Wednesday, June 29, 2016

A TOS Review: Notebooking Pages

Notebooking Pages Lifetime Membership Reviews 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.

To follow Notebooking Pages on social media, click on these links:
Don't just take my word for it - check out what some other TOS Reviewers thought here:

Notebooking Pages Lifetime Membership Reviews

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A TOS Review: Veritas Press

Old and New Testament Online Self-Paced Bible Veritas Review

I love my private time with the Lord. I love searching His Word, revisiting old stories dear to my heart, and learning something new from a lesson. I want so much to share that and pass that on to my children. As a homeschool family, Bible time together has become a class, or subject of sorts. Sometimes, I think we lose our zeal for our time in the Word if it becomes a chore. We need to remember that God's Word is alive and applies to us today. That's why I was excited to try out Veritas Press' new online courses for my boys and see if it could get them excited about studying again. We reviewed the Self-Paced Bible course, Old Testament 2: Judges to Kings. We received the One Year Family Subscription.

Old and New Testament Online Self-Paced Bible Veritas Review

We chose to review Judges to Kings because we have not had much time together in these passages. I was thrilled to see how this program was going to present the word, and how well it would keep the boys interested. This is a full year curriculum, with 5 lessons a week; so of course with it being summer, we did not move that quickly. There are 128 lessons total, with every 5th lesson being a test. Each lesson is comprised of videos, games, questions, matching, timelines, map studies, historical background, and so much more.

The videos are hosted by two characters, Levi and his father, Jaden. Their animal friends, Vasco the Frog and Palu the Bear, come and help give perspective to the lessons. They are set to be a few hundred years after the judges, in the times of the kings. They are excited to share their Israelite history with the boys and girls that come and visit them. Levi is an inventor, and his father is his voice of reason. Seeing the generations work so closely together to share their history is fun for me and the boys to watch.

Here is Levi, Palu and Vasco

There is a memory song you review in every lesson that teaches the order of events from Judges to Kings. It is actually a continuation of memory work from Old Testament 1. The boys were a little confused when the song began with memorizing the order of events at number 33! But it wasn't a big

The games are very basic, mostly using the arrow keys on your keyboard to jump or collect things. However, as simplistic as they were, the boys really seemed to enjoy them. There is a short game, then a review question, then the game resumes. It kept them motivated, and they had to take turns and work together to complete the lesson.

This game was during the lesson on Ehud

The map lessons and historical background we've found so far have been very interesting. It is one thing to read the scriptures and know that they are true, but if you have no idea of what the culture or people were like at the time, it's not going to make much sense - especially to kids. This part of the lesson really interested Canon. Seeing how small Israel was (is) compared to their stronger neighbors surprised him. And seeing photos of false gods and discovering Baal was the name for many local gods, not just one, was cool, too. We can't wait to see more tidbits like these scattered through the year's lessons.

While there isn't an actual scripture reading through the lessons (they are presented in summaries), it is a great time to grab your Bible and read the related passages during or after the lesson. The boys were only familiar with a couple of the judges before beginning, so they have already learned a lot. I am looking forward to continuing this for their bible time in the coming school year.

Veritas Press has put together a most excellent Bible course. My boys are 8 and 11 (and my 3 year old sits in with them, too), and they both have stayed engaged in the lessons. They are happy to know that this is what we will be using this fall, and they are wanting to continue some this summer! If you are looking for something to make their Bible study come alive for your kids, Veritas Press could be the program for you!

Old and New Testament Online Self-Paced Bible Veritas Review

To keep up with Veritas Press on social media, follow them here:

To see what other reviewers thought of the product, click here to read their posts!

Old and New Testament Online Self-Paced Bible Veritas Review

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Thursday, June 23, 2016

A TOS Review: LearnBop

LearnBop for Families Review

There are several ways to teach math concepts, but online learning is becoming more and more mainstream. However, finding a course that will fit the needs of your student can be a chore. LearnBop has been used by public schools all over the country for several years to identify learning gaps and to develop a customized learning path for the individual student. They are now being introduced to the homeschool community in the hopes of becoming an essential tool for homeschool families. I reviewed LearnBop for Families, a 12 months subscription Family Plan. This plan provides learning for all my students, grades 3-12.

Here's a screenshot of the Parent Page. I can look at all my students' progress from the same screen.

