Thursday, June 29, 2017

Lightning Literature and Composition (A REVIEW)

Hewitt Homeschooling

I am not very well read in classic literature, but I really want to be. This is an area that I'm really trying to develop so I can teach my children from great literature, so I can use all the help I can get. I was excited to try out a literature curriculum from Hewitt Homeschooling. I chose the British Early-Mid 19th Century because I have a high school daughter that is excited about all things british, so I thought these would be great titles for her. Along with some poems, the books studied in this unit include: Pride and Prejudice, Ivanhoe, Frankenstein, and Jane Eyre.

 Lightning Literature and Composition Pack
British: Early to Mid 19th Century

For this review we received the Student's guide, and the Teacher's guide. We did not receive the books titled above, but they were easily accessible at the library (and in fact I actually had a few on my shelf).

The Student guide is a soft back bound book with a nice cover with a picture of what looks like Big Ben on it. It has a nice introduction to language, and the different parts of writing, including things like alliteration, poetry, short stories. It's a great review of everything along with some why's and what's for the course. After the long introduction the book is broken up into units with 2 lessons each. Each lesson introduces a new author with a classic book or poem to read.

The Teacher's guide that I received was a loose leaf book stapled together. I am not sure if that was supposed to actually be spiral bound, as it seems that some others had theirs spiral bound. It was ok, and didn't really bother me because I could put it in a binder if I wanted, which is kind of nice. The main focus of the Teacher's guide is grading, schedules, and comprehension questions. It has a schedule for both a half year (semester) and a full year. There are some great checklists for grading the writing, and comprehension questions which can be very useful. Writing isn't always an easy thing to grade.

What is the purpose of this course?

On the cover of the student guide it says "Acquiring College-Level Composition Skills by Responding to Great Literature." That pretty much sums it all up in one sentence! It is a study of the classics by responding through writing essays or answering comprehension questions.

Who is this course intended for?

This is a high school level course. It is intended for grades 10-12. I of course enjoyed reading it too. I think it's a great way for a homeschool Mom to dive into some classic literature. It is a very full course. There is a lot to read and digest, and many many writing projects.

I love using literature to teach my children, and I think this Lightning Lit. course has done a very thorough job of walking a student through the literature as well as through the writing and comprehension. I can't always think up the questions to ask, or lessons to apply when we read something together. This program could be done independently by a high schooler, but it can also be done together which is how we choose to do it.

If you would like to see the other Lightning Lit course reviews for high schoolers on down to elementary you can click on the banner below. There are lot of great titles in some of the younger grades too.

Hewitt Homeschooling {Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Friday, June 23, 2017

A Homeschool Planner (A REVIEW)

Homeschool Buyers Co-op

I have always been a paper and pen kind of person. I have always had my life down in a paper calendar/planner, and like having the physical copy to carry around with me. But, there is something to be said in not having to lug around a big book of calendar pages. I decided to try an online/electronic calendar from Homeschool Buyers Co-op especially for homeschoolers. Homeschool Planet has convenient tools for planning everything for homeschool and life, including specific daily lesson plans.

Homechool Planet

Homeschool Planet is a completely online planner. I received a one-year subscription along with a free lesson plan for a curriculum, which I will talk about a bit later. Also, I had to become a member of the Homeschool Buyers Co-op, which is free and very easy to do (there are a lot of great curriculum offers through the Co-op too! Just a perk!)

To access my calendar which looks similar to the one picture below, I log in to homeschool planet, and it brings up the daily, weekly, or monthly view (I can easily switch between all 3 of those choices). There are also links (to the left of the calendar) for each family member to look at just their schedule for the day, and some various lists (to the right) to help keep track of things. Specific daily assignments can be laid out, and checked off as completed. Everything is color coded to specific category, so you can easily know there are a lot of "church activities" in one week if there are a lot of green boxes. It does take a little bit of time to get set up, but once you get all the basic assignments and activities and people in, it's easy to keep going and takes less time later.

