Perfect family-fun book review: “100 Days of Adventure”

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I received the awesome 100 Days of Adventure: Nature Activities, Creative Projects, and Field Trips for Every Season from FrontGate Media. It is definitely a book that is worth your while if you’re interested in creating fun and memorable adventures for your family and little ones (or bigger kids for that matter!).

About 100 Days of Adventure

From the publisher: Second-generation homeschooling mom Greta Eskridge shares 100 hands-on, learning activities for kids that will connect and enrich your family through adventures, small and big. Turn off the screen and turn on the creativity, curiosity, and love of nature as you have a meteor slumber party, attend a symphony concert, take a hike in the rain, preserve colorful fall leaves, make nettle pesto, and venture into the great, wide, real world.

Greta’s beautifully-illustrated, chock-full-of-ideas book will thrill your family as it offers you 100 adventure-filled activities for your family to do together! Each season’s section contains 25 activities that will engage young minds, hearts, and bodies–and bring your family connectedness as you immerse yourself in memory-making fun and adventure. Designed for families with kids aged 6-10 (but certainly will be fun for ages just under or over those), this book can provide the perfect idea guide for families who want to do something FUN, whether it’s fall, winter, spring, or fall.

And what kinds of activities will you find in 100 Days of Adventure? There are ideas and plans for cooking, outdoors experiences, art, writing, camping, volunteering, observing animals and insects, and lots more. There are even more “formal”-type activities like visiting an art museum, attending a symphony concert or ballet, and heading to a national park. It is so full of exciting and creative activities. In fact, here are some of the ones you’ll see in the book!

  • Start Seeds (in eggshells!)
  • Snow-White Canvas (painting on snow)
  • Knead and Bake Bread
  • Take a (Forest) Bath
  • Stand Tall on Homemade Stilts
  • Meteor Slumber Party
  • and so much more!

Each activity contains an introduction, illustrations, and a “What To Do” instructions list. Some (like the Create a Collection activity) even includes more ideas for kids to explore on their own.

This is a wonderful, joyfully-created idea book that will provide years of amazing activities for you and your kiddos to do.

My thoughts

One of my favorite homeschool memories includes the year that we had a homeschool group that met several times per month for enrichment activities. One week, we’d do an art project; the second week, we’d take a field trip; and the third week we’d do a local hike to a nature area. It was so enjoyable, and provided ways for kids and parents to experience art, nature, and more formal museum-type visits with a group of peers. It was a truly wonderful experience for us and parents still talk about it (or find older art projects from those days).

Greta Erskine’s book embraces the idea that adventures and amazing family activities can happen on the regular. She provides these beautiful and creative projects that touch on many wonderful things kids can learn in our wonderful world, whether they are in the categories of art, cooking, creating, insects and animals or the larger world of nature. Even if you consider yourself a creative person, there are ideas and plans in this book that you’ll love seeing and using yourself. (And maybe they’ll provide jumping-off points for new ideas for you as well!)

One idea that I love that was included here was creating your own adventure group. Whether you’re a homeschooler or not, I know that you and your children know other families you love getting together with. What a fantastic guidebook this can be for your own family, or for a group! I believe you’ll love this book and you’ll so appreciate Greta’s beautiful approach to family connections, growth, and activities.

Where you can purchase

You can purchase Greta Eskridge’s wonderful book by clicking on the link below!

Purchase 100 Days of Adventure here

Enjoy! –Wren

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from FrontGate Media. All opinions and thoughts written here are my own honest ones.

Our Experiences with Bridgeway Academy’s Chemistry with Lab 2018-2019

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Hello friends!


As I write this, we have just completed my son Jackson’s junior year. This year, we were privileged to partner with Bridgeway Academy, and Jackson was able to take his high school chemistry class online with them. This class was part of Bridgeway Academy’s Live Online Classes. It was effective and interesting, and I’d like to share more with you about our year and experiences!




About Chemistry with Lab

Bridgeway Academy‘s high school chemistry course is a full-year, Live Online Class. Chemistry with Lab (LLAY90799CH; follow link and scroll down the page for more info on the class) meets weekly from September through May. The course uses Paradigm’s Chemistry with Lab textbooks along with Bridgeway Academy‘s Chemistry Lab Kit. Students will need a computer to log into the online classroom, where the teacher and students meet and interact together. The class meets once each week, for an hour and a half. Upon completion of the course, students earn 1.5 high school science credits.

The Paradigm textbook set includes softcover text and activity books (IPC Chapters 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, and 11). This chemistry program focuses on the history and discoveries of chemistry, the people who made them, and the places they were made. The texts teach and introduce material about the elements and scientists. The activity books contain quizzes and questions on each text chapter’s material.

Bridgeway Academy‘s Chemistry Lab Kit includes a lab manual and a materials kit for all the experiments students will complete in the course. The kit has everything except a few household items (like distilled water, paper towels, etc.) that will be used. For example, in the lab kit you’ll see: beakers of various sizes; an electrolysis device; pipettes; reaction plates (the clear plastic rectangles with wells in the photos); safety goggles; wire gauze; various metals (copper, iron, nickel, zinc); and other materials you won’t find at home. It also includes solutions, like glycerin, HCl, sodium oxalate, zinc nitrate, and many others. The lab manual has directions for many experiments, fill-in-the-blanks for answers, and mathematical chemical equations and problems to work.




