Friday, July 31, 2015

With Lee in Virginia by Heirloom Audio Productions (Schoolhouse Review Crew)

This year, we've become fans of audio dramas.  We were selected to review With Lee in Virginia by Heirloom Audio Productions.  I knew it would be a win for the kids because we absolutely enjoyed listening to In Freedom's Cause.  In fact, in the months since we listened to In Freedom's Cause, the kids have mentioned it several times and have even recommended it to our friends.  I knew they would enjoy having the opportunity to listen to another audio drama by Heirloom Audio Productions.

With Lee in Virginia Audio Drama Review

When the shipment arrived, I found another beautifully packaged compact disc set.  The audio drama unfolds over a two CD set.  In addition to the discs, we were also given some great bonus items.  We received the 30 page eStudy Guide and Discussion Starter and the Official With Lee in Virginia Soundtrack mp3 download.  The Study Guide has three topics following each section: Listening Well, Thinking Further, Defining Words.  I definitely wanted to make better use of the study guide this time around so I printed off several pages and had discussion starters ready to go.

We had a quick road trip coming up in just a few weeks so I knew that would be a perfect time to listen to our newest adventure.  We do a lot of traveling as a family and we're often saved by the fact that our minivan has a DVD player and two video screens, but sometimes, I would like the boys to be engaged in something other than the latest animated movie.

As we headed down the road, we got started on With Lee in Virginia.  Right from the start, I knew I was going to be as impressed with the quality that I've come to expect from Heirloom Audio.  This isn't just an audiobook, this is absolutely an audio adventure.  The sounds, the background music, the excitement and passion in the speaker's voices are all enticing and immediately pull you in to the story, right into the drama.  

We learned about slavery in a way that I haven't been able to explain.  We learned about what it was like for young men to enlist in the Army and what that meant and how that was different than what their Dad does now.  And how sometimes it was the same.  We were excited each time General "Stonewall" Jackson displayed his incredible strength and courage.  We were silent through the battles, not wanting our voices to once drown out a single sound.  

This was an incredible adventure to embark upon as a family and it will once again be another audio drama that I will recommend to others.  If you have never listened to a production by Heirloom Audio, you should definitely add it to your must list as this school year approaches.  It will be an experience you will thoroughly enjoy and one you will not soon forget.

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With Lee in Virginia Audio Drama Review

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Monday, July 27, 2015

Homeschool Curriculum Tour: Spelling

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.  That means if you click on one and make a purchase, I'll be able to continue buying endless LEGO sets and keep camo-themed bandages in stock for the boys.  

Join me as I give you a tour through the books we have chosen to use this year in our homeschool.  These resources are ones that I have carefully and thoughtfully chosen as what I think is the best fit for my boys.  These opinions are all my own.  

First up is our choice for Spelling.  This year, I've decided to use Spelling Power for the boys spelling curriculum.  I've looked at Spelling Power a few times before, but for whatever reason had never taken the plunge.  There were a few factors that pulled me in this year.  

#1.  The longevity.
I can use Spelling Power for our entire homeschool life if it works for the boys.  It's set up to be used from 3-12th grade.  I can purchase one book to use for 10 grades?  This definitely deserved my attention.  I know that what works for one child may not work for another or that after awhile with a certain program that has been working, needs may change.  The longevity, though, is a reason I decided to give it a try.

#2.  Lesson time.
My boys aren't interested in being good spellers, that's an interest of mine.  A program that explains that each day will take 15 minutes or less for spelling sounds like something the boys would be able to handle.  Considering there are now three of them that need my attention, any lessons that require my focus solely on one child need to be kept to shorter amounts of time.  Plus, the prep time for me is minimal as well.

#3.  Ease of use.
With Spelling Power, the student spells the words given.  If the word is spelled correctly, then we continue on to the next word.  If the student spells the world incorrectly, the word is then reviewed a few different ways to ensure correction has been made.  That's it.  No constantly going over the same list of words the student has already mastered.  Sounds good to me and sounds good to the boys.  

