A Blog Devoted to Encouraging Homeschooling Mothers

A Blog Devoted to Encouraging Homeschooling Mothers
The Burts in 2013

Friday, July 27, 2012

Schoolhouse Review Crew ~

Since I write product reviews as a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew (associated with The Old Schoolhouse Magazine), I probably am a bit biased about (also associated with The Old Schoolhouse Magazine). But I am going to work really hard to keep this review unbiased! So my official unbiased opinion is that SchoolhouseTeachers is terrific.

Here's why I feel that way:

     At, you have access to a huge variety of homeschool lessons, first-class teachers, awesome planners for your every need, digital issues of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, daily items (called Schoolhouse Dailies), monthly themes, encouraging and useful resources galore (Schoolhouse Libraries), and much, much more. In fact, there is so much available at SchoolhouseTeachers that you simply cannot use it all. But that's one of it's selling points; you have plenty to choose from, so you can pick what you want to use in your homeschool.

Some ideas of what I used with my kiddos include the Map Assignments (specifically The Boxer Rebellion). It was a snap to use, which is great for us since we don't do full-time school during the summer months. The assignments are divided into grade levels, so each child just does the work listed for their grade. I also printed out some math fact sheets, just because it's a good idea to review math facts over the summer to help with mastery and retention. I also used several grammar worksheets and even chose to laminate a couple of them for use during our normal school year. Keep in mind that this is how I utilized the first week I had access to the website. As I have been planning for the upcoming academic year, I have found a whole lot of resources that I will implement! And right now, you can find Summer Olympics lessons in the Schoolhouse Dailies category. The summer games only happen once every four years - you don't want to miss out on the chance to enjoy them as a family while learning at the same time!

I have mentioned a couple of the categories you can access at Here is a complete list of the main categories ~ Schoolhouse Teachers, Schoolhouse Dailies, Schoolhouse Extras, Schoolhouse Libraries, Schoolhouse Site Tour, and Schoolhouse Samples. These are listed at the top of the webpage, and have drop down menus that reveal all the content within each category. And trust me, there is a whole lot of content! Subjects like history, geography, home economics, monthly reading lists, chemistry, high school math, lapbooking, art lessons, grammar, music, can be found at SchoolhouseTeachers. There is even a new ebook available every month! And all the back issues of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine digital edition are at the website too. I found that I can quickly read an article or two from the magazine while my students work on an assignment. It's a terrific way to be encouraged in my day to day life as a homeschool mom!

Now the really huge feature that is available via is the top-notch, fully customizable 2012-2013 planners. These are the neatest things ever! Choose from the Schoolhouse Planner, the Schoolhouse Special Learners Planner, the Schoolhouse Primary Planner, the Schoolhouse Intermediate Planner, the Schoolhouse High School Planner, or use them all! Forms, articles, calendar, planning pages, transcripts, spelling & grammar rules, Bible lists, the Periodic Table of Elements, chore charts, US Presidents, grocery lists, meal planning charts, articles, IEP pages, medical and therapy forms, task analysis, story starters, recipes, field trip reports, career ideas, community service forms, Bible memorization, and tons more can be printed off to make your own perfect planner. And of course, you can make one for each of your children. Print what you want, leave what you don't need, put it in a three-ring binder and you have a planner containing everything you need and nothing you don't!

All this is available for the amazing  price of $5.95/month. And the first month is only $1!

Check out the website at

And read what other Crew members had to say HERE.

Thanks for reading this product review & God bless you and your family!

(Disclaimer - I received access to this website free of charge for review purposes. All opinions shared on this blog are solely my own.)

Day 207 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Schoolhouse Review Crew ~ Zane Education

This product review for the Schoolhouse Crew has been a real treat. Zane Education provided me with a 12-month online Gold membership to their educational website, As soon as I logged in and set up my family's account, I pretty much loved what Zane Education has to offer. My mind started buzzing with ideas about all the ways I could use this massive resource in our homeschool!

Zane Education offers the only library of online education videos, which were developed to teach a variety of school subjects. 260 + topics are covered, with lesson plans, quizzes and more. It is an exhaustive, thorough resource. And they offer excellent customer service, too!

