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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

TOS Review: 'Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms'

Flourish Book Review   Flourish Book Review

I was so happy to get a chance to review the new book, Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms from Apologia Educational Ministries. I was especially excited because this book was a treat for me, written for homeschooling moms of all ages to read. Though, it's truly beneficial to any adult trying to juggle all of life's demands, with a special chapter for the single mom trying to make it all come together for her family while left with no help from a spouse; and there is also a special chapter directed toward those with a home business.

It sells for $15.

This is not just another ordinary life planning book. After each chapter, you will put the book down, complete the exercises in an easy step-by-step manner,


It takes into account personalities and life choices to make it easy to adapt its content to your own unique place in life - TO HELP YOU MAKE THE MOST OUT OF YOUR OWN AMAZING LIFE.

Flourish Book Review
Mary Jo Tate is the author. She is a professional author and editor. She has been homeschooling her four sons since 1997, much of that time as a single mom with an at-home business. She blogs at FlourishAtHome.com.

I was inspired immediately when I read the life occurrences of the author, Mary Jo Tate, which led up to her writing the book. It made me realize that when we look at other families and think they have it all together, the truly may be just one decision, one step, away from losing it all. This was the case with Mary Jo Tate's life when she found herself a single, divorced, homeschooling mom at her lowest point in life - Waiting in line at a food pantry. It was at rock bottom, she knew she had to make things change if she were to provide the kind of life she wanted for her children and for herself.

But, the book is not just about the author's life story. It mostly uses her experience as a vantage point and then draws from the life experiences of many others offering amazingly helpful and fresh advice. Reading the book did not make me feel as if I was being lectured or told to adhere to yet another impossible scheduling mold.


Flourish Book Review   The book's approximate 290 pages are an easy read, and quite inspiring.

I was very excited to work my way through the chapters which contained "Take Action" exercises and activities at the end of each chapter. These questions, self-checks and suggestions really made me dig deep. I felt like I had my own personal high-quality workshop conference right in the privacy of my own living room, workout room, local coffee house, in the van waiting on children, and wherever else I chose to dive into the book to read more.

  • I was happy to take the Pre-Book self evaluation.
  • I was interested when I read through a description of triage or juggling too many balls, and I realized that's how I'm living my life. I was not surprised, but was enlightened to embrace the truth that I tend to live in a survival, battlefield, triage mode. This will be my most challenging change - To begin, instead, creating balance out of my daily events.
  • I was happy to learn an acronym for FREEDOM
  • I was thrilled to learn about how to honestly assess how I'm spending my time, using a time log, and then how to recapture that time through re-scheduling (or, rather, reorganizing and creating a routine) to optimize my days.
  • I was more than excited to learn how to begin setting clear and realistic goals.
  • Since it seems like my life as a mom is nothing but constant interruptions, I was really, really, really happy to see the issue of interruptions be addressed from a real work-at-home/educate-at-home mom's point of view.
  • I love how the book talked about making memories with your family.
  • I love how there was a chapter specifically dedicated to single moms and one to home businesses.
There are charts in the back of the book that go along with the exercises at the end of each chapter. The author suggests that you use a 3-ring binder and customize each exercise for your personal journey.

Throughout the entire book, I found myself on the edge of my seat waiting to read what the author recommended as my next step to flourish in my life, home business, and home schooling. I am attempting to put the suggestions into practice and have a renewed hope about my family's future in continuing to learn at home while my husband and I build an even stronger home-based business together.

Find Flourish on Facebook and Twitter.

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Friday, July 18, 2014

Fitness Friday: Could You Pass the President's Challenge?

It's Friday, and that means it's time to chat about fitness. When I was in school, there was a very special award given out to those who could accomplish amazing physical education feats. It was called the Presidential Physical Fitness Award.

A few years ago, my oldest two kids accomplished this award. And, let me tell you, it was no easy accomplishment. They worked hard.

I remember, in particular, my son trying to achieve the needed time in a mile run. He tried and tried and tried. I encouraged, and encouraged, and encouraged. Until, I was tired. I remember the moment I announced to him that we had tried enough, and we just need to accept the fact that he's just one mile run away from receiving that award.

Well, apparently, that's all he needed to hear. All of a sudden, he bolted around that path. He did it!

The Presidential Physical Fitness Award requires a lot of physical challenges. The pullups are a struggle. The relay was a struggle. The stretches were o.k. for us.

Regardless, we did it. And, so can you!

 photo FitnessFriday_zps15d519f6.jpg

Find more fitness motivation at the following bloggers that are hosting Fitness Friday:

The Healthy Moms.net
Chandra Sullivan at Spark Your Motivation
Danielle Nabozny at Lip Gloss and Yoga Pants
Lisa Belanger at Inspire Me Well
Maryann Mitchell at It's Not Food, It's Me
Angela Barnets at Fit Personified
Wendi Barker at Wendi's Book Corner
Lacey Baker at Love Lacey 365
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Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Review: Storybox Family Educational Videos

I was asked to review a new site called storyboxfamily.com. StoryBox is the newest family entertainment and video streaming company on the web. They offer a family friendly and educational streaming.

