Win a Homeschool Art Gift Set in the Winter Wishes Giveaway Hop (CLOSED)

Congratulations to Janice W., the winner!

Hi there everyone!

I’m joining with a neat group of bloggers for the Winter Wishes Giveaway Hop, hosted by MamatheFox.

This giveaway hop starts on January 16, 2021, and ends on January 31. To check out all the giveaways and prizes you can enter to win, just click on the inLinkz button below (with the blue frog). That will take you to the giveaway page, where you’ll be able to visit each blogger’s giveaway.


And now, for the FINCHNWREN giveaway!

I know that many of your kids’ schools have turned into homeschool (if you weren’t homeschooling already). So, I have some goodies to add some joy and activities to your kids’ art times!



I love adding art to homeschool studies, and I’ve taught art to my son as well as to homeschool groups of elementary-aged students. I love this new book, Art in Action2. It leads students through art studies for 12 different artists (like Manet, Modigliani, Cezanne, Caravaggio, and more), looking at art through the lenses of light/shadow, portraiture, landscapes, and imaginary/legendary creatures. The book then leads students aged 9-12 in creating art projects with paper, paint, scissors, and more, based on each artwork (24 projects in all). It is an awesome book!

In addition, this gift set includes a 5″ x 7″ canvas and a 2-ounce pot of Crayola Washable Kids’ Paint in Copper.


How to enter to win

Simply click on the “Enter here!” link below. That will take you to a Giveaway Tools entry form, where you’ll be able to enter in a variety of ways. Giveaway ends 1/31/21. One winner will be selected to win all 3 items in the gift set. Best wishes!


Enter here!



Enjoy! –Wren



MamatheFox and all participating blogs are not held responsible for sponsors who fail to fulfill their prize obligations.

Not Back to School Blog Hop! Planning, Transcripts, and Keeping Records

Hello again! Welcome back to the last day of Not Back to School Blog Hop!


Today, the Homeschool Review Crew bloggers are sharing about their homeschool planning and record-keeping.



On Tuesday, in the “Must-Have Resources” post for the Not Back to School Blog Hop, I mentioned how important the right planner is for the homeschool mom. (You can read that post here.) Unless you’re unschooling, planning your lessons will ensure that you are completing the curricula you’re working on. It will enable you to work at a steady pace. And, it will provide a record for you not only at the end of the year but in the years to come.

I wrote down EVERYTHING we did; the lessons, pages completed in books, experiments, swimming lessons (and other sports lessons), coop lessons, field trips, books read, community service and volunteer hours worked. Trust me, this will enable you to complete those all-important….



End of the year records

You really will want to complete these every year. Even in kindergarten! Some families complete portfolios; while we kept many art lessons, essays, and other special projects, I relied more on a simple list of what we completed in each semester. That ought to include everything I mentioned in the paragraph above. All the books your child read, volunteering, recitals, roles in dramatic presentations, sports played, and awards won. You can include photos of special events. The more complete you can be, the better! Because, eventually, you will need to complete your child’s…


High School Transcript

Yep. All those years of faithful record keeping will bless you immensely when you have to complete your child’s high school transcript. Even if your child does not plan to attend college, he or she may need record of the proof of high school graduation for a job or other future plans.

Jackson did plan to attend college, however. And all the records I kept throughout the year enabled us to produce an accurate record of his high school work in the form of a transcript.

I am not an affiliate for Lee Binz, but I give her all the credit (tons of it!!) for teaching me how to keep records for high school homeschool. I recommend that you check her out, before your child’s 9th grade year if possible. (If you’re already into your high school years, it will still be very helpful!) Lee’s business is found on her website, TheHomeScholar. She has both free and paid resources which, for me, made all the difference in the world in understanding how to create a transcript. She provides free online webinars on a variety of high school homeschooling help topics. I particularly recommend what I used (I think the purchase price currently is $47); her online course, The Total Transcript Solution. (You can find that when you click on the “Online Help” tab on TheHomeScholar home page.) And, I believe right now, she is sending out free transcript examples for signing up for her newsletter.

Not only will an excellent transcript enable your child to get into college, it will be a help for you as he or she applies for scholarships. Some scholarship applications require a transcript; and if they don’t, your child can still utilize the information on the transcript (which can include awards, activities, and service) to write application essays.


In the end…

You will be so thankful that you have these records of your homeschool life. Even apart from the practical value good homeschool records and a transcript have, you’ll be surprised how much you *don’t* remember at the end of your homeschool journey. I have been decluttering this summer and I have had moments of astonishment when I ran across a brochure or picture from an event or field trip from our early days.

I’m so grateful for our lesson planners, for Lee Binz and all I learned about transcripts from her, and for the process of completing Jackson’s transcript. And, it did get him admitted to his desired university!



Annual NOT Back to School Blog Hop 2020

Be sure to check out the main Not Back To School Blog Hop page today, for all the other posts about homeschool record-keeping. You can access that by clicking on the pink link below.


I hope you’ve enjoyed the Not Back to School Blog Hop. It has been a pleasure for me to share with you some of our favorites from homeschool. Bless you on your homeschool journey this year!


Enjoy! –Wren

Crossing the Finish Line


I’m sure you can guess what the subject of this blog post is!

Yes. It’s our son Jackson’s graduation.