When you log into your Zane Education account you will see tabs for "Videos", "Study Centre", and "Quizzes". These are the three tabs my family has used primarily. There are also tabs toward the left side of the screen that say "Classroom", "Home Education", "Special Needs", and "Extra Curriculum". Those were features we used less - but not because they're not worth using! Simply because there is so much at Zane Education, we couldn't possibly use it all before it was time to write the review! You really do get a lot for your money with Zane Education.

The "Study Centre" has a World Fact Book, Video Glossary, Zane Dictionary, Zane Thesaurus, Zane Encyclopedia, as well as catalogs and downloads. Using the dictionary and thesaurus, you can search by letter or by word; the encyclopedia works the same way. And there is a keyword search, so you can type in "hints" if you're not totally sure what you're looking for (as is the case with me much of the time!).

The online educational videos really are the meat of Zane Education's website. Here you will find an excellent assortment of videos sorted both by subject and by grade level. A clear description of how best to use the videos can be found on the "Videos" page, and their idea that these videos are the "missing piece" in many children's education bears some weight. After all, if your child is primarily a visual learner, then videos are the ideal learning method, right? And if you have an auditory learner, well, listening to the videos will certainly be beneficial. And if you need a video to supplement certain subject matter with any type of learner, Zane Education probably has that topic covered! I quickly found videos on Ancient Egypt and the Kansas-Nebraska Act that fit perfectly with some of my lesson plans. And whenever I needed a video for a certain subject, I used the video glossary. Find the video, click the video link, watch the video - it's that simple!

The "Quizzes" section is divided by age from elementary through adult. From there the topics are divided by subject. It's pretty easy to find what you're looking for. I found that the Library Tools quizzes were a great way to asses and reinforce my children's research skills during the summer months. The American History quizzes were my personal favorite - and I was pretty surprised by what I did and didn't know! These are very thorough quizzes and doing well on them indicated a higher level of understanding re: a specific topic than that of most adults.  And the catalogs contained a gem titled "Christian Learning Guide" that is a pretty good resource for Christian homeschoolers using this site. There is also a math video catalog that I found very helpful.

One excellent and easy way to use the "Quizzes" is to choose a quiz, then look at the information bar on the right-hand side of the web page. There you will find Quiz Info, Related Videos (watch them prior to taking the quiz), and Quiz Learning Tools like lesson plan guides, video word glossary, etc. What a great way for the visual learner to master a topic that they may have struggled with in the past!

One note I'd like to share with my readers is that Zane Education seems to support an evolutionary viewpoint, which is not something I am used to finding in Christian curriculum. Every family must handle this topic in their own way - I just wanted to make sure my readers were aware of this beforehand!

There are different levels of membership available from Zane Education, and you can find all of them clearly explained HERE.

Here is some pricing info: Basic Membership is free. Gold Membership is $17.99/month ($197.89/year). Silver Membership is $12.99/month ($142.89/year). Bronze Membership is $8.99/month ($99.89/year). Each level of membership comes with different benefits. They also offer a "Topic Taster" membership so that you can test out their service for 30 days at a cost of just $5. 

Visit Zane Education online at

And be sure to read other Schoolhouse Reviews HERE.

Lord bless you as you homeschool for His glory!

Day 206 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Love Does by Bob Goff (BookSneeze review)

The book Love Does by Bob Goff is interesting. Really, it is. Just not that interesting to me. I really wanted to love this book, and I tried, but it simply isn't really my kind of a read. I suppose I'm just too Type A to enjoy a book like this.

Having said that, let me encourage you to check out some other reviews before you decide against this book. It's a terrific life story and is probably very inspirational to most people (ya know, those who aren't quite as odd as I am...).

Bob's tales about his very interesting life, and his walk of faith, could be just what you're looking for in your next book. Overall I'm glad I had the chance to read it, even if it isn't a book I would ever read a second time. Maybe you'll find it to be a book you read over and over again! Good luck :)

On my 'Page Turner Scale' of 1 to 5, I give this book a 3.

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

Day 205 done :)

Jan L. Burt

A Word of Encouragement for Today

The entire purpose of my blog is to encourage homeschooling mothers. And the most encouraging book I know is the Bible. So it stands to reason that I often share verses from God's Word via my posts in the hope that someone, somewhere might be encouraged. Here are a few verses I wanted to share today ~

     Jeremiah 17:7-8 - "The man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence indeed is the Lord, is blessed. He will be like a tree planted by water: it sends out it's roots toward a stream, it doesn't fear when heat comes, and it's foliage remains green. It will not worry in a year of drought of cease producing fruit."

