Physics 101 from The 101 Series ~ Our Review

We have just had the opportunity to use and review a quite captivating science course, complete with teaching videos:  Physics 101 from The 101 Series.  This was a brand-new way for us to experience science and we learned a ton while truly enjoying ourselves!   (You really have to love it when you can say that about schoolwork.)



The 101 Series

The 101 Series was created by Wes and Tammy Olson.  Homeschoolers themselves, the Olsons researched and created The 101 Series when they didn’t find high school science curricula that was just right for their family.  Wes Olson, who worked in corporate filmmaking for over 15 years, also has a deep interest in science.  Working together with scientific experts, Wes brings his own filmmaking expertise to produce excellent, understandable science from a Christian worldview.  The Olsons have produced three high school science curricula thus far:  Physics 101, Chemistry 101, and Biology 101.  (I understand from their website that they’re currently working on a general science curriculum as well!




The 101 Series’ Physics 101

Physics 101 is a 4-disc DVD set which contains 20 chapters of video material.  It’s designed for high school students, ages 15 and up (though my son is a bit younger than that and enjoyed and understood it well).  Each chapter, or lesson, teaches about a specific area of physics, in videos which last from 20-40 minutes apiece.  The video lessons are taught by Wes Olson, who’s an engaging and often funny teacher.  The chapters are divided into 7 different areas, with 1-3 lessons in each chapter, covering:

  • The Physics of Light
  • The Physics of Sound
  • The Physics of Heat
  • The Physics of Electricity
  • The Physics of Motion
  • The Physics of the Weird (hilarious, I know–but that’s really the section title!)
  • The Future of Physics

However, this DVD set is not only teaching videos.  One disc also contains a printable student guidebook, quizzes for each lesson, and a lesson plan for the teacher to use.  Students use the guidebook and the videos to create a physics notebook, complete experiments, do further research on various topics, and write papers on what they learn.  It’s an excellent program which utilizes visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning methods, as well as helping students refine their own research skills.



How we used it

Physics is something that I always wish I had learned more about.  I have a decent background in optics—and while that is awesome, it still leaves out sound, motion, electricity, and heat.  (Probably more than that, but that’s what I am aware of at the moment!)  Anyway, I was very excited for us to use and review Physics 101, and my son Jackson (who’s 14) and I worked together on the various lessons.  The teachers’ plans for each segment are fantastic, and give clear instructions on how the student should complete each segment.  We simply followed those plans.  First, we’d watch the videos.  The student guidebook serves as a sort of textbook that goes along with the videos, and could either be used alongside the videos, or read after we viewed them.  There are discussion questions which will also deepen and expand the students’ understanding of the various physics lessons and applications.  Following that, we completed the labs (a.k.a. experiments) which are included in each segment.  Jackson then did the research and wrote essays on the topics listed (e.g., why is the sky blue?  Why is my face upside down in a spoon? etc.).  To close out the learning for each segment, students watch the teaching video once more and then take a quiz, which is included in the guidebook.


Our experiences

I can sum them up in one word:


Wes Olson takes the sometimes ephemeral truths and lessons about some non-tangible scientific principles—and makes them clear and understandable.  Really!  Did you ever think about how God created light first…but the sun wasn’t created until the 4th day of creation?  Hmm!  That’s very interesting, isn’t it?  And there is a scientific principle behind that that I have never, ever heard before.  I’m not going to spoil it for you by telling you what it is, but I’ll give you a key word that might be in the answer:  electrons.

Or how about that sky that is so blue…what makes it that way?  (Hint: it’s not the oceans.)  Or why exactly are the things in your driver’s side rearview mirror closer than they appear?  There is a reason for that and it has to do with convex mirrors.  Or…why do oil and water refract things differently?

All of those questions can be answered by….physics!  And it is truly fascinating.  Jackson and I were amazed and so interested in the videos.  We always enjoy experiments, and I appreciated the way that all of the labs more deeply teach the principles taught in the videos.  Jackson says:  “He is a good person to be (teaching) it because he can add good humor to a situation.”  I think that might be my son’s way of saying that Mr. Olson makes physics both fun and fascinating, never dry or boring.

One thing in particular was a learning experience I believe my son had that was influenced by the great teaching on the videos (as well as the additional research he did on his own).  There were two times when we would be watching the video teaching when he made a leap of understanding; where he took the information that he was learning from the teaching video and was able to extrapolate, or draw further conclusions about scientific principles.  That was so exciting!

I also appreciated the extra research Jackson had to do.  Both websites and library books, or other reference materials, can be used for the research.  Jackson wrote his essays on the computer, then printed them for his notebook.

Physics 101 covers the equivalent of one year’s high school science study.  For our purposes it was very, very effective.




Where can you find The 101 Series?

You may purchase Physics 101 from The 101 Series, simply by clicking the links and heading over to the company’s site.  In fact, you may also purchase other excellent science curricula, like Chemistry 101 or Biology 101, from the same website.  Would you like to find out more about those other courses?  Many Crew members reviewed one of these three courses, and you can find out more about their experiences by clicking the banner below.

You can visit The 101 Series at their social media sites:

Twitter: @the101series

Enjoy!  –Wren

Physics, Chemistry & Biology 101 {The 101 Series}Crew Disclaimer

Our Review of Chara Games’ Cool Board Game: Commissioned

We have had a chance to review something that we normally don’t get to check out: an awesome board game from Chara Games!  It’s called Commissioned and it really is like nothing our family has ever played before.  Let me tell you about our experiences!


commissioned-banner-1What is Chara Games?