14 years ago, we started our family journey of home education. Early on, we did many of the activities that many of you probably did or do; nature center activities, library events, swim lessons, Kindermusik. Plus lots of art and reading at home. (And Veggie Tales.) While we hadn’t originally planned to homeschool, we sensed that that was God’s good plan for our kiddo. And, it was a good plan!

We began our journey in preschool with Five in a Row. When Jackson was in kindergarten, we used a variety of curricula and added piano lessons (in a wonderful group teaching program for young children).

And, we were off!

We used a lot of literature-based curricula, like Sonlight, which utilizes readers and historical fiction alongside history textbooks. We found that online or computer-based curricula was great for Jackson’s learning style, especially in math. We did a lot of experiments in science courses which ran from plants and photosynthesis, to electricity and magnetism, to weather, to chemistry.

We had amazing opportunities for group learning, in American art lessons, field trips, and a nature/hiking club. We joined a homeschool coop and support group, which (over the course of 8 years) gave Jackson tons of opportunities for great friendship, acting, fellowship, and service.

We also faced some speed bumps over the years. I had some serious surgeries in 2012, and again in 2017. Our family definitely went thru times of suffering and challenge. But during those difficult times, we also saw God’s provision and the support of our friends. I joined The Old Schoolhouse’s Review Crew, which allowed us to use and review curricula at no financial cost to ourselves. Jackson had some amazing educational activities because of the Crew, and both he and I made some lasting friendships.

And suddenly, it was 2019-2020, Jackson’s senior year. And it was a VERY full year, as I’m sure every student, teacher, parent, and homeschooler across the globe can say. COVID-19 of course changed much about our son’s senior year. His coop classes suddenly switched to online, in early March. Since we were already homeschooling, Jackson’s coursework wasn’t really affected; we simply continued what we were doing. Social activities dried up…yet Jackson was able to connect with friends via the internet. But graduation was up in the air. Because our state basically went on lockdown, our coop’s graduation ceremony was cancelled.

However, our coop’s graduation committee rallied and they planned and held an exceptional graduation ceremony in early summer. It was so meaningful. We’ll never forget it!


Crossing the Finish Line

And with graduation, the journey our family has been on together for 14 years has come to a close. And in what a crazy way, in the year of “the corona.”  If y’all are anything like me, your expectations of what the year would look like were blown out of the water. While we really never know what’s coming in a particular year, none of us could have predicted this one.

And yet, we persevere and press on. Jackson will be attending college as a freshman this month. My career as a homeschool mom and teacher has officially concluded. And in the blink of an eye, at that! For so many years we have been working toward the goals of finishing each year well and toward eventual high school graduation. Some of our homeschool years went so beautifully, and others just…did not. But I can tell you that I don’t regret one single one of those years. Homeschooling my son has been one of the great joys of my life. Humbling? Yes. Challenging? You bet. But rich in time, in love, and treasured memories? All of the above. God has been good and has sustained us through many a trial and many a happy moment.

And we and our son are off to walk out the next step in our journey!




Creating a Homeschool Transcript

Record-keeping might not be everybody’s thing. Yet, keeping a record of your child’s school years and the work they did in each one is so important. You might think you’ll remember everything your child did in his school years, but as time goes by you might be surprised at how blurred the years become!

As your child prepares for high school graduation and the path they’ll take beyond homeschool, you’ll want the records of their school years, especially the high school years. Especially if they plan to go to college after high school, when you’ll generally need a copy of their high school transcript. This is challenging…but doable! Here are some great tools that were amazing helps for me.




Lesson Planners

What has worked best for you via lesson planning? There are great online planners that many of my friends have used. However, I am (and always have been) a paper and ink (or pencil, in this case) planner lover. My two favorite planners have been The Old Schoolhouse’s Hey Mama Planner and the Well Planned Gal‘s Well Planned Day Planner.


These planners are just fantastic and must flow well with my thinking and planning styles. There’s room to record the courses, the days, semester grades, attendance, books read, and both contain extra places. The boxes include enough room for pages, time spent, even extra notes you might need to record. These were just, truly, invaluable when I prepared my son’s transcript.

You’ll need to be keeping records of all these things, and having them all in one place will make your life so much easier!



Homeschool High School Made Easy

Lea Ann Garfias‘ awesome Homeschool High School Made Easy was my first introduction to what the homeschool high school life would comprise. This lovely book, written in a conversational style that makes the reader seem immediately welcome and comfortable, covers tons of good info for the mom of homeschooled high school teens. Garfias, who was homeschooled herself in addition to homeschooling her own kiddos, covers teaching styles, testing, relationships, homeschooling styles, dating, driver training, and life preparation. The book sections that relate to transcript prep include credits, standardized testing, college essay writing, state requirements, college entrance.

Homeschool High School Made Easy was the most wonderful book to read. It made me feel so much  more comfortable about homeschooling high school and gave me a great overview of the things I needed to be conscious of and focusing on as we moved through the high school years. So helpful!

Lee Binz The HomeScholar Resources

Several years ago, I purchased Lee Binz’ “Total Transcript Solution”  from TheHomeScholar website. This was, hands down, the most helpful training and resource I utilized in creating Jackson’s transcript. This provided samples of excellent transcripts, instructions on what needs to be included in a transcript, and what colleges find impressive in a student’s records and applications. It was offered to me at a discounted price and I purchased the Silver membership level. I learned most of what I know about transcripts from Lee Binz!

