Friday, August 31, 2012

Reading Kingdom ~ A Schoolhouse Crew Review


J4 has been practicing his pre-reading and skills with Reading Kingdom! RK, developed by a leading reading expert, is an online reading and writing program that customizes each lesson to the individual child. It is "disguised as a game" and "teaches children four years old (that can sit for 15 - 20 minute lessons) to ten how to read and write to a third grade level."  Reading Kingdom states that their system is the only online program that utilizes all six skills needed for reading and writing which are custom fit to each individual child. 6 Skills
Within the Reading Kingdom website, there is a Resources tab with wonderful extras and many hidden gems. I encourage a thorough look through under each of these tabs.
  • Sample Lessons - many examples of the lessons offered on Reading Kingdom.  I highly recommend looking through the list of lessons offered.
  • Great Apps for Kids - this list is fabulous ~ there are many GREAT app resources listed
  • Educational Activities for Kids - a frequently updated list of links to general education (mostly hands on) activities 
  • Great Books for Kids - another frequently updated list that includes a link to children's book reviews posted on the RK blog
  • Kids Reading Games - explains how and why Reading Kingdom is a great "game" to teach reading and also lists recommended educational preschool games like Connect Four.
  • Learning Tips - a large collection of articles written by the creator of Reading Kingdom
  • Worksheets for Kids - a collection of worksheets covering reading comprehension, sight words and holiday themes
  • Tutorials - the one stop spot for numerous links to "how to" articles on topics such as how to use Reading Kingdom, what to do when a child needs keyboard or mouse help, etc.
  • Videos - links to ten videos, including four featuring Dr. Blanks, four program overview videos, and two testimonial videos
  • FAQ's - includes six separate faq's lists ~ this is also a great read
How we are using Reading Kingdom: 
After completing Skills Test 1, J4 was placed in a level specific for his skills. We received a very helpful 9 page PDF explaining the levels and structure of Reading Kingdom's "games". I highly recommend reading through this information!

Right now, we are working on Seeing Sequences and  Letter Land . J4 is learning to build his memory skills and visual sequencing skills in Seeing Sequences. In Letter Land, he is learning keyboarding skills. Below is a screen shot of a Seeing Sequences "game."


To use the program, J4 and I sit together at the computer. Because the letters that he would need to maneuver to with the mouse are a little small (for my four year old's motor skills) I would have him point to the correct answer with his finger. Then I would maneuver the mouse for him. He would left mouse click. The times he would want to try all by himself, he would quickly become frustrated.

Note: the online keyboard built into Reading Kingdom has both the uppercase and lowercase letter together. This is important because J4 does not recognize all of his lowercase letters with their uppercase counterpart. This is why the manual keyboard is not an option for him just yet. He and I are working on identifying our lowercase letters. 
Notice how the uppercase and lowercase letters are paired

A week before the end of our review, I ran across a blog article on Reading Kingdom that referenced an app that allows flash to be used on the iPad!! (An answered prayer, right?!) I quickly installed the free version and found the main screen links on it to be too mature for our children. I was heartbroken!

My husband researched the same app company recommended by Reading Kingdom and found they have another flash app specifically for children!! It's called Rover and it is FREE!!
Since downloading this app, J4 has had much more autonomy. There are still slips of his fingertip which frustrate him, see the face in the first picture. He's mad at his finger. Pointer has redeemed himself in the second!

J4 playing Letter Land on the iPad
J4 has no problem being read to for much longer than 20 minutes, so I thought he'd be fine with a 15-20 minute game. I was wrong. He can handle about 5-8 minutes before he's ready to check out for good. I do encourage him to stick it out til the end. Occasionally he can, but most often we have to split the lesson into two sessions.

Overall, J4 is succeeding with Reading Kingdom. He is recognizing letter sequences and finding letters on the keyboard. His progress is a little slower than recommended since he will not sit for a full lesson. In my opinion, I don't think this is hurting him ~ learning, especially at 4, should be fun and not work. The point of homeschooling is to teach at the pace appropriate for the child, and this works by helping him learn but not forcing him to become tired and then not look forward to using the game. We want him to enjoy the experience, so right now, half lessons work for us.

