Posted in Resources, Reviews

Everyday Education: Excellence in Literature – Review & Freebies!

Everyday Education’s Excellence in Literature: Reading and Writing Through the Classics curriculum is designed as a university/college-prep course for Grades 8-12.  I love reading and I love classic literature – I even majored in English and Drama in university.  I was thrilled to receive Excellence in Literature’s English I: Introduction to Literature in exchange for an honest review 🙂
PhotobucketThe e-book and print version both have 132 pages, and we received the e-book.  What is covered in English I?

Unit 1: Short Stories by
• Sarah Orne Jewett: A White Heron
•Edgar Allen Poe: The Purloined Letter
• Guy de Maupassant: The Diamond Necklace
• O. Henry: The Ransom of Red Chief
• Eudora Welty: A Worn Path
• James Thurber: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Unit 2: Jules Verne: Around the World in Eighty Days
Honours: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Unit 3: Mark Twain: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
Honours: The Prince and the Pauper
Unit 4: Charlotte Brontë: Jane Eyre by Charlotte
Honours: Shirley or Villette

Unit 5: George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion
Honours: Murder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot

Unit 6: Robert Louis Stevenson: Treasure Island
Honours: Kidnapped
Unit 7: George Orwell: Animal Farm
Honours: 1984
Unit 8: William Shakespeare: The Tempest
Honours: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Unit 9: Johnathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels
Honours: The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan

PhotobucketMy 12 year old son enjoyed reading all the classic short stories in Unit 1, and had no problem doing the assignments.  I’ve been enjoying reading along with him – from some of my favourite authors, to ones I’ve always wanted to read, to ones I’d never even heard of.  I like how the mini literary analysis/observation “papers” build up to a longer essay at the end of the unit.  The course is well set out so that the child can work along very independently. I love how I can challenge my son by opting to flesh out the curriculum with the “Honours track”. We’ll be working through the rest of Literature I over the course of this year.  We’re going to jump around a little and do the Shakespeare unit next, as The Tempest is being performed at the end of the month at the local university – how’s that for timing?!

With all the great literature out there to choose from, want to know how Janice Campbell of Everyday Education, chose the literature for Excellence in Literature?  Read her blog post: How I Chose Great Books for Excellence in Literature.  Still not sure if you and your child will like EIL? Click HERE for a FREE unit – Unit 3, focusing on Mark Twain (one of my favourite authors)! And would you like a free writing-evaluation rubric and a great twice-monthly newsletter, The Everyday Educator? Go to Everyday Education and fill out your name and email to the left for your freebies!

The print version of Excellence in Literature: English I is $29.00 US + $13.00 Shipping to Canada ($4.95 to the US).  The downloadable Ebook version is $27 and is designed to be printed double sided and put in a 3 ring binder.  OR get the entire 5-year curriculum for $139.00 US in print + shipping, or $135.00 for the e-book.

Check out the Everyday Education website for information on the full course.  Click below to see how other TOS Crew families enjoyed EIL:

Love, Luck &

Posted in Resources, Reviews

Always Icecream: For girls only – Review

Always Icecream is an online learning site for girls only, in grades K-8.   Girls earn $coops by participating in learning activities such as practising math, geography, language arts, science, typing and more. They can then use these $coops to have some fun playing games, decorating their very own homes in MiniWorld, and feeding their virtual pets on Pet World.  We received a free membership to Always Icecream in exchange for an honest review 🙂

My 7 year old daughter has been thoroughly enjoying Always Icecream.  It is the first thing she wants to do when we start our homeschool day.  Whenever my daughter is on Always Icecream, she always ensures she has an atlas beside her, so she can identify countries and states for geography…

She has also started to learn to type using the “Ice Cone Machine”…

And of course, besides the educational content, she enjoys a lot of “fun stuff” too.  My daughter loves the virtual pets that hatch out of eggs.  She spends quite a bit of time drawing pictures of her special pets as well…


One of my daughter’s favourite elements of this site is the educational videos.  She has spent endless hours watching how-to videos on cake decorating, and we made two fancy cakes in our homeschool in one week as a result!  I convinced her to take a break for a little while LOL, we can’t do that every week.  And she spends a lot of time drawing along with how-to-draw videos as well.