The HomeScholar does have a ton of free resources that you can check out, if you’re not ready to purchase some products. Here are some examples of freebies you can find there:

  • Free seminars on: scholarships for homeschoolers; high school success; avoiding high school mistakes; grades/transcripts/credits
  • Free guides: high school Kindle e-books; 10 Essentials for Homeschooling High School; free record-keeping samples, and more
  • Free workshops

Just visit TheHomeScholar for all these and more. And just so you know, I’m not an affiliate for TheHomeScholar. They’re just an amazing help that I wanted to share with you!



My own tips for you

It is a HUGE task to create your student’s transcript. I learned so much about how to do it recently, and all that I learned (along with all the work my son put in during his high school career) made a huge difference! Here are the things I found most helpful, that I hope will assist you!

  • Keep good records of your student’s coursework, including:
    • Hours spent
    • Books read
    • What was learned in each course
    • Curricula used and completed
    • Field trips or activities which enhanced learning
  • And, update those records semester by semester. (Again, this way you won’t have to rely on your memory!)
  • Keep records of your child’s extracurricular activities, such as:
    • Piano (or any other instrument) lessons and performances
    • Drama activities, roles played in performances
    • Volunteer work (places and organizations served at, dates serves, and number of hours)
    • Leadership activities
    • Honors and awards
    • Sports activities
    • Jobs held
  • Learn what a Carnegie Unit is, to assist you in knowing what is required for your students’ transcript records
  • Visit the websites of each college or university your child is interested in, if he or she wants to attend college. Find out what they require (course-wise and ACT/SAT test scores) for admission or selection so you know what you’re needing to set as goals. You can also contact the universities’ admissions office to inquire what they require from homeschooled students for application.
  • Know your state’s laws for homeschool graduation and course completion. It’s definitely going to vary from state to state, but this will help you to plan your student’s high school course work requirements.



I hope this has been helpful for you! Most of all, enjoy the time with your high schooler. It really does fly by so quickly.

Enjoy! –Wren


Have you checked out TED Talks?

I have to admit, I’m not much of an audio learning gal.  I love music and I love the idea of podcasts.  But in my free time I’m drawn more to actually reading (whether ebooks or paper books).

However!  I have to admit, over the past month I’ve gotten sucked into podcasts!  Specifically, to TED Talks.  They have made a nonenjoyable commute time not only bearable but interesting and fun!

I have been getting physical therapy this summer to remove scar tissue post-surgery.  I have a great therapist at a great location.  However, the office is on the other side of town.  And the main road is currently under construction.  Now, the construction area is only about 2 1/2 miles long.  But.  In early afternoon, that extends my travel time almost 15 minutes.  Ugh!

Now, naturally, I’ve made plans to detour around that.  But one day this summer, when I was out on my own and driving a ways, I thought, “Oh!  I’ve got the TEDTalks app downloaded on my phone!”  I pulled it up, picked the TED Talk by Ingrid Fetell Lee entitled, “Where joy hides and where to find it.”  Pressed play, and drove off.  It gave me the most lovely trip.



So what are TEDTalks?

TEDTalks’ mission statement is spreading great ideas.  They do this in the form of short talks that take, in general, 18 minutes or less.  (I’ve got some bookmarked that are 6 minutes and change long!)  They hold conferences and TEDTalks where expert speakers present fabulously fascinating talks on a wide variety of subjects.  You can search for topics by dropdowns of list (like tech, entertainment, science, design, business, global efforts) or by just entering your search word.  Today, there are more than 2800 TEDTalks for you to choose from!

You can find TEDTalks as a free app (like I did) but they also have a website, and a YouTube site where you can listen to talks for free.  (There may be a paid or subscription version but I haven’t investigated those.)  On my app, I’ve bookmarked a bunch of TEDTalks that I’m interested in listening to on my next drives to PT.  I’ve only bookmarked the science section so far, but here are some that I’m looking forward to checking out:

  • Richard Feynman’s “Physics is fun to imagine”
  • Edith Widder’s “Glowing life in an underwater world”
  • Charles Limb’s “Your brain on improv”
  • Louie Schwartzberg’s “Nature. Beauty. Gratitude.”
  • Scott Rickard’s “The beautiful math behind the world’s ugliest music”

And that’s just a sampling of the TEDTalks that are on my wish list for future drives!  I haven’t had a moment to bookmark talks in education, entertainment, global events and so on…but that’s my plan.

My favorites so far

So, what are some of my recent favorites?  I mentioned the incredible “Where joy hides and where to find it.”  Ingrid Fetell Lee became interested in joy.  What creates it?  What makes people feel joy?  What are some ways architects create spaces that help people feel it or live in it?  This was the most beautiful talk.  Inspiring and fun.  And something that’s stayed with me as I’ve noticed, since hearing the talk, more actual physical things that make me feel joyful.  Totally fun.



Another recent fave is Jakob Magolan’s “A crash course in organic chemistry.”  I’m sure I was drawn to this one because chemistry is on our radar.  Not organic chemistry, just high school chemistry, since Jackson will be taking that this year as a junior.  I don’t know a lot about chemistry myself (and what’s awesome for my son is that he’ll be taking his chemistry course online with a certified science teacher via Bridgeway Academy), other than that I think the periodic table is a beautiful thing.  So one day, I thought I’d get my feet wet by listening to Magolan’s TEDTalk.  It was spectacular.  He really made me appreciate the design of elements and molecules (you probably don’t hear that statement much in conversation), and how exact and precise chemistry is.  Definitely worth your time.


