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}

Crew Disclaimer

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}

Crew Disclaimer

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}

Crew Disclaimer

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}

Crew Disclaimer

What We Thought About Co-op

What we thought about co-opAt the beginning of the school year AJ and I joined a co-op for the first time. We were very lucky to find a group that meets really close to my grandma’s house. It offered a variety of classes and was open to kids from kindergarten through high school. AJ was excited from the beginning because she wanted to have the opportunity to be around kids her own age. I was anxious to see how it would go. Overall, we both enjoyed the people and the courses.


The Classes at Co-op

Since AJ is in high school, I wanted her to take classes that I could put on her transcript. But I also wanted her to enjoy herself. After looking at the different classes, she ended up with a well rounded day.

First Period – Recycled Art

This was a class she was very interested in. They made a lot of neat little projects and she got to explore her creative side. Lately she has been very interested in art, and  this course helped to develop that passion. One of her favorite projects was a candle holder that they made. She ended up giving it as a Christmas gift.

Second Period – Hula

There were a few classes that she wanted to take during second period. Finally we decided on Hula. I thought it would be a great way to get her active. And she would have the opportunity to learn about a different culture. The class was a huge hit! She loved the teacher, learned a lot, and performed beautifully on the night of their showcase.

Third Period – Science

AJ loves science, so this course was her obvious choice. They learned about hurricanes, weather, earthquakes, and other earth science related topics. Some of the information was review for AJ. But they conducted a lot of experiments and she had a blast.

Fourth Period – Mask Making

Mask from the Mask making class at co-op

This was the only class where she didn’t get her first choice. Her first choice was a cooking class. And while I know she would have loved cooking, mask making was a perfect fit. Over the twelve weeks they made a few different masks. They also learned about the history of the masks.

One of the issues I have had with AJ is that she doesn’t take her time and try with craft projects. She will get frustrated if things aren’t perfect and give up. I noticed a big difference this year. Her masks came out beautifully. She took her time, followed directions, and had a neat product in the end.

Fifth Period – Theater

Classes like theater were one of my main reasons for considering a co-op. You can’t exactly teach theater to one student. I loved my drama course in high school and I wanted her to have that option.

After the first day she came home and told me that she was going to do a scene from the musical Wicked. Now, I love her to death, but the child is not a good singer. I was worried. But she practiced, learned the song, and was brave enough to get up in front of everyone and perform the scene.

A musical would not have been my first pick. But she learned way more than memorizing lines. She learned to work as part of a team. She worked on responsibility, and she got out of her comfort zone.

 My Classes

I was assigned to help in three classes. The first was called Creepy Crawlies. In that class the kids learned all about bugs. They were even given the chance to handle some bugs. The second class was Hand Embroidery. I learned a few new skills, and even made a cute pillow. The last class was a games class. The kids played a variety of games to learn team work, strategy, and other skills.

The People

I had a nice time helping out. Even though I didn’t do very much,  it was nice to be out of the house. I enjoyed being around other homeschooling moms. I looked forward to co-op. One of the best parts was that I was around other people who understood homeschooling. One mom was talking about how her kids did school on the weekends because it worked with her work schedule. Another was worried because her child was going into high school next year and she was worried. Co-op made me feel like I wasn’t alone on this homeschooling journey.

Lunch at co-op

AJ loved being around the other kids. It was an amazing site to see a variety of ages playing and working together at lunch. Everyone we met was welcoming, kind, and pleasant to be around. We had a very positive experience at co-op! It will be starting up again soon and this time I will be teaching a few courses. I can’t wait to see how this semester works out.

Knee Scooter – Pros & Cons

knee scooter pros and cons




I have been using a knee scooter for about two and a half years now. In the beginning I would get weird looks, especially from kids. I remember one time a little girl got upset because I got to use a toy in the store and she didn’t. The truth is, I wish I could walk. I wish that I didn’t need to use a scooter to get around. But the fact is, I need it. I am in physical therapy and strengthening my leg so that one day I will be able to walk. But until then, I will be using my scooter. I have gotten quite a few questions over the years, so I wanted to share some of my opinions. Remember, these are my opinions based on my experiences. Please follow your doctor’s recommendations.

