Free Online Piano Lessons

For the past few weeks AJ and I have been reviewing a fun product called Music & Creativity – Foundation Course. It is a free online program from Simply Music.


I can play a few simple songs on the piano that I learned as a kid, but I never took any lessons. AJ did take lessons for about six months, but that was quite a while ago. She taught herself a few songs. But overall both of us have very little musical knowledge. In the past we have tried online music programs and they have either been really good, or fell flat. I am happy to say that Simply Music is a good program. The best part is that is is completely free. You don’t even need to enter a credit card number to sign up. Simply create an account and begin your musical experience.

About the Program

This program focuses on learning to play music first instead of learning to read music. The idea is that the student needs to be able to get hands on experience playing the piano and learning about rhythm and beats before they start to read music. I think this a great idea. You can always learn to read music later, but if you get stuck trying to learn to read music, you can become frustrated and never go much further.

Simply Music is self paced. It includes online videos as well as other downloadable materials. The program can be accessed with any device that has internet access. Often I had AJ watch the videos at the piano on the Kindle Fire so that she could easily practice. Other times she watched the video on the computer and then went on to practice.


When you log into the account you have a few downloads available to help you on your musical journey. One is a book in PDF form called, Music and the Art of Long Term Relationships. This book, written by Neil Moore, is over 80 pages long. While you can absolutely jump right in to your music lessons, this is a very interesting book. It talks about why a lot of people don’t stick with music lessons and our overall attitude about music lessons. The book is a quick and easy read, but I think it would benefit anyone who is thinking about taking music lessons or having their child take lessons.

Simply Music Review

The second item for download is a printable piano craft. By following the directions your child will be able to create their own practice piano that they can use to reinforce concepts taught in the lessons. We didn’t end up using this, but I think it would be very helpful, especially for younger students. Simply Music Review

The last printable download is a 20 page reference book. There are songs, exercises, and different pages that are utilized throughout the program. I recommend printing this off in the beginning and putting it is a folder. That way when you need a page for your lesson you can easily grab it. I printed off a page at a time in the beginning and then had to stop and print off new pages in order for AJ to practice.

Simply Music Review

The final download is a file of music in MP3 format. These are the songs your student will be playing and listing to as part of their lessons. We found these helpful. When AJ was practicing she could easily pull up the song on the computer and see how it should sound.

The Lessons

When you log in you are taken to the next lesson. The program keeps track of your progress and won’t let you move on until you have completed the lesson you are on. After marking the lesson complete you are able to re-watch lessons at any time.

Simply Music Review

The first few lessons set up your learning. By the third lesson your student is able to begin playing their first song Dreams Come True. The video lessons are short and effective. They show the student how the song should be played and give plenty of help to make the student successful. The elements are broken down into bite sized pieces as they learn the new language of music.

Simply Music Review

What We Thought

This is an amazing program. I honestly can’t believe it is free. They do offer another course that your student can take after they complete this one. That course does cost to use, but if it is anything like this course it is worth the small price. I have been sick and haven’t made near as much progress as I had planned, but AJ has made some good progress. Just a few minutes each day is plenty of time. The lessons really break everything down into steps and make success possible. If you want to learn how to play the piano, I highly recommend this program!
Find out what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew thought by clicking the graphis below.

Learn to Play the Piano with Music & Creativity - Foundation Course {Simply Music Reviews}

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Lightning Lit & Comp (Early-Mid American Lit) ~ Review

AJ still struggles with some skills in both reading and writing. While she has grown leaps and bounds over the last few years, she is not quite on grade level. Because of that, she is a slower reader and sometimes takes longer with writing assignments. One issue we have noticed is that we often feel like we are behind in our English curriculum. A little over a year ago we were able to review a Lightning Lit set from, Hewitt Homeschooling Resources. We enjoyed it, but she was doing a combined literature, Bible, and history course at the time, so she never finished it.

This year we are studying American History, and I was looking for a good literature program to go with it. I had planed to finish the old Lightning Lit set we had, and then find something new. But then we were given the chance to review another lightning lit set! We decided to go with, American Early-Mid 19th Century, because it would fit in perfectly with our study of US History. We have been working on it for the last few weeks.

What is Lightning Lit & Comp?

The idea behind Lightning Lit & Comp is to have the student read and respond to great literature. Along the way the student will gain college level composition skills. In the younger grades the program is divided into grade levels. Once the student is in high school the program switches to different topics. There are a variety of choices from American History, British Literature, and even different genres of Shakespeare.

The sets come with a Student Guide that is designed so that the student can do the program themselves, and a teacher guide. Depending on the needs of your student, each Lightning Lit guide can be used over a semester, or an entire school year. Each guide has the student read four novels and at least four other works of literature. Those may include poetry, short stories, or other material. You will need to obtain the novels, but everything else is in the Student Guide.

American Early – Mid 19th Century

Out of the four novels that are in this guide, I had only read one before. This guide has the student read:

  • Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography
  • Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave Written by Himself
  • The Scarlet Letter and
  • Moby-Dick

They will also read poetry and short stories from:

  • Washington Irving
  • William Cullen Bryant
  • Edgar Allan Poe and
  • Henry Longfellow

The Student Guide

Lightning Lit & Comp (Early to Mid American History) Student Guide

The Student Guide is a 178 page soft covered book. It begins with a long introduction. The introduction talks about why the student should use the course. It then it goes on to give lessons on how to read literature, how to read poetry, and how to write well. It contains a lot of useful information. The student isn’t expected to remember all of the information. Instead it is right at their fingertips when they need it.

Finally, there is an explanation on how to use the Student Guide. The program is simple to follow, but this part makes it fool proof! The back of the book includes three appendix sections. They include optional discussion questions and project ideas, additional reading, and both the semester and year long schedule.

Lightning Lit & Comp ~ (Early to Mid American History) Schedule from Student Guide

The Student Guide is broken up into four units. They all follow the same basic outline.

Unit at a Glance

Each unit contains two lessons. They include:

Introduction – This is a short (page or two) biography about the author.

The Selection – This is the reading that the student will complete. Sometimes the student will not need to read the entire novel. In those cases the student is told what to read.

While You Read – This is a short list of things to look for or to think about while you read. It varies with each book. For The Scarlet Letter , one thing the student is asked to look for conflicts in the book and how they are solved.

Comprehension Questions – These questions are broken down by chapter, or by page number if the book is not broken up into chapters. The questions focus mainly on facts in the story, but there are some about different literary elements. Most of the questions are short answer, but there are also some multiple choice options.

Literary Lessons – These are lessons that cover one main topic that was in the reading. For example, after reading Franklin’s autobiography the lesson is on writing about yourself. Examples are taken from the reading to help show different ways to write about yourself. After reading Moby-Dick the lesson is on character development. Examples are given that show how in the book the author uses different ways to develop the character over time. These lessons are around five pages long. They are broken into sub topics and go into a lot of details.

