For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not of yourselves it is the gift of God, not of works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

Friday, October 14, 2016

Online Christian Filmmakers Academy - TOS Review

My oldest is very interested in movies and film. So, when the chance to review a filmmaking course, through the Homeschool Review Crew, came along he asked to be on it. The course in question is called Online Christian Filmmakers Academy and is put out by Family Gravity Media, a division of Family for Christ Ministries inc.

As you can tell this course is put together by Christians, who love filmmaking, and want to pass on what they have learned to the younger generation.

The course is a set of video modules (5 in total):
  • The Camera - covers everything that has to do with a camera (type, lenses, ISO, support)
  • Cinematography - covers color temp and white balance, lighting and framing
  • Sound - covers equipment, microphone, recording
  • Pre-Production - covers story, screenplay, paperwork, the team
  • Production - covers the crew, etiquette, directing, the slate, and the actual step of the filming process.
Each module in turn contains a set of videos on that topic. The videos vary in length, from 1 minute to 15 minutes. Each modules also come with a quiz at the end of that module.

This course focuses on the cinematography part of filmmaking. My son found the first few videos dry and not exactly what he was expecting. He is more into the producing, story telling part of filmmaking than the actual filming I realized. And we both learned that both are equally important! This particular course focuses on the camera, what to use and how to use it, specifically the DSLR. It is pretty detailed about the intricacies of each topic, lighting, sound and everything that has to do with using a camera and the effect produced. The authors obviously know what they are talking about.

I think my son is looking forward to the production part of the course, since that is what he is most interested in. He wants to do more producing than actual filming (I think he is hoping someone else would do that :-)). Nevertheless he has been going through the course awaiting the part he wants to know. He did say that the videos get more interesting as you move along.

The videos are made by a father and son team combo who have experience in filmmaking. The videos are live, that is one of the team member is actually teaching. the videos include examples and pictures and more.

Overall this course is great for students (and adults) who love photography and want to learn the basics of filmmaking. It is easily set up and equally easy to understand and follow. The main thing being having the equipment to practice. It is online so internet connection is a must as well.

If you are interested, for you my readers, Online Christian Filmmakers Academy is offering a $100 off coupon (original price $299). Use coupon code: FALLCREW16, at the checkout. This coupon is valid until November 30. What a nice deal!  Go check it out and read the other crew members' reviews!

Online Christian Filmmakers Academy {Family Gravity Media}
Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

MyFreezEasy - TOS Review

Today I have a very interesting and practical review for you. It is food related. How about that?

The crew got to review MyFreezEasy, a site where you can learn how to make meals that you can freeze to just take out at a later time, and enjoy with minimum effort. We were offered the premium annual membership to Freezer Meal Plan Membership.

This site is packed-full with tips, and goody meals for your family to enjoy. The idea is to provide you with meals that you can save up in your freezer for those days when you have no time to prepare a meal in your kitchen - you know those days when you are out all day and forgot to stick something in the crockpot.

The great thing about My FreezEasy is that it does not assume you are a pro at this freezer cooking thing. It has lots of videos to teach you the benefits and the how to of the whole process. I needed that because, as much as I have always been intrigued by it, I never looked at it very closely.

My FreezEasy, on top of guiding you through the process of freezer cooking, offer plans that are very detailed. Each recipes have what you need to do in details, from the recipe to the grocery list needed, to the actual steps of the freezer bag preparation. It even has videos for you to see how it is done, if you are more of a visual person.

The idea of MyFreezEasy is for you to prepare 10 meals in an hour and have those set aside in your freezer. It is really 5 recipes doubled up into 10 separate meals.

Now for the recipes themselves, well, if you are like me and like variety, you won't be disappointed. My favorite thing about MyFreezEasy, beside the very detailed step by step guidance, is the selection of recipes. You are given choices and I love that! Every month you are given a choice of 8 sets:
The 20: 20 meals instead of 10
Gluten Free
All Pork Chops
All ground Beef
All Chicken
Slow Cooker
Clean Eats

Each set of meals come as a downloadable PDF which contains all the instructions you need.

