Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Circle Time and how it works in our house. Along with a review.



Circle Time: Plan the best part of your homeschool day.

Written by Kendra Fletcher of Preschoolers and Peace.

$4.99 for the ebook version.

A short 32 page book discussing circle time and including printable planner sheets. 

A big part of my homeschooling philosophy is that we do together what we can.  That has been getting harder as my 4 children range from 4-14. 

We have done or at least tried to do what we called family school every day.  Sometimes it would include books I (or one of us) would read aloud.  We did some games and other activities.  Family school for us is ever changing and rarely looks the same every single day. 

While I got some advice from this book that I am taking into consideration.  The biggest thing I gleaned from it is the planning advice she gave.

Throughout the book focus is given to:

  • Planning a Circle Time That Works for You
  • Strategies for a Peaceful Time Together
  • How to Get Your Kids on Board
  • Questions From Moms Like You
  • Words of Wisdom From Other Moms Who Do Circle Time
  • Resources, Activities, and Ideas
  • Printable Planner Sheets

I can totally relate to it being hard to have circle time with a wide age range of kids.  This book gave me some ideas on things change it up and keep all the kids interested.   I enjoyed how throughout the book were real moms asking real questions and Kendra would answer them on how to make it work.  

This book may seem like it is written for a preschool crowd only in mind.  It seemed to me as if it was written for a wide age range of children. 

I enjoy our family school as being the best part of our homeschool day.   We usually do it right after lunch and in the book she reminds you that it can be done any time of day.  Circle Time doesn’t have to fall first thing in the day.

She also mentioned that you don’t have to call it circle time.  I don’t think my 12 and 14 year old would go for it if it was called that.  We have always called it Family School Time.  Really no matter what you call it, it is meant to be a time where learning can happen together as a family. 

I recommend this book for you if you are new to homeschooling or if you are struggling with your homeschool day. 

To see what others think of this book check out this post. To see a wide variety of reviews check out our crew blog.


Friday, July 26, 2013

Homeschool Programing- A Review


 Homeschool Programing is a company founded by two homeschooling parents who have a B.S and an M.S in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering.   They were contacted by a family member asking which program would be the best.  They searched high and low and couldn’t find one that met their high standards.  Out of that, Teen Coder and Kid Coder were born!

I happen to love their Standards of Excellence:

    • Written by homeschool parents who are also experienced software engineers!
    • Engaging, age-appropriate lessons with fun, hands-on programming activities!
    • Self-study curriculum requires no teacher expertise!
    • All courses come with activity solutions, test and answers, and a Solution Guide!
    • Optional Instructional Videos with animated coverage of all lesson topics!
    • Fast, free technical support for the lifetime of your course!
    • All printed versions include a perfect-bound, 8.5" x 11" textbook and course CD!
    • Professional setup program installs course material on your computer!
    • Graphical student menus allow easy access to all course components!
    • We teach industry-standard languages widely used by schools and businesses!
    • Online Getting Started guides, FAQ, user reviews, and document updates!
    • No extra software to purchase! We use only free development tools.


I have highlighted some of my favorite parts of those.  Another thing that was key for me was that other than basic computer knowledge, no prior computer programming experience is necessary.  

We tried out the Teen Coder Java series for 9th – 12th grades.  This is a self-study computer course.  Perfect for that age.  Also perfect for this mom who is semi computer savvy, but no where near able to teach anything in depth about them.


Teen Coder Java Series is divided into two semesters, Java Programing and Android Programing.

Java is seriously used in so much today.  I pulled this from the Java.com Website.

What is Java technology and why do I need it?

Java is a programming language and computing platform first released by Sun Microsystems in 1995. There are lots of applications and websites that will not work unless you have Java installed, and more are created every day. Java is fast, secure, and reliable. From laptops to datacenters, game consoles to scientific supercomputers, cell phones to the Internet, Java is everywhere!

So as you can see Java is widely used.  I felt it a great starting point for my son, who’s ultimate goal is to create an app. 

Here are some topics your student will learn:

  • Introduction to the Java programming language
  • Creating graphical applications
  • Using dialog controls
  • Java data types and variables
  • User input and flow control
  • Math functions and string operations
  • Java debugging and exception handling
  • Object-oriented programming concepts
  • Classes, inheritance, and polymorphism
  • Collections, sorting, and recursion

TeenCoder, seriously teaches Java from the basics up, however file navigation know how is needed before you begin.  Which I did end up giving a quick refresher course in for Tommy. 

