Friday, August 31, 2012

REVIEW: Reading Kingdom by

My youngest son, Holden (4.5), got to try out an online subscription to Reading Kingdom at 

The Reading Kingdom is a fun, easy-to-use online program that teaches children 4-10 years old how to read and write to a third grade level.  

6 Skills

  • Most kids can use the program on their own after just a few lessons.
  • It's fun so children think they're playing a game and want to practice.
  • It was created by Dr. Marion Blank, Director of the Light on Learning Program at Columbia University and one of the world's top experts in reading.
  • It works with any other curriculum a child may be using.
  • It's the only program to offer customized online reading instruction for each child.
  • And, it's the only system that teaches all 6 skills needed for reading & writing success!

Our commitment to online reading for kids is based on our patented six skills method for reading success. These skills include sequencing, motor skills, phonics (phonemic awareness), meaning, grammar and reading comprehension. Our online reading for kids program is ideal for preschool, kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade, special education, homeschool, and English as a second language. The Reading Kingdom online reading for kids program is an ideal supplement to existing curricula, as well an excellent independent curriculum. Our online reading for kids program is also a great educational alternative to other entertainment options. In fact, most children refer to the Reading Kingdom as a reading game, since it is so fun to play. We're proud that our reading programs for kids are thought of as reading games (especially by kids!).  In addition to our online reading for kids program, we also offer a number of additional, low-cost materials and books that complement our online reading program. Please visit The Reading Kingdom Store for reading products and discount opportunities for our award-winning online reading program for kids.


Our Pricing

When you sign up for the Reading Kingdom, you receive a free 30 day trial. After that, subscriptions to Reading Kingdom are $19.99/month (with no monthly minimum), or $199.99 per year (20% off). Additional children in your account get 50% off ($9.99/month or $99.99/year). You can cancel your subscriptions at any time.

Contact us for information on volume licensing discounts.

Our Scholarship Program
We're passionate about promoting literacy and believe that every child has the right to learn to read. We don't want to turn anyone away. So, if you can't afford to pay for the program, you can apply for our scholarship subscription which enables your child to participate in the program for free.
Bear in mind that we're a privately run company and make our money by your subscriptions, so if you can afford to pay, please do so, because your support enables us to continue to develop products and promote literacy.

Before applying for a Reading Kingdom scholarship, please sign up for a 30 day trial. Then you must use the program with the child you are working with a minimum of 4 days per week for 3 weeks after which you can fill out the scholarship form located here. We will let you know if your scholarship has been approved before the 30 day trial is over.
Holden started off with a skills assessment.  The program checked to see if he understood that reading takes place from left to right and whether or not he could match up letters on the screen with letters on the keyboard (either the actual keyboard or an on-screen keyboard, our choice).

A unique feature of this program is that it adjusts automatically based on the child’s responses.  It placed Holden in the beginning activities called Seeing Sequences and Letter Land, so that’s where we started our journey.

I have to say that these sections were unusually lengthy and repetitive, and the time it took each activity to load was painstakingly slow.  I couldn’t believe how many days had to be spent going over the same material!  Holden did not look forward to completing the lessons at all.  In fact, it brought whining and fussing, and I actually had to bribe him to do it by giving him computer time on other sites that he enjoys as a reward for completing the Reading Kingdom lessons.  We spent the bulk of the review period trudging our way through these areas.  Holden is a pro with mouse skills, but keyboard skills are something he lacks, as most kids his age would.  So if he took too long to find the letters on the keyboard, or if he hit a wrong key, then it prolonged the time he had to spend in these activities since the program perceived that he needed more practice. 

The problem I have with that is that it has nothing to do with his reading skills or his ability to match letters. And it did nothing to teach him to read. All the time spent in these activities seemed to focus on using the keyboard and mouse themselves. In the end, I had to take over and complete a boatload of the lessons myself in order to get him through this section so he could at least try out the level 1 reading lessons before I sat down to write my review. I really wanted to give this program a fair assessment by seeing all that it had to offer.

I was again disappointed!  I had promised him that if only he completed those introductory lessons, he would eventually get to do some fun reading games.  This never came to be, as it turned out.  The very first level 1 reading lesson expected him to spell "kid"…just spell it on his own, finding all of the letters on the keyboard in the allotted time.  Although he just recently began reading a limited number of 3-letter words on his own, these letters were not ones we had covered.  He didn’t do too badly with it, but I had to help him with it, and of course, the program stresses to parents that you should not intervene and help because it skews the programs ability to assess what he needs to practice.  Frankly, I was shocked that a 4 year old was expected to spell in the very first lesson!  When he struggled, it did go on to show him the letters and then tried to get him to remember the spelling.  Then it went on to have him select the word “kid” out of a selection of similar words in varying order, and he was able to do that after seeing the word repeatedly.  But again, I would not call this teaching a child to read!  I teach with phonics, and this is more of a sight word approach, asking the child to simply memorize the word by sight.

