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

Accountable2You ~ Our Experiences & Review

Recently, we were selected to try a new program that is guaranteed to result in meaningful conversations between parents and kids:  Accountable2You‘s Family Plan.  Homeschool Review Crew members reviewed a variety of plans from Accountable2You.  Let me share with you about our experiences!


accountable2you-bannerWhat is Accountable2You?

Accountable2You is a company which has built programs and apps which can enable families to monitor their own  Internet and website use.  It helps families–both parents and kids–to use their computers and devices with integrity and transparency, and encourage them to have honest conversations about that use.  There are four plans which users can sign up for:

  • The Individual Plan, for one person’s use.  Up to 6 devices can be used with this plan.
  • The Family Plan, for (obviously) families.  Up to 20 devices (computers, cell phones, tablets) can be monitored with this plan.  The members of one household can use this, even if a child or children are away at college.
  • The Group Plan could be used by a group with various members who aren’t necessarily related but are part of group.
  • The Small Business Plan is ideal for businesses whose employees might have online access.

The person in charge of the plan uses the Accountable2You website to set up accountability partners.  They download the Accountable2You software onto computers, tablets, or cell phones.  Then, the account holder can set up words which can flagged when the child or accountability partner searches for them or enters websites with those words.  The account holder can get text alerts or daily emails which detail the computer use of all accountability partners.  In addition, there is a GPS locator option for phones so that parents can see where their kids (if the kids have cell phones) are at a given time.  Time limits for device use can also be set.

Why we felt this might be helpful for us

Does this sound a little Orwellian to you?  As I was writing the paragraph above, that is sort of what I thought it might sound like!  However, Accountable2You is not spyware.  It’s rather a healthy way for parents to keep tabs on what types of websites their kids are using; how much time they’re spending online; and also a way to keep kids safe, by providing the kind of information sharing within a family where those sites can be viewed and discussed by a responsible parent to a child.

The Internet is an awesome tool.  I think occasionally of how wonderful it would have been to access its enormous resources in previous years, or when I lived overseas and often did public speaking.  At that time, I was limited to the study resources I had taken with me; while we all had email accounts there just wasn’t a lot of search engine capability with the Internet in those days.  (It wasn’t as long ago as it sounds!)

However, as we all know, there is a dark side of the web.  As parents, we know this.  And we can personally avoid those sites with objectionable or even dangerous materials.  But part of parenting is teaching our kids about that kind of safety.  How can you know what sites your child is accessing—so that you can discuss that with them and set healthy and protective limits?  Accountable2You enables you to do just that.


a2u-example-2How we used it

We downloaded the Accountable2You software on our family computer, which sits just off the family room in our dining room.  It’s always located there so that anyone can see what the user is doing at the moment; this was a recommendation years ago from our pediatrician and we still follow it.  Our family computer is the main place our son does his gaming, and he also visits the LEGO website via it.

Next, I set up the list of words that would flag me if sites containing them were accessed.  I won’t be too specific and tell you exactly what I entered, but the list covered words that would likely lead to questionable websites as well as those related to gaming that I know already are frequently accessed.  Accountable2You also has an automatic listing of words that could indicate unhealthy use.

I didn’t download the software onto my Kindle Fire for the reason that there just isn’t room.  For the last 4-6 weeks or so, I keep getting a pop-up message that says, “Your Kindle is using 90% of available storage.  Please click here to delete items.”  But, everything I have on there is something I want there….so I ignore that.  Anyway, it kept me from being able to install the Accountable2You software.

I set up our account to send us daily emails, called Activity Reports, of the sites which were accessed.  You can see one of those above.  It is completely thorough and lists everything that was visited on that day.  You can also click through those emails to the Accountable2You website, which shows you a full report.  (Those are kept for 15 days, by the way, but can be downloaded onto an Excel spreadsheet on your own PC.)



a2u-pic-3Our impressions and recommendations

Overall, I give Accountable2You good grades (so to speak).  I love the daily emails which help me see what my son has accessed over the past day.  He and I talk about where he can go online already, but this tells me (and him) just how much time he’s actually spending online.  That kind of record-keeping is useful; I’ve already seen him back off using a particular site just because the site informed him how much time he was already spending on it.

It is not a filter (although the company does have some recommendations for that sort of product).  But it provides a way for parents and children to speak frankly and openly about the things they’re doing online, and how long they’re doing them.  We have talked about my son’s website visits, but thus far they were already things I knew about and had approved.  However, if something else ever came up, I could see it in the Activity Report and could engage my son in conversation if necessary.  It could also provide ways for spouses to do the same thing with each other.

So for us, it wasn’t something I used for GPS locating or time monitoring (on that second one, simply because he’s always in the same room with me when he’s online).  Rather, it was a way to provide conversation points and really just illumination for me about the ways my son’s heart is engaged when he is online.  I appreciate that so much because that helps me to engage with him myself, even better.

If you’re looking for a way to monitor your child’s online activity, and a way to be able to talk with them about it and help set appropriate boundaries, you may just love Accountable2You.


a2u-pic-4Find Accountable2You at….

