A Blog Devoted to Encouraging Homeschooling Mothers

A Blog Devoted to Encouraging Homeschooling Mothers
The Burts in 2013

Friday, December 30, 2011

TOS Crew Product Review ~ R.E.A.L. Homeschool Spanish

Relax. Enjoy. Aspire. Learn Spanish.

This is the motto behind REAL Homeschool Spanish. And yes indeed, they do live up to that motto!

The philosophy behind REAL Homeschool Spanish is that Spanish is best learned through conversation. All new vocabulary is taught first by speaking back and forth with others. This curriculum doesn't focus primarily on exact pronunciation or rules of grammar; rather, it's focus is on actually being able to converse in Spanish. That makes it unique among other Spanish language curriculum. It also makes it necessary for mom (or dad, or older siblings) to participate in the lessons!

The material used in REAL Homeschool Spanish is relevant to a homeschooling environment and is meant to be applied all throughout the day. You can (and should) use Spanish words as you and your child talk - during dinner, saying good-night, etc. It's not typical for Spanish programs to be created specifically for the needs of homeschooling families. That's one more big reason that REAL Homeschool Spanish stands apart from other foreign language curriculum.

The ideas and games in the activity book are excellent. My kids not only enjoy the activities, but they feel this aspect of REAL Homeschool Spanish cements their grasp of the language. It "completes the loop" of learning in their brains, so to speak :)

The planning guide makes it easy to plan (and thus to complete) the Spanish lessons. There are no excuses with this curriculum - planning is all laid out, lessons are easy to implement, and conversational Spanish is achieved. And they do it all with an emphasis on a relaxed learning environment, which is also a plus for my busy family.

Included in the download I received from REAL Homeschool Spanish (free of charge for review purposes) were the 179 page Activity Book, the Activity Book Audio (contained in a zip file), a 45 page Answer Key, a 105 page Student Book (in color), and an additional 105 page Student Book (in black and white for easier printing), and a 50 page Daily Curriculum Guide.

The components of the program work together to make for a solid and fun learning experience that does more than simply meet your state's foreign language requirements for high school graduation. Here is my description of each part of the curriculum:

The Activity Book is a terrific resource. It is broken into units that go along with the vocabulary and audio tracks as the student progresses through the lessons. The Audio Book files correspond with each lesson and have corresponding page numbers listed - super easy to use! The Answer Key makes grading the activity pages a breeze. And we all know how I feel about tedious grading with hard-to-use answer keys! I've even chosen not to purchase curriculum based solely on the answer key! Having the Student Book available in color or b&w saves a lot on printer ink costs. And we've found that the color book isn't at all difficult to read on the laptop, so we only print certain portions of the lessons. The Student Book is divided into logical sections which make the most sense for actually conversing in Spanish (i.e. Greetings, Telling Time, Foods, Family, Adjectives, Weather & Seasons, Months of the Year, Transportation, Animals, Sports, etc.). The layout of the lessons is real-world applicable. My kids travel to Mexico every other year for missions work - and believe me, having the ability to really communicate with the children there is priceless. The way REAL Homeschool Spanish is taught will enable them to better minister to and communicate with the children of Ensenada. The Daily Curriculum Guide explains how to "do" this program. The Weekly Prep portion makes my job easier and helps me not to forget any vital steps in the learning process. It is divided by Unit and by weeks, so you can easily adapt it to suit your individual family needs. There are 48 weeks worth of lessons, so it qualifies as a 2-year-program if you'd like to take a little more time to study Spanish.

You can learn more about REAL Homeschool Spanish at their website:

Their products can be purchased in hard copy form or as a download. I used the download, and it ran beautifully on my laptop so don't hesitate to consider that option! The Book Bundle contains the Book, Activity Book, Answer Book, and Audio Files as a download for $49.95, or $59.95 with the Daily Curriculum Guide. A hard copy bundle sells for $89.95 and $99.95, respective to the order listed previously.

Also available at their website are samples, culture links (these are awesome!), giveaways and even a place to help fight illiteracy.

To see what my fellow Crew Mates had to say about REAL Homeschool Spanish, click HERE.

And just for fun, here are a couple of pictures from my kid's most recent trip to Mexico :)

Lord bless you and your family as you continue to faithfully homeschool for His glory!

Day 145 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Thursday, December 29, 2011

It's Almost the End of 2011

Today is the 29th of December. WOW!! A year ago I could not have dreamed all that would happen in 2011. It's a good time to take pause and reflect on what I hoped would be, what actually came to be, and what wasn't meant to be.

Our homeschool met many of my expectations, and failed at others (pretty much like every single year!). My marriage has improved and is stronger than ever after 20 years, and that is a wonderful gift from the Lord! Our finances have taken a hit this year; yet we take comfort in the fact that we are walking a path laid out for us by the Lord Almighty, and obedience is our job - the results are His. I've sent a son off to college and no longer have any kids in elementary grades. We still lead the youth group at our church, and the blessings we receive from our co-workers and the students cannot be counted. Even our pets have had a good year - they are aging well and remain healthy and a blessing to our family. Old friendships have deepened and new ones are developing. My oldest and my youngest both had orthopaedic surgery and have recovered well, praise the Lord. My pre-diabetes have remained under control and I live a daily lifestyle that is better than ever before. Our family vacation was filled with fun, friends, family and memories that will never fade. I could go on, but I really don't need to. In a nutshell, I'm so very thankful to the Lord for all He has done in my life over the past year. God is good, all of the time.

And while January marks the mid-point of our homeschool year, I am planning on imparting some "brand new year" techniques. We tend to kick it into high gear in January, February, March and into April. This year will be no different. But in order to keep going full-speed ahead, I need to begin each day with a positive attitude and find creative ways to keep my children focused, dedicated and "non-weary" (okay, that's not actually a word, but you get my drift...). I can't give my children what I myself do not posses, and so I begin in December to make a spiritual study plan for myself come January. Yes, it's redundant for me to tell you that being in God's Word daily is the key to a successful homeschool. Redundant or not, I just have to keep saying it because it's just the flat out truth.

My plan does not need to be your plan. God does not have a giant cookie cutter for stamping out His children. And He doesn't have cookie cutter plans for His children's lives, either. His specific spiritual plan for you is not the same as mine. And the only way to find out what He has planned for you is to listen to Him. Spend time in the Word, in prayer, and sitting quietly before Him listening to His leading. He may guide you to a small group or Sunday school class, a Bible study you can do on your own at home or perhaps with your husband, an online group or a local support group - but wherever He leads, be willing to follow. And take my advice sagely, remembering Isaiah 41; He will gently lead those that are with young. If you are feeling pushed or pulled, if you feel anything other than gentle leading, you need to stop right where you are and pray, pray, pray some more. He won't do anything contrary to His Word, and He won't lead you any way other than gently when you are a mother of young children. (I also think mother's of older children who homeschool need to be gently led by the Lord - it's too easy to be led by the voice of another but Jesus told us to follow His voice alone.)

So finish your year well, make the most of the time you have with your family, and seek His good and perfect and pleasing will at all times. He loves you dearly and will make a way for you that is filled with blessing, even if those blessings are part of a long, hard road.

Happy end of 2011 ~ may your 2012 be a fantastic year!

Day 144 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Your 100 Day Prayer: The Transforming Power of Actively Waiting on God by John I. Snyder

This book by John I. Snyder is a guided 100 day journey into a deeper prayer life. Each day's reading is concise but engaging, and the book is solidly based on the Word of God. It's easy to use ~ you can and should dive right in as soon as you buy this book! ~ and it truly does grow your faith as you face tough circumstances.

It's a book I thoroughly used and really, strongly, heartily recommend. I did receive this book (in e-book form) free of charge from for review purposes, but I am in no way obligated to give a favorable review. With all sincerity, I can say this book is one I will refer to for years to come. As a guide to praying through the hard stuff we all face in life, Your 100 Day Prayer: The Power of Actively Waiting on God was meant to be used again and again.

