TOS Schoolhouse Crew Review

Online Times Alive {Review}

As our kids get older, there are some things that we know they must have – a solid foundation on their math facts for example – knowing these makes so many other things much simpler. Since I have two younger kiddos who are working on their multiplication facts right now, I was not about to pass up the chance to review Online Times Alive from City Creek Press, Inc. If you have any kids who are learning, or struggling, with their multiplication tables, this is a surefire way to make sure they have lots of fun while they learn. We used this online but there is also an app for iOS 9 and above so your kids can practice even when you are out and about.

This is an online subscription program; there is no contract so you simply pay for each month as you go along. With lots of catchy tunes and fun animated characters to go along with each math fact, this is a super easy way to help our kids learn some of these more important things. Even my oldest son catches himself singing along now and then – as he is studying more advanced material (preparing for Algebra) he is seeing the value of knowing these facts.

For my younger son, who was the one using this program for the purpose of this review, her started out with a simple test. To see what facts he really knew. I was able to see on his student progress report the number he got correct as well as the time it took him to complete the test. From there he moved pretty quickly through the first few lessons. As they complete more and more lessons in the program, there are also progress checks along the way to make sure that they really “get it.” For some lessons he really raced through things, in other cases we sometimes had to go back and repeat. I love that we can do that when we need to.

Some of these really cracked him up! There was a momma mouse worried about her mice not having any tails. There were army men marching up the hill. One of our favorites was the snowmen who were going camping. These are just so much fun! Even my littlest one would come over to look and see, maybe sing a little bit of the songs with her brother. My daughter loves the thirsty sixes – Something about that jingle really stuck with her. See what I mean? Music really is a powerful way to get things into our memory. My younger son, he loves archery and cannot wait to be old enough to hunt- so the Hunter sees Bigfoot was right up his alley (although he does not believe in bigfoot).

With some of the lessons there were even activities that involved coloring a picture. Now my son wasn’t really all that thrilled about this, but his sister was happy to help out. Personally, we are all about drawing and coloring when it’s on paper and pen but on the computer? It isn’t as much fun – although it can still be a super pretty picture!

This is such an easy program for our kids to use completely independently. And so we can keep track of how things are going there is a student progress section so we can see what they are learning. As we review their progress we can see if there was a movie or song; if they did any coloring and if there was a quiz/test we can see how they did. This is a super easy to read kind of place to go.

I have always found that my kids learn so much better when it is taught in a way that they can relate to. Or when they can sing it. There is so much amazing music out there that helps our kids learn so many different things. I have found that singing anything makes it stick that much faster. The stories and songs are short and simple; the animations that go along make them super fun for younger learners especially. But even my oldest son who is going on fourteen, got lots out of just listening to this as his brother worked each day.

Be sure to click below and read the other Crew reviews to see what others thought of this one. And if you might be interested in this program for your own family, using the code: lovetolearn City Creek Press, Inc will even waive the sign up fee($6.95) just for you reader.

Online Times Alive {City Creek Press, Inc. Reviews}


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Bitter Sweet

For some reason I have always enjoyed a bittersweet flavor.

Who knows why. I have always been a little strange.

I have been realizing lately that church has become something bittersweet to me.

How I love the Lord but how tired I am I’m going through all of these motions and singing all of his songs… I can feel God loathing damn this place that I feel like a fraud.

The Bible says let us be glad to go to the house of the Lord.

If I am completely honest I am not glad. I don’t feel like I belong there at all. Songs that are sung in the volume that they are sung at… It all makes me tired.

I am trying to sing these songs to the Lord but I get stuck. I get lost as I sing wondering if I really mean these words?

I was reminded that this emptiness and stirring within can only help me. These feelings can only help me to remember that my satisfaction in this life comes from Jesus alone.

The scripture “Be still and know that I am God” means everything to me. I need to be able to hear that still small voice.

It it doesn’t help that I’m just not a people person. I can’t smile and be perky when something is bothering me deep down.

