A Blog Devoted to Encouraging Homeschooling Mothers

A Blog Devoted to Encouraging Homeschooling Mothers
The Burts in 2013

Friday, March 25, 2011

TOS Homeschool Crew Product Review ~ BIG IQ Kids

Big IQ Kids can best be described as an educational website aimed at helping students achieve excellence in spelling, math, vocabulary and United States geography. That's a very broad overview, of course ~ I will explore a few aspects of the program in-depth while leaving plenty of room for you to dig into Big IQ Kids for yourself!

The first thing I noticed about Big IQ Kids was how easy it was to set up user accounts. Not all websites have taken the time to ensure that the initial process is reasonably simple. As a busy mother of five, I appreciate that the website designers took care of that important detail. Ease of use = amount of use in our homeschool!

After setting up user accounts, my daughters chose characters to use in the games. It gave a personalized feel to each of their accounts, and added a "fun" aspect to the academic aspect of Big IQ Kids. Then they were ready to begin lessons in one of 4
categories: Spelling Math U.S. States Vocab

Each subject category has multiple lessons that the students progress through. For example, in the States category there are 50 levels (one level for each of our 50 states). Within each of the 50 levels, students can work on different topics (State Location, State Spelling, State Capital, State Abbreviations, or a State Fun Facts Game). As they learn, they earn coins that can be redeemed to play games on the Big IQ Kids website ( The games really are fun and engaging; while I don't believe in bribing my children to do their school work, I will admit that fun games are a nice incentive for completing the lessons. Everyone enjoys a reward for a job well done, and I feel Big IQ Kids gives fair rewards for the work done. Coins are earned, not handed out like candy. Their reward system gets a stamp of approval from this homeschool mom!!

Parents receive emails when students have completed an assignment. The emails are wonderful, and give specific details such as which spelling words were spelled correctly and which ones need more work. Grades for tests and math assignments are included in the emails (which makes grading simple for mom - a bonus for me since you all know that grading is my most dreaded homeschool chore!!). I like that I'm not required to log into each child's account in order to see their progress. However, I can log in and see at a glance how they are progressing in any of the categories. This at-a-glance feature is another plus for busy moms of many siblings.

I was drawn to the Spelling and Vocab categories right away. I found online chapter books (which can also be printed) for kids with the ability to double-click on a word if they need help pronouncing it, vocab lessons (you can do the prepared lessons or modify them and add your own words), participate in a spelling bee or do a spelling lesson (again with the option to add your own words to the word list) - and a whole lot more. They have a "Reading Should Be Fun" motto and their books can be read with a Kindle. And there are "Tutors" at each level of each subject to help the student through each lesson.

My girls had this to say about Big IQ Kids ~

Daughter 1 - "I like that it helps me learn how to spell instead of just expecting me to spell. I can review the words if I need to. And I earn coins to play the games, which are pretty fun. I really like the game 'Icicle'! My favorite part of Big IQ Kids is the spelling program."

Daughter 2 - "I use the spelling program the most on Big IQ Kids. I have to learn before I earn coins to play the games. Some websites let you play the games to learn, but I think Big IQ Kids has a better method of making the game the reward for doing well. It's challenging; I have to work hard on mastering my spelling words and some of them are really hard (like heterogeneous). I definitely feel more confident about my spelling after using Big IQ Kids."

Feel free to look visit their website at and explore their free options to get a feel for what they offer. You can also take advantage of their free one week trial. The cost for using Big IQ Kids beyond the free trial is $19.99/month OR $99.99/12 months. (They also have a classroom account available for the price of $299.99/12 months).

This product was received at no cost for review purposes.

Thanks for reading this product review & may your homeschool day be blessed!

Day 87 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Thursday, March 24, 2011

To Quote Spurgeon...

