Thursday, September 18, 2014

REVIEW: My Student Logbook

I was pleased to have the opportunity to review My Student Logbook as part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew. My Student Logbook was created out of necessity by Corina Abbott, a fellow homeschooling mom, as a way to keep track of the work her students were doing. She’d read about creating something similar using a notebook with pencil, but just couldn’t make it work. Instead, she created her own forms on the computer, and My Student Logbook was born. It's intended for students in about 2nd grade on up; they should be reading independently to have it work well for them.

We received one printed copy of an undated My Student Logbook with the Golden Vines cover. They have several different cover options, and this happened to be the one I liked for my 14 year old girl. It’s a coil-bound planner with a plastic cover. There are 6 checklist sheets, and 53 weekly calendar pages. There are boxes for all 7 days of the week (we do work on the weekends occasionally). If you need more checklists, you have permission to copy them. 

In the back of the logbook, there are some extra pages behind a colored paper divider:
  • An “All About Me” page where students can record their age and their current favorites
  • Prayers and Goals
  • Bible Verses Memorized
  • Books Read (3 pages)
  • Events, Projects, Field Trips, Presentations, Activities (3 pages)
  • Test Records (3 Pages)
  • Year Highlights, where students record their favorite memories from the year

Setup is easy. Take a look at this page for video and photo instructions. When I set the logbook up for my 9th grader, I wrote her assignments on the checklist, then taped it into the book. I wrote on there how many times per week she should work on a given subject (Algebra x 5, etc.). There is a box on the checklist for how much time they should spend, too, so if math is a 45 minute lesson, I would write that in the box. Assuming it’s good for more than one week at a time, she just flips a new page over for each new week. She marks off her completed work in the check boxes. There is a space for notes underneath where the checklist sits, if I have additional instructions or if she wants to write anything down.

At first glance, I wasn't sure I'd be able to use this. As Charlotte Mason homeschoolers, we have more than 20 subjects we cover in a week. Additionally, we’re reading several books in some subjects, like biology, and it’s not a “do the next thing” situation; I have broken all the books out into page number assignments. I thought I was going to have to make a new checklist for every week. When I emailed Corina, she was so helpful! She suggested that I simply record the names of the subjects, and then my daughter can use my lesson plan spreadsheets for the specifics. Additionally, I only put subjects my daughter does on her own on the checklist. We do several things together, like picture study, composer study, poetry, etc. and those don’t need to be in their books. I keep track of those subjects.

So far, this is working out pretty well. My Student Logbook is been a great layer of accountability for us. My daughter knows she needs to keep up with her school work, and high school is a whole new level. I think the PDF option will work well for us, because (a) I have three children and (b) I can print my lesson plan spreadsheets and make them part of the planner itself, so we wouldn’t have to worry about students misplacing them. 

This is really not a planner; it's a place to record the work your student is doing. However, the idea behind it is to create a record of completed work students parents can easily create a transcript when they need one. That means less work for you when it comes time for college applications, etc. It's a great tool for homeschool organization.

There are several options for ordering My Student Logbook:
  • Printed books for $15.00 each
  • Family license: $20.00 (Dated PDF file with permission to print as many copies as you need for one school year)
  • Single license: $10.00 (Dated PDF file with permission to print 1 copy)

Connect with My Student Logbook on Facebook and YouTube!

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

REVIEW: 7 Minute Life Daily Planner

Who doesn't love a good planner? I was thrilled to receive a copy of the The 7 Minute Life™ Daily Planner from The 7 Minute Life to review as part of the Schoolhouse Crew. I am always looking for THE planner - you know, the one that is going to make me organized, efficient and keep me on top of everything. If it came with a SuperMom cape, it would be even better.