Writing Exercises – After each reading selection there is a list of at least five different writing exercises. The student picks two of them to complete. There are a variety of options. Some include researching and writing a report, some are short stories, others have you analyze the reading. Sometimes, like after reading The Scarlet Letter, there will be an option to practice a new skill you learned while writing about a previous book. One option for the writing exercise is:

Write an analysis of at least one conflict in either Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography or Frederick Douglass’s Narrative.

Perspectives – This section is not included after every reading selection. When it is included it gives valuable information about the time period. One of the sections talked about Transcendentalism and how it effected writing at the time.

The Teacher Guide

Lightning Lit & Comp ~ Review (Early to Mid American History) Teacher Guide

The Teacher guide is simply a stack of papers stapled together and hole-punched. I like that it can easily be placed in a notebook, and that I don’t have another book to worry about.

The guide includes tips on grading. Grading writing is so subjective, that it can be difficult. This breaks everything down for you. There are even checklists for different types of papers. There are instructions for how to calculate grades for the comprehension questions and for final grades. The only thing it doesn’t explain is how to grade the vocabulary. There aren’t exactly any vocabulary assignments. The student is told to create a vocabulary notebook where they write down words they don’t understand, but grading this is not explained. Since vocabulary is only worth 10% of the grade, I plan to give AJ credit as long as she creates a decent notebook.

The Teacher guide also includes both schedule options and answers to the comprehension questions. The only suggestion I would make is that it would be more helpful to the parent/teacher if more than the letter was included for multiple choice questions. Just the letter “d” isn’t always enough. I found myself needing to look at the student guide to see what she was answering. This is just a personal preference.

The guide also includes the writing exercises and the optional project ideas.

How We Used It

AJ holding Student Book Lightning Lit & Comp (Early to Mid American History)

Since AJ is a slow reader, we decided to follow the year long schedule. The main difference between the two schedules is the pace of the reading. The schedules are broken up into weekly assignments. I like this because she can break the reading and writing up however she likes, as long as she finishes it by the end of the week.

She began by reading the introduction to the student guide. Then she went on to read the introduction about Benjamin Franklin. After that we read through the writing exercise options. I had her pick one to work on while she read the book. The schedule has her wait until after she reads the book to write, but that has her then writing two papers in a row. So we changed it up a little.

The first week she just did the  reading and answered the comprehension questions. The second week I had her read through the Literary Lesson and start working on her writing assignment.  She chose the following:

Imagine that you are writing to a pen-pal for the first time. You don’t want to tell them everything at once but you do want to give a reasonable impression of yourself. Choose what parts of yourself and your life to share. Write the letter – taking care to choose aspects of yourself that are telling and important and to describe those things well enough that your pen-pal will find the letter interesting.

As she read the book she worked on the writing a little each day. By the time she is finished with the book she will have one assignment finished and will then start on the second assignment.

We work on literature together. I downloaded the first book to our Kindle’s and we read the book together taking turns reading out loud and discussing the book. Using the Kindle was a little difficult, because the autobiography is not broken into chapters. The reading was assigned by page number, but the page numbers were different on the Kindle. We just read until all of the comprehension questions from the section were answered. But if page numbers not matching bothers you, make sure you buy the version recommended on the website.

I will say though, this first book has a lot of unusual words. It was nice to be able to highlight a word and quickly see its meaning. I think she might have been looking up a lot of words if she was reading a paperback copy.

As we read she wrote down the answers to the comprehension questions in a composition notebook. Then she would work on the writing assignment for a little while. Some days we read for an hour or so other days she only read a few minutes. I like that the weekly schedule makes it possible to be very flexible.

Out Thoughts

While Benjamin Franklin’t Autobiography isn’t our favorite book, we have both been enjoying this literature program. I like that there is the option to take a little longer to complete the course, but that she is able to use something that is challenging and will help her grow. The lessons are very detailed and interesting. There is a great variety of writing assignments. Some are easier like the one she picked for unit one, but others will require more effort.

This book is designed for 9th to 10th grade, while the other guide we used is designed for 9th through 12th grade. I did notice that this guide had some easier writing assignments, and that the comprehension questions were more straight forward. But I think it is challenging enough to be used at any level.

The guide is designed so that the student can use it independently, and I think most students would be able to do that. Even AJ would be able to use this independently. We just like to discuss the reading and spend the time together. I think it is a very solid program. We intend to use it next year for her main English curriculum.

If you are looking for a challenging, but doable English curriculum, that focuses on having the student read great literature, look no further. Lightning Lit & Comp is what you need.

Other members of the Homeschool review Crew reviewed different levels or topics of Lightning Lit. They also reviewed a few other products from Hewitt Homeschooling. Click on the graphic below to rad their reviews!

Lightning Literature, My First Reports, State History Notebook & Joy of Discovery {Hewitt Homeschooling Resources Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Memoria Press American History ~ Review

Throughout our homeschooling years the hardest subject for me to teach and stay on track with has almost always been history. We have tried textbooks, but found them boring. We tried unit studies but often found ourselves taking too long on each topic and not finishing. And literature based history often had us not able to keep up with the reading while completing our other subjects. I was struggling to find a good program that would cover American History for next year.

It seems I am given the chance to review a product when a need like that comes up. A majority of time, those items that I get to review end up being a huge blessing for us. They fit exactly what we need. That was my hope for The Story of the Thirteen Colonies & the Great Republic Set and the 200 Questions About American History set from Memoria Press. While it is written for middle schoolers, I thought with a few tweaks it would be perfect for AJ’s high school credit. We were blessed to receive both sets, together they round out a solid year of American History.

The Story of the 13 Colonies and The Great Republic

This set comes with a Teacher Guide, Student Guide, and a book. You will need a student guide for each student, but the book could easily be shared if you have more than one student working on the course.

The Book

13 Colonies & The Great Republic ~Review (Cover)

The book is a combination of two books. Both were written by H. A. Guerber. Memoria Press edited the books and combined the two into a single book. It is smaller than a normal text book and is soft covered, making it easy to read.

The book is 211 pages long and broken up into 85 chapters. Most of the chapters are about two pages long. There are a few smaller topics that are only one page long and then some that are around three pages long. There are pictures to go with every chapter. Some include maps, others have sketches of people or famous events in history. The book covers topics from the explores to the Spanish American War.

13 Colonies & The Great Republic ~Review (Pic of open book with sketches of history)

The writing in the book is more like a story than a text book. It is interesting and tells more than just the basic facts. We did find that some of the wording was a little odd in a few places. There were a few times AJ had to reread a sentence in order to understand it. Once she got use to the way it was written she was fine. By the fourth or fifth chapter she didn’t seem to need to reread parts of the book. So far she has found the book enjoyable. Even though we have studied American History before, she is learning a lot of new things. And honestly, so am I.

The Student Guide

13 Colonies & The Great Republic ~Review (Pic of Student Guide Cover)

The Student Guide is broken into 32 lessons. Each lesson begins with Facts to Know. This section lists important people, events, or terms that the student should know before reading the lesson.

