June 29, 2016

NotebookingPages.com: The Homeschool Product I Didn't Know I Needed {Product Review}

Every year that I have been on the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I have been blessed to discover a product that I didn't know I needed. You know, the "where have you been all my life?" kind of things. The first year, it was a math curriculum. Last year, it was a spelling program. Well, I think that I have discovered THIS year's product in the fabulousness known as NotebookingPages.com and their LIFETIME Membership, which we have been reviewing for the last several weeks.
NotebookingPages.com ~ Product Review
The links on this blog and in the posts may be affiliate links
Please see my disclosure policy for full details and thank you for your support!

Product Information

What is NotebookingPages.com? This is a website devoted to providing the homeschool family pages and pages of templates for notebooking. What is notebooking? Notebooking is a process of recording what you have learned onto a page using illustrations, photos, drawings, paragraphs, sentences, and more. These can then be kept in binders for easy storage, and easy review. Designed to work for all ages of students, they are a way to enhance what you are already doing, and FREE yourself from endless boring assignments. In a binder and at a glance, you can SEE what your child knows from what you are learning! Think of it as a school scrapbook!

The Notebooking Pages LIFETIME Membership grants you access to the entire NotebookingPages.com website--the tutorials, the ENTIRE 11,000+ pages for EVERY subject INCLUDING hundreds of BLANK templates that can be customized to fit YOUR needs. Whether you need regular lines or primary lines, there is a template for you. Whether you are studying astronomy, zoology, medieval history, Daniel & the Lions Den, Literature, or music...there is a notebooking page for you. This membership also includes, not only the current material, but any FUTURE material that is created, tutorials, tips, and videos! 

A Notebooking Pages LIFETIME Membership is just $97 which can be paid in full, or as a four month payment plan--with your first month at just $10. 

We have been using the Notebooking Pages LIFETIME Membership for the last several weeks in our homeschool.

How Did We Use It?

It was so easy to get started. Once you set up your log-in...you just GO! You will also get some GREAT tutorials right in your email about how to get started incorporating the notebooking. I knew that above all, I needed to get familiar with the program, so I just started poking around on the different tabs. My mind was BLOWN by all the incredible things I saw. Shortly after we received a membership, we were doing our astronomy review...and I thought--I wonder if there is a notebooking page that would go with any of these constellations we are studying...

Cygnus Notebooking Page
Then we needed to write letters to the grandparents--are there any blank letter writing friendly templates? I searched the catalog of "blank templates" and discovered that there were well over 100 blank templates perfect for writing letters. I discovered I could also print out a catalog of all of them for easy reference--so I did and then let the boys scan it and pick what they wanted--oh and there were PLENTY with primary lines for Baby Britches.


As the week went on, we began a literature unit on Mr. Popper's Penguins. So i nosed around and yep, you guessed it.

Keeping tabs of the characters

Illustrating a favorite scene from the book
Baby Britches log of characters

Writing out his character definitions 
It was when we were doing history that I found a nice surprise. Little Britches was studying the mound building Native Americans in our area, so I thought I'd just see if there was a nice Native American themed template. Yep, there was...there was also a mound builder Native American template! And then--we visited Serpents Mound in Peebles, OH...and low and behold, there were notebooking pages specifically FOR the Serpents Mound! 

Are you kidding me?
Just LOOK at how much writing he did! He HATES writing!
I decided to explore their science a bit more, as we were interested in getting back into nature study. Guess what? There was a nature study template section! And it is VERY VERY large. We have bird feeders, so I looked and there was an entire zip folder containing North American Birds notebooking pages--coloring pages, writing pages, and my jackpot find--species research pages! IN primary AND regular lines so BOTH boys can use them. We have been using these pages every single week at least 2 per week since then and have documented at least 12 different species of birds!
Common name, scientific name, details, and blank lines
We have been using at least two sets of notebooking pages every week since we began this review and have dabbled in science, history, social studies, literature, copywork, and bible pages.

What Are Our Thoughts?

Little Britches: 
I really like these. They are easy to fill out and I like that I can draw and color them. My favorite are the science pages because we get to spend a lot of time learning about different animals to fill them out.
We spent 45 minutes of this research...it was FABULOUS!
Baby Britches: 
I like the bird pages, because I like coloring the birds.

Where do I start? Have you picked up on the fact that I think this is the best thing since sliced bread? You see what this year has revealed to me is that we do best with unit study style stuff. And these pages do just that! They are a perfect match to the unit study style! It's no wonder everything works so well for us.

What do I like the most?

1. You can find a notebooking page that will go with ANYTHING--and if you can't, there are hundreds of blank ones for you to use!
Seriously. I have YET to find something that there wasn't at least a generic template for. I wanted one for Nero and the Roman Gladiators and poof--both there! I didn't find one for something else I was doing...can't remember what now--but there were great blank templates to pick from that worked just fine.

