TOS Schoolhouse Crew Review

LitWits Kits {Review}

We all know how valuable reading is! I know growing up books were such an important part of my days – some of my great lessons were learned within the pages of great books. I want my children to experience the same thing, so we try to read together as often as we can. I encourage them to read on their own, I use audiobooks when we are on the go and when they have a question about something I always remind them we need to go and “look in a book.” I had never heard of LitWits, but as I browsed their website I was so excited to have the opportunity to review some of their LitWits Kits. What an excellent way to show our kids the great value of books, not just for enjoyment, but also for life.

LitWits Kits offer over 40 titles to choose from, all available in digital format and each kit is made up of approximately 30-40 pages you can download as a pdf to print. Every kit includes a wide range of activities, a wonderful multisensory learning experience. There are easily 40+ titles to choose from, so I admit it took us a bit to decide which ones we were going to use. There are recipes to make, art to create, spaces to design, sensory opportunities, vocabulary lessons, virtual tours for geography and so much more! Since we all have our own learning styles and interests, it just makes sense to offer such a variety to our kids so that they can really dig in and enjoy all they want.

Our first choice (how could we not pick this one?) was Anne of Green Gables. This was my favorite, perhaps my own “kindred spirit” when I was a child, so I had no doubt this was the time to introduce my girls to this wonderful and inspiring character! I was so thrilled for my children to be able to take a virtual tour of Green Gables; to make and enjoy raspberry cordial for themselves. What a sweet treat! There first few pages spoke of props, the value of physical objects to help experience the story for yourself. So tempting to purchase a slate (never thought Amazon would have those) or go pick some branches of lavender or lilac (shame it is winter in Wisconsin already – will have to grow our own to enjoy).

There are academic handouts to print, which I used with my oldest son because he isn’t really a fan of Anne (OH MY!) so some grammar and map skills can help him focus on some “less girly” things. Other “hands-on activities to help make a connection were: A Laptop for Marilla, Layers of Avonlea and Anne, Bedizened Slate Pencil project, creative writing (renaming) handout, props that connote the romance, beauty, and adventure Anne craved (flora, books). Don’t we all need those things in our life?

There is such a great variety to choose from; even some of the activities we could not physically do (props we could not obtain) there were so many lovely images to view and discuss; all of the additional links helped us to go and enjoy some of those moments within the story that are so fun!We also received All Creatures Great & Small. My daughter chose this because (another favorite book of mine from my youth) she just loves animals and wants to work with them one day. Currently, we spend quite a bit of time every month at a local horse farm where two of my four are learning how to ride and also how to care for horses. So this was a fun story to visit with them; I do believe my daughter now plans to become an English country vet herself. We not only were encouraged to make collages but we also learned about different signs and symptoms of sickness and injury – a great opportunity to explore how to treat and provide care for animals (including our own).

If we had a group of kids (and I am considering trying a literature circle) so we can perhaps share some of these things in the future and really enjoy some of the acting opportunities that are present in this one!

You’re a beautiful pedigreed short-horned bull who’s been out in the sun too long.

You’ve got sunstroke, so you stand with your mouth open, gasping for air.

Don’t worry — Farmer Phin Calvert is looking for you right now,

and will soon call that bright new vet to help you out!”

We were also blessed with copies of The Wheel on the School and Swallows and Amazons. These are two books that we are all rather unfamiliar with but both stories really felt like ones that would be so rich and rewarding for all of us! We are so grateful that we were allowed four of these kits; certainly, we will be back for more. I personally really appreciate how simple and concise these are. They aren’t huge volumes that leave me overwhelmed or unsure of how to begin and what to do. It’s all there is a nice format with a perfect length (just my opinion). It’s been our experience, to be perfectly candid here, that unit studies and lapbooks are amazing but sometimes just have way too much. We are really looking forward to digging into both of these although we have only just begun with one. I have to say we tend to really linger when it comes to these sorts of materials. Sometimes, too long perhaps?Personally, my boys cannot wait to learn all about Fierljeppen (canal vaulting in Holland). If we could find a canal I am sure my boys would determine to become masters of this sort of thing. Watch this:

There are some things that really resonate with me; this being one of them. Let’s face it, with multiple kids, at varying levels of ability, different ages, and interests it can be hard to find things that really work for everyone (momma included). This has done a wonderful job of helping all of my kids to get involved and really experience and explore some of these great stories. It’s about so much more than n reading the book and knowing some things. My girls had the joy of making and tasting Anne’s delightful Raspberry Cordial; my boys enjoyed practicing their skills and impersonating the characters in the English countryside, whether as a cow with milk fever or the cheerful and always humming Phin Calvert. There are just so many amazing and super fun ways for us to learn and grow -together- with these kits!