So those are my biggest reasons for using Spelling Power in our homeschool this year. The breakdown of how the program works is pretty simple.  You start with a Survey Test to determine which level of the program your child should begin and follow that with a Placement Test for a more fine-tuning of the spelling level determination.  Once those tests have been administered, you move on to the Group of words as prescribed by the results of the previous testing.  

Once you get started on the correct level and group of words, the process is simple. You spend five minutes on new words by saying the words to your child as they write them in their spelling notebook.  If the word is correct, you move on, if it's not correct, they write the correct spelling beside the word.  Once the five minutes of new words have been given, you then take five minutes to review the words that were misspelled.   There's a specific process to reviewing the misspelled words which will really help to cement the correct spelling for the child; the process is laid out in the spelling workbook.  Following the correction process is five minutes of activity to review corrected words.  

Easy as pie, right?  It really is simple once you get the hang of it and makes for a quick and (mostly) painless spelling lesson.  If you are interested in trying Spelling Power, I definitely recommend it!

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Friday, July 24, 2015

Expanders by SimplyFun (Schoolhouse Review Crew)

We love board games.  It's one of our favorite family activities.  We were selected to review the board game Expanders from the company SimplyFun and I was thrilled to get started.

Simply Fun Review

Our Expanders game arrived and we couldn't wait for family fun night.  The box is colorful, sturdy, and very nice.  The quality is excellent and is on par with what I expect from a family board game.  When we try out a new game, my expectations are that it's made well enough to withstand children.  My boys are taught to take good care of our board games, but they are still boys, still children, and incredibly competitive.  The competition comes into play because a few of us have been known to get a little bit rougher with pieces when the intensity increases.
Simply Fun Review
Back to Expanders.  You should know that I have a son that doesn't enjoy math, like at all, and two sons who walk around doing math throughout the day, just for fun.  I was hoping that this game would be fun enough for my math-hater so he wouldn't complain and fun enough for my math-lovers, who declared it an instant hit.  It's always a challenge for me to find games that are both educational and fun.  What I find as a great learning tool sometimes falls flat in the fun department.

The point of the game Expanders is to use all of your colored tokens by matching numbers or expanding your colored token territory by adding numbers together.  The game is meant for 2-4 players, with modifications explained for 2 person gameplay, 3 person gameplay and so on.  Since you set up the mainframe each time you play, the board is always changing and you aren't playing the same game over and over again.  With the highest number being 12, that game doesn't get so difficult that my 3rd grader can't participate.  

Simply Fun Review

This game was more fun than I was expecting.  When I read the premise behind Expanders, I wasn't sure if the boys would find it that interesting.  I was completely wrong.  They love the game, even my math-hater.  They love trying to find ways to connect their numbers, trying to edge each other out of space, and how to expand on their areas.  At the beginning of the game, they are helpful to one another and encourage each other to find new ways to expand.  As the game progresses, however, the competition gets fierce.  They have such a great time, though. In fact, Zander said that this game was "so awesome" and that he couldn't wait to play again.  They didn't wait to play again; they started up another game right away.

I also hadn't heard of SimplyFun before this review.  I checked out their website for other games and was thrilled to see that they are actually a direct sales company!  Awesome!!  There are so many games I would love to try.  Plus, the website has so many videos that you can view each game before deciding to give it a try.  

Don't forget to follow SimplyFun on your favorite social media platform:

Simply Fun Review

Crew Disclaimer

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

What I'm Currently Reading

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.  That means if you click on one and make a purchase, I'll be able to continue buying endless LEGO sets and keep camo-themed bandages in stock for the boys.  

In an effort to spend more time reading, one of my favorite things to do, I've decided to share with you the books that I'm currently reading.  I get a little antsy from one minute to the next.  It's easy for me to read several books at a time, especially if they are all non-fiction.  

