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