Thursday, July 21, 2016

A TOS Review: Heirloom Audio Productions

Beric The Briton Heirloom Audio Productions  Review

We love adventure novels! We love audio books! And when you can combine the two, it is a real treat. GA Henty is considered even today one of the greatest English novelists of all time, and his stories can take you to a time and place that is no longer and make you feel as if you were there. Heirloom Audio Productions has once again outdone themselves with the newest product, Beric the Briton.

Beric The Briton Heirloom Audio Productions  Review

This is our 3rd review for Heirloom Audio, having enjoyed In Freedom's Cause and With Lee in Virginia in years' past. Beric the Briton lived up to, if not exceeded, the expectations the kids and I have for this vendor.

Set around the 1st century AD at the height of the Roman Invasion and the beginning of Nero's rule of Rome, the story focuses around a young man named Beric. Beric is a chieftain of a tribe in Brittania, just at the time the Romans came to conquer and claim the land for their own. Raised to rule his people, Beric's mother, the chieftainess, encouraged him to pursue a Roman education. Because of this opportunity, he is put into a position torn between loyalty to his people and the admiration of the Romans and the lives they live. But that will not be enough to save him from the inevitable. When the time comes, he will fight with all he has. Beric and his best friend are captured and forced to become gladiators in the capitol of Rome. Here, in the least likely of places, they learn about true freedom - the freedom that comes through faith in the savior, Christus.

For the purpose of review, I received the two-cd set of the audio production, two and a half hours of non stop action. I also received several online resources as well:

  • an MP3 download of Beric the Briton
  • Beric the Briton EBook by GA Henty (389 pages)
  • the complete soundtrack on MP3 download
  • downloadable poster you can print off
  • Live the Adventure newsletter
  • inspirational verse poster
  • behind the scene videos
  • Study Guide (50 pages)
While we haven't used the study guide yet (we are still on summer break), I looked through it and was very impressed. I will enjoy using this with the kids this fall when we start back to school. The study guide is basically broken down into three parts: Listening Well, Thinking Further, and Defining Words. There are also many resources and activities such as recipes, pictures of famous landmarks, interesting historical tidbits, and so much more. I am excited to see the kids make even more connections between this time in history and Paul's biblical accounts of the time of Nero and the Roman Invasion.

This story is completely engrossing - two and a half hours of edge of your seat action and suspense. You will be drawn into the drama of faith and loyalty, war and love, peace and truth.The voices will, not surprisingly, seem familiar to some - actors famous from Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Dr Who and many more. The production is so very well done, I just can't say enough about it. We are true fans of Heirloom Audio, and we would recommend this story to anyone who loves adventure!


Beric The Briton Heirloom Audio Productions  Review


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Beric The Briton Heirloom Audio Productions  Review


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Friday, July 8, 2016

A TOS Review: Laurelwood Books

Latin and Penmanship {Laurelwood Books  Review}

Handwriting can be that subject that is the fight of the school day. I've heard many excuses and complaints, such as: "I write in every subject - why do I have to practice it again???" Or, "Nobody uses cursive anymore, why do I have to learn it???" And, my favorite: "I can use a computer keyboard for all my subjects. It's not important what my handwriting looks like." I'm sure you've heard these or others from your children, as well. That's why I was hoping to see something that may interest my 8 year old in practicing his penmanship this summer. We were chosen to review a Laurelwood Books product called Patriotic Penmanship, Grade 3.


Latin and Penmanship {Laurelwood Books  Review}


Laurelwood Books has been around helping the homescool community for 25 years. For many, they have become a one stop shop for all their curriculum needs. I had never used them before so I was interested in seeing the great variety of products that they offer.

Patriotic Penmanship is a consumable workbook/handwriting program that stretches from kindergarten through 12th grade, including transition and review books. It is so much more than a penmanship practice time, though. With Patriotic Penmanship, you get the opportunity to expose your child to pieces of important works of literature, historical quotes and speeches, or scripture referencing the freedoms we value as Americans today. There can be many rabbit trails to chase with this program, I can assure you! This could truly become a unit study on American History, giving you the chance to research some lesser known patriots that helped form and shape the ideals of our great nation.

Caleb has had a little practice with cursive, but very little. He is already beginning to improve after only a few lessons, but I realized on the third or fourth day of him doing these assignments that he really was guessing at what he was writing. Learning to write each individual letter was no problem for him...connecting them to make words was another thing entirely. I noticed how quickly he was doing the assignments, so I sat down with him and asked him about the excerpt he was copying from. He looked at me blankly. I asked him if he had read the excerpt before beginning the assignment, and he turned a little red when he told me that he couldn't understand it. What he really meant was that he couldn't decipher the words written in cursive. So back to the beginning we went. Learning to write and learning to draw can definitely be linked and be a great starting point, but when a child is still drawing and not making connections to what he is actually writing, cursive can be difficult. So we began to break down each word as we went. It took a little more time and effort, but I think it's going to make a big difference. He still isn't crazy about cursive and would rather print, but I am glad to be spending this year working on the skill so that he has the option of which he prefers to use later in life.

