This blog is my attempt to document our busy but BLESSED lives raising and educating our children for His glory. A child of God, wife to one, and mom to 6 fabulous kids. We are in our 15th year of homeschooling using a Classical ~ Literature based approach.

Come along for the good, the bad & the ugly.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

TOS Review ~ The Reading Game


The Reading Game which was created by Kenneth Hodkinson author of the “Wordly Wise” series has just released a fast-action memory card game that will get your kids reading.



The Reading Game is a supplemental learn-to-read program that correlates with most standard curriculums.  It also meets the criteria of the Common Core State Standards for Language Arts, Foundational skills, and Reading skills needed for both kindergarten and first graders.  The Reading Game consists of six illustrated storybooks: Skunk, Snake, Bear, Penguins, Unicorn, and Zebra. Each book comes with a color coded  word matching card game. The memory games are played in six stages for each book, learning five words in each stage.  By the end of your first book your student will be able to read 30 words.

Frequent exposure through play hard-wires these words into long-term memory. The card game requires two players, the student and a tutor.  By transforming rote learning into a fast paced game where there is a winner every few seconds, learning to read becomes fun.

The first story is told using just those thirty words. It tells of a skunk without a stripe who is rejected for being different but finds acceptance among a group of cats and becomes their defender. Each subsequent game in the series adds a further thirty words for a reading vocabulary of 180 words by the time the complete series is finished. Of the twenty-five most commonly used English words, twenty-two are on that list; of the forty most commonly used English words –thirty. The multi-sensory teaching approach – through the card game play and the storybooks - works well for retention and student enjoyment.                             ~ from the website

I used this program with EXCELLENT results with Montana and recommend it wholeheartedly! She is now reading and writing sight words.  She is so enthusiastic about it too, I love it!  The Reading Game makes it fun and exciting to learn to read.  The Montana Reading Game 006 Stories are great too and build confidence with each new word learned.  Montana has a goal she is reaching for.  Once she reads  her first book,  Skunk, she will be able to cash in on her prize.  She has already decided that she would like a Baby Alive.  She is getting so close too, I love her determination and I owe a big thanks to the creator of The Reading Game for that! Check out what my Crewmates thought by clicking, HERE.


Product ~ The Reading Game

Price ~ $24.95

Ages ~ Pre-readers to 2 grade


I received a copy of The Reading Game, in exchange for a thorough and honest review.  Though I am compensated with free products, I am not compensated in the form of cash for my reviews.  The opinions I have given are mine and may differ from others but are not influenced by the company or the free product provided.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Party of 5, wk 3

Party of 5 wk3

No, I didn’t forget to post a picture for this week’s Party of 5.  Since my laptop took an untimely departure due in part to a 2 year old who shall remain nameless,  I usually use Marie’s laptop when we go on trips.  Well, the same nameless 2 year old also got her tiny little hands on Marie’s laptop and it is in the shop after a nasty fall. Thank goodness for Best Buy’s Protection Plan.

I was able to round the girls up for this group shot right before everyone started showing up for Thanksgiving dinner. The lighting was beautiful and I was able to get some great shots of everyone on the deck (stay tuned for the Thanksgiving recap Sunday). 

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with love, great food, and lots of  laughter, we sure did!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

TOS Review ~ Read Naturally

One Minute Reader by Read Naturally, is an at home reading program that motivates your young reader to improve their reading speed and comprehension in a fun and exciting way. By using this program just 15-30 minutes a day, a few times each week your student will develop fluency through the modeling step (Read Along), repeated reading step (Read Alone), and a progress monitoring step (Marking Hot & Cold Scores).  As part of the TOS Crew, I received the Ready, Set, Orange:  Level 1 Starter Kit and the Level 3 Book CD set "Disasters".  The set included a "How To" DVD in the Level 1 Starter Kit and everything you need to get started in the One Minute Reader program including a timer, a two tone graphing pencil all in a plastic case.

One Minute Reader has 6 levels of readers, with 7 books available for each level. Each book contains 5 non-fiction stories and includes a CD with each of the 5 stories read at 3 different speeds. I love that!!!