2. The table of contents for every zip file can be printed, AND you can print a catalog of the entire zip file. 
This is soooo fabulous. I printed off these for each zip file I downloaded so I can have them in a binder for quick reference instead of having to open the zip file or go online to see. I plan on having these printed for every zip file available because I know it will save me so much time later.
A fabulous topics list so I don't have to guess
3. Everything is available in primary lines AND regular lines.
This is so awesome for those of us teaching multiple grades at once. Now each boy can use the version that works best for them. In fact, in the bird files for example--if I want the American Robin, BOTH sets of lines will be in the same download! No hunting around! Everything that is available in regular lines is pretty much available in primary lines. AND when I open the files on Adobe Reader, the Adobe table of contents has them sectioned out for easy clicking!
Sample from the blank template catalog file
4. A wide range of options for notebooking.
I love that the pages come in a variety of template styles. There are cutesy, graphic, plain, colored. There are some for lots of writing, some for lots of illustrations, some for a bit of both. There are even some for making little 3D minibooks that can be glued on! Whether you need one for research paper styles or a simple sentence. There is one that will work.
3D Matchbooks for the characters in our story
5. Search option!
What's not to love about a search option on a website? NotebookingPages.com has one that will take you to just the notebooking pages you need. Forget searching through all the files! Click the search tab, and it opens up a search bar. Type in your topic and it pulls up all the files that match!

6. LIFETIME membership
Seriously. Can we just not take a moment to talk about how awesome a LIFETIME membership is? No renewal. No frantic downloading. No being bummed about missing out on new stuff. I will have access to EVERYTHING....FOREVER! Take a moment to let that sink in. Doesn't that make the cost of $97 seem piddly in the grand scheme of things?

Okay. So maybe you need to "try before you buy". Well, Notebooking Pages doesn't short you there. If you want to try before you buy, you can have a FREE 600+ page sampler. YES-- 600+ pages...for FREE! Seriously...do it. This will give you an incredible chance to see how this concept of notebooking will work for you!

After all of that...is there anything I don't like?

1. You have to download all the pdfs before opening them.
Yeah. This annoys me. Every file on the website is set to an automatic download, NOT one that opens in a separate tab that you can print from. This annoys me...because if it's not something I want to keep for use later, I have to go back through and delete them from my hard drive. I had a computer savvy person double check and she says that it's the way the files are set up. I can't even do an "open in a new window" option. It bypasses all my settings and goes straight to my hard drive.

2. Primary lines don't always print properly.
For some reason, when I open the file to print, the dotted lines in the primary lines won't print. FORTUNATELY, I discovered thanks to another crew member that if I open the files in Adobe Reader this won't happen...and it's true. NO more problems when I use Adobe to read and print. 

And...that's it! Just two things, one of which I already fixed. 

Will we continue to use this product?
LOL. Um. YES!!! In fact, I plan on using it for nearly every subject next year. I am shaking things up and getting back to what works for us (Unit Studies) and these are going to be the icing on my cake of making things so much easier! 

Would I Recommend This Product?

Let me share a little something. I have seen this product for a long time. I have a friend who kept talking about how awesome it was. I even saw the 600+ page free sampler. I love freebies, but I didn't do anything about it. I mean--I didn't think I wasn't a notebooker (WRONG!) so it had no place in my homeschool. But then I kept wanting to take our stuff further to document what we were learning and I was having to search all over to find what I wanted--I didn't realize that it was already done for me! But that $97 pricetag kept blinking at me. $97 seemed like so much to spend on something like this.

But let me tell you--I WAS WRONG! 
This could have been the best $97 I had ever spent on homeschool stuff if I had just given it a chance. 

Are you looking for a way to record what your child is learning in a way that will allow their individual creativity to shine? Are you looking for a way to record all the information you find on your rabbit trails? What about keeping a record of your nature study? Or book reports? Or biographies? What about narration and dictation with your children? Literature units? Are you looking for a way to provide ONE thing that is grade appropriate for all your students? Please consider this awesome product! 

Who won't like it? Um. Traditional schoolers? I really can't think of anyone else who might not like it. I think that it would work for ANY style of teaching because of the vastness of what is included on the website.

So let me put it simply--if you homeschool...you really need to check NotebookingPages.com out. It might help you simplify what you are already doing--and take it to the next level at the same time!

Want to Know More?

We had the pleasure of reviewing the Notebooking Pages LIFETIME Membership from NotebookingPages.com. We CLEARLY enjoyed it, but only scratched the surface of the vastness of what this website offers. I encourage you to check out what some of the other crew members did with THEIR membership!
Notebooking Pages Lifetime Membership Reviews
Stay up to date with the latest sales and newest products by following NotebookingPages.com on these social media sites!

