“If You Were Me and Lived in…” Books by Carole P. Roman ~ A Review



Recently we were blessed with some wonderful books to review!  Brought to you by Carole P. Roman and Awaywegomedia.com, the If You Were Me and Lived In…  series vividly opens worlds of the past to children.  We received four wonderful softcover books:

cp-roman-pic-1What are the If You Were Me and Lived In… books?

Author Carole P. Roman has created a wonderful collection of books for children in the If You Were Me and Lived In…  series.  In each one, the stories of life as it was in different parts of the world and in different historical eras are described as if she were talking to a child.  Even more interesting, she talks as if she were describing that child’s actual life in those historical times!  Bright and expressive illustrations accompany the text, and the daily life, foods, transportation, housing, and education are described in fascinating ways, so that the reader (or the child being read to) can experience what life was really like.

Carole P. Roman generously provided four books for us to use.  Let me tell you about them!

eliz-england-romanIf You Were Me and Lived in Elizabethan England

What was life like in under the rule of Elizabeth I of England, in 1578?  If you lived during this era, you lived in a rich and exciting–though challenging–time.  William Shakespeare was penning his exciting plays, Elizabeth I was a powerful and influential queen on the world stage, and both art and architecture were flourishing.  However, you might have been poor, rather than a wealthy ruler.  You might have cleaned homes for a living or grown up on a farm.  Or, you might have lived in London, which, while glamorous, was also quite dirty and sometimes dangerous!

How did you dress?  What kind of money did you have (or not have)?  How did you worship?  All of these questions are answered and accompanied by wonderful illustrations.  A glossary plus a listing of important people of Elizabeth I’s era round out the book.


am-west-romanIf You Were Me and Lived in the American West

After we finished our book on Elizabethan England, we embarked on a journey to the American West.  This book is written from the perspective of a 12-year-old boy, whose family traveled to Oregon on a Conestoga wagon from Ohio.  A covered wagon took his family and all their most important possessions (not that that many could actually fit in the wagon) on a 5-month long trip.  What did the boy wear?  How did they get milk?  (They brought along their own milk by way of a cow, along with some goats and a pig!)  Each family member had jobs to do along the trail.  Food was limited, Indians were feared, and illness sadly took the lives of some on the trip.

But finally, the boy’s family made it to Oregon.  But they couldn’t move into a house; they had to build their own with the help of other new settlers.  And then they settled in, and became farmers, students, and sometimes (at least, the boy hopes!) cowboys.  Ms. Roman finishes this book with a list of important people from the settling of the American West, and a glossary of important terms.

More students might be familiar with this era.  But Ms. Roman makes it fascinating!


ancient-greece-romanIf You Were Me and Lived in Ancient Greece

This is a quite incredible children’s history book.  It has more text in it than the first two we reviewed.  Yet, it’s just as interesting and I believe that children will be equally as engaged with it.  Ms. Roman covers Alexander the Great, the Olympics, ancient Greek philosophers, the Greek pantheon of gods/goddesses, clothing, daily life, the agora, and more.  Children will also learn about the homes, jewelry, food and drink, and even hairstyles of ancient Greek men, women, and children!


viking-europe-romanIf You Were Me and Lived in Viking Europe

It has been a very long time since we studied the Vikings in our homeschool; seems like it was first or second grade!  So it was fascinating to pick up Ms. Roman’s book on Viking life.  Like her book on ancient Greece, this has smaller text and covers much interesting information about life for the Vikings.  Where did they live?  Whom did they worship?  (If you’re a Marvel fan, some of these names might sound familiar!)  The daily work of families, the names they called each other, the food they ate, and the three classes of Viking families are all introduced here.  Lovely and colorful illustrations accompany the text.


late-summer-2016-and-ninjago-poster-images-117How we used these:

This year, we are studying American history again, so I was happy to receive If You Were Me and Lived in… Elizabethan England (An Introduction to Civilizations Throughout Time) (Volume 3) and If You Were Me and Lived in…the American West (Volume 7) to review.  Because our current history book started with native Americans who lived in what would become North and South America, and because England did eventually send explorers to the New World, the book on Elizabeth I’s time was ideal, as was the book on the American West.  We used them as an adjunct to our regular history studies.  Both these books would be fantastic for reading aloud, but because my son is 14, he read them on his own over a period of several weeks in our school time.  We both found it quite interesting; the way Ms. Roman writes makes it quite easy for the reader to put him- or herself into the time frame and imagine what life was like.  (Much harder, I’d say, than life in 21st century America!)  We particularly enjoyed the illustrations as well.  Both Ms. Roman and the various illustrators work together to make reading these books a truly enjoyable, as well as educational, experience.

Ms. Roman also very kindly included two of her other books (that I shared a bit about above): If You Were Me and Lived in…Ancient Greece (An Introduction to Civilizations Throughout Time) (Volume 1), and If You Were Me and Lived in…Viking Europe .  I used these on my own, but I expect we’ll pick them up in our homeschool as soon as we cover those periods of history again.  Lovely!



late-summer-2016-and-ninjago-poster-images-118Carole P. Roman has some excellent free printable materials which go nicely with these (and other!) books at her blog.  Simply visit Carole P. Roman to access and print these for further study.  These include great questions and worksheets which will deepen the understanding of the student.

I only wish that we had run into Ms. Roman’s work when my son was much younger!  He might have felt, at age 14, that he was almost too old for these books, since they include illustrations.  However, we both did enjoy them and learned things we hadn’t known.  (Or that we’d forgotten but needed to revisit!)

