Tag Archives: education

Homeschool Mosaic Review: Apologia Picture Book “A Light for My Path”


review disclaimer1We love picture books in this house, so I was glad to get the chance to check out a new one from Apologia called A Light for My Path. Written by Davis Carman and beautifully illustrated by Alice Ratterree, this ABC book is based on Psalm 119.

A Light for My Path picture book

A Light for My Path picture book by Apologia

Both of my kids already recognize the letters of the alphabet, but they still enjoyed naming each corresponding animal or plant as we got to it (and learned a few new ones as well!). Additionally, the book teaches both uppercase and lowercase forms of the letters, so it’s a good book to reinforce that concept. Their favorite part was looking for the animal from the previous spread on the current page.

L for Light with a Ladybug (and a Koala from the previous spread)

L for Light with a Ladybug (and a Koala from the previous spread)

After the ABC pictures that describe attributes of God’s Word and Law, A Light for My Path contains Psalm 119 divided into individual stanzas that start with each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. I pointed out the picture and name of the Hebrew letter at the top of each page as I read them to my kids, and noted how the letters looked different than our English alphabet.

Psalm 119 with Hebrew letters

Psalm 119 with Hebrew letters

What I love:

  • Although it’s a paperback, the book is well made and the thick pages seem like they will hold up pretty well.
  • The illustrations are colorful and engaging, and my children loved searching out the different animals throughout the book.

Potential pitfalls:

  • I was expecting a bit more text in the main part of the ABC section, rather than a repetitious phrase and a one-word attribute. I think I had initially expected the verses from the Psalm to be incorporated on the ABC pictures, instead of at the end. But the book states in its introduction (a “how to use this book” section, essentially) that this is intentional and I can see how this approach would work well for young kids still learning the alphabet.

If you’re interested in checking out A Light for My Path (available here for $14), there’s a bigger sample here on Apologia’s site. And read more reviews from the Mosaic team at the Mosaic Reviews blog!


Homeschool Mosaic Review: The Classical Historian Medieval History Memory Game


review disclaimer1Family Game Night. Does that conjure up memories of endless Monopoly games or charades? A child who can’t get enough of Chutes and Ladders? We have a lot of great games that we enjoy bringing out to play as a family. My husband recently taught our daughter how to play mancala, and now she’s beating him at it! 🙂 She positively loves just about any type of game, and especially matching games. So when Homeschool Mosaic Reviews was offered the chance to check out a memory game from The Classical Historian, I was pretty excited. I wasn’t sure if the material would be too far over her head, but since it was a game, I was willing to take a chance. And I’m so glad I did!

Fresh out of the box: The Classical Historian Medieval History Memory game cards and instruction sheet

Fresh out of the box: The Classical Historian Medieval History Memory game cards and instruction sheet

The Classical Historian is a family-run company that sells history curriculum for middle and high schoolers and games for all ages. I got the chance to review one of their memory games, Medieval History (available here for $14.95). Other games include Ancient History and American History Memory, and a Go Fish game in the same three time periods, for the same price. The Go Fish games looked fun also, but with a nonreader and an emerging reader in my home, the memory game was the way to go.

Medieval History Memory contains 64 game play cards and two sets of four category cards (Europe, the Americas, the Far East and Arabia). Game set-up and play is like any other Memory game on the market. Set up the 64 cards in a grid formation, face down, and players take turns flipping over two cards at a time, looking for matches. The player with the most matches at the end of the game is the winner.

Game play is ready to begin!

Game play is ready to begin!

The cards are nice and sturdy cardboard (so is the storage box), and the pictures on them are high quality. I like the variety in them, both in terms of subject and in medium (some are photographs, some are illustration). The Medieval History set covers several people, places, events and concepts from Europe, the Americas, the Far East and Arabia, although the highest concentration of cards fall in the Europe category.

The cards contain a great variety of subjects in Medieval History: people, places, concepts. In addition to classic Memory, game players can also play a Categories game and match cards to regions.

The cards contain a great variety of subjects in Medieval History: people, places, concepts. In addition to classic Memory, game players can also play a Categories game and match cards to regions.

