Aug 032016

Compass Classroom recently released a new modern history class entitled Modernity, and they gave me the opportunity to preview the course. Covering a wide range of topics from modern history including the Enlightenment, Napoleon, the Industrial Revolution, and the World Wars, the high school level class consists of 27 weekly lessons. Each lesson includes 5 video segments with instructor Dave Raymond that are approximately 20 minutes long.

Along with the video, there are accompanying reading assignments available in Kindle, pdf, and epub formats. In addition to the lecture and reading, the student works on a portfolio and several projects over the course of the school year. The modern history projects include a Reformation Imitation Project, a Speech on Tradition, a Research Paper, and the Hour Project.

The Hour Project is an open-ended final project of the student’s choosing. It should be something that takes a substantial number of hours to complete (they recommend 30-40) and can showcase the talents and interests of the student. Some examples in the teacher guide include copying a famous paintings, making a reproduction of a piece of Victorian furniture, or creating an illustrated children’s book.


4 things to love about Modernity

  1. Easy to teach – The course is well-laid out and teacher friendly. It’s divided into daily lessons so it’s very open and go with little to no planning required.
  2. Interesting presentation –  Dave Raymond is excited about history and it shows in his presentation. He’s interesting to listen to. While much of the video is lecture, there is a nice blend of related images mixed with the video of the speaker.
  3. Christian Worldview – There is plenty of opportunity to study history from the politically correct, secular worldview. This class not only teaches history from a Christian perspective, but also provides the Christian perspective of why history is important to study.
  4. Variety – While the format is predictable with 5 daily videos and corresponding readings, the projects and portfolio pages add the opportunity for students to be creative and truly own the content.

If you’re looking for an American History course you can read my review.

Discloser: I received a free download of 8 lessons of Modernity in order to write this review. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own. This post includes affiliate links.

Feb 202016

As a new homeschool mom, I wasn’t always confident that I was doing things “right”. Looking back on those early years, I think I pushed too hard sometimes. And then at other times I didn’t push enough. (I tend to swing between extremes.) I wondered if David was reading enough. Was his handwriting too messy? Were we spending enough time doing school? Were we spending too much time? What about math drill?

Enter Anna, child number 2, and I began to feel a little more confident. She was a dream child to homeschool. In kindergarten she would get her own workbooks out and do them herself without me even asking her to. So I pretty much let her. With a difficult to teach older brother and a 3 year old younger brother, it was about all I could do anyway.

Since I didn’t often sit with her watching her work, it took awhile for me to notice that she was holding her pencil incorrectly . It wasn’t horrible, but I was determined to correct it. Since she was left-handed, it was difficult for me to demonstrate a proper grip, so I went to the local education store and purchased a pencil grip that I found there.

I tried to get her to use the pencil grip, but she didn’t like it. I tried to show her how to use it, but I had a very hard time figuring it out myself. We did figure it out, but it felt awkward.  Plus it was hard and uncomfortable. That was pretty much the end of working on her pencil grasp. She’s almost 16 now, her grasp is functional, but her hand gets tired with too much writing.

Recently I received a collection of products from The Pencil Grip, Inc. to review. There are 3 different grip shapes and a child can transition from one grip to the next, allowing his hand to get used to the slightly different position. The grips are soft and more intuitive to hold then the different one we tried 10 years ago.

pencil grip

The 3-Step Grip Training Kit begins with the Crossover Grip (pictured in green on the left). This grip stops fingers from crossing over. Its shape is described as a “Superhero cape” to help encourage children to use the grip.

The next step is the Pinch Grip (in the center). This grip goes a step further and serves as a intermediate point between the crossover grip and the final step which uses the Original Grip.

The Original Grip is suitable for training all children to use the tripod grasp for writing. Using the grip can help prevent the development of bad habits.

All 3 grips can be used by either right handed or left handed children. They can be used to help correct a child with an incorrect grip, or train a young child who is beginning to write to avoid developing a bad habit.

I will be using these with Andrew, my 5 year old, as he begins formal writing lessons this fall. I am also encouraging Anna to see if they help keep her hand from tiring as quickly. I don’t think the Superhero Cape will help encourage her much though.