We definitely recommend these beautiful, useful books for families and homeschools.  They’re a gentle and beautiful, and engaging way, to learn history!


late-summer-2016-and-ninjago-poster-images-120Where to purchase these books

You may purchase these books at the following links:

Be sure to check them out.  You’ll really enjoy them!  In addition, other Crew members reviewed other titles in this series.  If you click on the banner below, you’ll be able to read about other homeschoolers’ experiences.

You may also visit Carole P. Roman at the following social media links:

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/CarolePRomanAwardWinningAuthorAndBooks
Pinterest:  https://www.pinterest.com/caroleproman/
Good Reads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5854108.Carole_P_Roman
Twitter:  https://twitter.com/caroleproman


If You Were Me and Lived in ... {by Carole P. Roman and Awaywegomedia.com}Crew DisclaimerEnjoy! –Wren

The Only Pencil Sharpener You’ll Ever Need ~ Review of the Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener

Yes, it’s really true: I believe that the Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener is the only one you’ll ever need, whether you’re looking for one to use in your homeschool or your classroom!  Classroom Friendly Supplies very kindly sent me and Jackson a Cool Blue Classroom Friendly Sharpener to use and review in our homeschool.  I can only say, “Where has this sharpener been all my life??”


ClassroomFS Sharpener banner

Why we needed the Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener:

We don’t use pencils for every single thing we do in homeschool.  But we DO use them for math, for journaling, for art, for nature drawing, and for handwriting.  I personally use one for lesson planning.  And as many people do, we prefer a nice sharp point on our pencils for writing or drawing.  However, that became a point of frustration over the years.  We have used a battery-operated electric sharpener….that died.  We have found manual sharpeners that really worked well….until they didn’t when the sharpener’s blade dulled.  Then we’d end up with pencil lead that would *almost* be perfectly sharp.  The, the nice tip would break off in the sharpener and we’d have nothing but a pencil that needed sharpening again.


This was so frustrating for both me and my son.  Finally in desperation, I switched to a mechanical pencil.  But that didn’t take care of the problem for Jackson, or for me when I wanted to journal or create art using colored pencils.  Then we just ended up with a bunch of nubs.

cfs-sharpener-pic-3The Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener

So, you can imagine how thrilled I was to receive this sharpener to use.  As you can see, we received the Cool Blue sharpener, although It’s available in a variety of colors (blue, green, purple, red, pink, black).  It’s made of metal, with a few plastic pieces.  It also comes with a clamp for affixing the sharpener to a countertop or bookcase, but it’s stable enough without the clamp, and we never needed to use it.  It’s very sturdy and has a good weight, but it’s not overly heavy.

It doesn’t work exactly like the pencil sharpeners you might remember from your own elementary classroom.  However, it’s actually quite simple to use and operate for both children and adults.  You can see a video or directions on how to use the Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener at the company website.  But I’ll describe them for you here as well!

First:  Pull the silver portion straight out into a locking position.

CFS Sharpener Pic 4

Second:  Push the two black square knobs together and insert pencil fully into the sharpener.  Release the knobs.

CFS Sharpener pic 5

Third:  Hold the top of the sharpener lightly but firmly and turn the handle clockwise.  In just a few turns, the pencil will be sharpened.

CFS Sharpener pic 6

Fourth:  Pinch the two knobs together to release the pencil.


CFS Sharpener pic 7

Finally:  Ta-da!  A gorgeously-sharpened pencil!

How we used it

I mentioned above how many ways we use pencils in our homeschool.  So, Jackson used the Classroom Friendly Sharpener for his pencil school needs.  You can see his hand in the pictures above in my step-by-step directions.


CFS Sharpener pic 8I also teach an art class in our homeschool coop.  For an upcoming project, we’ll be using watercolor pencils.  I have a large supply of those, but about half of them were worn down to nubs from use over time.  I wanted my students to have sharpened pencils to work with, but I didn’t want to take the pencils to class unsharpened.  The pencils needed to be ready to go!  So I used our Classroom Friendly Sharpener, and in about 5 minutes, sharpened this huge bunch.


CFS Sharpener pic 10I probably could have sharpened them a bit more quickly, but twice I had to fix a tiny issue.  With two of my pencils, a small amount of lead broke off inside the sharpener’s blades.  However, the Classroom Friendly Supplies website has a Help Portal which has instructions for fixing small issues.  By watching their video and reading some instructions, I was able to take the sharpener apart, find the broken lead, and get it out using a toothpick.  Voila!  The issue was addressed and the sharpener was back to work!

I should tell you that I sharpened 23 watercolor pencils in a row before that happened.  🙂


CFS Sharpener pic 9Our thoughts

I LOVE this sharpener.  It is so easy to use, it sharpens pencils quite incredibly, and problems are easy to troubleshoot and fix.  It is attractive and I don’t mind having it out in our homeschool study area.  I also really appreciate not having to hunt down the tiny manual sharpeners that we’ve been using!

One does have to apply pressure while turning the handle and sharpening, but it’s not an inordinate amount.  As I said, I sharpened pencils for 5 minutes and only at the end did my arm start to tire.

The Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener met a definite need in our homeschool….and removed a consistent source of frustration.  I love knowing that sharpening broken or dull pencils will never be a problem for us again, either in our home studies or for my art class.  I recommend it wholeheartedly to you!


CFS Sharpener pic 11How to purchase

You may purchase the Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener at Classroom Friendly Supplies.  I’d love for you to visit their website or their social media sites to see more about the only sharpener you’ll ever need!

Enjoy!  –Wren

Visit Classroom Friendly Supplies at:


Classroom Friendly Supplies on Facebook
Classroom Friendly Supplies on Pinterest
Classroom Friendly Supplies on Twitter @QuietSharpeners

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.