We played Medieval History Memory as a family and had a great time. My husband and I were able to tell a little bit about each card as it was drawn, and I love that the game provides an informal and fun way for the kids to learn about important people and places in history. My daughter drew the card for William Shakespeare, and as soon as I read his name, she got excited. She knew who he was because we were currently reading a Magic Tree House book about Shakespeare. “He is the man who did the play with Jack and Annie!” she said. I can see us playing this game again and again, and learning more a little each time. I’m also pretty interested in the American History matching game; I’m putting that on my wish list for when we start an America unit in our homeschool.

What I love:

  • The game uses lots of different depictions on the cards: photographs of real places and art, illustrations, etc and are well made.
  • The pictures spark great questions and provide a jumping off point for further research and learning, even though we aren’t doing any “formal” history lesson right now.

Potential pitfalls:

  • The game says it’s for players age 3 and up. But even though my 4-year-old made the first match on his first try (there’s luck for you!), he didn’t stick with us in the game for very long. Maybe if we had done a smaller number of cards than the whole 64, he would’ve been more interested. He’s not much of a Memory fan in general though, and he did pipe in with questions and want to see the pictures when others made matches, so even with smaller kids who may not want to play the game, there are still lots of fun ways to use the cards for learning.

Check out The Classical Historian’s web site for this and several other games that are fun for the whole family! Also, the Mosaic Reviews Facebook page is hosting a FB party for The Classical Historian on Friday, June 28, from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. EDT. Feel free to pop in and learn more about the games–and maybe even win something!

Made a match of Monastery! Now it's your turn!

Made a match of Monastery! Now it’s your turn!

Homeschool Mosaic Review: Apologia Picture Book How Do We Know God is Really There?


review disclaimer1Our homeschool year has been finished for a few weeks now, so I’ve been away from the computer for a bit as we enjoy our free time together as a family. But I’m back with a couple of Homeschool Mosaic Reviews in the next week or so, including this picture book from Apologia that tackles a tough question: How Do We Know God is really There?

My kids love sitting out under the stars and listening to their dad tell them about what they are seeing in the sky (he loves astronomy!), so I was excited when Mosaic Reviews offered the chance for me to review this picture book about a boy and his father talking about the evidence of God’s existence through His creation of the cosmos. It seemed like it would fit in with the talks they have already had.

Reading Time: How Do We Know God is Really There?

Reading Time: How Do We Know God is Really There?

How Do We Know God is Really There? by Melissa Cain Travis is the first in a series of picture books “designed to introduce kids to important questions of the Christian faith,” according to Apologia’s site. In the picture book (available here for $16), Thomas and his father are enjoying viewing God’s creation through a telescope, but what he sees prompts Thomas to go even deeper with his questions, because a friend told him God didn’t exist. His dad converses with Thomas to explain about how science proves God’s existence because something (the universe) cannot be created from nothing. 

I’m not sure the science part of the book quite resonated with my kids yet; my 4-year-old in particular was antsy before we got to the end of the book. But it did prompt some good discussions, and the kids loved the pictures. They thought skateboarding on the moon and racing around Saturn would be fun, and they laughed hysterically at Thomas’ poor cat.


Thomas scares his poor cat!


What I love:

  • The book is well made. The hardback cover and thick pages seem like they will hold up well, which is important in my house where my kids don’t treat books as nicely as their mom (yet).
  • The colorful and fun illustrations by Christopher Voss engaged my kids and they liked to leaf through the book and talk about what they saw in the pictures.

Potential pitfalls:

  • Even though it’s a picture book, some of the content seemed just a bit over the heads of my 4 and 6 year olds. However, I think it’s a great conversation starter even for the younger ages and talk with them about the subject in ways closer to their comprehension level. For those with a bit more science background, I don’t think this would be a problem at all.

If you’re interested in this fun and educational book, there’s a bigger sample here on Apologia’s site–go check it out!

Homeschool Mosaics Review: Ooka Island Adventure Reading Program {+Coupon Code!}


review disclaimer1Over the past several weeks, Homeschool Mosaic Reviewers have had the chance to use a pretty fun tool for reading: Ooka Island Adventure. Ooka Island’s program is geared toward pre-K to second graders and teaches phonics, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension. Due to the nature of the program, children are introduced to a new skill only when they have mastered the previous one.