13 Colonies & The Great Republic ~Review (Pic of Facts to Know Section)

The next step is vocabulary. Sometimes the definitions of the words can be inferred from the reading, other times the student needs to understand the definition to understand the reading. We started looking up the words before the reading to make sure that she was able to understand what she read. From using products from Memoria Press in the past, we knew that their tests usually have a lot of vocabulary. In the past AJ would study her definitions but they would be different from the choices on tests.

13 Colonies & The Great Republic ~Review (Pic of vocabulary work)

We decided back then that we would do the vocabulary work for Memoria Press a little differently. She verbally tells me the definitions, and looks up any words she isn’t sure of before she reads. But she doesn’t write those definitions down. After she completes the other parts of the lesson, she copies the definitions from the Teacher Guide. Then when she studies, she has the correct definitions. It seems to work well for us. These tests have a place for the student to write in the answers for some of the vocabulary, but I still like her to copy down the official definition.

After Vocabulary there are questions about the reading. There is a good mixture of questions based on facts from the reading, and questions that require the student to use higher level thinking skills and infer or explain why things happened.

13 Colonies & The Great Republic ~Review (Pic of questions about reading)

The final part of each lesson is the Enrichment section. This section varies a little bit each week. Some of the things it can include are:

  • Map – Where the student locates places on a map, or labels sea routes or different aspects on the map.
  • Timeline – They add dates or events to their time line.
  • Research – The student researches a topic and writes about it.
  • Composition – The student is given a writing assignment. One that AJ did was to write a journal entry from one of the Native Americans when Columbus arrived.
  • 13 Colonies Chart – They add the name of the colony, the year it was established, and the founder.
  • Primary Source – The student reads a primary source like a letter from George Washington to his wife or the Mayflower Compact.
  • Recitation – The student memorizes a poem and then recites it.

13 Colonies & The Great Republic ~Review (Enrichment activities)

AJ did all of enrichment activities that she came to except for the compositions. She skipped a few that she didn’t find interesting. We haven’t come to any of the poetry memorization yet. We will take those a poem at a time and decide if she will memorize them. I like that there are a variety of activities to choose from. She liked that there were a variety of primary source documents. Having them right in the same student book made it simple.

The back of the book has a few maps, the 13 Colonies chart, and all of the Primary Source Documents. The only thing I feel it is missing is a blank time line.

13 Colonies & The Great Republic ~Review Primary Source

Teacher Guide

13 Colonies & The Great Republic ~Review Teacher Guide

The Teacher Guide is almost exactly the same as the Student Guide. It just has all of the answers. I love that I can look at the teacher guide and easily know what she needs to do. It makes checking her work easy. The Teacher Guide also includes the four tests and answer keys.

200 Questions About American History

The second set we received was 200 Questions About American History. It comes with a Student Book and a Teacher Guide. Each set can be used alone, or they can be combined. The same book is used with both sets. For the 200 Questions About American History, you will also need an additional text. The one they recommend is Story of the World volume 4.

13 Colonies & The Great Republic ~Review Schedule

There is a suggested schedule to follow. If you follow it you should be able to answer all of the questions, take all of the quizzes, and complete the tests in 34 weeks. You will be able to find the answers for the first 24 weeks in the book written by Guerber. The rest of the answers you will need to find in another source.

The Student Book

200 Questions About American History Review (Student Guide)

The 200 questions are simple short answers. They include names, dates, and definitions. The student book has the questions broken up into four sections.

Drill Questions – There are 150 drill questions. These are varied and while the answers are straight forward and easy to find, there are a lot of facts to learn. You will learn all about the different explorers and who did what. You will also answer questions about specific people. An example :

Question 19 – “Native Americans who aided the Pilgrims” The answer is Samoset and Squanto.

There are also questions about laws wars and rebellions. An example:

Question 26 – “War between France and England” In America ______ In Europe _______

The answers are the French and Indian War and the Seven Years’ War.

Some of the questions have multiple answers, like number 99. It asks you to list all 11 states in the Confederacy.

I was very surprised by the quality of the questions. If a person really learned and memorized the drill questions they would have a very good understanding of American History. I am learning right along side with AJ.

Timeline of American History – This section has 30 dates that your student needs to fill in. They include important moments in American History like the Louisiana Purchase and the Gold Rush. Most of the dates are of different wars or battles.

Notable Quotes – This section has 20 famous quotes. The student is asked who said it, and what the occasion was. I like that they have to know what was going on, not just who said it.

It includes quotes I was familiar with like, “ I have a dream” and “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” There were also others like when Lincoln said, “If I can ever hit that thing, I’ll hit it hard!” I had never heard that quote before, so I read ahead and found out he was talking about slavery.

Presidents of the United States – This has 45 questions. A fact is listed about each president. The student has to fill in the name of the president and the years they served. I like that they don’t simply memorize the order of the president, they learn a little about each one.

The back of the book has a copy of the Star–Spangled Banner, Old Ironsides, and O Captain! My Captain!

Teacher Guide

200 Questions About American History Review Teacher Guide

The teacher guide has everything that the student book has. It also has all of the answers filled in. In the back of the book it has all of the tests and quizzes along with the answer keys.

There are seven tests. The first six are on specific section such as, The Civil War. The final test covers material from the entire book. The tests have multiple choice, matching, and short answer questions.

Flash Cards

There is a set of 200 flash cards that go with the 200 Questions About American History. They can be used by themselves to simply go over facts, or they can be used along with the set. The flash cards are broken up into the same four sections as the book.

You can use them how ever they best work for you. We found that it works best for us to go through the cards each day before she starts her lesson. Then we add any new cards for the day and go through them again when she is finished with the lesson.

200 Questions About American History Review

Right now we have less than 25 cards that she is working on. Once she takes the first test we will start reviewing the cards from the current section daily. Then we will review the other cards up to 25 each day. That way she will review the material for the current test every day and the rest of the questions we have answered at least twice a month. We will add any that she struggles with to the daily pile.

The flash cards make studying the material easier than simply studying from the book. She can take a few cards and go through them if she is having trouble, or go through them when she has a few minutes. I originally didn’t think we would really use the cards, but they are one of AJ’s favorite part of the school day. Younger students would probably enjoy playing different games with the cards to help them learn and retain information.

How We Use the Program

In the beginning I was a little confused on how to best use this program. The Story of the 13 Colonies and The Great Republic set doesn’t have a suggested schedule. I assumed it was designed to complete one lesson a week to make it last a year. That schedule didn’t fit with the schedule found in 200 Questions About American History. The lessons in the first set didn’t match with the chapters to be read in the second set.

To answer the first week of questions from the 200 Questions book you need to read 7 chapters. But two lessons in the 13 Colonies book was 6 chapters and three lessons would have you read 9 chapters. I decided not to worry about that schedule too much.

200 Questions About American History Review

We decided to have AJ complete two lessons a week, since it is summer. Once we are back to our normal schedule she will complete three lessons. Then at the end of each day she answers any of the questions from the 200 Questions book that were answered in the days reading. We are not quite on track with the schedule. The nice thing is that for each scheduled test they schedule a week to study and a week to take the test. She won’t need that long so I think that she should have enough time to complete both books within the year.