Sometime soon when I’m not in a car, I’d like to re-listen to Ian Firth’s “Bridges should be beautiful.”  He talks about how bridges should be safe and well-constructed (that’s their function, after all) but that they should be elegant and a pleasure to look at.  Isn’t that interesting?  As someone who teaches art to children, I really felt that resonate with me.  I love for things to be beautiful as well as functional.  I’d like to hear it again (and watch it this time) because apparently he has some incredible images to go along with his talk.

Which brings me to a caveat…

Do not listen, watch, AND drive!

We do not text and drive or generally, talk and drive with our cell phones.  And these TEDTalks all have images.  But I do not watch them while I drive.  (Which probably enabled me to get thru the construction zone the last time without incident or injury to myself or my car!  Not to mention others on the road.)  I put my phone somewhere that I can’t easily see the screen (like on the storage compartment between my front seat and passenger seat) or actually in the passenger seat.  If you’re really tempted you could just push play on your phone then place it in the back seat.  You might miss some of the content.  But the main focus (the cake) is generally the talks.  The images or video are just the icing.

I’m sure I don’t need to say this to any of my readers.  But if you want to see the images in the TEDTalk, don’t watch them when you’re driving.  Do that while you’re on your stationary bike or just listening at home.  Be safe.  And wise.  You are precious and important; don’t do anything that would keep you from being an excellent defensive driver!

But if you’re looking for fascinating content that you can squeeze into those odd moments that we have here and there, check out TED Talks!  I’m definitely looking forward to diving into some more amazing talks!


Enjoy!  –Wren



Apologia Biology: Our Fall Semester with Bridgeway Academy (plus a coupon code for you!)

Are you homeschooling high school, or preparing to?  If so, Biology is probably on your mind as you’re planning your student’s classes and high school transcript.  We were so fortunate to be invited to review Bridgeway Academy‘s high school Apologia Biology course (FYC Biology Course w/Lab), which Jackson started in September.  It has been an academically rigorous, yet fascinating and enjoyable, way to study high school Biology.  I’d like to share some of my son’s experiences with this class and studies.



What is Bridgeway Academy?

Bridgeway Academy is an online educational provider that we’ve long admired.  They provide accredited courses, taught online by qualified educational professionals and teachers, which are both academically excellent and interesting to homeschool students. Live courses are offered for students in first grade all the way through 12th grade, and over 30,000 students have participated in Bridgeway Academy classes from 1989 on. And 83% of Bridgeway Academy students proceed to their first choice college!


Apologia Biology

Jackson is enrolled in Bridgeway Academy’s FYC Biology Course w/Lab for the 2017-2018 school year.  This Learning Lab course uses the Exploring Creation with Biology textbook, along with Bridgeway Academy’s own Biology Lab Kit, and the course provides 1.5 credits upon completion with a D grade or higher.

The 16-chapter textbook covers:

  • the definitions of life and biology plus classification, taxonomy, and biological keys
  • Kingdoms Monera, Protista, and Fungi
  • the chemistry of life
  • the cell, cellular reproduction, and DNA
  • Mendel and Genetics
  • Evolution
  • Ecology
  • Kingdom Animalia (invertebrates, arthropoda, chordata)
  • Kingdom Plantae
  • Reptiles, birds, and mammals

The textbook contains daily reading sections and questions to answer on the reading, plus experiments, study guides, and review questions for each chapter.  It’s definitely a textbook that’s written for high school students; the material is advanced but still very doable for the high schoolers.  Good reading and comprehension skills would be an advantage for students, however.


The supplies

Everything we needed for the course (the Apologia Exploring Creation with Biology 2nd Edition, the Bridgeway Biology Lab Kit, including the Bridgeway Biology Lab Manual) was purchased from Bridgeway Academy.  Also included with these are the Apologia Exploring Creation with Biology answer booklets, for the parent.  The course and supplies (books & lab kit) are priced separately, so you can price compare items or obtain a used copy of the textbook if you so desire.

You can see the ingredients of the lab kit above.  It is shipped in a sturdy cardboard box, but we purchased the plastic containers with lids so we could store them more effectively.  (Plus I wanted to keep the dissection specimens, above on the right, in a separate container.  As anyone knows who’s ever done a biology dissection, there is an odor to those specimens that we didn’t necessarily want permeating our house!)  There is also a dissection pad which is pictured below.

Students will need some additional household goods and objects, like ice cubes, eggs, vinegar, etc.


Class slideshow on matter

What a typical class period looks like

The live online class, taught by Carla Berg, an experienced certified science teacher (as well as a very fun and interesting one!), meets once weekly for an hour and a half.  Mrs. Berg introduces and teaches about the current chapter’s materials.  She includes scientific photos and videos, Powerpoint-type presentations, questions-and-answers (of various styles), and lots of interaction with the students.  The students have the opportunity to communicate via text chat as well as via computer audio/video as they answer questions and participate in class discussions.  Below, you can see the whiteboard she also uses for class interaction and Q&A and the students’ responses.


