmaps before moving her on to the Algebra level. I think this will be a big blessing to us.

Find out what other members of the crew thought by clicking on the graphic below.

LearnBop for Families Review
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Forbrain ~ Review

When AJ (13) reads out loud she often mispronounces larger words. When I correct her, her response is almost always, “That’s what I said.” I don’t know if she says that out of embarrassment because she doesn’t want me to correct her, or of she really thinks that she says the word correctly. She also has a hard time reading at a decent pace. She will read part of a sentence and pause and then other times she will not take a breath and smash three of four sentences into a single breath. When she reads like that it makes it hard for me to understand what she is reading and makes it hard for her to remember what she has read. It is something we have been working on and we have seen improvements, but not very quickly. I didn’t think there was anything to help her, but then I learned about Forbrain – Sound for Life Ltd.

Forbrain – Sound For Life Ltd Review
Forbrain is a bone conduction headset. The child, or adult, puts on the headset on and adjusts the microphone the needed distance. Then they simply read, talk, or complete a variety of exercises. In very simple terms when you speak into the headset you are able to hear yourself. I recommend looking at the website where the science behind the product is explained because it is very interesting. It claims to help with reading difficulties, speech issues, attention issues, and memory issues. After learning all about Forbrain I thought it would be a good fit for AJ.

Forbrain – Sound For Life Ltd Review
Forbrain is designed to be used daily for six to ten weeks for the best results. When it arrived we plugged it into the computer to charge and then I just let AJ play around with it for a little bit. She instantly liked how it felt and how she could hear herself in her head. After she got use to it I had her read out loud while wearing it. I also had her work on things she was memorizing while she was wearing it. She enjoyed just wearing it around the house sometimes.

I instantly noticed that she was more focused on her work when she was wearing the headset. I didn’t have to constantly tell her to do her work. I also noticed that the longer she wore it the more she began to read at a consistent rate. She also seemed to catch herself and correct herself when she would mispronounce a word. I didn’t notice any difference in her reading comprehension so far, but it is recommended to be used for six to ten weeks, so maybe we will see more improvement when we get closer to the ten week mark instead of the six week mark.

The issue that I noticed is that while she had improvements when she was wearing the headset, I didn’t see those same improvements once she took the headset off. When she took the headset off the same issues seemed to return. I was expecting to see results that would transfer even when the headset was off.

Even though she seems to need the headset on to improve, I plan to have her continue with Forbrain after summer vacation. I plan to have her wear it during poetry memorization, some reading out loud, and when she is working on learning the places for different countries in her geography course.

AJ says she doesn’t notice any difference in her reading, but she does like to wear it because she likes that she can hear herself better. She says it does help her to focus though and I never realized that she had problems focusing. Overall we are pleased with the results that we have seen so far and we hope to see more in the future.

Forbrain is an expensive product, but I think it would be a lot cheaper than speech therapy. If your child has significant difficulties this may be the answer.

Find out what other members of the crew thought about Forbrain by clicking on the graphic below.

Forbrain – Sound For Life Ltd Review
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Homeschooling an Only Child

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Homeschooling an only child has a lot of benefits and some draw backs as well. I think it is easier to go off on rabbit trails and go deep into some subjects when you homeschool an only child.  Tweaking one schedule because we decided to spend a month learning about Ancient Egypt or volcanoes has to be easier than trying to rearrange the schedule for three kids.  On the other hand, there aren’t any other kids to answer some of the questions, or to bring different ideas to the table.  Homeschooling an only child lets me focus all of my attention on her. The downside to that is that when I am always available, sometimes she doesn’t try to do things herself. Like anything in life, there are positives and negatives to homeschooling an only child. If you have an only child, don’t let that keep you from homeschooling. Overall it has been a very rewarding journey!

We homeschool with a very eclectic approach and as much hands on learning as possible. While we really don’t have a normal day, I wanted to share what a day in our homeschooling life looked like when AJ was in 6th grade. The day I am sharing is was a Thursday – one of the few days we didn’t have to go somewhere outside of the house. The way we do school changes as our needs change. Currently our school day looks a lot differently because I am still recovering from surgery. I hope you enjoy a look inside our school day.  Parts of this post were previously published at Homeschool Mosaics, but sadly that site no longer exists.