If you are looking for a book to encourage you in your walk with the Lord as you face any type of difficulty, this is the book for you. And since I'm writing this review in late December, I might also recommend Your 100 Day Prayer as a great book to read starting January 1st.

On my "Page Turner Scale" of 1 to 5, I have to give this book a solid 5. I have been using this book daily since I received it and will be reading and re-reading it for years to come.

(Disclaimer ~ I received this book free of charge from BookSneeze for review purposes.)

Day 143 done :)

Jan L. Burt

www.HomeschoolingMothersBibleStudy.comI review for BookSneeze®

Homeschooling at Christmastime

How terrific is it to be a homeschool family during the month of December?!

I'll tell ya how terrific it is - fantastically, amazingly, superbly TERRIFIC!!

I love homeschooling. There's not much about it that I don't genuinely love - except grading... And homeschooling at Christmas is just icing on the cake. We end each year together, as a family, focusing on the Advent of our Lord Jesus - and we get to say good-bye to the old year, remember Jesus' coming, and ring in the new year all together as a family for the entire month of December.

So did I mention that I love homeschooling in December??

In December we decorate our house, do lots of baking, choose and wrap presents for friends and family, go caroling at a local nursing home with our church family, have a blast at our youth group's annual Christmas party, celebrate Advent nightly, decorate our yard with lights and blow-ups, enjoy our church dinner and talent show, spend time with family, and new this December is greeting our oldest child at the train station at 3am and then grabbing doughnuts at an all-night bakery.

We still "do school" during December. And we still have lots of normal, day-to-day things that have to take care of. My husband goes to work each day, the regular household chores still get done, life goes on. It just goes on with a whole lot more fun as we celebrate Jesus birth all month long.

So, what do you do to make the month of December special? Are you enjoying homeschooling as much as I am?

Enjoy this special time of year with your family and Lord bless you as you remember His choice to come to earth with the intention of giving His life on the Cross to pay the penalty for our sins. How blessed we are that God has lavished His love on us so richly!

Day 142 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

TOS Crew Product Review ~ The World's Greatest Stories Volume 1 (The Prophets)

I have often stated that teaching my children God's Word is the most important subject in our homeschool. It is always the first subject assigned in their planners, and every curriculum choice I make revolves around the Bible. So having the opportunity to review The World's Greatest Stories on CD (as told by George W. Sarris) was a perfect fit for my family.

I received Volume 1, The Prophets in the New International Version (free of charge for review purposes) along with a sample CD of Mr. Sarris' other dramatic readings from the Bible. Readings included in this volume are: The Blazing Furnace (Daniel 3), The Handwriting on the Wall (Daniel 5), Daniel in the Lions' Den (Daniel 6), Elijah and the Prophets of Balls (I Kings 17-18), & The Prophecy of Jonah (Jonah 1-4).

George Sarris, a Northwestern graduate who also holds a Master of Divinity from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, does an excellent job of narrating the Biblical text on this CD. And the best thing about his work is that he reads straight from the Bible, word for word. He doesn't add to or detract from the actual Biblical text. I LOVE that!!

Each volume is about one hour in length, and Volume 1 has five stories on the CD. It was very easy for me to plan this as a part of my daughter's daily homeschool. It would also be easy to listen to these CD's when traveling in the car. My 6th grade daughter enjoyed listening to the narrative (so did I!) and she thought younger children would really enjoy these CDs. They open the world of the Bible to young listeners in a way that is engaging and interesting, but without any added fluff. It's just God's Word, and let's be honest - when studying the Bible, nothing more is needed :)

Each CD sells for $7.95 (cassette tapes are also available at the same price) and shipping is free if an entire set is purchased. That is quite an exceptional value!

Other volumes include:

Volume 2 - The Life of Christ
Volume 3 - Beginnings
Volume 4 - Joshua and Esther
Volume 5 - Joseph and His Brothers
Volume 6 - Defeating Giants

Each volume is available in either NIV or KJV.

To learn more, visit the website at or call 1-888-STORIES.

To see what my fellow TOS Crew mates had to say about The World's Greatest Stories, click HERE.

If you are looking for a "new" way to learn about the greatest Book ever written, then The World's Greatest Stories is something you should seriously consider. It's an excellent product that sells for a very reasonable price.

Lord bless you as you homeschool for God's glory!

Day 141 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

2 Timothy 1:12 Says...

Have you ever believed someone, or believed in someone, and had it turn out poorly? On the converse, have you ever believed someone and had it turn out better than you had dared hope? And have you ever had someone believe in you? Did their belief turn out to be well-founded?

Everyone needs something to believe in; whether or not we want to admit it, that's the truth. Some of us believe in ourselves. Others believe in our spouses. Many people believe in their careers. And a lot of homeschooling mothers believe in - ahem, no flames please! - homeschooling. But in the end, and I mean the literal end, the only thing worth believing fully in is Jesus Christ, Savior of the world.

Homeschooling won't save me, my husband, or my children. It can be an excellent vessel to teach my children from God's Word - but only Jesus can save them. And if we begin homeschooling with the incorrect idea that it can save us, if we place all our hope in our family homeschool, if we believe in homeschooling in place of believing in Jesus, then we misplace our faith. I can believe any number of things, but if my belief is incorrect than it does me no good.

I'm totally preaching to the choir with this post. Most homeschool moms I know really want their children to know and love the Lord above all else, and their family's homeschool is a means to worship the King of kings (as compared to the incorrect belief that says homeschool is king). Since the purpose of my blog is to encourage moms who homeschool, let me give you some kudos for working to impart God's truth to your children daily. It's a tough job, homeschooling is, and not everyone recognizes that. You may not have heard "way to go!!" in quite some time, so let me say it again: "Way to go!!!" You're doing a great job. Don't forget it, either. Because your labor for the Lord is never in vain.

2 Timothy 1:12 starts off with, "I know whom I have believed..."

What a great reminder that we can trust God fully when our belief is placed solely in Him. He'll keep it safe for us with Him, and He'll present it to us when we step into eternity. And it's going to be worth every bit of struggle and toil. Keep reminding yourself that you know Whom you have believed - and even better, keep reminding yourself that He whom you have believed knows YOU! And He is keeping you for that day.

What a blessing to say, "Jesus knows me, this I love."

Lord bless you today!

Day 140 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Heroes & Villains Of The Bible - Real Stories, Actual Bible Text (Tommy Nelson)

Heroes & Villains of the Bible - Real Stories, Actual Bible Text (from Tommy Nelson publishing) is a children's book of 50 Bible stories from both the Old and New Testament. The text is taken directly from the Bible (International Children's Bible version). It is a 244 page hard cover book, with an introduction, Old Testament section, New Testament section, and a final "Note to Heroes".

This book holds up well with use and has enough artwork to keep younger readers interested. The text is straight from the Bible, which I absolutely love, and the stories are short enough that children can easily read one each day; they can also keep on reading if they so choose. The unique focus on heroes and villains from God's Word sets the book apart. Each story has a brief introduction about the characters involved, and ends with a wrap up that encourages the reader to be a hero (and not a villain).

I review for BookSneeze®

On my "Page Turner Scale" of 1 to 5, I am giving this book a 4. It's different than many books on the market, my children and I enjoyed reading it, and it's God's Word (what's not to love about that?!).

(Disclaimer ~ I received this book free of charge from BookSneeze for review purposes.)

Day 139 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Monday, December 5, 2011

Our Dog Can Talk!

My daughter's Pug, Mimi, does this when she hears us calling for her "girl" Alexandra (Alex for short). Listen carefully to see if you can hear Mimi try to say "Alex" ~ it sounds something like "Oww-Wes" and a couple of times she seems to say "Ow-Wes-An-Dra". What's hilarious is that Mimi ONLY does this when she hears the name of her owner, Alex.

