Thursday, July 30, 2015

Heirloom Audio Productions "With Lee in Virginia" Review

With Lee in Virginia Audio Drama Review
Well folks, the good people of Heirloom Audio Productions have done it again! I am so happy to bring you this review of With Lee In Virginia! With Lee In Virginia is a Christian audio drama that takes place during the Civil War, and is based on the G.A. Henty book of the same title. For this review, we received a physical 2 Disk set, and all of the digital bonuses such as a study guide, G.A. Henty's book complete with color graphics, the soundtrack, posters, and MP3 download. 
An audio drama or audio theater production is different from that of an audio book. An audio book is typically one reader, reading a book.  There are usually some sound effects or music, but nothing out of the ordinary. An audio drama is quite different. An audio drama, such as the dramas produced by Heirloom Audio Productions, utilize a wide cast and a multitude of sound effects, much like you would have if you were watching a movie. In stead of being read to, we listen to the dialogue and the ambient sounds of the theatrical drama. With an audio drama, you are drawn into the story with all of the sounds, music, cast members, and dialogue in a way that a simple audio book lacks.

How We Used This: 

I downloaded the MP3, and listened to it while working online. The dialogue and sounds are so captivating that Mr. B came over to see what movie I was watching! We also live in state rich with Civil War history, and we decided to use our summer vacation to learn more about our state's heritage and the Civil War. So we listened to the CDs while visiting some of the sites featured in With Lee In Virginia. It was really great to drive around while immersed into the story line of the audio production. We also used the story guide as a means to have family discussions, a lot of times while visiting some of the sites. We would talk about the story's settings, the characters, etc. The "Thinking Further" questions are great to use as short essay questions, or oral narration. The Defining words are great vocab words! And to be honest, the Study guide is flat out pretty! It looks GREAT printed in color!

A Few Photos From Our Civil War Travels

Since this audio drama is With Lee In Virginia, we thought it would be best to see the areas impacted by the civil war with regards to Virginia. Virginia sided with the Confederacy during the Civil war, but the western and northern region wanted to become its own state. It did not have the support of the state legislative body. The farmers and such in the area were not happy with the big money politicians of the east controlling their lives with out the knowledge of what impact it had on them. So when VA sided with the South, it was essentially a non union entity at that point in time, so the western region created a NEW Virginian government, passed a resolution allowing for a separation, and created the new state of West Virginia. Virginia and West Virginia were in a dispute of the legality of WV's statehood for many, many years afterward with some still believing WV is rightfully VA. But WV capitalized on the opportunity to gain the vote of the US congress AND President Lincoln, and a state was born! With that said, WV was home to some key locations during the war...Locations that were hard fought over. Gauley Bridge, for example was a very pivotal place and time in history. These photos take you along part of the Civil War Trail from western WV to Virginia. 

This is now a park, but there was a drawn out battle fought right here, as well as a few miles to the north west (as pictured below with the reenactment photos.)

Private land near the battlefield. I've heard of the pink mist that covered Gettysburg, and this reminded me of that. 

Cathedral Falls in Gauley Bridge, WV. 

The McNutt House in Princeton, WV was a VERY important structure. The North was moving in, and the Confederates did not want to let them have the city of Princeton to use to their advantage. The South knew they didn't have a chance against the North in the area, so they set fire to the town of Princeton, burning everything. Dr. McNutt made a deal with them, he said in exchange for them leaving his house he would use his home as a hospital for both the North AND the South, thus the ONLY Antebellum structure left standing in the area. I couldn't get a better photo due to traffic on the street. It is a VERY interested home, with a LOT of history. At one point in time, it was used by 2 men who would both become president, and they were both residents here at the same time!!

Clipping of what the house looked like. 

More history on the house.

The Presidential Link.

One of the bedrooms where a future President slept. 

It is said that Hayes and McKinley stood together at this door and looked out over the city from the top balcony. 

My phone wasn't enough to capture the grand staircase. Beautiful is an understatement. 

