Thursday, September 29, 2016

Big changes are happening at!

Do you remember a few months ago when I posted a review on Well, exciting things are happening over there that I think you should really check out! They now have 300 courses available by 150 teachers! Did you know you can stream videos? AND there's even a video on demand service?! AND, and this is a big and exciting and...They have a NEW Preschool Playground area

So go check it out, and check out their buy one get one free sale that lasts until tomorrow!

**This post may contain affiliate links**

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Beautiful Day

Today is just a beautiful day. The sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, and temps are in the upper 60s to low 70s. Can't beat a day like today! Thanking God for this wonderful blessing!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Cat of Bubastes {Heirloom Audio Productions REVIEW}

Heirloom Audio Productions ~Cat of Bubastes
Have I mentioned how much I LOVE Heirloom Audio Productions? I know I have, because I soooo love Heirloom Audio Productions! Our first experience was with "In Freedom's Cause," and I was simply awestruck by the calming effect it had on Mr. B. He had been in full autism mode. I had just taken the package from the mailbox, and in a moment of desperation I popped Disk 1 into my car CD player, and it was instant calm. I'd never seen anything like it! I have no idea why, or how...but it worked to calm him in  a way I'd never have expected. Since then we have been blessed to review "With Lee in Virginia," "The Dragon and the Raven," "Beric the Briton," and now "The Cat of Bubastes." It seems as if I love each more more than the other!
Heirloom Audio Productions ~Cat of Bubastes
The Cat of Bubastes is set in Ancient Egypt. Prince (now King) Amuba and his long time protector Jethro are captured as slaves after their homeland was overtaken by Egyptian forces. They are blessed to be placed in the home of the Egyptian High Priest. Amuba is to be his son, Chebron's, companion and loyal friend. Chebron is accepted into the priesthood, and he begins spending a great deal of time in the temple. One fateful day, he and Amuba stumble upon an opened door that leads to the top of an idol statue where they overhear the plot to commit murder. Not just any murder, but the murder of an entire family! Not knowing what else to do, or who the plot was against, Chebron and Amuba narrowly escape and make their way to Chebron's brother, Neco. Neco is next in line to become high priest. Following the murder of Neco just after the boys visit him, Chebron's family goes to a vacation home to mourn while Amuba, Chebron, and Jethro remain behind to not only watch after the family's home and animals, but to hunt down a hawk that killed one of their animals. By accident, Chebron kills the family cat that is to be placed into a sacred position as the sacred Cat of Bubastes. As if one bad omen wasn't enough, the trio are now running for their lives after it is discovered they killed the cat. That's just a small taste of the action included in this audio drama!
For this review, we received a 2 disc set. 
As with the other Heirloom Audio Reviews, we were also blessed with digital bonuses that include:
  • The Cat of Bubastes MP3 digital download.
  • Study and Discussion Guide that we use in a variety of ways, from writing and narration prompts, to discussion points to work on social communication skills. This also includes historical and Biblical information.
  • An eBook version of the G.A. Henty book that the audio drama is based. This is full of beautiful graphics!
  • A printable illustrated verse poster.
  • A printable cast poster.
  • Behind the scenes documentary that shows the making of The Cat of Bubastes.
  • Access to the Live Adventure newsletter.

Heirloom Audio Productions ~Cat of Bubastes
Our Thoughts:

We Love it! We listened to this on our long drive to medical appointments, and it's a great addition to our trip. I love that we can listen as a family, enjoy it together, and then have meaningful conversations on the topic. I don't feel guilty for Mr. B having to "miss" a school day, since we can supplement that school day with Heirloom Audio Productions.  Then, when we get home, we can do writing projects or conversation prompts using the study guide. The posters are beautifully designed, and the digital mp3 is great. For those who enjoy newsletters, you may enjoy this one, too.  The e-book is a work of art, simple as that.  It is important to note that an audio drama is NOT an audio book. It is a theatrical performance that includes superb acting, ambient sounds, and a level of awesome that you can only understand once you experience it. With a cast that includes the likes of Brian Blessed and Sylvester McCoy, how can you possibly go wrong?! Heirloom Audio Productions has another home run with The Cat of Bubastes. 
Heirloom Audio Productions ~Cat of Bubastes
Does Heirloom Audio Productions The Cat of Bubastes 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?