I wish I had more positive things to say about this site.  I had high hopes for it being a great supplement to our phonics and language arts lessons in our home school, but I did not find it to be age appropriate for a beginning reader.  Perhaps it would be a better fit for an older child, but I certainly couldn’t recommend it for a 4 or 5 year old.  I will say that the graphics were colorful and engaging, and the sound effects were interesting.  But it certainly isn’t a game, and it really lacked the fun factor that draws many kids to computer-based learning games. 

If you’d like to try it out for yourself risk-free and see if it’s a good fit for your children, you can sign up for a FREE 30-day trial here.

Check out what other crew members have to say about Reading Kingdom by clicking the banner below.


I was provided with a subscription free of charge for purposes of the review, but all opinions are mine and reflect my families honest use of the product.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

REVIEW: Everyday Cooking by Everyday Homemaking


I got to review an e-book format cookbook called Everyday Cooking by Everyday Homemaking.

From the Website:

Collection of tried-and-true recipes and hints for simple, everyday cooking with an emphasis on whole foods - from a busy homeschooling mother of eight.

100 pages; coil-bound glossy cover; $17.99. (Also available as an e-book for $14.99.)


(Takes you to my publishing site; you can order there or return to this page to order.)

Here are some sample recipes for you to try free!

Our Experience:
I received the e-book format, so the first thing I did was print it out on both sides of the paper so it would only take up 50 sheets and would read like a regular book.  Then I laminated the front and back covers and bound the whole thing with plastic comb binding.  Voila!  Instant cookbook.

The book is laid out nicely with both a table of contents organized by category of dish and an alphabetical index in the back.  This makes it easy to find a specific recipe you might be looking for.
The cookbook starts out by giving you some practical tips about how to save time and money by cooking ahead, freezing portions or ingredients when they are in season, and stretching your meats to last.  Throughout the recipes, the author also gives you preparation tips and multiple cooking methods for meals that can be cooked in different ways, i.e. pressure cooker vs. slow cooker.  Also included are basic recipes for base ingredients like seasoning mixes and cream-of-soups so you can cut down on pre-packaged products that are used in lots of recipes.

There is also an extensive section on bread-making, complete with photos of the process, a basic recipe, and lots of variations.  The author even discusses grinding your own grains and the differences between them.

Then comes the extensive collection of recipes for everything from appetizers to baked goods, main dishes to soups and sides, and desserts to snacks.  Of these, my family tried a number of them:
1.  Becky’s Mystery Cake – This was the most heavenly cake I think I’vBecky's Mystery Cakee ever had!  Truly a delicacy.  I’ll take this over a traditional cake with frosting any day of the week!  I actually made this for my 13-year old son’s birthday, and he absolutely loved it.  My family polished it off in no time flat!  This one really is a must-try!  This recipe will go in my permanent recipe box.  Although the recipe is a bit of an indulgence, I did make some healthier ingredient substitutions, and it still came out fabulous!  This recipe is definitely a keeper!
2.  Bekah’s Blueberry Buckle – I had lots of fresh blueberries I needed to use up, so this recipe wasDSCF2005 a natural choice.  They are so good for you, so I was anxious to find a way to get my children to eat them.  We thought this recipe was just okay.  It gave a range of how much lemon zest to use in the crumble topping.  We agreed it needed less next time, and I think I would omit the salt from the topping altogether.  While the contrast of sweet and tart was interesting, I think the tart outweighed the sweet blueberries.  I think perhaps more of a streusel topping might be a better complement.  But my neighbor enjoyed the slice I took her.  It’s probably a matter of personal taste.
3.  Chill-Chasing Chicken Stew – This was really pretty good!  The cookbook gave two options for cooking methods, and I chose the slow cooker method.  My whole family enjoyed this very much.  I made the Cheese-Garlic Biscuits to go with it, and it made a nice combination.
4.  Cheese-Garlic Biscuits – This recipe was touted as being like the ones served at a popular nation-wide seafood restaurant.  I and my children enjoyed these, but my husband said he’d rather have a plain biscuit.  Again, a matter of choice.  We thought they went very well with the stew above.  However, a couple of days later, I still had quite a few left to use up.  I decided to turn them into smoked turkey and cheese biscuit sandwiches and served them on a platter for lunch.  They disappeared really fast!  I think they made even better sandwiches than biscuits.  Delicious!
5.  Mom’s Roast – This was downright FABULOUS!  We all really, really, really enjoyed this!  It had so few ingredients but turned my sirloin roast into a masterpiece of tender meat and gravy in the crockpot.  It was so flavorful!  It reminded me of the roast beef and gravy that my mom used to serve as Sunday dinner when I was a kid.  Lovely!  This recipe is also going in my permanent recipe box!  It was truly a piece of cake to make.  I made the Oven-Roasted Potatoes to go with it.
6.   Oven-Roasted Potatoes – I made these to go with the roast, and they made a nice complement with the meat and gravy.  In fact, my 13 year old son had his roast and gravy served over top of these potatoes, while my younger kids had the potatoes with ketchup for dipping, kind of like hashbrowns.  These were pretty good, but nothing extra special.  The use of onion soup mix was a faster alternative to chopping up a fresh onion as I normally would, and the book does give a recipe for homemade onion soup mix, as well.
7.  Potato Soup – This, I made for lunch.  It sure contained a LOT of half-and-half!  But it turned out pretty good.  My son and I enjoyed it a lot served with some shredded cheddar cheese on top.  A good crusty bread would go well with this, as well.  It was pretty much unseasoned and left to you to determine what to add and how much, to taste.  It didn’t take too long to make, though, so that was a bonus.  I added lots of Nature's Seasoning Blend, and it seemed to turn out just right.  I sent this in my husband's lunch to work, and he replied that it was perfect!
8.  Red Beans & Rice – This was a hit with my family. My husband especially enjoyed it because it wasn’t spicy.  In fact, it was pretty bland and fairly unseasoned overall.  While that may be a plus for children, those of us who enjoy some kick would want to add some seasoning separately.  I’ve made authentic Cajun style red beans and rice in the past, and it definitely contains some Cajun seasonings!  But that was the main difference I noted.  The texture and other flavors in it were very good.
Overall, I found the recipes to be pretty good.  They are very basic recipes for the most part, leaving the cook to add seasonings to suit their own taste.  That’s fine for a veteran cook like myself, but if you were a beginner, you might find the need to tweak the recipes to be a bit frustrating. 

