A Blog Devoted to Encouraging Homeschooling Mothers

A Blog Devoted to Encouraging Homeschooling Mothers
The Burts in 2013

Monday, December 27, 2010

My Daughter's Clay Creations & My Bible Study On Sale Thru January!

I'd like to share a link to my FaceBook page where you can take a look at a picture I posted of my daughter's latest clay creation as he was baking in our oven. The response to the picture was a wonderful boost to her self-esteem & I just had to share!

If you are interested in having something made from clay by my daughter, leave a comment to this post (or a comment to my FB post) and we will be in touch with you ASAP. She really can make nearly anything out of clay, and she can make items in a variety of sizes. She has even made key chains for family members!

And since it is nearly a new year (and the mid-point for many homeschool families) I am offering my book "The Homeschooling Mother's Bible Study" at a discounted price:

$10 postage paid for the print version
$7.50 for the e-book (sent to you in Adobe reader format via email)

If you could use some encouragement as you get back to homeschooling following the Christmas break, leave a comment to one of my posts.

Lord bless you all!

Jan L. Burt

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Carol Lyrics

Everybody has a favorite Christmas carol. The one they look forward to hearing and/or singing every December. Mine has got to be "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen". Now before you think that sounds a little strange, just read through the lyrics of verse one:

"God rest ye merry, gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay.
Remember Christ our Savior
was born on Christmas Day.
To save us all from Satan's power
when we were gone astray.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy!
O tidings of comfort and joy!"
This is the version I like the best - an early version from the 1760's is slightly different and it's wording undergoes some variation if you are singing it in the UK; whichever version one might prefer, the powerful truth contained in these lyrics is undeniable.

Here are the rest of less well known lyrics:

"In Bethlehem, in Israel
this blessed Babe was born.
And laid within a manger
upon this blessed morn.
To which His mother Mary
did nothing take in scorn.

From God our heavenly Father
a blessed angel came;
And unto certain shepherds
brought tidings of the same;
How that in Bethlehem was born
the Son of God by name.

"Fear not, then," said the angel
"Let nothing you affright;
This day is born a Savior
of a pure virgin bright,
to free all those who trust in Him
from Satan's power and might."

The shepherds at those tidings
rejoiced much in mind.
And left their flocks a-feeding
in tempest, storm and wind.
And went to Bethlehem straigt'way
this blessed Babe to find.

And when they came to Bethlehem
where our dear Savior lay
They found Him in a manger
where oxen feed on hay.
His mother Mary kneeling
unto the Lord did pray.

Now to the Lord sing praises,
all you within this place.
And with true love and brotherhood
each other now embrace;
this holy tide of Christmas
all others doth deface.

God bless the ruler of this house
and send him long to reign.
And many a merry Christmas
may he live to see again;
Among your friends and kindred
that live both near and far -

That God send you a happy new year,
happy new year.
And God send you a happy new year."

Before you continue with all you have to do these last few days before Christmas, why not take a few moments and reflect upon the lyrics of your favorite Christmas carol. I take great comfort in remembering that nothing ought to dismay me ~ Christ my Savior was born on Christmas day to save me from Satan's power when I was gone astray. I give to you these tidings that you might grab ahold of God's comfort and joy which He so freely offers to you this Christmas.

God send you a happy new year!

Day 63 done :)

Jan L. Burt

PS ~ Don't forget my book "The Homeschooling Mothers Bible Study" is available now through the end of January for $10 (shipping included). Leave a comment to one of my posts if you'd like to purchase a copy.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Tiny Planets Review (TOS Homeschool Crew)

Today's review is for the educational website Tiny Planets ( is based upon the television show of the same name. In a space exploration setting, children ages 4 to 12 can discover and create to their hearts content. Parents, rest assured, this is an educational website that will challenge your children as they play along with the characters Bing and Bong. The television program Tiny Planets is the only tv program to be endorsed by Montessori Centre International - just in case you wondered if it was really an educational website!

After signing each of your children up for their own Cadet account, you can access the Tiny Planets universe ~ places like Tiny Planets TV, My Tiny Planets (an online community and virtual world), Tiny Planets Fun, Tiny Planets Books, and Tiny Planets Learning. Some of the things my children did on include adopting and naming their own planets, taking care of said planet (growing plants, releasing oxygen, choosing landscape, buildings, and scenery, and more), having silly but fun adventures with Bing and Bong, visited with other Cadets (with emoticons and pre-programmed phrases - no free chat on Tiny Planets!), tried out new games in the Tiny Planets Lab, and spent most of their time hanging out in Bing and Bong's corners of the website.

The first time my 10-year-old logged on to play, she spent about 45 minutes at the site and was easily entertained for that time span. She probably would have played longer, but we limit the amount of time our children are aloud to "play" online and 45 minutes was more than enough time for one sitting! Her favorite spot was Bing's Corner - they have a good selection of games & while my 10-year-old liked most every game she played, my 12-year-old felt some of the games were a little easy for her. My 12-year-old daughter liked the comics and puzzles at Bong's Corner. These can be printed out or saved as a file on your computer. The puzzles could be printed out and taken with when traveling (or when driving around town for day-to-day activities). And the color pages (kind of like comic strips) are detailed and challenging enough they could count as homeschool art for elementary students. The Tiny Planets Labs have games that are better geared toward older children; both my 10 and 12-year-olds were challenged by these games.

My honest opinion of the Tiny Planets website is that it is a good option for kids who want to spend some time online. I like the features available for parents and I am pretty impressed with the amount of material on this site. There are some features that must be paid for (called Keys) but most of the site is free of charge.

And since it is almost Christmas, why not look at in the next few days to keep your kiddos occupied as you finish up your holiday chores? You might be amazed how much a mom can accomplish while her little students spend some time on Tiny Planets!

Thanks for reading my multiple reviews this week - lots of good homeschool stuff for me to talk about!! Enjoy your last weekend of Advent before Christmas & have fun checking out Tiny Planets ! (Access to this website was given to me free of charge for review purposes.)

Day 62 done :)

Jan L. Burt

P.S. ~ Anyone interested in obtaining a copy of my book "The Homeschooling Mother's Bible Study: God's Encouragement for Homeschooling Mothers" can leave a comment and receive a copy for only $10 flat(no extra charge for shipping). This is a short-term offer & my Christmas gift to encourage homeschooling leave me a comment!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

TOS Product Review ~ Wits & Wagers Family by North Star Games

Doing the "work" for this review was just plain fun ~ and since the weeks before Christmas are often a time when homeschool families take some time off from their usual studies to relax and enjoy the season, this was the perfect time of year to review the board game "Wits and Wagers Family" (from North Star Games). This is a family version of their game "Wits and Wagers".

The game includes a scoreboard, dry erase markers, the game pieces (called Meeples), Question and Answer boards, and the answer cards. It is recommended for ages 8 and up and is aimed at 3 to 10 players, although it could be adapted to use with teams if you had a large group of people.

Playing "Wits and Wagers Family" is simple:
1. Ask a question
2. Answer the question by placing your answer card face down on the table
3. When everyone has answered, flip the boards over and put them in order from smallest to largest
4. Once all guesses have been placed in order, all players (or teams of players) place their "Meeples" on the answer board that they think will win.
5. After all the "Meeples" are placed, read the correct answer to the question.
6. The winning guess is the number closest to the correct answer without going over.
7. Players score points using a points system.
8. Continue game play
9. The first player to 15 points wins the game

Don't worry if that sounds confusing; my kids thought it would take a while to catch on to how the game is played, but they had it figured out in one round.

I have seen this game for sale at Target and at, along with other North Star Games products (the original Wits and Wagers; Wits and Wagers Expansion Pack; Say Anything). Prices range from $30 on the high end down to $15 (lower depending on where you make your purchase). You can find out more at their website ~ While checking out the website, look at their "Inside Corner" for some interesting information about their company and products.

I'd like to briefly share some of my children's comments about the game "Wits and Wagers Family" since they are the ones who played it the most :)

"It was hilarious seeing the answers everyone came up with!"

"We could bring it on a trip and play it while we are driving."

"It's fun picking who you think will win."

"The game asked good questions; not too easy & not too hard."

"I actually had to use my brain."

"Everyone gets involved, so no one feels left out while we play."

"I wish it had a timer or a time limit. Sometimes it takes a while for everybody to make their guesses."

And finally, they all said, "It was a really fun game!" We have lots of games in our house, but not all of them have been described as "really fun", LOL!

Overall I think "Wits and Wagers Family" would make a great Christmas gift for any family. It would also make a nice addition to any homeschooling mom's "game arsenal".

And after reading this post, how about planning your family's next game night?

Day 61 done :)

Jan L. Burt

(This product was sent to me free of charge for review purposes.)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Clear Play

To all of my readers who do not already know ~ our family uses the Clear Play dvd player. And believe me you, it really does work.