It’s all so bittersweet right now. I know that the darkness will lift. I know that he will turn my sorrow to joy. I know that right now where I am is not where I will beware all of eternity. But sometimes it’s sure does feel like a long wait.

Whatever can we do when we feel so empty and so restless? I guess we begin by admitting that there is nothing here that will satisfy this longing God put within us.

TOS Schoolhouse Crew Review

Easy Grammar Systems {Review}

I tend not to worry too much about my younger kids when it comes to grammar. When they are young I really seek to focus on helping them to just learn to enjoy the experience of writing. But as they get older, there are some things that we need to add to their writing skills. I wasn’t really sure how to do this with my oldest son; he is very active, he is currently on a mission to write his own book, but as he does, I see so many things that need correction. How to do this without discouraging his heart? I jumped on the chance to review Daily GRAMS: Grade 7 from Easy Grammar Systems. Perhaps with this simple material, as he works, he can see and correct for himself, to better his work. Without momma nagging, with dad criticizing – maybe – all on his own, he can see and direct himself just a bit.

I love the concept and layout of Daily GRAMS. Designed specifically for review, these focus on reviewing those important grammar skills in only 10 minutes a day. These are designed for grades 3-7 so even our younger ones can learn in a way that fits their age and ability. We received the Teacher Edition of the workbook which includes everything you need. So quick and easy; no need to prepare or fuss. Just open the book and get to work. There are 180 daily reviews that include working in:

  • Punctuation
  • Capitalization
  • Analogies
  • Roots/Suffixes
  • Fragments/Run-Ons
  • Homonyms/Antonyms/Synonyms
  • Clauses and Phrases

As you can see this covers so much! All in one book too. Since we are doing a bit of a major remodel right now, it is great to be able to do so much with just one book. Add to that, my son not being one for “book work” and the short and simple lessons that are in this one are a real hit. I am still not sure he likes grammar, but at least he is willing to do the work each day. Since the whole purpose of this book is to give our students daily review promoting mastery of grammar concepts, I am happy to have material that we don’t have to fight to complete. In a short time, every day, he is slowly gaining greater abilities and understanding in grammar.

Each page is set up with a specific format. The first sentence includes capitalization for correction. The second sentence requires students to work on punctuation. In the third and fourth sentences we move towards those general concepts. In some cases I found this was a great opportunity for him to do deeper study to gain a greater understanding of the concepts he was working on. In these sections there are at times, definitions, or perhaps I should say a bit of written guidance (example, participle – formed by adding -ing or -ed to verb). Sentence five is combining; so this is where students work on writing more complex sentences.

There are also portions of Daily Gram which include Friendly Letters/Envelopes and Guide Words within the Dictionary. These are good skills for our students to practice at any age. In some exercises he also practiced alphabetizing, locating words, and determining the eight parts of speech. So many wonderful ways to learn and develop grammar skills in a short time!

Since my oldest son prefers to work on his own I would give him the specific page he was working on for the day (the answers are in the book – I prefer not to tempt him by giving it all to him). When he completed the daily gram, we go over it together. Slowly. There were times he would catch something and correct it right away with me. Other times I would need to encourage him, ask questions, try to direct him to a correction that needed to be made or redone.

I think I can speak for my son when I say that this is such a breath of fresh air. We love how simply everything is laid out and my son even says the more he does the easier (and faster) he can complete his gram each day. This is definitely not something that is stressful or frustrating even for students struggling with grammar. When we did start to struggle, we were easily able to locate the answers in the back of the book and often that was all we needed for it to make sense. Seeing can be believing at times. 🙂

Of course if you are looking for something that will teach grammar they have something for that too. However the Daily Grams, these are just for review. My son does four of these a week (sometimes five) and he is completely independent as he works. This is one of those things he can right away in the morning or on days when he works, he can complete one in between things. As we become more “on the go” we really appreciate materials like this that can help to strengthen his skills (communication written and oral are so valuable) without it feeling like we are getting a root canal.

There are a variety of materials that Easy Grammar System has to offer; be sure to read reviews from other Crew members since we all had the opportunity to use a variety of their materials. I am sure you will find one that is just right for you!