Our day really starts the night before, when I quickly prep the classroom (our garage) for the next day’s work. I pull out any worksheets, write her morning work, and write a list of goals that we need to accomplish the following day.

6 reasons why we have a school room

We try to start our day early, and by early I mean waking up around 7:30am. I know that is sleeping in to some, but getting up before that doesn’t usually happen around here. After she finally wakes up and takes a shower, then she gets dressed and does a few chores, (making her bed, feeding the dog, putting the dishes away) before breakfast. After breakfast, she finishes getting ready and we do a quick clean up of the house and make sure my mom and grandma have anything they need before we start school.

At about 9:30 we make our way out to the classroom and she goes over her list of work that she needs to finish.

She has to do her morning work first, the rest of the subjects she can do in any order. The morning work for today is a logic puzzle. Some days there are sentences for her to correct, a difficult math problem, or questions where she has to find answers using things in the classroom. An example would be to name the 21st president, or list two countries in Africa. I try to switch it up, but keep the routine the same.

She works out the logic puzzle on her easel.

Next it is time for copywork. I usually get my copywork from http://homeschoolcopywork.com/ but today I decided to copy a paragraph out of the book she is reading, Matilda.

Today she decided to start with history. We are using Diana Waring’s History Revealed Ancient Civilizations and the Bible. It is a unit study approach to history and is so much fun. Today we started a new unit all about the Exodus. AJ started off by listening to the audio part of her history called, What in the World? While listening, she colored a picture out of the What’s in the Bible? coloring book.

After listening to the CD, it was time for a brain break. She rode her bike for about 15 minutes while I wrote the key concepts for the history chapter on the whiteboard.

When she came back in she went over the Key topics and Key people that we would be learning about.

Then it was time to learn about the pyramids. First she read a few pages in a library book.

Only Child10

Next, she made a pyramid fact chart, and then she made a paper pyramid that I found at Don’t Eat the Paste.

Then, it was time for her least favorite subject – literature. She likes the book we are reading, Matilda, but dislikes reading and writing. After she finished reading the two chapters and did a few worksheets, it was time for lunch.

While I started getting everyone lunch (it takes a while because I can’t stand too long) she began working on her math. We are using Key to Fractions. We love it. Everything is explained step by step, and the workbooks are consumable so she can write right in them.

After lunch she finishes her math on the easel.

Math is more exciting on the whiteboard.

Then it’s time to take the dog for a walk, or in AJ’s case, a run.

Next up is science. This year we are studying earth science. We are finishing up our study of volcanoes. While I read a few pages to AJ, she started cutting out her lapbooks.

Then, using the information I had read to her and a few library books, she filled in her lapbooks.

Lap books are a great way to add in hands on learning

We reviewed what we learned the day before when we erupted our volcano, and then our book work for the day was finished.

The volcano she made

Even though the book work is finished, there is still more learning to come. It’s time for cooking. AJ is learning how to cook a few things at a time. Today she decided she wanted to try and cook everything. She made tacos (under my supervision), beans, and rice. She did a great job.

Later in the evening, we made sugar cookies for a play-date she is having to decorate cookies.

When our day was finally finished, we watched some TV, relaxed and then got ready for bed.

It was a great day of learning. We were able to go in deep with some subjects and really have fun with learning. Not every day is this successful, and some days we get more done. It really depends on the day.

The Glass Castle ~ Review

AJ is quite particular about the types of books that she enjoys reading or listening to. She has broadened the types of genres that she enjoys over the past few years, but if it isn’t about animals or an exciting adventure then she most likely isn’t going to enjoy it. According to her a book is only good if she can see the story in her head and really feel like she is on an adventure with the characters. When we were asked to review The Glass Castle by Trisha White Priebe and Jerry B. Jenkins from Shiloh Run Press I was a little hesitant. I didn’t think she would want to read another book when we were so close to the end of the school year. Then I read a phrase about the book, “The setting of Chronicles of Narnia meets the adventure of Alice in Wonderland.” After reading that, I thought it would be something that AJ would enjoy.