Depending on how fast AJ reads and which enrichment activities are scheduled, a lesson can take her between an hour to an hour and 45 minutes. I have her work for about an hour each day. I think a student in middle school would be able to complete two lessons a week if they work on history for about an hour each day.

200 Questions About American History Review

Since this program is designed for middle school students, I will have to add to it to make it count for a high school credit. Each week she picks one of the composition or research assignments and expands on it. I also have her pick one topic from the reading to study further. One week we were learning about Captain John Smith. She researched the story of Pocahontas and then compared it to the Disney movie. She is also reading a few historical fiction books and watching some videos.

Our Thoughts

This product has been a blessing for us. It will be AJ’s core for her history next year. The text is interesting and full of information. The questions have a good variety. She enjoys the map work and has had fun writing some of the compositions. The 200 Questions set is a simple part of her day and has helped her learn so much. I feel it will be one of our best years of history.

200 Questions About American History Review

There were only two things that we wish were different. AJ said that she wished there was a timeline in the first set, or that there were spaces for all of the events that she was told to add in the 200 Questions set. She didn’t want to have two timelines, so she has been adding in dates on the timeline that is included in the 200 Questions set. Unfortunately, they didn’t fit very well. So she started a new timeline where she will add all of the information. I think it would be great to see a blank timeline that had space for all of the information from both books in one place.

The second issue is based on the same idea. I like that the books can be used separately, but they work so well together. I wish there was a schedule that better showed how to complete both sets at the same time. We found a work around, but I think it would make planning a little easier if a schedule for both was included.

We are very happy with the products we received. I would highly recommend both of these sets to anyone who wants an in-depth study of American History!

Other members of the Homeschool Review Crew reviewed different products from Memoria Press. There were writing and grammar courses for younger students, and another history set for older students. Find out what they thought by clicking on the graphic below.

Classical Writing & Spelling, American History & Jewish Wars {Memoria Press Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

CrossWired Science ~ Review

AJ’s favorite subject has almost always been science. But she hates reading dull textbooks. She likes to learn by doing, watching, and investigating. Over the years we have learned that one way she learns the best is by using unit studies. By taking a topic and really digging into it she learns so much more, and has a great time. We were recently given the chance to review a science program from

CrossWired Science that looked like it would be exactly what we needed. We were given access to both of the courses that are currently available, Sound, and Fluid Dynamics. Currently the projects are being improved and updated with things being changed and added. I think the projects are great now and look forward to seeing what they end up being in the future.

About the Courses

These courses are designed to be used with kids in all grades. While younger kids may only watch the videos, older students can complete experiments and research. It is very flexible and allows you to decide how to use the course. The idea is that each of the courses will take about a month to complete.
The course is broken up into two sections, First Timers and Second Timers. The videos are the same, but questions and activities are different. Once your child goes through the First Timers set, they can then go back and go through the Second Timers. Or you can start at the Second Timers if you want.
For each course there are 8 core videos that the student watches. Once they finish the video they answer some true/false, or multiple choice questions about the video. They can watch the video as many times as they want. I was surprised about the questions. When testing the program out, I got a few questions wrong because I didn’t read the question carefully enough. I think younger kids may feel a little intimidated by the questions, but older students will be fine, once they realize they have to read each question carefully.
After watching the video and answering the questions, the student moves on to another activity. They watch the four core videos and then complete four activities. Then they watch four more videos and complete four more activities.

Other Parts of the Lessons

One of the activities is the experiment. There are so many experiments to choose from. There are ideas for every learning level. One of my favorite parts is that most of them use products that you can easily find around the house. If you have a kid who loves experiments, they can do as many as they want! From making paper airplanes in Fluid Dynamics to learning about sound waves in Sound, there is a lot to discover.


Under General Links your student will find numerous YouTube videos that are about the topic they are learning about. These are locked in the teacher section so your student can only view these with your permission. The videos are interesting and cover a variety of aspects.


Under the Research tab your student is given a variety of topics that they can research. You can have your student write a report, write a few facts down, or do anything that you choose. They are given ideas and resources and you decide what they need to do.

The U-Choose sections lets your student or you decide how to learn more about the topic. They may watch a video, do a survey, color, go on a scavenger hunt, cook a meal, or many other topics.

In the Reinforcement tab your student is given options to help them learn even more. They can color a page, create a crossword puzzle or game, make a puppet show, and so much more. Again you and your child decide what works best.

There is also a Field Trip tab that lists ideas for field trips.

Beyond the main lessons there are Gold Dig lessons that go deep into another topic. There are also lists of books to read and devotionals.

Using the Program

There are so many ways to use this program. We haven’t had access to it for very long, but so far AJ has enjoyed the videos. They are short but entertaining and full of information. Our plan will be to have AJ watch the videos and then spend a week trying out some of the activities. There are a lot of fun experiments to try and videos to watch. She could easily spend a few months on each topic if she wanted. Most programs that claim to cover a wide range of grades often fall short for older students, but this one doesn’t. There are so many options to make learning fun for every level.

It can be used as a program on its own, or as a supplement to your current science program.

What We Think

I think this is going to be an amazing resource. It is like someone did all of the hard work and put together a unit study for me. I can pick and choose what I want and leave the rest. The videos are a little easy for older students, but the other activities make sure there are a lot of learning opportunities. The site is simple to use and keeps track of what you have learned. The program cost less than $30 for a single student, and I feel the resources it includes is worth much more.

I can’t wait to see what new courses they come out with next.

Find out what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew thought by clicking on the graphic below!

Sound, and Fluid Dynamics {CrossWired Science Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Davy Crockett YWAM ~ Review

When I was in school I hated learning about history. It was always dull and I just didn’t connect with what was happening. One of the great things about homeschooling is finding books and materials that make learning fun. I have found that textbooks have their place, but that they are not the only way to learn. One way I try to make history more exciting is by including biographies about people who lived during the times we are learning about. In the past we have had great experiences with books from YWAM Publishing . Their books are always fun to read and both AJ and I learn a lot.

YWAM has books about Christian Heroes and Heroes of History we have read books from both sets. This time we decided to try

Heroes of History- Davy Crockett. I thought it would be an adventure filled book that would keep AJ’s attention. In addition to the book we also received a digital download of the study guide.

About the Book

Davy Crockett is written by Janet and Geoff Benge. It is a soft covered book that is 190 pages long. The book is broken up into 17 chapters. It is written at about a fifth grade reading level. The book starts at the beginning of Davy’s life and ends after his death at the Alamo. It is exciting and tells the scary events in a way that younger kids won’t be afraid of.  One thing I really like is that it doesn’t fantasize his life like the movies did. He was a great man who made some mistakes and made a huge impact on history. It was nice to learn the real story of his life.

About the Study Guide

The best part about the study guide is that it is flexible. You can use all of the questions and do a bunch of activities, or you can just use the comprehension questions to see if your child understood what they read.

