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

Monday, June 29, 2015

Curriculum Round Up Coming in July

It is curriculum buying season for many right now, and we, the team over at Year Round Homeschooling, decided to devote the month of July to curriculum round up.

All through July we will be sharing with you round ups from  the many disciplines in homeschooling:

High School
Language Arts
And more...

I promise you there will be something for everyone and, if you are new to homeschooling this will be a great place to start, as you sift through the homeschool curriculum market.

Do not miss it, it starts on July 1st!

Monday, June 22, 2015

SmartKidz Media - TOS Review

With the explosion of the homeschool market, we are getting more and more cool products available to us as homeschoolers.

One of our recent review products is one of these: SmartKidz Media Library for Homechoolers, put out by SmartKidz Media.

SmartKidz Media Library, like its name suggests is a digital library of videos and more for homeschoolers. The creator's goal was to gather in one place a resource-packed full with educational videos to complement your home education.

SmartKidz Media being an online resource, you will need an internet to enjoy their resource. They can be watched on multiple devices such as computers, tablets, Wii and PS3, as long as you can get a browser.

These videos range between 11-25 minutes in length.

This library is big. Let me tell you, there is a lot in there to explore. It is made up of videos, music, ebooks and games.

 The content in the video media, which is referred to as the Family Media section, itself is huge. It includes:
  • Animal life
  • History, with more coming soon
  • Documentary on culture
  • Sports, coming soon
  • Health/Fitness
  • Cuisine
  • Science
  • Adventure and travel
  • Fine Art
You can also listen to a variety of classical artists as well as Jazz, cultural, and relaxation music.

On top of these videos, you also have access to a whole array of educational books which includes:
  • Story songs
  • classics such as Aesop and Mother Goose
  • Science
  • Reading readiness
As much as the video media section can be interesting to kids as well as adults, the ebook section of the website is more geared towards kids 8 and under.

Other sections on the website offer:
  • Baby signing videos
  • Videos specifically created for special needs kids 
  • Songs and videos to teaching living skills such as potty training and the likes
  • Game zone with puzzles, jokes and riddles

On top of all of this, SmartKidz Media also provides you with study guides on all your school subjects. What they really are are fact files or reference guides on:
  • Language Arts: covers punctuations, spelling, grammar etc...
  • Science Basics
  • Math Basics
  • Social Studies Basics: facts on US Presidents, the constitution and more
  • And more to come such as Spanish and accounting.
Our opinion:

SmartKizs Media is very rich and there is a lot in there to keep any child or even parent occupied and learning.

We spent most of our time in the family media part of the website, as most of the other sections are more appealing to younger kids. My boys enjoyed watching the culture and science videos. the videos are well made, the talk-over is very clear, precise and enjoyable. They kept my boys' attention. The information given in the videos are very factual and definitely not watered down. Because the videos are very factual, it is not censured and you will see for example in the culture videos, naked people or hear things that you may not agree with worldview-wise. I personally was not phased by those, as this is reality and they are just describing what is. MY boys weren't easy, but they love learning about the world.

I personally enjoyed the classic audio ones, which you can play while doing school, or during quiet time.

All in all I think these videos are great addition to a homeschooling home where learning about the world is a hallmark. This is a concentrated place for finding resources for that, on top f everything else they offer. This is like a Netflix but more focused on educational material. With summer upon us, this might be a resource you might want to give a try, to keep your kids leaning.

SmartKidz Media Review


Thursday, June 18, 2015

CTC Math - TOS Review

Math, oh Math! For some reason, this is a school subject that many dread and are always on the look out for curriculum to try. Here I am to tell you about one that my boys really like: CTC Math.

We got the chance to review CTC Math last year, and when it came up for review again, my boys were thrilled, as last year's subscription had already expired. We received a subscription to their 12 Month Family Plan of their US Curriculum.

What is CTC Math?