The Process:

~ Get Ready to Read
~ Time Yourself Reading (with the 'One Minute' timer included in the starter set)
~ Mark Your Cold Score in Blue
~ Read Along With the included CD
~ Read Alone, and Raise Your Score
~ Take the Quick Quiz
~ Read for an Adult
~ Mark Your Hot Score in Red

I used this program with Mikayla with great results in her reading comprehension.  Montana also used the CD during her evening room time and listened to the stories.  Sometimes Mikayla has a hard time getting motivated with her reading but this program has really helped take away some of the apprehension. The price is just right too.  A Starter Set is $24.95 and the other books for each level are priced at $12.95.  You also have the option to purchase the starter set and the additional 7 book/CD levels all at once for $99. I would recommend this program to anyone who has a reluctant reader or you have a child who needs just a little extra help. It has helped our reader tremendously. Check out what my crewmates thought by clicking, HERE.


Company ~ Read Naturally
Price ~ Starter Kit $24.95, Book & CD Set $12.95, Bundle (Starter Kit + 7 books) $99.95
Ages ~ Beginning reader to Adult
I received a copy of One Minute Reader, in exchange for a thorough and honest review.  Though I am compensated with free products, I am not compensated in the form of cash for my reviews.  The opinions I have given are mine and may differ from others but are not influenced by the company or the free product provided.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Party of 5, wk 2

Party of 5, wk 2 S 11th birthday

Week 2 has us celebrating Madison’s 11th birthday (a post is coming about that soon).  I love how Montana & McKenzie ham it up when the camera comes out.  Their faces are priceless.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - almost


S 11th birthday fixed

poster says…

Dear S,

I am EXTRA thrilled to have you as my sister.  You give our family a STARBURST of happiness! I hope you have a WHOPPER of a 11th year. You are a lovely M&M (music maker) and rarely ever a SOUR PATCH kid.

Love T

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

TOS Review ~ College Prep Genius


collegeprep_dvdsetCollege Prep Genius is a study program to help your child improve his SAT and PSAT scores.  This is a self-study program that includes a student workbook, text book and DVDs which explain each lesson in detail.  There is also a free downloadable worksheet packet available on the website. College Prep Genius can help you raise your score by as much as 600 pts.


“COLLEGE PREP GENIUS, the test prep course has helped thousands of students from public, private and home schools improve their test scores by colossal numbers. With nearly a decade of seeing results, this unique and pragmatic approach to test-taking has revolutionized the way students all across the United States prepare for the SAT. COLLEGE PREP GENIUS contains original techniques to help discover the logical patterns of standardized exams and continues to emerge as the next big thing in test prep.

How does it work?

Many students simply don’t understand the strategies and logic behind these standardized tests. These exams test more than just a student’s ability to answer questions; they test time-management skills, logical aptitude and much more. COLLEGE PREP GENIUS helps students pinpoint weak areas of the test by emphasizing the strategic and logical approach to taking the SAT.” ~ from the website

To use this program the student is instructed to read through the text book a few times.  The DVDs explains each section of the course and then directs the student on how to study and what to do for each section.  The workbook is chock full of practice problems that guides your student step by step to master test taking skills in each section. To make it easy on the parents the book also includes a study schedule for each year of high school and also a handy guide of when to take the test.


Wowzers! College Prep Genius is an awesome tool to help with SAT/PSAT tests. My oldest daughter, Marie is just beginning her high school journey and this book is proving invaluable in preparing her. According to the study schedule since Marie is in 9th grade she should be spending 1-2 hours a week studying for the PSAT. It’s a challenge some weeks but College Prep Genius helps us along the way by taking the guesswork out of what to study. We recommend this book to anyone who needs to improve their score or is just beginning the process. Check out what my Crewmates thought of this program, HERE.


Product ~ College PREP Genius

Price ~ Normally $99.00 but right now College Prep Genius is offering a buy-three-get-one-free offer for the set. Get the set for $38.85, or buy individual books for $12.95 each.

Ages ~ High Schoolers


I received a download of College PREP Genius, in exchange for a thorough and honest review.  Though I am compensated with free products, I am not compensated in the form of cash for my reviews.  The opinions I have given are mine and may differ from others but are not influenced by the company or the free product provided.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Why we homeschool


This weeks TOS Crew’s Blog Cruise question is “Why did you decide to homeschool?”

Well, back in June of 2009 I officially announced on the blog that we would be homeschooling the girls. Here is a recap of what I said…

“You can't ignore what the Lord says to you through prayer and guidance from others who are already on their homeschooling journeys. We want the girls to have a sane and biblically sound education and there is no way right now that we can send all the girls to a local Christian school, it just is not financially possible without us eating beans and weenies morning, noon, and night (we kind of like steak and potatoes sometimes).