Fiction books I read all at once, at one time, right there, no sleep.  If it's a trilogy?  I hope the kids are good with frozen pizza for dinner...because Mom can't stop reading.

(I don't read fiction very often.)

What I'm Reading Now
What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast
Say Goodbye to Survival Mode
Manners that Matter for Moms
The Plane That Wasn't There
You Matter More Than You Think

What are you reading right now?

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Thursday, July 16, 2015

Homeschool Planet by Homeschool Buyers Co-op (Schoolhouse Review Crew)

There are two things I love to do in the summer: #1 is buy school supplies and #2 is plan our school year.  I'm a sucker for planners and was thrilled to be selected to review Homeschool Planet from the Homeschool Buyers Co-op.  

Homeschool Planet Review

After watching the video on the co-op's site, I couldn't wait to get started.  Because there are so many awesome benefits to this planner, a post describing all of them would be rather lengthy.  As a result, I'm just going to share with you a highlight real of my favorite features.  

Individual Profiles

The first thing I did when I got started was to set up a profile for each person in my household.  Homeschool Planet says that this planner can be used for so much more than a homeschool organization, so I can input everyone's schedule to know everything that is going on each day.  Once I added each person, I decided to go ahead and set up our school year.  I can select the start date and end date and also determine which days will be vacation days (for holidays, birthdays, etc.)

Homeschool Planet Review


So, I've added all the people, I've set up the shell of our school year, now I'm going to add our resources.  In this section, I can list each textbook, workbook, website, whatever resource is necessary for that assignment.  When I assign the work, I can include the resource needed.  I've used this feature mostly for keeping track of online resources.  This way, when we get to an assignment that has a great go-along available on the web, I won't forget that I wanted to include it.

Homeschool Planet Review

Setting up Our Schedule

Here's my favorite part, well, one of them--I have so many favorites!  Now, I get going on adding in our classes and assignments.  For History, I add the class to our schedule as well as add the list of materials we will be using to our resource list.  Then, I start adding in daily assignments to that class.  If it's an assignment we are completing together, I select each student that will be working on that task so it populates into each of their schedules.  I repeat for each class.  For a few subjects, I haven't added in daily assignments yet, so I just add the class as a placeholder without including daily details.  Once I've done this, I can view our schedule at a glance.  

Homeschool Planet Review


Ok, I LOVE this part.  I think this is definitely my favorite feature.  Each day when I log into Homeschool Planet, if there are any assignments from previous days that didn't get marked off as completed, this message pops up that asks me what I want to do with unchecked assignments.  I can select that it's been completed (and we forgot to mark it off), I can opt to do nothing about it, or I can select that the assignment get moved to the next scheduled day of school or the next day.  So if someone is sick and we miss a few assignments one day, I can opt to have our schedule shifted to the right with the click of a mouse.  THAT'S IT!  I don't have to redo the entire schedule, no erasing and re-writing...I just click the appropriate bubble and it fixes my schedule how I want it done.

Homeschool Planet Review

Email of Daily Digest

Another incredible feature is that I can have the day's schedule emailed to me each morning at a time I've chosen.  I wake up and there's an email with our day's plan right there.  I can then print it out!  So I have all of the benefits of an electronic planner (ease of use, rescheduling, sync with other calendars) with the awesomeness of a paper planner.  I can print out the assignment list for the boys so they can check off what they have completed.  This allows them an overview of what will need to be completed each day.  They like seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

Homeschool Planet Review

Calendar Sharing

Finally, there's calendar sharing.  I can select to have events on my google calendar sync up with my Homeschool Planet calendar as well as then share our calendar with my husband by sending our calendar to him.  My husband and I already use Google calendars everyday to keep each other "in the know" with our schedules so this feature is perfect for our family.  

Homeschool Planet Review

Ok, there are just a few of the amazing features that I love about this planner, but it does SO MUCH MORE!  I encourage to read more of the reviews so you can get a complete picture of all it has to offer.  (Click the button at the bottom.)  This planner can help with grading, with tracking hours, with making a transcript...and more!  I love this planner.  I've tried so many planners, electronic and paper and this planner is in the top spot.  