Homeschool Planet

Lesson plans:

Homeschool Planet is offering a free lesson plan schedule, until the end of June, for a curriculum of choice from a list of selected names in the Lesson Plan Marketplace. I chose The Magic School Bus Science Club lesson plans because I have thought about using that for some curriculum next school year, and wanted to see what the lesson plans were like. Basically, all the daily specific lessons are loaded right onto your calendar! I can choose which units to put where, and it's so easy to do with just a few clicks. It even includes links to videos and websites that might be helpful to the lesson, and of course a check box to show it's completed.

Screenshot (10)

Some of my favorite features of the Homeschool Planet are:

  • The ability to move an assignment forward, or delete it if it is missed
  • Being able to easily add events on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, and not have to keep putting them in.
  • I can specify who an assignment or event is for, and even if it's for several different people
  • The lesson plans! These are so convenient. I would definitely buy more.
  • The daily email reminders about what is coming up.
  • It's easy to add daily assignments or activities, and easy to figure out and navigate through.
Overall, I found Homeschool Planet to be very user friendly, and making the switch from paper to electronic has truly been enjoyable and easy. I like that I can access it anywhere, even mobile, and that I don't have to keep writing things over and over again! I can easily plan many assignments for multiple children with only a few clicks, and keep track with only a check mark, or move things forward if needed. I feel like I still have a lot to explore with this planner, but if you want to find out more you can read what the other crew members had to say by clicking on the banner below.

Homeschool Planet {Homeschool Buyers Co-op Reviews}
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Thursday, June 22, 2017

A small change

I need to change something. I feel like this blog is no longer a fitting place for family and personal stuff. I think it's time for me to move all that to my family blog that's been quiet for a few years. I will still be here, writing reviews, and posting about books and learning, but I am looking forward to having a different place for family stuff. If you'd like to join me over there, I'd love that.

The Winz Family Farm

Monday, June 19, 2017


I love books, and every once in a while I come across some really great ones that I'd like to share. Some are homeschool related, some are kids, and some are just for fun. So, I need to start sharing some of these little gems. I always find some of my best book recommendations through blogs, so here it goes...

I started reading Little Men last week. I'm only about 1/3 of the way through, but oh how I am enjoying this book! I have heard about it for years, but never picked it up until now. I decided it was time, and put a hold on it. I ended up with this particular copy which is a Focus on the Family, great stories series. It has some extras like you can see in the little yellow circle. I have found some great little bits of wisdom already.


Next up is Little Ree by Ree Drummond. This is the homeschooling Momma that has gone big with her Pioneer Woman cooking show, and line of kitchen products. She has a few books too. I saw that she had this new one out, so we put it on hold at the library. It's a cute story. We even made the special pancake recipe. Those were absolutely the best pancakes. I love that they are low in flour. You can find that pancake recipe on Pioneer Woman too.


I saw some recent reviews on this book, Knights in Training by Heather Haupt. It looked like something I could enjoy reading, and possibly implementing with my boys. Our library system doesn't have a copy yet since it's so new, so I decided it was probably worth ordering from Amazon. I have enjoyed it so far. I am only a few chapters into this one. This is possibly the kind of co-op class we are going to have for Aaron's age next school year, some sort of knights theme.


 Have you read any of these books?

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Apologia (A REVIEW)

Apologia Educational Ministries
Some times I can't believe we are already to this point. The point at which we are thinking about college, jobs, and possibly internships. It seems like just yesterday this was all so far away, and we could just think about it another day. My daughter will be a Junior next year, and has been thinking a lot about this, but an Internship for High School Credit had never crossed our minds. This is a different kind of curriculum book than we're used to from Apologia Educational Ministries, as we have only ever used their science and writing curriculums before, but were happy to give it a try.

