No-Nonsense Algebra ~ Review

AJ completed Algebra 1 last year. She passed it with an A and really enjoyed it. She is lucky, because math comes easy to her. Once she learns a new concept she can usually work out any similar problem easily. This year she is taking Geometry. There are some algebraic skills required, but just basic ones. (So far.) I don’t want her to forget the harder algebraic skills while she is working with angles and proofs. My plan for this year was to have AJ work on algebraic skills once a week to keep the concepts sharp. So when we were given the chance to review No-Nonsense Algebra from Math Essentials, I thought it would be perfect.

Math Essentials

What is No-Nonsense Algebra?

No-Nonsense Algebra
No-Nonsense Algebra is a soft covered math book with online video lessons. The book is 275 pages long. It includes: the solutions to all of the exercise problems, helpful charts, a glossary, and a final review. The book is broken up into ten chapters.

They are:

  1. Necessary Tools for Algebra (22 lessons)
  2. Solving Equations (9 lessons)
  3. Graphing and Analyzing Linear Equations (6 lessons)
  4. Solving and Graphing Inequalities (7 lessons)
  5. Systems of Linear Equations and Inequalities (4 lessons)
  6. Polynomials (13 lessons)
  7. Rational Expressions (10 lessons)
  8. Radical Expressions and Geometry (10 lessons)
  9. Quadratic Equations (6 lessons)
  10. Algebra Word Problems (8 lessons)

What Does a Lesson Look Like?

The pages in the book are simple and not cluttered, so the student won’t get distracted. Lessons in the beginning chapters take up a single page, where lessons further in the book take up two pages. Each lesson follows the same format. They are broken up into four parts.

Introduction – This is the main part of the lesson. It includes basic information about the concept and helpful hints to make solving problems easier. After reading this section you should have a good idea about how to solve the assigned problems.

Examples – In this section one or more problems are worked out. Each step is shown and there are helpful notes when needed to visually show the student how to solve the problems.

Exercises – These are the problems that the student will work out. Each lesson varies on how many questions it has, but I have not seen any with more than 20. The student will need to copy the problems onto a separate paper to work them out. It might be a good idea to use a composition book or spiral notebook to keep all of their math work in one place.

Review – At the end of each lesson (except for lesson 1) there will be 4 review problems for the student to solve. The problems will use concepts that were taught in previous lessons.

Online Lessons

There is a video lesson online for each lesson in the book. Before the student completes the problems they can watch the video lesson for more explanation. The video lessons are taught by Richard W. Fisher. He is an award winning teacher who explains topics very well. He works out each problem and explains why he is doing each step.

No-Nonsense Algebra includes a book and online lessons!


No-Nonsense Algebra includes a book and online lessons!

Your student will need to create an online account using a code in the book to access the video lessons. Once they have an account they can watch the videos in any order and as many times as they want.

No-Nonsense Algebra includes a book and online lessons!The videos are not very fancy. They are simply Mr. Fisher working out the problems while explaining them. He uses problems that are different than the book so the student gets additional examples of how to solve problems using the concept taught in the lesson.  He is nice to listen to, easy to understand. and talks at a good pace.

The book combined with the videos will help your students learn the basics of Algebra!

How We Used No-Nonsense Algebra

Since AJ has already completed Algebra 1 I wasn’t going to make her start at the beginning of this book. A few times a week I would have her pick a lesson from chapters 6 – 10. I would have her watch the video. I had her pause the video after he gave the problem and had AJ see if she could get the correct answer. Then she would watch the teacher work it out.

If she answered all of the questions correctly then she was done with the lesson. If she missed any, then I had her do the last 4 problems from the exercise section. Most math books have the problems get progressively harder, so I had her do the ones at the end to make sure she remembered the concept. Then we checked the solutions. So far she has answered the problems correctly. If she gets them wrong though, I will have her watch the video again and then do the entire set of problems.

I think this is a great way to review concepts.

What We Thought About No-Nonsense Algebra

I think that it is a great program. I like that the student can use it however they want. They can just read the lesson and go on to the problems, or they can watch the video first. I think that the detailed examples in the book and in the video will help the student understand the algebraic concepts.

The book starts off with the basics. I think this will benefit students who are afraid of algebra. They will be able to solidify skills that they learned in earlier math levels.

This is a solid program, but I don’t know if it would be considered a full Algebra 1 course. Requirements  in each state is different. I think it is a little short on lessons, but you could easily supplement a few things to make it a full course. Honestly, the videos by themselves are reason enough to buy the program.

If you need an inexpensive math program that comes with teacher taught videos, then this product is for you! They also offer other math books that you can check out.

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

No-Nonsense Algebra {Math Essentials Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

In the Reign of Terror ~ Review

We love listening to audio books and audio dramas at our house. They are a great way to read a book when you can’t physically read. They are great for car rides, trips, and even for listening to while doing house work. The only issue is that some audio books are mono tone and boring. We often look for audio books where the reader uses voices for the characters, or we look for audio dramas.

Heirloom Audio Productions
One of our favorite go to places for audio dramas is Heirloom Audio Productions. We have had the chance to listen to a few of their audio dramas and have never been disappointed. We were given a chance to review their latest audio drama, In the Reign of Terror. It came at the perfect time. Arriving just a few days before I had surgery, I knew I was going to take it with me in my hospital bag.

What is In the Reign of Terror?

In the Reign of Terror is an audio drama adapted from the book of the same name written by G.A. Henty.  It is two and a half hours long and will have you on the edge of your seat. The goal of Heirloom Audio is to make history come alive, and they exceed that goal with this title.

In the Reign of Terror
The adventure takes place in France during the devastating French Revolution. We follow Harry, a 16 year old boy who is living with an upper class French family. Being in France is a culture shock for him in the beginning, but he adapts. Soon after his arrival though, things change and the family is in danger simply because they were a noble family. Now Harry has to try to escape the soldiers and attempt to keep the family that he grew close to safe. He has to make hard decisions and trust in God. Will the family survive, or will Harry fail? You will have to listen to the audio drama to find out.