You can listen to it at your leisure. We like to listen to it straight through during one of our long drives to medical appointments. We listened to all of disk one and half of disk two while on the way to OT, then we re-listened to it all on the way to mamaw's house and back for dinner one evening! The Study Guide is versatile in that you can use it in a number of ways. 

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. This is a physical product that kids and adults all will like. 

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

Definitely NOT boring! We love it! It's great for auditory learners, too. It doesn't last too long, because you can choose the length of time to listen. We love it here, and find it to be calming, and entertaining. It captures our attention, and holds it for the duration of the program.  

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

This would fit perfectly with an ancient history study or a Bible history study. 

Please check out the Homeschool Review Crew for more reviews! 

Heirloom Audio Productions ~Cat of Bubastes




Instagram: @HeirloomAudioOfficial 

Crew Disclaimer

Monday, September 26, 2016

Spencer Learning Ultimate Phonics Reading Program {REVIEW}

Ultimate Phonics Reading Program {Spencer Learning}
Mr. B is a really good reader when it comes to reading for content and understanding. He can read a college text for goodness sake. So when I had him take the test for the Ultimate Phonics Reading Program by Spencer Learning, I really did not expect him to need the program. Well, color me surprised when I realized he was stumbling over some words, adding in words, or just leaving them out all together. I had no idea! 
What is the Ultimate Phonics Reading Program?

This program is a license download that you can use on any computer in  your home, at your convenience. It is not streamed online, though if it was I think that would be fantastic! It can be used as a core program to teach phonics and reading to beginners, or it can supplement your current reading program. It helps to teach more efficient reading, even for those who can already read, or it can be a standalone to teach reading right from the start. It's good for kids, those trying to learn English, and even adults. I'm reviewing it from a special needs learner point of view. 
Ultimate Phonics Reading Program {Spencer Learning}
How did we use this?

As I mentioned above, I first had Mr. B take the reading test. This is NOT a placement test. You will not receive a reading level, etc. based off this test. This test is just words and a story that your student will read out loud to determine how well he or she reads. Like I said before, Mr. B can easily read college level texts, and does so frequently. BUT he skims over words, adds in words, or reads the wrong words. He uses context for meaning and understanding, so I never knew there was a problem. 
After finding out there WAS a problem (and being shocked, I fully admit this) we downloaded the program and got to work. I had Mr. B start at the very beginning just to see what that was like, but he found it too easy. You can navigate through the lessons on your own, so I was able to look for a more suitable starting point for him. 
Here is a screen snip of the first lesson. 

And here is one of a later lesson, for comparison. 

You can see the similarities that lead to a cohesive lesson format. I like how you can see what lesson you are on at the bottom, as well as what page. You can also see what subsection you are on within the lesson, and the page count for that, as well. This was great for Mr. B so he could see how much more he had to do. At the top are the navigation controls. You can choose a lesson, move between the pages and subtopics, etc. 

Each lesson has 6 different pages that include:

-Sight Words
-Word List

Each page as pages within, that you can move through.

As you move over a word with your cursor, that word is read to you. Mr. B didn't like that part because it was choppy and robotic. I didn't like it because kids with echolalia could start repeating what they hear, in the same robotic manner. A more natural choice would be great. A way to click on an icon and have the entire word/sentence read, while highlighting each part, with proper inflection and emotion would be best for those with autism or speech delays.

The process of finding which lesson to start on was a bit trial and error for us. It would be GREAT if the reading test could provide some insight into starting level. There is a search feature, so if you are using it as a supplemental program or know what you need, you can easily search for that. There's also a Scope and Sequence file you can download. Unfortunately for us, none of that really helped me figure out where he needed to start. I could see how both of those features would be great for others, but his skill level was spread about a bit, so I couldn't figure out where to start him. I was able to use the scope and sequence to pinpoint specific lessons such as Long Vowel Sounds IE (Chief,) but he knows these words already. His problem is trying to read too quickly and saying chef instead of chief. He knows the difference in the words if you put them side by side, but when he's reading he doesn't slow down to really LOOK at the word. He has the sounds down, he needs help in slowing down to differentiate those sounds. So I'm not sure if that is a visual processing thing, or a phonics weakness. I'm leaning towards a visual processing thing. 