But wait!  There's more!  

For a limited time only, you can visit Homeschool Giveaways for a FREE 3-Month Trial to Homeschool Planet!  The giveaway ends soon!  If you miss this awesome freebie, you can still score a free month of Homeschool Planet to try it out.  That offer is available through Homeschool Buyers Co-op.  

Don't forget to follow Homeschool Buyer's Co-op on your favorite social media site:
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Homeschool Planet Review

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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Night Owl to Early Bird

I hate waking up early.  I mean, it's a loathing, not just a dislike.  I have a comfortable bed in a pretty room and the coziest blankets.  When my brain starts telling me to wake up, I easily and readily ignore it.  I want to tell you here that I need the extra sleep.  It's not just a desire but a need, well, that's the excuse I want to give you.  I want to say that because I have a chronic illness that causes fatigue that I NEED the sleep.

But that's not entirely true.  I do battle exhaustion and fatigue on a daily basis.  My need to stay one with the bed every morning is for a different reason, though.  The reason I struggle so greatly with getting out of bed each morning is lack of good time management.  

Doesn't that sound ridiculous?  It is.  The reason I can't get up early is because the night before I didn't go to bed until 1:00 AM, maybe later.  The chronic illness does dictate my need for 8-9 hours of sleep to function adequately--that is easily attainable if I got to sleep at a reasonable time.  

In the evening, however, I wait too long to get dinner started.  I wait too long to clean up after the meal.  I wait too long to get the kids to bed.  I wait too long to get my things picked up from around the house.  I wait too long to get in bed.  I wait too long to go to sleep.  I have no good reason for waiting.  For what am I waiting? What is there to gain by delaying what I know needs to be done?


My inability to get up and get out of bed before 9:00 AM each day begins the night before!  It is rooted in my poor time management skills and honestly, that is based on two things: laziness and selfishness.  

That's right.

Lazy and selfish.

That's a tough pill to swallow.  Maybe you think that's too harsh.  That's where I am in my life right now.  I can admit that nearly all of my day-to-day problems stem from one issue: poor time management.  I attribute that to being too lazy to want to get up and get things done in a timely manner and too selfish to put the good of my household ahead of my own wants and desires.  

It's time for a change.  I'm ready for a change in my life.  My youngest son is five now so my days of dealing with babies and toddlers are long gone (oh, dear...don't get me started on that!).  No middle of the night feedings, early morning diaper changes, or 3:00 AM shrieking.  This is a new season of life that I have found myself and while I'm rather nostalgic about the baby phase, there's something to be said about where we are now.  We are a family with three school-age children.

Now means something has to give.  It's me.  I set the tone here.  My amazing husband works very hard to provide for us, the boys are incredible blessings, and my job here is to make it all work.  Not everyday is going to be awesome and I'm not waking up tomorrow to be supermom, but I can do better.

Better starts with time management skills.  The one I'm tackling first is the biggest one.  Perhaps that's not the way to go, but I've been inspired by a recent course and subsequent books.  

This woman is going from late night owl to happy early bird.

Oh dear.

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Tuesday, July 7, 2015

July = Camp!

Summer camp!  

We are so excited that July has arrived as we have reached the month our two Scouts will be attending Summer Camp!

Adisson is a Boy Scout and will be attending a week-long summer camp for the second year.  He had such a great time last year and I know he cannot wait to attend this year.  Zander is a Cub Scout and will be attending 3 day Resident Camp, for the second year.  

There are a lot of summer camps we could choose from in our area and many that I know the boys would enjoy.  However, we are such an active Scouting family, with very busy Scouts, that it makes the most sense (and sounds like the most fun) to attend Scout camp. 

We'll be excited to share pictures as soon as the camps are over.   

Do your kiddos attend summer camp?  

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