A Blog Devoted to Encouraging Homeschooling Mothers

A Blog Devoted to Encouraging Homeschooling Mothers
The Burts in 2013

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