GrapeVine Studies Reivew

Have you wanted to remember your bible study?  Do you easily forget what you have read? When I think about history, and how people remembered stories to tell the next generation, they often used a variety of stick figure pictures to convey their message.  Stick figures are universal and easy to make and understand for most people of all ages.  The artifacts we have left show that people either drew them with charcoal or painted them onto rocks or cave walls, drew or carved shells or beads, and some people carved them into walking sticks, bone or wooden boxes, and totem poles.  However the story was shared, simple stick figure drawings have been a form of communication and remembering stories since the beginning of time.

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We were recently sent a product called Birth of Jesus: Multi Level Bible Curriculum from GrapeVine Studies to learn how to stick figure our way through the bible and understand and remember what we have learned.

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Stick figuring through the bible is a revolutionary yet ancient idea for helping your kids understand and remember their bible verses.  You can bring the story to life and make the stories easy to share with pictures like ancient people’s did.  I have seen this phenomenon going around for the past few years, some folks use doodles and paints, and some bible studies use stick figures.  I came across a homeschool mom’s website a few years ago who had been stick figuring through the bible with her kids and I was fascinated with the idea and put it on my “someday” to do list to learn more.   Well my “someday” finally arrived a few months ago when we were sent GrapeVine Studies curriculum to review in our homeschool.

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Birth Of Jesus: Multi Level

GrapeVine Studies

For Elementary Age Students

e-book PDF Download (other formats available)

Price varies depending on format you choose, see website for purchase details.

This is a whole new way to do Bible Study with your family!


What We Received:

Birth of Jesus: Multi-Level Student e-Book:

  • Ages 7+
  • lessons pages,
  • timelines,
  • map,
  • memory verses,
  • and reviews.
  • 48 pages.

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Traceable for Multi-Level e-Book:

  • Ages 3-6
  • lessons pages,
  • timelines,
  • map,
  • memory verses,
  • reviews
  • 48 pages.

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Birth of Jesus Teacher’s e-Book:

  • lesson notes,
  • stick figure drawings,
  • lesson goals & key points,
  • memory verses,
  • review questions & answers.
  • 64 pages

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How We Used GrapeVine Studies

The first thing I did when I received my e-books was print them out.  I hole punched them and placed them into a 3 ring binder, but many of my friends also take them to the local office store and have them spiral bound for ease of use.  You can also purchase GrapeVine Studies books already printed and bound and ready to use, they come in several format options to fit your needs.

Next you need to get your supplies ready and put them in a basket, milk crate or an easily accessible container for bible study time.


Supplies Needed To Complete GrapeVine Studies Include:

  • Lesson pages for each student
  • Teachers Book pages for lesson instructions
  • Bible
  • Bible Dictionary
  • Atlas of the Bible Lands
  • Dry erase board and/or a chalk board (for mom)
  • Dry erase markers and/or chalk (for mom)
  • Colored pencils

I gave each child their own binder, and we worked on the GrapeVine Studies with our bible study for 10 minutes to 20 minutes four days a week.   For my younger children I give them the traceable pages, and the older children I give the blank pages for them to draw out the story. This study is meant to last 5 weeks by doing 4 lessons each week or a total of 128 lessons.  Each product from GrapeVine Studies is different so be sure to check the length of other products if you are looking for a longer or shorter time frame.


Schedule 10 to 20 Minutes Each Day

  • Monday: Timeline Review Page
  • Tuesday: Lesson page 1
  • Wednesday: Lesson page 2
  • Thursday: Student Drawing Page


Extra Day 5 (Friday).  We added our own ideas to further the learning for Fridays.  We did a variety of things like have the kids retell the story, make a lego creation to retell the story, act out the story, etc.  Check out our Further the Learning Ideas posted below if you would like to do this study in 5 days a week instead of 4. This product is very flexible and you can adapt it to your needs.

Further the Learning:

These are our “extra” ideas for making the GrapeVine Studies into a 5 day curriculum.  We love Unit Studies, and I felt this curriculum was easy to expand into a fun bible unit study for my kids to enjoy.  This is a great curriculum to accompany what you are already doing or to stand on its own.  You can include it for circle time with younger children, individual study for older children, or family bible study too.  We made it into the bible portion of our unit study learning about the Birth Of Jesus.   This is such a flexible curriculum and easy to adapt to any situation.

Field Trip:

  • Take a field trip to a local museum and look at artifacts that contain stick figures.  Have the children compare these with their stick figures of bible stories.
  • Take a virtual field trip online and learn about stick figures on ancient artifacts and on cave walls.

Screenshot (281)Ancient “Jonah” stick figure. (Image source)

Recent discoveries of ancient Jewish artifacts reveals a rich history of stick figures and even their written language reveals stick figures.  Here is a picture of the story of Jonah discovered on a tomb in 2012.    You can find many examples like this to look at with your children in museums and online.

Study Language:

Ancient Greek and Hebrew, Chinese, Japanese, as well as many other languages look like stick figures. Find examples of these languages online and have the kids guess what story they are telling, or what the different characters stand for.  See if they can identify stick figures and a story in ancient writings.  Check out wikipedia for an explanation of the history of stick figures in history.

Gift Idea:

  • Have the kids make a stick figure bible verse card for someone’s birthday, holiday, or anniversary.
  • Using cinamon sticks or tree branch sticks and hot glue, have the kids recreate a scene from their GrapeVine Studies and give this as a gift.
  • GrapeVine Studies stick figure scene painted or drawn onto rocks to give away as paperweights or give a whole story on rocks that can be displayed to retell the story.

Snack Ideas:

  • Have the kids make pretzel stick figures with pretzels, raisins, mini marshmallows, olives.
  • They could also use cheese sticks and olives with the help of a toothpick inbetween to hold them together.
  • Another fun idea would be to bake a stick figure scene from the GrapeVine studies with a bread stick dough.  Have the kids shape their stick figure scene on a cookie sheet and bake it to look just like their page.  This could be their centerpiece on the table at supper as they share the bible story with daddy or company who might come to visit, especially if using the Birth Of Jesus or the Resurection of Jesus GrapeVine Study near the holidays.

Arts and Craft Ideas:

  • Decorate a binder with stick figure animations to personalize it and hold their GrapeVine Studies bible study pages.  You can also create a lapbook, or create lapbook flaps they can keep in their binder to store maps, or mini booklets, etc that you might want to include if doing this as a unit study.
  • Go outside and find some sticks and and make puppets re-create one of the bible story’s they studied in their GrapeVine Studies.    Use the GrapeVine Studies pages as a script to re-tell the story with their stick figure puppets.
  • Use chalk and draw their GrapeVines Studies onto the side walk at a park or public area to share the gospel with others.
  • Paint rocks with the bible story using stick figure story ideas from GrapeVines Studies.  Retell the story to family and friends.   Could make a special bag or box and give this as a gift to a loved one that they could then display in their home.   This would be great to stick figure paint the nativity on rocks for Christmas too.

Lego Skit Ideas:

Legos look kind of “stick figure like” and every kid I know loves to play with Legos.  Using the pages from GrapeVine Studies as their written skit, have the kids re-tell the story using Legos. This is one of my kids favorite “extra” learning activities.

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Final Thoughts

I was really excited to review this product.  When I was younger,  I used to doodle in my bible and made notes in the margins.  It was my attempt to understand what I was reading and remember it.  Nowadays, I mostly use a spiral bound notebook to keep my bible study notes.


Handwriting out long notes during bible study doesn’t really work for most of my children, especially my younger children, because they are not yet strong readers or writers.   Thanks to GrapeVine Studies we now know the kids can keep their bible study notes drawn in stick figure form, and they will remember what they have learned and be able to retell the story themselves.

Social Media

Be sure to check out GrapeVine Studies on their social media links for all the latest news and product updates.

Periscope: @Grapevine Studies

Grapevine Studies Review

Be sure to check out what other families on the TOS Review Crew had to say about using GrapeVine Studies in their homes.


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Eat Your Science Homework Review

We are having a BLAST reviewing Eat Your Science Homework by Ann McCallum Books.

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Have you ever thought of your kitchen as a science lab? Well you will now with this yummy science book full of experiments that will please your kid’s tummy, entice their taste buds, and satisfy their curiosity.

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Eat Your Science Homework

Ages 7-10 (flexible to use for all ages)

Large Full Color Illustrations,

48 High Quality Glossy Pages

Softcover Retails for $7.94

Hardcover Retails for $16.95

Science Adventures

This book covers six fun science adventures to help kids learn about the Scientific Method, Atoms and Molecules, Properties of Matter, Inherited Traits, Rocks and Minerals, and Our Solar System.  There is a free Educator’s Guide to help you teach each adventure.   For each science adventure has an introduction, a recipe, and a science experiment to complete after making the recipe.   Each science adventure includes vocabulary words, a fun recipe to make in the kitchen, an experiement using the scientific method, and fun colorful illustrations to read. Each adventure teaches science concepts in an easy to learn hands on way.


There are six delicious recipes to make, one recipe for each science adventure.  Steps to complete for each recipe:

  • Before You Begin: Prep work to do ahead of making the recipe.  Examples might be preheating the oven to the correct baking temperature.
  • Ingredients: A list of food times and quantities to make the recipe.  Examples might be 1 egg, 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil, etc.
  • Equipment: Equipment needed to complete the recipe.  Examples might be a muffin pan, mixing bowl, spatula, etc.
  • Method: Steps to put the ingredients together and then bake or use whatever method to achieve the finished results.

