Sunday, November 29, 2015

Homeschooled: The Animated Series

My family took on a fun group project a few years ago.  My husband dabbles in comedy writing, and we all decided to get in on the action by creating an animated series in which we did all the writing, computer animations, and voice-overs ourselves.  My husband wrote it with contributions of real-life situations from the rest of us, my teenage son, Hayden, did all of the computer animations, and each of us recorded our own voice-overs.  It was a lot of fun!  I’d love for us to pick it up again at some point, but life got busy, and we only completed 3 episodes that summer.  Anyway, I thought I’d share it with you in 3 weekly installments to add a little humor to your holidays.

Here is the first episode of “Homeschooled: The Animated Series” in three parts.

S1:E1 Part 1 of 3 - “The Pilot”


S1:E1 Part 2 of 3 - “The Pilot”


S1:E1 Part 3 of 3 - “The Pilot”


I hope you enjoyed watching it as much as we did making it!  I’ll post the second episode next week, and the third episode the following week.  If your family homeschools, I’m sure you’ll be able to relate in some way.  I’d love for you to leave us your comments!  Maybe it will inspire my family to continue with this project in the future.

Feel free to follow our Facebook Fan Page, and if you just can’t wait to see all of the episodes, they’re all available here.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Thanksgiving Deals This Week

TURKEY:  This weekend only at Dollar Tree Deals stores, you can get a whole 10-12 pound Jennie-O turkey for just $5 with any additional $10 purchase.  If you’re looking for just a turkey breast, the cheapest price I’ve seen is at Target, where it’s just $1.29/lb.

CHEAP BURGERS:  This Tuesday at Sonic, celebrate Un-Turkey Day with half price cheeseburgers all day long!

BLACK FRIDAY:  This week, Black Friday begins at Wal-mart on Thursday night at 6 PM!  Wal-mart seems to be the happening place this year.  The deals go on and on!  New this season, they won’t be spreading the deals out at different times as in years past, where some start right away and some are delayed until a couple of hours later so you’re stuck hanging around the store for hours on end to get everything on your list.  I have a feeling that offering all the deals at one time will create even more chaos in the store, so I’m preparing myself for the madness by taking my teenage son along to get into special lines for big-ticket electronics items while I get the other deals on our list.  It could get really crazy!  We’ve witnessed mass chaos there in years’ past, so only time will tell.  Kohl’s is also on my list for just a couple of specific items.  Sometimes, I’m able to bypass the lines there by ordering the items at an in-store kiosk and getting them delivered to my house for free, but not all deals are available in-store.  It’s worth checking, though, because lines are really slow there!

With the deals starting early, I’m moving up Thanksgiving dinner to 1 PM to give myself time to clean up and scour the Black Friday ads so I can figure out my game plan before I leave.  I made my list for Wal-mart by viewing the ad online and making notes on certain pages right in the Microsoft Edge browser with Windows 10.  That was quite handy!

I hope you have a wonderful turkey day with friends and family, and I wish you lots of luck with your holiday shopping!  Remember to count your blessings and express your thankfulness to God for all of them.


Monday, November 16, 2015

2015 Schoolhouse Review Crew Blue Ribbon Awards

Every year, the Schoolhouse Review Crew votes for our favorite vendor products from the season.  Click the graphic below to see which products were the Crew favorites this year!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Deals Only Available This Weekend!!!

DEAL #1:  Busch Gardens’ Christmas Town

There are a couple of great deals going on this weekend only.

First, Busch Gardens Williamsburg is offering the lowest discounts of the season on Twinkle Tickets (admission with restricted dates) for their annual Christmas Town event.  You can buy unlimited tickets for just $14 each (reg. $30)! 

If you decide to take advantage of this offer, there are a few things to consider before you complete your purchase.  First, scan the list of restricted dates on which you can use the tickets and make sure you’re going to be available for one of them.  No Saturdays are included, so the only weekend dates you can visit are Fridays and Sundays, and there are only a few of those to choose from.

Also, you’ll probably want to go ahead and purchase your parking voucher for $15 just to save you some time at the parking lot entrance. 

Christmas Town offers an amazing dining experience in the Festhaus, where you can enjoy a festive traditional Christmas dinner of turkey, dressing, gravy, cheddar potatoes, and a fresh-baked roll, among other selections.  It’s best to purchase your dining deal voucher beforehand to limit your costs.  You can purchase a Gold Dining Certificate for around $15, which includes a standard meal and one additional side, or a Platinum Dining Certificate for around $16.50, which includes a standard meal with two additional sides.  That one is really the best deal if you like to add a salad and a dessert to your meal for a full-course dining experience.  Keep in mind that the Festhaus, in particular, offers the largest meals in general, so you could even get away with sharing a Platinum meal and still be full.  Not to mention that you can enjoy a great show there while you enjoy your meal.  There are plenty of other places in the park to eat, as well, but you’ll get the best value at the Festhaus.  You can also purchase a Kids’ Meal Certificate for about $6.50. 