The Glass Castle, an exciting adventure story perfect for middle grade kids!

The Glass Castle is a 251 page hard-covered book that is broken into 41 chapters. It is an action and adventure book for middle grade students. There are quite a few moral lessons woven through the book along with a few Bible verses. Even though prayer and God are mentioned a few times throughout the book I personally would not consider it a faith based book. I think that most kids with a fifth grade reading level or above would be able to read it independently.

It was a great book and AJ would give it 5 out of 5 stars. That is a big complement coming from her.

The Glass Castle {Shiloh Run Press Review}
(There are some spoilers below)

The Glass Castle follows the story of 13 year old Avery. She is walking with her brother and feels like she is being followed, and it turned out she was. She ends up being kidnapped and is later told that her brother was taken as well, but that she wouldn’t be able to see him. Avery ends up in a room with a bunch of thirteen year old orphans. The only problem is that Avery isn’t an orphan, or is she?

After some exploring Avery realizes that she knows where she is, not because she had been there before, but because her mother had told her all about it in stories when she was little. Avery thought those stories were just fairy tales, but it turns out that they weren’t. Avery realizes that they are all in the castle of an evil King. For some reason the King had ordered all 13 year old orphans to be destroyed and the kids were all being held in the castle for their own protection. She soon learns that the kids all do work in the castle, and really they almost run it. From dress making to baking, they do it all. These 13 year olds are much wiser than their years. She becomes friends with a girl, Kate, who seems to know much more than any one else.

Avery wants to escape and return home, but she is told her brother will be harmed if she leaves. Just when she is about to try and escape the kids decide to elect a child king to be in charge. A kind boy named Tuck ends up being elected King, and surprising everyone he appoints Avery as the new queen.

She needs to find out more about the castle and why they are all there. Upon exploring the castle she learns that the King is sick and needs an heir to his thrown. But that isn’t all she finds out. Who was the first Queen, and why did her mother know so much about the castle? Who can she trust, and are her feelings for a boy clouding her judgment? Will the kids escape?

Unfortunately, by the end of the book you won’t have the answers to most of those questions. I am all for series of books and cliffhanger endings, but I hate when a book ends and the majority of the problems haven’t been solved. Especially when the next book won’t be available for a few months! I really felt this book needed at least one more chapter to tie in some loose ends and I hope that the next book is able to answer those questions. I look forward to reading the next one, I am sure it will be as good as this one.

I wanted to read a few chapters a day to AJ, but we got busy with school and doctors and just didn’t seem to find to sit down and read the book. I sat aside an entire school day where we did nothing but read the book. It turned out to be a good thing, because we wouldn’t have wanted to put it down after a few chapters. I expected some complaining from AJ, but she didn’t want me to stop reading. I read the book to her in a little more than five hours, and it was a very thrilling experience. From the first chapter to the end we were learning new details, making discoveries, and attempting to figure things out. I’ll admit that I kept reading ahead because the story was so intriguing.

One thing that I really liked about the book was that it was clean. There wasn’t any magic or witches, and while there was some obvious chemistry between a few characters there wasn’t as much as a kiss between them. There is mention of a drunk man and a few people die, but there were no details. I really think that most parents would be comfortable with their child reading The Glass Castle.

If you have a kid who enjoys adventure and mystery, then The Glass Castle may be just the book for them. Mom will probably like it too.

Find out what other reviewers had to say about The Glass Castle by clicking the graphic below.

The Glass Castle {Shiloh Run Press Review}
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MaxScholar ~ Review

AJ’s reading skills have improved a lot over the last two years, but she still isn’t at grade level. We have had mixed results with online reading programs in the past because AJ gets frustrated with them. When I saw the variety of activities offered from MaxScholar I thought that it would be a good fit for AJ. Over the past few weeks she has been working on the MaxScholar Reading Intervention Programs. Using games, interesting topics, and instant feedback, your child can have fun while improving vital skills.

