Exploring STEM Electives in Choosing Possible Career Paths

During the last several weeks, our son has had the benefit of using and reviewing the Think Like An Architect course from Innovators Tribe. This course turned out to be so much more than we had even originally thought. And we were expecting something impressive from the time we knew that we would be reviewing this curriculum.

There are so many career options available to both boys and girls in the STEM areas.  It is hard to really know whether these career choices will be a good fit until you get elbow deep in them.  When possible our family loves to use high school elective credits to explore possible career choices for our children.  First time exploration of this after your child gets to college can be a very costly journey.

Innovators Tribe uses an online platform to host its classes.  The Homeschool Review Crew had the opportunity to review Think Like an Engineer and Think Like an Architect.  Both of these classes are excellent survey courses and can count for either a half or full credit hour elective depending on how much time your child invests in the projects.  A child with a lot of passion and interest could put in the hours to make that full credit.  These courses are designed for students in Grades 6 through 12.  Is this applicable for true high school credit?  My answer would be yes.  Keep reading along and I think you will start to see why I think so.

Thinking Like An Architect: The Course


As a parent I loved the layout of this course. The student begins with a review of different architectural styles and periods.  The first assignment had me thrilled in that my son needed to not only pick his favorite style and determine why it was his favorite, but he also had to build a PowerPoint presentation with specific requirements for the course.  He needed to have a title page, images, and a final text slide with his rationale for why he chose the period he did.  This may not seem like a big deal, but developing presentations is a skill that a lot of homeschool students do not do often enough.  This is an assumed skill when our children reach college level studies. I loved that he had to use a tool like this as part of an elective credit.

Some other topics presented before getting into the real hands-on application were an understanding of different career paths within the architecture field as well as the importance of math for this profession.  It is not all just about drawing.  Even if your child never becomes an architect, I loved that I had a solid example for my son to see “when will I ever use this in real life”.

The other topics that truly cover the majority of the course are on the tools of an architect including an architect’s scale, blueprints, and the designing of the student’s dream home using real design software that comes with the course.

The course has a thorough materials list as well as study guide pages that assist the student in taking notes as they view the videos and presentations for the class.  This was what we considered the “book learning”.  It was a truly a small fraction of the total learning experience. Most of the learning happened by doing!

Our Thoughts

As I have already mentioned, I loved that this was truly a survey course related to architecture.  My son loved that it was a lot more doing than writing.  It wasn’t about architecture – it truly was in putting your hand to the page and your fingers to the keyboard in being the architect.

The software was easy to navigate and use. We were a bit intimidated at first with the design software, but found that the instructions provided in the course really got us off to a good start.  My son ran with it from there.

Through the use of Think Like An Architect, our son has gotten a taste of what work would be like as an architect.  It has given him a lot of food for thought about whether he wants to pursue this as a career option.  For this we are thankful and is not something that a child can walk away from using just any elective course. He is enthused about finishing up his design of his dream home.  I am interested to see if he builds in space for his mom to come visit!

As always, I encourage you to check out the other reviews from families that used Think Like An Architect as well as Think Like An Engineer.  Think Like A Carpenter is in the works and will be available soon from Innovators Tribe.

Thinking Like an Architect or Engineer {Innovators Tribe Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Blessings and Meanings in Names

With each pregnancy, my husband and I chose our children’s names with purpose; for us, carrying meaning was critically important.  This should be an indication of the intrigue and excitement with which I approached the opportunity to review the Name Meaning products from CrossTimber.  Our family received a free Personalized Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse. The challenge with this review was in deciding what name to have included on our personalized plaque.

Finding Meaning in a Name

As our children have grown, we have shared with them what we knew of the meaning of their names and why we chose each.  Our boys have Biblical first names and we could therefore do searches in the Hebrew for their meaning.  Our second oldest, Michaela, was given the female version of Michael, which means One Who is Like the Lord.  Our oldest daughter, however, is named after my mother.  Her given name is Rucia.  We had no idea what the true roots of this name were when we named her.

My mother passed away when I was a young teen.  Her legacy has lived on decade after decade because of her beautiful character and the way she touched lives in a special way.  It was this essence of who my mother was that drove us to select it as our first-born’s birth name as well. And selfishly for me, it was a way of keeping my mother alive into future generations hoping that the stories that we share of who she was would continue on to our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.



Pure and Compassionate: Beautiful Friend; Bringer of Light and Truth


WOW, WOW, and WOW…. I honestly have no other word.  To see these words associated with the very meaning of my mom’s name was like closing my eyes and soaking in an embodiment of who she was.  It is literally bringing tears to my eyes to even read those words as I type this post.

We strove to find meaningful names for our children with a hope of who they would become.  I never considered the meaning of my mom’s name, but my hope for our oldest was that she would encompass the character I saw in my mother.  To find in hindsight that who my mother grew to be was in actuality the very meaning of her name was an incredible blessing!