 Here is an image of the Scope and Sequence. It is very much like a map of the lessons, and really goes a long way into helping you decide where to start. But for us, I still needed to just pick and choose here and there on our own. We ended up starting with 57-58, then skipped to 73 which were more blends like ng. He needed a bit more time on words like "length" for spelling reasons. He could read it, say it, and understand it. The upper end of lessons is a much better fit for him, for spelling. He can read all of those words with ease, but he has a problem with spelling them. So this has helped with that.


Overall, this isn't your average phonics program at all. Once you purchase your license, you have access to ALL lessons. That's good if your student moves quickly (like Mr. B has done,) or if you need to start somewhere other than the beginning (again, like Mr. B.) I can see how this would be GREAT to teach reading to a beginner or struggling reader. This would have been great for Mr. B during his early phonics time, and it helped me to identify his reading issue. This would also be a great addition to a speech therapy program. His issue isn't a lack of weak phonics necessarily, but more of a lack of attention to detail, so I am better able now to address the problem and help him. It's a really nice program for those who need help with phonics-which is the great majority if students with poor reading skills. Our situation is just an anomaly in that his problem isn't with the phonics, but with sloppy style. I will continue using the program to reinforce the more advanced lessons-like silent letters, and double consonants, as I think this will help his spelling issues, and perhaps overtime it will also help him to stop and identify the words before just auto-assuming he is reading the correct word.

Does Spencer Learning Ultimate Phonics Reading Program 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?

It is VERY easy to customize and start where you need. You can follow your own schedule, and take breaks as needed. It is not streamed online, so you are in full control. On the flip side, it's not streamed online, so you must download and install it on a computer. So if you need to take it on the go, you have to take that computer with you. I think it would be GREAT to be able to stream online on a laptop or tablet. This would have been very convenient for us. 

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. This will help students who are just learning to read all the way up to adults. It is not flashy, cartoon'ish, or childish at all. The total focus is on education. You have access to all lessons. I think a little flash would appeal to younger students, so if there would ever be a way to maybe add optional rewards after so many lessons are done, that'd be a great addition!

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

Lessons are short and sweet, but it's not that varied. The lessons are all the same, they just increase in difficulty. There are various subtopics in each lesson, but it's repetitive in nature. This is both good and bad for those with ADHD. Structure is good, but the monotonous robotic voice as you move over the words could lead to boredom. It could lead to distraction or stimming in ADHD and autism because you can accidentally move the cursor and hear it. I could see an ASD student getting stuck in an auditory stim loop moving the cursor back and forth over a specific sound or word. Like I mentioned before, a way to disable that feature and just have the entire sentence read with normal inflection, and the words or word parts highlighted, would be better for special needs learners.  Mr. B did not like the robotic sounding voice, and I personally think that could be a negative for those with echolalia, also. 

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

It can be used to supplement other reading programs. 

Please check out the Homeschool Review Crew for more reviews!

Ultimate Phonics Reading Program {Spencer Learning}

Crew Disclaimer

Sunday, September 25, 2016

That moment when....

That moment when you check your email, after not checking email for a few days (cough5cough...) and you have some review requests. One strikes your attention, and it has a link to a photoblog . . . in Alaska . . .  and now you have daydreams of Alaska and you've totally forgotten why you got online in the first place.

Not that that happened to me today or anything....of course no. Not me.  Never!


Friday, September 23, 2016

Spontaneous decisions?

Have you ever acted with out thinking, and wondered WHY in the world you stepped out of your comfort zone to do something 100% completely out of character? And the only answer you have is, "you were led by God" ???? I just had one of those moments tonight.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

3D Coin Art Empire State Building {REVIEW}

Hey everyone! We recently received a 3D Coin Art Empire State Building to review, and mercy did Mr. B have a great time! 3D Coin Art is not just a fun, 3D puzzle to build, but a great way to save change, too! It's like a 3D puzzle bank!