The Pencil Grip, Inc. sells their products on their website and on If you’re concerned about the way your child is holding a pencil, I recommend trying them out.

Disclosure: I received a free set of pencil grips in order to write this review. I was not compensated for this post. All opinions expressed are my own. I am not an Occupational Therapist and do not have training in proper pencil grasps.


Nov 292015

Kwik Stix Logo Christmas

I’m sure I’m not alone. I want my children to be creative and have opportunities to be artistic. But finding time to do art projects with my younger ones is tough. And letting them have free access to paint? No way.

So most of their art consists of coloring with crayons or colored pencils. I’m not saying that I feel guilty about that, but well, maybe a little.

Kwik Stix 12 packThat’s why I jumped at the chance to review the new Kwik Stix Solid Tempera Paint. It’s tempera paint without the mess. No liquid to spill. No paint brushes to clean. Sign me up!

Kwik Stix are about the size of a glue stick. They’re easy to use and dry in 90 seconds. The colors are bright and the coverage is good. While it’s not the same as painting, it does have a different feel than coloring with crayons. I think they will be especially handy for making posters for school projects.

Kwik Stix would also make great stocking stuffers. They are available directly from The Pencil Grip, Inc. and from Be sure to enter the giveaway at the end of this post.

My two youngest children, Lizzie and Andrew (9 and almost 5) were very excited to try out Kwik Stix. And yes, they are wearing pajamas.


Here are their completed creations.

Kwik Stix artwork 1


Green hillside

Green hillside

Sunny day

Sunny day



***Disclosure: I received a free package of Kwik Stix in order to write this review. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Jun 092015

Homeschool moms are busy. We have a lot to manage with educating children, laundry, cooking, housework, and even jobs. I’ve seen homeschoolers proudly announce that they have mountains of laundry to fold piled on the couch, or if someone comes to their house they have to run through the house wildly hiding piles of books and other clutter. But then they justify their lack of housekeeping by the fact that their children are more important than a neat and tidy home.

It’s not that I don’t agree with that. Our children are definitely more important than temporal things. No argument there, but sometimes I almost feel guilty for desiring a neat home because that means I’m spending less time on valuable pursuits, and I’m wasting my time cleaning and organizing.

And yet decluttering and organizing is a hugely popular topic on-line. (Just look at Pinterest if you don’t believe me.) It seems that people do crave organization, but want to justify their lack of it.

Giving Your Children WingsI was recently given the opportunity to review Giving Your Children Wings Without Losing Yours by Tami Fox. I was happy to discover that Tami and I agree that having a neat and organized home (at least relatively) is important. In her book Tami explains how we can have a neat house WHILE spending time with our children.

Messes and disorganization cause stress. Every person is different and the level of neatness that some require is going to be different. And that’s OK! We’re actually helping our children by having routines in our home and by including them in these routines. It’s also less stressful to us if we teach our children to share in the housework because when they get older, that will actually mean less work for us! (Sometimes in the middle of training a young child, it does seem like it would be easier to just do it yourself. And in the short run it often is. But the long term benefits outweigh the short term trouble of training children.)

In Giving Your Children Wings Without Losing Yours, Tami shares how she personally uses the Flylady system to keep her home clean and clutter free. I wouldn’t consider it a how-to book on setting up a system, but more of an encouragement to find a system that works for you and your family and to stick to it. Tami is open and honest with many of her personal trials and how she has overcome them.

My favorite quote from the book is this –

“We have all heard the saying, ‘If Mama ain’t happy, no one is happy.’ You can turn this around to, ‘If Mama is happy, everyone around her is happy, too’ A positive mood is contagious.”

I am guilty of feeling discouraged about everyone’s attitudes and being grumpy about it. That really makes no sense! My mood can, and often does, set the tone of the whole house.

If you’re looking for encouragement and ideas for cleaning and organizing your home while homeschooling, you should read Giving Your Children Wings Without Losing Yours. You can find it on

Disclosure: I received a free electronic version of this book in order to write this review. I was not compensated for this review and the link to is not an affiliate link.


Aug 252014

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book to review. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Have you ever requested a book to review and you were expecting one thing, and it turns out it was entirely different?