The recipes are actually quite easy an use simple ingredients. Nothing really fancy, but tasty.

With the premium membership you also have access to the MyFreeEasy database and can make up your own plan if you wish, with the dishes that you want to include in it that fit your liking.

Each set of meals also come with a downloadable sheet with all the labels for your freezer bags or containers.

When I first got my log-in, I went for the all chicken, all pork chops and slow cooker sets, and downloaded these meal plans, as I tend to buy pork chops and chicken in bulk, and love my slow-cooker.

My only complaint is that since you are making so many meals, you really need a lot of meat, which is more than I normally buy, so I found it hard to complete the meal set. That said, you can make less than the 10 meals suggested, that is make 1 of each instead of 2. My FreezEasy is very adaptable and easy to use. I give it a two thumbs up for practicality and usefulness. Check it out and visit their social media as well:
Pinterest: Freezer Meal Plan Membership {MyFreezEasy}

Crew Disclaimer

Friday, October 7, 2016

Everyday Education {Excellence in Literature Handbook for Writers} - TOS Review

I have a rising high schoolers, and as I am getting ready and preparing for High School and eventually university or college, one of things my son and I came to agree on is that he most likely will be heading for a major or minor in English. He has always loved writing stories. So, when the chance to review a product relating to writing for the High Schooler came up for reviews I volunteered, of course, even if he won't be officially in High School till next school year.
The product in question is Excellence in Literature Handbook for Writers put out by Everyday Education, LLC. What it is is as the name suggest a handbook for writers that will help the student to become a better writer as he prepares to enter college. It covers essay writing and punctuation, style and usage. It is a hefty book ( 420 pages). I received the e-book version and downloaded on several devices for easy access. What does it contain?

Part I: Everything to know about writing Essays and Arguements
  • Arguments: setting up, defining terms
  • Deduction and induction
  • Organizing the main body
  • Paragraph structure and functions
  • Writing arguments about literary works
  • Sample outlines of essays and research papers
  • Critical approaches to Shakespeare
  • Literary evaluation criteria
Part II: Everything about usage and style
  • Grammar covering phrases, sentence structures, clauses
  • Word usage covering a lot of homophones, misused words and plurals
  • Punctuation
  • Pronoun 
  • Parallelism or Parallel structure
  • Modifier, gerund and infinitives
  • Clarity, logic and structure
  • References and biographies
  • Basic format for essays and research papers
It also includes some reference sheets at the end of the book:
  • Visual Guide to Organizing Your papers
  • The Six Sections of an Approach Paper
  • Things a Paragraph can do
  • Rubric for Writing Evaluation

The authors are very qualified:
  • Ian Johnston, retired instructor, graduate from McGill Inuversity, Bristol University and University of Toronto 
  • Janice Campbell, writer, conference speaker and graduated homechool mom. She is a graduate from Mary Baldwin College in English.
This book is very comprehensive. There is a lot of concepts covered and there are no pictures. As such it can seem quite overwhelming. That said, you just need to look for the part that you need help with and go from there.

At this time I was most interested in the clauses, sentences, structure, usage and style section. The handbook gives you the guidelines and tips for good writing, therefore it tells you what not to do, what to avoid and how to best expressed thoughts in a way that grammatically correct and expresses it best. Here is an example:
"1.10 Compound Subject as a Single Unit
Occasionally, a compound subject will take a singular verb. This normally occurs
only when the two nouns form a single unit and always appear together as a
unit (e.g., macaroni and cheese, ham and eggs, hack and squirt, rock and roll, fish
and chips, and so forth).
Macaroni and cheese is my favorite food.
Rock and roll is a cacophonous form of audio entertainment." (p.243)
I am looking forward to using more of this with my kids as they write more. This is great to use as a stand alone or in connection with a writing curriculum where you have to write essays or arguments. If you are not sure about something relating to how to say or express something, you will find a answer there. If you are looking for style, usage and structure help, you will find an answer there too.

