Something Fishy at Lake Iwannafisha ~ Review

This past school year AJ and I joined a co-op for the first time, and we loved it. I was able to teach last semester, and one of the classes that I taught was called Mystery Detective. In the class the students used clues and logic skills to solve mysteries. The class was a hit! The kids were excited and you could just see the wheels in their heads turning. So I decided to do a similar class when we meet back up in the fall.

When we were given the chance to review A Whodunnit Forensic Mystery called, Something Fishy at Lake Iwannafisha , from The Critical Thinking Co.™. I thought it would be the perfect product. The plan was to have AJ work through the book now, and if we liked it I would purchase it for my co-op class. After working on the mystery for a few weeks, it is definitely going to be the book I use in my co-op class next fall!

The Critical Thinking Co.™

What is Something’s Fishy at Lake Iwannafisha?

The students are given some basic information about a crime. They are told that the police were called to a fishing cabin where they found a building on fire, a dead body, bones in the woods, stacks of money, and a few guns. They are given the crime scene report and a map of the crime scene. Then it is up to them to solve the crime. They have to decide how to proceed with the investigation. Do they want to look at witness statements? Maybe they want to look at the anthropology report to learn more about the bones that were found, or the ballistics report to learn more about the bullets found at the scene.

Throughout the mystery the students use logic skills along with information they have learned about forensic evidence to figure out what happened.

I received a 124 page soft-covered book, but it is also available as a downloadable e-book. It is designed for students in grades five through twelve. It can be worked on individually, but I feel it would be better suited for small groups of students.

How the Book is Set Up

Something's Fishy at Lake Iwannafisha

The book begins with Teacher Instructions. This section lists everything that you as the parent or teacher needs to know to use the mystery with your students. It tells you which pages you need to print out for each student, or group. It also has step by step instructions and helpful hits for solving the mystery. This section also has background information about the crime, suspect profiles, and more so you know exactly what happened.

The next section is the Forensic Evidence Lessons. This section is presented to the students before they start solving the mystery.

Each lesson is two to four pages long. They learn about:

  • Anthropology
  • Arson
  • Ballistics
  • Counterfeit Money
  • Entomology and Autopsy
  • Handwriting Analysis and
  • Fingerprints

The main section of the book in the Crime Scene Reports and General Forms. This section has all of the pages that the student will need. It has all of the witness statements, forensic reports, and worksheets that the student will need to solve the mystery.

The final section is the Answer Key which has detailed answers for all of the worksheets.

How We Used the Book

Because of slow shipping, we have only had the book for about two weeks, so AJ has not finished the mystery yet. We started off with the forensic evidence lessons. Each day we did one lesson. The lessons were extremely interesting. In the anthropology lesson she learned how bones could be used to determine age, gender, and race. She also learned how height estimates can be made when only some bones are found. This lead to measuring bones and using the calculations to see if they were close to her height. She enjoyed the fingerprint lesson as well. She has learned about fingerprints before, but this went in to much more detail.

Then I printed off the pages she would need to solve the mystery. The physical book gives you access to an online library of the pages to print off in PDF form to make it easy to make copies for your family or class. I found that to be very helpful. That way if she made a mistake, I could simply print off a new sheet.

Each day I have her ask for a new piece of information, and she fills out the pages that go with the section. She learned about the bones at the crime scene when she looked at the anthropology report.

Then she had to use her prior knowledge to decide if the bones belonged to a male or female, their race, their age, and their height. Each report, statement, or piece of information that they want to see has a worksheet with questions for the student to fill out to help them solve the mystery.

What We Thought

I was expecting this book to give vague information about each area of forensics, but I was wrong! I learned so much right along side AJ. She is having great time solving the mystery.

The book is well organized and easy to teach.

Solving the mystery takes time and a lot of logic skills, but it is doable. It has become a part of the day that I look forward to.

The book is perfect to use in a co-op or classroom. I can’t wait to use Something Fishy at Lake Iwannafisha with my co-op class this fall. I think they are going to love learning more of the forensic side of the mysteries.

If you are looking for a mystery to keep your student thinking and having fun while learning, I highly recommend this book! Members of the Homeschool Review Crew received different items from theThe Critical Thinking Co.™Find out what they thought by clicking the graphic below!

Critical Thinking, Understanding Math & Vocabulary {The Critical Thinking Co.™ Reviews}

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Home School Navigator ~ Review

For the past few weeks AJ has been working on the Home School Navigator Reading and Language Arts Curriculum. The curriculum is divided into levels based on the colors of the rainbow with red being the easiest and indigo being the most difficult. AJ used the indigo level from Home School Navigator. The program is a little below her skill level since she is in high school, but we focused on the interactive notebooks portion of their program.

Home School Navigator

What is Home School Navigator?

The Home School Navigator Reading and Language Arts Curriculum takes the guess work out of planning. It is an online program that has everything your child should be doing each day all planned out for you. It uses online videos, worksheets, and more to ensure your child practices a variety of skills. While each level is a little different, they cover basically the same topics.

In the indigo level your student will have work in the following areas:

Read Aloud

Listening to books being read aloud is an important skill even for older students. Each day there is a book listed that the student should listen to. Most of the books can be easily found at the library, but we found all three of the books (Each book is used for a few days) on YouTube. AJ was able to listen to someone read the book to her each day, and I didn’t have to search for it at the library. It worked well.

Reading Skills Practice

This usually involves a short video where the student learns a new skill and is then instructed to practice that skill in a book that they are reading on their own.

Literature / Comprehension

In this section the student completes different activities based on the book they are reading. There are numerous activities ranging form finding the name of the author and publisher on the book, to discussing the story with their parent, to completing character sketches on different characters.

Writing /Grammar

This section is fairly laid back in the beginning. The student is instructed to write for 20 minutes most days. Sometimes they will have a topic other times it is up to them. Some days they may be asked to find all of a specific part of speech in the book they are reading and list the words. Other times they are told to look at their previous writing and to make adjustments to it. Later in the level they write stories and have more structured writing.