Now that my eyes have been opened to NotebookingPages.com, I can't imagine ever not having it at my disposal! I am going to be using it like crazy and planning future lessons around pages in it. This truly is our product I didn't know I needed for 2016!
 photo 2015blogsiggy_zpsfy0kfo4t.png

June 28, 2016

Veritas Press Self-Paced Bible: Old Testament 1 ~ Genesis to Joshua {Curriculum Review}

One of the things we have reviewed and loved but weren't able to actually purchase for ourselves, was the online self-paced courses from Veritas Press. We loved our history course we reviewed, and have been hoping we'd have another chance some day to try a different one. Needless to say, we were thrilled to have a chance to review the Self-Paced Bible Old Testament 1: Genesis to Joshua and looked forward to another excellent review.
Self-Paced Bible course from Veritas Press~ A review

Product Information

Veritas Press is a company devoted to providing a classical Christian education for homeschooling students. Their goal is to teach children in a way to compliment their development and use the minds with which God gifted us the power of learning. Their primary focus is teaching according to the Trivium of dialectic, rhetoric and grammar.

Veritas Press has designed five Self-Paced Bible courses ($179 each) that have 128 class periods covering 32 biblical events. With a mix of talking characters, interactive teaching, fun games, video footage, the courses provide multi-sensory learning experiences that will help your child memorize names, dates and places of the Bible with ease!

The five Self-Paced Bible Courses are:

Old Testament 1: Genesis to Joshua
Old Testament 2: Judges to Kings
Old Testament 3: Chronicles to Malachi (coming soon)
New Testament 1: The Gospels
New Testament 2: Acts to Revelation (coming soon)

Every course includes 32 major biblical events, music to help memorize the events, memory tools for the names, dates and events, exploration activities in art, music, and geography, and much more! Every course also comes with lesson reviews and exams that are automatically graded and printable. These courses are geared for grades 2nd-6th grade.

We were given Self-Paced Bible~Old Testament 1: Genesis to Joshua to review in our family.

June 27, 2016

Fresh from the Bookshelf: The Beautiful Pretender by Melanie Dickerson {Book Review}

I love fairy tales. I love Christian historical fiction. Needless to say, I LOVE it when someone takes a traditional fairy tale and twists it all around and turns it into Christian fiction work. Melanie Dickerson is a "new to me" author who fell into my radar late last year when I was given The Golden Braid to review. I went--"where have you been all my life?"--and quickly requested the rest of her books for my library. Needless to say when I had the opportunity to review her latest release The Beautiful Pretender thanks to the Fiction Guild and NetGalley, I jumped on it and settled in for what I imagined would be yet another winner.

The links on this blog and in the posts may be affiliate links
Please see my disclosure policy for full details and thank you for your support!

About the Book

The Beautiful Pretender is the second book in the A Medieval Fairy Tale series by Melanie Dickerson. Avelina, is a ladies maid to a noble born lady who has been invited to The Margrave of Thornbeck's home in order to cement a marriage alliance. This marriage alliance must be carried out, by order of the king, but to give himself more options, The Margrave of Thornbeck invites TEN ladies to his home to "test" them and see who is the best match for him. Avelina however, is not noble born. She is merely a maidservant sent by the Earl of Plimmwald to stand in for his daughter who has run away. Her goal is to thwart any attempt there might be of earning the margrave's affection so she can return home to her family after doing her duty for the earl. But things never go smoothly, and despite her best attempts at diverting the margrave's attention, he has taken notice of her. Throw in a sinister plot with deadlier consequences than any Avelina might face if found out...and you have the makings of a delightful tale. 

America the Beautiful: A One Year History Curriculum from Notgrass History {Curriculum Review}

I have seen the name Notgrass History pop up continually on my Facebook newsfeed. I assumed it was just another in a string of curriculum companies, and I didn't pay it much attention. When I went to the GHC in Cincinnati, OH earlier this year, a friend asked me if I could swing by the Notgrass History booth to check out the curriculum for her. I did and this led to nearly 40 minutes of my time as I examined the product AND chatted with Charleen Notgrass--the owner and writer for the company! Once I left the booth, I was convinced that I needed to get my hands on this product to try, but wasn't sure how to go about it. Timberdoodle Company to the rescue! I was so excited when they asked if I would like to do a review on America the Beautiful Curriculum Package, an American History curriculum from Notgrass History for ages 5-8, one of the components of Timberdoodle's 2016 5th Grade Curriculum. I hoped that it would be just what I imagined it would be from my time exploring it at the convention.
America the Beautiful Curriculum from Notgrass History ~ Curriculum Review