Well, first of all, you’re going to want to know what “chara” means.  If you’re a Greek scholar, you already know…but for all of the rest of us, here’s the definition:  “unshakeable joy.”  Now who wouldn’t want to purchase things from a gaming company with a name like that?  Patrick and Katherine Lysaght created Chara Games to produce Christian-themed board games which will bring the whole family together for fun, fellowship, and (of course) joy.  Currently, Chara Games has produced two games;  Commissioned and 3 Seeds, which we’ll be reviewing a little later this month for you.  (Stay tuned for that….after experiencing Commissioned, I have high hopes for more gaming fun with 3 Seeds!)


commissioned-pic-1Commissioned is….

a tabletop board game based on actual history, in which players build the early Christian church, starting in Jerusalem (where, you might know, the Christian church began) and moving out into Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the known world at that time.  The game is designed for 2-6 players, and those aged 14 (or even, perhaps, 13) and up will play and enjoy the game most effectively, although younger players can definitely play with the help of a parent or an older sibling.

Players choose to play as one of the first apostles (Peter, John, James, Andrew, Paul, or Barnabas).  Each of these has a small playing board which describes the apostle and provides instructions for the game and for what happens during each turn.  To begin the game, players are given 6 Faith Cards.  Then, the first player takes the shepherd’s staff and draws a Trial Card, which determines what happens to that player and the board during that turn.  The Trial Card describes a struggle that the apostle or early church faced.  In Commissioned, those trials can include losing a missionary, blocking church growth, losing church members, or imprisonment, to name a few.  There are also increasing levels of difficulty, so once you’ve mastered the basics of the game you can continue to play other interesting challenges.  The goal is to build the Church and start new groups in different regions and cities, along with collecting the books of the New Testament, building your faith deck, and persevering through the trials.  Generally, game play takes about one hour from start to finish.  Watch out, as you don’t want your churches to be extinguished!


commissioned-pic-2How we played it

I am someone who would always rather read directions than watch a video on how to do something.  (I realize in this day and age, I’m in the minority!)  However, this is one time when you absolutely want to watch Patrick Lysaght’s 24-minute “How To Play” video.  (This is found at the Commissioned link.)  This game is so enjoyable, but just reading the directions (which are very clearly written and beautifully illustrated) wasn’t quite enough for us.  So, the first two times my husband, son and I played Commissioned, we watched Mr. Lysaght’s video AS we were playing.  He describes how to set up the board, what each game piece or card does, and then he takes you through playing an actual game.  The first time, we sort of understood it.  But the second time, our reaction was, “OH!  That’s how you do it.  How cool!”

We’re a 3-person family, so we had a perfect number of players (although clearly, we could have had more people over to play and things would also have worked well).


commissioned-pic-3What our family thought

We loved it!  We enjoyed playing a board game together; honestly, we’ve played more cards or video games in the last couple of months than board games.  So it was wonderful to have a fascinating game we could enjoy together.  Our son is 14, so I think it was also good timing for him, as there are some tough things that happened to the early Christian church that do come up in this game; like lions, imprisonment, persecution.  Yet the cool thing is that players can see, in a gaming fashion that I know they can then apply to real life, that tribulations CAN be overcome.  Plus, it’s just fun!

I found it interesting to see how the three of us reacted as we played through the game.  In many ways, Commissioned is a collaborative game, so players work together using their Faith cards to overcome struggles.  My son did a great job in seeing what cards would most benefit us as we worked to overcome the struggle.  My husband is apparently the strategy king; he reminded us here and there how we could move in ways that would benefit the church overall.  Me?  I just loved playing the game with my guys, and being reminded of some of the amazing things God did in the early church.  We all liked the way it gives a very visual image of what life was like in the early church, from a macro perspective.

We say:  big thumbs up!


commissioned-pic-5Who would enjoy Commissioned?

If you, or someone you know:

  • loves tabletop or board games
  • enjoys world-building games
  • has played that Catan game and liked it
  • is looking for ways to enjoy family game time
  • is interested in learning how the Christian church might have spread
  • or is just looking for a fascinating new game…

then you might just love Commissioned!  You don’t have to be a Christian to thoroughly enjoy this game…although enjoying history would probably be a plus.  The game is interesting historically, extremely fun and fascinating to play, and something that we truly enjoyed.  The more you play it, the more you’ll understand it; but those who’ve played world-building, collaborative games before will probably get it immediately.

Honestly, anyone who likes board games should check this out!


commissioned-pic-4You can find Commissioned at:

Visit Chara Games to purchase Commissioned.  And read more about this neat company while you’re there!  Other Crew members of the Homeschool Review Crew also played and reviewed Commissioned.  If you click on the banner below, you can read about their experiences!

3-seeds-reap-where-you-sow-3_zpswpje7juhAlso–we’re really excited about reviewing another game from Chara Games called 3 Seeds.  Keep an eye out for that review, which is coming soon!

Visit Chara Games at their social media sites:
Twitter:  @Charagames

Enjoy! –Wren

Commissioned {Chara Games}Crew Disclaimer

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

“Getting Started With French” ~ A Review

Are you thinking of studying a foreign language in your homeschool?  If so, I have a wonderful resource for you–Armfield Academic PressGetting Started With French!  We received a copy of this book to review via the Homeschool Review Crew.


What is Getting Started With French?

Getting Started With French, authored by William E. Linney and Brandon Simpson, is a beginning language learning textbook especially written for homeschooled students.  In fact, its subtitle is “Beginning French for Homeschoolers and Self-Taught Students of Any Age.”  It’s ideal for homeschoolers or those who are learning French for the very first time for many reasons.  It’s extremely affordable ($21.95 at Amazon); it is incredibly easy to use even if the user is unfamiliar with French; it’s divided into clear, simple lessons; and it has an audio component.