What did each week’s class look like?

Each week, Melissa Lindahl, Jackson’s chemistry teacher, Jackson, and his fellow classmates would log in together for class time. Ms. Lindahl would teach the week’s lesson and interact with students. She taught students the chemical (math) equations for the elements and their combinations. She also reviewed the experiments, the materials, safety guidelines, and their purpose. Bridgeway Academy utilizes a site called Moodle which hosts classes. Its technology works extremely well, and provides video of the teacher while enabling students to connect in class via text and/or voice. At the end of class, Ms. Lindahl would assign the week’s reading and activity book work. Each week following class, students would work in the books (activity and text/reading), complete experiments, and then upload their work via Moodle to Ms. Lindahl. The Moodle site and student dashboard also provided exams for each chapter. Students would take the exam online, and results were recorded there.



All students in the class completed a class project on a class of elements in December. The Moodle classroom enabled them to present their projects to the teacher and their classmates (with Powerpoint visuals or recorded video) at that time.

The Moodle classroom is set up so that the teacher can use the webcam for teaching, to show students the experiments they’ll be doing, or to display video or Powerpoint slides. It can also provide a whiteboard, which Ms. Lindahl used to teach students how to solve the chemistry math equations.



Here are some examples of the year’s work

Here’s just a sampling of some of the subjects that were covered in Jackson’s chemistry this year:

  • Barium, radium, strontium, and hard water
  • Mendeleev, the periodic table, and his predictions of missing elements
  • Valences, covalent compounds, and chemical bonding
  • Medieval metals, created diamonds, nitrogen’s many uses
  • Chemical bonds
  • Acids, bases, pH
  • Electrical current
  • Elements and the scientists who discovered them
  • and more!

In addition, students put what they learned into practice by completing experiments at home using the materials from the chemistry lab kit and noting their results in their lab manuals. There were 17 experiments in all; they were safe to do at home (although some materials required special care and handling, and always required the use of safety goggles).

During the experiments, Jackson learned about:

  • Paper chromatography
  • The electrical conductivity of various solutions
  • Mole ratios
  • Decomposition
  • Titration
  • Reaction rates

Following each experiment, he filled out its lab manual pages, then scanned them and sent the pages to the Moodle classroom for Ms. Lindahl to grade and record.




Our impressions of Chemistry with Lab

We’re really happy that Jackson was able to take his chemistry class via Bridgeway Academy. Personally, my only experience with chemistry was an introductory course my son took years ago in elementary school. (Awesome, but the key word there is “elementary”!) So I had serious doubts about being able to teach chemistry to Jackson, and to teach it well; basically, I’d have to learn a complete new scientific language and study hard myself for a long while before I’d really be able to teach him. (And to be honest, even if I had done those things I don’t think I would have been a good instructor for this course.)

Instead, we had Melissa Lindahl, an experienced and certified science teacher, for whom the language of chemistry seemed to be second nature. She effectively taught difficult new concepts each week, and prepared students for the math concepts that they’d be using in the experiments as well as instructing them about the materials (especially the solutions and solids they’d be using) and the proper way to handle each one.

Here’s what Jackson says about the class: “Ms. Lindahl was a good teacher and the class had interesting subject matter. I appreciated having a dedicated class time each week and a teacher who covered the material in a good amount of time. Those were definite high points. I did feel as though sometimes the Paradigm curriculum lacked some chemistry information that is often taught in high school chemistry classes. It focuses more on the history of chemistry, I think, than the whats and hows of the science taught in other courses.”

Jackson would probably have benefited from more time practicing the math equations required for the course. Ms. Lindahl explained them well during the online classes (and was also available via email outside of class) but the text itself didn’t spend extensive time on them. However, the history and the information on the elements made the course very interesting.




In closing

Are your homeschooled students at the point that they need their high school science credits, such as biology, chemistry, or physics? Are those subjects that you personally need more help in teaching?

If so, I’d definitely recommend Bridgeway Academy to you. Their certified teachers, online classrooms, and curricula can make all the difference in the world for your homeschool! Plus, your students will earn credits toward their high school transcripts.

Here’s how you can find out more about Bridgeway Academy

Just follow the links to the Bridgeway Academy home page, or to the Live Online Classes page. Bridgeway Academy has so many amazing classes for all of your students, from elementary age, to middle schoolers, to high school teens. Check them out. We’ve had wonderful experiences with them throughout the years!


Enjoy! –Wren


DISCLAIMER: 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.

“Hey Mama!” Schoolhouse Planner for 2019/20 ~ A Review

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As a homeschooler, one thing that is vital for me each day (and each year) is lesson planning. Each year I purchase a paper planner to use. This year, The Old Schoolhouse® kindly sent me the Hey Mama! Homeschool Planner for 2019/20 to review. I’m so excited to use it starting later this summer! Let me share more about it and how it can help you in your homeschool year!