Be sure to read the reviews others on the Crew wrote – with so many kits to choose from – I am

sure you will see how amazing these are and come across one or more that would really bless your crew. 🙂

LitWits Kits {LitWits Reviews}



Ramblings, TOS Schoolhouse Crew Review

Thinkwell Math {Review}

My oldest son is starting to advance in mathematics. Some pretty complex things are coming our way and while the thought of math brings about crazy levels of anxiety for me, I am doing all I can to make sure this isn’t the case for my kids. We were (okay, I was) so excited to get the chance to review Thinkwell Homeschool. Their math programs provide video-based courses to help us ensure that our kids are getting the most out of their learning when it comes to those harder to understand maths. We chose the 8th Grade (Pre-Algebra) Essentials course and received access to the course for 12 months.

Thinkwell Homeschool offers math programs for students from grades 6 through high school, as well as offering advanced math honors courses and college-level math. They also offer printed notes for purchase, for various grade levels however we have not seen a need for this as we have progressed through the course. I suppose these could be handy for some though. There is also a Getting Started Guide to help you get acclimated to the way this program works. I did have to contact support once (I am so not tech savvy) and they were super friendly walking me through it all. I always appreciate a good support team when it comes to using online services with my kids because – strange things happen to us – we need to be able to fix things quickly so we can keep moving before we lose that momentum. 🙂

As you can see from the image below, this certainly covers quite a bit. I was very happy to get my hands on this course because I know there are quite a few gaps in his learning and when it comes to math, we really need to have that understanding before we can go farther. This was the perfect chance for him to really go back and strengthen some of those lesser skills, while also helping us to see where we need to focus a bit more.

This program offers two options for completing their programs: you can work only on the parts you feel are necessary for your student OR you have the option of using a 36-week lesson plan. We are sort of, following the lesson plan, but it still may take more than 36 weeks for my son to really “get it” all. Which is okay. We are grateful for a program that allows us to do so.

The courses are broken down for an official school year but for my son, we just worked as slowly as he needed to. This is all so clearly laid out and organized. I love that there is a glossary so that we can review the terms being used. A math vocabulary is so much more important than I ever thought it could be. I am somewhat ashamed to admit that it took this long for me to gain an understanding of this. Thanks to homeschool – I did!

Each course begins with a video or two, ranging from 2-10 minutes in length. This provides all the instruction needed before your student moves on the exercises. There are also notes here, which we downloaded and put together in a folder for my son to review as needed. There are also quizzes and worksheets. We used the worksheets quite a bit ourselves to really make sure that he understood some of those concepts well before we moved on. There is even a transcript at the end of each lesson (I really like this because it helps me stay on top of what he is learning for those times when I just can’t).

I think my favorite thing about this whole program was the Resource section. This had so many amazing (and FUN) activities for my son to get more involved. This is where I really allowed him to pick and choose things to work on. Mathwords is an interactive math dictionary (and here I was going to buy one) with images and diagrams and tables. Math is Fun is full of puzzles and games as well as interactive activities and who doesn’t love that sort of thing? You can choose your topic and then the activity you want to do. Algebra, Geometry, Data, Measurements…This is a great place for any age and skill level honestly.

Often, even with my oldest, I think we get stuck when it comes to math because they just don’t see the need. Often what we are learning isn’t translating to real life and that can make it tough to really care. With a program, replete with all the resources, such as this, I think our kids help to better understand and see the need for the concepts that are being taught. For us mommas, this program totally has us covered. There are checklists that keep track of what has been done and what needs to be done. There are assessments; grading is done and recorded automatically, online (my house is a mess due to a room remodel so this is a BIG perk right now). I really do believe this can take so much of the stress out of these more advanced things. We are definitely thankful for this program and may very well be using this for future math studies should he need to continue into those deeper areas.

Be sure to see what other Crew Members have to say about the different programs that were reviewed by clicking the image below.

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Let Us Pray

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me bring love.

Where there is offense, let me bring pardon.

Where there is discord, let me bring union.

Where there is error, let me bring truth;

Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.

Where there is despair, let me bring hope;

Where there is darkness, let me bring your light;

Where there is sadness, let me bring joy.