     Job 23:10 - "But He knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold."

     Psalm 9:10 - "Those who know Your name will trust in You."

     Exodus 15:2 - "The Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation. This is my God, and I will praise Him..."

     Numbers 23:19 - "Does He speak and not act? Does He promise and not fulfill?"

     Romans 8:6 - "The mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace."

     John 10:3b-4 - "He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out. When He has brought out all His own, He goes ahead of them, and His sheep follow Him because they know His voice."

Wherever we look in God's Word, Old Testament or New, the Books of the Law or the Gospels, from Genesis to Revelation, we find God to be the same yesterday, today and forever. His love for us knows no bounds, His good and perfect and pleasing will for our lives remains steadfast. He is the God of the living, not of the dead. And He is fully trustworthy today and all the tomorrows we have until we step into eternity.

Lord bless you today!

Day 204 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Monday, July 23, 2012

Schoolhouse Review Crew ~ Geometry & No-Nonsense Algebra from Math Essentials

High school math. Three words that many a homeschool mother never wants to utter! Geometry and algebra can be intimidating, frustrating, even nauseating. But Math Essentials offers a solution for the math weary homeschool mom!

The Geometry book in the Mastering Essential Math Skills series is an 80-page softcover book that packs quite a big punch for it's small size. This is a quality resource in that each lesson reviews skills previously learned, and it begins with the basics (addition, subtraction, multiplication & division). Each lesson is laid out in the same manner; Review Exercises, Helpful Hints, and Student Mastery. There is space at the back of the book to take notes - which is perfect for our family since I am notorious for having my kids keep a binder of "math notes". A solution key and a glossary (with diagrams!) are also included. The books says this about the method: "Not just a math book, but system of teaching math."  I would have to say that is a fitting description of Math Essentials Geometry! Simply open the book, read the "How to Use This Book" section on page 2, and viola! you are ready to grow your child's geometry skills! It only takes about 20 minutes to complete a page, but those are 20 minutes well spent! (One side note about Geometry - you cannot legally photocopy this book's pages.)

Now I'm going to move on to the second book I received from Math Essentials - No-Nonsense Algebra. This is a 280-page book that contains 10 chapters of algebra lessons. Each lesson has five key parts;  Intro/Explanation, Helpful Hints, Examples (with solutions), Written Exercises, & Review. Each lesson has a corresponding video lesson available online. You simply visit the course website ( and set up an account; an access code in the back of the textbook provides free access to all the videos. The course is written to the student, and there is no separate teacher's guide, so your students can use No-Nonsense Algebra at their own pace while working on their own. I like having the option of allowing my children to study alone, since they won't have me there holding their hand when they head off to college. But I also like having the option of jumping in when I'm needed, and the short  (8-10 minutes each) but thorough videos allow me that freedom. After watching the video, the student completes the lesson in the workbook. All solutions are available in the back of the book. At the end of each chapter is a Chapter Review and a comprehensive Final Exam is also included.

No-Nonsense Algebra begins with simple algebraic equations, so the student who is new to algebra does not need to feel intimidated by higher math...and neither does the homeschooling mom!  Topics covered include Tools for Algebra, Solving Equations, Graphing, Linear Equations, Solving & Graphing Inequalities, Polynomials, Rational Expressions, Radical Expressions & Geometry, Quadratic Equations, and Word Problems. This is a full algebra course that can be counted for full high school credit. And there's even a free iPhone app available!

The author (Richard W. Fisher) strongly suggests writing down every single problem and then working each one step by step. I agree with him 100%. This practice cements learning and really will enable your student to get a handle on algebra. Each lesson is short - no wasted time on busy-work here! - and the online video lessons really are terrific. In fact, I think the videos make this program a winner! Having several different learning styles among my children (visual, kinesthetic, auditory) means that a traditional math textbook isn't always quite enough. I can use the videos to suit our need by having my visual learners watch the videos, my auditory learners get to hear the lesson taught aloud while watching the videos, and my hands-on learners work the problems along with the video. I also found the videos helpful for reviewing topics with my older daughters. They're just a terrific resource to have.