Another of my daughter’s favourite parts of her Always Icecream experience is the social part.  She is absolutely tickled pink by all the friends she has in her “Neighbourhood”.  She is able to “friend” other girls and chat with them, visit their mini-homes, and shop in their stores for virtual items they have designed.  This setting is optional, as are a lot of things on Always Icecream, through your parent account.  You can turn on and off each category from “Christian Education” (i.e. Bible Quizzes) to “Math Drills”.  You the parent can also award $coops, whether just because, or as a reward for doing her chores if you like.  Once a week you will also get an email updating you on your daughter’s progress.  Or you can view it online anytime – it shows Your Daughter’s Recent Learning Progress, Moderated Communication (who your daughter has chatted with – all communication is moderated), Educational Videos Watched, and Artwork Created in the past 90 days.

My 7 year old daughter sums up Always Icecream in a word, “awesome”.  I know she’ll be using and enjoying this site for years to come!

Always Icecream has a number of payment options: $0.99 US for the first month, $4.99 US per month afterward or $9.98 for 2 months, $29.99 for one year, or a Lifetime membership for $99.99!  Discounts are also available for multiple children.  You can try it absolutely free right now by going to the Always Icecream website and clicking on “Try It Free”.

To see how other daughters of TOS Crewmates liked Always Icecream, click below:

Love, Luck &

Posted in Resources

Time4Learning – Review

PhotobucketTime4Learning is an online learning program for any child, from Preschool to Gr. 8, whether they are homeschooled or traditionally schooled.  In your homeschool, you can use it as a core curriculum or as a supplement.  It offers instruction in math, language arts, social studies, and science (art is also available at an extra cost).  This online program works on either a MAC or PC (high-speed internet is ideal).  My two children received a free subscription to Time4Learning for the past few weeks, in exchange for an honest review 🙂

When your child logs onto Time4Learning, he will find the following 2 options: Lessons or Playground.  When my Gr. 8 Level son clicks on “Lessons”, he gets the following options: Honours Algebra, Language Arts, Language Arts Extensions, Math, Science, and Social Studies.  Parents can set up the minimum time their child needs to complete lessons to be able to access the Playground.  For instance, for a young child you can set up Lesson Time for 15 minutes, and then they are allowed 15 minutes of Playground access.  On the Playground, my son likes to access some of the good old arcade games that I used to love playing when I was a kid, such as Pacman, Space Invaders, Asteroids (and sometimes he even lets me play LOL).

When my Gr. 3 Level daughter clicks on “Lessons”, she gets the following options: Language, Language Arts Extensions, Math, Science, and Social Studies.

Here is a screen shot of some of the Gr. 3 Language Arts my daughter has been working on:


On the Playground, my daughter still loves to access the young children’s games that are related to some of her favourite television shows, i.e. Clifford.

On the Parent Account, the parent can access Lesson Plans, preview and plan lessons, access the reading list, and the Science Supply list so all the ingredients are handy for experiments.  A Parent Forum is available where you can ask questions and chat with other parents.  There are discussions about homeschooling, about special needs, about using Time4Learning in the summer, and more.  I think it would be nice if Time4Learning sent regular updates to the parent via email.  However, they do have progress reports you can access on your child’s screen, by clicking on the backpack, “My Portfolio”.  You can access the reports in pdf format, and print them out for your records.


Time4Learning made my Top 10 of the TOS Homeschool Crew 2008-2009 Review Season list.  My children were in Primary and Gr. 4 at the time, and couldn’t get enough of Time4Learning.  In fact, we have subscribed to it off and on over the years.  They weren’t as “into it” this time around.  I’m not quite certain why, although it could be in part because they’re enjoying what they’ve already been working on so much, and possibly in part because we weren’t homeschooling in full swing when we started reviewing Time4Learning this time around.  The bulk of Time4Learning is pretty much the same as the last time we subscribed, but the art option is new.  A note for Canadians and other international families – there is quite a bit of U.S. content in Social Studies – personally this does not bother us, as we like to learn about our neighbours to the south.

Time4Learning costs $19.95 US for the first child, and $14.95 for each additional child per month.  There is also an option to pay up front, per year, for less.  Try a free demo HERETime4Learning has a 100% satisfaction guarantee.If our learning program does not satisfy your family’s needs, you can cancel your membership by email or phone during the first 14 days and we will refund your money directly to the credit or debit card used to pay for your membership. This offer is only valid for new members.


Love, Luck &

Posted in Blog Hops/Walks

Sail Along with the TOS Homeschool Crew Blog Hop!