In his classic devotionals "Morning by Morning", Charles Haddon Spurgeon's penned words have been a source of spiritual growth and encouragement for about a century. The mere mention of his name evokes a mental image of a "spiritual superstar" the likes of which most of us would never dream of becoming. Yet at the same time, C.H. Spurgeon's writings are easy for us to relate to; for while he truly was a spiritual giant of a man, he was also a man of the people. When I read Spurgeon, I come away comforted by the knowledge that here was a man who would have been able to relate to my life.

Below is a quot4e taken from the March 22nd daily devotion, based on Matthew 26:39 (when Jesus was praying in Gethsemane).

~ "His (Jesus') prayer also was a 'filial prayer', prayer befitting a son or a child of the Father. He prayed, 'Abba, Father,' (Mark 14:36). By pleading your adoption as His child, you will find a fortress of protection through your times of trial. If you were simply a subject of His, all your rights would long ago have been forfeited due to your treason, but nothing can forfeit a child's right to his father's protection. So do not be afraid to say, 'My Father' (Matthew 26:39), 'hear my cry ... listen to my prayer' (Psalm 61:1)" ~

I am no Spurgeon, and I am most certainly not a theologian. Most of what I know I have "gleaned" from those who have gone before me or from sitting under good teaching with an open heart to hear from the Lord. There truly is nothing I can add to the above quote that would do anything but muddy the waters. So let me end this post by saying ...

Be Encouraged, Homeschooling Mother! The Lord Himself is your Abba Father, and He will hear your cry, listening to your prayer!

Day 86 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

TOS Review ~ ARTistic Pursuits Senior High Book One (the Elements of Art and Composition)

The first book for senior high art instruction by ARTistic Pursuits (written by Brenda Ellis) is an 88-page art resource that teaches application, techniques, art appreciation, art history and a "visual vocabulary" (my favorite aspect of this curriculum - more about that later in the review). By teaching twice weekly, homeschoolers can complete the book in 32 weeks (an average school year). This schedule can easily be modified, however; I have used ARTistic Pursuits more than twice in a week and found it very easy to adapt to my family's homeschool schedule. All of the books in this series sell for $42.95 each at, whether you are looking for an early or mid-elementary, middle school or high school art curriculum.

The table of contents page has a list of art supplies needed for each semester. Art supplies are also available at the website, with cute tote bags to hold the supplies in. (Most everyone who knows me knows I really like tote bags ... really, really like them!) Having the option to purchase all the needed supplies for the entire year's course (with a tote bag!!) is a plus for the busy homeschool mom who doesn't want to search out each item on the supply list. (The price of the Senior High Book One Supply Kit is $57) However, the handy supply list in the book also allows for mom's to buy only the exact items they need, as many of us have loads of "school stuff" lying around from our many years of homeschooling (hmmm, can you tell I'm describing myself?!).

This is a two-semester course and can count as one credit of art for the year; OR it can count as 1/2 a credit in art and 1/2 a credit in art history/art appreciation. Some of you reading this may not be homeschooling any high school students yet (or you may be afraid to homeschool through high school - let me say to those of you with that fear, YOU CAN DO IT!!) For those of you who are homeschooling high school age students, I am sure you already know all about credits and credit hours and Carnegie units, etc. Not every curriculum clearly tells you how to give credit for the completed course (BTW, in the traditional high school, once a textbook is 80% finished it is considered "complete" and full credit can be given). And oftentimes, one child might be "heavy" in art credits - in which case, it's nice to know that the credit can be given as art history or art appreciation. Let me also add this ~ DO NOT let any of the above intimidate you about homeschooling through high school. If I can do it, anyone can do it - really!! My oldest child was just accepted to Wheaton College (in Wheaton, Illinois, not the one in Mass.) which is one of the best schools in the nation, often classed with Duke, Cambridge, Brown, and the like. It's hard but rewarding work, and you really can homeschool all the way through high school.