Homeschooling might seem difficult at times, but so are a lot of things in life, but in the end it will be a lifetime reward. I am positive that the girls will excel with this new one-on-one learning, why else would the Lord lead us to it? It all comes down to having faith. No, not my baby Faith, but FAITH-Faith is the confident belief or trust in the truth of or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing. Got Faith? We do, and the Lord will guide me in teaching the girls, and I just have to be obedient and follow his guidance. That is the only way we will succeed.”

Wow, how true those words are! It has  evolved into something much more than that.  Well into our 3rd year of homeschooling it has now become our lifestyle.  The girls are so much more involved in their respective sports of cheerleading and gymnastics that I am grateful to have them home, especially since my gymnasts are currently putting in 17-20 hours a week at the gym.  We’ve had our ups and downs with homeschooling but the good definitely outshines the bad days.  We have met so many wonderful new friends, both online and IRL (in real life), and have been introduced to so many new curriculum choices.  I just wish I would have had the guts and guidance to start earlier.  I am definitely grateful and thankful for the time and memories we are making each and every day!

Girls BW

Sunday, November 13, 2011

TOS Review ~ Keyboard Town PALS


Do you want to get your kiddos typing? How about typing in 1 hour?  Is there such a program that can do this?  YES! IT’s called sunnyw-ing Keyboard Town PALS.  This fun and exciting program teaches children aged 6-12 to type in as little as an hour.  Keyboard Town PALS is a stress free environment with no boring speed drills or exercises and  no mindless “filler” games with the help of Sunny who guides you through town. Along the way, you are introduced to new puppet PALS. The Purposeful Associative Learning System is the way in which keyboard skills are taught in this program. There mission is simple and straight to the point.

“Our mission is to teach young children to type on a Qwerty computer keyboard in the fastest, easiest, and least stressful way. In only one hour Keyboard Town PALS’ “Learn To Type”software is able to achieve that goal.”                                  ~ from the website

Mikayla used this program and has improved on her typing skills dramatically.  At first she thought it was a little babyish, but then she started to really enjoy it.  Montana also joined in and started to learn to type.  We recommend this program to anyone looking for a typing program for young children. My favorite part is that they have deactivated the backspace and delete button because in Keyboard Town, mistakes are never counted!  You can  purchase the program on either a CD Rom version or a Web-based package for $39.95, in English, Spanish, or French versions.  Find out what my Crewmates thought by clicking, here.


Product ~ Keyboard Town PALS

Price ~ $39.95

Age ~6 – 12 years


I received a download of Keyboard Town PALS, in exchange for a thorough and honest review.  Though I am compensated with free products, I am not compensated in the form of cash for my reviews.  The opinions I have given are mine and may differ from others but are not influenced by the company or the free product provided.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Party of 5, wk 1

Remember when I decided to partake in the 365 picture taking last year and this year. Well, I failed both times. I enjoy taking pictures of my favorite subjects, my girls. Well, while surfing the blogs this past week I found an interesting idea of taking a weekly shot of your children in a group. I can’t take the credit for this brilliant idea, that belongs to Karli over at The Bonnie 5.

Here’s the gist.  Take a group shoot of your Party of X, which in my case is my Party of 5.  At the end of your 52 weeks you will have a nice photo journal of your children changing right before your eyes.  And what a great gift for family members too.  A weekly shot for 52 weeks.  I can handle that, can’t I?

Monday, November 7, 2011

TOS Review ~ Ooka Island Adventure

WelcometoOokaIslandgraphicOoka what? Yes, that is what I thought when I first heard I was signed up for this review, but let me tell you it’s Fantastic! Ooka Island Adventure is an appealing computer game that will have your children learning phonics-based reading. With attractive colors, characters, and 3D graphics your child will ask to play all the time. Mine did!OokaCharactersgraphic

Ooka Island is an interactive literacy program designed especially for emerging readers Pre-K through 2nd grade.  Their website describes it this way:

The Ooka Island Adventure is a downloadable hero-mission in 3D designed to teach young children how to read fluently and well. The Ooka Island Adventure combines the highly engaging components of a state-of-the-art virtual world with the scientifically proven OokaMethod that builds literacy skills.

Carefully embedded within the Ooka Island Adventure are dozens of interactive instructional activities that captivate the child and motivate them as they learn essential pre-reading, reading, spelling, and writing skills. After completing the Ooka Island Adventure, children will be on their way to reading fluently and well for life.