Product Summary

America The Beautiful Curriculum Package is a one year history, geography, and literature course designed for grades 5-8 (Ages 10-14) from Notgrass History. With a heavy leaning towards a unit study, the textbooks included in the curriculum, aren't your normal textbooks. Opening them, you will discover page after page of historical photographs, full color photographs, maps, illustrations, large font and white space. This curriculum follows American History, not only from 1000 AD to the present, but also natural, Godmade attractions, and natural wonders, biographies, and glimpses into what life was like throughout the birth and growth of America. There is no teacher manual included, because this program was designed to provide independent learning for your student through teaching it in narrative form.
The America The Beautiful Curriculum Package ($99.95) contains the following six items:
*America the Beautiful, Part 1 and Part 2
These are the hardcover texts which provide the spine for the course. Each contains 75 lessons, providing a semester of work per book. 
*We the People
A collection of 150 original journal entries, newspaper articles, advertisements, poems, songs, letters, short stories, speeches, and other historic documents from American history. Hardcover.
*Maps of America the Beautiful
A collection of 30 maps drawn to coordinate with this curriculum. softcover.
*Timeline of America the Beautiful
This is an illustrated timeline of American history from AD 1000 to the present designed specifically to include facts learned in the lessons. Some facts are already printed on the timeline. softcover.
*America the Beautiful Answer Key
Includes answers for the Timeline, Student Workbook, Lesson Review, and the vocabulary assignments included in the main text. softcover.
There are two additional products that while optional, go with the curriculum and can be used if your child needs more work, or if you would prefer having lesson reviews and exams as part of the curriuclum. You can add on the America the Beautiful Lesson Review and the America the Beautiful Student Workbook.
We were given the America the Beautiful Curriculum Package to review with Little Britches, ages 10.

How Did We Use the Product?

I was sooooo excited to get this product. I cannot convey to you enough how thrilled I was to finally have a chance to use this curriculum after all the time I spent at the convention learning about the company and the programs. When the box arrived, I ripped into it and oohed and ahhhed over the vibrant textbook covers and eagerly flipped through the pages to peek at the contents. I couldn't wait to get started with Little Britches on this program. 
Because I was familiar with how it worked, I knew we could literally, just open and go! No teachers manual needed. I did however take a moment to read the Introduction and How to Use This Product portions to familiarize myself more clearly with the product. 
From the first paragraph, I knew that this was most likely going to be a hit--when a book starts with "When God created the land we call America...", you know the writers of the book have placed their own priorities in the correct spot. The introduction continued though to explain how it was first a book of history, but also geography, as geography played such a vital role in the shaping of America's history. The introduction continues with explaining how the history will be taught...thirty units in chronological order, and with five types of lessons:
1. Our American Story: lessons about major events in the time period of the unit
2. God's Wonders: lessons describing an amazing creation God placed in America
3. An American Landmark: lessons about important sites in American history
4. An American Biography: lessons focusing on a person who lived at the time being studied
5. Daily Life: lessons telling how certain people lived and worked during the period
The introduction concludes talking about how while a lot of America's story is beautiful, some of it is not and how the authors will be honest about some of the America's biggest shortcomings throughout history.
In the How to Use the Product, the authors share how all the parts of the curriculum package work together. They also share ideas on how they designed the program to work. The suggested schedule is as follows:
Two volumes of lessons divided into fifteen units for a total of thirty units. Thus your child can study part 1 during one half of the year, and part 2 during the other half. Each unit has 5 lessons. If a student reads one lesson a day, they can cover 5 lessons in 1 week--thus completing a unit per week providing 30 weeks of lessons. 

Included in each lesson is a series of four to six activities--of which students are not obligated to complete all of. You can choose which you want your student to complete. Subjects of the activities vary from day to day, but they include:
*Thinking Biblically assignments
*Creative writing assignments
*Vocabulary assignments
*Family activities (1 per week)
*Literature assignments from We the People and the 10 books in the literature packages (more on that later)
*Assignments in Timeline of America the Beautiful
*Assignments in Maps of America the Beautiful
*Assignments in America the Beautiful Student Workbook or the America the Beautiful Lesson Review (both of these optional books)

Additional supplies needed for the curriculum include: three-ring binder, colored pencils, notebook paper, and writing utensils.
At this point, it was time to begin. 
I am going to state right off the bat that we did not use this as it was suggested. We have kicked into summer school, so we aren't even doing school 5 days a week. Thus, after evaluating the program and material, I decided that for this review, we would use it 2-3 days a week--working on just one lesson per week to spread out the reading and activities. NOW--let me also mention that I have EVERY intention of using it closer to the suggested way once we get back into our full school routine this fall--but for the review period, we took it slower to go with our summer routine. 

It was very easy to split each lesson in to 2-3 days a week. Day #1 was all about reading. Little Britches read the lesson from the text--usually 4-5 pages. Now because this text is ripe with photographs and illustrations, this was not a difficult chore to do. LOL. Once he was done with the reading, we usually did the Thinking Biblically assignment and/or the Vocabulary assignment if there was one included. Day #2, we worked on the rest of the activities from the lesson which usually included reading from We the People, creative writing, as well as the map/timeline work. We spent Day #3 finishing up that work, or reviewing the lesson for the week. 
Here are some photos from our time using the product:
A gorgeous first lesson full of visually stunning photographs!