The "Getting Started" section of the book explains how to schedule and teach each lesson. Students also learn to build a "Visual Vocabulary", which basically means they read a paragraph or so in the beginning of each lesson and then are given an assignment ~ the end result is a piece of work based on what they read, not what they saw drawn out for them in the book. My words do not do this aspect of ARTistic Pursuits justice; believe me when I say it is a unique and wonderful feature!! Art appreciation and art history are also studied, along with techniques and application in every lesson. The assignments (labeled "To Do" or "Try This") are in red print, making it easy to see what the student actually needs to do for each lesson. The elements of art students work with in Senior High Book One are Space, Line, Texture, Shape, Form and Value. This is a thorough curriculum and I appreciate the attention to detail the author put into this book.

Student work is featured throughout the book; I find this to be very encouraging! The homeschooled child can see what other teens have drawn and realize this is something they can do, too. It also helps them to understand that their finished assignment doesn't have to look just like the European pieces featured in each lesson.

Each unit contains 4 lessons. Some of the assignments are relatively easy, especially for the high schooler who has taken are courses before. The more challenging assignments take more time but they really do "grow" the student as an artist. Many art curriculums fail to truly challenge and improve the budding artist. ARTistic Pursuits is truly an excellent art program.

I had my 7th grade daughter and 10th grade daughter use ARTistic Pursuits Senior High Book One in order to give a thorough review. Below are their comments.

7th grade daughter: "This curriculum expects me to draw without giving me really simple step-by-step instructions. It has great extra features that have taught me a lot. I feel like I am learning new information with ARTistic Pursuits. The projects are challenging but they're also fun. Art is one of my favorite subjects, so I've enjoyed using this book."

10th grade daughter: "This is a good art program. It stretches beyond art books I've used in the past, many of which can be described as the 'same old, same old'. ARTistic Pursuits gives you a passage; you read it and then draw what you get out of the reading. It's self-taught, but in a good way (kids who've been homeschooled for a while know what I mean by this!). It has solid information about art itself, much of which I didn't know. The art history is also interesting, and it isn't written in a boring manner. I really like this curriculum."

So there you have it from my girls' point of view. If you are looking for an art curriculum for high school, check out ARTistic Pursuits.

Have an artistic homeschool day!!

Day 85 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Monday, March 21, 2011

Genesis Chapter 45

When we read about Joseph in Genesis 45, I think most of us are struck by his ability to forgive his brothers and the emotion he shows as he is reunited with them. His ability to forgive (and forget and move on!) is so much bigger than we glean from quickly reading through this chapter. It's not simply something that Joseph does; rather, it's WHO Joseph is. In other words, Joseph doesn't forgive because it's the right thing to do in order to be reconciled to his family. Joseph forgives because it isn't his nature to do anything but forgive. And this is a complete forgiveness - a foreshadowing of the type of forgiveness we receive from Christ.

Verse 5 (New Living Translation) reads: "But don't be angry with yourselves that you did this to me, for God did it. He sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives."

And then in verse 6 it says: "These two years of famine will grow to seven, during which there will be neither plowing nor harvest."

As the old saying says, the proof is in the pudding (or the proof of the pudding is in the eating). Verse 5 shows a measure of Joseph's forgiveness. But verse 6 is the proof - Joseph doesn't talk about his long, hard years in Egypt as a slave and a prisoner who was falsely accused. Nor does he mention his success as second-in-command, answering to no one save Pharaoh. Nope, none of that is even hinted at. Instead, Joseph clearly states what will happen next. In other words, he has moved on. That is the proof of true forgiveness, isn't it? The ability to actually move on; get over it; take the next step.

Verses 7 through 28 continue with the wonderful story of Joseph's reunion with his father, a very touching scene that would make modern Hollywood-ized movie moments seem, well, lame. Only God Himself could write such a perfect ending to a life story that had so much heartbreak.

The same God Who watched over Joseph as he toiled in Egypt is the God Who watches as you toil in homeschooling your children. The God Who graced Joseph with the amazing ability to fully forgive and move on with his life is the God Who will grace you will all you need to fulfill His calling for you.

Don't fear the future; don't let your past keep you locked in the prison of unforgiveness.

Be encouraged today!

