Category Archives: TOS

Doctor Aviation ~ a Crew review

A life of learning. That is what we want to teach our children and one of the best ways to do that is to always be learning ourselves. I took this to heart for the Doctor Aviation review and decided it was something I wanted to learn about, for me. Not because I needed to for one of the girls’ lessons but because I was interested.

Doctor Aviation
Doctor Aviation is an aviation education and history course run by Daryl Smith, aka Doctor Aviation. An Air Force Command Pilot with 24 years of experience flying aircraft and teaching about it, Doctor Aviation knows his stuff. From being an instructor pilot and a research pilot to being an United States Air Force Academy instructor and a published author, Doctor Aviation has dedicated his career to flight and shares his love of flight through this course.lesson dashboard

The course is an online course, intended for ages 16 and up, with instruction done by video through the Doctor Aviation site. There are printable Guided Notes for each lesson that are accessible through the website. Each lesson also includes a printable listing of additional resources to help extend the lesson beyond the video presentation.

Lessons –

Each lesson includes a video presentation. To access it, you log in to your account. You will see a dashboard that shows your next lesson. All you have to do is click on it to launch the lesson. You are then taken to a page that shows the next video, action steps that might be needed, and the printable resources (Guided Notes and To Learn More pages).

video and resources on dashboard

Clicking on the video will launch the next presentation. Doctor Aviation presents each lesson in an aircraft hangar with nothing fancy to cause distraction. Using a clipboard for his notes (boy does this show how well he knows his materials!), he talks the students through all the details of the lesson.

Each lesson is between 45 minutes and an hour long and includes three parts:

  1. Technical Trivia
  2. Notable Innovators
  3. Legendary Events or Aircraft

Technical Trivia is not trivial. It is the meat of the lesson and is kept to around 15-20 minutes. Those minutes are packed, though! Doctor Aviation covers all you need to know in an introduction to aviation. The aviation systems is the very first video. It is followed by section 2, which is four lessons on aircraft, from the major components to why an aircraft flies and how lift works. Also included in these four lessons is information on how an aircraft’s systems are manipulated to cause the movement  on the axes. Section 3 covers air traffic control and Section 4 discusses aircraft maintenance. Section 5 takes on the topics related to airfield operations and the last section is more about aircraft themselves. Aviation education is found in the technical trivia part of the course.

Notable Innovators is second part of the video and it is where Doctor Aviation highlights some of the men and women in the aviation field that have made discoveries or completed feats that allowed for significant advancements in aviation. People like Chuck Yeager, the Wright brothers, and Amelia Earhart are discussed in this section. Many other aviators and scientists are also covered.

Legendary Events or Aircraft is a fascinating section. It takes a look at important moments in time, such as the breaking of the sound barrier, the first powered flight, or aircraft that significantly changed the path that aviation history took.flight education

The Guided Notes are intended to be downloaded prior to the start of the video and completed as the video proceeds. It is an easy to follow, fill-in-the-blank sort of note page and I found it helpful in retaining information. These are links that are clicked on from the website and open in a PDF reader. I just hit print from that and never had an issue.

The To Learn More page is printed the same way and is a valuable resource for extending the video lesson. If you have a student taking this for credit, these pages will be where the additional activities are found for making it a solid credit. There are books to read, videos to watch, and hands-on, creative activities to complete. Many of the videos and websites are hyperlinked, making it simple easy to use; just click on the hyperlink and it will open the page you need. The document is broken down by activity and then with a subcategory on the topics from the lesson. Additional research and hands-on activities are suggested at the end of the document.

Periodically throughout the course, there are also tests available. You receive these by contacting Doctor Aviation; they are not found on the website. If you are using this for a high school credit, these will be needed. It is listed in the action steps when there is a test coming up and then again when you need to take it. For example, the first one appears in Lesson 4 and it says to contact Doctor Aviation for the test, to be taken after Lesson 5. On the Lesson 5 page, it shows in the actions steps that the test is to be taken after watching the video and completing any extension activities.

flight education Doctor Aviation

My Thoughts –

Until I had watched the introductory video and first lesson, I would have told you that I had no desire to learn about aviation or aviation history. But then I watched the video and found myself wanting to learn more. I was drawn to the stories told and the revealing of the “mystery” behind flight. I have thoroughly enjoyed having this course to enrich my own learning and I enjoyed watching the videos at night, after the girls had hit the hay, when it was quiet. I found that I truly enjoyed learning all that Doctor Aviation had to share.

The presentation of the video is simple. I mentioned this before. It is one of the things that drew me to the course. When needed, there are drawings, images, or photos to help illustrate the point. But when they aren’t needed, they aren’t there, causing distraction. Doctor Aviation spoke from the heart about the facts, the people, the places, and the aircraft he was talking about. You could tell that this is something he is passionate about and it comes through clearly.