The original floors. One of the rooms had down different flooring because a dentist had made the home his dental office. He used the room as an exam room, and this room had been the operating room during the war. There was a HUGE blood stain in the floor that creeped the dentist, and his patients, for obvious reasons. They covered the floor. But, as chance would have it, there was a need to go under the house. It was there they discovered that the blood stain was so significant it had soaked completely through the floor and was visible on the other side under the house! Think about the amount of blood loss it would have taken for that to have happened. 

The front parlor. I can imagine McKinley standing at the window looking out, while Hayes stands by the fireplace discussing their next move. 

Our Thoughts:

We LOVE Heirloom Audio Productions! Our first experience with them was In Freedom's Cause.   After that one, we were hooked fans! Heirloom Audio Productions captures the essence of the turbulent times of the Civil War. The cast members, including Kirk Cameron and Sean Astin, are so animated and driven you feel like you are riding along with Robert E. Lee, or standing beside Stonewall Jackson. You can feel the tragedy of Gettysburg. The study guide is a pure work of art, and the posters are a great bonus. I LOVE the eBook and soundtrack, also! Overall, Heirloom Audio Productions score another home run with With Lee In Virginia.

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With Lee in Virginia Audio Drama Review
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Monday, July 27, 2015

UnLock Math Review

Unlock Math Review
I am so happy to bring you this review of UnLock Math's UnLock Pre-Algebra.
UnLock Math's UnLock Pre-Algebra is an online homeschool math curriculum that is intended for students on a 7th grade pre-algebra level. Taught by Alesia Blackwood, UnLock Pre-Algebra helps to reduce math anxiety in students who are "Mathaphobes." UnLock Pre-Algebra helps students develop a greater understanding of math concepts, starting from the very beginning of whole vs. natural numbers, to set a strong foundation in math comprehension. While UnLock Math is intended for students on a 7th grade level, Mr. B is only in the 5th grade. He is very advanced in math, so I would suggest making sure your child is definitely on a Pre-Algebra level. 

How we used it:
When I received our log in information I sat down and started getting our account set up. There is a parent login and a student login. 

From the Parent Login, you assign courses to your students. For us, we received UnLock Math UnLock Pre-Algebra so that is the only course we had to choose from. If you have multiple students, then your options there will vary. I wish there was an option to view your child's progress from a parent screen, with out the need to go to the child's screen. I also wish parents had the option to reset areas they feel their child could have performed better, and not have the grade impact the overall score. Sometimes, especially in the world of special needs, our kiddos just blunder through to get finished. It would also be a GREAT asset to have printable worksheets available.

From the Student Login, you have the course work.

Unlock Math Review
I like how there is a graphical representation of the grade. Mr. B liked the gauge showing his grade. I also like how the student can see what is coming up, and when. 

When you choose your unit, and click the rocket to unlock it, you are taken to a page that gives you a lot of options. This is where your student will choose what activities they will do for that lesson. For this review, I chose the first option to show you. 

Once you choose your lesson option, you are then taken to your video and work. There is a warm up section in the top right corner that I did not include in this screen grab. 

I very much like how there is a map of sorts for your student to follow. This was a visual road map to keep Mr. B on task, and is an invaluable tool to help special needs learners to navigate and stay on task with minimal redirection. You first watch the video (after doing your warm up) then you go on to the Practice Problems. Your practice problems are scored after each one, so the student is provided an instant score. You must click next to move on to the next question. If your child needs a break, they can click save and it will save their work. 

Don't forget to save your work!

As far as the work, it is challenging, but not boring. There are a lot of real life questions. I like how it makes Mr. B stop and think. He can't just enter in a number. He has to stop long enough to choose the proper symbol before the number. And he has to stop in think in steps. That is a great benefit for ADHD since often times, he doesn't really stop to think things through enough.

 I really like the Self Challenge problems. They are a lot of fun, and are very critical thinking based and thought provoking. 