Mr. Fisher encourages the students to "write that down" as he teaches the video lessons. I LOVE that!! Mostly because I am always harping on them to write out all of their work and keep their math notes updated. This curriculum fits our family's homeschool needs and I really hope you take the time to check it out and read the reviews of other Schoolhouse Review Crew bloggers.

Visit the company website @

The Geometry book sells for $11.95 and No-Nonsense Algebra sells for $27.95. Yes, those prices are correct. Yes, that's a crazy-good price for a full year of high school math with access to online video lessons. And right now, with any order, customers will receive a free A+ Math Homework Kit (a $4.99 value). 

To read what my friends at the Crew have to say about Math Essentials, click HERE.

Disclaimer ~ I received these products free of charge for review purposes. All opinions shared here are my own.

Lord bless you and your family today!

Day 203 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Carnival Of Homeschooling

When you were a kid, didn't you just love it when a carnival came to town and set up shop in a parking lot or field on the edge of town? You had to enjoy it while it lasted, because it was only there for a short time before moving on to it's next temporary location.

The Carnival of Homeschooling is a little like old-time carnivals in that it changes it's location on the world wide web. But the fun, educational, insightful and encouraging blog posts shared at the Carnival of Homeschooling never grow stale (like, say, popcorn from the state fair).

To see what the Carnival of Homeschooling is all about, you can visit the current carnival HERE.

Why not enjoy a fun carnival for homeschooling moms in the comfort of you home on a hot summer afternoon? Sounds pretty great to me!

Day 202 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Schoolhouse Review Crew ~ Knowledge Quest TimeMaps (for PC)

Before I get into all the reasons I love TimeMaps (from Knowledge Quest), let me give you all the basic information. The best way to describe this terrific product is straight from their website:
“TimeMaps are computer software files that use Flash – a free program from Adobe. Maps are shown in chronological order at the click of a button and progress at your timing, showing how civilizations, countries and continents have changed over time. Quizzes and encyclopedic entries are included and can be turned on and off at your discretion. TimeMaps are a work in progress with many Ancient and Medieval civilizations having reached completion with more historical topics on the way."

The subjects covered in the TimeMaps bundle I received are Ancient China, The Rise of the Roman Empire, The Fall of the Roman Empire, The Rise of Islam,  The Black Death,European Exploration, and Atlantic Slave Trade. Each of these titles can be purchased individually or as a complete set. (Prices and ordering information follow at the end of this review.)

Timelines and maps are wonderful tools to use when teaching history and geography in a homeschool setting. The animated maps allow students to click and learn more about certain places and cultures, and to move on to the next phase of history for the region being studied. Questions are available to help cement what has been learned. For the visual learner, this is an excellent resource. The map commentaries are fantastic, and the content is fascinating (even if you aren't a history nut!)

The maps simply follow the course of history so that the student can move along through time and see how certain events changed the lay of the land from a historical point of view. And since there is no set amount that must be done in one sitting, you can easily assign more for your older students and less for the younger ones.

Now I'd like to share with you how we used TimeMaps in our homeschool - hopefully you will catch a little of my enthusiasm and give Knowledge Quest a whirl in your homeschool!

The era of history we dug into right away was "The Black Death". I studied the Teacher Guide before assigning any work to my kids (ages 12, 14, 16, and 17). I was pleased very pleased with the content as well as the ease of use. Most studies on the Black Death focus on England primarily, perhaps with an overview of Europe as a whole. But Knowledge Quest TimeMaps let us study the plague's broader impact on all of the Old World. Did you know China and India have records of large scale plagues in the 1340's? This product allowed me to expand my understanding of the Black Death, which in turn helps me as the "teacher" to guide my children into deeper understanding.

Using TimeMaps to teach my kids was not only easy, it was also a lot of fun. "Watching" the advance of bubonic plague year-by-year allowed them to step back in time (well, sort of!). As the disease traveled along trade routes, it's impact was tremendous. By 1349 the plague covered all the major population centers of the Old World. And history changed along with the plague; in China, for example, the Mongol reign crumbled, opening the door for the Mind dynasty and age of emperors.