How does it work?

The Empire State Building uses about $50.00 in coins. It needs quarters, dimes, and nickles. There are no pennies needed. You are provided with a visual map that indicates the type of coin needed for each part, as well as the total number of each coin you need. You are also provided with a sorting tray to easily sort coins for an easier construction.

Our thoughts:
Mr. B set to work immediately! He grabbed his piggy bank of coins, and dumped them all out. Then he spent a great deal of time using the coin sorter tray to sort through them, making sure he had all of the coins needed for construction.

This sorting process took him quite a bit of time, but he enjoyed it a lot! 

The tray really made it a lot easier to make sure we had enough of each coin, and it made it easier when it came time to actually construct the model. We didn't have to spend a lot of time hunting for each type of coin.

The actual model is a hard plastic case that is in 2 halves. You follow the coin map (you can see it there in the corner of the above photo) and arrange the coins as indicated on that diagram. Once you have the coins in place, you simply place the other half on top, and snap it together. Then you take it and place it in it's base. 

I was a little worried it would be easily knocked over, or that it would come apart easy, but we transported the finished product over 70 miles so he could show his mamaw, and it made the trip just fine! THEN I inadvertently left it in the car for a few hundred more miles, and it's still just dandy! The plastic is very sturdy and solid, and snaps together solidly. It really is a very lovely piece of work! I didn't expect to find it visually appealing, but it truly is!

I find this to be best suited for older kids and adults, though younger kids would have a great time sorting the coins. This could be a great family fun activity that would help teach younger kids the concept of money. It would also be a great activity to include in a unit study that involved US History, NYC, etc. I highly recommend it! 

Enter below for your change to win your own!!!!!
  a Rafflecopter giveaway

**I received product and/or other compensation for this HONEST review. All opinions expressed are my own or those of my family.**

Let's Go on a Safari with Jake's Safari!

I'm all for educational programming, especially educational programming that is fun, entertaining, and unique. That is why I am very excited to introduce you to Jake's Safari. Directed by George Snider, III, Jake's Safari is geared toward an audience aged 3-7 and features human and animal characters. The show is part animation, part "real life" filming. It is currently featured on Michigan public television, with the first episode available on YouTube. 

The show features Jake, a photojournalist with "Wild World Magazine," whose photography assignments take him on adventures around the globe. He is partnered with this guide, Jabali, and animal friends Chiku and Tahla. Supporting characters include Maribel, the assignment director for "Wild World Magazine," and the cheetah Rasul, an email messenger. 

Through his travels, Jake takes children on globe trotting adventures that will teach him about different cultures, exotic animals and locations, morals, and even photography tips and tricks-like using a flash, even in the sun, to get sharp images. Or like letting your pet sniff your camera before trying to photograph them, so they won't be scared! 

Jake's Safari is a great show for kids. Mr. B is 11, and he enjoyed it quite a bit! We watched the first episode today. This episode involved Jake and his friends traveling to Honduras in search of a jaguar, among others. He watched the entire episode, giggling and interacting with the characters. He wants to know when it will be available nationwide, because it is THAT good! It deserves to be on the likes of Sprout, Disney, or Nick Jr. He LOVED it, and so do I! 

This is Tahla. She's a laid back, easy going Tiger. 

This is Chiku. She's a precocious little monkey. 

So go check out Jake's Safari for yourself, and let your local PBS station know you want Jake's Safari for yourself! Check out the video below to watch the first episode!

**I did not receive any product or compensation for this review. We just love it THAT much!**

See the Newsboys in Concert with Adventures in Odyssey


Want to be entered for a chance to win a free trip for four to hear the Newsboys, the award-winning Christian music band, in Dallas? Sign up to be a part of the movement to protect religious freedom for future generations: Bring Your Bible to School Day! Students from kindergarten to college will be bringing their Bibles to school and sharing God with their friends on October 6.

By completing the information on this page, you're automatically entered to win the chance to see the Newsboys with Focus on the Family and Adventures in Odyssey. Don't miss out on the chance to see a fantastic band with your family!