About the author

The Hey Mama! Homeschool Planner for 2019/20 is a 1-year homeschool planner with enough space for one through five children. It’s authored by Gena Suarez of The Old Schoolhouse®,who, along with her husband, Paul, publishes The Old Schoolhouse® magazine. They are the parents of 7 children and are longtime homeschoolers themselves. Gena brings this lifelong experience to bear in the wonderful new Hey Mama! Homeschool Planner for 2019/20. The result is everything you’ll need for the 2019-2020 school year!


What you’ll find in this planner

First, I have to say, it is absolutely GORGEOUS. The front and back covers are a white background with lovely flowers superimposed across them. The flowers have sort of a native cherry blossom look, but the colors are blue, purple, and a little red/brown/yellow. It’s pretty and quite appealing to look at; even before you open it! It opens and closes without a hitch. It’s spiral-bound and the covers are laminated, so it is durable and lays flat for desk work or closes like a spiral notebook would if you’re only planning to work on the first (or second) part of the week.

The Hey Mama! planner is chock-full of practical helps, weekly/daily/monthly calendars, lesson plan pages, attendance records, and other important record-keeping pages for the homeschool year. There are also encouraging notes and devotionals from Gena to the homeschool mamas on such timely topics as; anxiety, God’s provision, trials, adventure, perseverance, dread, failure, and joy. I love Gena’s words to us homeschool moms. Homeschooling is a wonderful vocation, an adventure, and a delight; but it’s also, on some days, a task we may not feel equipped for. These devotionals will bless the user on those days!



Here are some of the practical helps you’ll find in the Hey Mama! Homeschool Planner for 2019/20:

  • Tips on creating a transcript, and a form to you for your high schoolers
  • A checklist for skills learned and courses studied
  • 2019-2021 mini-calendars
  • Monthly large calendars with big squares to jot notes and appointments on each day
  • 90 pages for each week’s lesson plans, with spaces for up to 5 students
  • Planning pages for each child, including curriculum planning, attendance, books read over the year, yearly and semester goals



My thoughts

I haven’t begun to use my new Hey Mama! planner yet. We have JUST (and I mean, JUST) finished my son Jackson’s junior year as of last Friday. So at the moment, we’re all breathing a huge sigh of relief.

However, our minds are beginning to turn to the 2019-2020 school year, which will be Jackson’s senior year. We’re considering curricula, coop classes, volunteering, driving lessons and practice; all the things that will comprise his last year of high school. As this planner starts in July 2020 and runs through May 2020, I’ll begin filling it in soon, I’m sure!

I love everything about the Hey Mama! Homeschool Planner for 2019/20. I love the feel of the beautiful color; the nice white pages inside just waiting for my pencil to begin writing; all the practical helps that will lead and support us on our way in this coming year. I can’t wait to get started!


How you can get your own Hey Mama! Homeschool Planner for 2019/20


It’s easy! Simply follow this link Hey Mama! Homeschool Planner for 2019/20  to purchase your own Hey Mama! planner from The Old Schoolhouse® .  Prices start at $22, with planners also available for shipping to Canada and to international addresses.

And, don’t delay. The Old Schoolhouse® has sold through 98% of their print planners. If you’d like to get one of these planners for your 2019-2020 homeschool year, this is your moment to do so!


Thanks for letting me share this with you! Have a lovely first week of June!


Enjoy! –Wren

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

Our Fall Recap of High School Chemistry with Bridgeway Academy (Plus a coupon AND a giveaway valued at over $80!) – CLOSED

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We have been so fortunate to partner with Bridgeway Academy again this year for another of my son Jackson’s high school courses.  Last year Jackson took Apologia Biology with Bridgeway and had an exceptional experience (PLUS got his high school biology and lab credits!) throughout the year.  For this, Jackson’s junior year, he is taking their FYC Chemistry with Lab, which is in Bridgeway’s Live Online Classes category for high school students.

Keep reading for more on our chemistry experience PLUS a giveaway and a discount code for you!


How do Bridgeway Academy’s Live Online Classes work?

Bridgeway Academy excels at providing fascinating online classes for students using certified teachers, exceptional curricula, and top-notch web technology.  Each week, students meet in an online classroom where they’re able to connect with instructors and fellow classmates to learn, collaborate, and complete assignments.  Following each’s week’s online class, students read, work on projects, write, and (in the case of the science courses) perform experiments at home.  In addition, Bridgeway Academy‘s Moodle site enables students to take tests, submit assignments, work on course content, and view their grades.  Students need a computer, high-speed internet, and a headset with an attached microphone in order to attend these live online classes.


FYC Chemistry with Lab

Bridgeway Academy‘s FYC Chemistry with Lab course is designed for high school students and is taught in a regular school year (fall and spring semesters).  Completing the course provides 1 1/2 credits for the course and the lab work.  This chemistry class is taught by a certified science teacher (as well as a high school advisor for Bridgeway), Melissa Lindahl.  We purchased the textbooks for the course, which are the Integrated Physics and Chemistry Textbooks and Activity Books from Paradigm Accelerated Curriculum.  (We are only using the chemistry texts from this set which comprise a full year’s course; the physics texts would cover a year’s worth as well.  But we’re not taking physics this year so we don’t need that portion!)  Because experiments are part of this course, we also purchased Bridgeway Academy’s Chemistry Kit and Lab Manual.