This review that started out as a nice, sentimental gift became so much more.  It came to signify a confirmation of a life lived well and a name so rightly chosen for a woman who was filled with the best of intentions and integrity; compassionate; an incredible friend to many, and a true bearer of Light and Truth as she shared her passion for her Savior and Lord. It was like having a piece of her back.  So much so that I am seriously considering hanging this plaque above my desk as a reminder of who my mom was and providing inspiration to me on days when it is hard to be compassionate, one of integrity, a loyal friend, and someone ready to point others to the True Light and Truth that makes the rest of life worth living.

The Rest of the Story

Parenting can be one of the biggest blessings in life, but it can also be hard.  When our children were small, I used to joke that as soon as I figured our children out they had the nerve to change.  Little did I know how the challenges in parenting would change as our children grew into young adults.  Young adults who would need to wrestle with life and test their own beliefs and convictions before settling into who they were.  You see, I would guess that my mom was not always the person that this plaque exemplifies.  I know that I am not who I was years ago as a teen and young adult.  Life has a way of changing and defining us over the years.

What does that have to do with a plaque.  As a parent, I have come to realize that the value that I see in a name is more like a prayer uttered in hope of who my children will someday work out their convictions and beliefs to be and not a guarantee of who they will become.  Who they will become is between them and God, but in bestowing a name upon my children with meaning I convey to them a heritage of hope of character of what holds significance to me as their mother.  A legacy from my heart to the words that they will scribe each time they place their signature on a document of importance.  Each time it pops up on their college paperwork, their driver’s license, their marriage certificates, and maybe someday their children.

So, I share with you the meanings of each of their names asking that you join me in praying that as they grow they will learn a little bit more about their mother’s heart as they see the meaning and significance in their names that were so specially selected for each of them at the time that their dad and I met them for the first time face to face.

Rucia – Pure and Compassionate: Beautiful Friend; Bringer of Light and Truth

Michaela – One Who is Like God: One of Exaltation and Praise

Zechariah – Yahweh has Remembered You: One Aware of God’s Presence

Joshua – Yahweh, Our Salvation: One with Messages of Truth


There are not enough positive words to give meaning to that name as well.  What a company!  When considering how to use the credit we were given for a Personalized Name Plaque, I had the opportunity to chat with John, the owner of CrossTimber.  His passion for finding the meaning in names and the heritage and significance of them is evident throughout each dialogue and conversation with him.  He shared with me not just the meaning of the my mother’s name, but shared the meaning behind each of our children’s names as well as my own.  I think I forgot to even share with him my husband’s name or I am sure he would have joyfully researched it as well.

Once I determined which name(s) to focus on, it was fun going through the website in picking out the background for the plaque and considering other options, such as an upgrade in the frame or other types of products that would have the same name meaning on them. The ordering process was easy and seamless.  You really can’t find customer service better than what I experienced in working with John at CrossTimber.

By the end of the process, I felt like the actual plaque will be cherished, but the blessings I received went much further beyond this.  It touches on the legacy I bestowed on my children through their names in the things that I hold dear to my heart and hope that they will always remember me by as well.

Thank you, John, for a fantastic experience that will carry meaning in our family for what I hope are generations to come.

Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse {CrossTimber} Reviews

Crew Disclaimer

Building Foreign Language into our School Day


So many students are really resistant to fulfilling the high school graduation requirement for foreign language studies.  For this reason, I was thrilled to be a part of the Homeschool Review Crew‘s review of Middlebury Interactive Language‘s Middle School Chinese I.  My hope was that in getting a jumpstart on foreign language while still in middle school that it would be a much smoother transition in high school.  We have not done foreign language consistently in our homeschool.  Our son that reviewed this program was also part of our review of Middlebury’s Elementary Chinese I program.  So when given this second chance a few years later, he actually was thrilled. I think we are moving in the right direction….

What We Received:

For this review, our family received a user account for one student to use the Middle School Chinese I course.  This course is designed to be completed within a semester so we therefore were given a 6 month subscription.  Included in the subscription is the course content and the parent dashboard.

Our son used this course primarily on our family computer.  However, there is an app that can be downloaded on mobile devices for use on the go.  We did download the app on to our iPad for days when our family had more technology needs than could be accomodated by our one computer.  The software was fully functional on both devices.  Our son could also pick up right where he left off since this is an online resource.

How We Used This:

This is a curriculum that is truly done independently by the student.  Our son knew how to log into his account and it would take him directly to where he left off.  At times, he would click on the Table of Contents in the left sidebar, just because he is the type of kid that is always asking, “How much more?”  He does not mind doing the work, but likes to visually see his progress.

Each lesson took approximately 30-45 minutes to complete, which I felt was extremely reasonable at the Middle School level.  He found he could concentrate better and hear better if using headphones with a built-in mic.  I think this really did help him in blocking out background noise.  This was critical in that the program incorporates lessons which reinforce reading, writing, and speaking the language.  The Chinese program has an extra layer due to the nature of the language.  Traditional written Chinese has characters and symbols that are not like our alphabet.  Josh did learn to read the traditional Chinese as well as select the properly written words for sentences and in response to listening exercises.  For the written part of the language study, the program does have the alphabet based translation of the traditional symbols.  This enabled him to be able to type the words out as well.