The student area will also provide a grade report. This particular screen snip shows what happens if you merely click submit and not quit and save. 


Mr. B. is just beginning 5th grade, but he has always had a strong skill in math. Math has always been one of his favorite subjects (with the exception of subtraction.) With that said, if your child is very advanced in math, UnLock Math UnLock Pre-Algebra is taught in such a pleasant way that it is appropriate for younger than 7th grade students. The instructor on the video is very energetic and has a great love for teaching math, and it shows in all of the videos. She grabs your attention! Mr. B responds well to video instruction, and this is no exception. The videos are not long and drawn out, so they are ideal for kids who may need more frequent breaks or who have a hard time with attention span. The work is adequate and appropriate for a course of this academic level, and apply real world ideas, which alleviates the question "When will I ever need to know this?!"  There are a few things I would change, that to me would make this program better.  I would also change the grading set up. Mr. B does very well with his work, but the way the grades are calculated it looks as if he only has a grade in the 70's, until he completes a set. That's disheartening for him. It would also be nice to receive an email when he completes a set, and have the grade received for that set included in the email. Worksheets would be a GREAT bonus! I love to reinforce what we are learning with good, old fashioned pencil and paper work. I think the option of printing worksheets would be a great addition to this program. The "Challenge Yourself" section is GREAT! We love it. I would like to see more questions in that section. Overall, we really like UnLock Math. The layout is nice, and I like the "path" that is a visual reminder of what needs to be accomplished for the day. The folks behind UnLock Math are VERY nice, very understanding, and eager to make sure your math experience is a positive one. 

Does UnLock Math Pass My 4 Ingredient Test?1.) Customization: Is it easily adaptable? Can we customize it to fit “us?” Can we modify or set our own schedule? Can we take breaks, jump ahead, or flat out skip?

There is no timed schedule or anything like that, but you need to complete one section before going on to the next.

2.) Value: Is it long lasting? Will it cover multiple grade ranges? Are you locked in to one specific grade level? Are there hidden fees?

There are no hidden fees, but you are locked into the one specific grade level that you choose for your child. Each child can have their own account that you pay for, but they are locked into their grade. You will cover a year's worth of the grade.

3.) Attention span: Is it boring? Is it engaging? Is it varied enough for ADHD? Does it last too long?

The videos are short and sweet. They are not long, drawn out, or monotonous at all. They are long enough to cover the given topic, but short enough that Mr. B never lost interest. So that is great for Autism and ADHD. There is variety in the type of assignments online, but I would like to see the addition of worksheets. As of right now, the exams are sort of long in length at around 50 questions for an exam. You CAN save and come back, so keep that in mind. There are plans to go back and remove some of the questions to shorten the length, but that is going to take bit of time. So in the mean time, just plan that factor into your class work.

4.) Does it tie into other things we already have.

UnLock Math does a GREAT job of making sure the math your student is learning is applied in a real work manner. As you can see from the examples I posted above, the questions are questions that can pop up in real life. I really like that! 
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Friday, July 24, 2015

Getting a diagnosis Step 1

I started this blog as a means to give hope to others who have received a diagnosis of Autism. I wanted to shine a light on our journey, and I wanted to show that no matter how severe the diagnosis is there IS hope. But with that focus, I lost sight of the immediate need parents have when they suspect their child as autism.

I am frequently asked to play with my friends' kids, or others will call me and describe their child to me to see if I feel they need to seek additional help. Often times their pediatricians aren't well versed with autism, or they miss signs. And a few pediatricians in the area will actually call me and have me speak with parents who are in denial or who need motivation and hope.

Autism has an effect on the entire family, but as I hope I showcase, it does not have to be a negative. We have all seen the videos posted about showing parents physically restraining their children who are having fits. Now, I'm not saying that's never necessary. I don't know their situation, I'm not there. I can say that I have personally NEVER had to resort to such tactics, and I do not know anyone who has. Autism is not screaming fits all the time. I really hate that a lot of people have this impression.