New Fabulous Music Appreciation for Homeschools: On Sale Thru 8/15/16!

My friend Gena is a talented musician and has taught music for many years in both classrooms and her own homeschool.  Our readers may remember when Jackson and I reviewed her wonderful 21 Lessons in 20th Century American Music last year.  (You can click on the link to see our review.)  Phenomenal, beautiful, and so easy for even non-musical-types to use!


$20 of the 2-volume set of 20th Century Music Appreciation this week only at ichoosejoy.org/store

Now, for a limited time (just until Monday, 8/15/16), you can get $20 off that curriculum as well as her newest one, 25 Lessons in 20th Century European and South American Music Appreciation!  We’ll actually be using this new one and sharing our thoughts with you all in mid-September, so keep an eye out.  I’m so looking forward to it though.  Have you ever even SEEN a music appreciation course that teaches about South American music before?  Maybe on the college level, but nowhere else!

Here’s a little more from Gena:

Are there any homeschool moms here who are frustrated that they don’t have the time or means to include music in their homeschools? I’m happy to share that Gena Mayo (of Music in Our Homeschool) has two brand new products for sale this week!

First, let me tell you about the great self-paced online course:

20th Century Music Appreciation for High School

If you have a high schooler who needs a fine arts credit, you’ll want to look into this! Once it’s purchased, it’s yours forever, so all of your kids will be able to use it and get a 1/2 credit during high school. But, it can also be used for Mom to guide her kids through the 36 weekly lessons and even to teach at a homeschool co-op!

This week only, get $30 off the course price! Use coupon code LAUNCHWEEK. Head over to the Music in Our Course site to preview some lessons for free.

20th-Century-Music-Appreciation-Course-for-High-School-Students Pinterest

Second, if you’d prefer an ebook curriculum, you’ll want to check out her new one:

25 Lessons in 20th Century European & South American Music Appreciation

If purchased separately, it’s $10 off this week or get it in a Bundle with the previous volume 21 Lessons in 20th Century American Music Appreciation for $20 off! Use coupon code LAUNCHWEEK.


What’s included in the ebook?

Learn about these composers and music from Europe and South America during the 20th Century:

  • Puccini
  • Mahler
  • Debussy
  • R. Strauss
  • Sibelius
  • Granados
  • De Falla
  • Vaughn Williams
  • Rachmaninoff
  • Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern
  • Holst
  • Ravel
  • Bartok
  • Stravinsky
  • Kodaly and Orff
  • Villa-Lobos
  • Ginastera
  • Prokofiev
  • The Beatles and other pop groups of the British Invasion
  • Hindemith
  • Khatchaturian
  • Shostakovich
  • Messiaen
  • Britten
  • Andrew Lloyd Webber and other composers of musical theater

All links to listen to their music, as well as notebooking pages, are included.

Remember to use coupon code LAUNCHWEEK to get $10, $20, or $30 off (depending on the product). Sale ends August 15!


“As a music educator, I appreciate the depth and organization Gena has put into her music curriculum. She provides many interesting facts and resources comparable to my college music history classes for high school students to learn about different composers of 20th Century European and South American music.” –Kathy Gossen of Cornerstone Confessions.

“Gena has done it again! This is a wonderfully comprehensive look at musicians from the 20th century, a great addition to her previous curriculum on American artists. There were so many composers whose music I was familiar with but didn’t know their names or anything else about them. I look forward to teaching this in my homeschool!” –Michelle Habrych, homeschool mom of two teens

(Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.)

Enjoy!  –Wren

5 Tips for Getting Your Kids Involved with Keeping House ~ Crew Blog Hop “5 Days of Homeschool 101” and a Giveaway, too!

5 Days of Homeschool 101Let’s face it.  When you homeschool, your home = school, classroom, cafeteria, dormitory, principal’s office, supply closet, library.  Not to mention locker space.

Okay–not exactly.  But there is truth to the fact that, in homeschooling, our homes house all of those!  Mom is not only in charge of teaching subjects and directing learning, but also meals and homekeeping.

It is just a LOT to keep up with.  And I’ll freely admit that it is easier for me to teach subjects, rather than to teach how to do home chores!  And over the years (8 years of 1st-8th grade, plus preschool and kindergarten) we have accumulated lots and lots of curricula, games, and educational tools.  As a matter of fact, we’d gotten, by this last spring, to the point that we felt like we were bursting out of our space!

This is the year that we’re seriously working together as a family to declutter, organize, and simplify.  And because I could have used these tips years ago, I’m sharing them with you today as our Crew Blog Hop “5 Days of Homeschool 101” turns to home management!

1.  Set a daily family routine

Or, start back on it when you’ve missed a few!  Here, I’m liking the perspectives of sisters Serene and Pearl of Trim Healthy Mama: “You’re just a few hours away from your next healthy meal.”  Applied to homekeeping, if you miss a day or some chores, just start back on the list where you can, or where you’d start the next morning!

We’re working from a weekly list at the moment.  There are chores we split up every day and a particular area focused on once weekly.  Our daily list (it’s understood that brushing & flossing are included!):

  • Make beds
  • Unload dishwasher
  • Do one load of laundry
  • Wipe out bathroom sinks
  • Clean counters
  • Declutter for 5 minutes
  • Load dishwasher

We don’t do all of that in one fell swoop; rather, we split the tasks up and do some in the morning, some after lunch, some in the afternoon.

