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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

TOS Review: Hewitt Homeschooling Literature

Hewitt Homeschooling Review
My son and I were excited to get the opportunity to review:

Lightning Literature and Composition: American Mid-Late 19th Century Student's Guide - $29.95
Lightning Literature and Composition: American Mid-Late 19th Century Teacher's Guide - $2.95

Both are from Hewitt Homeschooling and are intended to be used with students in Grades 9-12.

Hewitt Homeschooling Review

The curriculum contains 4 units. Each unit is broken down into lessons to cover your choice of a semester's worth (18 weeks) or a full-year's worth (36 weeks) of learning. Hewitt Homeschooling recommends that the lessons are completed within the semester's time table, but allows for them to be spread out to cover an entire year.

The study required using additional books that were not included with the study guide or teacher's guide. I had a couple of the titles, and the others were easy to find at my local library. I even found Uncle Tom's Cabin free online as well as I was able to download it from my library's e-book section. The additional books include:

Most of the books, my son had not yet read. Though, I did read The Call of The Wild aloud to him several years ago.

Hewitt Homeschooling also offers a Lightning Literature and Composition Pack to purchase, if you prefer, for $51.96 and includes the student and teacher's guides that I received plus the 4 additional literature books.

The curriculum is easy to follow with some reading assignments found in a book you buy or check out from the library, and others found inside the curriculum book provided. The order of the reading includes:

Unit 1
  1. Uncle Tom's Cabin book by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  2. Selected poems, included in the curriculum text, from Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass
Unit 2
  1. A short story from Bret Harte called, "The Outcasts of Poker Flat", which is included in the curriculum text
  2. The book Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
Unit 3
  1. Selected poems from Paul Laurence Dunbar, included in the curriculum text
  2. The book, The Red Badge of Courage, by Stephen Crane
Unit 4
  1. Selected poems from Emily Dickinson, included in the curriculum text
  2. Jack London's book, The Call of the Wild
After the student reads the introductory information, during the first day, it's time to dive into reading. Since the first book on the list is the longest one in the curriculum, a lot of time is spent on Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin. The first six weeks (12 weeks if you're following the full-year schedule) are mostly reading a few chapters a week of Uncle Tom's Cabin and answering discussion questions while keeping the focus on the topic of "Theme". Though, before the student dives into reading, there is a nice background informational section about the author, and also gives the student things to think about while they're reading. There are 8 writing exercises at the end of the first lesson.

Because I knew we wouldn't have time to finish the entire semester's worth, or full-year's worth of lessons during the course of the review, I decided to jump ahead a bit just to get a glimpse of what was in the rest of the book.

The lessons encompass topics such as:
  • Theme
  • Humor
  • Description
  • Point of View
  • Figurative Language
  • Register (Levels of Formality in Writing)
  • Sound in Poetry

The student guide is in its third printing edition and is a perfect bound 160-page book. It is presented in a way that makes it interesting for the students to read, with grayed boxes summarizing what is being taught, bold headlines so the student knows exactly what they are learning in each section, and segments of the text highlighted inside eye-catching text boxes. The Student's Guide includes:
  • Information about the Authors
  • Comprehension questions
  • Writing Exercises
  • Discussion Question and Project Suggestions
  • Reading Lists Related to the Period or Topic
  • Semester and Full-Year Schedules that allow for either 18 weeks or 36 weeks of learning
  • Bibliography
The teacher's guide is 44 white pages with typed print in a 3-hole punched format and ready to insert into a binder for use. The Teacher's Guide includes:
  • Answers to Comprehension Questions
  • Teaching Schedule
  • Teaching and Grading Helps
  • Copies of the Writing Exercises
  • Discussion Questions

I knew from the start that actually getting my son to sit down and read a book at all would be my biggest challenge. This child blossomed early, reading fluently at the age of 3, really! But, my excitement about this accomplishment quickly waned as he has entered his teen years. This child who once insisted on staying up till he finished a 65-page early reader compilation book of Dick and Jane stories, now cringes at the thought of even looking at a book.

Once I saw the curriculum and was holding it in my hands, I got very excited. Though, I still knew that while it is set up in a way that many parents could merely just hand the student book to their child, give him or her assignments, and receive back some great work - I knew I was going to have to find a way to present the idea that he would actually be reading an entire book.

I was thrilled when I found the first required book at my library as an e-book. Having it on screen instead of on paper works better for my son. From there, I chose to take the lessons at the slower, full-year pace instead of the shorter, recommended 18-week semester schedule.