Each grade starts out with a roadmap. There are units to work through, so if you are struggling with a certain concept, you can go directly to it and not have them do work in areas they are already competent in. In each unit, the student is given a warmup lesson. Through this lesson, the program will determine any gaps in what the child knows about this subject. After this lesson, the student is given what are called Building Blocks in order to make it to mastery of the concept. These blocks consist of videos and SolveBops - problems to work in regards to the concept being taught. Through these SolveBops, the student earns awards and achievements as they work toward the goal of mastery. They must complete 5 bops in order to move forward. This is a great way to learn if your child is motivated by virtual reward systems. It also gives them a chart showing progress after every Bop completed, so they know what has been accomplished and what they have left to do. My younger kids enjoyed seeing their progress and thought the rewards were pretty cool, too.

When a SolveBop isn't answered correctly, the program takes the student back through the problem step by step. Depending on what concept it is, there may be many steps. The program is very throrough, and I love that it reminds the kids to check on every detail of the problem before finishing. Math is a very precise subject, and one tiny mistake can change the entire answer. It's a great place for them to remember to double and triple check their answers before clicking the button.

One thing I noticed that I didn't particularly care for was that the boys had to scroll back up every time there was a screen change. When the step by step process began, the boys would be at the bottom of the screen and would have to scroll back up to find out where they were. (Small technical thing, I know, but still kind of an annoyance!)

I also liked the detailed Parents Page. I could see everything the kids were working on and what they have accomplished. It is laid out so well, and it is neat to see the charts.

When I asked the kids their opinions of LearnBop, they were all pretty positive. All of my kids do pretty well in math, but it is Caleb and Canon's favorite subject. Chloe hates math, but likes to challenge herself in all she does. She found the progress reports very satisfying and kept her motivated to go back and do more. Caleb and Canon said some of the videos sounded like Hogwarts professors, which made it really fun! LOL! I don't know how many different instructors there are, but I never heard any British accents - but whatever makes them happy! They both liked the fact that there was a breakdown when you missed a problem. It made Canon realize how many more steps there are to figure out certain math problems as he gets older, and that he doesn't need to rush through - rushing leads to skipping something very important!

LearnBop is a great online math program. The building blocks and learning path set forward for each student will help you as a parent make sure that learning gaps are being filled. The step by step breakdown of incorrect problems gives you the confidence that true learning is going on, not just enough to pass the test and move on. It is detailed and thorough, and I can see the benefits. Give LearnBop a try for your student who may be struggling, or for a student that is ready to jump ahead. LearnBop will meet the need.

To find out more about LearnBop, check them out on social media.

Go read some more reviews and see how LearnBop worked for other Review Crew families!

LearnBop for Families Review

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Friday, June 10, 2016

A TOS Review: Shiloh Run Press

The Glass Castle {Shiloh Run Press Review}

My daughter Chloe and I are both voracious readers. We love to be immersed in new worlds, new adventures, and new friendships. Because, let's face it, characters in books you love really do become a part of you! That's why I was excited to review a young reader's book co-written by one of my favorite authors of all time that I could share with Chloe. The Glass Castle by Trisha White Priebe and Jerry B. Jenkins from Shiloh Run Press did not disappoint!

It is Avery's thirteenth birthday. She and her little brother, Henry, are out for a walk in their woods when the day takes a frightening turn. Chased, captured, and separated from Henry, Avery struggles to figure out just what has happened and why. She becomes more confused when she is unloaded and taken to a mysterious castle where she finds rooms full of other thirteen year olds. There is one big difference between her and the other children, though - she is the only one who is not an orphan. After just a short time in the castle, Avery discovers something that she has no way to explain: she knows the complete layout of the castle! From stories her missing mother used to tell her, to the elaborate tree house her father built for her, Avery realizes she knows much more about the castle than even her new friend, Kate, can understand. But why, and how? The Glass Castle will take you into a world where orphaned thirteen year olds become silent and invisible servants in a castle that has no idea the children are even there. Who has brought them here? What is the king trying to hide? What does the soon to be new queen have to do with it all? And most importantly, what in the world does Avery have to do with it all?

Chloe read this book in just two sittings. She absolutely was drawn into the story and couldn't put it down. It was a quick read (251 pages, written at an upper elementary level) and truly left her wanting more. She was taken aback when she realized it was a series - the book ends in quite the cliffhanger! - and the next installment, Ruby Moon, isn't going to be released until October! I read it as well, and it has given us many discussions of what we think is going to happen next!

