Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Junior Analytical Grammar {Schoolhouse Review}


For this review, we were gifted a complete set of Analytical Grammar's Junior Analytical Grammar set, which includes a teacher's guide and student workbook.  This set retails for $39.95.  Additionally, we were also sent the Junior Analytical Grammar Companion DVD.    This is an additional purchase for $19.95.  Extra workbooks may also be purchased for $19.95 each.  This set is for students in grades 4-5.


Over the years of homeschooling, I have heard many great things about Analytical Grammar but I always avoided purchasing this curriculum because I wasn't certain if it would live up to it's huge reputation in the homeschooling community or if it would even be a good fit for us.  We are pretty laid back when it comes to homeschooling and I admit that I often look for the easy way to educate in order to keep school fun and to avoid battles that using heavily structured programs have caused in our home in the past.  I didn't want to spend money on something that we most likely would never use in our school days.

When I saw Analytical Grammar come up on the Vendor List this year, I knew I wanted to give it a shot.  For one, I couldn't say no to trying this program if I review it and two, I felt it time for a more structured program for us in homeschooling, especially for Emmalee who I used this program with during the review period.  I knew it was past time to cover these lessons with her and this was the perfect way to make that happen.

When Junior Analytical Grammar arrived, I immediately thought "this is just another workbook but I'll give it a shot".  The books have bright orange paper covers and spiral bindings.  They aren't very thick books but they a jam-packed with lessons to complete.  Junior Analytical Grammar wastes no time getting right to work with the program.

Additionally, there was a sheet in the package and a booklet included which explained a bit more about Analytical Grammar - who Robin and Erin are and how they came to create this amazing company, as well as more detail on the programs available through Analytical Grammar.  I was excited to find that as middle school specialists these ladies had created an easy to use curriculum to help students really learn Grammar.  Growing up, my career goal was to be a middle school English teacher until I decided I wanted to be a Homeschool Mom instead.  The fact that Robin created this program especially for use with middle school students because she believes these years are educationally valuable really spoke volumes to me.  Her logic was the same as mine in reason to work with this particular grade level, educationally.

Another thing that really hit home with me about this program was the encouragement to delay Formal Grammar education until the 4th or 5th grade.  There are very few programs that support and are effective in promoting delayed academics in any manner.   We do practice delayed academics in our homeschool and prefer to allow our students to thoroughly study a concept before thrusting the next concept upon them.

It is suggested that Junior Analytical Grammar be completed as a prerequisite course to Analytical Grammar in preparation for the course in the 6th to 8th grade.  This allows students to really know their grammar basics before moving forward in the Analytical Grammar program.  It also allows their young minds to master these basics before moving forward.

Junior Analytical Grammar is an 11 week program that covers all the parts of speech, parts of a sentence, classic sentence diagramming and the five sentence patterns.  It introduces grammar, punctuation, capitalization and usage to students who are new to these concepts and helps prepare them at a slower pace than the original Analytical Grammar.  These concepts are also covered in Analytical Grammar's first ten units, however the exercises in Junior Analytical Grammar are shorter and written at a lower reading level than the original program.

Since English is my absolute favorite subject, it was very easy for me to read through this program and put it to work for my family.  I did allow my 11 year old daughter, Emmalee to work through the program and she was able to do so on her own.  She would watch the video and then complete the exercises as explained in the DVD lessons without much input from me.  She would then complete the worksheets as directed by the lesson she was working through.

I also used this time to review these concepts with my son and my younger daughter, discussing what each part of speech is and how it works.  Together we diagrammed sentences using the dry-erase board and also using the examples from the book itself.  It was very easy to make work for all the kids together and also very easily completed alone by Emmalee.  This was a bonus for us as a family, since Emmalee wishes to do more independent study away from her siblings while I still prefer teaching them together as a unit.  Please not these workbooks cannot be copied in any manner so if using this program with more than one student, you will need to purchase extra workbooks or work through the program orally using paper or a dry-erase board to work through the examples.

The DVD was easy to use as well.  Emmalee just popped it into the DVD player and listened to the short lessons provided.  The DVD is a bonus to the curriculum and not necessary to use the program but it is nice to have.  Since it's instructional, it prevents the "teacher" from having to put a huge amount of time into instructing the program and allows more independence.  This gives Mom more time to prep for the next course or to work one on one with another student or even just have a little me time.  The teacher will still need to check the students work once the worksheets have been completed.