This simplicity of presentation is one reason this course is definitely better suited to a high school course or adult education course. If you have a younger student (probably as young as about 10) that is just fascinated by aviation, I can see them being able to use the video portions of the course successfully, though there are a number of advanced concepts covered; the Guided Notes might be a bit difficult due to the speed with which the information comes at times.


Absolutely. This is a wonderful and surprising course that will “take you to flight.” And what a wonderful, exciting place that is.

At Home.

Be sure to read the other Crew reviews on Doctor Aviation. The course used was the same but different families used it different ways. So check out the reviews by clicking on the banner below.

Aviation Course {Doctor Aviation Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Hands-On History from Home School In The Woods ~ a Crew review


When learning something that is full of ideas and images, such as history, hands-on learning brings a concrete element to it. Home School in the Woods (HSITW) is a hands-on history company that brings some understanding to ideas, elements, and cultures that we cannot get without a tactile activity. We have had fun this summer with some relaxed learning about our home state of Texas through HSITW’s new product, Make-a-State Activity.

Hands-On History Activity-Paks: Make-A-StateMake-A-State is a part of the Activity-Paks series. Other titles in the series include:

*The Old Testament
*The New Testament

HSITW is a company focused on bringing history to life through hands-on activities and informative readings. Each of the products in the HSITW lines are well-researched and well-written. The information is written at a level that upper elementary students and older are generally able to read and understand it on their own. However, with just a little bit of help, even younger elementary students are very capable of using and learning with all of the HSITW products that we have used over the years.
(Project Passport: Ancient Greece, Project Passport: Ancient Egypt, U.S. Elections)

Hands-On History Activity-Paks: Make-A-StateMake-A-State is a Activity-Pak that can be used to study any state in the U.S or Washington D.C. The activities all work together to create a lapbook that includes more than 20 mini projects. All together these projects will give an overview of the chosen state. Most of the topics are generic in theme, allowing it be created specifically for your state. These topics include things like the agriculture of the state, the industry, the climate and the government. Also included are projects about the wildlife, the state song, and sports teams. From the history of the name of the state to the native peoples that live there, many topics are similar from state to state. Creating a tourist brochure and a mini newspaper are a couple of the projects that take a tad bit longer but are well worth the increased efforts.

There are also some projects that are designed to be specific to your state. These include a recipe, the motto, and the state bird and flower. There is also a map to create for your chosen state that you can personalize or mark in a way that fits what you are emphasizing for your state. Not to be forgotten, each state also has a state quarter that is designed to well-represent the state and there is a project to show that off, too.

Lastly, there is a folder game included to help learn about all of the United States. There are three versions of the game included and a set of double sided cards to cut out. Depending on what you are wanting to focus on, you use a different game board but the cards stay the same. Here’s a video of me attempting to explain the variations and how I put them together in a single file folder.

How We Used  Make-A-State:

We chose to use this Activity-Pak as a family. Since we are planning some field trips after the weather cools down to some places related to the history of Texas, we decided to use this as a fun summer projects. And it was well enjoyed. There were several days when the first thing that the girls wanted to do was to work on a mini book or two from Make-A-State (even before breakfast).

We divided up the projects and each of the girls chose something that she was interested in to work on. We used the included information sheet about Texas to get some of the information from (such as for the timeline). We also used the internet to do some research, mostly accessing a known Texas history and information site. For many of the images we needed, we used a Google search for black line coloring pages and printed them at a reduced size of about 30%.

Over the course of several days, working an hour or two a day, we completed the project. We finished it by placing each of the mini books onto blank paper and putting it into a three-prong folder. This way it can sit on our bookshelf easily and as we add to out states collection, they will all be similar. Here is a quick video showing you how it looks put into the folder.

A Couple of Notes:

We have not found a good double sided tape to use for these projects. We have also found that glue sticks don’t work for most of them. White glue really would not work due to the required drying time. So, our solution is to use tape. If you know my girls, you know that we have a deep love of tape. 🙂 Tape works really well and can hold up to the strain that some of the folds put on the projects.

We have become pretty familiar with Home School in the Woods and the ways in which their projects work. There is a bit of a learning curve with this company but it is well worth taking the time to beat that learning curve. Each project in a pack is put together a bit differently to create variety. This means that each project needs a little bit of thinking to put it together right. There are detailed instructions included but, honestly, it still takes some thinking to put some of them together. There are always images included of the completed project and those are terribly helpful.

Printing can also be tricky. You do have to know your own printer. Due to the differences in printer, each page of a project is presented to you separately with printing instructions (print 1-b on the back of 1-a, or something like that). You do need to read through those and print them as instructed to make the projects easier to put together. If you are like me, each time, I have to experiment a bit to remember which way to take the first page out and put it back in the printing drawer to get it printed in the right direction on the back. But, again, it is well worth taking the time and effort (and sometimes paper) to figure it out. My youngest still remembers working on Project Passport: Ancient Egypt from, what, 3 years ago?