This handbook could be just read through as well, as there are a lot of information in there that you may not think you need to know, but is really handy to know, as it turns out. Here is another example:
"7.6 Use of As
Be careful with the word “as” when you use it to introduce a dependent clause.
Usually the word is a poor choice because it is inherently ambiguous.
As I drove home, the argument started.
Does as here mean since, or while, or when? The reader is not certain. So rather
than using as here, select the most precise word to express what you mean (since,
while, or when).
7.7 Use of Transitions
Use transition words frequently and properly to indicate the logical flow of your
paragraph, especially in relation to the previous paragraph. The skilful use of transition
words and phrases is one of the best and most sophisticated ways to keep the
reader in very close and clear contact with your argument.
Some of the commonest words and phrases which function as effective indicators
of logical transitions are the following:......"   (p.340)
All in all I give this product two thumbs up as a very useful and handy resource for any aspiring (or not) writer, parents included!

Everyday Education offers other pretty cool products, check them out on their social media.

FB page: https://Facebook/excellenceinlit/

Beautiful Handwriting, Literature and Poetry {Everyday Education, LLC}
Crew Disclaimer

Friday, September 9, 2016

Christian HomeSchool Hub {CHSH} - TOS Review

Homeschooling is a venture. As such we often need a lot of help on the way, and fortunately there is a lot of it available on the web to make this homeschool journey feasible. One of those is the Christian HomeSchool Hub, also referred to as The crew was blessed with a one year subscription to the CHSH Download club, which gives you unlimited access to everything on the site (over 50000 downloads) - a $25 value. There is also an option for a lifetime subscription. Now if you are a resource and curriculum junkie like me, you will want to check CHSH out!

What is CHSH? CHSH is, as the name suggest, a hub where homeschoolers can find a wide array of helpful resources and material to use in their homeschool, as well as load of encouragement. At the CHSH site you can find resources for all grades from kindergarten to high school. Here are a few highlight of what CHSH offers:

  • Math, Science, Language Arts (with Literature Studies, comprehension units, reading lists and books), Music, Art, Crafts, Bible, Foreign Languages, Health, Social Studies (including both Geography, History - US and World - government, election unit studies, inventors and more), and some electives topics.
  • These resources are downloadable and printable. Can't get easier that that. Browse, preview, download and print. 
  • Another neat resource that you can find at CHSH is their downloadable material related to each month of the year.
  • Resources for organization (forms, calendar, record keeping, chore charts), and classroom helps such as awards and flashcards.
  • Lapbooking and notekeeping resources, as well as fun printable such as puzzles, coloring pages and word searches.
  • Complete curriculum treasures from the 1800's and 1900's as well as more recent curriculum put together by members.

With this amount of downloaded material available, often time the problem is finding what you need. Well, CHSH has a search engine that allows you to search by topics and subjects, grade levels, or keyword, which make it easy to navigate.

Also, at the CHSH website you can participate in forum and chat with like-minded homeschoolers. I personally like the newsletter that you receive in your e-mail telling you what's new on the site and giving pieces of encouragement.

The site is constantly growing and one way this happens is through the submission of new material by the members themselves.

At CHSH there is something for everyone. I use it mostly as a complement to what we are already using in our homeschool, by printing worksheets, or posters, but you could plan a whole school year of teaching using I like their spelling curriculum and will be using this with the boys, as this is an area that they are somewhat behind.

CHSH is a great place for homeschoolers who like to put their curriculum together. It has a lot for you to teach your kids. For those who use curriculum, this would  still be a great place to find extra worksheets, or posters and classroom helps.

Though this is a paid membership site, CHSH offers a wide variety of items for free, so make sure to have a look at those!

CHSH is very active on social media, so check them out:

Christian HomeSchool Hub {Download Club}

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Homeschool 101- Home Management {5 Days of ...}

Today on day 3 of the Homeschool 101 hosted by The Schoolhouse Review Crew, we are tackling Home Management.

Again, this is a topic that has a lot to do with your personality. Some of us are type A moms and some of us not so much. That said, a house has to be maintained. Noone likes to live in a place that is messy and dirty.