Although The 7 Minute Life™ Daily Planner did NOT come with a cape, it's impressive, all the same. It measures 7.3"x8.5", so it's slightly larger than a half sheet of regular paper. It has a sturdy spiral binding and nice covers with folder pockets on the inside, which are great for collecting receipts and other papers you might pick up during the day. It also has plastic covers to keep it clean and dry. There are 270+ pages, including:
  • How to Get Started pages
  • Prioritize (your values)
  • Discovering Your Purpose
  • Your Highest and Best (best use of your time)
  • Mental Clutter
  • 90-Day Goals: Personal, Work, Financial, Life
  • Unfinished Tasks: Work, Home
  • Home Repair
  • Grocery List
  • Connections: Personal & Business
  • Annual Calendar At-A-Glance
  • Annual Projects & Tasks
  • 90-Day Calendar Worksheets
  • Monthly Calendar At-A-Glance (12 of these)
  • Meeting Planner pages
  • 7-Minute Life Flowchart
  • Daily Progress Reports: Each day gets a 2-page spread; each planner holds 90 days' worth
  • Notes
Allyson Lewis created this planner to help people make the most of their time, after a major health scare in her own life helped her see that every moment is precious. Her goal is to help people achieve personal growth by learning to prioritize and manage their time well.

Each book covers 90 days, because life passes in cycles of 90 days - seasons: winter, spring, summer, fall. Allyson chose 7 minutes because most adults seem to have a 7-minute attention span. Once you have seen that you need a plan, and make your goals, you figure out what steps you need to take to achieve them, and schedule them. If you can spend 7 minutes each day planning your next steps, you will know what to do next in your plan.

When I first received the planner, I must confess, I was overwhelmed. The videos were very helpful. Each one is short, and the process is broken down into manageable portions. That was so nice. I loved being able to watch one short section at a time, and not get overwhelmed.

One thing I'd heard before, but had forgotten and have not been practicing, is that you want ONE place for your to-do lists. I tend to write things down on whatever is available. It might be a sticky note, or a random piece of scrap paper, but they are rarely in the same place, and usually not where I can find them when I need them. Writing everything down in the planner makes life so much easier!

What I liked:
  • Using this planner really helped me identify my priorities and make sure my time was spent working on them. I'd realized over the past few months that the priorities I thought I had were not reflected in what I was doing.
  • I have been able to break things down into doable chunks, and therefore begin to see myself accomplish things. Having specific actions written down helps me stay focused; I'm easily distracted and tend to forget what I meant to do. 
  • I love that there is a place to keep track of what I've spent each day. I am not very good at paying attention to that, in general, and it's helped me be much more aware.
  • Support and tools: Allyson has put a lot of time into making videos to explain each step of using the The 7 Minute Life™ Daily Planner, and has made a TON of free resources available on her website. There are getting started videos, and instructions that walk you step-by-step through using the planner. There are videos that cover all the different pages.  You can see, and print to try, many of the forms included in the planner on their page of free tools.
What I liked less:
  • The plastic covers are determined to curl, and the back covers keep coming off the spiral binding. I pinched the coils together a bit, and that seems to have helped. 
  • This planner is intended for business people. I am a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom. I can tweak this planner for myself, but it would be great to have something more suited for my situation. There are twice as many work task pages as home tasks, for example, and there is a grocery list but no true menu planner. 
  • I understand the reasoning behind having the planners available in 90-day increments, but I would really rather have a whole year in one planner. That would be unwieldy with the current format. 
  • An app version would be great. As much as I love paper, I need as few things as possible to keep track of, so I think being able to use this on my iPad would make it even more convenient - although I would most definitely miss the ability to write things by hand. I think important connections are made when we physically write things, but that is a discussion for another day.
I am easily overwhelmed with planning, schedules, time management... I prefer to avoid it if possible. However, in the last few months it has become clear to me that my strategy of avoidance is not working very well. The system Allyson has laid out in the planner, along with the step-by-step videos, have helped me tremendously. I still have a lot of work to do, but I'm getting there, and it's a good feeling.

The The 7 Minute Life™ Daily Planner is available directly from The 7 Minute Life. Printed, undated 90-day planners are available for $24.95 each, or you can purchase three printed planners for $74.85 and receive the 4th one for free. Also, you can purchase a pre-dated 90-day downloadable PDF for $9.97. It prints out onto 8.5"x11" paper, so you could have it bound or put it into a binder. I checked into some other planning systems, and while this one seems a little pricey, the free resources available on the website offer much more than I found anywhere else.

