Oct 302012

Do you long for the good ole days when children played outside with their friends, went fishing, and had great adventures?

I know that a lot has changed in the few, short, ahem, years since I was a child. No, I didn’t grow up in the country, but my friends and I did ride our bikes all over the neighborhood, explore in the woods, and play fun games like Hide and Seek, Kick the Can and “Red Light, Green Light, Hope to See the Ghost Tonight.” Kids today aren’t allowed to do as much roaming without supervision as they used to. Parents get children together for play dates. People are so busy with all their activities that there is rarely time for kids to just play.

Sugar Creek GangUnfortunately, we can’t fully go back to those days (though there are some definite decisions that we as parents can make to keep our children’s lives as simple as possible). I recently received the Sugar Creek Gang Volume 1 CD’s to review. Theses old stories were started in 1939. They are filled with fun and simple adventures seen through the eyes of a child. The 6 stories contained in Volume 1 are on 12 CD’s. The  recordings are made from the original books, have great sound, and are wonderfully read.

Woven into the stories are observations about obeying and respecting parents, telling the truth, attending church, praying, and many other Christian character traits and practices. The stories are told in a folksy style with the character lessons woven in. The lessons, at least for the most part, don’t feel tacked on.

I’ve listened to some of the CD’s with all of my children. My son William who is 10, likes the stories. My older children (12 and 14) don’t care for them much, but did listen on a long drive without complaining. I think the stories are engaging, provide enough mystery to keep you listening, and I even found them convicting at times especially hearing the child-like faith of Billy.

You can purchase all the Sugar Creek Gang audio CD’s from Beloved Books. If you love old-fashioned, you definitely need to visit the website! Each of the volumes are $54.95. I would recommend ordering the CD’s of the very first story, The Swamp Robber, for only $4.95. It’s a great story and it will give your family a taste of the Sugar Creek Gang.

Disclosure: I received Volume 1 of the Sugar Creek Gang in order to write this review. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Oct 252012

My son William had a lot of trouble learning to read. I read all the advice that said not to worry about it.

“It will come.”

“Some kids are just late readers.”

It was helpful advice when he was 6. It was a little less helpful at 7. After he was 8 and even 9, the late reader testimonials really didn’t calm my fears much at all. One of the things that he really struggled with was focusing on the page. He couldn’t keep his eyes on the right line, and he just seemed distracted. He has never been officially diagnosed with dyslexia, but he displays most of the signs.

One of the things that we tried to help keep his eyes on the right place on the page were color-overlays. I noticed a definite improvement in his ability to keep his place in on the page. Moving the overlay himself was an issue at that time though.

Eye Level Reading RulersI was recently given a set of Eye Level Reading Rulers from Crossbow Education to review. They are designed to assist people who suffer from either visual stress or dyslexia. These rulers have 2 sizes of color-strips on each ruler. There is a thin strip that can be used for reading 1 line of text at a time or a thick strip that can highlight a whole paragraph at a time. This allows for more fluent reading. The rulers have both a glossy side and a matte side. They also come in 10 different colors so that you can test which color works best for you.

I really like these rulers. I especially like the matte finish side because I struggle some with glare. Maybe it’s from my constant use of the computer. I also like having the selection of colors to choose from. I find it interesting how some of the colors just don’t work at all, while others make the text seem clearer to me. They make a handy bookmark and are great for keeping your place when correcting student papers.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get William to give them a very good trial. Thankfully, he is reading much better now, and he seems to think that using the ruler is a step backwards. I did force him to try them out anyway, and he preferred the orange. The biggest problem with them for him is that that are a little too large for many books. If I could convince William to use one,  I would purchase a pack of 1 color and cut them in different sizes so they are easier to hold in a small book.

If you suspect that your child (or you) might be dyslexic or suffering from visual strain I would definitely recommend trying out the Eye Level Reading Ruler. They are available in the multi-color 10 pack for only $16.95, that’s a very small investment for something that could provide such a great benefit. You can visit Crossbow Education to order the Eye Level Reading Ruler and many other learning tools.