Getting Started With French is composed of a softcover book and accompanying free audio downloads from Getting Started With French.  The book contains lessons 1 through 172; an answer key in the back for the lessons’ exercises; a pronunciation guide; a glossary; and an index.  The audio downloads can be retrieved two ways; either by downloading zip files to your computer or by simply accessing each lesson’s pronunciation file via the website.

The lessons start very simply; with new French words and their correct pronunciation, and then each subsequent lesson builds on the ones before it.  The audio files use a native French speaker from Paris to pronounce each word or phrase for the student.  So first, the student reads the lesson in the book and learns a little about new vocabulary or pronunciation rules in French.  Then, he can listen to the audio file and practice his own pronunciation.  Last, he’ll (usually) do written work.

The authors also include fun Expressions Françaises (French expressions) here and there; familiar French phrases that even English speakers would know, along with the stories behind those phrases.  They are fun pieces of trivia especially created for French students.



getting-started-french-picture-1How I used it

My son is preparing to resume studies of another foreign language and was concerned about learning two very different languages at once.  So this time, I was the person who got to use the curriculum!  I’ve always enjoyed French (whether it’s the food, the fashions, the country’s beautiful architecture, or the language itself), but it has been years and years since I studied it in high school and college.  I really looked forward to picking it up again.

To begin, I selected a composition notebook to use for the written portion of each lesson.  I downloaded the audio zip files from the Downloads tab of Getting Started With French (there are both pronunciation files and author commentary for each lesson; this is like having a French teacher right in your own homeschool) to our PC.  However, because our PC sits in one area of our dining room I often work elsewhere with audio or video files using my Kindle Fire, just because I can be anywhere in the home (or away, if there’s wi-fi) to do it.  So I simply used the audio files straight from the website almost all of the time as I studied.  This worked perfectly.  I followed the lessons as they are presented in the book; first, I’d read the first few paragraphs, then I’d listen to and repeat aloud the audio vocabulary, then I’d write the exercises from the book in my composition notebook.

The lessons are very simple and easy, yet profound at the same time.  Who could have imagined that with only a softcover textbook and audio files, a French class focusing on grammar, pronunciation rules, vocabulary AND correct voicing of the French language could be achieved?  And yet that’s exactly what Getting Started With French has done.  The authors recommend that a student study one lesson per day, rather than clumping together many lessons at once.  There might be the temptation to do that just because the lessons are on the shorter side.  However, true learning will occur much more effectively and smoothly if students learn just a little at a time and learn it well.  Then, each following lesson will build on the ones before.


getting-started-french-picture-2My impressions

Personally, I found Getting Started With French incredibly enjoyable.  I loved using it!  It was truly wonderful to get back into French language study, and even though I have a busy day nearly every day of my life, I was able to fit in study times with no trouble.  (And because of the audio access via my Kindle, I could do it in any room of the house!)  I did remember a good portion of French vocabulary and grammar rules, but what I appreciated most was the fact that the audio files modeled for me the correct pronunciation.  Since my college years, I spent several years studying and speaking (well, attempting to speak) Russian and, as you can imagine, the pronunciation and even the placement inside the mouth of voicing different vowels, vowel combinations, or vowels with consonants was dramatically different.  And yes, every single student benefits from hearing words spoken by native speakers.  But in my case, I found that I had to retrain my palate (so to speak) from Russian pronunciation to French.  Thanks to the audio files, this was easily accomplished (although honestly, it’s still a work in progress as I haven’t completed the entire course yet!).

One thing that a person can find challenging when learning a foreign language is putting grammar together with vocabulary.  Why would a French speaker say or write  “l’orange” instead of “la orange,” for example?  What does the cédille do to the French pronunciation rule of a “C,” or “ç” in a word?  All these questions, and many more, are explained little by little to students.  I really appreciate the way the authors don’t separate grammar lessons from everything else (which I think makes language-learning very challenging), but place them in context by weaving them into lessons where the students are also working on pronunciation and building a vocabulary.

I would definitely recommend Getting Started With French for any student (child or adult) who’d like to begin to learn this beautiful language…and also for any homeschool parent!  Even if there is no French experience or ability whatsoever in the home, authors Linney and Simpson have created lessons which are incredibly easy for both the teacher and the student to apprehend, and just as important, to truly progress with.  Getting Started With French provides a fantastic foundation for further language study by its excellent pronunciation, conversation, translation, and vocabulary/grammar lessons.


getting-started-french-picture-1Other resources from Armfield Academic Press

Armfield Academic Press also has other fantastic introductory language learning books available; Getting Started With Spanish and Getting Started With Latin.  They’re also planning to publish Getting Started With Russian soon.  Although I’m really enjoying studying French again, I must admit that there are foundations that I missed when I studied Russian the first time.  I was actually living in Russia and studying Russian at a university there with a native Russian speaker; and she was fantastic.  However, because it was more of an immersion experience, I missed some basic yet crucial grammar and pronunciation information (like how exactly to form my mouth around “ы” or managing the dipthong “лю.”)  I feel completely confident, based on using Getting Started With French, that Mr. Linney will be more than capable of unlocking the secrets of the Russian language to me….at last!  (When Getting Started With Russian is published, that is!)


If you’re or your child are interested in studying French, do check out Armfield Academic PressGetting Started With French.  It is affordable, understandable, and so user-friendly.  I truly loved it, and am looking forward to more from Armfield Academic Press!

You can visit Armfield Academic Press‘ Facebook page at

Enjoy! –Wren

Introducing Getting Started with French {Armfield Academic Press}

Crew Disclaimer

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

New Star Toaster App ~ A TOS Review

Last year, Jackson and I were blessed to review Star Toaster‘s wonderful Orphs of the Woodlands for the Schoolhouse Review Crew.  This year, Star Toaster has brought families and students a brand-new interactive chapter book, Orphs of the Woodlands at Tangletree for both iPad and iPod (and it’s available in the iTunes store).


