Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Homeschooling on the Extra Wild, Extra Crazy, Extra Chaotic Days


I often tell people that I love homeschooling. And I do!

But that doesn't mean that it's easy. There are times when the kids don't want to do their work, or continually tease each other, or won't stop bouncing off the walls. They are kids with their own opinions and personalities and various moods. And to complicate it even further, they have a mother with her own opinions and personality and various moods.

Most of the time, we all get along really well together. Sometimes though, someone is a bit cranky and individuals clash. More clashing means more crankiness. It repeats in a vicious cycle.

Some days are just tough.

Yesterday was one of those days. It was a trifecta morning where we had not wanting to do work mixed with teasing each other all while bouncing off the walls.  

I felt my frustrations rising. We still had nearly a full day of school left and a houseful of people struggling to get it done. I threatened to send everyone back to bed and start the day over. It's at times like this when it's most important for me to get myself in order. 

The saying "If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy" goes much deeper than obey and keep Mama happy. It also means, Mama, watch your own attitude. Those children are looking at you and feeding off your emotions. If you're cranky, they'll probably be irritable too. But if you choose to keep a good attitude, they'll emulate your actions. 

Attitude affects behavior.

Hey, they can sit still!
When the normal routine is not working, it's time to change it up. We did schoolwork inside big pillow and blanket forts, played a few games, and (the most useful tactic in all my years of homeschooling) distracted the littlest one so the older kids could focus on their work. 

Did that mean my kids immediately turned into sweet, little angels that were thrilled to complete assignments and read well-past their required time? Ha, not hardly. But it got us through the day with minimal complaints and maybe a smidgen less wall-bouncing. Maybe. 

My kids are just like your kids; I'm just like you. We just happen to homeschool. It's what's best for our family, even on the extra wild, extra crazy, and extra chaotic days. 

It's not always easy, but it's always worth it.

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Friday, November 20, 2020

Name Meaning Bookmarks

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.


I get to review all sorts of curricula, websites, and other homeschool-related things as a member of the Homechool Review Crew. Every now and then though, I get the opportunity to review something different.

CrossTimber is one of those companies as they offer unique and personalized gifts. The great thing is that their products appeal to much more than just homeschoolers since they specialize in name-meaning gifts, and everybody has a name. We were first introduced to their company a few years ago and have gotten different products from them. This time, we received 5 Name Bookmarks from and a set of AmazingName Print Activity Sheets.

CrossTimber is a family company that was started by the Dehnart family in the late 1970s. From photography to carpentry to printing and graphic design, they've offered many services over the years. Then, in 1994, John Dehnart started the personalized name products portion of the company as a way to show Christ's love and bless those that persecuted him. Now, he and his wife, and even his kids, work together to create beautiful gifts that highlight the meanings of names and are still blessing people through their products.
I bought my three oldest kids name bookmarks four years ago. The foundation of our education is literature, so naturally we do a lot of reading around here. As you can imagine, those bookmarks were in rough shape! I was excited to replace them with new personalized ones and get them for my younger kids, too.

Last time, I spent so much time poring through the 200+ design options in order to find the perfect bookmarks to surprise my kids. This time, I deferred that job to them. There are multiple design themes from which to choose and then many background options under each category.

  • Faith & Encouragement
  • Castles & Lighthouses
  • Celtic, Irish, & Gaelic
  • Fantastical & Imaginative
  • Musical Instruments
  • Sports
  • Sunrises & Sunsets
  • Flowers
  • Animals
  • . . . and many more.

My girl spent time looking through all the options and carefully decided on the best one for her, whereas the boys found their preferred styles in less than a minute each. Obviously she is the only one who takes after me! I love that CrossTimber has many options which makes it easy for everyone to find something perfect to match their likes and personalities.

Each bookmark includes a name along with its meaning and origin. After choosing a style, you can also add other personalized features such as a ribbon and corner design punch. You also get to choose what else you want printed on the front of the bookmark from a presidential quote, famous author quote, Bible verse that matches the name meaning, a character quality, or a custom text (for an additional cost.) The possibilities are endless!