It’s the very first TOS Homeschool Crew Blog Hop!

You can visit Glimpse of Our Life, Our Homeschool Studio, or Our Village is a Little Different to join in the fun, and link up your own homeschool blog.  You don’t have to be on the TOS Crew to participate, anyone can.  Grab a cup of tea, link up your blog and visit all the fun and inspiring blogs linked on one of the websites above! You only need to add your link to one linky for it to show up on all participating blogs. Just click on the blog hop button to be taken to the linky.

Love, Luck &

Posted in Resources, Reviews

My Top 10 and the TOS Homeschool Crew Blue Ribbon Awards 2010-2011!

The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew 2010-2011 year has come to an end!  Of the 24 products I’ve reviewed since the Fall of 2010, we have some favourites in our homeschool :) Below, are my favourite 10, in most cases they are now used on a pretty much daily basis in our home or homeschool.  Because I have a hard time ranking them in order (they’re all so terrific), they’re in alphabetical order…

  • BigIQKids – an absolutely fantastic learning tool for Math, Spelling, and U.S. Geography.  My children love this online program so much that they still logon every single day, with no prompting needed from Mom 🙂
  • Collectorz – I’m still leisurely cataloguing all of the many, many books on our shelves – what a great organizational tool!
  • Lanschool – has been a terrific tool to monitor my children’s time on the internet – I haven’t had to blank any screens yet, but it’s nice to hold that option over my son’s head sometimes, LOL.
  • MathRider – has improved since my review: new quests and new dragon lands.  My daughter especially loves this program and her basic math facts continue to improve.  We loved it so much that we went ahead and bought it after the review trial time was over 🙂
  • Nutrition 101 – will continue to be enjoyed by all family members, with its wealth of information and recipes.  It’s especially come in handy since hubby and I found out our cholesterol is a little high.
  • Speekee – my daughter loved this online program for learning Spanish.  We are going to have to come back to it again in future – we’re hoping to learn some Spanish in preparation for a mission trip to the Dominican Republic.
  • WonderMaps – we’re going to be using these versatile maps for our entire homeschooling career!
  • Wits & Wagers Family – the best thing about this fun game is that it’s very short.  This makes it easy to squeeze in a game with the whole family between hubby’s two jobs.
  • The Write Foundation – we’re continuing to use this with my 12 year old son.  I’ll be using The Write Foundation’s great writing curriculum again when my daughter’s old enough.
  • Yesterday’s Classics – we continue to read these great e-books which tie into our curriculum daily on our iPod touch 🙂

The TOS Homeschool Crew has announced its Blue Ribbon Awards!  You can see what ALL the crew members voted were the best picks this year HERE.  Check them out, because I didn’t get to review all of the wealth of products reviewed by the crew as a whole.

What a fun year and what a blessing it has been, experiencing wonderful products I may never have discovered otherwise!  Not to mention all the great friendships that we all have formed.  I am pleased to announce that I will be returning to the TOS Homeschool Crew for the 2011-12 season, starting in just a few weeks!  Stay tuned :)

Love, Luck &


Posted in Reviews

Science Curriculum – Considering God’s Creation -Review

Eagle’s Wings provides educational curricula for Math, Phonics, History, Science, and the Bible for homeschooling families.  I received their Science curriculum, Considering God’s Creation in exchange for an honest review 🙂

Designed for Grades 2-7, Considering God’s Creation covers Earth Science, Life Science, and Astronomy.  I have been using this curriculum with my two children, aged 7 and 12.  My youngest was especially delighted to dive right into Lesson 1, Creation.  She then wanted to follow up the lesson by watching her favourite Bible DVD about creation afterward, which I was more than happy to agree to 🙂  The next week, she enjoyed the worksheet on the universe, and proudly stood up and read it aloud when she was finished, all on her own. I particularly like the individual worksheets for our planets, which include space to write in what people would weigh on each planet, as well as all the particulars.  The sheets easily tear out of the Student book and can be photocopied for each child.  My 12 year old enjoys the discussions on evolution “Evolution Stumpers” and “Digging Deeper” for further study activities.  We all love that we can use this curriculum together as a family.