You can learn more about their variety of products, request a free MapTrek Sampler, read their blog, find apps or classes, and more at their website,

You can also take a TimeMaps tour at

The complete set of TimeMaps sells for $44.95 as a download for Windows or Mac, or individually for $9.95 apiece.

To see what other Schoolhouse Review Crew bloggers think of Knowledge Quest, click HERE.

As for what we'll learn next from TimeMaps, well, with this curriculum I can be certain that it will be more than I bargain for!

(Disclaimer ~ I received this product free of charge for review purposes. All opinions shared here are solely my own.)

 Day 201 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Sunday, July 15, 2012

So, Why Do You Homeschool Anyway???

My answer to this question varies, often with my mood. My "funny" answer is, "I homeschool because I'm pretty much insane." or "I love the sound of chaos in the morning."  My "if-one-more-person-asks-me-about-socialization" answer is, "If the behavior of kids on class field trips is an indicator of acceptable social behavior, then the system works just great. However, if you prefer well-behaved children who show respect toward their elders and use words like please and thank you, then you may want to rethink the whole socialization question." But if I'm answering the why do you homeschool question from my heart, I'll tell you it's because the Lord called me to homeschool. I homeschool, in essence, out of obedience to Him. At it's core, it really is that simple.

I have always said that I would stop homeschooling any time the Lord wanted me to, for any one of my five children. And I really mean that - because through all the highs and lows of the homeschool lifestyle, all I really want to do is glorify the Lord.

When my son was 15, just before his sophomore year of high school, we enrolled him as a dual enrollment student at Friends University (located in our hometown of Wichita, Kansas). Once we felt certain that this was a part of God's plan for our son, we moved forward, had him take the required tests to be accepted at such a young age, and I added a little more driving time into our homeschool day. He continued to take classes at Friends through his senior year, and was able to transfer those credit hours to his transcript at Wheaton College (where he will begin his sophomore year in August). It worked perfectly for him.

Our oldest daughter will be a senior in high school this year, and she will take her first classes at Friends this fall. God's plan for her has been different than His plan for her brother, and as we seek His will for each of our children, He leads us on the best path for each one. I don't anticipate a "cookie cutter" experience for my five children - that is, not if I am actively seeking the Lord as I pay careful attention to their gifts, abilities and needs.

The reasons families choose home education are as varied as the books on my homeschool shelf, but for me there really is only one reason...because a loving God told me it was best for me and the children He blessed me with. And after 15 years of homeschooling, I can say with assurance that His way is truly best.

Happy homeschooling!!

Day 200 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Schoolhouse Review Crew ~ Apologia's "Who Is My Neighbor?" (Volume 3 of the What We Believe series)

This blog post/product review for the Schoolhouse Review Crew (part of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine) covers the third in a terrific series from Apologia Educational Ministries titles "Who Is My Neighbor? And Why Does He Need Me?" (volume 3 in the Biblical Worldview series What We Believe).  My family has been able to review the first two books in this series (click HERE to read my first review and HERE to read my second review) and we were very excited to receive the third book for review.

If I could, I would give an Apologia disclaimer  that reads something like this: "As always, this product from Apologia Ministries is a off-the-chain, A+++ resource. If you want the best, buy Apologia". Yeah, I really love these books!

The first thing I looked at when starting to use "Who Is My Neighbor?" was the Intro: How To Use This Book section. It clearly lays out the purpose of this worldview curriculum and makes using it in your homeschool a snap. It's easy to use, written directly to the student (HUGE plus for my kiddos!), and allows the student to learn at their own pace. Most lessons can be covered in about two weeks time.

"Who Is My Neighbor" contains 8 lessons, and each lesson is very detailed! The hardcover book has 276 pages of material. The companion coloring book is 64 pages in length and is a great resource for younger students. And the companion Notebooking Journal (240 pages) is a terrific finishing touch to this set. The activities in the Notebooking Journal cement what is learned and make the lessons more than just "reading" assignments. The coloring book and Notebooking Journal make this a solid homeschool choice for the visual learner.

The coloring book is self-explanatory, but I will say that even older students will like the pictures in this book. The Notebooking Journal contains lesson plans that make it simple to use right along with the main textbook. Memory verses are much easier to memorize when using the Notebooking Journal along with the hardcover book. You can use the book "Who Is My Neighbor" without the coloring book or Notebooking Journal, but I really like having them available to my students. I had my daughter use the crossowords to review content from each lesson, and I found the book's suggestions of ways to expand on what has been studied were a plus.