The activities for Lesson 1--each clearly marked
Love all the historical photographs!
Working on the reading from We the People

Some map work
We maintained this schedule throughout the first 5 lessons which took us to the family activity which was very fun to complete as it was to make a Algonquian Longhouse out of gumdrops and toothpicks. It took us two weeks to work on the gumdrops activity since we weren't doing it daily, but BOTH of my boys thoroughly enjoyed it. 
As of right now, we have completed the first unit and family activity over the course of 6 weeks on a summer schedule. We will be picking up with Unit 2 when we get back into our school routine this fall, at which point we will shift to a 4-5 day a week schedule for the lessons.

What Are Our Thoughts on the Product?

Little Britches: 
"I really really like this. I think the pictures in the book are really cool. And it helps to have pictures to go with the words and information. The activities aren't hard. I'm really glad there isn't a lot of writing. But the writing that is there isn't hard. It's actually kind of fun to do. I liked having to write about how I get a hotdog on my plate from the cow it came from. My favorite thing was the gumdrop building! It was harder than I thought it would be to put it all together. And it was yummy!"

Yes yes yes! My thoughts are that this program is everything I hoped it would be and more. Not only is the textbook written in a narrative form making it easy to read, it is so full of photographs and visual things to go with the words. Little Britches pours over the photos in each lesson, he enjoys them so much. I am so glad that this is written from a Christian Worldview, because the authors constantly give praise and glory to God, and there is scripture woven throughout the lessons that tie in perfectly. In regards to the reading level, I would say it is easily geared towards 5th grade+, but an advanced 3rd or 4th grader would probably be able to read it too.
The activities are a nice balance, and none of them was complicated or hard to do. Even the writing assignments were short and sweet--with the option to be expanded depending on the child. I loved having the We the People book for the extended reading from real sources. Little Britches enjoyed learning about Indian life from the diary entries assigned during the first lessons.
Having the scripture/copywork as part of the lessons themselves is a great bonus, as well as examining history through the Christian lens. So many scriptures to bring to mind for the students as they work through each lesson.
I appreciated the vocabulary assignments that were part of each lesson and how it encouraged the student to see if they could determine the words based on the context they were used in. This helps them dive deeper into their reading. 
You can see the novels are added right in to the activities
This course is definitely focused on history and geography, but it would be possible to make it a literature course--or have a language arts focus. Even though it wasn't included in my review package, there IS a literature package with novels that work with the lessons. There are ten books in this that are actually scheduled into the activities. The first book begins with unit 4, and then they continue throughout the rest of the course. If you added this to the course, I DEFINITELY would consider this a history/geography/literature course. It would be easy to throw in spelling and grammar using the vocabulary words or copywork from each lesson as well. I think that there is enough here that you could truly only need to add on math and science. Remember, the idea of this IS to be like a unit study anyway.
Now this curriculum is geared towards 5th-8th grade. In my opinion, I would want to add on a bit MORE for the 7th-8th grade students to what is already here--and that is where having those optional Lesson Review and Student Workbooks would come into play. Or simply have them take the activities farther. Instead of an assigned paragraphy, maybe have them write an essay. Or throw in a research paper or notebooking. This course easily can be adapted based on the level of your students. 
suggested activities based on grade level

giving some ideas for using it at a multi-age level
Now some may want to know if they would do this with YOUNGER students. I think you could adapt it--IF you had someone reading ALOUD the text. Perhaps an older sibling or the parent. The assignments are easily adapted--and you would just need to get a few extra of the consumable books. I would limit the material to 3rd grade. I really don't know that I would use this with a grade lower than 3rd. 
And don't forget--this curriculum comes with answer keys to everything, so you don't have to worry about the grading. 

Now are there cons? 

Well, I really don't know that these are truly cons, but here you go:
1. it's a rigorous course at 5 days a week-one unit per week to finish it in one year. 
BUT--it is so adaptable, I truly think you could stretch it and make it work however you desire. Year round homeschoolers would probably LOVE this program because they can just go through it at their own desired pace. I have considered turning it into a two year course--focusing on one text per year...but I think that really will depend on how quickly we can work through all of the lessons once we get started again. 
2. Reading. Lots of reading.
This course is definitely literature centered with the text reading, the extra sources book, and the optional literature package. If you have a reluctant reader, this might not be the best go for you--unless you are okay with reading aloud. Fortunately, I have a reader and he LOVES all the reading.
I think the greatest PROS are these:
It's a laid back narrative approach to history presenting many many sources and activities ripe with historical photographs, color photographs, and more. It is taught chronologically making it easy to keep track of what is going on. It is from a Christian worldview, which means there is much focus on God's hand in the course of history. It is HIGHLY adaptable to fit YOUR needs. And honestly the biggest draw? The PRICE! For $99.95 I can get a CORE curriculum and build everything else around it! 
Will we continue to use this program?
Absolutely! I have put it on hold right now until we start back up this fall, but we will be doing this as a core curriculum I think, since I'm changing things up this year. 

Would I Recommend This Product?