Word Study / Vocabulary

In the indigo level the student works on different word roots. In month 4 week 1 the root work is “cent” the student has vocabulary words that all use that root word. Each day they do a different activity with the words. Some of the activities include matching the definitions, writing sentences, playing games, and taking quizzes.

Computer Skills

The student is instructed to practice some type of skill. The indigo level seems to focus on typing skills and using various programs on the computer. They may be instructed to practice their keyboarding skills, or type their vocabulary sentences.


This section introduces your student to different poets and types of poems. Often they will be asked to find the rhyme scheme of a poem or to try to decide what a poem is about.

Independent Reading

This section either has your student reading a book of their own choosing, a recommended book, or has them complete an interactive notebook. There are four interactive notebooks in the indigo level; Holes, Number the Stars, A Single Shard, and Tuck Everlasting.

Each day the student will have assignments in some of the areas listed above. Sometimes they will have just four or five assignments while other days they have eight. The best part is that you decide what you want your student to do.

What We Thought

The program is planned out very well, and aside from the books, paper, scissors and glue, it includes almost everything you need to give your student a solid year of learning. It is perfect for the homeschooler who wants things planned out for them, but wants some wiggle room as well. The lessons are short and to the point and lets the student learn at a nice pace. It is well organized and easy to find what you need. There is even the option to scan you child’s work into the system for easy record keeping. I would highly recommend this program!

The Interactive Notebooks

While the interactive notebooks are part of the program, they are also available to purchase separately. Since AJ has already read Holes, we decided to start with the second book available in the indigo level, Number the Stars.

An interactive notebook is basically like a lapbook for older students that is done in a spiral notebook. Once you download the file, you print it out. Your student cuts out the different pieces and glues them into their spiral notebook. Then as they read they answer questions about the book.

The interactive notebook for Number the Stars is 20 pages long. The student starts with some pre-reading activities where they find and color Denmark on a map and fill out a char with some basic information on the Holocaust and World War 2.

Then there are some vocabulary words for the student to define. Up next is the reading. For this book the student is assigned about four chapters at a time to read, then they have questions to answer. Questions range from simple comprehension questions, to opinions, to more advanced things like foreshadowing and themes in the book.

The more advanced literary terms are defined for the student and explained very well. The student also puts the definitions in their notebooks.

At the end there is a detailed answer key.

Since this book covers a difficult topic I read it along side of AJ. She was able to complete the interactive notebook on her own. It lead to some good discussions. Aside from the cutting and gluing, each section took about an hour to complete including the reading.

What We Thought

I love when learning can be hands on. The interactive notebooks add an element of fun that a simple book report or worksheet can’t. I was very surprised by the content in the interactive notebooks. I was expecting simple comprehension questions, but these go way further. By the time the students get to the final book they are looking at symbolism and metaphors in the book. These interactive notebooks are very well thought out and AJ will be finishing the other two that are available in the level. I wish that Home School Navigator made interactive notebooks for more advanced books. I would buy them in a heartbeat.

If you are looking for a solid language arts program, check out the Home School Navigator Reading and Language Arts Curriculum and their Interactive Notebooks. I was very impressed with how well done the program is.

Find out what other members of the homeschool review crew thought by clicking on the graphic below!

Home School Navigator Reading and Language Arts Curriculum {Home School Navigator Reviews}

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CodeWizards ~ Review

Last week AJ had an amazing opportunity. She was able to take a live online class that taught her the beginning basics of how to code with HTML. The class was a sample of what students would take when they sign up for CodeWizardsHQ

What is CodeWizardsHQ?

While AJ took a special one time class, each regular course is 12 weeks long. Students start at the very beginning with a course called Intro to Programing. For 12 weeks your student will log on to their computer at a designated time. They will be in an online class with other students from around the world. During the class time the students can interact with the instructor and the other students by using a chat box, or a microphone. After each class the student will have some homework to complete that will help them to practice the information that they learned during the class.

Live Class Computer Programming for your Students {CodeWizardsHQ}
There are assignments and even quizzes given to make sure the students are understanding the information. Once your student successfully completes the first course they are then able to move onto the next one. There are quite a few classes available.
Levels of Code Wizard

As your student completes classes they move up the Wizard Levels. Once they successfully complete all three Wizard Levels (9 classes that are each 12 weeks long) students are able to complete an internship with a non profit organization. I thought that was a really cool option. If your child wants to do something with coding in the future, an internship would look amazing on their college application!

What Did AJ Learn in the Class?

AJ wasn’t exactly excited to get up early for an online class. The times we were offered were all in a different time zone, so her class was earlier than she normally gets up on a non co-op day. But once she started she was interested. Her class was made up of other homeschool review crew kids, there were only six kids in total. I know that CodeWizardsHQ keeps their class sizes small, but I am not sure if six kids is a normal class size.

Logging onto the class was easy. I simply followed the directions that were sent in the email, clicked a link, checked that the microphone and speakers were working, and she was all set.

The instructor was nice, funny, and explained things very well. The goal for the class was for each of the students to create their own nine square comic using only HTML code. He began by asking what the kids thought parts of an HTML code were for. We had two kids in AJ’s class that had some coding experience, but the others were all fairly new. AJ had played around with animating HTML code in the past, but she didn’t know very much.

You can see her full comic here!

This is the comic that AJ made

The kids learned about each part of the code. Then they learned how to change and modify it. After about 20 minutes the kids knew enough to begin to make their own comic, but the instructor was their if anyone ran into trouble. HTML can be tricky and things need to be typed just right or you will get errors. The instructor could see the code that the students were working on and was able to help the few times that kids ran into trouble.

CodeWizardsHQ class screen shot
Hands on learning is the best way to learn. Being able to see boxes not work correctly or see how misspelling a word causes that dreaded white box with an X to appear was really good for AJ. She was able to quickly see what she did wrong and fix it. By the time she was working on her fourth scene, she didn’t need any assistance at all. She was flying through the steps.

What We Thought

We were told that usually there was a little more in-depth information learned in the class and that the comic would have been homework. AJ learned so much in the class time. She was engaged, having fun, and doing a great job.