Plus Sign Up for a Free Two-Week Trial of Odyssey Adventure Club


Getting used to a new school isn’t easy, especially for someone as paranoid as Buddy Norman. In “A Predicament of Biblical Proportions” he envisions wacky worst-case encounters with townsfolk who seem like mobsters, snoops and fairy-tale tyrants—until he gets to know them. He’s also a little confused about Bring Your Bible to School Day. What’s it about? Should he participate? See Odyssey through Buddy’s eyes in this witty celebration of religious freedom.

Listen to this story through a two-week trial only on the Odyssey Adventure Club. {REVIEW} Annual Subscription
Mr. B LOVES taking my phone and sending 1.5 bazillion texts to family and friends, and he has wanted his own email account for quite sometime now, but I refused due to safety concerns. Well, has solved those safety concerns! We were blessed with an Annual Subscription to review, and I gotta say it has been a GREAT review period for Mr. B! is a unique email system designed for kids and teens that provides parents with controls and safety measures that keep their kids safe while emailing. You can rest assured that your children are as safe as they can be with
How does it work?
You sign up for an account, and depending on your plan, you add children to the plan. The Annual Subscription the crew received was for up to 6 email accounts. I only have Mr. B, so we have been using only 1. 
There are a number of display options, and your child can choose which one they like most. These display options are how your child's email account will look. Mr. B chose an iPod looking display. There are some that look like race cars, etc. 
As a parent you also have a lot of control features. I can place a time limit on Mr. B, I add contacts to his list, and I can block contacts, as well. I can even ground him for a period of time, and there's no way he can sneak into his email when I'm not paying attention! Clever, huh! There are also NO ads, so there's no chance of your child seeing or clicking on anything inappropriate! 
My FAVORITE feature is the option that sends me a copy of every incoming and outgoing email from his account. So not only can I see who is emailing him, but I can see exactly what is being emailed! You can't be too careful. Also, if an email fails the safety test, for example if it is from an unknown sender who is not approved, that mail is rerouted to a queue that only I can access, so that I can look at the message and determine whether or not he should receive it. This is GREAT! 

I LOVE this feature! It is just a relief to know that your child won't be receiving unknown and unwanted emails!

As far as set up goes, it is really easy. There are two main options: Younger kid or older tween/teen. Younger kids get a email and tween/teens get a This way, the older crew do not FEEL like they are "kids" with their own, more grown up email. They can customize the look on their own, and you have control over the email address. Of course, your chosen name may be taken, but you can keep choosing.

There is also a teen login and a kids login. 

Here is a screen snip of the features found on the parent page. 

Here is a small sample of the display options. These can be changed anytime. 

You can get an activity log, such as this, which shows you who your child emailed, the date, and the time of the email. Like I said, he's gone crazy with email! 

You can also restrict certain hours on certain days, easily, with the restrict feature. 

And this is the grounding feature. I think this is so clever!

Here's what the safety list looks like. 

How we used this: Annual Subscription

Mr. B has gone EMAIL CRAZY! Seriously! He will be sitting beside me, and email me to ask for a drink of water! He spent a few days with his mamaw, and he emailed me several times from there to let me know what he was doing, what he was eating, and how he felt since he has had a pretty nasty cold. It has also been a great tool for communicating with his dad. I have acted as the liaison between his bio-father and him for the last 7.5 years. Now with his own account, he can email his dad and talk to him as he wishes, and his dad can email him. I don't have to orchestrate visits, etc. because they now have the ability to do that on their own. That has been a huge plus for us. 
Overall, I LOVE This! We plan to continue using this through out our subscription, and I'll most likely renew when our time is out! 