Connect with The 7 Minute Life on:

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

First Day of School, 2014

I was all set to write an encouraging post for all of us, we homeschoolers, as the new school year was getting into swing, but I couldn't do it. I found myself in need of some serious encouragement - I have been freaking out over here. My oldest child has started 9th grade (I can't quite bring myself to say "high school) out loud) and I'm starting formal school with my youngest, who might be described as obstreperous. (Isn't that a great word? It means "noisy and difficult to control. Perfect for a 7 year old boy, don't you think?) I'm not sure who makes me more nervous, the oldest or the youngest.

Is there a reason to feel intimidated by these beautiful people, whom I've been homeschooling now for quite some time? We're starting our 10th year. Surely it should all be under control by now?

Well, I don't know about under control, but God has a way of showing me that He has it handled, even if I don't.

We have been having fun, starting with our not-back-to-school breakfast at iHop, and general silliness:

We have a little rescue kitten, and it's a miracle he's even alive. He was about 3 weeks old when he was found, and he was pretty sick. He's recovered nicely and is doing so much better than we could have hoped. If you've ever been around kittens, you know how much joy he brings us. We laugh all the time watching his antics, and who wouldn't love this face?

And then, this morning as I was on my way to an appointment, God showed me some unexpected beauty. Do you like morning glories? I love them. My grandmothers grew them when I was growing up in Michigan. They grow as weeds here in NC, and they pop up everywhere. Look what I found today:

All those lovely flowers, and in the same place! It looks as though they've cross-pollinated, to have the bright pinks and purples all the way down to white flowers with tinges of color. Look where I found them:

I am not sure if that building is abandoned, but the parking lot is certainly neglected. I love it when God shows me beauty in unexpected places.

This year, as I get my children back into their studies, I know I am not really prepared, myself. I feel anxious and unsettled. However, my husband reminds me I can do this; he is my constant encourager. My girls are looking forward to what they believe will be a fantastic school year. And, if my little guy isn't exactly eager to start school and learn how to narrate, he loves to hear stories and that's what I have for him, so one way or another, we will get there. Thank you, Lord, for reminding me of Your truth, beauty and goodness so I would remember to look to You.

Monday, September 08, 2014

REVIEW: Under Drake's Flag Audio Book

I love audio books. LOVE THEM. I discovered them a few years ago when I was spending a ridiculous amount of time in the car, and have enjoyed many books that way. I found that I get more out of them, actually, because I tend to skim when I read, and audiobooks don't let me do that. Under Drake's Flag is a book by G.A. Henty, a name well-known among homeschoolers for his historical adventure stories. Heirloom Audio Productions has a fabulous audio drama retelling of the book available, and I was excited to receive a copy to review. It's intended for ages 6 and up, so my whole family could listen.

The dramatized story is 2 hours long, and lots of fun. Each chapter is numbered on the CDs, so you can easily play a chapter at a time and find where you left off.

I haven't read the actual book yet, but now I want to! What a great story! If you haven't read it, either, it's the story of Ned Hackshaw, a fictional boy who served under Sir Francis Drake. Once aboard Drake's ship, he meets another boy, Gerald, and they have lots of adventures together. They are set adrift in a painter's boat, rescue a girl from a shark, help plunder a Spanish town, get separated from the ship in a hurricane, and experience the Spanish Inquisition first hand. They endure extreme trials of faith, and it's painful to hear their struggles, but beautiful to see how God is faithful to them. You might recognize the voice of actor Brian Blessed, who plays the narrator, Mr George.

The CD liner insert is a study guide booklet. I also received a PDF copy of the 30-page study guide, which is an expanded version of what is in the CD liner insert. There are three sections for each chapter: Listening Well, which asks questions that make sure you were listening; Thinking Further, which includes questions that ask you to give you thoughts about what you've heard, and Defining Words, which presents vocabulary words you should know. In general, I don't use study guides for books, because I want my children to narrate what they hear and make their own connections with the story. However, there are some good, thought-provoking questions in there, and I could see some interesting discussions coming out of them.

I have to be honest: I was not sure how I would feel about a dramatized audio book. My family and I generally prefer audio books minus the dramatization, but this one is outstanding. It's so good, that when my kids and I started listening to it in the car, I sat outside and finished listening to it while they were at various activities, and they are going to have to finish the story another time. It's a perfect book to go along with our studies of the Renaissance and Reformation this year, as we will be covering exploration. I'm excited to pop it back in when we get that point in history. My children all like audio books, so this will be a fun addition.