Ooka Island Adventure was designed especially for the 3-7 year old age group and teaches reading with their phonics-based method called the OokaMethod.HowtheOokaMethodWorks-01

The OokaMethodTM combines phonological development and language-rich text with comprehension activities so that children have the opportunity to achieve effortless reading.

               This link explains it in detail.

Using the Ooka Method, students begin learning and reinforcing letter sounds and through the use of interactive games, they learn to combine those sounds to form words. Sooner than you think your child will be reading the interactive E-books from the Popcorn Library, and who doesn’t enjoy popcorn? The Popcorn Library consists of 85 books that are unlocked one book at a time as your child progresses through the fun lessons. At the end of each lesson, your child will be rewarded 8 minutes of free play to roam around the island to shop or practice skills learned in the game. There is also an Avatar your child can customize for their adventure. Through progressing and completing the various levels in the game your child will earn “mists”, which is money on Ooka Island. The mists, can be used to purchase extra clothes and accessories for your avatar.

My young ones don’t spend a whole lot of time on the computer during the week, but I am happy to say that when they do, Ooka Island Adventure is a requested game to play. I plan on keeping Montana playing this game for reinforcement of our daily phonics lessons at least 3-4 times a week. I have seen improvement in “ear training” since using this program with her, so in my book this fun, exciting game is a keeper! Want to try it out for yourself? There is a free 14 day trial and right now Ooka Island Adventure is offering a 30% discount for new subscriptions. Here is a handy chart for their regular pricing. See what my crewmates thought by clicking HERE.

OokaIslandPromoCode OokaIslandPricingRatesgraphic


Product ~ Ooka Island Adventure

Price ~ see detailed chart above

Ages~ 3-7 year olds

***High speed internet recommended. This program is a pretty large download. It took several hours to download, but it’s well worth the wait***


I received a download of Ooka Island Adventure, in exchange for a thorough and honest review.  Though I am compensated with free products, I am not compensated in the form of cash for my reviews.  The opinions I have given are mine and may differ from others but are not influenced by the company or the free product provided.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

TOS Review ~ Memoria Press – Classical Phonics


When I began researching for a phonics program early last Spring I ran across Memoria Press’s Classical Phonics program.  It looked amazing! I was sold on it at first sight, but then I began to read the reviews that fellow homeschoolers posted on a well known forum.  I quickly became discouraged and talked myself out of the whole Kindergarten program and choose another program.  What a HUGH mistake!  I am kicking myself for the time we lost.  By reading my review I hope you don’t make the same mistake I did.

When I saw this review pop up, I immediately sent a request to be considered for it.  We needed something quick because we were at a standstill in phonics/reading department.  What a blessing First Start Reading and Classical Phonics has been for us! I can now say that my Kindergartener can READ and in only a few short lessons of the First Start Reading program she was reading her first sentence, I am Sam.  Let me share her happy dance photos with you.

The First Start Reading Program takes on a traditional approach to teaching phonics and includes a Teacher’s Guide and 3 Student books, A,B, & C.  The Teacher’s Guide provides scripted lessons and is a great resource for helping with vowel sounds, b-d confusion, and pencil grip.

“First Start Reading covers consonants, short vowels, 45 common words, and manuscript printing, accompanied by artist-drawn coloring pictures and drawing pages for every letter. Your child will begin reading in the very first lesson as he progresses through three student books and twenty-five phonetic stories, such as "Hogs and Pigs" and "Jog to the Jet." A Teacher Manual guides you through the program and provides helpful assessments and teaching tips.“ ~ from the website

Nov. misc 006Nov. misc 008 

Each lesson covers the following categories:
~ Letter sounds
~ CVC Words (Common Word, which include sight words)
~ Reading skills such as beginning punctuation and plural sounds
~ Beginning Sentences

* After reading the sentence in lesson 8, Montana looked at me and said “ I AM NOT A MAN”!!! too cute

We also received a companion book called Classical Phonics.  This book actually works well with any phonics program as it introduces the letters and sounds and shows a corresponding picture. As your child gains letters and sounds, words begin to be listed on the page that correspond to the phonics rules.  This gem of a little book can be used from just beginning to read all the way through 2nd grade as it covers nearly all English phonograms.