The Study Guide is broken into three sections.

Davy Crockett – This section gives a brief overview of Davy Crockett’s life. I would recommend not reading this section until after you read the book, unless your child already knows about the life of Davy Crockett. It gives a lot of spoilers.

Unit Study – There are directions for using the book with classrooms, small groups, or in your homeschool. Then there are two parts to the unit study. One part has worksheets for your child to fill in. They include fact sheets, maps, and timelines to fill in. The other section is the main unit study.

It is 72 pages long! There are questions for each chapter,  key quotes that go along with the study, ideas for a display corner (this would be fun if you are studying the book as a group), student explorations where they can take their learning beyond the book, and more. There is also a social studies section to help you fill in the maps and timeline.

Meet the Authors – This section didn’t have any information about the authors. Instead it sent us to a section with bonus materials. It had some cross word puzzles and other activities about some of the other Heroes in History like, Daniel Boone: Frontiersman. 

How We Used the Book

We have found that once AJ is interested in a book she gets frustrated to stop after every chapter to answer questions. What we like to do is go through and look up the vocabulary words for the chapters I plan to have her read for the week. Then I had her read the chapters for the week and answer some of the questions. She would work on the map work and timeline another day. She enjoyed reading the book and doing the map work that showed the different trips that Davy Crockett took.

What We Thought

This book, like all of the others from YWAM, was a great fit. The story was factual and AJ learned a lot. It was exciting and kept her wanting to read. The study guide had a lot of fun ideas to make learning come alive. This time we didn’t do any of the additional activities. But I was glad there were so many available.

I plan to include a few more of these books when we study American History next year. It is a great way to learn more than the facts, but really how those in the time period were effected. I highly recommend both the Heroes of History and the Christian Heroes series to improve your history or literature studies.

Click on the graphic below to read the reviews from the other members of the Homeschool Review Crew.

Study Guides - Christian Heroes Then & Now & Heroes of History {YWAM Publishing Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Victus Study Skills ~ Review

One of the skills that I worry about teaching AJ is proper study skills. As homeschoolers we normally work on a skill until she masters it. In elementary school she had almost no tests. We didn’t need them. Since I worked with her every day, I knew when she was ready to move on to new topics and when she needed more time to grasp something. In middle school she had some math tests and a few tests in other topics, but it wasn’t something she ever really had to study for. Now that she is in high school, there are more tests. But nowhere near the amount that I had in public school. She plans to go to college to become a veterinarian and I know she will need a strong foundation to be able to succeed.

We were recently given the chance to review a product from Victus Study Skills System. It looked like the perfect product to teach AJ how to study. They have a Primary Set for grades K – 3, an Elementary Set for grades 2 through 5, a Student Set for grades 5 through 11, and a College Set for grades 10 through college.  We decided to use their Level 3 (5/6-10/11) set.

What is Victus Study Skills

The idea with this program is to start with the grade level of your students. Once they finish that level they continue developing their skills by moving on to the next level. It is a really neat program that teaches skills at a child’s level.

For example, in the Primary Student workbook the student is asked to fill in a check off list about time management skills. It is just six questions asking things like if they get up in plenty of time for school or if they go to bed when they are suppose to. Then it asks them to think of one or two things they can do to help manage their time better to any question they answered no to.

In the College level the student is given  tips about managing their time. They are also give a sample syllabus and calendar for them to practice how to manage their time. The skills are still broken up into bite size pieces and are written for the level that the child is at.

The Student Planner

Victus Study Skills Student Planner

The Student Planner is a very helpful tool for students. I think it would be helpful for adults as well. The beginning of the planner has tips and advice about goal setting and how to prioritize your day. Then it is full of undated weekly calendars. There are places for weekly goals and objectives along with a spot for a  prioritized to do list.

Victus Study Skills Student Planner

There is also plenty of space to fill in any activities or assignments for each day of the week. The end of the planner has a spot for a life plan, and a grade log to keep track of your grades. It is sturdy and seems like it will hold up to wear and tare.

Victus Study Skills Student Planner

Level 3 Student Workbook

Victus Study Skills Student Workbook Cover

The Student Workbook is 63 pages long. It is a soft covered spiral bound book. The program is broken up into three sections. Where am I now? Where do I want to be? and How do I get there?

Victus Study Skills ~ Review

Where am I now?

This section has the student go over their current study habits. It is a simple checklist where they answer either never, sometimes, or often. Then the student figures out how they learn best. They are even given tips about how they can sharpen their dominant learning style and improve their weaker one. This stage is fairly simple, but it gets the student to see where they are and what they need to do to improve.

Victus Study Skills Student workbook page

Where do I want to be?

This section is mainly about goals and priorities. The student is taught about creating SMART goals and how to create a mission statement. This section was a little harder for AJ as it made her really focus and think about her future.

How do I get there?

This section is the main part of the book. It teaches a variety of skills through practice and activities. Some of the main skills covered are:

  • Time Management
  • Organization
  • Things to do before you study
  • Learning where you learn best
  • Active Listening
  • Taking Notes and
  • Test Taking Strategies

What I really like about the student workbook is that it requires the student to think, but it isn’t overwhelming. After teaching about taking notes it has the student practice. It also provides great advice about what to do if you don’t know the answer on a test. The lessons are short but effective and are actually enjoyable.

Teacher Edition

Victus Study Skills Teacher Edition

The Teacher Edition is a soft covered spiral bound book with 82 pages. It contains the lessons and teaching tips. The Victus Study System is broken up into ten lessons. For each lesson the teacher is given a explanation of what to teach and is told what pages the student needs to complete. It is broken down into three steps;  purpose, preparation, and procedure. The lessons are very simple to teach and have all the information that you need.

Victus Study Skills Teacher Edition Pages

One of my favorite parts of the Teacher Edition is that it gives the teacher a preview of the page the student needs to complete. They call it the student view. On pages where there are right and wrong answers, the answers are given. They also give samples of what type of things the student may have written.

How We Used the Victus Study Skills Program

Our life has been crazy. We are in the middle of moving back home and have had a lot of issues going on. So we didn’t get to use the program as much as I had wanted. Our plan was to spend one or two days on each lesson. That didn’t quite work. Instead we completed about one lesson each week. The lessons took about 30 to 45 minutes to complete. It is not a program that can be done independently. It is a program that requires guidance, but not too much. Once I went over the lesson with AJ she would complete the required pages mostly on her own and then we would discuss her answers. It was something we enjoyed working on.

What We Thought

I was impressed with the quality of Victus Study Skills! The instructions are easy to follow. The lessons are short and meaningful. AJ learned a lot and is continuing to learn new skills. I feel like I finally know how to teach her to study. It was a skill that came easily to me, but it is something that she struggles with.

I look forward to having her work through the college level when she is a senior. It will be vital in her succeeding in college. I found a lot of helpful information while reading through the last two levels of the program, and I know that AJ will too. I highly recommend this product for all ages.  AJ would have benefited from using the lower levels when she was younger.