Orphs App bannerWhat is Star Toaster?

Star Toaster creates wondrous learning experiences for families and for children, whether those children learn in a homeschool, a private school, or a public school.  The company desires to enable kids to discover the joys of reading with an incredible, Narnia-esque-type tale in their first online experience, which we reviewed last year.  Orphs of the Woodlands tells the tale of a squirrel (which the reading child personalizes and names) who experiences incredible adventures.  Woven throughout the story are lessons (which seem more like games) on vocabulary, science, art, math, and more.  It’s presented as an online reading experience, and as the child reads a chapter, he then has the opportunity to engage in the learning activities.

We absolutely adored our experience with Star Toaster last year, and when I discovered that they had produced another neat learning experience for children, I was definitely intrigued!

orphs sample_zpssicmp4ngWhat is Orphs of the Woodlands at Tangletree?

Star Toaster’s newest, Orphs of the Woodlands at Tangletree, is an interactive chapter book which can be purchased from the iTunes store and used on both iPads, iPods, and iPod Touch, requiring iOS 8.0 or later. It tells the continuing story of Abba, the flying squirrel, whose home and family have been swept away in an enormous flood.  He alone of his family is left to pick up the pieces.  As he searches for survivors, he finds not only two good friends of his (one of whom is a hedgehog and one of my favorite characters) but a small group of animal babies who seem to be orphaned.  The 122-page interactive online book is set up in chapters.  The student reads a chapter, then is directed to accomplish learning tasks which, when completed, provide food, clothing, and supplies for the animal babies, who are called “orphs.”  Orphs of the Woodlands at Tangletree is designed for children aged 9-11, although older children will also enjoy reading Abba’s story and completing the tasks.  (Especially if they’ve already met the squirrel in the original Orphs of the Woodlands; honestly, we’ve been waiting for the newest book on his adventures since we finished the original book last spring!)

Orphs Goals 2 AppThe book is comprised of chapters and learning activities, which provide information about science, nature, nutrition, character, math and art, as well as tasks about that information.  The tasks are aptly designed for the 9-11 age group.  The student reads a chapter, then is directed to complete activities so that he can buy the orphs’ necessary supplies.  Each question is assigned a certain number of “goldstars,” the currency of the Woodlands, and the child answers questions until the goal is reached and he can buy the blueberry bushes, or laundry, or whatever the needed supply is.

As updates in the game are produced, they’ll be provided for those who’ve purchased the app, which is priced at a very reasonable $1.99.  Additionally, more than one user in a family can complete the activities in the app; apparently, an unlimited number of players, but most definitely up to 12!


Our experiences

Our son is just a little bit above the age group at age 14 (and he is working on other things this summer), so I personally used the app.  I’m so happy I did (even though clearly I am above the stated audience age!).  I used the app on our iPad 2.  For the most part, it worked perfectly well.  There were a couple of times that the screen locked up and I couldn’t progress, or that I was bounced out of the book to the home page, but restarting the iPad enabled me to continue with the book and/or educational game every time.

Those were very minor problems, however.  The chapter book reads easily and scrolls through well.  There are icons for the various activities within the game, and it’s very easily navigable overall.  As an adult, I read through the entire book and completed the educational activities in a couple of hours, but a child’s experience would of course be different.  I’d imagine that a child might complete a chapter or two and the corresponding tasks in a day (although I have heard about kids blowing through the book in a day because they loved the story so much!).

The story itself is very appealing.  Flying Squirrel Abba investigates mysteries, learns how to care for babies, discovers the difference between a friend and a foe, all while trying to find out more about his father who’s seemingly disappeared.  Despite his missing father, the story is very cheerful, the characters are fun, and the adventures keep the child engaged and excited….and turning the pages!


star-toaster-logoFinal thoughts, and how to buy

I am a huge Star Toaster fan.  I love the company’s values and the wholesome and pure storylines they’ve created.  Not only would I trust them with my child’s heart as he read their stories, I loved the learning activities they place in the book.  I found that this new interactive chapter book was a sweet and enjoyable experience, and one that I’d happily recommend to families for their elementary-aged students.

You may purchase  Star Toaster ‘s Orphs of the Woodlands at Tangletree  via the iTunes store, for $1.99.  (Just click on the highlighted link.)  I highly recommend it, for a wonderful and joyful learning experience!

Enjoy!  –Wren

You may visit Star Toaster at their social media links:


Orphs of the Woodlands at Tanglegate ReviewCrew Disclaimer

Heirloom Audio Productions’ Newest: “Beric the Briton,” A Review

Earlier this summer, we received an audio adventure to review from Heirloom Audio Productions; their newest drama, Beric the Briton.  Are you interested in the ancient Romans?  in the Coliseum?  in battles to the death with lions?

Beric Banner

If you can answer “yes” to any of those questions, then this new audio drama might be right up your alley!

What is Heirloom Audio Productions?

Heirloom Audio Productions is engaged in bringing the incredible truths of history to life for today’s audiences in audio format.  To do this, they find engaging stories that tell the facts of real (and sometimes fictional) heroes and heroines.  The novels of “living books” author G.A. Henty have been the perfect vehicle to tell these stories!  These audio dramas are voiced by world-class actors and accompanied by stirring musical scores.  Heirloom Audio has brought audiences the stories of Alfred the Great (The Dragon and the Raven), Robert E. Lee (With Lee in Virginia), Robert the Bruce (In Freedom’s Cause), and Sir Francis Drake (Under Drake’s Flag).  The newest Heirloom Audio adventure features the events of early Britannia, the Roman invasions, and gladiators in Beric the Briton.


Beric 1What is Beric the Briton?