In addition to the academic study of the language, its syntax, and speaking of it, our son was also introduced to the culture of China as it was embedded into the lessons. I honestly think this was his favorite part of the program.

So What Did We Think…

Middlebury Interactive Languages gets two thumbs up. The first for the learning that I saw happening and the second for creating a genuine interest in our son in foreign language studies.  Having a parent dashboard definitely allows the parent to know exactly what has been completed and the level of mastery that the student has accomplished.  Our son also knew how he was doing as each screen of work that he accomplished was graded before he moved on.  He did have the opportunity to redo lessons to help build mastery.  Like math, foreign language does build on itself so mastery is very important. Most of the time, I actually did not even go into the dashboard as our son was excited to share what he was learning.  He knew that he was acquiring mastery of a new language; there was no question.

Life presents itself with enough battles.  Finding a foreign language program that my son will do without a battle almost makes it a winner on that fact alone.  He not only recognized that he was learning to speak and read Chinese, but was excited about it.  He is a child that likes to look toward the future and had already put the pieces together in realizing that this was paving the way to easier and more successful foreign language studies in high school.

We have thoroughly enjoyed this review and will be continuing on with Middlebury Interactive Languages.  It seems to be such a good fit for our son that I would see us continuing to extend our subscription through his high school years.  Chinese is not the only foreign language to choose from.  Middlebury also offers courses in Spanish, French, and German.  These are offered at the elementary, middle school, and high school levels with multiple courses at each level.  Additionally, there are course offerings for AP French and Spanish.

If you are interested in a different grade level or language, please be sure to check out the other reviews from the Homeschool Review Crew.

Spanish, French, German or Chinese {Middlebury Interactive Languages}

Crew Disclaimer

Summer Reading Adventure ~ Product Review

I would imagine by now that it is not a well hidden secret that we are a family that loves to read.  We incorporate great literature in our studies, but there are also times that we just love to snuggle up for some pleasure reading.  Our latest review is from Shiloh Run Press with their new release, The Glass Castle by Trisha White Priebe and Jerry B. Jenkins. When we saw that Jerry Jenkins was one of the authors, we knew we were in for an action packed adventure that would be hard to put down. For those of you that do not recognize his name, Jerry Jenkins was one of the authors of the well-known Left Behind Series for both adults and children.

This novel was written with ages 10-14 in mind, but is certainly an engaging read for those older as well.  Depending on the child, you may wish to reserve this for future reading pleasure if younger than the recommended reading age.  Allow me to explain by telling you a bit about the book.

The Glass Castle is a 250 page book broken into 41 relatively short chapters.  The text is medium-sized making it inviting for younger readers.

The story line is fast-paced from the very opening chapter. It begins with Avery and her younger brother, Henry, wandering the woods when they suddenly get kidnapped.  When set “free”, Avery finds herself within the walls of the King’s Castle, but without Henry.  In her desperate attempts to find her brother, she comes upon the inner circle of the other children who have also been kidnapped.  The strange coincidence is that all of the children are orphaned and all 13, except Avery.  Avery is 13, but her father is alive and waiting at home.  Her mother disappeared two years prior, but was never confirmed as having died.

The intrigue of the storyline continues as Avery seeks her freedom and reuniting with her brother.  Will she find him?  Who do you trust?  The children were brought to the Castle in attempt by an old woman to protect them.  Protect them by hiding them in the least likely place – right under the king’s nose in his own castle.  For this reason, the children realize that they can not distinguish which adults to trust and which they must stay hidden from.  As Avery learns more and more from the inner circle of children, there is one realization that hits her.  The things she is learning about life in the castle tie into stories her mother told her from her younger years.  What connection does her mother have in this new sequence of events in her life?

Are you curious about the answers?  You will be even more so if you begin reading even the first couple of chapters of The Glass Castle.

Our Thoughts…

My 12 year old son and I both read the book independent of one another.  What did we realize?

  • The plot is very addictive – you will not want to put this one down.
  • There is always an imminent sense of danger and adventure, but there were not any scenes in the storyline that would prevent me from having my child read it.
  • Children who have an unusually high fear of being kidnapped, have been kidnapped, or those that have been adopted, may be more sensitive to the turn of events and themes of the story.  Parental discretion is definitely warranted in these cases.

When I asked my son if he had a favorite part of the book, he really just stressed all of the adventure and intrigue.  Conversely, when asked if there were things that he didn’t like, he did have two comments:

It went by too fast!!!

The sequel, The Ruby Moon, won’t be out until Fall 2016.

As always, you don’t have to take our word for it.  Check out the other reviews from

The Glass Castle {Shiloh Run Press Review}
Crew Disclaimer

Forbrain – A New Technology for our Homeschool

From the moment I knew that our family would be reviewing the Forbrain headset from Forbrain – Sound for Life Ltd, the wheels in my brain began to really turn as to how we would push it to the limits.  The company’s website touted that it had applications for short term memory improvements, increases in attention span, clarification of vocal patterns and speech clarity, and targeted response in the area of reading comprehension. My background in music therapy as well as being a homeschool mom to a child with some special learning needs laid the ground work for being intrigued by what this device would accomplish.