I have.

Mother’s Book of Home Economics is one of those cases.

The title suggests that it might be a training manual of sorts. A “How-to Train your Daughters” type of book. It might have step-by-step lists of projects to do, or maybe a home economics bucket list i.e. “Things to do with your daughter before she’s grown.”

All those sound like great books. They are ones I’d be interested in reading.

But that is not at all what Mother’s Book of Home Economics is.

The sub-title provides more insight.

Remembrances, Letters, and Essays from a New England Housewife

So if you’re looking for a practical how-to book this isn’t it. Not that what Mrs. White shares isn’t practical. It’s just so much more.

I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for 16 years. I’m starting my 12th year of homeschooling. I believe completely that motherhood is a calling. We have made great financial sacrifices in order for me to stay home. So a book that’s a call for homemaking didn’t seem to be something I needed to read. But I was in for a surprise. This book really made me think. I was convicted many times.

First, let’s think about the shift in our society. Now we call ourselves stay-at-home moms or in my case, a homeschooling mom. The focus is on being a mom. Mrs. White reminds us that the focus used to be on being a wife. The old term was housewife. There was a dual emphasis on house and wife. Certainly the children are important and a major part of what our job consists of, but when they’re gone is our time at home over? Is there no purpose for us to stay at home once the children have moved away or should we just stay at home with our children for a season?

Those are interesting questions.

Mrs. White challenges women to work at keeping their homes neat and clean. She encourages cooking for our families. These are all things that to an outside observer, I do a pretty good job at. Relatively speaking anyway.

But the difference is in attitude.

“There is joy in dusting and polishing. There is pride in cooking for the family. There is happiness in creating a pleasant haven in our homes….

Ironing is done in a slow and careful manner. It forces one to be peaceful.”

Mother's Book of Home Economics

Ouch! I’m usually rushing to iron on Sunday morning and grumbling all the time. Or cooking and feeling irritated that no one appreciates all the work I do for them.

“A wife who does not complain is a virtuous asset to her husband.”

I do make an effort not to complain, but I’m usually complaining on the inside and patting myself on the back for not saying anything.

What about this?

Being quiet. . . We often talk too much, worry too much, think too much, and want to multitask every minute away! Being quiet and content takes effort, but it will bring peace and gentleness to the family.”

In other words, we shouldn’t be martyrs, Sighing and weary of all our work. We should feel weary but not of working, instead we should feel tired in a good way from working hard to keep our home. How can we do this? It is only with strength from the Lord.

If you’re looking for encouragement for making your house a home and learning contentment, I recommend Mother’s Book of Home Economics. You probably won’t agree with all of Mrs. White’s ideas on the topic, but I bet it will make you think about your attitude towards cooking and cleaning.


Jul 192014

We’re gearing up to start our 12th year of homeschooling.

Or maybe I should say, I should be gearing up. I have purchased all our curriculum. It’s waiting on the shelf. And waiting. But I have not felt like starting to plan. I’ve enjoyed taking the summer off, and it’s hard for me to admit that it’s already almost the end of July. I really am not ready to get back into the daily grind.

So in case you’re feeling a little less than enthusiastic about starting the school year, here are 7 things (I call the UPDATED approach) to help you get motivated for school planning.

Refueling for the new school year

Photo Credit

Refueling for the New School Year

1.  Use momentum (gained at the end of last year)

It is always helpful to highlight the strengths of each of your children.  You don’t have to start all of your curriculum all at once.  Pick your kids’ strongest subjects and introduce them one at a time to get a great start to the new school year.  You can choose one subject added per week or two per week, or whatever it takes to get a good start to the new school year.  Sometimes we focus on our children’s weakest subjects because we know that they need to spend more time on those; however, if the school year doesn’t begin well, then that extra time may not be beneficial.  So start the year off with subjects that your students love, rather than the thing they struggle with the most.

