Monday, October 31, 2011

Excellence in Literature-Introduction to Literature, English 1 (review)


Literature was always one of my favorite subjects in school and college. I wish my children were naturally the same. However, they are not. 

I have heard Janice Campbell, the author of Excellence in Literature, speak at a homeschool conference. I was impressed with her approach to learning and her unique way of presenting academics. I had planned on getting Excellence in Literature to try for my kids, but had not done it yet. Then the opportunity to review the program (Introduction to Literature, English 1) came up and I jumped at it. 

The study I reviewed came in ebook form. At first, that challenged me. I do not  do well at reading for long periods of time on the computer, and neither do my children. Thank goodness there are easy options! I did not want to use my ink to print all 131 pages of the book, so I sent it to Staples to be printed. I also had it bound with metal spiral and put a hard cover on it. It cost me $13 and some change. Pretty inexpensive, and now I have it in both forms! There are links in the book and I can use the ebook to easily pull those up. 

When I got it all printed up, I sat down and read through it. I enjoyed it and I learned things I, a self proclaimed literature junkie, did not know. I decided to start off by assigning my daughter (an 8th grader) a few pages a day to read, up until the first unit. Well, the first day she read beyond what I had assigned her and asked to start the first unit! I wondered if in fact this were my daughter, and not one the aliens had replaced when they stole mine. She has since worked through almost two units, and is even doing the extra work, the honors track (even though I did not assign it). I am amazed that this is my literature reluctant 8th grader doing work of high school honors! It has also created in her an excitement for literature and writing that was not there previously. She even chose a non-assigned 700+ page book to read for pleasure, and that has NEVER happened. She is starting discussions with us and others that are deep and thoughtful. I cannot express to you the change in her that just the last few weeks of doing EIL has created! In addition to those things, it is teaching her to evaluate everything more thoroughly, and how to learn in new ways. 

So, with that being said I tell you I am won over. This is a curriculum that will be in our schoolroom permanently. 

This is what Everyday Education says is so spectacular about Excellence in Literature, and I must tell you I agree:
  • Carefully-chosen great books increase cultural literacy.
  • Self-directed courses encourage independent learning.
  • College-style syllabus helps to prepare students for university academic experiences.
  • Week-by-week lesson plans make it easy to know what to do when.
  • Honors Option provides motivated students the opportunity to earn advanced placement or college credit.
  • Evaluation rubric makes grading simple.
  • Carefully designed end-of-semester evaluation reports provide a detailed snapshot of progress.
  • Context readings provide in-depth understanding of literature in its historical and artistic context.
  • Students will be introduced to books they'll never forget.

The Excellence in Literature-Introduction to Literature, English 1 curriculum is for the age range of 8th-12th grade. You can get it in the print version ($29 + $4.95 S&H) or in the ebook format ($27). You can also try it out for free, with the sample unit.

I was given this curriculum free of charge to me in exchange for an honest review. My favorable review was not a condition of this exchange. You can read other reviews of this product and others over at the Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew Blog.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pinterest Tuesday

I have decided to join up on a new blog meme for Tuesdays. On this one, I will post my favorite "Pinterest" pins from the previous week. (please click on pic for source...give credit where due)

First up, I am IN LOVE with this idea! Since our master bath likely will never have shower curtains (walk in preferred), I am thinking this would be excellent for my teen daughter's bath! The boys...I bet I could modify it to be fun for them too! 

Back to my curly headed girl...I think I need to do this to her hair.
And soon.
I bet she'd like it...
after I held her down to do it!

and finally a little dinner inspiration...

Mason Jar Meals

Whomever came up with this was genius

The combined two of my favorite things:

Mason Jars...

& FOOD! 


Say Anything (North Star Games) - Review


SayAnything Family is a fun family game that comes loaded with a lot of laughs. No no, they're not in the box, but, I promise you, they are there. It's also easy to play. No complicated rules and regulations and no exceptions. Just open, read the few rules, and play.

The game. another product from North Star Games, is listed for ages 8+ years, for 3-8 people. Well, we got this to review and it was just me, the 6 year old, and the 13 year old when I decided to pull it out. What to do, what to do? We decided since the 6 year old could certainly understand the concept, we'd just write his answer down for him. Stay tuned for how THAT turned out!


First, let me explain a little about the game, you basically have a judge who reads a question and the other players have to write down their answer to that question. The judge then secretly chooses the best answer and lays the "Selectomatic 6000" down, which has their judgement recorded. Then, the players place their tokens on which answer they think the judge will vote for. If they get it right, they get points for their wagers. The judge gets points for every wager that is placed on their answer. Now, everyone gets to be the judge. The turns rotate. 