In the Reign of Terror is designed for ages six and up. This is the third audio drama that we have listened to of G.A. Henty’s books. They all have some violence because you are dealing with history and wars that took place. I personally think this title was a little more violent than the others. It is done tastefully and I don’t think that the violence is overdone. But I do think that some six year olds may have nightmares after listening to this. Characters do die and there are some fairly scary scenes where you worry if the characters are going to make it. I personally would not have let AJ listen to this until 8 or 9. Of course every child is different, and you know your kids best. I would recommend listening to the CD during the daytime and seeing how your child reacts.

How We Used In the Reign of Terror

Audio Dramas are great in the hospital!

I put the CD and a portable CD player (the nurse was surprised to see that they still made them!) into my hospital bag along with a few audio books. After surgery, when there was nothing on TV and I wanted something to do, I took out the audio drama and listened to it. It was a great way to keep my mind off of the pain and it gave me something to do. I listened to it two times because it was so intense and interesting. I love how it lets you view history from a different perspective. Even though I didn’t get to all of my other audio books, I made time for In the Reign of Terror.

Beyond the CDs

In addition to the CDs with the audio drama we also received access to a study guide for the audio drama and other cool items from Live the Adventure Club . It is a new site that gives you access to the digital items that come with your purchase all in one place. I can listen to the audio drama online, view the script, listen to the sound track, print posters, and more. I am really glad to see a site that will keep everything together for me! There are so many things to explore on the site including; coloring pages, word searches, articles, and badges that kids can earn while listening to the adventure. I am excited to see more of the site.

The Study Guide

I didn’t use the study guide this time. Since it is summer AJ has been busy with camp and other activities and hasn’t listened to the audio drama yet. Once the summer fun calms down I will have her use part of it. The study guide is over 40 pages long, it includes:

  • Background information about the French Revolution and important people.
  • Questions for each track. They are divided into three types:
  • Listening Well – These are simple questions about the plot of the story.
  • Thinking Further – These require more thought and often require the student to give an opinion. They may include additional research and map work. These questions are great for discussions with older children.
  • Defining Words – This section has words that the child (or adult) might need to look up.
  • Recipes to make from the time period
  • Bible Studies – “When God Means Evil for Good” and a few others. These are simple but will make you think!

The study guide is well done. You can use whatever parts work for your family. Whether you are looking for a history study or just want to listen to a good story, In the Reign of Terror has you covered!

What I Thought

I was very satisfied with In the Reign of Terror. The characters were relatable, the story drew me in and kept me waiting to see what would happen next, and the sounds were very realistic. I felt like I was in France with Harry. When I listen to the audio drama I feel like I am at a theatrical production with my eyes closed. The quality is amazing! The titles from Heirloom Audio Productions never disappointed me in the past, and neither did this one. You can read my previous reviews of The Cat of Bubastes  and  The Dragon and the Raven.

Their dramas are a step above any other that I have listened to. I think they are a wonderful way to learn more about history and dig deeper into a time period. I highly recommend it!

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

In the Reign of Terror {Heirloom Audio Productions Reviews}
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Quik-Sculpting Kit ~ Review

I don’t know about you, but I am not the crafty mom. When AJ was younger I tried. But most of my attempts ended up a waste of time. I need projects that are easy to do and come with simple instructions. We have yet to make a paper mache model of the earth or to finish our castle out of sugar cubes. When I heard about ACTÍVA Products I was determined that AJ and I would be able to create something fun.

ACTÍVA Products
We were given their Rigid Wrap and CelluClay Quik-Sculpting Kit and had access to a free eBook, ACTÍVA Products’ Favorite Sculpture KIDS CRAFTS. The eBook is available to anyone who signs up for the ACTÍVA newsletter. It has quite a few ideas so you should check it out if you are looking for sculpting craft ideas.

What Was in the Box?

Rigid Wrap and CelluClay Quik-Sculpting Kit
The Rigid Wrap and CelluClay Quik-Sculpting Kit had two rigid wrap plaster cloth packages. Each one had plaster cloth that was four inches wide and five yards long. The plaster cloth is wrapped up tightly and resembles the plaster that the doctor uses to wrap a broken bone. The plaster cloth is easy to cut to your desired size, simple to mold, and dries quickly.

Using the Quik-Sculpting Kit from Activa makes crafts quick and simple!

Along with the plaster cloth there was also an eight ounce bag of CelluClay. It is instant paper mache. The projects that we have completed didn’t call for the CelluClay, and there are no directions on how to use it in the box that we received. From my understanding, you just add water to it and sculpt, but it would be great to know how much water!

The last thing in the box was two pages of project ideas and instructions for the rigid wrap. I was a little disappointed with the project sheet because of the way it was printed. The printing was poor quality. It looks like the paper was put in wrong and caused part of the writing to be off of the page and other parts to be difficult to read. I was very thankful that they offered the free eBook. It gave vivid pictures, and easy to read instructions.

Our Original Plans

Our plan was to try out a bunch of project ideas. Unfortunately, right before I received the kit I found out I was having two surgeries. Crafts got pushed to the back burner while I got ready for the surgeries and while I spent a week in the hospital. By the time I was physically able to do a craft project, I didn’t think I would have time to finish one. But thanks to the fact that the plaster cloth is easy to use and dries fast, I was able to complete one. I plan to have AJ do a few more now that I know how easy it is to use!

I think that she will be making a few Christmas presents using this kit. She really likes the bowl with peppermint candy on it.

My Project

I wanted something quick and easy, so I picked the butterfly. The directions said to cut the template out of the box that everything came in, but I wanted to keep the box. I drew a butterfly on a piece of paper and then copied it onto a piece of cardboard. Then I cut it out. (I later found out that there was a template in the free eBook, but I think mine came out ok.)

Using the Quik-Sculpting Kit from Activa makes crafts quick and simple!

The next step was to cut out strips of the rigid wrap plaster cloth. The directions didn’t say how many to cut. I covered the butterfly with the dry strips and then cut about ten more to make sure I had enough.

Using the Quik-Sculpting Kit from Activa makes crafts quick and simple!

Then I filled a bowl with warm water. I dipped the rigid wrap plaster cloth into the water and then placed it on the cardboard. I made sure to cover it all and to cover the sides. If I was to do this project again, I would have done the back as well, but I didn’t this time.