Day 84 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

TOS Crew Review ~ "Who Is God? And Can I Really Know Him?" (book 1 in the "What We Believe" series) ~ from Apologia Educational Ministries

You could describe my title for today's post with the word "thorough". You could also use the word "thorough" to describe the product this product review is about.

For those of you who may not have heard of Apologia Educational Ministries, I'll share more about the company and their products later in this review. And for those of you who have heard of Apologia, rest assured that their worldview curriculum is just as good as their science curriculums are! The book "Who is God? And Can I Really Know Him?" (written by John Hay and David Webb) is the first volume in Apologia's "What We Believe" series. This is a hardbound, 8 1/2 by 11 inch book that is 252 pages in length. Like Apologia's other hardbound books, it is designed to hold up with long term use over the course many years of homeschooling. As you may have guessed, the intent of the "What We Believe" series is to help the reader establish a Biblical worldview.

Not sure exactly what a worldview is? Or why it's a topic worth studying in your homeschool? Don't worry, you're not alone. Let's define the words "apologia" and "worldview" to broaden our understanding.

apologia ~ noun
1. an apology, as in defense or justification of a belief, idea, etc.
2. Literature . a work written as an explanation or justification of one's motives, convictions, or acts.

worldview ~ noun
1. The overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world.
2. A collection of beliefs about life and the universe held by an individual or a group.

So our worldview is the way we see and interpret the world as individuals, and a Biblical worldview in one in which God's inerrant Word is the lens through which we view all of life. The above definition of the word apologia broadens our understanding of the purpose of a Biblical worldview curriculum, such as "Who Is God?" from Apologia Educational Ministries.

There are 10 lessons in this book, and each lesson can be covered in about 2 week's time. Older students can work through each lesson's reading and activities on their own, while younger children may need to work with a parent. My 7th grade daughter has been using the book on her own, and she often shares what she has learned with her dad in the evening after dinner. We have had some engaging family discussion's as a result! It's a good thing for our children to know why they believe what they believe, and to have a faith that they can fully own. Riding on mom and dad's coattails will not gain them entrance to heaven, as God has no grandchildren!

The text of the book is written directly to the student, and the intent is for the child to learn at their own pace with this resource. The New International Version of the Bible is used primarily, with some verses quoted from the ICB and the NLT. The author's tried to reference translations that kept the vocabulary child-friendly. It is suggested that memory work be done in the family's chosen translation.

"Who Is God?" incorporated notebooking in each lesson. (If you have never done any notebooking, don't let that stop you from trying this curriculum; it's a fun way to add a new dimension to any curriculum and is used wisely in this book.) Notebooking generates better student retention than fill-in-the-blank worksheets. Each student can customize and personalize their work and makes a nice keepsake when the book is finished. There are formatted pages available online at the Apologia website ~

Some of the elements included in the lessons are 'Big Idea' (an introduction to the lesson's main topic), 'What You Will Do' (learning objectives), 'Short Story' (seeing a worldview in action), 'Think About It' (questions to deepened student's understanding and life-application), 'What You Need to Know' (vocab words), 'Hide It in Your Heart' (two specific verses per lesson), 'Integrated Learning' (articles based in art, math, science, history, etc to broaden student understanding), 'What Should I Do?' (focus on a certain character trait), 'Prayer' (self-explanatory), 'Worldview Study' (how student's perceive the world around them), 'House of Truth' (a visual model that is built upon lesson by lesson to aid in long-term retention). Again, this is a very "thorough" curriculum!

Lesson planning tips are included in the introduction of "Who Is God?"
along with an explanation for teaching worldview. I should also note that the suggested ages for this resource are 6 to 14. However, if you have children younger or older than those parameters and are interested in this curriculum, you might consider taking a look at it. After all, homeschooling moms are pretty good at adapting books to fit our family's needs!