I'll just sum it up by saying - I LOVE THIS CURRICULUM! I'm very excited to have the opportunity to use it to help my son move beyond his dislike toward reading. The formatting of the student book is designed to capture and hold the interest of a high school student.

I really love the checklists that are provided in the Teacher's Guide, and I found the teaching schedule to be quite helpful as well.

Find Hewitt Homeschooling Literature on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google +, and the Hewitt Homeschooling Blog. Also, read what other TOS reviewers thought:

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Monday, July 28, 2014

TOS Review: Beyond the Book Report from Analytical Grammar

Analytical Grammar Review
I was thrilled to get the opportunity to review Beyond the Book Report from Analytical Grammar.  I have heard so much about this curriculum company, and I couldn't wait to try it out with my Middle Schoolers. Beyond the Book Report is intended to be used with students in Grades 6-8. I received Seasons One, Two, and Three. Each season sells for $24.95 a piece.

Analytical Grammar Review

The curriculum comes on a DVD that contains printable files and video lectures as well as a teacher's guide that includes samples of all of the activities, reading log samples, as well as a teaching schedule. The DVD, along with the teacher's guide, walks the student and the teacher through the entire process, one step at a time:

  • Season One includes three units that start the student on the road to a solid foundation of literature studies with learning tools needed to learn how to express their written response in a basic book report, a pamphlet book report, and a journalism book report.
  • Season Two includes two units that cover poetry and drama. Among the poetry lessons is one video instruction that is set aside only for teachers to view that teaches how to play a learning game called Like/Not Like.
  • Season Three includes three units that includes public speaking, essays, and research papers. The essay portion even includes instruction on how to write an essay for the SATs along with a practice sheet to get writing. The public speaking instruction is amazing, including PowerPoint instructions, and the research paper instruction is extensive.

Each unit introduces the concept, followed by an activity, and then provides a final product worth 100 points:

Season One
Unit 1 - The Basic Book Report
Unit 2 - The Pamphlet Book Report
Unit 3 - The News Article Book Report

Season Two
Section 1 - The Poetry Book Report
Section 2 - The Drama Book Report

Season Three
Section 1 - Public Speaking
Section 2 - Essays
Section 3 - Research Papers

The curriculum works well when it is used as suggested, at least three days a week. Everything is set out in an easy-to-follow format, just go down the list of what is provided in the DVD. Some of the instructions include printing something and then following the directions on what you printed. Some of the instructions include watching a video instruction.

The video instructions all seemed to be of varying lengths of time. Some seemed to have lasted approximately 15 minutes each, some much less, some possibly slightly longer. While the video instruction is a very important part of this curriculum, it is not the only aspect used to teach. There is plenty of hands-on activities, and of course, reading. Obviously, with the book reports, part of the learning time includes taking time to actually read the book while keeping a reading log. The reading logs are also included as a printable file.


The program is at a middle school level (designed for 6-8 Graders), so I was happy that my daughter who just finished 6th grade and is entering 7th grade in the fall, and my son who just finished 8th grade and is entering high school in the fall take part in the review.

Though he sprouted early, reading fluently at the age of 3, my son is a very reluctant reader and hates writing. My daughter, on the other hand, eats, sleeps, and dreams books. But, she has limited experience writing book reports. She has done some summaries for me, but never a full-fledged report.


I liked how it was clear what lesson or what activity was to be done next. I loved that the videos were clear instruction but not so long as to become boring. The instruction was to-the-point with no fluff, just pure instruction. The CD that I put into my computer, popped up with the files needed for each lesson and in the proper order. There was never any guessing what the next step was. The CD provided:

  • Printable note cards for the students to use for notetaking during the videos
  • Instructional videos
  • Printable activity, rubrics, and worksheets

I also liked that there was a fairly clear-cut grading scale provided, using a 100-point system and a rubric for each activity, along with reading logs, and teaching sheets.

For the sake of my hesitant writer/reader son, I really appreciated how the instructor explained things, like why it's important to read the classics, and how she explained that she just wanted the students to try their hand at poetry, not pushing the student over the edge.

I also love how there are literary terms taught, so the child also learns the terminology that goes along with each style of writing.

Find Analytical Grammar on Facebook and Twitter.

See what other members of The Old Schoolhouse Crew thought of the other products they received from Analytical Grammar:

Click to read Crew Reviews

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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
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