A Blog Devoted to Encouraging Homeschooling Mothers

A Blog Devoted to Encouraging Homeschooling Mothers
The Burts in 2013

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Schoolhouse Review ~ Activity Bags Science Experiments In a Bag (E-Books 1, 2 & 3)

Do your children love conducting science experiments? Do you need some "lab time" to meet your state's homeschool requirements? Do you, as the homeschooling mother, dislike the prep work involved in doing science experiments? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, Activity Bags Science Experiments In a Bag could be just what you need!

I received a set of three e-books ( Book 1, Book 2, Book 3) from Activity Bags to use with my children in our family homeschool.  The experiments dealt cut a wide swath through the sciences, covering biology, general science, nature, chemistry, and the human body. I simply downloaded each e-book, opened it using Adobe Reader, and started "doing" science! Okay, there was a little more involved than that...but in all honesty, compared to many of the experiments we've done over the years it was almost as easy as 1, 2, 3!

All the experiments follow the scientific method ~ so your child will gain scientific understanding as they complete these experiments. Science is one subject many moms stress about, and having a resource that removes some of the stress can be very beneficial to the overall tone of the homeschool. The first thing I did was to read page 17 of Book 1 in order to learn how to assemble the bags. It's actually very simple. The "Assembly Instructions" were easy to follow ~ I started with a 1-gallon press-and-seal bag (you can use a 9x12 manila envelope). I just gathered the supplies and put them in the bag along with the lab sheets and a copy of the experiment's instructions, Experiment Log and answer sheet, placed a label on the front of the bag (which clearly details any dangers, choking hazards, etc), and set the bag aside for use when I assigned it. For example, the "Static Roller" bag (from Book 2) contained 2 empty soda cans, 2 balloons, and the paperwork. I made two copies of the Experiment Log, since I have two daughters using the Activity Bags. That was all I had to do! And grading is really easy using the answer sheet. It's a pretty fantastic way to teach the scientific method!

The experiments were easy to classify, so I didn't have any difficulty assigning credit to the correct science category because they've already taken care of that! If a particular experiment relates to biology or to chemistry, then it says so right in the e-book! I really, really appreciate that! I found it simple to give lab credit for completed experiments in keeping with my state's high school graduation requirements. Seriously, this is a nice feature. That alone is a huge selling point for me!!

So upon completion of the bag assembly, I choose which bags to assign to which daughter and viola! they were conducting fun, educational experiments. The recommended ages for Science Experiments In a Bag is preschool through elementary, but I found them easily adaptable for older students. By reading through the table of contents in our science books, I combined experiments with daily lessons. It only took a few minutes to plan ahead in this way, and as much as my kids love science experiments, it was well worth the extra time spent on planning.

At times I had my girls' do experiments together, and other times they worked alone. I wanted to try it both ways to see if I could recommend this to those homeschooling one child as well as those with multiple aged children. And I think it works well in either case! We are not currently involved in a co-op, but I did read about the Activity Bag Swaps and I think they would be fun and beneficial for all involved. Ready about these swaps and see if it might work for your homeschool group!

I was very pleased that my children learned while having fun with each experiment conducted. This has become my go-to product for science experiments! I especially love the log sheets! They are very thorough and give  great real-life examples of the scientific method.

To read what others love about Activity Bags product line, click HERE.

To make a purchase, visit

Each e-book sells for $15, or you can purchase all three for the special bundle price of $39.

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

Lord bless you as homeschool for His glory!

Day 234 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Liebster Award!

I received the sweetest email from my dear friend Michele thjs week. What a surprise to find she had nominated me for the Liebster Blog Award! The award itself was a great surprise, but the real blessing was that it came from Michele! (You need to check out her blog ~ Faith, Family and Fridays!)Thanks for thinking of me, sweet friend!!

What is the Liebster Blog award?
The Liebster Blog Award is given to up and coming bloggers who have not yet hit the 200 follower mark. The award is presented by a fellow blogger as a sort of pat on the back "you've got a great thing started" type of award. "liebster" is German for "favorite"

The rules-
1. List 11 facts about yourself.
2. Answer the 11 questions given to you.

3. Create 11 new questions for the bloggers you nominate for the award.

4. Choose 11 bloggers with 200 or less followers to nominate.

5. Go to each bloggers page and let them know about the award.
6. Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their blog.
11 Facts About Me...

Even after 15 years of homeschooling, I still find new things to love about living the homeschool life.
I have four daughters, and one son. (Good thing he is the oldest!)
I love to read, and own far too many books. In fact, reading is my only real hobby!
The behavior of the character Mattie Ross (from the book True Grit) makes perfect sense to me, and I could see myself doing things exactly the way she did...

I hate to dust. 

I love to cook (and occasionally bake) ~ maybe that makes up for the lack of dusting?

We own three Pugs - two fawns (Roly & Mimi) and one black (Jack). They are spoiled :)

My favorite work of fiction is The Four Feathers by A.E.W. Mason. (Don't be swayed by the movie - the book is something else altogether!)

I like coffee - a lot. So I drink it - a lot!

I love amusement parks. Good thing my husband and kids don't mind them either!

Without Jesus as my Lord and Savior, my life would be a total wash. 

My Answers to Michele's Questions...
What is your favorite flower?How did you meet your spouse? - We went to high school together.

What is your favorite post on your blog?
Probably my post "A Word to My Fellow People Pleasers", because it was shared from my heart about an issue that has plagued me for much of my life.

What brings you joy?
My time with the Lord, date nights with my husband, laughing with my daughters, and texts from my son (a sophomore a @ Wheaton College).

Beach or mountains?
The beach, for sure! Most of my family experiences extreme altitude sickness, so the mountains are a no-go for us!

Cats or dogs?
Dogs - we have 3 pugs! (Hubby and daughter have serious allergies to cats)

Who inspires you?
Peter, Jesus' disciple.

What's one completed item on your bucket list?
Visiting Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, SeaWorld, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure during one trip to Orlando. (Actually, I've done this a few times!)

Phone calls or letters?

If you had to wear the same outfit for a month, what would it be?
Jeans and a comfy t-shirt.

What's your favorite movie?
I don't know if I have a favorite movie, but every New Year's Eve we watch "What About Bob?" together as a family (disclaimer - we use a ClearPlay filter!)

Questions for the Blogs I've Nominated...

Can you share your favorite Bible verse?
What is your all-time favorite book?
How many siblings do you have?
What is your favorite comfort food? 
If you could go anywhere on vacation, where would you go?
What sports do your kids participate in?
What's the last book you read?
Ice-cream or frozen yogurt?
What's your favorite restaurant?
Do you park in the garage or in the driveway?
When is the last time you went to the drive-in movie theater?
Blogs I'm Nominating for the Liebster Award...
Debbie @ A Million Skies
 Nicole @ Schooling in the Sun 
Audra @ Audra Marie

 Thanks again to Michele for the nomination! And to the bloggers I've nominated, I'd like to say THANKS for blogs that encourage and bless! I appreciate you!

Day 233 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Monday, October 22, 2012

Schoolhouse Review ~ Eye Level Reading Rulers (Crossbow Education)

I knew what I hoped would happen when my daughter began using Reading Rulers (a very, very cool reading tool from Crossbow Education). But I knew I'd have to give this product a thorough working-over in order to know it was helping my daughter. So I worked it over...and I wasn't disappointed!

Crossbow Education's motto is "Reading Tools Anyone Can Grab" ~ and it's a fitting motto! I received their ten-pack of Eye Level Reading Rulers (assorted colors, currently costs $16.95) and my 12-year-old daughter started trying them out right away. She did a "test read" with all ten colors, and then began to narrow down the options based on which colors were most comfortable for her. She settled on celery because it made the text the most clear to her (I found pink worked best for me - so be sure to have your children try out all the colors to find their ideal match). To determine which one was ideal, she simply laid them side-by-side over the book she was reading and chose the clearest option. They actually provide a suggested order for arranging the colors during the testing phase!

Colors included in the 10-pack are:
Crossbow Education aims to help children and adults who have dyslexia and special needs, and they work to identify dyslexia tendencies and provide tools to help with daily tasks. Their Reading Rulers are actually used in 40% of UK schools. They hope to make more schools, parents and teachers in the US aware of the benefits of their product line.

The Reading Rulers are very simple to use. Just place one over the text and read. It works with either gloss or matte surfaces (magazines or books). Glare is reduced, focus is improved, and tracking while reading is much easier. There are two windows on each Eye Level Reading Ruler (which you can see in the image above). The narrow window isolates a single line of text, while the wider window is best suited for use when reading paragraphs.

I noticed an immediate difference in my daughter's reading! I often have her read aloud in order to gauge her progress (she has some mild dyslexia). The first thing I noticed was that she didn't lose her place, and the second thing I recognized was the increase in the speed of her reading. Mind you, this was instantaneous! Her enunciation and pronunciation skills improved, and she was inverting letters in small words less frequently. Best of all, she noticed the improvement and her confidence took off.

She uses her Reading Rulers daily, and she has switched back and forth from celery to grass depending on the lighting where she is reading. I have tested her reading without a Reading Ruler, just to see if I was convincing myself of something that wasn't real ~ but I can tell you, it's real! She is reading with more self-confidence than ever before and I am pleased as punch about that!

I should also note that the edges of the Reading Rulers are slightly tinted. While I'm no vision therapist, and I don't know why this makes a difference, I can simply tell you that it does. She typically uses the paragraph depth tracking side of the Reading Ruler as she does her school work. But I can see how the single line option would have been very useful when she was a beginning reader.

In my personal opinion, anyone with attentional difficulties, tracking problems, dyslexia, those in vision therapy, early readers, young or old (pretty much anyone at all!) can benefit from the resources available at Crossbow Education. These Reading Rulers really do reduce eye strain, and even though they are a bit over-sized for they type of book adults read (say the average novel), they can be trimmed down to a smaller size pretty easily. My only warning would be to treat them with care - they scratch and scuff pretty easily!

I hope you will seriously consider investing in Reading Rulers if you have a child who struggles with any type of reading or visual difficulty. They have been a real blessing to our family and I am excited to share this review with others in the hope they might too be blessed!

To see what my fellow Crew member have to say, click HERE.

Visit their website at

The package of ten Reading Rulers sells for $16.95.

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

Lord bless you as you homeschool for His glory!

Day 232 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Take a Moment Today...

You've heard it so many times before, but it bears repeating simply because it's truth:  Take the time to enjoy your children today, because this season of your life will soon be gone.

It really does seem like just yesterday that I became a mom for the first time...but in all actuality, my first-born will turn 20 in about a month. Time flies, doesn't it?!

Wherever you are in your journey as a mom, take a moment today to enjoy each one of your children, exactly as they are, right now. Cement it into your memory, because it will mean so much to you in the coming years. Enjoy them now, store up memories for later, and be blessed all the way around!

Our children are a gift from the Lord, a treasure of unspeakable worth. Sometimes when the days are long, the laundry pile has become mountainous, and homeschooling feels overwhelming, we forget that simple truth. Step back, take a deep breath, and enjoy your kids today. You'll never once regret it!

May you be richly blessed today as you homeschool for His glory!

Day 231 done :)

Jan L. Burt

PS - Check out my daughter's updated website...she had a lot of fun making some changes :)

PPS - If you think of it, keep our family in prayer as we continue to face long-term unemployment. We know that all the Lord's promises prove true and we are eagerly expecting His answer to our prayers for a job for my hubby :)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Who Doesn't Love a Freebie?

On Saturday, October 13 and Sunday, October 14th, you can get a fantastic eBook for your Kindle absolutely free. And this isn't just any old book - it's a spelling book that will bless your homeschooled kiddos. But it's only FREE for two days, so get a move on this one!

The book is titled "Spelling Made Easy:  Learn Your Words in Half the Time" and was written by Pat Wyman (founder of If you haven't heard of her, check out her website.

Click HERE for the direct link to the FREE book on Amazon. Feel free to share this link with your friends, and remember you only have two days to get this brand new book for free!

Happy spelling, everyone!

Day 230 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Monday, October 1, 2012

Schoolhouse Review ~ Pearl Harbor (from Box of I.D.E.As.))

Sometimes you are blessed to come across a product that every member of your homeschool (i.e. all your children!) learn from and enjoy doing. The World War II Pearl Harbor educational module from Box of I.D.E.As. is one such product. If I could sum up the way my children & I feel about it, the word would be ~ LOVE!!

A general overview of Box of I.D.E.As. is this:  a variety of topic-focused, activity based learning modules are offered in pdf or print format. Each Box contains 10 or more modules with exercises that fit the topic. Topics available include Salt, Laundry, WWII Kitchen, Pigs, Quilting, Civil War Overview, Eleven, and Pearl Harbor. These fantastic units have well researched web links for further study, and include a devotional booklet designed to biblically examine the subject matter. A perfect curriculum choice for multi-level teaching! Most modules in each Box can be used in any order you choose - just pick one and start exploring! (The exception is the Pearl Harbor unit, which should be studied in order.) A supply list is provided at the beginning of each module, and each Box has a summary test at the end for evaluation of student learning. In fact, it's designed as a timed test to offer "consistent practice for SAT/ACT type exams" (quote taken from the product introduction).

Now that I've given a basic overview of the way Box of I.D.E.As. works, on to my review of WWII Pearl Harbor!


The easy-to-understand instructions at the beginning of each module in the Pearl Harbor Box let me know which pages to print (and on what type of paper), and how many copies I needed per student. Super easy to use! Which means, for the average homeschool family, we're a whole lot more likely to use the product for the long term.

Since this Box has it's modules listed in order by time, we began with the first module: "Before Becoming a Base". And I have to say, it was a fascinating way to begin our study of Pearl Harbor! The initial appeal of the islands was, as you might guess, it's abundant supply of black-lipped oysters and their beautiful, large pearls. Our study in this module took us down the path of pearls - comparing oysters and their hidden treasures, discussing the extinction of different animals (including black-lipped oysters), and more. Using the fantastic web links in the pdf, we completed the first module in one sitting. And we were all excited about the next module!

"Beginning of a Naval Base" taught us how whaling led to a large ship presence in the area. That in turn led to an increase in pirate attacks. With so many U.S. ships in the area, our Navy established a presence of protective military ships. See where this is headed? Our Navy was well-established at Pearl Harbor well in advance of the attack on Battleship Row on December 7, 1941. This study from Box of I.D.E.As. taught us so much more than I imagined it would!

As we progressed through the modules, we continued to learn amazing facts about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the ensuing war in the Pacific Theater, Doolittle's raiders, battles for the islands in the Pacific, and of course the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that preceded VJ Day in August of 1945. The reading is simple enough for younger children to understand, but thorough enough for older students. And the activities and games are really fun. But hands-down, the part of this incredible resource that my four daughters' and I liked most were the absolutely wonderful web links. The videos, historical websites, web pages, interviews, and more were some of the best I've seen in my 14-years of homeschooling. Rarely do I find something that all four of my girls love to use, but Box of I.D.E.As. WWII Pearl Harbor is one such product. I cannot recommend it highly enough, and I am anxious to try some of their other topics.

The content continually impressed me. The resources and references were top-notch. Not too wordy, not too drawn out, certainly not boring! It opens doors to discuss all sorts of other topics during the course of study. And the images they found for use in Pearl Harbor are awesome. I have to give this curriculum a solid A+. Having used it with my 7th, 9th, 10th, & 12th grade children, I can say it is easy to adapt for all ages and it serves it's purpose well. Seriously, I really love Box of I.D.E.As.!

To learn more about their product line, visit them online at

To see what other Crew members had to say about Box of I.D.E.As., click HERE.

The PDF download of Pearl Harbor costs $49, and the Physical Box costs $79. Extra student modules are available for $4 apiece.

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

Be sure to check back often for upcoming topics, such as Pine, Cemeteries, Olives, and more!

Thank you for taking the time to read my review. I hope you will consider making Box of I.D.E.As. a part of your family's homeschool. I promise you won't regret it!

Day 229 done :)

Jan L. Burt