Saturday, June 23, 2012

So Glad God's Got My Back

Well, we moved to Florida three weeks ago.  If you followed our story, you know how everything was orchestrated by God, from the selling of our house to John getting the job at Stein Mart to our being accepted into the co-op down here right before we left.

God's hand in this whole process has been evident to us even after having moved.  While I was back in PA for a week while John worked down here, he had an opportunity to attend our friends' church and go to Bible study with the husband, who is a friend from college.  When John came back to PA for our last week to close on our house and pack up, he said that he hoped Brian's church would work for us because he really enjoyed it.

The week after we officially moved to Florida, we went to church with our friends and found out it was just like the church we left in PA, just much smaller.  It worked for all of us.  We are becoming members tomorrow.  We have joined a small group and have already hung out with them three times.  God has provided a church and an enormous amount of friends right away for the kids and John and me.  I'm especially thankful that John has a large group of guys that he can be accountable to and have fun with.

Our co-op has a forum on their website.  I was able to get on and ask for recommendations for a Christian dance school.  I received a reply right away and was able to sign Paige up for dance classes that started last Thursday.  She is taking tap and ballet technique.  The teacher was so impressed by her natural talent and the instruction she has already received (from Bethany Pellow) that she is considering allowing her to be a part of the dance company which tours as a group to malls, nursing homes, etc.  I'm not sure where all they go, but this special group that is separate from the regular classes does more than just a recital at the end of the year.  Paige loves her dance instructors, although she says nobody can beat how sweet and nice Miss Bethany is.  :-)

I also asked on the forum if anybody knew of any activities for a boy like Nate.  He doesn't like sports at all, but he loves Legos (as most of you know) and making movies.  One of the recommendations was for a place called Bricks4Kidz.  They have day camps all summer long, and I was able to find an advanced movie making class using Legos.  There has never been a more perfect class for him.  He was also able to participate in a summer activity with a group of co-op kids where they learned about the science of building, and they made straw towers and pasta bridges.  He even won a few of the competitions because of his design.

John, Jacob, Paige, and I are all taking Tae Kwon Do.  I have decided to try new things and get over the uncomfortableness I feel when I look like I don't know what I'm doing.  I am learning that I will never know about certain things if I don't just try them out.  It's been a great feeling!

I even found out today about a First Lego League that the boys can participate in.  I signed them up, but I don't know yet if there is room for them.

It has been truly amazing to watch God work through everything.  Now that we're here, he continues to provide the things we need.  I am so thankful that God has my back.  He will never leave us nor forsake us.  He knows the plans he has for us, and it is fun to see them unfold.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Take a Look at IXL Math

Chances are, if you're a homeschooler, you've seen advertisements for IXL Math.  Have you thought about buying it but weren't sure what it was like?  I know I have.  Now that I've had a chance to use it for a little while, I will share with you my thoughts and what it is like.  It may work for your family; it may not.  At least you'll have a better idea what you'll get if you purchase it.
The IXL website says it is "A Better Way to Learn Math."  It also says, "From the vibrant images that permeate IXL's skills, to the enticing awards and certificates that are hidden throughout the site, students cannot wait to hop on IXL..."  It is a very colorful website, and it is full of different topics based on your child's grade.  IXL Math covers PreK through Algebra.

I created an account as the parent under which I placed all three of my kids with their own secret word to sign in so they could work under their own profile.  They were able to choose a picture from a small collection to decorate their profile.  My daughter chose a horse since she loves horses.  The boys didn't have a choice they liked, so they chose a face.

As my kids worked through problems in their respective grades, they were asked to answer multiple choice questions.  I didn't notice any progression in the difficulty of the problems.  When my daughter worked through place value in fifth grade, it seemed to jump between easy and difficult problems.  When Jacob worked through identifying linear functions in algebra, all of the problems were roughly of the same type.  The thing I disliked most about this program is that no instruction is given.  It seems like it would be better for  a supplementary program after the topics are taught using a separate curriculum.  In my opinion, for homeschooling, this would not be a curriculum of choice.  I would not recommend any homeschooling family to use this as their sole curriculum for math.  If your child needs extra help, this would probably be the way to go.  The only instruction comes from getting a wrong answer.  The correct answer is given, and you can choose to have it explained.  The explanations are good and help in future problems of the same kind, but a child who encounters a problem that they are unfamiliar with can feel overwhelmed.  Even as I worked through some problems in algebra, I was unsure of the answers (because it has been quite a while since I have done algebra).  There also is a lot of computation that goes into some of the problems that could be made a lot simpler and still teach the concept.
IXL Screen Samples
Some screen shots of problems

As students answer questions, there is a bar on the right that keeps track of what they are answering and gives them a score out of 100.  The questions keep appearing until they reach 100.  If they incorrectly answer a question, they lose some points.  Depending on your child's understanding of the math concept, it could take a while to reach 100.  My 7th grader got frustrated with this.  He had difficulty with a topic and had done a lot of problems and was only at 60.  He just quit doing math that day.  When they hit 100, they receive awards.  These awards are virtual items they can uncover once they reach 100 points.  They are things like dinosaurs and evolutionary stages.  My son who was doing algebra uncovered the Cambrian Period.  This would not sit well with most homeschoolers.  My daughter uncovered a skyscraper, a scooter, and a bike.  I personally don't see any use for these types of virtual awards, although I am sure there are children who would get a kick out of seeing what they can earn.

