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

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

Homeschooling Where You are Planted

During the Back to Homeschool Blog Hop, we have chatted about setting goals for your school year and also realizing that you just can’t fit it all in.  Today’s topic is about Homeschooling Where You are Planted.  Finding freedom in knowing that God has planted you and your family right where you are at this moment in time can be a wonderful realization.  It is actually the key to cutting out the roots of discontentment and doubts.

Where You Are Planted

When we began homeschooling a decade ago, our life was very different.  In our first year, our daughters were in the middle of their elementary school years, our son was a first grader with some learning struggles, and our baby was just that – a baby.  We had converted our dining room into a schoolroom and began our journey.  During those early days, we learned to do the subjects that required extra attention during the baby’s naptime and later when we placed him in the bathtub with finger paints to stay confined and entertained.  The girls were an ideal age to combine science and history into a shared learning time.  It was also a period of intense learning and growing in educating our son who struggled with learning issues.

Throughout our years educating our children at home, we have been a self-employed family whose sole income has been from our family run farm for most of these years.  Running a farm is a family business that requires all hands on deck.  There are days when there are emergencies with the animals, hay that needs to be hauled, or wood that needs to be chopped to heat our home.  FLEXIBILITY is the buzzword for success around our house.  Our children have learned that the needs of the farm must take priority as they provide for our very existence.  This is a valuable lesson, but a difficult one when they want to have a playdate with friends or when I would love to lavish them with violin or art lessons in town.

Even farmers can start to believe that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.  After all, our cows certainly think so…

Friends that have only one child and live in a subdivision seem to be able to enjoy an abundance of field trips and incorporate lots of extracurricular activities into the schedule.  Do you hear the envy setting in? The funny thing is that on occasion I can hear that mom talk of the struggles of not having those lively group discussions over a topic in history that families with multiple children have. The need to be intentional in teaching her child patience since there is no one to wait behind to get the help needed on a math lesson is another challenge in homeschooling an only child.

As our family begins our tenth year of homeschooling this year, life has taken us to a new place once again.  We are experiencing the true moving up of one of our students as our oldest leaves for college.  Our school year will be delayed in starting because we all feel like we need to make this transition and adjust to our new normal a bit more before diving into our studies.  We will also be busy as our second oldest begins her senior year and all that comes with that in preparing to graduate and take on what comes next.  Our boys are now in high school and middle school.  Their interests are becoming more defined and rather than dealing with learning issues and challenges of having a toddler underfoot, we are developing skills and character as they start seeing themselves as young men rather than the little boys of the family.

Changes are a part of life.  We all encounter different developmental stages with our children.  Our situations and challenges vary.  But don’t let the differences get you down or discouraged.  God has divinely appointed you to be where you are right now with all of the joys and struggles that this time and place may hold.  He is orchestrating a great story revealing Himself in you and your children that would not have quite the same ending if it were not weaved through the yesterdays, todays, and tomorrows specially designed for you.

Your experience will not be the same as the other families in your neighborhood, church, or homeschool group.  But take heart in knowing that God never lets you out of His hands.

Speaking of differences, I invite you to enjoy the banquet of different topics being shared through the other bloggers participating in the Back to Homeschool Blog Hop.  Here a few more that you may want to check out:

Joanie @ Simple Living Mama
Aurie @ Our Good Life
Jennifer @ A Peace of Mind
Jenn @ Treasuring Life’s Blessings
Kemi @ Homemaking Organized
Wendy @ Life at Rossmont
Katie @ DailyLife
Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory
Kim @ Homestead Acres
Melissa @ Mom’s Plans
Annette @ A Net In Time

It’s Not Greek To Me!

After several years of homeschooling, I feel like our family has really settled into expanding our vocabulary and even spelling to a large degree through the learning of Latin and Greek roots, prefixes, and suffixes.  So many of our words find their heritage in these languages.  Because of the power we have seen in this approach we were thrilled when we were selected to review Greek Morphemes Lessons (It’s Not Greek to Me!) from Ready to Teach. This curriculum is designed with upper middle school students or high school students in mind with a special emphasis on improving SAT vocabulary scores.