And the weekly list?  We’re focusing on one area of the house each weekday.  (Saturdays, for us, are for grocery shopping, catchups, writing, and fun.)  For example:

  • Monday:  Sweep, mop, vacuum, dust
  • Tuesday:  Clean bathrooms/wash towels
  • Wednesday:  Declutter, empty bathroom/bedroom trash
  • Thursday:  Gather library books, wipe down cabinets
  • Friday:  Gather 1 bag of trash and one bag of donations, dust

Would you like help creating a homekeeping list?  Flylady is renowned for helping folks make their homes neat, clean and orderly.  Step by step!

2.  And try an overall schedule for everything else!

What about all those other things, though, that keep a home orderly and neat?  Things you may not do every week but that still need to be done.  Like vacuuming the baseboards, cleaning out the pantry or refrigerator, organizing the linen closet, decluttering the bathroom cabinets.  I can get so busy with regular life that I forget about these things.

For help with this, I turn to my friend Kemi from Homemaking Organized.  Kemi is a homemaking wonder!  I am a subscriber to her site, and she provides the most amazing freebies and printables to help mamas along with homemaking.  Kemi creates a calendar for each month with daily home chores that you can receive via subscription to her site.  Check out her free printables section as well, where you’ll find forms for 36 Weeks of Clean, pages for caring for your home and garden, and time management helps.  Currently, my favorites of Kemi’s are her monthly cleaning calendars (they are even editable!) which she sends to subscribers, and her Household Bucket List, for home projects.

Bountiful April 13.  Meal plan

I am just someone who really benefits from a meal plan; and specifically, from freezer cooking.  What’s freezer cooking?  It’s preparing a number of meals (5-8) in ziploc or slow cooker bags and popping them into the freezer.  All you have to do for dinner then, on any given day, is to pull out the freezer bags, adding a little liquid so that your slow cooker liner doesn’t get cracked, and turning on the cooker.  6-8 hours later you have dinner!  You  might need to prepare a veggie, salad, or grain that evening, but the heavy lifting is already done.

I LOVE this.  Because honestly, my energy level at night is lower than it is in the morning/midday.  So having my family’s meals planned and cooking makes all the difference in the world for all of us getting a healthy meal.

There are books you can get at Amazon or the library on freezer cooking.  But you can also find amazing recipes and lists of recipes on Pinterest.  Really, you can take any slow cooker main dish recipe (almost) and turn it into a freezer meal.  Just keep back 1/4-1/2 C liquid to prevent that freezer shock to your crockpot, and add it with the frozen ingredients that morning!

Fall2015 1634.  Teach your kids to cook…..

There are so many awesome kid cookbooks out there.  Some of our favorites are the Usborne Children’s World Cookbook, both Eat Your Math Homework and Eat Your Science Homework.  We’re also fans of the Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook.  Just select your family’s favorite cookbook and a fun recipe, and work step-by-step through the instructions with your child, assigning them age-appropriate tasks.


Summer 2016 2875.  And to clean alongside you!

Did you grow up learning to clean alongside your parents?  What a great gift to give our kiddos!  Of course we can all learn to care for our homes and cook meals.  But if homekeeping is already a part of our children’s lives, that’s one life skill they won’t have to learn on their own.

There are lots of ways to teach kids how to clean.  Just doing chores with them until they know how to complete them on their own is an incredible start.  Lots of bloggers and authors are making kid chore charts (again, check Pinterest for some ideas).  Today, I have a special giveaway opportunity!  I have copies of Times Tales’ Zone Cleaning for Kids and Bedroom Cleaning for Kids to bless one reader with.  This series makes homekeeping so easy for kiddos.  With this system, kids complete a task on a page, check it off with the dry erase marker, and flip the page over for the next day.  Simple, easy-to-understand, and fun to use.

Just enter via the Giveaway Tools form below!  And don’t forget to click through the links below to see what other Crew bloggers have to share.  They’re full of amazing tips and ideas this week!


Enjoy! –Wren


Teaching Exceptional Language through Poetry with IEW ~ A Review

Through the Schoolhouse Review Crew, we’ve received yet another amazing product from Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW).  This time, it’s centered around poetry and memorization–all with the aim of producing speakers, writers and thinkers who use the English language exceptionally.  (Or, one might say, excellently!)

IEW Poetry banner

Institute for Excellence in Writing very generously provided all the resources which make up (plus one!) Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization.  There are so many products which comprise this curriculum.  I can’t wait to tell you all about it!

What is Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization?

How does a student become a great and effective communicator?

Andrew Pudewa believes that for a person to become an excellent communicator, he must have “a large database in his brain of reliably correct and sophisticated language patterns” (Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization Teacher’s Manual, p. 5).  Now what exactly does that mean in real life?  The people at IEW would say that this isn’t accomplished through hours of grammar drilling or filling out worksheets.  Rather, IEW believes that students gain this extensive database through hearing exceptional language spoken aloud.

And where and how can this  happen?

The answer is simple…and it may already be something you do in your own home.  It is just this: reading aloud great books and literature; and memorization of great poetry and speeches, which is where Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization comes in handy!


iew poetry 3

What is included in this curriculum?

Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization is composed of both physical products and digital downloads.  Here’s what we received:

  • A physical, spiral-bound Poetry Memorization Teacher’s Manual
  • A 5-CD set recording of all the poems and speeches in the curriculum, in a vinyl CD binder
  • A teaching DVD of Andrew Pudewa’s presentation of Nurturing Competent Communicators
  • Downloadable MP3s of the 5-CD set
  • Downloadable Poetry Memorization Student Book, which can be printed at home
  • Downloadable MP3s of the following lessons:  On Listening; On Reading; On Speaking; On Writing; Ten Thousand Times and Then Begins Understanding; Nurturing Competent Communicators; Mastering Learning

IEW was also kind enough to send reviewers a physical, spiral-bound Poetry Memorization Student Pages, but normally the PDF download only is included in this set.  You may purchase the Student Book separately, by clicking on the book link.