Educator’s Guide

Free Downloadable Teacher’s Guide available on the website.  This guide has great tips and printouts for you to further the learning.  It does not follow the book exactly, and all of the experiments are not discussed.  Instead the guide gives you a general feel for how to use the book to enhance learning.  The guide offers insight into a couple of the experiments (Atoms and Molecules: Atomic Popcorn Balls, Inherited Traits: Loop Whirl, and Arch Cookies) and has a few additional experiments ( 1+1 Doesn’t = 2; Talk About Tiny; Fingerprint Knowhow; Thumbs Up; Volcanoes and Heat; Science Sampler: Fondue) an icebreaker Bingo game; and worksheet printouts.

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30+ Vocabulary Words

There are over 30 science vocabulary words and terms in this book.  The teacher’s guide has printouts your kids can write out each vocabulary word, their own definition, the actual definition, and include a picture.  There are partially completed pages where the kids only need to fill in their own definition and picture and the word and actual definition are already completed, and there is also a blank template for kids to fill it all in themselves.  You can choose the level you need for your kids based on age and skill.

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What We Are Learning:

We are about 1/2 of the way through this funtastic book!  I hope to finish it before the holidays and buy the next book in the series.   This book is a fun way to teach 30+ science concepts and vocabulary words with six easy to make and delicious recipes.


We are learning about the Scientific Method, Atoms and Molecules, Properties of Matter, Inherited Traits, Rocks and Minerals, and the Solar System.

Scientific Method

  • Question: How to ask a question.
  • Make A Hypothesis:  Make a hypothesis or guess about the answer.
  • Experiment
  • Procedure
  • Observe: Observe and analyze what happens.
  • Conclude: Form a conclusion about the answer to the question.

Atoms and Molecules

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We popped popcorn and made Atomic Popcorn Balls.  We learned about the periodic table and atoms and molecules.  We pop popcorn weekly at our house, but this is the first time the kids turned them into popcorn balls.  I used to make them years ago for holidays, but stopped when I became more health conscious.  But it was fun to make them for science!

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Properties of Matter

Density Dressing and Veggie Sticks.  This was really fun as we made homemade dressing for our vegetables to dip in.  We have eaten veggies and dip many times, but never learned about density,  and properties of matter.

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Invisible Ink Snack Pockets.  We are looking forward to making this experiement soon.  The kids will learn about pH and and will make our own personalized version of hot pockets (like a pocket of bread crust stuffed with pizza toppings) and will be able to write on the outside that reappears when they are finished baking.

Inherited Traits


This was one of the kids favorite science adventures in this book. They were able to make cookies and study inheritance and fingerprints.  My kids read recipes and make cookies all the time.  We have learned math and measurements and conversions many times in the kitchen.  BUT this is the first time we have turned cookies into a science experiment.  I will post a future story about making these cookies.

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Rocks and Minerals

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This section teaches the kids about weights of different minerals and rocks.  They learn about the periodic table and about sedimentation.  They make a Sedimentary Pizza Lasagna (a lasagna made from pizza topping ingredients and lasagna noodles).    We have this science adventure planned for next week and the kids are really looking forward to it.

Our Solar System


With this section kids learn about gravity, black holes, mass, matter.  They will bake muffins with pancake mix and sausage to demonstrate these concepts.  We are planning to make these muffins during our Thanksgiving holiday for breakfast.  We will keep you posted in an upcoming story about this.  The kids are hoping they will like the taste and I think they will because they have had a sandwich made with pancakes on the outside and a sausage patty on the inside, so I think these will have a similar flavor even though they are in a muffin shape.  We will tie in more Solar System learning the week before and I think this experiment and recipe will be a lot of fun.

Though my kids have been cooking for many years already, they have learned a lot of new things with this fun book and will look at cooking in the kitchen in a whole new way.  They see the kitchen classroom in a whole new way.   I would encourage everyone to pick up a copy of this science book.

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About the Creator’s

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Author: Ann McCallum is an award winning author and a highschool teacher.  She currently teaches in Maryland, USA and has also has years of teaching experience in Canada and the United Arab Emirates.  She has authored several books for learning books for children of all ages: Eat Your Science Homework, Eat Your Math Homework, Eat Your History Homework, Rabbits Rabbits Everywhere, and The Measure of a Giant.  Ann McCallum Books has some of the funniest titles for curriculum your kids are going to love.

Illustrator: Leeza Hernandez is an award winning graphic designer, author, and illustrator in both England and the USA.  Her works are featured in books, magazines, and newspapers.

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Social Media

Be sure to follow Ann McCallum Books on their Social Media links:



Ann McCallum Books Review

Check out what other Homeschool Families on the TOS Review Crew had to say about using products from Ann McCallum in their home.


Brinkman Adventures Season 3 Review

We took a day trip last week and enjoyed listening to the newest audio drama release from  Brinkman Adventures.

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The Brinkman Adventures: Season 3

5 Hours of Adventures

Recorded on 4 CD’s.

12 Episodes

Each episode is approximately 25+ minutes long.

For ALL Ages

Retails for $27.99  (purchase by donation only, whatever amount you feel led to give)

MP3 download version also available.   See web site for more details.

What is included:

These are short stories told in audio drama style of mission trips taken by real missionaries. They are full of suspense, daring escapes, and total reliance on God for provision and safety and making a way where there is no way.   They are inspiring and faith building.   They challenge you to believe and share your faith in Jesus Christ, to believe in the God of the impossible, Jehovah, and his love for mankind.

These stories are full of the kind of exciting adventures my kids loved!

This set contains 4 Disks.  Stories on each disk include:

Disk 1

  • Ep. 01 – God’s Mule.
  • Ep. 02 – Mountain Mover.
  • Ep. 03 – Silent Ambassador

Disk 2

  • Ep. 04 – Translating Trouble
  • Ep. 05 – Man-Up
  • Ep. 06 – Acorns & Oaks

Disk 3

  • Ep. 07 – A Saint’s Story Pt 1
  • Ep. 08 – A Saint Story pt 2
  • Ep. 08 – A Saint Story pt 2 (2)
  • Ep. 09 – Untouched

Disk 4

  • Ep. 10 – Busy Bees and a Bullhorn
  • Ep. 11 – Missionary Tourist Pt 1
  • Ep. 12 – Missionary Tourist Pt 2

How We Used The Brinkman Adventures, Episode 3:

We enjoyed these CD’s so much!  We took it with us on a day trip to enjoy the beauty of the fall and listen to amazing stories (testimonies) of God working in peoples lives. The kids were on the edge of their seat the whole time we listened to these stories on our trip.  They wouldn’t let a moment go by when one disk ended, they immediately wanted me to put the next disk into the player.

Fall Afternoon

I know we will listen to these audio drama’s again and again.   We have been audio drama fans for many many years.   When our children were very little we first began listening to christian missionary CDs and audio bible dramas for kids.  It is such a fun way to learn to listen and go on an adventure by listening and imagining all the places and people and events being described.

Here are a few examples of the fun stories we listened to:

In the first story, Ep. 1- God’s Mule, the missionary Tomas, secretly transports bibles to closed countries and has to rely on God to help in big and small ways to accomplish this impossible task that could land him in prison or even killed.

In the second story, Ep. 2 – Mountain Mover, another story about Tomas, he secretly smuggled 4,000 bibles in 14 years, then 5,000 bibles in one trip, and 10,000 bibles in another trip in 100 suitcases that the authorities never opened and their machines broke just as he and his team approached the lines to be inspected.  God showed his power in mighty ways to protect Tomas and make a way for the impossible.

In the third story, Ep 3 – Silent Ambassador, a young girl named Evyline becomes a kid with a mission.  She puts a kids club together and organizes the collection and filling of 200 shoeboxes of supplies for Operation Christmas Child.  When they learn about what she has done, she gets to become an Ambassador for the charity and travel around the country speaking on their behalf and also travel to the Dominican Republic to deliver the charity’s 100 millionth shoebox.

Story after story, 12 stories in all, each one will inspire you and your kids to live bigger and bolder and more outrageous for God.  They will encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and trust God to do the impossible to help you spread the news of his kingdom.

Further the Learning:

Play It Out:  One of the best parts of being a kid is getting to play.  Role play, active play, imaginative play, you name it and play is just fun and a great way to learn.  My kids were so inspired by the stories, they wanted to act out some of the adventures at the park.  We had been on the road for several hours and were headed back home but decided to stop and let them stretch their legs and their imaginations.  This was a great opportunity for them to imagine crossing bridges, climbing mountains, escaping dangers, and reaching areas of the world with the gospel.

Fall at Park

Map It:  Print out or draw out a world map.  Have the kids locate where in the world the mission assignment takes place.  Then have them learn more about that country and the culture of the people who live there.  If it is known what country or state the missionary came from, have them mark that too.  They can then find out what it cost to travel to that country, live there, and what kind of finances a missionary would need to complete the assignment. Perhaps this will inspire them to help raise money for missions.  At the bare minimum it will expand their understanding of the geographic locations of different peoples around the world.

Art It: Draw It/Color It/Paint It.  This activity does so much to help a person’s mind understand and remember the story.  We have found this activity to be very inspirational.  You can start with a blank page and let the kids draw the story, or give them a printed coloring page (many free ones available online) and have them color either during or after the story.

Unit Study: We loved these CD’s so much that we are going to go around the world in 12 weeks with them. We are going to create 12 mini unit studies and take 1 audio drama a week and listen and study the country the missionary went to and the people who live there.  We will fill in a map, make a timeline of events, make a recipe, a craft, and pray for the missionary and people they are reaching every day that week.  We will start on a small scale and do this for 12 weeks, one missionary story a week,  starting in January.

Curriculum:  There are so many areas you could incorporate these stories on CD with your curriculum: Bible, Language Arts, Culture Studies, Geography, History, Travel, Politics, Religion, Public Speaking, etc.  I would like to create some lesson plans and put something together for next year for a year long missions focused curriculum.  Perhaps we can turn Brinkman Adventures into a year long missions unit study, or keep it to the 12 weeks and fill in the rest of the year with their other audio volumes 1 and 2.  I found some great resources online for kids to learn about missions including worksheets, crafts, and lots of activities.  Also on their website are short written stories about each missionary and more information about their real life experience.  Brinkman Adventures also offers a curriculum called Ignite for ages 8-12 for $49 suggested donation.  This looks really good and may be an option for folks who don’t have time or feel comfortable to make their own lesson plans.