MaxScholar Reading Intervention Programs Review
We received a one year license to the MaxGuru program which gives your student access to: MaxPhonics, MaxReading, MaxWords, MaxMusic, MaxVocab, MaxBios, and depending on the assigned level MaxPlaces.

When your student logs on to MaxScholar they are given a pretest and are then assigned a level. I have to say that the way levels are assigned seems a little odd to me. AJ answered all of the questions correctly and then went onto a vocabulary hangman game where she didn’t guess the word. She ended up being placed in level 2. In level 2 she did not have access to the MaxPlaces section of the program. The majority of AJ’s time was spent on MaxReading, MaxWords, and MaxMusic.

In MaxReading the student picks a book that they want to read. Level 2 has six different books that each have a number of chapters. AJ instantly picked the book, Australia and eagerly began. The first step is vocabulary. Vocabulary words are highlighted and if the student doesn’t know what the word mean they can click on the word to see the definition, a synonym, and the word used in a sentence.

Reading 1

Next the student reads the passage. Then they highlight the topic, the main idea, and important details. This was the first time that AJ has highlighted a passage in that way so she found it difficult at first, but it became easier over time. Once the student is finished highlighting they see the correct highlighting and receive a score based on how closely theirs matches the one on the screen.

Reading 2

The student then types up an outline and answers an open ended question about the selection. The writing is not graded, but the parent is able to view it from the parent log in. The final step of MaxReading is the comprehension questions. Then the student is given their score for the chapter and they have the option to play vocabulary games. MaxBios follows the same layout but it has stories about famous people. My understanding is that MaxPlaces also follows the same layout but that it is about different places around the world.

Reading 3

MaxWords is broken into five programs; CLOVER a section that goes over syllables, spelling rules, prefixes and suffixes, Latin roots, and Greek roots. The CLOVER section was a little too difficult for AJ to understand, but I found it very interesting. It taught all about how a word should be broken up into syllables based on different rules. It would have been nice to have as a resource when I was teaching her about syllables. The spelling rules section teaches a rule and gives examples, then your student simply takes a four question multiple choice quiz. The other sections in MaxWords all keep track of the lessons the student has completed, but when AJ would log on to do spelling, it didn’t take her to where she left off.

The prefixes and suffixes, Latin roots, and Greek roots were all really helpful for AJ. She struggles with vocabulary. Each section would teach her a group of words (or word parts) and then she would do a few activities including fill in the blank and matching activities to help her understand the meanings of the words. These sections made her think and really understand how to break down the words to try and understand the meaning.

By far the section that AJ enjoyed the most was MaxMusic. In MaxMusic you can pick an artist and a song to work with. The options include songs from; The Beatles, Adele, Selena Gomez, the Rolling Stones and more. Once a song is selected there are three options. In Identify, the student selects all of the verbs in the song. In Fillers some words are missing and they have to select the correct missing word.

Reading 4

In Piano the notes of the song are played on the piano and the student has to remember them and play them.

Reading 5

There is also a Game section in MaxMusic, that I didn’t find until a few days ago. In that section the student can play a matching game to match musical notes, or they can play a guitar game where they need to hit the arrow keys on the keyboard at the right time.

Since there are so many different parts of MaxScholar I wanted to make sure that AJ tried them all but that she didn’t feel overwhelmed. Three days a week I had her work on MaxReading. She would complete all of the sections and then pick any other area that she wanted to work on. The other two days a week I had her do a section of MaxWords and then she was free to pick which other area to work on. It usually took her about a half hour a day to work on MaxScholar.

MaxScholar is a fun program to help improve reading skills

I expected that MaxScholar would help improve AJ’s reading and vocabulary, and it did. She tends to skim and not really pay attention to what she reads. By having her slow down and pick out the important parts of the text I noticed that she was not having to reread the selection and that she was easily able to tell me what happened. The great thing is that I also saw this skill transfer into her other reading. The work with roots, prefixes, and suffixes has helped her as well. I have noticed that when she comes to an unfamiliar word that she tries to figure it out instead of instantly asking what it means. Even though the reading level she is working at is well below her actual level, I think that practicing the skills at an easy level has let her grow her confidence.