If you have any suspicion at all that your child may have autism, the FIRST step is to get an evaluation as soon as possible. Early intervention is KEY! It is the make or break in the world of Autism. I had an intuitive feeling early on with Mr. B. At just days old he would lie in his bassinet and stare for hours at a quilt a family friend had made for him. It was a rather busy pattern in white, black, and red colors. At a couple months old, when he was big enough for his infant swing, he would sit in it and stare at the bar going back and forth. I didn't think it was quite normal, but I figured it was amusing to him. After that, he would stare at ceiling fans. Well, a lot of kids will do that, but he would cry when it was turned off. Then he would get in the floor, at 5-6 months old, and spin in circles so hard and so fast that he would make a full rotation and his little knees would never even touch the floor. Looking back, I also realize he never used an open palm when crawling. He used a balled up fist. He would shake his head so hard and so violently I feared shaken baby syndrome. He had a Little Tykes play garden, and he would open and close the gate door on it over and over....and over....and over for hours. He'd do the same to cabinet doors. He never played with toys. he would pace back and forth with his head down staring at the pattern on my mom's couch.

 It was little "off" things like that, in addition to his lack of communication, that finally prompted me to talk to his pediatrician. At the time, I had chosen a pediatrician who was in a group with 2 others. She was nice enough, but wasn't very proactive in my opinion. She dismissed all of my concerns claiming my son was a preemie and he had until he was 24 months to catch up with his peers. At 13 months my son wasn't speaking, he wasn't pointing, he had no shared or joint attention, he couldn't follow one-step commands much less multi-step commands, he just paced back and forth or opened and closed things. Sure he was a preemie, but only 5 weeks early. After talking to some friends, one in particular sent me an email saying she hoped she wasn't overstepping her boundaries but that she felt my son may have autism. Her eldest son has autism, and she saw several similarities. She lives across the country, but gave me more help than my son's pediatrician here! She got me the contact number for the local Early Intervention program and with in a month I had set up an evaluation in my home for him to be checked out. At the end of that evaluation it was determined he needed speech, occupational, and nutritional therapies. It was still unknown at that point if he was autistic, since this was just to determine delays he had. But this first evaluation was Step one in our journey into getting a diagnosis.

Oh my school supplies

What do you REALLY stock up on for school supplies? I have discovered we have a bazillion notebooks. We use them a lot apparently haha! But, what I really love....INK PENS! When the back to school sales start up, I find I tend to get a pack of pens with each trip by the aisles. I can't help it....I need a 12 step pen detox program.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Passport2Purity Review #Passport2purity

Hey everyone! I am so blessed to bring you this review of Family Life's Passport2Purity. Passport to Purity is a great program to use with your pre-teen to help build a trusting and open/honest relationship with your child so that you can tackle those hard to face topics such as sexting, moral defiance, bullying, and more. Family Life's Passport to Purity helps to a lay a solid foundation of purity now that will go a long way in the years to come to help your child tackle these hard to talk about topics.

The program is designed as a weekend "getaway" of activities and guided conversations that will help to build moral integrity and a solid and bonded relationship between the two of you. It is meant for a father/son or a mother/daughter, but in my opinion single parents of oppositely gendered children should not be deterred from using this program.

The program is meant to be used as an actual getaway over the course of a weekend, with the thought that your child may be more open to talking with he/she is not in their normal environment, or over the course of 4 or 5 weeks. I personally don't feel going away was a necessity for us, and we did not go away. My son is only 10, and I felt he was a bit too immature for the topic, but he also is faced with autism and being homeschooled tends to keep him more innocent than your average 10 year old. so I feel it is very on par in terms of the age range of pre-teen.

This program is a really great way of approaching hard to talk about topics to not only strengthen your relationship with your child, but your child's own inner self relationship and their relationship with God. I really love the concept of a one on one weekend outing. This is a FANTASTIC bonding experience I wish I had had growing up with my mother.