O Master, let me not seek as much

To be consoled, as to console;

To be understood, as to understand; To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that one receives,

It is in self-forgetting that one finds,

It is in pardoning that one is pardoned;

It is in dying that one is raised to eternal life.


What a beautiful prayer we all can pray.

{I do love this prayer from St Francis of Assisi. My plan to pray this each day}


I Woke Up

I spent many years and much time in the inner city of a large metropolis.

I think about how happy and how giving I was back then compared to now.

I woke up this morning thinking about that very thing.

God tells us to go out and to share the good news with everyone.

How much time do we spend inside the walls of a building with others instead of going out to reach those who need this the most?

We are so petty sometimes.. so busy taking selfies and making our home and our children look so perfect.

We need to see people as God sees people. And I pray that prayer all the time.

Lord let me see them through your eyes.

I woke up last night.

Standing in the bag beautiful church and our family has attended for so long.

I woke up.

This is not where I belong.

I am a part of the body of Christ but I am not a part of this.

all of my ears sponge serving the poor and the reaching out to those who were the least of these…

The least of these…

God didn’t save me so I can sit in a comfortable pew. He saved me so I could go out and reach those that have always had my heart…

And then I had an unexpected conversation with the executive director of a local literacy center.

I am not sure I meant for that to happen. God knows.

We talk statistics, we talked about that bubble not so many of us live in whether it’s intentional or not. We talked about the need for many hands to come together. we also talked about the sad fact that there are very few hands.

I was (you are too!) designed for good works. There’s a purpose that God has for each and every one of us. When we pray and we seek His will, He will show us. In a way that can only be of God.

We read about the importance of being willing to give all that we have; how long will we wait to stretch out our hands and say, Here I am Lord, send me.

Tithing and fundraisers can all be good things for the kingdom of God but what if we sought to do something that truly has value? Certainly it’s easier to give money and baked goods, you donate items instead of time.

how much more value is something when it comes from us? We choose to slow down and to make time to help someone learn to read and write. We take the time to help someone clean their home are we provide a meal to h ease whatever struggles someone is currently facing.

It’s time for us to do more and to be more intentional in what we do.

I woke up with a clear message and maybe it isn’t just for me.

we need to begin to make ourselves a bit more uncomfortable. We need to pray for those blessings and then use those blessings we receive to bless others. Not the ones next door that we already know but the ones that are uncomfortable and different.

TOS Schoolhouse Crew Review

God’s Mail: Volume 3 {Review}

For some time now God has been speaking to me; reminding me, “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death (Rev 12:11). I know these bones have been a bit dry, I know that my fire does not burn as hot as it once did. And I remember that there is power, great power, in testimonies. Faith comes by hearing and our faith grows when we hear the Good News and how it has changed and touched lives. Needless to say, I just knew what I needed was to read God’s Mail Volume 3 from God’s Mail written by Ronald Hardin. This is a collection of poems intended to encourage, instruct and comfort those who are walking with Christ; even those who have not yet come to the knowledge of the faith. These books are available both in print form as well as Kindle. For this review, I received the Kindle edition.

God's Mail Volume 3 Book Cover by Ron Hardin

God’s Mail: Volume 3 addresses some rather deep topics such as suicide, healing from abortion, and a variety of every day struggles we face as believers and unbelievers. It also reminds us throughout the pages of promises God has made to His people. This is, most of all, a book for, “saints and sinners, as well as saints with sinners problems.” I love that because I do believe that I am that saint living with sinners’ problems. I tend to be pretty raw, pretty real, pretty awful at times. Struggling, leaning on God as I fight to press on. If I struggle n this way, surely there are others who are messy, ugly, awful and in need as I am.

Each poem within the pages of this book is followed by scripture. Quite a few scriptures, which relate to the topic of the preceding poem. For those who love to write the scriptures, this can be a great way to get those words in your heart and mind each day. Read the poem, write the words. Pray and meditate on them. There are a variety of translations used, so be aware in case you tend to prefer one over others. I admit I am a pretty staunch believer in KJV. I can appreciate poetic writing, flowery descriptive sing-song as well – there is a place for all things. The verses and versions here did fit in well with the poems so it flowed nicely.

Some of the titles for these poems really made me chuckle – Blessing Pirates – Reminding us to guard the gift God has given us. For there are those who come to steal and kill and destroy. We must be ready, we must be alert.