What We Received:

As part of our review, we received both the Teacher and Student books as well as the supplemental materials.  The supplemental materials previously came on a CD included in the teacher book.  However, with the latest revision that just released this past month, the supplemental files now ship on a USB thumbdrive.  The company is sensitive to the fact that many notebooks and lapbooks no longer have an internal CD drive and want every user to have the greatest ability to use these additional resources.  The Student Book contains the consumable pages that the student will need to proceed through all 12 lessons in this curriculum.  Additionally, there are colored paper study cards to help the student learn the more than 200 Greek roots, prefixes, and suffixes covered. The final pages of the student book contain an index of the morphemes studied, their meaning, and the lesson in which they are covered.

The Teacher Book is not just a replica of the student book with answers.  There is most definitely an answer key to the Student Book, but many more resources as well.  Some of the teacher helps included are an introduction to the study with clear instructions on how best to use it, an overview of each lesson, transparency masters, tests, as well as the answers to the review sections and tests.  I mentioned that the Student Book contained paper copies of study cards that the students can write on and utilize.  The Teacher Book contains a pre-printed finished copy of the study cards on sturdy cardstock.  These can be cut out and used as is or laminated for even greater durability.

The final component in this complete curriculum are the PowerPoint slides included on the USB drive.  There is a separate file with additional learning helps for the student for each lesson as well as the review sections of the course.

So How Does It Work:

This study has the flexibility to be taught by the parent to children in their homeschool, done fairly independently by the student using all the the support materials, or used in a group environment.  When we first received this program, we had no idea that it had this flexibility, but are excited to have it considered as part of a class at our local homeschool group.

Each lesson contains a mixture of approximately 20 roots, prefixes, and suffixes in total.  These are clearly identified as such so that the student knows how it would be used in a word.  The student is also presented with a list of uncommon words that utilize these morphemes to work, dissect, use in sentences, and finally be tested on.

On the first page in each lesson, my son would look up the word parts in the index in the back of the book and jot the meaning next to the word part. He would then proceed to Lesson A and Lesson B.  These lessons would take the larger Words to Work list and have the student dissect them for meaning using the morpheme meanings jotted down on the first page.  In Lesson C, the student then takes the Words to Work and uses them in their own sentences that provide context clues. These sentences are a great way to review the words in addition to the study cards.  Lesson D is a review where the student is presented with new words that use the same morphemes and are asked to figure out the meaning of these new words.  The second half of Lesson D has the student match the “created” words from earlier in the lesson to match to a somewhat silly definition.

The final step in the lesson is the taking of a test on the morphemes studied in the lesson.  As you can see, it is easy to correspond Lessons A-D with the addition of the test to fit into a 5 day school week. After incorporating the review weeks and tests, Greek Morphemes Lessons covers 15 solids weeks of instruction.

So What Did We Think:

Greek Morphemes Lessons is a great tool that does not consume a large amount of time out of each day, but provides a great foundation for expanding vocabulary skills and working on word studies to improve SAT/ACT scores.  Everything you need to use this study fully is included.  My child was thrilled with the quick reference of the index in the back and the design of the study cards for easy review throughout the week and during the duration of the course.  The study cards are also easily accessible after the course in reviewing prior to taking the SAT/ACT exams.

I am excited to present the idea of incorporating these materials into a class at our homeschool co-op.  Doing this type of study and creating new “silly” words to reinforce the meaning of the morphemes would be even more fun in a group environment.

As always, I am glad to share that there are 49 other families reviewing this same curriculum at the Schoolhouse Review Crew.  Be sure to click on the graphic below to read what they have to share about their experiences.

Koru Naturals Review

Crew Disclaimer

Christianity Cove – Product Review

Our family has been blessed to review a couple of resources from Christianity Cove. This is a new company to us that we were anxious to see exactly what their materials were like. Christianity Cove specializes in the publishing of resources that are used primarily in Sunday School and Children’s Ministries. The products that we specifically reviewed were 28 Object Lessons and 100 Simple Service Projects. Both of these resources are designed in such a way that they can be used with the whole family if incorporating them into your homeschool plans.

28 Object Lessons

28 Object Lessons:

We received this 84 page booklet in ebook form. It was easy to open and definitely easy to use. The title really says it all. There is a short one page introduction explaining that simple household objects are used to teach illustrations relevant to our Christian walk regardless of our age. These lessons can be used as part of family devotions or a great tool that can be pulled off the shelf to get your kids thinking about an aspect of their character that may need some attention.

