Friday, July 27, 2012


I had the opportunity to review the totally revamped subscription website from The Old Schoolhouse Magazine at
From the Website:

You might have heard about Teacher’s Toolbox in the past, and this new membership site is a massive expansion on the old. Just wait until you see what The Old Schoolhouse has in store for you! is bigger, better, brighter, and easier to navigate for you. Membership is yours for the first month for just $1! You’ll have full access to daily, weekly, and monthly assignments for your students and tons more material for you. Every month after the initial one, it keeps coming—new daily, weekly, and monthly lessons—all for the price of one fancy coffee ($5.95 each month).

Log in every day—come do your homework with us!

Spend time with the biggest names in online and home education: Kim Kautzer (writing), Diana Waring (history), Terri Johnson (geography), Adam Andrews (literature), the Hands of a Child team (lapbooking), Malia Russell (home economics), George Escobar (filmmaking)—and many more. Each month, new teachers in new subject areas will join the team.
immerse yourself into the world of TOS Schoolhouse Planners – all YOURS with your membership to!
Point, Click, Teach!
Our Experience:

There are so many resources here, all in one place, that it would be nearly impossible to go through all of them! But what I want to do is summarize the resources available there and then highlight a couple of things I liked best for my family.
The website is organized into 4 main sections of material with lots of subsections in each:
    1. Schoolhouse Teachers
      • Career Exploration
      • Chemistry
      • College Choice Guidance
      • Economics
      • Figures in History
      • Filmmaking
      • Geography
      • High School Math
      • History
      • Home Economics
      • Lapbooking
      • Literature
      • Music – Voice
      • Reading Lessons
      • Special Needs
      • Technology
      • Writing
    2. Schoolhouse Dailies
      • Summer Olympics
      • Daily Grammar
      • Daily Math
      • Daily Writing
      • Ditch the Desk: Hands-On K-5
      • Everyday Easels
      • Everyday Explorers – Canada
      • Everyday Explorers – USA
      • Pre-K Activities: Read and Play
      • Summer Shakespeare
      • This Day in History
      • This Month’s Menu
    3. Schoolhouse Extras
      • The Old Schoolhouse Magazine
      • TOS Back Issues
      • Monthly Bonus E-Books
      • Free E-Book
      • Schoolhouse EXPO
      • Schoolhouse Planners
    4. Schoolhouse Library
      • Copybooks
      • Homeschool Life
      • Monthly Theme
      • Reading List June
      • Reading List July
      • Reading Lists Summer
      • Teacher Lesson Archives
      • Art Shelf
      • Craft Shelf
      • Homemaking and Housekeeping Shelf
      • Nature Shelf
      • Spelling Shelf
Shew! That’s a lot of stuff! And the best part is that it’s expanding all the time. New material is constantly added and changed. There are so many lesson plans and printables here! If you’re a “boxed curriculum” type of family that already has a full schedule, you might find this much “extra” stuff a bit overwhelming to add in, but it’s simple enough to pick and choose the things your kids might enjoy. The site is so well-organized that it’s a piece of cake to spot something you’d probably like. For the eclectic homeschooler or one that likes the unit study approach, you’ll love having all of this stuff gathered together for you in one place. 

I know a lot of homeschoolers enjoy making lapbooks, and there are plenty of those, as well, complete with a tutorial on how to prepare them!