ClassicalPhonics-Samplepage ClassicalPhonics-SilentLetterspage

I will sign praises to Memoria Press to all who will listen!  We LOVE there program and I have been recommending and sharing it with friends for the past few weeks whether or not they homeschool!  And my little girl can READ! Something she has wanted to do for so long.  Memoria Press offers a wide assortment of homeschool material from Latin, Greek, Literature, to whole grade level sets. They graciously offered some members of the Crew to review their First Form Latin while others received the Classical Phonics program.  Check out what my Crewmates thought about these programs, HERE.


Company ~ Memoria Press

Product ~ First Start Reading with Teacher’s Guide and Classical Phonics

Price ~ FSR set with Teacher’s Guide $29.95, Classical Phonics $14.95

Ages ~ Beginning readers – 2nd grade


I received a copy of First Start Reading and Classical Phonics from Memoria Press, in exchange for a thorough and honest review.  Though I am compensated with free products, I am not compensated in the form of cash for my reviews.  The opinions I have given are mine and may differ from others but are not influenced by the company or the free product provided.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

TOS Review ~ Excellence in Literature, English 1

For the past few months Marie and I  have had the opportunity to eil1-frontcover-sm-4-09review Excellence in Literature - English 1: Introduction to Literature with the Honors option by Janice Campbell.  This product came to us at the perfect time.  Homeschooling High School can be a daunting task, there’s a lot to cover. We really had not gotten into a groove with our scheduled English program and Excellence in Literature offered a breath of fresh air.
 Introduction to Literature is a College Prep literature and composition course consisting of 9 units.  Each unit has focus text(s) and also context text(s).  With EIL your student(s) will gain an understanding of literature and have practice in the skills of close literary analysis through essay writing, approach papers, and other evaluative writing forms. There is even an honors track for those who want a little extra. To receive honors grades (.5 weighed grade points), the student needs to do read the additional text and complete the additional assignments listed.  Unit 1 consists of short stories to ease into the program while units 2-9 include a collection of great books.
Unit 1: Short Stories by- • Sarah Orne Jewett: A White Heron
• Edgar Allen Poe: The Purloined Letter (This one is not scary, if you’re concerned about that.)
• Guy de Maupassant: The Diamond Necklace
• O. Henry: The Ransom of Red Chief
• Eudora Welty: A Worn Path
• James Thurber: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Unit 2: Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne Honors: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
Unit 3: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain
Honors: The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain
Unit 4: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë Honors: Shirley or Villette by Charlotte Brontë
Unit 5: Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw Honors: Murder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot
Unit 6: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
Honors: Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
Unit 7: Animal Farm by George Orwell
Honors: 1984 by George Orwell
Unit 8: The Tempest by William Shakespeare Honors: A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare
Unit 9: Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
Honors: The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan
By the end of the course, students will:
  • Understand the process of writing, including the use of tools such as a writer’s handbook, dictionary, and thesaurus.
  • Have specific understanding of selected representative texts by major authors of the periods studied.
  • Have a general understanding of the historical and cultural contexts of the works.
  • Be able to analyze literary texts and present thoughtfully developed ideas in writing.
  • Demonstrate competence in essay organization, style, and mechanics.
                                                                                 ~from website
Wow, I was blown away with this program and more importantly, so was my daughter!  The program is entirely written to the student and the assignments are scheduled to teach the all important skill of time-management.  Marie enjoyed doing her assignments instead of waiting to the last minute with me nagging highly encouraging her to get the work turned in.  In the weeks that we have been using this program I have seen dramatic improvement in her writing. We just needed to find the right program for us and this one definitely fits the bill! I HIGHLY recommend this to anyone who is struggling a bit or anyone who is looking for a quality college-   prep program. Take a look at the sample printable 5-year reading list that gives you a peak at all 5 courses Excellence in Literature offers.  See what my friends on The Old Schoolhouse Crew had to say about this product here.
Company ~ Everyday Education
Product ~ English 1: Introduction to Literature w/ Honors option
Price ~The 8’x11” print book 132 pages is $29 + $4.95 Priority Mail Shipping.  The Ebook version is $27 with instant access and is designed to be printed double sided and put in a 3 ring binder.
Ages ~ 8th – 12th grade
I received an Ebook copy of English 1: Introduction to Literature with Honors Option from Everyday Education, in exchange for a thorough and honest review.  Though I am compensated with free products, I am not compensated in the form of cash for my reviews.  The opinions I have given are mine and may differ from others but are not influenced by the company or the free product provided.