Using the Quik-Sculpting Kit from Activa makes crafts quick and simple!

I was going to just let the project sit and dry because it says it dries in 30 minutes. But I decided to see how microwaving it worked. I was amazed that you could put the rigid wrap plaster cloth project in the oven or microwave to speed up the drying time!

Using the Quik-Sculpting Kit from Activa makes crafts quick and simple!

Once it was dry, I added more pieces of the rigid wrap plaster cloth. I molded some of them to make a 3-D effect. I created the body of the butterfly and some spots on the wings. It was easy to do. I let it dry in the microwave again.

Using the Quik-Sculpting Kit from Activa makes crafts quick and simple!

Then I gathered the materials I wanted to use to embellish the butterfly.

Using the Quik-Sculpting Kit from Activa makes crafts quick and simple!

I painted it, added glitter, added an antenna, and glued on some eyes. Then I let it sit so that the paint would dry.

Using the Quik-Sculpting Kit from Activa makes crafts quick and simple!

What I Thought

I was very happy with the outcome of my project. The entire thing was finished in less than two hours. That includes the time it took for the paint to dry! I would make some changes if I did the same project in the future, but the changes would be minor. I would smooth out the cloth a little more to make it easier to paint, and I would have made the wings in a flapping motion instead of flat.

The rigid wrap plaster cloth was very easy to use. I could cut it to any size that I wanted. I liked that all I had to do was dip it in water and then place it on the project. There was a little bit of a mess so I would have AJ use it outside, but I have her do most craft projects outside.

I wish that there would have been instructions for the CelluClay. I think I will just play around with the clay to water ratio and see how it works.

We will continue to use the rigid wrap plaster cloth for projects in the future. If this non crafty mom can enjoy making a project with the Quick-Sculpting Kit, then it should be fool proof! The kit would be great for numerous school projects and for crafts. The best part is that the kit is very affordable. I highly recommend the Quik-Sculpting Kit.

See what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew thought and the projects that they created by clicking on the graphic below.

Rigid Wrap and CelluClay Quik-Sculpting Kit {ACTÍVA Products Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Trust Fund Movie ~ Review

Since my foot is still not healing, there are not very many activities that AJ and I can do together for fun. One activity that we are able to do is watch TV. We were recently given the chance to watch a great movie from  Mapelle Films called, Trust Fund. We were also given the book, Love Was Near. The book is designed to be read after you watch the movie. I thought that they would make a fun family time activity for us. I was right!

Mapelle Films - Great movies

About Trust Fund

Trust Fund is a modern day adaptation of the Prodigal Son story from the Bible. The movie stars Jessica Rothe as Reese. Reese’s life is great until one day her mother tragically dies. Reese and her mother were very close and becoming close with her dad was difficult. They were both mourning the loss of her mother so even though she loved her father, they were not as close.

Reese was an aspiring writer. She didn’t want to go to college, but agreed with her dad to try it for a year. Her dad was fully supporting her, but she was not living within her means. She was quickly realizing that being an adult was a lot harder than it looked.

A modern day version of the prodigal son ,

She was lucky enough to find a publisher for the book she was writing. Having her own money from the advance made her want to become more independent. Her dad didn’t know that she spent all of the money she had received from the advance (and then some.) To encourage his daughter’s writing, he paid for her to go to a writing seminar in Europe. But she didn’t spend very much time writing. She met a guy and “fell in love.” And spent the time she should have been writing, seeing Europe on the back of a motorcycle. Reese wanted to stay in Europe with her new boyfriend, but her dad would not let her. She reluctantly returned home.

By accident, Reese saw some papers on her father’s desk. They showed that her mother had left a trust fund for Reese and her sister. Reese was angry! She thought her father was keeping her money from her. That he was being mean. She did the unthinkable. She took money from her father’s business and lest to Europe. Things there weren’t what she had thought and herd boyfriend ward not who he had said he was.

When Reese’s sister discovered what Reese had done, she wanted their dad to call the police, but he didn’t.

You will need too watch the movie to see what happens. It is a very touching movie about a father’s love.

About the Book – Love Was Near

The book is written in diary form. It is in Reese’s point of view. It shows why she did the things that she did. I really like that she didn’t make up a bunch of excuses. She admits that she made mistakes and even tells why she thought it was OK to do the wrong things in the heat of the moment.

A book to go along with Trust Fund

The book is gull of inspirational scriptures that focus on some of the issues that Reese struggled with in the book and movie. There are also numerous places in the book where you can write in it. Questions include things like, which action was worse, spending all of the money without finishing the book or telling a lie to her father. There are a lot of places where the reader is asked to give their opinion or tell what they would have done in the same situation.

While the book is designed to be used after watching the movie, I feel it would also be a great book for a teenage girl to read and work through on its own.

How We Used Trust Fund and Love Was Near

AJ and I watched the movie together. She thought the movie was good but thought that Reese made some bad decisions. I read through the book in about an hour. I really enjoyed it but decided not to have AJ read it at this time. It talks a lot about relationships with your father, and since she doesn’t have a dad I thought it wasn’t the right book for her at this time.

What We Thought

We both enjoyed the movie. The story line was good, it moved at a nice pace, and the acting was well done. There are some scenes that parents might find inappropriate for younger kids, but I think it would be fine for kids aged 10 and up. Of course use your discretion. The movie doesn’t follow the story in the average cookie cutter way. Instead there are twists and turns to keep you interested. Overall Trust Fund is a good movie with a great message!

The book was great. If AJ’s situation was different she would have read it. It discusses relationships and bad decisions. I would say the appropriate age would vary depending on your child’s maturity level. It encourages them to think through some difficult situations. I appreciate that there are scripture verses sprinkled throughout the book to help your child grow closer to God. I think the journal like feel of the book will keep teens interested in the book.

If you are looking for a great movie, then Trust Fund may be exactly what you are looking for! Love Was Near is a fun book to help you dig deeper into the themes of the movie. Together they make a great pair.

Mapelle Films has also designed a download study guide to help small groups dig deeper into the themes of the movie. So if you are looking for a good movie to watch with the family, or if you are looking for a product to discuss, Trust Fund will fit the bill!