Each object lesson is laid out very clearly in a similar format throughout the book.

  • The Message of the Lesson
  • Related Scripture Passages
  • Objects and Materials that are Needed
  • Items to Prepare when necessary
  • Step by Step Outline of the Lesson with Scripted dialogue for the instructor
  • Closing Prayer

I was very pleased to find that each of the object lessons truly did use common household items and were easy to implement. These lessons really were just like the Bible in that no matter who you are, how old you are, or where you are at in your Christian walk, they have the power to speak to you about His Truth. These basic messages have a way of hitting home and are so easily applied to one’s life that everyone gets something. This is a great resource to incorporate into your homeschool or even character based classes in your homeschool group. Once you get started, it is also fun to challenge your older kids with creating their own object lessons to share with younger children.

100 Object Lessons

100 Simple Service Projects:

100 Simple Service Projects is a 56 page ebook that gives a wonderful basis for beginning community service both as a focus of your family or in a church group or homeschool cooperative. The ebook begins with an overview of various types of community service projects and the importance of molding our children’s hearts toward serving others and loving our neighbor as ourselves. The thing that I just loved about this resource is that it then breaks service project ideas into the following categories:

  • Service to the Family 
  • Service to those in the Neighborhood
  • Service to the Community
  • Service to Large Charities in America and Overseas

The ebook concludes with tips for helping your child to develop their own service projects in a way to help them succeed in their goals. To me this follows the scriptural mandate of missions in reaching those closest to us and then moving the circle of influence further and further away from home in concentric circles. We have really been stressing to our children the importance of how they treat one another is an indicator of their real ability to the love the World and the Lord. Service should start at home and then move outward. Like the 28 Object Lessons ebook, this material is applicable to the whole family and something you can do together.

I am really excited about the thoughts that have been circling in my own mind about starting a Community Service Team through our local homeschool group. This book is a great resource for those initial brainstorming session on things to do and how to convey to the kids that their service is equally important whether it is at home or half way around the world.

In Summary:

Both of these ebooks are very practical, hands on application of biblical principles and scripture. I would recommend these for use in individual families as well as in a group setting. The 28 Object Lessons ebook sells for $28.00 through the publisher’s website. Just think of it as $1 per object lesson. The 100 Simple Service Projects normally retails for $29.95, but is on sale for $19.95 at this time.

See what others from the Review Crew have to share by clicking below:


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Review of the Week – Computer Science for Kids

Computer skills in general, and computer programming skills more specifically, are becoming almost a necessity in the world that our children are growing up in. I look back and remember being the first class in our high school to even have access to their first computers for students back when all you got when you turned it on was a DOS prompt. How things have changed since then!

Computer Science for Kids is a company that specifically offers a series of computer programming courses for students in middle school and high school. These self-study programming tutorials teach the student to program using Microsoft® Small Basic,
Visual Basic®, Visual C#®, and  Oracle JavaTM  . Our family had the opportunity to review the Computer Bible Games for Microsoft Basic.

The Computer Bible Games program comes in both a physical book form and an ebook version. We received the ebook version. There were no problems downloading the product.  After the download was complete, we did need to go into our Windows Explorer to open and drill down into the folders to get to the main folders that we would use regularly. We started by reading the file titled “Start Here.” This program is based on the use of Microsoft Small Basic which can be downloaded for free at http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/beginner/ff384126.aspx. I discovered this based on the helpful information contained in this first document. Once the software has been downloaded from the Microsoft site, you are really ready to go with both the programming tutorial from Computer Science for Kids and the free software from Microsoft.

Computer Bible Games for Microsoft Basic is broken into 13 chapters of study. Each chapter takes an average of about 3 to 6 hours to complete. My twelve year old and I  set a goal to get through a chapter per week during our month long review period and actually got through the first five chapters, so we were right on schedule. Chapters 1 and 2 provide a small introduction into what computer programming is, its history, and the basics of getting started. The student will actually complete their first program in Chapter 3 and go on from there with a new project of increasing difficulty in each new chapter.

The projects do start out simply with just a few lines of code and introducing new functions or commands individually. The Microsoft Basic Program itself does have menus to work with and some drop down options to help avoid spelling issues when typing which can pose a problem for students.