When it comes to managing the homeschool home I have six pieces of advice:

Be realistic (unless you can't help it): As homeschoolers, your home is where your kids learn. If you want your kids to be free to learn and explore you cannot be an overchiever when it comes to tidiness. There will be messes, there will be days when the house will be in the shape that you cannot stand. JUST EXPECT IT!

A Place for everything. If you want to keep a house tidy, this is my #1 advice: Make sure everything has a home place and stick to it! It is easier to put things away if they have a home. It is easier to teach your kids to clean after themselves if they know where things go.

Involve the kids: with my first point assumed it does not mean that the house has to stay a mess, when it happens. One thing I found valuable to cleaning and keeping the house in decent order is to involve the kids, as early as you can possibly do it. From a young age, teach them to pick up after themselves. When they become able to wash dishes, have them do it. Have them help with the laundry, and the setting and clearing of the table, taking out the trash, cleaning counters, and any task that you think they can handle. This teaches them responsibility and minimizes stress on you. in our home some of these talk earns them a few cents, some are part of their contribution to the household. If you are the type that loves schedules, set up a routine and schedule for chores. Recently my oldest has ventured into cooking breakfast once a week and this has been a blessing! so teach them how to cook too!

Learn to menu plan: Meal planning saves you time, money and stress. You can do it per week or per month. Set a day aside, make an inventory of what you have in your freezer (I usually do it according to the meat I have in my freezer, since I buy my meat in bulk), and schedule out your meals.

Lean how to use a crockpot (or get one if you do not have one): This has been my life and time saver. I do not use it as much as I could, but the crockpot is still one of my favorite item in the kitchen. It also helps to save money. When we know we will be out for the whole day, I always set something in the crockpot.

Set a date for your paperwork and bill management. I have found easier to to all my banking, budgeting and paper work all in one day so that I do not have to worry about forgetting something and/or finding time to do it over several days.

I do not by no means excel in home management, but using these few tips has helped me keep a livable home with home cooked meals on the table twice a day everyday, a clear sink most days, floors mostly clear and clean.

5 Days of Homeschool 101 />

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Homeschool 101 - Planning {5 Days of...}

On day 2 of the 5 Days of Homeschool 101 hosted by the Schoolhouse Review Crew, we are talking about planning. There is a lot written on the topic of planning but I will try to give you a quick overview of the essentials of planning, not that I am a expert or anything, but I have nearly 9  years of battling the planning battleground in my own homeschool under my belt.

When it comes to planning, a lot of it has to do with your personality and the curriculum that you decide to use.

Some personalities cannot function without a well laid out plan in front of them. These types of homeschoolers usually (not always) favor curriculum that come with a planning schedule already set out. In those cases your task is simply to make sure that that plan is followed through, and the task of planning is reduced to daily, weekly and yearly scheduling of your different subjects.

If you are more like me, and are not the kind who like to be told what to do and are more free spirited, your curriculum line up end up being a mix of stuff that you need to organize.

I have to say from the start that I do not like routine as a general rule, but as I have mentioned numerous times on this blog, I have learned the blessings that result from good planning and routine. A few of these are:
  • Routine helps your school day to run smoothly. When you are prepared you won't believe how things just flow. No kidding, this is a real life and sanity saver!
  • Planning ahead allows you to have peace of mind because you then have a clear idea of what needs to be accomplished.
  • Planning ahead allows for more flexibility as you end not having to scramble around when things don't go as planned, you just need re-arrange things around.
  • Planning allows you to see where you are heading.
So what is involved in planning? Basically, once you know what curriculum you will be using, it is just a matter of figuring and planning out how you are going to use these curriculum throughout your school year. This entails:
  • Figuring out your school year calendar, plotting out your days and weeks off, and arranging your school days around it.
  • Deciding what subjects will be covered on what day.
  • Figuring out how you want to split your curriculum between your school days throughout your year. Some like doing block scheduling when they focus on some subjects for a period of 6 weeks to 3 months and then switch to something else for another block of time. Some prefer to spread their subjects over the course of the year.
  • Figuring out a weekly and daily schedule or routine, for me this is the hardest one, as I am not very disciplined, and yet this is the one that is very vital. Between a strict schedule (detailed your plan by time) and a routine (a general plan of what needs to be done), I still prefer the routine though.
  • Preparing what you need for your different subjects. There is nothing more unsettling and disruptive than not having what you need for a particular subject on hand when you need it. Trust me, I have been there too many time I care to admit, and it has really held us back.
For me, my planning involves:
  • Printing a yearly calendar so I can have an idea of our tentative times off.
  • Preparing for our core curriculum, Tapestry of Grace, which runs a full 36 weeks and for which my kids are part of a weekly online co-op. This involves preparing their weekly assignments, which I do a unit at a time (9 weeks worth), printing maps, and getting the books ordered from the library.
  • Setting a weekly schedule. I let the boys parse out their work throughout the week as well as their daily routine. I just give them the guidelines. We run a 4 days school week. I tell them how many times a subject has to be covered in a particular week, and how much work needs to be accomplished, and they decide how they want to get it done and spread it. 