Jackson says, “The live class work does usually stay for an hour and a half, with the first 30 minutes covering an introductory topic or some questions that Mrs. Berg wants to address from the previous week.  The last hour is usually composed of learning about the topics that will come up in your book that week and doing fun activities sometimes with several other (groups of) people in the class.  These many assignments help towards the full grade.  The class itself overall is well-taught and the class participation helps the students get to know each other and the time is used well to teach or participate in activities.”


Interaction via the class whiteboard on Moodle


It’s clear that Mrs. Berg is an experienced and quality teacher.  She does a fantastic job interacting with the students and teaching and presenting the information.  She has high expectations for the students which are communicated clearly.

Following the class, Mrs. Berg puts the week’s assignments and links up on the Moodle site.  Moodle is the interactive classroom where the Bridgeway Academy classes are held.  Through the Moodle site, students can attend class, view/complete/submit for grading their daily assignments, take tests, and keep tabs on their class scores and grades.  It works incredibly well and is, I think, a great tool for today’s generation of students.  Generally, the week’s work could include: daily reading and questions; glossary work; experiments; test review assignments.  Tests occur every few weeks, one chapter (module) at a time.


Dissecting a mushroom on the dissection pad

What we’ve covered this fall

As of this week, Jackson has completed the work for weeks 1-10 of the semester.  He has studied these chapters (or modules, as they’re known in Apologia world):

  • Biology:  The Study of Life
  • Kingdom Monera (a.k.a. bacteria)
  • Kingdom Protista (including protozoa and algae)
  • Kingdom Fungi (yeasts, mushrooms, slime molds, and more)

He has completed several experiments at home, many of which have been just amazing.  He grew bacteria in petri dishes for several days, and wrote an extensive lab report on his observations.  He’s dissected a mushroom (which you can see above) and drew a diagram labeling the various components of the fungus.  That was a painless introduction to the world of dissection and dissection tools.  Currently, as he studies the 5th chapter (Chemistry of Life), he’s learning the difference between chemical and physical reactions. (We have an egg in the kitchen which has been soaking in vinegar for two days.  The shell has completely dissolved and the egg has expanded.  Tonight we’ll switch the vinegar for Karo syrup and make more observations in 24 hours, then soak it again in distilled water.  Jackson keeps daily reports on the egg, its measurements, and any visible changes.)

Sometimes, the experiments are done during the actual class time.  When Jackson learned about yeasts, Mrs. Berg displayed photos of the changes in yeast that occur when they’re being used in the making of bread.  All of these experiments deepen the students’ understanding of the kingdoms being studied and really help them to remember and retain the information.

The tests for the chapters are difficult and challenging, yet still very doable.  They are fantastic college preparation, in my opinion; students who are used to a homeschool environment with Mom or Dad can still, via Bridgeway Academy’s classes, learn how to interact with a non-parental teacher in a given subject.  He also took a quarter test (sort of a mini-midterm) over the first four chapters.  And he and his classmates are just beginning work on a Biology project which they’ll present to their classmates via Powerpoint, YouTube videos, or spoken presentation later in December.  Great experiences, all of them.


My impressions thus far

I honestly couldn’t be happier with Bridgeway Academy, Apologia Biology, and Mrs. Berg, as Jackson is working through this high school Biology course.  He is gaining vital experience that will benefit him not only for college, but for life after college and even the remainder of his high school studies.  The course is fascinating and the class time is enjoyable.  Jackson is getting a excellent Biology education in this course.

Jackson says, “This is a good preparation for the type of work one would have to do in college if he’d never taken any homeschool classes like this before.  Thus, since I hadn’t, it has been a little challenging.  But the On Your Own questions (from the textbook) are good-length assignments and the tests are well-spaced out.  They have review pages that are the assignments before these tests, which are good because they help you prepare for it.  The labs have people do some very neat and cool experiments, showing different processes in the biological world, such as osmosis, diffusion, and other in-depth topics that cover something in a very neat way.”

I also wanted to mention that last week, Mrs. Berg scheduled a phone conversation with the parents of each student in the class.  During this time, she was able to share how she thinks each student is doing in class–sort of a phone parent-teacher conference.  I felt that I already knew how Jackson was doing (because I can access his Moodle page, plus I sit nearby for all his classes, but I enjoyed getting to hear Mrs. Berg’s impressions.

I have seen some incredible growth in my son this semester as he has participated in this Apologia Biology Learning Lab. He has learned to schedule and complete his assignments each day so that his class work is completed at the end of each week.  By interacting with Mrs. Berg, he is learning more about how to do excellent work; he is challenged not only by the daily assignments and tests but also by the interactive class time, where he is expected to participate.  He is also learning about persevering when faced with a difficult task…until success is achieved!


And a coupon for you…to save 15% on a class!

So…does this make you think that you’d like for your child to take a Bridgeway Academy course?  I hope so!  Our experience has been most excellent and we’re looking forward to the remainder of the year in Biology.  (That is saying something, because Biology has always been my least favorite of the sciences!)

–Save 15% Thru December 13.  Use Code AUTUMN17 at checkout!

Sign-up today and get 15% off of your selection from over 30 highly engaging, real time, instructor led Learning Lab  courses. Live online Learning Labs offer expert teaching and in-depth study opportunities within a supportive learning community. Designed for students in grades 1 – 12, Bridgeway live online Learning Labs have something for every student!