Computer Bible Games 1

This project for example helps the student to build a savings calculator. The calculator will ask for the users name, monthly savings amount, and the number of months he plans on saving. The program then calculates how much the user will save at the end of the period. For older students, it would be fun to have them further tinker with this program to add in a component for calculating interest.

In having some computer programming experience professionally, I give Computer Bible Games for Microsoft Basic a big thumbs up! The projects that are given to the students are incremental and can realistically be accomplished in a relatively short amount of time.  They use an actual computing language. The tutorial as a whole is also great from a parent perspective in that it does come with completed code files for each project. You as the parent do not need to know anything about computer programming to be able to help your student figure out where they went wrong if their project does not do what it was supposed to do. Computer programming in general is also a great way to get your children to logically think things through one small step at a time, which helps them in organizational thinking, tackling the different steps in any new project, and may even be a great training ground for the step by step thinking needed for successful completion of higher level math courses.

If there were a downside to this program it is in setting your child’s expectations. Our son loves electronic games. He was really excited about this program until we started using it. The reality is Computer Bible Games for Microsoft Basic will not get your student to the point of producing high definition, high speed graphically animated games that will compete with what they would commonly come into contact with through any gaming systems. The problem was not in the program, but in our son’s expectations. Computer programming is literally like learning a foreign language. Any new language will be learned one word at a time and realistically you will not be fluently spitting out complete paragraphs in the first several months. The same is true of computer programming. Computer Bible Games for Microsoft Basic is a great place to start. It is a good solid tricycle and will get your student well on their way to the multi-speed mountain bike they dream of!

A single user license for the downloadable ebook of this course regularly sells for $59.95. It is currently on sale for $34.95. This sale will last through July 4th.


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“Musical” Review of the Week – Adventus MusicIQ Homeschool


I was really challenged in coming up with a title for this review. My title usually simply states “Product Review of the Week” with the name of the product afterwards. In this case that just does not seem adequate. MusicIQ Homeschool is such a comprehensive program. The folks at Adventus have done an incredible job of combining piano instruction with music theory, ear training, and music history all rolled into one. I have never seen a product like this before. I can not begin to tell you how impressed I am with this product. My formal education actually includes a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music Therapy. In having taken piano, music theory, ear training, and music history in college, I can truly say that if your family were to fully utilize the features in this program, your children and you would have a solid foundation in music. Now on to the specifics.

MusicIQ Homeschool is designed to meet your whole family where you are at both in age and musical experience. There are four basic levels to the curriculum: Children’s Music Journey 1, Children’s Music Journey 2, Children’s Music Journey 3, and Piano Suite. Young children would obviously begin in Children’s Music Journey 1. Our 8 year old son began in Children’s Music Journey 2 without having any previous musical training and took off like rockets. As your children progress in age and maturity, you can decide as a family whether Children’s Music Journey 3 fits their needs or if the Piano Suite is better suited for them. Each ascending level of the software starts at the beginning as if the student had not previous musical training. The difference is in the presentation and the speed with which new skills are introduced. For example, in Children’s Music Journey 1 the placement of notes on the keyboard is shown through high notes being “bird” notes and the low notes being “whale” notes. This reference in Children’s Music Journey is very short before the children are transititoned to referring to them as high or low notes and their relationship to middle C on the keyboard. The nice part is that in subscribing to MusicIQ Homeschool your subscription covers each of these levels. This means you can try each one out to find the best fit for each member of your family. Each family member can also create their own account linked to the appropriate level of the software. If what you have read so far sounds great, keep reading because you will be pleasantly surprised by the pricing for a monthly subscription!

Let’s consider exactly how this all works. When our subscription arrived, we had to download the software from the link provided by Adventus. Each of the major sections of the software was quite large, so this is something to consider if you still have a dial-up internet connection or a slower internet connection. If you will be using a laptop, you can usually get very high speed connections at your local library, which may be a great option for when it comes time to download the software. Once the software is downloaded, the next step is to connect your MIDI compatible keyboard to your computer through a MIDI cable. We ran into a small snag since we had an older keyboard. However since it was MIDI compatible, the customer service representatives were very helpful in assisting us with quick responses and great information on getting the connection to work. We were up and running in no time at all.  If you do not have a MIDI compatible keyboard, you can purchase one pretty inexpensively from most retailers. Adventus also has keyboards available for purchase at a discounted rate for subscribers of MusicIQ Homeschool. These small hurdles were the only ones encountered and they were truly small!