Now for my favorite resource: The Schoolhouse Planners! There’s such a wealth of planning pages, forms, and record-keeping materials, plus organizational ideas…I spent days just perusing the pages and sparking all kinds of ideas in my head! It inspired me to reorganize my school room and all of those supplemental materials so they could actually be accessible and easy to find and GET USED! It led me to organize my office area and have a log of our electronics, warranties, etc. I was in a frenzy of getting things in order, all because of the planners! There is a Schoolhouse Planner, Primary Schoolhouse Planner, Intermediate Schoolhouse Planner, High School Schoolhouse Planner, and Special Learners Planner. Each planner is filled with hundreds and hundreds of useful articles and forms to get you and your students as prepared as they can be for the school year and beyond! They are downloadable .pdf files, so you can browse them and print only the pages that you find most helpful. You can also type right onto the pages before you print them, which makes the lesson planning pages especially neat and useful. I loved how they had various versions of the planning pages to help you organize all of your children on the same page, whether you have one or five. I also loved the planning pages for the high school years…everything from planning out required credits to creating transcripts. I feel so much better prepared to tackle this period that had brought me such anxiety and trepidation up until now. The Schoolhouse Planner is a resource beyond words! It will literally organize every aspect of your life at home and at school. I *LOVE* it! This alone would be reason enough to join the site!

My 7-year old daughter's favorite resource was the Everyday Explorers: USA. Each month focuses on another state in a period in history. In daily lessons throughout the month, the student gets to explore places and people related to that state and time period. It provides lesson plans, online links for research, and leveled activities for various grade levels so you can have age-appropriate learning for multiple children studying the same topic at the same time. This is great for larger families! She got to make a travel journal and learn all about New York. She enjoyed it very much!

I have also enjoyed reading the digital issues of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. They are easy to navigate and to view just the articles that interest me most, right here on my computer. They also contain Schoolhouse Review Crew product reviews and ads that led me to discover homeschooling materials with which I was previously unfamiliar. I even made a purchase after seeing an ad in one of these issues!
You can join the first month for just $1, a monthly subscription is $5.95/mo., or a 1-year subscription is just $64.26 and saves you 10%! You can cancel at any time if not completely satisfied. Read about the benefits of membership here. To view samples of the various types of lesson plans and planners, take a look here.

In summary, this PK-12th grade resource is a one-stop shop for tons of teaching materials and supplementals to add some excitement and variety to your homeschool!

Check out what other Crew members had to say about this awesome website by clicking the banner below.


I was provided with a subscription to at no charge for the purpose of completing this review, but all opinions are my own and reflect my family's honest use of the product.

Monday, July 23, 2012

REVIEW: No-Nonsense Algebra + Geometry Workbook from Math Essentials

I had the opportunity to review No-Nonsense Algebra as well as the Geometry Workbook by Math Essentials. 

First, let me tell you about No-Nonsense Algebra, which was the main product for this review.  With No-Nonsense Algebra, you get a workbook with lessons and practice and a code in the back of the book that you enter on the website in order to access free online video instruction for every lesson.  This is a complete Algebra I program and costs a mere $27.95.    

 From the Website:

No-Nonsense Algebra

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Necessary Tools for Algebra
Chapter 2 Solving Equations
Chapter 3 Graphing and Analyzing Linear Equations
Chapter 4 Solving and Graphing Inequalities
Chapter 5 Systems of Linear Equations and Inequalities
Chapter 6 Polynomials
Chapter 7 Rational Expressions (Algebraic Fractions)
Chapter 8 Radical Expressions and Geometry
Chapter 9 Quadratic Equations
Chapter 10 Algebra Word Problems

Also included:

*A “How to Use This Book” Section

*Chapter reviews
*Final Exam
*Solutions for all Problems
*Resource Center

Each Easy-To-Understand Lesson Includes:

*       Each topic is clearly explained in a way that the student can easily understand.
*       A Helpful Hints section
*       Examples with simple step-by-step solutions
*       Written exercises
*       A short Review section that ensures that the student will remember what has been learned

free online access to video instruction!
Each lesson in the book has a corresponding video lesson taught by America’s Math Teacher, Richard W. Fisher

*       No Fluff!
*       No Distractions!
*       Short, concise self-contained lessons
*       Each topic is explained in way that the student can easily understand
*       Lots of examples with fully explained step-by step solutions
*       Review built into each lesson to ensure mastery
*       Chapter tests and a final exam allow students to measure progress
*       Dramatically Improves Test Scores!