CTC Math is an online Math curriculum that describes itself as an online Math Tutor. It is geared for kids from Kindergarten to High school.

How it works:

Being an online program, you will need a computer, or a tablet, as well as an internet connection to use it. Once you subscribed you are given a log in for each student using the program.

The way the program works is that you watch a video with a teacher that explains to you the math concepts. Once you complete the video, you have a chance to do a set of exercises (usually 10-20 questions), to help you master and apply the concept just learned. You can redo the exercises as many times as you want and each time it will be a new set of questions. You can keep going over the lesson as many times as you need to, or want to. After each answer you are told if your answer was right or wrong, and what the right answer is, but with no explanation. Once you complete the set of questions, you can see all your answers together.

The exercises are graded, and at the end of a set of concepts you have a chance to be awarded a bronze, silver, gold or platinum medal. The parent gets to set the passing grade in the parent's log in.

The teacher is an Australian Math teacher named Pat Murray.  You do not see him and only hear his voice explaining to you the lesson, and he has a very pleasant and composed voice.

You can have several kids use the program at the same time. The parent gets a separate log in from where he can track each child's progress in details, and choose the option of receiving notifications each time they get a certificate.

The program covers Math topics quite extensively. These are separated in the following way:

  • Number, patterns, and Algebra
  • Measurement
  • Space and Geometry
  • Statistics and Probability

In turn, each of these topics are subdivided, and then as you click on each one you get another set of subtopics to work through.

Our opinion:

Even after a year of using CTC Math, the boys still love it. What do they love so much? (taken from them):

  • The lessons are easy to follow 
  • It gives you rewards for for courses
  • The tutor sounds friendly
  • The lessons are quick

What do I like?
  • You can go back and forth between grades
  • Independent - the parent is only needed if the concept is not properly understood, or to explain mistakes that are not self-evident.
  • Exhaustive
  • The reward system  makes the program very  motivating and challenging
  • Straightforward teaching, no flashy or distracting extras, yet still engaging.
  • There is a printable one page summary of the main points of the lessons
  • Easy to navigate through
There are a couple of extras incorporated within the program, such as speed skills that allows the kids to practice their Math facts.

Also, this program is a stand alone program, unless you like having your children do extra practice on paper.

I would recommend CTC Math to anyone looking for something fresh to do with their kids for Math, as well as for kids struggling in Math, as an extra tutor and practice outlet.

Interested? Give it a try by checking their demo or the free trial on their website.
CTCmath Review

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

WorldBuild From Dynamic Literacy - TOS Review

Vocabulary is one of those school subjects that often gets neglected when it comes to Language Arts in Homeschooling.

If you have never given thought to adding a vocabulary component to your curriculum line up, or have been looking for one, read on. We had the chance in the past month or so to try out of one those program:  WorldBuildOnline from Dynamic Literacy.

What is WorldBuildOnline?

WorldBuildOnline is an interactive online vocabulary program that seeks to teach your kids vocabulary by teaching them to recognize the suffixes, prefixes and roots of words, and from there figure out the meaning of words.

Because it is an online program who need a computer and an internet connection. At the beginning of the review the boys were able to use it on the Ipad as well but halfway through, it started not working properly on it so they had to use the computer.

Each child gets a separate login, as well as the teacher/parent. In the parent account, you can see each child's progress report, set your e-mail notification and even reset the activity data.

The foundation level focuses on the prefixes and suffixes, whereas, even though at the beginning of Elements, the students get to review those, the focus is more on Greek and Latin roots.

WorldBuildOnline is made up of two programs: Foundation (grades 2-4) and Elements (grades 6+),  , each containing to levels ( I and II). The difference between the two programs lies in what is being covered in each. Otherwise the process is the same. Level I  is a prerequisite to level II in both programs.

The way the program works is that they watch a short video introducing the prefix or suffix, or the root for that unit, and then they get to work on a set of 5 exercises to practice using it. Each unit, the same kind of exercises are used to practice that prefix or suffix, or in the case of the Element program, the root.