A-La-Carte Options:

Home School in the Woods has recently introduced an a-la-carte option for some of their projects. This is a way for you to grab and use one or two of the projects, without having to commit to a longer study of the topic. Perhaps you are reading on a subject and your student shows an interest, you could head over to HSITW and see if there is a single hands-on project to do related to that topic. Or it could be a jumping off point. For example, here is a post about the mini unit study we did last week on the Erie Canal based off of the a-la-carte projects HSITW is offering (free at the time of this writing).



This is a company that we enjoy a lot. Their products are well-researched, well-put-together, and lots of fun. Add to that the retention of information, and this hands-on history company is one worth looking into for your history needs.

At Home.

There were 100 families using products from Home School in the Woods. Click the banner below to read about what they thought from the product lines that were reviewed:

Time Traveler American
*New World Explorers
*Colonial Life
*The American Revolution
*The Early 19th Century
*The Civil War
*Industrial Revolution through Great Depression
*World War II

*U.S. Elections
*20th Century in America
*Wonders of the World
*Benjamin Franklin

*The Old Testament
*The New Testament

Timeline Trio


Hands-on History {Home School in the Woods Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Novare Science & Math ~ a Crew review

Novare Earth Science

As our girls get a bit older, we are beginning to look at science courses that are a bit more advanced. Novare Science & Math has science courses for middle school that look appealing. They sent us a copy of Earth Science: God’s World, Our Home for this review.

Novare Science & Math is not a new company but they are new to the homeschooling market. They have a line of science texts and teacher resources. These include (among some other titles):

Earth Science: God’s World, Our Home
Introductory Physics
General Chemistry
Science for Every Teacher

This company is working to bring high quality texts to students in order to help them understand their world. Hand in hand with this understanding, there is a goal to help the students recognize and understand God’s role in the design and creation of the world we live in.

Novare Science & Math 

Their mission is found in three key words: mastery, integration, and kingdom. (Read more about this on the Novare website.)


The textbook is designed to help the student completely understand the concepts and master them. Each chapter begins with stated learning expectations that are measurable. The chapter is then broken into sections that are numbered. (If your students get help from outlining, this is an awesome feature.) Each section has a few learning check questions that revisit the main points. By answering these in writing with full sentences, the students really absorb the information.

If the accompanying CD is purchased, there are additional materials that really help in the mastery phase. There is a planning schedule to help keep on track and moving forward, as it can be easy to get bogged down. There are weekly quizzes, reviews, and tests. These come with answer keys and are printable so that you can print them as needed. There are also maps for the topography sections, additional links and resource lists, and more. There is a lot on the CD.


This refers to including in the text and accompanying activities, questions, and labs materials that bring other disciplines into the discussion.  One the example would be the inclusion of history by writing about notable inventions or people of influence within the text rather than delegating that information to a separate page or a sidebar. Another would be requiring the student to write complete sentence answers and to verbally express answers in a large or small group setting to incorporate language arts. Math is even included in the science text by having computations for students to do when it is textually appropriate.

Due to the mission of Novare Science & Math, you will find theology throughout the text of  Earth Science: God’s World, Our Home  .


The texts present and confirm God’s mastery design for the earth and its inhabitants. This is found throughout all of their texts. While the focus is intended to be on God, the mainstream science laws, theories, and ideas are addressed and included. Novare wants students to be prepared to face the world as it is and to have in hand the information necessary to be a well-spoken advocate for God’s place in nature. With an intentional purpose, the science texts are intended to have the students working towards understanding, conservation, and sustainability.

The Text: Earth Science: God’s World, Our Home

As the title of this text suggests, it covers earth science. Looking at the student introduction gives us a pretty good idea of where it is going: Psalm 24 is quoted. Introducing the students to God’s World is perhaps the main goal of the text. Understanding of the balances in nature, how they work, and how to be good stewards of the earth and its processes are all underlying purposes of having a Novare Earth Science textstudent use this text. The topics include:

  • Earth in Space
  • Maps/topography
  • Science topics (facts, theories, hypotheses, research, Christianity and science, stewardship, and more)
  • Matter and Minerals
  • Rocks and the Rock Cycle
  • Plate Tectonics
  • Volcanoes and Earthquakes
  • Weathering, Erosion, Soils
  • Water
  • Landforms
  • Earth History
  • Oceanography
  • Atmosphere
  • Weather
  • Climate


Honestly, we struggled. When the text for Earth Science: God’s World, Our Home  first arrived, I was thrilled. It is a lovely, well-constructed book full of beautiful, engaging images. It has a study, hard-back cover that is comfortable to hold. But it is intimidating. The print size is fairly small and there is a lot of it on each page.