Right from the start, this book hones in on the importance of being in relationship with others. The emphasis on servant hood is not only Biblical, but is needed in today's society. How many government officials, businessmen, and parents really make decisions with the good of others as their end goal and top priority? How would the world we live in be different if more people had a servant mentality, living out Matthew 23:11? (Which states that the greatest among you must be a servant).

"Who Is My Neighbor?" continues to explain how to be a servant to those we encounter daily in our families, churches and community. Yummy recipes add to the fun of these lessons. Real life issues such as envy versus contentment are addressed in this curriculum. Topics like slavery and the Civil War are discussed in ways that reveal America's flaws alongside her strengths. Even subjects like the Japanese internment camps during WWII are covered. The Bible pulls no punches and doesn't gloss over tough subject manner, and I appreciate the fact that "Who Is My Neighbor?" doesn't either.

A course website is available with additional resources to help teach the course; the password is available in the textbook. ( is the web address)

As always, Apologia presents an excellent resource for homeschooling families. You simply can't go wrong with Apologia!

The price for the book "Who Is My Neighbor?" is $39. The coloring book costs $8. And the Notebooking Journal sells for $24. The company's toll free phone number is 888-524-4724. And the website is

If you are looking for quality Bible/worldview curriculum, this series may be just what you need. This book aims to help children (ages 6-14) understand what it means to be salt and light to the world (Matthew 5:13-14). I feel it achieves this goal and is my #1 choice for worldview curriculum in our homeschool. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

To read what other reviewers have to say, click HERE.

Disclaimer ~ I received this product free of charge for review purposes. All opinions shared are my own.

Lord bless you as you raise your children for His glory!

Day 199 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Planning During July Makes Life Easier in September

If you're like me, you don't homeschool year-round. I like to end our homeschool year some time in May and start up again in late August. That, however, is our full-time schedule. I am always thinking about homeschooling ~ combing through our curriculum bookshelves, updating transcripts, reading books to encourage me as a homeschool get the idea. And this summer I have been busy reviewing lots of terrific products as a part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, which has been a switch-up for us!

As a long-term homeschooler ~ as in 15 years! ~ I can tell you that the time spent focused on your homeschool in July pays big dividends come September. First off, mom won't feel nearly so overwhelmed when facing the advent of the new academic year. Second, your kids will have a better year if they know everything is ready to go before the school year starts. Third, your home will run more efficiently if you are totally prepared for the school year (by totally prepared, I mean caught up on laundry, have all the library books you need, meals are planned, all supplies have been purchased, etc). And your husband will probably be glad you took the time to plan ahead!

Now, all of the above are solid reasons to invest in your homeschool during July and reap the benefits in September. But the biggest reason I plan over the summer is because it makes my job easier. Yup, it's a purely selfish reason. And I'm willing to admit right here on my blog that I am selfishly motivated. The way I see it, my job as a homeschooling mother is a tough job, a full-time job, a job that requires much from me on a daily basis. So anything I can do to make my job easier come the fall, well, I'm all about that!

Use whatever tools work best for you ~buy a planner that makes your job simpler, use a different colored high lighter for each of your kids appointments and assignments, have plenty of coffee in stock for those slow mornings that follow long nights with sick little ones or fussy babies. As long as you can afford it, and your hubby is all for it, spend a little of your homeschool budget to help make sure you, as the homeschool mom, are ready to face the new year. (For me, that means a good planner, coffee, time with the Lord every morning before the school day begins, and, umm, new pens....which is weird, I know, but I LOVE brand new pens!)

Watch for more about planning in July to make September better in my next few posts. And watch for plenty of product reviews over the next few weeks - I have some neat stuff coming your way!

Lord bless you this July as you seek to glorify Him in your family's homeschool!

Day 198 done :)

Jan L. Burt

author of The Homeschooling Mothers Bible Study 

Friday, July 6, 2012

Schoolhouse Review Crew ~ Hewitt Homeschooling Lightning Lit & Comp (American Lit: Mid-Late 19th Century)

Having used Hewitt Homeschooling products in our homeschool for several years, you can imagine how excited I was to receive Lightning Lit (American Lit Mid-Lat 19th Century) to review for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. I LOVE Hewitt's products, in particular their Lightning Lit line!