The readings we have been copying have been very interesting, too. We have had passages from Psalms, quotes from Michelangelo, Ronald Reagan, and Napolean Bonaparte, and a portion of a writing from John Milton, just to name a few. Here is one of our favorites so far:



The lessons give the child a chance to trace the words, then space to write the words for themselves underneath:


As you can see in one of the above photos, the entire alphabet is printed at the bottom of each page. It gives the child a reference whenever they may need it. There are 30 lessons in the workbook, so you could easily finish this book in a short time. The book actually states that one lesson equals one week's worth of work, but Caleb usually took one or two days to do the work. However, as I stated earlier, I will probably use it as an opportunity to do some further research and have him practice each passage throughout the week. 

Patriotic Penmanship is a good program that will give ample time to practice this still important skill. I know many public schools have chosen to eliminate it from their school day, but I believe it is an art that should not be lost. None of my boys may choose to use cursive all the time, but I'm glad that they will have the ability to do so if they choose.



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Latin and Penmanship {Laurelwood Books  Review}


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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

A TOS Review: Notebooking Pages

Notebooking Pages Lifetime Membership Reviews

NotebookingPages.com has given me the opportunity to review their Lifetime Membership. Let me tell you, this could be a game changer...

Have you ever experienced homeschooling burnout? Like you've done it all before, with minimal results, with multiple kids? Or have you hit a brick wall, thinking you were going down the right path, but then WHAM!? Most moms have, and Notebooking Pages founder Debra Reed explains very simply just how it happens. We all fall into the trap of busywork - those things we are told we are supposed to do because that's how it's always been done...even if they don't reap any positive benefits for our students. Busywork can look and be different for every homeschool family, but it is essential to the livelihood of your homeschool to identify and eliminate those areas. She, like most of us moms, wanted to give her children an enriching education while feeding a love of learning, but she was more often than not drying tears of frustration or mopping up meltdowns. Been there? I know for certain that I have. And I don't want to continue to do so.

Notebooking Pages Lifetime Membership Reviews

Notebooking is a pretty straightforward concept that can be incorporated into any teaching methodology. It can be as simple or as detailed as you want it to be. Do your kids love copywork? Great! Do they enjoy freestyle writing assignments with open-ended topics? Fantastic! Do they love to research and research a topic until they know absolutely everything about it, but don't have a way to compile all that they've learned? Even better! Notebooking can work for your family, and it will be amazing to you what they will put together. Notebooking essentially is the compiling of personalized learning. Each child's notebook will be different from another's, even those working side by side. They will put together a type of scrapbook with their own personal touch on whatever topic they are studying. It will not only be a portfolio of what they've learned, but a treasured memory for them to hold up with pride. The notebook is free to contain bits of poetry, their own observations on a subject, pictures, drawings, timelines, and so much more.

Now I'll be the first to admit that this simple system seems a little too good to be true. And I'll even say that I was overwhelmed when I started receiving all the introductory emails with my membership. But when I started digging through all of the information that Debra sent me, I started seeing the potential benefits to incorporating notebooking into our day. The website has many tutorials and videos that will help you get started and to understand the process in which notbooking can benefit your students. Debra lays out a very simple plan of attack: narration and notebooking.

Narration is basically you reading to your children and them retelling you what they have learned. Or in older children, them going to read something then coming to report back to you on what they've read. This even works for documentaries or historical biography shows (which is Canon's favorite way to learn). If narration is completely foreign to you and your kids, don't panic. They will improve the more often you do it. Slow and steady wins the race...

Notebooking Pages has thousands of pages to choose from, in nearly any category you can imagine! Just a few of what we've discovered so far are:

  • Bible character studies (we are studying the Judges right now)
  • Animal science (Canon is really into sharks right now, Caleb chose snakes)
  • Themed lined papers for copywork (Connor is working on poetry memorization)
  • Patriotic designed papers (great for our Elections study)
  • Musical designed papers (Chloe loves all things music and chose some pretty papers to summarize some books)
  • Ancient Greek Cultures (Canon and Caleb love Greek mythology)


I know we've barely scratched the surface as to what all is available to us on this website. There are so many pages, not to mention everything in the Free Resource Center. I am excited for the kids to have so many creative ways to express what they've learned, and I can't wait to see what they create next.

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Notebooking Pages Lifetime Membership Reviews


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