Once inside the Children’s Music Journey software, our son created his log-in and we were off at a run. There are five areas that the students can explore once in the software: the music library, the games area, the lesson room, Miss Melody’s practice room, and the improvisation room.

Adventus Screenshot

The lesson room is the area where your child will meet up with a composer from the past who will provide them with their next music lesson. At the beginning of each lesson, the child is greeted with a piece to listen to by the composer that is providing the lesson. This is a great opportunity to expose your child to some music history.  Additional recordings can be found by visiting the music library area as well. The entire lesson is interactive through the MIDI cable. In the first lessons of CMJ2, our son was taught to the location of middle C, finger placement exercises on the keyboard, and note values. Each of the exercises when played by our son were intuitively interpreted by the software to let him know if you had performed the exercise correctly or if he needed to try again. It was really quite phenomenal to see this interchange in action.

Before moving on to a second lesson with the composer, the student must visit Miss Melody’s practice room to spend time practicing the techniques and skills learned in the lesson area. Miss Melody will have the child complete various games and drills related to the current lesson and some review from previous lessons. As a parent of a child that likes to steamroll ahead, I found that I needed to listen to my son’s practice session before allowing him to go on. The software does not require a certain level of achievement in an area before clearing the student to proceed on to the next lesson. Because the lessons build on one another, your child can become frustrated if they move on through the lessons too quickly without some level of mastery. With that said, the software is great about presenting the material is in very kid friendly way that is fun and also in encouraging the kids by starting them in playing songs that they recognize as soon as possible. My son was able to play Yankee Doodle within the first couple of weeks by reading fingering charts juxtaposed on the musical scale.

Every child, especially boys, love playing games on the computer.  MusicIQ Homeschool is no exception. There is a built-in games console. At first my son was disappointed because only two of the games were accessible. However, the excitement that built when two more games were unlocked as he progressed through the curriculum both let him know that he was truly progressing and also gave him a little bit more motivation to keep working toward more games.

We did not spend as much time as I would have liked in the music library or the improvisation room, but did explore them. Both of these aspects of the software are also great resources. The improvisation room is great for those that are “doers” or hands on explorers. They are able to go into this area and choose the instruments to be played, background accompaniments, and then play their own creations until their hearts are content. The software has recording technology so that they can save they masterpieces for later listening pleasure or to show off to Dad when he gets in from work. The music library has a wealth of music history richness. Compositions from the various composers visited in the software are included. Because our son is a busy little guy, we found that he was very open to listening to these works, but we ended up borrowing them from the library and listening in the car. We did more listening as a result of using MusicIQ Homeschool than before we began using it.

Now here is one of the best features of MusicIQ Homeschool – THE PRICE.  A monthly subscription for your whole family is only $10.95. This is less than what I would pay for a single lesson for one child. Our children have not had music lessons to this point because of the cost. MusicIQ Homeschool has changed this for our family and music is now a part of our lives as developing musicians and not just radio listeners. Adventus also offers Lessons Plans and Practice Guides at an additional cost. These are great resources, but not essential for utilizing the software.

Our family absolutely endorses MusicIQ Homeschool from Adventus. The software is incredible. The breadth of musical knowledge it shares goes way beyond just piano lessons. The pricing is exceptional.The customer service was superb! So let’s hear for MusicIQ Homeschool, Maestro!



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Review of the Week – The Discovery of Deduction

Our homeschooling journey has brought us into the high school years of Algebra, Chemistry, World History, foreign languages, and yes – elective credit hours. Like many families, we try to obtain some kind of balance in allowing these electives to be fun, driven by our child’s passions, and also enriching. We are not fans of fluff electives just to fill in the grid toward graduation credits. Our latest discovery in this area is The Discovery of Deduction: An Introduction to Formal Logic that is published by Classical Academic Press.