Invite Friends: I could really see this as a 12 month course and do this with a homeschool coop either in a local area or online with other families.  It would also be great to do with a bible study and with a youth group.   If doing with a bible study or youth group, I would definately check into Brinkman Adventures pre-made curriculum.  I am considering putting an online coop together and get several other homeschool families together on this with us, each family getting their own CD’s, and then we can follow some lesson plans to further the learning and put our faith in action, and finally do a blog hop online where all the families can share our experiences together. Let me know if you want to participate in this project.

Stay tuned for a future updates on this project.  Perhaps we can get missionary companies to offer a give away here or perhaps we can even help them raise funds for their missions outreach and needs.  Let me know if you want to participate in this adventure.  I think this has the potential to be life transforming if we can catch the vision for it!

Social Media

Be sure to follow Brinkman Adventures on their social media links for all the latest news and product updates.  They currently offer three volumes on CD sets with amazing missionary stories.  They also have a pre-made curriculum with lesson plans called Ignite that looks great.



Brinkman Adventures Season 3 Review

Check out what other homeschool families on the TOS Review Crew had to say about using Brinkman Adventures in their home.


Online Homeschool Classes with SDA Review

Homeschool parents are blessed to be able to design their kids education as they see best. They pull the educational resources from a variety of places such as books, videos, library resources, local community programs, coops, field trips, life skills, etc.  Sometimes the parents create their own curriculum and sometimes they buy it pre-made, and sometimes they do a blend of both.  Homeschooling is such a blessing to be able to customize your children’s education to fit each child’s individual interests and the priorities and goals of your family.


If you are looking for a pre-made online course that has everything your student needs to complete the subject of study, then you might want to try Homeschool Courses from Standard Deviants Accelerate.  They offer a variety of affordable classes for 3rd Greade through Adult, including some college prep classes.


Homeschool Courses

Arithmetic (grades 3+)
Fundamental Math (grades 4+)
Earth Science (grades 6+)
Nutrition (grades 6+)
Biology (grades 7+)
Algebra (grades 7+)
Chemistry (grades 9+)
English Comp (grades 9+)
U. S. History (grades 9+)
AP Biology (grades 11+)
AP Chemistry (grades 11+)
AP History (11+)
AP U. S. Gov. & Politics (grades 11+)
AP Eng. Composition (grades 11+)

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Each Course is $9.99 per month and can be used with up to 5 students per family.  So you can have 5 of your kids all studying the same subject for only $9.99!!!  That is a deal!   If you want to study two subjects that month, such as: nutrition, and history at the same time, then 5 kids in the same house can learn 2 subjects and it would cost you $9.99 x 2 = $19.98 per month for the two classes!  You can buy a lifetime membership for up to 10 students for all of the SDA classes available (currently 14 courses) for one low discounted price of $795 (forever access).



That is a deal!

Each course offers a full year of curriculum, but your student (s) may finish the class as quick or as slow as they desire.  Each child has their own dash board that they log into and it keeps track of their individual progress.

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The classes are always open 24/7 so it is flexible for your schedule, and you can work on it as much as you want to.   It contains a variety of videos, note taking, interactive quizzes, writing, reviews, exams, and you can access the courses through your desktop computer, mobile laptop, and smart device like a tablet too.  This greatly increases your options of where and when you can find flexible time to work on your school work.  These classes can be used as your main course work or used as a supplemental program.  Some kids may finish a course quicker in a semester, and some will need the whole school year, depending on the subject being studied and how quick your kids go through the program.  For example, we found it takes longer to learn Chemistry or Algebra than it takes to finish the class in American History or Nutrition.

SDA has been producing digital education videos and resources for 20+ years, when two friends got the bright idea to record full length courses and make them funny.  The idea took off and they have won numerous awards for their high quality educational video courses.

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Though SDA has a variety of complete core subjects for middle and highschool students, these are not your usual boring classes.   Instead, they are funny and filled with silly skits that help kids learn and retain the information.

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Homeschool Courses through SDA are a great option for when you need a course instructor, pre-made lessons, quizzes that keeps track of all of the answers and grades and everything all in one.  Basically all you do is turn it on and your child can work through it independently and you can keep track of what they are doing through the parent / teacher dashboard.

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How We Used SDA Homeschool Courses In Our Home:

We have been using SDA for an entire year now.  I feel confident in sharing my experience with you.  We had a 1 year subscription last school year, and we have a 1 year subscription for this year too, and I am very grateful for the opportunity to review this homeschool program for a second time.

Three of my sons are using at least one or more of the classes offered.  We decided to choose classes based on their skill level and interest level.  Last year I just put them in the class even if they were not very interested because I want to expose them to something new and different that we hadn’t done before.  But this year, it is all about what they are interested in.  We are currently using Nutrtion, US History, Mathematics, Biology, Earth Science, and Algebra.

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My kids and I each have our own seperate dashboards on the SDA website.   Each day I have the kids log in and view the video assignment, take notes as they watch the video and save their notes on the computer program.  You can watch this short video about how kids use their dashboard.

After the video and vocabulary learning, they complete any related written work and take the quiz. The notes they type are stored in their “locker” which is a filing system they can keep track of all of their notes for classes.


On my dashboard, I can view their progress, what areas need more practice or review to improve their understanding.  You can check out this short video on how to set up a teacher account and get your kids set up with with their classes on your dashboard.

Check out this short Teacher Account Video that explains more how this works.


Two of my middle boys are on similar learning levels, and they have enjoyed learning with the Nutrition, US History, and Mathematics courses this past year and have carried them over into this year too.  They have also recently started the Biology course too.  The biology course is a little advanced for my 5th and 7th grade sons, but I want them to take advantage of exploring this opportunity and get familiar with the learning materials.


Here is a short video clip of one of the topics discussed in nutrition and you can see the humor that is in every video in this example.

Our oldest son is in 9th grade, and he is taking the SDA Homeschool Courses: Nutrition, US History, Biology and Algebra.   I am thankful for a second opportunity to review SDA because this has been very beneficial to retake a class he started last year.  He did great in all but one class last year. Algebra was tougher than he thought it would be.

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He started the Algebra class last year, and had to stop after a couple of months because it was beyond his understanding.   He wasn’t ready for it yet.  So we stopped part way through and he took a pre-Algebra class that he did wonderful in.  Now he is ready for Algebra and has restarted this class and was able to pick up where he left off.   That is another great thing about this program is that it keeps track of your progress and you can go as fast or as slow as you need too.


Example of Homeschool Algebra:

Homeschool Alegebra curriculum has several benefits for the student and the teacher. Here are just a few:

220 minutes of video (with scrolling transcripts)
54 vocab words (with audio playback)
38 critical thinking questions
205 multiple choice questions
14 drag n’ drop graphic organizers
Automatic grading
Progress reporting
Meets State and National Standards
RTI alerts
Differentiated Instruction
Editable rubrics
Student-to-teacher messaging

Every class includes the written transcript of the video lessons. This makes it very handy to go back through and read what has been said, take notes etc.


Over all my oldest says he likes the curriculum.  He is self motivated to work on it each day. He strives to get good scores on his work and I am proud of his progress.

Homeschool U.S. History:

Another class I will share a little about is the Homeschool U.S. History course for grades 9 and up.  Some of the great features of this curriculum include:

149 minutes of video (with scrolling transcripts)
144 vocab words (with audio playback)
160 multiple choice questions
29 critical thinking questions
14 drag n’ drop graphic organizers
Meets State and National Standards
Progress reporting, Editable rubrics, Re-teaching
Automatic grading, and Student-to-teacher messaging

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My 13 year old is taking US History, Nutrition, and Biology.  He began the US History curriculum last year while in 6th grade and after he struggled though for about three months or so, I came to the realization it was too early for him.  I let him off the hook with it and allowed him to just work through the class as an observer and he worked on it 1 day a week after the initial review period was over.  We typically work on review products 3 to 5 days a week for six weeks to write our honest reviews based on our experience.  But once the review was done last year, the only SDA classes this son was enthused about was the arithmetic and mathematics classes and he did well and he recently finished one of them.  However, I saw that his response to the US History class was different.  When his interest level dropped last year, we decided to take do it once a week.

The problem was two fold. One problem he had was deciphering through some of the immaturity in the funny skits that wasn’t really needed to learn the materials.   The second problem was my fault that I put him in a class he wasn’t yet ready for.

SDA Homeschool US History is for grades 9 and up, and he was only in 6th grade at the time. Though a slower pace worked for him, he felt discouraged about the quizzes and writing things out.   He was able to get about half way through last year and I told him I was proud of him for trying and we would try again when he was a little older.   When the review of SDA was offered again for this year, I knew for sure he wanted to retake this class and improve his score. He is currently taking the class 5 days a week, and completes one lesson a day that takes him about 20 minutes or so.  NO prodding or pushing from me.  This time he is ready and wants to do it.


He likes audio visual methods of learning and excels when school work is presented in a combined audio video format.  He does not like to read a lot, or write a lot of verbiage, so he doesn’t use the SDA course transcripts (his older brother prefers reading everything including the transcripts). Where he got hung up last year was the writing part of the course.  He didn’t want to write out notes and didn’t like the written parts of the quizzes and the essay answer on the exam last year.  These are wonderful tools to gauge learning, but it is hard to gauge learning when someone is reluctant to do those areas.  But things are much better this time around.