Everyone can try Reading Kingdom FREE for 30 days! After that the monthly subscription to Reading Kingdom is "$19.99/month (with no monthly minimum), or $199.99 per year (20% off). Additional children in your account get 50% off ($9.99/month or $99.99/year). You can cancel your subscriptions at any time."

There is a scholarship program available. They don't want anyone to be turned away because they can't afford to pay. If you do have financial hardship and can show during your 30 day free trial you use the program consistently, you may be granted a scholarship. Information on both pricing and scholarships may be found here.

To read what other Schoolhouse Review Crew members thought about Reading Kingdom, click the banner below.

Disclaimer: As part of TOS Review Crew, I received Reading Kingdom, at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Help in the kitchen, please! Everyday Cooking - Molly Crew Review




My mother and father divorced the same month I turned twelve. I had a four year old brother and five year old sister. Until that time, my mother stayed home with us and took care of all the cooking, cleaning, and the little ones. 

I'm sure you're asking, what does any of this have to do with cooking?? Well, the new responsibilities of being a single working mother left little time for my mom to teach the homemaking skills I needed. Plus, I was very busy babysitting my siblings and certainly didn't realize the importance of reaching out to my grandmothers at the time. Through the years, I've devoured cookbooks and spent time in the kitchen with my mother and grandmothers, but I still feel a little inept in the kitchen. So, when the Molly Crew opened an opportunity to review a Cooking "How to Manual" I was beyond excited!
So, What is Everyday Cooking?
Everyday Cooking is a collection of simple, nutritious and delicious recipes (with an emphasis on whole foods), meal plans and time saving food preparation tips. The purpose is to help make meal time special, yummy and non-consuming! 

Everyday Cooking began as a chapter in the author's Home Education 101 manual. The chapter was titled, "Getting Dinner to the Table the Same Day You Homeschool". Everyday Cooking, a full cookbook and educational guide, was born from that chapter after moms and dads requested more recipes and more ideas! 

The physical book is 100 pages, coil bound, with a glossy front cover. It's also available in e-book format (the format we received).

Table of Contents: 
  • Preface
  • Introduction
  • Time Saving Tips 
  • Breakfast Ideas
  • Appetizers and Dressings
  • Bread and Grains
  • Main Dishes & Soups & Sides
  • Desserts and Snacks
  • Basic Measurements and Helps
  • Meal Planning and Shopping Hints 
  • Basic Cooking Skills Checklist
  • Sample Menus & Menu Planning Masters
  • Basic Kitchen Accessories
  • Kitchen Equipment
  • The Tortoise and the Hare
  • Suggested Resources
  • Index 
There is a twelve page preview of Everyday Cooking here. Just click the preview button just below the cookbook's picture. The full contents page, which includes all the recipes and the first couple of pages of time-saving/budget friendly tips are included!   

This blue link will take you to two desert recipes featured in the cookbook.
The following will take you to a homemade bread recipe and detailed pictures, both included in Everyday Cooking I'm planning for bread-making to be our next cooking adventure! 

How We Have Used Everyday Cooking:
First, let me begin by telling you that because the author explained pressure cookers, how safe they really are, and how quickly a meal can be prepared I began thinking maybe I should not be terrified of them after all. So, after a few days of thinking about my grandmother and father being pressure cooker pros, and how they have encouraged me to use one many times in the past, I gave them both a call and then decided I should go for it! My husband was on board and we bought one the same day I spoke with my family! It has been the best decision EVER!

I've used this pressure cooker each day since she came into our home. I now consider this a must have kitchen tool!
 This pressure cooker recipe I've made twice and it's a hit with the whole family - and and an eight year old guest!

Chops in Herbs and Wine p. 49 ~ She details how to use the pressure cooker to prepare this meal, the oven and the stove top. The author includes a reminder on safe pork temperature and shares that she uses an instant read digital thermometer. Presentation ideas are also included.