At the end of Lesson 1 ("Where Am I Building My Life?") there are several thought provoking questions, such as: "Do I have a responsibility to God?". Other questions include, "Where did the universe come from?", "Why do we have to die?", "How can I know if something is true or not?", and "Are there solutions to all the problems in the world?" For a young person to be able to ask and answer such questions is truly one of the best educational gifts we can provide. How many teenagers leave home unable to answer these types of questions? And the reality is, the world we live in is not going to become less complicated; our children need to be equipped with a Biblical worldview in order build upon the Rock of Jesus Christ as they move into adulthood. Apologia's "Who Is God?" and the subsequent books in the "What We Believe" series provide that equipping.

To learn more about this series, visit their website at and click on the link on the right-hand side of the page entitled "Apologia Press". This book sells for $39, as do the other books in the series. Volume 2, "Who Am I? And Why Am I Here?", is available for purchase now. Volume 3, "Who Is My Brother? And Why Do We Need Each Other?" will be finished sometime in 2011. The final book in the series, Volume 4, will bear the title "What On Earth Can I Do?" and will be available for purchase in the near future.

You can also browse Apologia's website to learn more about their science curriculums (which are some of the best available to homeschool families - I've used them for years and highly recommend them), their support of missionaries, look into their homeschool conventions, sign up to receive their free newsletter, and much more.

This truly is an excellent product, but you don't have to take my word for it. Here is what my 7th grade daughter has to say:

"I like the detailed information in this book. It makes you actually think about the questions asked, not just answer questions that are too simple. It also has a unique way of making me think about bigger things in life, like the recent earthquake in Japan, and I feel like I can apply the Bible's truths to all parts of life. This book seems way better for me right now than just reading my Bible - I can live what I am learning and answer questions about my faith better than I could before."

As always, this product was received at no cost to me for review purposes.

Keep Christ in the center of your homeschool today so that your children keep Christ in the center of their lives tomorrow!

Day 83 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Thursday, March 10, 2011

What Does Isaiah Have to Say About It?

This morning I was reading in Isaiah (chap. 55 - 60). I thought I might share some of what I read in the hopes that it would encourage some homeschooling mom today. After all, the intent of this blog is to encourage moms who homeschool and there's no better source of encouragement than the Bible, right?

(FYI - all verses are quoted from the New Living Translation)

"Come to me with your ears wide open." ~ Isaiah 55:3a
When we come to Him ready to listen, ready to be taught by Him, He will teach us. One of the keys to a successful day of homeschooling is for mom to come to the Lord with a teachable spirit, yielded fully to His leading.

"My thoughts are completely different from yours," says the Lord. "And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts." ~ Isaiah 55:8-9
God is never idle and He cannot be removed from the equation; whatever you might think He is up to, don't become so sure of your own ideas about Him that you fail to be amazed when He does things in ways that are totally different than you expected.

"The Redeemer will come to Jerusalem," says the LORD, "to buy back those in Israel who have turned from their sins. And this is my covenant with them," says the LORD. "My Spirit will not leave them, and neither will these words I have given you. They will be on your lips and on the lips of your children and your children's children forever. I, the LORD, have spoken!" ~ Isaiah 59:20-21

Be to sure to praise the Lord all throughout your busy homeschool day; by setting that example for your children, you honor the Lord and teach them to honor Him.

"I, the Lord, will bring it all to pass at the right time." ~ Isaiah 60:c
While this portion of this verse is referring to the end of days here on earth and the Lord's eternal plan, it is an excellent reminder that He will bring things to pass at the right time. That means all things, including those things in your family's homeschool that cause you to lose sleep at night. He has not forgotten you or your children; keep trusting in Him and seeking Him and He will bring it all to pass at the right time.

Lord bless you today as you homeschool for His glory!

Day 82 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Saturday, March 5, 2011

An Oldie but a Goodie

Just wanted to share a youtube video from a few years back. This is a skit done to a Lifehouse song in which my oldest daughter played a role. She is the blond girl in center stage around whom the whole "skit" takes place.

This has been done many times in many churches and has a great impact every single time.

Click on the link to watch the video:

Have a blessed weekend!

Day 81 done :)

Jan L. Burt