Disclosure: I received a 10 pack of Eye Level Reading Rulers in order to complete this review. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Sep 252012

This summer we went on the most amazing vacation to Arizona. In the spring, as we were planning our trip, we were floundering a bit in our history studies. My husband suggested I try a unit study on Native Americans. I thought that was a great idea so I went straight to work on putting one together.

Well, no.

It was a great idea, but I never had the time to even look for a unit study, much less come up with my own.

So a couple of guilty months later, we were starting back to school, and I was offered an opportunity to review a unit study from Homeschool Legacy. Hmm. Let’s see, they have one on trees, horses, birds, Lewis & Clark, Native America, Early Settlers,…

Wait! Native America? The study I was supposed to do last spring? Well, better late than never, right? And now that we’ve visited all those western sites, it will be that much easier to imagine the Native Americans living there. Right?

Homeschool Legacy Native America, is part of the Once-a-Week Unit Studies series from Homeschool Legacy. The studies are designed so that all the activities in the study are done on one day of the week. That is with the exception of reading. They don’t have to be done that way, but I love the concept. On unit study day you can have a very short math lesson (or not) and jump right into the study for the rest of your school day. The other days have students select from the huge basket of  library books on the topic, and read from the family read-aloud. The study includes extensive book lists for all reading levels. (The Native America study can be used for 2nd through 12th grades!) There are a wide variety of activities including map activities, recipes, games, crafts, devotions, and much more. There are suggested field trips and movies for family movie night as well.

The units in the Native America study are arranged geographically. If you start at the first unit, you’ll be introduced to to the Northeast Woodland Nations. This is followed by the Southeast Woodland, The Southwest, The Plains, The Pacific Northwest, and finally the California Plateau/Great Basin Nations. After consulting the author, I decided to begin with the Southwest Nations, both because of our vacation, and the following week, on the Plains Nations, tied in well with my older daughter’s history studies. (I’m breaking all my own advice with history this year. My children are all over the place in their studies!)

Here are some cliff dwellings we visited in Arizona. This is Montezuma’s Castle.

Here’s a closer view.

The book list is huge, and I was able to find a wide variety of books in our library. There were some exact titles not available, but those were easy to substitute. The author includes Dewey decimal numbers for the books, making both catalog and in-person library searches, very easy!

The activities are varied for the different weeks. For example, in the Plains week, we played a matching game that helped reinforce all the ways that the Native Americans used bison. It even suggested making bison burgers. (That one I didn’t do. I didn’t know a local source of bison meat.) In the Pacific Northwest some fun activities include making a family totem pole and cooking salmon on a cedar plank.

Do your children participate in Boy Scouts or American Heritage Girls? These unit studies have special notes to show you which activities can be used to earn badges and awards in those clubs! What a way to multi-task! We’re not involved in either of those organizations, but I’ve always wondered how people found the time for working on all those badges.

Once-a-Week studies are great supplements to other history or science curricula. Or you can use them as a stand-alone curriculum. They’re great for getting your whole family on the same page for at least some of your studies! There are even “Stump Your Dad Trivia” questions. They are super easy to implement.

You can visit Homeschool Legacy to see all the different Once-a-Week Studies they offer. Here is a link for more information about the Native America study. The study is available for $17.95.

Disclosure: I received Native America from Homeschool Legacy in order to write this review. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Sep 132012

Much research has shown that early childhood is an ideal time to begin learning a foreign language. Because of this, I’ve always tried to expose my children to Spanish at a young age. I chose Spanish mainly because it’s the easiest foreign language to find resources for children. Ideally, I would teach them Spanish by speaking it to them. But unfortunately, I don’t speak Spanish. So we’ve used various computer programs, some television shows, and even a homeschool class to expose the children to Spanish.

Now I still have young children but Lizzie (almost 6) hasn’t really had any exposure to Spanish with the exception of watching Dora. (I hope I’m not the only one who has really high ideals and standards with the older children, but then relaxes them out of necessity with the younger ones!) So I was really excited when I was selected to review Speekee TV.

What (or who) is Speekee?