Use Rick Fisher's Mastering Essential Math Skills for 20 minutes a day as directed. If you don't see what you feel are dramatically improved math test scores, send us a note saying so. You'll receive a prompt, complete refund - no questions asked!


Our Experience:

I simply can’t say enough good things about this program!  My 12-year old son, Hayden, totally bombed Algebra I using another program last year and had planned to repeat it this year.  Right off the bat, we both noticed that No-Nonsense Algebra’s video instruction was more concise, easy to understand, and had a very conversational tone that kept your interest.  Often times, this type of instruction can be monotone and difficult to follow…high on the boring factor.  But not so with this program! 

Each morning, he has gotten up and waited eagerly to watch the online video so he could get right to his math.  Gone are the days of putting off math until the end of the day.  We both found the practice to be just enough to make sure he understood the application fully, but not so much as to become overwhelming.  He even got 100% on 3 lessons in a row!  That did wonders to restoring his confidence in his ability to do his math.  As you can see from this photo, he has a genuine smile of pride while showing off that first 100%!

It has continued to be a great success for him.  Enough so that we ditched the other program and have switched over to this program for the rest of our school year.  He even gladly used a week off to play catch-up on the lessons so it could take the place of the other program we were using.  That speaks for itself!

While he tells me that it’s getting gradually harder, he says he still feels he “gets” the material.  And each lesson offers a set of “practical tips” for understanding and applying the concept.  The tips may be simple, but truly very practical and useful for the student.  One such tip early on was to determine the sign of the answer and write it down before working on the actual computation of an equation with integers.  This happened to be something my son overlooked often that led him to get his answers incorrect.  Marking the sign before doing the computation ensured that he didn’t forget this important step.  It really helped him!

I have already recommended No-Nonsense Algebra to a number of friends who have students struggling with Algebra, including both homeschooled and public-schooled children. 

I can’t honestly think of any negatives to this program.  Its concise but effective layout never devotes more than 2 pages to any given lesson, which in itself appears less daunting to the student before they even begin.  Every lesson includes just a few review problems from previous lessons to ensure mastery and retention.  I did notice one error in the answer key…for lesson 1.7, question 5, the answer should be 625, not 225.  I contacted the company about this error, and they assured me that this was the first printing of the program, and any errors would be corrected in subsequent printings.  Our communication was a positive experience, and the error was duly noted for correction.

The only thing I’d like to suggest to the vendor is to make the answer key a separate document instead of including the answers in the back of the student’s workbook.  I’m ashamed to admit that Hayden was so frustrated with Algebra I last year that he was caught cheating a couple of times.  I’d rather not provide the temptation by having the answer key at his fingertips.  My concern prompted me to separate the answer pages from the rest of his book and make them inaccessible to him.  Beyond that, though, I can’t think of anything I’d change about this program!  It’s literally a success story waiting to happen!  I’d recommend it for children and adults alike!

You can read more about the program on the vendor’s website at   No-Nonsense Algebra includes an unconditional money-back guarantee if you don’t find dramatic improvement in your student’s test scores after using the product as directed for 20 minutes/day.  There is no risk involved!  You just can’t go wrong with a guarantee like that!

 The Geometry Workbook:

Now let me tell you about the supplemental Geometry workbook. 
This product is intended to be supplemental practice.  There is no online or DVD instruction available for this product.  It’s priced at $11.95.

From the Website:

This book will provide students with all the essential geometry skills. Vocabulary, points, lines, planes, perimeter, area, volume, and the Pythagorean theorem are just some of the topics that are covered. There is plenty of practical, real-life problem solving that shows students the importance of geometry in the real world.

