Thursday, June 23, 2016

A TOS Review: My School Year (planning and record keeping program)

Requirements for homeschooling differ from state to state. In my state, we are only required to keep track of our school hours. Some states require a bit more accountability. Some of us need to plan our lessons down to the minute. Some of us (a-hem) follow a more freestyle form of schooling. 

Regardless,  planning and record keeping are important parts of homeschooling. I recently had the opportunity to review My School Year ( Homeschool Record Keeping) program from

MySchoolYear allows parents to keep all of their plans and records in one convenient spot.

Its features include:

·         Attendance tracking
·         Automatic grading
·         Lesson plan generators
·         Report cards
·         Activity trackers (like field trips, etc.)
·         Reading logs
·         Transcripts and more!                           

I found the interface to be user-friendly. There are a lot of neat extras that can help you stay on track.

For example, the Teacher’s Aid feature recently reminded me to add any awards that Josiah might have received during his 8th grade year to complete his transcript.

I am not one to plan every minute of my day, but I did find a couple of features that I am excited about. 

Obviously, the attendance tracker is a great tool for me. Another feature I am using (especially this summer) is the reading log. Josiah is dyslexic and doesn't like to read. I like to give him goals and help him track his progress. 

My School Year has a reading log that I have been plugging books into for Josiah to use as his summer reading list. It helps me by reminding me what books we've chosen and which ones he has already read. I, of course, am including any audio books we listen to, as well. 

Josiah is very active. He has been on a swim team for the past 5 years or so. He decided he wanted to take the summer off. We have been trying to stay as active as we can. Josiah recently ran (and won!) a 5k. I read on Facebook the other day where another homeschool family had joined a track club. The track club encourages the kiddos to run a total of 26 miles through the whole summer. They are rewarded with fun goodies, etc. 

I decided that we would make our own little club and set a goal for running goal for the summer. I am going to use the Events feature to track his mileage and his rewards. It provides a nice visual that will make it easy to see his progress. 

I think overall that My School Year is an easy-to-use and helpful tool for any homeschool family. I am always getting helpful emails concerning set-up or helpful planning tips. The best thing is that there is a 1 month free trail available so you can take a look yourself. 

You can connect with via the following social media outlets. Don't forget to click on the banner below to read more reviews. 


Homeschool Record Keeping { Review}

A TOS Review: LearnBop for Families

I love me some review.  We generally homeschool year round, but in the spirit of summer togetherness I have been referring to our homeschool day as “Review Time.”

“Come, Josiah. Let’s do a little review.” It doesn’t sound as heavy and it rhymes.

I do what I can.

Regardless, I have found that reviewing is the key to keep those things that Josiah is learning fresh in his mind. Otherwise, it seems as if we have to start from square one. To help me in the math department this summer, we have been reviewing LearnBop for Families by LearnBop.

LearnBop is an interactive math program for kiddos grades 3-12. LearnBop is more than just a simple online review program. It provides the student a tutorial for missed problems or confusing concepts.

When you first sign up for LearnBop you are asked to choose a roadmap for your student to follow. Your roadmap can follow a grade level or a subject.

The roadmap is divided into smaller chunks of units that the student has to master before moving on. There is a warm-up that provides a better indicator on the student’s prior knowledge and skill level. 

The student is then given several instructional videos to view and a variety of math problems to complete. The problems are called “Bops.”

To master a unit, the student has to achieve 90% accuracy. This means some of those smaller units might take a little longer to navigate through…of course, depending on your student’s particular needs.

Extra incentive is provided along the way by the earning of awards. There are a variety of awards and all are in the form of some sort of badge displayed on your screen. For example, Josiah earned both patient and persistent awards early on. The patient award was for watching the videos before barreling through the math problems. Love it!

Josiah was hoping for pizza.

How We Used It

I have mentioned before that Josiah has difficulty with math. He has struggled over the years with even the most basic of concepts. He has come a long way, but math is always challenging. The more technical term for this struggle is dyscalculia.  

He has enjoyed using the program for the most part. Some of the videos have been a bit confusing for him to follow. Mostly, I have found that he struggles with trying to follow the ones that present the method a little bit differently than he has learned it.

For example, in the Multiplication and Division unit (3rd grade), the videos go about explaining how to come up with an answer than simply memorizing facts.  We had to watch them a few times and talk over the concept.

I was also provided with an account with LearnBop. And in the spirit of summer reviews I am dusting off the ole Algebra skills and showing you how it basically works. 

First of all, direct your attention to the left-hand side of the pic below. You will see the long road graphic with a list of concepts to the side. This is basically the path I will have to follow to Algebra I glory. I have clicked on Quadratic Equations Part 1 to do first. According to the screen, I haven't done any of the tasks required as of yet. 