Initially, I expected this to be a cookbook that would provide lots of healthy, nutritious whole foods recipes.  Though I enjoyed the recipes, I must admit I was disappointed in that regard.  There is no mention of low-fat or fat-free ingredients, and there is an abundance of sugar, albeit in less processed forms, but still a LOT of sugar in the baked goods.  Easy substitutions like natural unsweetened applesauce for oil aren’t even mentioned or suggested, and I wish there were nutrition facts given to provide calorie, fat, and portion size information at a minimum.  And I found it to be a stark contrast from “whole foods” to include a recipe like Dorito Casserole. 

Photos of any of the recipes other than the bread would have been helpful, as well.  I’m a very visual person, and I really appreciate photos of foods to peak my interest in trying a recipe.

In the back of the cookbook, there are tips on meal planning and shopping hints.  There’s also a checklist of basic cooking skills that the author suggests home economics students should complete to demonstrate their basic understanding of food preparation and cooking.  Some sample weekly and monthly menus are included, as well as a list of basic kitchen accessories.  The author also explains the selection of kitchen equipment such as a grain mill, mixer, and cookware, with photos and comparisons. 

There’s certainly a lot of information in this cookbook.  I look forward to trying more of the recipes.  I guess I had mixed feelings about it overall.  Some of the recipes were very good, but I did do a lot of substituting of healthier ingredients and lower fat options.  I reduced sugar content by using a sugar/stevia blend in baking, and I used fat-free ingredients whenever possible.  I don’t think I’d personally refer to it as a whole foods cookbook, but it does have some useful tips on some homemade basic pantry items so you can always have them on hand, and it has a good variety of recipes so there’s something for everyone.  I love to cook and try new recipes, and I’ll definitely use this cookbook again!

Check out what other Crew members had to say about this and other products from Everyday Homemaking by clicking the banner below.

I was provided with the e-book version of this cookbook free of charge for purposes of this review, but all opinions are mine and reflect my family’s honest use of the product.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Work in Progress

As always, our home school continues to be a work in progress.  The kids continue to come up with new ways to put snafus in our school days, and I continue to try to get one step ahead of them.  That's just the story of our lives!  I'm sure there's someone out there who can relate. 

My latest "breakthrough" that has alleviated the all-day-school routine, at least for now, is a time-oriented daily schedule.  Now, mind you, I prepare weekly schedules for the entire school year for every child before the school year ever begins.  It's all printed and bound and ready to go.  I even made individual schedule books for each child this year so they had everything they needed with their schedules, including study guides.  But there's always at least one child in the bunch who is unmotivated and marks stuff off that hasn't actually been completed.  And with three kids to teach and monitor, it seems like somebody is always slipping something in under the radar that I'll eventually uncover, but which puts a snafoo in our scheduling down the road.