After taking a couple of days to kind of absorb the text and how it was set up, I got the CD information (I received it via download). I began going through that download systematically and attempting to put it all into order in my brain about how it was to be used and applied to the text. I finally found a PDF titled Recommendations for Teaching Earth Science and, while it was a long document, it had a lot of helpful tips.

chapter objectives and vocabulary_schedule

Using the tips from that document and the document with the suggested schedule, we got started. The plan, since we were basically in summer school mode, was for Miss E, age 13, to read one section a day and write the answers for the learning check questions. This was about 2-3 pages of reading and 3 questions. After a few days, we realized that this was not going to work. She was struggling with the questions.

We revised our plan. We attempted the same reading schedule with her working through the questions orally with me. That worked better, as I was able to point out within the text what she needed for answering the questions. After answering orally, she wrote the answers in her notebook. This worked for a bit but as we neared the end of the first chapter, I found that she was not retaining the information; she could not remember the details of what she had read. So, we revised again.

This time, she would read one day and work on vocabulary words. The next day, she would read the same text again and work on the questions with me. After trying this for a while, something was still not clicking with her.

My thoughts on that? This text is designed for middle-school students. So, with Miss E heading into 8th grade, it seems as though it ought to fit. While having the objectives and full vocabulary list at the beginning of the chapters is helpful from a teaching perspective, I can see it being frightening from a student perspective. (I have to know ALL of THAT?!?) I am certain that some of it also has to do with the jump in font size and text density per page from her previous science text to this one. This one is also written at a much higher, more academic reading level that takes more effort to understand.learning checks example


I think Novare Science & Math is a great addition to the homeschool market and I am excited to see more of their products. I do believe that this is a text we will use but I don’t know if it will be this coming year. We may need to add an in-between text that doesn’t create such a gap between the way her previous text was written and this one. But, I do like this one a lot and hope we can revisit it before too long.

I think any science loving student will be able to jump into this text easily, perhaps even as early as sixth grade, and absorb the information. Some of the material may be a bit too advanced but it really does depend on the student. Novare Science & Math is a company that I will be keeping in mind as we move forward in our homeschooling journey.

At Home.

Be certain to read more about Novare Science & Math and their other products that have been reviewed by the Homeschool Review Crew by clicking the banner below.

Biblical Based Science {Novare Science & Math Reviews} 

Crew Disclaimer

UnLock Math ~ a Crew review

UnLock pre-algebra

I admit – I had super high hopes for this review of UnLock Pre-Algebra, an online math program from UnLock Math. Perhaps my hopes were too high (this was not, after all, the magical class I had dreamed of) but regardless, this is a fantastic program that has shown my daughter that she CAN understand math and that she can actually do well at math.

UnLock Math pre-algebraUnLock Math was dreamed up and created by Alesia Blackwood, a high school math teacher, and her husband Matthew. They were both home educated and so knew the curriculum choices that existed and what a solid curriculum would need. They envisioned a program that did everything the parent needed, including fantastic customer service.

UnLock Math is online math education featuring small segments of material and reviews of already learned material. Focused engagement is found by the student only viewing a single question at a time and all of the questions have a fully-worked out solution for the student to view. Combine this with video presentation that utilizes technology (the smart-board interaction is engaging!) and an interesting and excited presenter, you find yourself with a math curriculum that is different than other things on the market.

We have been using UnLock Pre-Algebra with our rising 8th grader. She is not a student UnLock Math video imagethat has just jumped for joy at math classes. She has struggled since she was in public schools and they pressured her with tests and timed requirements. She has not recovered her confidence yet. However, and this is HUGE, we have seen a bit of a change since starting this program. She still does not love math but she also does not balk at every single mention of it. In fact, we have seen her whoop and holler when she gets things right and challenge herself to repeat a question set for a better score. Voluntarily repeating questions? That’s big! Any excitement about math? That’s big! Excitement about doing well in math? That is GIGANTIC!

So, what does is the program like? What do we see? How do you navigate it? Easy!


The student goes to the student login page and logs in. This is what the student sees:

student dashboard

Looking at the left side, the student can see what they have completed by the lock next to the Unit. In this image, Miss E had completed two units. She is ready to move on to unit 3. You can also see the dial which indicates your current overall score (this changes after the first unit; until then it seemed to stay at the same place and not be accurate). At the bottom (out of the range of this screenshot) is a pie chart that shows the completion of the unit – how much is done and how much still needs to be done in each area (warm up, practice problems, stay sharp, and quizzes).

Two other places can be accessed on this page that are helpful. One is the gradebook and the other is a progress report. I’ll cover those in a bit.

To launch the next unit, the student clicks on the rocket ship on the right side of the unit title. This takes you to a page where you see the lessons, quizzes, and tests. It looks like this:

daily lesson selection

Again, you can tell what is completed because it is unlocked. If it is still locked, that is the next lesson that needs to be completed. This page was so well set up that it was easy for Miss E to see what lessons she needed to complete before she could take a quiz (or the test at the end). Lessons and reviews are on the left; quizzes and tests are on the right. We also really liked that each quiz tells you which lessons are being covered in the quiz.