I first have to complete a warm-up. The warm up for this unit was 9 questions long.

After I confirmed that it had been a looong time since Algebra of any kind dwelled in my brainospere, LearnBop suggested that I review a few Building Blocks.

These Building Blocks are certain concepts that I need to master before I master the overall subject of Quadratic Equations.

I clicked on the first required video and this is what came up.

LearnBop is keeping it real!

 After watching both videos, I then proceeded to solve all the "Bops."

Notice the blue "Submit Answer" tab. To the left of it you can a tab written in yellow that says "Ask for help. This is one of my FAVORITE things about Learn Bop.

Also note the word problem itself. I'm telling ya! LearnBop is lowering the BOOM.

It will take you step-by-step through the problem. It is not merely a reminder of a concept, but actual help using that particular problem. THIS IS AWESOME!

There is also a lot of positive reinforcement with LearnBop. I am by no means done with this problem, but it assures me I am on the right track.

What I remember most about my own math experience in school was when it was time to move on to learn a new concept, the whole class moved on together…whether everyone had learned it or not.
I think that LearnBop understands that. 

I am practically giddy with the thought that LearnBop is providing a place where I can brush up on my own math skills. 

Not that I plan on taking another math class…ever…in my life. My “A” in College Algebra was about as good as it’s going to get. However, I can tell you right now that my higher math skills are going to need some refreshing before I try and pass them along.

You can see that this is truly a unique and effective program. Go check it out! 

You can connect with LearnBop via the following social media outlets. Don't forget to click on the banner below to read more reviews. 

LearnBop for Families Review

Wednesday, June 22, 2016



I've been a blogger slacker as of late.

We will just chalk that up to "Beke's been busy and is having trouble linking two coherent thoughts together."

Where have my recipes gone?

My rambling (yet quirky) antidotes on life?

Or other stuff?

 Sometimes life happens, my friends. You find yourself up to your eyeballs in projects, laundry and netflix binge watching.

And then again, sometimes life happens and you just need to get your act together and deal.

Last Sunday, our teen Bible Study group talked about Responsibility.

We talked about was taking responsibility for our hopes, dreams and goals.

A person will never learn how to play a musical instrument, go back to school or have a tidy house (this one might be for me), if one never takes steps to get there.

Believe me. I've tried to "imagine" my way to a cleaner house, a leaner body and a more balanced life.

I have been thinking a lot about some of those things I desire in my own life. What have I been doing to get there? Am I placing blame on others for my lack of progress? What little steps can I take to get the ball rolling.

One of my goals has been to write more. In fact, I want to publish a book..eventually. Whether it is self-published or someone else decides I have a story worth telling...matters not. In the meantime, I need to keep my skills sharp and my creativity flowing.

Which means that you will probably hear just a bit more from me on the blog.

I apologize in advance.

Once this train gets moving again, I'm not quite sure what will happen.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Color Run

Yup. It's hot out there.

The difference, however, is that this year we are driving a 2012 Ford Focus with AIR CONDITIONING.

Sure. Bertha the Buick had personality, but she lacked a cool breeze on a hot day.

We're living in a new world, my friends.

I posted this pic of Josiah last weekend on Facebook.

As you can see, he had just finished running a color run.

3.5 miles in a cornfield in Illinois. It was hot...about 95.

The fact that he won (YES!) blew us away.

He ran the race with his Aunt Deb and Cousin Keri.

And here he is coming into the finish line.

You can see he had been thoroughly doused in the color. It looks like he took a bath in it.

After walking around a bit to cool down this was his position for a bit.

And one must never let a water bottle go to waste. I say make your own rain!

This week I've been trying to keep Josiah active. He's not swimming this summer on swim team and I have a dreaded fear of teenager couch potatoitis. That is a real thing. Some of you may have some in your house suffering from it.

Anyhoo. This week we've made it a point to get to the Y. He's been playing basketball and I've been using the NuStep. I saw a picture of myself recently. I need to shed some of the weight I've gained back. I, myself, suffer from middle aged couch potatoitis.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

A TOS Review: Mr. Popper's Penguins Study Guide

One of Josiah's favorite read alouds when he was younger was Mr. Popper's Penguins written by Richard and Florence Atwater. It was also about the same time he started asking for a zebra.

In any event, when I discovered I had an opportunity to review Mr. Popper's Penguins E-Guide from Progeny Press I knew I needed to take it.  I love filling our homeschool days with good literature.

I have reviewed products from Progeny Press before. Last year, we got to enjoy the Tuck Everlasting E-Guide. And the year before that we reviewed The Door in the Wall Guide. Both were excellent products.