For the full list of live online courses and to register* visit Bridgeway Academy Learning Labs

*Each course has limited space available. Kits & materials as additional purchase may be required for some courses.See Bridgeway Academy for details.


In closing

Be sure to visit Bridgeway Academy Learning Labs and check out their extensive list of awesome online courses.  They truly are amazing and you might find just what you’re looking for, for your own family!

And just so you know, they have much more than just high school courses.  You’ll find elementary and middle school courses as well!

Bridgeway Academy on social media:






We’ll continue to share with you over the year more about our experiences with Apologia Biology and Bridgeway Academy, so be sure to stop back by to see more about our homeschool life and science.

Enjoy!  –Wren



From time to time, finchnwren may receive a free product or service in exchange for our honest opinions expressed in our blog. We are not required to write a positive or glowing review, nor are we additionally compensated for these reviews. We share our own opinions, and our family’s opinions, of these products. We’re disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.

Kwik Stix now at Toys “R” Us ~ And You Can Win a Set! (Giveaway ends 4/30/17)

Guess what??  Kwik Stix, our family’s favorite tempera paint sticks, are now available at Toys “R” Us!  And the lovely folks at The Pencil Grip, Inc. are providing a set of Kwik Stix for one giveaway winner here at the FINCHNWREN blog!



What are Kwik Stix?

Kwik Stix are wonderful solid tempera paint sticks that are perfect for children (ages 3 and up), families, and adults who love to create beautiful art!  They work like glue sticks, in that they’re encased in a plastic container with a cap.  To use, you simply remove the cap, roll the paint stick up, and you’re ready to color.  There is virtually no scent (like you’d find with most tempera paints), and you get the rich texture and color of liquid paint without the mess.  All you need are Kwik Stix and whatever medium you’d like to draw on, which could be anything from paper (of all kinds), canvas, wood, and more!

Kwik Stix come in two size types, the Kwik Stix Classic and Kwik Stix Thin Stix.  The Classic version sticks are 3 1/2″ long, with a chubby paint stick width of almost 3/4″.  This width is perfect for little hands, but also is great for coloring large areas quickly and easily.  The Kwik Stix Thin Stix are longer and thinner than the Classic ones, measuring in length at 5 1/2″ with a paint tip of 1/2″ wide.  These are wonderful for coloring in small areas, without getting outside the lines.  Personally, our family loves working with both types at once!

And what about colors?  There are so many to choose from, such as:

  • Kwik Stix Classics and Thin Stix come in 6-packs or 24-packs
  • Both the Thin Stix and Classics come in white, yellow, orange, red, pink, lime green, green, light blue, blue, purple, brown, and black.
  • The Kwik Stix Metalix packs include gold, silver, fuchsia, deep green, deep blue, and deep purple, all of which feature metallic or glittery accents
  • The Kwik Stix Neons packs are filled with bright orange, vivid purple, lime green, light blue, yellow, and bright pink…in brilliant neon hues.

How we’ve used Kwik Stix

We have loved allowing our imaginations to run wild with our Kwik Stix, not only in the surface we’ve drawn on but in the art movements we were studying in our art lessons.  Here are some ways we used them as we learned about Vincent van Gogh, Pop Art, and still life paintings:



We also love using them for creating art in our art journals.  They’re also wonderful for Bible journaling!


And now…the giveaway!

The Pencil Grip, Inc. is providing one set of Kwik Stix (size, style, and colors to be selected by The Pencil Grip, Inc.) for one FINCHNWREN blog reader!  Just click on the pink “Enter here!” link below, which will take you to the Giveaway Tools entry form.  Giveaway closes on April 30, 2017 at 11:59PM.

And don’t forget to check out Kwik Stix at Toys “R” Us!

Enter here!

Best wishes, and enjoy!  –Wren

From time to time, FINCHNWREN may receive a free product or service in exchange for our honest opinions expressed in our blog.  We are not required to write a positive or glowing review, nor are we additionally compensated for these reviews.  We share our own opinions, and our family’s opinion, of these products.  We’re disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.

The Fabulous New Kwik Stix Thin Stix ~ My Review

The Pencil Grip, Inc. produces some of my most favorite art supplies, which we have adored using in our home.  Recently, they sent me their newest version to review: the Kwik Stix Thin Stix 12 pk.  I’m so excited to share our thoughts and art results with you!


What are Kwik Stix, anyway?

If these amazing art media are new to you, you really will want to know all about them!  Kwik Stix are solid tempera paint sticks which can be used in any situation that the artist would normally use regular paint.  The paint sticks roll up and down (sort of like a glue stick, but with paint instead of glue!) and have a cap which helps keep the paint moist when not in use.  They are safe to use for children from ages 3 and up.

Best of all, you get all the benefits of paint without the mess!  You don’t need paintbrushes, water, painting smocks, or all the other equipment you’d normally need for a paint adventure.  All you need are the Thin Stix and something to paint on!  In our home, we’ve used everything from art journals, to canvas, to stock card, to regular paper, and more.  (Read on to learn about our newest discovery!)

The 12-pk we received contains the following colors:  white, yellow, orange, red, pink, lime green, green, light blue, blue, purple, brown, and black.  Unlike the regular-sized Kwik Stix, which are shorter and chubbier (which enables little hands to hold them well plus provides a nice thick line when painting), the Thin Stix are longer and thinner, measuring at 5 1/2″ long with a 1/2 wide paint tip.  They apply paint that’s both rich and vivid, which a variety of surfaces take well.  The Thin Stix glide smoothly across the page and are just a pleasure to use.