More samplings of recipes the children and I have made:
Homemade Granola, p.27 ~  The author gives variations to the granola recipe ~ we used pecans since that was the only nut we had on hand.

Kristie's Roll Out Cookies p.64 A super fun and delicious treat!

As you can tell, this recipe/cooking 101 book has been a wonderful addition to our family. It has opened a wonderful array of new cooking ideas like pressure cooking! I also love that there is a check off list of kitchen skills. This is a welcomed home economics addition for the children that will last all the way through high school. I am learning, the kids are learning and we are having FUN!

Pricing at the time of posting: 
Everyday Cooking is available as a physical book for 17.99 here. The ebook version is 14.99. You may purchase it here.

About the Author: Vickie Bently
Mrs. Bently is a homeschooling mother to eight children (their youngest is now twenty-two) and was foster parent to more than fifty. She and her husband raised their family on a farm Virginia where she took to heart the charge of the Titus 2 woman. Many of her foster children were in fact, pregnant teenagers. She would help train them in "mommy" skills.

 “Then [the older women] can train the younger women to love their husbands and
children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject
to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.”
Titus 2: 4-6 (NIV)

You may follow Mrs. Bently on facebook at

Read what other Molly Review Crew members thought about Everyday Cooking and another product from Everyday Homemaking, the Everyday Chore System by clicking the link below.


Disclaimer: As a member of TOS Molly Review Crew, I received an e-book copy of Everyday Cooking in exchange for my honest review. All thoughts are my honest opinions.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Two Weeks of Highlights

 Today, I'm linking with Collage Friday, iPhone Photo Dump, Weekly Wrap-Up and Favorite Resource This Week
Homegrown Learners

Favorite Resource This Week

Highlights from the Week of Aug 12 - 18th:

Who remembers the meteor shower? On Aug. 12th, we stayed up past our bedtime, took blankets and pillows onto our back deck, cuddled close and watched for shooting stars. We saw quite a few. It was such a sweet time of togetherness. The night was beautiful. There was a slight chill in the air. The cicadas and crickets played their music and the frogs sang to us. It couldn't have been more perfect. As a family, we talked about our Creator and "Oh, How He LOVES Us" while He showered us with beams of light shooting across His sky, just for ALL of us...

Our basement was in dire need of new flooring. In one full day, the old was out and the new was in. The kids watched every move the carpet and wood installers made...from 10 am til 4 pm. There was NO way for me to drag them away from watching those guys! I'm glad we got a few hours of formal school in before they came! One crew spoke mostly Portuguese and the other mostly Spanish. The kids spoke a little Spanish to the Mexican crew and made sure everyone had plenty of water! I didn't take a before picture, but here are the during and after photos!
the during photos: the bottom photo above is our schoolroom

and after: our schoolroom is just to the left

Our basement is so cozy and inviting. It's amazing the difference new flooring makes. We are so thankful!!

I began training to be an AWANA Cubbies leader!!  - I'm excited to be participating (once again) in a solid Bible program outside of our home-study and Sunday School with the kids.

 We enjoyed a swim in our neighborhood pool one morning later in the week. The kids practiced their freestyle and enjoyed racing each other. We also enjoyed a nice swim Friday evening with friends.
and I learned how to take underwater photos with my fairly new iPhone cover!

In addition to our regular studies and online resources like T4L and Reading Eggs, we are enjoying several educational resources we are reviewing for the Schoolhouse Review Crew.
And lastly, we are doing an independent review for Beethoven Who? This is a massive, over 300 page music appreciation class in ebook form is appropriate for all grades. It's especially written for parents with NO musical background. It has lots of links to music videos that the kids enjoy. So, far we are loving the class! Mrs. Washburn has offered one copy of her ebook, Beethoven Who? Family Fun with Music, as a give away on our blog once we finish our review!!

We watched a few shark week episodes and our Ranger Rick and Big Backyard magazines came, too! (I got a fabulous Groupon deal a few weeks ago!)