He has gone through a lot of maturing this past year, especially over the summer.   He practiced two writing curriculums this past spring and all through summer.  One writing curriculum was practicing in print and one in cursive, and to my surprise he loved them.  I could not believe it. He could not believe it either.  Suddenly it was easy instead of hard.  Since then he has excelled in his writing skills and is no longer reluctant.  This was just the boost he needed and an answer to my prayer to light a fire inside and desire to learn.   He has greatly improved in reading and writing and motivation!  He desires to get his school work done each day and is working on the SDA courses independently, self motivated, and is enjoying them.  I am thankful for SDAccelerate’s fun video style learning program for him to use.


I really like the format of these classes, and how easy and flexible they are to use with homeschooling.  They are great for getting your highschool credits for your transcript too.

However,  as a Christian homeschool parent, there is a word of caution too.  These courses are written from a secular world view and to meet public school core standards.   We do not agree with everything the classes teach and when we come across specific issues, we stop and talk about them.  For example, we disagree with teaching evolution, or that people are related to monkeys, for example.  We believe the earth and all of creation was created by God and our faith plays a big role in our education.  Also sometimes the silliness of the skits take a liberal cultural direction, and imposes a cultural viewpoint rather than an unbiased view.  This can cross over boundaries in many areas of beliefs.   The course work is not written from a Christian perspective and that is something to consider when making curriculum choices.

Pre-made courses can be a good choice in different seasons of life.   As your kids get older, and more independent, or as your life gets busier, this kind of curriculum is very handy.   It also comes in handy when you have a new baby in the house, if you are moving, or if you have little time for prepping a certain course.  Now need to honestly say that I love being creative and making my own curriculum for my younger kids, or tweaking pre-made curriculums for the older kids to fit our family’s needs, but there are times in homeschool life, when having it all done for you is the best option.  The best advice I can give is to weigh out all your priorities, beliefs, and what time you have available to devote to curriculum, and see if SDA Homeschool Courses could work out for you.

Standard Deviants Accelerate on Social Media

Be sure to follow Standard Deviants Accelerate on their social media links for all the latest news, courses, updates, and teaching ideas, and more:


Standard Deviants Accelerate Review

Check out what other homeschool families on the TOS Review Crew had to say about using Standard Deviants Accelerate with their family.

Crew Disclaimer

Maestro Classics Peter and The Wolf Review

Maestro Classics has a wonderful music appreciation course for kids called Stories in Music. They have 12 wonderful CD’s/MP3 in the series (so far).   I am excited to tell you about our experience with using these in our homeschool learning adventures.

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We are currently reviewing Maestro Classics, Stories in Music: Peter and the Wolf , performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

Stories in Music Series

Stories in Music is an award winning Music Appreciation course.  This amazing educational product has won over 50 prestigious awards!

OVER  50  Awards!!!

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The Stories In Music series by Maestro Classic covers 300 classic stories put to music that have been told and retold, some of these stories date back 2,000 years in human history.   Maestro Classics has preserved this amazing history for generations to come.    Stories in Music contains 300 story song combinations, written by the greatest musicians in history, and performed by the London Philharmonic Symphony.

There are 12  CD’s/MP3’s in the the Stories in Music series so far.

  1. Peter and the Wolf
  2. The Nutcracker
  3. The Story of Swan Lake
  4. Carnival of the Animals
  5. My Name is Handel: The Story of Water Music
  6. Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel
  7. The Tortoise and the Hare
  8. Merry Pranks of Master Till
  9. Casey at the Bat
  10. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
  11. The Soldier’s Tale
  12. Juanita la langosta Española

Each CD / MP3 in the Stories in Music series contains:

  • Enjoyable classical music recordings by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and retelling of famous stories.
  • Educational teachings including the creation of the music, the life of the composer, music composition, music appreciation, and more.
  • High quality fully illustrated Educational Booklet with history of the composer, word games, and more.
  • Study Guide e-Book Download that turns your learning adventure into a cross curricular Unit Study!
  • Web site support contains Coloring  Pages, Puzzle Games, Book connections, Hyper-links to more resources found on the internet.

How We Used Peter and The Wolf In Our Home:

For this review, we received Maestro Classics Stories in Music: Peter and the Wolf to use in our homeschool.

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Peter and the Wolf

Music & Story by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) composed in 1936.

Performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra

Produced by Maestro Classics in 2012

For ages 4 and up.
All members of your family at any age will enjoy!

Contains 8 Tracts:

  • Introduction
  • Peter and the Wolf
  • About the Composer Sergei Prokofiev
  • A Russian Peter
  • About the Music
  • Peter and the Wolf (Instrumental)
  • Invitaion to Grandfather’s Party
  • Kalinka

68+ minutes

24 page Activity Booklet

Retails for $16.98 each
Special Bulk Discount: Buy Sets of 3 for $45 or 12 for $150

Great for homeschools, coops, public and private schools,
Music teachers, music appreciation, History supplement, after school programs, and more.

View this short introduction to Peter and The Wolf:

 This program is FANTASTIC!

We enjoyed listening to the CD.  But there is so much more than just listening to this classical music composed by a musical genius so many years ago that has become a classic around the world.  Maestro Classics wants you to jump in and gain a deeper appreciation for the music, the instruments that make the various sounds, the history and the culture at the time it was written, the life of the composer, other people in his or her sphere of influence, and more.  This program is a RICH experience you and your kids will love!

Study Guide

We love using Unit Studies in our Homeschool.  Maestro Classics Curriculum Study Guide is a Music Appreciation Unit Study using the story of Peter and the Wolf as the theme.  This guide is in addition to a 24 page activity mini booklet that comes with the CD.

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Depending on how fast you work through the guide, this curriculum could last you a whole month if you do a project everyday, or even a whole semester or longer if you do one project a week.  Here are a few of the fun things we have done so far with this program to enrich our learning adventure and I have also listed a few future activities we plan to do before we are finished:


1.We learned about Prokofiev’s (the composer) life and career.

2. We learned about history in Russia, and about the Russian people during the 1900’s.

3. We learned about Communism, Joseph Stalin, and the Composer’s Union invented to keep modern music styles out of Russia.

4. He was loved and revered and is still remembered around the world on his birthday.

Future History Activities:

  • Make a history timeline of events in Russia, Ukraine, and the World during  Sergei Prokofiev lifetime from 1891-1953.
  • The study guide gives a movie suggestion to watch the historical-fictional tale of Anastasia, daughter of the Russian Zsar Nicolias II thought to have survived her family’s execution in 1918.  This is still on our to do list.


  1. We looked up Russia and the Ukraine on the map and used our Geography skills.
  2. We drew the maps of Russia and Ukraine.   We are currently doing a mapping curriculum about the USA, and the mapping skills the kids are learning helped them with their Map of Russia too.

Future Geography Activities:

  • We plan to do several more Geography activities
  • tracing Prokofiev’s life and musical career on the map and all the places he lived and visited.
  • We also hope to learn more about life in Russia and the Ukraine including games and make some recipes too.


1. We read the true Biography of Anastasia.

2. Re-tell the story of Peter and the Wolf differently from one of the other character’s perspectives.  For example, how did the wolf view the events of the story?  We also discussed changing the music by going faster or slower, and choosing different instruments to emphasis different characters.  This changed everything about the story and the kids decided they liked Prokofiev’s choices for the music and characters the best.

3. Read Aloud: We read along to the book of Disney’s Peter and the Wolf.

Future Literature Activities:

  • Learn the Russian Alphabet.
  • Read Russian Poetry.
  • Research more Russian Folk Tales.

Arts & Crafts:

We watched a ballet of Peter and the Wolf performed by the Royal Ballet School.   The dancers wore colorful costumes and it was really fun to watch the story and listen to the music re-told in ballet. The story is divided into 4 short videos and this was very nice to be able to watch them on different days and discuss them as related to our Maestro Classics curriculum.

2.  Create a color wheel and learn about colors.

Color Wheel Craft (image source)

Color Wheel Craft (image source)

3.  We created a simple diorama of the story with Lego’s.  So far we have the boy, his grandpa, the garden wall, pond, bird, duck, and cat.  We are in the process of locating a wolf and making our trees and hunters.   The kids love learning with Lego’s and want to make a stop motion so we have a lot more work to do to practice our poses more with our Maestro Classics CD and hopefully get our timing lined up and be able to share a Lego movie soon.  We may only accomplish one portion as it is a huge endeavor and it takes so many pictures to produce even a few minutes of a stop motion video.   We will share it as soon as we can.


4. We watched a very informative video and learned how to create the Russian dolls with real eggs by hand with this video.

5. I don’t think we will attempt making the Russian Matryoshka Dolls learning project suggested in the study guide at this time, but we may in the future.  Instead I have printed out a different activity to make an easy set of Russian paper dolls .

6. We also watched a video to make Ukraine style decorated eggs which seemed a little easier and very similar to making / decorating eggs at Easter here in our country.

Future: Arts & Crafts we plan to do:

  • The curriculum study guide suggested studying the abstract art and life of Wassily Kandinsky, a Russian painter who lived during the same time as the composer of Peter and the Wolf.
  • Make our own abstract art project while we listen to Peter and the Wolf.
  • The curriculum suggests we learn to make Russian Dolls and gives a website with instructions to create painted wooden egg dolls.
  • I would like to make a stained glass project after researching Russian Cathedrals.


Music Appreciation

This section is the biggest in the study guide.

1.  Listened to the Peter and the Wolf CD.

2. Learned about Russian music with specific Russian sounds and themes.

3. Learned about the Domra (a type of 3 stringed instrument and lute) and other Russian instruments such as the Balalaika (a type of 3 stringed instrument) and Bayan (a type of accordion).