Yes yes yes! It was exactly what I thought it would be and we have fallen in love with the style and presentation. As I said in my pros above, the whole program just FITS the style of those who like Unit Study and heavy literature--which is the way our family is leaning towards. I also recommend it for those desiring a Christian worldview to American History. It is DEFINITELY able to be done nearly independently because of the style. 
Who wouldn't like it? Those who don't want Christianity to be a part of the curriculum. Also, if you are desiring a more "traditional" history approach with memorization and worksheets and exams. 
If you want to know more, I encourage you to check out the America the Beautiful Curriculum Package that is part of the Timberdoodle 2016 5th Grade Curriculum kit to see if it will be right for you! You will be able to download all kinds of samples to give you a peek at what the first lesson is like!
I am definitely going to be checking out more products from Notgrass History thanks to the experience we're having with this review.
 photo 2015blogsiggy_zpsfy0kfo4t.png

June 22, 2016

Tangy French Salad Dressing Recipe {Fresh from the Kitchen}

Earlier this month, I shared a recipe for Mom's Marvelous Honey Mustard Salad Dressing and I promised that I would also share our favorite Tangy French Salad Dressing recipe as well. This recipe was developed because "French" dressing is the only kind my husband will eat. We don't want to buy the various versions of it because the ingredients in most of them are simply dreadful for someone trying to go more organic, and organic versions cost an arm and a leg. So it was to the cookbooks I went. I found a version and we made it--but it was bland. So I started tweaking it as I always do. I finally found a combination of ingredients that creates a version he enjoys--it's actually kind of a mix of a traditional "french" dressing and its cousins "catalina" and "tangy tomato". So without further ado, here is my recipe for Tangy French Salad Dressing.

The links on this blog and in the posts may be affiliate links
Please see my disclosure policy for full details and thank you for your support!

When it comes to salad dressing, I like to keep it simple. If I can't throw it all in a blender, give it a whirl, I don't want to be bothered with it! So none of my recipes need any fancy tools except a blender! In fact, you could just put it all in a mason jar and shake it! It would also work with any kind of salad dressing shaker as well.

A lot of salad dressing recipes call for fancy oils, but unless you have a personal preference for oils and want to use something difference, I always just use extra virgin olive oil in all my dressings that call for oil or salad oil. I have never had issues with flavor. Next in regards to vinegar. While you can use any vinegar really, I keep mine to either Red Wine Vinegar, Balsamic Vinegar, or Rice Vinegar. For this recipe, I have tried them all, and it tastes the best (we think anyway) with Red Wine Vinegar. I have also tried using different infusion versions of Red Wine Vinegar in it (pomegranate is my favorite version) and it's delightful. The only vinegar substitution I recommend for this particular recipe, would be plain white vinegar.

Here's the recipe--just 8 ingredients!

June 21, 2016

LearnBop: Personalized Online Math Program {Curriculum Review}

Math. It's a subject where I am very grateful for online curriculum where someone else can "teach it" and I can be more a mentor. We have tried several online math programs and have had success with a few of them. We had a chance to review LearnBop for Families from LearnBop and I was curious to see whether this program would be a good fit for our boys or not.
LearnBop Online Math Program: A Review

Product Information

LearnBop is a personalized online math program for grades 3-12, specializing in providing a type of one-on-one instruction with a highly adaptive, self paced curriculum. The program is geared towards children who need to bring their math skills to a 3rd-12th grade level, prepare themselves for high-level exams, avoid a summer slump, or just improve and build confidence in math. The parent benefits by being able to use the program as a personalized tutor of sorts, and use it whenever it works best in their schedule. 

The LearnBop for Families is a new addition to the LearnBop curriculum (which has been used in schools for awhile now). This program allows homeschoolers to receive the same level of math help as can be found in the original version of LearnBop. The program is available as a Single Student Plan ($14.95/month or $149.95/year) or a Family Plan--up to 4 students ($19.95/month or $199.95/year).

LearnBop works best on the latest versions of Chrome, IE, Safari, and Firefox for desktop on of Apple or Windows. You will also need a stable broadband connection for all the videos. The program also supports the iPad Safari Browser (iOS 7 and higher). 

We were given a one year subscription of the Family Plan to be used by Little Britches (grade 4) and Baby Britches (grade 1). We used it with Chrome on our laptops.

How Did We Use the Program?

The program was a simple set up. Each child was given a character as their picture, and I could pick what roadmap to get them started. What are the roadmaps? They are the units or paths that you want your child to follow. Here are the possibilities:

June 17, 2016

What Do You Do...When You Reach The End of Your Journey? {Homeschooling: Keeping It Real Series}

When you begin your homeschooling journey, you rarely think about the end. I mean, most homeschooling families have more than one child, so they are looking at YEARS before the journey is over. And so you just focus on the ups and downs in front of you. The endless planning. The endless record keeping. Piles of curriculum. Overflowing bookshelves. Field trips. Never really thinking about the fact that one day you will be at the end of your journey. Every now and then though we might secretly wonder "What does it look like over there on the other side?"  Today's installment of the Homeschooling: Keeping It Real Series will let us do just that. Carol of Home Sweet Life is sharing what her view is like--with one daughter graduating from high school, and the other only 2 years away--13 years since the time she began her journey...