Each week, Jackson attends a virtual class online with Mrs. Lindahl and his classmates, who are from all over the U.S.  The class lasts for an hour and a half.  Mrs. Lindahl teaches the week’s material.  She also spends time in class covering some additional chemistry equations (math).  Then, for the rest of the week the students have reading assignments, activity book Q&As, fill-in-the-blanks, and short essay questions to do.  There are also experiments assigned that students complete at home, and record in their lab manuals.  Most of the materials utilized in the experiments are in the lab kit (except for some household products like distilled water). Tests and quizzes are administered online.


Our Experiences

We have, truly, loved everything we have done with Bridgeway Academy.  Their classes are well-organized, well-taught, and are both effective and challenging at appropriate age levels.  Josh spends about an hour working on and studying chemistry each school day.  He spends more time on chemistry than he does on most of his other homeschool subjects (except for math, perhaps).  That is not that surprising, honestly; chemistry is a subject that requires substantial effort from its students.

From September through mid-November, this class has covered the following topics:

  • The periodic table of the elements
  • Chemical symbols
  • Lavoisier and his list of elements
  • Sulfur, carbon, graphite, coal, platinum, zinc
  • Alloys
  • Cobalt, nickel, manganese, molybdenum, tungsten
  • Gases and the atmosphere
  • Hydrogen, humidity, and barometric pressure
  • Balancing equations (and other chemistry math equations)
  • Acids, bases, and pH

He has also completed several experiments.  (They haven’t been too freaky.  But they have included chemicals that required careful use and gloves, as well as meticulous cleanup afterwards!)

He is learning a LOT in this class.  It is interesting and challenging at the same time.  The experiments effectively illustrate the principles being taught.  And frankly?  High school chemistry is so not my area of expertise.  I am grateful for a teacher who can teach this subject to my son!

I am also appreciative of Mrs. Lindahl’s responsiveness.  I emailed her several weeks ago about a difficulty Jackson was experiencing with the math equations they were learning.  She responded really quickly, understood our concerns, told me that there were other students experiencing the same thing, and that she planned to address these issues in class.


Here’s what Jackson has to say about his chemistry class: “The weekly class is put together incredibly well.  The teacher explains things well.  The interaction between the teacher and students is well-balanced.  The schedule is good.”  He likes his teacher and his classmates, and the time he spends with them each week.

Again, from the homeschool mom’s perspective, I am so happy that Jackson is able to take Bridgeway Academy‘s high school chemistry class.  I just have so little to offer in this arena!  And since the colleges in our state require high school chemistry class and lab on entering students’ transcripts, we really needed this.  I can rest assured that Jackson is getting an excellent education in chemistry; something that I would have been quite challenged to provide.


And, Bridgeway Academy has a coupon for you to use!

Bridgeway Academy is happy to provide a 15% OFF one of their classes, when you use the coupon code FINCHDEC18!  You can register now for spring semester classes; registration for those closes December 15, 2018.  Check out the Live Online Classes by following the link.  Then when you register, just enter the code FINCHDEC18 for 15% OFF the course price!  (This does not apply to textbooks or materials, just the courses themselves.)

Perhaps you, like me, find that there are courses that your homeschool student needs to take that are just not in your skills set.  Or, maybe your homeschool needs a breath of fresh air and you think that an online class might really benefit your student.  Or perhaps your elementary, middle school, or high school student would enjoy an online class with students from all over the country.  There are many reasons that Bridgeway Academy could be amazing for your family.  Check out the course link above.  I’m certain that you’ll find something captivating!


And Bridgeway Academy and FINCHNWREN have a giveaway for you to enter!

We’re so happy to cohost this fun giveaway!  With the fall school semester heading to a close, and the holidays right around the corner, we thought it was the perfect moment for our readers to get the chance to win a #Pampering Gift Set!  (We’ve definitely got a blue and pink theme going here!)  One FINCHNWREN reader will win the following goodies:

  • A gorgeous, soft, pink big-knit infinity scarf from Old Navy (valued at $16.99)
  • A blue, pink, and white plaid flannel throw (sized 50″ x 56″) from Old Navy (valued at $10)
  • A chunky wooden verse block plaque with Psalm 143:8 scripted on it ($4.99)
  • Blue peacock fleece socks (also) from Old Navy (valued at $5)
  • Vanilla Bean Noel Fine Fragrance Mist from Bath & Body Works (valued at $14)
  • OPI Nail Lacquer in refreshing blush pink “Let Me Bayou A Drink” (valued at $10.50)
  • Bridgeway Academy’s beautiful blue travel mug (valued at $15)
  • Renee Green’s funny & encouraging new book, The Breaking Point

This #Pampering Gift Set giveaway will run from 11/27/18 through 12/15/18.  To enter, just click on the pink “Enter here!” link below.  That will  take you to a Giveaway Tools entry form, where you’ll be able to enter in a variety of ways.  When the giveaway closes on 12/15, one winner will be selected and contacted. Best wishes—and don’t forget to check out Bridgeway Academy‘s amazing classes for your student!

Enter here!