You use it like you use any other dvd player (in fact you can use it to watch any dvd, with or without filtering). Simply download your filters at your Clear Play account, put the "stick" (usb drive) into the Clear Play dvd player, throw in the video you choose to watch and you're ready to enjoy a movie without objectionable content.

Users can adjust the settings on the filter to suit their family's individual preferences. For example, in the film "Over the Hedge" you can actually set the filter to remove the scene wherein Hammy burps his A-B-C's. Our family is okay viewing a cartoon hyperactive rodent belching the alphabet; but it's nice to know we won't see the things our family isn't okay with.

And since the filters remain on your player once they have been downloaded, you don't have to continually reload the filter every time you watch a certain movie. You can even take the "stick" with you when you travel & watch movies with filters on your laptop in your hotel room or while driving in the car. The company is easy to work with, has excellent customer service, reasonable pricing (especially at this time of year!) and they will add a filter for movies per your request.

One example of their quality of customer service is this: our original Clear Play dvd player stopped working. They emailed us a postage paid label so that we could ship the player to them. They also sent us another (upgraded) dvd player ~ the same day...without ever seeing our broken player. They never intended to "fix" our player - they just replaced it with a better model. The kicker? We had received the original player as a part of promotion wherein we only paid shipping. For under $15 we have had 2 Clear Play dvd players. They mean it when they say their goal is to provide you with the best customer service experience you've ever had. And the result is loyal customers, like our family :)

So, I'm posting this because Clear Play is currently having a Christmas special on their players and services. If you would like to learn more about the Clear Play experience, visit their website at Right now you can get the Clear Play dvd player and a 3-month membership for only $99. That is a really good deal & I promise, the filters really do work without interrupting the flow of the movie. If you take advantage of this offer via this blog post, be sure to mention my name (or my husband's - or both our names - LOL! - Tony and/or Jan Burt).

Happy video viewing!

Day 59 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

TOS Crew ALEKS Math Review

The product being covered in this blog post is an online math program called ALEKS - Assessment and Learning and is available at the website The acronym ALEKS stands for "Assessment and Learning in Knowledge Spaces" and this program does just what it's name implies. Each student is initially assessed and then placed in the appropriate math level. As the student moves through the level they are continually assessed and challenged, moving forward toward completion of each math level.

The program works in a simple manner; each student has their own account and when they log in, any concepts that need to be reviewed will be the first thing they work on. After completing any needed review work, the student can look at their "pie" ~ which is the key tool the ALEKS math program uses to movtivate the students in their work. The "pie" is a simple pie chart that clearly displays the student's progress. At any moment, student (or homeschool mom!) can quickly see what has been learned, what has yet to be learned, and which math topic needs the most focus. My children found it very satisfying to fill in the pieces of their "pie". And I found it satisfying to see how quickly they were working through the concepts in their individual "pies" - both new concepts and those they had previously learned and were simply reviewing.

My 12-year-old daughter (6th grader) absolutely LOVES this program. Normally my child that D-r-E-a-D-s doing her math assignments, I have found her to be excited about math using ALEKS; in particular, filling in the pieces of her "pie" has been very motivating. She also seems to prefer to do her math on the laptop rather than with a pencil and notebook. Of course, she still must write out some of her work in order to solve equations using ALEKS ~ but she likes having her progress ready to view immediately; no waiting on mom to grade her math in order to see how she has done. Instant gratification keeps her moving forward with her math!

My 14-year-old daughter (8th grade) does not enjoy doing her math on the PC or laptop (whichever is available to use when she does her math). She prefers to have all her work written down in her math notebook and she doesn't mind waiting for her work to be graded. Filling in her "pie" was one aspect of ALEKS that she enjoyed, and it was nice for her to see exactly what she has mastered at a glance. However, her personality is such that she primarily saw what she had not yet mastered and she felt frustrated by what she had not already learned. She also prefers to have a person teach her new concepts, so reading instructions and then attempting to solve problems did not best match her preferred method of learning.

My homeschooling mother's opinion of this product was generally favorable. It accomplishes math mastery is a simple-to-use format. Weekly emails delivered to my inbox let me know exactly how each student is coming along in their "pie". The customer service is top-notch - they are very helpful and quick to notice potential problems & solve them. The entire set up of this curriculum works to make the homeschool mom's life easier. And there is NO GRADING required because ALEKS does all the grading for each student.

I also thought the layout of the program's levels of math were well done. Rather than typical grade-level or age-level courses, the students progress as they are ready. Mastery is a key component of ALEKS math and I feel it is a very thorough and complete way of teaching math. The higher levels as well as the SAT prep impressed me as well. Over all, I would be willing to give this curriculum a strong, favorable endorsement.

Some of the other products ALEKS offers include AP Statistics, Math Review for AP Calculus and Physics, Fundamentals of Accounting, Business Math, Essential Math Skills for Business, Statistics for the Behavioral Sciences, Quick Tables (for elementary grades), and much, much more. The payment options for ALEKS subscriptions are $19.95 per student per month, OR $99.95 every 6 months, OR $179.95 every 12 months. eGiftCertificates are also available for purchase at the website ~

Look into this company's products and see if they might be a good fit for your homeschool family. You might find just what you've been searching for!

As always, this product was received by me free of charge for review purposes.

Day 60 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

TOS Crew Product Review ~ Master Angle by The Master Ruler

So, you may be wondering, what exactly IS a Master Angle? And what do you use it for?

It's a cool little math tool that I received from the company The Master Ruler along with a 76-page workbook and poster (free of charge for review purposes). The Master Angle itself is round with a red rotating radius on top of a stationary radius and color-coded markings and holes to use with your pencil when marking angles. It's very sturdy - the well-made design lends itself willingly to frequent use.

If the Master Angle were the lock, then the corresponding workbook would be the key. The book begins by laying a foundation for angles: What are they? Where are they found in the real world? The student then proceeds to study five types of angles. Once this foundation has been well laid, the workbook moves on to the actual measurement of angles using the Master Angle tool. The center of the Master Angle rests on the vertex of the angle being measured. Once the stationary red radius and the rotating red radius are positioned properly the student can measure and construct angles. Polygons, quadrilaterals, circles, sections, chords & shapes, and architecture are covered in the workbook and the sequentially ordered activities flow together nicely. Included in the back of the book is a template, answer key, and teaching suggestions.

According the the workbook's introduction, the goal of the Master Ruler's products is to help students develop a solid foundation in math; in the specific case of the Master Angle real-world math topics like geometry, measurement, time, and money are used to attain said goal. This Christian company recognizes that today's students are the designers, architects and builders of the future.

One of the first things I noticed about this curriculum was that I could begin using it with ease at any time during our homeschool year. It's easy to teach, easy to understand, and is a "light" enough addition to our current math curriculum that adding it in was easy rather than overwhelming. The Marvels of Measures! poster was a nice "bonus" that clearly and simply makes measurement simple ~ I only wish I'd had it when my children were younger! The workbook itself is well bound and won't quickly fall apart with normal use. After 13 years of homeschooling, I can attest to the value of a product that does not fall to pieces! While the age guidelines for the Master Angle state it is for grades 1 through 4, I feel this product is easily adapted to most any age. Homeschool families look for products that can be used over broad age ranges, and this company's products certainly fit the bill.

Some of Master Innovations/The Master Ruler's other products include the Master Ruler, Master Clock, and Master Fractions. These products are marketed to classrooms as well as homeschoolers, so the prices vary from one product to another depending on the size of your order, but most of the items homeschool families would purchase fall between $9.95 and $17.95. The Master Angle itself sells for $5.95 and the workbook for $15.95. For more information visit their website at

Go ahead & start mastering those angles today!

Day 58 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Quoting Quotable Quotes & Pondering the Imponderable

This afternoon I heard this quote from Edward R. Murrow (of journalism fame):

"A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves."

While my favorite quotes are, of course, from God's Word, I found myself thinking about this statement and pondering it's truth. If we all just follow-follow-follow will we end up in an oppressed state?

And being a 13-year homeschool veteran, I of course began to consider Murrow's words in relation to homeschooling. Do I choose my curriculum based on what everyone else says they like best? Or am I continuing to seek out each child's natural bent and teach to it? Are my days numbered by the local school district or are they ordered by the Lord? Am I operating on "auto pilot" or am I walking in God's grace day by day? Am I raising sheep that know the voice of their Shepherd Jesus? Or am I raising sheep who are unable to think for themselves?

That concludes the Quoting Quotable Quotes portion of this weblog on if you are brave enough to Ponder the Imponderable!

While skimming through a book of poems, my daughter's discovered something written by William Carlos Williams. It's title is "The Red Wheelbarrow" and it is as follows:

So much depends upon
A red wheelbarrow
Glazed in rain water
Beside the white chickens

I am sure many of you can broaden my understanding of this poem; it's a type of haiku, etc. But my girls have enjoyed quoting the poem in their most dramatic voices while working hard to keep straight faces ~ and it now has a prominent position on our homeschool whiteboard along with a drawing of one red wheelbarrow and one white chicken!