You may sign up for the Family Plan and any of the other plans at  Accountable2You.  Currently, it’s priced at $9.99 per month.  What a useful tool to help engage families about Internet safety and wise use!

You can also visit Accountable2You at their social media sites:


Other Homeschool Review Crew members reviewed the same plan that we did; and some used others.  Click on the banner below to find out more about their experiences!

Enjoy! –Wren


Accountability across all your devices {Accountable2You}Crew Disclaimer

Wonderful, Meaningful Gifts from CrossTimber ~ A Review & Giveaway!

We have had the most beautiful experience for our family recently!  We were selected to review CrossTimber for the Homeschool Review Crew, and received their Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse, with the option to choose any name for personalization that we wished.  (I’ll share more on that below!)


crosstimber-bannerSo what’s in a name?

Everyone’s name is special to him or her.  And important.  You know how good it feels when someone you admire or just met got your name right.  We feel seen, and connected, when people use our names and use them well!

But, there is so much more to a name than that.  It is part of our identities and becomes part of our makeup.  It is so very personal and really connects to our hearts.

John Dehnart and his family know this.  In fact, John has spent years, all the way back to his high school driver’s ed class, noticing the meaning of others’ names, investigating them, and blessing the owners of those names with the special meanings of their names.  What a ministry!  This grew out of John’s own printing business and personal interactions with other students, and over the years since then (during which he married, and he and his wife are raising a family) it has blossomed into a wonderful business, CrossTimber.  All focused around sharing the special meanings of individuals’ names from a Christian perspective, and inspiring verses of Scripture to go with them.  How encouraging!

Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse {CrossTimber} Reviews

What does CrossTimber do?

CrossTimber researches the meaning of individuals’ names.  They really look deep for what God would say about a name, based on its original meaning in its original language.  They also look at history, for others who bore that name and what can be inferred from that.  Then, they connect it with Scripture verses (or a verse) which embodies that.

From there, CrossTimber offers beautiful and encouraging products which can display these names, their meanings, and the Scripture verses.  These gifts can range anywhere from framed prints, to coffee mugs, to bookmarks, and much more!  All of the gifts can be personalized with particular backgrounds (and CrossTimber has a LOT that you can choose from) which include landscapes, animals, musical instruments, castles and lighthouses….hundreds of choices!

When a person wishes to order one of these gifts, he can use the Chat Box at CrossTimber to ask John about his name.  After some research, John will respond with that name’s meaning and verses.  Then, the person can place his order using that information.  He’ll select backgrounds, frames (if he’s ordering one of the framed prints of a name and its meaning), and anything additional he’d like.  Then—the ball is in CrossTimber’s court!  They print and prepare the gift and then ship it to the purchaser.

crosstimber-mMy experience

CrossTimber very generously offered Homeschool Review Crew members a beautiful, personalized gift:  a Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse.  I was particularly interested in what John might have discovered about my name.  I really love my name; but do you know what it means?  “Dark.”  I have to say that since I’m not a Star Wars Sith Lord and really try to stay away from the Dark Side….I never really liked that!  Of course, I was named after a great character in a movie; and I’ve always liked everything else about my name.  Just not its original definition.

Well, I was not the first person to feel that way!  When I contacted John about the meaning of “Melanie,” he responded with the most incredible and amazing account of my name and what it meant.  There were some amazing Christian women in the 5th century with my name.  The meaning John sent to me and to others with my name?  “Hidden and Protected.  One who is a Child of God.”  Oh!  How beautiful.  And how special to me.

He also included a Bible verse which fits that meaning seamlessly.  So I couldn’t have been happier with the results!

(My guys' names are blurred for their own preferences)

(My guys’ names are blurred for their own preferences)

Our family’s experiences

I was so happy with my own name that I emailed John back and asked him about the meanings of my husband’s and son’s names.  CrossTimber had given me a Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse free of charge for myself.  I had had such an amazing experience myself that I ordered (and paid for) the same framed names and meanings for my husband and son.  John gave me a discount for that order and included free bookmarks with our names and meanings which matched the framed prints.

So what would I say about CrossTimber?

Occasionally you meet people who are in the jobs that seem to be the absolute perfect fit for them; vocations where they are able to use all of their giftings, their temperaments, and their abilities.  This is truly John Dehnart and CrossTimber!  It is so obvious that he finds incredible joy in connecting people with the true and life-giving meanings and Scriptures of their names.  And not only that; he does it well, and he does it right!  Serious investigation truly goes into each name.  It’s not in any way random or careless.  And for me?  My experience with John and with CrossTimber couldn’t have been more positive or encouraging.  I loved what I learned about my name and its meaning and history.  And now I have a lovely framed gift to remind me of that on a daily basis!