Enjoy!  –Wren


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







All About Capacitors – Our Experiences with EEME’s “Fade to Black”

*affiliate links included*

We just completed another EEME project, Fade to Black!  EEME generously provided this project for us to use, so we could share our opinions and review with you!  And we loved Fade to Black just as much as we have all the EEME kits we’ve tried.  It’s really just exceptional kid science.


And for any parent out there who wanted to know what Doc Brown’s “flux capacitor” really did….Fade to Black will unlock that mystery for you!  🙂

What is Fade to Black?

The Fade to Black project introduces kid scientists to the STEM world of LEDs, Farads, stored energy, circuits, and capacitors.  This project, like all EEME projects, builds on the original breadboard and battery set that comes in the Basic 6-Project Set (in the first project, Genius Light, to be exact).

The new components in Fade to Black are:

  • an LED light
  • a transistor
  • long wires
  • resistors
  • Two capacitors
  • a push-button switch

With these components, the child will build four different circuits that accomplish four different jobs.  As always, the project comes with a complete step-by-step video tutorial by EEME Dad Jack, with instructions, safety features, questions for the student, and scientific explanations for the whys and hows of the activities.  An accompanying lesson summary can also be printed, if you’d like to have a record of what your child has studied and learned in this.


Some of the amazing things we saw in Fade to Black:

A push-button, which, when connected to the battery and LED lights via wires and resistors, caused the LED light to come on….as well as performing another important task!

Two kinds of capacitors!  You can see one of them in the picture above; it’s the component with the blue arrow pointing at it.  I want to tell you what it does, but I don’t want to give away any spoilers!  (Yes, if you really want to know what the flux capacitor did, you’re going to have to try out Fade to Black for yourself!)  I will tell you that there is a connection between the button, the capacitor, and the LED (no pun intended).

Those are only two of the builds/activities we completed in Fade to Black.  As EEME Dad Jack has done in our other projects, he starts with the simplest build or activity to introduce the components and principles to the child.  Then, each activity becomes a little more complex or contains more components and steps.  But every single activity certainly contains the “Wow!” factor!


And finally….

Fade to Black was our 5th EEME project.  And I noticed some really wonderful things as we worked through this one!  First, Jackson has really grown in his understanding of circuits, electricity, technology, and the various components EEME has introduced him to.  Other than taking the photos, I didn’t do anything on this project besides sitting and watching the teaching videos and Jackson’s construction of each activity!  Second, he has really grown in his confidence in working with these technologies.  He’s very comfortable watching the videos and following the directions EEME Dad Jack is giving.  I am truly excited about this, because I know that he is REALLY learning.  And I love that he’s learning these things now, because he’ll revisit these concepts again in high school, when he takes physics.  EEME is an incredible, delightful, and truly wonderful addition to our science studies.

Jackson said, when I asked him if he could share a couple of things he liked about Fade to Black, “Of course!  I loved the buttons!”  So here are his impressions:

“This was our first EEME project to feature a push-button component, and I absolutely loved it. Pushing the button to make the light come on is fun, but it becomes even more fun and cool as the project progresses and when you let go of the button, the light fades. This project introduced me to some new components such as the button and the capacitors, and was a very well-done project.”

As you can see, he loved this project!

I’m very happy to recommend both EEME and Fade to Black to you!  You can purchase Fade to Black from EEME, via their Basic 6-Project Set.  Be sure to visit EEME and check out their free materials, which you can download directly from their website.  I think you’ll be very, very impressed!

Enjoy—I know you will!  –Wren

Disclosure: We at 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 (and our family’s) opinions of these products.  We’re disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.


Hey Mama! The Newest Lesson Planner from THE OLD SCHOOLHOUSE

The Old Schoolhouse has so generously provided members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew with a copy of their brand new planner for the coming school year!  I received a copy of the Hey Mama! Print Schoolhouse Planner 2016-2017 to use and review.  Just in time, because my current planner closes at the end of June!

Hey Mama! bannerI personally LOVE office supplies.  And school supplies.  So getting my hands on the newest planning tool from The Old Schoolhouse—exciting!


Hey Mama 1

What is the Hey Mama! Print Schoolhouse Planner 2016-2017?

This wonderful new publication is a homeschool print planner for this upcoming school year, starting in July 2016 and running through June 2017.  (It’s also available from in a digital version.)  The print version is spiral-bound, with smooth, shiny card stock front and back covers.  And through July 15, The Old Schoolhouse is providing a code so that you can get it at a nice discount!  (Just keep reading for more information on that.)


Hey Mama! 2What will you find in the Hey Mama! planner?

In the Hey Mama! planner, you’ll find the following sections:

  • 2016-2018 yearly calendars, one page each
  • Monthly calendars
  • Fun & encouraging Hey Mama! letters from Gena Suarez, “just another mama” and publisher
  • Weekly planners for your daily and weekly homeschool lesson plans
  • Goal pages for the year, the semesters, and the months
  • Photos and descriptions of the vintage items on the front cover
  • Information on how to create an academic transcript
  • Key information on the U.S., and America’s history and political system
  • and more!