SpeekeeSpeekee is a lovable, purple, Spanish-speaking puppet. Speekee and his friends speak only Spanish on the 10 episodes of Speekee, so watching Speekee is a total immersion in Spanish. The program is not vocabulary focused, although there is plenty of vocabulary included, but is very conversational in nature. The program also includes many songs which are very catchy. (I catch myself singing them!)

In addition to Speekee TV, there is a free FastTrack curriculum  that adds fun activities, worksheets, and flashcards correlated with specific segments of the Speekee episodes. The FastTrack program provides plans for 40 weeks of instruction. It can be accessed on-line or e-mailed to subscribers weekly.

Although Speekee is available on DVD, I received Speekee TV to review. Speekee TV is a subscription service allowing access to all the episodes on-line. We can hook our computers up to our television, but for ease of use (or maybe my own laziness), I just had Lizzie and Andrew watch Speekee on my laptop. We experienced no difficulties accessing the website or streaming the programs. The interface to select an episode is very intuitive, and Lizzie quickly figured out how to start the desired episode.

I opted to use Speekee in the simplest way possible. I had Lizzie (almost 6 and in the 1st grade) and Andrew (20 months) watch the programs. That’s it. I did receive the FastTrack curriculum e-mails as well, and they look like an excellent way to reinforce the Spanish learned in the program. I will be using some of the activities with Lizzie as she watches the episodes again. The activities are too advanced for Andrew, obviously. Speekee is recommended for children ages 2-10, so he’s a little too young. But he isn’t too young to enjoy the program. He LOVES it. He was sitting beside me when I started writing this review and was very excited to see Speekee on my computer. Then he was very upset that we weren’t going to watch Speekee right now.


Andrew and Lizzie watching Speekee

So are my children walking around speaking Spanish after 6 weeks of watching Speekee? Well, no. But Andrew is just barely starting to speak English. And with a program like Speekee, that isn’t the goal. I think Speekee is a fantastic and fun way to get children started on Spanish. They can learn at a young age what Spanish sounds like. They can begin to imitate it and say Spanish words with the correct accent. That can only help them in future study. (By the way, I should mention that Speekee is a UK production, so the Spanish spoken is like the Spanish spoken in Spain, not Latin America. It’s the same language, but there are some differences in some pronunciations I’ve been told.)

The recommended age for Speekee is 2-10. In my house it would never work past about 8 years old. Not because the content is too easy, but because my children would revolt at watching anything so childish after that. But every family is different, and I’m sure there are many who would find it an effective program for 10 year olds.

There are 2 subscription options for Speekee TV

  • $7.50/month or
  • $60/year

Both options give 2 weeks free at the beginning of the subscription. That allows users to try out the program to make sure it’s a good fit for their family.

If you have little ones, I highly recommend Speekee!

Disclosure: I received a 6 month subscription to Speekee TV in order to write this review. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Aug 302012

Do your children like to act out their history lessons?

Do you want to make history come alive?

Does your history curriculum suggest activities like dressing in historical clothing?

Costumes with CharacterI have a fantastic resource to recommend. I was recently given a copy of Costumes with Character from Golden Prairie Press to review. Costumes with Character contains information about the different clothing styles worn by women and girls during various eras of American History. It also has instructions and patterns for making your own period costumes that are both simple and inexpensive.

How can you make period clothing both simply and inexpensively?

The concept of this book is wonderfully simple. To start, you make or modify a basic dress. Then that same dress is used for all the costumes. For each period, there are things that you make to add to the dress such as different collars and aprons. What a fantastic idea!



My 12 year old daughter Anna wants to learn to sew, so I let her look at the book and see what interested her. Since she’s been studying the pioneers, she decided to make a sunbonnet.

The instructions for each of the projects are included in Costumes with Character, but the patterns must be enlarged.

That was actually a fun lesson in using a grid for enlarging a drawing.

The instructions were reasonably well written. I am not an expert seamstress, but I’m not a beginner either. I did used to sew much more frequently. (I don’t have much free time these days! I wonder why?) I found that I had to start on the project before some of the instructions made sense.

