Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Homeschool Review Crew: The Typing Coach Review

My thirteen year old daughter Katie has decided she likes typing her papers way more than she likes writing them by hand. She has never taken a formal typing course before, and so she has learned some bad typing habits. This was a great time for us to try The Typing Coach Online Typing Course provided by The Typing Coach.

The Typing Coach

Created by a veteran typing teacher, The Typing Coach Online Course uses audio, video, and written instructions to deliver a program that will have you typing at least ten words per minute with no more than one error per minute by the end of the course. In addition to the audio, videos, and written instruction, there is also an online assessment center with timed and scored proficiency tests.

The course is divided into seven lessons, designed to be completed over ten weeks. Since the goal is mastery, however, you can take as much time as you need in each lesson. The lessons cover:

  • Having good posture
  • Home row
  • Top row
  • Bottom row
  • Shift keys
  • Typing practices
  • Number row 

The first lesson has a video demonstration of proper posture. The following lessons have an audio file that you listen to as you type in a word processing program. You listen to the audio as many times you need to, while typing lines you print from the student packet. The object of these lessons is to train you to type from a page without looking at your keyboard or monitor. Once you feel confident, there is a Learning Check you take on the website. You need to pass the Learning Checks with no errors to move on to the next lesson. Again, the object of this program is mastery, so you may find yourself doing these lessons repeatedly until you have the keys memorized with no errors.


How We Used It:

The very first thing I did was have Katie take the Before and After Snapshot. This is a three minute assessment that gives you a starting reference so that you can see the progress you’ve made when you finish the course.

Next, I printed the Student packet, the Learning checks packet, and the Progress chart and put them all together in a binder. Katie then did the lesson on Having Good Posture. She did not have very good posture as she plopped herself in the chair the first time, so it was a good lesson for her. I made sure to remind her at the beginning of every lesson, and the instructor was good about reminding her to check her posture during lessons.

After the first lesson on Having Good Posture, Katie worked through this program independently. She did have some frustration in the beginning, because she worked on the lines from the Home Row lesson, and felt like she had them down. When I came in to give her the Learning Check, she didn’t do well at all. I think part of the problem was that she needed to get a feel for how the Learning Check worked. It counts every stroke, so if she hit the space bar too many times, etc. it would count that as an error. Once she got the hang of it she felt better. I was sure to explain to her that the program is teaching her to really know where each key is, and that wasn’t something she could rush through. Speed comes after knowing all of the keys, and these lessons really focus on that mastery.

I think this program would be a good fit for anyone who likes repetition and has a strong desire to learn how to type.

To see what my fellow Homeschool Review Crew members thought, click below. 

The Typing Coach Online Typing Course {The Typing Coach Reviews}

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Homeschool Review Crew: Homeschool Rescue Review

We’ve been homeschooling since my thirteen year old was in preschool, so I’d say I’m a pretty seasoned homeschooler by now. Although we LOVE homeschooling and are certain that this is the life God has called us to, sometimes I get burned out. We are getting close to the end of our school year, and I’m tired. Homeschool Rescue by Only Passionate Curiosity came at a perfect time to encourage and refocus me!


Only Passionate Curiosity Homeschool Rescue
Are you a homeschooler? Do you sometimes find yourself feeling frustrated or overwhelmed, wondering how on earth you will ever get it all done? Do you ever worry about whether or not what you’re teaching your kids is enough? Wondering if you’re enough? Homeschooling is hard work. Throw in all of the other responsibilities that come with being a wife and a mom, and it’s easy to get discouraged and start to doubt yourself. Created by a homeschooling mom, Homeschool Rescue is just what you need to reset your homeschool and find your focus again!
Homeschool Rescue is an online course that utilizes a variety of tools to help you get your homeschool back on track. There are five modules in this course, with three to five lessons in each module. Each lesson includes a video, thought provoking homework, and resource links and documents. There is also a private online community where you’ll find encouragement and support, as well as lots of great bonus content. And once you join, you are a lifetime member!
How I used it:
I could tell from the very first module that this was a course I was going to have to put some serious thought into. Right from the beginning Heather grabbed my attention and challenged me to take a hard, honest look at where I’m at. I pondered our homeschool; what I like, what I wish I could do differently. After you’ve been doing this for years and finds what works for your family, it’s easy to coast and do things as you’ve always done them without taking a breath to assess things. I focused on what things I would like to do more, and things I’d like to do less of. I set some new goals for myself, which is something I haven’t done in a while.
Only Passionate Curiosity Homeschool Rescue

Although I got something useful from each lesson, I think my favorite was the module on teaching older children. My thirteen year old is starting a program next year that focuses on the students taking more responsibility in their education. Study skills and time management were two things I wanted to work on with her this summer, so this was full of practical information for us. Have I mentioned the planners? I love a good planner, and there are so many beautiful ones to choose from as part of the bonus content!