When the package arrived in the mail, we found the headset exactly as pictured on the company’s website. It came in a specially designed hard-shell case with a foam insert that provides optimal protection of the device when not in use.  Also in the package were a charging cable, user guide, and educational support guide. In the event that there is a problem, the company offers a 2 year warranty.  They are so confident that you will see the benefits of using the device that they also offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee within the first 30 days.


The Forbrain – Sound for Life device is most definitely not your regular headset.  A lot of scientific research has been done leading to its development.  Forbrain is an internationally based company with offices here in the US.  This is important as researchers and scientists from around the globe have contributed to this design.  The research spans the academic areas of speech development, auditory processing, and the cross over into the realm of reading and reading comprehension.  The outcome is this specialized headset that utilizes bone conduction as well as the auditory feedback loop to impact the benefits identified above. To read some of the research related specifically to the headset from Forbrain, please follow this link.

We chose to use this primarily with our teenage son.  When he was just a year old, he had suffered significant hearing loss due to repetitive ear infections.  During one of the episodes, his left eardrum ruptured.  As he got older, he no longer experienced difficulties with ear infections, but his full hearing was not restored.  His speech was significantly delayed.  As he matured, we found that he struggled some with word finding skills.  His struggles with reading were further compounded by issues with visual tracking, split dominance processing, and dyslexia.  We invested an incredible amount of hours in various therapies.  Now in his teenage years, dyslexia is no longer an issue and we have found methods and coping skills to compensate for some of the other struggles.  However, we have always wondered how much of our son’s challenges related back to his ear infections when he was a baby.

The Forbrain headset does utilize bone conduction.  This is significant in that if there were something anatomically or functionally wrong with the parts of the ear, the vibrations upon the bones behind the ear would enhance hearing.  On a very basic level, the best way that I can describe this is on the same principle of vibrations that allows children to connect two plastic cups together by a long string and be able to hear one another.  On a more advanced level is the use of this same principle of bone conduction is utilized in certain types of hearing aids.  A regular headset that simply projected louder or clearer sounds into the auditory canal would not have the same impact if the parts of the ear were not working as they should. Our son did say that he could hear better using the headset.  This has prompted me to put on my to do list to have his hearing checked once again.

Our Experience

From an educational standpoint, I absolutely fell in love with the fact that my son was literally hearing his own voice played back through the headset.  The design of the device actually reduces the background or environmental noise.  I think this aspect is huge.  My son was now able to read his schoolwork outload and hear himself as he read.  It revealed to him times when he read words that just didn’t sound right prompting him to ask for clarification on new vocabulary.  This also took his reading assignments from simply a visual exercise to tapping into his auditory learning abilities.  I love whenever we can take learning to a multi-sensory approach and the Forbrain headset allowed us to do that. This is of benefit to not just with special learning needs, but also any of us.  The more senses we can touch in presenting new material the greater associations that are built in the neural pathways of our brain. A side benefit was that our son instinctly began to speak clearer now that he heard how he can sometimes mumble while speaking very softly.
So what did we conclude?  Our son’s reading comprehension and attention to what he read definitely increased.  As a result, his confidence in his schoolwork as well as interest in discussing the content of his reading increased as well.  My observations were further confirmed when I had one day picked up the headset and put it away.  He came looking for it! He realized that his learning and ability to accomplish his work were greater when using the Forbrain headset.  This was enormous as he now felt confident to work independently.

The materials that accompanied the device suggested that it be used for about 20 minutes a day.  As my son realized that it was helping, he wanted to use it for greater periods of time.  However, we found that there truly was a reason for this recommendation.  The device is helping to build new auditory pathways in the brain.  For this reason, it can be exhausting and taxing to use it too much too quickly.  We became very targeted in how we chose to use it to help maximize the benefits from its use.  We do anticipate seeing a great integration of his thought processes in building greater communication pattterns in his brain that will help to further overcome the split dominance in his thought process. Over time, he did find that he was able to use it for longer periods of time or for multiple 20 minute sessions per day.

I honestly can not say enough good things about this device.  The information on the Forbrain website is definitely not a bunch of marketing spin.  We would highly recommend this device to those with hearing, speech, reading, or attention deficit issues.  I could also see remarkable applications for vocal performers.  As a matter of fact, I am sure that this list is far from exhaustive in identifying the various individuals that would benefit from a Forbrain – Sound for Life headset.  I really wonder what the implications would be for nonverbal individuals who are just beginning to overcome barriers in expressing themselves. My thoughts specifically go to a friend who also has a teenage son.  Her son is on the autism spectrum and largely non-verbal.  I do wonder what language gains he would have with the assistance of the Forbrain headset.