So my first step in the right direction was posting a dry-erase classroom schedule on the wall.  I found this at Dollar Tree.  It has little clocks for each part of the day, and I filled in the times and what subject should be worked on at what time slot for each child, using different colors for each of them.

This worked fine for me so I could remind them of what they were supposed to be doing at any given time, but they weren't paying it much attention.  This was a new problem....still not quite where I wanted to be.

Then out of the blue, I had a sort of epiphany.  It started out being just for me.  Sunday night, I sat down and started charting out a new type of schedule.  I tried sketching it out on paper first since I didn't have the full picture in my mind yet, and then I tried doing it in Word.  But in the end, I ended up making it a spreadsheet in Excel.  That was the ticket!  Much easier to edit there.

I put all the time slots down the left-hand side, and then made a column for each child.  I wanted this to be one master schedule from which I could manage our school day.  I set up each subject in the appointed time slot and then used their individual schedules to put down what the assignments were for Monday.  When it was all filled in, I added borders to make it easier to read.  Genius!  I used the fit-to-page feature and printed it out as a single page.  Loved it!

Now when I told my husband what I was working on, he looked at me like he was thinking I've tried this sort of thing before, and he face showed the skepticism he felt...nothing much has worked for very long in the past.  That's true.  My children love to challenge me.  But I had a stir of hope in my belly as I went to bed.

On Monday morning, I was ready for my day.  I forced the children out of their beds at the allotted times and set them to work.  I informed everyone they must sit at the table together and somehow manage to focus on their own work while refraining from interfering with anyone else's business.  I sadly discovered that my oldest was behind on some things, despite having had the previous week off from school with plenty of time to catch up if necessary.  Water under the bridge!  Gotta fix it.  So he spent most of his day doing the catch-up work and not being efficient about it, which was making me hot under the collar.  He was totally ditching my time schedule already!  Ugh!  Fine, I thought to myself...I'll trudge on getting everyone else to get with the program.  By the end of the day, he managed to catch up.  He saw how early everyone else got done, and it caught his attention.  Yay!  I called the first day a victory.

Now I took the kids out for ice cream cupcakes from Coldstone that night, so I didn't have my down time to work on the next day's schedule.  But I told hubby it should only take about 30 minutes to crank one out, and I thought it was a good investment of my time.  He show a small amount of hopefulness and offered a bit of encouragement before I collapsed into bed.

So this morning, I got up early, as usual, roused everyone from bed, and set about whipping out today's schedule before it was time to start school.  It took me about 25 minutes to get it ready.  I was happy.  The oldest said he was approaching today with a whole different attitude, and that he really wanted to have a good school day and get done early.  He showed a marked interest in what this curious little master schedule was that I used the day before.  So I had another epiphany...perhaps the children would like to have their own little schedule strip with the times on it to help them be accountable, even without my reminding them what they should be doing. After all, it takes the wall schedule a step further by telling them not only what subject they should be doing at any given time, but also what specific assignment they should be doing.  No need to cross reference with their regular schedules.  So I asked the oldest if he would like a copy of his portion of the schedule.  He said yes.  So I make another copy and cut the three columns into little schedule strips.  I passed them out to each of them as they sat down for school, and everyone got to work. 

I can't tell you what a wonderful day we had today!  Everyone finished by 4 PM, and that's a miracle in my house.  The oldest (13) finished first, then the middle child (8) who normally causes all the delays, and then the youngest (4.5) who has to have me beside him for every assignment.  Now he would normally be finished much earlier in the day, but the middle child has caused so much interruption over the last month that I've had to spend all my time with her and have sadly neglected my youngest.  Therefore he is 3 weeks behind them in his work.  However, he is working diligently with the new schedule at doubling up on his work every day to try to get caught up by mid-September.  He's even reading real words!  Yay! 

So after all this chatter, he is a sample of what today's schedule looked like (keeping in mind that the youngest would normally have half as much work as that...I'm not a slave driver!).

Tell me what you think! All I know is that we had one of the best school days we've had in a LONG time! Hooray for Burgess Homeschool Academy!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Caterpillar Word Wall

Holden is doing Saxon Phonics K this year, and it suggested that I make a caterpillar word wall as a means of having him practice the words that he can now read himself.  In the lessons, it will suggest what words to add to it and when to add them.  Here’s a photo of what we have so far.


We used our hand pointer from Dollar Tree to point at the letters and sound out the words.  He practiced a couple of different times over the weekend, and I could see that it was really building his confidence as he read the words for his dad and siblings at various times.  It also did my heart good to hear him and realize he really is learning some stuff when we do school together!  LOL. 