The exercises were:
  • Working with Definition
  • Adding suffixes and prefixes
  • Matching definitions
  • Assessment
These exercises  are very manageable for the students, in that, though they require thinking, they are not overwhelming.

The program suggests that your child spends 15 minutes at the most on one exercise at a time,and encourages that time limit by having a countdown timer on the right top corner of the screen. However, both my boys usually took way less than that to complete the exercises. 

How did I use it?

I had the boys use this program 4 times a week. My oldest worked through the Element program and my youngest through the Foundation one. They worked on one exercise per day.

Our opinion?

I think this is a really good program to teach kids vocabulary and help improve their spelling as you learn roots, and proper usage of prefix and suffixes, as well as doubling consonants and the use of Y. It is very easy to use and navigate as well. I found that though my older son thought it to be easy, he still had quite a few mistakes there and there which is helping him see where he needs to improve.

My youngest thought that it was incremental and that it required lots of thinking, since you are to deduce the definitions.

Other pros includes:
  • Nice variety of exercises
  • The built in encouragement helps the kids' confidence as they get stars and encouraging statement such as "good job", "way to go" ...
  • The interface is colourful and appealing .
  • It is interactive.
  • As you advance through the units, the challenges become harder.
  • An e-mail is sent to the parent/teacher letting you know the child has completed her activity.
  • There is a review section where the student can see what he has done/accomplished, with corrects and wrong answers.
  • The kids can work on it independently.

The programs had a few glitches.
The program lets you skip questions, and yet you still get stars for it.
It is possible to give the wrong answer and still get praised.

Because of these, it would be easy for a child to cheat with this program, so though it is a really good teaching tool, parents need to be aware of this, and make sure the student does the work.

I would nevertheless recommend this program. It is rich and teaches kids morphemes (word composition), and how to be able to decompose words to figure out their meaning. So this is perfect for younger kids and older kids that need reinforcement in vocabulary and understanding word composition.

For you my reader, here is a discount code for %10 off on WorldBuildOnline or for %25 off the printed version: hisglory.

You can find them on:


They also have a few videos on Youtube where you can find out more about the program. Make sure to check them out, as well as the samples on their site.

Dynamic Literacy Review

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Attitude Issue

It happened again. The boys are fighting in the bedroom over what audiobook to listen to tonight as they settle into bed. . .  This happens almost every night.. .  Let me give you the background. . . . I have a rising teen (11 year old) and a 9 year old. They love each other to death but they have two completely opposing personalities. One is like me, outgoing, loud and very energetic. The other one is quiet, pensive and introvert to the core. They play well together (mostly) until someone does not get what they want, or until someone feels that he is being cheated or manipulated.  This is my life with my adorable 2 boys.

What is a mom to do? Call for reinforcement: the husband. After some talking, one thing emerged: it is all about selfishness. At the heart of every issues usually lies the desire to be made right by us. We do not want to be the one to give in, we do not want to be abused. Both my boys claimed themselves as being advocate of justice and fairness, but somehow that fairness always has to lean in their favor.

As I reflect on this I realize that teaching my boys, though I know it goes beyond academics, always fall short of the heart training. My husband said something very insightful: Attitude matters more to him than habits. I find it easier to focus on habit and judge the boys' habit, picking up after themselves, setting and clearing the table properly, taking off the wet shoes and making sure to place it on the mat and things like that. But the outburst of anger when one feels like he is not being listened to, or the running in the room because one is feeling betrayed or judged, or not listening to advice, because one thinks he knows better, these often tends to be overlooked because there is a reason behind it (at least that is my excuse). But really these are what need to be addressed. A habit can be learned and unlearned (even if harder), an attitude shapes you and makes you who you are. The Lord wants us to have attitude changes. Our attitudes reveal the state of our hearts, what we value, how we see the world and people around us. These are what define and shape our actions. So these need to be firmly planted in God's Word and in a Christian worldview.