Use Your Voice to Train Your Brain

As much as I found benefits to the Forbrain headset for my son, I have to share with you that we no longer have our Forbrain device.  My older brother suffered a massive stroke over 4 years ago. His expressive language skills were greatly impaired as a result.  He continues to receive speech therapy, use a special tablet to assist with communication, and do speech exercises at home.  My heart breaks for him as he is aware of what is going on around him and has so much to say.  He becomes so frustrated in not being able to find the words to share the thoughts in his head.  With the help of my sister-in-law he shares that it is like all his words are locked in a filing cabinet in his brain, but he is unable to access the key.  Unfortunately, the neural pathways that would unlock his speech were destroyed by the stroke.  Much of his therapy is directed at rebuilding new pathways to unlock his ability to engage in conversation and convey his thoughts.

After seeing the results we have had with our son and reading the research supporting this device, I gave our Forbrain to my brother.  He has since taken it to his speech therapist who has now also researched it.  She feels that it may have a lot of promise in doing exactly what it claims to have the potential to do.  My prayer is that it does offer him a breakthrough that he has worked so hard for.


As always, I encourage you to read the other reviews by those on the Crew that have also used the Forbrain headset with members of their families.


Forbrain – Sound For Life Ltd Review

Crew Disclaimer

Check out Math – the LearnBop Way

We recently had an opportunity to review a new Math supplement and found ourselves questioning whether it couldn’t really be a full math curriculum.  When this opportunity first arose, I really was convinced that there are small variations, but most math programs are the same. I now stand corrected. We reviewed the LearnBop for Families product with the Family Plan options that allows for 2-4 students.  This is a brand new math program to the homeschool market from LearnBop. We received the 12 month subscription to this program that allows a full range of use with all the content from grades 3-12.

The Program

LearnBop for Families is an online math program that offers learning through video based instruction along with problems for concept mastery.  The structure of the program allows for movement between grade levels, which is an awesome feature for students migrating in from other curriculum or those seeking to just utilize the program for skill reinforcement before returning to a primary curriculum. I got to thinking how great this feature would be if I felt like my child was struggling with fractions, but right on target with his other math concepts.  We could go back as far as we needed to and work forward on just the modules dealing with fractions.  Now how cool is that!

After the initial account setup, which takes literally minutes, the student is ready to just jump in and get started. Our son would log into his account and be met with a screen that looked fairly consistent from day to day.


As you can see from the image, there are generally two to three video segments that teach the lesson content in increasing degrees of complexity.  The fact that the material is layered in this approach with three short videos as opposed to a longer single video is a real plus.  I found my son more inclined to going back to re-watch any videos he was fuzzy on.  My guess is that he would be less likely to pause and rewind in the middle of a longer video or to rewatch the whole thing if he was struggling with grasping the material.

After watching the videos, the next step would be to solve the Bops.  There are a series of questions that the student needs to complete successfully in order to move on to the next stop in the Learning Roadmap.


Now, get ready!  Here is the next cool feature.

The software is so incredibly intuitive.  As our son completed each Bop (question), the computer determined if his response was correct or not.  If it was correct, it would show his progress in reaching the mastery level for that section of the current unit he was working on.  If he had not answered the problem correctly, the program would automatically have him work the problem in a step by step format with each step on its own screen.  It was very intentional in pacing the student to complete each small step before moving on.  Because this is built into the logic of the software, there was a huge implication for the mom-son relationship.  No debating over going back over problems that were missed!  If he missed a problem, the very next thing he had to do was to work that specific problem in step by step fashion until it was completed successfully.  There was no way around this feature, which this mom loved.  It was also a real motivator for our son who quickly realized that getting through a “lesson” would take considerably longer if he had to do too many problems step by step. I found his dedication in doing his best the first time was greatly increased and we had no disputes on what was required next.

LearnBop4After each problem was successfully completed, the student would be shown a graph of where they were at in mastering the topic being studied.  This was shown in a graph format with the program defaulting to a 90% accuracy for mastery.  The percent that the student achieved was a combination of the number of problems completed as well as accuracy.  As you see in the adjacent graph, our son had not yet achieved the mastery level.  He had successfully answered the questions thus far, but simply did not do enough problems in the sequence for the program to exhibit concept mastery.  Generally, he would need to answer at least 5 questions to master the topic if his accuracy was high.

He was required work in the program for about 30 to 45 minutes each day.  There were times that this meant that a lesson had not been completely finished.  Guess what?  That was absolutely not a problem as the program remembered just where our son left off.  When he logged back in the next day, it automatically came back up to where he was.  What’s more is that if I decided that we needed to change course and focus on a different skill or maybe move back or forward a grade level, it was very easy to do this in the parent dashboard.

The parent dashboard was also a great find in this program.  I could log into my account and quickly see my son’s recent activity in the program.  It clearly showed time spent, lessons completed, and his mastery of each lesson.