Playing with a 6 year old boy can be quite entertaining. When asked, "What is the best rap song?" he responded "the one about saran wrap". When asked "Which celebrity's house has the best Halloween Candy?" he answered "Mickey Mouse". My favorite was when asked "Which celebrity would make the worst presidential candidate?" and he answered "OBAMA!". Anyhow, it was a hoot. When Daddy got home that same evening, we insisted he play with us too. Now when he comes home he requests our nightly game either be this or Wits & Wagers Family, from the same company.  We all laugh so hard playing these games. It's a great stress reliever!


You can buy "Say Anything Family" at local retailers like Target, Barnes & Noble, and Toys R Us (as well as other stores, the website has a store finder app) as well as online at various retailers. The price varies from $13-$15 at most of the retailers I have found. 

I have received this product free of charge in exchange for an honest review. My favorable review was not a condition of this exchange, just honesty. You can see other reviews for this product, as well as many other if you click on the Old Schoolhouse Crew banner below. 



Sunday, October 23, 2011

Scripture & Snapshot

Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth."
~Hosea 6:3


Friday, October 21, 2011

Friday Favorite Things

I am joining up on a Friday Blog Meme, "Friday Favorite Things". I will use this time to go over 5 fantistic things in my life right they large or small.

friday favorite things | finding joy
This week was hubby's 39th birthday.
He is kind of bummed about it, but it's alright...
We love him anyhow.
He is such a blessing to us,
even when he is grouchy.
I'd be grouchy too if I worked 90+ hours a week
and my blood sugar wouldn't stabilize.

We went to the pumpkin patch, and had a great time. 
Kristi & Tab met us up there.
It's great having true friends here.
We sure are going to miss them when we move!

This here is Tab...
That silver car got in my shot...
shame on them

We are finally back on track for homeschooling
After over a month of not doing much because of my surgery

I was accepted into the University of Alabama in the Spring
However, they did not admit me to distance learning
It made a LOT of confusion for both of us.
This week, we got it all straightened out,
So, I am all set to start in the spring..

My Tuck is finally at a happy spot...
He has leveled out
God has worked things out in an amazing way!
I cannot express how much of a load this takes off of my shoulders.
It hurts horribly when your child hurts
and feels lost
and alone
and you can't help them.
He is happy, he is fulfilled, and he is in a good place. 


North Star Games- Wits & Wagers Family (Review)


Wits & Wagers Family is a product from North Star Games. It is a party style game, which can be played by individuals playing against one another, or up to 5 teams. It is a family friendly version of their game "Wits & Wagers".  This is what North Star has to say about this game:

Wits & Wagers Family simplifies the rules and scoring system of the popular Wits & Wagers. Now families and kids can get into the Wits & Wagers action! First, every player writes down a guess to a fun question. Then players try to score points by choosing which guess is closest to the right answer without going over. That is it!
The game features 300 new family-friendly questions. And even better than that, Wits & Wagers Family includes Meeples-- fun, cute, human shaped wooden pieces that the players use to select which answers they think are correct. Meeples have been a hallmark in European style strategy games for years, but this is the first time they have made an appearance in a party game.
So check out Wits & Wagers Family, the game that combines laughter and learning in a way that all ages can enjoy together!


Our family loves to play games. We love this one especially. Everyone in the house can play, even the 6 year old. I mean, he can guess at things with the best of us! We like to pull it out in the evening after supper and have some bonding time over it. We also plan to take it to the deer lease with us to play with the other hunters & their's just that fun! 

This week we had our weekly homeschool group get together, and I took the game to see how the other kids & families felt about it. I also wanted to see how well it worked with teams vs. individuals. We got into 5 groups and competed against one another, and it was an absolute blast! Every family there said that they were going to buy the game. I think that speaks for itself. One member did have a suggestion though, they suggested that the company make a Jr. version, just for smaller children to play together. Regardless, they still loved this edition. 

Something I have discovered about North Star games is how they stand behind their products. If you lose a piece or something breaks, they will replace it FREE of charge (as long as it is within the first year of purchase). What other game companies do that? Not any that I know of!

The game can be found at various online retailers and also in your local stores, like Target, Barnes and Noble, or Toys R Us. The price range I have found varies from $20-$30, depending on the store and whether you pay shipping or not. It is suitable for all ages. 


I was provided with this product as part of the 2011-2012 Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew. In exchange for the product, I agreed to do an honest review of the game. The review was not required to be favorable, just honest.



Thursday, October 20, 2011

E-Mealz (review)


As a busy Mom, meal times have proven to be quite a challenge. We have had many days where we just ended up eating out (and I don't mean "fast food", as we don't really like it) or ordering pizza in. Sticking to a budget when you eat out too often is also a challenge. Continually this is an area where our family has struggled when it comes to staying within our means. It has been clear that it was time for a change, for some sort of way to make meal time easier, and also get our meal spending under control. Enter E-mealz...