4. Watched a video of people playing Russian folks songs on Russian instruments.

5. Listen to Russian music.  Color or draw what we feel while listening to the music.

6. Learned about Program music vs Absolute music and compare various famous songs.

7. Used online links to learn about various instruments in an orchestra

Future Music Appreciation:

  • Visit a local orchestra performance.
  • Print out the flash cards (instruments, composers, musical instrument families, etc) from links provided in the study guide.
  • Learn about Russian folk dance.


  1. We learned about the difference in sound and pitch and practiced striking a rubber band, filled a few glasses with water, and strummed strings on a guitar to experience sound and pitch in a hands on way.

2. We enjoyed learning more about science of music and sound on the suggested “neok12” web site.

Future Science Activities We Are Still Working On:

  • We would like to make a few homemade instruments with directions from the web site.   There is instructions for making a drum, a trumpet, and a xylophone. Then, in addition to the fun we will have making and learning to use these instruments,  I would also like to help the kids expand the learning adventure by learning about the real science behind each instrument.
  • I would also like to see the kids make statistical charts from their results that correspond to the level of water in jars and the pitch or length (or size) of strings and their pitch and see what corresponds with what.


  1. Chess.   The Math activity the kids are encouraged to do involves Prokofiev’s favorite game.  He loved to play chess and kids are encouraged to learn how to play and a web site is given to help them learn.  My kids have already learned to play, and it is also one of their favorite activities.   We play chess at our house several times a week.  So they were excited to learn their school work wanted them to “play” chess and they were happy to do so!

Future Math:

  • I hope to find some more math to tie into this study.
  • Perhaps there is some math related to the music score that we can find.
  • Or calculate how much it would cost to buy instruments to make an orchestra.
  • Or possibly some math involving distances and expenses traveled by the composer as he performed if he lived today verses back then.
  • Maybe there is a Russian geometry or symmetry math project (art and math) we can do.
  • Maybe we can make some calculations about economics, population growth, and gross national products etc from Russia too.

Field Trip & Life Skills Ideas:

Future: We did not get our field trips done yet, but before we are done with this curriculum we are planning these outings:

  • Attend a local orchestra performance.
  • Take a train ride.
  • Visit an art museum that displays Russian art.  Hopefully we will see art from the same time period.
  • Visit a music store and look at the various instruments.
  • Visit a restaurant that serves Russian or Ukrainian food.
  • Make recipes for Russian and Ukrainian food.



  • We are still working on our Lap Book project with of all the fun learning we have accomplished with Maestro Classic Peter and the Wolf.   This is a work in progress for us and we will continue to work on it for several more weeks yet.  The curriculum guide has some suggestions for worksheets and booklets about history and animals in Russia, games, recipes, etc to put into your lapbook.   We will also have our own additions we have done like our field trips, history timeline, and other activities we found in our research too.

There are other Resources on the web site that vary per the CD you are using include Coloring Pages , Puzzles, and the answers to the booklet that came with the CD.


Just a personal note:

My Grandmother loves music and is a composer.  Before she got married, she used to sing on the radio.  She taught me about music since I was very young sitting on her lap.  She taught me to read music and sing accapella.  She taught me to harmonize and we all sang as a family.  She also taught my father about music and he was a music minister in his local church.  He encouraged me to sing accapella along side him in church, sing to the guitar with him when in public, and he bought me a clarinet and taught me how to play it.  He could play 21 different instruments and he gave credit to Grandma for encouraging him to pursue his love for music.

I sang in front of church since I was 2 years old.  I was given the opportunity to sing on local Christian raido when I was 8 years old and still remember the song was the christian version of You Light Up My Life by Debbie Boone.  I got serious about music and studied it in school starting with the clarinet and voice from the 5th grade and all the way through highschool and college.  I was in band, choir, music theater performance, and went to many state competitions for choir, solos, and band.   I had a great music teacher in high school who spent a lot of time working with me to learn how to use my voice.  Then I went on to study music in college.  I was in choir, performed in opera, took acting classes, and had 5 years of vocal performance instruction from an amazing college professor.

I volunteered to sing specials every chance I could in churches, weddings, funerals, and for the yearly orientation picnic for the international students coming to America to go to college at KSU.  Oh yeah, I sure loved to sing any opportunity given to me.   When I look back on it now, I see a big picture being knit together.   It amazes me how God used those opportunities to bless and encourage people.

While I was in college I was learning a lot about music and living it as a life style.  I learned some basic piano skills and guitar skills and studied lot about music history and education.  At one point, I had to make a decision about music, if I wanted to pursue it as a career or not.  I had invested so much time and effort to it and I needed to make a serious decision.  I decided as much as I loved it, I loved helping people even more and went into medical social work for my degree. But I continued on with music and when I graduated from college, I went on to sing for church choirs, on praise and worship teams, and sing to the elderly in nursing homes, and to my own children.

When I was younger, my grandma always performed for the Veterans at every VA hospital she could.  I think she had a weekly or monthly ministry with the Veterans for over 25+ years and I think she sang in VA hospitals in Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.  She also sang at the local VFW’s too.   My grandma has always written music, and Sunday school curriculum, but while I was in college, she began publishing her work and got several patents on her songs.  My Grandma began writing music for her local “Golden Follies” group who performed regularly on stage.  She also went back into performing and joined my dad on stage for several events.   She also wrote music for churches and wrote theme songs for vacation bible schools.  Grandma wrote and sang my wedding song too.

My Grandmother also went to the Ukraine 3 times as a missionary.  She has a heart for the people of Ukraine and has prayed for many, led several to Jesus Christ, and baptized them.  She helped start churches and a Christian movement there.  She has a heart of gold, so genuine, and I love her so much.  She is my hero.  My Grandma’s love for music and her love for people has had a huge impact on me though out my life.  My children have this amazing heritage and this has made both them an myself even more excited to learn about music, and the Ukraine with this curriculum.

Maestro Classics is fantastic!  The music is amazing, and all the teaching helps really make learning fun.  Using the unit study and lap book learning methods are our favorite way to learn and it is so much fun to have a learning adventure about classical music this way.

Social Media

Be sure to follow Maestro Classics on their social media links for all the latest news and updates.






Maestro Classics Review

Check out what other homeschool parents on the TOS Review Crew had to say about using Maestro Classics products in their homes.


The Ultimate Homeschool Planner Review

Planning your homeschool day, and setting goals for your home, can be so so much easier if you choose an amazing product like The Ultimate Homeschool Planner – Orange, Blue, or Yellow, from Apologia Educational Ministries.

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We were recently sent the Ultimate Homeschool Planner to review and I am really impressed with this useful tool that helps homeschool families.   Homeschool Resources from Apologia Educational Ministries never cease to amazing me with their quality and helping families maintain their focus on the Lord.

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Apologia Educational Ministries

Apologia is a publisher and distributor of Christian education curriculum.  We love their science curriculum!  Everything we have used from Apologia in our homeschool has been top notch in quality and character.  The kids enjoy everything we have received from them and they always look forward to using their products.   This time though, this product was to better equip me to be a better mom, and help equip my children in their faith and oversee their education with a plan in hand.

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The Ultimate Homeschool Planner

Personalize your color choice (orange, blue, or yellow) for the cover.

263 pages, Spiral Bound Planner.

Yearly, Monthly, Weekly, and Daily Planning Strategy.

Use for planning with up to 6 children.

Retails for $29.00

This planner can work alone, but is designed to work perfectly with the The Ultimate Weekly Planner for Teens (grades 7th-12th) and The Ultimate Daily Planner for Students (grades 4th – 8th) so that your kids also have their own planners too.

How To Plan:

  • Once a year 4 to 8 hour planning “retreat”.
  • Monthly 2 hour planning sessions.
  • Weekly 30 minute planning breaks.
  • Monday mornings, 20 minutes tutoring each child.
  • Friday afternoons, 15 minutes to review.

The Author, Debra Bell, goes to great length to explain each step in planning.  She walks you through examples that are very practical and easy to follow. Through out all of the planning, she constantly brings you back to your primary focus of keeping “first things first” in your walk with the Lord and focusing on what God is doing in your family’s life.

How We Used The Ultimate Homeschool Planner

This is a great planner with many unique features built in just for Christian homeschool families.  It is more than just a planner, it is an actual planning system and has a methodology to promote your faith through out every day of the year in everything you do.


The Ultimate Homeschool Planner with the orange cover option.

I was given the option to chose my cover color and I chose to work with the planner with the orange color on the cover.  When I open the planner, the first thing I see is a pocket on the inside cover that has a quote that reads: “Order brings peace.” ~St. Augustine.  Also on the pocket written in a faint and whimsical font, is a pivotal line of inspiration and the strategy that will set the pace of this planner for the rest of the time you put it to use.  ” Count Your Blessings.  Encourage Independence, Record Your Progress”~ Debra Bell.  There is also a pocket for extras on the inner back side cover too and it is a quote from Deuteronomy 5:7 about teaching your children in the ways of the Lord.   From the beginning all the way through the end, this planner is filled with inspirational quotes, scriptures, and encouragement.

The next section is 4 yearly calendars that start and stop with the school years.  So the calendars begin in July of one year and finish in June of the next, such as July 2015 – June 2016.   You can see everyday of the year for four years in a glance.  This simple visual aid is motivation to help you stay the course and not loose sight of the overall goal of training day after day the precious children God has put into our home.

The next section goes over, in great detail, the planning system and walks you through lots of examples to help you understand.  Then there is a one year planning grid for every day of the entire year, a student goal section for Character goals and Academic goals, family priorities and goals, monthly planning for all 12 months.