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



The New Testament Activity-Pak ~ Review

*Read to the bottom to get a code for a free project from Home School in the Woods!*

We love using the hands on approach to learning, especially when it comes to subjects like history. We have used quite a few products from Home School in the Woods in the past, and have never been disappointed. So when AJ and I were given the chance to try out one of their Activity-Paks we were excited. There are a few different products available including; The Old Testament, The New Testament, Composers, Artists, and a new product Make-a-State Activity.

Home School in the Woods
We had the opportunity to review The New Testament Activity-Pak.

What is The New Testament Activity-Pak?

Hands-on History Activity-Pak: The New Testament
The New Testament Activity-Pac is a great way for your child to get an overview of the people and events of the New Testament. It includes a lapbook with 15 mini books for your child to create. Each one is a little different. Your child will learn about the lineage of Jesus, the miracles that he preformed, the prophecies he fulfilled, and more. They will also learn about each of his disciples and the places that Paul wrote to.

The study also includes The Armor of God activity. In this activity your child will learn all of the parts of the Armor of God that they should put on each day. You can glue a picture of your child on the page. Then after learning about all of the parts of the Armor of God, like the shield of faith, your child can symbolically put the armor on each day, as they put the armor on their picture. This is a great visual for younger kids to understand more about the Armor of God.

Hands-on History Activity-Pak: The New Testament
The final part of the study is the New Testament News. This is a news paper that your child fills out based on the events that took place in the New Testament. There are a few different ways to make the news paper. If you are crafty, you can make it look like a scroll from that time period, or you can simply make it like a regular newspaper. I love that there are options. The news paper has story headings and ads placed to help your child create their news paper.

How We Used The New Testament Activity-Pak

The Activity-Paks are recommended for kids in grades 3 through 8. AJ is just outside of this range as she just started 9th grade. Our goal was to use this Activity-Pak as a jumping off point for a year long study of the New Testament. This is not how it is designed to be used. Your student should be able to complete the study in about a month depending on the pace you go. There are not really any directions or a set schedule to follow. That is one thing that I love about Home School in the Woods, you can use the materials however they fit your family.

AJ started with the lapbook. She started with the Lineage from David to Jesus. I had expected her to have to look something up, but she didn’t. All she had to do was cut out the booklet and glue it into the lapbook. I decided she needed to do more than that. So I had her look up each verse that was listed that showed the lineage. There were quite a few verses. But I think having her look them up in her own Bible cements the facts better.

Then she worked on the Prophesies Fulfilled mini book. This had her cut out pages that had lists of Old Testament Prophesies and where they were found in the Old Testament. Then It had the verses in the New Testament where Jesus fulfilled the prophesies. There were text boxes with each verse written out that AJ had to cut out and match to the correct prophesies. This was one of AJ’s favorite mini books. As she was doing it, she looked up each verse in her Bible and then glued the verse that matched into the booklet.

She thought the Armor of God project was a little babyish, so she looked everything up and glued the pieces to the paper. Then instead of hanging it in her room, she just put it in her folder.

She also worked on the newspaper. She added a few articles to it and drew a few adds.

What We Thought About The New Testament Activity-Pak

Honestly, we were a little disappointed with the New Testament study. The products we have used in the past, like the US Election Lap-Pak, had more detailed instructions. There is not any text included, because you can use your own Bible, but I did expect some instruction. The news paper doesn’t give you details as to where to find the information to write the article. You are given an article headline and then have to look and find where in the New Testament the event took place. I think that simply adding the chapter where the child could read about the event would be extremely helpful.

The lapbook pieces include a lot of coloring and cutting, but they don’t really promote learning. None of the ones that AJ has completed required her to write anything. They have all of the answers available and just need to cut and paste. I understand that this is great for a third grader, but it isn’t as great for a seventh or eighth grader. I wish that there were at least a few booklets that had blank options available so that older students could write some of the information. That is one thing that I really appreciated with the US Election Lap-Pak.

This particular product was not a great fit for our family. But if you are looking for a simple supplement to your current Bible study this would be perfect. It would also be great for students who like Lapbooks but don’t enjoy writing. AJ did learn a lot from this study, and I plan to have her finish it, it just wasn’t as good as the other products that we have used from Home School in the Woods in the past.

Other Products from Home School in the Woods

Home School in the Woods offers numerous hands on history products that make teaching history fun. AJ loved their Middle Ages Study. If you are looking for a hands on approach to history you might want to try out one of their other product lines including; Time Traveler American, Lap-Paks, or their Timeline Trio. We plan to try out more products from Home School in the Woods in the future!

Home School in the Woods has also recently announced something NEW! They will be selling some of their products alacarte. You will be able to purchase individual items that are normally found in packages. There are quite a few learning games and time line pages available. To kick off this new idea, they are giving away a free Erie Canal project. Just use the code alacarte at checkout.

Click on the graphic below to see what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew thought about a variety of products from Home School in the Woods.

Hands-on History {Home School in the Woods Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Lightning Literature ~ Review

Finding a literature curriculum for AJ wasn’t easy. Most of the programs that I looked at wanted her to read ten or twelve books for the course. While that may be a good fit for some students, it isn’t a good fit for AJ. AJ is a reluctant reader who is a little bit below grade level in reading comprehension. She can usually read and understand any book that I assign her, but it takes her a little longer and she may need to read a section a few times to completely grasp it.

When I was about to give up and make my own literature program, I was blessed with an amazing review. We were given the opportunity to review the American Mid-Late 19th Century Lightning Literature book from Hewitt Homeschooling.  It looked exactly like what we needed.

Lightning Literature A High School Literature Course

American Literature: Mid-Late 19th Century

This is a high school literature and composition course. It is designed for students who are new to Lightning Literature. It can be used by a student at any level in high school.

The course is designed to last for one semester, but it can be used for a full year long course if you add in your own grammar program.

The main part of the course is the student guide. The student guide is a 170 page soft covered book. It is written by Elizabeth Kamath. The book starts with an introduction and is then broken into four units. The end of the book has discussion questions, additional reading lists, project ideas, and a course schedule.


The course introduction does much more than explain how to use the course. It is full of information on how to properly read and write both poetry and prose. It has basic writing guidelines and is a good place for the student to reference throughout the year.