The gradebook is a line-item gradebook, showing a grade for each item completed. In preparing for the course, UnLock Math tells you how much each item is weighted in the grade calculations. This is an example of what the gradebook looks like:

grade book

You can show more lines by searching at the bottom left. That was an important feature that I wish were more prominently placed and a bit easier to use. I have to guess at how many lines I need it to show in order to look at how she did on any given assignment.

The progress report is another piece that might be useful, especially if you have to show periodic progress. It is easy to use. Once you are on the screen, you have an overall view of the program. If you want a report on the progress of just one unit, click that unit at the bottom of the page and it will update the scores shown. You can then print what is needed.progress report


Now for the specifics of how the lessons work. After the student launches the current lesson, here is what they see:

Lesson example

There are five parts to the lesson plus reference notes:

  • warm up
  • video
  • practice problems
  • stay sharp
  • challenge yourself
  • reference notes

Each lesson runs approximately 30 minutes, depending on the speed at which the student completes the questions.

Warm up: This is designed to help the student “turn on” their math brain. These have generally been easy to answer questions that just help get started.

Video: This video is Mrs. Blackwood presenting and teaching the concept for the lesson. She talks about it, gives examples, and uses a smart-board to help her illustrate the concept. These have been, generally, less than 10 minutes.

Practice Problems: This is a set of problems using the concept presented in the video. There are not a lot of these. I think they have run between 10 and 20 of them. These can be done more than once if the student struggles. The highest score will be kept. Each time, a new set of questions is generated; there is no repetition of questions and solutions.

Stay Sharp: These are review questions over things previously covered so that concepts will not be forgotten. There are perhaps 5 to 10 of these. Again, these can be repeated.

Challenge Yourself: This is a critical thinking exercise in which the solution requires the student to really think and analyze the material presented. If this is missed, it is not counted against the student. This is one of Miss E’s favorite parts!

Reference Notes: This is printed materials for those who process things better if they can also see it written down. We have not utilized this yet but it is a wonderful addition that I can see being really helpful.

The input of solutions on this program is decent. Math solutions can be difficult to enter via a keyboard. It is not intuitive but it is not terribly difficult in Pre-Algebra so far. The student will need to get used to it, based on how each student thinks through a problem. Miss E tends to enter solutions from the right to the left so she will enter a digit for the ones column and then hit the left arrow key to go to the tens column. She figured it out easily but she does have to pay attention to how solutions are entered.


I know this is a pretty long review. This is one I wanted to be thorough on. I am hesitant about online math programs. We have seen a number of them and while they look pretty good, they do not turn out to be what we needed. I am pleased with the setup of UnLock Math and think that it is a worthwhile program to spend some time looking into for your family. If you would like to see a demo video of a lesson, please visit the UnLock Math site.

While one of my biggest complaints about online instruction is not fixed in this program (that being that the instruction is on video and thus the instructor cannot address the individual student and what is being misunderstood in the presentation; honestly, I don’t know how you would fix it online), UnLock Math seems to have explanations and video that do a very good job of explanation. Thus, there is not quite so much still out there that I have to figure out how to explain. I am pleased with that.

UPDATE: It was brought to my attention that there is actually a chat option on the site that the student my access during the session. This chat is monitored by licensed teachers Monday-Friday from 9-4 EST. I had totally missed that option. This is a wonderful thing to know about and basically eliminates the concern I mentioned in the previous paragraph. Teachers on-call? Now this program really does seem like the ideal. I hope it continues to be what Miss E needs!

UnLock Pre-Algebra  I think is going to stick. As we approach some of the concepts that are more difficult, we will see but it looks so much more promising than other programs. And anytime that I can get Miss E working on math and finding success, well, that is a quality program in my eyes.

At Home.

Please visit the Homeschool Review Crew to read more reviews. We were reviewing

UnLock Pre-Algebra 

UnLock Algebra1

UnLock Algebra2

UnLock Geometry
(this is the newest addition to UnLock Math!)

Just click the banner below to visit the Homeschool Review Crew.

Pre-Algebra, Algebra and Geometry {UnLock Math Reviews}

Find UnLock Math on social media:
Facebook:    Tag:   @UnLockMath
Twitter:    Tag:   @UnLockMath
Pinterest:            Tag:   @UnLockMath


Crew Disclaimer

How To Homeschool ~ a Crew review

How to Homeschool is for everyone

No, I am not brand-new to homeschooling but after watching the introduction to How to HOMESCHOOL with Stunning Confidence, Contagious Joy, and Amazing Focus (DVD & Coursebook) I was very interested in reviewing the program. You see, we all struggle with confidence and the daily parts of home education and this program from Apologia Educational Ministries has really helped me with that.

How To Homeschool

Apologia sent me the How to Homeschool course and it is, like all of their materials, beautiful. The course consists of two DVDs and coursebook. The DVDs come in a plastic case that fully protects them for the journey to your doorstep. The course book is a softback, center stapled book of 72 information-packed pages. These two parts of the course work so easily together.