The next section is the weekly planner.  This covers every day of every week for 48 weeks.  Each week covers four pages.  There is room for writing everything down each day.  Along the side there is also room for notes, supplies needed, and upcoming appointments.


weekly planning pages

The next two pages are really unique.  I love this section of the weekly plan, because in addition to writing down everything for each day, it also has scripture, and room for a Bible Plan, Battle Plan and Prayers and Hospitality / Outreach. Then on the following page there is lots of room to write down even more notes, like a journal where you record special things that happened with your family during the week that you want to remember.  There is also a place to record what you want to remember about how God showed up in your life that week.  How you experienced his grace, mercy, faithfulness, protection, and provision.  This my friends is what sets this planner experience above the rest, a place for you to record your experiences connecting with God and your family.


weekly planning pages that focus on Christian faith, action, and understanding the experience

The next section is for recording student grades on quizzes, lists of books they are reading, field trips and outside activities.  And then there is a section on Teaching Tips with some great information about all sorts of subjects. There is a highschool transcript planning guide, room for more notes you might want to write out, and also a bibliography section and a biography about the author of the planner, Debra Bell.


teaching tips section

I am grateful to have been given this opportunity to review this planner.  I am not one to go looking for planners.  I usually just print off a month at a time from my computer and hang it on my bulletin board and though it is terribly inadequate, it is the method I use.  But I want to do better and I want to have a system that functions in running an effective homeschool and being the hands and feet of Jesus in our home and community.   This planner has given me the strategy to intentionally plan both of them and then a place to record how it is going on a regular basis.

Debra Bell is a homeschool mom who has been right where I am at and she knows the challenges we face first hand.   I am excited to read about her life and learn how she homeschooled successfully by using this strategy to plan it out.  She is a super hero.  She achieved homeschooling 4 kids k-12 who all graduated and went on to graduate from college too.  She is an inspiration.   I would encourage you to check out this wonderful planner for your homeschool.

Social Media

Be sure to follow Apologia Educational Ministries on the Social Media links for all the latest news and updates.


Exploring Creation Field Trip Journal Review

Check out what others on the TOS Review Crew had to say about using The Ultimate Homeschool Planner in their homes.


Phonetic Zoo Review

Do your kids struggle with spelling?  Most kids do because the way sounds are spelled in the English language can be confusing.  If you want your kids to become great spellers, you might want to check out The Phonetic Zoo Spelling Level A [Starter Set] by Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW).

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The Phonetic Zoo

Levels A, B, or C.
Take the placement test and choose the right level for your child before you begin.

Grades 3 – 8

Retails for $99.00

Each Phonetic Zoo Starter Set includes:

  • 5+ audio CDs (includes MP3 downloads)
    or also available for purchase as MP3 downloads and no CDs
  • Lesson Cards with spelling words and jingles
  • Personal Spelling Cards to keep track of your student’s typical misspellings
  • Zoo Cards that serve as a way to practice jingles or as rewards
  • 75 page Downloadable Phonetic Zoo Teacher’s Notes PDF file

In addition to the materials, you are encouraged to watch two videos to help you as the parent / teacher:  the “Excellence in Spelling” video and the “Spelling and the Brain Video Seminar”.

Each Lesson in The Phonetic Zoo has similar steps:

  • Phonetic Rule, Cards with Corresponding Zoo Animal, Jingle or Hint,
  • Discussion,
  • Word Lists (audio and print), Spelling Test, and Correction.

You move through the lessons at the pace set by your child.  Each lesson takes about 10 minutes and they will learn a phonetic rule, have discussion built into the lesson, and learn to master spelling 15 to 20 new words using the rule they have learned.

It is suggested to go as slow as, or as fast as it takes for your student to get a 100% score two times on a lesson to show they have mastered the material.  So a lesson may only take you two days, if your child can get 100% each time, or a lesson may take you 7 or 10 days.  Just keep repeating the material for 10 minutes a day, until they have mastered the given lesson twice before moving ahead to the next lesson.  If you taught the same lesson and did the same spelling words for 4 or 5 days each week, then start a new lesson the following week, program should last you the full school year.  But again, the key is to remain flexible and allow your student to progress at their own pace.

How we used Phonetic Zoo:

We were sent the Phonetic Zoo Level A Starter Set for the purpose of this review.  Level A contains 47 Lessons on 5 Audio CD’s (or MP3) ; large zoo rule and word cards, small flashcards, and the Teacher’s Notes e Book also includes all of the lessons, teaching notes, the final exam, printable word posters, zoo card pages, word lists and printouts.

I decided to write this story as a series of HOW TO steps.  WHY?  Because it helped me and it might help you too.   You can follow these steps too to help make sense of what you need to do, what your child needs to do to complete this wonderful program.  It is different than other spelling programs, and I think it may help you to see some steps we took to make it successful for us.  It is divided into two sets of steps: “Prep”, and “Lessons”.


Step 1:  I watched the 9 minute “Excellence in Spelling” video.

Step 2:  We took the  FREE Placement Test.  This is a great resource and helps your child start right where they need too.  There are three levels to this program: Level A,  Level B, and Level C.  You will want to place your child in the right level so they can be successful.

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Step 3:  Placed my order for the correct level (A, B, or C) of Phonetic Zoo my student needed based on what we learned from the results of the free placement test (see the red link above). We ordered Level A.

Step 4: Watched the 1 hour Spelling and The Brain video seminar.   You can wait for the product to arrive before you watch the video, or you can get jump started while you are waiting by watching this video now!

Step 5:  Organize my Zoo (my materials for Phonetic Zoo).

Have you ever heard the saying “not my monkeys, not my zoo” ?  Well in this case these are my monkeys and this is my zoo.

We are homeschooling 6 kids and it is so easy for the shelves and stacks of books and supplies to get messy and piled up fast (see the example behind him,  that shelf holds math manipulatives, crayons, pencils, flash cards, and notebooks and the kids get in a hurry and when they are done using them, they just shove their stuff in fast and go, and it quickly becomes a mess).  Since we were about to enter the Phonetic Zoo, and knowing how fast books and supplies can go missing or stacked in the wrong place in “our zoo”, it is best to set my self up for success,  be a good “zoo keeper”, and get my self organized!


When you receive your Phonetic Zoo shipment, organize the kit you receive and your supplies (large and small zoo cards, CD’s, headphones, notebook, pens NOT pencils (or use a pencil without the eraser), etc.),  in an easy to access storage box (shoe box, milk crate, table organizer, book basket, shelf, or whatever works for your family, etc.).


Put a metal ring (or use a clip) on the large cards, and a rubber band (or a baggy) around the small cards.


Be sure you have a computer that can play an audio CD (or MP3 device), and it is helpful to have headphones (we have ear buds) for your student to use while listening to the CD’s (or MP3).

Step 6: PRINT out the Phonetic Zoo Teacher’s Notes  e-Book (Teacher’s Guide) from the link on the IEW website you are provided with after making your purchase, and put your teacher’s guide into a binder.  This is a 70+ page teaching resource you will want to keep handy.  You can also download the MP3 files of the CD’s and store them on your computer device too.

Teacher's Notes e-Book

Teacher’s Notes e-Book, Phonetic Zoo Level A

Step 6:  Yahoo!  We let out a shout and smacked ourselves on the back!  Great Job!  We finished our prep work and were ready to get started!


In this section, I will walk you through Lesson 1.  It may look like a lot, but each lesson only takes about 10 minutes a day.

Step 1: We got out our zoo supply basket we made.  This was so nice to have everything all together and ready.  I read through our first lesson in the Teacher’s Notes that I also keep in the basket with everything.

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Lesson 1, Phonetic Zoo Level A

Step 2: I read the phonetic rule from the lesson and provided him with the large zoo flash card to review. The rule is listed on the back, and on the front are a picture that corresponds with the rule and words to practice using the rule.  It is a nice way to practice going over the rule and remembering it.


Step 3:  Next I gave him the small flash card to read.  It has the rule we just learned on one side and the zoo animal on the other side.  He can use this to remind himself about the rule we learned.IMG_1212 - Copy

Step 4:  He set out his paper to write on, set out his flash cards, put in the CD for Lesson 1, and his ear buds.   When he started the lesson, on the screen popped up a small box that controls the lesson.   The lesson is all audio (not a visual lesson) and requires him to listen closely to what is being said on the CD.

Step 5: My son numbered the lines on his paper from 1 to 19 (some lessons were to 18 and some were to 19).  You can pause the CD lesson as needed.  If you don’t want to print out your own numbers, there is a pre-numbered printable you can keep re-printing for your student to use for each lesson.  We just used a spiral bound notebook instead.


Step 6:  Next he wrote out the words in the spelling test spoken by the instructor on the CD.

Step 7: Next he corrected his words on the list by writing a second column of the same words on the same lines next to the first words he wrote.    The correct words are both on the CD and on the zoo flashcards.  This process allowed him to see how he did and where he needed more practice.   The instructions from the curriculum are that he must receive two 100% scores on the material before he can proceed to the next lesson.

Step 8:  Personal Spelling.  We repeated the same steps for every 4 lessons BUT on the 5th lesson (lessons 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, and 47) we were instructed to use his favorite words he picked himself.  These words could come from each section of 4 lessons, or be other words he wanted to use.

Step 9:  Final Exam.  We have not completed this yet.

That is it in a nut shell.  10 minutes a day.  Master the spelling test by 100% twice then move forward to the next lesson.  BOOM!!!

I am excited about using this spelling curriculum with my kids.  For the purpose of this review, I started this program with my 5th grade son.  But now that we have used it and know how simple it is and how much confidence he feels from mastering this technique, I will be using it with my other children as well.  This will give them all the added confidence in knowing how to spell a variety of words, and it only cost them 10 minutes of their day.  WOW!  I wish everything could be accomplished in 10 minutes a day.  Maybe it can and I just need to see a new perspective on how it can be done, just like mastering spelling.  Definitely worth it for both of us.

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Institute for Excellence in Writing makes learning fun and easy.  IEW has a way of making Language Arts skills easy and interesting to kids, those very skills that kids might otherwise find hard or boring.  Kids develop an internal motivation to challenge themselves and reach their achievable goal.  They have developed simple systems of teaching parents and teachers how kids really learn effectively and their materials are top notch.  I would encourage you to check out how you can fit these wonderful curriculum resources into your homeschool learning.