Unit 1

In this unit your student will read Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The literary lesson will focus on theme. Your student will also read selections from the poem, Leaves of Grass. They will learn about sound and imagery in poetry.

Unit 2

This unit has your student learning about humor while reading Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. They will also read a short story, “The Outcast of Poker Flat.” While reading the short story they will learn about local color.

Unit 3

Your student will learn about register (or tone as I was taught) while reading a selection of poetry written by Paul Laurence Dunbar. They will also read through The Red Badge of Courage while learning about description.

Unit 4

The final unit teaches your student about figurative language while they read through poems written by Emily Dickson. They will also study point of view while reading through The call of the wild.

All of the poetry and short stories are included in the Student Guide. You will need to purchase the four novels separately.

How each Unit is Set Up

Each unit begins with an introduction. It includes a short biography about the author and a little bit of information about the selection your student will read. It includes things for the student to think about while they read.

There are comprehension questions for the student to answer as they read. The questions are fairly easy and most of the answers can be found directly in the text. Some questions do require the student to think critically about the selection.

Lightning Literature A High School Literature Course

The student then reads through the literary lesson. In this section the author explains concepts while using examples from the reading selection. The lessons are very well written and self explanatory. I was impressed that after reading through the lesson, AJ was able to understand how the setting of a story can affect the theme.

The final assignment after each reading selection is the writing exercise. The student is given a choice of five or more writing assignments. There is a variety of options including; opinion papers, compare and contrast papers, augmentative papers, short stories, poems, and more. For each novel the student completes two of the writing exercises. They complete one exercise after poems or short stories.

Lightning Literature A High School Literature Course

I also received a teacher guide. It included additional information about the course and scheduling. The main perk of the teacher guide was that it included all of the answers to the comprehension questions.

How We Used American Mid-Late 19th Century

Since AJ struggles with literature, we decided to follow the full year plan. We added in a grammar program and followed the schedule in the back of the book. Most weeks it had her reading five chapters in the book and answering the comprehension questions.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin is a very long book, so we were not scheduled to get to the literary lesson or writing assignments during the review period. I wanted to provide a full review, so I had AJ read through the literary lesson on theme for Uncle Tom’s Cabin. She hasn’t completed a writing assignment yet, but she thinks that they look interesting. Right now she thinks she will answer the following question.

Write a paper focusing on any character other than Tom in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Discuss the ways Stowe used that character as an argument against slavery.

The year long schedule gives her a week to write and revise each paper.

Lightning Literature A High School Literature Course

What We Thought About American Mid-Late 19th Century

American Mid-Late 19th Century is the literature and composition course that is perfect for AJ. It would be too much for her to complete two student guides in a year, but one guide is very doable. This option is a huge selling point for me! The novels, poems, and short stories offer a good amount of variety. We both enjoy that there isn’t any busy work. The student reads and writes quality material that is related to the lesson.

I like that she is challenged to write in so many different ways, and that she is given enough time to do a good job on her writing. I do wish that there was a bit more writing instruction in the book. The introduction is great, but there are some writing types that it doesn’t cover. That is our only complaint about the program.

I feel the lessons about poetry will really help AJ to finally grasp some of the difficult concepts. Poetry can be difficult to teach, but I think this will make it possible.

If you are looking for a literature and composition course that is flexible, free of busy work, and cost effective, then the American Mid-Late 19th Century Lightning Literature may be exactly what you are looking for. Click on the graphic below to find out what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew thought about Hewitt Homeschooling.

Hewitt Homeschooling {Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Introductory Physics from Novare Science & Math ~ Review

AJ plans to go into a scientific field after high school. So I am constantly looking for good quality resources that will really prepare her for college and beyond. I want something that helps her to fully understand the information, beyond just learning to pass a test. When we were given the chance to review Introductory Physics from Novare Science & Math I thought that it would be a great fit for AJ.

What is Introductory Physics?

Introductory Physics is a textbook written by John D. Mays that is almost 400 pages long. Unlike most physic courses, it is designed to be used by freshmen students. The book provides a very solid overview of physics in a way that a student who has taken or is taking Algebra 1 should be able to understand.

Novare Introductory Physics, 2nd Edition
It is smaller than most high school science texts because it is a mastery based program. A student should be able to learn and understand the information in this textbook over the course of a year. That is not often the case with other science textbooks.

Parts of Introductory Physics

The book begins with a Preface for Teachers. In this section the philosophy behind the textbook is explained. The mastery approach is explained as well as information about calculator use and class homework. It also lists optional materials that would be helpful in teaching the course; including the Teacher Resource CD that we received. (We received a download of the CD for review purposes, but if you purchase one you will receive a physical CD.) This section is fairly short, but I felt more comfortable teaching the course after reading it.

There is then a Preface for Students. This section explains what is expected of the student. It also provides study strategies to help them become successful in the course.

The book is then divided into 13 chapters. Two of the chapters are optional, chapters 8 and 13. The author recommends skipping them when used for 9th grade students because the other chapters provide more than enough to cover in a course. The math is also more difficult. These chapters can be used if the student is older or has more math experience.

The 13 chapters are:

1. The Nature of Scientific Knowledge

2. Motion

3. Newton’s Laws of Motion

4. Energy

5. Momentum

6. Atoms, Matter, and Substances

7. Heat and Temperature

8. Pressure and Buoyancy*

9. Waves, Sound, and Light

10. Introduction to Electricity

11. DC Circuits

12. Fields and Magnetism

13. Geometric Optics*

How the Chapters are Set Up

Each chapter begins with a list of objectives that the student should be able to do by the end of the chapter. Throughout the chapter there plenty of examples, diagrams, and color photos to help explain topics. When new formulas are explained there are multiple worked out examples. The author shows all of the steps so that the student can completely understand how and why to use the formula.

One thing that is neat about this science book is that the student learns about more than scientific concepts and formulas. They also learn about famous scientists who changed history. AJ enjoyed learning about the scientists as well as the theories that they came up with.

At the end of each chapter there is a set of exercises for the student to complete. For most chapters the exercises are broken into two sections; mathematical conversions or computations and study questions. The number of questions and question types varies by the chapter. Chapter two has 36 mathematical questions and 16 study questions, where chapter 12 just has 12 study questions.