We have already recommended this book to others. There is no language or inappropriate themes you have to worry about. It is a very refreshing thing to pick up a book for my thirteen year old and not have to be concerned about the content. There is plenty of mystery and intrigue to keep the attention of boys or girls, and every chapter leaves you anticipating what comes next.

Here are some questions I had Chloe answer from her perspective!

  • What did you think of the book overall? It was very mysterious and intriguing. I wanted to finish it to find the answers...but I didn't want it to end!
  • Was there a character that you personally related to? If not, who was your favorite character? My favorite character was Kendrick. He was the boy who arrived at the castle the same day as Avery. He wasn't a big part of the story until he was chosen by Tuck to be his Advisor. I don't think I really related to anyone in particular, but I found many of them interesting.
  • What age level would you recommend this book? Thirteen! :) Probably ages 10 through 15 would enjoy the book. Any younger would probably have a hard time following the twists and turns. But, Mom, you said you loved it, too! (I did!) So I guess all ages!
  • What did you like and dislike about the book? I liked that Avery had a secret admirer. It gave us something lighthearted to think about even when we know that they are prisoners and dealing with heavy adult mysteries. This showed that they were still kids!  I didn't like the whole escape scene chapter. I didn't think it added to the whole overall just complicated things for the reader and the characters!\
  • Compared to other books you've read, how did this story stack up? I liked it a lot. It's not my favorite book, but I can't wait to continue the story in October! I would definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys mysteries. If you don't like cliffhangers, don't start it until the next book comes out!
I was very pleased with this book. Jerry B. Jenkins is one of my favorites, and I was glad to see his collaborative efforts with his assistant, Trisha White Priebe. This book would be a great summer read for middle schoolers, or a fascinating read aloud for the entire family!

Shiloh Run Press is a division of Barbour Publishing. To follow them on social media, click the links below:

To see what other reviewers thought about The Glass Castle, check them out here:

The Glass Castle {Shiloh Run Press Review}

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Saturday, June 4, 2016

Another Teenager! :O

Heart, don't fail me now...we have TWO teenagers in our home now! :O

This girl is 13 today!!! Chloe Mae is a bright light, shining love and joy into our lives. I am so thankful for the blessing of being her mom. She is smart, beautiful, joyful, compassionate, forgiving, and talented. She is not afraid to speak her mind, loves to learn, and accepts most challenges presented. She loves reading, acting, singing and serving. She HATES math! I love watching her on the stage and in daily life, using her gifts to glorify Jesus. I cannot wait to see where God takes her. Kelly and I are having some denial that 13 years have flown by (him slightly more than me!), and we still see the little baby girl she was when we look at this now today teenager...

Chloe Mae is a beauty, inside and out. She loves the Lord with such passion and loves His people with the same fervor. She is (almost always) a willing servant, giving and generous with her time and talents. She is the world's best big sissy! And she is my right hand. Honestly, I really don't know what I'd do without her in many days...

So here's to having another teenager in the home. My prayer for her is this: Lord, keep her kind, keep her loyal, and keep her fearless in all she does for Your glory.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

A TOS Review: Hey Mama! Homeschool Planner

Hey Mama! Schoolhouse Planner 2016-2017 Review

"Hey, Mama!"

If you receive the The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, like their Facebook page, or are friends with TOS Publisher Gena Suarez, these two words have to ring familiar. And I hope they make you as happy as they do me. When I see these two words come up in my newsfeed, I KNOW I am about to receive some much needed encouragement. Gena has a way of reminding us that even though we may be in the trenches, we are never there alone. That's why when The Hey Mama! Print Schoolhouse Planner 2016-17 came up for review - and I saw the name - I was very excited! The Hey Mama! Planner is going to be a blessing every day of our coming homeschool year!

Hey Mama! Schoolhouse Planner 2016-2017 Review

If you are like me, sticking to a schedule doesn't always go the way you'd like. I mean, come on. Our lives are far from normal. Between balancing homeschool obligations, housework, appointments, activities, meal planning, and wrangling toddlers, no two days ever look alike! I have tried many planners before - online planners, calendars on my phone, hard copy planners...none ever seem to fit the bill. I have had some success, but many more failures. But as I skimmed through this one the very day I received it, I knew this was going to be different in many ways.

Here are some of the many things this planner has that I am excited about:

  • Curriculum Planning Sheet - 5 of them!!! This makes this mama of multiple school aged children very thankful!! The sheet has space for seven subjects and a place to write down the price and vendor/curriculum name. I've already been using these to see what gaps I have to fill for next year for all the kids. It's great to see it all laid out in such an organized way.