While this could be used as a stand-alone curriculum, as an overview for Life, Earth, and Astronomy sciences over the course of a year, we found that it fit into our homeschool very well as a supplement or framework for our classical curriculum.  We have been studying Earth Sciences and Astronomy this year, and were very happy to be able to look at these subjects from a Christian worldview.  The song CD is a nice addition, especially since we love music in our home (not to mention that it facilitates learning), but some of the lyrics are just a little difficult, a little awkward, and don’t really fit the music well.

I wouldn’t hesitate to use this for Kindergarten (Primary) through Grade 8, and perhaps beyond.  Click HERE to view sample pages from both the Teacher’s and Student’s manuals.  You can listen to one of the songs from the CD, “Footprints”, about identifying animals from their footprints, HERE.

Considering God’s Creation costs only$29.95 US (plus $12.45 shipping cost to Canada), which includes the Student book, Teacher book, and song CD.

To see how other TOS Crewers liked using Considering God’s Creation in their homeschool, click below:

Love, Luck &

Posted in Resources, Reviews

Wordy Qwerty for Reading & Spelling – Review

**Please note: Wordy Qwerty is no longer available, but the Jingle Spells CD still is**

Talking Fingers offers “innovative phonics-to-fluency software for hands-on reading and spelling”. Wordy Qwerty is their reading and spelling software for children in Grades 2-4.  I received Wordy Qwerty in exchange for an honest review 🙂 Wordy Qwerty is suitable for children who have already completed a  phonics program and know their way around the keyboard OR have completed Talking Fingers’ Read, Write & Type! program.  My 7 year old daughter, who tested out Wordy Qwerty, is one of the former.

Lesson 1 begins with short vowel sounds and long vowel sounds and learning about silent e. It then progresses to the spelling rule for soft c vs. hard c, and so on.  There are six activities in each lesson.  I’m not a big fan of the “Recycler” game.  Two words are shown (see example below of “meek” and “meak”) and the child has to choose which one is a real word, or if both are real words.  So the child is viewing made-up spelling for words, instead of consistently correct spelling.  I do however like the “write stories” part of each lesson.  The first part of a sentence appears and is read to the child, followed by the dictation of the last part which the child must type in to continue.  The story continues usually for about four screens until the child has a very cute, complete story.

The music is the big winner in this curriculum.  Not only are there 20 educational songs all about spelling rules, but they’re VERY well done.  Have you ever had songs that went along with a curriculum that all sounded the same and whose lyrics were awkward to sing and didn’t fit the music?  Not so with this music.  As a music teacher, I was impressed with these beautifully made, catchy tunes, from a wide variety of musical genres.  Whether you like rock, rap, country, 50’s, or a middle-eastern flair, there’s something that you will enjoy.  And after the child listens to the music being sung, your child can click on the microphone (see picture) and sing along in “karaoke” mode!

Unfortunately it was a slow start for us with this program.  At first we had access to the online program, and it kept freezing up or giving us error messages.  I tried using two different internet browsers to run it, and I tried turning off our firewall, but nothing seemed to work and my daughter became very frustrated that she had to start lessons over and over again after they froze up.  After waiting awhile for a response to my help request, I asked again for help and Talking Fingers sent us the CD set instead (they said that my internet connection must be at fault, which was surprising since we have high speed internet and regularly play sophisticated online games), and we received the CD this week.

The installation of the CD went fairly well, except that it failed to put a shortcut on my desktop or to appear in the Program files for some reason, so I dragged a shortcut onto the desktop from the root file.  Once it was installed, we were able to play Wordy Qwerty without worrying about whether the CD was in the drive or not.  The best thing about having the CD product, besides the fact that it runs smoothly, is that it comes with the accompanying “JingleSpells” CD – all the spelling songs on CD so you can listen to them in the car (or anywhere), which we thoroughly enjoyed doing.  My daughter’s been singing them all over the house.  Even my 12 year old didn’t mind them 🙂  I highly recommend this CD for anyone teaching their children spelling rules – you can listen to clips of it HERE or you can even buy it from iTunes (just search for JingleSpells)!

You can have your child try a demo of Wordy Qwerty Lesson 1 online here. Wordy Qwerty is available in online format for a 5-year subscription period for just $25.00 US for one user, with discounts for multiple users.  It is also available in CD-Rom format (not compatible with Windows 7 or Mac 10.6 though) with accompanying “JingleSpells” song CD for $35.00 plus shipping. The JingleSpells CD is also available as a separate purchase for only $10.00 US plus shipping.