Talking about weekly schedule, last year for my eldest I came up with a schedule that allowed him to focus on certain subjects on certain specific days and then cover the other subjects on the other days. That seemed to work out well for him. The reason behind it was his difficulty to focus, which minimized the amount of work he could do within a certain time frame, so that he was always late in finishing his work, or some was not getting done. So it looked something like this:
Monday: History, French, Bible, Math
Tuesday: Grammar, Writing, Math, French, Bible, Logic
Wednesday: French, Bible, Math, Continue Writing - his co-op class and his violin lesson were on that day
Friday: Logic, French, Bible, Finish Writing, finish History, Math
I will try something similar this year, but have not yet decided what it is going to be. I need to discuss it with him.

My youngest on the other hand loves to spread his work throughout the week, so he will assign a little bit of everything everyday. He is very scheduled and routine driven, so this works better for his brain and way of functioning.

Last year, everyday I would write on a notebook the subjects they had that day. This year I am hoping that I won't need to. I will give them a planner each, and expect them to write out their own weekly schedule, based on my guideline, and hold them to following that.

I have created a few planning worksheets that I have used over the past few years. You are welcome to use them.

5 Days of Homeschool 101

Monday, August 8, 2016

Homeschooling 101 {5 Days of...} - Curriculum

Today is the first day of the second bi-annual 5 Days of .... on the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog. Over 36 of us will be sharing on the basic components of homeschooling over the next five days.

Today we start naturally with the curriculum. Nowadays, the choices for curriculum are limitless. Someone just starting homeschooling can get quite overwhelmed looking at the amount of choices placed in front of him. Even as veteran homeschoolers, sometimes we still find ourselves quite overwhelmed as there are so many different options that can accomplish the same goal. So how is one supposed to navigate this field? I have a few tips I would like to share with you today, which I hope will help you narrow down your choices and ease the task for you.

Know what you want to accomplish:  One way that has helped me to make choices in my curriculum is knowing where I am heading with the boys. When you have a goal in mind it is easier to plot a path, than wondering aimlessly along that same path. When we started homeschooling over 9 years ago we had two main goals:
                1) I intend for the boys to be well rounded in their education and prepared to go to college or university if that is what they wanted to do. Whether they end up not doing it or not, is irrelevant, they can still benefit from a rounded education.
                2) We want our boys to be critical thinkers and able to evaluate and assess everything around them with the proper lens and through a good thinking process.

These two goals have guided our choices of curriculum and led us to point #2

Pick a homeschool style or method: Another tool that has guided our curriculum choices, and kept us from being always on the fence when it came to the wide choices out there, has been keeping in step with our chosen homeschooling method, which we picked based on our end goal. From the beginning, we associated and related with the classical method of homeschooling or classical education. So my choices have always been guided by how the curriculum fitted into that mold and met what we were looking for in view of what classical education's tenets were. These were things like, memorization, heavy in great books, no busy work, emphasis on developing thinking skills and such.

There are quite a few homeschooling styles out there, but a lot of them are similar, so you can always move between a few, which gives you some flexibility. Also, there is always the eclectic method which is using whatever you think might meet the need, keeping in mind what you want to accomplish. Most people tend to end up with a bent, but do not tie themselves to one particular style or method.