IEW Poetry 2

The Poetry Memorization Student Pages book contains 5 sections of poems (with 20 selections per level).  Poems start at the very simple and pithy, and progress in difficulty over the course of the book.  For example, in Level One, the student will memorize poems like Ogden Nash’s Celery; Hilaire Belloc’s The Vulture; Edward Lear’s There Was An Old Person Whose Habits; and Who Has Seen the Wind? by Christina Rossetti.  Level Two’s poetry includes such selections as How Doth the Little Crocodile by Lewis Carroll; Tennyson’s The Charge of the Light Brigade; Some One by Walter de la Mare; and others.  Through Levels 3 and 4, poems become longer, with deeper meanings and insights to express, until finally when the student reaches Level 5 he’s ready for meaningful historical speeches, lofty ideals, and the best that man can offer in the language of words.  Some of the incredible speeches in this level are Henry V’s St. Crispin’s Day Speech (Shakespeare); Elizabeth I’s On the Eve of the Battle with the Spanish Armada; Friends, Romans, Countrymen by William Shakespeare; We Shall Fight on the Beaches by Winston Churchill; and The King’s Speech by King George VI, among many other rich and powerful speeches.

In addition, IEW has included certificates at the end of each level, so that students can be recognized for their completion.  They also recommend holding a presentation where the students can perform all they’ve learned!


IEW Poetry 1

The CD set‘s 5 audio CDs contain every poem and speech in the curriculum, dramatically performed, so that students can hear what the possibilities for performance are, and to aid them in their memorization.  IEW has also included a DVD recording of Andrew Pudewa’s excellent talk, Nurturing Competent Communicators, which will inspire you to pursue the things which will yield excellent results in your child’s education.

The Poetry Memorization Teacher’s Manual includes every poem and speech in the curriculum; meaningful instruction on why memorization and great literature are important; instructions on how to implement this program; and reference materials at the end of the book.  This is a vital part of the program!

The MP3s will equip the homeschool mama or teacher who’s seeking to build fantastic language skills in her students.  They are so inspirational!  In fact, I recommend that you listen to these and watch the DVD before your child begins to memorize his first poem.  They really do provide all that you need to teach this with success!


IEW Poetry 4

How we used this curriculum

I have to admit this to you: I was terribly intimidated by even the idea of Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization.  My son, the student I homeschool, is 14 years old.  So the idea of a) starting a course entailing the daily recitation of up to 20 poems a day (in the  Level One section) while we were already in sort of an overly-full daily schedule, and b) asking my child to memorize what I was sure he would consider “babyish” poetry to begin with, seemed like a certain “fail.”  And honestly, adding that to my (and his) daily work seemed so stressful that I could hardly contemplate it.


Institute for Excellence in Writing knows that homeschool mamas are already women with a lot on their plate.  So they’ve included in this curriculum not only a great program and very clear instructions on how to use it; but perhaps even more vital, they’ve provided what amounts to a training course for teachers/homeschoolers in the DVD, the MP3s, and the Teacher’s Manual.  These are filled with things you’d go to a homeschool conference to hear!  Topics such as:

  • Mastery, and how it’s built in a subject
  • The reason exceptional language use doesn’t just happen in American culture; and how a parent can circumvent that
  • Why the Suzuki music program is so consistently and tremendously successful
  • What memorization accomplishes in the brain
  • What reading aloud can do for your family
  • What is the best way to build vocabulary
  • and more!

One other very special caveat (and really, this was only a note in the sidebar of “How to Teach the Program” in the Teacher’s Manual) was the other thing that helped me to move past the intimidation I felt.  It says, in essence, to let older students select the first poem(s) they work with.  Once they’ve moved through memorization of that and see the benefits and joys of the program, THEN you can start them back at the beginning with the simple poems.  Oh, this made all the difference in the world for us!

So Jackson began with Carl Sandberg’s Fog (in Level Two), then William Blake’s The Tiger (Level Four).  He truly loved Blake’s poem and enjoyed Sandberg’s.  At this point, he prefers to practice and perform them aloud while I am not in the room (the struggle of the only child), but I know the more he memorizes, the more comfortable he’ll be and the more “normal” the whole recitation process will feel.

I have noticed that he is paying attention to, and pointing out when he runs into it, “sophisticated language” (thank you, Mr. Pudewa, for your Nurturing Competent Communicators talk!  Clearly Jackson was listening while I was watching that!).  He already had a good command of excellent English.  However, I love that as he’s working through this, his mind will continue to build those great pathways of language; and help him to think upon beautiful things.


IEW Poetry 5

My recommendations:

Here are some things I wish I had known when I began Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization.  May they encourage and inspire you to jump in!

  1. Don’t be intimidated by this curriculum!  Although there is a LOT in it…you don’t have to do it all in a day.  Plus, there is reason and purpose for every poem and every step of action.
  2. ENJOY this!  The poems do start out silly.  But the further you go, the more beautiful and meaningful the poems and language are.
  3. Remember the desired goals of your homeschooling.  Do you desire your children to be masterful users of the English language?  Do you desire beauty and lofty ideals for them?  This curriculum will definitely move them along in those directions!
  4. And last but not least:  start early!  We got this just in the nick of time—as Jackson is preparing to enter 9th grade in the fall—which actually does give us enough time to complete this entire program.  But you can start as early as preschool or grade school, easily!

You may purchase Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization from Institute for Excellence in Writing.  I recommend it highly–and don’t put this off!  Memorization of these beautiful words will help your children in every area of their lives, whether intellectual, emotional, academic, or even spiritual.  This is worth the time you’ll need to put into it!