The course covers topics in the areas of

  • “Designing Your Road Map” (setting goals, support, curriculum)
  • “Finding Your Way” (how-tos, organizing stuff, organizing days)
  • “Navigating The Detours” (family, opposition)
  • “Arriving At Your Destination” (graduation, college, and more)
  • “Beginning Your Journey” (continuing education, opportunities)

There are 15 chapters, each with a corresponding video and text in the course book.

notes pageThe course is designed to encourage a first time homeschooling family to step forward in faith and courage. Rachael Carman and Leslie Nunnery invite you into the living room to sit and chat about what comes next. These conversations are comfortable and easy and they show us that there are many ways to approach the homeschool journey but that all of the journeys share one thing: love of family. That is where they all begin and in these conversations, Mrs. Carman and Mrs. Nunnery encourage you to take the baby steps necessary to equip yourself with confidence and knowledge to educate your loved ones.

I have been so encouraged in my homeschool journey by watching these videos and working through the book. While these are aimed at brand-new homeschooling families, I want to share that there is a lot of information in here to be gleaned by any homeschool family. We are about to begin our 5th year of homeschooling and I have been so uplifted in my dedication and desire to continue on with the girls. I have been reminded that not everything works the way we desire or imagine and that is okay. I have been given so many tidbits and nuggets of wisdom just by listening to the conversation of these two ladies.

So, how did I use this course? Simple, really.watching How To Homeschool

I read the chapter in the text. That was generally about 3 pages. I underlined tidbits that I wanted to remember or that caught my attention as I read. Those pages are followed by a space to complete the assignment for that chapter and then by a page for your notes. After reading, I would put on the DVD and watch and listen to the conversation of the ladies about the topic. While listening, I would take notes: things I needed to do different; statements that encouraged me; ideas to think on; reminders of things I have known. I found this to be a relaxing way to spend a few minutes at the end of my days and I would go to bed encouraged.

Each chapter takes only about 20 minutes to read the text and watch the DVD. The assignment time varies depending on how much of the assignment you might have already done and how much thought and prayer needs to go into it. These included writing down why you chose to educate your children at home, looking at options following high school completion, taking inventory of time commitments, visiting with veteran homeschoolers, or evaluating your strengths and weaknesses. All these are bit and pieces of assignments that will help you become who God is leading you to be in your homeschool journey.

As one who has homeschooled for a short while already, some of these assignments were already done and just needed revisited and touched up. For a brand new homeschooler, some of these will take a lot of thought. That is okay – there is not rush to complete this course in a set amount of time. Work through it. Process it. Absorb the wisdom that is shared. Take your time and get everything out of it you need so that as you walk this journey, you know that you are prepared.

My notes page

An additional resource is found on the Apologia website. When you purchase the course, you are given access to extras that are found only online. You will receive a web address and password code in the book that will give you access to these extras. From resource links to printable pages to lists and Pinterest boards, there are so many additional helps that I have yet to make it through them all. This is a definite bonus!

quote from How to Homeschool

If you would like to see a sample of the first conversation in this DVD series, visit the Apologia website for How to HOMESCHOOL with Stunning Confidence, Contagious Joy, and Amazing Focus (DVD & Coursebook)There is a video on their webpage or you can watch it here.

I cannot recommend this course highly enough. I found this to be such a pleasant way to renew my courage for home education, to find more joy, to brave the daily challenges. I found encouragement and really am moving forward with “stunning confidence, contagious joy, and amazing focus.” Well, at least I hope I am. I feel more confident, courageous, joyful and focused. And that? Well, that’s the whole reason to challenge myself in this way, isn’t it?

At Home.

Read about what other families thought about How to Homeschool as well as Internship for High School Credit by clicking the banner below.

Homeschool with Confidence & Internship for High School {Apologia Educational Ministries Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

K5 Learning ~ a Crew review

K5 Learning is a supplemental, online program that is designed by educators and intended for anyone needing to strengthen their reading, math, or spelling skills. Both home educated students and public school students alike are the target users for this program.

K5 LearningK5 Learning has three main components – reading, math, and spelling. The reading instruction is intended to help students in phonics, sight words, and reading comprehension. Math is intended to assist students with numbers and operations, geometry, and data, along with beginning algebraic thinking. The spelling portion of the site is a combination of spelling and vocabulary building.

When a student begins with K5, it is best to begin with an assessment. This is designed to help place the student at the lessons that will most benefit the student. It takes about 20 minutes to complete each assessment, a total of about 40 minutes as there are separate assessments for math and reading. We found these assessments to be fairly inaccurate, especially in the phonics department.

After completing the assessment, each time the student logs in, she is taken to a page to choose either math, reading, or spelling for the day. Clicking on the category takes the student to the beginning of their activity for the day. The student is then taken through an online lesson that consists of stating the object, instruction, practice problems, and then an activity. Each page has a button at the bottom that is supposed to allow the student to stop and save their work. This is where they should be returned the next time they log in to this category.