Please check out the Homeschool Review Crew for more reviews! Annual Subscription

Crew Disclaimer

The Pray-ers / Book 1 Troubles {Homeschool Review Crew REVIEW}

The Pray-ers / Book 1 Troubles
I truly enjoy wholesome books with a biblical message. You know, the kind that make you feel good reading them, rather than the ones that make you feel like you need to repent after each chapter. The Pray-ers / Book 1 Troubles, written by Mark S. Mirza and published by CTM Publishing Atlanta, combines Mirza's work in prayer ministry with a talent for writing fiction. 
This book is very interesting. First, it is not little. It's quite a large book at 374 pages. These pages are comprised of 44 chapters of the story itself, a preface explanation about how angels and demons are used in the book, an epilogue, as well as other reference pages. 
The Pray-ers / Book 1 Troubles
And as you can see, the cover is really cool! 
My thoughts on this book:
First, the preface is great. It feels like the author is teaching or guiding the readers so that they do not misunderstand his intent. It is very clear he took liberties as a writer, and wants readers to know that he took liberties with the angels and demons in the book, and that these liberties are not Biblically based. I also appreciate the author's explanation of why he chose not to capitalize the names of demons. He says that is long standing personal preference of his, and he chose to write their names this way. Symbolically and sociologically speaking, I see his point here. By removing a capital letter, he removes their "proper" or "power" in a sense. We ALWAYS capitalize He, Him, His, God, and Jesus-so I agree with his personal preference not to dignify the demonic in the same manner. I may adopt this practice myself! 
I believe in the power of prayer. I have witnessed the power of prayer. This book works to show how prayer, throughout the eras, works through lives. It starts out with a meeting of sorts of the demons to introduce us to them, and then progresses by alternating through out the eras. One line in particular struck me: "...looking out for number 1 started with us..." How often do we do that? How often do we look out for only ourselves or our family? I know I am guilty of this more than I should be. Yes, we should take care of ourselves and our families, but we should look out for more than just ourselves, too.

Each chapter is devoted to a particular era, so in a sense you are reading 3 stories, plus that of the demons and angels, all intertwined as one cohesive story. The author does a really good job painting the picture, and making each era its own separate and unique story line, but yet still linked to the other eras to show how prayer transcends time, and is as powerful today as it was in the 1st century. The book places an emphasis on trusting God's Will, and being thankful for even the bad times, because it is the bad times that teach us to appreciate the good, and give us the ability to help those in need. The book asks how can we expect to help others if we have never experienced their pain. This is so true, and so important to remember. God may not always answer my prayers the way I want, but he answers them His way, and His way is always better. 
Overall, I love this book. This is an easy read, but not a light, brain numbing work. It is deep and meaningful, and really makes you think. And I love that. The characters are so real, and the scenarios are so vivid, that I forget I've been reading. The stories draw you in, and you don't want to leave. There are possible triggers for those experiencing infertility. There is a couple who had an abortion, and there is a couple who have been trying for a child, and have yet to conceive. There's also issues of gossip, mentions of rape and fornication, teen pregnancy, cancer, and atheism. This is a Christian novel. I highly recommend it. 
Other members of the Homeschool Review Crew received this book as either a physical copy like me, or as an eBook. Please click the banner below to read their reviews. 
The Pray-ers / Book 1 Troubles
The Pray-ers / Book 1 Troubles

Twitter: @ThePrayersNovel

Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

We found her!

Thank you to everyone who shared our post, but we found a backup Elsa! WOOHOO!

Commit to Bring Your Bible to School October 6

Celebrate religious freedom with other students across the U.S. on October 6—Bring Your Bible to School Day! Students from kindergarten to college will be bringing their Bibles to school and sharing God with their friends in just a few short weeks. Sign up to be a part of the movement to protect religious freedom for future generations.

By signing up, you’ll receive a free guide with tips, downloadable posters, sticker and T-shirt designs, information on your legal rights, and other fun, interactive activities.

You’ll also be automatically entered for a chance to win a free trip for four to hear the Newsboys, an award-winning Christian music band, in Dallas!

Plus Bring Your Bible to School Comes to Adventures in Odyssey


Getting used to a new school isn’t easy, especially for someone as paranoid as Buddy Norman. In “A Predicament of Biblical Proportions” he envisions wacky worst-case encounters with townsfolk who seem like mobsters, snoops and fairy-tale tyrants—until he gets to know them. He’s also a little confused about Bring Your Bible to School Day. What’s it about? Should he participate? See Odyssey through Buddy’s eyes in this witty celebration of religious freedom.