Internship for High School Credit

My daughter wasn't ready at this point to decide or apply for an actual internship right now, but reading through the book that we received makes me excited for the possibility of doing something like this for her senior year. This workbook basically walks a high schooler through the process of thinking about, planning, preparing, and applying for an internship for a half or whole credit of high school credit. An internship being time spent working or helping alongside someone in a certain field of work who is willing to give the student enough hours to gain experience and look at a possible credit.

The book starts out with what an internship is, the history, and the many benefits of having an internship. Some of those benefits listed include: Explore a career, learn day-to-day job responsibilities, discover job likes and dislikes, focus more closely on a college major, bolster a college application, gain experience related to career goals, increase scholarship opportunities, gain marketable skills, increase potential job offers, etc.

Part I
After the introduction, in the getting started section, there is a bit about determining which internship to pick, and how to choose a company. The student would probably want to find something in an area or career that they are interested in. Preparation, receiving high school credit, writing a resume and letter, and the interview are also covered in this section.

Part II
This section is information for the parents. It covers things like child labor laws, and transcripts. It covers how to include an internship on a transcript so that the colleges will look at that internship as acceptable credit. It also talks about how to grade the progress through this course with the weekly worksheets that the student completes throughout the internship.

Part III
This is the first semester section. There are weekly worksheets  for each week in this section along with semester goals at the beginning. A lot of record keeping, but also some great questions about experiences, thoughts about the job, and work performance.

Part III: A glimpse at the first worksheets in the first semester section of the book.

Part IV
This is the second semester. Not as many weekly worksheets because the student should be pretty familiar with a lot of the ins and outs of their internship. Instead, there are biweekly worksheets with activities written out for each 2 week spread. See example below.

Part IV: A glimpse of the worksheet spread for the second semester.

Part V
This is the course wrap-up. This section includes the final writing assignment which is summarizing the work experiences, and reflecting on the worksheets from the year. It also talks about writing a thank-you note to the supervisor thanking them for their time, and possibly obtaining a letter of recommendation.

That is the basic layout of this course. I feel like it could help guide my high schooler through a successful internship for high school credit year. If you'd like to see what others had to say about this course or another course how to homeschool, you can click on the banner below.

Homeschool with Confidence & Internship for High School {Apologia Educational Ministries Reviews}
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Whistlefritz Spanish (A REVIEW)


We live in a town where a good portion of the population speaks Spanish, and most of my kids' local friends are learning Spanish starting in Kindergarden, so my Kindergarden boy was thrilled when I said he got a whole Spanish program to try, just for him. We received the Educator's Spanish Collection from Whistlefritz. Now he can have fun trying to speak and recognizing words with his friends across the street, and all over town.

Whistlefritz Spanish

We received quite the package of books and DVD's with this curriculum which included 5 DVD's, 3 CD's, Spanish matching cards, and a lesson plan book. At first I was really confused when I received a package with only 4 DVD cases, but I soon realized that there were 2 discs per case which means that the CD's were in with the DVD's, so it was all contained in one small box. I think that's a great way to keep it all together, and less for me to store!

The colorful pictures all over these DVD's were so inviting. My little boy wanted to start as soon as he could get them open. I went ahead and let him watch the first part of one of them even before I was able to crack open the lesson plan book because I didn't want to discourage his excitement. But, this program is so flexible that it didn't really matter because he can watch these DVD's over and over again. These videos, and lessons are intended to "immerse" the child in Spanish, which is exactly how they do it at our local schools. The videos immerse the child in Spanish through words, play, and song.


We finally got into the lesson plans, and had a better idea of how much to watch, and what to do. The lesson plans include many directions to the help the parent/teacher build on what is going to be watched in the DVD's both before and after. Some things include review, teacher input, guided practice, independent practice, closure, and extension activities. I felt like I could use as much or as little of that part of the lesson plan that I felt my child could understand or use. Some of it was a little too much, and so we just used the extension activities, or we adjusted to fit our needs or supplies. I think these plans have great flexibility.