Happy Pug Watching!

Day 138 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Our Family Just Created Our Own TShirt on

Okay, so our family is forever cracking jokes, spouting one-liners, quoting movies, and in general laughing hysterically at one another. Seriously, we do this ALL THE TIME!

Last night at dinner something struck my daughter's as funny; strike that, it struck them as beyond funny and they could not stop laughing. They decided they wanted to keep this humorous state going and wanted to find a t-shirt to give away as a Christmas gift in honor of this superbly funny event. Since they didn't have much luck finding a shirt that suited them, they decided to make one at (Which is a great place to create custom shirts, mugs, mouse pads, etc.) After making their shirt, they decided to create a "store" at where they could sell their newly created t-shirt.

And next thing ya know - VIOLA!! - they're off and running in yet another creative venture in the true spirit of homeschooling!

To check out their store - called BurtsShirts - click HERE. Keep in mind they only have one product available right now, but they will come up with more witticisms with great rapidity.

make custom gifts at Zazzle

Have a humor-filled homeschool day & be sure to pause and take advantage of moments like these, because these are the kind of interruptions that you will remember for years to come!

Day 137 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

TOS Crew Product Review ~ The Easy Spanish Level I from Great Commission Languages

.The Easy Spanish Level I (from Great Commission Languages) is a whopper of a book at 414 pages and 2 Cd's. Using this foreign language program for 36 lessons, following each portion of each lesson, WILL give your student the tools they need to speak Spanish (and by that I mean they can actually communicate with those whose native tongue is Spanish).

This curriculum can be parent led, or can be done individually - which is the ideal option for homeschooling parents because it makes it easy to adapt to younger children or easy to "hand off" to older children. I'm using The Easy Spanish with my junior in high school and my 8th grader. Using The Easy Spanish through completion counts as 2 years of high school foreign language. I should also note that this curriculum has a STRONG Christian emphasis (hence the publisher's name Great Commission Languages!) and the end aim of the product is at making and equipping missionaries. Can I just say, very loudly, HOW COOL IS THAT?!?!

For the most part, everything you need is included with this curriculum, but some of the activities may require a trip to the library. And I would also suggest laminating the phonogram flash cards to help them last longer through lots of use.

The lessons in The Easy Spanish are divided into sections as follows:

~ Story ~ (told in a Spanish weave) ~ Students listen to the Story daily
~ Vocabulary ~ Students listen to vocabulary daily
~ Activity ~ (primarily for younger students) ~ many Activities have a corresponding activity sheet
~ Narration ~ (follows Charlotte Mason's theories for foreign language) ~ this section is not intended for use with independent learners
~ ¡Soy Yo! It’s Me! ~ a special activity for those using the Charlotte Mason method that makes a nice keepsake upon completion
~ CM Activity ~ primarily for the independent learner
~ Teacher Helps ~ written for the parent or the independent learner
~ Scripture Memory Work ~ suggested for use every 2 lessons
~ Cultural Note ~ provides a deeper understanding of the culture
~ Trivia ~ interesting facts about the culture
~ Notebook ~ all student work goes into the student notebook
~ Front Cover Work ~ this is only for the younger child

Well, I know that the above list may look like a whole lot of work, but take it to someone who has taught foreign language using a variety of different curriculum - this method is not at all overwhelming and it works really well. It's easy to implement once you read through the introduction and create each student notebook. And I love hearing my daughter's speak in complete Spanish conversations. As a matter of fact, just this evening my 13-year-old translated a commercial that was all in Spanish and she was kind of in shock that she completely understood everything they said!

High school students keep a journal written entirely in Spanish (my 17-year-old balked at this, but now she really enjoys it). They write about everyday life, and since it's a no-pressure assignment in regard to the quality of the writing it's a very doable activity.

Some other awesome features of The Easy Spanish are the checklists for younger and older students, the lesson planner templates, and sample CLEP tests to help students prepare to "test out" of Spanish. My girl's favorite part of the program is the Scripture memory activity. Being able to quote the Bible in Spanish means the most to them, as they take a mission trip to Ensenada, Mexico every 2 years. What a fantastic gift to give my daughters, which they in turn can "re-gift" again and again and again!

To learn about The Easy Spanish for yourself, visit their website at

The product I received (free of charge for review purposes) is priced at $139.95. Individual portions of the curriculum are available for prices ranging from $10 to $69.95. Great Commission Press also sells The Easy French ($139.95).

To read what other members of the TOS Crew had to say about The Easy Spanish, click HERE.

Seriously consider this product if you have an older student who needs a foreign language credit, or a younger student who would like to learn Spanish (or French). It's an excellent product with a Christian perspective and I'm so blessed to have been able to review The Easy Spanish from Great Commission Languages.

Lord bless you and your family this Christmas season!

Day 136 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Advent Begins Tomorrow

Acts 15:31 (New Living Translation) reads ~ "And there was great joy throughout the church that day as they read this encouraging message."

Since the purpose behind this blog is to encourage moms who homeschool, the above verse from Acts is fitting to post today. And since tomorrow is the first Sunday of Advent, I thought it was fitting to blog about something truly encouraging - the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ.

I'm often encouraged by articles in homeschool magazines, blog posts from my fellow homeschooling moms, Sunday morning sermons, and weekly small groups. But the most encouraging thing that has ever happened for the whole of mankind was the birth of a tiny baby in a dirty stable, surrounded by animals and wrapped in swaddling clothes.

My prayer for you this Christmas season is that your homeschool days, and every moment you spend with family and friends, will be filled to the brim with understanding of the Lord's great love. The encouraging message, that Christ was born to save us from our sins, is indeed cause for great joy. It's not a gift you'll find in any store, and it cannot be wrapped and placed beneath the tree. But it is the only gift that really matters, and it's the greatest gift mankind has ever received.

Remember to celebrate Advent tomorrow, and praise the Lord for His willingness to born among the lowly to bring salvation to all mankind. He is the One True God, and He alone is worthy of our praise.

Day 135 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Living Life as the Body of Christ

I've been reading in Ezra, and the Lord has been speaking to my heart about being open not only before Him but also before my brothers and sisters in the local church. I know you may be wondering how I got that from the book of Ezra..hang on, I'll connect the dots.

I think there might be a "trend" in the church today, and maybe it's primarily a trend within the church in America, but the tendency toward "handling things on our own" seems to be increasing.

Now, I'm in total agreement with the practice of total reliance upon God as a demonstration of His faithfulness (as demonstrated in the lives of George and Mary Mueller). I hope I can phrase this in a way that doesn't sound as if I don't believe in total reliance upon God alone. Here goes nothing...

In the Old Testament book of Ezra, we read about the Israelites returning to to Jerusalem following a terrible time of exile. They began the work of rebuilding the Temple, and faced strong opposition while they went about their work. It took a long time, and a lot of prayer and patience, to complete the task. But they would not have gotten much done if they had each worked on their own, gone solo, done their own thing, kept their burdens and their work load private and to themselves. They needed each other as a community, as God's children, to accomplish God's will in the rebuilding of His Temple.

Today we often keep too much to ourselves - although some people share too much, too often, with too many. (That's another blog post altogether!). And maybe this isn't a problem women face as much as men, being they are hard wired to man up and lead the charge. But it is an honest-to-goodness problem within the church today. For example, it can be hard to ask a couple of other believers, who are mature in their faith, to pray for you regarding a specific situation. Yet that may be what needs to happen for God to do His work in that situation. It requires humility and interdependence in the church to pray in this way. Some of us are just too proud to ask for this type of prayer. We may not want anyone to speak into our lives, or we may wish to handle things privately.