When the class was over she thought that she got to do the next class the following day. She wasn’t too happy when I explained that we only got to take one class. She was willing to get up early for more classes, because it was fun and she understood what she was doing.

I think the class went very well, and if we had the money I would be signing AJ up for the next class. I haven’t seen her so excited about learning in a while. The good news is that they do have scholarship opportunities available. I am seriously thinking about having AJ apply for a scholarship, I think she would really enjoy a 12 week course.

If you have a student interested in coding, or who wants to learn how to code, I highly recommend these courses!

Click on the graphic below to see what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew thought!

Live Class Computer Programming for your Students {CodeWizardsHQ Reviews}

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Apologia’s Young Explorer Series ~ Review

AJ loves science. She likes to learn interesting facts, enjoys doing experiments, and can usually grasp difficult concepts. This year she is taking Biology and is doing great, but the program we are using doesn’t dive into the human body. There is a short chapter that has overview information, but anatomy is one area I found the course to be lacking. Since she plans to become a veterinarian I want her to have a strong science background.

I was going to have her read a few books and do some extra experiments to round everything out, but then we were blessed with an amazing review! Apologia sent us their Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology. We were sent everything we would need except for materials for the experiments. We were given the textbook, the MP3 Audio Book on a CD, the Notebooking Journal, and the Junior Notebooking Journal. When it came in the mail we couldn’t wait to get started!

Exploring Creation with Anatomy and Physiology


Exploring Creation with Anatomy and Physiology is one of seven books offered in Apologia’s Young Explorer Series. They also offer; Astronomy, Botany, Zoology 1 (Flying Creatures), Zoology 2 (Swimming Creatures), Zoology 3 (Land Animals), and Chemistry and Physics. The books are all geared for kindergarten through sixth grade. Depending on your pace the books will last you a semester or a full school year.

AJ is past the recommended grade level for this series. Since she enjoys science so much I thought that using this amazing product to supplement her current highschool course would be a great fit. We had never used a product from the Young Explorer Series before. I have heard great things about the books in the series, so I was anxious to dig in and see if the lived up to the hype. They do!

What Do You Need to Buy

If you are on a tight budget, you can complete the program by simply buying the textbook. The other products make teaching a little easier and keep everything organized, but they are not necessary. That is one thing that turned me away from ordering science from Apologia in the past. I thought that I had to buy everything in order to teach the course, and when you are on a budget all of those extras can add up. If that is keeping you from using Apologia, please know that the textbook is the heart of the program and the rest is all optional!

Anatomy & Physiology

About the Text Book

The textbook is a sturdy hard covered book that is about 265 pages long. Along with the chapters it includes an introduction, a supply list for the experiments, a sample science experiment sheet, answers to the narration questions, and an index. There are 14 chapters in the book:

  1. Introduction to Anatomy and Physiology – This chapter goes into the history of science and explains the structure of cells. It also explains DNA and RNA in a way that kids can understand it.
  2. The Skeletal System – This chapter is all about bones. You will learn how to keep your bones healthy, the names of different bones, how bones grow, what happens when they break, and so much more.
  3. The Muscular System – Muscles are the focus of this chapter. You will learn about skeletal muscles, cardiac muscles, and smooth muscles, and see how muscles and bones work together to help you move.
  4. The Digestive and Renal Systems – This lesson starts with the teeth and explains what happens to your food once you start chewing. The lesson goes on to cover the stomach, intestines, liver, pancreas, appendix, kidneys, and bladder. There is a lot to learn in this chapter.
  5. Health and Nutrition – Now that you have learned the basics of the body it is time to learn how to take care of it. You will learn about carbohydrates, proteins, fat, calories, vitamins, and minerals.
  6. The Respiratory System – This chapter focuses on the nose, sinuses, the diaphragm, and the lungs.
  7. Life in the Blood – In this chapter you learn all about the blood. From how it is made to the types of cells, and different blood types, there is a lot of information covered.
  8. The Cardiovascular System – This chapter focuses on the heart! You will learn the functions of each part of the heart, the heart muscle, and even the signs of a heart attack.
  9. Nervous and Endocrine System – In this chapter you learn all about the brain and nerves. It also covers hormones, the thyroid, and the glands in the endocrine system.
  10. The Nervous System Extended – This chapter goes into more detail about the parts of the brain and what they do. It also covers the spinal cord.
  11. Your Senses – This chapter covers the basics of how you smell, taste, hear, and see things. According to this chapter you have the general sense of touch and then five special senses which are; smell, sight, hearing, taste, and balance. I found this interesting!
  12. The Integumentary System – This chapter covers the largest organ in the body, the skin! You will also learn about the hair and nails.
  13. The Lymphatic and Immune Systems – This chapter covers diseases, and infections. You will also learn about the spleen and the thymus.
  14. Growth and Development – In this chapter you learn about cell growth, how babies grow in the womb, genetics, and how we did not come from apes. This chapter covers some tricky topics but it does so with grace.

A Closer Look At A Chapter

Each chapter covers a lot of information, but it is broken down into bite sized pieces with plenty of activities to help your child learn and understand the topics. The chapters can be broken up and covered over a two week period. Chapter 11 was a chapter we really enjoyed. It begins by talking about the senses.


When teaching about the nose it talks about how the nose works and the different parts that work together to help you smell. There are different “Try This” sections throughout the chapter. For the nose it has the student eat something and then take another bite with their nose plugged to see if there is a difference. They also have them try and talk with there nose plugged. Little experiments like these take very little effort, but they help the student to understand the concepts so much easier.


When learning about the tongue there is a colorful model. They even talk about how in the past scientist thought that different types of taste buds were located in specific places on the tongue, but that now scientists no longer believe that. They have the student do a simple experiment to see if their own taste buds are all located in specific areas, or not. There are a few other experiments to see of hot and cold foods taste differently and to see how the nose and tongue have to work together.

Hearing and Balance

Next up is the ear. The student sees a model of the ear and learns all about the function of each part. Then they learn about sound waves and do a simple experiment with a slinky. They go on to learn how sound waves and hearing go together.