All installation instructions are included in the lessons. Some of the installation proved to be a bit of a challenge and while searching the website for help. I found this command prompt form that really helped both of us to understand it better.

There are optional videos that are great for visual learners and we did need to refer to them multiple times.  Tommy took his time working through the lessons he enjoyed it.  By completing the suggested one lesson per week this would be a one semester course.

The second semester course would be Android Programming.  Which is recommended to be done after Java Programing, since you need to know Java to write an app.  I have taken a look over it and the format of the teaching remains the same, which is good, because you already know the style of teaching.  While I really know nothing about coding, this semester does look more difficult. 

The things you will learn in this course are:

  • Introduction to the Android Development Tools
  • Understanding and editing XML files
  • Creating and switching between screens
  • Managing Android screen layouts
  • Using graphical Android UI widgets
  • Saving data to internal storage and SD cards
  • Debugging using the emulator
  • Displaying images and loading image resources
  • Progress, date/time, and alert dialogs
  • Menus and notifications
  • SMS messaging and networking concepts
  • Creating home app widets
  • Using Location (GPS) services
  • Publishing to the Android Market



My son has had some very basic previous coding experience.  TeenCoder is extremely thorough and there are many details to learn.  Each step had to be done exactly or it just wouldn’t work.  This proved to be challenging for my son.  Which may be a good thing, as I have been trying to get him to pay better attention to details and he is seeing why it is so important with this program.   He has a dream to create an app.  We are excited for him to finish out this program and live his dream.  As frustrated as he has got at times while working with this, he has kept his goal in mind and I am sure that has helped him to press on.  My son is also about a year under the recommended age range.  He will be starting 9th grade this year.   I could see how a more detail oriented child would have much less frustration.

TeenCoder Java Series which includes both Java Programing and Android Programing with the videos (which I would splurge for) sales for $155  without the videos sales for $130.  Each semester is available for separate purchase as well.

Crew Blog Post Permalink

To see what others think of this as well as TeenCoder C# and 2 KidCoder programs, check out this post.

To see a wide variety of reviews check out our crew blog.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Couponing Made Simple


What is it: Couponing Made Simple

A 130 page book showing you “Simple Steps to Successful Couponing”

Written by: Christi the Coupon Coach

Price: $18.00, paperback or $4.99 Kindle format

Who it’s for: Anyone who wants to save money.

After all the couponing hype that was on TV a few years ago.  I thought;

“WOW, I would love to save all that money, but it looks like it’s own full time job!”  

I didn’t have time for all that!  I have a family to care for, a home to tend to, children to teach, and I work part time at a grocery store.

Christi has done the trial and error of organizing and the “how to” of it all.  She herself is a very busy mom. She makes sure you know that this is not extreme couponing like you see on TV.  This is real life couponing.  Real savings that are attainable without devoting your life to couponing.

She has laid all her proven techniques out in a book.  Not a long boring book.  A simple quick and to the point 10 Chapter book. 

  1. Success Stories -  This little chapter gets you lit up and excited as you see what other’s are saving in real life, everyday, you realize; this could be you!
  2. A New Way to Shop – She shares her two key rules to couponing here and shares with you how she shops.
  3. The Language of Couponing – Yes, couponing has it’s own language.  BOGO, Peelies, Blinkies, OOP, Stacking, and clipping service are just some of the terms you will learn here.  This also shows you all the places you can save. 
  4. Organizational System – With just 5 things she shows you how to get organized in no time at all!
  5. Step by Step Process – This 26 page chapter is the longest one in the book. She has broken what to do down into 8 simple (not overwhelming) steps.
  6. Tips and Tools – This chapter really got me thinking.  Wow, there are a lot of ways to save money that I never even knew.
  7. Couponing Ethics – Just because someone somewhere did a deal and got away with it, doesn’t make it right and it ruins couponing for everyone. 
  8. Networking and Communicating – Think of this as ways to continue your couponing education.
  9. Bonus Section – Other ways to save money while shopping. 
  10. Beyond Couponing – A deal not to miss out on!

While I have “dipped my toes” into couponing before,  and I have seen a few people couponing in my grocery store.  I could never find the time to clip every coupon nor did I have an organization system that wasn’t so time consuming not only to set up, it was time consuming to maintain.  Plus all the matching sale prices to coupons I would have had to do, who has the time for that? 