Ooka Island is divided into three sections, called the Learning Flow Cycle by the creators. Guided Play focuses on phonic development through skill-building instructional activities;  the e-Reader book series focus on fluency, vocabulary and reading comprehension; and  Free Play allows children to play activities that reinforce what they have learned, reread e-books or just do fun games. Guided Play lasts for 20 minutes, the e-Reader for up to 10 minutes and the Free Play for about 8 minutes. The structure and sequence of these different sections help the children stay engaged in the program.

Ooka Island's cast of colorful characters

Ooka Island’s cast of colorful characters

My kindergartener (age 6) is already a reader, but she’s a brand new one and still learning. I liked that we could use Ooka Island to reinforce concepts she’s already learned and to improve her reading fluency and comprehension. She loved playing all the games, unlocking various rewards after completing certain levels and enjoyed listening to and reading the stories. Her favorite games were the soccer ball one and the submarine one, where the pigs are dropped into the water. My 4-year-old also used the program, but his attention span for the game was not as long as my daughter’s. He also had a more trouble maneuvering the mouse in the game, but as he practiced more, I could definitely tell he improved in that area. All the games are point-and-click based, so it was more of a physical skill of moving the mouse for him to learn than the interface being difficult. He would only play for about 10 minutes or so at a time; my daughter could probably spend all day on Ooka Island if I let her!

Ooka's books follow the adventures of Kayla, Jaiden and Boo.

Ooka’s books follow the adventures of Kayla, Jaiden and Boo.

What I love:

  • Ooka Island’s colorful graphics and fun games entertain my kids as well as help teach them phonics and reading skills and computer skills.
  • Because it’s not a streaming online program, I don’t have to worry about either of my young children accidentally surfing to something I wouldn’t want them to.
  • The Ooka Lighthouse assessment on the web site helps me keep track of which skills the kids are learning and their percentage of correct answers in the games.
  • The freebies online, including motivational tools like certificates and book paths to track your child’s progress.

Potential pitfalls:

  • A few times, the program would freeze up, and once or twice it kicked my child off in the middle of play. Part of the reason for this might have been our computer, which has been locking up more over the past month. They didn’t seem to lose their progress, however.
  • Due to the way the game is set up, players have to wait until they progressed in the game to certain points and unlocked features and places to use during free play. Not a big deal, but it took some convincing of my four-year-old who desperately wanted to go to the volcano first thing. 🙂
Ooka Island's map filled with areas to explore

Ooka Island’s map filled with areas to explore

This was the first time I’ve used a computer program in our schooling, and it’s been a good experience so far. If you’ve got a child in the 3-7 age range, or a slightly older child who could use reinforcement in reading skills, I invite you to check out Ooka Island. For home and homeschool editions, you can pay monthly ($12.95 for 1 student/$19.95 for up to 4) or annually ($124.95 for 1/$149.95 for up to 4). There is also a school edition.

Ooka Island has given Mosaic Reviewers a coupon code good for 30 percent off your annual or monthly subscription! Offer valid until June 1, 2013. Simply copy and paste this URL when you order:


Edit: More Ooka Island experiences at the Mosaic Reviews blog!

Homeschool Organization: The Well Planned Day Planner {cultivate}


I promise, one of these days, to get around to talking about the homeschool part of this home :-). For now, I’ll just mention one thing that has helped me keep track of this year: the Well Planned Day homeschool planner.

Last summer, I went back and forth between the Well Planned Day book and Apologia’s Ultimate Homeschool Planner. They both looked like they had a lot of the features I was looking for and I had a hard time figuring out which one I would prefer using. I also spent a lot of time perusing Pinterest for the homemade printable versions that many other homeschool moms have created. I had briefly flipped through Apologia’s book at the spring homeschool convention, but everything that weekend was such a blur, I didn’t really remember much about it by the time I wanted to order one. Finally, since we had already started our school year and I was starting to feel overwhelmed, I bought the Well Planned Day. I liked the fact that it had all the year’s calendar dates filled in, and the month-at-a-glance/weekly schedules for each month in one place, and as a newbie, I wanted something to make my life easier.