In the teacher's book there is an example plan for how to use Junior Analytical Grammar suggesting a 5 day a week programming.  This didn't work for us and really wasn't needed either.  I allowed Emmalee to work at her own pace, as she pleased and as we normally do for independent schoolwork.  She chose to watch the video and complete several of her worksheets on the same day for most lessons.  Sometimes she would chose to go ahead and test and sometimes she would feel she needed more review and would ask for that.  I allowed her to do what she thought best and discussed with her what I thought best when I felt she needed more time with a concept.  This worked well for us.

I must say that I am extremely impressed with Junior Analytical Grammar.  It is easy to use and Emmalee really loves it.  This program will be one that we continue to use in our homeschooling and I regret not having added it into our lessons sooner.

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Monday, July 28, 2014

A Week With No Kids {Day One and Two}

In an impromptu effort to encourage family relationships with my children, I have allowed them to travel with their Grandmother to Florida to visit their uncle (my brother) and his family.  Anyone that knows me knows that this is totally out of character for me, as I rarely let my kids go anywhere that I am not, much less 2 states away from me.  It was a last minute decision that I can honestly say I am pleased has happened though I miss my kids very much - I'm sure they are not-so-much missing Mommy with all the Florida fun and sun though.

It all started last year when Emma asked could they go with Grandma to Florida in which I replied no but she was so sad and so disheartened that it saddened me.  So this year when time for the trip came, I first said "no" but at the last minute I changed my mind and told them they could go.  I was looking forward to alone time with the kids per my original "no, you aren't going" but I know they want to see their uncle and cousins who they rarely see due to the distance in living.  Needless to say the kids couldn't be happier!

So the weekend was spent washing up clothing, packing and gathering necessary items to send them on their way.  We gassed up the Tahoe and filled it up with loads of things to keep them occupied on the overly long trip.  Then early Sunday morning, we sent the four plus Grandma on their merry way.  They stopped off and picked up their cousin Megan to go along on their travels too.  Grandma gets a week with all seven of her Grandkids at one time!  Whoo Hoo!

With the kids gone, that leaves me as a Mommy with no one to parent.  You'd think I'd be living it up, enjoying this vacation that so many long for every day.  Nope - I miss those four beautiful kids desperately in just the few hours they've been gone and have been keeping busy so that I don't miss them more.

After the kids left yesterday, Josh, the Bestie Tamara and I all loaded up in Mom's car since she has my car and went down to the beach for the first time in forever - definitely the first time this year but maybe the first time in 3 years.  We sat in the edge of the water and played for several hours like young children would.  It was wonderful and so relaxing.  Josh, brave as he is, swam out past the breaks in the waves and enjoyed a bit of time just floating and paddling in the ocean.  He is made for the water - I am not.

By the time I left the beach, the day was almost over and I felt as though I'd had a relaxing massage from the beating of the waves hitting me as they washed upon the shoreline.  Tamara and I also gathered some pretty shells while we were there.  The whole day was just what I needed to keep my mind off of the kids being gone.

After the beach, we grabbed some Subway Subs and headed home.  The rest of the night we sat around watching TV, catching up on missed episodes of our favorite shows.  It was 4:30 in the morning before we finally went to sleep.

Today I woke up around 11.  It was nice to sleep in.  I immediately ate something and started on laundry.  I cleaned up the living room and put all the out of place things away.  I headed over to Grandma's and did the laundry there as well.  Just basic housecleaning that needed to get done.

I also had a wonderful surprise.  The books I had ordered from my dear homeschooling friend Carole, had been delivered!  The overstuffed large box was waiting for me on the porch.  It was filled with books on animals, great readers, science educational stuff and more.  Carole's books are always the best!  I can't wait for the kids to return and find so many new, interesting things to read!

It's now 7:30 in the afternoon.  For the rest of the night, I will be working on pictures that I have been putting off.  Tomorrow brings a new day and I will be working on more things around the house.  You'd think this was a vacation from the kids but really it's just catching up on all the things I am not able to get done when they are home with me.  Lots of work that needs done while they are off having fun.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms {Schoolhouse Review}


I must admit I am the biggest fan of Apologia materials.  Each time I see the Apologia vendor pop-up on the Schoolhouse Review list, I make sure not to miss filling it out. They have the best homeschooling materials and the best inspirational books for Homeschooling parents like me.  Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms by Mary Jo Tate is no exception.