The Discovery of Deduction is a formal logic course that is geared toward high school level students and can also be utilized by eighth graders. It is written to the student in a way that is easily understandable to them while still teaching them the appropriate vocabulary associated with formal logic. The course begins with an introduction to what is formal logic and how it is different from informal logic as well as the different types of reasoning in logical arguments. A history of logic is provided next. These elements make up Unit I of the course. Unit II focusses on Propositions and their Relationships. Unit III’s emphasis is on Categorical Syllogisms. A section on Terms and Definitions in Disputes and Disagreements is presented as the concluding unit in the curriculum. The soft-cover student text also contains five appendices that provide illustrations and forms that help the students better understand the concepts presented in the various sections of the book. The Student Workbook/Text is 324 pages in length and retails for $26.95.

Student Textbook

There is a accompanying Teacher’s Edition for this course. The Teacher’s Edition contains copies of the pages in the student text with the answers to the questions presented to the students filled in. Contained in the student text are dialogue questions that require a greater amount of discussion or longer written responses. These lengthier responses and the key elements to look for are contained in an additional section in the back of the Teacher’s Edition. The Teacher’s Edition is 349 pages in length and retails for $29.95.

When our materials arrived for this review, I was somewhat nervous about getting started since I have had no instruction in formal logic myself. Our 16 year old daughter who was going to be using these materials as part of our review had taken a Critical Thinking / Logic class last year at our homeschool group and was somewhat familiar with the concepts that would be presented in greater depth. In most of her subjects she is very self-directed, so we decided that we would actually do the logic lessons together. We got to spend some quality time together learning more in an area that interests her and I got to benefit from learning a bit about formal logic.

We began by referring to the Suggested Schedule that can be found on the Classical Academic Press website. You can find it by clicking here. If the student were to adhere to this schedule, the course could be completed in a single semester with the student completing sections in the curriculum 5 days each week. We generally were able to do 3 to 4 sections per week during the 4 weeks that we were reviewing this curriculum. Generally, my daughter and I took turns reading the pages in the text out loud. She would then take a few minutes to work through the assigned exercises for the day while I made us some tea. We would then get back together to discuss the responses she came up with to the questions and share the dialogue activity together. Our time in studying formal logic came to be something we looked forward to in sharing her journey in learning in a way that we do not do as often as we both would like.

Our experience with Classical Academic Press’ The Discovery of Deduction: An Introduction to Formal Logic has been a very positive one. It is definitely not a fluff elective, but one that is stretching our daughter’s thinking and even something she is incorporating into her writing assignments as she writes persuasive essays or papers that are on more controversial subjects. This is a review product that we will definitely be continuing to use in building another block in educational foundation.

I would like to note that the suggested schedule for this course shows time allotted for chapter quizzes. The publisher does note a the top of the suggested schedule that quizzes are not included with the texts and are also not available at this time from them. I did not take the time to create formal quizzes on the content of each chapter. If you felt it was necessary for your child to have tests or quizzes for this course, you would need to construct these yourself.

You can also click here to see a full sample chapter from this resource for further consideration. Don’t miss out on what others are saying in their reviews of this curriculum. Click on the button below to see what other crew members are saying.


Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.



Review of the Week – Essentials in Writing Grade 11

This spring will bring our family to the end of our 7th year of homeschooling. A trend in our family, like many other homeschool families, is the ongoing search for a math and writing curriculum that fits us! There are many great curriculum choices out there that fit the needs of lots of families, but in homeschooling you want something to fit your own family. When the day to day challenges start hitting, it really doesn’t matter how popular or prestigious a program is. If it doesn’t work for your family, it doesn’t work. BUT when something works, it is a day to celebrate! The days over the last month were days of celebration in exploring and using Essentials in Writing’s Grade 11 Essay Writing / Research Paper.

The Essentials in Writing curriculum comes in grade level editions covering grades 1 through 12. The elementary grades focus heavily on the various parts of speech. The middle school years focus on the writing process with some grammar instruction weaved in. The high school level courses targets instruction on sentence structure, paragraphs, essays, and research papers. Instruction for this course is DVD based with Mr. Stephens, the creator of Essentials in Writing, as the video-based teacher. The last of the DVDs in the set also has pdf files with the student workbook pages on them. It is recommended that all the pages in the series be printed off and used to follow along with the lesson. These sheets also contain the assignments and writing prompts that accompany the DVD segments. We found that the written pages were very easily to align with the video segments.