One thing I didn’t expect was that this program would help with her writing. She normally has a hard time writing a summary of what happened in a reading selection. Often she can tell me just fine, but she has trouble getting the information from her brain to the paper. Writing a paragraph about what she read can sometimes take thirty minutes or more. After about a week of writing the outlines of the text something seemed to click with her. I don’t know if it was the highlighting of different parts of the text that helped her, or if it was how the outline was explained. But either way, by the second week she was quickly writing a complete paragraph in response to the open ended questions. They are not perfect, but she seemed to finally understand how to put her ideas together quickly.

MaxScholar is easy to use, has helped AJ in reading, vocabulary, and writing, and she enjoyed it. She didn’t complain about it ever, and that is a first for an online reading program! The only thing that I didn’t like about the program was that I wasn’t able to pick which level to put her in. I hope that the pretest changes in the future or that there is a way for the parent to put the child in a different level.

AJ will continue to use MaxScholar at least a few times a week to help her continue to improve her skills. If you are looking for a solid program to help your struggling reader, MaxScholar may be exactly what you are looking for.

 

MaxScholar Reading Intervention Programs Review
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When You Can’t Have A Set Homeschool Schedule

Schooling when you can't have a homeschool schedule.

As everyone starts to think about the new school year, there will be plenty of beautiful posts about schedules that different families will be following. Some get up early and are able to finish school by noon. Some school from 9 to 2, and others school in the afternoon. The one thing I see among all of these schedules is a sense of consistency for the students. They know what subject will come next and they know about how long a school day will be. The idea is wonderful! But……. What can you do when you CAN’T have a set Homeschool schedule? In the past we couldn’t have a set schedule, because our days are centered around Grandma’s moods. We can’t even have a set bedtime and wake up schedule. Grandma is in the later stages of Alzheimer’s and has what they call Sundowners. Basically as the sun goes down her symptoms get worse. She often walks all night long waking everyone up by turning on lights, or trying to find a way to escape. Even on the days that we try to get to bed early she may decide that no one needs to sleep that night. I don’t function too well without sleep and I know that AJ will not have a successful day of school without sleep either. Top our sleepless nights off with the numerous appointments with kidney specialists, diabetic specialists, workers comp doctors, blood work, tests, and regular check-ups, and the thought of a schedule just goes out the window.

You never know what life is going to throw at you! AJ may spend a few days watching science and history videos, and working on simple things she can do by herself. She will still be learning, but we might not be moving forward with our curriculum plan. The truth is, school work still has to get done and if there isn’t some type of schedule we may be doing work for the same grade way too long. Some subjects may get pushed to the back burner and I end up feeling like we are behind all of the time. Last year I came up with a fairly simple solution, and it is working well for us.

Schedule your year by week numbers instead of dates.

As I was planning our school year I scheduled everything I wanted to get done, and scheduled it by week number. I tried to schedule as much as possible and include those subjects that usually get left behind when we get busy. In the past I would just drop the “fun stuff” when life got crazy, the problem with that is then school becomes dull and boring. We don’t do projects every week, but I found us skipping science experiments (that AJ loves) and putting off art. Instead of doing the fun literature studies, we would just read and answer questions. We were doing the book work but not the hands on learning, and it just wasn’t working for us. This year I have a list of things to complete each week. If we don’t get to the science experiment by the end of the week we just push it to the next week, but we finish everything on the list before we start the next week. Some days we school a lot longer than required to finish up, and other days we don’t get much accomplished. Knowing that we will get to the Egyptian Art project before we move on to our next history subject makes it easier to have a few days full of book work. Morale in our school days has gone up a lot and we are making more progress. When we finish the last week of school we are done for the year, even if that doesn’t happen until August. Numbering the weeks allows me the structure I need to make sure we cover what I think is necessary, and allows the flexibility needed for our unique situation. How do you schedule your school year?