Some people, some families, live in a constant state of spiritual defeat. One reason may be because they fail to have others pray for them in an open and honest manner. God is glorified when His church functions as a healthy Body, and Jesus taught us to gather in groups of two or more when we pray, giving us the promise that what we ask will be done. Lone Rangers and Armies of one cannot coexist within the Body of Christ.

In the end, Ezra recorded the completion of the Temple. What will the end of our record say? Will we be able to say the work was completed, we were united with our brethren in the Lord, we humbled ourselves before others and allowed them to pray for us in an open and honest way? Do others speak into your life, or do you live your life as a Lone Ranger Christian?

Have a blessed Thanksgiving, and be sure to tell the Lord how thankful you are for His blessings on you as a homeschooling mother!

Day 134 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Friday, November 18, 2011

TOS Crew Product Review ~ Read Naturally - Read Live!

Read Live (from Read Naturally) is a comprehensive set of research-based programs that assess reading while engaging students. It is a motivating curriculum that supports fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, and phonics.

The above words can be found online at Read Naturally's description of Read Live, and I must say, the above words are accurate and true. Read Live is a web based reading program that improves students reading ability along with their self-confidence. Yes, it's hard work, but most anything worth doing is.

When I first logged onto the Read Naturally website to set up our family's Read Live account, I thought the set-up process to be a little confusing. It is a multi-step process that is probably better suited to an administrator in a public or private school setting than the average homeschool mom. But I understand why Read Live operates the way that it does; it allows for multiple teachers and students to access the program, and keeps cheating at a low and accountability at a high. And overall, the set up process isn't that difficult - just a bit more time consuming than I'm used to.

The program itself is very thorough. VERY thorough. The placement method is solid and works well, but the option is given to place the student in any chosen level by bypassing the placement testing.

Each lesson is, again, VERY thorough. At first it seemed a bit repetitive to me (listening to the piece being read as many as 10 times!)but the continual improvement the student makes is worth the time spent on each lesson. And the beauty of the repetition is that the student is able to see instant progress. It's very encouraging for the reader, which in turn encourages the homeschool mom, which makes me smile because I'm all about encouraging moms who homeschool!

The vocabulary games are really good and the subject matter for each reading piece is interesting and engaging. Many topics we read could be considered cross-curricular, covering history or science in addition to language arts.

Overall Read Live is an excellent program. It's value is tremendous. The program is not likely to work wonders for your child if you don't use it regularly (just like any other curriculum), but if you and your reader(s) will take the time to complete the lessons you will see results. Second to teaching our children God's Word, their reading ability is the hinge on which the door of all future educational success hangs. Read Live will increase your child's reading ability and comprehension, along with their fluency and self-confidence. It's worth the financial and time investment. A top-notch, five-star program in my book.

As it is an online program, users need to have regular access to a computer. And as a disclaimer to Christian homeschoolers, much of the reading material that is scientifically related mentions evolution. The child is being timed while they read, and each piece is read multiple times, so they will hear evolutionary spiels over and over again. We have some set methods in place when it comes to evolutionary content in our home, and it has worked fine to discuss content from a Biblical perspective with this program. However, each family is cautioned to make the best choice for their family and I would be remiss to fail to mention this aspect of the program.

At the website you can learn more about all the products available. You can also find a tab for a free 60-day trial of Read Live on the main page.

A 12-month subscription to Read Live costs $149.00. The recommended ages for students is 1st through 8th grade, although it can be used as an intervention program from 1st grade through adulthood. For more information, you can email them at

Since it is an administrator controlled program, the primary homeschooling parent (usually mom!) needs to set aside time to work with the child as they complete their Read Live lessons. This is probably given, since it would be nearly impossible to assess reading progress if you aren't actually there to hear the student read...but I thought I'd mention it anyway :)

As always, I received this product free of charge for review purposes.

To read what other TOS Crew members had to say about Read Live and other Read Naturally products, click HERE.

Thank you for taking the time to read this product review and may the Lord richly bless you as you homeschool!

Day 133 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Don't Over Do It This Thanksgiving

My advice for all homeschooling moms this Thanksgiving is simple: DO NOT FALL INTO THE DO-IT-ALL TRAP!!

It is a trap lying in wait for all homeschoolers. We set our sights too high, plan too much, work ourselves to the point of exhaustion, get snippy with our husbands and children, and end up frustrated and worn out. Wondering how I know this? Or have you already figured out I am a born over-achiever and I've had to learn a few things the hard way?!

This Thanksgiving, take it easy. Slow down and make time for what really matters. Instead of adding an enormous unit study on Thanksgiving to your typical homeschool schedule, why not set aside your current history program and study about the history of this holiday in America? Swap out handwriting workbooks for Bible verses about thankfulness. Keep your Thanksgiving Day menu as simple as possible, and do some of your baking a little early as part of homeschool Home Ec. Don't try and do everything you normally do and host the perfect Thanksgiving dinner and add a ton more work to your family's homeschool agenda. I'm not saying that you should do nothing - that would be as bad as doing too much. Just don't do too much. I have a feeling each of you knows what "too much" is for your particular family.

It's hard to be thankful when we're stressed out, worn out, and put out. It's hard to enjoy the family we're blessed to be a part of. It's hard to relax if our to-do lists are several pages long. It defeats the purpose of the holiday - and how much sense does that make??

So, what am I doing to keep my Thanksgiving simple this year? Well, we aren't traveling anywhere because that would be pretty tough to manage since our son only has a short amount of time home from college. I'm cleaning the house pretty thoroughly, but I'm not going to deep clean the areas that aren't "vital" (i.e. the basement, the garage, the closets...). I'm only baking the desserts my family really loves - and I'm not trying any new recipes this year. And we're doing our normal Black Friday traditions ~ shopping just for the fun of it (it's a fun time for my family as they goof off in line and have a relaxed attitude as they shop) and play some serious paintball in the afternoon with our church youth group (a lot of adult church members join us - it has become a fabulous tradition!).

Other than that, we'll be hanging out while my son is home. We'll eat family dinners that are "non-cafeteria-style" but easy for me to prepare. Our homeschool schedule will be adjusted so that we aren't stressed to the nines next week. On Monday evening, we will watch the Patriots vs. Chiefs game just for fun (my son's a huge Pats fan and the NFL season hasn't been the same with him away from home). Simple stuff, relaxing stuff, fun stuff. Plenty of time to make memories and a relaxed attitude in keeping with a thankful heart. Sounds like a great Thanksgiving to me.

I encourage you to evaluate why you do what you do, keep in step with the Holy Spirit, and enjoy your blessings this Thanksgiving. And if you're brave enough, join in an intense 4-hour paintball session on Black Friday!!

I'll leave you with a few words from the Greatest Book ever written, and my hope that you are blessed beyond measure this Thanksgiving.

Psalm 62:1,5 ~ "My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him...Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him."

Day 132 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

TOS Crew Product Review ~ College Prep Genius

Here I sit, typing away, drinking coffee from a bright orange mug with the words "Wheaton College MOM" emblazoned on the side. With my oldest in an excellent college, I must say I feel pretty confident about the future of my four younger children. During my son's last two years of high school, I thought I'd learned pretty much all there was to know about the college testing process. As a homeschooler, there are often extra hoops to jump through when filling out college applications - and since my son chose to apply at academically strong schools that don't accept a high number of homeschooled students, I found myself working over time in the position of guidance counselor.

I know a lot about standardized tests and understand the application process pretty well. And it's all fresh in my mind, since Gage graduated in May of this year. But I must say, I have learned a TON from College Prep Genius and I truly wish I'd discovered this product earlier. There are a few things in the life of a homeschooler that are worth their weight in gold; College Prep Genius is one of them. (The items I received free of charge for review purposes weigh about 16 oz and gold is currently valued at $1782/troy ounce - College Prep Genius is worth $28,512...)