We chose the matching Bible verse for our bookmarks. I want my kids to claim Scripture as their own and apply Its message to their hearts. The website says that they "typically start with the King James Version." Because that version is very important to us and we use nothing else ever, I sent an email to John to let him know of my wishes. With all of my other orders over the years, he was quick to reply and happy to make changes. This time, however, I did not get a response and then one of our bookmarks came with a verse from a different version. My kids always double check verses on things like this right away, so not only was I disappointed by the bookmark, so was the boy it belongs to.

On top of that, the oversized envelope was shoved into our mailbox, bending all five bookmarks and the name activity sheets. Thankfully, nothing was creased, so time and some heavy books helped to flatten everything out. Packaging the materials between cardboard would have helped keep it all smooth through shipping though.

We received an AmazingName Print Activity Sheets set for our youngest son last year when he got a personalized Amazing Name video. This time, I chose our 8-year-old to receive the set. He was very excited to have 28 pages of name activities. There are mazes, crossword puzzles, word searches, coloring pages, and both printing and cursive practice that feature the name over 80 times. There is a variety of difficulty levels for ages 3-12. I was surprised to see so many new pages from last time! Some of the worksheets feature characters from the Amazing Name cartoon video, so that was fun for my kids to see.

This really is a fun option for helping young ones recognize and spell their names, but also for older ones to appreciate how special their names are.

Maybe you're looking for a unique gift for someone older. CrossTimber also sells personalized name plaques, coffee mugs, music boxes, and more. There are also names of God plaques that would look beautiful in any home. Just like the bookmarks, there are many different options for themes, frames, and other personalized features. Some of my other Crewmates received a name plaque print, so be sure to check out those reviews, too.

CrossTimber offers many beautiful and special personalized products that would make perfect gifts. Head over to and you won't be disappointed!

You can connect with CrossTimber on the following social media sites:

You can read more reviews of these name meaning gifts on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

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Friday, November 6, 2020

Bible Unearthed

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

Drive Thru History® Adventures is one of our family's favorite video series, so we're always excited when we get to review something from them. This time, we've gotten early access to a brand new series called Bible Unearthed

Dave Stotts, the host of the award-winning Drive Thru History®, believes that "education should be culturally engaging, fact-filled, and super fun." He spends his time traveling the world to teach on location to give viewers a glimpse of historic sites and bring history to life. He calls it Adventure Learning, and not only is it educational, it's highly entertaining. Dave is able to take documentary-style dialogue and add in humor and silliness in a way that grabs the attention of even the littlest ones of the family. 

In Bible Unearthed, Dave teams up with a couple men to explore the importance and impact of archaeology: Randall, Drive Thru History® lead writer and longtime travel companion and Titus Kennedy, PhD, archaeology expert and friend. The three of them explain how discoveries help us better understand the ancient world through this 12-part series.

Archaeology, or "study of the ancient," is a "rediscovery of the past through systematic investigation and excavation." Though the topic is woven throughout the Drive Thru History® segments secondhandedly, they wanted to highlight it through episodes of its own.   

  1. What Is Archaeology?
  2. The Impact of Archaeology
  3. Locating Archaeological Sites
  4. The Life of an Archaeologist
  5. What's Being Discovered Today?
  6. Archaeological Mysteries
  7. Top Discoveries in Bible Archaeology
  8. Getting Involved in Archaeology
  9. Trends in Archaeology
  10. Weird Archaeology
  11. Accidental Discoveries in Archaeology 
  12. What's Left to Be Discovered?

The men sit in their "secret lair of archaeology" and discuss the topics for each segment. They incorporate replicas of artifacts, maps, tools, the Bible, timelines, pictures, and more and use a chalkboard to teach. There are also clips on location of real archaeology sites.   