Another add-on you might consider is the refillable Christmas Town mug for another $6.  If you purchase one, you can get hot beverage refills of hot chocolate, peppermint hot chocolate, or wassail cider all night long for $1.29 each.  It’s usually cold as the night wears on, so you can save money if you’re likely to drink a lot of hot beverages by buying that refillable cup.  Personally, I’m addicted to the delightfully spicy wassail cider, so it’s a no-brainer for me, and my kids love the peppermint hot chocolate, which has a peppermint patty melting in the bottom of each delicious cup.

There will be five holiday shows to attend this season, one of which is an all-new ice show.  It’s also lots of fun to visit the penguin exhibit.  After all, where else will you get to see baby penguins playing and swimming together?

A limited number of rides will be open, as that’s not the main attraction for Christmas Town.  Mostly, it will be rides in Octoberfest and Festa Italia.  A couple of them may close if the temperature gets too cold. 

All in all, it’s a great time to be had and a wonderful way to get yourself into the Christmas spirit, complete with fake snow that rains down upon you in parts of the park and plenty of places to huddle under outdoor heaters while you listen to festive carolers that roam about.

Be sure to wear your long johns and a good hat and gloves, as everything has long outdoor lines, even for dining. 

Just be prepared for the costs to add up.  By the time we purchased 3 tickets for myself and my two older children, plus 2 Platinum Dining Certificates and one kids’ meal, plus a parking pass, I was over $108.  Thankfully, we already own several of the refillable cups, so I didn’t have to add that to our list of purchases.

Also be prepared for a huge wait to getting into the parking lot.  I’ve seen the line of cars back up all the way onto I-64 and move at a snail’s pace.  It can take an hours and a half just to get to the parking gate, and there are times when the park reaches capacity, and a flashing sign will turn you away.  So the moral of that story is to allow yourself PLENTY of extra time to get in line at the parking gate long before the park actually opens, and if you want to see all of the shows, be sure to plan your day accordingly and plan to stay until closing time.

Deal #2:  Buy One Get One Free Starbucks’ Holiday Coffees

This weekend only (extended to Monday for Rewards members), you can BOGO FREE on any of Starbuck’s Holiday coffee drinks, which includes Caramel Brulee Latte, Peppermint Mocha, Gingerbread Latte, Chestnut Praline, Eggnog, and Teavana Gingerbread Tea Latte.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

How to Attend FREE Movie Screenings

Have you ever wondered how people get tickets to advance movie screenings in local theaters?  Ever wonder why you never hear about them until a friend says they went to one? 

This summer, I read a great article in the now-defunct ShopSmart magazine that gave the insider’s scoop on how to get in-the-know about movie screenings.  I followed their instructions to sign up at several sites to participate in future screenings, and before long, I was in my local theaters seeing movies for FREE before they were even available to the general public.  Now I probably get an offer at least once a week.

So today, I want to share with you how to sign up for yourselves.  Check out the sites below:


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SEE IT FIRST (for Disney movies)


Once you’ve signed up, you’ll need to know the ground rules.  You will be notified by email when a screening is available in your area.  It will outline for you the name of the movie, and the date and time of the event.  You’re generally offered the opportunity to claim your choice of either one or two passes.  You visit the link in the email, click on “claim my passes,” and the website will tell you whether or not passes are still available.  If so, you confirm how many you want, and you’ll receive a confirmation with a download link to print your passes.  Now these passes are usually claimed very quickly, so if you’re not checking your email regularly, you’re not likely to ever get any tickets.

In addition, they always offer more passes than the number of seats in the theater, so it’s important to arrive extra early to ensure that you’ll get a seat.  Once the theater fills up, they will turn you away at the door.  Arriving an hour before the show is pretty common.  Half an hour is as late as I’d push it, and even that is questionable as to whether or not even a single seat might be available, particularly with a highly anticipated film. 

Someone will generally stand up in the front of the theater before the movie begins to welcome you and thank you for attending the screening, and maybe tell a little bit about the film.  Sometimes, they’ll have a media person present who might do a giveaway, as well.  Then after the film, there will be studio representatives outside the door holding clipboards who will ask you for your reaction to the movie.  They’ll make notes about your feedback, so if you would like to share your opinion, be prepared to gives just a few words to express what stood out to you most about the film, both good and bad.

So the mystery is solved!  Now you, too, can participate in free movie screenings in your hometown. 


Thursday, November 5, 2015

REVIEW: The Ultimate Homeschool Planner by Apologia Educational Ministries

I’d love to share with you my informational review of The Ultimate Homeschooler Planner by Apologia Educational Ministries.



Apologia is offering The Ultimate Homeschool Planner, which is available with covers in these three colors:

       YELLOW                       ORANGE                       BLUE


It has a number of great features to meet all of your homeschool planning needs for up to six children, including a Lord’s Day planning grid, customized daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly planning pages, goal-setting forms, journaling activities, a place to track your reading lists, and year-end review pages.  Includes handy pockets and coated covers for durability.  It comes spiral-bound and is available for purchase for just $29.00.