Commitments Door is a reminder of our all to lay down our lives for Him; to trust HIm and put Him first in ALL things. How true it is, when walking through that door, we must be prepared to face – fiery darts, persecution, separation – it is not a walk for the faint of heart. It will be lonely. It will be hard. But Jesus will be with us and will bless us with joy and peace like nothing else.

While some made me giggle, others made me weep – Dead Homie memories of old friends, foolish choices and dangerous ways. Yet we can be free. Jesus made me free, cleansed from all my past – I don’t feel clean – sometimes I feel guilty, anger – so many still stuck – whether pride or blindness – they will not come. They will continue to live until their way brings them death. Some already gone – There is such a power when we believe. Such a change when we give it all to the Lord.

I have been in a season of anguish, darkness – people I thought were friends, watching them self destruct – Feelings getting in the way of sensible behavior. So many friends (family too) that make choices that make me want to (honestly) slap them silly. I forget, I wish – I cannot save you, I cannot change you. I cannot convince you. As we grow we become more stable, more faithful and we receive more than simply “scraps from the Master’s table.” Obedience and persistence can bring us to a place where we can receive those Deeper Blessings.

These poems are short, they are simple to read. I often found myself enjoying one while waiting in a line at the store, in between watching kids skate, or just when I really needed a little pick me up. There has always been something comforting and peaceful about poetry. The flow, you can hear it sing in your ears as you read. It’s like a friend whispering just what you need to hear, just when you need to hear it. Reminders, “pray much for others; plead for God’s mercy upon them, give thanks for ALL He will do for them.” It’s not about me. It’s not about you. It is all about Jesus and when we know, and believe, really believe, we will be free and we will worship and we will serve Him forever.

You can click on the image below to read the thoughts of other Crew members who received this book.

TOS Schoolhouse Crew Review

Elephant Learning Math Academy {Review}

Math. It’s a constant struggle for some kids. For others, it’s fun watching them solve one problem after another as they whiz through things. This has been a time in which we have really been seeking out math programs that will work best for our three older children. My oldest struggles so; he will tell you that he hates math. My other two seem to enjoy it; they quickly learn and understand and do. Specifically with my oldest, I know there are gaps in his learning, mostly due to his reluctance, but I was quite curious to review a twelve-month subscription to Elephant Learning Math Academy from Elephant Learning Math Academy. This program is designed for ages 2 through 16, Elephant Learning Math Academy guarantees that your student will learn at least 1 year of math in three months when the program is used 30 minutes each week. How can math not be fun when it includes sheep and knights, unicorns and donuts? I admit it, I was quite intrigued by it all.

Signing up is super easy; each of my children completed their own assessment and then they got started. This is really nice because it is so fun – it doesn’t feel like work at all. The colorful and super cute characters help our kids to really look forward to, and enjoy, their time on this program.

Once this is completed, you are ready to start “playing.” For parents, we also are able to see our child’s “maths age” versus their “actual age.” And I admit I was surprised at the results of this with my younger two. there is also a parent dashboard available. This is where you can check in and see what your kids are learning and how they are progressing.

There are also worksheets and recommendations offered for how to help our children master the concepts that are being taught. It also helps that the program uses your child’s name as they work within each game. I think personalization, for some children, can make a difference in how they work.

My younger daughter (8) loved doing this – mostly because there was a unicorn game and there were donuts pictured. She did amazingly well as she worked on this program each day. I had no idea but she was rather advanced for her age. Thrilled that she loves math!

My boys (10 and 14) also used this; my younger son actually preferred using the worksheets more than the games. I think there was just too much for him to choose from honestly. But he did enjoy the games he played (the same ones over and over again). This is definitely a low-stress way to master various forms of math that, honestly, we all need to know for life.

My boys especially enjoyed the more challenging games and for my oldest son it was a nice change of pace to see him doing something meaningful with his time online. plus so many of these games involve critical thinking which is a skill we are really focusing on around here.

Not once did any of my kids complain about working on this. again I think a lot of it had to do with freedom but they have with this program to be able to choose what they will do. And the character is make the games so fun! We definitely plan to continue using this one.

This is definitely a great and fun way to supplement whatever math program you may be using. we appreciate the way my kids are able to choose what they will work on each day. This as you can imagine helps so much with giving them a sense of ownership for their learning time.

Be sure to click on the image below to read more reviews from other members of the Review Crew!