2.  Plan for some review time during the year.

I am usually very good at planning things out at the beginning of the year.  I have good intentions.  My kids have good intentions.  But there are always little things (sometimes good things), and other outside activities that get in the way of the perfect plan.  Start your year off by planning for some review time for your kids.  Don’t wait to insert some time until later in the year. Do it early while things are still going well.  If students are on a roll, and don’t want to slow down too much, use this time to work on some fun interdisciplinary projects.  This is different than taking a complete break from school work (step #5) which we all need as well.  This can be a valuable part of reinforcing the learning that is going on in your homeschool.

3. Do something new.

It’s not good to constantly switch to the latest and greatest curriculum. But sometimes adding just a little something new is enough to bring enthusiasm and excitement to your school day. You might get excited about a new curriculum or a supplement. Your excitement as a mom can be contagious.

4. Add some fun.

When my older kids were younger I realized I had trouble getting the fun projects done. I was pretty good at keeping us going through our math and English books, but making salt dough maps just wasn’t happening. At that time I instituted Fun Fridays. On Fridays we didn’t do our regular handwriting, math, and grammar lessons. Instead we made time for those hands-on opportunities I was too tired to do on other days by giving them priority. It’s something I’m considering trying again with William and Lizzie this year since I am once again struggling to find time for the “fun” things.

5. Take a break.

Hopefully, you’re doing that. I know schooling year round is popular with some, but we all need breaks. If you school year round, enjoy the shorter, more frequent breaks. If you take the summer off, be sure to spend some time relaxing. If you find the need for more breaks during the school year schedule them and make sure you actually take them! I have friends who use a Sabbath Scheduling Method. With my older children in outside classes I don’t know if it would be worthwhile for me to try at this point, but the idea is appealing.

6. Evaluate

Before you plan, look back at last year and think about what worked and what you’d like to change. Have you children fill out an evaluation too. I’ve created an evaluation form that can help you with this process.

7. Delegate.

If your kids are middle school age or older, why not have them help you with the planning? Have them look through their curriculum and tell you how many math lessons there are or how many science experiments. Let them make supply lists or book lists. Or give them a planner and have them figure out how to pace one or all of their courses. Keep them involved throughout the year as well. Have them help you evaluate how the year is going so far and add suggestions for improving the rest of the year.


So maybe you’re not chomping at the bit to get started on the new school year, but try this UPDATED approach to bring some energy to the new school year.

Photo credit: Graphic created from Creative Content photos by Greg Peverill-Conti and Rachel K on

Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link.


Apr 142014

As I look back over David’s homeschool career, history has often been a struggle. We started off well, with lots of hands-on projects and notebook pages. He began to use the computer for making notebook pages at a young age (about 2nd grade). We had one year in a co-op for Tapestry of Grace and in hindsight that was a good year. At the time I was often frustrated with the group setting.

Starting in David’s 6th grade year things really started to go downhill in the history department. We focused on reading real books, but we often rushed. I tried to keep all the children together in their history assignments. I was frazzled. Most of the hands-on projects disappeared from our home. Basically the only thing that we managed to slog through was the reading.

With high school coming, I knew that something had to change, so I went in a completely new direction for David. I went with the Textbook – Get It Done Approach for World History. And honestly, there were some things that worked really well with it. The program we used was broken down into daily readings so it was very simple to use. It included comprehension questions, quizzes, and tests. And we made it through.  It did nothing to ignite a love of history though.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. I received a free download of Part 1 in order to write this review. I was not compensated for this post. All opinions expressed are my own.

Next year is American History. I was going to have David use the Textbook – Get It Done Approach again. That is  until I had an opportunity to review Dave Raymond’s American History Curriculum from Compass Classroom.

American HistoryI am excited to give this curriculum a try. It has some of the features that have worked well for David.

  • Well structured and divided into daily lessons
  • Includes quizzes and tests

But there are some major differences that I am excited about.

Video format

The daily lessons include a relatively short video (about 10 minutes) with Dave Raymond teaching. I think this format will work well for David. He tends to lose focus with lots of reading. I like that Dave Raymond stresses taking notes. That is a skill that David needs to develop before going to college and this will be good practice.

Accompanying readings

The readings are mostly primary source documents that go along with the lecture. They are typically not lengthy. One thing I love about both the student and teacher guide is that the download includes  a pdf version, a Kindle version, and an epub version! So David can read from the Kindle, but I can print things as necessary from the pdf version on my computer. Super idea!