R6 finished his Kumon lowercase alphabet workbook! I am so proud of him. Handwriting hasn't been an easy task for my little buddy. Last year I worried a little bit - forming letters was such a struggle. I'm so glad I didn't push him or make handwriting a teary chore. We used Kumon Tracing and Uppercase Letters last year. I also used a Kumon Write and Wipe lowercase alphabet set. I am so pleased to say he has beautiful handwriting and his letters are formed easily! This is an answered prayer! ~ I gave him his first "real" spelling test this week, with a dictation sentence, and my sweetie made a 100! He also began a new Kumon workbook, My Book of Alphabet Games. It's a hit, too!
Nearing the end of his lowercase workbook!

We attended two parties, one for a sweet 9 year old and the other for an adorable new big brother!
The baby brother and the delicious cupcakes from Ms. N's 9th birthday party.

Highlights for Aug. 19- 26

We found the best iPad app ever!! While reading the blog on Reading Kingdom, I came across a post about an app that allows flash on the iPad!! Whoohoo!! After downloading the free version of the suggested app, I quickly discovered the main page was not at all child friendly. Daddy helped me research and we found the same company also makes a child friendly flash app!! It's called Rover and it's FREE!! It comes preloaded with many educational sites.
We are so excited to have a way for J4 to use a touch screen instead of the wireless mouse or even the laptop mouse on our windows based computers. Using a mouse was so frustrating to him while trying to play Reading Kingdom. Now that issue is solved. He can simply touch the answers!!

I learned to use a pressure cooker!!  They cooked at high pressure for four minutes. FOUR MINUTES! I am in love!

C8 began piano lessons two weeks ago. She LOVES her lessons and her teacher. We all love Ms. Mary and her family =)  Ms. Mary called Wednesday night to share a sweet story about C8. I don't think she'd mind my sharing it, but for now I will just reference it here to jog my memory in the future. ~ Contentment

A sweet third grade friend spent almost twenty four hours with us unexpectedly due to a family emergency. Thankfully everyone is now ok! The girls enjoyed having all of their school lessons together.

We added two new resources this week. All three began memorizing the AWANA verses in their beginning booklets, and we began The Mystery of History Vol. 1. I picked up the first edition at our homeschool used book sale this spring. We've completed three lessons and it is proving to be a very good fit for our family thus far!

We enjoyed baking cookies from scratch this week, too! (Everyday Cooking)

 And the most wonderful part of this week is ~ Daddy's parents arrived this afternoon (Friday)!!!! We took them out to eat at our favorite Mexican restaurant, saw a sweet friend there, walked over to Yogurtland and settled in for a family movie before bedtime! We are looking forward to spending the rest of our weekend with them!

~J4 loves to vacuum. Here is a sweet picture of him vacuuming under the table moments before their arrival. After our school lessons, everyone pitched in to do extra chores so the house would be welcoming for them.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Character Shaping and Inspiring: Heroines of the Past Bible Study

Heroines of the Past Bible Study Ebook - Click Image to CloseC8, the boys, and I have been immersed in a wonderful collection of heroine stories from the past, complied from different authors of a century or so ago.

This thirteen week, 263 page virtue study celebrates the "noble deeds of women and girls from history" and is far more than just interesting and fun stories from history. These stories and accompanying Bible study (authored by Amy Puetz) imparts moral decisions and true character building qualities into the minds and hearts of our sweet ones. This is beautifully accomplished without lecture, because they are of a real, true person's actions in their own life.