Hey Mama! 3How I used it:

We were blessed to receive this neat planner in late May.  Since it starts in July, I’m not using it yet for recording the homeschool lessons we’re doing this summer.  What I have done, though, is to begin to calendar our upcoming schedules for the summer and fall (coop registration, volunteer days, piano lessons, and so on).  I’ve also used the “Notes” pages (there’s one for each month) to start to list the to-do items I’d like to accomplish during those months.

Hey Mama! 4

I’ve also looked over some of the fun facts pages.  There is a really neat writing prompts section (SO creative!) as well as some story starter pages.  I always love utilizing these for our creative writing times.  And, since the summer reading program in our city started yesterday, I’m looking forward to filling up those “Books Read This Year” pages!

Hey Mama 5

My thoughts:

As I’ve mentioned earlier, I LOVE homeschool and office supplies.  I also love paper lesson and calendar planners.  I have dipped my toes into the world of online planners, but I keep coming back to the paper ones.  I love having something in my hands, first of all.  I find it so much easier to change or alter lesson plans when I write them down on paper (with pencil) to begin with.  And I love how easy they are for me to access, whether I’m near a computer or not; all I have to do is pick up the planner and write!

I love the smooth covers of the Hey Mama! Print Schoolhouse Planner 2016-2017.  They’re very comfortable to hold. (Nice if you’re a person who notices tactile things!)  And while the planner contains a year’s worth of pages, it’s still not heavy and is very easy to carry around. The spiral binding is very high-quality, and allowed me to either lay the planner out on the table open, or to flip the front around so that only one page is in view (like you would a spiral notebook).

I love Gena Suarez’ wise and thoughtful letters that are scattered throughout the planner.  I have received The Old Schoolhouse emails for years, even before I began reviewing for TOS‘ Schoolhouse Review Crew, and I have enjoyed her kind and thoughtful words of encouragement and blessing for as long as I’ve been getting them.  Here, it’s really nice to have those thoughts at hand, and I know that they will encourage me throughout the year.

I like the way the Attendance Chart is laid out.  So clear, and easy for me to use (and for my mind to process or calculate).  I like the Weekly Planner layouts, the goals pages, the contact lists page and all the little historical extras that are included.  This year, I’ll be replacing the current brand I’ve been using with the Hey Mama! planner.  I love it!


Hey Mama 6How you can get your own Hey Mama! planner!

The Old Schoolhouse has generously provided a code which will enable you to purchase your own Hey Mama! planner for only $19, including shipping!  You can purchase the Hey Mama! Print Schoolhouse Planner 2016-2017   from The Old Schoolhouse.  Use CREWCODE for the discount (this code expires on July 15, so don’t wait!).  I really think you’ll enjoy this wonderful planner!


Coupon Code Hey Mama Planner 2016 2017

You can visit The Old Schoolhouse at the following social media sites:

Twitter:  @TOSMag

Enjoy! –Wren


Hey Mama! Schoolhouse Planner 2016-2017 ReviewCrew Disclaimer

Upcoming Book Launch–"Asia: Its People and History"

Do your children understand much about life on the other side of the world, in what we call the Eastern Hemisphere?

As Westerners, we are so very familiar with North America….with Europe….with parts of the Middle East that have dominated the media in our country.

But there is an enormous part of the world with which many of us are very unfamiliar.  What is it like to live there?  What challenges or even dangers do families, or even children, face?  What is it like to live as a minority in a country where it is uncomfortable or even illegal to be a Christian?

I don’t know a lot about the answers to those questions….yet.

But I’m going to be sharing a wonderful resource with Jackson, and with you, throughout February, that WILL answer those queries and tell us even more about what life is like for others in the world, whose lives may seem very distant from our own.

AsiaCover1b-smallMy friend Bonnie Rose Hudson has written a curriculum, Asia:  Its People and History, that will be releasing on February 24, 2014.  I’m so honored to be a part of her Launch Team, and I’ll be sharing about this book and about Bonnie Rose over the next four weeks.  This book is a 16-week curriculum that covers life in these Asian countries:

  • Laos
  • Bangladesh
  • Nepal
  • China
  • Iran
  • Vietnam

This book covers not only geography and a bit of history, but culture as well.  We’ll read stories about children in these countries, and engage in fun activities that will help us remember the personalities and characters of these far-off lands.

Jackson and I have begun with the country of Laos, and I’ve already learned things I’d never known before….and am beginning to put names together with places and history.  We’ve begun an exciting journey!

For the rest of the month, I’ll be sharing more about our experience and what we’re learning….and what YOU can learn as well.

In the meantime, feel free to visit Bonnie Rose Hudson’s website, or visit her on social media:


Twitter: @WriteBonnieRose



Thanks for joining us on this journey!

Enjoy!  –Wren


5 Days of Homeschool Essentials Blog Hop: A Quiet Time for Mom

I loved participating in TOS Crew’s August “5 Days” blog hop last year (my contribution was “5 Days of American Art,”the first one is found here), so I jumped at the chance to join in on this year’s first blog hop.  This week I, and 89 other TOS Crew members, will share 5 essentials of our own homeschools.  Maybe you’ll find some ideas to inspire your own list!