I received the DVD set, which includes 4 DVDs with a total of 12 video lessons, a 326-page textbook, and an 80-page workbook. My 11th grade daughter and I have been using the program together over the last several weeks and I can honestly tell you that she is NOT a standardized test-taking fanatic! But she has grown in her confidence and skill level by using the textbook and workbook and watching the DVD lessons (presented by the author, Jean Burk).

We began with the "How to Use This Book" section, which lays out a clear plan of action for the student. Step one is for the student to take a practice SAT or PSAT. There are many options available, but the best ones can be found online at The College Board website ( (As a side note, each high school student in your family's homeschool needs to have their own College Board account. This site has more tools and resources available than I can make mention of here, but if your child is "thinkin' 'bout college", you need to be a user on this site!) Jean Burk's wise advice to set up an account at The College Board is a key component in your child's college application process.

After finding your student a good practice test and registering at The College Board, jump right in with this curriculum. The "Motivational Trait Evaluation" is a good next step, and it's actually a whole lot of fun! My 17-year-old daughter thought it was very informative and helped her nail down some of her strengths and weaknesses. In homeschooling families, it's important to identify each child's individual gifting so that they don't live in the shadow of older siblings. She was very comfortable using this curriculum, and recently had a lengthy phone conversation with her older brother about preparing for college. Her attitude has improved and her fears have diminished as she has used College Prep Genius. It's clearly laid out plan to help her achieve a higher SAT score has given her the boost in confidence she needed to chart her path toward higher learning.

Information contained in College Prep Genius about standardized tests - from general test info, to how to register for the tests, how to cancel your test scores should you be displeased with them, to accurate websites and thorough explanations of the purposes and benefits of these tests- is simply terrific and invaluable. Is the process overwhelming? Sure, it can be. But it doesn't have to be. College Prep Genius is one way to keep the process manageable.

3 Key Ingredients to a Successful & Low-Stress Path to College:

1. Start Early
2. Work Steadily
3. Keep a Calendar Just for the High School Student's College Application Process

If you do the three things mentioned above, and use College Prep Genius as your guide, you and your student can have a positive experience.

College Prep Genius offers a 100% money-back guarantee for 30 days after purchase. You really don't have anything to lose! To purchase College Prep Genius, or to learn more about the college admissions process, visit

The DVD set I reviewed sells for $99.95 (but would cost $129.85 if each item were purchased separately). The books without the DVDs sell for $69.90 (but there is a current Co-Op special for $50). Additional student workbooks cost $19.95. They also have an e-book titled "15 Secrets to FREE College" available for $9.95. Their VocabCafe series of books sells for $38.95.

To see what other TOS Crew members had to say, click HERE.

To sum up my feelings about College Prep Genius, I would say that it seems to answer the age-old question of how to eat an elephant. (One bite at a time.)

God bless you on your homeschool journey and may you be encouraged today as you fulfill your high calling as a mother!

Day 131 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Friday, November 11, 2011

11-11-11 = A Day to Be Thankful

Today is Veteran's Day; it was previously known as Armistice Day. On November 11th, 1918 at 11am a cease fire fell into place, thus ending the First World War. One year later, President Woodrow Wilson signed into law the federal holiday of Armistice Day, and all business commerce stopped for 2 minutes at 11am. In later years, following World War II, the federal holiday became known as Veteran's Day. It's an excellent thing for a country to honor those who have died to ensure freedom for it's citizens. It's also a good thing to remember the origin of this national holiday. By all means, as the wife of an Army officer, I am thankful that his service is remembered on this day. But as a homeschool mom who loves history, it's also important to me that we remember those who fought in the Great War, and who most immediately benefited at 11am on November 11, 1918.

All who have served in the defense of our country, since the days preceding the Revolutionary War through the long days and nights spent in the mountains of Afghanistan as of late, are to be honored today above all other days. They are heroes, and we are a grateful nation.

Having experienced the unique circumstances a family endures during a deployment, and having dealt first-hand with the negligent treatment wounded soldiers often receive when they sustain injuries, I would also like to say a few words about some other people who serve their country. Those who go are often unrecognized, and usually not thought of. The spouses and the children of deployed soldiers. (Let me add that I am sure siblings, fathers and mothers are probably also left feeling "unsupported" during deployments, but I have not been in the position of being mother to a soldier - I can't say exactly what that experience entails and so I've chosen not to talk about it in this post).

If my children could share one piece of wisdom with the "civilian world", it would be this: don't just ask them how their deployed parent is doing. Ask them how they are doing! In my husband's case, he received care packages, letters and emails almost daily that encouraged him while he was away. He knew he was being prayed for, and trust me, that is an invaluable ministry that means more than I could ever say. However, my children endured the lack of their father in our home (for the most part) from March 2005 until November 2007. (Due to a rear det job, followed by a 40 day deployment post Katrina, followed by a deployment as part of OIF/OEF, followed by a non-combat injury that nearly claimed my husband's life). During all that time, they were regularly asked how their dad was doing - and I don't think they can recall ever being asked if they were doing okay or if they would like someone to pray for them. Their advice is simple - if you know kids who have a deployed parent, please ask them how they are doing. Take an interest in their lives, too, and let them know that you understand it is a very difficult time for them.

The family of a soldier serves their country right along with the service member. But they do it in a much quieter, often forgotten manner. This Veteran's Day, thank a vet for serving our country. And thank their family, too - because when a soldier is deployed, the entire family is deployed.

And my personal thanks go out to my husband for his service (22+ years in the Army) - to all our dear friends who have served and continue to serve - to my grandfather for his service - and to my father for his time spent in the U.S. Army (he is buried at Black Hills National Memorial Cemetery, located near Sturgis, South Dakota).

Celebrate freedom today & remember our greatest freedom is in Christ Jesus, our Lord!

Day 130 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Thursday, November 3, 2011

TOS Crew Product Review ~ First Form Latin from Memoria Press

First impression upon opening the package I received from Memoria Press: WOW!! They sent me the whole shebang!

Second impression upon opening the package I received from Memoria Press: WOW!! They must not know how un-confident I feel about teaching - gulp - Latin!

The set I received from Memoria Press was First Form Latin Plus DVDs and Flashcards (sent to me free of charge for review purposes). This set contains the Teacher Manual, Student Text, Student Workbook, Quizzes & Tests, Pronunciation CD, Flashcards and DVDs. It is a very thorough set, and it does it's job of allowing moms like me to teach Latin to their children :) It's a quality program and provided me with the tools I needed to conquer a foreign language that I did not feel confident about teaching. The only items I needed in addition to the materials included with First Form Latin were a student notebook and a dictionary containing word etymology. (And just in case you happen to be a whiz when it comes to Latin, no worries - it's designed for teachers with or without a Latin background.)

Memoria Press encourages the study of Latin grammar to take place using four books (First, Second, Third, and Fourth Forms). Each text is a small book of about 100 pages with 30-35 concise two-page lessons. Each text has a corresponding workbook (4-6 pages of exercises per lesson). First Form Latin provides plenty of resources to aid in student success, which makes it a favorite subject for my daughter. This curriculum can be used from 3rd through 12th grades (and remember, any time you spend a year teaching a foreign language counts as one year of foreign language on your child's high school transcript, no matter what year the material is taught).

The "Teaching Guidelines" are very thorough, and I truly appreciated that I did not feel like I was drowning under the weight of them. Clearly broken into numbered segments, it's easy to go back and review any portion as needed. Once we dug into the program, it became pretty easy to use and the time investment isn't as great as I expected.

The more we use First Form Latin, the less intimidating Latin becomes. This really is a user-friendly program that anyone can use with no prior exposure to Latin. Teaching a foreign language seems overwhelming at times, and it can seem simpler to hand the entire process over to someone more skilled. But as homeschoolers, we must daily rise to the challenge of teaching subject matter that seems intimidating. Latin is really no different, and if you've considered it but been afraid to teach it, First Form Latin from Memoria Press - combined with your own dedication - is a great place to begin!