So now back to my dealing with the boys, I have realized that I need to focus more on attitude training. It is harder, as it demands paying more attention to the cause of one's behavior, but also because often time it demands more discipline, because attitude change takes longer and more plowing. A behavior is more obvious, an attitude is hidden unless poked, and the poking of it is often unexpected and unpleasant, yet gives the opportunity for training.

When the kids were younger, I found it easier, because we knew we were training their hearts and we were forming them, plus their personality were still developing. As they get older, because they have their personalities quite in place, it becomes more challenging. Yet the task is still ongoing until they reach maturity and leave the nest.

So what is the game plan?

1. Keeping at it.

2. Pray for their specific needs.

3. Make them aware of their weaknesses, so that they can keep humble and learn to give them to the Lord and depend upon Him.

4. Encourage effort.

5. Plow Scriptures for verses to guide.

6. Apply grace and a gospel centered correction (though we strive for Holiness, ultimately our righteousness and Holiness is in Christ as we stand and Him).

How do you deal with attitude in your home?

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

DrumsWithWillie - TOS Review

As part of the Schoolhouse Review crew I get to try out pretty cool curriculum. Lately we got one of those: DrumsWithWillie from Jazz Edge.

I have both my boys involved in some type of musical instrument training. One is doing violin, and the other one piano. Both of them struggle with beats and rhythm, so when I saw this opportunity for learning how to play drums I jumped on it as a way to help one of them with their rhythm issues.

I told my 9 year old he was gonna learn to play drums. In the past he showed interest, so I thought he might not mind. As it turned out, he was not that keen to be doing extra practice, but deep down wanted to learn, so got on with it

We do not own a drum, so we used the one at church for his practices (we are often enough at church, that frequency was not so much an issue).

So what is DrumsWithWillie?

DrumsWithWillie is an online video-based drum program. Being online it requires an internet connection. You can use it on any computer or tablet. We used it mainly on the Ipad, since we used it at church, which was pretty convenient.

The course is comprised of three levels, each made up of 6 units. Each unit goes through the same pattern:

  • Technique
  • Rhythm (working and learning with beats)
  • Reading Music (working with sheet music - recognizing beats and rhythms)
  • Song (which encouraged creativity)

The course comes with a downloadable PDF booklet which contains the music scores.

The video lessons are also downloadable.

Each screen has 2 windows - one close up of the drum and the other one of the teacher at the drum. This is pretty clever ashe allows for the child to really see what the teacher does on the drum up close.

The lessons are pretty short (10-15 minutes max).

The program is taught by Mike Marble, a Music graduate who has taught drums for over 25 years, and has years of band playing under his belt.

Our thoughts?

DrumsWithWillie is very easy to implement and use. Grab your device, listen to the course and practice what you just learned. Once comfortable move on to the next lesson. This is basically how it runs.

I love that it covers so much ground: technique, note reading, ear training, and rhythm.

You can start at any level, depending on your previous knowledge and experience.
Since my son had never tried drums before, we started at the very beginning, which was the core drums lessons.

My son's thoughts:

  • Starts with the basics - beating out rhythm, holding your drumsticks, where to place the drums etc...
  • It does not begin with learning how to read notes.
  • It does not push you too hard, all at once. It is very incremental.
  • The instructor is very friendly and is very descriptive in his teaching, in a way that makes sure people get it.

My son worked on it pretty independently and enjoyed what he has learned so far.

This program can work for any ages, and level.

I have reviewed their Piano program in the past, feel free to check it out, as well as the other reviews from the crew.

You can also try out their free set of lessons, to give you a feel of the program.

Connect with DrumsWithWillie on Social Media:


JazzEdge Review

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Random 5 On Friday - Another Saturday Version

Fridays seem to come so quickly and end so quickly. So, here I am again, doing my random 5 on a Saturday.
The Pebble Pond
Past 2 weeks in review:

1. Last week we had a profitable time on a field trip exploring the great outdoors. The boys did rock climbing, canoeing and orienteering.