The chapter continues with how the ears affect balance. Then there is another experiment where the student spins and sees how long it takes them to feel normal again.


Last up in the chapter is seeing. The student learns all about the different parts of the eye. There are a few simple experiments to learn about night vision and color vision. Then the student learns about the cornea and does an experiment with a magnifying glass to see how the cornea and lens work together.

The next section has the student learn about different eye problems, like nearsightedness and farsightedness. Then they do an activity to test their own vision. There are also activities to see how our eyes see things and to test our blind spots in our eyes. The chapter ends with more information about the eyes and tears.

After the Reading

After each section the student is told to tell someone what they learned about. The student can either do a written or oral narration based on their age and ability. At the end of the chapter there is a section called, “What Do You Remember?’ Here there are numerous questions that about the chapter. The student isn’t expected to remember the answers to all of the questions, but it is a great review. The answers to the questions are all found at the back of the book.

There is also a notebooking activity that the student should complete. It can be completed on paper, or you can use the notebooking journal. For chapter 11 the student is told to record what they learned about the senses and include illustrations. They are also asked to make a diagram of the eye, label the parts, and tell what each part does.

The final part of the chapter is the Experiment. While there are plenty of smaller activities and experiments, each chapter has a larger experiment to do at the end of the lesson. This experiment has the student testing if they can figure out different foods without the ability to see or taste them.

This chapter doesn’t have a personal person project section, but most of the chapters do. Throughout the course the student builds a replica of the human body. After each chapter they add a new part onto the body. By the end of the course they have a life size model of the body with all of the organs on it.

The Notebooking Journals

Like I said before, you don’t need the notebooking journals, but they do make teaching the course easier. They have the diagrams your child needs to label, fun activities, and the pieces of the body for the personal person project. There are two different journals. The Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology Junior Notebooking Journal is geared for kids in kindergarten through second grade and the Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology Notebooking Journal is for kids in grades three through six. They are similar and if you have students in both grade ranges they can each do their own journal while learning the same topics. At the beginning of each journal there is a sample schedule that tells you what to read and which activities to do day. The end of the journals has answer keys for each assignment and additional lapbook activities for each chapter that are an optional activity for extended learning. The final page of each lesson is a project page where the student writes what the did and what they learned.

The Junior Journal

Here is a look at what the student would be working on for chapter 11. The Junior Journal starts off with a coloring page. At the bottom of the page there is a Bible verse about the body. The next page has a picture of the sinuses. The student needs to label the diagram. It has the first letter of each word and there are lines for each remaining letter of the word. The bottom of the page ha four lines for the student to write about what they learned.

The next page is set up the same way with a diagram of the ear. The following page is a diagram of the eye. It has a word bank at the bottom to help the student. Then there are two pages of copy work from the Bible for the student to work on. One is in print and the other is in cursive.

Next up is an activity where the student cuts out words ( like sour, lens, pupil) and pastes them to the sense they go with.

Then there is a page where the optional lapbook piece can be glued. The mini book is a flip-book that has more information about each of the senses.

The junior notebook is well made, has plenty of space for the larger writing of young students, and lets the students show what they have learned.

The Regular Notebooking Journal

For chapter 11 the notebooking journal starts with a notebooking page where the student can fill in information about each of the senses. The next page has the “What Do You Remember?” questions written down, the student can write the answers under the questions. The next page has a picture of an eye and a word bank, but the student has to draw the lines and label the diagram.

Then there are two crossword puzzles. The puzzles use the vocabulary learned in the chapter. The questions are not really simple, the student will need to understand the words to be able to fill out the puzzle. The words that will be used are listed at the bottom of the page.

Then there are two pages of copywork. The Bible verse is longer in this journal. Again one page is in print and the other is in cursive.

The next page is blank and is used for the optional lapbook piece. It is the same mini book as the junior journal, except the lines that the student writes on are different.

I love that the journals are designed to work together. The older kids will learn more vocabulary and need to do more work on labeling, but both journals let the students learn at their own level.

The regular journal is well balanced. There are simple activities and those that take a little more time. It keeps the learning fun. When it is finished it will be a great resource to use in the future!

Using the journals takes the guess work out of the program. Everything is laid out for you. If we use a science from Apologia in the future I will try to get the Notebooking Journal that goes with it. I like that all of the work is kept in one place, that I don’t need to search for diagrams that AJ can label, and that there are additional activities that AJ can do if she needs more assistance on a topic.

The Audio Book

AJ doesn’t like reading, and she grasps concepts easier if I read to her. But read a textbook aloud can be daunting. (Although this text book is well written and not boring, so I would not have minded reading this one.) I was thrilled that Apologia was gracious enough to send us the Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology MP3 Audio CD. Used along with the textbook it makes science easy.

Now since this is a MP3 CD you will need to use it in a device that can play MP3s. Our CD player and DVD player would not play the CD, but we had no problem with it playing on the computer.

The person who reads the book has a voice that is easy to listen to. She goes at a good pace that is easy to understand and is not boring. The majority of the book is read, but sidebars, picture descriptions, and a few other words on the page are not.

My only complaint about the CD is that I had to skip around a lot to find the correct section in the book we wanted to read. I think it would be helpful to have a list of which track goes with which section of the book. It was a minor thing, but I do think it would save us a little time.

How We Used It

The CD is great it allows AJ to read the book independently. This book has a lot of vocabulary that is difficult to pronounce, the CD helps with the pronunciation. Normally I would have AJ read the chapter on her own then the next day she would listen to the CD and do some of the experiments and fill in her journal. We found the CD very helpful.

AJ used the products fairly independently. Because of her age we skipped a lot of the simple experiments throughout the book. She skipped around and read about the topics she was interested in the most. She hasn’t finished the book yet, but we plan to have her finish before summer. So far she has learned a lot and had fun completing the puzzles and activities in the notebooking journal. I look forward to seeing her finished journal.