 Enjoy! –Wren

IEW’s Social Media Links:

Twitter  @IEW

Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization IEW ReviewCrew Disclaimer

5 Days of Tips for Homeschooling Parents: Planning

Welcome!  This week I’m joining my Crewmates for a cool blog hop: 5 Days of Tips for Homeschooling Parents.  Each day a bunch of my fellow Crew bloggers and I will be sharing our top tips for homeschoolers–where you’ll find everything from homekeeping and chores, to elementary/middle/high school students, to onlies and many children, to curriculum, and more!


5 Days of Tips for Homeschool ParentsI’ll be sharing 4 tips this week—here’s a list of what I’ll be sharing:

  • Planning
  • Exercise
  • Fun
  • Joy

I’ll be sharing a link at the bottom of the post so that you can see the many tips and topics my fellow Crew bloggers will be sharing, too!  But today, I’d like to share my thoughts with you….about planning, and why I think it’s important.

Why plan?

Unless you’re an unschooler (and maybe even if you are), planning can be a boon to your schooling life.  I’ve always used a planner of some sort.  I’ve used a web-based planner, printable planners, and spiral-bound planners.  The last ones have been the most effective ones for me.  But everyone’s got a favorite.

Planning is important for my personal organization, for ensuring that we cover all the subjects and curricula we need to, and for my son’s permanent schooling record.  I like to use planners that are laid out in a weekly fashion with a page column for each day, like the photo below:

My planner

How I’ve planned:

Are you a highly organized and ordered person, or are you more free-flowing?  This will determine how far in advance you do your planning.  I have used curricula which planned the entire year for me (bonus!).  But many fine curricula companies out there don’t sell every single subject you’ll be using; so while they may provide a lesson plan for their subjects, you’ll still have to slot the lessons into your own calendar.  So what works best for you; planning a semester, a quarter, a month, or a week at a time?

I have done each of these.  And, at different times, each one has worked well.  But there are really two keys for me:

  1. Plan your lessons at least a week in advance.
  2. Use pencil!

I do have to alter things after I plan them depending on how quickly we actually move through subjects after we start them.  But if I plan a week at a time, I can continually refer to the various subjects I’m teaching and be sure that we’re on a good track to finish them at the close of our school years.

And as for the pencil?  I adore my Zebra 0.5 mechanical pencil; it writes clearly and legibly, I don’t have to sharpen it, and it’s easy to hold.  Its only disadvantage for me is that I always use up the eraser before I use all the lead!

And not just lessons!

I try to plan a week’s worth of meals at a time as well.  Recently I’ve discovered freezer meals; specifically crockpot freezer meals that I can just pull out of the freezer in the morning and pop into the crockpot.  (Reynolds’ Crockpot Liners are essential for this!)  You can just take a day on the weekend and prepare 5-6 meals in an assembly line, adding proteins, veggies, and sauces to each bag.  Then you just close them with twisties, place them in the freezer, and your meal prep is essentially completed for the week!

Just do an Internet search for “freezer cooking” and you’ll see a plethora of links to tons of recipes.  I love this for the variety of meals and because I’m definitely more energetic in the morning….which can lessen my desire to cook in the evening!  (Of course coffee is my beloved friend as well. :))

Planning’s end result?

There are several blessings we experience from good planning on my part.  First, we have orderly days.  Next, we cover the subjects we need to….the 3 Rs and all the other extras!  Third, we have a record of our work, which will go on my son’s yearly report cards and portfolio/transcript.  Fourth, you have delicious and healthy meals every night.  And lastly—if you’re a person who loves to check items off your to-do list, you will be blessed every single day!

Other Crew blog posts

Our awesome TOS Chareen has divided all the Blog Hop bloggers into groups of 10, so that you have a chance to check around to see what other homeschool parents find useful for themselves. Today’s group is listed below–feel free to visit these amazing women for some great homeschooling tips!

Annette @ A Net In Time
Brandy @ Kingdom Academy Homeschool
Brenda @ Counting Pinecones
Carol @ Home Sweet Life
Cassandra @ A Glimpse of Normal
Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses
Cristi @ Through the Calm and Through the Storm
Crystal @ Crystal Starr
DaLynn @ Biblical Womanhood
Danielle @ Sensible Whimsy

And, you can visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog for more amazingness!

Enjoy! –Wren

“The Dragon and The Raven” ~ Thrilling New Adventure from Heirloom Audio Productions

Jackson and I have just been treated to the most wonderful audio adventure from Heirloom Audio Productions: The Dragon and The Raven.  We received a marvelous collection of products for The Dragon and The Raven, including a physical 2-disc audio CD and a set of accompanying digital downloads (normally included in the “Family Four-Pack”) both audio and visual, to review.

DragonRaven banner

What is Heirloom Audio Productions?

Do you ever feel challenged to find quality adventure stories, or godly heroes and heroines, to share with your children?  Well, look no further!  Heirloom Audio Productions creates incredible listening adventures for anyone who’s captivated by a great story.  They desire to take their listeners into the past with compelling audio dramas, told powerfully by  world-class actors.  (And, these are actors you’ll actually recognize from your favorite movies!)

Heirloom Audio Productions has selected excellent historical adventures, penned originally by author G.A. Henty, and brought them to life in audio productions starring well-known and talented actors.  Other Heirloom Audio Productions presentations include exceptional audio dramas about William Wallace and Robert the Bruce, Robert E. Lee, and Sir Francis Drake.  Their newest production is The Dragon and The Raven, a remarkable retelling of the adventures of England’s King Alfred of Wessex, designed for ages 6 through adult.


DR King AlfredWho is King Alfred of Wessex?