Mary Jo Tate has been through a lot in her lifetime.  She was left alone, a single Mom with four very young sons to raise.  It was her need to survive, to make it through and make a good life for her sons that lead her to the concept behind Flourish and later the writing of this wonderful book.


Mary Jo Tate is a survivor.  She took skills that she knew she had and turned to them when most people would wallow in self-pity, in order to make a life for herself and her sons.  She wanted to be home with her boys when they needed her most and she didn't want her job to prevent that.  So Mary Jo did what she knew best and began to use her editing skills to create her own business to make ends meet.

As people began to question how she did it all, she explained that she wasn't a SuperMom but simply a Mom who had a need.  She quickly learned that if she wanted to succeed she'd need to get out of her comfort zone.  Once she did she began to Flourish!

As written within the book, "Flourish means to grow vigorously, luxuriate, be revived or abound." (Flourish by Mary Jo Tate, page 6)

When you flourish, you thrive.  This then trickles down into the lives of others.  Particularly, into the lives of your family.

Balancing life is hard.  Mary Jo Tate knows that all too well.  She struggled in life until she began to find her own way to flourish and through this book she hopes to help other Mom's like her, like me and you, flourish too.

As a bonus this book is filled with encouraging quotes and notes from great minds and Moms as well.  These inspiring tidbits are wonderful reminders and full of positive thoughts.  All are there to help us thrive through the trials of life until we flourish on our own.

This book contains 16 chapters, each of which focus on a different aspect to encourage Moms like you and I to grow and to make our own lives flourish.  There are over 250 pages to help you learn to Flourish in your own life. There are two additional appendixes in the back of the book as well.  Appendix A shares recommended resources to use with the book.  Appendix B shares forms for planning to be used along with the book as well.  As with all Apologia books, there is also an additional website sharing book extras that will be a welcoming surprise to any Mom.

I cannot begin to explain the encouragement found within the pages of this book.  This book is designed to help you learn to balance your life.  The goal is to help you make the most of your personal and business life and to find balance together.  It will help you set goals and find ways to limit interruptions to make the most of your day to day.

 If you are a Mom who is struggling to find balance in life, then this is a must read for you.  If you are a Homeschooler who is looking for encouragement, this is definitely a book for you.  If you need a welcoming reminder that being a homeschooling Mom is where you should be, then, yes this book is for you too!

Flourish will help each of us to find balance, to find Faith, to find so much more than you could even begin to imagine in the days of our homeschool lives.

You can purchase your own copy of Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms by Mary Jo Tate from Apologia for $15 plus shipping costs.  This book is for Mom's of all ages.  This is a must read book for any Homeschooling Momma and it will speak right to your heart.  Get it today!

You can also find Flourish and Mary Jo Tate in the following places online:

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Build Your Own Bundle Now!!!


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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

HomeSchoolPiano {Schoolhouse Review}



Have you always wanted to learn piano at home?  How about your children?  Look no further than HomeSchoolPiano!


HomeSchoolPiano allows you to learn piano in the comfort of your own home and at your own pace.  This program is a complete piano training program for all ages, young and old.  And it's easy to use.

HomeSchoolPiano requires you to join their program online where you will be given instant access to the Homeschool Piano: Complete Set of Books which includes the CorePiano program and also three other lesson books:
Book 1: Perfect for Beginners
Book 2: Building A Foundation
Book 3: Unlocking the Pianist Within


CorePiano teaches the student the basics of piano before they start using the HomeSchoolPiano lesson books.  This program contains 33 lessons that can be reviewed at any time by the students.  Each lesson teaches something unique to piano playing.  The goal in this program is to ensure the student has the best experience possible while using the HomeSchoolPiano curriculum.

This book is perfect for the beginning pianist.  It teaches the student about the basics of piano playing.  You learn keys, notes and rests in this book.  You are also provided an activity book which is printable to use along with this book and a download of Jam Tracks for book 1.

Book 1 contains 6 units.  Each unit lesson contains the necessary tools for completion.  You can download videos and audio for the lesson and you can watch videos online to complete the lessons.  There are also quizzes throughout the ensure the student is learning the materials taught in the program.