What We Thought

I think that Apologia lives up to the hype. The lessons are well written. The student is given a lot of information but it is in a language they can understand. The experiments and activities let your child learn in a hands on way and make science fun. You can do the ones that work for you and skip the others.

I was surprised with how much the student is able to learn. Biblical quotes and points of view are used in the book and help your child grow closer to God. This is not just a book without secular beliefs, it is full of Bible verses and other bits of information.

The journals and audio book add to the program to make teaching easier. Weather you buy just the textbook, or you go all out and buy the journals and audio book CD too, your child is going to learn so much. I highly recommend trying out one of the courses from the Young Explorers series. Science will come alive for your student!

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

Apologia - Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology Reviews

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Creation Illustrated Unit Study ~ Review

Have you ever heard of the magazine called Creation Illustrated  ? I hadn’t prior to this review, but it is an amazing Christian based magazine. The magazine is in its 25 year of publishing! It focuses on nature, scripture, and living. There are breathtaking photos, heartwarming stories, and honestly a little bit of something for everyone in the family. I can’t believe that we have missed out on such a great magazine.

One of the newer products available from Creation Illustrated is their unit studies. The studies are based on information in their magazines, and include a free digital copy of the magazine. We were blessed to receive two of their unit studies, one on Pine Trees and one on Snow. The unit studies are geared for kids in grades five through eight.

Pine Trees

Since we don’t have snow where we live (unless we go to the mountains) we decided to try out the study on Pine Trees first. It is based off of the Fall ’17 Digital Edition  of the magazine. The study is a 16 page digital download. It includes links to the digital magazine where your student can learn about pine trees, links to other online sources, links to videos about pine trees, and suggested books that you can check out from the library. All of the links that we tried worked, and the videos were quite interesting. It’s nice to have everything linked up for me so that I don’t have to worry about screening videos before AJ watches them.

Creation Illustrated Unit Study Pine Trees
The study provides some background information about the word “pine” and has spelling and vocabulary for the student to work on. They are simple fill in the blank activities where the student writes the spelling word by the correct definition.

It also includes a Bible Study section. This was a surprise for us. I never realized how many times the word pine was used in the Bible. The student is given passages to look up and asked what the word is referring to in each passage.

Creation Illustrated Unit Study Pine Trees
There is a section on geography where the student learns about where pine trees grow. It also gives advice for identifying pine cones and has the student label different pine cones. I learned a few things during that lesson.

The unit study includes other science topics relating to pine trees including the number of needles, the classification of pine trees, and other general information.

One of AJ’s favorite parts of the study was learning about Fibonacci numbers in the math section.

There is also a writing activity, an art activity, and a word search. The great part about unit studies is that you can use what you want and what fits for your family and skip the rest. I didn’t really find anything in this study that I would want to skip though. Because of AJ’s age I could easily had her the study and let her do it on her own. Instead she did some on her own and we worked on other parts, like the pine cone identification, together.


The Snow Unit Study is based on the Winter ’18 Digital Edition magazine. It is 17 pages long, including the answer key.

The snow unit study has a lot of the same elements as the pine tree study. It includes a writing activity, spelling and vocabulary, and basic information about snow. But there are also a few other activities that are more hands on like creating snow crystals, building an igloo, making paper snowflakes, and photographing snow.

Creation Illustrated Unit Study Snow
Both unit studies would be a great addition to any homeschool. There are quite a few learning opportunities and fun activities to do in both studies.

Creation Illustrated Unit Study Snow
If you are looking for a way to add in some unit studies to your day, then check out the studies from Creation Illustrated. They are affordable, easy to use, and have all the information you need right in one place. Find out what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew thought by clicking on the graphic below.

Creation Illustrated Unit Studies {Creation Illustrated Reviews}
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American History Newspaper ~ Review

We have had the chance to review a few products from Home School in the Woods in the past and we have never been disappointed. Their products make history come alive and let your student learn in a hands on way. Often their products come in large unit studies, but they recently started offering some of their more popular activities in an Á La Carte version. You can now purchase some of the entertaining games, craft projects, and other activities without having to buy an entire study.

Home School in the Woods Á La Carte products
We were given quite a few options to pick from, but ultimately AJ and I decided it would be nice to try out their American History Newspaper Collection. It has all of the newspapers that are normally found in the Time Travelers US History series, but they are all in one place. The seven different newspapers let your child create their own newspaper about different time periods in American history, all while practicing those important writing skills.

The product is sent as a digital download. It is easy to download, you just follow the simple directions on the screen. Then, once you have it saved you can decide which newspaper to start with.

The 96 page download give you access to the following newspapers:

The Explorer Weekly is a 4 page newspaper that has headlines pre written in. It also comes with two pages that your child can fill in on their own. It focuses on the 15th to 18th centuries.

Home School in the Woods Á La Carte products
The Town Crier focuses on the colonial era. It has some fun writing prompts including some about the Liberty Bell cracking and an add for ½ off of printing at Franklin Print shop.

The Daily Bugle is focused on the revolutionary war period. It includes a spot for the student to make an add to encourage people to join the army along with numerous article options.

Home School in the Woods Á La Carte products
Westward Weekly is about the early 19th century. It has writing prompts about the trail of tears, the gold strike, and much more.

Home School in the Woods Á La Carte products
The Camp Kettle newspaper takes place during the civil war. This paper is twice the size of the others. It is 8 pages long and has quite a few different writing prompts including one about Lincoln getting shot.

Home School in the Woods Á La Carte products
The Industrial Times covers the industrial revolution through the Great Depression. It is 12 pages long and covers a variety of topics, from the first airplane flight to the Panama Canal, and the New Deal. This one also comes with a fun activity to show the different prices of products between then and now.

Home School in the Woods Á La Carte products
Frontline News covers the second world war. It is 12 pages, and even includes a map of parts of Europe during the war.

Home School in the Woods Á La Carte products
There are printing instructions and general directions for each newspaper. But basically, all you have to do is print out the paper you want and then as you learn about a topic or concept, have your child fill in the article about the topic. When we came to a headline that AJ didn’t know what to write about, I would have her look it up. It made it so we covered topics that we normally may have skipped.