Each chapter of true short stories ends with Bible study questions and verses to look up that point out a virtue or Bible truth to study in more detail. Usually there is a paragraph or two of commentary at the end of the Bible lesson to bring to light the life lesson being exemplified.    
How we used Heroines of the Past Bible Study ebook (on our Kindle):
  • We have been inspired to dig deeper into each heroine's story we've studied thus far. It's been a wonderful history, geography and Bible lesson all wrapped into one neat package. In fact, most days we spent so much fun time exploring the history or geography surrounding the heroine(s) we were learning about, we would consider this rabbit trail our history and/or geography for the day! This is inspiration and true learning at its best!
  • Looking up the many suggested scriptures in our Bibles proves to be a very good practical exercise in locating the books and key verses in the Bible. Memorizing the key verse from each week was also a welcomed activity.
  • The author gave a wonderful suggestion to begin a memory box. The idea is to find a shoe box or something similar, decorate it with items such as fabric or pictures and place an object in the box to be used as a reminder of important truths. For example the first week we learn about Princess Edith of Scotland, from the middle ages. The main virtue we study is courage. Mrs. Putez recommends placing a glove in the memory box to remind us that "Christ is our Champion". Here is an excerpt from the Bible study portion of Week 1: The Courage of Princess Edith.
During the Middle Ages, when a girl or woman was charged with a crime, she could request a champion to fight against her accuser. If her champion was the winner, she was set free; but if her accuser was successful, she would be punished. Often, the penalty would be death. In a similar way, God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Champion. We were guilty of sinning against God, but instead of seeing us punished, Jesus paid the price for our freedom.   (Location 279 of 3375 ~ Kindle version)
The vast majority of the selections are easily read aloud and understood the first time through. We did find a couple of times however, in the near turn of the century English wording,  a small portion of text would be challenging to understand - nothing we couldn't reread carefully and comprehend a second time through.  I believe this maybe one reason why it is recommended for eight year olds and up.

Age Range:
The author recommends this book to be used with eight year old girls and older. Our boys, ages 6 and 4 enjoyed the stories just as much as C8 and myself. This book is full of bravery and courageous deeds, all subjects boys love just as well as girls. So far, we've read two stories of martyrs, I did censer a word or two slightly for the youngest child. The text was fine for the six and eight year olds. I've read past where we are as a family, and there might be one more story that would be a little too mature for the younger boys. It is the story of Regina Leininger, during the colonial period in southern Pennsylvania. The lessons learned are powerful and I will find an age appropriate way to retell the tragic beginning of this story to the boys.

Final Thoughts:
I cannot speak highly enough of this study. The selections of living literature chosen by Amy Puetz and the Bible portion she's authored is heart changing. We have all been touched in a positive way from the truths conveyed in this excellent study. I have heard all the children make reference to a virtue and character we've studied in a positive way over the past few weeks. We will most certainly take our time and finish this thirteen week Bible study. I love filling our hearts and minds with what is noble and good.

Pricing at the time of this review: Heroines of the Past Bible Study ebook (PDF, MOBI, EPUB), is on sale until Sept. 1, 2012 for 21.60. Heroines of the Past Bible Study printed book is also on sale for 21.60. ~ The printed book has more than fifty illustrations.

Other Crew Members are reviewing this book along with a few other titles from Golden Prairie Press. You may read them below.   

I received Heroines of the Past Bible Study, ebook at no cost to me, in order to complete an honest review with my children. All opinions are completely our own honest thoughts.

Monday, August 13, 2012

A FUN Way to Learn Spelling-and More! Schoolhouse Review


What is Vocabulary Spelling City?

VOCABULARYSPELLINGCITY.COM, Premium have you heard of it? It's an award-winning, extensive web-based spelling, vocabulary, grammar and writing practice (beta) program. This program helps elementary through high school students learn using many activities, games and videos.

It's also a record keeper. It tracks student's progress and assignments. It also gives, grades and records tests. For tests, the program details the words answered correctly with a check mark and the misspellings by crossing through the misspelled word and listing the correct spelling to the right. After a spelling test one can print a Spelling Certificate with percentage correct. This feature seems available only immediately after the test - I couldn't find a way to go back and print completed test certificates.

If you don't have a current spelling program, not a problem! The site has "Useful Word Lists" ready to go. There is even a 55 week Beginning Spelling Curriculum!  There is so much to this curriculum. I am constantly finding new videos and teaching resources.