There is so much I like about this course. The homework pushes you to dig deep and take a good, honest look at yourself, your homeschool, and your family. I like that you get a lifetime membership. We go through different seasons in our lives, and it will be good to have this course to come back to again and again when I find myself struggling. Heather has such a heart for supporting homeschool moms, and it really shines through in this course she’s created.

To see what my fellow Homeschool Review Crew members thought of Homeschool Rescue, click below.

Homeschool Rescue {Only Passionate Curiosity Reviews}

Visit Only Passionate Curiosity on social media:




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Friday, May 12, 2017


We did this fun experiment as part of our unit on space recently. We needed three balls the same size but with different masses, so we used a rubber bouncy ball, a ping pong ball, and a golf ball.

We then dropped each of those balls from three designated heights, to test if the mass and the height affected the size of the crater formed. (We’re studying meteoroids, meteors, and meteorites at the moment.)

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We discovered that yes, mass and height do affect the size of the crater formed. We were pretty sure that would be the case.

Then we decided we needed to test out bigger, heavier objects.

So we tried an orange and two different types of baseballs using the designated heights from the experiment.

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But then we needed to try it just a little bit higher.


And higher still.


After dropping those from the highest spot we dared, we decided we needed to try dropping something bigger. Like a basketball.


This is why I love science. We took a fairly straightforward experiment and ran with it. We need to go higher!! We need something bigger!! Experimenting at its finest.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Homeschool Review Crew: Algebra for Breakfast Review

Math has always come fairly easily for my fifth grader, but this year she has become a little less cheerful as the concepts get a bit more complicated. I was excited for the opportunity to have her try out the Grades 5/6 lessons from Algebra for Breakfast.

Algebra for Breakfast

Created by Bob Hazen, Algebra for Breakfast is an online video based math enrichment program for grades three-four and five-six. In both levels kids will learn the basics of algebra through video instruction, worksheets, games, and manipulatives. The math dice and special manipulative blocks you need for the program are included in the Membership Package. 

Bob Hazen believes that online learning is most effective when done in segments. There are about fifty lessons in each of the levels of Algebra for Breakfast, which strategically unlock over a ninety-day period to maximize learning.

The video lessons are taught in a classroom setting. Some lessons have a short intro video, and each lesson has worksheets to print after watching the video. These worksheets further reinforce the learning from the video. There is also a parent’s corner that contains the answer keys for the worksheets, and a place to submit a question in each section.

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What we thought:

Francesca doesn’t love online learning. She’s kind of fidgety and loses interest in things quickly. I had a hard sell on my hands when I introduced her to Algebra for Breakfast, but I ended up being pleasantly surprised with the results.

For each lesson, we sat down together and watched the video. I found it was helpful for me to sit with her and redirect her attention when building with the manipulative blocks. She was easily distracted by what was going on in the classroom, so I think without me sitting there with her she would have just sat and watched and gotten off task. Once we finished watching the video, she completed the accompanying worksheets. Altogether the lessons probably took us about half an hour to complete. Since this is a supplemental math program, I thought that was just enough time. It was long enough for her to learn, but not enough that she was feeling like she had to do math twice in a day.

There are a lot of things I like about this program. I like that the video lessons are short, manageable chunks. I really liked the worksheets. I thought there was a good combination of teaching methods to appeal to different types of learners.

Francesca really liked working with the blocks. I think they appealed to her fidgety side. Being able to work the problems he was discussing seemed to help her focus better. She hadn’t ventured much into algebra in her current math program, so she was learning the basics from the ground up. It was really great to be able to watch her mind work, to see her face light up and her excitement when something clicked for her. And although she started out resistant to the idea of an online math program, she quickly decided it was actually fun!

To see what my fellow Homeschool Review Crew members thought, click below.