Click on the graphic below to see what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew thought. Other members focused on different levels, you may find a different level to be better suited to your needs.

K through College Study Skills {Victus Study Skills System Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Fix It! Grammar ~ Review

Over the years AJ and I have both grown to love the products from Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW). Their writing program really opened my eyes on how to help AJ with her writing. It was the first program that didn’t end up with one of us in tears. Since then, we have tried a few different products from IEW, and we have always been pleased. I have wanted to try out their grammar program, but it just never worked out. Until now! We were given the chance to review a level of our choice from their Fix It! Grammar program.

Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW)
After taking the placement test, AJ was in between the second and third book. She was also able to answer some of the questions from the fourth book. I was a little bit unsure where I should place her. But I decided I would rather start her at a lower level and have her review a few things than start her at a higher level and have her miss out on something. We decided to go with Book 2: Robin Hood and I feel it was the right pick.

What is Fix It! Grammar?

Fix It! Grammar is a simple to use grammar program that teaches grammar through usage. In less than 15 minutes a day your student will be learning and practicing new skills. Each week your student will learn or review grammar topics. They do this by reading through a short page of information. For some topics there are cards in the back of the book that expand on the grammar topics.

Once they have learned a new topic, the student puts the knowledge to work. Each day the student corrects a sentence. Depending on the level they may correct capitalization errors, punctuation errors, label parts of speech, choose the correct homophone, or complete other fixes. They also look up an assigned vocabulary word each day. The student then checks their answers and fixes any mistakes. The final step is writing the corrected sentence. By the time they finish the book, the student will have written out an entire story.

Book 2 Robin Hood

Fix It! Grammar Book 2 Robin Hood ~ Review

The second book in the series is the story of Robin Hood. Each day the student corrects a sentence from the story. When they are done, they will have the entire story of Robin Hood written in their own writing. Book two starts off with a review of some of the topics covered from book one. In the first week they practice the following:

  • indentation
  • capitalization
  • articles
  • nouns
  • who-which clauses and
  • end marks

The first few weeks are fairly simple. The student is doing a lot of review while learning a few new skills. I was a little worried when I noticed how fast AJ was moving though the first four weeks or so. I thought that maybe I had picked a level that was too low. But the pace began to pick up. By week nine the student learns quite a few concepts, in less than 15 minutes a day. Here is what your student should learn by the ninth week.

  • indentation
  • subjects of clauses
  • verbs and helping verbs
  • coordinating conjunctions
  • adjectives
  • prepositions
  • main clauses
  • dependent clauses
  • who-which clauses
  • clause starters
  • end marks
  • commas
  • quotations
  • homophones ( then/than, two/ to/too, your/you’re, there/their/they’re) I may be missing a few

The concepts are practiced through usage. Every time the student comes to the word there/ their/ they’re in a sentence they have to decide the correct word. The students are given hints on what to look for in each sentence. One thing I really like is that the student checks their work and explanations are given in the teacher guide. The student isn’t penalized for missing something. They simply read or discuss what they missed, fix it and then write the sentence correctly.

By the end of the book the student will have a good grasp on basic grammar and will be ready for the third book in the series.

The Teacher Manual

Fix It! Grammar Book 2 Robin Hood ~ Review

If you are on a tight budget you can simply purchase the Teacher Manual. It comes with a downloadable version of the student book that you can print off. You can also purchase a pre-printed student book.

The teacher manual has a copy of the Learn It page that is found each week in the student book. Then each daily sentence is given its own page.

Fix It! Grammar Book 2 Robin Hood ~ Review

The sentence is corrected. Below the sentence each correction is explained. Often it will have an explanation on why a correction shouldn’t be made as well. For example they may say that the section doesn’t need to be indented and then give a reason. The vocabulary word of the day is defined and teacher notes are included when needed to explain a concept.

Some pages include a grammar lovers note. This section explains more in-depth grammar topics. I learned a lot from reading these notes!

The back of the teacher manual has a few different tools to make teaching and learning grammar a little easier. There is a scope and sequence that tells what concepts the student will be learning each week. It also lists all of the vocabulary words. Then there is a grammar glossary. The glossary has more information about different grammar topics. It also has additional rules and even stylistic techniques. This section was very interesting to read, and it helped when AJ questioned something that I wasn’t sure of.

The Student Book

The student book is a soft covered spiral bound book. It has the weekly Learn It page and then a page with all of the sentences for the week. At the end of the book there is a certificate of completion for the student. The student book also includes the grammar glossary.

Fix It! Grammar Book 2 Robin Hood ~ Review

I think the best part of having the printed student book is the grammar cards at the back of the book. Once the student reads the Learn It page they can cut out the cards for the week and use them as needed. The cards are printed on heavy card stalk so they are durable. It also nice not to have to print anything off. Everything is ready to open and go.

How We Used Fix It!

We decided to use the program a little bit differently. AJ began by reading the Learn It page. Then she would look up and write the definitions for all of the vocabulary words for the week.

Fix It! Grammar Book 2 Robin Hood ~ Review

Finally she would correct the first sentence. On the second day she would correct the three more sentences. On the third day she would  write the corrected sentences in her notebook.

Fix It! Grammar Book 2 Robin Hood ~ Review

She worked like this most weeks. She is older and will probably finish two books in a year. Once in a while she would come to a sentence that she was stuck on. When that happened I had her slow down and do one sentence a day for the rest of the week. Most days she was finished in about ten minutes. The day that she wrote all of the corrected sentences sometimes took a little bit longer.

What We Thought

AJ loves Fix It! Grammar. It is an easy part of our school day. I have noticed that the skills (like commas and indentations) are transferring into her writing. She thinks the program is fun, she said it is like a puzzle to find out what is wrong with the sentences. She is also enjoying the story of Robin Hood. It is exciting. She is learning a lot of new vocabulary, and is understanding it because she can see how it is used. Her favorite thing about the program is that there isn’t any diagramming. Diagramming frustrates her!

I like that there is an explanation for almost everything. I also like that it is a quick part of the day that AJ can do independently. One of the best things is that AJ is forced to practice her penmanship, but there is not too much writing. This is a great grammar program that is inexpensive. I would highly recommend it to everyone who is teaching grammar. Make sure to take the placement test, the student learns a lot in each book!

Other members of the Homeschool Review Crew reviewed different levels, click on the banner below to read their reviews!

Fix It! Grammar {Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Poetry & Short Stories ~ Review

Over the years we have had the chance to try out quite a few products from Memoria Press. They specialize in materials for classical homeschoolers, but we are far from classical. We follow an eclectic approach and use a variety of curriculum types to fit our needs. Almost every product we have tried from Memoria Press has been a good fit for AJ, especially their literature. We have tried numerous book studies so we were happy to try out one of their Poetry and Short Stories selections.

Memoria Press

They have a few different options, but we decided to try out the Poetry & Short Stories: American Literature Set It covers American Literature 19th-20th Centuries. The set comes with a book, a student guide and a teacher guide. It doesn’t include a schedule that tells you how to use the program, so it is very flexible.