I live in a very small town with 2 grocery stores, 1 Kroger and 1 locally owned, 1 Wal-Mart and 1 K-Mart and 1 Walgreens.  Other than these stores, the rest are farm stores. Also my town is so small that we don’t get the weekly coupon fliers in the mail like they get in the big city.  I really didn’t think couponing would be possible.  I realized after reading this book that I was just making excuses as to why I couldn’t coupon.  Christi showed me that I can save some money, and every little bit helps. 

It only took me about 2 hours to read the entire book, and another hour or so to get the organization system in place.  I did have to and still continue to refer back to the book often. 

Christi’s book showed me real life couponing is nothing like you see on TV.  You will still save substantial amounts of money.  The book says it’s okay not to go to every store and get every deal.  She shares with you what is easy to get free. 

I love how with her system I don’t have to lug around a gigantic binder of coupons and flip through as I shop, making my trip to the grocery store take hours upon hours. 

I didn’t think to take any pictures of my deals; watch for them in the future!

Would you like to see how other’s have saved using her book?  Check out some more reviews here!


To see a wide variety of reviews check out our crew blog.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Oh Summer, Summer, Summer…..


Oh, Summer, why do you distract me from all the things I had planned?P8221765

I had grand plans of doing school 5 days a week in the mornings.

I had grand plans of completely cleaning out my house.

I had grand plans of going and doing so many fun things.

I had grand plans of so much!


While some of these things have gotten done or at least mostly done. Some of them have fallen clear by the wayside, and others well I still have grand plans for them.

This has truly been “The Summer of Going With The Flow”  


We haven’t done school near as much as I had hoped. 

My house has been cleaned out, except for this room and that room sort of thing.  Oh and that room too. 

We have gone and done tons of fun things.  This was the first year we didn’t actually do a bucket list for summer, and I almost think we have done more stuff than we have in years past.

Plan plan plan all you want, if it is not in God’s Plan for you, then you may as well have not planned at all!

Hmm, maybe I will try that…..

No, better not.  P8221783P8301790P8301799P8301800P8301819P8301839P8301840

The pictures used throughout this post are from our trip to Dinosaur National Monument, and the Wall of Bones.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Homeschool Mother’s Journal



  • In my life this week…  I have had one less kid, as my oldest has been away at scout camp.  My other three have definitely been getting their fair share of summer fun in. Tyler caught a little sunburn on his shoulders even after I applied sunscreen multiple times that day.  I had to attend my husbands company party without him.  Talk about awkward!  We went to a picnic at the park day with a bunch of friends.  I also did a freezer meal swap with 6 other ladies.  Which meant because of my procrastination I was too busy to get my meal done sooner,  I ended up waking up at 5 am the day of to do my cooking.  I had it all ready and made it there just 5 minutes late.  Thank goodness for my pressure cooker.  I made Pork Barbacoa Café Rio Style from a recipe I found on Pinterest. 

  • In our homeschool this week…  We really have taken this week off of any intentional learning.  We hope to get back at it around the first of August. 

  • Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share…  Freezer meals!  I can’t tell you how much doing these swaps saves my booty.  On nights when I just don’t want to cook, or whatever.  We just pop a meal in and bam, DINNER IS SERVED!

  • Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…  We did one of the most fun (which reminds me, why isn’t funnest a word? UGHH) activities we have done in a while.  The Pioneer Museum is hosting a drawing for a very fun basket if you go on a scavenger hunt and take pictures of yourself at all the pioneer historical markers around town.  We did it!  We got all 12 markers in one day. 

  • My favorite thing this week was…  2 things actually!  My son came home from Scout Camp safe and sound.  The scavenger hunt mentioned above.
  • My kiddos favorite thing this week was… Tommy’s was going to scout camp.  Emily’s was probably sleep.  Katey and Tyler’s was definitely the scavenger hunt mentioned above.

  • Things I’m working on… blogging more.  And this week is fair week!!  That is a big deal around here!  We are getting ready to take our entries over and start the festivities. 
  • I’m cooking… Just the Café Rio Pork Barbacoa copy cat recipe that I found on Pinterest.  After I made that, I did end up going to lunch at Café Rio over the weekend. 
  • I rewarded my kids this week by…  I bought a special box of ice cream treats, that I never buy.  The expensive ones.  I let them each have one.

How has your summer been going?  Is it keeping you as busy as it is me?