Users subscribe to unlimited viewing of wholesome, fun and classic movies and TV shows that are fit for the entire family to watch. You will also be able to rent or buy shows directly from the site.

Find a video for any subject you're covering in your homeschool.

Currently, the site is in beta form and has two sections:

  1. Entertainmnet that offers films, TV shows, etc.
  2. Educational that offers full documentaries and various other instructional videos:

  • Chemistry
  • Literature
  • Physics
  • Math
  • History
  • Science
  • Careers
  • Documentaries
  • Art
  • And so much more

I sat down at my laptop PC and looked over the options. The first video to catch my eye was one that had a huge, beautiful picture of an elephant on it. It was a fun cartoon, and I just had to choose that one because my one daughter is an elephant fan.

From there, I explored mostly the educational material. I found a charcoal drawing art instructional video, documentaries (which I love), some really helpful math helps video, science experiments, one of the best Shirley Temple movies, literature-based movies, and even a Gumby cartoon.

These would really come in handy for supplementing a lesson in any subject needed.

Storyboxfamily.com is currently on the PC or MAC, but hope to soon be available on Apple products (though, you can watch from the full site version on your smart phone) and the RoKU. All of the content is G or PG and very family friendly.

Find StoryBoxFamily on Facebook and on Pinterest, for even more activity ideas for your family.

Disneyland Throw Back Thursday TBT: This Day in History

In TBT, Throw Back Thursday, style - This Day in History in 1955, Disneyland opened in California. This would have been a fun event to see live and in person.

This fun historical event got me thinking - What Disney character are you? That is, in terms of how you teach. And, which Disney character is/are your child(ren)?

Do you have a Dumbo? Oh, not in the horrible name-calling sense. But, does your child have a unique trait which is what will carry him, flying through successes in life?

Are you Sleeping Beauty, with a full year's worth of amazing curriculum planned but you're too overwhelmed to breathe, so you're sleeping through what could be your wake up kiss.

Do you often feel like Cinderella, doing all the work and waiting for your fairytale magic to begin?

There are tons of Disney characters to choose from, and far more scenarios as to why you feel like you or your children relate to that specific character.

....I just hope it's not Grumpy or Goofy!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Fitness Friday: Walking Paths

It's Friday, and the weather in my neck of the woods has been incredibly unseasonably cooler than normal. So, that means it's perfect weather for walking.

There are some amazing walking paths near where I live. Some of them connect bike paths and other park paths, along some main thoroughfares. Others are more tucked away in park-like settings.

If your town has any paths like these, or even anything close, take advantage of them. Get out and walk, run, bicycle, or skip. It's a great way to take in some great scenery, take time to reflect or pray while walking, and just relax while working your body's muscles - Is that even possible?  Why, yes. yes, it is!

One path that I have always enjoyed is one at our local community college. For some reason, the idea of a fountain in the center focal part of a circular path is quite appealing. I guess it's refreshing when I catch some of the spray, but it's also very relaxing and allows me to make believe I am walking along a beach, by the ocean.

Unfortunately, I was struck with a summertime cold that has knocked the socks off of me, so I haven't been enjoying the outside walking.

Still, it's there to be enjoyed by those who can. That is, of course, until the heat and humidity return tonight and over the weekend. At which point, a pool sounds like the better choice.

 photo FitnessFriday_zps15d519f6.jpg

Find more fitness motivation at the following bloggers that are hosting Fitness Friday:

The Healthy Moms.net
Chandra Sullivan at Spark Your Motivation
Danielle Nabozny at Lip Gloss and Yoga Pants
Lisa Belanger at Inspire Me Well
Maryann Mitchell at It's Not Food, It's Me
Angela Barnets at Fit Personified
Wendi Barker at Wendi's Book Corner
Lacey Baker at Love Lacey 365
Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Great Summertime Reading for High Schoolers

Summer is half way over, and it seems to be just whizzing by to me and my household of children, my oldest entering high school in the fall.  He is no longer interested in the local library summer reading program, thanks in part to a poorly chosen zombie theme last year, and really prefers to read everything online in the form of technical computer forums anyway. So, what do other high schooler read?

It you ask my son, he will reply that reading Microsoft, XBox, or other programming or gaming forums are the best solution.  But, this is not always feasible or acceptable for some families.

This is not how he started his reading adventure, however. He actually was, like me, an excited reader at first. Only, he sprouted early. He could read fluently at the age of 3. I would find him reading the Hannah story from his Children's Bible, or the entire collection of Dick and Jane. Somehow, that early blooming just drastically fell off somewhere along the line. I'm pretty sure it had to do with the introduction of long chapter books that had no pictures.

I tend to feel the same way. I like a good picture to go along with what I'm reading. To accommodate my son's need for this, I've allowed him to absorb graphic novels and even comic books as needed, just to keep him reading and learning from the paper page.