If you’re interested in making one, I used a pack of foam circles that I bought at Dollar Tree for the caterpillar sections, some self-adhesive googly eyes that I had, a green chenille stem cut in half and wrapped around sparkly green pom-poms for the antennae, and a mouth cut out from paper.  I printed the words using a word wall generator here from ABC Teach (you must be a member to print your own custom word walls.  I stuck the words on with a glue stick and just rolled up clear tape on the back of each circle to mount them on the wall.  It took very little effort and has already proven to be a great learning tool for Holden!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

REVIEW: Elementary School Grammar Rocks Course by

 My rising 3rd grader, Haylee, had the opportunity to try out the 8-week online Elementary School Grammar Rocks Course by

From the Website:

ES Elementary School: Pre-Sentence Grammar Course Overview

This course has been created for the youngest eager writers, starting at 2nd grade. During the eight week pre-sentence course, students will be introduced to parts of speech and how to recognize and use them in a sentence.

Students will understand how to recognize and form a complete sentence with a subject and predicate. Students will also learn to recognize basic capitalization rules and proofreading strategies.

Unit 1 – Nouns By the end of the first unit, students will be able to correctly identify common nouns and capitalize proper nouns. Students will be able to differentiate between concrete and abstract nouns.  

Unit 2 – Pronouns and Adjectives By the end of the second unit, students should have a complete understanding of all types of pronouns. Students will also be introduced to adjectives and be able to recognize and use them in sentences.  

Unit 3 – Verbs By the end of the third unit, students will be able to correctly identify action, helping, and linking verbs in a sentence.  

Unit 4 – Capitalization By the end of the fourth week, students will be able to recognize and utilize the most common capitalization rules.  

Unit 5 – Sentence Structure By the end of week 5, students will be able to identify and correct run-on sentences and fragments.  

Unit 6 – Sentence Subject By the end of unit 6, students will be able to correctly identify complete subjects in sentences and be able to form complete sentences with subjects.

Unit 7 – Sentence Predicate By the end of unit 7, students will be able to correctly identify the predicate in a sentence and form complete sentences with predicates.  

Unit 8 – Proofreading By the end of unit 8, students will begin to recognize simple proofreading strategies and utilize them in their own writing.
  Time4Writing's Eight Week Course
Flexible Scheduling Available

Have Questions?

Available weekdays 8:30am-7pm EST

Our Experience:

Quite honestly, my daughter LOVED this from the every beginning.  It just so happens that she is covering the same material right now in her regular Language Arts program for 3rd grade, so this course was a perfect fit for her with perfect timing. 

Haylee raced to the computer each day to do her lessons, and it was something she could do on her own once I got her started and went over the instructions with her.  Once you sign up, you log in and set up your child’s profile.  You can even add his/her photo, although I was never able to get it to accept her photo image for some reason.

The program takes the student through a tutorial of how the program works and then gives them a quiz on the rules to make sure they understand.  I thought that was a smart move. 

Before you begin the course, there are also two suggested schedules you can view on how to complete the course in either 4 or 8 weeks.  Although it’s called an 8-week course, there is some extra time built in so you can make-up days you missed before your time runs out.

Each day, the student has the option to use read the lesson with an audio accompaniment or with a video presentation of the lesson.  Haylee loved the video presentation.  Then it moves into some practice of the material with immediate feedback as to how you’re doing.  Then there is usually a homework assignment of sorts.  For this, you open a box and begin typing your answers to the questions.  You have an opportunity to use spell-check and double check your responses, and then you submit it to the teacher for grading.  Usually within a couple of hours, I would receive an email that the teacher had responded to Haylee’s submission, and there would be a link to take me to her assignment.  There, the teacher’s grading and comments would be attached at the bottom of her original submission.  The teach sometimes recommends the student re-do an assignment.  The student is given up to 2 chances before a final grade is given for the assignment.

Once Haylee got past her graded assignment, then she could proceed on to the next assignment, which could be a new lesson or a quiz. 

At this point, Haylee has completed 5 of the 8 units.  Last week, I received a mid-course update from her teacher, Ms. Nicole.  Here is what she had to say:
Dear Parent,  
Haylee has been doing a very good job on the work that she has completed to date in Elementary Grammar. She is currently working in Topic 5 and is right on target to finish the course on time.  
Haylee has done an excellent job on all of her writing assignments. She has two multiple choice quizzes on which she did poorly. From looking at her activity reports, I believe that she rushed through the two attempts on these quizzes. I would encourage her to slow down and carefully read her answers before submitting. She knows the material! She just needs to make sure she's answering correctly!  
I am enjoying working with her, and I look forward to seeing her assignments in the second half of the course!  
Ms. Nicole
It went on to show me how she did in each unit and suggested that she review two of the sections.  I was very impressed with the feedback!

Overall, I think the instruction in this course is great, the exercises are enjoyable and fun for Haylee, and she looks forward to working through the lessons.  I think the teacher’s feedback has been right on, and I think it has been great practice for Haylee.  I also like giving her the opportunity to work with another teacher besides myself.  I think that experience has been a positive one for both of us.