Knee Scooter ~ Pros

  1. Knee Scooters are safer than crutches. When you use a knee scooter you don’t have to worry about slipping like you do with crutches.
  2. It is easier on your joints than crutches. A knee scooter lets you glide across the floor. You are not forced to jump and hop, putting pressure on your knee and ankle on the leg that isn’t injured.
  3. You can carry things. When you use crutches, both of your hands are used to help you walk, so trying to carry things can be difficult. Sure you can get creative and carry some things, but more than likely you will need some help. The basket on a knee scooter can be extremely helpful.
  4. A knee scooter is easier on the arms than crutches. If you have ever had to use crutches for a long period of time, you probably had sore arms. My arms, arm pits, and wrists always killed me after walking with crutches.
  5. You can be more active than in a wheel chair. After some of my surgeries I was in a wheel chair. It was hard to get through the house, and shopping was difficult. On a knee scooter you can reach things easier in a store and maneuver through tighter spaces.
  6. You are using mussels in your leg. One thing I never thought of was that by riding the scooter, my upper thigh was having to work. I lost a lot of mussel in my leg because I wasn’t able to walk. But by using the scooter I was preserving some of the mussel in my upper leg.
  7. There is a place to sit. Sitting on a knee scooter isn’t comfortable, but it is nice to have a place to sit if you are out and about and your leg is tired.


While I would love to say knee scooters are wonderful. They do have some down sides.


  1. After a while your knee begins to hurt. Your body wasn’t built to put constant pressure on your knee, so it is understandable that after a while your knee could become uncomfortable. I actually developed bursitis in my knee and had to stay off the scooter for a while so it could heal.
  2. They are big and bulky. A knee scooter isn’t as big as a wheel chair, but it takes up about as much room in the car. They don’t fold well and are hard to fit in small cars.
  3. People Stare. I have learned to tune out the stares. But when you are on a knee scooter you should expect people to look at you. It is still a newer product (compared to crutches and wheel chairs) and some people don’t realize it is medically necessary at first glance.
  4. Stairs are difficult. It is much easier to go up the stairs on crutches.
  5. The Price. You can usually find a pair of crutches fairly inexpensively. Sometimes a doctor or hospital will just give them to you. Knee scooters are another story. To buy your own you are looking at at least $120. I was lucky enough that workers comp covered my knee scooter. If you are going to be unable to walk for a while try to see if your insurance will cover the cost.
  6. It prevents you from walking. One good thing about crutches is that once you are able to put some weight on your leg, you can walk with the crutches while putting some weight on your leg. Eventually putting full weight on your leg. This isn’t an option with a knee scooter.

I am very thankful that I was given a knee scooter. I don’t think I would have survived not being able to walk for this long with out one. If you find yourself unable to walk, check with your doctor and see if a knee scooter is right for you.

Christmas Activity Book

Christmas is my favorite time of year. I would watch sappy Christmas movies and listen to Christmas music all year long, if my family didn’t need a break. A year ago I put together a fun activity book for the holiday season. Since then I have updated it and made a few changes. Previously I was offering it for sale. But until the end of the year I am giving it to my readers for free. You don’t even need to sign up for my news letter. All you need to do is click on the link below, print out the pages you want, and have fun!

There are over 25 fun filled activities for a variety of ages. You will find dot to dot activities, mazes, a word search, a crossword puzzle, two different levels of Sudoku, math activities, word fun, and even more!

Grab your free Christmas Activity book! Over 25 fun filled activities to keep your kids thinking during the holiday season.