The answers to the mathematical questions are listed in the textbook after the questions. This way the student can check their answer to make sure they are using the formulas correctly. The only down side is that the problems are not worked out, the answers are just given. So if the student doesn’t know why they got a question wrong, they are forced to figure the answer out on their own. The good news is that you can purchase all of the answers worked out separately. The answers to the study questions are not listed, but they can be easily found in the chapter.

The student should complete five experiments during the course. The directions and helpful information about the experiments are listed in the back of the book.

The last 62 pages of the textbook is devoted to helpful information. It includes a glossary, reference data, formulas and objectives, the laboratory experiments, important scientists, a section on accurate measurements, and an index. I was surprised by how much information the back of the book contained. I especially liked having a list of all the formulas and objectives that AJ needed to master in one place.

You could teach the course using only the textbook, but it would be easier with the Teacher Resource CD.

The Teacher Resource CD contains:

Course Overview and Schedule – This shows how you can teach the course in an average of four days a week. It breaks down each lesson showing what parts of the book the student should read and what problems they should work out. To me, this section was very valuable. It would be hard to figure out how much a student should do each day and how long you should spend on a chapter without the schedule.

Weekly Review Guides – These are for the student to do in addition to the book work. It includes things that the student should reread or study so that they retain the material. It also includes a few problems that the student should be able to work out.

Weekly review assignments help the student master the material.

Weekly Quizzes and Keys – Each answer is worked out so that you can easily grade the quiz. In the course overview there is an explanation on how to grade and what percent each thing is worth.

Semester Exams and Keys – Again everything is worked out for you.

Sample Answers for Verbal Questions – This has answers to the study questions from the textbook as well as the written answers from the quizzes and exams.

How We Used Introductory Physics

AJ worked through the book a few times a week. Chapter one was really hard for her. It went in-depth about what truth is and how we know something is true. She had a hard time grasping the information. To be honest the section was a little hard for me to understand. It is well written and there isn’t anything wrong with it, but it is something that I was never taught before. I feel the chapter is important as it explains how science can change and that scientific facts are not necessarily true. She was a little frustrated, since science usually comes easy to her, but once we got past chapter one things got a lot better.

Your 9th grade student will understand Physics with this course!

Chapter two was on motion. This section had her start off by converting measurements. She liked how each step was shown. It showed her how to convert gallons per seconds into liters per hour and other similar conversions. It also went into detail about significant digits. She had learned about significant digits in the past, but this was the first time that she really understood why they were important.

Each day she would read through the section that was assigned and we would discuss it. She would try to do the sample problems on her own and would answer any questions as we got to them. She would also complete whatever review activities were assigned.

I decided not to have her do the weekly quizzes at this time. We had already planned to have her do biology this year and will put this course away until next year. At that time I will have her do the quizzes to make sure she remembers everything, and then she will do the quizzes weekly.

What We Thought about Introductory Physics

After the first chapter AJ really enjoyed the course. She liked that there were enough pictures and diagrams to help her understand the topics. She also enjoyed the touches of history throughout the book. Her favorite part was the math. She loves math and liked to see it used in real life situations. The word problems were often set up to model real life. AJ struggles a little bit with word problems, but I can see that doing the problems in the book have helped her to improve already.

She wasn’t a fan of some of the reading. She is a struggling reader, so there were times when I had to re-explain something to her. There is a higher level vocabulary than she is use to and there are a lot of scientific terms used. But I don’t think this would be a problem for a student who is reading solidly at a 9th grade level.

AJ’s only other complaint was the number of experiments. She is use to programs that have experiments almost every week, only having five for the entire course was disappointing to her. What I did was use the objectives in the back of the book to add in a few more experiments to help her. I actually like only having five experiments. Then I can add more if I want, but I am not forced to find materials for twenty or thirty experiments that may not really help her learn anything. If you want to make this a lab course, you can purchase Experiments for Introductory Physics and ASPC it is designed to go along with the course.

What I Thought

I really liked the companion CD. It made teaching the course easy. All I had to do was print the weekly review sheet and follow the schedule. Having the answers to the study questions made grading AJ’s work easy. I didn’t have to read through the chapter to make sure she had the correct answer.

I feel like the lessons were broken down into a good size. The amount of reading and problems to be completed in a day was reasonable. Even my slow reader was able to finish her daily work in under 45 minutes. I also like that the course can be taught in four days a week. This leaves time for additional studying and lets you spend longer on a section if needed without falling behind.

I think the idea of this mastery based science is genius. I know when AJ finishes the course next year that she will have a solid grasp on physics, and that she won’t forget it right away.

If you are looking for a mastery based science textbook that includes scientific history, has great explanations, plenty of examples, and doesn’t include a lot of busy work, then Introductory Science from Novare Science & Math may be exactly what you are looking for.

Introductory Physics is just one of many books from Novare Science & Math

Novare Science & Math also offers other science courses. Other members of the crew received Earth Science: God’s World, Our Home   (a middle school science course) and General Chemistry. Other members of the crew received a neat reference book for teachers called, Science for Every Teacher. Click on the graphic below to see what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew thought about the products from Novare Science & Math!

Biblical Based Science {Novare Science & Math Reviews}
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UnLock Geometry ~ Review

AJ loves math and it comes easy to her. The only thing she doesn’t like is writing everything down and taking forever to work out the problems. It is almost like torcher to her to have to show her work when she can easily figure a problem out in her head. Since it is a subject that she excels in, I want her to enjoy it.

A few years ago we had the chance to review the Pre-Algebra course from UnLock Math. AJ loved the set up. It had video lessons, enough practice and repetition, and didn’t take her all day to complete. When I saw that they were coming out with a new course, UnLock Geometry , I knew we had to try it out. AJ was excited to see how geometry would compare to UnLock Pre-Algebra.

UnLock Math

What is  UnLock Geometry?