I’m pretty thrifty when selecting curriculum for our homeschool, so I probably would not personally spend $99 for an 8-week course to be used one time by one student.  I have 3 children, so I tend to purchase curriculum that can be used in turn by each of them so I get the most bang for my buck.  But if you have a single student or a large budget for your homeschool, then I would definitely recommend this course!  It certainly makes Language Arts, a subject that is notoriously dry, come across as engaging and fun.  That’s definitely worth something!

The bottom line is that we will continue to use the course to the end, because Haylee really enjoys it, and I think it gives her a great opportunity to learn and reinforce basic grammar skills.

Check out what other Crew members have to say about this and other Time4Writing courses by clicking the banner below.


I received this course free of charge for review purposes, but all opinions are mine and reflect my family’s honest use of the product.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

REVIEW: “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist” book and workbook from Apologia

I am reviewing a wonderful book called I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist and the matching workbook from Apologia.

From the Website:

I Don't Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist

Cost: $16.00

Sample Chapter
Table of Contents

ISBN: 978-1-58134-561-2

To some, the concept of having faith in a higher power or a set of religious beliefs is nonsensical. Indeed, many view religion in general, and Christianity in particular, as unfounded and unreasonable. Norman Geisler and Frank Turek argue, however, that Christianity is not only more reasonable than all other belief systems, but is indeed more rational than unbelief itself. With conviction and clear thinking, Geisler and Turek guide readers through some of the traditional, tested arguments for the existence of a creator God. They move into an examination of the source of morality and the reliability of the New Testament accounts concerning Jesus. The final section of the book deals with a detailed investigation of the claims of Christ. This volume will be an interesting read for those skeptical about Christianity, as well as a helpful resource for Christians seeking to articulate a more sophisticated defense of their faith.

I Don't Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist Workbook

Cost: $33.00
I Don't Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist Workbook
Sample Chapter
Table of Contents

ISBN: 978-1-935495-84-0

Introducing Apologia’s first apologetics curriculum for high school students! Based on Norman Geisler and Frank Turek’s best-selling book I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, this study will prepare teens and young adults to defend their Christian faith with boldness and effectiveness. During this course, your student will tackle the question of absolute truth, demolish the follies of postmodernism, debunk moral relativism, and march logically and surely toward the inescapable truths of the Christian faith. This is a companion study, so your student will need a copy of the original book, which is available through Apologia.
Our Experience:

I tried out these products myself.  It is a program of study intended for high school to adult.  Really, the book is great for anyone who wants to strengthen their ability to defend their faith to unbelievers or those who believe in something other than Christ.  The workbook is for high school children to use in conjunction with the book in order to complete a credit for bible/religion studies.

When using the book and workbook in combination with each other, the entire program is intended to cover 9 months of study.  It suggests spending 2-3 weeks per chapter to fully digest the information. 

I felt the workbook was more or less busy work, so it really is a school-type product for a high school student.  As an adult, nothing about it made me delve deeper into my thought process to gain deeper understanding of the material.  However, it’s a great way to take notes for future reference.  It more or less sums up what you’ve read and helps you organize the material in your head. 

The book itself, though, is wonderful!  I’m several chapters into it now, and I love the methodical way it helps you to:
1.  see into the mind of an unbeliever (or "other" believer) to further understand where they are coming from and what their thought process may be that brought them to their place of perspective

2.  methodically break down that thought process and use it to dispel itself

3.  show the unbeliever that it’s less of a leap to accept faith in Christ than to accept that we should have no faith at all
In each chapter of the book, it takes you through another argument someone may use to support their claim.  Then it explains the theory behind the claim and uses it to show why that claim is without basis.  It lays out the foundations of the three major religious worldviews and then breaks them down.  Then at the end of the book, it shows how much evidence there is to support faith in Christianity.  I am looking forward to finishing the book and sharing it with others! 

I have a young relative who began to question his faith in college and hasn’t quite found his way back yet.  I am planning to send this set to his mom to read herself and then give to him, as he’s been asking her to help him work through his thoughts on faith. 

I also plan to share this book with our preacher.  I think oftentimes when we have strong faith in Christ, it can be difficult for us to mentally wrap our minds around the thoughts of those who lack that faith because we simply can’t relate to life without faith.  I think this book offers a unique peek into the minds of those who either misunderstand or lack understanding altogether.  By better understanding their reasoning, we can better break it down and show why a belief in God and a desire to obey Him is the key to eternal life.

I think the book is definitely a good value, because after all, what price tag can you put on the chance to draw someone closer to God?  Planting seeds to grow someone into His kingdom is priceless indeed.