Our family had the privilege of reviewing the Grade 11 DVDs and were very pleased. This curriculum seems to be a better fit for our familythan other curriculums we have used in the past. When I got to thinking about why, it seemed to be all wrapped up in the fact that it focusses on “The Essentials”. It is not a complicated program both in understanding it or in executing it. Let us share with you a bit about how we used it.

Our 16 year old was thrilled to find out that it was not a full year course and honestly I was as well. We have really been looking for a resource that would teach her great form for writing various types of essays and research papers to prepare her for the timed writing component of the College Board exams as well as papers that she will need to write in college. We were not looking for a curriculum that would be all consuming and overwhelming. Mr. Stephens specifically states that the Essentials in Writing product is meant to be interspersed with other language arts assignments throughout the year or can be done more intensively all together as a partial year course.

Knowing that the entire product offerings from Essentials in Writing span from Grade 1 through Grade 12, we were a bit taken back when we found out that Grade 11 starts with writing sentences. Our daughter was quick to inform me that she has been writing sentences for 10 years now. She was not disappointed in doing these lessons, because they were not childish at all. Mr. Stephens jumped right in with discussion of independent and dependent clauses, their use in creating strong sentences, and the importance in creatively combining them to add variety and fluidity to your writing. This focus on structure carries over to the other aspects of this curriculum, which is what we really liked about it. When moving on to the units on paragraphs, our daughter had the opportunity to review and practice writing strong opening and closing sentences as well as the supporting details and examples that bring the paragraph to life.

The targeted focus on the essential core structure of strong writing was maintained as we explored various types of essays. Expository, persuasive, process analysis, cause and effect, compare/contrast, and response to literature essays each have their own units within this curriculum as well as a separate unit specifically on the strategies of writing a timed college prep essay. Visual organizers and formulas are taught as techniques to use during the pre-writing phase. Time is then provided in daily assignments for the drafting, revising, proofreading, and final publishing of each paper. Mr. Stephens clearly walks the student through each step of the writing process using real writing examples. Writing prompts are provided for the students to use as the basis for their assignments. My daughter complained from time to time about the prompts provided. She would have preferred to pick her own topic, but as I shared with her, picking her own topic is not always a reality. There are times we must write on topics that are less than our favorite and we must still write well. This was a great life lesson that was like the cherry on the top of that ice cream sundae.

Working with a graphic organizer on the details for her expository essay

 After working through various sections of Essentials in Writing Grade 11 Essays / Research Paper, we have come to a unanimous decision that this is a great tool that we will be working with throughout our daughter’s coming year in strengthening her writing abilities as well as preparing for the College Board exams. We liked the straight forward approach of focusing on the essential structure of these different types of essays and the strong foundation provided in writing strong paragraphs as the building blocks to any essay or research paper. We also really like the fact that this curriculum is a resource that is not meant to be all consuming. It self-proclaims that it should be a piece in your total language arts solution.

This curriculum sells for $40, which seems very reasonable. This does not include the printing costs for the student workbook materials that are currently on the DVDs. The publisher is in the process of producing pre-printed copies of the student workbook, which should be available in the near future. These will be available for an additional cost of $20.

We only had the pleasure of reviewing the Grade 11 materials. Join me in clicking on the banner below to see what others on the Review Crew have to say about each of the other grade levels offered through Essentials in Writing.


Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

Review of the Week #2 – Abraham’s Journey

The American Dream – is it still alive in our country? This is a question that my husband and I have asked and also had discussions with our children and their friends. We are really saddened to have to report that when we talk with the next generation they have little of the enthusiasm that we possessed in being an American. Everyone still loves to hear Lee Greenwood’s “I am Proud to be An American”, but many feel that it is becoming less and less possible to achieve in their own lives. The glory days of  singing The Battle Hymn of the Republic, America the Beautiful, or even feeling an inner moving when the Star Spangled Banner is sung before a ball game seem to be fading fast. The focus of our society as a whole on diversity and tolerance, which many claim to be the fulfillment of the American Dream, may actually be the watering down of America’s identity. When this is coupled by the growing number of Americans that are fearful of the things that they see embraced in our nation from those highest in authority, there are not a lot of folks that we come in contact  with that still see the pursuit of the American Dream as something to be achieved. Can we turn the clocks back and recapture this essence? That is exactly what I think the publishers at Inspiring the American Dream are attempting to rekindle in the next generation with their newly released children’s book, Abraham’s Journey: A Celebration of the American Dream.