The Activity book has a Santa theme. Your child will encounter elves, reindeer, mice, Christmas trees, and other Christmas themed characters. I am currently in the process of making a biblical version of the activity book, but that won’t be finished in time for Christmas.

Grab your free Christmas Activity book! Over 25 fun filled activities to keep your kids thinking during the holiday season.

I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas!

Grab your free Christmas Activity book! Over 25 fun filled activities to keep your kids thinking during the holiday season.

Download your copy of the Christmas Activity Book. If you enjoy the book, please share this post so others can grab their own copy.

More Free Printables

Are you looking for more free downloads? Here is the link to my 30 days of free printables. There are a variety of different topics including; math, science, geography, Bible, language arts, and more.

I am in the process of creating more pintables. Please comment below with they types of printables you are looking for.

If you like what you see, join my email list where you will have access to even more printables!

Want to find other great holiday resources? Check out the Crew’s blog about Holiday Traditions!


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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Thinking Like an Engineer ~ Review

AJ’s favorite subjects are science and math. When we can combine the two subjects, I know she is going to have a great time learning. We were recently given the chance to review an amazing online program from Innovators Tribe We were given the choice of two of their programs; Thinking Like an Engineer and Thinking Like an Architect. While they both looked like a lot of fun, we decided to try out the engineering program.

Thinking Like an Engineer

What is “Thinking Like an Engineer”?

Thinking Like an Engineer is an online program that uses videos, worksheets, research projects, and hands on activities to teach students about engineering. The course is has about thirty hours of work and can be counted as a quarter credit for high school. The course is broken into five units:

  1. Introduction to Engineering – In this unit students learn what an engineer is. They learn about problems that engineers help to solve, and they attempt to solve some problems on their own. The students try to build a tower that will high out of only paper and tape. They also try to make paper hold up a stack of books, and make a water filter.
  2. Introduction to 3D Design – In this unit the students learn all about the computer program C.A.D. They will use computer software to design different objects a solve problems.
  3. Engineering Rollercoasters – This unit teaches all about the engineering aspects of rollercoasters. The students even get to make a paper model of a rollercoaster.
  4. Engineering Bridges – In this unit students will learn about the challenges of building bridges. They will use math to help them make a 3D bridge using computer software, and they will make a physical model of a suspension bridge.
  5. Nano Engineering – This unit focusses on engineering things that are too small to be seen by the naked eye.

Each unit is comprised of a variety of lessons and activities. The first lesson in each unit is an introduction. It explains a little about the unit and has the Unit Journal that needs to be printed off. The journal is used during the lessons to help the students keep track of what they have learned. There isn’t a lot of writing required in the journal, but they do require the student to think about what they have learned.

Project from Thinking Like an Engineer

Navigating through the course is simple. When the student completes a lesson or challenge, they simply mark the lesson complete and move onto the next lesson. You can redo the lessons at any time.

How We Used “Thinking Like an Engineer”

When we were given access to the program AJ and I sat down to use it together. We looked at the introduction videos, printed off the needed worksheets, and got started. AJ has used the program a few times a week since then. Each day she would work on different aspects of the lessons. One day she would watch the videos and fill in her unit journal, and the next she would try to build a paper tower or research a type of engineering that she finds exciting. The days that she worked on the video lessons usually took a half hour, while the days she worked on the challenges took longer.

The course is self paced, so your student can take their time and complete the challenges numerous times if they want. AJ did the “book stacking challenge about four times before she was satisfied with herself. She had to make something with just 1 piece of paper and a piece of tape, that would hold a pile of books. At first she was discouraged because nothing was working. After pushing her to try different things, it finally worked. That one piece of paper held up over 12 pounds of books!

Project from Thinking Like an Engineer

What We Thought

AJ and I both loved this program. She still has a few units left to complete, and can’t wait. I knew she would enjoy the course, but I am surprised by how much she is learning. Not only is she learning important math and science skills, she is also learning about thinking about a problem from a new point of view, and problem solving skills.