  • Two Page Layout of Monthly Calendars, starting with July 2016 - big spaces to write down appointments, activities and birthdays. Plus, a single page for notes on that month. I am not sure how I'll utilize this yet, but I am sure it will come in handy.

  • Two Page Layout for Weekly Schedules - this is amazing! The spaces are big - and I mean BIG! There will be room to write assignments and kids' names to keep track of things I may usually miss.

  • Book Log - one thing I lose track of quite often is what books each child has read and what we've read as a family. Now it will all be in one convenient spot for record keeping.

  • Educational Helps - these are fantastic! Writing prompts, States and Capitals, Presidents, and many, many more!

  • Transcript assistance and example - this one had me skipping! Having just finished our oldest son's first year of high school, putting together his transcript in May had me very apprehensive. This note came at just the right time, and gave me the confidence to make Connor a comprehensive transcript without worrying if I'd done it well.

  • Notes of encouragement from Gena - these are like little diamonds just waiting to be discovered! I am sure as I go through my year, and I am having a hard day, I may flip the page of my planner and find a note that seems written directly to me that will help me take a breath and move forward stronger. Because I have a God who cares for me!
We are not in full planning mode for  the coming school year just yet. We have a lot going on this month, and I haven't had the heart to jump in. But I know, with the Hey Mama! Homeschool Planner with me this summer, I will have a much better chance of staying on track than going it alone. And besides, we aren't meant to take this journey alone - we are all in it together.

To buy your TOS 2016-17 Planner and receive a discount, go to this link below. Hurry! The school year will be here before you know it - get to planning, girl!

Coupon Code Hey Mama Planner 2016 2017

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Come see what other reviewers are going to do with their Hey Mama! Planners here:

Hey Mama! Schoolhouse Planner 2016-2017 Review

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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

A TOS Review: Essential Skills Advantage

Essential Skills Advantage Review

I was happy to review a new online curriculum for Caleb and Canon, Essential Skills Advantage. We reviewed the Complete Home Learning Suite.

ESA's Complete Home Learning Suite gave me a one year, all access pass for both the boys. It is a supplemental program that has been used by over 20,000 public schools in the United States, and it has now expanded their reach into the homeschool community. ESA contains lessons for K-6 in Reading and Math; lessons for 1-6 in Spelling; lessons for K-3 in science; lessons for 3-6 in Language and Grammar; and lessons for 3-5 in Geography. These lessons are claimed to contain the essential skills necessary for a child to be successful in each subject.

One thing I found beneficial was that both boys had access to the entire learning suite. So once they logged in, they would choose their subject, and then they would choose the grade level. Caleb worked in the 2nd grade lessons in reading and spelling for a few days, but found them too simplistic. I told him to move to the 3rd grade lessons and do what he could. He worked in 3rd grade for the rest of the subjects as well. He found these to be more satisfactory.

Unfortunately, we thought many of the lessons were way too easy for a 3rd grader - the science lessons, especially. Caleb absolutely loves science, and he is always excited to work on anything to do with animals. As stated above, the science lessons cap out at 3rd grade, but even the highest level lessons were unbelievably easy.

The question is, which body part is injured in the picture?

This one told the student to click on the teenager.

Caleb was not challenged by these activities at all. In fact, he'd made the comment that they were so easy that Castle (our 3 year old) could do them. I thought he was being a little ridiculous, so he had Cas come sit with him for a couple of the activities. Here is one question from the activities he did:

The computer asked which animal could fly.

He got a 100% on the three activities he did. For this to be a 3rd grade level science supplement, I was a little disappointed, too.

Canon found the Language lessons to be the same way. In the vocabulary section, he had to add a prefix to words with both parts of the word already appearing on the screen. So basically, he just had to type everything that was on the screen. He thought the lessons would increase in difficulty, but they never seemed to.

We did not feel that this program benefited our boys; however, I would guess that this program would be a great benefit to families with students that are struggling to be at grade level or has significant gaps in their learning paths. It is not aggressive in its approach. The graphics are engaging. And the collection of stars for each activity is like a virtual sticker chart, which I know will encourage many students to do their best. If you are needing help in a certain subject area that will not feel threatening to your student, then check out all the lessons ESA has to offer.

You can follow ESA on the following social media platforms:

To hear more about ESA from other TOS Reviewers, click on the link below:

Essential Skills Advantage Review

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