And whether you love poetry or hate it, you can probably agree that thinking too long on this particular poem is akin to pondering the imponderable.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving 2010 tomorrow & may the Lord's richest blessings be yours as we prepare to celebrate the Advent of our Savior!

Day 57 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Saturday, November 20, 2010

TOS Homeschool Crew Review - Illuminations ~ Year One High School (Bright Ideas Press)

This product review cannot possibly be lengthy enough to cover all that is provided in the Bright Idea Press product Illuminations (Year One ~ high school). It is an all-inclusive curriculum based on the Mystery of History and All American History series. Mystery of History serves as the spine for Illuminations (Year One ~ high school) and includes bible, language arts (grammar, writing, vocabulary), literature, science, humanities (poetry, theater, music, art), geography, history, and life skills. Yes, I meant it when I said it is an all-inclusive curriculum! Add some math and you should be ready to go :)

Some curriculum items you will probably need to go with Illuminations (Year One ~ high school) include Winston Grammar (which I absolutely love!), Mystery of History Volume 1, English from the Roots Up, WriteShop 1, the Ultimate Geography & Timeline Guide, Ruth Beechick's "Genesis: Finding Our Roots", A Young Scholar's Guide to the Humanities, Joshua Harris's book "Boy Meets Girl", Precepts: Covenant,"Discovering God's Way of Handling Money" from Crown Financial Ministries, Homer's Iliad, The Phantom Tollbooth, Josh McDowell's "More Than a Carpenter", Plato's "Trial of Socrates", and reading by Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Sophocles and Aristotle, and a copy of the Bible. Many of these items can be found used in good condition at places like and for very reasonable prices.

The product I received at no cost for review purposes was the download version of Illuminations (Year One ~ high school). Other products available from Bright Idea Press include:

Illuminations (Year Two ~ High School)
Illuminations (Year Three - High School)
Illuminations (3rd - 8th grade ~ Year One)
Illuminations (3rd - 8th grade ~ Year Two)

The lesson plans include flexible lesson templates that allow "the Mom" to pick the elements of the curriculum to use for her family's unique needs. There are also yahoo groups available so that you can communicate with other Illuminations users. The download version has a contact page with links to the company so that you can contact them quickly and easily with any questions.

The User Guide has a tutorial that explains how to use the curriculum. In the "Quick Start" section you a 5-page introduction, a book and program checklist, instructions, and a literature evaluation form. The "By Subject" section allows the user to find information by subject (Bible, Literature, WriteShop1, English from the Roots Up, Geography, LIFE101, Supplemental, & Graphic Organizers). Under the "By Date" tab information is divided into 36 weekly segments; there are also some Blank Schedule Grids for moms who prefer to adapt the lesson plans to better suit their family's needs. "Contact Info/License" gives the user to license their product, contact the company, or browse through the catalog.

Some of my favorite features include the option to change the lesson plans prior to printing them out. What a blessing for an "eclectic" homeschooling mother like myself! No scratched-out, messy papers; instead, neatly done lesson plans with my additions included. In the "Weekly Schedules" there is a place to put notes - another great option that allows the busy homeschooling mom to keep her notes all in the same place. I also love the fact that I can choose to use 4 or 5 day a week lesson plans. Having Fridays "off", so to speak, allows the students time to catch up and may even give mom a few minutes to relax. Not every subject is taught every day - so breathe a sigh of relief if you felt overwhelmed reading over the curriculum list covered by this product.

The cost of Illuminations (Year One ~ high school) and Illuminations (Year Two ~ high school) are $95 for a complete download, $115 for the cd rom, or $47.50 for a single semester download. The cost of Illuminations (Year Three ~ high school) is $240 for the full year download or $120 for a single semester download. (See the website at to learn more & to see about the high school level products coming out in late January 2011.)

Having said all of the above, I would like to finish this review with a sincere THANK YOU to Bright Ideas Press for allowing me to review this product. It is something I have looked at many times over the years but never quite got around to purchasing - primarily because I was afraid I might not be able to adequately use the curriculum. I was glad to find out that not only is this product easy to use, it's also easy to adapt and makes excellent use of some of my favorite homeschooling products. It has been a delight to use and I look forward to using more of Bright Ideas products in the future. It is everything I hoped it would be and then some.

Happy homeschooling everyone & have a blessed Thanksgiving this week!

Day 56 done :)

Jan L. Burt

November is National Diabetes Month

Last spring, I took a drive across town to talk with my doctor(a wonderful DO named Claudia Wendell) about my health. I had begun to feel "icky" on an almost daily basis; chronic headaches, afternoon tiredness, shakiness and cold sweats ~ I could go on and on. I did not feel that these were related to my hypothyroidism, and having an older sister with Type 1 diabetes, I was confident my blood glucose levels were spiking and dropping.

After a couple of four hour blood tests it was confirmed that I was on my way to Type 2 diabetes. But all was not lost ~ I knew the Lord was giving me a blessed opportunity and I decided to stick to Him like glue day by day as I worked to "reverse" my pre-diabetic state. And guess what? In late July Dr. Wendell informed me that I am not a pre-diabetic and if I continue to make wise choices regarding my health and specifically what I eat, I will never become a diabetic. No surprise at all, God delivered when I fully gave my health and my heart to Him.

Dr. Wendell has called me her "poster child" and has told me that many of her patients aren't even willing to check their blood glucose levels on a regular basis, let alone make any concrete changes. That amazes me! As I sat in her office hearing her tell me that I would be a diabetic within a year if not sooner, I knew I had the option to yield to the Lord and seek His help, or to drive on as if nothing at all were wrong. But I also knew that if I chose the later, I would be forfeiting His grace in this area. I would be choosing to behave like Jonah, running away instead of trusting God even when it was downright scary. Jonah wrote these words: "Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs." (Jonah 2:8)

I'm no poster child; I'm a child of God who has chosen not to forfeit the grace He has for me. I chose to follow hard after Him and leave all those worthless idols lying in the dust behind me. Trust me when I tell you that I am not a woman with amazing self-control. This is all thanks to the Lord - losing 40 pounds, reversing my pre-diabetic state, not touching sweets for months (even on our vacation to Florida I ate healthy or not at all). Every single aspect of this is from the Lord's hand, and since November is a National Diabetes Month as well as the month to pause and give thanks to the Lord, I would like to say how thankful I am to the Lord God Almighty for delivering me from a diabetic future and bringing me into a good and plentiful land of good health.

For every day that I don't endure headaches and dropping blood sugar, I am thankful. For every time I say, "No, thanks" when offered delicious desserts, I am thankful. For the promise of my vision not being lost to diabetes, I am thankful. I have my health restored, hope for a better future than I could have dreamed of, and more energy to enjoy my life than I've had in years. God is good and worthy to be praised.

If you would like information on Type 2 diabetes, and specifically how to prevent it, feel free to contact me. And if you'd like more information on how to grow in your trust in the Lord who has delivered me from Type 2 diabetes, open your Bible and soak in His Word. He is no respecter of persons; if He will deliver me from my problems, He will also deliver you from yours!

Day 55 done :)

Giving thanks as I raise diabetes awareness,
Jan L. Burt

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Special Offer

Okay, TOS Magazine is having a special sale on subscriptions. All the info you need to check into the offer can be found below.

Happy homeschool shopping everyone!

Day 54 done :)

Jan L. Burt

On Monday, November 15, the price for a one-year U.S. or Canadian print
subscription to
The Old Schoolhouse Magazine is $10.

On Tuesday, November 16, the price goes to $12.
On Wednesday, November 17, the price is $14.

Each day they will add $2 until Saturday and Sunday, when the price is $20. At
midnight PST on Sunday, November 21,
the price goes back to its regular level.

Plus, every 12th customer to purchase a subscription gets a tote bag.
Every 14th customer to purchase a subscription gets a copy of the E-Book: The
2010-2011 Schoolhouse Planner.
Every 16th customer to purchase a subscription gets a $25 gift card to the
Totally TOS category in the Schoolhouse Store.
This excludes Molly Green and Download N Go.

As an added bonus, the highest ticket of the day on Monday, November 15 through
Wednesday, November 17, will win
a $200 gift card to the Schoolhouse Store. This can be used for any company in
the Store,except
Download N Go.

So, put 2 and 2 together and shop early! The earlier you grab your one-year new
or renewing
subscription, the better the price you'll pay. Plus, you could receive one of
the bonus gifts.
Or, you might be the highest ticket of the day!

If you are eligible for a bonus gift, you will receive an email from a member of
the Schoolhouse Store team.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Train Up a Child in the Way (S)He Should Go?

When Proverbs instructs parents to train up their children in the way they should go, we of course know it is speaking primarily in spiritual terms. Without the "One Thing" in life, none of the "Other Things" in life really matter. That "One Thing" being knowing Jesus and making Him known.