Listen to this story through a two-week trial only on the Odyssey Adventure Club.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Road Closures

So....we were on our way to an out of state medical appointment. We had everything we needed. Packed bags..CHECK. Snacks....CHECK! Parking money....CHECK! Starbucks.....CHECK and CHECK. We were about 1 hour and 15minutes from our destination and...the road was closed. It wasn't just closed closed, it had been closed for more than 12 hours with no opening in sight! I called the clinic, and they had an alternate route. Too bad I couldn't get to the route they suggested! It would have taken me nearly 2 hours, and I only had 1 hour and 30 minutes before his appt. And no way to get home after that! So....we had to regrettably cancel his appt. The struggle is real friends, it is real!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

It's Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas with "God Bless us Every One" REVIEW

One of my favorite things to do during the Holiday Season is curl up with a good book and a cup of hot cocoa. Settled into my favorite chair by the window, I can spend hours caught up in a good story. God Bless Us Every One, by Eva Marie Everson, fulfills the "good story" part of that equation. This book is set in today's time period, and features references to pop culture of today-such as Josh Groban singing Christmas music over a store's speaker system. It is a refreshing look at Charles Dickens A Christmas Carole, with frequent references to Dickens. Even the name of the main character, Charlie Dixon, is a twist of Charles Dickens.

This book reference the Dickens classic, and shows how it can apply to our lives today. We find a young lady, who has never been on rock bottom thanks to a caring grandmother, fight with her inner self when she's shown a different kind of world. One striking moment in the book, for me, was when she goes to a consignment shop and she's watching people shop for Christmas gifts. Her thoughts go back to being the daughter of convicted drug users, who still didn't have to open a gift previously used by another child. And again when she's at the soup kitchen, she has trouble making eye contact with a lady she's serving grits to, and understanding her dad's connection to the people he is helping. This book really brings that into perspective, and it cleverly uses the Dickens classic to do just that. 

The Author has an easy to read style that pulled me in from the start. The characters are well developed, with their own thoughts and personalities. She does a really good job of tying in their backstories to the overall story, while maintaining separateness with the characters. This is a fantastic holiday read, and one that really helped me see a different perspective. I high recommend it. 

About the book: 

Charlene Dixon---called Charlie by family and friends---is devastated at the recent loss of her job. 

For the last five years, the twenty-seven-year-old has blossomed as the activities director of an exclusive all-girls school. But when a misunderstanding with the headmistress leads to a pink slip right before the holidays, Charlie packs up her dreams and returns to her grandmother, Sis, who raised Charlie as her own in the mountains of North Carolina.

When Charlie arrives---broken and confused---Sis immediately puts her granddaughter to work behind the scenes of the local school's Christmas play, A Christmas Carol. Charlie prickles at working with Dustin Kennedy, the drama teacher and her old crush from schooldays, but is even more put out at that the choice of the Dickens' classic for the holiday performance. When she discovers her estranged father's involvement her world turns on its head once more. But when Sis and Dustin encourage her to take a deeper look at the story behind A Christmas Carol, Charlie learns about trust, faith, and forgiveness and the needs of people in their own community.

Purchase a copy:
About the author:

Eva Marie Everson is an award-winning speaker and author of The Road to TestamentThings Left UnspokenThis Fine LifeChasing SunsetsWaiting for SunriseSlow Moon Rising, and The Potluck Club series (with Linda Evans Shepherd). She is the president of Word Weavers International, Inc., a member of AWSA, ACFW, RWA, the director of Florida Christian Writer's Conference, and the contest director for Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writer's Conference. She and her husband make their home in Casselberry, Florida.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest

**I received this in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own or those of my family. **

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Homeschooling younger Elementary years with {REVIEW}