Bob Hazen's Algebra Lessons {Algebra for Breakfast Reviews}

Check out Algebra for Breakfast on Facebook:


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Friday, May 5, 2017

Father Daughter Dance

Tonight is the father daughter dance, and 10 year old Francesca is in her element. Pretty dresses, makeup and glitter, and a date night all alone with her daddy and she can hardly contain herself.

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Since our middle daughter recently turned thirteen, aka way too cool for all things, she’s decided she’s no longer interested in father daughter dances. Which, of course, made me want to drag out the old pictures from a time when she was interested.

father daughter dance



These are from five very short years ago, of their very first dance. They were both little and precious, and wearing a purple dress with fake flowers on it was still acceptable attire.

Hey Katie, you’re welcome!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Homeschool Review Crew: ArtAchieve Review

In our homeschool art is one of the subjects I don’t feel super confident teaching on my own, so we were excited for the opportunity to try the Entire Level III by ArtAchieve!


ArtAchieve lessons are inspired by art from around the world, and enable people with no art background to teach a successful, high quality art lesson. There are five levels of lessons offered for beginning to advanced artists, and they are offered in two formats: PowerPoint slides and video. The levels are:

Entire Level I

Entire Level II

Entire Level III

Entire Level IV

Entire Level V

Each lesson includes:

  • A picture of the original object used for the lesson
  • A list of supplies needed
  • A warm up exercise-students practice drawing parts of the lesson using a fine-tipped black marker
  • PowerPoint slides or video lesson
  • Approximate time to complete the art class
  • Cross Curricular Connections

The Cross Curricular Connections are a great addition to the art lessons. Interesting ways to connect art to other areas of study are offered. For example, one of the lessons we did in Entire Level III was The Face From Gambia, which taught drawing a human face and the basic principals of pencil shading. Some of the Cross Curricular Connections for this lesson included:

Social Studies:

  • Learn the facts about The Gambia
  • Learn what the Stone Circles of Senegambia and other monuments tell us about the history of The Gambia.


  • Learn the names of popular dishes in The Gambia, and learn how to cook them yourself.

Science: Diseases

  • Learn about malaria and its symptoms
  • Learn about some efforts to fight malaria and HIV in The Gambia


  • Read a children’s folktale from The Gambia online
  • Read Bintou’s Braids by Sylvianne Diouf-for elementary children


  • Watch dancers from The Gambia

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What we thought:

I like the way the lessons are setup on the website. Everything you need to know to get started is right on the main page, and the actual art instruction is thorough and easy to follow. The first lesson the girls picked to do was The Face From Gambia, and I was a little concerned about how my 10 year old would do. She’s kind of a perfectionist and gets easily frustrated or discouraged if she can’t make something look the way she thinks it’s “supposed” to. I was happy to see she followed the instructions with ease, and never had any of those moments of discouragement that usually makes her want to stop. That was one of the things I was impressed with about this program. At the beginning of every lesson was a set of “rules” and they said some really great things like, “It’s okay not to like everything you draw. Even famous artists do not like everything they create.” and “There is no right or wrong way to draw. One drawing is not better than another. It’s just different because the people who are drawing are different.” I think these “rules” really took the pressure off and allowed her to just enjoy drawing.

We also tried The Eastern European Firebird and The Chinese Horse: Drawing the Horse's Head.


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I also like that the lessons are so thorough that my 10 and 13 year old could do them independently. So far my oldest daughter has done all of the lessons with them, but going forward I think I will just let them run with it!

I think these are great lessons for homeschoolers, or even for after school or weekend fun. Lessons are available to purchase individually, or bundled together. There are free lessons that you can try before you buy!

My fellow Homeschool Review Crew received all different levels. Be sure to click below to see what they had to say!

Art Lessons Inspired From Around the World {ArtAchieve Reviews}

Visit ArtAchieve on social media:

Facebook:   @ArtAchieve
Instagram:   @johnahofland
Twitter:   @ArtAchieve
Pinterest:   artachieve
Google+:   ArtAchieve


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Monday, May 1, 2017

Pondering the future

This post started out an entirely different thing than it ended up being. I wrote it and than had to let it sit for a while so I could think some more. I had been pondering how sometimes when you’ve been through something unimaginable it has a lasting impact in unexpected ways. I found myself wondering if I could ever be truly joyful again; if I could look forward to the future with anticipation and excitement instead of fear and worry after a long season of loss. But as I was typing a funny thing happened. I was reminded of God’s faithfulness in it all.