In regards to training my daughter's to be keepers at home, I use this verse to spur me on as I flesh out that training. Sometimes it's much easier to just do the work myself; other times I'm simply so busy with academics and life in general that I fail to plan out how I will implement the training of my daughters. And as all homeschool moms know first hand, what we fail to plan almost always fails to happen. So I'm currently working on being a more active planner!!

Today, for instance, isn't just about Saturday chores. It's about the bigger picture ~ one day each of my 4 daughter's will be running a household of their own, Lord willing (see James 4:13-14). Rather than just having Saturday-chores-as-usual, we are learning how to manage homes in preparation for the future. Sure, it takes more work on my part, but isn't this the work He has called me to? What better use of my time could there be than working as unto the Lord in training up my daughter's in the way they should go, and honoring my husband and his wishes for our girls in the process?

I'm going to thoroughly enjoy my Saturday as I focus on the Lord and enjoy the blessing and responsibility of training up 4 young ladies to be fit for service in the Kingdom of God. Oh, and don't worry...I haven't forgotten my son! He has already been busy this morning checking the pressure on all my tires and using the air compressor to fill them to pressurize them correctly. After he finishes coaching Learn to Skate at the ice rink this morning, he will come home to do his household chore for today, study for his SAT II subject tests, and swap out the water in his '79 Camaro's radiator for 1/2 water, 1/2 anti-freeze. My husband may even have some additional "Manly Training" for him this weekend ~ and next week he turns 18, so I guess he ought to be fully trained in manliness by now, right?!

Lord bless your Saturday!

Day 53 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine FREEBIE

Below is the link to The Old Schoolhouse Magazine's digital Holiday 2010 edition. Full of fun Christmas "stuff" - download it for free here: TOS Holiday 2010 Digital Edition

Enjoy this freebie to kick off the holiday season!

Day 52 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

TOS Homeschool Crew Review The Write Foundation ~ Essay Writing

The Write Foudation has a dedicated focus on improving the writing of young people. This Christian company works toward that goal with a series of products that are thorough and exhaustive. Luke 6:48 is beautifully displayed at and I will tell you that I do have a bias toward Christian homeschool companies!

The Write Foundation offers three levels of writing curriculum. Level 1 is "Sentence to Paragraph Writing" geared at ages 11 to 13. Level 2 is "Paragraph Writing" for ages 12 to 15. And Level 3, the product I am reviewing, is "Essay Writing" for ages 14 to 17. You can see all of these products and their prices at the website ~ The website gives a thorough understanding of which level to use with your child or children. The ages for each level are suggestions, and information regarding proper placement can be found at the website by clicking the "Suggested Ages" tab.

I have been using Level 3 - Essay Writing Instructions (lessons 1-15). When I received this product (free of charge for review purposes) it came with a spiral bound Instruction Guide (the teacher's guide) and all of the coresponding worksheets for the student, 3-hole punched and ready to place in a binder. I also received several pdf files emailed to me; these are normally sent to the customer on a cd. (For review purposes it made more sense for this company to email them to the reviewers.) Included on the cd are: Grading System, Grading Record Sheets, Word Games, Checklists, Teacher Presentation Sheets, Weekly Assignments, and an Extensive Reading List. The cost of the package I received is $65, and as you can well see, the customer gets a whole lot of product for their money! Also available is the complete set of 30 essay lessons for $100. You can also purchase additional sets of the consumable student worksheets. They accept PayPal for payment using your checking account information; if you order using a credit card via PayPal you do not need to sign up for a PayPal account.

As I just mentioned, this product came with a LOT of resources; it is very thorough and in a homeschool co-op class, this particular product stands out as an ideal way to teach essay writing. You could even "tag-team teach" with another mom! Using it at home, however, might seem a little intimidating to some homeschooling mothers. Many of us are teaching multiple grades on a daily basis, and we don't always have enough planning time available in our 24-hour days to fully utilize all a product has to offer. If you are a homeschool mom who falls into that category, as I am, I would encourage you to choose carefully when it comes to key subjects like teaching writing. This is a subject your child will use in their daily life as an adult, not matter where the Lord takes them. In our society, which is oftentimes ridiculously fickle, we are judged by our performance in certain areas, and our ability to write (or email!) in a clear manner with decent spelling is one of those areas. This particular company has a sole focus on improving your student's writing skills; they are very good at what they do. Don't be afraid to "tweak" things in order to make a very thorough program work in your busy homeschool. You can stretch out the lessons a little bit and use the curriculum over 30 weeks instead of 15. Or you might consider doing one lesson a week for 5 weeks and every 6th week, pour your time into honing writing skills (sort of like a writing unit study week). The big rocks need to go into the jar before all the smaller rocks, sand and water. Determine what your family's big rocks are and do what you must to get them in the jar first. I promise, you won't regret it later on and your children will thank you for making it happen!

If I had to change one thing about Level 3: Essay Writing, it would be the introduction. It's a bit lenthgy for the typical homeschool mom and I didn't feel confident that I understood how I was supposed to use the program. However, once I began using Lesson 1, I found it very teachable. So I would encourage moms to push through to the actual lessons, and refer back to the instructions as needed. And I would also consider this a wise choice if your student is on a college prep track. Just think how much easier the college application process will be if your child doesn't struggle with the essays!

Looking specifically at lesson 1 of Essay Writing, I'd like to share what I like and didn't like so much. The "Essay No List" contains several excellent esssay hints; the "Essay Checklist" is also very useful. In the first lesson alone, topics covered include "Title Hints", a "Skeleton Outline", "Rewrite Tips", and "Step-by-Step Brainstorming Instructions". The Biblically based themes are a huge plus for Christian homeschoolers and the outline tip to use color codes is great advice for those teaching visual learners. There are plenty of examples for each step in the process - neither the student nor teacher need feel confused about any part of the lesson. The organized notebook is "expected" in class. This is a nice addition that can affect the student's grade and is laid out by the curriculum, not by mom. Why did I appreciate the requirement of an organized notebook brought to each lesson? Primarily because it's all to easy as busy moms teaching multiple grades to let the standard for organized neatness slide, and it's really very important! Having it laid out as a gradable requirement in the curriculum was an excellent addition to The Write Foundation's Essay Writing.

My synopsis is that this is a thorough and comprehensive product created by a Biblically based company with high standards aiming for excellence. It's good stuff, and you may want to consider it as an addition to your homeschool. Again, the website is

Thanks so much for taking the time to read my review ~ happy homeschooling!

Day 51 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Monday, November 8, 2010

More About Michal

So, my last look into Michal's heart was looking at her life in the rear view mirror, so to speak. Seeing what she had chosen to make of her life as it actually was, not as she wanted it to be, I recognized bits of myself in her sad story. You can find that post here.

I've jumped back to Michal's earlier days, found in 1 Samuel chapter 14 and chapter 18. In 1 Samuel 14:49 I read this description of King Saul's children ~ the sons of Saul were Jonathan, Ishvi, and Malki-Shua; his two daughters were Merab, the firstborn, and the younger, Michal. Just that brief description gives me a lot of background information about Michal. She had older brothers, one of whom was Jonathan. And she had an older sister, Merab. Just spend a couple of moments thinking about that in light of what we know about birth order and the way it impacts our relationships with our own siblings and they way we see it play out in our children's relationships. She was probably seen as "chronically immature". Her feelings may have been considered last, if at all. Her treatment as the spoiled little sister could have been a daily reality; or perhaps her older sister resented the way the boys in the family doted on their little sis. And don't forget, Michal's father was the super-handsome first King of Israel; that made her one of the very first "royal family", the second ever princess in Israel. All of these things combined may have caused Michal to be a bit hyper-sensitive and she may well have had some unrealistic expectations placed upon her by her family...and maybe she expected too much from herself. Any homeschool moms out there who can relate?? (I'm raising my hand even as I'm typing!!)

Fast forward to 1 Samuel 18 and let's see what takes place just following David's victory over the Philistine Goliath. In the first 4 verses of this chapter Jonathan and David's friendship is described. They truly were the best of friends. The two of them made a covenant (as God-fearing Israelites, a covenant was not something either one of them would have entered into lightly). Jonathan gifted David with his robe, his armor, sword, bow and belt. Now we see David, the youngest brother who endured much scorn and mocking (read back a bit in 1 Samuel to look into this) now wearing a prince's robe and belt, carrying a prince's sword and bow, donning a prince's armor! The Lord had lifted David up to a position of honor, which He promises to do for all who humble themselves before him.

*** As an aside, I want to venture out and ask the question that is rolling around in my head...Do you think King Saul chaffed a bit when David took Jonathan's armor when he had refused to take Saul's armor? I'm no theologian, and I by no means speak as one with any authority whatsoever...I'm just wondering "aloud" via my little blog, could King Saul have been bothered by that, just a teeny little bit? ***

David wisely went wherever the king sent him and he "behaved wisely" (verse 5, New Living Translation). The people of Israel accepted him and his new position within the king's army.