My daughter, who previously disliked any foreign language assignment, said this, "There are multiple ways to learn each part of a lesson. A variety of different ways to incorporate learning made me feel like I could 'get it', if not one way than another. First Form Latin explains it well, even in the confusing moments. When I do feel confused, I just keep looking and I always find the answer I need somewhere in the curriculum. The vocabulary is probably my favorite portion of Latin. And I really like the way each lesson builds upon the last. If you want to learn Latin, Memoria Press is the way to go!"

To explore First Form Latin for yourself, visit

To read what other reviewers had to say about products offered by Memoria Press, click HERE.

Other items available from Memoria Press include K-6 curriculum packages, an Online Academy, Logic & Rhetoric materials, Geography, Christian Studies, Greek plus a whole lot more.

First Form Latin sells for $55 for the basic set, and $115 for the complete set that I received.

Thanks for reading my review of First Form Latin from Memoria Press - and remember, don't be afraid to jump in with both feet to teach foreign language. You can do it!

Day 129 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Will I REALLY Be Able to Homeschool Through High School?!

Today's post is simply a dose of encouragement for homeschooling mothers considering the looming future idea of homeschooling "all the way through". (Key creepy music and girly shrieks and screams)

Yea, it's a scary concept. But if you take a moment and remember when you first began to considering homeschooling, you'll recognize the same emotions. Remember how you felt about teaching your child to read? Or teaching them to write in cursive? How to form a complete sentence or perhaps a paragraph? The scientific method? How to type and use the Dewey decimal system and the history of Ancient Egypt? All those concepts seemed pretty daunting, and yet you were able to keep your head and teach your children. High school is much the same - I promise!

My oldest graduated last May and is now in college (yes, your homeschooled child can actually get accepted to a college ~ but that's another post altogether!). I have two daughters in high school this year (9th and 11th grades) and two daughters in middle school (6th and 8th grades). These are busy years and the school day tends to be l-o-n-g. However, it isn't really any more challenging than it was to teach a couple of my kids to read and write and all that jazz with a baby, toddler and preschooler to care for.

My first piece of advice to any mom wondering if she can homeschool through high school would be to seek the Lord. He is able to provide all the grace and wisdom you need for this endeavor, and only He can bless you with an abundance of peace.

My second piece of advice would be to plan ahead and start planning well in advance. Before you reach the middle school years, consider which subjects you will teach during 6th - 8th grade that can count as high school credit. For example, if your child is advanced in math you might consider placing them a grade or so higher in math. They might complete Algebra I in 8th grade, and Algebra I is Algebra I no matter what year it's taught - so it counts as on year's credit in higher math on the student's transcript. If your child is a history buff, maybe you could search amazon or The Great Courses for curriculum that is a little more difficult than the typical middle school coursework. Upon completion of the text, the student receives credit for high school level work on their transcript. And remember, according to the public school model "completion" is reached when 80% of the text has been finished.

And my last piece of advice would be to stay relaxed and remember that homeschooling through high school is a marathon, not a sprint. Don't try and cover too much subject matter during the child's freshman year or they will end up overwhelmed and you will end up irritated and weary. Pace yourself. Use resources that show you what a typical 9th grade academic year looks like. Pray and pray some more. And let your child choose one subject they want to study that isn't on your "must do before graduation" list. Believe me, that makes a huge impact on the student's attitude during the high school years. And a good attitude in your teenager is a very good thing!!

Trust in the Lord and rely on Him alone, and you will find that homeschooling your high schooler is no more difficult than teaching your 5-year-old to read.

Happy homeschooling!

Day 128 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Friday, October 28, 2011

TOS Crew Product Review ~ Excellence in Literature - English 1, Introduction to Literature

Reviewing the product "English 1 - Introduction to Literature" from the Excellence in Literature series by Janice Campbell has been an absolute delight for me. Having used her products and subscribed to her e-zine for several years, I can attest to the fact that her products are quality curriculum and her wisdom is invaluable to homeschooling families - particularly those with students in high school.

Excellence in Literature is a college preparatory literature program, an it's important to keep this in the forefront of your mind when using this curriculum. It's not some "easy-cheesy" workbook that demands little from the student and even less from the teacher. On the contrary, "English 1 - Introduction to Literature" is a first-rate product that draws excellence from the student provided said student pours hard work into the assignments. If you're wondering whatever happened to the lady writing this weblog who dislikes grading and favors curriculum that is user-friendly, don't worry, I still feel that way. But a big part of why I feel that way is because of my core belief that in order to give my children a quality, college prep education demands that I "cut the fat" from our homeschool. Otherwise I won't be able to get the big rocks into the jar first.

Janice Campbell lays out some clear objectives for "English 1":

~ Introduce students to great western literature
~ Teach students to read with discernment
~ Train independent, self-motivated learners
~ Provide tools to strengthen their writing skills
~ Introduce them to sources for high-quality online and offline research
~Prepare students for college classes by expecting carefully-researched, well-thought-out material to be presented in standard format with preliminary proofreading completed

She delivers on these objectives, provided the student does the work. What the course work looks like can differ slightly from family to family (as each family has their own standard for reading material and may choose not to read every book suggested). And of course younger students may need their course work altered; or perhaps your child prefers the Honors course laid out in English 1. However, I feel that you gain the most from this curriculum by completing it in it's entirety. The approach papers and essay writing that are unique to Excellence in Literature make up the spine of the program and bring great literature to life in a new way for the reader. After all, what would be the point of a literature program that failed to include writing assignments? And what could be the point of reading great books if the reader never bothers to ponder what's been read?

The instructions for writing the approach papers are clearly laid out in the book, and they really do bring out your child's understanding of what was read. An approach paper should be written when the student has finished a book. The essays are each assigned using an essay prompt, which challenges the student without overwhelming them. Since it is a college preparatory course, the student is simply assigned a book to read without being told how many pages to read daily, etc. They will not have the luxury of being spoon-fed in college, and Excellence in Literature gives them ample preparation for read world college courses. It also gives some read world practice for type-A homeschool moms like myself to let go and let the student "own" their lessons! I would also like to add that the book "Write for College" is suggested for use with "English 1". We have used "Write for College" with our high school children, and it lays an excellent foundation for college writing.

My 8th grade daughter had this to say about "English 1 - Introduction to Literature": "I'm not a huge fan of poetry, so that section was the most difficult for me. The short stories were interesting and I don't think I would have read them without having English 1 point them out to me. Writing an approach paper helps me understand what I just read. I can't get away with being a lazy reader! The book choices are good - a nice variety from all walks of life and different writing styles. It's a good program and I'm glad to have been able to use it."

To see what other TOS Crew mates had to say about Excellence in Literature, click HERE.

For more information about the literature curriculum available from Excellence in Literature, go to

To see other products (like Transcripts Made Easy, Grammar Made Easy, Spelling Made Easy and Get a Jump Start on College) visit While there, take some time to see the other things Janice Campbell has on her site, like a GPA Calculator, Home Business info, A Beat the Clock Essay Workshop, and much more.

"English 1 - Introduction to Literature" is available in print form for $29 (plus $4.95 shipping) or in e-book form for $27 (132 pages). Payment can be made via Pay Pal.

As always, I received this product free of charge for review purposes.

Thanks for taking the time to read my product review & have a fantastic fall weekend!

Day 127 done :)

Jan L. Burt

TOS Crew Product Review ~ George Washington Carver DVD from Marshall Publihing

George Washington Carver was a man of such character that his life is studied as an example some 68 years after his death. Yes, he was a brilliant scientist. Yes, he was also a wonderful teacher. But the reason we, as human beings made in the image of our Creator, are drawn to George Washington Carver is truly due to his character. And the character of Mr. Carver cannot be separated from his concept of God Almighty.