In most of my reviews I try to give a balanced view of the things that worked for us and the areas that could use some improvement from our perspective.  I have to say that I am struggling.  There just are not any obvious areas that I feel would work better if they were presented differently. The biggest question that remains for me is in still trying to define this program as either a math supplement for concept reinforcement or as a complete math curriculum.  It would honestly be a tough call.

As always, I encourage you to check out the reviews from others on the Schoolhouse Review Crew.  There were families using all different grade levels of the program so I am sure there is a review for whatever grade level your child would most likely place into in using LearnBop for Families.

LearnBop for Families Review

Crew Disclaimer

Traditional Logic from Memoria Press ~ A Product Review

Those of you that have been following our homeschool journey over the years know that our family does not stick to one strict method of homeschooling.  In being more eclectic in our approach, I love to get to know what companies can be depended upon as we reach into Classical Education, Charlotte Mason, and other styles.  We recently received a review copy of Traditional Logic I Complete Set from Memoria Press.  I was thrilled as Memoria Press is one of those companies that you can depend on in the Classical Education circles.

Memoria Press

What We Received:  

As the name suggests, we received a complete set of the Traditional Logic I set. This includes student workbook, the quizzes & tests book, the teacher answer key, and the instructional DVDs. Everything is literally included to allow the parent that knows absolutely nothing about Traditional Logic to provide a course of excellence to their child.

Traditional Logic I is marketed for students in grades 7-12 with an emphasis on mature 7th and 8th grade students.  I would wholeheartedly agree. Unless your child is truly advanced in their studies and also mature in how they handle their schoolwork, I would recommend reserving this course for the high school years.

The course is designed to span a semester in length, which would lend one to be able to use it for a half credit in high school.  The 15 weeks in a semester could be filled in covering the Introductory Chapter, the 13 individual chapters, plus a week to study and take the final exam.  The main focus of this course is on Traditional Logic with an emphasis on Formal Logic as opposed to Informal Logic.

How is it used:

This course could truly be done with the student working independently, with the parent joining the child with directed discussion around the content of each chapter, or be used in a group setting such as a homeschool co-op.  There is a video that contains all of the instruction for the new material being presented.  This is watched and then followed by daily assignments that span the week.  Although the chapter is not long based on a count of pages, there is a lot of content that is best consumed in more bite sized morsels.  The student is therefore directed to read certain sections of the chapter before proceeding with their daily assignment.  The assignments are a series of questions that help the student to fully digest the content of the lesson.  There are 4 days worth of exercises per chapter, which we covered on Monday through Thursday.  On Fridays, my daughter was asked to review the chapter and then take the chapter quiz.

Our Thoughts:

I have always felt strongly that logic and critical thinking are subjects that all students should be required to take.  Being able to understand the proper structure of an argument, its fallacies, and how it defends truth are essential to so many other areas of our life; not the least of which is even our faith.  So much of the basis of Apologetics is founded and supported by formal logic.  Depending on the career that your child wishes to pursue, instruction in formal logic could begin carrying even more weight.  For example, our oldest daughter is pursuing a career in the area of law.  I am so thankful that we incorporated the study of logic into her high school curriculum.

A challenge in our society today is the belief that in order for education to be of high value it must entertain.  We unfortunately we see the same challenge being posed to the church and worship experiences.  Traditional Logic I as presented by Memoria Press has an incredible ability to impart great knowledge in its core subject.  However, it is not designed to entertain.  It is designed to instruct.  This is not just the presentation of formal logic, but also logic formally presented.  The serious minded student should be able to proceed through this course without difficulty and will gain great benefit from doing so.

I loved the fact that everything that my daughter needed to really study formal logic was included.  As a parent that does not have a great deal of confidence in this area, I can not emphasize enough the value of the instructional DVDs.  These are recordings of the author himself teaching the content of the course.  What’s more – all of the powerpoint slides seen in the DVD segments are available for print out straight from the DVDs.  This was a great benefit in printing them before watching and using them to take notes on.

In concluding, I highly recommend Traditional Logic: Introduction to Formal Logic from Memoria Press for those that are interested in a serious minded course to master the foundational principles of the subject.

Logic, Greek Myths and Astronomy Memoria Press Review

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Kwik Stix – A New Flare in Painting {A Review}

We were pleased to receive the Kwik Stix 12 pk from The Pencil Grip, Inc to review.  It is always a lot of fun when you can get creative with a review and creative is exactly what we got.

I have to say that I am one of “Those” parents.  I listen to friends chat about their Charlotte Mason approach to homeschooling.  Their artist studies and having their children re-create masterpieces with only the best art supplies.  It sounds very romantic, but the reality is that we are lucky to fit formal art studies into our day at all.  Oh yes, each year I make a new vow to the Fine Arts and each year I feel like I fail miserably.  However, we do much better at this endeavor if we have a well stocked art cabinet of resources and tools.


What We Received

For this review, our family received the Kwik Stix 12 pk.  This is an assortment of mostly primary color tempera paints.  The unique design is that they are in plastic tubes constructed in a similar fashion to really large glue sticks.  If you feel like you are running out of paint in the middle of your masterpiece simply twist up a bit more.