Back to chapter 18, verse 7: Here we read about the praise of the people of Israel infuriating Saul because David's praise was greater than his own. He began keeping a suspicious eye on David at this point. To me, this seems like a whole lot of change in a very short period of time, and when I remember that David was the baby of his family, I can feel myself almost wince inside at how overwhelming all of it must have been for him. His time alone with the Lord as a shepherd was serving him well - he knew His God in such a way that turning to Him for solace, comfort, wisdom, and normalcy would have been second nature to David. Praise the Lord, He really does prepare us before He sets us loose in the world!

Skipping on to verse 17 - Saul said to David, "Take my oldest daughter Merab as your wife." Look at verses 17 & 18 for yourself to see if you think Saul was acting valiantly toward David or not with this offer. In verse 19 we Merab is given to a man by the name of Adriel the Meholathite for his wife ~ not to David. Now, David had politely remarked that who was he to be the king's son-in-law; he had not exactly refused the king. How do I know this? Because the text clearly reveals that on the day Merab ought to have been given to David in marriage, she was found to already be married to Adriel. Examine chapter 18 to see if I'm getting this right - and remember, I'm gleaning from the life of Michal at the Lord's leading regarding my own walk with Him. I am in NO WAY teaching anyone other than myself :)

My key verse in this passage is verse 20, where it says that Michal loved David. Rarely is the emotion of a woman mentioned in the Bible like this. It isn't here by mistake; it's in God's Word because it's meant to be in God's Word. We can catch a glimpse into the heart of Michal here. It says she LOVED David. I'm going to stop here and review all that I know up to this point:
1. She was the baby of her family, as was David.
2. Her older sister had married someone instead of David. (Saul seemed as if he would have had David marry Merab - but Merab seems to have had her own marriage plans...hmmm, the fruit doesn't fall far from the tree, does it?!)
3. Jonathan and David were beyond friends ~ they had made a life-long covenant.
4. Michal wasn't like the young ladies singing a song to David about his military victories (see verses 6-8). She had probably been around when David the "unknown" had soothed her troubled father with his psalms and musical ability. She'd heard her older brother Jonathan speak of his best friend. She had seen her father's conflicted praise and jealously aimed toward David. And she quite possibly could have been Merab's confidant as she struggled against her father's wishes to marry David.

Michal's love for David was not shallow - her love ran deep! She had seen him grow up and had seen his God deliver him from the Philistine's and from her father's angry outbursts. She had surely known of the way David's older brothers treated him; and so she had witnessed his response to criticism and his response to the praise of the people of Israel. Her love was true love and her heart was fully his. I really believe Michal had an honest and pure love for David. To understand how she ended up a bitter woman, I have to grasp her love for David here in chapter 18.

Verse 20 tells me that Saul was told of Michal's love for David and it "pleased him". Saul intended that Michal would be a snare to David. A godly father does not hand his daughter over in marriage in such a manner. Saul's jealousy had made him hard-hearted and had blinded him to the things that are of the greatest importance in life.

I'll end my study of the life of Michal today in verse 28 of 1 Samuel 18. Again I read that Michal loved David. It is mentioned twice in this chapter, indicating it's importance. Don't just skim over those words and move on to what's next; don't just assume Michal was a terrible person from the very beginning; get a look inside of her heart, and realize she loved him deeply. And then take a look into your own heart, as I take a long look into mine, and let's ask the Lord to fix what is broken in there and make us fully able to love one another, specifically our husbands and children. As moms who homeschool, we show our children that we are Jesus' disciples by our love for one another. Paul said the greatest of these 3 (faith, hope, and love) is love. Let's be instruments of that love.

Lord bless you as you lovingly homeschool your kiddos!

Day 50 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

TOS Homeschool Crew Review of PG Key SafeKey

Okay, let me just begin this review by stating that I have looked around and not found a product comparable to this one ~ read this review with that in mind!

PG Key is a USB external drive (often referred to as a "stick") manufactured by KeyWare, Inc. This product is not only a filter that can be used to protect your family while they use the internet; it not only blocks websites that are inappropriate or obscene; this little device is a portable, multi-functional tool that makes parenting and homeschooling in the internet-age easier than I ever guessed it could be.

Using the external drive is simple.
Step 1.) Remove product from the box
Step 2.) Plug product into your computer
Step 3.) Choose a password
Step 4.) There is no Step 4 - you're already done!!

So, at this point you may be curious as to what all this super-amazing product is capable of. The answer is, a WHOLE LOT!! With this one product, parents can rest assured that websites are blocked, filtering is in place, and notifications regarding user activity can be received in text or email form. PGKey provides a google based search engine that is safe and accessible via a toolbar or can be set as the homepage. There is a time lock option that controls the amount of time the computer can be used. And there is no "override" option - the password is encrypted so that it cannot be "hacked" and the computer simply will not work if the stick is removed. Those are some fabulous features - take it from a mom who has explored many of the internet safety options on the market as of late!

Beyond all of that, parents are able to review ALL forms of chat...FaceBook, IM, you name it, you have access to it all. This is accountability in action, and accountability truly is nine-tenths of the battle. If you know you will be held accountable for what you do, you probably will not make a poor choice to begin with, right?

And all of this is available to use on as many computers as you like - of course, you can only use the driver on one computer at a time, but you can use it over and over again with no yearly fee. That one feature alone makes the PGKey SafeKey stand out in a sea of internet safety products. You can even take it with you on vacation and easily use the PGKey on any laptop or PC your child will be using. That's not something I have seen any other product offer. That's a lot of security for $49.95. Check it out for yourself at

And two of my favorite homeschool-friendly features are the ability to record up to 60 hours of computer activity and alerts (sent to you via text message or email) when your child used key phrases you have chosen in advance. Why do these two features appeal to me as a homeschooling mother? I have five kiddos in five different grade levels doing five different things all at one time - the ability to signal out key words and phrases and receive a message when they use those key words means I can give the student an assignment and know when they are working on that assignment. The ability to view a recording of the student's internet activity later on means I can send a student to work on the computer while I work with another child, and later on at my convenience (whatever that is in the life of a homeschool mom, LOL!) I can review their work. I just press play, watch the video, and press pause if I need to look more closely at something they have worked on.

Long story short, I absolutely love the PGKey SafeKey. I did receive this product free of charge for review purposes, but I can promise you I would glady pay $49.95 of my own hard earned cash for it any day of the week. It is worth every penny and then some. This is a great product and the safety of your children is of paramount importance; don't hesitate to consider purchasing PGKey if you are in the market for an internet filter.

Happy Safe Surfing!

Day 49 done :)

Jan L. Burt

October is Ministry Appreciation Month

Did I mis-type the title of this blog post? Nope! More commonly known as Pastor Appreciation Month, in our church body we call October Ministry Appreciation Month. Wny, you ask? Because our pastor believes all who work in areas of ministry leadership, in a volunteer or paid position, should be "thanked" this month. It's a blessing to see those who serve week in and week out receiving hugs, notes, and even small gifts as tokens of appreciation for their service.

So, to all you who serve in your church body in any facet or form, a hearty "THANKS" goes out to you!! For all of your service, both seen and unseen, thank you so very, very much. It makes a difference and one day when you are with the Lord, you will see just what a difference your service made. After all, God's Word promises that we should not grow weary in well doing, for we will reap a harvest of righteousness if we do not give up.

Be sure to thank those who serve in your local church ~ it really does mean a lot!

Lord bless your servant's hearts!

Day 49 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Monday, October 18, 2010

Lindsay's Piano Recital at Cowtown

This video is from a piano recital my daughter Lindsay took part in over the weekend at The Old Cowtown Museum here in Wichita. She has been taking lessons from her wonderful teacher Megan for a few months now and is enjoying it tremendously. She plays part of a duet with her classmate, just in case you wonder who the other lovely young lady is.

Watch it on youtube here.
Congrats, Lindsay - it was so much fun to listen to you play in a "saloon"!!