The first few lessons we were to watch was "La Fiesta de Fritzi," or Fritz's birthday party, and learn about balloon colors, and all kinds of birthday party fun stuff. Watching the DVD is definitely fun and entertaining. They move along at a swift pace. We had to go back through and watch the colors again a few times, but that's the blessing of a DVD, right?

Whistlefritz Spanish
So, of course we got out some balloons we had to practice the colors. It was suggested to paint the colors of balloons in primary colors, then secondary colors, and finally do some color mixing. We didn't get to that, but that is an example of a great extension activity.


We also watched them make a cake on the DVD, to get ready for Fritzi's birthday party, and decided to make our own cake as well.  This wasn't suggested by the lesson plan, but my little guy saw that cake and just had to have one of his own. We talked about some of the words he heard them saying while making a cake on the DVD. I was able to repeat the name of cake "el pastel" over and over again, and that helps him to remember!



Overall I think the DVD's are great. I found the lesson plans to be useful as a general guide with many helpful ideas and worksheets to copy for the child to write or color things that go along with what they are learning in each lesson.  The lesson plan book does give dialogue for the teacher that is very useful, so I guess the parent can also be learning along with the child!

If you'd like to see what others have to say about this or the French collection, you can click on the banner below.

Spanish and French {Whistlefritz Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Last day at Oaks Park

Or is it first day of official summer? This was hardly a school day! It was a super fun day, and the last day of our time with Summit charter. They always have an Oaks park/laptop turn in day, so we get the fun opportunity to enjoy the park for the day on the school!


 The kiddie roller coaster was where we started. Alex was a little unsure about rides, and nervous at first, but this warmed him right up. I had to ride with him the first time, and thankfully after that he was fine. That thing is bumpy!


The bumper cars were a favorite for Aaron and Aric.


The Disk'o is a great ride. After Alex realized he loved it, I had to ride it 3 times in a row! This is Aaron on it before the other boys were brave enough to go. He was showing them how it's done.


I remember taking April on this balloon ride when she was 4. I always thought it was a little too high for my liking, but the boys loved it. Alex even went on it a few times.


The tilt'a'whirl was a fun one. We had to do that one a few times.


The scrambler is always a must. We rode that one so much I lost count.



Alex rode the bumpy boats...



It was a fun day. The kids could have kept going, but the school day time for rides closed at 3. On our way back we encountered heavy traffic all the way back down, so I was glad they were all worn out. The car was mostly quiet for our extra long car ride back home.

Friday, June 9, 2017

MARSHmedia (A review)

Health Education Products for K-8 {MarshMedia }

Before my daughter (who is now almost 16) was going through her girl changes *puberty* I had found some great resources for girls, and I was very comfortable in that area. I have had a hard time finding something that would make this subject interesting and more comfortable for my 2 older boys who are both heading into this stage in the next few years. Since they are boys, and often don't want to hear what I have to say about things that are important, like hygiene, I was excited to have a little help with these great videos from MarshMedia. They have many videos to choose from including healthy habits, and puberty. This area can be tricky with concern for too much sex education that might be included that doesn't fit with our beliefs, but I didn't find that with the videos we watched. Note: we didn't get to ALL the videos, but I was comfortable with what we did see, and they don't claim to be "sex education" anywhere. They are just informative and factual videos about different aspects of health and growing up.

Health Education Products for K-8 {MarshMedia }

We received online access to all their videos for this review, and until 12/31/17 they are offering a Homeschool Special with unlimited access to all 59 of their videos for $50. These videos were used primarily in public schools, but they are offering these for a more reasonable cost to the homeschooling community.

Health Education Products for K-8 {MarshMedia }

The very first video we watched was "you're not a little kid anymore." This one was geared more towards the 3-5 grade range, but I was able to let my 6 year-old watch it too, and he enjoyed it. This one focuses on the basics, showering/bathing, care of teeth, hair or nails, and wearing clean clothes. This was perfect for my boys because, well sometimes, being home all the time the boys don't often think this is important even though I tell them everyday to change their clothes! They were convinced, and I've seen much improvement in their own attitudes toward their own "smell" and taking care of it. We also discovered that they need deodorant. I can't smell, so I didn't realize it, but they needed deodorant. The movie talked about deodorant and when to start using it, and they smelled their pits, and realized they stink! They love this new ability to smell good. Granted they are still trying to remember to put it on everyday, but it has been a great eye opener for them.