When You Reach the End ~ Homeschooling: Keeping It Real Series

The view from where I sit today looks so very different from the view 12 years ago. Back then I had two little girls, just starting out. Ok, who am I kidding, I had one who was super excited to be finishing Kindergarten, and one who couldn’t care less if she ever started school. Emily was almost six, Arlene was almost four, Emily wanted desperately to unlock the key to reading… and Arlene, she only wanted to be read to, cuddled on my lap,… and to avoid finger paint at all costs!

Today I have  Senior who will graduate High School in December, and a Sophomore who sometimes struggles with her more advanced Algebra problems. Today I’m thinking about how I need to actually type up Emily’s transcript soon, and what we should be purchasing for Arlene to work on in the Fall.

How did this humongous transformation take place? 
One day at a time.

Fresh from the Bookshelf: No Other Will Do by Karen Witemeyer {Book Review}

Karen Witemeyer is one of my top 5 favorite authors for Christian fiction and one of the top three for COMEDIC fiction. I just adore her clever wit and hilarious escapades for her "take-me-as-I-am" characters and have ALWAYS recommended her books. She is one of the only authors that will make me laugh out loud while I am reading--so I am quick to snag any of her new books. I was tickled to have a chance to review her latest release No Other Will Do, the first book in a new series called Ladies of Harper Station. I looked forward to the joy that I was sure it would bring me!
No Other Will Do by Karen Witemeyer~ Book Review

The links on this blog and in the posts may be affiliate links
Please see my disclosure policy for full details and thank you for your support!

About the Book

No Other Will Do by Karen Witemeyer is set in Texas in 1882. Emma Chandler was raised by suffragette aunts who encouraged her endeavor to not only become a female banker, but establish Harper's Station, a women's colony for females in need. Problem is that it's 1882 and those aren't things that many men are too keen on, but in this town, men are optional! Problem is, there is a dangerous shadowy assailant trying to drive the women out--Emma thinks they might need a man after all...but only one man is worthy of her trust.

Malachi Shaw is a boy from the wrong side of the tracks. Alone since he was 10, he has clawed his way to the top of his field as an explosives expert for the railroad to finally earn the respect he's always craved. But one day, he receives a telegram from Emma--the girl who saved his life 13 years ago, his angel...and she needs his help. 

June 15, 2016

Mr. Popper's Penguins E-Guide: A Literature Unit from Progeny Press {Curriculum Review}

I am always on the lookout for literature curriculum, and I especially enjoy literature units designed around a single book. One of the hottest companies for this type of curriculum right now is Progeny Press. We were recently given the Mr. Popper's Penguins E-Guide to review, and I was very curious to see how this literature guide compared to others I have used.

Product Information

Progeny Press is a family owned and operated company determined to provide biblical based literature units for grades lower elementary through high school. Progeny Press offers a large collection of study guides for classic literature to some study guides of popular YA fiction. 
The study guide will provide vocabulary, comprehension questions, critical thinking questions, scripture copywork, bible study topics, creative writing, and more.
The study guide is available as an E-guide for instant download ($17.99), a printed workbook ($18.99), or a CD ($17.99). The E-guides aren't your traditional printable file. When opened in Adobe Acrobat Reader 9.0+, they become interactive, thus allowing the students to enter their answers into the computer and save their work. The e-guides can also still be printed and used in the traditional manner.
Titles available as E-guides include:
*The Big Wave
*The Bridge
*Charlotte's Web
*The Cricket in Times Square
*The Door in the Wall
*Farmer Boy
*Mr. Popper's Penguins
*Sarah Plain and Tall
*A New Coat for Anna
*The Drinking Gourd
*Miss Rumphius
*Anne of Green Gables
*The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
*The Giver
*Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe
*The Hobbit
*Hunger Games
*And many more!

We were given the Mr. Popper's Penguins E-Guide to review with Little Britches (age 10).

How Did We Use It?