UnLock Geometry is a full high school geometry course that is completely online. It is taught by Alesia Blackwood, a certified teacher who is engaging and interesting to watch. The course is broken into 15 units with an average of about 8 lessons per unit. The units are:

  1. Prerequisite Skills
  2. Logic & Proofs
  3. Distance & Length
  4. Angles, Lines & Transversals
  5. Triangles
  6. Polygons
  7. Circles
  8. Circles Pt. 2
  9. Perimeter
  10.  Area
  11. Geometry in the Coordinate Plane
  12. Triangles Pt. 2
  13. Transformations
  14. 3D Geometry & Volume
  15. 3D Geometry & Surface Area

When your student logs in to their account they see a list of the units in the course, their grade so far in the course, and how much of the course they have completed. In the beginning all of the units have a purple lock next to them. When the student is working on the unit the lock opens, and when all of the lessons have been completed the lock turns blue.

UnLock Geometry - A full high school level course that is completely online.

When the student clicks on the rocket they are taken to their unit page. There they will see a list of lessons, quizzes, and tests for the unit. There is a quiz after every two to three lessons and a test at the end of each unit.

UnLock Geometry - A full high school level course that is completely online.

When they click on a lesson they are taken to a page where they see their lesson. It is broken into six sections.

UnLock Geometry - A full high school level course that is completely online.

Parts of the Lesson

  • Warm Up – This section has 5 questions based on the previous lesson.
  • Video Lesson – This is the main part of the lesson. The teacher introduces new concepts and vocabulary, explains new theorems and equations, and works out sample problems. Each video varies, but most range from 7 to 15 minutes.
  • Practice Problems – This section has 10 problems related to the lesson. The student can complete this section as many times as they need. Each time they will get different problems and only their highest score is saved. After almost every problem the student is shown the solution to the problem and how it was worked out. That way the student is able to learn from any of their mistakes.
  • Stay Sharp – This section has 10 problems from any previous lesson. This is a great way to practice skills from other units. It also forces students to really master the material. If the student gets a problem wrong they are given a similar problem so that they have the opportunity to practice the skills that they need more assistance with.
  • Challenge Yourself – This is a single question that requires the student to think beyond the lesson. Sometimes AJ finds them too difficult to even attempt, but most of the time she can at least try them. She likes these because they make her think. Once the student tries it once they can not attempt it again, but they are given a detailed explanation as to how it was solved. This section doesn’t negatively affect the student’s grade, but correct answers can help them to earn up to 5% extra credit at the end of the course.
  • Reference Notes – This is the lesson in printable form. It has new vocabulary, notes, and worked out examples. The notes are colorful and have a lot of information.


After each part of the lesson the student is given their grade for the section. They are able to review anything that they got wrong and they can redo the section if they want or need. A passing score isn’t required to move on to the next part of the lesson, but the student should make sure they understand the concept before moving on.

On the main page the student can see their grade. They can view a more detailed grade by clicking on the Progress Report. There they will see a cumulative grade as well as a grade for each unit.UnLock Geometry - A full high school level course that is completely online.When you click on the Gradebook you can see everything that your student has done. It shows each part of the lesson as well as when it was completed and how long it took. You can also click to see the problems that the student worked on and the solutions. Both the Progress Report and the Gradebook have the option to print so you can keep the grades for your record.

How We Used UnLock Geometry

AJ logged into the program most days of the week. She was able to easily navigate the program and use it independently. She completed one lesson a day most days. In the beginning some of the prerequisite skills were very easy for her. On those days she did two lessons a day.

When she logged in she would start with the Warm Up questions and then watch the video. Even though the reference notes are printable, AJ takes notes during the videos. I think it helps her to remember the information a little bit better when she writes it down.

UnLock Geometry - A full high school level course that is completely online.

She works out the problems in her head or on a whiteboard. Since I can print the grade reports I don’t mind not having a written record of the problems that she worked out. If she has any issues while solving the problems I have her read the solution so that she understands why she got it wrong. If she isn’t happy with her score she completes another set of problems. When she is all finished we look over the reference notes and see if she needs to print them out.

Each day the student answers 26 questions, but they vary in difficulty. Most days a lesson takes her 30 to 40 minutes.

Then when she is done with the lesson she takes the quiz if there is one.

What We Thought About UnLock Geometry

AJ loves UnLock Geometry. The lessons are to the point and explained very well. The teacher teaches new concepts a little at a time so that the student is able to really understand how to complete difficult problems. She also explains the why behind math. There are a lot of theorems and properties to learn in geometry. The teacher goes through and explains each one and why they work. She also encourages the students to try and prove the theorems on their own to help improve their logical thinking skills. AJ says the best part is that the teacher is fun to watch and not boring.

If you are looking for a solid math program that will make sure that your student really understands the concepts, You need UnLock Math!

AJ also likes that she doesn’t have to work anything out on paper. There are plenty of problems where she has to show her work on the computer by showing the correct next step of a problem, so she is still getting the practice but she doesn’t need to write it all down.

In the beginning there is a little bit of a learning curve. You have to enter the answers a specific way and have to pay attention to how a problem needs to be submitted. Once your student knows what to do though, it is smooth sailing.

I like that I can easily see everything AJ has done. I can see if she completed a set of practice problems a few times because she didn’t understand something, or if she was able to speed through a section because she really understood it. One thing that I find very useful that I can print out whatever I want for my records.

As with any online program there will possibly be a few glitches along the way. We only ran into one, and customer service was wonderful. I had a reply to my email in a few hours and the problem I had was fixed.

UnLock Math is a wonderful program. In fact we like it so much that AJ will be using it as her main math program this year. If you are looking for a solid math program that will make sure that your student really understands the concepts, I would highly recommend trying out UnLock Math. They currently have courses for; UnLock Pre-Algebra , UnLock Algebra1, UnLock Algebra2, and UnLock Geometry .

Would you like to get $50 off on an annual purchase of UnLock Pre-Algebra, UnLock Algebra1, or UnLock Algebra2? Here is a coupon for you.

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

Pre-Algebra, Algebra and Geometry {UnLock Math Reviews}
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Nature’s Beautiful Order ~ Review

AJ loves science and wants to become a veterinarian, so we were both excited with our recent review. We were given Nature’s Beautiful Order from Memoria Press.

Memoria Press

What is Nature’s Beautiful Order?