Beric the Briton was originally a novel by G.A. Henty, the 19th-century author of almost 100 well-researched historical fiction books.  Henty selected and studied specific eras and produced vivid and inspiring books about them.  Beric the Briton is the story of Beric, the leader of a tribe of Britannia.  He has spent time in Rome and has learned their ways of warfare, and noted the enormous differences between the ways the Romans and his own island tribes fought, and is determined to teach those winning ways to his people.  However, when war does come between the two groups, Rome (as she often did) emerged as the victor, and Beric is carried off to Rome, which is under the control of Emperor Nero.  The reader (or listener, here!) will experience the fire of Rome, the persecution of Christians, “bread and circuses.”  And Beric will hear of Christus, who couldn’t be more different than the Druids followed by his own tribe.  He’ll have to make a decision; will he follow the ways of his past, or the God-man, Christus?

Heirloom Audio Productions brings Beric the Briton to vivid life with an incredible cast of talented actors, which includes Tom Baker of Doctor Who fame,  Honeysuckle Weeks from Foyle’s War, Brian Blessed (Star Wars), John Rhys-Davies (The Lord of the Rings), and more.  This production is recorded on 2 CDs, and the story runs two and a half hours.  The company recommends Beric the Briton for audiences aged 6 to adult.


Beric gift with purchase 1What will you receive in this new set?

When you purchase Beric the Briton, you don’t just receive an audio adventure!  Heirloom Audio Productions has created an enormous collection of extras which are perfect for families, classes, and homeschoolers.  We received the following special bonuses along with the audio CD in physical format:

  • An mp3 set of Beric the Briton
  • Beric the Briton in e-book format
  • The Official Soundtrack of Beric the Briton in mp3 format
  • a printable cast movie poster
  • an inspirational poster with a quote from the story’s character, Julius
  • a Live the Adventure letter
  • a “Behind the Scenes” video documentary with the cast and crew
  • a fantastic Beric the Briton Study Guide which includes not only questions for each chapter, but related Bible studies as well

The Study Guide and the inspirational posters, in particular, were favorites of our family.  The poster is just gorgeous and the quote is truly faith-building.  The Study Guide is so complete that it could form the basis of a unit study on Rome or Britannia, or even an addition to a survey of the Christian church.  Really, all of these bonus products thoroughly enrich the audio experience, and are fascinating learning experiences.  Not to mention wonderful keepsakes!

Beric 2Our impressions:

We took a vacation during the month that we received Beric the Briton and had to drive about 7 1/2 hours going and returning.  So I happily took the CD set with us; on that trip there are some long stretches of nothing but highway.  So I knew that it would come in handy.  We weren’t really familiar with the story before we listened to it, although I had a general idea of what that historical era covered.

There are some incredible and heroic–even inspiring–people who lived during this era, and we met many of them as we listened.  Boadicea, for example; one of the great female warriors who led the Britannic tribe Iceni, is presented here.  There are also Festus and Paulus (do those names sound familiar?).  However, there are also wicked and evil characters like the Emperor Nero (who thinks much more highly of himself than his actions would suggest) or the Romans who attack Boadicea and her daughters (not to mention the tribes of Britannia themselves).  The actual events of this era provide a vivid storyline for Beric and his adventures.  The trials of early Christians are part of the story, especially of Beric’s time in Rome.

And what did we think?  First, that Heirloom Audio has created another incredibly high-quality production from an exciting book.  Second, the audio acting is excellent as always (as one would expect with such an incredible cast!).  Third, it’s a fabulous addition to studies about the Roman Empire, as the listener not only learns about what it was like to live in Rome but what it could have been like to be one of Rome’s conquered peoples.

I do have to admit that our family was a bit squeamish about some of the subject matter.  Have you read a lot about the Druids or their practices?  That in particular is not for the faint of heart, honestly, although Henty’s story deals with that and Boadicea’s and her daughters’ attack very circumspectly.  However, I thought that the geography taught via the story, and the experiences of both the gladiators of Rome and the early Christians were fascinating and great ways to learn about the past.

While we’re always impressed with the Heirloom Audio presentations, we do find that we have to do a lot of turning the audio up and down as we listen.  This has happened in both our home and in the car, so I don’t think it’s an issue with our audio systems.  It does make listening a somewhat distracting experience, when we can’t focus on the story but have to keep adjusting the volume.

However, I really don’t think that you can find anyone out there who is producing anything like Heirloom Audio Productions does.  They select stories that are exciting yet honorable, that teach great character while they teach history.  So for incredible listening experiences that also speak deeply to the heart, mind, and spirit—you won’t have to look any further than Heirloom Audio!


Beric SG 2Where you can find Beric the Briton

You may purchase Beric the Briton from Heirloom Audio Productions .  And while you’re there, check out their other wonderful audio productions!

You can also visit Heirloom Audio Productions and learn more about Beric the Briton at these social media links:

Beric The Briton Facebook Page:

The Extraordinary Adventures of G.A. Henty series Facebook page:


Enjoy! –Wren

Beric The Briton Heirloom Audio Productions ReviewCrew Disclaimer

Patriotic Penmanship from Laurelwood Books ~ A TOS Review

We’ve been introduced recently to a unique company, Laurelwood Books, which produces and sells some beautiful materials for homeschoolers.  Through the Schoolhouse Review Crew, we received their cursive handwriting program, Patriotic Penmanship, to use and review.  In particular, we used their Patriotic Penmanship High School: Grades 9-12 book.

Patriotic Penmanship banner

What is Laurelwood Books?