Day 48 done :)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

TOS Review Soli Deo Gloria Resources e-book "William Tyndale: God's Smuggler"

This week's product review is for an e-book published by Soli Deo Gloria Resources "William Tyndale: God's Smuggler". This product is a unit study - but not your typical unit study - trust me, I've done a few unit studies in my 13 years of homeshcooling. This one caught me attention and held it 'til the end. In it's 21 pages, this study covers history, science, geography, character, Bible, art, and language arts. The only thing you need to add is math. I found that each of the above topics is covered thoroughly, but not in an overwhelming-how-can-I-possibly-do-everything-in-this-unit-study way (if you have attempted many unit studies, you know what I mean by that!). Even though the company says that the William Tyndale study is shorter than most of their other unit studies, I found 21 pages to be just about right for a short-term project. AND it's written to work for ALL grades and ages - yup, that means K through 12. Big bonus for the multi-level homeschooling mom :)

The 15th and 16th centuries are the setting for this study - and when you consider all the amazing things happening in the world during this era of history, it's incredible they packed so much into this e-book. I found it meaty enough to keep us interested, but not so "full" of facts that we wanted to avoid using the product. They managed to strike a nice balance with this William Tyndale unit; one of the ways they accomplished that was their incorporation of a timeline. The key players surrounding Tyndale's life are "right before your eyes" with the timeline and students are free to explore in depth whoever they take an interest in. It's always best to keep history interesting and to link key people and events so that no one country or people group becomes isolated from everything else taking place in the world at that time. Some of the key players represented on the timeline include Gutenberg, Columbus, Luther, Erasmus, Calvin, and King Henry VIII. So students see the vast and incredible changes taking place - the development of the printing press; discovery of the Americas; Luther's thesis; the librarian who measured the earth; Calvinism's advent; "I'm Henry the Eighth, I am"; Da Vinci and Michaelangelo from Italy; the Black Plague; and so much more! This is a fascinating time in history and this study of William Tyndale is a wonderful piece of that era. I cannot stress enough the importance of understanding history and our place in it as Christians in 2010; and frankly, we would not be where we are right now without William Tyndale. His prayer just before he was martyred was answered by King James (he took the throne following Queen Elizabeth's death in 1603). Whether you take a break from your normal school routine for a week or study the 15th and 16th centuries in depth over an entire school year, this e-book will be a benefit to you. You even have the opportunity to do a little translating and scribe work for yourself - it gives you a small idea of the daunting task William Tyndale took upon himself to accomplish. The wrap up activity options are a nice way to end the study and gives the students the chance to share what they have learned with friends and/or family.

You won't need too much in terms of supplies. The book and movie list at the beginning of the unit is thorough and the resources aren't difficult to obtain. The e-book itself is internet linked and it is available for purchase at the publisher's website for $8 or at The Old Schoolhouse Store for $9. As always, I must mention that I received this product free of charge for review purposes.

Check out this unit study; dig into the history of the Bible as we know it and read it today; study William Tyndale with your children and give them a real hero to look up to.

Take time to read your Bible today and give thanks to the Lord for His blessing us with copies of our very own!

Day 47 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Monday, October 11, 2010

Walking Backwards with Michal

Okay, I'm starting my study to see what lessons I can learn from the heart of Michal...and I'm starting at the end and working my way back to the beginning! I don't normally study Bible figures this way; this time, however, I think there is a whole lot that I can learn by looking at where she ended up and slowly examining how she got there.

Today I was reading about her relationship with David in 2 Samuel 6 ~ and the first thing that jumped out at me was that she LET herself become bitter. We've all met bitter women; we've probably all been bitter women at some point. And there's only one way to be a bitter woman - by letting yourself beocome one. Whether it happens quickly or over time, it's always an allowed behavior on our part. This was her choice and she chose bitterness over any of the good things the Lord had for her. What struck me is how terribly sad that is ~ we all know a bitter woman is the not someone we can stand to be around for very long and we all know a bitter woman is a force to be reckoned with ~ but a bitter woman is also very sad to look upon. Michal was in a sad state in 2 Samuel 6, but it had taken her quite some time and a series of poor choices to get there.

In verse 16 she is identified as the "daughter of Saul". Genesis tells us to leave and cleave - we leave our father and our mother and become one flesh with our husband. It's simply not right to refer to ourselves as our father's daughters after we take our marriage vows. Now we are someone's wife. Reading her described as the daughter of Saul gives me some clues as to her state of mind; frustrated, filled with regret, and ready to remind those around her that she is the daughter of the first King of Israel...hmmm, sounds like a bitter woman to me! This is a great reminder to think of myself in accordance with the standard laid out in God's Word - and no other standard will suffice. If He says I am to identify myself with my husband and to leave my parents to become one flesh and a helpmeet to my husband, then that is what I must do joyfully; not because marriage is always full of joy and ease, but because His commandments are not too burdensome for me and because He Who loves me best can be trusted best.

Also in verse 16 I read that she was "looking down" from her window. Why? That was my question...Why was she looking down from her window? She wasn't participating in David's ministry - his loves had not become her loves. She was easily filled with contempt for him because she had separated herself from him emotionally. (This may have been in response to earlier issues in their marriage - but even if Michal the woman had difficulty forgiving David, Michal the daughter of the King ought to have been able to rise above their past and forgive...and aren't we all the King of king's daughters?) This portion of Michal's behavior reminded me that I am called to fully and completely "be there" for and with my husband. Even from her window Michal could have "looked up" to the Lord rather than "looking down" on David. She could have supported him and been his biggest fan. To do this she would have to let the Lord heal her hurts - which would have meant letting God in. Maybe that was the scary part for her, and maybe that's the scary part for every wife; the letting go and letting God in.

In verse 20 we see David, King of Israel, coming home to bless his family. Was Michal about to be blessed? Let's assume she was; but she didn't know David's intentions and she didn't wait to find out. Instead she bolted out to "meet" him and told him exactly what she thought of his actions. She did it boldly, brazenly, and in total disgust. How often do I forsake my blessings because I bolt ahead to gripe and complain? Do I assume too much about my husband? Do I make a poor trade - do I exchange a blessing for bitterness? Yup, sometimes I do that.

That is as far as my backwards study of Michal got today...but it was plenty far enough for me to hear the Lord speaking loudly to my heart! God is so good; He never leaves me empty when I come to His Word seeking Him. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits. He truly does wash me with His Word and renew my spirit within me.

May the Lord's blessing be upon you and may His Word be a balm to your soul and a boon to your spirit!

Day 46 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Friday, October 8, 2010

TOS Homeschool Crew Product Review ~ The Digitial Field Trip Series( Digital Frog International)

Today's product review is for the CD curriculum "The Digital Field Trip Series" by Digital Frog International . There are 3 levels included on the CD; The Wetlands, The Rainforest, and The Desert. Using the product is easy - put the disc in your PC and choose a destination! Student and teacher workbook materials are located on the disc - you access them by opening the folder for the corresponding geographical area (wetlands, rainforest, or desert). I also received PDF Review's Guides for each of the 3 options (all products received free of charge for review purposes). An informational/instructional guide is included inside the CD case - very handy for finding info quickly and easily.

The Wetlands digital field trip is the original title in the series; it uses virtual reality technology to explore Cloud Lake (Algonquin Park, Canada). The CD has more than 80 screens and are hybrid (allows you to use the same disc on Windows and Macintosh platforms). QuickTime is required for The Wetlands to work properly. Five sections make up The Wetlands; the Field Trip, Wetlands Types, the Study of a Bog, Mechanisms of a Wetland, and Our Endangered Wetlands. As you explore the different sections simply move your mouse pointer over the Virtual Reality pictures and drag to have a panoramic view. You will see Field Notes with information about what is seen on the screen, including animals and plants. Tabs under pictures display extra photographs and movies. The Hot Text cursor feature allows the student to click on a word and display it's definition. The Say-It icon play a spoken pronunciation. The easy to use Menu is accessible at all times from any screen by pressing "M" on the keyboard or by moving your mouse to the menu tab in the top left corner of the screen. Help is never far off - simply press "H" on the keyboard and help is on it's way :)

The Rainforest section is similar to The Wetlands in operation and consists of the following segments: the Field Trip, Rainforest Study, Rainforest Types, Mechanisms of a Rainforest, and Our Endangered Rainforests. From the main menu screen of The Rainforest the student can access the Quick Tour, which contains 5 short videos. These videos give students an overview of CD navigation - they are short and informative, a busy homeschooling mom's dream come true! A total of 30 rainforest plants and animals are profiled in the Digital Field Trip portion of The Rainforest and 29 movies are accessible by clicking on the projector icon. There is more to be explored than can be shared here; your child won't be bored in a few minutes while using this program.

The third section is The Desert which visits 5 North American deserts and uses over 150 screens. The Field Trips, Desert Types, Desert Study, Mechanisms of a Desert, and Human Impact are the CD's five sections for The Desert; this was hands down my favorite segment of the 3 regional topics. I love the panoramic views at each post in the Digital Field Trip. Deserts are fascinating habitats and I only wish I had this resource available to use W-A-Y back in 3rd grade when I wrote a paper on kangaroo rats. I would have learned, and retained, and enjoyed the process so much more!

My personal thoughts on the product are that the maps are a great idea - they make navigation easy and the clickable puzzle pieces in each sub-category allow the student to easily see what they have learned and where else they need to explore. All of my children are able to use this curriculum (ages 10 through 17) although the 10th and 12th graders are probably a bit beyond this curriculum; for them it would be best used as a supplement to their science or geography studies. The fast find keyword search from anywhere in the program is a handy tool. I like the preference settings for sound and screen size, too - with 5 students of varying ages, it's a nice way for each of them to customize their learning experience. The bookmark feature makes it simple to find a topic later on without hunting for it - and it's a nice teacher tool for marking what needs to be reviewed. The cost per CD set is $125 for home licensing and the products are available at Other products available from The Digital Frog include The Digital Frog 2.5 and Science Matrix; Cell Structure and Function, and each of the aforementioned for sale individually. Look around the website and view the demos. For a variety of learning styles, these products make science fun and interesting.