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I received these products free of charge for review purposes.  However, all opinions are mine and reflect my family’s honest use of the products.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

REVIEW: Vocabulary Spelling City from

The kids and I got to review Vocabulary Spelling City from  We have used this site for years to test spelling words for our homeschool, but we only had access to the free features of the site. So when the opportunity to review the premium membership arose, I jumped at the chance to try out the other amazing features.

From the Website: has:

While the free resources are wonderful, the premium services are even better.  Here’s a checklist to compare the added benefits of premium membership.

VocabularySpellingCity Premium Membership Features

 And here’s a video that gives you an overview of the site:  VocabularySpellingCity Overview
Did you know... that almost all of VocabularySpellingCity's games are printable?  Click here to learn more!  How Much Does It Cost Per Year?
Families: Up to 5 students     $29.99
For inquiries, contact
Our Experience:

As I mentioned at the beginning, my children have been using the free features of this website for years as a way to test them on their weekly spelling lists.  I love that you can add your own customized lists and save them for future use by your other children.

Adding word lists is simple.  You can even name your lists for easy reference.  In the premium membership, you can even sort the lists into groups, which is extremely useful when saving lists for multiple children of different grade levels. 

You can enter lists for spelling and/or vocabulary purposes and quiz on each.  The kids can have fun playing games with their word lists, all the while learning the spellings and meanings in an entertaining way. 

Another premium feature worth its weight in gold for me as a teacher is that is saves your children’s test scores.  This means you don’t have to write them down or see them before they close the window.  They can simply take their quizzes as you have scheduled them to do so in your personal lesson plans, and then you can reference the teacher area at your convenience to see how they’ve been doing.  Each child can sign in with their own password when it’s time to take their quizzes or play the games for added learning opportunities.

The games are lots of fun, and my 8 year old daughter begs for computer time to play the games, even long after she has completed the quizzes.  My kids also like to study their words again just before they take their quiz by clicking each word in the list.  When you do this, the website makes the word larger and spells it both out loud and visually and uses the word in the context of a sentence to help the child understand its meaning and usage.  This is great reinforcement.

When the child finishes a quiz, it gives them immediate feedback as to how they did and shows them corrections for any words they missed.  They can even re-take the test if necessary.  When they get all the answers correct, they get a “magic wand” type sound and cheering to congratulate them on their success.  My kids love to hear that encouragement that congratulates them for a job well done!

Consider, too, the cross-curricular uses of this site.  Not only can you use it for spelling lists and vocabulary words from your language arts curriculum, but think of how useful it could be for adding terms from math (types of triangles, shapes, etc.), science (defining terms from various types of science), and other subjects.  This has far-reaching capabilities for boosting memorization of word definitions in all subjects for your homeschool! 

It’s recommended for children in grades K-12.  However, I also have a preschooler who is 4.5 and is just beginning to learn to read.  As his keyboarding skills improve, I could definitely see adding simple 3-letter words with which he could play and quiz, as well.

While I’ve gotten by all of these years with only the free portions of the website, I’d be hard pressed to give up all of the wonderful premium features now that I’ve tried them out.  At $29.99/year for access for all of my children, it’s not a bad investment at all.  I would definitely encourage you to try it out!

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I was provided with a premium membership free of charge for purposes of this review.  However, all opinions are mine and reflect my family’s honest use of the product.

Friday, August 10, 2012

REVIEW: Vocab Videos from

My 12-year old son, Hayden, got to try out Vocab Videos.  He’s slightly on the young side for this product (recommended for high school to college), but he’s always been a vocabulary enthusiast, so I thought he’d have some interest in this. 

From the Website:

SAT Vocabulary Learning & Much More!

Vocab Videos was originally developed to teach SAT Vocabulary and tailored around learning key SAT Vocabulary words. Since that time, the system has proven an extremely effective vocabulary-learning tool for a variety of different tests beyond the SAT such as the ACT, ISEE, SSAT, and GRE tests. Vocab Videos is also an exemplary learning and teaching tool for any vocabulary learning program/class or individual vocabulary learning needs. Examples of uses outside of SAT and other test vocabulary are classroom vocabulary programs and ESL (English as a Second Language) vocabulary learning.

For educators, we offer SAT/ACT professional development and materials licensing and have developed programs designed specifically for classroom vocabulary learning accompanied with several valuable educator vocabulary resources.  The Vocab Videos program is based on watching humorous, memorable videos to teach vocabulary in a contextual format. Using both auditory and visual cues, each video includes a real-world representation of the meaning of a word in a way that you can easily relate to and understand. In addition to the videos, the program includes quizzes, worksheets, a multimedia flashcard maker and many other tools.

The vocabulary platform also includes a number of special educator features that allow teachers to monitor student usage and progress. Ready to get started? Take a look around the site and you will see a host of great vocabulary learning resources for the SAT including a free SAT word list and much more. Take advantage of our free trial to get started today!