This post is linked up to The Homeschool Mother’s Journal over at So You Call Yourself A Homeschooler.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

25 Truths by Ed Douglas


25 Truths, Life Principles of the Happiest and Most Successful Among Us.


Ed Douglas


Ed Douglas Publications  

Recommended for grades:

6-12 and adults

Price: $15.50


Do you need a little motivation and inspiration sometimes?    Of course you do, we all do! 

Do you wish you were happier? 

Well, Ed Douglas had once compiled a 3 page list of tips for an enjoyable life based on Christian principles.  He shared this list with the people he met for years.  Many of them were young students who were on his tennis team.  As he shared his list he began to get encouragement to create the 25 Truths into his 3rd book.

The book itself is about 150 pages with 25 Truths, plus 1, as well as the foreword and preface.

A few of my favorite truths with their summaries are:

Learn What Brings True Happiness:  Combining your talents with hard work over an extended time to accomplish something of significance can help you find true happiness.

Make Every Day Your Best Day: Be enthusiastic, smile, be happy, and try to make every day the best day possible.  An accumulation of “best days” will lead to a very happy life.

Spend Time With Your Family: Spending time with your family is possibly the best investment a person can make.

Each truth is it’s own chapter being 3-5 pages long.  Each one starts with a quote.  Then a small chapter describing it and finishing up with the summary.  Then this is where it gets good!

Each truth/chapter ends with a workshop, where there are just a few questions about each truth for you to ponder over an answer yourself. These questions really make you think and make for great discussion starting points with your family.

I read each truth and the questions before I let my children read it.  These truths and the workshops that followed really got my gears turning.  I mean, they really make me think. 

We used this book two ways:

Some days I would have them read it alone and then we would discuss it later in the day after we all had some time to think about it. 

Other days I would read the truth out loud and then we would discuss it right then. 

My Thoughts:

These truths really are eye opening.  I especially appreciate how positive they are.  I have one child who is extremely negative and this has helped him to see the good and really that you create your own happiness.    I noticed a change in my entire family as far as true happiness goes. Just by discussing these.  Some of the questions were hard for my older two to answer.  They needed some help understanding them.  This book has opened so many discussions that I couldn’t have planned.   We all enjoyed the examples used as the truths were described.   This book is based on Christian principles without being overly Christian. 

Don’t just take my word for it, see how this motivated others by checking out this post. To see a wide variety of reviews check out our crew blog.


Saturday, July 20, 2013


{Teach you child to sew at home with no experience necessary}
You see, I do know how to sew, for the most part.  I have never had the courage to teach my children how to sew.  Emily was in sewing classes for a few years, and again this last year.  I didn’t put Katey in for fear it was above her head, so when the opportunity to review a new book Sewing School 2: Lessons in Machine Sewing by Amie Petronis Plumley & Andreia Lisle, I jumped at the chance. Katey has always wanted to learn to sew and was a little jealous of the rest of us who already know how.  (I say know how loosely)

Sewing School 2 is written at a 2nd grade comprehension level.  With projects that are simple enough and can all be personalized.  This book is written for the very beginners of seamstresses to some more experienced type. PA101910 The first 12 lessons are all about everything sewing, from fabric, to stitches to choosing a machine, threading a machine, patterns, rules, ironing, and more.PA101902 

There are 20 projects in four categories:
  • In My Room
  • Let’s Go
  • Time To Play
  • The Great Outdoors
Each project has step by step directions written as well as brilliant pictures showing what to do. PA101914 Projects are also divided into categories as to difficulty.  1 star being the easiest and 3 stars being harder. PA101911
Patterns for each project are included in the back of the book in a pocket for easy keeping. PA101912
With Katey being such a beginning seamstress I decided to go through each of the first 12 lessons with her.  We were able to do that in about a weeks time.  Then she immediately went to work creating projects from the book.

Here are two projects my 8 year old made with basically no help from me.
PA101900An “Extra Pocket” for her brother.
A pin cushion pillow for herself. 
Some of the neighbor girls have started seeing the projects Katey is making and asked if they could join.  They most recently all made matching “extra pockets”, they call them their friendship pockets.  Katey was actually able to show them how to do almost every step.  With me closely watching, of course, they were using my machine after all!
Oh My, and I almost forgot, one of the best things.  They have a blog, and a Facebook page!
There are many of us reviewing and giving away this book!