Nature’s Beautiful Order is, “An Introduction to the Study of Animals Taught by the Classical Naturalists.” It came with the book, a student guide, and the teacher key.

Nature’s Beautiful Order
The book is a 187 page soft covered book. It is broken down into 18 chapters. The book starts off by explaining what an animal is. Then through various chapters, different types of  animals are examined in more depth. Some of them include; lobsters, bees, turtles, deer, birds, and farm friends. The final two chapters in the book are about man, the upright animal. Each chapter is broken down into smaller sections making it easier to study the book a little at a time. There are black and white diagrams and illustrations sprinkled throughout.

The book is written by Christopher O. Blum and John A. Cuddeback. Throughout the book the authors quote and use works from other famous scientists including; Aristotle, James Audubon, Jean-Henri Fabre, and St-George J. Mivart. Nature’s Beautiful Order is full of fascinating information that is sure to please any animal lover. However, because there is a lot of information in the book written by scientists of a different time, sometimes the wording and vocabulary seem odd. In the beginning AJ had some difficulty in reading those sections. I had to re-explain some of the concepts. As she continued to read, she became more use to the wording. Your student needs to be a strong reader to use this study on their own, even then you may need to help explain a few things.

The student guide is 51 pages. There is a two to three page section for each chapter in the book. All of the questions in the student guide are short answer. Most of the answers can be found in the text, but some require a little more critical thinking. If the book is read and understood, the student shouldn’t have any problem filling in the student guide.

The teacher key is also 51 pages long. It is an exact copy of the student guide, but it has the answers all filled in.

How We Used Nature’s Beautiful Order

There was not a schedule included with the study, so I decided to have AJ work on the study at a pace of about a chapter a week. Since each chapter was broken down into a different number of sections, the amount of work each week varied. Some weeks, like the first one, there were five sections in the chapter. So each day AJ would read the section and then answer any questions in the student guide that went with the reading. Other chapters, like the one on bees, only had three sections. So that week she only worked on the study three days of the week. I decided to have her do it that way so that she would read the entire chapter over the week.

Most of the time we would discuss the reading and I would help to explain anything that she was unsure of. Then I would check her answers with the teacher key to make sure she understood what she was learning.

What We Thought About Nature’s Beautiful Order

Overall AJ really enjoyed the study. She still has more to do and she will continue to use it as a supplement to  her Animal Science course. While the reading level surprised me, it was a good challenge for her. She has read numerous books about animals, but she still learned new things in each section that she read. I like that the study is laid back and isn’t full of activities to complete. It was easy to add to our day.

If you have a student who is interested in animals, Nature’s Beautiful Order may be exactly what you are looking for.

Other members of the Homeschool Review Crew were given the chance to review different products from Memoria Press including; Latin and various Latin programs. Click on the graphic below to see more reviews.

Latin, Nature and Trees {Memoria Press Reviews}
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The Typing Coach ~ Review

When I was in high school we bought our first computer. It was around that time that all of my teachers were requiring reports to be either typed or written in pen, and sense my spelling skills left a lot to be desired, I typed everything. While spell check was wonderful, typing took me forever! Over the years I got a lot faster, but I was still using the hunt and peck method.

I have used numerous typing programs over the years, but never mastered typing correctly. I can type at a decent speed, but I glance at the keyboard too often and use the backspace button a little too frequently. AJ is the same way. She has tried various programs but the skill hasn’t stuck. Over the past few weeks we have been trying out a typing program that is different from anything we have used in the past. We have been using The Typing Coach Online Typing Course from The Typing Coach.

What is The Typing Coach?

The Typing Coach

The Typing Coach is a self paced online typing program. Instead of using animated characters or games, it focuses on typing. Consistent practice is key for this program. It is recommended that you practice for 20 minutes each day and that you work on each lesson until it is mastered with out any errors.

The course starts off with a lesson on Good Posture. There is an audio lesson that explains the proper way to sit along with a few videos that have examples. The videos also show correct keyboard and finger placement. Once you have mastered posture, you move onto the second lesson where you start to type.

Prior to the lesson you will need to print off a student packet and a learning checks packet. The lessons are completed in your own word processing program. We use Open Office, but any program that allows you to type should work.

Once your word processing program is open you click on the audio lesson online and follow the directions. What makes this program different from anything we have tried in the past is the audio learning. You are not looking at a picture of a keyboard on the screen or constantly looking down at the keyboard. Instead you are given directions like, “using your right hand type the L with your ring finger.”

There are also times during the lesson where you are instructed to practice typing the text in the student packet. While you are typing music is played. You are instructed not to use the backspace and to retype each line until you can do so with out any mistakes. I like that this forces you to practice typing something from paper, like you would normally do when typing something that you had written. The lessons seem to last about twenty minutes each.

The Typing Coach
When you think you have mastered the lesson you log into the testing and practice center. There you decide which test to take and you type a selection from the learning checks packet. Once you are finished you are told your score and how fast you typed. If you make any mistakes you are suppose to redo the lesson. If you master the section then you can move on to the next lesson.

What We Thought

AJ wasn’t too excited to try this program out. She likes to play games and enjoys fun colors. But obviously those programs haven’t helped her in the past. She doesn’t like to practice things she thinks she already knows, so the idea that she would have to redo a lesson if she made even one mistake didn’t sit well with her. But once she started it her attitude changed. The lessons are a simple part of our day. We still have a long way to go in the program, but I am already seeing her speed and accuracy improve.

I like the set up of the program, but it did take me a little bit to get use to. The biggest challenges were not using the backspace key and learning to practice typing each letter instead of looking at a word and typing the word. For example, looking and typing l e a r n instead of looking at the word learn, remembering it and trying to type it. This was different from any other program I tried, so it was hard for me at first. My speed has improve.  I am still working through the program but, I have noticed that I don’t look down near as often.

Overall, it is a good program that has helped both AJ and myself and I plan to continue practicing so that we continue to improve.

If you are looking for a no nonsense approach to learning how to type, that is affordable, and easy to use, then The Typing Coach may be exactly what you are looking for. There is the option to try a lesson before you purchase, so try it out and see if it will be a good fit for your family.

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

The Typing Coach Online Typing Course {The Typing Coach Reviews}
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