I say all that to tell you about a product I received (free of charge for review purposes) from Marshall Publishing ~ a DVD entitled "George Washington Carver - His Life and His Work". This 30 minute DVD gives viewers a overview of the unique and fascinating life of George W. Carver beginning in his childhood and continuing until his death in 1943. Of course, 30 minutes is not sufficient to examine all of his life - but 30 minutes is enough to pique a student's interest and is a terrific place to start a study on the life of George Washington Carver.

The DVD itself was filled with George's quotes and even has a recorded segment of him speaking. My kids were shocked at the sound of his voice - it was nothing like they imagined! It contains images of his laboratory and the museum in his honor at Iowa State University (which was not the only college he attended, by the way - a remarkable feat for a man born into slavery!). His great accomplishments for farmers in the south are explored and of course his work with peanuts is discussed!

Marshall Publishing is offering a 15% discount for TOS Product Review Readers - simply use the coupon code TOSC1 to receive the discount. The item # for "George Washington Carver - His Life and His Work" is KVFD-106 and you can visit their website at

The DVD "George Washington Carver - His Life and His Work" retails for $19.95 (but would cost $16.95 after applying the 15% discount). Of course, Marshall Publishing has a wide variety of products available for purchase at, including an excellent selection of curriculum options about fire safety, which many of my fellow Crew mates were able to review. To read what they had to say, click HERE. Some other DVD's that caught my eye include "Lincoln at Gettysburg - The Battle & The Address" ($19.95, 60 mins.) and "The Historic Expedition of Lewis & Clark" ($19.95, 35 mins).

As a historical figure, George Washington Carver has left an impression on me that stands with the likes of Amos Fortune, the Wright Brothers, John and Samuel Adams, and General John J. Pershing. A thorough study of his life will be a blessing to you and your children, and will influence and encourage you for many years to come. Taking the time to study people of solid character is something homeschool parents understand; the benefits that come from virtuous living are some of the most important lessons we will ever teach.

Be blessed in your homeschool adventure and thank you for taking the time to read my review!

Day 126 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Saturday, October 22, 2011

It's the Weekend, and I Was Wondering (part 2) ...

Here it is, another weekend filled with errands, youth group events, yard work, church and small groups, and of course homeschool preparation for the coming week.

The response I received to a question I posed in my first "It's the Weekend, and I Was Wondering..." blog post was fabulous! I loved hearing what you all shared about spelling programs, and I've been able to implement some of those things in our family's homeschool. (To read that post, click HERE.)

The question I'm asking this weekend has to do with penmanship. How important is it in your homeschool? What programs, curriculum, or methods do you use? Are some of your children simply neater than others, or have you been able to obtain a standard measure of neatness from all your children?

Let me hear what you have to say about penmanship by leaving a comment. I can hardly wait to read your advice!

Have a wonderful weekend and be sure to enjoy your family in the midst of your busy preparation for next week's school.

Day 125 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Saturday, October 15, 2011

TOS Crew Product Review ~ Always IceCream

Gee, as a homeschooling mom who now has all girls at home after sending our only son off to college, I was shocked when receiving a girls only product to review!
In all seriousness, I was very happy to see a safe, educational website specifically designed with young ladies ,ages 7-12, in mind.

Always Icecream is appealing to me as a homeschooler because of the diverse educational content (language arts, basic & advanced math, geography, history, music, art, foreign languages, computer skills and religious eduction). Using games and videos, Always Icecream is a great supplemental curriculum option. As a mom Always Icecream is appealing to me because it's safe, free of advertising, and blocked to search engines. The site is certified by Privo and is subject to moderation, and user information is never sold; my daughter's safety is taken seriously and that is very important to me as a homeschooling mother.

My 6th grade daughter has been using Always Icecream since we received a membership in early September (free of charge for review purposes). She has made new friends, "hatched" loads of pets, watched educational videos and played learning games, earned a "Gold Medal" in Bible Trivia, created her own house, designed furniture and art work and a whole lot more ~ all while earning money (known as $coops) that can be used to "buy" a wide variety of things.

When she logs into Always Icecream on any given day she might take care of her pets in Pet World, learn how to make homemade icecream in the Videos, custom decorate a room in her house at Mini World, play a math game in Learn & Play, or send a friend a message at Mail. As she does different things in each area of Always Icecream, she is earning $coops, which she can then spend on things like clothes for her pets or a shopping spree in Mini World. She can even buy items created by other Always Icecream members! And she likes earning $coops instead of money - somehow it's just more fun that way!

She has this to share ~ "You can earn $coops while learning. It's educational, but still really fun. Pet World is probably my favorite part of Always Icecream because you have to take care of the pets you hatch. In Mini World I can have as many rooms in my house as I want. There's no limit, and some other websites do have a limit on how many rooms you can have. I don't think there is anything about Always Icecream that I don't like. It's pretty great!"

As a parent who homeschools, Always Icecream provides a site that is fun and educational - it allows my daughter to have all the fun available at other sites (which shall remain unnamed) but in a way that draws her to learning in an environment that is safe and supports our family's Christian beliefs. To see for yourself what Always Icecream has to offer, check out their Overview Page HERE.

Without going into excessive details (which I am prone to do), I'd like to add that we use the Videos to supplement our learning in several subjects (like Language Arts and Foreign Language) and I love the fact that I can easily check my daughter's activity by clicking "Parent Summary" in the top right-hand corner of the web page. The "Parent Summary" is a great feature, allowing me to see progress made in learning games, communication with other members, which videos were viewed, and any artwork my daughter created ~ all in one quick glance. Parents can choose to make a Parent Account at any time, free of charge. And parents can customize the educational content available to their daughters, as well as awarding $coops for tasks done at home (like piano practice or household chores). How cool is that?!

The only thing my daughter didn't do too much of was the typing assignments - and that's because she fell off her scooter and broke her arm in mid-September. The break continued to worsen despite her cast and she had surgery last week. So typing has been a little bit of a challenge for her the last several weeks. (And in case you're thinking, "Wait, I thought it was her son who had surgery..." - yes, he had surgery on a ruptured Achilles tendon on September 1st. In a strange irony, he had an appointment with his orthopaedic doctor in the Chicago area the same day and time that my daughter had an appointment with her orthopaedic doctor here in Wichita!) I plan to have her utilize the typing assignments once she has both hands available for use.

The cost for an Always Icecream subscription is $4.99/month ~ $29.99/year ~ $99.99/lifetime membership. They offer a money back guarantee and you can try it for free at their website -

To read what other members of this year's TOS Crew had to say about Always Icecream, click HERE.

Lord bless you and your family as you continue on your homeschool journey!

Day 124 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Has He Proven It to You?

God makes us a spectacular promise when He says that all His promises prove true (see Psalm 18:30, Romans 3:4, and 2 Samuel 22:31). This isn't a promise made only to the Israelites, or one that is found only in the Old Testament. It is a promise that encompasses all of the Bible and all believers, and as such it is one we can take the spiritual bank to cash with full expectation that it will "clear"!

Yes, I realize that in essence I'm claiming that God promises that His promises will prove true. And I get that you may think that's an odd concept, or maybe that I'm talking in circles or have put my thought processes in a blender and what came out what this blog post. But I really do believe that God's amazing promise to us that each and every one of His promises is true and can be counted on is one of the most important spiritual truths we can grasp.

Think of a verse you consider dear to your heart ~ maybe you have prayed it over your children daily, or perhaps you have laid claim to a specific portion of God's Word in regard to your marriage. How have you seen God answer those prayers? How has He acted on your behalf in response to the promises you believed from His Word?

Are there other promises in the Bible that you avoid because you're afraid they might not apply to you? Or because they seem too big to believe in light of present circumstances? You don't see any light at the end of the tunnel (maybe you feel trapped in that tunnel!) and there doesn't seem to be any point in pestering the God of the universe about your troubles.