Help Teaching Pro Subscription {}
Not long ago I wrote a review about, a subscription based site that offers lessons and supplemental printables that cover a vast assortment of topics and subjects. Then I reviewed a Pro Plan for grades 6 and up, and this time I'm reviewing the Help Teaching Pro Subscription for the younger grades.
You may be asking yourself, "What is the difference?" The subscription plan is the same, and gives access to all levels. But there is so much to cover on the site, that it requires two reviews! One to focus on the older students, and one for the younger students! 
For this review, our membership was extended, and remains as pro plan. 
How did we use this:
This is one of those unique products that is very versatile. I love "full access" subscriptions. They are great for special needs. Some days, Mr. B needs a refresher of earlier work. Some subjects he may be a bit below grade level, some he's right on par, and others he is ahead on. Having the ability to access all grade levels is great, and really saves a lot of money! 
We used this for around 3-4 days a week. There were some weeks we couldn't log on as much due to travel commitments for appointments, but that's where the print feature comes in handy! I am able to pre-plan around our trips, and utilize the printed worksheets and tests so that he can do paperwork on the road, and watch the streamed lessons when we're settled in at home or in the hotel. It's a great time saver to be able to print and go! 
Mr. B was having some difficulties with cause and effect and double negatives. I was easily able to navigate to a grade 3 LA lessons to go back over Cause and Effect, then browe to a Grade 5 lesson on Double Negatives! I really appreciate having that ability. Grade 4 Figurative Language is our current study right now. The lower levels offer scads of lessons for each subject. Here are a few screen shots to show you some of the topics covered.

This is a screen shot from 4th Grade. It shows just a few of the many Language Arts options. 

This is obviously a selection of "all" of the Elementary grade science options. 

I clicked on the Kindergarten tab just to see what all was offered there. This is just the top portion of the page. There's so much here offered for Pre-K and K!

This is part of one of the "Arts" tests under Grade 5. This is music appreciation test. 
My Thoughts:
I really like the content of I like the options, and the way he can watch the lessons. It's really great to access all of the grade levels for one price, and that's great for families of multiple kids.  With that said,  I do have a few pet peeves. I'm not a huge fan of the browsing. I wish I could easily browse by grade and subject, but it always converts back to the subject for all grades for some reason. I would like to be able to just type in a search "Personification" and have it pop up. Or an option to "Browse all 4th grade Literature" and have it there. That'd be super great! I do really like how easy it is to assign the lesson, but you are required to email the link to the student. I wish there was a separate student login, so that I could assign straight to the student and he could log in and see what I would like for him to complete. Though the current way would work well for parents who work from home, or for those who are trying to teach their child more responsibility. But for younger students, it doesn't strike me as an effective means of independent work. 

This is what I see when I browse Language Arts. There are other grades below this, but they are all together. That's great if you are just looking for topic specifics, but an option to sort by grade would be great, too. 

Another change that could make this much better for special learns is a count of questions. This is the first Practice Question on one of the lessons. I would like to see some sort of counter so that Mr. B knows how much is ahead of him. The uncertainty gets him, as I'm sure it would other ASD students. Also, the pop up window could be a bit distracting with all of the background stuff there. It'd be GREAT if the printables associated with the streaming lessons could be included with each lesson, rather than in separate areas. 

All in all, it works for us, but a few changes could make it so much better. There are a few things that may not make it a perfect fit for other special needs families, but as a whole I really like it a lot. All in all, the lower levels offer just as much "oomph" as the upper levels. There's a lot of great resources available for the younger crew, and it's all in depth and comprehensive. 

Help Teaching Pro Subscription {}
Does 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?

Yes, yes, and more yes. You have access to all grades, so you can access any of the elementary grades. Transitioning from Pre-K to K? NO PROBLEM! Need to fill a learning gap from Grade 2 as a Grade 5? Easy as can be! And the streaming is easily paused. 

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!  You are NOT locked into a grade level, and it covers Pre-k to 12th. 

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

The work sheets are straight forward. They aren't flashy or anything like that. They aren't distracting, but they aren't necessarily attention grabbing either. They aren't too long, so the length of time wouldn't be a problem at all. The streaming videos are catchy and entertaining to make learning fun, and they are not a long duration at all. 

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

How can it not?! It covers literature, math, science, social studies, language arts, arts, social and life skills, and more. There's so much to choose from, you can find a topic to fit nearly everything. This is more of a traditional method, so there's not a lot of CM related things or classical related methodologies. 

Please check out the Homeschool Review Crew for more reviews! 
Help Teaching Pro Subscription {}
Help Teaching Pro Subscription {}

Crew Disclaimer