July 7 – Our Busy Homeschool
July 8 – scrumdilly-do!
July 9 – Crafty Moms Share
July 10 – Jane of All Trades
July 11 – Windy Lou
July 12 – Adventures of a DIY Mom
July 13 – Improv Diary
July 16 – He Sewed She Sewed
July 17 – Teach Beside Me
July 18 – All Things with Purpose
July 19 – The Crafty Crow
July 20 – Family Style School
July 21 – Such Designs
July 22 – Red Bird Crafts
July 23 – The Long Thread
July 25 – mayamade

So, you really want this book now, right?
Well check out the Rafflecopter for your chance! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, July 19, 2013



Have you heard of Author Susan Marlow or Kregel Publications?

What about the Gold Town Adventures?

She writes children’s chapter books.  We have read a few of her books.  Her most recent series is geared for boys ages 9-13, but has been enjoyed by both boys and girls. 

It has adventure, rowdiness, mystery, and friendship.  Overall it is a wholesome family book!

We have been a Susan Marlow fan since I first discovered her as an author.  She has proven to be an interesting read for my children. In fact, I have been such a fan of hers that as soon as I heard she was writing this new series for boys, I pre-ordered the first book, Badge of Honor, which some of the crew is reviewing.  She has since written the second book in the series, Tunnel Of Gold (the one I am reviewing), and the third book, Canyon of Danger will be out in Nov. 2013. 

Something unique about the books written by her that we have read, is that she includes a free comprehensive study guide along with them.  Found here.  

This series takes place right near the end of the gold rush in the year 1864.  The main character Jem, who’s father becomes the sheriff, finds himself in the middle of a miners riot. 

Can Jem get the Chinese to give up their rights to the mine and save the town that is about to lose everything? 

I was originally going to do this book as a read aloud for my family.  As soon as I started and it became time to stop the kids didn’t want me too.  They ended up reading it themselves faster than I could get through it.  You know, being a mom and all. 

We did talk about some of the character traits that you see woven throughout this book.  We really focused on standing up for those being bullied.  As that happens in this book.  I appreciate how this book, and all of Susan Marlow’s books have morals and people stand by them.  I enjoy that my children can read a book with action and adventures that doesn’t have to be grotesque.  

Like I said I have been a huge fan of Susan Marlow ever since we first discovered her as an author. 

We currently own all of her books in the Andi and Taffy series as well as both GoldTown Adventure books, and plan on buying the 3rd.

Tunnel of Gold is 144 pages and you can get an autographed copy for $7.99 plus $2.50 shipping. 

To see what others think of this book as well as her first book in this series, check out this post.

To see a wide variety of reviews check out our crew blog.


Monday, July 15, 2013

Dig-It Games ~ Mayan Mystery iPad Game {Review}

It seems to me that there are a million educational apps out there for preschoolers.  What about the older kids? 

Dig-It Games has come out with, Mayan Mystery iPad App ($9.99) designed for kids 9 and up. 

This game/ app has plenty to do, with over 12 hours of educational game play. 

The Mayan Culture can be one of much complication to try and understand.  With the help of world renowned Mayan Expert, Robert J. Sharer this app has been created. 

You will learn many things while using this app. 

It starts out with a comic book style introduction, then you head to the Police Station to meet with the characters.  They share some facts with you via interactive books and then you head off to do your first challenge. 

Challenges include:

  • A trivia game where you try not to let the looters catch up to you
  • Mapping
  • The importance of artifacts and looting problems.
  • Visit ancient Maya cities and sites
  • Uncover and analyze artifacts
  • Decode glyphs
  • Explore the mysterious Maya calendar
  • Learn the intriguing Maya math system
  • Solve puzzles and gather clues to track down a secretive thief

The great thing about apps is that they can be used on the go or in the comfort of well, anywhere.

Some things I appreciated about this app are:

  • It did not require internet after the initial download. 
  • It would read the information to you, or you could keep it quiet and read it to yourself.
  • It was challenging enough for my older kids and my 8 year old could also play around in it. 
  • They actually learned about the Mayan Culture

I love how Dig-It Games creates games that teach about ancient civilizations.  We have reviewed their Roman Town Game as well.


After I put this app on my iPad, I let the kids know about it.  I let them investigate it on their own and before I knew it they were playing it a few times a week.

To see what others think of the iPad app as well as the online version of this game, check out this post.

To see a wide variety of reviews check out our crew blog.



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