Elephant Learning Math Academy Subscription {Elephant Learning Math Academy Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

TOS Schoolhouse Crew Review

Mattie Richardson/Appaloosy {Books Review}

Last summer, my kids all had the opportunity to get to know some horses at a local ranch. Can I just say they loved it? Really, really loved it? Growing up one of my father’s jobs was working with horses – so I spent some time around them myself – learning to ride – helping clean and groom as I was able. What an amazing time it was. What great experiences too! Since my kids have just fallen in love with horses, I was so excited to receive Mattie Richardson’s Horses in History Series published by Author Mattie Richardson/Appaloosy Books. I knew that this was surely going to be something we would all enjoy! We also received a PDF of the brand new Day and Night Enrichment Guide for the Day and Night book.

Appaloosy Books Logo by Autohor Mattie Richardson

What’s really neat about these books is that they are written by and for horse lovers; they are meant for young readers and they were written by a young reader. Isn’t that fun? I think it is so inspiring for our kids to be able to experience someone else’s story like this. My oldest son dreams of writing and publishing a book; my younger ones love drawing and storytelling as well. Perhaps books of this sort can be a reminder of their dreams and a way for them to see that anything is possible. While this author is young, she has a host of talents aside from writing; she is also a musician and a speaker. Again, this is the sort of person I want my kids to look up to and perhaps emulate in some way. Already, my older daughter wishes Mattie lived close by so that they could be good friends.

We received the following books: Appaloosy, Dusty’s Trail, Golden Sunrise, and Day and Night – these are all historical fiction and can be read in any order. Does that make anyone else feel better about reading them? If I can be honest, and maybe sound a little crazy, some book series’ give me a bit of anxiety. Can I stay focused for all six books? What if one interests me more or less than another? Silly right?

Appaloosy was my daughter’s favorite book! As I read she relished being that one little girl who was able to tame an untamable horse, named Storm. He longs to be free and when the Nez Perce Indians give him to a young brave, they become forever friends. Then war breaks out. He is captured and taken to live with other men. At last, he comes to live with Faith, the only one who can ride him. But then he is stolen – Once he is free will he return to Faith? Or run forever free. My daughter loved this story and the bond that was written between Faith and Storm. What a beautiful friendship!

My boys both loved Golden Sunrise and reading all about the Texas fight for independence. We have read a bit about Fort Alamo, we know some of the story surrounding the history of Texas – how fun to read and experience it for ourselves through the eyes of Jared and Rueben. The boys loved reading about the battles and the feisty palomino Cheyenne. We even get to meet Davy Crockett and James Bowie for a time. Exciting and definitely something that left my boys wanting to learn more about the weapons, the fighting and the great state of Texas.

We also enjoyed reading about Dusty’s Trail where expert riders are willing to risk death daily for a wage of $25 per week. My kids were flabbergasted that once upon a time that was considered a good wage. Indian troubles, the Pony Express (that was a whole other trail we went down) so many wild runs Levi and Dusty make together. We learned not only about the development of mail through the years but also the value of the horse both for work and friendship. Together, through thick and thin, we see both young man and horse change and grow in such a powerful way. Who says you cannot learn great character from a horse?

Then there is Day and Night where we learn about the border wars during the time of the Civil War. Women who fought, the elephant soldiers were so thrilled to see, how so much was burned all in the name of protection of people. We meet Shiloh and Tucker – one with the US Army while the other is with a Confederate soldier. Since we have really only scratched the surface of the Civil War this was a great introduction, of sorts, for my children. So much that even I learned from these pages. We will certainly be learning and exploring this time in the history of our country so much more now that we have read this book.

We also received the Day and Night Enrichment Guide – to make this story all the more exciting! This is full of lessons in geography, vocabulary, biography sections and so much more to really enrich your learning. Each part involves questions specific to the section being read. Some of the questions encourage you to research the breed of horse, others encourage you to map out a section of the story.

What is a haversack and what was considered hardtack? As we read, we learn a bit more about what life was like as a soldier. My son was fascinated that the rifle soldiers carried then, often weighed ten pounds (and that wasn’t all they had to carry). Bayonets and bugle songs, drum beats (my oldest loved that – he is our drummer) we explored so much more beyond the pages of this book. Since I know we will be reading these again and again (and getting two of her other books to add to our collection) this is going to get so much use!

These books are recommended for ages 8-14 but trust me, these are so easy to read and so enjoyable, for any age. Especially if you have lovers of history in your family! I was honestly amazed at how well these were written, how detailed and accurate the stories were – I would gladly read these again myself! Be sure to read reviews written by other members of the Crew who had the chance to explore these stories. These definitely “won” our hearts!

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