There is no need for water cups to spill, messy paintbrushes that get more paint on the table than your work space, or dad’s old dress-shirts to use as smocks.  The wonderful part about Kwik Stix is that there is virtually no mess.

The paints do go on wet, but dry within 90 seconds.  Now that is a great deal for projects being done at homeschool co-ops that need to travel home in your car after class.

How We Used Them

I think the more appropriate question is how did we not use them.  In the top image, I got into the action in really wanting to test what could be done.  I realized that you can create a “sharp” side to the paints so that you can alter the thickness of paint you want to apply.  Because the paints go on wet, you can also use your finger, cotton swabs, or even wet sponges to help blend colors.  Once they dry there is no smudging so outlining certain parts of your drawing or filling in larger enclosed areas with a different shade can be done without smearing the color tones.

Our 11 year old really enjoyed using Kwik Stix.  We even caught him on occasion trying to sneak them away to his room for his sole use.

At our homeschool co-op, I have the pleasure of teaching a Creative Ministries class.  Our teens are working on a presentation of Amazing Grace and wanted to make posters of various types of sin that they see as prevalent in their world as they get more independent and challenged with things that were not an issue when they were younger.  Many of these teens are now working in public venues and becoming more aware of the things that the world considers cool, but God does not agree.  They are wanting to communicate that even when we fall into a point of temptation or must minister to those that have chosen to live in lifestyles not honoring to God that in the end God’s grace truly is sufficient. I wasn’t sure how they would take to the use of the Kwik Stix.  You know what…  they loved them.  They too got creative in using them at different angles to create different line thickness as well as using tones and boldness. There was exploration in the blending of the colors as well as using outlining for accenting purposes.


For teens this was a pretty shy group.  When I took out my camera to get pictures of the beginning of their signs, there was a lot of grumbling.  But when I explained that I was writing this review, the group came alive.  They were enthusiastic about sharing how much they loved working with Kwik Stix.  They too mentioned loving how they went on to the poster board, the different ways they found to use them, and the fact that they felt like they could use them without making a huge mess with lots of supplies to have to clean up.  Kwik Stix by The Pencil Grip, Inc were popular with our users of all ages.

As always, we encourage you to check out what the other bloggers from the Schoolhouse Review Crew have to say after using Kwik Stix with their own children.


Kwik Stix The Pencil Grip, Inc. Review

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A Pivotal Moment in Our Homeschool Journey

There are certain moments in our lives that should really be pivotal.  High school graduation is one of those moments and I am happy to incorporate our most recent review of graduation supplies from HomeschoolDiploma.com.  Central to this will be our daughter’s diploma which was custom designed using the many options afforded when purchasing their Exclusive High School Diploma.


High school graduation is one of those pivotal moments.  A time when we know it is hugely significant and shouldn’t just be simply another day in our child’s life without recognition. It is a time of providing a blessing of passage into the next phase of her life.  We will graduating our second child this year.  A common thread that I have seen so far is that no matter how well prepared our children are or how much confidence we have in them, these kids are scared.  They are scared of having to do life on their own.  They are scared about whether they are “enough” – smart enough to learn material in college, dedicated enough to accomplish their dreams, and well, just enough….  It is also a recognition for you, Mom and Dad, for the devotion of so much to bring your child to this point.

Every family will choice how to celebrate.  We are fortunate to be a part of a homeschool cooperative.  Although our daughter will be the only one to graduate this year, the entire group will gather with friends and family on a special evening culminating her journey to this point and praying over her as she heads out into her future.

As the director of our homeschool group, one of the first questions that I receive from parents new to homeschooling is, “But can I give my child a high school diploma?”.  The answer is yes to both of those questions that seem like one.  Yes, you are capable and have the right legally to provide your child with a legitimate high school diploma.  And yes, you can actually obtain a real high school diploma to her upon fulfillment of her high school requirements.

We have recently had the opportunity to review an assortment of products from HomeschoolDiploma.com that we will be using as part of our daughter’s high school graduation in just a few weeks.  Michaela will be wearing a full cap, gown, and tassel for her graduation.  These can all be purchased through the company with a choice of color and the year of graduation.  Other items available are announcements, thank you cards, class rings, and lots of other fun goodies to put a splash of flare and fun into the event.  Michaela is so appreciative of each person that will be attending her graduation that she specifically wanted to order Thank You cards to send to those that attend.  We were thrilled with the quality and she felt extra special when they came in with her name beautifully scrolled across the front.


Each of the things we ordered from HomeschoolDiploma.com were of high quality and professionally done.  However, by far, the most treasured is Michaela’s Diploma.  It honestly took us a bit longer to order it than I thought it would because there are so many different options that allow you to customize it.  You will enter the name of your homeschool, your child’s name, how you want your name and your spouses to appear on the signature lines and if you need one or two signature lines.  Some other things that we were given the opportunity to select were:

  • The emblem on the front of her diploma
  • The color of paper it was printed on
  • The wording of the inside text – loved that we could incorporate our Christian faith and the maturing of our daughter as a person and not just her academics
  • The honor seal on the diploma itself, and
  • The incorporation of Scripture

The diploma is in a padded cover like those that many high school graduates will receive from their public and private schools.  We love that we are able to personalize even high school graduation as the culmination of our homeschool journey, but our daughter is thrilled to get a “real” diploma like many of her peers that are not home educated.