Since there isn’t a list of what exactly the student needs to write about, there is a lot of room for creativity. I like that they included some pages that don’t have headlines filled in. It makes it so your child can write about an event even if it wasn’t in the regular paper.

I think the newspapers are a great way to get students to practice their creative writing skills. It allows writing to be fun, and makes history something more than a bunch of boring facts. I would highly recommend them to anyone who has a reluctant writer, or anyone who wants to make writing fun!

Don’t forget to check out some of the other products from Home School in the Woods. Their World War 1 Lapbook and their 3D Jamestown Replica both look like a lot of fun!

À La Carte Projects - Individual projects designed to enhance your studies! {Home School in the Woods Reviews}

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Drive Thru History ~ Review

Over the past few weeks AJ has been trying out an online video based history curriculum from Drive Thru History Adventures. We received a one year subscription which gave us access to all three of their programs.

Drive Thru History Adventures
They currently have three programs available. Their Bible History program is a 18 week adventure where you get to learn all about the Gospels. They also have an Ancient History course where you will spend 12 weeks focusing on the history of Greece, Rome, and Asia Minor. We decided to spend our time on their 12 week American History Adventure that focuses on the events from Columbus to the Constitution. We have been enjoying our adventures through American History, and look forward to exploring the other two series once we finish up.

So What is Drive Thru History?

Drive Thru History is a video based curriculum where historian Dave Stotts takes you literally on an adventure to learn about history. Instead of simply telling you about history, he shows you where history took place. You visit the sites of battles and really are able to have history come alive. He is one of those people who can keep your attention, entertain you, and make you think about things in a new way, all at the same time.

The American History Adventures

The American History Adventures takes you on a journey from the birth place of Christopher Columbus to Independence Hall where the Declaration of Independence was signed. While I would love to take a road trip and see all of the amazing sights from history, this is really the next best thing. The video adventures alone will help you to learn so many interesting facts and bits of information. But with the subscription to Drive Thru History Adventures, you get a lot more!

Beyond the Videos

Each weekly adventure starts off with a video that is around 30 minutes in length. Then you have the option of taking your adventure further. In the sixth adventure you are taken to Philadelphia and learn all about the life of Benjamin Franklin.

Drive Thru History Adventures
While watching the video the student fills out a printable worksheet. The worksheets have short answer questions about the information in the video and questions that make them form opinions. One of the questions from the sixth episode was, “How did the printing press contribute to the Revolutionary war effort?” There are about five or six questions for them to answer, and there is an answer key that you can either view or print off.

After the video is over there is sometimes artwork about the period for the student to look at. This episode had the “Writing the Declaration of Independence, by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris among others.

Next up is the suggested readings. For this episode that was the Declaration of Independence and the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. Both of these are in PDF form and can be printed off, or read your computer.

The final step is the digging deeper section. This section gives you additional articles that are related to the topic. One of the interesting articles for this episode was about the history of Groundhog Day.

You can simply watch the videos, do a little extra, or learn everything you can. It is up to you and your student. I had AJ watch the video at the beginning of the week, then do the worksheet and look at the art work another day. For the rest of the week she would spend some time looking at the primary source documents and exploring the digging deeper section. Sometimes it was quick and other times she spent a while looking through the site. She has learned a lot so far, and I plan on her continuing with the program.

Taking Your Learning on the Go

One neat feature with your subscription is the Adventures TV app. It lets you watch the videos while on the go. This is a great option for those who can’t always be right by their computer!

What We Thought

This was our first experience with Drive Thru History, and we were not disappointed! The videos were well made, engaging, and covered enough information without being overwhelming. At first I worried how there would be “enough” information for this to justify a highschool course. But I soon realized that AJ was learning way more in that half hour of video than she was for spending a few hours reading out of a book. I think in order to justify this as a highschool program your student would need to do more than the videos. But with this program there are a lot of options!

Click on the graphic below to see what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew thought!

Drive Thru History Adventures - Subscription {Drive Thru History Adventures Reviews}

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The Best Customizable Online Typing Program ~ Review

The Best Customizable Online Typing Program In today’s world typing is a necessity. Wheather you are typing up school work, working online, or typing in the office, you need to be able to type not only quickly but efficiently. The problem is that learning how to type isn’t the easiest thing.

When we were given the chance to review a different typing program,  UltraKey Online Family Subscription from
Bytes of Learning, I was a little hesitant. Would it be the same as all of the other typing programs we had tried? I think AJ has used at least ten different typing programs over the years. Some were free, others low cost, and one a little on the expensive side. Each program approached the idea of typing a little differently. Some were great but geared for young students, other were boring and meant for adults. Some programs made her work on the home row forever and made her lose interest and others moved too fast and she would feel defeated.

She knows where most of the letters are, but she still uses the hunt and peck method most of the time. To be honest, my fingers stray from the home keys a little more than I would like to admit. I really wanted her to be able to type. UltraKey claimed to be adaptable so I thought that maybe it would be different, and maybe AJ and I could both improve our typing.

UltraKey Online Family Edition

What is the UltraKey Online Family Subscription?

This is an online typing program. You can purchase a year long subscription for either 3, 5, or 8 users. Once you have made your purchase, you are given your own website where you can manage your family. Set up is quick and easy!

The Set-up Options

First you are taken to your dashboard. This is the part of the program that really stands out from any other typing program we have used in the past. The dashboard is broken into four sections.

Overview – This is just a page that explains how the dashboard works and what all of the other screens do.

Enrollment – This section lets you set up accounts for each family member. You simply enter their name, a log-in you want them to use, and a password. Then they are ready to start learning.

Family Management – This lets you set goals for the entire family. We didn’t use this section because AJ was my only student using the program.

Student Management – This is the best part! You are able to set goals for each student individually. There is also an option to let the student set their own goals, or for them to take a short test and have their goal set for them. AJ was set at beginner, her goal is just to get 90% accuracy. Where my goal is set to 14 words per minute with a 94% accuracy.