E-meals is a company created by two Christian women, Jane DeLaney and Jenny Cochran. Jane and Jenny were busy mom's too, who saw a need to have a plan for meals and to also be frugal with that plan. With that goal in mind, they created the E-Mealz system.  This is what they say about their plan:

Manage your food budget and enjoy delicious dinner recipes at home.
Menu plans based on weekly grocery store sales, seasonal discounts
or diet preferences. Be meal-wise and money-wise with E-Mealz.
e-mealz meal plans...
  • are written and created by REAL moms with REAL families
  • are balanced and family friendly
  • are as easy as possible, but delicious and kid tested!
  • consist of favorite recipes collected from hundred of moms
  • come with an organized, aisle by aisle grocery list
  • are for 4 to 6 people
  • are based on the current week sales at your grocery
  • are priced at approximately $75 per week
  • Two person plans average $35 total per week 
E-Mealz is not only great for this reason alone, but it gets better. They have many different plans to chose from. Are you hesitant to look because you do not have a family to feed? Well, they have meal plans for two! They also have plans for 4-6 (which you can easily adjust yourself if you need even more).  On addition to this, they have options that cater to special diets. What special diets do they have to choose from?

  • Gluten Free
  • Low Fat
  • Low Carb
  • Portion Control
  • Vegetarian
They also have plans for ANY grocery store, or more specialized plans from the following stores:
  • Wal-Mart
  • Aldi
  • Publix
  • Kroger
  • Ralphs (Ca)
Now, how does this all work?


You go to e-mealz and sign up for a subscription. The cost of subscription is $1.25 per week, and is billed in $15 increments every three months. You can also cancel your subscription at any time if it is not a good fit for your family.  When you sign up, you pick which plan you think you want to use (you can switch later if you find it isn't fitting your needs, if your needs change, or if you just want to try another), then you pull up that weeks menu/grocery list, print it out, do your shopping and you are all prepared to fix your meals. How simple is that? It takes the stress out of menu planning, and grocery shopping lists, helps you stick to a budget, and allows you to focus on other important things. 

This is a sample of a weekly meal pan/grocery list.  (Click on it to be taken to a sample menu)


We have enjoyed using e-mealz, and will continue to subscribe even when our provided subscription runs out. Even so, I have created an e-mealz notebook where I print the menu and grocery list, and file them in order. This makes it easy for me to make notes about how my family liked the meal (loved, liked, and would prefer not to have again) and any changes I made or would like to make. I also love how on the grocery list it has space where you can add on the other groceries your family is going to need. 

Our family does not eat much seafood, and sometimes the meal plans include meals with seafood ingredients. I have found it easy to substitute another protein in those instances (mostly chicken) and think it would be just as easy to substitute seafood for other ingredients if your family is one who does eat a lot of seafood.  Also, sometimes there are meals I know my family will not enjoy. This is when I just cross it out and substitute a meal from my repertoire in or a past e-mealz meal that the family enjoyed. 

Using e-mealz has exposed my family to boundless new recipes that we probably wouldn't have tried before. The ease of the meals is such that even my children can follow the directions and prepare dinner. That is an added bonus. 

Whether you are cooking for one (get the meals for two, eat one serving for dinner, one for lunch the next day) or you are cooking for a couple, or you are cooking for a family...E-mealz will work for you. If you know someone who may struggle in this area, you can also give them a gift subscription. 

I was provided a subscription to e-mealz free of charge in exchange for my honest review of the product. My favorable review was not a condition of this exchange, and all opinions are my own.



Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Always IceCream (review)



Let me start out by saying I had fears when we received this product to review, because my daughter is a very mature 13 year old.  My concerns were totally unfounded though, as she loves this website. I find myself recommending it to those I know who have girls, because it is educational AND fun. 

You can get a free trial, to see how you like it.  It is very economical for a full subscription, which is $4.99 a month ($0.99 your first month) or $29.99/year. There are also other subscriptions you can check out at their website.  It also makes a great gift for those girls in your life. 

Here is a little about Always Icecream from the creators:

With Always Icecream, we’re trying to combine three important aspects of child-appropriate online learning in a unique way:
- Motivation: Girls experience Always Icecream as a fun “play” site, with a friendly community (parents can turn off the social features).
- Learning: Girls practice a wide variety of academic and practical skills in a playful way.
- Rewards and Recognition: Girls earn “$coops,” our in-game currency for playing learning games. This currency can be used to take care of online pets in PetWorld and decorate homes in MiniWorld. Achievements are recognized through medals and special awards as well as progress reports to parents.




The recommended ages for this site are 7-12, but I believe a younger child would enjoy it just as much, though they may need some assistance. I know my older child is enjoying it, so I would also just judge each child by their own maturity and interests. I will admit, as an adult I have also had fun on there.

I love that as a parent I can go in and get a report of all my child's activities on the site.

I have received a free membership to this site in exchange for an honest review.



Wordless Wednesday