Portfolio and other projects –

This is what I find the most exciting about this curriculum. I feel like we’re coming full circle back to our early days of studying history. (Ones that David actually enjoyed!) Along with the lectures and the reading, the student completes a portfolio of their work. (Similar to the notebook pages we used to do.)It’s described as a scrapbook type of book, but I think we will likely modify it for David and have him create his in electronic form. There are also several other assignments – some of which include a research paper, delivering an historical speech, and the final project called the Hour Project. The options on the Hour Project are limitless, but knowing my son, the project will likely culminate with a video production.

Updated: The curriculum is now available as a whole with 26 lessons. It’s available as a download (regular price $120) or on DVD (current price $120/set). You can also view samples on the Compass Classroom website. To make this a full high school credit, it is necessary to complete the extra projects, however, the curriculum is suitable for upper middle school as well.


Aug 092013

Eleven years ago I attended my very first homeschool book fair. We had a just turned 4 year old boy, a 2 year old girl, and a 2 month old baby. Like many new homeschoolers, I was very enthusiastic about starting homeschooling, and I wanted to go ahead and have a “test” year to make sure that I could actually do it.

Looking back, I see why so many people have the idea or making preschool a test year, but  determining if you’re going to be able to homeschool using a 4 year old as a test subject is not particularly helpful. A lot of growth occurs between 4 and 5. And those younger kids that you’re worrying about keeping entertained  grow a lot in a year too.

Thankfully, we were cheap, poor, frugal so that took a lot of bright, shiny preschool programs out of consideration. That helped me by necessity to keep things simple.

After doing my research, a lot using the CBD Homeschool Catalog, I had determined there was 1 item I was definitely going to buy at the book fair. (Assuming I could find it. Boy did I have no idea what a crazy, big place I was heading into! )

That one thing was Alpha-Phonics.

Alpha-PhonicsAlpha-Phonics is a phonics-based  reading program that has short lessons. It’s a very gentle approach to learning to read using time-proven methods of reading instruction. You teach the sounds the letters make, and you put them together to sound out words. There is repetition, but not long lists of rules to memorize. It doesn’t require writing, which is great for young learners since fine motor skills for writing often lag behind reading readiness. And it is very affordable.

Eleven years ago, we taught David to read using Alpha-Phonics. He was only 4, but he was ready to learn. Anna was not ready to learn to read at 4, or at 5. She was almost 6 before she grasped the concept of blending sounds together to make words. And William was even older. Lizzie however, was another young reader. I didn’t even teach her to read. She learned from several different computer games and her older brother and sister. As a result, she is a little weak on sounding out words. So I’m going to be going through Alpha-Phonics with her to fill in the gaps.

When Alpha-Phonics contacted me to see if I wanted to review their updated program, I couldn’t refuse. The main  Alpha-Phonics text is unchanged from the version I purchased 11 years ago. But they’ve added some extras. In addition to the book, there is now a CD-ROM of the entire text included at the same low price. I’ve tried out the CD, and I liked listening to the author, Samuel L. Blumenfeld, discuss the development of the alphabet and phonics instruction. I think the CD has more value to someone who is using Alpha-Phonics in a classroom setting, but it might prove useful to be able to have the student read from the computer instead of the book just for the sake of variety. It’s not a computer game, it’s full screen images of every lesson in Alpha-Phonics, with teacher instructions, both written and recorded.

I also received the Companion Workbook and the Little Companion Readers.The Companion Workbook has simple exercises to reinforce the concepts learned in the Alpha-Phonics book. The exercises require very little writing so they would be useful for a younger learner. There is a guide that correlates the lessons in the book with the workbook.

The Little Companion Readers are also correlated with the Alpha-Phonics lessons. I have always found phonics readers helpful in those early stages of learning to read. Reading sentences helps with reading comprehension skills and proper voice inflection. It’s nice to have readers specifically linked to your phonics program so you know there are no surprises with letter sounds that haven’t yet been introduced.

I highly recommend Alpha-Phonics for beginning or remedial phonics instruction.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of Alpha-Phonics, the Companion Workbook and Little Companion Readers in order to write this review. I was not compensated for this post. All opinions expressed are my own. This post contains an affiliate link.