You can view the table of contents here.  You can view sample lessons here

Our Experience:

This is a super thin workbook containing 29 lessons plus final review and tests with answer keys printed in the back of the book.  The "helpful hints" section of each lesson is essentially a couple of lines of extremely concise instruction and examples.  This is the only included instruction, and this is why I would say this book is supplementary material only.  It addresses the heart of the concept very briefly with no video instruction and no additional written instruction beyond that tiny "helpful hints" section.  These are generally 1-page lessons.  While the workbook addresses the essential geometry concepts, it certainly isn't enough material to be used for a high school credit by any means.  However, it is great practice in geometry.  My plans for this product are to schedule it in at the end of our school year when we've completed No-Nonsense Algebra, as there will be sufficient weeks remaining in our schedule to complete this workbook, as well.  Personally, I'd like to see a year or a semester of Geometry material offered with accompanying video instruction like with the algebra program, but that's probably because we were so spoiled by the excellent instruction included with the algebra!

Read more of the Crew reviews of these and other great products from Math Essentials by clicking the banner below:

Math Essentials provided me with these products free of charge for review purposes, but all opinions expressed are my own and reflect my family’s honest use of these products.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

REVIEW: Jeepers Peepers Glasses Game by Super Duper Publications

Recently, I had the opportunity to review a great game called the Jeepers Peepers Glasses Game by Super Duper Publications

From the company:
     Am I a monkey? A hamburger? An astronaut? How many questions will it take to find out?
That’s the question on everyone’s minds—or glasses—in Jeepers Peepers, The Ask and Answer Question Game that builds questioning skills, describing skills, categorizing skills, problem solving skills, and more! Have one student put on the glasses. Place a photo card in the Peepers slot without showing it to the student. Have the student face the other players and ask yes/no questions to find out what he/she is! Then, have everyone play!
This game can be played with up to 6 players.  The instructions provide you with a number of variations of how to play.

You can watch a video of how to play here.
Everything is ready-to-go when you open the box…no initial setup is required.  That's a big selling point in my book!

Jeepers Peepers is recommended for grades K and up, but I feel it could even be used with preschool-aged children with some modifications.  I would suggest giving preschool-aged children clues as to their identity on their turn rather than having them ask the questions.  This way, they could still have the opportunity to use deductive reasoning skills to figure out what they are supposed to be, and in time, would perhaps learn to ask their own questions with some practice.

My 12-year old son, Hayden, and I played it the first time through.  We didn’t have a lot of time to play on this occasion, so we selected a simple version of game play.  We each wore a pair of glasses and placed a photo card in each other’s glasses so only the other person could see it.  
Using the Photo Cards as a guide, we devised questions to ask each other to help us narrow down the possibilities.  As we narrowed the gap of what the choices could be, we began to use our turns to guess what we each were.  This is where it got really fun for us, because we each knew the other was getting close to guessing the right answer!  We were able to finish this first round in about 15 minutes, so that was great.  We had some laughs and really enjoyed the sense of competition with each other.  I’m sad to say that he beat me!  It was close, though.  Maybe next time!   J

The photo cards include 5 categories: Animals, Food, People, Things, and Transportation. There are 101 photo cards within those categories that indicate the possibilities of what you might be.

 $29.95 includes:

6 pairs of Jeepers Peepers glasses

"My Cue Cards"

101 photo cards (4" x 5")

Spinner and bingo chips

*  Instruction booklet

Additional add-on cards can be purchased for $15.95, as well as an extra set of 6 pairs of glasses for $11.95.
Overall, I think this is a really fun game that builds great skills in deductive reasoning through a process of elimination, doesn't require a lot of time to play, can be played a number of different ways, and is one of those rare games where players of all ages truly can actually play together and still have fun on their own level. That makes this game a winner for my family of 5 that ranges in age from 4 to 41!

And although there are 101 photo cards that you would eventually exhaust and might at some point become bored with, you do have that option to expand the game with the add-on pack, and that certainly extends the life and interest factor of this game. The parts are sturdy and should last a long time, making it a good investment.

Right now, they are offering you a wonderful discount of 30% off for Jeepers Peepers with coupon code BLGJP30 through 08-31-12, so be sure to take advantage of this awesome opportunity to add this game to your family's game night!