Each episode is around the 15 minute mark, packed with enough information to whet your appetite without feeling overwhelming. Of course, in typical Drive Thru History® fashion, there is some subtle humor mixed in, such as Dave playing with replicas or dropping them, getting reprimanded, and other silliness. 

Bible Unearthed is more than just videos though. It is a full 12-week course with written exposition, worksheets and answer guides, Dig Deeper articles, and activities. There is also a sample weekly schedule for those who want to stay on track. 

The written expositions expound on the topics in greater detail and are filled with fascinating pictures. The worksheets have 5 discussion questions for each episode such as What suggests that the David and Goliath story was a historical event? and What kind of architectural evidence relating to the book of Esther did archaeologists find in Susa?. The Dig Deeper articles were written by Dr. Titus and cover topics like the importance of chronology, the Mesha Stele, the Gallio Inscription, and Solomonic Gates. The activities, like copying a portion of an ancient Biblical text, drawing and analyzing pottery, excavating coins hidden in the yard with a metal detector and mapping the location, and learning about weight price by pretend bartering with a friend, add a deeper, hands-on approach to learning about archaeology. 

Our family is thoroughly enjoying this study of Biblical archaeology.  My kids range in age from 5-14 years of age. Here is what  they said:

"I like everything!"

"I like that it's about archaeology. I like learning history." 

"I like how they talk about different things they've found at dig sites and about different tools they use. I find it cool how they found things proving that the Bible is true."

"I like that they actually go to the places instead of just showing pictures of them. And I learned that they use sandbox toys, haha."

"Dave is hilarious! Because of that it's easy to pay attention and want to learn more."

Bible Unearthed is engaging and full of content. It is different from the other Drive Thru History® Adventures, but it is equally appreciated in our home. Not only has it taught us much about the past and how it relates to the Bible, it has sparked an interest in archaeology in my kids. Who knows, maybe one of my little ones will find his own rare discovery one day!

You can connect with Drive Thru History® Adventures on the following social media sites:

You can read more reviews of this series on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Personal Finance Course for High School

 Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

I am always interested in practical learning for my kids, especially as they enter the high school years. This Personal Finance Illustrated® Homeschool Edition from PEM Life was the perfect review for us as it fits that description perfectly. 

I believe that as Americans we are a spoiled people. We want for nothing, and if there is something more we desire, we simply charge up a bill to pay for it. Society as a whole lives in debt with interest and late fees, and yet continues to spend money they don't have.

It is important to our family to live within our means. That is not always easy as we are a single-income family with 5 children.  It means we cook our own meals, purchase used when practical, and learn skills to accomplish things instead of paying others to do them. God has blessed us abundantly, but He also expects us to manage our money wisely. These are concepts that we try to instill in our children as well, so a curriculum that teaches this in detail is greatly appreciated. 

The PEM Life (Personal Economic Model) curriculum was created by Don Blanton, a financial advisor for over 30 years. Not only does he have a personal practice, he also trains other financial service professionals to better serve their clients. Don has educated more than 20,000 people in this way and has used those tools and core concepts to create the PEM Life curriculum. His purpose is "to improve the financial literacy and the financial well-being of everyone who completes the course." 
The Personal Finance Illustrated® Homeschool Edition curriculum is designed to provide students with the tools and knowledge not only to learn the terminology but also to understand concepts and have the confidence to put them into practice in order to effectively utilize their finances.

The course, geared toward high school students, is a one semester class. It covers over 60 lessons with many hours of video instruction for 18 units. 
  • Unit 1: Personal Economic Model
  • Unit 2: Time Value of Money
  • Unit 3: Lifetime Capital Potential
  • Unit 4: Opportunity Cost
  • Unit 5: The Tax Filter
  • Unit 6: Lifestyle Regulator
  • Unit 7: Temperament and Finances
  • Unit 8: The Importance of Protection
  • Unit 9: Debt -- What It Is, What It Is Not
  • Unit 10: Pay Cash or Finance?
  • Unit 11: The Investment Tank
  • Unit 12: The Savings Tank
  • Unit 13: Access to Capital 
  • Unit 14: Qualified Plans
  • Unit 15: Mortgages, The Right Choice
  • Unit 16: Why Go to Work?
  • Unit 17: Principles of Work
  • Unit 18: The Danger of Riches

The curriculum incorporates various aspects into learning the information. Each lesson has chapter reading from an online textbook, video instruction using charts, graphs, and other visual examples; interactive resources such as calculators and diagrams; concept quiz; vocabulary quiz; writing assignment; discussion forum; and a reflection post writing prompt.