In the mid-800s, England was being slowly overtaken by Danish invaders.  Kingdom by kingdom, England was conquered, until there was only a small portion still remaining under English, or Anglo-Saxon rule.  Alfred was either the fourth or fifth son of King Aethelwulf (Ethelwulf), and stood alongside his brother who ruled Wessex, King Aethelred (Ethelred).  His brother was killed in battle, and Alfred became king in 872.

King Alfred was unusual in many ways.  Unlike many at that time, Alfred could actually read and was both a devoted scholar and Christian.  In fact, he believed that the Danes were experiencing unparalleled success in their invasion and conquest of England because, as a nation, the English peoples had turned away from God.  Alfred’s amazing life story, which included not only defeating the Danes but helping turn the Anglo-Saxons back to God, is dramatized in the incredible performances of The Dragon and The Raven.



DR Physical setWhat is included in this audio set?

The physical set is comprised of 2 audio CDs with the complete production of The Dragon and The Raven, in a sturdy plastic CD case.  The audio drama lasts two and a half hours, and is divided into segments or chapters, so that listeners can stop and start as needed.


DR ebookWhat is included in the digital library?

You won’t believe all the special bonuses that the “Family Four-Pack” of The Dragon and The Raven contains!  Along with the actual physical CDs, purchasers receive the following:

  • The Dragon and The Raven production in an mp3 recording
  • G.A. Henty’s The Dragon and The Raven, in e-book form, with brand-new graphics from Heirloom Audio Productions (you can see its cover in the picture above, downloaded onto my Kindle Fire)
  • The Official Soundtrack recording in mp3 version
  • Printable cast poster
  • Study Guide and Discussion
  • Inspirational Verse poster
  • Live the Adventure newsletter
  • “Behind the Scenes” video documentary with cast & crew

Each of these exceptional resources can be downloaded onto your own computer, or accessed via your account on the Heirloom Audio Productions website.  They actually make the entire listening adventure much more vivid and meaningful; plus, they are just wonderful creations!

DR Study Guide 1I do want to recommend the excellent Study Guide as a fantastic resource.  It is beautifully designed and not only includes questions for each chapter, but a list of further resources and even some Bible studies at the end.  This guide will enable teachers and homeschools to provide a top-notch history study for their students.  The Study Guide is formatted around the following tasks:

  • Listening Well, which gives children a chance to narrate what they’ve just heard and learned
  • Thinking Further questions, which enable students to pursue additional study, and deeper thinking about the characters and events in the story
  • Defining Words provides vocabulary study lessons, which students can work through with a dictionary

This Study Guide is the perfect addition for further study about King Alfred the Great and the times he lived in.


DR Poster

Our impressions of The Dragon and the Raven

There is SO much to love about Heirloom Audio Productions‘  The Dragon and The Raven.  First, the production itself is incredibly well-produced.  The voice acting is superb and vividly brings to life King Alfred, his brother, Edmund, Harold, and all the others who peopled this fascinating time in history.  (By the way, the voice actors themselves include John Rhys-Davies, Brian Blessed, Sylvester McCoy, Helen George, and John Bell among the cast!)

The story itself is an incredible true tale of a godly king whose faithfulness, courage, and purpose not only won a war but transformed the spiritual landscapes of two nations.  It encourages us as the listeners with King Alfred the Great’s example, all while telling not only of his successes, but his struggles and perseverance.  What a fabulous treat for families–adults and children alike!

My son and I listened to The Dragon and The Raven as part of our homeschool day.  We’d listen to about 15 minutes’ worth of story each day.  We are still working through the Study Guide but I am particularly looking forward to getting into the Bible study portions at the end of the it.  We’re currently working on another Bible study, so once we complete that we can begin this study.  To Jackson, the story of King Alfred the Great has been a completely new one.  I have appreciated both the excellence of Alfred’s life and example, as something worthwhile to introduce to a young man.  It has also been an enjoyable process to listen to; I have to admit that, other than family read-alouds, we don’t do a lot of audio learning.  So that has been a useful process as well.

And I MUST mention how much we adore the poster of Proverbs 21:31 (pictured above)!  This verse reads:

“The horse is prepared for the day of battle

but victory belongs to the LORD.”

This verse has been a very special one for our family for a number of years.  It reminds us of the excellent example of two godly men, as well as reminding us that we can trust God for the outcomes in our lives even as we do our very best in work and preparation.


DR Study Guide 2And finally….

We are very, very pleased to recommend Heirloom Audio Productions‘  The Dragon and The Raven to you.  It is a fantastic addition to any family’s adventure library, as well as any homeschool classroom.  You may purchase your own copy at The Dragon and The Raven.


And I can’t close without letting you know that Heirloom Audio Productions  truly is a company defined by its own excellence.  Not only do they produce wholesome, high quality products, but their customer service is unparalleled.  I so appreciate their beautiful example and their kindness!

Enjoy!! –Wren


Visit Heirloom Audio Productions at the following links:

The Dragon and the Raven {Heirloom Audio Productions Review}Crew Disclaimer

A Peek at Some Posts Coming Your Way

Hi everyone!

I hope that all of you are having a great start to your 2016.  We have started our second semester of 8th grade homeschool and are getting used to the spring schedule.  Unfortunately, we’ve had some colds already this year (I think mine might be a reboot of the one I had at Christmas).  But….liquids, chicken soup, and staying home will help us move past that, I am hoping!

I wanted to share with you about some products we’ll be using in our homeschool or in our home in the coming weeks, that I’ll be reviewing a little later on.  I’m very excited about them–we feel blessed to be able to utilize so many amazing things!