Our Experience:

Hayden and I both enjoyed the videos.  They were funny in a silly sort of way.  I found the skits to be an effective way to remember the words.  When I took the quiz afterwards, I found myself recalling the scenes that depicted the meanings of the words.  The videos for each group of 20 words are all part of one big skit that’s all related, so it helps you piece together how the words could be used in relation to one another. 

For Hayden, though, who is just beginning 8th grade, sometimes he didn’t score as well on the subsequent quizzes.  I think he found the videos comical, although perhaps a bit long to sit through in one sitting.  I think maybe it started to lose his attention as it went on, and his inattention was reflected in the quiz score.  But he has ADHD, and he is easily distracted, so that could be a factor.  Overall, though, we both liked the format.  I asked him how effective he felt the videos were in helping him learn and recall the word meanings, and he said a 7 or 8 on a scale of 1 to 10. 

At one point, my 8 year old daughter and 4.5 year old son came over and joined us in watching some of the videos.  They were laughing at some of the silly scenes.  There’s definitely a mild entertainment factor! 

As a teacher, I like how it tracks the scores and averages for the quizzes.  It offers various options for the student’s study like crossword puzzles, worksheets where they take notes that they can turn into flashcards, and the quizzes, which the student can re-take if they don’t do as well as they’d like.

A single student can sign up for a 6-month subscription for $24.99, or a 1-year subscription for $39.99. 

You can register for a 1-month FREE trial of an educator’s account.  After that, a 1-year subscription is $74.95 for a small educator account that allows you to register up to 20 students.  There is an extensive collection of 500 videos in all, plus all of the digital study resources I mentioned are included.  The educator account has the added features of setting up multiple students, monitoring their progress, and the ability to download and print materials you can pass out for practice and quizzing.

All in all, I think it’s a fun program.  For a mature high school student, I can see where it could be an engaging vocabulary enrichment tool.  I think a 6-month subscription for $24.99 would likely be sufficient to cover the material if used regularly. 

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I received a subscription to this product free of charge for review purposes.  However, all opinions are mine and reflect my family’s honest use of the product.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

REVIEW: Multiplication Teaching and Learning Made Easy by Math Made Easy

We had the fortunate opportunity to review Multiplication Teaching and Learning Made Easy by Math Made Easy.

From the Website:

Children learn the multiplication facts without counting on their fingers

 Mastery of facts in 6 weeks

Only 36 facts to memorize


Cost:  $24.95
Our Experience:

Haylee, my 8-year old daughter, has really struggled to memorize her multiplication facts.  Despite having just started 4th grade math, she still has a tendency to count on her fingers.  It really drives me crazy!  Memorizing math facts is such an essential skill to master with both accuracy and efficiency before reaching higher math.  So when I was given the chance to review this product that promised to help her master this skill in just 6 weeks, I jumped at the chance!  

There is an initial pre-test and then a general lesson that helps the child to realize that they know so many of the facts already.  By showing them that they only need to work on 36 facts, the whole process becomes less daunting for the child.  Haylee was really encouraged when she looked at the chart that showed her how much she already knew and which facts were left to be learned in the program.  

Then there is a daily worksheet for 6 weeks, flash cards for practice, and some games and activities printed on cardstock that give extra practice.  While I was initially a little put off by the prep work involved (you have to cut up the game pieces and flash cards and laminate them before using) and the absence of directions for the Indian game that was included, I will say that they were fun for her to use, and she enjoyed the novelty of having math games for practice.

She has completed 5 weeks of the program so far.  I can honestly say she is eager to complete the lessons!  The activity worksheets are honestly a lot of fun for her, and she begs to work ahead.  The repetition of working with the facts in a variety of ways has really helped her to get them down.  I have already seen improvement in her timed math drills in her primary math program, and I’m not seeing her count on her fingers now.  She can recite the answers to me pretty quickly, and I must declare that it has truly worked for her!  

An added bonus is that you are allowed to copy the materials for use within your own family.  It comes with spiral comb binding, so it’s easy to take apart and copy and re-bind, especially if you have a binding machine like I do.  I like that the worksheets are not distracting…there’s no color or useless illustrations to take away the child’s attention from the task at hand.  It’s simple and straight-forward and fun!   

When Haylee finishes the program this week, she will take the post-test to see how well she’s mastered her facts.  But it’s easy to see that a substantial improvement is on the horizon for her!

At $24.95 with the ability to be used by all of your children, this product is a solid investment to ensure mastery of the multiplication facts.  It is a wonderful supplement to whatever math curriculum you might be using.

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I was provided with this product free of charge for purposes of this review.  However, all opinions are mine and reflect our honest use of the product.