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Twitter: @FamilyLifeToday @DennisRainey @BarbaraRainey

Trailer: Vimeo

Official Website to Purchase:Family Life Passport2Purity

Disclaimer: I received this product for free from the publisher in exchange for my honest and unbiased review. I was not required to provide a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way. The opinions expressed here and of that of myself or my family only. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations. 

Park fun!

After the last few weeks of dismal weather, this week has been mostly beautiful! A couple days ago we found ourselves at the park, and it was nearly empty. So today we are packing a picnic and heading back! Photos to come!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Home School In the Woods Project Passport Middle Ages Review

Home School in the Woods Review
Okay, so I admit it. We LOVE Home School In The Woods. I have a local homeschool friend who kept talking about this history program her family loved called "Time Travelers." She described it as a work of art, so I HAD to check it out. When I did, I was an instant fan. So imagine my sheer delight when I discovered Home School In The Woods has a product called Project Passport that is like my old favorite, but deals with world history! Talk about excited! THEN I found out I was going to be able to bring you this review of Project Passport World History Study: The Middle Ages!  Oh yeah, this has been a fun and exciting review period!

Home School in the Woods Review

For this review, we were graciously given a digital download copy of Project Passport World History Study: The Middle Ages. This is a hands on world history study that is a fun way to learn about history. You can choose to purchase a CD-Rom OR the digital copy like I received. You receive a plentiful bounty of PDFs that include all of the projects, detailed instructions, Teacher Keys, photos of completed projects, and text based lessons that are fun to read. Lessons are also equipped with a suggested resource list for additional learning opportunities. Your child will create their own Scrapbook of Sights, Lap book, Timeline, Newspaper, and more.  Divided into 25 stops and an itinerary guide, Home School In The Woods Project Passport sends your students on a fun and educational trip through history!

How We Used This

Mr. B has taken an interest in all this Medieval, so the Middle Ages study was a perfect fit for his interest right now. As soon as my download notification arrived, I began to download the PDF folder and gather some supplies. I will say, these sets are kind of heavy on the supplies front, but it's usually things you already have on hand. For example, you'll need some 3 pronged folders (back to school sales have these for less than .25 each at most places) regular printer paper, white card stock, and colored card stock. You'll need colored pencils/markers (I suggest colored pencils as that's our preference) a 3" binder, and I also recommend page dividers for easy organization. Double sided tape, glue, packing tape or clear contact paper, scissors, and brads will also come in handy. Each program has a supplies list, and each "stop" on your travels also lists what materials you will need. So even though it may sound a little overwhelming, it's not. Believe me, if I can handle it then you know it's not bad! 

 This is a screen snip of the Itinerary. Each stop has it's own Itinerary page full of directions and a plan of what you are going to be learning and doing for that stop. The activities for each stop are so much fun, that I actually used one for his birthday party! We made stick puppets, learned about social classes, and put on a play!

I know some will print everything off at one time, arrange it in their binder, and work from there. I can't do that. I get too overwhelmed, confused, and I just can't do that. So for us, I printed off 5 stops at a time. From there I divided each stop with all of the printouts that it needs, the itinerary pages, any applicable teacher keys, lesson texts, etc. with divider pages. This way, we could easily work through each stop and add to our "Scrapbook of Sights" as we went. 

Your child will also make a travel case, or Luggage Folder. My son needed a bit of help with this. I printed off the template onto sturdy cardstock. Then we traced it on, and cut it out. 

I have  obviously removed his name and any identifying information. 

For us, I wanted a little more OOMPH for our passport and luggage tag, so I "laminated" them both with packing tape to make them hold up a bit better. You can reuse the same passport, luggage, and luggage tag throughout your Project Passport adventures, so I wanted them to hold up!

I love how you can include a real photo on the passport! I just used a wallet sized photo I already had, cut it down to size, and taped it on. the rest of the pages in the passport are for "stamps." If I had sticker paper, I'd print those on sticker paper to stick to the pages!