Happy Science Studies & Remember to Be Encouraged Today!

Day 45 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Oh, What to Do...

I have been feeling led (gently led, mind you) to begin working on a Biblical study of the life of Michal (King Saul's daughter; King David's wife). This isn't exactly a new idea ~ I've felt the Lord tugging at my heart to invest time studying Michal's heart for quite some time now. I've been "putting it off" because, to be totally honest, I'm super busy! But how on earth can I be too busy to do what He is leading me to do? And if He owns it all, that "all" includes my time, so I actually cannot be too busy to use His time/my time to do His will. I pretty much need to get started with my study of Michal, don't I?!

So I'm asking my blog followers to help keep me accountable - ask me how it's going, remind me to keep doing what He asks me to do and not let the busy life I lead as a homeschool mom crowd out His best for me, give me a stern rebuke if need be! How will you know if I am actually doing this study on Michal; how will you know if you need to "lemme have it"? I'll share some of what I study on my blog so that you can hold me accountable. And don't worry, no pressure on you; you're all busy moms, too, and the last thing I want to do is heap one more burden upon you. No one is obligated to keep me accountable ~ you are free to check up on me and you are free to NOT check up on me. Placing this on my blog for all to see will keep my heart a bit closer to my King throughout this process; there is something about commiting my work to Jesus openly before other believers that helps me move in the right direction (hopefully that makes sense to someone other than just me!).

Have a fantastic day as you seek to serve and love our Lord with your day to day life as a mom.

Psalm 105:4 (New Living Translation) says, "Search for the LORD and for His strength, and keep on searching."

That's my prayer for you, and for myself, today - search for Him and keep on searching!! He's worth the search, amen?!

Day 44 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Friday, October 1, 2010

TOS Homeschool Crew Product Review ~ Foundlings, Book One of The Peleg Chronicles by Matthew Christian Harding

Ah, the joy I have today over the fact that I'm writing a review about a work of fiction! Homeschool moms spend SO MUCH TIME focusing on academia, they can forget the simple pleasure that comes from reading a piece of fiction. This product review has been like a breath of fresh air.

First I'd like to give a brief overview of The Peleg Chronicles and then I'll move on to my thoughts and the thoughts of my 16 year old daughter regarding the book. I'll wrap up with the product information.

The Foundlings is the first book in a series titled The Peleg Chronicles written by Matthew Christian Harding. The author and his wife homeschool their four children. As most homeschooling parents know, it can be tricky to find acceptable fiction reading for our children; Mr. Harding's intent in writing this series of books was to teach children to "align themselves with the Word of God, to not be a hearer only, but a doer" through Scripture-filled fiction. His willingness to take his parental responsibility to raise doers of the Word seriously has resulted in reading material that blesses other such parents. As is often the case, the decision to honor the Lord with his gifting has become a blessing to the Christian homeschool community as a whole. As the title implies, The Peleg Chronicles takes place in the time of Peleg, whose story can be found in Genesis 11 at the time of the Tower of Babel. Based on this premise, Mr. Harding weaves a fictional plot that includes dragons, giants, darkness and light, nobility and honor, chivalry, personal sacrifice and bravery wrapped neatly in 30 easy-to-read chapters. The book ends with a thorough explanation of the Gospel of Jesus - which serves as a witness to unbelievers who read the book & as a source of encouragement to those of us who know Jesus personally. I'm all for witnessing to the lost and all for encouraging the Body of Christ :)

As a mom, I have to say that I was relieved to find a book I can hand to my children with assurance that they are reading "well". While I myself do not much care for some of the "darker" elements in this book (i.e. the evil priests and their pagan sacrifices) the characters and elements themselves are handled with much integrity, reminding me of Tolkein's ability to bring the reality of a fallen world and the wretchedness of war into his books without graphic descriptions. Mr. Harding follows in Toklein's vein, calling evil what it is while avoiding the popular modern-day emphasis on "details". Paul wrote that there are some things we should not even speak of; I think the author of The Foundlings understands what Paul was teaching us. I also enjoyed the setting of the book - all the way back in Genesis man is portrayed as that which God made him to be - man, not cave-man. A hearty thanks to the author for honoring God's Word in details large and small!

My 16-year-old daughter shared these comments about The Foundlings: "When I first began reading this book, I felt Chapter 1 started off a little slow for my liking. As an avid reader, I like to be pulled in from the opening paragraph. To my delight, however, Chapter 2 was filled with action (realistic action, mind you) and I LOVED the way Scripture was incorporated! As a student of Jane Austen and a young author myself (I have written one novel and am working on my second) I must say the character development was excellent and very clean cut. Over all, it's an interesting read that makes God's Word applicable to all of life in a way that is anything but corny. I would highly recommend this book and will read it again myself ~ which, by the way, is the mark of a good book. C.S. Lewis said we ought not waste time reading once that which we would not read again and I very much agree. Read this book and it's follow-ups and you won't be disappointed!"

The final portion of this review consists of the product information ~ which is very important since I would like my readers to know how to get their hands on this book! The Peleg Chronicles are published by Behemoth Books/Zoe and Sozo Publishing and can be purchased at Book One and Book Two are $11.95 each and a Chronology Chart (from Adam to Joseph) is also available for $7.50 laminated (or $5 non-laminated). You can read more about the books and the author at the website. Older children can read this on their own, as can adults; younger children could enjoy it as a read aloud at the parent's discretion. And as always, I received this product free of charge for review purposes as a member of the 2010 TOS Homeschool Crew.

Enjoy some fiction today and, as always, Be Encouraged!

Day 43 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I Think It Might Be Fall

Hopefully most homeschool families are back in the swing of things and enjoying the school year. That's not to say homeschooling families have to follow the public school's schedule - as a very eclectic homeschooling mom, I'd be pretty hypocritical to think that way! But I hope you are feeling good about this school year, whether you're 5 weeks in or just rolling up on day 180. My mantra for this year is "Be Encouraged! Be Encouraged! Be Encouraged!"

Fall is a great time of year for me to spend some time in reflection; this year I'm reflecting on the last 13 years of homeschooling. My oldest is 17 and his senior year is in full swing. He's working hard studying for his upcoming SAT II subject tests, keeping pace in his college Chemistry and Calculus classes,coaching Learn-to-Skate classes at the ice rink, and playing football with a local private Christian high school. (In his last game he had something like 30 tackles - he's really playing when he's on the field!) I'm busy all day every day (hence the lack of blog posts lately) but I'm also reflective and fully plugged in, enjoying the moments each day brings.

It's been a long 13 years; and yet it has been a very short 13 years...some of you know exactly what I mean! As I look over college brochures and schedule campus visits, I ponder the many days of hard work that brought us to this place. It's a blessing to be able to home educate my kids! And I want to think ahead, plan ahead and prepare myself for the changes that will come this summer. One of the ways I do that is to keep saying to myself, "Be Encouraged! Be Encouraged! Be Encouraged!"

I hope you are encouraged as you go about your day to day duties of teacher, mom, wife, guidance counselor, chauffeur, and daughter of the King of kings. Keep that last title in mind ~ because there is nothing I can say that can really encourage you much at all; but just a smidgen of time spent with Him can fill you to overflowing and be your encouragement all day long.

I have a giveaway on today's post - one copy of the Summer 2010 edition of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. Leave a post and I will have my kid's hold a "drawing" and I'll contact the winner to get her mailing info.

Remember ~ Be Encouraged! Be Encouraged! Be Encouraged!

Day 42 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Product Review - New Monic Book's Vocabulary Cartoons, SAT Word Power

Vocabulary Cartoons, SAT Word Power (published by New Monic Books)is a fast-paced, simple to use asset for any highschooler prepping for the SAT. This 347 page book uses menmonics to teach 290 words commonly found on the SAT test. The age range suggested is 7th t 12th grade, but it really could be used from 3rd grade on up through 12th. At $12.95 for the paperback edition, it really is a good deal.

My high school students have used a variety of methods in their SAT and ACT preparations, including HUGE test guides, piles of vocabulary word flashcards, daily emails, and SAT prep websites. This handy little book would have been a real gem - if only I'd discovered it sooner!!

Some "complaints" I have about the resources we used are that the stacks of flashcards can tip over and become disorganized; websites take time access when schedules are full & remembering passwords can use up valuable time; test guides are big, bulky and just plain inconvenient to use. While this resource from New Monic wouldn't solve all these problems, it would help with learning common SAT words - therefore it would eliminate stacks of vocab words on flashcards. Believe me, it's no fun when a pile tips over and the words are suddenly all out of order...time spent re-ordering flashcards is NOT time well spent. SAT and ACT prep is stressful by nature - this is a time of uncertainty in the life of a teenager and as a homeschooling mom, I strive to make things simpler for my child as he preps for his college future (note I said simpler - not easier...there is an important difference!).