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Feel Beautiful with Koru Naturals Review

I love using natural products in and on my body.  Nature just makes me feel beautiful inside and out.   Koru Naturals has a whole line of wonderful natural body care products that I am certain you will want to incorporate into your beauty routine too.

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We are currently using the Manuka Honey and Manuka Oil Facial Cleanser , Manuka Honey, Tamarind and Manuka Oil Facial Toner,  Manuka Honey Propolis Soap, and the Skin Clear Cream from Koru Naturals.   I would like to tell you about some of the benefits of using each one.

Koru Naturals

Koru Naturals has a complete line of beauty products for your skin and hair.   No matter what area of the skin you want to focus on, they have a natural product to handle those trouble spots and help you keep your skin healthy and soft.    Koru Naturals have many products that contain Manuka.   Koru Naturals sources their Manuka directly from the Manuka of New Zealand.

Manuka is a similar plant to the Melaleuka of Australia, but more has more powerful properties. Koru Naturals use both the honey and oils that are made sustainably from Manuka (and Kanuka) trees.   New Zealand produces only about 1,800 tons of the worlds 10,000 tons of Tea Tree oil that is produced and sold each year. In my research, I found that only New Zealand’s Manuka contains a specific property called non-peroxide anti-seceptic and is the most powerful version of Tea Trea oils.   This non-peridoxide anti-septic is the key desired ingredient in Tea Tree that promotes health.   So you are basically throwing your money away at less quality and less effective Tea Tree Oil products when you buy Manuka harvested from other countries.

Whenever you buy Manuka products, be sure they are sourced from New Zealand to be guaranteed to have the most beneficial qualities.   Read more about the difference in Tea Tree Oils I found in my research I have posted below under the section titled:  “What is Manuka Honey and Manuka Oil?”.  You can also read about how Koru Naturals produces their Manuka Oil on the farm in New Zealand on their web site.


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Honey & Propolis Soap

4.93 oz

Honey & Propolis Soap is a beautifying soap that contains both Manuka Honey and Bee Propolis found inside the comb.

Octagon Shape Bar with a Bee Stamp.

Beautifully boxed for gift giving.

Retails for $7.90

You can cleanse, moisturize, and protect your skin with nature and all those benefits are packed right into this amazing soap.  Manuka Honey is a natural moisturizer. Propolis from the cap of the honey comb also moisturizes and nourishes the skin.

Both honey and propolis are naturally anti bacterial and anti fungal and my family and I have used these protective natural resources for years in our health care.    Using them on the outside of our body as part of our skin care routine is a win win!   Both are well known for their natural intense moisturizing and protective qualities.   Manuka honey and propolis are the perfect ingredients for a beneficial gentle cleansing and skin nourishing soap.  We love the delicious smell of honey on our skin, and the soft feel of our skin every day when we use this wonderful soap.

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Manuka Honey and Manuka Oil Facial Cleanser


Manuka Honey and Manuka Oil Facial Cleanser Gel, from the New Zealand Fusion Botanicals collection of manuka skin products.

Packaged In A Lovely Brushed Aluminum Pump Action Bottle.

Retails for $13.60

If you have sensitive skin, you will love the fact that this gentle cleanser is free of parabens and artificial colors.  Natural ingredients like:  Aloe Juice, Lavender,  Oat Extract, Manuka Honey, Manuka Oil, Pro-Vitamin B5, and Vitamin E, will leave your skin feeling fresh and nourished.   I love the smell and feel of this cleanser.   I have sensitive skin and I have peace of mind knowing this cleanser works for me.  It provides a gentile cleansing of my skin, leaves it soft and supple, and it protects my skin from damage and irritations.

The directions are so simple, just apply the cleanser by hand,  or with a cotton cloth.  Focus on your problem areas as you use an upward motion while applying.  You can rinse it off after two minutes for a fresh clean feel.

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Manuka Honey, Tamarind, and Manuka Oil Facial Toner

4 fl.oz/118ml

Manuka Honey, Tamarind, and Manuka Oil Facial Toner makes a great toner / conditioner for your skin.   This bottle matches the facial cleanser mentioned above.

Packaged in a Lovely Brushed Aluminum Pump Action Bottle.

Retails for $13.20

The facial toner is an improved formula that I really like how it leaves my skin feeling toned.   They have added Vitamins B3 and A to an already great formula for additional skin nourishment and protection.  Just like all of Koru Natural products, the toner is no exception to quality.

With wonderful all nourishing ingredients like: Aloe Leaf Juice,Vitamin B3, Beta Carotene, Vitamin B5, Manuka Leaf Essential Oil, Manuka Honey, Tamarind Seed Extract, Cucumber Extract, Chamomile Flower Extract, and Green Tea Leaf Extract, my skin feels amazing and yours will too!  I can’t say it enough about how much I love the smell of these products and how wonderful they make my skin feel.   I am loving this for my combination skin.

This toner is so easy to apply and include in your daily beauty routine.   You will want to use this toner before you apply any moisturizers.   Just pump the toner onto a cotton cloth and apply over the desired area.   Any skin type, whether you have acne prone skin, oily skin, sensitive skin, or just natural skin types, you will love how this toner handles them and can help you feel beautiful.

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Skin Clear Cream

This amazing product has been going for 20 years strong and is celebrating!

4oz / 113gr  Size

Skin Clear Cream with Manuka is packaged in a clear jar with metal looking lid, similar to a mason jar appearance and it is just lovely to look at.  Perfect in your bathroom or to give as gifts.  It also comes with it’s own serving spoon to dish out just the right amount of cream.

Retails for $19.20

The Skin Clear Cream is great for all skin types and is especially helpful for those  with acne-prone skin.    It helps to improve the appearance of blemished skin.  It also helps promote elasticity of the skin because the natural ingredients such as Manuka honey.  There are lots of amazing natural moisturizers combined into this one product.   This product can help restore the skin’s natural moisture barrier with continued use.  It also helps reduce and prevent future damage.

Applying this cream is simple and you can use it up to two times a day as part of your beauty routine.  The Skin Clear Cream is made with so many natural ingredients, it will be hard for me to list the benefits of them all.  Here are just a few to share with you:  Aloe Leaf Juice,  Coconut Oil, Grape Seed Oil, Manuka Honey, Lactobacillus, Thyme Extract, Burdock Root Extract, Manuka Leaf Oil, Bergamot Oil, Roman Chamomile , Sweet AlmondOil,  Lemongrass Oil, Aspen Bark Extract,  Zinc, Turmeric, and more.

We love using Koru Naturals products in our home for the entire family.  I have 5 sons and 1 daughter and Koru Naturals has products made with Manuka and natural ingredients we can all use.  The quality is superior and Koru Naturals has raving fans to prove it is a brand you can trust.   Great products for you and your family, and products you will want to give away as gifts to friends and relatives too.  Go natural with Koru Naturals!

“What is Manuka Honey and Manuka Oil?”

This might be a question you have, I know when I first heard the word “Manuka” several years ago, I didn’t know what it was and what it wasn’t.  Sometimes I heard it called Manuka and sometimes it was called Tee Tree and other times I heard Tea Tree referred to as Melaleuka, so it was a bit confusing to me for a long time.

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Manuka Flowers with 5 Petals (image source)

After doing some research I learned there is a shrub like tree in New Zealand called Manuka.  It has antiseptic, anti fungal, anti parasite, and anti bacterial properties.  Manuka is similar to Manuka, Kanuka, and another tree called Melealuka.   It is thought that is origionated in Austalia and perhaps “morphed” into it’s present stronger healthier version in New Zealand.    Scientists are not sure how it escaped from the mainland of Austrailia.   Perhaps it didn’t escape at all, but is a slightly different variation from the beginning of creation by a loving God.

Though Tea Tree (Manuka, Melaleuka, Kanuka, etc) is grown today in several places around the world, only the New Zealand Manuka Tea Tree has the desired properties.  There are many countries selling tea tree oil labled Manuka, but don’t be fooled!!!

For many years I did not understand the difference in the kinds and quality of tea tree oils.  I began using tea tree oils many years ago as part of our first aid kit on our family’s ouchies, infections, and added it to shampoo and my soap making craft projects for several years.  Then about three years ago, I bought my first jar of Manuka honey from New Zealand to try.  My family had gone through an illness and I felt having Manuka honey on hand would make a difference in relieving the symptoms and speeding recovery. I learned right away that Manuka honey is a lot more expensive than other kinds of honey, and it has a dark color, is thicker than any honey I have used before, almost like caramel, and it has a very robust flavor.  It almost has a stinging sensation when I swallow a spoonful of raw Manuka honey because it is so powerful. It has been used for thousands of years to boost people’s health and wellness and is useful to fight colds, flu’s, and infections and is a wonderful food source for energy.

Manuka Honey (image source)

Manuka Honey (image source)

For the purpose of writing this review, I went on a deeper search for a good description of the Manuka Tree that the honey and essential oil that I have come to love over the years is made from.   The word Manuka is a specific kind of Tea Tree.   Though some sellers misuse the term and sell products labeled Manuka from other countries, it is not real Manuka.   Real true Manuka is specific to New Zealand that has a perfect growing environment for it, and has properties that differ from other kinds of similar Tea Tree plants.  10,000 tons of tea tree oil is produced and sold every year, but only 1,800 tons of it is true Manuka.  So be wise when purchasing your oil and honey and skin care products and don’t let advertising fool you.