Laurelwood Books is a company which provides, as their tagline reads, “homeschooling books, help and advice.”  In their shop, you can find everything from curricula of all sorts (science, math, language arts and more), to excellent books, CDs, DVDs, and other material interesting to the homeschooler!  These range from time-honored classics to newer publications.  (I have to tell you that one of their current specials pictured on their website is a Nancy Drew novel that I owned as a grade schooler, years ago!)  Crew reviewers received one of a great variety of curricula to review, including Latin readers and workbooks, penmanship books, and books for state study.


Patriotic Pen 1Patriotic Penmanship, our review item

Author Mary Ellen Tedrow of Laurelwood Books has created a penmanship curriculum with books for every grade level from 1st grade through 12th.  The series is entitled Patriotic Penmanship, and it’s composed of books featuring noble and inspirational quotes about America, faith, and life for students’ handwriting practice.  The softcover books (which are consumable, for one student’s use) teach manuscript printing in grades 1 and 2.  Grades 3-6 (which also have one book per grade) continue student work in cursive.  The last two books in the series are one book each for Junior High (grades 7-8) and High School (grades 9-12), both continuing cursive work.

We received the Patriotic Penmanship High School: Grades 9-12 book.  It is an 8 1/2″ x 11″ softcover book with a laminated cover.  The inside pages are white (and smooth), and since it’s a consumable cursive handwriting book all the work is done in this.  You will need one book for each child.  (No other materials are required.)  Mary Ellen’s instructions for the parent are short and sweet:  each week, start by reading the entire quote to your child.  Then, assign to him the amount of work that he can capably complete each day.  Her lovely reminder to give grace to your children as they write, allowing them some creativity, is really appreciated in our house!

PatPen 2There are 30 lessons total in the Patriotic Penmanship High School: Grades 9-12 book, plus a couple of pages of alphabet practice at the beginning.  This makes it perfect to use for one year’s work in handwriting/penmanship.  Each week’s lesson begins with a quote; each one is either from a historical figure from America’s (or world) history, a Scripture passage, or from influential Christian men and women.  You’ll find wonderful words which encourage, inspire, and uplift, from sources like:

  • the Declaration of Independence
  • Wernher von Braun
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • and more!

These beautiful words from Scripture, from poetry, and from landmark speeches will be not only excellent for penmanship practice, but for the heart and mind of the student as well.

After you read the quote to the student, he’ll begin the Tracing and Writing Practice.  Each quote has two lines on which handwriting is practiced: first, a line where the words are printed in dotted format, where the student traces over them.  Following that is a blank line where he’ll rewrite the words he just traced.  When he has completed this section, he’ll move on to the Full Quote, designed so that the entire quote is written on the blank lines given.  Then that’s the end of that week’s lesson!


PatPen 3How we used this:

Since we’re working on this during the summer, which is more of a “homeschooling lite” time for us, we didn’t complete 5 days in a row of penmanship work (as directed in the note to teachers), but more of a 3-day schedule.  Otherwise, we basically followed the plan set out by the author.  Jackson, who just completed 8th grade, started with the alphabet practice.  Then, we moved on to other quotes in the book.  He’d generally complete about 3 lines of a quote per lesson, which works out to six lines of handwriting, since the quotes start with tracing and follow that with the freehand writing.

I LOVE the quotes that Mary Ellen has used in this book.  They are truly words that will lift the spirits of anyone who reads them.  I like her encouragement to assign to your children just what they’re capable of completing in a day.  However, it did take us a bit of time to get used to this new format.  Jackson hasn’t done tracing in his handwriting practice in quite awhile, and I think this can overwhelm a student IF you don’t follow Mary Ellen’s recommendation, since at the beginning of each lesson the quotes are first traced, then rewritten on a new line.  I think it just looked like a lot to him at first.  But he did ease into the new format.

When I applied for this review, I wasn’t really sure if I should have asked for the Junior High book or the High School one.  Since my son officially starts 9th grade in the fall, I decided to ask for the High School book.  And the first thing we noticed when we opened the book was that the lines (which are the standard handwriting lines, with a top and bottom unbroken line, and a midpoint dotted line) were really small!  The pages he worked on during middle school were quite a bit larger and had much more space for writing.  However, I do think that this was a change we’d eventually have made in the fall anyway, so it wasn’t a bad thing; just something new for us.

Our recommendations:

I haven’t really seen a lot of handwriting/penmanship books for high school students.  However, I had already planned for Jackson to continue to work on this subject, even if it was solely from using copywork pages.  I really do believe that handwriting practice accomplishes important work in students’ brains.  Plus, even if our culture continues to become more tech-focused and most people communicate electronically, there is still importance and blessing that can be communicated via the handwritten word.  Don’t you still love getting a handwritten note from a friend or family member?

Patriotic Penmanship High School: Grades 9-12 book offers homeschoolers an uplifting and quality way to practice their handwriting as they are being exposed to beautiful words.  Wouldn’t this also be a fantastic adjunct to an American history study?  I can recommend this curriculum for any mother who’s seeking a handwriting program for her high school homeschool students.  It’s a concise and lovely way for students to work on their penmanship!

You can visit Laurelwood Books to purchase Patriotic Penmanship.  You can also click the banner below, to read more about other curricula my fellow Crewmates reviewed!

Enjoy!  –Wren

You can visit Laurelwood Books at these social media spots:

Their website, Laurelwood Books
Or via email, at



Latin and Penmanship {Laurelwood Books Review}Crew Disclaimer

Notebooking Pages ~ Our Most Excellent Experiences & Review

Through the Schoolhouse Review Crew, Jackson and I have found an excellent new way to reinforce what he’s learning via books, textbooks, experiments, and many other school experiences.  We were SO fortunate to receive a Notebooking Pages Lifetime Membership from  I have been really pleased with our experiences.  And I can tell you, this is a product we will be using during all our remaining years of homeschooling!


notbooking-pages-bannerWhat is notebooking, anyway?

