A Blog Devoted to Encouraging Homeschooling Mothers

A Blog Devoted to Encouraging Homeschooling Mothers
The Burts in 2013

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 VantageLearning.com.

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

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Florida!

I took my 5 wonderful kiddos on a super-fun trip to Orlando. With some awesome military appreciation deals & a long but fun drive to and from Florida from Kansas, we were able to pull off a really great vacation on short notice for minimal cost. The real bummer was that my hubby wasn't able to come with us; he began a new position at work the day we left to drive South & he just couldn't get away at this time. We missed him terribly!

This trip was, for me, something of a "start the good-byes" vacation. This year is the 13th year of homeschooling for me. My oldest is 17 & is taking all of his courses at Friends University during his senior year, in addition to studying like mad for his SAT II subject tests coming up this fall. Next summer he will leave for college (somewhere in the Northeast, most likely). My next oldest child turns 16 in a few weeks - she will get a car soon & starts her new job next week; she's a sophomore in high school this year & will soon be a junior & then a senior. It's amazing how quickly high school comes and then goes for a homeschooling family. It really does fly right by!

My 3 younger daughters are in 8th, 7th and 5th grade this fall. Two high schoolers, two middle schoolers, and one grade school student make for a busy homeschool year. Add in Christian Youth Theater, youth group, piano classes, choir, college classes for our oldest, work schedules for the 17 and 15 year olds, the fall football season (my son is playing for a local private Christian school), SAT's & ACT's & college applications, etc. - well, you can clearly see it is going to be a very busy fall around the Burt house. I intend to be plugged in and enjoy every bit of it!

Having my kids so close together in age is a real blessing to me; I wouldn't do it any other way. But it also comes with the sad truth that once they begin to leave home, they will all leave in a row. It will be a whirlwind and then it will be over - and I will look back and wonder where the days went. So this trip to Florida was a real gift from the Lord - I was able to have one fun filled trip with my children doing what we love to do together before the chaos of this school year began. We made some great memories and just had an all around super time. And I'm also a realist - I have always worked to raise my children to be adults by the time they leave home. I don't plan to manipulate and tweak things in order to squeeze a little bit more out of them than is functional and healthy; I'll take everything I get gratefully from the hand of the Lord, but I won't try to work things to my advantage and guilt my children into being "kids" again for my sake after they have already left home and become "adults". So this vacation was a great time for me as a homeschool mom. The right trip at the right time for the right price - God's timing is always best and I'm glad I let Him take care of this rather than working to figure something out on my own. It's always better that way, isn't it?

Now we're back at home, catching up on laundry and prepping for the school year. I'm rested and recharged, totally ready to get going on this busy fall. It's going to be a wonderful year & I'm going to enjoy every minute of it - even ordering my son's graduation announcements & mailing off college applications. When we make the most of every moment, we can face the bittersweet moments without regret. Homeschooling is a great adventure - enjoy it, fellow moms!

Ready to start the 2010-2011 year with a BANG!

Jan L. Burt

Day 37 done :)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Today is August 3rd, 2010


Four weeks and 3 days ago, on July 3, 2010, we began the painful process of saying "good-bye for now" to our dear Austin Wayne Burt. Today I just want to take a few moments to share some memories of Austin.

The year 2010 came in with a "baby boom" for the Burt families - first our daughter Avery was born in January; my husband's sister gave birth to her daughter Cheyenne in February; and in March Wes and Lisa Burt welcomed their fourth child, Austin. They were born close together and remained close - our Avery always looked forward to spending time with her cousin & she has many happy memories.

In August of 2000, our house was full of family, all here to celebrate my husband's graduation from Officer Candidate School. I remember a bunch of cousins playing and laughing - and I remember Austin as a solid, bouncy toeheaded baby. Always smiling, never fussy, doted on by his older brother and 2 older sisters.

When Avery and Austin were about 2 my husband's parents had a big "to-do" at their farm in Nebraska. Bob and Gloria (my in-laws) had finally finished the enormous job of building their retirement home - it has some beautiful wood on display above the dining area that was taken from the old schoolhouse Bob attended as a child, among several other unique pieces. In their front yard they had a replica of an old-style wagon - and that summer Austin enjoyed "driving" Avery around in the little wagon. I remember several of us wondering if he might play football - he was still solid as a rock and plenty big enough (especially for a Burt!). He was as sweet and tenderhearted as he had been as a baby, taking good care of his "passenger" on the wagon ride.

I remember when Austin became a big brother for the first time - he was so sweet with his little sister. Even as she got older and he enjoyed typical "boy" activities, he was very patient with her. It was precious to see. And when a little brother came along, they became thick as thieves. And when baby # 7 arrived, Austin had 3 younger siblings to dote on and 3 older siblings to emulate. The love those 7 kids shared is not common - it is a genuine love that was clearly visible to everyone around them. And Austin was right in the middle of all that love.

Before my husband deployed, their family came to visit us for a couple of days. I remember Austin skateboarding in our basement, trying to keep up with his older brother and our son. I can clearly remember Austin an several of his cousins of the female persuasion riding every bike, trike, scooter, etc. around and around our cul-de-sac.

And although I wasn't on the fishing trip this past Memorial Day, I am so glad my children have memories of time spent with their cousins; in particular the time spent with Austin. I'm grateful for my husband, who took some great pics of Austin and got some precious footage of him catching a nice-sized fish, grinning ear to ear, proud of his accomplishment.

Toe-headed blondie, always smiling, quiet and polite, loved to ride his motorcycle, blessing to his family for his 10 short years; now safely with Jesus, still smiling from ear to ear, waiting for the rest of us to hurry up and get there.

A mourning aunt who is grateful for each memory of Austin,
Jan L. Burt

Day 36 done...but done very, very sadly :(