Under Drake's Flag is available to order directly from the website. There are two options for ordering. You may choose an instant MP3 download for $20,  or the 2-disc hard copy version for $29.95. Both options come with nice bonuses, so be sure to check them out.

And the best part? There will be a version of In Freedom's Cause coming out in November! Check out the Facebook page to see if you recognize and of the folks providing the voices. I can't wait!

Connect with Under Drake's Flag on Facebook!

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Crew!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Kelly's Bundle of Joy Adoption Sale & Giveaway

I have always wanted to adopt a child, but God hasn't made that path clear for my family yet. I do love to support other families on their adoption journeys, though. I hope you will take a moment and read about how you can help the Kelly family with their adoption journey.

You've seen a lot of eBook bundles this year. I know, because I've seen them too. But I hope you will give me a few minutes of your time today, because I'm sharing a bundle that doesn't profit affiliates or authors.

The Kellys' Bundle of Joy Adoption Sale & Giveaway was designed and complied by Bridget from Becoming a Godly Wife and Misty from Beautiful Ashes. They created it to raise money for their dear Friend Mandy from Women of Worship. Mandy and her family are on the road to becoming adoptive parents and they've reached the point in their journey where a large amount of money is due.

Bridget and Misty reached out through their blogging circles and received several donations for a bundle sale AND an amazing giveaway to help promote The Kellys' Bundle of Joy Adoption Sale & Giveaway. It is their prayer that God would use this bundle sale to raise fund for the Kellys' upcoming adoption and that God blesses them with their little bundle of joy soon.

100% of the funds raised through this sale will be donated to Mandy and her family to help bring their little one home.

The Kelly's Bundle of Joy Adoption Sale & Giveaway

Below, you'll find all the details for the bundle sale and the giveaway. We would greatly appreciate if if you would share this post across social media. Together we can be a blessing to Mandy and her family, and help them bring their new baby home!

The Kelly's Bundle of Joy Adoption Sale & Giveaway

The Bundle Includes:
The contents of this bundle are valued at over $100 and you can have them all via the Kellys' Bundle of Joy Adoption Sale and Giveaway for just $10!

Simply add the Kellys' Bundle of Joy Adoption Sale to your cart. If you you'd rather just make a donation toward the Kellys' adoption, you may do so via their GoFundMe page below.

The Adoption Sale Promotional Giveaway Details:
To help promote the Kellys' Bundle of Joy Adoption Sale & Giveaway, and to thank you for considering donating to the Kellys' adoption, Bridget and Misty have put together a giveaway package for one winner! They're tremendously thankful to all of their giveaway sponsors! Without them, this sale would have been impossible. Please take a moment to stop by their sites and thank them for their support!

The Kelly's Bundle of Joy Adoption Sale & Giveaway

  • Freebie Marketing in a Box donated by Sunu from Clothed in Scarlet
  • Women Living Well (book) donate by Misty from Beautiful Ashes
  • Graphic Design Package (Blog Header & Button, FB, Twitter and G+ graphics) donated by Misty from Beautiful Ashes
  • XS Rainbow Cluster Flexi Clip ($20 value) donated by Apron Strings and Other Things
  • Complete Ultimate Homemaking eBook Bundle donated by Misty from Beautiful Ashes
  • $20 MasterCard Gift Card donated by Brandy, Origami Owl Independent Designer
  • 15 ml bottle of Young Living Peppermint essential oil donated by Whitney from Beauty in the Mess
  • Personalized Photo Editing (will edit 5 of your kids/family photos of winner's choice) and include personalized subway art to print and frame for your photos donated by Marissa from ReadingList
  • Set of 3 Bible Activities Printable donated by Katie from Paradise Praises
  • Putting On the Fruit of the Spirit eBook donated by Katie from Paradise Praises
This giveaway package is valued at over $300! Be sure you take a moment and enter to win using the Rafflecopter form below.