The ease of this program is based in the use of mnemonics to "link" the vocabulary words to certain memories or key words. Similar to the phrase, "In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue," this book uses mnemonics to "stick" the vocab words in the student's memory. Simple, yet effective - you can see why even 3rd graders can benefit from this book! I received this book at no charge from the publisher in order to review it, but I really would recommend this product...I'd also like to suggest their Coffin's Patch book (an engaging novel that includes 430 SAT words highlighted in the text) and the Picture Speller for Young Writers (this would have been great when my kids were younger!). To see these products, or to buy SAT Word Power in softcover or CD edition, visit their website at

Thanks for checking out my review of New Monic's Vocabulary Cartoons, SAT Word Power. Have a fantastic weekend & happy SAT prepping!!

Day 41 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Math Tutor DVD Review

Today is an exciting day for me - I GET to review some fantastic products. Notice the emphasis on the word "GET"...I'm not exaggerating in the least; the products I'm writing about today are some of the best I've seen in my 13 years as a homeschooler. Furthermore, this company's resources would be a help to any student studying math on any level (from basic math to physics). Read on to learn more!

I received 2 DVDs from the MathTutorDVD company - The Pre-Algebra Tutor Volume 1 and The Texas Instruments TI-83/TI-84 Calculator Tutor. Of the two DVDs, my family and I have used the Pre-Algebra Tutor discs the most, so my review will focus more on that item than on the TI tutorial. Let me say, however, the Texas Instruments tutorial DVDs will be used in our home and I am certain I will learn a lot about complex calculators & their functions. Both of these resources are of great value to my homeschool - I am very impressed with both products. and each disc is divided into "sections". There are a total of 9 sections on the 2 discs and each section is something like 40 minutes long (give or take). We use the sections as additional teaching help whenever they correspond with our current math program's lessons. That sounds harder than it actually is; the section titles are listed on the back cover of the DVD & it's pretty simple to match the section with the current Algebra topic being covered in our day to day math program.

Let me briefly discuss one of the sections from the Pre-Algebra Tutor Volume 1 set. "Absolute Value" is one of the sections on Disc 1; it's a simple but often misunderstood algebraic concept, so it seems like a good topic to discuss. The teaching style on the DVDs is very relaxed; the tutor uses a set of whiteboards as he explains and reviews the concept while working plenty of examples. In the section covering absolute value, he begins by explaining the symbol for absolute value - such as |4| or |-2|. Then he explains that each digit has an absolute value using a number line to demonstrate this concept. Whether negative or positive, the digit "2" is 2 places removed from "0" which is at the center of the number line. So, it's absolute value is "2" whether it is a negative or a positive number. Don't worry if my explanation doesn't sound simple - the tutorials are so well done that anyone can learn new concepts with this program.

The next thing he teaches in this section is a list of rules for adding and subtracting integers (which are simply positive and negative numbers). Again he uses the number line as he teaches, backing up his words with a visual example. So my visual learners can grasp the concept along with my auditory learners and those that are more kinesthetic can "complete the learning loop" by pausing the DVD, working some of his example problems on their own as they say the rules aloud to themselves or pause the DVD and add some notes to their math binders. And I would also like to mention that the tutor has a very pleasant voice - now, that may sound silly to some of you, but after 13 years of homeschooling I've learned that a monotone voice = a tuned out student.

While the tutor does say it's okay for student's to check their work on a number line, he wants them to memorize the "rules" and "signs". I agree with him 100% on this point - and that is one reason we use math binders for notes in our homeschool. Each student has their own binder and notes are added one page at a time as needed. All their notes are in one place, neatly written and organized. My children rarely need to have an "open book" quiz or test because the process of keeping the binder and reviewing their notes during their day to day assignments works amazingly well. (Except for my math loving son - he doesn't need notes for math - he does Calculus to relax!)

In a nutshell, this company has produced products that should simply sell themselves. I like everything about the tutorials - from the length of the lessons to the cost of the DVDs. And I must admit, after using many different programs over the years, I was pleasantly surprised by these products! Even my son the math whiz commented on how great they were - coming from a young man who makes the interpretation of math classes on MIT's Free Courseware seem simple, that's a high compliment. If he says they do a good job, believe me, they do a good job! And it gets even better - MathTutorDVD has online subscription's available for $19.95 per month. All of the courses are available to watch from your computer at home - and different aged children in the home can share the same account and watch different subject levels. That's a real bargain for a homeschooling family!

The DVD sets cost anywhere from $21.99 to $49.99 depending on the subject. I've looked over their product selection and couldn't find anything "missing" that I would have needed during our son's math-oriented high school years. The length of the tutorial DVDs varies - some are 4 or 5 hours in total, while others have as much as 14 hours of teaching on the discs. Teacher prep? None is required, although mom or dad could watch the section first in order to be one step ahead of the student. All ages and all learning styles would benefit from this series. I'd have to give this company a "strong A". If you'd like to learn more, you can visit their website at

Feel free to contact me with any questions or comments about these fantastic products - I'd be more than happy to give you my biased opinion :)

Lord bless your happy homeschool today!

Day 40 done :)
Jan L. Burt

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Short Post Today

This post will be short and sweet - well, hopefully sweet and not sour :)

I'm simply going to share something from God's Word that blessed me today in regard to this blog and it's end goal of encouraging moms who homeschool. So, here it is!

1 Chronicles 16:24 says - "Publish his glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things he does." - New Living Translation

Those few words pretty much sum up all I desire to do via this little blog...publish His glorious deed & tell everyone who'll listen about the amazing things He does. What could possibly be more encouraging to a homeschooling mom than that?!

Lord bless & be encouraged today!

Day 39 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Vantage Learning MY Access! Home Edition Product Review

Today I am reviewing a product called "MY Access! Edition" - a product geared at improving the student's critical thinking skills in all subjects through increased writing skills. The product I received to review (free of charge - as always with items I review as a part of The Old Schoolhouse Crew) do not contain any "physical" items; the home edition I have been using is available online at

There are multiple options available for purchase at the website, including the At School, International, Corporate, and At Home online versions; in the Vantage Online Store they offer resources to improve usage of the English language, graduate courses, assessment and training tools, police and fire practice exams, Excelsior college exams, and much more.

My children's use of the "At Home" edition has been as a supplement to our language arts curriculum; this program is not meant to stand alone, but works best when coupled with a more complete language arts scope. While it isn't best used on it's own, it will easily and adequately complement any curriculum a homeschool family might currently be using. The website describes the product as having "time-saving technologies, valuable self-guided instruction, and motivating feedback" - and I'm glad to say this description is 100% true! One of the great benefits of this program to me as a busy homeschooling mother of 5 is the fact that what it does, it does well and without much help from me :)

If your child has used Microsoft Word, picking up the use of MY Access! will be a breeze. The actual writing portion of the program is similar to Word, but has a few "tweaks" that are to it's benefit. The thesaurus was a real favorite among my kids - having available as a tool while they are writing was much quicker than opening another window and pulling up a separate website in order to access a thesaurus (although my 10th grade student prefers an online thesaurus which brings up dozens of word options - this program offers 3 or 4 optional words). And another positive element MY Access! offers is a wide variety of topics to write about, which can be assigned by the parent/teacher and separated by age level if desired. As a mom, I very much appreciate the progress reports - they are sent to my inbox on a schedule of my choosing & they keep me in the loop regarding my children's progress. Since grading is one of the things I least enjoy about homeschooling, it's a plus to have much of the grading "leg work" done for me.

On the other hand, my children and I found it a little confusing to navigate the website. There is an extensive tutorial, which is helpful, but even after multiple uses we still were stumbling around the site. I'm on the world wide web quite often, and don't usually have too much trouble navigating - but after more than a month of using the product, I still have trouble finding my way around. I would have to describe the home page as "busy" - there is a lot going on and it can seem a little confusing until you know which products you have access to and which ones you do not. Even after logging in, it was hard for me to access each of my children's accounts and to locate their assignments. I think a little improvement in this arena would go a long way toward securing MY Access! as a standard in our homeschool.

To wrap up my review, let me say that Vantage Learning has created a product that is of great use in the homeschool community, especially for students who are "new" writers. I would recommend MY Access! primarily for 4th through 8th grade students, easily adaptable for younger and older students. If your child has been writing for long, they may not enjoy the confines of the program, but they could still learn quite a lot (such as how to take direction regarding their writing - something they will need to do to succeed in college). For most homeschool families I know, the $99.95 cost of the program would yield positive results - many of us spend well over $25 per student each school year for consumable writing workbooks. Vantage Learning's MY Access! Home Edition offers much more value than the average workbook based program. We will continue to use this product throughout the rest of our school year and I'm sure to be pleased with the end results!

Check out their website for more information & feel free to leave a comment for me if you have any questions about this product.

Day 38 done :)
Lord bless!
Jan L. Burt