We ended up modifying the pattern just a bit and using elastic in the back at the neckline instead of tightening with ribbon. I also made the ties inside-out thinking that we were going to turn them. But that was not the fault of the instructions. It very clearly showed sewing them the other way. I’m not sure where my brain was.

Then we ran into some machine difficulties. We decided to finish the bonnet using hand stitching. That’s more authentic anyway, right?

Here’s Anna modeling her new sunbonnet! I think it turned out really cute .

I received Costumes with Character in e-book format to review. It is regularly priced at $21.95. The book is also available printed for $37.00. In addition, the printed patterns are available for $15.00. That would definitely be much easier than having to enlarge all the patterns in the book.


Disclosure: I received Costumes with Character in e-book format for the purpose of this review. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own. Any quoted price is subject to change.

Aug 232012

Every year I make a list of topics to study with the kids, and every year I include hymn study. And every year I fail to get it done.

That doesn’t mean that my children do not know any hymns. They actually know many, many hymns. In fact, many more than I did as a child. Almost seven years ago, we left the mega-church that we had been members of for 5 years. (Actually my husband had been a member his entire life until he got married and moved away. Then we moved back and joined the same church.) One of the things that we were looking for in a new church was one that used hymns in worship. It didn’t have to be only hymns, but we were looking for a more traditional worship style. The Lord did lead us to a church that, among other things we were looking for, used hymns for congregational singing. This long digression can be summed up with, my children know hymns, but we have failed to learn about the hymns and hymn writers.

One of the reasons I think I’ve failed at implementing hymn study is that I tend to make it too complicated. This year I received a great resource that is a super simple way to learn more about hymns. The book is Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers by Douglas Bond. The book, published by Christian Liberty Press, is a fictional account of Annie and her brother Drew. While spending the summer in England with their parents (who really aren’t part of the story), they meet an old man affectionately known as Mr. Pipes. Mr. Pipes is an organist in the village and is very knowledgeable about church history and specifically hymn writers.

Annie and Drew quickly become friends with Mr. Pipes as he teaches them to fish, row a boat, and takes them on the train to London. During their visits, Mr. Pipes relates the story of a different hymn writer such as Isaac Watts, Charles Wesley, John Newton, or William Cowper. Mr. Pipes is a great story-teller and the children are very interested to hear his tales.

Along with presenting the stories of the hymn writers, Annie and Drew are also growing in their faith. Their priorities and behaviors change from the beginning to the end of the book. There is evidence of spiritual growth in the characters.

I received this book with the intention of having my 12 year old daughter, Anna, read it. But now that I’ve read it, I have changed my mind. I would like to use it as a read-aloud for the whole family. Even though the book is recommended for grades 7-10, the story is engaging enough for younger children especially since they’re familiar with many of the hymns discussed. I like the idea of teaching about the hymn writers using a living book instead of just facts about the hymn writers. And rather than get all strict with it and making a schedule and finding extra things to go along with the study, I am allowing us the freedom to just read the book! (Shocking, huh? If you’re reading this and have never made plans that you didn’t use or purchased curriculum and never opened it, then you probably don’t understand what I’m saying at all. But I am finding it necessary to simplify. And I’m finding that simple is often better anyway!)

Another reason that I am not having Anna read it is that I received the pdf of the book. I own a Kindle (the old style with the keyboard) which I love. However, Anna doesn’t like it very much and much prefers “real” books. To  further complicate matters, this book is not in Kindle format (.mobi) but pdf. That means that one page of the book appears on the Kindle screen (which is smaller than the book). Thankfully, the pages in the book are not 8-1/2 x 11, but the words are just barely large enough for me to read in this format. (I do not need reading glasses yet, but I suspect they may be on the horizon.) Anna suffers from frequent headaches, and I fear that this type size would bring on a headache.

I am really pleased with this book, and I recommend it to anyone looking for a gentle way to study hymns and hymn writers. There are also 3 other titles: Mr. Pipes and Psalms and Hymns of the Reformation, Mr. Pipes Comes to America, and  The Accidental Voyage: Discovering Hymns of the Early Centuries. All the books are available from Christian Liberty Press. I’m personally tempted by this complete set of all 4. The pdf version of Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers is $8.79.