And, just for reading this far and considering helping the Kellys with their adoption, there are 3 wonderful freebies for you!
  • Sunu from Clothed in Scarlet designed a wonderful booklet of motherhood quotes specifically for this bundle sale!  Download the Little Book of Motherhood Quotes HERE
  • Rebecca from Mom's Mustard Seeds has graciously donated a freebie as well. It's Misty's favorite Bible study to use when entering a new school year, so it's the perfect time to get started with it! Download the Homeschool Mother's Prayer Journal HERE
  • Jolene from Monsters Ed Homeschool Academy has graciously donated another freebie too! Download the Dolch Word List Wall Printable HERE

Thursday, August 21, 2014

REVIEW: Happy Kids Songs

We were recently given the opportunity to review some music from Happy Kids Songs.  Dr. Mac, who wrote the songs, is also the music director and songwriter for the PBS show, Jay Jay the Jet Plane. I've watched many an episode of that program with my son.

We received three albums, a total of 15 songs, along with the Happy Kid Songs Workbook. The songs and workbook are intended for children ages 3-8 years.

The three albums we reviewed are:

Friends and Sharing (set 1):
  • Sailing on the Seven Cs - Understanding Friendship
  • Everybody Wants to Find a Friend - Reaching out to others
  • Sharing Friends - Including others
  • Happy as Happy Can Be - Being happy with a friend
  • Together - Being together and saying goodbye
  • H-O-N-E-S-T-Y - Being honest
  • The Magic Word - Using "magic" words, like "please"
  • Quirks - Celebrating diversity
  • The Golden Rule - Treat others as you would like to be treated
  • Six Little Kids - Honoring different perspectives
  • Shake It Out and Dance - Thinking positively
  • Who Knows What's A Kudo? - Giving and receiving compliments
  • I Don't Understand - Asking questions
  • Be Good to Yourself - Being kind
  • Better Together - Being together and apart

The workbook includes lyrics for all the songs on all 8 albums available from Happy Kids Songs, and an activity page for each one. Sometimes there is a coloring page, sometimes a puzzle like a word search, etc. In the back of the book, there is a section for each song, which tells the focus of the song, social and emotional concepts, and then presents some coordinating activities.

I had some kind of an issue downloading the songs, but I'm not sure what it was. I had my husband take a look at it for me, and he assured me it was user error. He was able to get them downloaded just fine, and I put them on my phone for easy listening in the car.

I have to be honest: "kid music" is not my thing. When my girls were small, I thought it was a requirement of a good parent to tolerate kid music, so we listened to far more Elmo and Wiggles than I care to remember. After I had a particularly annoying song stuck in my head for a month or more, I decided that we were not going to listen to it anymore. I just couldn't take it. We learned to listen to other things we could enjoy together. I confess, though, that my nearly-7-year-old boy really seems to like the songs. He asks to listen to "kid songs" every time we get in the car, much to the dismay of his older sisters. :-)

These songs would be a nice addition to character education materials, and would work well in a preschool setting. Although the songs are presented from a secular viewpoint, you could incorporate them into Bible and character materials. The workbook would be a nice resource for a classroom setting, as well, although it was a bit of overkill for us.

You can purchase any of these products through Happy Kids Songs. Each 5-song album is $4.95, and individual songs are available for 99¢. The workbook is $13.95 list price, and is available for purchase through Amazon ($12.56 at the time of this review). You can hear samples of each song on their website. Also, once you've purchased an album, you can download the lyrics, coloring activity sheets for the songs once you've purchased them. That would be a great way to try them out to see if you'd like the complete workbook. The workbook does allow copies to be made for home or classroom use (one classroom, not an entire school).

Connect with Happy Kids Songs on FacebookTwitter and YouTube!

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Crew!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Making History Relevant: Living Books

I'm sure I sound like a broken record, but the key to a relational education is reading living books. Chances are you've heard the term, and I thought I'd share with you my understanding of what it means.

A living book is one that is written by one author who is passionate about their subject, and is usually written in a narrative (storytelling) style. The language is beautiful, not dumbed-down or childish. It's a book that draws you in and changes you. 

Even among homeschooling materials, it's much easier to find a dry, dessicated textbook than it is to find a living book. Sometimes, it can hard to find the very best books, because they might be out of print but not yet in the public domain, so are still copyrighted and can't be reprinted. However, all is not lost! Many wonderful, living books are available and more are being made available all the tiem.