There are many video topics to choose from in the puberty section as well. There are specifics for boys and girls, and prepuberty ones too like "just around the corner." All the videos are presented with real kids showing everyday activities that the kids can relate to. Each video also has a fun upbeat song to help the kids remember the important stuff. A theme song, or chant, something fun to keep them engaged. My boys thought the songs were a little cheesy, but nothing unbearable.

As homeschoolers I love that we can watch these with our children, and they can lead to the questions, and talks that we need to be having with them. They are a great jumping off point to get those conversations started. All my kids love videos so this was a great way to engage my boys in this subject, and it's not coming just from me! I love the very fact based, "this is how our bodies work", way these videos work.

If you'd like to see what others had to say about this curriculum you can click on the banner below.

MarshMedia Reviews
Crew Disclaimer

Thursday, June 8, 2017

K5 Online Learning Program (A REVIEW)

K5 Learning

This review is an overview about the K5 Learning online program.  We received a free 6 month subscription. While I'm trying to avoid more computer type school work for my already computer loving boys who spend too much time on there already, I thought this would be fun to try.

K5 Learning
What is K5?

K5 is an online math, reading, and spelling supplement for kids in grades Kindergarden through fifth grade. To begin with, students take an assessment to see where they are at. They are then placed in the level that fits them best according to the assessment. There's no option to change this, the program automatically places the child. I did find that you can request a change through the parent account, but we didn't need that as the levels did actually fit my son.

After the child logs in, they are then guided through games, and lessons in either math or reading, depending on which they choose to work on. There is also a spelling choice, which helps the child spell different words one at a time. They are given the word or the definition, and have the choice to get clues, and then they type the word in. It keeps track of how many total words they have spelled right.

Screenshot (9)
This is a screenshot of the student's home page after they login. They can choose either Reading and Math, or Spelling. There are also some recommended worksheets tailored to their level.
I had my 3rd grader work on this program. I had originally planned for my Kindergarden child to use it, but he had no interest in it. I had a willing 3rd grader, so he took on the task of trying the reading and math lessons. He didn't get to the spelling, but I looked at that myself.

More details about each subject:

The math lessons are pretty straight forward. They move at a pretty slow pace, but there are only about 5-10 questions or steps to complete for each section. Even though there is only very little to do for each section, my son didn't like the slow pace of this program. As the child answers each question, they are given a ding or some sign that they got it right. If they got it wrong, they are given a not so happy sound, and another chance to answer the question. I like that they aren't just given the answer right away.

The reading lessons are typical reading practice. Recognizing words by listening to their sounds, vocabulary, and reading comprehension are just a few examples of the lessons that we encountered. The words for the vocabulary were at the right level for my 3rd grader.

The spelling is exactly that, spelling. It's almost like a spelling bee, but online. The child is given the word and definition, and they type in the spelling. I really liked the layout for the spelling program. The student can do as little as ten words at a time, but there are options for more. I found the 10 at a time to be a good number of spelling words in a row.

K5 Learning

Progress and Parent log in. The parent has a separate log in, and can check progress. This program keeps track of how many lessons are completed.  The student can also check progress from their dashboard, but there is a little more detail in the parent section. Lessons, skills learned, and percentages can be found on the parental page. Whereas the student only shows how many lessons are completed, and how many spelling words were spelled right.

Overall this is a good supplemental program for homeschoolers or for after school practice. It does move a little slow for our taste, but some do really well with that. If you'd like to see what others had to say about this program you can read their reviews by clicking on the banner below.

K5 Learning {Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

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