Loss is a tricky thing. Even when you think you’ve processed it all, finally, and are feeling like you may actually be in control of yourself once more, it shows itself again and makes you realize that maybe you will never actually be over it.

In our years together, my husband and I have had our fair share of hardships. In our early years of raising babies, we struggled against our past; stumbling along blindly in our desire to be good parents. To do it differently. To be better. We felt the weight of the absence of the people we needed the most in that season. It was in those lows that God reminded us that He is our heavenly father, and His love is so much greater than what we were seeking here on earth. Throughout those years we faced hardship and heartbreak, disappointment and uncertainty. But we did it together, always together, and we found such joy in raising the three amazing daughters we were blessed with.

In December of 2011 one of our greatest dreams was realized. We bought a home in a quiet neighborhood, smaller than we were used to, but absolutely perfect for our family. We praised God for hearing our cries and answering our prayers. I will always remember the feeling the day we got the keys. We were ecstatic. We had turned a corner, and things were glorious. As we settled in we found peace like we hadn’t experienced in a very long time. We were truly genuinely happy in a giddy kind of way. Our girls were beautiful and healthy. Our marriage was good. We had an amazing new home. We sat in the back yard and were overcome with pride that we owned land. And trees! Life was so good, and we were content.

On October 25, 2012 my brother Joshua committed suicide. In an instant, life was changed forever. Lives were changed forever. As I sit here trying to find the words to describe the hours and days and weeks and months and years after, I know there are none. Losing a family member to suicide is something you cannot even fathom if you haven’t experienced it firsthand. If you have, and you know, I am so sorry. The years between then and now were filled with loss and confusion and sadness and grief. There were social workers and lawyers and ugly words and so much hurt exchanged as we wrestled to figure out where Josh’s daughter belonged. She was with us for three years, and when she went home to be with her mom my family mourned another loss.

While I wasn’t looking, my girls who were on the cusp of being big kids grew up. While I lost myself in the grief of losing my brother, I missed being fully present in their last precious moments of being babies. Being a mom has always been my most important priority, and to this day I still feel the loss of not savoring those moments we will never get back.

Last year my husband lost his father. As we sat in his hospital room during his final moments, God spoke a powerful message to me about loss and death. My brother’s death was unexpected and violent. I lost my faith for a while, and God let me wrestle it out until I was ready to hear Him. The love in that room, and the beauty and peace in my father-in-law’s final moments taught me a new truth about death. It was a privilege to be allowed to be in that moment. As I watched my husband wrestle through his grief, God taught me a new lesson on what it means to be a wife.

When you are going through a hard season of losses and chaos, it feels like it will always be like that. I am certain it was only through God’s grace and His tremendous love for us that we made it through that season. God brought so much beauty from our ashes that I can’t help but be absolutely sure He was there through it all with us.

Now I find myself pondering our lives once more. We’ve been feeling like our old selves for some time, and it seems like we may have actually come through that hard season. My husband has just started a new job that will pay him more, and afford him more opportunities for advancement. We are excited at this new opportunity. We will pay off most of our major debt this year, which is a really big deal for us. Now that our kids are a bit older, I find myself entertaining chasing dreams I’ve been too afraid to consider. It seems we have turned yet another corner, and life is about to be good again. The possibilities leave me both excited and afraid.

The last time we felt like life was good and were truly happy, something awful happened. That awful thing was followed by a season of loss and mourning. It’s easy to let my fear take control of me, easy to let my mind equate happiness with loss. But as I work through these thoughts, I look back at the times in my life when my fear was really my lack of faith. What am I not trusting God for in this season? Instead of thinking I shouldn’t dare to be happy, I will remind myself that God is faithful, and He is working all things out for our good. I will remember, and I will choose joy and not fear.

And you should, too.


It was in that last paragraph that my mind refocused. Instead of lamenting the fact that I was unable to be positive about the future because of all the loss, I was reminded of the ways God showed up in it. He reminded me to look back at all the moments and remember how He was there. Remember feeling the depth of His love when I was longing for the presence of our parents. Remember the way I felt His peace settle over me the day after my brother died. Remember how He drew me back when I was finished wrestling with my faith. Remember the beautiful way he eased my heart about death.

Set a stone in this moment and remember.

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