2. This week we learned a new board game: Ticket to Ride. We are board games lovers here, and a friend owned that one so we were able to learned it. It is a fun game!

3. I am in full mode planning, which is going to be a couple months process, between finalizing next year's curriculum, and planning them out. Yesterday I came up with a new planning sheet, which hopefully I will get to share with you all. I am trying it out with our remaining 6 weeks of school work to do.

4. My parents are visiting from the Caribbean. It is nice to have them on the same continent.

5. Johann's baking from yesterday: Banana Chocolate Muffins. Fridays are his baking nights.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

How I Choose our Curriculum

It is the end of May and time for another round up of posts over at the Canadian Homeschooler. This month the Canadian Homeschool Blogging Team is talking about Choosing Curriculum. Grab your coffee and make sure to visit them all.

When it comes to curriculum the homeschool market is saturated. There is way too much to choose from. On top of that, I am a curriculum junkie (defined as having a hard time staying away from curriculum), so I struggle. I love checking out new curriculum, which is one of the main reasons why I am part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew. So, how do I manage and navigate this abundance of curriculum choices? Here are my  top three guidelines:

Our style of Homeschooling

We are classical in style and philosophy. Though we are also relaxed in practice, our pedagogy follows a classical bent. So when choosing and perusing curriculum I seem to always gravitates toward classical oriented companies and enjoy their products. This year it seems that I have hit the jackpot with Classical Academic Press; as a lot of our choices are coming from there.

Still figuring out your homeschooling style and method, check my post on Homeschooling Methods.

Our goals

Our goals are to train our kids in good study habits and disciplines, so we tend to use curriculum that are rigorous. Our home values critical thinking and good literacy, so our curriculum choices are heavy on the Language Arts and critical thinking.

My kids' learning style

When they were younger this was very important. My oldest hated worksheets and writing, so I steered away from them. As he grew older I was able to add more of those type of curriculum in our schooling. That said, he is quite auditory, so I made use of that a lot. My youngest on the other hand does better with worksheet type curriculum, so I try to choose those kinds for him, as opposed to living books types. Knowing the orientation of your children can be a  factor too, in helping you decide what subjects to focus on. My oldest is Language Ats and History (Humanities), my youngest Math and Logic. So these types of curriculum take priority in our line up.

Here is a post I wrote a few years back on Learning Styles.

The price

Even though we know what we would like to get for our kids, price is still a big factor in our final choices. I shop with the first guidelines in mind, and then narrow down according to price and what we can afford. Another aspect to consider is how economical is it in the long range, especially if you have a few children to homeschool.

All of this said, a few other things I do to make my curriculum decisions are:

  • Check samples. I rarely buy anything without seeing a sample. I need to see what it looks like before investing. I know what my kids will work with or not.

  • Read reviews, not just one, but a few, looking for people I trust and are withing the same homeschooling style as mine, or values as mine..

I have lots of reviews on this site, so feel free to check them out. If you want to know where our choices are leaning this coming year you can look at our Middle School Plans for Grade 7 post.

My favorite places to check on curriculum are :

Curriculum Choice

Cathy Duffy Curriculum Review

Schoolhouse Review Crew

Local Used Curriculum Sales. Here are two coming up:  Used Books and Curriculum Fair and Small Business Expo in Barrie on June 6th, TEACH, on June 12th in Brantford.

As we enter the curriculum buying season, take a deep breath, pray and know in advance what you are looking for, and your limitations, that will definitely help you navigate through the abundance and choices available to you.

This month, instead of a giveaway we are offering a Homeschool Curriculum Purchase worksheet. Hop on over to the Canadian Homeschooler to access it; and happy shopping!

Write Through the Bible Junior
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