In our homeschool:

Zonderkidz has a new Bible that I am certain will become a beloved favorite for any child who loves Lego.  It’s called Faith Builders Bible, and it’s full of amazing builds for Bible stories.  As well as very cool building activities.  SO excited!

Do you ever get concerned about some of the unwholesome content that your children or teens might stumble across on the Internet?  We’re going to be trying out the Plug n’ Play Hub by Securly, which is designed to keep unwanted material from popping up while you and your kids browse the web.  I’m especially excited to use this on YouTube, where some really inappropriate things can appear when we’re trying to look up piano performances of songs for my son’s piano practices!

We’re also trying out a website that provides worksheets and online learning for middle- and high-schoolers called HelpTeaching.  We’re just using it for the first time this week, but it is full of learning opportunities in math, social studies, language arts, science, art and more.

Heirloom Audio Productions, the makers of fabulous historical audio dramas, has just published its newest dramatization, called The Dragon and the Raven, all about how King Alfred saved England from the Danes and helped start a Christian revival in his nation.  So excited about this one!

In our home:

I received a copy of the Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook a couple of weeks ago as well.  I’ve heard about the THM way for a few years but it always seemed a bit overwhelming.  However, this cookbook is full of gorgeous and delicious-sounding recipes.  Can’t wait to make my list and start cooking!

On the blog:

I’m currently hosting a giveaway for the newest PASSION album, Salvation’s Tide Is Rising, featuring Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, Crowder, and other excellent artists.  This closes on Thursday, January 21, so click over to enter today!

I’m looking forward to sharing more about these homeschool products with you starting later this month.  You’ll be hearing more!

Enjoy!  –Wren


Science & Electricity: Our Experiences with EEME’s Project Attraction

*Affiliate links are included in this post.*

Over the holidays, we completed our most recent EEME kit:  Project Attraction.

EEME is a wonderful company which creates STEM project kits for children.  Even younger kids can complete these projects, but generally with parents’ assistance.  For each project kit, EEME provides a step-by-step video tutorial (at the EEME website, available for each kit) which walks the user through all the different building directions for each kit.  We’ve happily completed EEME’s Project Tentacles, Project DIY Display (my personal fave, thus far), and Project Genius Light.  Each one of these projects has been a joy to put together and learn from; both my son Jackson and I have learned more than I could have imagined about engineering and technology!  EEME’s kits have been a phenomenal addition to our science studies.

What is Project Attraction?

Project Attraction builds on the original breadboard (and battery), like the other EEME projects in this series; each kit teaches children about some facet of STEM technology.  This one teaches about electricity, magnetism, current, heat, and….electromagnetism!

This kit includes the following components, which enable you to complete several projects with this kit:

  • A tiny, yet powerful, magnet
  • A steel bolt
  • LED light
  • Resistor
  • A reed switch
  • Wire coil
  • Long wire
  • AA battery
  • Paper clip, sandpaper, rubber band
  • (We use the original breadboard from the first EEME set.)

And as always, EEME has provided a step-by-step online tutorial which provides instruction, cautionary recommendations, and the whys and wherefores of the way the components work alone and when put together.

Of the four EEME projects that we’ve built, Project Attraction has the most for the parent to do. This is because Project Attraction adds an electromagnet and more electrical current in the building of the kit on the breadboard; and also because the wire used to create the electromagnet is somewhat delicate.  I admit that this made me a little nervous; I just don’t have that much familiarity or experience with electrical current.  However, EEME’s tutorial provides very clear instructions while issuing very clear warnings about what NOT to do (like using a more powerful battery instead of the one included in the kit; i.e. DO NOT DO THIS).  So as you can imagine, we followed EEME Dad’s instructions TO THE LETTER.  And we were able to complete our project successfully!

So…what were some of the cool things we did in Project Attraction?

We built an electromagnet!

We learned about reed switches (I’m not going to describe them too much, because I don’t want to give you too many spoilers!).  These are seriously one of the coolest components we’ve been introduced to by EEME…and that’s saying something!  You can see it below; it’s the one with the arrow pointing at it.  You might also notice that the LED light is on.  Don’t you wonder how that happened?

We also learned about how and why heat is generated in an electromagnet; how to get power using an electromagnet; how and why to strip a wire, and so much more.

In conclusion:

Project Attraction is yet another fascinating STEM project from EEME.  Although there are a number of important safety procedures to follow, the parent and child build electronics and tech that are high in the “wow!” factor, and teach more important STEM principles.

You can purchase Project Attraction and the Basic 6-Project Set at EEME’s website, along with all their other excellent and affordable science kits.  Check it out!  And, you can also find free online STEM lessons at the same links, where you can get more of a taste of what EEME is like.

Enjoy!  –Wren

DISCLOSURE:  Finch and Wren have affiliate relationships with a number of excellent companies.  If you purchase an item through our affiliate links, finchnwren will earn a commission.  However, you will never pay more for the item when you purchase it through our links.  And, we only recommend products that we truly believe in.  Thank you!


Making Christmas Ornaments with Your Kiddos–Guest Post at the Schoolhouse Review Crew Blog!

Good morning, everyone!

Paper Casting link banner

We’ve been doing a lot of Christmas, Advent and Hanukkah activities at our home, and today I’d love to share one of them with you!

Jackson and I made some gorgeous paper casting Christmas ornaments together on Monday.  And, if you’d like to see how, hop over to the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog to find out!  I’ve included step-by-step activity instructions as well as lots of pictures.  It’s a wonderful project for ornaments and decorations, plus you have the lovely time together with your children!

I  hope you’re having a lovely December.  And if you visit the paper casting post, let me know what you think—and what you’d like to make!

Enjoy!  –Wren