PEM Life takes care of the grading of all the quizzes and writing assignments, making it as simple as possible for the homeschool parent. My 10th grader is able to complete the lessons on his own by following the plans written out in the curriculum. As he completes each component, the system puts a check mark by it. It also tracks scores, grades, and percentage of course completion. 

Mr. Blanton does a great job explaining these topics on the high school level. Many people either do not like or do not understand things like tax liability, interest, collateral, self-financing, mortgage loans, and more, but it is important to have a working knowledge of your finances. My son has been sharing tidbits of the course with me almost daily. It encourages me to see him not only grasping the material, but also being impacted by it. By the end of the first week, he told me, "Great. Now I'm not going to look at money the same ever again." That's the goal!

"A deeply seeded understanding of the way in which financial mechanisms work, not how they are perceived to work, is the first step to ensuring a solid and secure financial future." -- PEM Life

All the interactive resources like calculators and graphs are matching using the same fonts and formats which keeps the whole program well-connected and pleases my son. The visuals and practical learning are really what makes this curriculum superior. Plugging in numbers of given scenarios has helped him to realistically understand the financial concepts. 

I do like the aspect of the discussion forum as far as the thought-provoking questions that are given. We have a standing rule in our home though that the kids are not allowed to partake in any online forums at all. We believe that once you start to make exceptions, it's easier for both parent and child to allow more. For now, we have been discussing the ideas together instead of submitting answers. 

The section is designed to get the students to think deeply and make practical applications. What financial principles--whether good or bad--have they learned from their parents? Interview someone about an investment and share what they learned from it. Discuss the difference between the process of your work and the product of your work in the light of I Corinthians 3. Choose two dangers from Love & Money and show examples how they've played out in someone's life. 

Here's what my 10th grader said:
"It has taught me that the money I earn is finite, and I can't just get more money just because I want it. I should buy only what fits in my price range. If I save money instead always spending it right away, I will earn interest on that money. Also, in order to retire, I need to save enough money now so when I'm not working anymore I can still live the same lifestyle."
The Personal Finance Illustrated® Homeschool Edition has become my high schooler's favorite course this year. It is practical, biblically-based, thorough, and uncomplicated. It takes concepts that may be difficult to grasp and explains them in a straightforward format that is perfect for teenagers. 

I highly recommend this course for anyone who wants a strong understanding of their finances and security for their future.  

You can connect with PEM Life on the following social media sites:

You can read more reviews of this course on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

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Friday, October 9, 2020

Things That Make Me Smile 5/8/20

Jake (14), Alyssa (12), Zac (10), Tyler (8), Nicholas (5)

Happy Friday! These Smiles took place back in May. We played games with friends through FaceTiming, we were blessed by God in many little ways, and Nicholas learned to ride his bike without training wheels. Leighton also went back to work after 6 weeks home with us. We loved having him home every day, but it was good to see people going back to work and quarantine coming to an end.     

1. Nicholas, after searching the whole house: "Mama, do you know where Dad is?"
Me: "He's at work."
Nicholas, sad: "Oh."
We enjoyed having Leighton home with us so much that even though he had been back to work for a week, the kids were still looking for him and missing him.

2. Me: "Did you know I love you?"
Nicholas: "Yeah, and Miss Megan."
Me: "Miss Megan loves you?"
Nicholas: "Yeah."
Me: "You're right, she does."
Nicholas: "Yeah, and God. God loves me the most."