Book 2 further expands on piano learning beginning with Baseline and left hand finger independence.  This helps to establish blue's based music.  Rhythms and melodies are also covered within this book.

Book 2 is also broken down into 6 units.  These units are broken into smaller lessons in each which cover important skills for piano playing.  There are downloads and videos for each part of the lessons in each unit.

Book 3 introduces triplets and chord symbols used in Piano.  Further expansion of the Bassline is covered and Arpeggios are introduced.  In the last unit, Voice Leading is also covered.

Like the other two books in this program, this book also contains 6 units broken into lessons.  It also contains downloads and videos to watch as you learn.  This is the last book in the lesson series.

Each of the videos provided in the lessons in the books above provide the student with a thorough lesson on Piano covering the topic being taught.  The student is expected to listen to the instructor talk about the lesson and to complete the exercises and activities within the lesson.  At the end of each unit the student should be able to perform a song specific to the lesson itself.

The videos vary in length so time for the lesson will also vary in length.  Plus these lessons are self-paced and can be replayed as needed to build performance skills and to help practice the skills learned within the lesson.  Typical to any online video, lessons can be skipped forward and backward easily to repeat any section that may have been difficult for the student to understand or that the student may simply need to repeat a few times to visually see the technique used in the lesson.



HomeSchoolPiano is an extracurricular curriculum program designed to be used several times a week or however often you see fit.  It can be used with multiple students making it easy to use with everyone in your family.  The lessons can be viewed anywhere at any time.  The lessons can be viewed on any phone, tablet or computer as needed by your students.  The only thing required for this program is the device to play the lessons and a piano of some kind to implement the activities being taught during the lessons.



HomeSchoolPiano follows a 6 step cycle to teach it's lessons.  The steps are Technique, Rhythm, Ear Training, Reading Music, Song and Improvisation.  This works together to provide a thorough unit lesson and learning.

We used HomeSchoolPiano several days a week for the review period.  We had a few weeks that we did not use it as much as I'd like due to summer activities we've had going on but the kids were able to easily use and learn a lot from this program in that time period.  Winston (13) and Emmalee (11) were able to easily follow along.  Laycie (6) needed a bit of help from Mommy for lessons she completed but she enjoyed the things she did work on.

HomeSchoolPiano has two packaging prices for purchasing:
The Success Package is a one time payment of $299.  This gives you life-time access to HomeSchoolPiano's website lessons, as well as all the downloads that go along with it for up to 5 students.  That includes the downloads, jam tracks and sheet music for every lesson!

The Payment Plan package allows you the same access as the Success Package but it allows you to pay for the program in three easy installations of $99.97 for 3 months.

You can find HomeSchoolPiano online in the following places:




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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Build Your Own Bundle!


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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Balancing Life {Epilepsy Awareness}

It has been a year since Jackson's battle with Severe Involuntary Breath Holder Spells with Epilepsy began.  Time has passed quickly, yet there are days when I still feel suspended in time.  This year has been hard on our family but we are still moving forward.

It's hard for me to believe that a year has passed since this journey began for us.  I can tell you that each time you find out your child has some disorder, it sucker punches you deep in the gut.  Having multiple children with health issues doesn't make it easier and you genuinely hope with each child that they will be healthy and "normal" like children should be.

We are finally at a point in our lives where we are able to breath again and are finding balance.  Jackson's last medicine increase has his breath holding spells controlled for the most part and seizures have decreased with the decrease of IBHS episodes.  I could not be more thankful for this reprieve no matter how short it may be.

When you have children with disabling health issues, it becomes hard to function and plan your day to day activities because you do not know what to expect or even how to plan since you cannot guess when a seizure or spell will happen to them.  Events get cancelled, schoolwork is put off, living becomes second to surviving.  This has been our life for the last year.

At this stage, I've learned that seasons are short and each quiet period must be packed with catching up on the things we've had to put off.  Housekeeping is done in these time periods, restoring balance to the home so that we are ready for the next unsteady path.  Schoolwork is also done during these times so that when needed breaks come we do not fall behind.  Life and living come first for a while and surviving does become second even for a brief time.

After living this year surviving, we are ready to live life again and move forward, hoping the days remain balanced and settled for a while.  Whatever happens, I will take what I can get and enjoy these moments while we have them for they are gone all too quickly.