To be completely, and embarrassingly honest, I would have to admit that while I took off and won some kind of Second Grader prize for reading the most books, I lost total interest in reading as a child and did not read an entire chapter book until Huckleberry Finn was assigned to me in 10th Grade. Sad, but true. 

Following is a list of books, my dream list if you will, of what I wish my son were reading this summer:

  • Pride & Prejudice
  • Princess Bride
  • Flowers for Algernon
  • Gone with the Wind
  • 1984: A Novel
Though, these are books that will probably be part of his high school journey, during the school year. So, just for some fun summertime reading, here's some more realistic suggestions taken from what my son has actually read so far this summer. The way I look at it is that it keeps him reading, even if it's not a War and Peace laden novel. After all, it IS STILL SUMMER! He'll pick up with the real literature in the fall:

  • Garfield Comics
  • Sonic Comics
  • The Bible online
  • html 5 for Dummies
The bottom line here, is to keep them reading with anything they are interested in while avoiding anything your family classifies as junk. I would much prefer that my pre-highschooler read a comic book than to digest vampire stuff that gives him the creeps and goes against what he believes.

Please find more summer reading suggestions from other bloggers by clicking on the picture below:

Homeschool for Free

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

TOS Review: WriteShop

WriteShop Review

I am so excited to be among the reviewers for this WriteShop digital version of their WriteShop Primary: Book B Set, written by Nancy I. Sanders. The company sells books for a variety of age and grade levels, ranging from Grade K-6, but I got to review the level intended for first and second graders. This Book B level is also appropriate for reluctant third graders.

WriteShop Review   WriteShop Review
WriteShop Review

This Primary Book B teaches steps involved in the writing process. WriteShop uses activities, picture books, and crafts to create a fun way to learn.

The Teacher's Guide book comes in a soft-cover book with plastic-coil binding, and is 214 pages for $35.95, or the e-book for $29.50. There is also a reproducible Activity Set Worksheet Pack that can be purchased separately for $5.95 (24-page print version) or $4.50 (digital). The version I got to review was a completely digital WriteShop Primary: Book B Set, in PDF format.


There are 10 Lessons that include:

  1. Writing a Letter
  2. Standard Spelling
  3. Acrostics
  4. Poems and Nursery Rhymes
  5. Fairy Tales
  6. In the News
  7. Humor
  8. Problem and Solution
  9. Character and Setting
  10. Story Organizer

Each lesson spells out the Objectives, Advance Prep, Materials Needed, Lesson Overview and how to conduct the Activities.

By the end of Book B, it is expected that your child will have the skills to:
  1. Plan
  2. Create
  3. Publish Simple Stories with a Parent's Help
Book B introduces and teaches the following concepts:
  • Identify words that rhyme
  • Use a different voice to tell a story
  • Using a dictionary to help improve writing and spelling
  • Learn the concept of paragraph form and indentation
  • Standard spelling and using spelling tools
  • Choosing story endings
  • Use graphic organizers to plan a story
  • Include a Beginning, middle and end
  • Learn to add details
  • Organize a story to include a problem and solution
  • Write a friendly letter
  • Write a personal narrative
  • Retell nursery rhymes and fairy tales in his or her own words
  • "Publish" stories through projects and crafts.


The fortunate child in my household who got to experience the WriteShop Primary: Book B Set from WriteShop was my 7 year old. As a professional writer, I am always excited to introduce my children to writing curriculum.

This curriculum suggests that if your child is young or reluctant to write on his or her own, that you allow them to dictate their stories to you until their writing and handwriting skills develop. I thought I would have to have my daughter dictate some of what she wrote to me, but mostly she was able to write it all herself.

This curriculum really makes the process fun. My daughter loved the hands-on aspect, from coloring, to cutting, to making her own booklet, to tracing, to answering questions that really made her think, to drawing and tracing.


It was really fun to hear my daughter's 7-year-old mind at work when she answered questions in her own style. For instance, there was one point where the curriculum asked about an octopus who lost a shoe. I expected my daughter to simply answer the question, but she chimed in with questions about why an octopus would be wearing a shoe anyway.  Another example was with the nursery rhymes. One of the nursery rhymes featured Wee Willie Winkie. This was the first she had heard of him, and she could not get over how a man would run all around town in his nightgown. Though, I think they were part of the curriculum to help the children learn story problem solving and other skills, but these fun activities really got her little mind reeling.

While, the student activities are fun, what I found amazing about the curriculum is the effort put into the Teacher's Guide. Before the first lesson is even presented to begin following for the purpose of teaching, the Teacher's Guide spends quite a bit of time explaining that the purpose of the program is to have the parent spend time one-on-one with the child to work through the process of learning to write. The tips and instruction on these pages before the lessons even begin are really what forms the framework of the entire process. From there, each lesson is presented in such an easy-to-follow format. There are blue boxes set aside to alert the parent of any preparation needed. There are lists of picture books that are recommended to read and listed conveniently in the back of the book under each lesson. 

Find WriteShop on FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagram, and Google+.

See what other members of the Schoolouse Review Crew received and what they thought of their product by clicking on the picture below:
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