Before I close, it is important to note that HomeschoolDiploma.com also has graduation supplies for your kindergarten and eighth grade graduate as well.

As always, I encourage you to check out the other reviews done by the other bloggers on the Review Crew who are also preparing for their children’s graduation using supplies and diplomas from HomeschoolDiploma.com.


Exclusive High School Diploma Review

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Critical Thinking Meets Science

Over the last 4 years, our family has had a chance to review many homeschool materials from complete curriculum and supplemental resources to things that are just fun.  This latest review touches on so many areas that it is really hard to put into a bucket so you will need to hang in there with me.

Surfing the Net Science from The Critical Thinking Co. crosses over so many different lines of learning that I just can’t wait to share more about this fun resource and how you might want to use it with your children.

We used Surfing the Net Science with our 11 year old who is right at the upper end of the recommended age range of Grades 3-6.  My greatest regret is that we didn’t run into this resource sooner.

Surfing the Net Science is a softcover 250 page book.  Beyond that I have trouble putting it in a box as it touches on so many skills and areas of learning. While using this product, our son:

  • Learned about internet safety and sites that were kid friendly;
  • Used critical thinking skills in determining the best way to do internet searches and glean information from the sites he visited;
  • Learned how to organize that information in different formats; and
  • Built on his science knowledge.

When considering Surfing the Net Science, it has a lot of the elements of an elementary survey science course that incorporates chapters on Animals, Atmosphere, Ecosystems, Energy, Geology, Plants, and Space. The big difference is that this is no science textbook.  The structure of this book is to provide targeted areas of research to the student and then guided tools and internet addresses to explore and obtain the information the student is to gather.

Surf the Internet Science 1

In using this book, the chapters can be followed in the order presented or you can choose which chapter to focus on based on your child’s interest. The learning pathway that your child journeys will follow the same pattern in each chapter.  This curriculum has the child:

  • Define: the student gathers general information using keyword searches on the topic through exploring text, videos, images, and charts through their internet searches.
  • Describe: the student uses keyword searches once again in searching for more specific information on the topic again using text, videos, images, and charts found through surfing the internet.
  • Analyzing and Synthesizing: the student uses the information gathered in the first two steps of defining and describing to complete a graphic organizer.  A further way of digesting the information is to then take the material from the organizer and write a paragraph about the information learned.
  • Expanding Knowledge: The student now goes back to the internet to do additional searches on specific aspects of the topic and uses this information to write some additional paragraphs.
  • Investigating: This final step allows the student to come up with their own question of interest about the topic being studied and complete additional research.

In addition to the activity sheets related to the steps above, there are also Challenge questions interspersed throughout to add an extra level of complexity especially to the student at the recommended age range for this book.

Things We Loved About This Curriculum:

I have to admit that I have really avoided using a lot of internet searching with our youngest.  There is so much out on the internet that is not appropriate for children.  However, computers and the internet are not going away.  These are a part of my son’s life and always will be, so he really needs to learn to safely navigate.  Internet safety is taught through the proper use of keywords and the directed links as the child enters into this world of internet surfing.

Before we even began the first chapter, The Critical Thinking Co. provided a wonderful introductory video that can be shown to your child as a tutorial on the use of search engines and the proper way to do keyword searches and use bookmarks.

The combination of learning internet searches with covering solid science concepts makes you feel like you are rolling multiple lessons into one.  This is magnified to an even greater degree when you consider the critical thinking skills that are used in sifting through the information viewed and choosing what is the most important to incorporate into their work.

The use of graphical organizers and many open-ended or paragraph responses allowed my son to really express his thoughts after doing the research.  Many times he felt like a detective on the mad dash to solving a mystery.  However, it was in slowing down to complete the activity sheets that he truly sifted through the information to bring it all together in a meaningful way.

The biggest thing that made this resource a great addition to our homeschool library is that our son loved it!

My only regret is that there is not a Level 2 to this book that I am aware of.  Our other children did not learn solid research skills until they were in high school writing research papers.  This made quality research a dreaded task rather than an adventure.

Surfing the Net Science can certainly be used by a student working individually at home or can be used in a group setting.  Additionally, I found great flexibility in how this resource would fit into many different approaches to homeschooling including Charlotte Mason, Delight Directed / Passion Driven, Unschooling, and as a tool to teach research skills that can certainly be used in more traditional courses in the future.

As always feel free to read the other reviews on Surfing the Net Science from the Schoolhouse Review Crew as well as reviews that are also being done on Fun-Time Phonics!, The Basics of Critical Thinking, U.S. History Detective Book 1, and Practical Critical Thinking.

The Critical Thinking Company Review

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