You can read about our experience with the regular-sized Kwik Stix in Metalix and Neon, which we tried and loved last fall.  We used them as we did an art study of Pop Art and two of Vincent Van Gogh’s master works, and they were just incredible!



 Kwik Stix’ Thin Stix are wonderful for:

  • Art Journals

Since we’d used our Kwik Stix beautifully for artist study when we reviewed the Neon and Metalix versions in the fall, I wanted to try the Thin Stix for different types of projects.  This time, my son and I used them in our art journals, which have a thick, creamy, textured feel to the pages:



You can see some of that texture in the tulips picture above, which took the Thin Stix paint quite well.  The paint dried quickly (Kwik Stix’ paint sticks are designed to dry in about 90 seconds), so there was no ending up with paint on my hand from working in a small surface.  I was also able to layer additional color over the tulips to add a bit of shadow and shading; you can see the orange I applied on the left side of both the red tulips and the yellow ones.  This was a free-hand project; we just decided what we wanted to draw and went to town.  Fun!

  • Coloring books

I’m sure you’re familiar with the whole coloring-books-for-grownups movement that’s been so popular lately.  I have a couple of those, and my newest one seemed that it would be perfect for my new Thin Stix!  Because coloring books have more lines that you’ve got to work within, I imagined that these Kwik Stix, which have a narrower tip, could work well within those margins.  I was pleased with the outcome!


  • Art lettering

Recently, I’ve been venturing into the world of creative lettering.  I started with some calligraphy in the fall and, last week, tried a new font that starts with a big penciled letter with space inside.  After you have your outlined letters, you take a fine felt-tip marker and doodle inside the spaces.  Then, the doodles become the letters.


I thought I’d add some paint and color to my recent word doodle BRAVE.  I used the Thin Stix to make the colors pop.  Actually, this is a photocopy on card stock of my original doodle.  The Thin Stix didn’t smear the copy at all, just slid right over it!


  • and even Bible journaling!


It occurred to me when we received the Thin Stix that they might work well for Bible journaling.  One challenge with Bible journaling is finding art media that doesn’t bleed through the thin Bible pages to make the other side unreadable.  I’ve wanted to use paint for awhile in this journaling but have limited myself to colored pencils and felt-tipped markers, just because of the thin pages.  I not only loved the way the Kwik Stix brightened up my drawing, I was astonished at how little they showed up on the preceding page!  (You can see the back side in the photo below on the right.)


Really, your own imagination and the sky are the limit!


ks-thin-stix-pic-3A few more thoughts…

My son, who’s a 9th grader, really liked the new Thin Stix a lot.  He says that they are more accurate, and he likes them even more than our original ones.  (No doubt due to the thinner tips!)

So…who would enjoy these fabulous new Kwik Stix Thin Stix 12 pk?

  • Parents with little ones
  • Homeschoolers
  • Art teachers
  • Bible journal aficionados
  • Any kids, from toddlers all the way up to high schoolers!
  • Basically, anyone who loves working with quality art tools

We love them.  Honestly, every time we have gotten a new set of Kwik Stix paint sticks, we have fallen more in love with the company.  I regularly make art on my own, and I teach art at our local homeschool coop.  But I also like sitting down with my son to create, whether we’re working on an artist study project or just sitting down to play with creating.  It’s a high value for me, because it gives the two of us time for great side conversations.  I also find that creating art is healing, encouraging, uplifting.  Just the process of it builds something in your soul, I believe.  So having our amazing Kwik Stix products, especially our newest Kwik Stix Thin Stix 12 pk, makes creating art so easy and so mess-free.  Plus, in addition to all these great reasons to create, you also end up with beautiful artwork that it’s a pleasure to display!

We happily recommend all the Kwik Stix art media, and especially their newest Kwik Stix Thin Stix 12 pk!



Where can you purchase Kwik Stix Thin Stix?

Kwik Stix Thin Stix at Amazon
Other Kwik Stix products by The Pencil Grip, Inc. at Amazon
The Pencil Grip, Inc.
Kwik Stix on Pinterest
The Pencil Grip, Inc. on Facebook

Enjoy!  –Wren

Disclosure:  From time to time, finchnwren may receive a free product or service in exchange for our honest opinions expressed in our blog.  We are not required to write a positive or glowing review, nor are we additionally compensated for these reviews.  We share our own opinions, and our family’s opinion, of these products.  We’re disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.

The Critical Thinking Co.’s Sentence Diagramming Curriculum ~ Our Review

Recently, Jackson and I had the opportunity to brush up on our grammar when we were selected to review Sentence Diagramming: Beginning from The Critical Thinking Co.™ for the Homeschool Review Crew.  Let me share with you about our experiences!

Language Arts {The Critical Thinking Co.™}

What is sentence diagramming?

The first time I ever saw it, I was reading one of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books, in which Laura is participating in an end-of-the-year student presentation.  I remember being absolutely astonished at her sentence diagramming!  It certainly was nothing I was ever taught in school.  However, sentence diagramming is apparently making a comeback.  It’s a thorough and complete method of teaching the parts of speech.