So, how does one use living books in history? I don't know about you, but my entire educational experience in public school revolved around textbooks. Honestly, I remember very little, beyond copying notes from the overhead projector while one of my favorite teachers lectured about American history. He was considered one of the best - and all I had to do to get an "A" was copy down the notes and study them for tests. Don't get me wrong, I adored him as my teacher, but I am not sure he helped any of us on the road to understanding or appreciating history, you know?

As I've walked the path of education with my children, and we've learned more about Charlotte Mason and her principles, I've become very picky about the books we read. Once we read "Our Island Story" together, for example, British history (and therefore American history) came alive to us in a brand new way, and I began to see how much fun history could be. FUN! I never thought I'd say that. I mean, have you read most non-fiction that's available these days? Doesn't most of it read like the kind of textbooks that make you fall asleep and drool in the library? Or is that just me?

One great way to make history come alive is to add some biographies to your history readings. Have you read the D'Aulaires' books? They have beautiful picture books on historical figures such as Christopher Columbus, George Washington, and Benjamin Franklin. My girls and I have enjoyed these and I'm getting ready to read them again with my son. Beautiful Feet Books has reprinted these gems, and you can see them here

Another series is the Childhood of Famous Americans. These aren't my favorite, but many people like them. They are readily available, your library probably has many of them, and they are easier chapter books for young readers. Here is a list of the books in this series, separated into historical eras. Here is a list of ones currently in print, available from Greenleaf Press.

Landmark also has lots of great biographies, and many of them have been reprinted. Click here for the list of the ones Greenleaf Press has available. 

I am also learning to love Messner biographies, most of which are out of print, but you can often find them at library sales and even in thrift shops if you keep an eye out for them. Valerie Jacobsen, of Valerie's Living Books, has a list of all the titles here

So, where does one find living books? Here are a few of my favorite sources:
  • Yesterday's Classics - Lisa Ripperton has republished many, many wonderful books from the "golden age of children's literature." I have many books from Yesterday's Classics, both printed an in ebook form, and have been very, very happy with the quality. If I want an old book, I check to see if Yesterday's Classics has it before I look anywhere else. She also offers a wonderful program called Gateway to the Classics, which I use in my homeschool, and is worth it just for the ebooks you get, not to mention all the other features she's added. I highly recommend checking it out.
  • Ambleside Online - they provide a free, online curriculum, years 1-12, complete with lesson plans. You have to provide your own books, but many of them are available online for free. 
  • TruthQuest History - Michelle Miller put together these wonderful books, and they are a treasure trove of lists of living books for all ages, and all time periods of history. She lists possible spines, as well as biographies, historical fiction, and even movies when they are available. 
  • Simply Charlotte Mason's Bookfinder - You can search their database to see what books people have used.
  • Charlotte Mason Help - not only will you find tons of helpful articles here on implementing Charlotte Mason's principles in your homeschool, but she has put together book lists for grades 1-6 as well.
  • Living Books Library - The lovely ladies who own this library have helped me plan my curriculum for my own children for two years now. Check out Liz's "Top Picks" lists for all kinds of lovely books.
  • Sage Parnassus - Nancy blogs about a living education and Charlotte Mason, and lists wonderful books, most of which have been new to me.
  • Other libraries of living books - check this link! It's not a comprehensive list, because the list is always growing, but see if you can find one near you.
  • When you're looking for used books, I like to check first, because it scans many online book stores for the best price. I love Amazon, Abebooks, and, but I always check Addall first.
You know, before I started homeschooling, I thought I was well-read. Then I started meeting people who were far more intelligent than I, who had read books I'd never even heard of, and I will be forever grateful to them. The world of living books is larger than I would ever have imagined, and I'm enjoying discovering these treasures along with my children. I hope you will take a look at some of these and see how much fun you can have, and how much you will all learn, by reading them with your children.

Make sure you click over and enter!

(I know the Rafflecopter isn't showing up properly in the giveaway post, but if you click the link, it will take to to it.)

Don't forget to check out the Back to Homeschool Blog Hop this week! You can get started with the links below.

Tara at This Sweet Life
Laura at My (re)ViewPoint
Karen at Tots and Me