5 Days HS EssMy First Essential: Quiet Times for Mom

A wise aunt told me once that “a mother shapes the lives of her children.”  That is a somewhat overwhelming thought, isn’t it?  Yet I know it’s true.  We live with, love and walk out every day with our children….each day that the Lord gives us until they head out our doors to college or whatever the Lord is calling them to.  Of course, as a mom, my desire is to make those days meaningful, fun, effective and full of joy.  But how do I get to that end each day?  Especially if I’ve had a rough night of little sleep, sickness or some other difficult challenge?  Or, even if I haven’t had those things, but am just facing a new day, full of responsibilities and cares?

I’ve discovered (and trust me, I’ve had days both with and without today’s Essential) that the best way for me to start my day, every day, is to take a little time with the Lord.  Just me and Him (and a cup of coffee), in a quiet room in my home, before anyone else is up and about.  When I start my day with Him, I have just a little more peace; a little more margin; a little more strength; a little more grace to share with my family members.  And I truly need each one of those things.

Just as we mothers shape our children and our days with them, I find that the Lord shapes me and shapes my days.  And of course He can do this without my having a devotional time with Him every day.  It just seems that we both get a big leg up when I have had time alone with Him!  When I can sit alone with Him, in prayer, journaling or reading the Bible, it fills me with something my heart and soul desperately need and want.  And, with something that then shapes my homeschool days.

This is a habit that I’ve cultivated over the years, ever since I learned what a quiet time was and why it was important for me.  I’ve done a variety of Bible studies and devotionals, Bible reading and journaling activities….there’s really such a plethora of options out there that I think there’s probably something for everyone!  Here is what I’m using now:

  • Some years ago, Lorrie Flem published a little prayer book for moms.  It includes some devotional readings as well as prayers to pray for both your husband and your child.  I love to use this—it covers so many of the concerns I want to lift up for these special guys I live with!  God reminds me of other things I want to pray for…and we hang out together in the early morning together.  I have to admit that I generally spend a lot more time talking to the Lord than I do listening (a typical issue for extroverts, I’m sure).  I definitely want to grow in becoming more of an active listener in prayer.  If prayer is truly a conversation, then I certainly shouldn’t be the only person speaking!
  • My Homeschool Mom’s Bible, which is divided into 365 segments of Scripture, along with a daily devotional especially written for homeschool moms by Janet Tatman.  If you follow the assigned readings you can read through the entire Bible in one year.  I started this one in August and am just loving it every day.  For me, it’s almost like I have a mentor sharing wise thoughts with me every day, along with my Bible reading.  It’s truly remarkable.


  • I’ve just purchased (with some Christmas money–yay!) a Bible study from Kay Arthur’s New Inductive Study Series.  This one includes studies on 3 New Testament books, including 1 Peter (the one that’s been on my heart lately).

Of course I’ve found that God gives me grace on those odd days when something happens and I can’t get my quiet time in; and we make it through those days.  But I love and need the other days, the ones I described here, which enable me to start my morning and my homeschool with grace and truth.

What do you need to start your homeschool days?

Like I said above, 90 of the TOS Crew bloggers are participating in this blog hop.  If that’s too many blogs for you to visit, I invite you to visit the other 9 in my group.  I’ve included their links below!

Erica @ Be The One

Ellen @ Grace Tells Another Story

Jenn @ Treasuring Life’s Blessings

Christine @ Our Homeschool Reviews

Michelle @ Delightful Learning

Sharon @ Life with the Tribe

Hillary @ Our Homeschool Studio

Brittney @ Mom’s Heart

Heather @ Principled Academy

If you’d like to see all the Crew posts in this blog hop, you can click on the banner below:

5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials I hope you’ll join us every day this week for this Homeschool Essentials Blog Hop.  I’ll have a new personal Essential up every day til Friday!

Enjoy!  –Wren

Random 5 for Friday

Miranda at The Pebble Pond over at TOS Crew does a fun roundup of her (and her family’s) interesting or (as the title expresses) random events each week.  She’s invited us to link up and join.  I love this idea because it helps me remember (without looking at the lesson plan) some things we’ve accomplished during the week, and some fun things that happened.  Here’s our first Random 5!

Remember……these are RANDOM.

1.  We ate rotisserie chicken for dinner last night, and because we’re a 3-person family we (as always) didn’t eat even a third of it.  We love that, though, because that opens up quick and easy meals for at least two other days, like it did today, when I made chicken quesadillas.  Chicken, sauteed onions, high-fiber tortillas and salsa.  REALLY delicious.  Our fave quesadilla is one I discovered this summer; zucchini, corn, tomato and cheese.  But I didn’t have all those ingredients, sadly.  Not that we were complaining!

2.  We finished our first week with our new history spine, Story of the World Vol. 1 by Susan Wise Bauer.  It’s really interesting so far and a good read.  Next week:  the two kingdoms of Egypt become one kingdom!

3.  We’ll finish our first week of homeschool in the new year this afternoon!  Woo hoo!  Math, piano, science, French, language arts, history, literature.  Whew!