Most of the items you need for the project are things you have anyways like paper and tape. There are a few unusual items for projects like the water filter, but you are given plenty of notice about them.

Our only complaint is that we are not shown how other kids completed their projects. Like for the book stacking challenge, we are shown a picture of how many books other students could stack on their invention, but we are never shown the invention. I think it would be great if there was a section after the challenge that had pictures of what other kids came up with. It might spark ideas and even better results for the challenge.

Other than that, I think the course is perfect. If you have a student who learns best with hands on activities then this is the course for you! Find out what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew thought by clicking on the graphic below.

Thinking Like an Architect or Engineer {Innovators Tribe Reviews}
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Weave Your Word in Me ~ Review

I am always on the lookout for a good Bible study for AJ. By now she knows all of the major Bible stories, but needs to dig deeper into the Bible. The problem is that a lot of Bible studies for kids are babyish and don’t really go beyond the basics. Most of the Bible studies that do dig deeper require a lot of writing and too much reading for one lesson. Or I find one I like, and it doesn’t match with the Bible version we are using. I usually tweak the Bible studies so that they fit AJ. But it would be nice to not have to do that. When I heard about a new Bible study from Kid Niche Christian Books designed for tweens I was anxious to have AJ try it out. She is a little beyond the age range, but it looked like a great fit. We received Weave Your Word in Me — Part 1 and were eager to get started.

Kid Niche Christian Books

What is Weave Your Word in Me?

Weave Your Word in Me is a Bible study designed around four units, God the Father, God the Son, What God Wants, and God the Holy Spirit. It is broken into two parts. Part one has 36 lessons and focuses on the first two units, while part 2 has 44 lessons and focuses on the last two units. The parts can be purchased together or separately. The study comes hole punched and ready to be put in a folder.

One great thing about Weave Your Word in Me is that it works with six different Bible translations. It works for; ESV, KJV, NABRE, NASB, NIV, and NKJV. This study not only teaches about the Bible, it also teaches about prayer. It uses a kid friendly version of the Lord’s Prayer that your child reads through during the study. It also helps them make their own prayers.

The pages are bright and colorful. Each page has illustrations of some kind. They have plenty of room to fill in the answer, even if you have a student who has large writing. I think the best part is that the pages are not in a bound book. You can take the pages you need out and then just add them to their folder once they are finished.

The Lessons

Each lesson is a little bit different offering a variety of activities. The student is instructed to read a few verses in the Bible and answer some questions. Sometimes they are short answer questions. Other times they are fill in the blank, filling in charts, true or false questions, drawings, or even acting out scripts.

The lesson ends with a My Prayer section. This section has a prayer partially written out that the student needs to finish. They finish with things they learned from the lesson and add things of their own as well.

The lessons range from one to three pages long based on the topic of the lesson. Lesson 2 is “Where God Lives” and is only one page. Where lesson 22 is “Jesus’ Lessons in Faith.” It is three pages long and has more verses to read.

How We Used It

I had AJ work on the Bible study about three days a week. Most days she finished a lesson in about twenty minutes. There were a few of the lessons that were longer. For those she did half of the lesson one day and then finished it the next day. She was able to complete the study fairly independently. When she was finished with the main part of the lesson we would check it with the answer key and then she would do the prayer section. I think younger students may need some help, but strong readers should be able to complete the lessons on their own with a little help.

What We Thought

Both AJ and I were pleased with this study. She enjoyed the colorful pages and different activities. I enjoyed that she was learning more about God and that she was reading verses all over the Bible. I didn’t think that she would enjoy the prayer section, but I was wrong. She enjoyed it and even asked me not to read those sections because they were personal. I have seen some growth in her from this study so far.

I feel this is a very solid study that will help your student know who God is and how to talk to Him. We plan to finish this study and then order part two. It is affordable and an enjoyable part of our day.

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

Weave Your Word in Me {Kid Niche Christian Books Reviews}
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