Please visit The Schoolhouse Review Crew to read more reviews of Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers.


Disclosure: I received a pdf copy of Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers in order to write this review. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Aug 162012

I’ve always thought that the best way to learn vocabulary was naturally. Students can learn vocabulary from their reading. They can also learn from hearing words used in conversation. My husband is especially good at using “hard” words with the children.We’ve also chosen to study Latin in our homeschool. (That’s not as much of a natural method, but it is different than vocabulary worksheets and an excellent way to boost English vocabulary.)

But my son is getting very close to the time to begin taking the SAT and/or ACT. (We haven’t decided for sure, but he’ll probably take both.) And he’s not as much of a reader as I had hoped he would be. (Unless you count computer manuals!) So he could use a some concentrated effort on increasing his vocabulary over the next couple of years.

This is my child who is totally allergic to workbooks or anything that has even the slightest hint of busywork. There are many things in school that I just make him do even if he doesn’t like it. But I’m not looking to add anything else to that list of “must-do’s” that causes conflict. I have found something that he actually likes! He is a super smart kid and trust me, there isn’t much that he likes and doesn’t find a million flaws with. (Not that being smart means you don’t like things, but in his case he’s extremely analytical and just naturally finds mistakes.)

Vocab VideosI was given the opportunity to review Vocab Videos, a unique vocabulary study program designed with college entrance test prep in mind. Vocab Videos are short, quirky, funny videos that teach vocabulary words. The students log on to their account on VocabVideos.com to watch the videos. There are several different storylines in the videos. During the video, there are short breaks in the action to point out and define relevant vocabulary words. After the video, there are on-line quizzes available as well as crossword puzzles and a definition worksheet. Students can also create on-line flashcards. The extra practice helps the students retain what they learned in the videos.

I am happy to report that

He likes Vocab Videos!

(I’m suddenly envisioning the old Life cereal commercial. “He likes it! He likes it!”

I really wasn’t sure what his reaction was going to be. And truthfully, it all depended on the videos. Let’s face it, there are a lot of educational videos that are, for the lack of a better word, stupid. He doesn’t like anything that is too juvenile. He also loves film making and editing, so anything that is poorly produced is very difficult for him to watch.

But Vocab Videos are professionally produced. While the acting is not going to win any Academy awards, it is perfect for what it is. The skits are meant to be funny and goofy, and the acting is a bit goofy, but it works. I do feel that I must mention that this is not a Christian company, and these videos are used in schools across the country. There are some instances of people saying God and the way the characters treat one another is definitely not nice all the time. They’re written to appeal to typical high school students so there are topics, like dating, that some families might not like.

I was given a Small Educator account. This account gives me access to all the scores of my son’s quizzes in addition to extra resources for teaching. I also set up an account for my daughter, though she hasn’t used the program yet. I found the set-up process straightforward. We’ve had no problems with the site itself. The videos play well, and the site is well-organized and easy to navigate.

Overall, we give Vocab Videos 2 thumbs up! (Or should that be 4 thumbs up since there are 2 of us?)

Visit VocabVideos.com to sign up for an account. There are accounts available for single students for 6 months of access for $24.99 and 12 months for $39.99. The small educator account provides 12 month of access for up to 20 students for $74.99.


Disclosure: I received a Small Educator account on Vocab Videos for free in order to write this review. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Aug 092012

Are you interested in history?

What about the development of language (English specifically)?

If so, I have a recommendation for you.

And even if you aren’t interested in history or the development of language, I think this book might just spark some interest.

The book is King Alfred’s English: A History of the Language We Speak and Why We Should Be Glad We Do by Laurie White.

King Alfred's EnglishI received a copy of King Alfred’s English to review. It is the Kindle version, so I was able to download it while I was on vacation. I read the introduction and knew immediately that it was going to be a good book. But I was on vacation, and when I got home I let various things keep me from getting back to the book until a couple of weeks ago. As my review deadline loomed, I knew I had to get reading.