4.  Yesterday (among other things) I did laundry, cleaned the bathrooms, swept, mopped and vacuumed.  Again woo hoo!

5.  Last night Jackson discovered the joys of filming Lego mini-movies with our camera.  He usually makes stop-motion movies instead but started filming “live-action” ones….involving a lot of crashes, yells, and fun.  I can’t quite imagine what our playtimes would look like without Lego!

Here’s one of his Lego Digital Designer creations.

A Giant LEGO Brick

A Giant LEGO Brick

Enjoy!  –Wren

A New Year & A New Homeschool Schedule

I’m pretty excited about our spring homeschool semester.  We started yesterday, with some old favorites from the fall that we’re continuing with, and some new additions for this semester.  As a TOS Crew member, I expect that we will be reviewing some new curricula as well….but I’m not sure at this early date what those will be!

Here’s a rundown of our curricula for the spring:

Bible:  We start our homeschool days with family and individual Bible reading.  We’ve just started Experiencing God At Home Day-By-Day by Tom Blackaby and Rick Osborne.  This book takes a family through an overview of the Bible on a week-by-week basis, from Genesis to Revelation.  There’s a daily verse or chapter reading, a devotional thought, plus individual activities/readings for each child, whether they’re younger or older.  Like its predecessor Experiencing God, written by Tom’s father Dr. Henry Blackaby, it’s very focused on a loving relationship with God (and between family members).  It’s very sweet….so far it’s been the perfect start to our mornings!

History:  We’re going to be taking a look at the history of the ancient world (a favorite topic for me, if not for Jackson) with Susan Wise Bauer’s Story of the World Volume 1.  I’ll be linking up to my friend Vic’s SOTW Linky, where lots of homeschoolers who use this share tips, crafts and projects for the book.  This textbook will form the spine of our history lessons, covering the years from 7000 BC thru 476 AD.  We’ve started with the nomads of the Fertile Crescent and will move through ancient Egypt, Sumeria, Canaan, Babylonia, Assyria, India, China, Phoenicia, Greece and Rome.

We’ll be able to add some cool historical fiction to this history spine.  We just started Jeanne Bendick’s Archimedes and the Door of Science (a living history book describing in novel form, Archimedes’ life, inventions and discoveries).  I’ve found a book about Mother Teresa to use when we hit India, and Mystery of the Roman Ransom when we get to Rome.  (We read the same author’s Detectives in Togas several years ago….fantastic mystery for adventure-loving kiddos!)  The House of Sixty Fathers will be our China reader.  I have a long list of other historical fiction books….we’ll try to read as many of those as we can, either aloud as a family or for Jackson on his own.

Science:  We’ll be continuing with our beloved Apologia’s Chemistry and Physics study, which we reviewed for TOS Crew in the fall but will be finishing this semester.  Apologia does such a gorgeous job of teaching science and is full of fascinating experiments.  (We’re making the lava lamps on Thursday!)  The Archimedes book is a fantastic aside to this chemistry and physics course, too.

Piano:  Jackson’s continuing with his piano lessons, and will be starting the John Thompson’s Modern Course for the Piano book 3 next week with his piano teacher.

Math:  We fell in love with the Teaching Textbooks math courses several years ago.  They are succinct, funny and interesting… well as pretty thorough.  These are whiteboard learning CDs that instruct the student in a daily concept, then use the spiral method to teach the new concepts and review the old.

Literature:  Some of Jackson’s reading will be the books about other cultures and times that I referenced above, and others will just be good quality books for sixth graders.  I’ll be using some of the books from Susan Wise Bauer’s reading lists, some from Sonlight’s and others that either I enjoyed or I know will be right up his alley.  (Most of these will be courtesy of our beloved public library!)

Language Arts:  We’re using a combination of online curricula for several of Jackson’s language arts programs. has very good Daily Grammar and Daily Writing courses.  Each of these has a daily lesson plus activities that he’ll be doing, providing growth in grammar skills and usage as well as a creative writing outlet.

VocabularySpellingCity provides his weekly spelling lists plus additional ones (like science or foreign language vocabulary, which I can input for him) for other spelling work.  This has made our spelling work much more enjoyable for Jackson!  You can read my review on VocabularySpellingCity here.

Of course, for handwriting, it’s a bit harder to do something online!  Therefore, we’re continuing with the handwriting program Jackson has used since 2nd grade, A Reason for Handwriting.

Foreign Language:  Jackson started using French Essentials last fall after we used and reviewed it for TOS Crew.  It has been a very pleasant way for him to learn a foreign language; plus it provides excellent pronunciation, spelling and listening skills.  We’ll continue with that several times per week.  (Read my French Essentials review here!)

Electives:  We expect to participate in our local homeschool coop this spring.  However, registration is not until next week so I’m not quite sure which classes Jackson will get.  We’re hoping he’ll at least be able to take one class there.

Otherwise, we’ll be doing PE (biking, walking, hiking, outdoor games….and hopefully swimming later in the semester), keyboarding, and art journaling for our elective classes.  There’s also a filmmaking class on that we’re planning to check out.  I’m not sure yet if the filmmaking is a few years too old for him or not….we’ll know more after we “attend” some of the classes.

We’re so excited to be starting a new semester.  What classes are you planning for this semester?

Enjoy!  –Wren