Research your curriculum:  This is in my view the most important aspect of the whole curriculum conundrum issue. I will not stress enough the need to research curriculum thoroughly, before deciding on any curriculum. There a few websites I love to check out before deciding. These are:
Curriculum Choice
HomeSchool Reviews
Cathy Duffy Reviews
Our own Schoolhouse Review Crew

Also a lot of companies offer you samples, make sure you don't miss those. If you can't find them on the website of the company google for them and check and Rainbow Resources, they often have samples as well.

Be practical: 
  • Take your budget and family needs into consideration when choosing curriculum. There is no point in getting into debts for your curriculum, there sure are options for your financial needs. 
  • Consider your child's learning style: does he learn best independently, or with you at his side? Does he learn best though reading, or listening? Does he love workbooks and thrive on them, as opposed to devouring books and learning that way? Is he more hands-on? These are a few things that should factor into your decision.
  • Consider how often you are home and your own teaching style.
These are my top tips on Curriculum 101. I hope they help you navigate the waters of curriculum picking.

If you want to know what we are using this coming school year,  and what we have used in the past check my Curriculum Line Up tab .

Canadian Sale 1000x500 with Products
If you are looking for Canadian content to add to your studies this year, The Canadian Homeschooler has an All-Canadian Learning Sale ending today at midnight, so make sure you check it out today!

Also, you can read more about some of the curriculum we have used in the past in these two series:
Virtual Curriculum Fair
5 Days of Curriculum Evaluation

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

CTCMath - TOS Review

Math is one of those school subjects, that we want to make sure our children master. Some of us homeschooler, are either comfortable teaching it, some others not so much. There are lots of Math curricula out there, but CTCMath has been, for the last 3 years or so, a favorite at our house.

CTCMath offers you a complete online Math curriculum geared towards kids K-12. We received a full year subscription to their CTCMath Homeschool Membership.

As an online program, you need a computer, an internet connection and a log in to use CTCMath. The program works on tablets as well.

It is very easy to set up and very easy to navigate and use. The program consists of video lessons, followed by sets of exercices or practice questions. The video are a good reasonable length. They are lectures, by an Australian teacher, whom you do not see but only hear. The practices consists of a set of practice problems. You have instant feedback as to whether or not you got the answer right, along with the right answer if you got it wrong. Once the whole set of questions is completed a grade is awarded to you.

When we first reviewed this program, the boys were elementary age, now as middle schoolers, we have started using the pre-algebra section of the program. One of the main difference is that the practice sheets work differently. There usually a sheet that contain the questions, and then another spot for you to answer. What my son usually does is print the question page.

In the last year or so CTCMath has also worked hard in changing the look, layout and functionality of the program. I personally find it more appealing, just by its simplicity and fresh look.

One of the great addition and change that CTCMath has done is adding a task section. There you (the teacher/parent) can assign tasks to your students. This allows for you to tell your child what you want him to accomplish within a certain period of time. On the student account, these task will show on the day that they are supposed to start, so the child can know he has tasks/lessons assigned to him/her. This is pretty convenient, as it allows for the parent to be more directive, without being by the child, in what you want him/her to accomplish. That said, I wish the tasks could be seen by the child ahead of time. Some kids like to know in advance what needs to be done in the near future.

CTCMath is quite comprehensive, each level is divided in sections, which are in turn divided in topics, which themselves are divided into more subtopics.

Other features of the programs are as follows:

  • Reward system. You get awarded medals (platinum, Gold, silver and bronze according to how well you did on your questions)
  • Printable summary of the lessons available in PDF
  • Option to print the practice questions
  • The exercises are graded
  • In the teacher's account you can set the passing grade, and view details of how your child did
  • You can redo the exercises as many times as you want, in order to achieve your passing grade. Everytime you redo the questions, you have a new set to work with.
  • You can re watch the videos at any time, and any number of times

CTCMath is a great option for a homeschool Math curriculum. It is exhaustive, self-paced and easy to use. I highly recommend it! My boys still enjoy using CTCMath, and I will most likely be using this for the next few years to come.

CTCMath Review

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