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TOS Schoolhouse Crew Review

BetterRhetor {Review}

This is my oldest son’s last year (technically) of what is known as middle school. I am not big on grades and levels when it comes to our learning BUT knowing that there are so many statistics out there showing that students are not really prepared when they enter into higher learning, I want to be sure that my son is. Especially since college is something he is considering right now. He also likes to work independently (away from mom) and prefers work that involves actual projects so he can do as goes along. For that reason I was very interested in reviewing College-Ready Writing Essentials™ from BetterRhetor. Sure it’s a little soon but as one who loves to write, why not encourage this as much as we can?

There are 25 lessons in this course for our students to work through, as slowly or as quickly as they like. As they complete the lessons, they will slowly develop their own research based essay. With plenty of direction along the way, before you know it, they will have learned about all of the various aspects of writing needed for the college level. We received lifetime access to the premium level course, which includes Dr. Bryant’s own personalized feedback for your student’s essay, and a full PDF of the Teacher’s Guide. If you are familiar with the word Rhetor, you will realize that this refers to an orator (for writing it is referred to as rhetoric). As I am sure you can imagine, this course is quite in-depth; this doesn’t just teach writing but also an understanding of how each part in an essay, works for the purpose the essay was written for. We aren’t just tossing words and phrases around. Its so much deeper than that.

My son has determined to write his own book directed to teenagers (in or out of the faith) sharing the lessons he has learned in his thirteen (almost fourteen) years of life. In this book, he hopes to share not just lessons in story form but also factual information relating to the search for purpose as a youth, nutrition and fitting in (or not fitting in).

This begins with planning your essay and includes topics like: task, audience, purpose, defining an issue and connecting issues to a concern. I know as I went over this along with my son, I don’t think we covered nearly half of this in my college writing classes. Of course this was designed by someone who was once the Director of Writing Assessments at ACT. I remember the ACT – I hated them, except for the writing portion of the exam. 🙂

When my son was younger we seemed to do so much more in regards to critical thinking and writing. He spent a few years in an amazing group that really helped him learn how to compose information and thoughts for various speech ands debate activities. While life has changed for us, certainly there is no reason that we cannot continue to foster a love of critical thinking, logic training and writing. If you ask me these all go together as well as peanut butter and jelly.

This course is recommended to be completed in about 5 weeks however our summer was quite crazy and so we did go a little bit slower. Each course requires quite a bit of reading (a bit of a struggle for my very visual son) but we often would go over the material together. In fact I even found some old college essays to share with him as we were going along. It was fun to read through them, so many years later, and see the change in perspective both of issues I chose to study and of the form of writing which I used.

At the end of each lesson there are assignments to complete (If you have a premium level you will have additional assignments). In the first lesson one of the questions posted is why communication skills are so important today for any career. Since my son has recently become a working boy (he has had quite a few unique odd jobs recently) this is something that can be a great asset to him as he continues working. There are articles to read along the way as well as videos here and there, so you can better understand the place and value that strong writing skills have. One of the things I wish my son would have used more is the comment box at the end of his lessons. This is a great place to get questions answered, pose a thought for discussion. What a great way to clarify confusion, or just practice your oratory skills.

There are so many amazing resources within this very thorough course. For any student (or adult) who is looking to strengthen their skills in writing and research, this is definitely a wonderful resource. This won’t teach you the basics of writing but this will definitely advance your skills if you take the time to really invest in it. As I have observed my son going through this course I have determined myself, to go through this as well. But much more slowly. Five weeks is a pretty short period of time to complete something of this level of intensity. But it will be worth it I am certain because I cannot see anyone completing this class and not having amazing skills.

Don’t take my word for it though – you do not want to miss what the other members of the Crew had to say about this one!