Here are the basics regarding Lightning Lit. I received both a Teacher's Guide and the Student Guide. The Student Guide is written directly to the student, but parents should be familiar with it. The introduction explains why reading and writing are important elements in a well-rounded education, has suggestions and instructions, and extras ideas to expand student learning. Students should refer back to the introduction frequently.

There are 8 lessons in Hewitt's Lightning Lit American Lit: Mid-Late 19th Century. Each lesson has an intro, comprehension questions, literary lesson, and writing exercises. Comprehension questions can be used as tests if you so choose. There are also shorter reading selections included in the Student's Guide (i.e., poems, essays, story starters). These selections are in addition to the full-length books that are used with this curriculum (those titles are listed below).

The Teacher's Guide contains answers to comprehension questions, schedules, writing exercises, discussion questions, and project suggestions. Here you will find tips about grading, grammar, style, citing sources, checklists, and more. The books required for this edition of Lightning Lit are Uncle Tom's Cabin, Huckleberry Finn, The Red Badge of Courage, and The Call of the Wild. We own all four of these terrific books, which enabled us to jump right in with this curriculum as soon as it arrived in our mailbox. If you are interested in any of the Lightning Lit levels, many of the books required are common to "bookworm" families, can be found for a reasonable price on, are available at the public library, or can be purchased at Hewitt Homeschool's website (

I use Hewitt in a very basic manner. My students take the Student Guide, are assigned the Intro on Day One, and move on to the first book on Day Two (Uncle Tom's Cabin in this case). I usually assign reading to correspond with the comprehension questions ~ for Uncle Tom's Cabin, student read the book intro and then chapters 1-5. The next day the student reads chapters 6-10, answers the comprehension questions, and so on.  I have the student answer the questions in whatever format I choose. Some days they type their answers, others they write them in a spiral notebook, and at times I allow an oral presentation to answer some of the comprehension questions (this usually takes place around the dinner table so that my husband can be a part of their homeschool day). If I would like a child to practice their cursive, then I have their answers written in their notebook and I grade the cursive along with the answers to the questions.

Once the book has been read and all the comprehension questions have been answered, we work through the next section of the book, which is the literary lesson. This segment draws out depth from the text and helps students become better writers (or at least understand the writing process!). The literary lesson is one part of why I feel Hewitt Homeschool provides a solid high school level writing program. We have had many "good years" using Lightning Lit in our homeschool.

Writing exercises are next - and I suggest you choose several of these. You probably won't do every single one, but the more you assign the more effective this curriculum will be. Once you complete this portion, your student is ready to move onto the next lesson (Walt Whitman for American Lit Mid-Late 19th Century). As you can see, it's a very easy-to-use product, which is a plus for most homeschooling families. But easy-to-use does not equate simplistic; on the contrary, this is a thorough program that yields great benefits to those who use it.

When grading, Hewitt encourages you not to discourage the "fledgling author", and I totally agree with them. Too many marks made in bold red ink lead to a sense of defeat, particularly for the child whose strengths lie elsewhere. Kindness and gentleness are my rules of thumb when grading my children's work, and this holds true for older students as well as younger ones. As my sweet grandma Elsie always said, "You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar." This is true for homeschooling, to be sure!

And as this review is running a little longer than I had intended, let me just mention one more thing before I get to website an pricing info. Hewitt's grading templates are very well done. I enjoy almost every part of homeschooling immensely, even after 15 years. Except grading. Blah! I just plain don't like it; that does not mean I don't do it, I just don't enjoy it. But the templates make grading almost sort of likable for me, so hats off to Hewitt Homeschool!!

You can read what other Crew members have to say about Hewitt's products HERE

To learn more about Hewitt Homeschool, or to purchase Lightning Lit, visit their website at

The American Lit; Mid-Late 19th Century package* sells for $51.98 (package #8073)
To purchase the Student Guide only is $29.95 (item #3440)
And the Teacher's Guide only is $2.95 (item #3441)

*The complete package comes with the Student Guide, Teacher Guide, and all four required books.

Thank you for visiting my blog and reading this review - Lord bless you and your family!