The study guide was easy to download to my computer (using Chrome) and open as I have Adobe Acrobat. It came in two parts: answer key and study guide. As I opened up the study guide, I was curious to see what the interactive portions looked like. It ended up being simply drop down answer choices, and places where they can type their answers. But I digress. At the beginning there is a note to the parent that explains how to use the study guide and notes that the student will also need a dictionary, thesaurus, Bible and access to a topical bible or encyclopedia to complete the work. This was good to know before beginning. The note also suggests that the book be read in its entirety the first week, as the student completes a pre-reading activity, and then work on one page of the study guide per day working through the chapters. The study guide also contains a final overview which could be used for a final "exam" if needed. The parent is also encouraged to let the child reference the book as they work through the assignments. 
I found this a good guide to see how it could be done, even if it isn't how I was going to decide to complete it. 
The study was set up with a basic design: synopsis, pre-reading activities, chapter review questions, optional section of additional questions, overview, post reading activities, and additional resources. I noticed that the chapters of the book were grouped 4-5 per section, so I printed out a section at a time. 
Why did I print instead of using the interactive version? Because it was my preference. I knew most of our answering was going to be open discussion, and I wanted to be able to include Baby Britches (age 5) into our discussion. Using a printed copy would work best for this. 
Once I had the pre-reading and first section printed, we began. I snagged the book from our library on our next trip. I decided that we were NOT going to read the whole book in advance. I knew my boys would do much better on the questions and activities if we read it aloud and then completed the work for each chapter when it was done. 
I introduced Mr. Popper's Penguins with the pre-reading discussion and reading the background information about the Poles. I found a world map that could be colored and labelled on a different resource site, so we did that as was suggested in the pre-reading activities. We found the north and south pole in our atlas and talked about the kind of things that live there. As you might have guessed, we used our read aloud book, with me reading 1-3 chapters each day. The boys were taken with the story right away.
We followed a pattern of doing 1-3 chapters a day and then doing the questions which matched what we read. Once we did that, we then spent another day finishing up the questions or activities in that section before moving on. We typically did 1 section per week, although we didn't always
Glad to get to use our new atlas!
complete it within a week (since we are on a modified summer schedule). 
We have finished the book and chapter questions. I decided to do the optional sections as they were on very important things (relating to money and debt), and this week we will conclude by making a diorama of sorts of the arctic regions and hopefully watching the latest version of the Mr. Popper's Penguins movie. And eat homemade ice cream! 

What Are Our Thoughts on This Product?

I think both boys enjoyed the story very much. They had fun with our initial map activity and learning more about the poles. They weren't in love with the "work" but because I didn't require them to write anything--we didn't have any issues with completing it. I did make Little Britches do the vocab work and exercises which he completed easily.
matching vocabulary to definitions, then using them in a word search
My favorite answer from the open ended questions...LOL
I think it's a very good guide and gives you the basics for completing a literature unit. The comprehension questions are very well done, and the open ended discussion questions encourage critical thinking. I loved the vocabulary sections and how it could be done with multiple choice--but mostly how it was presented differently in each section. 
A surprise benefit was how MUCH scripture and biblical teaching was incorporated in the lessons. We were constantly going to the old and new testament and reading scripture relating to our section. I think it added a nice depth to the unit that some literature units neglect. I especially loved how it pointed out in our story, what the Bible says about being a good steward, and debt and such--and comparing it to our Mr. Popper's Penguins story. It allowed for some really great discussion on money management. Which in turn was the perfect spin off for the optional section of questions included with this study guide--they were all related to that very topic.
Reading verses

lessons on being a good steward
What I would have liked to have seen is a bit more hands-on. For instance, it would be nice if there was a section where the student was encouraged to draw out a scene from the chapter, or keep a log of the characters with illustrations, or something like that. There are similar things included in the post-reading portion, but it would have been nice to have optional activities like that as part of the study guide.
This program is very very very easy to build on with other activities for taking the basic guide and turning it into a unit study. This is what we pretty much ended up doing with it, so I greatly appreciated having the e-guide as a starting point!
Will I continue to use this product?
As I said above, we have a few extra activities to use with it and then we will watch the movie Mr. Popper's Penguins as our finale. I definitely plan on keeping this e-guide to pull out for Baby Britches when he gets older and is ready to do the activities himself.

Would I Recommend This Product?

I would recommend this product if you prefer the more traditional method of working through a book and then completing comprehension questions with a bit of discussion. There isn't a lot of hands on scheduled into this product, however there are ideas for it at the back of the E-guide. If your child prefers a lot of hands-on activities, with minimal writing, this might not be the best idea for you. It is good for those who have multi-ages, for you could work together as a group to complete the assignments. 
Because these study guides are presented with a Christian worldview, there is a lot of scripture and theology woven into it, so if you need a secular curriculum, this wouldn't be a first choice I don't think. 

Want to Know More?

Over the last few weeks, we have been reviewing the lower-elementary unit Mr. Popper's Penguins E-Guide from Progeny Press. You have seen how we used it and our thoughts on it, but what did the rest of the review crew think? Make sure you head on over to see some of the other guides that were used for other grade levels!
Literature Study Guides from a Christian Perspective {Progeny Press  Review}
You can find Progeny Press on Facebook and Twitter if you want to stay up to date on their sales and new releases!
While I definitely liked the detail of the literature guide and the regular connections with biblical studies, I don't think it's quite the right fit for us. I just needed to add MUCH more to it to make it work for our family pulling from other products to give us a full unit that worked for us. If I used it again, it would be as a base product for me to build on. Progeny Press offers excellent materials and I will probably remember them to try again when we are in a higher grade level, and might not need so much hands on aspects.
 photo 2015blogsiggy_zpsfy0kfo4t.png