Hey Mama! Planner ~ Review

It’s that time of year, the time when the majority of homeschooling families are planning for the next school year. I love planning and deciding what topics we will be studying and figuring out the skills that I think AJ is ready to learn. Normally I would be making lists and would have at least partially planned the first few months of school. Unfortunately, due to me having a few surgeries and trying to switch AJ to more independent work, we are behind and still have about a month of school left. Even though I am not ready to sit down and make a detailed plan, I have been doing some planning. I have tried quite a few different planners on the computer over the past few years, but I never end up sticking with them. I need to be able to grab my planner write in it and be on my way. That’s why I was happy to have the chance to review the Hey Mama! Print Schoolhouse Planner 2016-2017 from The Old Schoolhouse.

Hey Mama! Schoolhouse Planner 2016-2017 Review
The Hey Mama! Planner arrived at my house on one of those days when nothing was going right. I started flipping through the pages to see what it had to offer and I landed on a page that said:

Hey Mama,

What does the IDEAL Mama look like? Easy – look in the mirror and smile big. There she is!

It made me smile and brightened my day. I instantly knew that I was going to enjoy this planner.

The Hey Mama! Planner is soft covered, spiral bound, and 192 pages long. It has plenty of room to help you plan out your school year and is full of forms to help make your year run as smoothly as possible.

The beginning of the planner has calendars for 2016, 2017, and 2018 each on a single page. It is nice to be able to quickly glance at the entire year and see where birthdays, holidays, and other important dates fall during the year. After those calendars there are monthly calendars from July 2016 through June 2017. Each monthly calendar is spread out over two adjacent pages. For each month there is also a page for notes, and a Hey Mama! Letter. Each letter is inspiring, uplifting, and heartfelt. I look forward to reading those letters throughout the year. I know that they will come in handy when I am dealing with those difficult days.

Following the monthly calendars you will find the weekly planners. The top of each one has a blank line where you can fill in the date for the week. I was so glad that they are not dated! The weekly planner pages each have five columns and seven rows. It is completely blank so you are able to use them in whatever way you feel will work the best for your family.

Sprinkled between the pages you will find some more Hey Mama! Letters and pages with information about different items shown on the front cover. I found those pages very interesting and learned a few new things. I plan on sharing those pages with AJ when we come to them throughout the year.

Next up you will find the Goal sheets. There are pages for yearly goals, semester goals, and monthly goals. On each one there is a place to write down goals for different aspects of life. I never thought about writing down goals in that manner before, but after seeing the pages, I am sold. As I said before, we are still finishing up our school year, but I have already added a few things to the yearly goal page for next year.

There are also attendance charts. On one page there are 180 boxes to check so that you can easily keep track of how many days of school your child has completed. There are five copies of the attendance chart. Since I only need one, I am planning on having AJ use the others to keep track of some of her independent work. Once she completes the work for that day she will check it off, that way she won’t have to remember where she left off if she gets ahead or behind for some reason.

There are a few other forms that I think will come in handy over the next school year. From book logs to curriculum planning sheets, and skill check lists, I can’t think of anything that this Hey Mama! Planner is missing.

All of the pages to help you plan and keep track of things are great. But there is even more! In the back of the planner you will find a lot of fun extras including:

  • Writing Prompts
  • Story Starters
  • The 13 Colonies by date
  • Timeline of Inventions
  • U.S. Presidents and their wives
  • Branches of the Government
  • States and Capitals

I know that these pages will help me throughout the year.

I thought I was getting a planner, but really this is so much more. I am looking forward to planning out AJ’s 8th grade year with the Hey Mama! Planner. It is pretty, full of encouragement, and has every form I could ever think of needing. The pages have plenty of room to write on. If you are looking for a planner to plan out the next school year, I highly recommend the Hey Mama! Print Schoolhouse Planner 2016-2017 from The Old Schoolhouse.

If you purchase the print planner by July 15th 2016 and use the code CREWCODE you can get $10 off the purchase price.

Coupon Code Hey Mama Planner 2016 2017

125 members of the Crew reviewed the Hey Mama! Planner, see what they had to say.

Hey Mama! Schoolhouse Planner 2016-2017 Review
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