Diana Waring's Experience History Through Music {Review}

Experience History Through Music from Diana Waring Presents

If you are in search of a great program to bring life to your American History program, look no further than Diana Waring's Experience History Through Music collection.  These three amazing books are jam-packed with great songs, stories, and more to be used as an accessory product to any American History curriculum.  Experience History Through Music is like taking a trip back in time.



Diana Waring is the author of the History Revealed world history curriculum.  Her educational philosophy is that "the key to education is relationship".  Diana began homeschooling her children in the early 80's and continued to do so all the way through high school.  While searching for a great history curriculum, she was unable to find a program that suited her family, so she decided to create her own.  Over time she shared this curriculum with others and that eventually led her to publish it so homeschoolers every where could use the programs.


Diana has an extensive background in music which she has shared with her family.  Her grandfathers on both sides had unique musical talents and passed their love of music on to Diana.  This lead to her learning to play several instruments early on in life: clarinet, oboe, and even guitar.  Her musical talents led to her learning the beautiful folk songs that she shares with her in her Experience History Through Music series.  Her first book was actually an early version of America from this very series.


Experience History Through Music is not an actual curriculum.  It is instead a supplementary program which can be used as an addition to any curriculum or can stand alone on it's own.  There is no set schedule for using this program and while using it, you won't even realize you are learning!  It's simply a fun way to introduce History to students through music.

Each of the books in the Experience History Through Music program focuses on a different aspect and time period of American History.  The program contains three print books with CD's.  Each book is unique to it's time period.  Inside each book you will find dozens of gorgeous images, stories to connect each of the songs to the piece of history it's linked to, sheet music and more.  The CD's are professional recordings of the songs shared within each book.



America 1750-1890: The Heart of a New Nation
This book in the series begins by sharing Folk music that dates back to the Revolution and onto through colonial days of early American History.  Beginning with Yankee Doodle, this book shares the background of the song along with an image appropriate to the song's time period.  The book is formatted to share the stories of the songs, then later share the song's sheet music and lyrics in the second section of the book.

America is my favorite of the series set.  This book is filled with some of my favorites from American History and I could listen to it again and again.  I sing a reworded version of Yankee Doodle to Jackson as his song, changing the lyrics to fit to my Jackson-Doodle.  Erie Canal is another favorite that we have found is hard to locate to listen to so we were thrilled to see it included with this curriculum.  She'll Be Coming Around the Mountain is a song I used to sing while waiting for the schoolbus every morning when I attended public school in the late 80's- early 90's.  Listening to this CD brings back so many childhood memories!




Westward Ho!  The Heart of the Old West
This book covers history from the earliest days of the Old West.  It is formatted in the same form as America and filled with stories and pictures to learn from.  Many of these songs were new to us but we greatly enjoyed them.  Westward Ho! and Home On The Range were childhood favorites of mine which I loved sharing with the kids.  We learned a lot about America's past from this book!



Musical Memories of Laura Ingalls Wilder
This book focuses on the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder and music from her lifetime.  This book is written by William Anderson who is a biographer for Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Photographs shared within this book come from Leslie A. Kelly, the internationally known Little House photographer.  Many of these songs were also new to me, though some I had heard on the tv series about Mrs. Wilder's books.  Some of my childhood favorites are Buffalo Gals, Pop! Goes the Weasel and Sweet By and By.  These songs also evoked great memories that I was happy to share with my family.

Since this book in the series concentrates solely on the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder, this book would make a great accessory to anyone reading her books and learning about this time period of life through history related to Laura.  The book is filled with images and stories about Laura's life.  It was wonderful to see this beautifully designed book share so much about such an inspiring person!


We have loved listening and learning from the Experience History Through Music series.  This is something we have played over and over both at home and in the car while traveling.  It's been enjoyed by every member of our family.  The kids love to look over the great images in the books and we have had many discussions of the stories on the pages within.

Diana Waring's Experience History Through Music series can be purchased for $18.99 per book in the set.  If you purchase the set during July (at the time of this posting),  you can bundle the set and purchase it for $50.  This amazing series is worth every penny and can be used again and again in your home!  I am sure your family will enjoy these books just as much as we have in our homes!

You can find Diana Waring Presents online in the following places:
Twitter: @DianaWaring





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