I'll say it again because it's worth repeating: ALL God's promises prove true, and His answer is Yes and Amen through Christ Jesus our Lord! How would your daily life change if you really believed that, with every fiber of your being?

When the road gets rocky, why not try out some of His promises rather than worry and fret (and remember, the Bible says not to fret as it only leads to evil in Psalm 37:8) and see what happens? I am certain you'll be pleasantly surprised by the wonderful result that comes from trusting that all God's promises to you will prove absolutely true.

And if you have trusted Him and seen that He is faithful to His Word and always acts in loving kindness toward His children, leave a comment and share what great things He has done for you! I'd love to hear about His good will toward you and His care over your concerns, and it is always wonderful to recount the great things He has done for us.

Be encouraged today as you choose to take God at His Word and believe in faith that He has good plans for you and your family!

Day 123 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Pershing - Commander of the Great War by John Perry (from the Generals series)

General John J. "Black Jack" Pershing was a one-of-a-kind leader who saved Europe in a one-of-a-kind war. The book "Pershing ~ Commander of the Great War" explores the entirety of Pershing's, culminating in an understandable review of his leadership during the First World War. For a man who never intended to become a soldier, it is a great irony that he became the only U.S. General awarded the rank of General of the Armies during his lifetime - the only U.S. General to ever own the rank of 6 stars (though in humility he never wore 6, only 4 gold stars in an adaptation the traditional 4 silver stars of a full general).

I have always felt an understanding of World War II begins with a study of World War I. Mechanized warfare, chemical advances, aircraft and improved weaponry began in the Great War. Those who fought in the Second World War are known as "the Greatest Generation", and there is no doubt they nobly earned said title. I only wish those who served in the First World War were equally recognized for their bravery and valor. This book honors not only General Pershing, but all those who served under him.

From humble beginnings and small town aspirations to enormous tragedy and tremendous triumph, John J. Pershing was a man for the ages. While not a lengthy piece of work (224 pages) this book is an excellent narrative on the life of Pershing and is more than able to hold the reader's interest. John Perry has done a terrific job with this book, and I'm sure you won't be sorry if you take the time to read it.

On my "Page Turner Scale" of 1 to 5, I have to give this book a solid 5. It's a wonderful historical account and I didn't want to put it down once I began reading.

(Disclaimer ~ I received this book free of charge from BookSneeze for review purposes.)

Day 122 done :)

Jan L. Burt

TOS Crew Product Review ~ Scruble Cube

Right about now you might be wondering, "What's a Scruble Cube?". Don't worry, I wondered the same thing when I received one (free of charge for review purposes). Turns out, a Scruble Cube is a fun educational game that is something like Scrabble combined with a Rubix Cube.

The cube itself is 4 inches by 4 inches, and has 16 squares per side. Each square has a sticker representing a letter or other game play information on it (like 2x word score or 4x letter score).

Along with the game cube itself, I received a score pad and a sand timer. And lesson plans encompassing science, language arts, mathematics, English and spelling for grades 3-10 are available at the company website,

When you visit the website, check out "Getting Started Tips & Tricks" - it's a great way to learn all about the Scruble Cube. And should you run out of score sheets, there are more online in a printable pdf format along with replacement directions.

A variety of games can be played using a Scruble Cube, including one that helps older students learn about the Periodic Table of Elements and another that teaches younger students about vowel awareness (I thought older siblings could help younger ones spell words with the Scruble Cube - what a nice change of pace from spelling lists to a hands-on learning tool!).

I liked the Scruble Points Game - it requires students to build a word on the cube and find definitions in the dictionary. This game is easy to adapt in a variety of ways to "spice up" traditional spelling and dictionary work and a printable pdf worksheet that accompanies this game is available at the website.

Another fun game is Scruble Make a Sentence. This is a multi student game but homeschoolers are keen at adapting curriculum to suit of family's needs. This game could be used with two siblings; one creates a sentence on the cube while the other works on penmanship and writes the sentence down.

The game I like the best is Scruble Word Math. Spelling becomes more of a challenge when the timer is set and the player with the cube is challenged to make as many 3-letter words as they can before the sand runs out on the timer. You can continue to up the ante - next are 4-letter words, then 5-letter words and so on. It's great for hands-on spelling practice and the challenge the occurs among siblings actually leads to some pretty creative spelling contests!

The Scruble Cube retails for $24.95 and is available online at
Suggested age range is 8 and above, but it can be enjoyed by younger children. And replacement labels (the stickers that go on each individual square) are available for $4.95 at the company website. The website itself is easy to navigate - I really appreciate that!

To read what my fellow members of the TOS Crew had to say about Scruble Cube, click HERE.

Lord bless you as you continue on this amazing journey known as homeschooling!

Day 121 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Monday, October 3, 2011

Welcome to October!

Today's calendar reads "Monday, October 3rd, 2011". Umm, what?!?! It's already October?? Anyone else a little surprised by the rapidity of this year's passing?

Beginning a new month often leads me to think about what has taken place in the previous month. For our family, September was pretty eventful! And praise the Lord, He was faithful to bless us and sustain us through each and every moment of September.

My son had just begun his freshman year of college when we received a text message telling us he had ruptured his Achilles tendon on his left leg. OUCH!! Since he was in a brand new community 12 hours from home, and is on a campus that doesn't allow freshmen to have cars, I loaded up a rental car and my youngest daughter's homeschool work and headed northeast for Gage's surgery. He did fine and has been making a terrific recovery, praise the Lord. Soon I returned home to Wichita, Kansas and to life as "normal" (whatever that means).

Shortly thereafter, my youngest daughter took a tumble off the scooter and broke her arm. Weekly trips to the orthopod to monitor the progress of the bone regrowth have followed and she has adapted to life in a cast and sling. To her dismay, my expectations for her penmanship to steadily improve have not waned with the addition of the cast. After all, it's her left arm that's broken and she is a righty - progressively neater handwriting is still the requirement!

My husband received an unexpected promotion at work, and it has come with much longer work days as he "learns" how to do his new job while on-the-job. He has even faced some issues that have not occured in 35 years! Nothing like hitting a problem head-on your first week on the job, but there is REALLY nothing like it when the problem is a once-in-a-few-decades type of problem! He is walking in God's grace daily, and is grateful the Lord blessed him with this new position.

We decided to kill off the Bermuda grass that took over our fescue lawn during our record-setting hot summer, and that has been a pretty large scale project. After finishing our daily school work (which has been full academically this fall) the girls and I would head outdoors to work on the yard. Spraying, raking, pulling Bermuda "vines" by hand...and then into the house to shower and have a late dinner. Day after day of this continued through the entire month of September, and finally on the 1st of October, we were ready to reseed! Now we're watering watering watering, and anxiously awaiting lovely green sprouts.

Of course, my family life in September contained some wonderful blessings. Our youth group ended a terrific study on the Book of John, my oldest daughter celebrated her 17th birthday, and some dear friends announced they will be moving back to Kansas in the near future! The Lord is indeed very good, and it's good for me to recount His faithfulness during the more difficult moments in life as well as His goodness to us as He blesses us daily.

Some verses I wrote down in my journal during the month of September include:

Psalm 94:18 ~ When I said, "My foot is slipping," your love, O Lord, supported me.

Romans 8:6b ~ But if the Holy Spirit controls your mind, there is life and peace.

1 Corinthians 15:58 ~ Stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain,

Joshua 3:10 ~ Today you will know that the Living God is among you.

Lamentations 3:25 ~ The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him.

My prayer for you is that this October will be a month full of rich blessing and God's comfort in whatever you may face. Continually draw near to Him, and wait expectantly to see how He works all things out for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. Let the joy of the Lord be your strength every single day!

Day 120 done :)

Jan L. Burt