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TOS Schoolhouse Crew Review

Music Appreciation with Zeezok {Review}

We are a pretty musical family. My younger son is learning guitar; my oldest is teaching himself drums. My two little girls love to play around on our electric piano and I grew up loving and playing music myself. Yet with all of this activity making music, we can sometimes still not truly appreciate music. When I learned about Music Appreciation Book 2: for the Middle Grades from Zeezok Publishing. This set includes readers and Student Activity Book. The Student Activity Book has instructions for creating a journal, and for accessing the many online components of this set. These materials are recommended for fifth through eighth grade but as a mom of many, there are so many amazing opportunities for our littler ones to learn alongside the big ones.

Music Appreciation: Book 2 Collection includes one Student Book and the following nine composer biographies:

  • Frederic Chopin, Early Years
  • Frederic Chopin, Later Years
  • Robert Schumann and Mascot Ziff
  • Adventures of Richard Wagner
  • Stephen Foster and His Little Dog Tray
  • The Young Brahms
  • The Story of Peter Tchaikovsky
  • Peter Tchaikovsky and the Nutcracker Ballet
  • Edward MacDowell and His Cabin in the Pines

This second book in Zeezok’s Music Appreciation series meets all of the national standards required for music appreciation (fifth – eighth grade). This is full of lessons in history, geography, character, vocabulary and there are even recipes in here to enjoy as you learn. Being that my oldest really enjoys being in the kitchen, this was probably one of his favorite things about this course. Each week there are two chapters to read and a variety of activities to complete. Download a QR Code Reader app and you have access to so many more amazing and interactive materials! There are videos (take a virtual tour of Poland), music, interactive quizzes and so much more to make each lesson really come to life!

Since I have three kids who love music and all have some level of musical ability (drums, keyboard, guitar) I was very eager to share with them some of my favorite composers from history. If I am totally honest, I was actually hoping to go through this myself too because, I just love this sort of thing! As someone who is an avid unschooler with kids who are avidly against any form of textbook or workbook, this is that but with a really fun twist! The books are anything but dull and lifeless. This is definitely not twaddle (for you Charlotte Mason home educators).

As we learned about Chopin we also had the opportunity to explore Poland! How about enjoying a bowl of creamy turnip soup or a tasty poppy seed cake? Have fun checking how observant you really are as you try to answer some basic questions about home and family. As we proceed in learning about these great musical masters, we explore their character traits and see examples too. There are even rules of etiquette we learn when we study Edward MacDowell, and have these changed through the years! It used to be quite common for people to stamp their feet and cheer and swarm the stage at the end of a performance. Can you imagine?

With a reluctant writer on my hands, I am always excited for journaling opportunities – perhaps one of these will spark something in my son and get him writing. We did not do as many of these as I would like – YET – There are great things that can be gained from exploring these. Some ask us to consider an attribute in our life that is less than admirable and write about it and the opposite of it – Another asks us to draw or write about something that makes you unique and special.How can you develop and show persistence and how could your persistence affect the world? What an amazing chance for us to see beyond our own nose; even those little things can mean so much more when we see that it isn’t all about us.

A favorite section for my son was the section on Stephen Foster. He really has enjoyed learning about the “folk songs of the American people” even as he noticed a difference in language, words used – a seeming acceptance and normalcy to slavery (which was a real issue in his day). An amazing story to read and explore – it really takes you back – you read and feel like you are there. His story is honest and simple; it is an account of such different times. A reminder of all that we should consider a blessing.

We have electricity and refrigerators. Our children are no longer forced to work long hours in a workday (Ironically this part made my son so mad – at thirteen he really wants to do some real work and is having a hard time finding a place). This is a real story, beauty and shame, joy and sorrow, of long ago that we can learn much from.

It was fascinating learning (and hearing) different types of instruments used in folk music around the world: the balafon, the guiro and the dobro, to name a few.

This video is just one of many that you can find included in the lessons. We don’t just read about with this, we experience it for ourselves. There are so many different attributes to this program; no matter what style of learning your child will find so many opportunities to enjoy learning and appreciating music!

Now my boys have some new instruments they want to find and learn to play. This is learning at its best. 🙂

At the end of each section, there is a quiz on that composer, this includes comprehension questions, some short answers, matching and multiple choice. The answers are provided (I made sure to take those pages out of the workbook myself just in case).