Love, Luck &

Posted in Homeschool Information

Favourite Moments From The 2010-2011 TOS Homeschool Crew Year

Just 2 more reviews left before the 2010-2011 TOS Homeschool Crew Year is done!  It’s gone by very quickly and we have been SO blessed and have had so much fun in our homeschool!  My absolute favourite homeschool moment this year was  seeing my 7 year old daughter jump up and down and squeal excitedly over a math program: MathRider.  Since it was just a trial version, we bought the program because we loved it so much.  We LOVE making homeschooling fun and it is so rewarding when we are exposed to wonderful products we wouldn’t otherwise know about, through doing reviews for the TOS Crew.

Some things have helped the whole family, including we parents.  It wasn’t long after the review for the Nutrition 101 curriculum when we found out that BOTH hubby and I have high cholesterol.  Guess what?  We know just what to do to correct the problem since we had just learned all about it in Nutrition 101!

I could go on and on, but I’ll just mention one more 🙂 BigIQKids:  I couldn’t stop my children from “playing” on this website if I tried LOL.  My children still love competing and seeing who can earn game coins faster, and if they can both get to the 100% club daily.  It is very cute seeing them share this experience, and help each other problem solve to complete the strategic games.

I’m enjoying working on the last few products with my children as this year comes to a close.  I’m very excited about gearing up for the coming 2011-2012 year!  Stay tuned for more reviews of more fantastic products 🙂

Love, Luck &

Posted in Homeschool Information

Do You Need a Schoolroom to Homeschool?

We do not have a separate school area in our home.  On any given day in our home, you will find my children reading or doing their work in the window seats, on the floor, the couch, the counter of the breakfast nook, on their bed, and sometimes even at a table.  We have also been known to work on homeschooling outside, in the park, in the car, at the Tim Horton’s, the dance studio, or even the Wentworth Perk cafe 🙂  I like the freedom of homeschooling wherever, whenever.  Many homeschoolers just starting out think you *have* to have a separate school room.  They spend a lot of money on desks with chairs attached and on items to cover the walls.  This works for some homeschoolers, but a lot of them end up getting rid of the school room desks and even the school room in favour of the couch or the dining room table.  Many of us don’t have an “extra” room that we can make into a schoolroom, and that works just fine.

If I was to say that I had a way to keep the schoolwork from spreading all over the house, that would be a fib 🙂  Most of our books are on our multiple bookshelves.  I keep my homeschool magazines in magazine holders that we make out of cut-out cereal boxes.  Some of it does get contained quite nicely in binders (by subject).  We have baskets for our library books and books we’re currently reading.  Our workbox system helps a little bit with keeping things organized as well.  We still end up with it spread all over the house, but we have a “lived-in” home and I’m comfortable with that 🙂

Love, Luck &


Posted in Homeschool Information, Parenting

Is Homeschooling Your Dream Job?

For my entire childhood, except for a very brief time when I was 5 and wanted to be a nurse, I always wanted to be a teacher.  In fact, I was regularly told I should be a teacher, especially by my classmates whom I was always helping with their work.  Well here I am, a teacher.  Not only do I teach by homeschooling my own children, but I also teach private music lessons.  I LOVE both of these jobs (not to mention also being an Usborne Books Educational Specialist and my writing etc).  I feel very blessed, even though money is tight.  I live in the most beautiful place in the world (in my opinion), and live on a farm in the country, which is also something I always dreamed of.  For my farm dream to be complete, all I need now is some horses – so far we just have chickens 🙂

I believe that all homeschool mothers – all mothers for that matter – should have and pursue interests, and I have a lot of them.  I am very active in local theatre.  I hand-spin, weave, and knit – I belong to a spinning guild and we get together regularly to spin and socialize.  I love playing all manner of games and I get together weekly with friends to play – now that my son is older I drag him along too.  Not surprisingly, I love to sing, and so I serve at our church on the Worship team.

If I were to daydream a little more, I suppose I might dream of being an actress.  It would be pretty amazing to be on the stage, which I already love, and get paid to be there to boot 🙂  And something else that has always interested me is archaeology.  I may actually be able to join an archaeological dig at the Fortress this year – it’s sort of like a summer camp for adults, LOL.

So how about you?  Is homeschooling your dream job?  Can you imagine doing anything else?  Is there something you always dreamed about, or want to get around to once your children have all graduated?

Love, Luck &