Students draw a horizontal line, with a vertical line intersecting it.  Then, they rewrite a sentence, placing every word in a spot that is designated for the part of speech it is with various lines angling off as they indicate whether a word is an adjective, adverb, subject, predicate, etc.  A student would find this useful in examination and learning of grammar, because it very clearly shows exactly what each word in a sentence is.  Below, you can see an example of sentence diagramming with the famous sentence, “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.”



 What is The Critical Thinking Co.’s Sentence Diagramming: Beginning?

It is a softcover consumable book (8 1/2″ x 11″) that contains everything you need for teaching sentence diagramming for grades 3-12.  Because it is a consumable product, you would need one book for each student you’re teaching, since all the student’s work will be done and written in the Sentence Diagramming: Beginning book itself.  Students do a variety of work in this book, from correcting errors in diagramming, to writing and diagramming sentences themselves, to labeling sentences given in the text.  The book contains 12 several-page-long lessons, as well as an end-of-the-book review section and an answer key.  This book covers these topics in its lessons:

  • Simple Subject and Main Verb
  • Direct Object
  • Adjectives
  • Adverbs Modifying Verbs
  • Predicate Adjectives
  • Predicate Nouns
  • Prepositional Phrases (both adjectival and adverbial)
  • Compound Subjects
  • Compound Predicates
  • Compound Direct Objects
  • Compound Predicate Adjectives and Nouns

Students begin, naturally, with the simplest diagrammed sentences in chapter 1; those with just a noun (subject) and a verb (predicate).  Helping verbs and proper nouns are mentioned there.  The course progresses quickly from there, with brief explanations of the part of speech at the top of each chapter, an example, and then exercises for the student to complete.  Generally, each chapter contains several segments of explanation which explain more difficult sentences as the student goes along.  You can see by the list above the the most difficult parts of grammar are in the last third of the book.


diagramming-2How we used it:

For this review, we utilized Sentence Diagramming: Beginning as our grammar spine.  We did a few pages at a time, generally covering more than one chapter in a week’s time.  At this rate, we’ll be able to complete it over the course of one semester.

Jackson and I would sit together, go through the explanation and examples on each chapter’s section, then he would do the work in that section.  I’d review his work then and correct any errors (or not, if there weren’t any), then we’d progress to the next section in the chapter.  This worked well for us.  I can see that as we approach and enter the last third of the book we’ll probably divide the chapters into several days’ work, stretching it out more for deeper understanding of more difficult types of diagramming.  We’re able to progress at our current speed simply because Jackson has quite a few years of grammar study under his belt already.


diagramming-3Our thoughts and recommendations:

For us, Sentence Diagramming: Beginning has been an excellent review of important grammar topics.  As I mentioned, he has studied grammar for years in his various language arts programs, so much of the general knowledge on the parts of speech is familiar to him.  However, diagramming sentences was not.  I really value that skill for him, for a variety of reasons.  First, because it’s presented in a very different format (placing each word in its own segment that identifies its part of speech), it really makes the student think about what the words actually are.  Second, it’s a great activity that I believe will stimulate better learning as it works with parts of the brain that maybe normally aren’t accessed in language arts study; sort of like working a puzzle.  Third, it’s a process that will engage both visual and kinesthetic learning styles and skills.  In short, it’s a great activity for deeper thinking and learning!

Parents will note that this curriculum is designed for students in grades 3-12.  Younger students probably won’t (and shouldn’t) progress at the speed we did.  However, since this was a grammar review plus a new activity for Jackson, an older student, we were able to move faster than perhaps the average younger student would.  In any case, it has been a fantastic activity and one that I know we’ll continue and benefit from.


Where can you purchase Sentence Diagramming: Beginning?

The The Critical Thinking Co.™ website has Sentence Diagramming: Beginning available as well as many other excellent physical, digital, and software resources.  In fact, other Crew members reviewed quite a variety of these great educational products!  Here’s just a short listing of some that my Crewmates reviewed, with their links.  (You can also click on the banner below to read more about their experiences with the The Critical Thinking Co.™ products.)  Just follow those links to check them out:

Language Arts {The Critical Thinking Co.™}

You can also visit The Critical Thinking Co.™ at their social media sites:


Enjoy!  –Wren


Language Arts {The Critical Thinking Co.™}Crew Disclaimer

An Awesome Freebie for You ~ From My Favorite Online Storyteller, STAR TOASTER!

Our readers know how much our family has adored Star Toaster.  And now, this incredible company is going to make it possible—entirely free!–for you to come to love them too!


star-toaster-free-bannerWhat is Orphs of the Woodlands?

Last fall, we received this app, which features the incredible adventure story of a squirrel.  (Our Orphs of the Woodlands tells all about it, and you can see how we adored it by clicking on the link!) Star Toaster, which produced this app, weaves lessons on science, nature, cooking, good character, language arts, and more into the captivating story of this animal on a quest to solve a mystery while caring for tiny orphaned animals.  The whole experience is just incredible for kids AND parents!

And now….as a back-to-school gift from Star Toaster….

You can receive it free from the App Store!

free-orphs-bannerJust click on this link:  Free Orphs of the Woodlands App which will take you to the download page at the App Store and you can get it free.  It’s suited for both iPhone and iPad.

And just so you know, I don’t work for Star Toaster or anything.  I just adore them, their company and its values and messages.  And this story is too good to miss, so go and download it today!

Enjoy!  –Wren