Here is another example of a Travel Itinerary. As you can see it tells you exactly what you need, what you will print, etc. I place this in the front of each divided section in our binder for easy access. 

This is a screen snip of the Timeline Figures. We cut these out and color them in. I print on white cardstock, and use cardstock for the time line as well. You can download free samples of lessons, which is were I took these screen snips from so I didn't risk any sort of copyright issues. When you print off your timeline and the figures, you will print them all at one time so you will have them on hand for each stop. You could work ahead and separate these between the stops if you want, but I just place them in a designated area in the binder.

The Newspaper is a LOT of fun. There are specific directions on how to print off these pages so that you can use it like a real newspaper. This is where your child can apply what they have learned. I like to read the text lessons to Mr. B, then we work the appropriate newspaper page. He has a LOT of fun with these!

This is a small example of the lesson text. The lessons are long enough to cover the point well, but short enough that you don't get bored. Each lesson builds on the one before it. 


Overall, I was a huge fan of Home School In The Woods before this review, and I'm an even bigger fan now! I love that everything is planned out in a logical and easy to use manner. I can take the time in one evening to print out the plans for several days-Reducing the time needed to put things together. I love how they included photos of completed projects so that I can look to those, as well, to cure any sort of confusion I may have. The additional resource lists are great in the event we choose to do more research into a specific topic. The lessons run in an order that makes sense, and they are easily applied using the Newspaper activity. I love that Mr. B is truly learning, not just memorizing facts to try and pass a test. He's learning because he WANTS to do the activities! 

Does Home School In The Woods Project Passport World History Study: The Middle Ages Pass My 4 Ingredient Test?

1.) Customization: Is it easily adaptable? Can we customize it to fit “us?” Can we modify or set our own schedule? Can we take breaks, jump ahead, or flat out skip?

The lessons build upon each other, so I do not suggest skipping stops. The program can be completed in just a couple months, or you can be like us and stretch it out longer. I like to use this as a fantastic hands on addition to other readings we are doing. I like to do a stop no more than every other day, so that we can fully explore the topic under each stop to the fullest. You can elaborate on it as much as you want, like I did laminating the passport and luggage tag, or using white cardstock instead of colored when prompted.

2.) Value: Is it long lasting? Will it cover multiple grade ranges? Are you locked in to one specific grade level? Are there hidden fees?

There are no hidden fees with the program itself. It does NOT include the supplies, so you will need to make sure you have the needed supplies. But again, it's basic arts and crafts supplies that most of us will have already. Ink can be an issue with a lot of printing, but I purchased an inexpensive laser jet printer that I can get toner for, for around $14.00, and it prints 2500 sheets so that's not been a problem for us at all. You can use this with multiple age/grade ranges, easily. It's long lasting if you extend the lessons the way I do, or it can be relatively short lived if you do 1 stop or more each day.

3.) Attention span: Is it boring? Is it engaging? Is it varied enough for ADHD? Does it last too long?

It is probably a perfect program for kids with ADHD and autism. You may have to help special learners, especially those who lack fine motor skills, but it is a fun and entertaining, yet calming activity. I found I really enjoyed doing the stops with Mr. B when he was having what we call our autism days, or bad ADHD days. He seemed to calm down with the hands on tasks. The activities can take a little while to complete, but you can always take breaks. The lap book and Scrapbook of Sights really are works of art that are a lot of fun to put together. We can't wait to start working on the next one!

4.) Does it tie into other things we already have.

You can choose the area you want. For Project Passport, they offer The Middle Ages, Ancient Egypt, and Renaissance and Reformation. So if you are, or have been, studying these topics then this will be a great fit for you. If you haven't studied these yet, the Project Passport would be a fantastic starting point!

 Click below to access the Schoolhouse Review Crew where you will find more reviews of Home School In The Woods Project Passport!

Home School in the Woods Review

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