3. I was teaching about firemen using the Focus on Fives kindergarten curriculum from BJU Press. I asked, "Do you know what to do if you're on fire, like if your clothes catch on fire?" (stop, drop, and roll.) Nicholas replied, "Call your daddy!"

4. Tyler, after climbing across a fallen tree at the park: "That was epic! I went from the bottom of the tree to the top!"

5. We spent the day exploring at the park.

6. Our friend: "What's your middle name?"
Nicholas: "You mean my in trouble name?"

7. Alyssa, my avid reader, after hearing that little free libraries encourage reading, shocked: "What! They need to encourage reading?!" 

8. Nicholas, because I got into Leighton's profile on the computer: "How did you know that?"
Me: "Because Daddy and I tell each other things."
Nicholas: "Like passwords and stuff?"
Me: "Yes. What else do you think we tell each other?"
Nicholas: "That you love each other!"

What made you Smile this week?

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NatureGlo's eScience

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

Our family loves learning about science and the world around with a natural, hands-on approach. That's why I was pleased to review NatureGlo's eScience, a site filled with nature-based online math and science unit studies.

Gloria Brooks has over 20 years of eclectic teaching with child-directed learning. She has helped students all over the globe to fall in love with the natural world while also covering other subjects. By leaving dry textbooks behind and heading into nature, her goal is to ignite passion and curiosity to produce lifelong learners. She created the NatureGlo's eScience MathArt and Science Course Bundle as a one-stop, nature-based eLearning center for ages 10-18.

NatureGlo's eScience (NeS) offers 31 courses divided in 5 categories:
  • MathArt
  • Marine Biology
  • Herps (reptiles and amphibians)
  • Botany
  • Geology

The topics that are taught vary greatly and cover all sorts of interesting things: Galapagos tortoises, deep sea creatures, polygons and patterns in nature, giant redwood trees, gray wolves, rock hounding, Komodo dragons, chameleons, tide pools, queen conchs, Leonardo da Vinci, geometric snowflakes, and more. There's even a one-lesson class on bubbleology. 

The classes are easy to use. Once you begin a course, a list of the lessons is given, showing what is included. Many of the courses contain a PowerPoint slideshow, pre-lesson activity, main lesson videos, and activities.

The lessons may contain instructions, reading texts, downloads, videos, and additional links. The main lesson videos are pre-recorded live classes that Gloria has done with her students. They can be a bit awkward to watch as an outsider. There are pauses as you wait for a student to respond along with the feeling of being left out during discussions in which you can't partake. My kids enjoy when Gloria is teaching, but are somewhat aloof with the interaction of the students.

As you finish each lesson, there is a Mark Complete button to click. That will cross off the lesson from the list and highlight a checkmark next to it. There is also a bar to show progress along with the percentage that is completed for the entire course.

My middle child (10 years) is my biggest nature kid. He especially loves learning about animals and can rattle off multiple facts about all sorts of creatures. He's currently working through the
Herps Zoology: Poison Dart Frog, Python, and Caiman course. He has completed a Venn diagram, colored realistic pages, watched people handle pythons, learned that there's more than one type of reticulated python and that poison dart frogs lay their eggs and then transfer the tadpoles to water, and is working on drawing a caiman.

My daughter (12 years) is my artistic child. Of course, she was drawn to the MathArt courses and The Geometric Beauty of Snowflakes. She learned that there are triangular flakes and ice needles and created snowflakes out of popsicle sticks.

The dashboard has all the record-keeping: courses, achievements, certificates, grades, and more. You can see the date a course was started, the percentage that's been completed, and the grade. If your child doesn't click that Mark Complete button at the bottom of the lessons, none of that information will be recorded. Ask me how I know, ha.

I allow my kids to choose which classes they want to complete, but if you're looking for a more formal schedule for study, Gloria has created a RoadMap of courses. Following this plan will take you on a learning journey through all of the mathart and science lessons in a systematic way.