American Literature

The American Literature set focuses on stories and poetry that was created after the war of 1812. Your student will read stories from authors like; Washington Irving, Edgar Allan Poe, and O. Henry. They will discover poetry from poets like Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost. While they read through the short stories and poems they will be asked to find the central idea for each piece. They will learn about close reading and form opinions about each piece.

The Book

The book of poetry and short stories is smaller than the student guide. It is a 92 page soft covered book. It is fairly plain inside, but it does contain a few black and white pictures. Each paragraph is numbered in the short stories and the stanzas are numbered in each poem. The text in the book is about the size found in most text books, but AJ found it a little small. She said that the pages with only text were a little hard to read because the stories are single spaced. She just started using reading glasses though, so I think it may be a personal problem. I didn’t have any problem with the size of the text.

The Student Guide

The student guide is 230 pages long. It begins with a step by step guide on how to use the study guide.This was helpful! The first assignments in the book have the student learning about the Central One Idea and how to mark a book. Then they practice what they learned and answer some questions about the introduction.

Each poem or short story has nine steps to complete in the student guide. Some take just a few minutes, while others may take more than a day.

  1. The student answers a couple of questions to get them ready for the reading. These are just short questions requiring a few sentences to answer them. One question for the story Rip Van Winkle was, “Tell of a time when you slept longer than you ever thought possible.” Most of these are easy to answer.
  2. Then the student reads through the Reading Notes. These include any different vocabulary or important information about the time period. Again, this step is rather quick.
  3. Try to define some of the vocabulary words. The idea is to define as many as you can without using a dictionary. There are 20 words used in sentences, and a definition bank. The student just has to put the definition under the correct sentence. This section took AJ a little longer. Some words used in the stories are words we don’t often use anymore.
  4. Read the story or poem. During this time the student should be marking the book and taking notes as needed.
  5. Finish the vocabulary. At this point they can look up words they are unsure of. This is when I would have AJ check her work. Some of the words have very similar definitions and she would mix them up. We would discuss why her answer was incorrect and she would fix any mistakes.
  6. Comprehension Questions. These are both multiple choice and short answer questions. The student is asked basic information about the story. They may be asked to describe a character, the setting, the climax in the story, or details about an event in the story. AJ usually answered these the day after she read the story, because the stories took her a while to read. It took her about an hour to answer the comprehension questions.
  7. Socratic Discussion Questions. These questions require the student to dig deeper. They are asked to look at the character’s motives, symbols in the story, and how the character grows overtime. An example from Rip Van Winkle was, “How does Rip come of age in the story? Or does he?” AJ spent two days on this section. She struggled with this section the most. Often we would compare her answers to the answer key and discuss.
  8. Rhetoric Expression. This is the part where the student decides what the central one idea of the story is. Then they explain why they feel the central one idea fits the story. They end this section by writing down what the teacher expressed central one idea is. For Rip Van Winkle it is, “the desire to escape from adult responsibilities.”
  9. Essay. The student is given a prompt to write an essay. They have a few different options.

There is plenty of writing space in the student guide.

Teacher Guide

The teacher guide is almost an exact copy of the student guide. It just has all of the answers filled in. My only complaint is that there are no example essays. Instead there are just the same pages that appear in the student book. I think that is a waste of paper. They could cut out over 30 pages if those pages were removed. Other than that I feel the teacher guide was perfect. I liked being able to see the questions she was being asked and the answers all in one place.

What We Thought

AJ felt that some of the stories were a bit boring. She also thought that the writing in the book was too small and that there was a lot of writing to do for each story. We ended up spending about two weeks worth of school on each story. Doing a little bit each day helped a lot. We also found that she needed to read through the story a few times to complete all of the work. In the future, I may let her skip a few questions or have her answer them orally.

I think that this is a very solid program. It was a nice change from reading only novels all of the time. While it requires a deep level of thought to answer the questions and figure out the central one idea, I think that the way the questions are set up lets you slowly gain confidence.

AJ learned a lot in the few stories she read. After the first story it was easier for her to figure out the central one idea on the second story. It is a program we plan to continue with when we study American History next year. I would recommend this to anyone who is looking to help their child dig deeper into literature.

Click on the graphic below to see what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew thought. They tried out different reading products and even Latin!

Phonics, Poetry & Latin {Memoria Press Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls 3 & 4 ~ Review

About a year ago AJ and I had the chance to review the first two books in a new Christian book series called, The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls . We really enjoyed the books. They were interesting, full of excitement, and taught great values. When we were offered the chance to review books three and four from WorthyKids, an imprint of Hachette Book Group we jumped at the chance. If they were half as good as the first two, we knew we would love them!

About the Series

The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls follows a brother and sister team as they go back in time. Peter, Mary, and their dog Hank are staying with their Great – Uncle Solomon for a month. While they are there they find all kinds of mysterious things in his home. Uncle Solomon is an archaeologist and tells them about the Secret of the Hidden Scrolls. When they open one they are transported back in time. In the first book they got to see the creation of the world. In book two they road along on Noah’s Ark. Books three and four will take them on other amazing adventures.

One great thing about this series is that it doesn’t have to be read in order. If you want to pick up book four you can read a short two page prologue and you will know what happened in the other books. That said, I think it would be a little more exciting to read them in order.

Book 3

The third book in the series is, The Great Escape (Book #3) . It takes place directly after book two ends. Peter and Mary find a sarcophagus in one of the rooms in Uncle Solomon’s house. The kids find a scroll with a triangle on it and soon find themselves in the very hot desert of Ancient Egypt. They visit a pyramid and float down the Nile River. They end up meeting a girl who they find out is Princess Shephara. Her father was the Pharaoh of Egypt.

Secret of the Hidd

Along the way the kids meet Aron, Moses, and the Angel Michael. Then they watch as the plagues happen in Egypt. Just as the Red Sea began to was out the Egyptian Army, the kids and Hank were back at Uncle Solomon’s house safe and sound. Throughout the book the kids faced many dangers. But they trusted in God and He kept them safe. At the end of the book the kids listened to the story in the Bible and Uncle Solomon explained that most of the people never made it to the Promised land, but that was a story for another day.

AJ said her favorite part in this book was that the kids got to dress up like Egyptian royalty and stay in Pharaoh’s palace.

Book 4

The fourth book in the series is, Journey to Jericho (Book #4). This book starts with Peter and Mary sneaking around Uncle Solomon’s house. They find a secret room with all kinds of gadgets and learn that before Uncle Solomon was an archaeologist, he was a spy! He gave the kids their own code names. Peter was The Bear and Mary was The Monkey. They found a secret room and a scroll with two angels’ wings on it. After opening the scroll they soon found themselves on the desert in a beautiful tent. They eventually find out the it is the Tabernacle.