If you aren't familiar with Mr. Popper's Penguins let me fill you in.

Mr. Popper is an ordinary house painter with a fascination with travel and exploration. Now mind you...he doesn't do any traveling or exploring himself. He just likes to read about the adventures of other folks. His favorite locales are the North and South Pole. Mr. Popper greatly admires one explorer named Admiral Drake. He even writes to Admiral Drake.

What happens next is unexpected. Unlike my own penpal (a nice girl from England) who only sent me music suggestions and an occasional travel brochure, Admiral Drake sends Mr. Popper a penguin named Captain Cook!

Did I mention that Mr. Popper has a family?And that penguins require a certain kind of care? Not to mention that Captain Cook gets lonely and Mr. Popper has to go into the penguin match making business.

It is a cute story. The Mr. Popper's Penguin E-Guide is intended for grades 4-6. However, I chose this guide for my 14-year-old to work through for a few reasons. For one, Josiah is dyslexic and while he is reading beautifully, I wanted to assign him some independent work. He was familiar with the story and wanted to see how he progressed with the E-Guide without the frustration of reading a book that was more challenging for him.

You have the option to either print the E-Guide or use the interactive features to type in the answers and save as you go.

Personally, I am a paper and cute, sparkly pen kinda girl. The sound of rustling paper makes me happy. But, I knew that Josiah would enjoy the interactive aspect.

The E-Guide begins with a synopsis of the book and a brief biography of the authors. It also gives the reader some background information on the exploration of the North and South Poles; as well as information about vaudeville. Because, yes, there is vaudeville in Mr. Popper's Penguins.

Before the student gets into the chapters themselves, he or she is given a list of suggested projects to do beforehand. We decided to watch a video about penguins. Though it wasn't on the list of suggested videos, it was handy. The E-Guide did give us a link to the live Penguin Cam at the Monterrey Bay Aquarium.  Warning! Watching this is just a bit addicting. Who knew?

It is also suggested that the student reads the book in its entirety the first week. Progeny Press estimates that it will take 8-10 weeks for Middle or High School students to finish a literature guide. It takes us just a bit longer.

To use the E-Guide you will need a dictionary, thesaurus and a Bible. We also made use of the internet as was suggested.

Every section of the E-Guide is made up pretty much the same way. The vocabulary section requires the student to first define a word in their own words. Then they have to look up the word in the dictionary and compare. I thought this was an excellent exercise. Josiah has always had an excellent vocabulary so he didn't struggle ....using a dictionary is always a bit more challenging, but he managed.

The student is also asked a variety of questions. These are usually comprehension questions. Then he or she is asking to think about the story and maybe dig a little deeper.

For example, I love the following question. And although this study is meant for students younger than my son, I feel like this is kind of where we are right now in his life. For some reason, my photo tool didn't grab the whole imagine of the question...but you can see the intent.

This study uses lots of Scripture. A big emphasis is placed on stewardship and being wise with what God has given us. There is also a lot of teaching on being a servant. I LOVE all of it.

A unique section to this E-Guide talks about money. This is an optional section and deals with things like credit and the value of money. There are also optional projects you and your student can work on. I personally love all the hands-on activities for post-reading given at the back of the E-Guide. They range from creative writing projects to cooking to art projects. It looks like there is a little something for everyone.

This is a fun study! You can check it out for yourself by visiting this page.  There is an option to download a sample of the Guide.

Go check it out!

You can read more reviews by clicking on the banner below. Other members of the Crew reviewed other guides...there might be something there that floats your boat.

Literature Study Guides from a Christian Perspective {Progeny Press  Review}

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

A TOS Review: Forbrain

The brain is a fascinating study. Since discovering Josiah (who is 14) is dyslexic (and a few other “d” words), I have been open to trying more things to just give him an upper hand. I find the whole science and research around the brain fascinating.

Recently, we had the chance to review something unlike anything I had ever come across before. It is a bone conduction headset by Forbrain – Sound for Life Ltd. Forbrain isn’t a curriculum, supplement or therapy. In fact, you can use it right along with all those things you child is studying.

So I know I’ve sparked your curiosity. What is this Forbrain? As I mentioned before, it is a bone conduction headset. It stimulates the brain through the sound of your own voice. You can read more about how it works here.

Forbrain helps improve:


How it Works and What I Thought

It is recommended that you use the device every day for 6-10 weeks. How long you use it depends on your age. For children under, it should be used for 10 minutes a day. If your child is 5-15, it should be used for 15 minutes every day. If you are a teenager or an adult you can use Forbrain 20-30 minutes every day.