Day 197 done :)

(Disclaimer ~ I received this product free of charge for review purposes. All opinions expressed here are solely my own.)

Jan L. Burt

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Day After the Fourth of July

Fireworks have been exploded, driveway has been swept, trash is at the curb - and the Fourth of July has come and gone for yet another year.

This time of year we pause to remember the freedoms we enjoy as Americans, and the bravery of those colonists 236 years ago. Their David vs Goliath story is inspirational and inspiring.

I am reminded of the freedom we have in Christ, and the abundant life He has promised to us. Yes, this life is filled with heartache and pain. Yes, living in a fallen world is difficult. But we have His great and precious promises, His favor lavished upon us, His love to hold us secure, His Spirit to guide us each and every day. And we have all these things in jars of clay to reveal to the world just how good our God is.

Keep that freedom in mind as you enjoy the summer months and make preparations for the upcoming school year ~ unless you school year-round, in which case I encourage you to keep the faith and work as unto the Lord, knowing that He sees all you do in His name and for His glory.

Freedom is a gift. Salvation is a far greater gift. Enjoy the blessings that come with American citizenship. And share the gift of salvation with those in need.

Lord bless you as you bask in His great love today!

Day 196 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Sunday, July 1, 2012

A Schoolhouse Crew Review ~ Homeschool Spanish Academy

Homeschool Spanish Academy described in a single word ~ WOW!!!

Okay, now that I've pretty much summed up how our family feels about Homeschool Spanish Academy, let me give you some reasons for the "WOW" factor.

Right from the start, the process was a breeze. Working with tech support was fantastic; they made all the set up/prep/techie stuff easy.  Once it was determined that our laptop was good to hook, my daughter logged into her Skype account and answered a call from her teacher, Elda. And let me tell you, Elda is terrific. In fact, everyone we have had the pleasure of working with has been terrific. I could boast all day about the caliber of the people at Homeschool Spanish Academy...but again I can sum it up with the word WOW!!!

Live video chat lessons are done via Skype - if you don't have a Skype account you can set one up for free. The teacher from Homeschool Spanish Academy will "call" your child; once your child "answers" the call the teacher will start the lesson. The first lesson for my 17-year-old daughter was intended to properly assess her Spanish fluency. My daughter has studied Spanish for some time now, primarily so that she can converse with children she meets during her mission trips to Mexico, so she was able to speak with her teacher in Spanish right off the bat. When she did not know what a word meant, her teacher simply gave her the corresponding American English word and taught her how to pronounce it (when needed). She also gave my daughter a thorough review of the Spanish alphabet during the first lesson.

Each video lesson lasts about 50 minutes. During the lessons, Elda expands upon each previous lesson, challenging my daughter while encouraging her. She is an excellent teacher and made each lesson fun, relaxing and above all fruitful. After the lesson, my daughter received her homework via email. She would print it out to study throughout the week, but she would also email a completed copy back to Elda. Some weeks we were able to schedule 2 lessons (which my daughter preferred since it greatly increased her fluency to "meet" with Elda more often). Other weeks we were only able to schedule one lesson. I really appreciate the option of choosing which times work best for us one week at a time; it was a nice option to have instead of simply having classes at the same time each week.

Last week my daughter received a sweet and encouraging email from Elda reminding her that she would be given a test at her next lesson. She was a little nervous, especially since she did not really know how the test would be given via Skype! Elda simply shared the screen with my daughter, read the questions aloud in Spanish, and had my daughter give an oral answer. My daughter did well on this oral exam, and was blessed to see how much progress had been made in a few short weeks.

We have a few more lessons with Homeschool Spanish Academy, and this is one homeschool product our family hopes to continue using. It really is a wonderful way to learn Spanish. Once again, my summation of Homeschool Spanish Academy is simply ~ WOW!!!

Here is a LINK to a video about Homeschool Spanish Academy.

You can find them on the web at

To read why other Crew members have to say, click HERE.

Some price info is below ~

 (Disclaimer ~ I received this product free of charge for review purposes. All opinions expressed in this blog post are solely my own.)

If you are considering Spanish as a foreign language in your family's homeschool, I hope you take the time to check out Homeschool Spanish Academy.

Lord bless you & may you enjoy the warm summer months with your family!

Day 195 done :)

Jan L. Burt