Well Planned Day homeschool planner

Month-at-a-Glance from the Well Planned Day homeschool planner

I liked the semester attendance page, because I wondered how I was supposed to track attendance. It even had places for “sick days” which I didn’t think existed in homeschool ;-). There are also progress reports/report cards, which I haven’t used since we’ve only got kindergarten here. There are places to plan the school year for up to four students in the planner. Each week also has a (small) space for menu planning, which I have appreciated. It’s easy to jot down meal ideas for the week and I do believe it has helped us to eat more at home instead of me coming to the end of the day and wondering “Hmm, what on earth should I do for dinner?” Other features, some of which I’ve used, some of which I’ve not, include:

  • perforated, tear-out shopping lists
  • holiday planner
  • monthly budget
  • books to read list
  • field trip section
  • Bible verses
  • monthly encouragement devotional.

In addition to the planner, I bought a large three-ring fabric-covered binder that is basically my school brain. I looked in both Target and Wal-Mart, and I think the one I bought ended up from Wal-Mart; it was around $12, which I thought was reasonable (and cheaper than the matching binder that you can buy with the Well Planned Day planner). I added my spiral bound planner, and several colored dividers with pockets. My original plan was to print out everything for the month or week ahead and have them placed in the appropriate dividers. Ha! Maybe I will be able to do that for *next* year. It’s been great to keep track of the mess of papers which seems to accumulate daily, however.

3-ring binder with dividers/folders

3-ring binder with dividers/folders

Seriously, this binder and planner combo have been a fantastic tool for me as I’m still wading these unfamiliar homeschool waters. I’m probably not using the planner to its greatest potential, and I’m not sure what I’ll end up using for next year, but it’s helping me figure out what works for me, and what doesn’t. Oh, and I checked for my binder brand, and it’s called Case-It. This one seems to be it, although it’s a different color. (And yes, mine also has the pull out file folder, but I worried that it wouldn’t be big enough for the papers I would use, and I wanted it to be easy to flip and get to rather than having to unlatch the velcro closure to the file folder all the time.)

Case-It 3-ring fabric binder

Case-It 3-ring fabric binder

Oh, and in case I’m supposed to mention it, none of these companies have sent me anything or are asking for reviews. I am just sharing what has worked so far in our homeschool journey.

Do you use one of these homeschool planners? Do you make your own? I would love to hear your ideas for how you keep track of your homeschool day!

“You’re a Star” Reusable Workbook {cultivate}


I finally sat down yesterday and set our overall schedule for our homeschool year: what weeks our school will be in session and which days will be off for holidays and the like. We’ll be running from August to mid-May, but if something happens during the year (i.e., ill health, unexpected trips, we just need a short break), there are still a couple weeks of May left to be what I’m calling flex time. I’d like to be done as early as possible before the unbearable heat kicks in here, which is why I wanted to finish in May rather than June. But it’s nice to have that little bit of cushion for the unexpected. I have no idea if I’m doing this homeschool thing right, but it sounds good to me! At least, right now it does.

After I finished with the schedule, I decided to tackle something that’s been on my “To Do for School” project list for awhile. I already had my materials and I just needed to sit down and do it. So last night, I did. Have you seen any of these on Pinterest or in your web browsing?

Top row: iCandy Handmade, My Three Bittles

Bottom row: The Creative Homemaker, I Am Momma, Hear Me Roar

I am sure there are dozens more out there, but those are just a few samples that caught my eye. I’ve seen them called quiet books, fun folders, homework folders…all sorts of things. I tried to come up with a cutesy name for mine last night with no luck, so for now I’m calling it the reusable workbook. I wanted something my daughter could work through independently without having to print out tons of printables all the time or buying workbook after workbook. When I saw these ideas, I knew I’d found my answer.