Jul 292013

If you like to talk to tomatoes,

If a squash can make you smile,

If you like to waltz with potatoes,

Up and down the produce aisle….

Have we got a show for you!

Yes, I just typed that from memory.

We received our first Veggie Tales video, Rack, Shack, and Benny, for my oldest son’s 1st birthday. Fourteen years and 4 kids later, we still love Veggie Tales.

MacLarry & The Stinky Cheese BattleSo when I was offered a copy of the latest offering, MacLarry & The Stinky Cheese Battle, to review, I didn’t hesitate to accept. I wasn’t disappointed. MacLarry is a well-done video that delivers what I’ve come to expect from Veggie Tales: a fun story, an unusual setting, silly humor, and a good moral.

MacLarry is the son of the chief of the Barber-barian clan. They have a long standing feud with the Romans who have occupied nearby England. They play pranks on the Romans and give bad haircuts. But MacLarry isn’t like all the other Barber-barians. He isn’t good at pranks. Instead, he likes to invent things. His father loves him, but he is disappointed in him. Finally MacLarry decides to leave the village and sets out to find his hero Archimedes.  What happens next, I’ll leave as a surprise, but I will tell you that MacLarry saves the day and his father comes to value his differences. The application verses are found in I Corinthians 12 where it speaks of the body as having many members that are all different, but all necessary for the function of the church.

If you have Veggie Tales fans, you will not be disappointed in MacLarry & The Stinky Cheese Battle.


Disclosure: I received a copy of MacLarry & The Stinky Cheese Battle in order to write this review. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions are my own. Post contains an affiliate link.


Jul 062013

I had the opportunity to review the on-line reading program, Reading Eggs, last spring. My daughter Lizzie, really enjoyed the program and played it every day. Since then Reading Eggs has expanded. Now they have Eggy apps! These include Eggy Words, Eggy Alphabet, Eggy Phonics, and more.

I received 2 apps to review:

ipad-eggy_numbers2-6b53bf8b965f7e1bca33c6dcb5e850c3 Eggy Numbers has a variety of activities for young learners. There are multiple accounts allowed so more than one child can keep up with their progress. The activities include both those that teach the number, like drawing and copying,  the number, and those that teach counting.This app is available both for iPad and iPhone and is recommended for children ages 3 and up.

I played with this app and found the menu selection and games fairly intuitive. I did not have any problems with the game running. I liked the wide variety of animals used in the counting games. The graphics are attractive.

We do not have an iPad, so I was using my iPod Touch to review this. I think that although the game works fine on the iPod, the larger screen on an iPad would be better. My 2-1/2 year old son struggled with dragging the farm animals into the pen to count them. But he’s a little under the age recommendation for this app and not really counting yet. He says sequences of numbers, but doesn’t have the “point at one object – say one number” concept down. (I think the technical term is one-to-one correspondence.) Lizzie, 6-1/2, did play with the app and liked it, but the concepts are not ones that she needs practice.


ipad-eggynurseryrhymes1-04af70a0ba5912d663600131e1b45546Eggy Nursery Rhymes teaches young children a variety of nursery rhymes and uses the nursery rhymes to practice reading and spelling. Some of the familiar rhymes include Baa Baa Black Sheep, Humpty Dumpty, and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. In the sing-along view, the bouncing ball shows the words of the nursery rhyme. Then the child can practice spelling various words in the rhyme or choose starting letters of various words in the rhyme.

I liked that the app allows you to select UK, Australian, or US accents. We found the bouncing ball was dragging a little behind the audio, but that is likely a problem with my iPod rather than the app. It’s a 2nd generation, so many of the new apps are pushing its limits. Once again, my kids didn’t match the age and skill levels perfectly. Andrew can watch the sing-along sections, and try to play the games, but he isn’t ready for the spelling exercises. Lizzie also likes the rhymes (and she doesn’t know them all, so it’s good exposure.), but most of the activities are too easy for her. (But she’s a very good reader for 6-1/2 years old.) Overall, these are great apps to have if you have young children. There is a lot of play value for only $2.99 each.