“Notebooking” is simply journaling what you are learning, or what you have learned.  It can be anything from writing down the key points of a read-aloud’s chapter, to noting historical events and timing, to recording the experiences of  a field trip, to scientific principles, and more.  Anything that a child can recount that he’s learning, can become a notebooking exercise.  British educator Charlotte Mason espoused this as a key method of learning for children, and you’ll find it used by many homeschooling families today.


notebookingpages-com-logoWhat is creator Debra L. Reed, who’s also a homeschooling mother of 10, wanted her children to really learn what she was teaching them, and internalize those things for a lifetime, not just for the test (as many of us might have done during our own school careers!).  She also wanted to bring freedom to homeschooling mamas and families, and her has done just that!  She has created an enormous plethora of pages for all kinds of subjects that students will encounter during their formal education.  In addition, she has teaching videos (as well as videos that tell the story of how and why was born), and many different helps for the homeschooling parent.



NotebPg 1What you’ll find in the Notebooking Pages Lifetime Membership:

If you’ve never used notebooking pages before, never fear!  Debra L. Reed has created an “Easy Start Guide” that takes the user step-by-step through an effective beginning (including videos, creating notebooks for both mama and student(s), and more).  Even if this method of learning is completely new to you, you’ll be equipped to start out simply by following this guide.

But of course, the Lifetime Membership doesn’t stop there!  Next, you’ll find what I (and probably you would as well!) find most exciting:  the “Membership Downloads.”  Also known as all the pages for all the subjects you want to teach, for students in grades K-12!  Here’s a listing of the categories:

  • Any Study (blank lines with clip art, attractive borders, and so on, for any subject)
  • A-Z (alphabet copy pages of many kinds for beginning students)
  • Bible and Character Study
  • Famous People (historical figures like First Ladies, missionaries, explorers, artists, etc.)
  • Fine Arts (including picture study, artists, composers)
  • Geography (continents, U.S., etc.)
  • History (from ancient times on, with timelines/century books)
  • Holidays
  • Language Arts (with a variety of copywork pages and even some Latin and Greek word study)
  • Science/Nature

Each of these comes in files which can be downloaded onto your home computer, and printed from there.  Or you could, of course, put them on a flash drive and take them to a copy center, if you’re unable to print at home.  The Lifetime Membership enables the user to access everything on the website for generations to come, whether they’re current products or future ones that are still being added.  There is no time limit on the Lifetime Membership!



Notbk 4How we used these pages:

We used our notebooking pages the most during this review period, on science work.  (For some reason, our schedule has been science-heavy the last few months!)  First, we worked on an upper middle school Life Science study.  It was extremely well-written.  Yet for some reason, it didn’t work well for us as a read-aloud and my son had a hard time concentrating on it when he read it himself.  I think that it was just so chock-full of information that it was a little too much for his brain to absorb. to the rescue!  I printed out some pages with colorful borders from the “Any Study” section.  These pages have lines for writing and boxes for writing lists or drawing diagrams.  This made THE difference for us, taking our study from a good curriculum that was a bit difficult for us to work with, to making a challenging subject completely understandable.  I wrote questions, fill-in-the-blanks, and words to define (as well as diagrams to reproduce), and Jackson used these alongside his book as he read.  What a difference!  Plus, he was creating his own study sheets as he worked on these pages.  Win-win!


Notbkg 3We used the notebooking pages with two other science programs as well, both heavy on experiments.  With one of them, Jackson drew diagrams of the circuits he built and then wrote explanations of what they did, and the components he used to build them.  With the other, which dealt with physics experiments, he defined words and explained the principles he discovered as he worked the experiments.  For these, we printed out pages from the Science/Nature section of; they’re black and white with a “Science” header.

NotbPgs 2Since it’s summer, we have had the opportunity to use some of the notebooking pages we might not have gotten to during a regular September-May school year.  Recently, our family took a vacation to Texas and New Mexico.  So we printed the USA State Study Sets (there’s one for each of the 50 states, plus Washington, D.C.) from the Geography section, specifically for Texas.  The pages we used had spaces for state information (date of statehood, bird, motto, etc.) plus blank pages where you could fill out information on things you did or places you went.  They were just fabulous pages (okay, I am from Texas myself, so I admit I might have had a slight bias here) and so interesting for Jackson to fill out.

Notbkg 5The second set of pages we used on our vacation were also from the Geography section, from the USA National Monuments segment.  We visited Capulin Volcano National Monument, and has pages just for that!  So before we left on our trip, I printed those pages.  They included blank lines and a box to fill in (Jackson did a map of the hiking trails at the monument there), as well as photos of the dormant volcano and a U.S. map for marking its location.  I loved the way having a record of our trip made it even more memorable, and visual.

I have to admit to you that I am not generally a fan of printables.  I just find it, sometimes, so unhelpful to have to print things at home.  Plus our printer sometimes runs through ink VERY quickly.  That has not been the case with my membership, though.  It is so easy to download and to print.  I don’t really even have to think about it!


Notbkg 6Our recommendations:

Do you want to ensure that your children are really learning the things they are studying?  Do you want to teach them good memory techniques, great note-taking skills, and build in them scholastic habits that will serve them well for a lifetime?  And do you want to help them to really become lifelong learners?

If the answer to any of these questions is “Yes!”, then I believe that is something that you’ll not only enjoy, but that your child will greatly benefit from.  For us, it has been an incredible gift, and just what we need for a student who’s beginning his high school years.  (Although younger students will certainly find these notebooking pages both amazing, enjoyable, and useful as well!)

Jackson, who’s just finished the 8th grade and will be starting 9th grade in the fall, LOVES the notebooking pages he has used.  He felt that they were enjoyable to use, but also that they really helped him in the learning and studying processes.  Each and every time we used them, he was happy to do the schoolwork!