Another section under the Student Management is Settings. Here you can really customize the program for your student.


  • You can select a background and keyboard color.
  • There is the option to change the skin color of the hands on the keyboard. I thought this was a really cool feature.
  • There is the option to turn the Spoken Support on or off. AJ likes hers on. Every time she starts a new section all of the instructions are automatically read to her. I selected for it to speak only on request.
  • Step by Step learning lets you decide if your student needs to go through the posture lessons, finger lessons, lessons, and skill checks in order, or if they can complete them in any order. We chose the middle option which makes AJ do the lessons and skill checks in order, but lets her skip the posture and finger lessons.
  • You can set the practice amount. It lets you choose between light, medium and heavy. So you can decide how much practice is right for your student.
  • You can decide whether or not to allow backspacing while typing.
  • The final setting is to select how they will do their skill checks. There is an option to set the check for a certain amount of time, or a length of text.

All of the settings give the option for them to be locked, where the student can not change them, or to allow user control where the student can change their own settings. I decided to leave all of the settings unlocked except for the backspacing one.

It may seem like a lot of options, but you can select them in under a minute. If you don’t select any then there are some preset ones that go into effect until you change them.

The Student Management section also gives you access to reports. I will explain more about them later in the review.

The Lessons

When the student logs in for the first time they will be given the option to take a short test to help them set a typing goal. Then, depending on the settings they will be able to start a lesson, learn about posture, or finger placement. The posture video and exercise are nice. I actually learned something new! Did you know that all of your fingers don’t have to stay on the home row all of the time? I was always taught that all fingers had to stay touching the home row if they were not typing another key. That is not exactly true, and it has made a huge improvement in my typing!

A customizable online typing program!

The lessons are fairly simple. You select the lesson you want to work on and then do a short warm up to get you ready for the lesson. Most lessons have you learn three new letters at a time. Once the warm up is complete you learn each letter in a separate lesson.

Once the keys are learned you move on to practicing words. This uses letters you have previously learned along with the new letters. At this time if you make a mistake, you can not go on until the correct letter is typed.

A customizable online typing program!

The next step is practicing sentences. Again, the previous letters and keys are included. Each screen has three sentences for you to type. You are then given a rating in stars based on your speed and accuracy. Then you are given the choice to practice more, or move onto the skill check.

There is also a game section where you can practice your typing in a fun environment. We decided to wait to play the games until she passes all of the skill checks.

Skill Checks

I like that you have the option to select how to take the skill check. AJ was having a hard time with the time limit tests because she would worry too much about the time. When I had her change to the paragraph or two instead of the time, she did so much better. I on the other hand was the opposite. I found my scores higher when I set a time limit.

There are even options for which passage you want to use for your skill check.

A customizable online typing program!

After completing the skill check you are told your results, and what you need to improve on. For example, I was once told I was typing too many extra keys, and AJ was told she was striking the wrong keys. Then you are told if you passed your goal or if you need to try again. Then you can go onto the next lesson.

The Reports

The reports are another thing that sets the UltraKey Online Family Subscription apart from other programs we have used in the past. You can see reports on your goals, specific information about your last skill check, or your overall progress.

A customizable online typing program!

On the progress report you can see at a glance how many lessons were complete, how many skill checks were completed, and how your speed and accuracy were for each skill check. The reports are easy to print for your records.

A customizable online typing program!

How We Used the UltraKey Online Family Subscription

Both AJ and myself used the program, but I didn’t use it as often as I wanted to. Each day AJ would log in with her own log in and start her lessons. Her practice amount was set to heavy, so for every part of the lesson she had to do three pages of practice. Some days she would do the practice and skill check the same day, but most of the time she did them on separate days so that I could make sure she was remembering what she was learning. She has a few lessons left to go before she finishes the program, but she is making great progress.

A customizable online typing program!

I used the program as more of a refresher. I know where most of the keys are, and I type fairly quickly, but I don’t keep my hands on the keyboard correctly and I use the backspace way too often. My goal was to get in the habit of typing correctly and using the correct fingers for each key. I used the program a few times a week and would stay on the lessons until I felt my fingers and brain were working together to type the keys correctly. I have a ways to go, but I am seeing great improvements. While typing this review, my hands have stayed in the correct position and I have made way fewer mistakes than in the past.

What We Thought

I am extremely glad that we decided to give this program a try. The ability to customize the lessons to each person was truly a blessing. The lessons were short and engaging and there was plenty of practice. The reports are helpful for record keeping, and for seeing your overall progress at a glance. The program ran well and we never had any issues. Both AJ and myself have seen an improvement in our typing and we plan to continue to use the program to improve on our speed and accuracy. If you are looking for a great online typing program, I highly recommend the UltraKey Online Family Subscription!

Click on the graphic below to see what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew had to say.

UltraKey {Bytes of Learning Reviews}

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Wulf the Saxon ~ Review

Wulf the Saxon - The newest audio drama from Heirloom Audio Productions

Over the years our family has been blessed with a few different audio adventures from Heirloom Audio Productions. I was a little hesitant to review the very first title that we were given because I had heard so many great things about the audio dramas, and I didn’t think it was possible for them to be that good. They are! And our family has been hooked on them ever since. We were recently given the chance to review their newest title, Wulf the Saxon, and we couldn’t wait.

What is Heirloom Audio Productions?

Heirloom Audio Productions

Heirloom Audio Productions is a company that takes the historical books from G. A. Henty and brings them to life through audio adventures. Their goal is to build character in the next generation by bringing the lessons of history to life. The audio dramas are so much more than just an audio book. You are able to listen to a full on theater production. Each part is played by an actor, some who have had amazing roles in the past. One of those actors is Brian Blessed, who was in Star Wars among other things.

Along with the brilliant voice acting you are able to hear things like; the wind, swords swinging, the ocean, and other noises that help you to see the story.