 How WE Used, Premium:
Certificate of Spelling printed after completing a test
  •  I used our current spelling curriculum to make customized spelling lists for C8. I then chose assignments for her to complete on her own. An example of assignments I chose include a test and games such as Hang Mouse, Match it Definitions, and Premium Crossword. All assignments used only the words from my specific list and the teacher's grade book tracked her progress for me.
    C8 taking a spelling test
  • In addition to spelling/vocabulary lessons, C8 and I watched language arts lessons. LA lessons are short videos with printable worksheets, hands on activities and classroom activities. Two examples of topics we explored are parts of speech and antonyms. In the writing practice area, we watched video lessons on subject/verb agreement and crazy commas. C8 then put into practice what she'd just learned with a printable worksheet.
  • There are times when C8 just doesn't want to do computer work. She'd rather use pencil and paper. VocabularySpellingCity caters to her offline/non-computer based needs. At the time of posting, all premium edition games are printable. One premium edition game we all love is Word-O-Rama.  ( "The object of Word-O-Rama is to identify words by their definitions, synonyms, antonyms, or by their context within a sentence." ~ online description) Once logged in, to see if a game is printable, just look to the bottom right hand corner of the game's name for the printer icon. Most free games can be used as a printable worksheet as well. (It's important to be logged in, with a list loaded. Otherwise, the printing icons will be invisible.)
  • With R6, I printed out customizable handwriting practice worksheets using his spelling list. I let him chose the games to explore on his own, and I sat beside him to offer help when needed. Typing is a new skill for my little buddy.
  • We played the free app on our iPhone. There is an option for Premium Members to sign in and use their individual spelling lists.
Our Thoughts:
Having this online spelling resource has been especially wonderful while traveling. C8 and R6 were able to practice their spelling words on the go without packing anything besides our laptop. I like light packing!
They both enjoy learning through games, whether they are online, an app or printable worksheets.  The certificates always bring big smiles to their sweet little faces. This has been a fun review and we will continue to use

Premium Pricing at the time of posting:
For families of up to 5 students the cost is only 29.95 per year. To me, it is completely worth the price of a premium membership. For classrooms of up to 25 students, it's only 49.99 per year. One may find out more about Vocabulary Spelling City Premium Memberships here.

Below is a table of features comparing the free, basic program with the paid, premium program. As one can see, the Premium features are extensive and include no commercial banner ads.
 VocabularySpellingCity Premium Membership Features
Lastly, here is a video, from Vocabulary Spelling City, explaining the features of their premium program.

  Read what other crew members are saying below.

I received at no cost to me, in order to complete an honest review with my children. All opinions are completely our own honest thoughts.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Highlights of Our Week and a Visit with Family

I have TWO weeks worth of highlights to share including a visit with family, J4 learning something really awesome and a puppet show! 

Let's start at the beginning....

Highlights from the week of July 30 - Aug 3

In addition to our regular studies and current review items:

We finished reading the Wizard of Oz. I'm still amazed at the way it captivated the boys' attention.

We began two new read-alouds. One is a Lamplighter Publishing title Little Threads by Elizabeth Prentiss. Little Threads is a wonderfully told story about the beauty and honor in obedience. I first heard of Lamplighter Publishing a few months ago while attending a book club with several wonderful women. We were studying Mission of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson. Several of the mothers highly praised the quality and lessons learned in any of the Lamplighter books offered. My husband and I happened upon their booth at the Southeast Homeschool Expo last week and learned more about Lamplighter Publishing and their many titles. It was extremely hard to decide which book to read first to our children!

Our other read aloud is a favorite story from my childhood.  I have not forgotten my fourth grade teacher reading Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls aloud to our class. I am looking forward to revisiting Jay, his little sister, Grandpa, ol Rowdy.

We took our children with us to vote on Tuesday, July 31. We believe it's crucial to show our children the importance of  our freedom to vote.

Chemistry class with our friends happened a little differently this week. Only C8 stayed for class. R6 had a painful ear infection and even though J4 loves chemistry class, he's not quite old enough to attend class without mommy's supervision and help. C8 and two other friends learned about vanillin, and how this small molecule and its wonderful smell is able to leak out of an inflated balloon. They also made toothpick and mini marshmallow models of the vanillin molecule. We had planned to include a microscope lesson at our house, but that was postponed since the doctor suspected R6 had strep, too.