My kids can work through the courses mostly by themselves. Some of lesson pages feel distracting because of the amount of information on each page. My son was confused by all the links on the DK Find Out! sections. Also, we had issues with various videos and links and would get error codes such as 404 Not Found, Sorry the file you have requested does not exist, Video unavailable, and File is in owner's trash. We have also had videos that have either not played at all or have taken an extremely long time to load.

Despite the issues, we have enjoyed the information in the classes. Whenever possible, we just look for a similar video or print coloring pages from a different source. I do wish there were more hands-on activities though. If you'd like a virtual tour the site and all it has to offer, there is a video that explains it in detail.

My son told me, "I really like the slideshows and videos that show the animals." If you, too, want to delve deeper into MathArt and Science classes in a self-paced, natural way, you should check out NatureGlo's eScience.

You can connect with NatureGlo's eScience on the following social media sites:

You can read more reviews of NatureGlo's eScience on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

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Wednesday, September 30, 2020

My Teaching Library

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

This post contains affiliate links.

Even though our family's learning style doesn't focus on worksheets and textbooks, I do incorporate printed supplements at times. I have found various resources all over the internet over the course of our ten-year homeschooling journey, but I was intrigued with the opportunity to review My Teaching Library. While some sites offer materials that are topic or age-specific, this one covers all subjects for PreK-12th grade.

We received a membership to the Download Club which grants us unlimited downloads and resources for one year.

My Teaching Library was founded by Lynda Ackert, an educator of 20 years who wanted to help homeschooling families come together to support each other. As the need for quality, low-cost educational materials grew, so did the site. Years ago, I found many helpful resources on CHSH-Teach, LLC. Now, because of expansion and demand, that company has grown and was renamed to My Teaching Library. 

This site is aptly named as it is truly is a library of resources. All the materials can be found either by grade or subject. And the options within each category are extensive! There are nearly 60 downloads in the 4-5th grade math section alone. Of course, all the common subjects are covered, but there are some really interesting topics included, too, like character traits, a history of music study, Handicraft for Handy Boys book published in 1911, American sign language flashcards, and much more. There are puzzles, games, seasons and holiday learning, organizational helps, teacher aids, unit studies, lapbook, notebooking pages, file folder games, instructional videos . . . Should I go on? I mean, they even have a George Washington puzzle

I'm teaching two for kindergarten this year--two energetic little boys who are loving learning and growing together. As is our style, we are heavily concentrating on hands-on activities, but it is important that they learn writing skills, too. With almost 420 downloads in this kindergarten section, there is plenty to keep us busy and meet our needs. 

The boys have enjoyed working on math concepts with the Big or Small worksheets and What Does Not Belong classification pages. Since we're learning letters, the Alphabet Coloring Book and ABCs Trace and Color pages have been helpful for not only letter recognition, but strengthening fine motor skills, as well. I'm excited to print off the CVC word family pages now that we've started combining letters to make simple words. 

My older kids have been using things like the Spiders vs Insects mini-unit for 2nd-3rd grade, Learning About Amphibians worksheets for 2nd-5th grade, 5th grade spelling curriculum, and the Learn to Draw Ships book. 

It seems that every time I look through the site, I find more resources that I want to use! There are a handful of This Day in History studies that I think would be interesting to investigate as a family, a Pennsylvania-Dutch Cookbook that is filled with tried and true recipes, and a Jeopardy game that is perfect for the Christmas season. Even now when I was perusing the site again I found something new--Holocaust curriculum for both middle school and high school students. With that being my current favorite time period to study, I knew I needed to download them both to use with my kids.

You can purchase each product individually or you can receive unlimited downloads and resource with an annual membership or a lifetime membership to the Download Club. Everything you download can be found under My Account on the site, so it's easy to keep track of all the amazing materials you've found.

Whether you're teaching students full-time or simply looking for resources to keep your kiddos learning and engaged, there's something for you on My Teaching Library.

You can connect with My Teaching Library on the following social media sites:

You can see more examples of the downloads by reading the reviews on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

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