PhotobucketThis 26 page book intended for children ages 7-12 shares the story of a young boy who is taken on a journey to receive the inspiration of using his gifts and talents to help his family in their pursuit of the American Dream. Young Abraham’s parents find themselves without jobs in the midst of the Great Recession. It  is Christmas time and they must share with their children that the difficult times they are experiencing will mean no Christmas presents under the tree. Upon hearing this news, Abraham becomes determined to find a way to work to make the money needed for presents to be under the tree for Christmas. His search begins by texting his friends seeking ways to make money. It is in this endeavor that he encounters Abraham Lincoln in his phone. President Lincoln pulls Abraham into the phone and out into cyberspace where he meets individuals from our countries past that have achieved their dreams. Those encountered that help Abraham identify his talents and use them to earn the funds he desires are Martin Luther King Jr., Norman Rockwell, Amelia Earhart, Mark Zuckerberg, and Bill and Melinda Gates.

In addition to the story of Abraham’s Journey, the book includes a glossary of some of the harder words presented in the text and short biographies about each of the people mentioned above.

When we received this book, I read it aloud to our 8 year old son and he has since read it independently. He did not have difficulty with reading the text, narrating it back, or even having discussion about the themes of the book. He felt that the illustrations were very well done and receptive to children of this age range. When I asked him what he thought about Abraham traveling through time and space through his smartphone, he was thoroughly impressed. The reality is that a child this age could literally travel around the world and through time with the use of a smartphone even without Abraham Lincoln guiding the way. This brings me to some of my parental observations.

I do feel that the heart of the book is an honorable one. It grieves me that my children do not have the same grasp and passion for the American Dream or pride in being an American as I once had as a child. However, they are also living in much different times than when I was a child. As Christians, we are commanded to be in this world, but not of it. In raising children first to be Christians and then to be Americans, we as parents are finding more and more times when our Christianity and culture clash. America’s heritage is becoming blemished from our perspective by the open acceptance of abortion, murder, divorce, same sex marriage and even the turning of our backs on our troops that are truly taking the greatest stand for our country. We would be negligent as parents in raising our children to love God’s word to not show them the inconsistencies between our culture and Biblical truth. In doing so it does create a gap in our children’s enthusiasm in standing behind all things American.

The authors used a piece of technology in this book to allow Abraham to encounter American heroes from across our nation and from different periods in our country’s history. A point of discussion that evolved in our home as a result of reading this text came back to wants and needs. It actually presented an excellent platform. The setting of the book shares that the story takes place in the middle of the Great Recession and both of Abraham’s parents are out of work. Yet, what appears to be a 10 year old boy has a smartphone and free use of all of its capabilities. Like most homeschooling families, we provide for our family on a single income. There are many times that we have to have discussions about wants versus needs and being good stewards of the resources that God provides us with. Our children, even our 16 year old, does not have a smartphone, because it is quite frankly a want at this point in her life and can not take priority over the needs of our family. We also have great concerns over the great expanse of things they can encounter on a smartphone in cyberspace that are not quite as innocuous as an interview with Norman Rockwell. Smartphones are common place in our society. The inclusion of them in a children’s storybook can either be viewed as a commonplace technology of our day or yet another basis for our culture to convince our young people that having the latest technologies are a need. I will let you be the judge.

In closing, I feel that the essence of the book is honorable in helping to reinstill the core of the American Dream back into our young people. This is needed, but only if we can also instill in them that they have the power to be change makers in returning America to its roots. An American that seeks to uphold all that is contained in its Constitution and the bibical standards it was based on. I could very easily see the use of Abraham’s Journey: A Celebration of the American Dream as a starting point in a study on the American Dream and the heroes of our nation. There are many great people in our country’s history that have helped form the American Dream which provides for the rich heritage our country possesses. If you wish to obtain your own copy of this book, you can obtain it at Inspiring the American Dream for a cost of $14.99 plus shipping.

These are just my insights. Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew.

Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.