Some of the nice parts of the online program include:

  • easy login for both student and parent

    math worksheet

    a printable worksheet

  • once logged in and the area is selected, the student begins right where they left off the last time (assuming the programming is working correctly – more about that in a minute)
  • the program is rich in visual and auditory material
  • the parent can retrieve reports on the student’s progress and growth
  • bite-sized lessons
  • parents can assign material if additional practice is needed
  • spelling words can easily be added
  • printable worksheets are available to provide an off-line component

While these are all really nice things, we found that K5 did not meet the needs of our family. I will start by talking about the assessments.

Miss L – 10 at the start of the review period; 11 at the end

  • I expected Miss L to assess out of the program in reading, as she reads and comprehends at a very high level and her spelling is excellent. She tested at 2nd grade levels in phonics but those lessons were completely inappropriate for her age and ability. There was no way for me to see what specifically she needed to zero in on, if anything, related to phonics. Her reading placements put her at high 5th grade but even those lessons seemed below her ability. It was not pleasant or helpful for her to complete these lessons.
  • In math, Miss L placed approximately where I expected her to – right on level. I felt like this assessment was probably accurate but the instruction was a very poor fit for her age and ability. She was unable to work with the instruction and program without extreme frustration. We did not make her continue with the program.

Miss J – age 8 during the review period

  • I felt as though her reading assessment was off. While the numbers for placement looked good, the material was almost all review for Miss J. She was working on phonetic material that she had completed easily six months ago and the reading was below her abilities.
  • Miss J’s math assessment also seemed off. It had her working on materials that she completed a while back, while also having her work on things that she did not know anything about yet. It was kind of a mixed bag for her, though technically it was showing her as placing at a low 3rd grade level (a bit higher than she is currently working in her curriculum).
student dashboard

student dashboard showing the three parts of the program and the printable worksheets


We encountered several issues, aside from the assessments. One of the biggest? Miss J had to repeat assignments that she passed a number of times. In particular, there was one series on reading comprehension that she had to repeat a total of five times before it moved her forward. I did contact the company and they told me that she had to pass it with better than 65% to move forward. Well, she had. I had sat beside her for 4 of those times and she had gotten everything or almost everything correct. We would log out and log back in, and it still made her repeat it. We were just about to give up on the program completely when it finally let her move forward.

This came up another time, as well. However, this time she only had to repeat the lessons three times before moving on.

reading comprehension page

One of the biggest issues I had with the repetition is not that she had to repeat – after all, relearning material can really help in the long run. The issue was that the repeat was just that – an exact repeat: same lesson, same words, same passages to read, same questions to answer. After the first time through a reading passage, it is no longer a reading comprehension exercise; it is now a memory exercise. This is not helpful if the student is truly struggling with reading comprehension.

Another issue that we saw was in the math instruction. Miss J was working on multiplication. The lesson began with a image of some arrays that was intended to assist her in solving the problem. But after the first reference to the arrays, all other discussion was done without referring back to the image. The image for the problem is never tied to the method of solving it. We saw this same sort of thing occur in many of the math lessons. The picture appears, and then is ignored in the instruction.

In math instruction, we did not feel as though there was actual instruction. Most of the time, multiple problems were walked through, step-by-step. Lack of instruction meant that I had to sit with Miss J for the duration of her work on the program so I could fill in the missing information for her. I realize that this is a supplemental program but, as such, student who are needing additional practice need additional instruction. I expect a supplemental program to provide that piece, especially since K5 is designed with an assessment to help place the student where they were having difficulty.

Additionally, I had to instruct her on how to answer questions. The input of answers was not intuitive for the student and problems were often not lined up logically. Problems did not have the tens and ones places lined up vertically. Some problems had to have commas inserted for the answer to be counted correct; others did not. Adding those commas often misaligned the columns. Just another bit that makes it hard for the student to not get frustrated.

vocabulary lessonTiming was another issue. If a student knows an answer, it is detrimental to their concentration to have them have to wait out all of the talking the program does before they are allowed to answer the question. More than once, frustration built up because our students had to wait to type in an answer. At other times, the answer was timed and if the student took too long to type it in, what they had already worked out was erased and they had to start over. This was especially true in the 5th grade level math. She often had no idea that it was going to be timed until after she had already had an answer erased. Again, this built frustration and did not help in her learning skills that needed practice.

At the late 2nd grade level, a student does not need everything read to them. This is a great option but it should be just that – an option, not an automatic feature. This took up a lot of time and Miss J often lost her concentration while waiting on the voice to stop talking so she could answer a question.

I think that there are probably some very beneficial things about this program. However, after our experience, I wonder if this is not a program that the student needs to begin when they are younger. If they had grown with this program, perhaps we would not have met with all of the frustrations and issues that we did. All in all, this just was not a good fit for our family.

At Home.