And finally….

You can purchase the amazing Notebooking Pages Lifetime Membership from  It really is the most incredible resource.  I know we’ll find many other ways to use it in our homeschool, in nearly every subject (if not all of them)!

You can visit at the following social media links:

Twitter: @NotebookingPgs

Enjoy!  –Wren

Notebooking Pages Lifetime Membership ReviewsCrew Disclaimer

LearnBop for Families ~ The Online Math Tutor You’ve Been Looking For

Have you been looking for ways your children can keep their math skills up, over the summer months?  We found the perfect solution for this potential problem when we were offered LearnBop‘s LearnBop for Families to use and review via the Schoolhouse Review Crew.  It has been a great experience for us (which is saying something, when a love-hate relationship with math lives in your household!)  We received a prepaid version (12 month subscription) for the Single Student Plan (although there is also a Family Plan available for up to 4 students).  It’s completely digital and online, and students watch, answer, and learn via the website.

LearnBop Banner

What is LearnBop for Families?

LearnBop itself is a program which teaches math and gives additional instruction on concepts students miss or don’t understand….all online.  LearnBop has been used in schools for some time.  They developed their new program, LearnBop for Families, for students to use at home.  It’s designed for students in grades 3-12 (although younger students have also used it successfully).

And how does LearnBop for Families work?  It organizes math concepts into learning plans called Learning Roadmaps, which contain thorough lessons on them.  There might be anywhere from 11-13, or more, plans or units in each grade level or roadmap.  And each of those has a number of lessons in it.  Students watch videos, answer questions, and are given additional problems.

LearnBop 1

Here is where things get interesting.  In each roadmap, students begin by completing a Warmup.  This warmup presents a number of different questions that illustrate the math concepts that will be taught in the particular unit.  The student works through the questions and the problems and enters his answers.  Then, based on how well he scores on the warmup questions, the website calculates his understanding of the concepts.  And fabulously, it develops a plan of study, called Building Blocks, for the student!  The Building Blocks provide teaching videos on each concept that needs to be mastered.  After the student watches the teaching videos, he can either watch additional videos on the concepts or proceed to the Bops, where he’s given problems to work so that he can show mastery of those concepts.  Once he has completed the Bops (math problems) with a 90% success rate, he can move on to the next Roadmap, which starts the entire process again.


LearnBop 2How we used it

My son will be entering high school in the fall as a ninth grader, and I thought that spending time with LearnBop over the summer reviewing the math concepts of his middle school years would be a great way to prepare him for the Algebra I class he’ll begin in September.  So we used a Roadmap that started with graphing along the x and y axes, introductory algebraic concepts with variables, and geometry.

We have used some different curricula over Jackson’s middle school years, and another reason I wanted to use LearnBop for review is because I wanted to ensure that he’d covered everything in those various curricula that he’d need to be successful in math during his high school years.  So as he worked through the roadmaps, I sat nearby so that I could make sure that the program itself worked and so that I could see what he was covering in each roadmap.  This ended up being a great plan for us, because we had a lot of conversations about why the math processes worked as they did.  And while I can’t say this about every math curricula we’ve used over the years, I LOVE LearnBop as a tutoring program!

LearnBop 3

The videos teach the math concepts VERY calmly and clearly.  While students do need to watch additional teaching videos if they miss problems, my son never felt like that was a punishment.  (And he is not really a math fan.)  There is enough repetition in the problems that the student can really grasp the concepts by exposure and experience.  I did feel that the math seemed just a bit above what I’d have thought was grade level.  However, that was never a problem for us.  We’d just slowly and carefully work through each problem (sometimes with math, the student’s challenges are not that he can’t do the math, but that he’s working through it so quickly that he misses something) until understanding was reached and mastery demonstrated by the Roadmap.

The program also has some nice kudos for the student, in the form of badges and accomplishments that are displayed on the bottom of their pages.  In addition, the Single Student Plan that we used allowed us to have a student account and a parent’s account.  So if I needed a personal refresher in a math concept Jackson was working on, I could create a Roadmap in my own account and work the problems through that.  The parent’s account works in just the same way as the student’s, with Warmups, teaching videos, and Building Blocks problems.  (I admit that I’ve forgotten more upper-level algebra than I thought I had!)

LearnBop 4

I really appreciated that we were able to work through a number of different grade levels via LearnBop.  I know that we have covered some of these topics but it has been awhile; and they’re all concepts that will be vital for Jackson to clearly remember and understand as he enters high school.  It has been a great learning experience that he’s been able to do with little anxiety (other than he’d really rather not be working on his least favorite subject during the summer months).  But from the mom’s point of view, it’s as stress-free as it could be.  Plus, it’s thorough!


LearnBop 5Our conclusions

I am a fan of LearnBop for Families.  It came along for us at a time when we really needed some excellent math reviewing time.  The lessons are easy to use, the video teaching is clearly presented, and the resulting and necessary problems provided for students really enable them to practice and improve on their math skills.

During our review time, we only experienced one issue in the program when it wouldn’t allow Jackson’s entered answers to be taken so that he could progress in the lesson.  This only happened yesterday, but we submitted a help request and should be hearing back any time.

Other Crew members reviewed different age levels offered by LearnBop.  If you’d like to hear more about their experiences, click on the banner below, which will provide links for other homeschoolers’ reviews.  You may purchase subscriptions for LearnBop for Families on a subscription plan (month-by-month) or a prepaid (yearly) basis at LearnBop.  If you’re in need of some math tutoring for your own students, this may be just what you’re looking for!

You can visit LearnBop and learn more at these social media sites:

Twitter: @LearnBop


Enjoy! –Wren

LearnBop for Families ReviewCrew Disclaimer