Super Duper Publications specializes in products for special education needs. However, many of their products can be used for regular education, as well. It’s worth taking a look at their products to see what might work for you. My 7-year old daughter tried the free trial of the HearBuilder software on the website, and she enjoyed it very much. I can see how it could help build listening skills in young children, regardless of their level of education.

Additional coupons are available for the other Super Duper products that The Crew reviewed, so be sure to read more reviews of these fabulous products from Super Duper Publications by clicking on the banner below.

I was provided with this product at no charge for the purpose of completing this review, but all opinions are my own and reflect my family's honest use of the product.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Getting Ready!

My plunge into the world of the product reviewer has kept me busy!  It's great, though.  I'm loving every minute of it.  Sometimes one of the kids is REALLY excited about a particular product, and sometimes it's a chore to get them involved.  But in the end, I think we're all enjoying it.  Already, we've switched math programs for Hayden for this year because of a product we're reviewing that seems to be working better for him than what we had planned to use.  I'll get into that more when the review comes up.

We accomplished our first week of the new school year in mid-June and took these last two weeks off to polish some rough edges in our plans for the year and to complete our preparations for the school year.  I always like to have a little "false start" and then take some time to fix anything I failed to copy, print, order, prepare, schedule, etc.  With 3 kids in the school routine now, there's bound to be something I've overlooked, particularly since we go right from one school year into the next without a noticeable break!  Sheesh!  During our brief break, I had to cart Haylee back and forth the first week to her cheer and tumbling camp.  She had a blast!  She enjoyed it so much that I signed her up again in August during our scheduled week off for that month.  Here's a little video they put together of still photos from her week at camp.  She's in at least 4 of the photos.

I think we're in a good place now and ready to hit the ground running.  However, we have quite a busy schedule this week.  Tomorrow evening, we're going to a Tides game where they'll be doing a fireworks display afterwards.  It's our family tradition to go every year.  Tuesday, I'm taking at least Haylee and maybe the neighbors to see the Virginia Symphony play a patriotic Symphony By the Sea concert at the Oceanfront.  Then Wednesday, of course, is the 4th of July.  We always go see the fireworks display at Mt. Trashmore from a nearby parking lot that's easy to get out of when it's all over.  Steve will be off that day, but it's still a school day for us.  We'll have to see how that goes!  So as you can see, it will be pretty tough to stay on schedule with school this week.  The kids will have to be at the top of their game to finish on time every day.  Good luck with that!  LOL.

We were late doing our family end-of-school year celebrations, so we took this weekend to wrap up some family fun.  We went out to dinner (a rare treat) at Mi Casita on Friday night, as we do every summer when school comes to an end.  It's the kids' favorite place to eat, and mine, too.  I gained 2 pounds from dinner, even though I split an entree with Hayden, which is what usually happens when I eat out. DARN! 

Then Saturday, we went to the 3-D indoor blacklight mini golf place at the Oceanfront.  Afterwards, I waded in the ocean with the kids while Steve sat and waited for us.  Fuddy duddy!  LOL.  We seriously had a blast.  The kids have always lived here and were born in this city, and yet it's the first time I've ever taken them all to wade in the ocean!  How sad is that?!?  Truth be told, not a one of us can swim, so that's my reason for avoiding all things involving water.  Some kid mowed us down on a boogie board and I scraped my leg on the sand.  Another little girl mowed Hayden down, and he sat in his shorts in the sand and water laughing his behind off!  LOL.  We really had a blast.  Hayden said he had the time of his life and couldn't wait to go back and do it again.  He said the feeling of the waves taking the sand out from underneath his feet was so weird!  He's never felt that sensation before.  We all had such fun!

Hayden and Holden still had a little school work to wrap up, so we got that finished up this weekend, too.  Hopefully, everyone will be on board and ready to get into a full schedule tomorrow!  Game on!