First, gather your materials. You’ll need a binder (I chose the 1-inch one), clear sheet protectors (I think I started out with the 25 pack, but I’m sure I’ll get more), decorative papers/stickers, adhesive (depends on how you’re decorating the covers) and worksheets. For the worksheets, I just searched various sites and printed out a bunch of ABC writing pages, number pages, mazes, connect-the-dots, things of that nature. If you don’t have or want to use a printer, you can buy a couple of inexpensive workbooks from Wal-Mart or the Dollar Store, tear out the pages and place them in the binder. I might do that just to mix things up a bit and add some color into the book.

binder, clear sheet covers, paper and stickers…ready to go!

Next, I started laying out my decorative papers in various ways, trying to figure out how I wanted the cover to look. While I loved the look of the one above with the child’s name, for now I wanted my book to be used by either my son or daughter, so I wanted the colors to appeal to both. This part took the longest for me, because I’m so indecisive. 🙂 Then I used my scrapbooking tools to cut out the papers, sprayed on some spray adhesive and went to town. The other part that took me forever was trying to figure out what title to put on in place of a name. Like I said, I wanted a cutesy name for the book. Finally I decided to cut my losses and just go with “You are a STAR!” I’m digging it. 🙂

The binder’s front cover (sorry for the glare; that’s what happens when you work late at night and need to take pictures) 🙂

View of the back cover and spine with the front

While my spray adhesive was drying (those are the final pictures above; I waited about an hour for the adhesive to fully dry before I placed the paper in the binder covers), I searched and printed out some pages for the inside. There are so many places online and they’re just an easy Google search away, but some of the ones I used were Making Learning Fun, 1+1+1=1 and Kindergarten Worksheets. I slipped two pages, back-to-back, in each clear pocket to maximize space. I haven’t finished the inside yet, as it was pretty late and I was tired, but I’ve got plenty of room to add on.

Inside pages include mazes and color-by-number 

inside pages include math/number and letter worksheets

And that’s it! Just add dry erase markers or dry erase crayons, and your child is ready to go! I showed the binder to my daughter this morning, and she loved it. She’s one of those kids who does like to just sit and do worksheets, so I knew this would go over pretty well with her. I’ll be interested to see whether my 3-year-old will find any interest in it.

I’m starting to feel some momentum with my planning and preparation for homeschooling (good thing, right, since we’re starting *next month!*). Next on my agenda is to plan potential field trips and special unit studies for the year. I haven’t decided if that’s something I want to do every week or not yet. I don’t want to overwhelm either my daughter or myself. But I seem to be really drawn to the concept of unit studies, even though the curriculum we bought didn’t really include them. I guess it’s another thing we’ll have to wait and see how it goes when the time is here.


source: sxc.hu

Cultivating growth takes time

I was trying to come up with a descriptive word to put on all my posts about homeschool and education. At first, I was planning to use {on our slate} as a cutesy nod to the (way) Old School use of chalk and slates to write math problems and spelling words and whatever else Anne of Green Gables or whomever needed to use them for. I still like the phrase, but then a synonym for educate– “cultivate”–caught my eye. And underneath that entry read:

Definition: nurture, take care of
Synonyms: aid, ameliorate, better, cherish, devote oneself to, educate , encourage, forward, foster, further, help, improve, instruct, nurse, patronize, promote, pursue, raise, rear, refine, support, teach, train

[emphasis mine]

Just look at that list of words. Is there any better way to describe what education, and in our particular case, a home education, is really all about? I really could have bolded every single synonym, but I chose the onese I especially connected with when I thought about what I hope our family time looks like during these homeschooling years. I want to cherish this extra time with my children and devote myself to educating and encouraging them as we raise them to young adulthood. It’s our job to nurture and support them, teach and train and refine them as they learn ABCs and biology and how to make good decisions.

We are total newbies when it comes to homeschooling. We only just decided a couple months ago that we’d definitely be heading down that path. I haven’t been reading blogs about homeschooling or researching curriculum (until recently, heh) or determining my teaching style and the kids’ learning styles. I’m pretty sure there’s going to be a good bit of trial and error. But what it all comes down to for us, really, is our committment to cultivate in our children a love of learning, a loving relationship with us and a love of Christ as the leader of their lives.

“I want to cultivate the seed that was placed in me until the last small twig has grown.” –Kathe Kollwitz