Take a look at the table of contents and an excerpt to see what it looks like inside.  The contents vary slightly depending upon which color you choose, but I’m focusing on the yellow version for this review. 



Overall, it seems Apologia has thought of it all!  They’ve gone beyond typical scheduling pages and included lots of extras that encompass the big picture in your homeschool. 

The introduction teaches you how to use the system to ensure you get the most out of it.  Then it goes into an overview of your school year.  It even asks you to record the goals you’d like to set for each child, because it’s always important to ask yourself what you hope to have your child get out of your plans for the year and look back at those goals throughout the year to make sure they are making the progress you’d hoped to make. 

Then it offers a pre-planning section where you can set your family priorities and keep a list of the resources you’ll be using.  I know I have a habit of picking up extras I’d like to use to supplement what we’ll be learning for the year, and then later, I have a tendency to forget I had thApologia Plannerose fun supplemental materials like DVD’s, crafts, and random experiments that would have tied in with our topics.  Then I want to kick myself at the end of the year when I’m packing things up and realize we missed out on those great extras I’d planned to use!  This section will help you keep track of those.

Next are your actual planning and scheduling pages.  Both monthly and weekly pages are included for your convenience.  You can also make notes about appointments and supplies you need to get.

Then it moves into a record-keeping section.  Many states require that you keep certain types of information for reporting purposes, so this gives you a place to track that information.  It includes student grades, reading lists, and a place to record the activities in which they’ve participated throughout the year.

As if this weren’t enough to include in a solid planner, Apologia adds still more useful features like a practical section of teaching tips that help you learn how to develop independent learners, how to work with reluctant learners, how to identify learning styles and develop thinking skills, and how to give your student the tools they need to learn well. 

For those with older students, it also includes a high school planning guide and an example to get you started.  Then comes the year in review section so you can reflect on how your students met their goals and make notes for what’s next.

There’s even a Lord’s Day planner included where you can make plans for your family’s bible study, prayer list, plans for outreach, reflect on evidences of God’s grace, and record memorable moments and achievements from the week.

As you can see, it’s much more than just a school year planner.  It lets you journal, too, and chronicle your progress and reflections about your children and your family’s spiritual journey.

Take a look at what other Crew members have to say about The Ultimate Homeschool Planner by clicking the banner below.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Out and About

At the end of the week, I took the kids out for some fun.  On Friday, we picked up some dear friends and went to IHOP for free Scary Face Pancakes.  I was so happy, because the kitchen made my favorite sandwich, the Spinach and Roasted Red Pepper Melt, even though it hasn’t been on the menu for quite some time.  Yay!  I’ve missed it so.  20151030_104145

Then we rushed from there to drop our friends off, put the leftovers in the fridge, and head off to BJ’s Wholesale Club for a homeschool field trip.  This is the first time in the decades I’ve been a BJ’s member that they’ve organized such a thing.  They said one of the store’s main managers homeschools and had done similar events at other places in the past and wanted to give it a try here.  Yay!  The kids got to decorate cupcakes and cookies, get their faces painted, do some coloring and crafts, and play games together.  Holden’s hearty laugh could be heard across the room as he played games with the other kids.  It was great to see them having such a good time with other homeschoolers.  They each left with a balloon and a goodie bag of candy and activities to take home.  It was really neat!  The store took a group photo of all the kids in attendance, so it will be cool to see if they post it somewhere in the store, like on a bulletin board.

At the end of the day, I scored an Elsa costume (a princess character from the Disney movie Frozen) for Haylee from freecycle.  She was so excited!  We hadn’t been able to find her a used costume this year, so she was just planning to recycle one from a past Halloween, so that really made her day!

After spending all day at soccer on Saturday, I snuck out early with Haylee (Holden was still playing in his soccer game) to go to our community costume contest and trunk-or-treat.  Low and behold, Haylee won 2nd place in the costume contest for her age group!  She won a $10 Target gift card. 

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Then we all finally made it home to shower and eat a quick dinner of leftovers before it was time to go out and trick-or-treat.  To complicate things, at about 5:15, I let the dogs out to go to the bathroom, and Teenie dug out under the fence…followed by giant Lilly, who busted right through the fence and broke off 3 slats!  They were off into the next neighborhood, which borders ours on the other side of our fence.  So I had to jump in the van and go over there to retrieve them before all those trick-or-treaters hit the streets!  Thankfully, I found both of them and got them home in time.  Shew!  Crisis averted.

Steve and Hayden were too tired from soccer to go trick-or-treating with us, so it was just me and the kids with our neighbor friends.  We had a good time, but there were so few houses participating in our neighborhood this year that we zipped through with 45 minutes left.  So we rushed home and all of us decided to hop in my van and go to the next neighborhood to finish up our trick-or-treating over there.  That was cool!  Val and I rode along in my van and dropped the kids off at small stretches of participating homes until it was 8:00.  Haylee declared it to be the best Halloween ever!

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