However, I had no trouble at all finishing this book in time. (Getting the review written on the other hand is a different story!) This is without a doubt, the most interesting history book that I can remember reading. The author, Laurie White, has an engaging writing style. The book is easy to read, yet not simple. It is full of facts, but not dry or boring. She doesn’t use that annoying chatty writing style. (Obviously some people like it, but I ironically find it annoying. Not in blogs of course, but in books.) But even though the book isn’t chatty, it does almost feel like listening to an interesting speaker.

King Alfred’s English recounts the history of the English language. It describes the major influences of the language, and as a result, it discusses much of the history of England. It is not an in-depth history of England, but I found it to be a marvelous survey. I tend to get a bit OCD about historical books and start trying to make sure we read them when we’re studying that time period in history. And I guess you could stretch this book out and read it along with your history lessons, but I think this book is best to just read. If you’re familiar with some of the history, then it’s a great review for those parts. If some of the history is new, then it’s a wonderful introduction for more in-depth study.

Since I’ve been teaching (or more accurately, facilitating the study of) Latin to my children, I found it especially interesting to learn that Old English was an inflected language like Latin. Inflected means that the function of the words in the sentence is determined by the word endings. In Modern English, word order determines the meaning. As time passes, languages tend to simplify, and English lost the inflection. Since Latin is a dead language, it didn’t simplify to the same point that English has.

To say that English has simplified might make it sound like it is easy. That is of course, not true. The vocabulary in English far exceeds that of other languages. King Alfred’s English explains why. It also covers the Reformation in England and how it led to an English translation of the Bible. In addition, there is an interesting section on how the King James Bible has affected English.

In case you can’t tell, I highly recommend this book. It is available from Christianbook.com (current price is $14.89) and Amazon.com in both paperback and Kindle (for $16.95 and $5.95 respectively). You can also find more information about the book as well as teacher helps and student pages at the author’s website, The Shorter Word.


Disclosure: I received a copy of King Alfred’s English to review. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.This post contains an affiliate link.

Aug 072012

Writing is probably the most difficult subject for me to teach. I guess part of that is because it is subjective. There aren’t definite right and wrong answers in writing. Sure there are some things that are definitely wrong, but moving my children from acceptable writing, to good writing, to great writing has been difficult. And I’ve actually spent very little time on writing with my 10 year old. We’ve been focused so much on reading and spelling that the only writing we’ve done so far is dictation. I do have a writing curriculum for the older 2 that I am happy with. However, I am always on the lookout for additional resources for writing. I find it helpful to have multiple approaches in writing instruction.

I recently received How to Teach the Five Paragraph Essay, How to Teach the Paragraph, and The Home School Writing Action Plan from Create Better Writers.com to review.

How to Teach the Five Paragraph Essay is suitable for students as young as 4th grade through 12th grade. It begins with a review of the paragraph, so a student who has good paragraph writing skills can start in the Five Paragraph Essay course.

From Create Better Writers.com

How To Teach The Five Paragraph Essay is for you if your answer is “yes” to any of the questions below.

  1. Would you like to show your students how to write a strong five-paragraph essay to a timed prompt, and have them complete it in about an hour?
  2. Would you like to show your students a simple format that will help them write essays from any writing domain?
  3. Would you like your students to be able to write exciting introductions and conclusions?
  4. Would you like a detailed lesson plan that will show you, step-by-step, how to teach the five-paragraph essay?
This resource really contains what it promises. The instructions are simple but detailed. It does an excellent job of breaking apart the essential parts of an essay. I do not remember ever having such straight-forward instruction in writing an essay.I love how the whole process can be completed in as little as 20 days. It would be a great way to focus on essay writing before taking the SAT or any other test with an essay section.


I also reviewed How to Teach the Paragraph. It targets students in the 3rd grade and up who need more instruction in writing paragraphs. Like the Essay program, How to Teach the Paragraph breaks down the process into simple steps. It teaches the teacher how to teach the student. That is just what I need. It has suggested pacing guides for different levels and is very easy to adapt to meet the needs of different students. I predict I’m going to be spending a lot of time with William writing paragraphs this year!