Check out CrossTimber for lovely and inspiring gifts for people you’d like to bless or encourage.  You can purchase truly wonderful and encouraging gifts that others will treasure for a lifetime.  You’ll be glad you did!  You can also click on the banner below to see what other Crew members’ experiences with CrossTimber were like.  Lots of names out there—and lots of neat experiences!  You can visit CrossTimber’s social media pages at:


CrossTimber 2016 giveaway

And, you can enter to win your own beautiful name meaning gift!

CrossTimber is hosting a giveaway where you can enter to win your own name meaning gift!  Through Dec 4th, CrossTimber is sponsoring a Name Gift Giveaway.  Enter the giveaway for a chance to win another free Name Gift or $10 gift certificate!   Winner of the Grand Prize may select either a Personalized Mug OR a Name Plaque or 8×10 Plaque!  9 others win $10 Gift Certificates.

Just click on www.Meaning.Name/giveaway.html to enter.  Remember, the giveaway closes Dec 4th, 2016. Or you may enter via the Rafflecopter form below!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Enjoy!  –Wren


Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse {CrossTimber} ReviewsCrew 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

FlipStir Puzzles Review ~ Crazy Puzzle Fun

Recently, our family was able to review a quite unusual product!  Enlivenze LLC has created a puzzle line called FlipStir Puzzles.  They are most unique and amazing–I’ve never worked a puzzle quite like this!  We received the Statue of Liberty FlipStir Puzzle to review for the Schoolhouse Review Crew.


FlipStir Banner graphic

What are FlipStir Puzzles?

FlipStir Puzzles from Enlivenze LLC are puzzle games enclosed in a see-through plastic canister.  The canister has a plastic base (so that it can stand up) and a top, with all the puzzle pieces and a metal “wand” inside.  The puzzle pieces are all jumbled up when you get them, and you use the wand to put all the puzzle pieces in order without taking off the top.  In fact, you can’t take off the top!  You have to solve the puzzle with and only with the wand.

The FlipStir Puzzles come in Level 1 and Level 2, increasing in difficulty, and are recommended for ages 7 and up. FlipStir Puzzles are available in various types:  Rainbow Pencils, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Solar System, and Statue of Liberty.  (And one more that I’ll mention at the end of this review!)


FlipStir bannerA Statue of Liberty FlipStir?

Yes, we received the FlipStir Statue of Liberty puzzle!  This puzzle is categorized as Level 2 in difficulty.  It has 10 puzzle pieces inside the enclosed canister, and the box it comes in has a photo of the completed puzzle so you know what it should look like when you’re finished.  (Just in case anyone doesn’t remember what the Statue of Liberty looks like!)  There are two puzzle pieces with one flat side and one curved; all the other 8 pieces are curved on both sides.  Our job was to fit the puzzle pieces together so that we could see the finished Statue.


FlipStir pic 2Our experiences

Our FlipStir Puzzle box has the following motto:  Shake.  Stir.  Solve.  That’s exactly how  you work this puzzle!  You can see in the picture above, my son Jackson is holding the FlipStir canister with the puzzle pieces all jumbled up; they’ve been shaken and stirred so that there is no order.  You can’t really tell yet that it’s going to become the Statue of  Liberty when solved.

The metal wand running down the center of the canister has a small hook on its end.  With that hook, players capture different puzzle pieces and rearrange them until they’re in order.

So how did that work for us?  All three of my family members worked on our FlipStir Puzzle on and off.  It is not that simple or easy….yet really, it is doable by both children and adults.  Jackson worked on it first.  I worked on it next.  Each of us was able to put different pieces in order.  But it was my IT expert husband, Jackson’s dad, who solved the whole puzzle.  Ta-da!

FlipStir pic 3Hubs thought it was “fun and relatively easy; (he) didn’t think it was relatively complex once (he) figured out what needed to be done.”  I thought it was more difficult than he did though!  I have to admit that I solve puzzles more easily in 2D apparently than 3D; I can see what needs to happen in a flat puzzle better than I can in a three-dimensional puzzle.  Jackson is more like his dad in his abilities though.  He has loved interlocking building toys for years and builds them all the time, so I think he found it more similar to puzzles he’s used to solving.

Some great things about FlipStir Puzzles:

  • They’re a great mental challenge
  • They are really family-friendly—anyone from children to grandparents can successfully play
  • You never lose a puzzle piece
  • The pictures are interesting and colorful
  • Because they’re self-contained, the puzzles are easy to take on car trips or anywhere else, really
  • They are easy to store and don’t take up a lot of room



Flip Stir logoWhere to find FlipStir Puzzles

You may purchase the Statue of Liberty FlipStir Puzzle at Enlivenze LLC.  The 4 different puzzle styles I mentioned above are all available there.  Plus (squee!!) Enlivenze LLC also sells a limited edition Periodic Table of the Elements FlipStir puzzle!  (I think that’s going to have to be a future purchase for us!  We LOVE the periodic table!)

If you love educational games or puzzles, you must check out FlipStir.  Unique, fun, challenging puzzle-solving fun!

You can visit the company’s social media sites for more information!


FlipStir Puzzles ReviewsCrew DisclaimerEnjoy! –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