There are also timelines included for the majority of the composers; a great way for our kids to see all of those events they read about. This can be a huge help for my son who is very visual in his learning – he can read a whole book in one day and at the end – he doesn’t always recall it all in the right order but when there is something that puts it all in place for him, it really makes a difference in his understanding of the bigger picture.

There are also lapbooks and a composer coloring book also available (these were not included for our review) for purchase and I kind of wish we had those ourselves. Since we are still enjoying these materials, I don’t know. I might actually bite the bullet and order them anyway.

This is one of those things that I can definitely see us doing over a longer period of time. With all of the additional things you can explore as you go through each story and set of lessons, I really want to be sure we cover it all. One thing we are really focusing on is character in the year ahead and I love how various traits are woven into the lessons. We can see composers who were of strong emotion, others who were hard-working and frugal; how about a man who was such a bundle of contradictions – I am sure some of us can relate even to that.

I have always loved classical music. Folk music too. There is something powerful about the words and the notes as they are played. Stories are told, you can feel so much more. Stories of long ago, give us a new appreciation for what is today, and help us to see the possibilities. My kids have never really been fans of classical music, my oldest especially, but with a course like this, it makes it mean so much more. As we learn about the composers, the ingredients that make up these songs, it comes alive. Experiencing the times, exploring life as it was in their day, in their land, is such a meaningful way to learn for kids of all ages. Sometimes, our child may even see a bit of themselves in one of these great artists, and in turn, be inspired to press on!

Be sure to read the reviews other Crew members shared!

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Your Blessings Not Mine

I was laying in bed last night feeling rather defeated. My husband is sleeping peacefully while I was laying with my little girl who just wasn’t feeling well. I’m so tired but I just couldn’t sleep until she did. And she wasn’t.

Why does my husband get to sleep?

The prayer of faith shall save the sick… I lay my hands on her and I pray. I ask God to give us wisdom and understanding of what this trouble is. I ask him to heal her. Not for a little while this time but for good.

I pop online and all I see it seems are answered prayers. Blessing after blessing. Not that I am hoping to see trials and tribulations but there is definitely a comfort in knowing I am not alone.

I I see all these blessings and all this joy. Answered prayers and faithful friends ad I have to work hard to not be just a bit bitter.

I want to be joyful. I want to rejoice with you but I am getting tired. It feels as though the battles never end. What do you do when it feels like the darkness never becomes light?

I remind myself as I continue to read all of you are blessings that mine are different.

We were able to replace our old garage just in time. Blessing.

We are remodeling a room in our house after many years of waiting. Much work to do but it will be so amazing in the end. It’s a mess but the tim we have for this…blessing!

My my blessings are not your blessings. I have to see the little in each moment.

I I have to choose to keep my eyes on Jesus. I cannot be distracted by what I perceive in others lives. I cannot compare.

There there is so much power and what we think is so very important. It is what makes all things be. If we think on those things which are true and lovely and noble and righteous….

I don’t know about you but every day I seem to understand the need for us to guard our mind. Really guard it. What we see and hear and think… Line it up. Check it against His word.

It is so easy to fall into false thinking. It is so easy to get to a place of bitterness and wrath. To see evil in every thing instead of looking for good. Think not evil … One of another.


Be a Story

Recently I have the opportunity to review a really cool book.

Brave the Page.

I I have four children ranging in age from 4-13. Every one of them loves a good story but every one of them also hates to write.

Maybe maybe you think hate is a strong word?

I I promise you it isn’t. The struggle here is so real. And it happens every time.

I I determined to teach a fun writing class for our homeschool co-op. With story starters and story cubes, mad libs and fun props, I thought…why not?

We each have a story. We are a story.

Perhaps perhaps we become reluctant to share our story of fear of what they will think. In all my years I still haven’t figure it out who they are but I do know that they can be quite powerful.

Enter in Brave the Page.

What a fabulous way to encourage our kids to be brave and tell their story.

Regardless of how reluctant they may be to right they do have a story story to tell. And it will be most amazing when they become brave on that page.