The device fits around your ears. It doesn’t fit like headphones. We made that mistake when we first tried it out. It is easy to turn on. It does take about 3 hours of charging time before you use it the first time.  There is also a volume control, but it is already set to the best level. If your child has poor hearing or is extremely sensitive to sound you can adjust it accordingly.

My main goal was for Josiah to use Forbrain while he reads aloud.  Like many kids with dyslexia, he isn’t confident while reading aloud. He struggles with reading fluency and with expression.  Another benefit in using Forbrain that interested me was Josiah’s focus and attention. He has difficulty staying on task if there are distractions around him.

Every week, Josiah is assigned silent reading, as well as oral reading. He tends to mumble under his breath while reading out loud or use one of his favorite impressions (which is currently Dáin II Ironfoot from The Battle of the Five Armies).  I let him chose from a variety of books for his read aloud assignments. These were the books he used while trying out the Forbrain.

When he first started using it he still mumbled under his breath. Now his volume has increased and I can see some new confidence building in him. I can also see some focus building, as well.

It is still too early, I believe, to see significant changes in his fluency, but I am certainly seeing improvement.

I, too, have tried out the Forbrain. Have you ever noticed that you sound different when listening to yourself in a video, etc.? It’s almost as if you can’t recognize your own voice. Let’s just say that I sound like a hick! I didn’t realize my hillbilly drawl was as pronounced as it is.

This is certainly a product I am going to continue to use. Forbrain does suggested that you take a little break after the initial 10-weeks are over before starting back up again.  

Forbrain is one of the easiest to use and interesting products I have ever had the privlege to review. I'm excited to see Josiah's progress continue. 

You can read more reviews by clicking the banner below. 

Forbrain – Sound For Life Ltd Review

Thursday, June 9, 2016

A TOS Review: The Glass Castle by Trisha White Priebe and Jerry B. Jenkins

I adore books. 

We recently had a chance to review The Glass Castle byTrisha White Priebe and Jerry B. Jenkins from Shiloh Run Press. It is the very first book in a new series called the Thirteen Series. The book is recommended for ages 10-14.

As you might know, Josiah is Dyslexic and reading isn’t is favorite pastime. That being said, we still do a lot of reading in our house. I rely on audio books, read alouds and choosing books that Josiah can easily manage in small doses

The Glass Castle has a little bit of everything…action, adventure, mystery…it even has a little romance thrown in.

Our protagonist is Avery.  On the day of her 13th birthday, she had her little brother, Henry, encounter danger is the woods.  Avery is kidnapped and finds herself as a prisoner in the castle. Her little brother has been captured as well, but Avery must promise to cooperate to ensure his safety.

From the get go, we are presented with mystery after mystery. For one, Avery isn’t the only prisoner in the castle. All the other prisoners (and there are a lot) are 13. However, all the other kids are orphans. Avery’s father is still alive. Another mystery involves Avery’s mother. She used to tell Avery stories about the castle, but mysteriously disappeared years ago.

The King has a new bride and needs an heir, His first wife gave birth to a boy 13-years-ago, but they both died. Rumors are floating around that the baby boy didn’t after all and that is why the King’s new wife has ordered all the 13-year-old orphans in the kingdom to be killed.  

And the intrigue continues!

What I Thought

I love mysteries and suspense. You throw in a castle and I’m all over it. Basically, what I found most impressive about the book is that I CAN’T figure out the end of the story. I have my theories, but every page brings new questions. I like that I couldn’t have written it myself after the first chapter. You know those kinds of books. The ones where it is obvious about who ‘done it’ after the first few paragraphs.

I like twists and turns.

This book also touches on important Spiritual issues. The ideas of family, friend, worship, and forgiveness all thread their way through the story.

I mentioned the idea of a “little romance.” Avery finds herself attracted to the leader of the orphans, Tuck. Nothing inappropriate happens, but I just wanted you to be aware. As a veracious reader myself, this would have been appealing to me as a young teen. I think back to the books that defined me as a young tween…Anne (with an e) was only 11 when she found her home at Green Gables. Her romance with Gilbert was young and innocent and took years to mature. The heroes in some of my favorite books by Grace Livingston Hill were always honorable, hardworking, and wise. I like that Tuck possesses some of those same qualities. Here we have no brooding vampire or troubled werewolf.

The only drawback I can see to going right now and ordering the book is that the second won’t be out until October!


If the authors need a book-loving homeschool mom to do any early reads…I’m available.

I suggest you go check it out for yourself. You can read the first 5 Chapters on the website.  The Ruby Moon (Thirteen Book 2) is set to release October 1.

You can read more reviews by clicking on the banner below. 

The Glass Castle {Shiloh Run Press Review}
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