Read additional reviews by members of the Homeschool Review Crew by clicking on the banner below.

K5 Learning {Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

First Form Latin ~ a Crew review

First Form Latin review

Never in my wildest dream did I imagine I would have the privilege to teach my girls Latin and never did I imagine how easy it would be if I did. We have been using the First Form Latin Complete Set from Memoria Press and found this to be a wonderful curriculum.Latin text

What Is Included

First Form Latin is a complete curriculum, containing everything that is needed to lay a firm foundation in Latin. The complete set includes:First Form Latin Complete Set

  • Student Text
  • Teacher Manual
  • Student Workbook (one workbook per student is needed)
  • Quizzes and Tests
  • Answer Key (for workbook, quizzes and tests)
  • Pronunciation CD
  • Flashcards
  • 3 DVD set of instruction

When we were trying to decide if this would be a good fit for Miss E (13/8th grade), we watched the first lesson video, available on the Memoria Press First Form Latin page. From that moment, I began to hear recitations of Latin vocabulary and verb conjugations. She really grabbed a hold of the language and wanted to know more. That, to me, is a sign of both a good curriculum and a good presentation of it.

That – a good curriculum with a good presentation – is First Form Latin in a nutshell. It is a well-designed curriculum by Cheryl Lowe. It focuses on grammar forms and vocabulary. This beginning stage was simple enough for Miss E to grab hold of and understand. The presentation of the curriculum on the DVD is well done, also. Latin teacher Glen Moore walks through each of the portions of the lesson with the student, speaking clearly and explaining new information.

How We Have Been Using First Form Latin

DVDs and CDsFirst Form Latin Complete Set has been easy to implement. We start by watching a lesson on the DVD. These lessons are easy to follow for me, though Miss E struggled with it. While watching, Miss E would have her student text out so she could follow along and see the words, endings, or other things Mr. Moore was stating. Miss E said about the DVD that so much was tied to English grammar and formal names for parts of grammar that it was difficult for her to follow along. I did need to stop the DVD and explain things to her as we went along. Miss E also said that in the first lesson, she felt as though it started part way into the lesson, as though maybe she had missed something that came before. I wonder if this is due to there being previous Latin courses that this is a natural follow-up to, though this is a starting course on its own for students in 5th grade or above.

After the DVD lesson, we would pull out the flashcards and Miss E would review the new material presented in the lesson. Then she would add those cards to the flashcards from previous lessons and review all of the material she had covered.

Latin flashcards

The next day, she would begin with the flashcards, speaking out loud. These cover vocabulary, endings, reciting phrases, and probably more that I am forgetting. After going over the flashcards, we would put on the pronunciations for that lesson. Then she would do the workbook page for that lesson. We would do this for the next five lesson days, as there were generally five workbook pages for each lesson. I would check her work as she went along on the workbook page using the key provided in the Answer Key book. (I loved that it is spiral bound, making it easy to have sitting open while she worked through her pages.)

Latin workbookAfter completing the workbook pages, we would then go back to the DVDs and move on with the next lesson. In general, this is the pattern we are following. However, there have been a couple of days where Miss E did not feel completely comfortable with the verb endings or the vocabulary. So, instead of pushing forward without the comfort of knowing the material well, we spent a day or two just on flashcards and/or the pronunciation CD. This really built necessary confidence, since each lesson builds on those before it.

Miss E’s Thoughts (paraphrased by me) –

It has been fun learning Latin. I wish I understood more of the [DVD] lesson. I like learning the words but it moves so fast. I don’t always understand and remember all the words before we are supposed to move on to the next lesson. I do like the program and am enjoying getting to learn Latin.

My Thoughts –

The First Form Latin program has been easy to implement, easy to add to our day. While there are quite a few components to the program, I cannot imagine trying to teach this Latin program without everything that is included in the First Form Latin complete set. Each of the components adds to the ease of implementation. It would be nice for there to be a bit more information about how and where to include the pronunciation CD and the pronunciation practices, as well as the most effective way to implement the use of the flashcards. I do, however, feel like we have found an effective flow to the program for our family.

First Form Latin is a pleasant program and I have really enjoyed being able to add a language that I enjoyed learning for a year way back when. I am thrilled that Miss E is enjoying it. If you would like to take a closer look at this program, visit Memoria Press. On their First Form Latin page, they have a sample lesson video. There are also samples of the Student Text, Student Workbook, Teacher Manual, and Answer Key.

In addition to the reviews of First Form Latin Complete Set , other Homeschool Review Crew members have been reviewing other Latin programs. These include:

Two other programs were being reviewed during this time. They are The Book of Trees and Nature’s Beautiful Order .

In the past, we have reviewed the following from Memoria Press.

At Home.

Find the additional reviews from the Homeschool Review Crew by clicking the banner below.

Latin, Nature and Trees {Memoria Press Reviews} 

Crew Disclaimer llofooll

%d bloggers like this: