Archive for 'Reviews'

Curriculum Review: Artes Latinae

Homeschoolers who are using classical studies will want to include Latin as part of their curriculum. Finding a high quality Latin program can be difficult. This is especially true if you are teaching students who are in high school. Many of the programs available are not challenging enough for high school students. Another problem is teaching multiple children when there is a large age difference. The solution is a Latin program called Artes Latinae.


When I choose a homeschool curriculum, I pay attention to several key points. First, it has to be easily adaptable to teaching multiple ages. The program needs to be portable—up until very recently, I had to work around cancer treatments. But, I still want a program that I can access or take on the road with me. Language programs should include more than just reading and speaking the language. Finally, it needs to fit my teaching style and my kid’s learning style.


Artes Latinae meets my criteria. It is published by Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers. Back when I was first introduced to Artes Latinae, it included filmstrips, cassette tapes and workbooks (yes, I am that old.) The publishers have kept up with the times and there are two versions available. The traditional version uses workbooks, and CDs. A newer version, DVD-ROM. This version replaces the books and CDs with a DVD-ROM disc. Mary Pride gives Artes Latinae a First Place Award in her book Practical Homeschooling.



One of the best things about this program is that you can use it for almost any age, even if your child cannot read yet. Non-readers can use just the audio parts of the program. Fluent readers will be able to work the program at their own pace. Younger children will require help from an adult or older sibling. Asking kids under the age of nine to work independently for an extended amount of time is unreasonable, so expect to be there to assist younger children.


Where Artes Latinae really shines is in the middle and high school grades. Level 1 is the equivalent of a traditional high school Latin 1 class. Your teenagers can work independently or if you have more than one teen, they can work together on their Latin lessons.



Artes Latinae is portable. Whether you choose the traditional or DVD-ROM version, it is easy to take the materials with you. This means you can have kids working at the library, while waiting for appointments, or in the car. All you need is access to either a CD player, or with the DVD-ROM version—a laptop computer. I have not used the DVD-ROM version, so I am not sure if it will play in a car’s DVD player because it has text documents as well as audio on the disc.


Your kids can listen to the CD in the car or use the graded reader while on the road, at the library or wherever quiet activities are required.


No More Language in a Vacuum

Latin, like any other language, did not exist in a vacuum. Teaching a language without learning about the culture in which the language was used is useless. Artes Latinae teaches students about the culture in Ancient Rome. For high school students, this is a bonus. A single curriculum purchase will give you a foreign language credit and a history credit. The history credit can be anywhere from ½ credit to a full credit or more—depending on how involved you get in the culture of Ancient Rome.


The publishers offer books to further the study of Latin. Favorite childhood books such as the Cat in the Hat or How the Grinch Stole Christmas are available in Latin. For students who have completed Level 1 and are working on Level 2, advanced titles in Latin are available. Artes Latinae, Level 2, when combined with the advanced readers, is a great way to prepare for the AP Latin exam.


Classical Studies and More

Our homeschool follows Charlotte Mason’s philosophy and teaching methods. We have found that Artes Latinae fits into a Charlotte Mason homeschool. It obviously will work in a homeschool that is using classical studies. We used Artes Latinae as a unit study which incorporated Latin, Ancient Rome, and Roman and Greek mythology.


The program is adaptable to many learning styles, especially when you add in some of the readers for younger children. Hearing a favorite book read to them in Latin instead of English gives them a new perspective of the story.


Purchase Options

Artes Latinae is somewhat expensive. The cost adds up quickly when you start adding in the extra readers or if you want to purchase books on mythology. I would recommend using the Home School Buyers Co-op for purchasing the Traditional Version as it is available through September 16, at a 40 percent discount.


The Traditional Version for Level 1 and Level 2 include: books one and two, audio CD, teacher’s manual, graded reader, teacher’s manual for the graded reader, reference notebook (consumable), test booklet (consumable), and guide to tests. The retail price for the traditional version is $159.


The DVD-ROM version for Levels One and Two replaces the student textbooks and audio CD and combines them into a DVD-ROM. A free sample for the DVD-ROM version is available. The retail price for the DVD-ROM is $279.


In addition to the actual Artes Latinae curriculum, the Home School Buyers Co-op offers a mythology bundle, a Christmas bundle, and an “I am reading Latin” bundle, to compliment the Artes Latinae program. These bundles are offered at a 40 percent discount and can be purchased with or without the Latin program.

Posted on 4 September '13 by , under Homeschool Curriculum, Reviews. No Comments.

Kindle book review: ‘Across the Plains in the Donner Party’

I love teaching using quality books. True stories bring history to life for our kids. One book in particular I found very interesting. Across the Plains in the Donner Party, edited by Karen Zeinert, is one of the few books I found that is suitable for middle school aged kids and up. The Donner Party resorted to desperate measures in order to survive a winter in the high Sierra Mountains, in an area now known as Donner Pass and Donner Lake.

The Donner Party
The Donner Party headed out on the Oregon Trail toward California. Along the way, they came across information about a short cut called Hastings Cut-off. At the time, the party had no way of knowing that taking this uncharted and unproven route would lead to their demise.

The Kindle Version of Across the Plains in the Donner Party
I borrowed the Kindle version of the book from my local library. At the Bentonville library, I can borrow up to five Kindle books at a time. Each book has a 14-day rental period. The book is properly formatted for the Kindle and I did not notice any glaring typos or grammatical errors.

This book, unlike many others on the subject, does not base the story around cannibalism. Although it is noted in the book that this occurred, it is a very minor part of the story and it is downplayed. This is what makes it suitable for children in middle school and up–the lack of gory details.

The book, is a compilation of letters, writings and diaries from Virginia Reed-Murphy, James Reed, and Patrick Breen. All three were members of the Donner Party. The majority of the book is from a magazine article Virginia Reed-Murphy wrote about 40 years after she was stranded at Donner Lake. Virginia was 12-years old when the Donner Party was stranded for the winter in the Sierra Mountains. Her accounts are somewhat child-like in description, but she remembers the ordeal as any child would. Virginia is the step-daughter to James Reed.

James Reed was a founding member of the Donner Party. He and the Donners put together the wagon train that headed west. His diary, written after he was banished from the Donner Party, is an account of everything that happened to him. It is the account of a man who did not believe he would survive his ordeal. This account was left so that those who found his body would know where he came from, what he went through, and who to contact.

Patrick Breen joined the Donner Party later on down the trail. His diary starts when the group is stranded at what is now Donner Lake. Like James Reed, this diary is written by a man who is convinced he is going to die.

This book gives a look into the mindset of a child, who managed to survive impossible circumstances. Virginia Reed-Murphy made a deal with God while stranded at Donner Lake. She said if he got her through this and she survived, she would convert to Catholicism. She kept her promise.

Let me know if you find this review helpful


Posted on 30 November '12 by , under Reviews. No Comments.

Review: Knowledge Box Central Presidential Election Process Lapbook

The Library of Congress - (Abraham Lincoln, U.S. President. Seated portrait, holding glasses and newspaper, Aug. 9, 1863) (LOC)I’ve changed the way we are doing homeschool radically this year. This is due in part, to my battle with breast cancer. Knowledge Box Central is a company that has reasonably priced, high quality lapbooks for sale. My 12th grader turns 18 in September and will be able to vote in the Presidential election this November. Our family turned to the Presidential Election Process Lapbook  for learning about this important event.


What I liked

The lapbook is inexpensive. At just $5.00 for the e-book version, you can’t go wrong. I like the pdf format–if you make a mistake, just print out another page. The lapbook comes complete with enough information for lessons on the election process. The instructions are easy to follow, even if you are challenged in the crafting department. We used the grades 6 through 12 version.


What needs improvement

I would like to see better references included in the information. As a professional researcher and writer, Wikipedia is not considered a reliable or first-hand source. A better reference for the election process is the actual U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights which is found at the National Archives website. We used this as our source instead of the Wikipedia references included with the lapbook.


What my kids think

I used the Presidential Election Process lapbook with my 7th and 12th grade boys. They were engaged and had a great time researching the answers to the questions for the lapbook. My kids had a blast putting the lapbook together. It is not easy to please both boys with the same curriculum, and the Presidential Election Process lapbook was a definite hit. I plan to use other lapbooks from Knowledge Box Central.


Would I recommend it

I was extremely satisfied with the price, value, and content of the lapbook. The e-book format gives you flexibility to use it with multiple children without having to make another purchase. You can incorporate the lapbook into any style of homeschooling, including Charlotte Mason a traditional school approach and unschooling.


We added copywork and dictation to the lapbook to create an entire cross-curricular discipline on the election process and the U.S. Government. I highly recommend this lapbook, especially since this is a year when we elect a new president.


If you use this or any other Knowledge Box lapbooks, drop me a line and let me know. Thanks.



Posted on 7 August '12 by , under Government Lesson Plans, Homeschooling through high school, Reviews. No Comments.

Review of One Year Adventure Novel

Lynda Altman

Lynda Altman, writer


I had my doubts about the One Year Adventure Novel curriculum until I tried it. We are using this program for my high school senior and my 7th grader. The program will guide your child through the process of writing an adventure novel over the course of a school year.

An Overview of One Year Adventure Novel

This is a curriculum for middle and high school students. I think it is too involved for an upper elementary school student–even a very gifted one.


The first part of the year is spent having your child learn to get the ideas out of his head and onto paper. He will learn to organize ideas and thoughts and improve the creative writing process.


This is not a grammar and spelling program. It does not focus on sentence structure and writing mechanics. If you are looking for that sort of program go with something else.


The second part of the curriculum walks your child through the process of organizing and writing a novel. This may seem like a daunting task for a novice writer, but if you follow the steps laid out n the CDs, it is not difficult.


The One Year Adventure Novel is an all inclusive curriculum. Lessons are on the CDs. The map and workbook have everything laid out for you. Your job as a parent and educator is to make sure the lessons are completed on time and you need to be a good listener. Another thing I like about the program is that you can purchase more than one workbook if you have multiple students or if you have younger children that will use the program later on.



The curriculum does everything for you. There is no preparation for lessons on the parent’s part. A parent or other adult will need to be a good editor/director. This means that you listen to the ideas and help your child get them out onto paper in a clear and concise manner. It will also mean that you need to learn to lighten up with grammar, spelling and sentence structure until your child is ready to produce a finished product. The goal of the program is to get him to write a novel. The all-in-one design is especially helpful to me while I am homeschooling and fighting breast cancer.


The curriculum is well organized and it is perfect for students who work well independently. I found it was helpful for me as a writer to watch the lessons. I am always looking to improve my writing.



There is a lot of work involved with the curriculum. If your kid does not like to write, this may not be what you are looking for. You will need to assess why your child does not like writing. If it is because they have a hard time getting good ideas on to paper, this program will help. If you kid just hates to write and would rather compose music or do anything else, then you may want to skip this one.


The first part of the year goes slowly. If you are looking to get right into writing a book, you have to wait. The first half of the year is important to the creative process. Take your time with the program and do all the lessons.


Hope you found this helpful. Leave a comment and let me know.



Posted on 26 July '12 by , under Cancer and homeschool, Homeschooling through high school, Reviews. No Comments.

Well Planned Day Homeschool Planners on Sale

September is traditionally a back-to-school month. To celebrate the fact that we homeschool our children, The Well Planned Day is offering 25% off of all their planners. You should take a look at the planners.

I own one of  The Well Planned Day planners and it is the most helpful planner I have used. It contains room for scheduling 4 students and a teachers schedule. It allows you to completely organize your household. This planner has made my life a lot less stressful. Weekly catechisms and daily scripture reading is included for those who like to have this. Another bonus is reprints of articles from Home Educating Family Magazine.

Click on the link to find out more about the Well Planned Day. Use code septsale to get the discount.

Hope this is helpful


Posted on 2 September '11 by , under Coupons, News, Reviews, Thrifty Homeschooling. No Comments.

Quarter Mile Math Makes Learning Math Facts Fun

We use Quarter Mile Math in our homeschool. I really like this math program. It is not a full math curriculum–instead it is a fun way for kids to practice their math facts.

The program is simple–Your child competes in a quarter mile race against four other opponents. During the first few rounds, kids race against a computer opponent who is destined to lose (although the child is not aware of this). After each race, one of the computer generated racers is replaced with the child’s last score. After five races–the child is racing against himself in quest for the best score.

The program is a lot more fun than flash cards and other math drills. Check out my full review here.  You can go out to the Quarter Mile Math website to download a free trial.

Give it a try and let me know what you think.



Posted on 26 August '11 by , under Reviews. No Comments.

Review of The Well Planned Day Daily Planner

Every homeschooler needs a planner. Without one, it would be impossible to keep up with everything that needs to be done in a day. I need a planner or calender in order to organize my life. In my world, if something is not on the calender, it does not exist. It has taken me a long time and lots of trial and error to finally find a planner that is almost perfect for me. The Well Planned Day daily planner has everything I want in a planner with a price that is reasonable, that is why I decided to purchase one as my planner for the upcoming year.

Prior to using the Well Planned Day, I had a calender for all events and a separate schedule for homeschool lessons. This can become an issue when a field trip or 4H activity conflicts with the homeschooling. I would have to go back to my lesson planner and change it to match my calender. This is way too much work for me.

The Well Planned Day offers me an all-in-one planner. It has a place to write in everything for the month and it has a weekly view. I really like the budgeting features and shopping lists.  A teacher’s planner is included and you can add student schedules for up to 4 children. Having everything in one place works best for me.

Other features of this planner include inspirational articles on homeschooling from the Home School Family Magazine, report cards and progress reports, and the ability to keep track of grades. This is very important for college bound high school and middle school students. You can easily create a transcript if you use this planner to keep track of the grades and credits.

Thrifty homeschoolers will like the price. The Well Planned Day planner in a spiral binding, is $24.95 as of July 2011. A pdf version where you print out the pages you need is available for less. Other options include planners for high school and middle school students and a binder designed to hold more than one planner. The binder will zip closed to keep everything neat.

Christian homeschoolers in Arkansas will enjoy the weekly view which includes a catechism, proof text for memorization and a quote that relates. The Well Planned Day uses the Westminster Shorter Catechism.

Overall, I am impressed with The Well Planned Day daily planner. Although there are some features that I will not use, the overall planner is of great value to me and well worth the price. If you decide to purchase one, let me know what you think.




Posted on 18 July '11 by , under Homeschooling 101, Reviews. No Comments.

When to use a Coupon Clipping Service

Homeschool moms are busy people. We do not always have time to go through the Sunday inserts, match our coupons up with the sales flyers, clip and sort the coupons before a trip to the store. When life’s pace turns manic, coupon clipping services can help a busy homeschooling mom out.

What is a Coupon Clipping Service?
A coupon clipping service is an online service where you can order coupons to be clipped and sorted for you from the Sunday inserts. The services charge a fee for each coupon to cover the labor and time involved in clipping and sorting the coupons for you. Then you pay shipping and your order is sent to you by First Class Mail. Many services offer express delivery for an additional charge.

When Should You use a Coupon Clipping Service?
If you know that a local store is having a great sale and you need to stock up on that item, ordering a large quantity of coupons for that item makes sense. Just be sure that you will use the coupons before they expire. This is one way to save a lot of money.

Another reason to use this service is because Sunday papers are expensive. Why pay for a paper that you are not going to read. Save a tree and opt for getting only the coupons you can use. I know a number of people who do not buy the Sunday paper. Instead they have the coupon clipping services send them an alert when new coupons are available. Then it is just a matter of selecting the coupons you want and getting them shipped to you.

As a thrifty homeschooling mom, I make use of all of the shopping tools available to me. Coupon clipping services are one of these tools. Using these services has allowed me to stock up on sale items. When I find a good deal, I stock up so that I have enough on hand to make it through to the next sale. No, I am not one of those extreme couponing people with 3,000 rolls of toilet paper in my house, but I do try to keep a freezer full of hot dogs, ground turkey and chicken. My three hungry teenage boys eat a lot.

I recommend using The Coupon Carry Out. You can click on the link on the right side of this page. They are an Ohio based company. Why not give them a try the next time you need extra coupons? When you order through The Coupon Carry Out by clicking on the link at the right, you help support this blog and my homeschool.

Hope you found this informative.

Posted on 14 June '11 by , under Coupons, Ramblings and Rumors, Reviews, Thrifty Homeschooling. No Comments.

Free “Why Homeschooling Rocks” eBook from Home School Buyers Co-op

There are times when homeschool parents need help in the motivation and inspiration departments. A free eBook called “Why Homeschooling Rocks” is available from the Home School Buyers Co-op. To get the book, just join the co-op for free. If you are already a member, log in to your account and look for the link under the subscriptions tab.

Why join the Home School Buyers Co-op? They offer great deals on homeschool curriculum. In addition, the website has locations for field trips and links to free curriculum. This is a resource that all homeschoolers should have. They ask for minimal information to join. You are never under any obligation to make a purchase. Why not check them out and download the free eBook. It is full of quotes and stories written by other homeschoolers from all over the United States. When you are going through a homeschooling “crisis” reading excerpts from the book will help you remember why you are homeschooling. Here is a link to the Home School Buyers Co-op. Be sure to download your free eBook soon.


Posted on 16 October '10 by , under Free lesson plans and ideas, Freebies, Homeschooling 101, Reviews. No Comments.

Freebies for homeschoolers: Digital Frogger Club

Freebies for homeschoolers: Digital Frogger Club

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Posted on 20 October '09 by , under Freebies, Reviews. No Comments.

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