Additionally, on the nights the Olympic gymnastics was shown, we stayed up very late. (All three participate in a gymnastics class.) We adore Gabby Douglas and were ecstatic to see her win Gold!

I have two favorite free resources from this week. First is an app for the iPhone, VocabularySpellingCity.  The second is a daily devotional for kids we picked up at the convention, Keys for Kids. It's also available for free online.

Lastly, we began a new Schoolhouse Review, Speekee. It's an online, video based Spanish curriculum. I've never heard so much Spanish being spoken by our children! It's been FUN!

Highlights from Aug. 5-8

Online Resources Used While Out of Town:
  • Reading Kingdom - A learn to read program J4 and I are reviewing.
  • T4L - Math, Science, Language Arts, Reading, and Social Studies all in one place for C8 and R6. Our own subscription
  • - A game based curriculum to teach spelling, vocabulary and language skills. A product we are reviewing with C8 and R6
  • Heroines of the Past Bible Study - fabulous ebook Bible Study C8 and I are reviewing
  • Speekee - Online children's Spanish program
I only packed three physical books for our trip (my Bible, Little Threads and Summer of the Monkeys), our laptop and our Kindle!

On to Our Trip:

Daddy had to travel to Arizona for a few days. The kids and I packed up and traveled to my mother's home in our hometown ~ most all of our family can still be found in that little town. We spent as much time as we possibly could with as many of our sweet family members as we could!

My paternal grandmother and grandfather always cook a big dinner while we are home. Their purpose is to keep our family close by gathering us together whenever possible, and we are so thankful for what they do! When I was growing up, my great grandmother would have the whole family, and quite regularly the pastor, every single Sunday for dinner. My grandmother took over the tradition of frequent Sunday meals, and now she gathers everyone together as often as she can. It means a lot to us to get to visit with our family. We love them all so much! The kids played and fished for hours on this day.
Fishing with my dad at my grandparent's house. We were able to spend lots of great time with my dad this trip, too!
The kids watched a true barn raising. I love how close our family is and how they don't mind sacrificing time and energy to help each other out ~ values I want my children to hold dear.
(My sister and I kept our kids together every moment we could. There's one cousin that always managed to be out of photo range :) Mr. E, I'm talking about you! .... Great memories were made.
We are so very thankful God placed this precious lady in my grandfather's (and our) life. They've been married almost a year. My maternal grandmother passed away nearly two years ago. We miss her daily.

Jonathan helping PawPaw harvest okra. A beautiful okra blossom.

This is not by any means an exhaustive account of the family we spent time with (like Aunt T. and Miss J.) and our activities during our trip, but his is a good account of some of the memories made...

August 8-11

We left our family Wednesday morning and traveled to our home in GA. C8 had her first piano lesson of the new year that afternoon and the drive is a good five hours when it's just the kids and myself. We also learned that we would need to meet Daddy a day early just north of ATL. His plane was delayed and he needed fresh clothes for his Thursday and Friday meetings. (He got to meet Condi Rice on Friday! I'm jealous!) We made it to our hotel around 10 pm ... a very long day.
The next day, Thursday, we enjoyed the indoor pool at the hotel and J4 did something amazing! He swam on his back for the very first time!!
That evening we had a family date at a nice Atlanta restaurant and finished our night with another swim.

 Friday, we visited the Center for Puppetry Arts. We won tickets through Expedition Mom (check this link for a great review of the show) for a family pack of four tickets to see The Tortoise, The Hare and other Aesop's Fables, to make our own puppet in the Create a Puppet Workshop and tour the museum. We had so much fun! We loved making the puppets with our instructor, Mr. B, and touring the museum (was a little creepy to C8, the boys loved it), and everyone enjoyed the puppet show!
  Our Speekee Spanish curriculum suggests making a sock puppet to go along with the lessons. In the gift shop, at The Center for Puppetry Arts, we found an adorable sock puppet kit for three! As soon as we got home the little ones wanted to quickly put their sock puppets together! They were so much fun to make!! Just look at those cuties pretending with their puppets. 