Manuka Tree Leaves and Flowers (image source)

Manuka Tree Leaves and Flowers (image source)

“Leptospermum scoparium, commonly called mānuka, manuka myrtle,[1] New Zealand teatree,[1] broom tea-tree,[2] or just tea tree, is a species of flowering plant in the myrtle family Myrtaceae, native to New Zealand and southeast Australia.” Source 

The Manuka Tree is a shrub like tree and grows most often from 7 feet to around 16 feet tall, but it can grow as high as 49 feet tall.  It has prickly leaves, white (sometimes pink) five petal flowers, and hard wood that has been used to make tool handles and for smoking meats.  The sap is anti parasite and used by wild birds to prevent parasite infestations.   The tree is mainly cultivated for both honey (bees making honey from the nectar of the Manuka flowers), and for the leaves that are steamed distilled and made into essential oil.  The tree got it’s nickname “Tea Tree” from Captain Cook who made a tea drink with them in the 1700’s.  (Description of Manuka paraphrased from Manuka related articles on Wikipedia)

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Brookdale House Drawing Around The World:USA Review

Learning Geography can be fun with Drawing Around The World: USA  from Brookdale House.

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Brookdale House is a curriculum publisher for homeschool, public school, and private school.   Most of their curriculum resources are flexible and can be taught on multiple levels at the same time.   They offer curriculum in Writing, Grammar, Foreign Language, Geography, Copy Work of Church Doctrine, Writing Through History with Narration, Dictation, Copywork, and more.

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Drawing Around The World:USA

For Fourth Grade & UP, But Flexible Enough For All Ages.

282 Pages (268 numbered pages)

PDF Digital Download eBook $22.95

Printed Book $25.95

This Geography curriculum will teach kids how to draw the maps of the USA, states, capitals, abbreviations, approximate locations of each state, and learn to memorize other important information about each state too.

How we used Drawing Around The World: USA In Our Home.

We received the digital download of Drawing Around The World: USA.  I printed off a copy for each child and placed it into a binder to keep the papers together and organized.   This is a lot of material, a whole week’s worth of learning for each state, so if you have multiple children like I do, plan for a whole lot of printing!


Items Needed To Complete The Curriculum

You will need a computer with an email address and a printer if buying the PDF download edition.  You can also buy the print edition and not have to concern yourself with printing.  You will also need an Atlas to complete the worksheets, crayons, markers, or colored pencils to color maps, regular pencils for drawings and writing, and optional wipe off markers and sheet protectors if you plan to practice drawing maps and wipe them off to draw again and again.

It is suggested for kids to work on this Geography curriculum 4 days a week and it should last you an entire year’s worth of Geography learning.   Kids retain the information better by regularly reviewing what they have learned, and by engaging more of their senses while learning such as drawing while learning.  You will need a notebook or binder to keep all of your papers (incomplete and completed) in each week.

If you do not own an Atlas of the USA, you can find the information you need free online to complete the worksheets.


SCHEDULE: Learning / Memorizing / Drawing

The Drawing Around The World:USA curriculum suggested weekly schedule:

Day 1:

  • Learn about a new state..
  • Complete the State Fact Table.
  • Mapping: Locate and label each new state onto the dashed, black and white map.
  • Each week on day 1, draw all states you have studied so far.

Day 2:

  • Mapping: Locate and label each new state onto the dashed, black and white map.
  • Each week on day 2, repeat and draw all states studied so far.

Day 3:

  • Mapping: Locate and label each new state onto the dashed, black and white map.
  • Each week on day 3, draw all of the states studied so far.

Day 4:

  • Memorization: From memory, list the states studied thus far.
  • Memorization:  Using the blank text box, draw all of the states you have learned so far.

We also included fun websites with online Gegraphy games, Geography songs & Videos to find facts and further our learning. Drawing Around The World: USA curriculum recommends adding in these extra learning resources to boost memory.

We have a DK State By State Atlas Kids Guide of the USA that we used to complete the information in the worksheets.

DK State by State Atlas

DK State by State Atlas


Several free web sites and online Geography games are suggested for use in this curriculum. My kids had a lot of fun learning with these and it really helped them in the learning process of drawing.  By including these audio visual, tactile, memory, drawing, etc. skills, they have improved their geography skills as well.  Here are just a few of the suggested online learning sites and a few we found on our own too.

USA Geography Games at Sheperd's Software

Sheppard’s Software

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USA Map Games Sheppard’s Software

Sheppard’s Software has a lot of fun games and learning activities that fit great with the Drawing Around the World: USA Geography curriculum.   I would definitely encourage you to use this free resource during your studies.

Capital Catch Game at Kids Geo.

Capital Catch Game at Kids Geo.

You might also want to use:  “50 States”, “Spelling City” , “Kids National Geographic / Games”, too.  There are lots of online options.  To find free websites and games just put “Kids Online Geography” in your search bar and it will locate a list of great sights for you to use and further the learning.

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Locating States with World Geography Games


Besides the free web site resources and games, I would also encourage you to include songs, poems , and videos to help kids with the task of associating details about state names and their locations.   My kids are audio visual learners and singing really helps them with making extra “brain connections” when it comes to remembering details.   We found these fun videos with songs to go along with mapping the states and memorizing state names that helped get this information in deep in their heads for memory recall, and inspired them when learning to draw the states and the USA from memory.

Video: Fifty States That Rhyme (color coded)

Video: Fifty States (in alphabetical order)

Video: Tour The States Music Video (THIS IS OUR FAVORITE “MAPPING” VIDEO!!!)

Another thing I would encourage families to include are geography puzzles, story books about traveling the USA, and even building the shape of the different states with Legos.  To build a state with Legos, print out a blank copy of a map of the USA from the curriculum, or draw or trace the outline of a specific state.  Then use that as a template, laying your bricks side by side until you fill in the entire state and it is an exact replica of the state.   If you don’t have a puzzle of the USA, just use a print out of a map of the USA from the curriculum, and then cut it into some shapes that easily fit back together like rectangles or triangles.  If you want to get really challenging, you can cut out the shape of each state.  If you want the puzzle to last a long time, be sure to print it on card stock and laminate it too.  The kids will have fun matching the pieces back together and the hands on activity will improve their memory for drawing the map of the states too.  Anything that uses several sensory skills at the same time will help boost their memory recall.


Before you know it, with the drawing practice and learning ideas in the Drawing Around the World: USA curriculum,  your kids will be drawing (and perhaps singing) all of the state maps and the entire map of the USA from memory.


You can try out a free sample of this curriculum before you buy.


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Faith Of Our Fathers Movie Review

I have an great movie to tell you about called Faith of Our Fathers from

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Fish Flix is a wonderful family friendly company on a mission to bring you the greatest movies that inspire your faith at affordable prices.  They have hundreds of great movies to choose from.  Most of their movies are very affordable and priced between $5 and $20.   They have movies that appeal to everyone of all ages: Family movies, Kids movies, Action, Romance, Feature Films, Dramas, Christian History, Apologetics,  and more.  They offer free shipping on orders over $35 and they also offer a 10% off coupon for signing up for their newsletter.

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Faith Of Our Fathers

Full Length Feature Film

Star Cast Starring:  Stephen Baldwin, Si Robertson, Kevin Downs, Robert AR White

$9.99 on sale ($14.99 retail price)

The movie takes place in both the past in Vietnam and the present in America, and connects them with a common thread as two sons try to find out what happened to their dads who were soldiers during the war.

Three men meet in the Vietnam War 50 years ago.  Two of the men had kids and a wife waiting back home for them and they wrote letters to their families.  Over the course of time, the two men formed a friendship on the battle field.   One man loved God and took his bible with him everywhere during battles.   Others on the squad were annoyed by his faith.   The other soldier was a strong fighter and didn’t know God and didn’t want to know God.   Both men formed a bond and in the end as one led the other to Jesus, they gave their lives for each other on the battle field.

25 years later, their grown sons, named Wayne (Robert AR White) and John Paul (Kevin Downs), are searching for answers.  Their paths cross when John Paul locates Wayne’s number in the phone book and calls him.  But Wayne refuses to talk to him.  John Paul travels across the country to meet Wayne who doesn’t want to meet, but finally gives in to the encounter by agreeing to share the letters for $500 a piece if John Paul will travel to the Vietnam Wall Memorial with him.  He had started on the journey to see the wall years earlier but was forced to stop because of a traffic accident that killed his mom and he had been to devastated to complete the journey.

On their journey, they have several problems and while John Paul turns to God regularly to solve his problems, Wayne doesn’t want anything to do with God and keeps screwing up his life. The dynamics between the two sons is very similar to the relationships of their fathers.  Along the journey they read the letters one at a time and the scene goes back and forth between Vietnam and the battle field, and the roads of America and problems / stresses they face in our culture.

They both eventually find peace and healing after meeting the third man, played by Stephen Baldwin, who was their dads’ Sargent in Vietnam.  He served with and was in charge of their dads.  He knew both men and saw their death.  He put in the missing pieces for them and encouraged them to complete the journey. He gave them a gift and his message of grace, and his kindness melted Wayne’s heart to receive the gospel.

All along it was John Paul planting the seeds of faith as he lived out his struggles in front of Wayne, but it was the third man who had known both their fathers that watered the seed with love and honor of their father’s memories, and as he shared his faith with them his message brought healing and caused that seed of faith to sprout in Wayne’s heart.  This is an awesome story of healing wounded relationships, faith in God, hope for a better tomorrow, and loving each other as we face battles both in war time and in our day to day living.

Movie Trailer

We absolutely loved this movie!  There are eight of us in our family and as you can see everyone took a spot on the couches or floor with blankets and popcorn for an evening of inspiring entertainment.


The older four children loved the movie.  The two youngest kids sat next to daddy and they fell asleep about half way through the movie as it was past their normal bedtime.


I can also see how this would be a great addition to American History studies, Cultural studies, and bible studies too.  We are Duck Dynasty fans and it was fun to see Si Robertson being his usual silly self acting as a store clerk in this movie too. Our whole family enjoyed this film and would recommend it for everyone.

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