Parents are able to receive, through email, feedback on their child's progress in the program.  That way, they don't need to sit with them the whole time they are working, and they know where they will need to give them extra attention.

IXL is $9.95 a month or $79 a year.  If you'd like to read what others on the Homeschool Crew have said about IXL Math, go here  If you'd like to contact IXL, you can reach them at 855-255-8800.  Their company headquarters is at IXL Learning, 777 Mariners Island Boulevard, Suite 600, San Mateo, CA, 94404.  You can also email them at

DISCLAIMER: I received this product free of charge in order to use it and provide an honest review of it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Nature Magazine for Christians

I had the privilege of reviewing a year's worth of issues of 


I have seen this magazine advertised in various Christian publications and online but never subscribed to it because I didn't want to spend the money when I didn't know if I'd like it or not.  Now that I've seen it, I can tell you that it is truly a beautiful magazine with many different types of articles.  It works very well with homeschooling because the articles are not just about nature, but they include science facts about animals and habitats.  They include history as well.  There is a great deal of learning included in this magazine, most importantly, biblical learning.  The back of the magazine says, "Dedicated to sharing the wonders of God's creation in nature, in Scripture, and in Living."

PhotobucketThe magazine is, hence, broken up into three sections: In Nature, In Scripture, and In Living.  The "In Nature" section has articles about different things in nature: animals, trees, places to visit, etc.  Again, the photos are stunningly beautiful.  The articles are interwoven with Scripture in very descriptive and easy to follow and understand ways.  I am an aspiring writer and hope to some day be able to write as vividly as the writers who are in this magazine.  "In Scripture" looks at Scripture first and then applies various aspects of creation to the topic.  The series in these four issues I received was on Creation Week.  Aftre the main article in this section, there is a page that talks about creation highlights.  There are a few very short articles, just a few paragraphs, which provide "capsules on Creation to encourage the pursuit of Bible-based convictions."  One story debunked the myth that the missing day of Joshua 10 had been found.  The other page in this section is about creation stewardship.  It provides tips for living in a way that we are being good stewards of creation.  I really enjoyed the Highlights page and the Stewardship page.  Finally, the section entitled "In Living" contains articles called, "My Walk with God," where the writer shares an understanding of life they have experienced while in communion with God; it almost reads like a sermon illustration.  This section also has 3 recipes.  I haven't tried any of them yet, but they look absolutely delicious.  They are printed in the magazine in such a way that they can be cut out and used as recipe cards.  My only complaint about the magazine is that they should have more recipes.  ;-)  The is a children's story towards the back of the magazine.  The font size on the children's story is bigger, so it is easier for them to read it.  The youth have a photo contest in each magazine that gives away monetary prizes.  Even photos that don't win get a consolation prize.

One of the things that I love most about this magazine is the instructional guide at the end.  It lists the articles in the magazine that can be used as devotional readings and then has questions for each article so that any reader, especially a homeschool student, can dig deeper and get more from what they read than just time spent reading.  There are some activities also that are purely for fun.

This magazine is priced at $19.95 for one year (four issues), which in my opinion is completely worth it.  The quality of the writing and the pictures, the quality with which this magazine is put together, and the attention to Scripture and teaching that Scripture to the rest of us is God-glorifying.

There is a discount when more than one year is purchased at a time.  A 2-year subscription is $37.95, and a 3-year subscription is $53.95.

There are a few advertisements in the magazine, but they are for creation products, homeschool products, and products for wholesome living.  The magazine is predictable in the sense that everything is laid out in the same way in each issue, virtually on the same page in each issue.  This makes it nice because once you've been through 2 or 3 issues, you can find what you're looking for very easily.

Creation Illustrated offers a free issue to help you decide if you want to subscribe.  Through this blog, you can click to receive your free copy or you can simply go to the Creation Illustrated website and request it.  I'm certain you will be amazed as much as I was.  Not only is it beautiful to look through, but it teaches so many things.  It is an invaluable resource, especially with children.  It easily captivates their attention.  I had my children read it themselves, but I think even more could be gained from using the whole thing as a devotional or teaching tool and reading everything together.


If you have further questions, you can contact Creation Illustrated at 530-269-1424 Monday through Friday from 9-5 Pacific Time or at their address which is

Creation Illustrated
PO Box 7955
Auburn, CA  95604-7955

You can also email them at

See what others are saying about Creation Illustrated at

DISCLAIMER: I received this product free of charge in order to use it and provide an honest review.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Pearson Homeschooling - Reading Street


Are you looking for a reading curriculum for your children for next year?  I will be reviewing Reading Street, which I received to use with Paige (5th grade).  I will try to provide as much information as possible so you can make a decision as to whether this product will work with your child(ren).

Pearson Homeschool is a branch of Pearson School PreK-12 Education.  The homeschool branch of this company has given a great deal of thought to how their products will work in the realm of homeschooling.  They provide reading programs, math programs, science, and social studies.  They also try to make their products affordable, understanding that the typical homeschooling family does not have a lot of money to spend on curriculum.  I will speak to the Reading Street curriculum which I used and leave the other products to you to view on their site.

The grade 5 Scott Foresman Reading Street bundle includes a student edition package (2 volumes), a teacher resource DVD, "Guide on the Side" instruction book, an ExamView CD for creating tests, and a parent guide.  All of these items are included in the bundle when purchasing from Pearson Homeschool.  The price is $124.99.  There are quite a few items that could be used in conjunction with this reading program that can be found at the Pearson School Reading Street Common Core page, but they are not necessary.

The Scott Foresman Reading Street curriculum is used from 1st grade through 6th grade, each year being slightly different based on the needs of the students in those grades.  After 6th grade, curriculum from Prentice Hall is used.  There is also Reading Street that teaches grammar and spelling.

Paige is probably my most difficult child to teach.  She has her own idea of what she likes and does not like to do when it comes to school.  If she does not like something, she fights me tooth and nail to do even a little bit.  This curriculum was no different.  It did not work for us, although part of the reason could be that it is summer and we are not doing a full course of school right now.  There are, however, a lot of things I do like about it.  Chances are it would work for you much better if you have a child who is a little less head strong.  <sigh>

The parent guide explains the purpose of each component.  It talks about creating lesson plans.  While lesson plans aren't provided, the table of contents provides a breakdown of what is taught for each unit during each week of the unit.  You can use these as a basis for creating your lesson plans.  There is a chart in the "Guide on the Side" that gives you a "pacing schedule."  Of course, as a homeschooler, you know that you adapt to the needs of your child and may not find this pacing schedule useful, but it is there if you would rather have everything planned out for you.  I had a hard time understanding the "Guide on the Side."  It is really geared towards a classroom setting.  The whole Reading Street curriculum is for sale on the Pearson PreK-12 education site.  Pearson Homeschool seems to have just taken this curriculum from the PreK-12 education site.  While the price is significantly reduced from the education page, it doesn't seem to be geared specifically towards homeschoolers.  For me, it is too much like the type of curriculum a public school teacher would use.  There are a lot of activities for 2 or more students or an entire group.  The "Guide on the Side" provides support for grouping and managing small groups, research-based routines, embedded professional development, and so on.

As a homeschool teacher, I am not looking for anything to complicate my teaching.  I have become pretty adept at adapting a bare-bones curriculum to my children's needs or developing my own curriculum.  There are homeschoolers who would rather have the year mapped out.  This curriculum might be a great one for those of you in this group.  I really am not sure the "Guide on the Side" is needed.  Perhaps something else could be written that would be more appropriate for homeschoolers.

The teacher resource DVD has a lot of things on it that are for a group of students, but it also has practice books for each unit.  I do like these.  They are simply worksheets that teach more concepts about grammar and writing and are usually based on the main story in the unit.  There are worksheets located under the Digital Whiteboard Transparencies section of this DVD.  There are student and teacher sheets.  I would print out the student ones.  The teaching methods and stories are current.  There is a story about Bethany Hamilton, the surfer.  There are activities that require looking up web sites.  Of course parental supervision would be necessary in this case.  In the text, there are a lot of activities for reading and giving directions.  One is about folding the flag.  Who ever learns that anymore?  I love that that is included in this book.

This curriculum includes spelling, grammar, writing, reading, comprehension, etc., and includes a lot of activities, especially with the teacher resource DVD.  I would recommend the parent read the stories first that are included in the book and be ready to either skip them or discuss them with your child(ren).  One story talks about a Chinese tale of the origin of the earth.  There are a lot of stories, however, that teach concepts that work very well if teaching from a Christian perspective, things that all people should practice, like gratitude.

I have obviously not been through the entire curriculum with Paige yet, but because of the wealth of information and abundance of learning activities that are included in this curriculum I will continue using it.  Hopefully once we enter into the formal school year with all other subjects being taught she will be more inclined to work through this book.  I will not use the "Guide on the Side."  I find no use in it myself.

I feel like this review will never end.  There are truly many wonderful things about this curriculum even though it isn't geared towards homeschoolers.  It can most definitely be adapted.  There are science topics, historical topics, folktales, beautiful illustrations, life-saving reading like one about survival tips, sports history, cultures around the world, poetry, etc., etc.

With that all being said, I'm not sure I'd spend $124.99 on it.  I don't usually spend that much on any one curriculum.  If you are looking for something, however, that includes all areas of language arts and can be used for other children you may have who are younger, this is definitely something you should look into owning.  The DVDs are invaluable, but, like I said, the "Guide on the Side," for me was pointless.  I just don't spend that much time trying to read something like that.  I like my curriculum to be fairly self-explanatory as to its use.

Read what the rest of the Crew had to say about Pearson Homeschooling at

DISCLAIMER:  I receive this product free of charge in order to provide an unbiased review.