Today, we enjoyed a seven mile family bike ride. It was so refreshing...I'm thankful to have such a beautiful and safe area to cycle with the little ones and Daddy...

If you're still with me, thanks so much for sticking around and reading to the end =)

Homegrown Learners

Favorite Resource This Week

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

This Week in History ~ A TOS Review


"This Week in History is a daily resource that brings your home school or classroom to life!"  ~ a quote from

What is This Week in History:'s This Week in History (a division of A Thomas Jefferson Education) is an online daily resource designed to walk elementary students to adults through one or as many as three events in history for each day on the calendar year. Whether a special person's birthday, a state's birth into America, or an event or a milestone in history, the topics are limitless and are intended to inspire the student on to further learning.

This Week in History provides quality educational discussions and links to go along with the day's theme. The lessons span an abundance of subjects from English, math, nature, geography, music, art, and so forth. The reach of topics are amazing.

As an example, July 20 is the anniversary of the first walk on the moon. "The Eagle has Landed" is how the post began with a great educational introduction and an exquisite picture of the first moon walk. There are links to outside educational sites including a news broadcast of the first moon walk, an online book The First Lunar Landing, and instructions to make a solar system mobile. There's also an eight question quiz about the moon with a link to a fabulous informational webpage to read to find the answers, plus a link to NASA coloring pages. In addition, there is a science experiment video with dry ice, and to top it off, a photo of the moon containing a drawing of one person's idea of the man on the moon's face ~ just a great well-rounded science lesson in history. You may view three full sample weeks of This Week In History here.

This Week in History can be emailed in blocks of one week, two days prior to the start of the new week's lesson. This is done so those of us who like to plan ahead, can. The lessons are self-sufficient and really only require an open and go-with-it attitude. They are fabulous for those who want a quality, immediate lesson. One may also go directly to the archive on and view any day on the calendar in order to research and learn from that specific day. Not only can you search the archives by date, you may also search by topic and keywords.

How we used This Week in History:  
We've explored each family member's birthday. We've looked up specific events in history, such as, Pony Penning Day on the island of Assateague and Chincoteague. We practiced drawing horses and learned more about the author of Misty of Chincoteague. We also explored zedonks ~ all activities that were provided in the lesson for July 27. Our four year old especially was intrigued by the introductory photo of Pony Penning Day and the zedonk. I must admit, the photos are always a big source of enjoyment for all of us. Additionally, we've simply opened the resource on the current day in history and immersed ourselves in learning.  For example, one day we learned about Japan's Tanabata Festival and experimented with origami for the first time. The little star below was created in just a few minutes using a step-by-step video provided by a resource link in the lesson. For our first try, I think it's pretty good!

Being that the resource is online, we've taken This Week in History on the road with us. While visiting family in another state, we were able to continue our TWIH learning by packing just our laptop ~ a very nice plus to cut down on the bulk of packing!

Our Thoughts:
Our whole family has enjoyed This Week in History from There are many beautiful photographs and illustrations that keep little (and big!) eyes engaged. The content has always been appropriate and inspiring. I am thankful to have the opportunity to expose my family to the well-researched topics in's This Week in History. It is a wonderful, ready to go, quality resource waiting for our family to use. We also enjoy the author including personal touches in various lessons, such as adding "this is a place" she grew up, personal favorite literature books, and so on. Those comments bring the content down to a personal level and provide a connection to the author that we enjoy. 

We have found some lessons are easier for older students to grasp, some seem geared more for younger students, but they are all adaptable and enjoyable for any age group.

Do take a peek into the sample weeks provided by TWIH. There's no way I could explain any better than one actually seeing and exploring the product on one's own.

A subscription breaks down to 33 cents a day or $9.99/a month.
When you think about the content being 33 cents a day, it's easy to say it's worth the price.

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are mine.