In addition to both the writing instruction books, I also received The Home School Writing Action Plan. This plan presents a big picture of all the writing topics that need to be covered in writing instruction. It provides a good general framework and can be a guide with other writing curricula as well. It refers to both the paragraph and essay book, as well as the Complete Writing Program from Create Better Writers.com. I found the action plan a little more difficult to understand since much of it was an outline that referred to other sources. I received all 3 of these resources as e-books, and I think this is one time that a physical copy would have been helpful since I couldn’t physically look at both books at the same time. Also not having the Complete Writing Program made it a little confusing.


All these materials are available from Create Better Writers.com.


How to Teach the Paragraph is only available as an eBook for $7.99.
How to Teach the Five Paragraph Essay is available as an eBook for $17.95 or a soft-cover book for $19.95.
The Home School Writing Action Plan is available as an eBook for $15.95 or a soft-cover book for $19.95.
There are also several bundle deals available. Please visit Create Better Writers.com for more details.


Be sure to visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew to read more reviews of Create Better Writers.com.


Disclosure: I received these products for free in order to write this review. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Jul 282012

This spring I started searching for an algebra text for Anna. She’s starting 7th grade and is ready for algebra. David is very happy with his math program, but it’s a bit unconventional. It does not appeal to Anna at all! (I used to think I could buy the same curriculum for all my kids! Ha.) So I searched message boards and read reviews. This program has too much drill. That program is too easy. I felt like Goldilocks searching for the “just right” algebra curriculum.

I had finally settled on a program, but had not purchased it. I was still not totally sure, since I had not actually seen the curriculum, and it was a textbook only. I was not sure how we were going to handle the lessons. But then I was given a fantastic opportunity to review No-Nonsense Algebra from Math Essentials. Based on the title alone, this program would be a perfect fit for my no-nonsense girl.

The soft-cover book is divided into 10 chapters.
No-Nonsense Algebra

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


The chapters are divided into lessons. Each lesson begins with an introduction, followed by examples, exercises, and review of previous material. There are 10-20 problems (usually closer to 20) in each exercise along with 4 review problems. That seems to be a good number of problems for practicing the concept. At least, I think it is the right number for my daughter. She generally grasps new mathematical concepts fairly quickly, but she’s not opposed to doing practice problems (unlike my son).


But I haven’t mentioned the best part! Each of the lessons has a video component! The on-line videos are found easily on the No-Nonsense Algebra web site. In the videos, author Richard W. Fisher, teaches the new concept. The videos are relatively short (about 10-15 minutes). They are, like the title suggests, no-nonsense as well. It’s simply a math teacher demonstrating and explaining how to work algebra problems. There are no bells or whistles, just good, solid math instruction.


At the risk of this sounding like an infomercial, I just have to ask…


How much would you expect to pay for an Algebra 1 text that includes on-line video instruction?


$100 or more?


No-Nonsense Algebra is only $27.95! In reviews, I usually just state the price without making a comment because very often what one person considers a good deal, someone else considers too expensive.  But this is an unbelievable value!


I have found the Algebra 1 program for Anna next year and I couldn’t be happier!


I should mention, that as I read on the Math Essentials website, No-Nonsense Algebra seems to be marketed as a supplement. But they are also marketing to public schools. I’ve looked over the topics and I do not see any reason why this cannot be used as a stand-alone algebra curriculum.


In addition to No-Nonsense Algebra, I also received a copy of Mastering Essential Math Skills – Geometry. This is a smaller workbook, that I do think is more of a supplement. There are review, helpful hints, and problems for each section, but it doesn’t include the introduction, examples, and video instruction. Although it is for geometry, it covers geometry topics that are usually covered in elementary math curricula. It would be a good practice program to review for the SAT or ACT because students tend to forget many of the geometry terms.


Mastering Essential Math Skills – Geometry is available for $11.95.
Both these resources, plus many more can be purchased from Math Essentials.net.


Disclosure: I received a copy of No-Nonsense Algebra and Mastering Essential Math Skills – Geometry in order to write this review. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.