Secret of the Hidden Scrolls book 4

On their journey, Peter and Mary meet Joshua.They find out that the Israelites have been wondering in the desert waiting to reach the Promised land. But that they had to get past the walls of Jericho. The kids find themselves in a little bit of trouble after sneaking in to Jericho and being spotted. They, along with a few Israelite spies find a woman named Rahab. She hides the spies and keeps them safe. Eventually the Israelite people cross the Jordan River. Peter and Mary are afraid that they won’t solve the secret of the scroll in time, but they do. Just as the walls of Jericho begin to fall, the kids and Hank are safely back at Uncle Solomon’s home.

AJ’s favorite part of this book was when the Angel saved the kids from the man in black.

How We Read the Books

These books say they are geared for kids grades 1 through 3. I personally think they would be too difficult for first and second graders. I feel they are more on a fourth grade level, but that is my opinion. Even though they are written for younger kids, older kids will enjoy the action and adventure.

AJ is way beyond the reading level. But she really enjoyed them. I found them to be a quick enjoyable read as well. The plan was for me to read them and then have AJ read them. But they came in the mail on a day I was sick. She took the first book and read it in about two hours. Then asked to read the next one. She ended up finishing both books in a day. I read them a few days later, then we talked about them.

At the end of the books it tells you where you can find the stories in the Bible. We read through the stories in the Bible and discussed the differences. While these books are based on the Bible, there are some small differences.

Our Thoughts

We were pleased with both book three and book four. Each of them stuck to the basic story that can be found in the Bible. While AJ and I were both able to guess what the secret scroll would say after only a few chapters, I think younger students will have fun trying to figure out the mystery. These are solid books that are free from bad language and other morally questionable content.

If you are looking for an adventure story that will appeal to both boys and girls and has a strong biblical basis, this is the series for you! Book 5 is now available. We can’t wait to read it!

Find out what other members of the Home School Review Crew thought by clicking on the graphic below!

The Great Escape & Journey To Jericho {WorthyKids Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

IXL ~ Review

When AJ was in public school she had access to a fun learning site called IXL Learning. She would go on each day for a few minutes and have fun learning new concepts. It was something she enjoyed doing. But when she left public school, her account expired. In the beginning she would still go on and try their free version, but it only lets you answer around ten questions a day. Eventually she was no longer interested in doing the ten questions a day, so we forgot all about IXL. That is until we were offered a chance to review an annual subscription! I didn’t know that IXL had learning opportunities all the way through high school, but once I did I was thrilled for AJ to have a chance to try it out.

What is IXL?

IXL is an online learning site. It can be accessed through some apps or it can be used in a regular browser. There is a Kindle app, but at the time of this review it was unavailable for me. (I found out that while the IXL app didn’t work on my Kindle it will work on most. Mine is very old, we have had it since 2012. After the review I tried it on AJ’s 5th generation Kindle and it worked. I was also told by other reviewers who have 7th generation Kindles, that the App worked fine for them.) AJ ended up accessing IXL through the Silk browser on her Kindle Fire and had no issues.

IXL offers both math and language arts for grades K through 12. It also offers science and social studies for grades 2 through 8, and Spanish for all grades.

When your child logs on each day they can pick the topic they want to practice. Then they are given questions in that topic. Some of the questions are multiple choice, while others require them to input the answer. Once they submit each answer it is graded instantly. If they enter a wrong answer an explanation is given to help the student know what they did wrong. For math they may be reminded of a formula or be shown how to solve the problem. In language arts they may be given a tip or a definition of a word to help them out.

Then they just continue to answer questions. As the student gets more and more questions correct their score goes up and they are able to earn ribbons. When they have truly mastered a topic they can earn a special ribbon for 100%. Earning that ribbon takes answering quite a few questions. When they earn that ribbon, you can be confident that they really understand the concept.


One of the best parts about the program is that it is very flexible. With your parent account you can decide if your student sees the grade level they are working on (6th, 9th, K), or if they just see a level (A, H, C). This would be helpful for those who need to work at a lower level than their grade level. It is also nice in the older grades when not everyone is working on the math that is typical for their grade level. AJ is in Algebra 2, but the 10th grade math is Geometry.

There are also options that let your child see how long they have been working on a problem. It is great to have the option to hide or enable the timer depending on your child’s needs. When AJ was younger a timer would have stressed her out. Now it motivates her to see how many questions she can answer in a time frame.

There is a placement test available if you want to see where your child should be placed. It is optional. I personally find that with older students placement tests can take forever because they have to answer so many questions correctly for each level. We decided to skip the test and just have AJ work on the 10th grade level. There was a topic in language arts that she was struggling with. She was shown a topic in a lower level that would help her in the current topic. She went to that topic, worked on it a little, and then came back to the initial topic and was able to earn a ribbon.

How We Used IXL

Since AJ already has a set math program we decided to use IXL as a supplement to practice skills we already covered this year. She started out in Matrix Vocabulary. There she had to answer questions about types of matrices, dimensions, and more. She earned a 100% ribbon after a day. She didn’t want to stop until she earned the ribbon. Then she went on to work in the matrix category for a while before heading to the section on Radical Functions. Some she was able to earn ribbons in quickly, while others took her a little time.

Right now we are working on complex numbers in math, so today she started on the introduction to complex numbers topic. I don’t think you could use this as a full math program unless you have a very dedicated self learner, but it is great for practice and review. The questions don’t seem to repeat and there are endless practice opportunities.


Spanish was one of AJ’s favorite topics. She logged on and worked on a topic each day until she earned a 100% ribbon. Then she would go on to the next topic the following day. I liked that it was more than just vocabulary. The spelling had to be correct and there are sections where the vocabulary is used together. She ended up keeping a notebook with the vocabulary to help her remember it. The Spanish section would be perfect for those who are just learning or those who need a refresher!

Language Arts and Other Sections

AJ was a little less enthusiastic to work on Language Arts. I had her pick a topic, or I picked one for her and had her practice about 10 minutes a day. She spent a lot of time in grammar topics and word usage. She didn’t earn many of ribbons, but she did learn a lot. In this category she liked to skip around and not stick to a specific order.

We didn’t try out the social studies section because it was for 8th grade and lower, but we did try out science. AJ loves science and I figured it couldn’t hurt to try it out. She spent time labeling cells and learning about their functions and labeling different diagrams. I found her copping the diagrams into her notebook so she would have the information later. She enjoyed the science section and I think it would be great to use after learning about a topic.

What We Thought About IXL

I was very pleased with our experience with IXL. Setting up an account was simple, I could easily check on her progress, and I was sent emails weekly about her activity and any awards she earned.

The ribbons kept her motivated to work on the topics, while the instant feedback helped if she felt discouraged. I liked the fact that she could move to different topics when she wanted and that she could visit both lower and higher levels when she wanted. I felt the feedback she received when she entered an incorrect answer was solid. It helped to explain and teach the concepts. I feel she has learned a lot using IXL and I plan to have her continue with it.

Click on the graphic below to find out what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew thought about IXL. There were reviewers using several different levels.

Immersive, Adaptive Learning Online {IXL Learning Reviews}
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