About the CD

Wulf the Saxon comes on two CDs and will keep you entertained for two and a half hours. It is recommended for kids aged six and up. The story takes place in 1065 when Edward the Confessor is on the thrown in England. Wulf is a Saxon and a land owner. He is young though, and a little immature. He gets into an argument and a scuffle and ends up getting punished. The punishment seemed unfair to me. He is sent away for a whole year, but this punishment might have been one of the best things that happened to him. During that year he grows up, matures, and learns to better serve his people. When he comes back he is given a higher title.

Wulf the Saxon
Wulf and a lot of other Saxons ended up having trouble at sea. Their ship was destroyed and they found themselves captured by Count Conrad. Wulf and another page ended up escaping and traveling the country with little food to try and get help. Did they make it? What happened next? You will have to listen to the story yourself to find out!

How We Used It

This is the first time that we received just a CD. Normally we are also given a study guide and other goodies. In the past we used the study guides to help us learn more about the time period and to help us with discussion questions. This time, I decided to just listen to the CDs and talk about them. I did miss the study guide in the beginning. They normally had questions after each track that I could use to make sure that AJ was understanding the story.

But I quickly realized, that she enjoyed the story more and was able to pay better attention when I wasn’t stopping the CD and asking her questions in the middle of the story. There was still a lot of learning taking place. We talked a lot about the hierarchy in England, the different places that were mentioned, and more.

What We Thought about Wulf the Saxon

This story did not disappoint! It had everything that we have come to expect from Heirloom Audio Productions. There was suspense, love, fighting, underlining morals, and so much more. You feel like you are in the story. If you are looking for a great way to bring history to life, I highly recommend any of the audio dramas from Heirloom Audio. I think Wulf the Saxon is one of my favorites right now, but that is probably just until the next one comes along!


Heirloom Audio Adventure Club

If you enjoy the audio dramas from Heirloom Audio, you might want to check out the Live the Adventure Club. With the Club you will have access to teaching resources (like the study guides), access to 500 old time radio shows, a community forum, and hundreds of fun games and activities. You can take your adventure to the next level!

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

Wulf the Saxon {Heirloom Audio Productions Reviews}

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Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis ~ Review

Out of all the subjects I need to teach AJ, the one that is the most difficult is English. For middle school I basically made up my own curriculum. I pre-read the books and then looked for literature units online or made them myself. It was very time consuming. For high school I wanted something that was put together for me. I wanted a literature course that I could easily teach with little prep work. We were given the chance to review Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis from Writing with Sharon Watson and I was eager to try it out.

What is Characters in Crisis?

Characters in Crisis is the second volume in the Illuminating Literature series. But your student doesn’t need to take the courses in order. Characters in Crisis is a full year high school literature course that can be used during any year in high school. During the course your student will read a variety of short stories and:

  • Frankenstein
  • Silas Marner
  • Much Ado About Nothing
  • Sense and Sensibility
  • The Hobbit and
  • A biography or autobiography of your choice

The course is written to the student and is broken up into four main components.

The Textbook

Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis
The Textbook is the main part of the program. It contains all of the lessons and the short stories that the student will read. The Textbook is almost 300 pages long and is packed full of information. In this course your student will do more than simply read and answer questions. They will really learn how to analyze literature and how to view it differently. One of the first lessons in the course isn’t even a reading assignment. The student is introduced to different types of characters. Then they are told to analyze a book or movie of their choice and explain what type of character each of the main characters were.

At the beginning of each unit the student is given a plan to follow so that they can complete all of the required work. While there are a lot of things for the student to do, the timeline is reasonable. The tasks are broken down to help ensure the student can be successful.

Throughout the course your student will learn and work with a lot of literary terms, beyond the basics. They will look at stories from different points of view and dig deep into the reading.

A unit usually takes between three to four weeks to complete. During that time your student will take a “Yes, I read it” quiz and a literary terms quiz, they will complete work in the textbook, complete work in their Novel Notebook, and complete an end of unit activity based on the reading.

AJ really enjoyed the variety that is offered in the end of unit activity. The student has a choice to do a project that fits their learning style. Some of the options for the first unit, A Jury of Her Peers include:

  • Research the history of women on juries
  • Draw, paint, or sculpt an event or character from the story
  • Rewrite the story from a different character’s perspective
  • Learn how to can fruit
  • Learn sewing stiches
  • Write a song based on something in the story
  • Conduct Minnie’s Trial
  • And more options

Each option has something to do with the story. I think giving the students options is a great idea. But knowing AJ, I decided that she had to pick a project from a different category for the following unit. Otherwise she would always pick something like learning sewing stiches.


Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis
One neat thing about this program is that there is a lot of flexibility. Your student has two options for taking quizzes. They can take them online where they are automatically graded. They will need a password to take the quiz. It can be found in the textbook. Or they can take the quizzes on paper. In order to take the quizzes on paper you will need to purchase the Quiz and Answer Manual. I prefer the online option since it is graded for me.

Novel Notebook

Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis
Aside from the Textbook, the Novel Notebook is the other major part of the program. It can be downloaded for free and printed out. As your student completes the lessons, they will be instructed to fill out the pages in their notebook. The novel notebook is full of questions that make the student think beyond the basics of the story. They are forced to dissect the characters. I think this is a great tool to help students really understand a book beyond the surface. I only wish it was available already printed out, because it does take a lot of ink to print it all out.

Teacher’s Guide

Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis
The Teacher’s Guide really is needed to teach this course. While the course is written to the student, the Teacher’s Guide keeps the teacher in the loop to what the student is learning and contains all of the answers. It also explains how to grade the course and how to use the program in a group setting.

What We Thought

Reading isn’t AJ’s favorite subject, so we worked on the course together. Each day she did a little bit of work to stick with the schedule. She would work on the lessons and completing the pages in the novel notebook. In the past, courses expected too much reading and didn’t give her enough time to really understand the books. That wasn’t the case this time. The lessons were full of useful information, there was enough time to complete assignments, there wasn’t a lot of busy work, and the course was easy to grade. So far we are planning to stick with this program. I am excited to see AJ grow in her reading and writing skills with this program. If you have a high school student, I would highly recommend checking out Characters in Crisis! You can view sample pages here.

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

Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis {Writing with Sharon Watson Reviews}
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