Thursday, April 21, 2016

Wonderfully Made: a review of a fantastic book about babies

A little while ago, I posted about a simply fantastic book, Wonderfully Made: God's Story of Life from Conception to Birth by Danika Cooley.  I loved it so much that I bought it for a baby shower.  I wasn't giving away my copy.  No way.

Sometimes, you can judge a book by its cover.  Just look at this cover.  Pretty, with fabulous illustrations.  And a sense of awe and wonder is conveyed here and throughout the book.

Of course, having reviewed other books by Danika (When Lightning Struck! for instance) I already knew I'd love it. 

The target audience for this particular book is families with children in the 5-11 age range.  I just barely squeak in there now, since my baby is 10.  I really wanted this though, as we've had four babies born in the past couple months within our circle.

It's a perfect time for us to be talking about the miracle of life.

The publisher described the book like this:
Wonderfully made is an excellent book that introduces a young child to the wonder of God's creation - the wonder and miracle of birth. From conception in the womb through the nine months within the mother's womb Danika Cooley takes us on a journey of discovery... the discovery of life. "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb." Psalm 139:13
This book goes through pregnancy week-by-week, talking about what is happening with the baby at that point.  It starts off with a very basic (VERY basic) description of conception, and includes a basic statement at the end about childbirth being "difficult and painful."  That leaves it very open for you, as the parent, to determine from one reading to the next, from one child to the next, how much detail you would want to add.

In the background of the beanbag couch, you can see the Psalm 139 poster that Richard made for AWANA, talking about how we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

So this was perfect timing.

I'll show you one of the photos from the collage in a bigger size so you can get a better feel for the artwork in this book.

The book is only $9.99, and it does make a great gift for expecting moms who have elementary aged children already, and I think it could be great for new big brothers and big sisters who are a bit younger too (ages 3-4), especially if you read just the two-page spread that talks about what is going on *this* week.

I really love this book.

Disclaimer:   As a member of Daniks Cooley's Launch team, I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own and no other compensation was received.  I am disclosing this information in accordance with FTC Guidelines.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Homeschool Copywork {a Schoolhouse Review Crew review}

Homeschool Copywork Review
My children have pretty much all been incredibly pencil-phobic.  I don't know if it is the dyslexia, if it is just a boy thing, if it is the lack of a good place to actually do writing, or if it is just poor parenting.  But handwriting in this house is a bit of a joke. The whole idea of copywork has always sounded so appealing.  Practice handwriting by copying out beautiful things.  It sounds so idyllic. 

In reality, I've resisted copywork, mostly because I just can only handle so many "you have to" battles in my life at a time.  The opportunity to work with the amazing materials created by Amy Blevins of Homeschool Copywork was perfectly timed.  We've been using the Lifetime Membership for handwriting practice the past couple months, and I really can see the benefits of using copywork in our studies.

In looking over the available materials, it was hard to decide where we wanted to go with things. There are hymn studies.  Oh, I love that!  One thing we have tried over and over is to actually study various hymns.  Learn them by heart, be able to sing them, study the vocabulary and the theology.  Homeschool Copywork gives me a wonderful resource for doing that for hymns such as All Creatures of Our God and King, Anywhere with Jesus, Amazing Grace, and Be Thou My Vision.  In addition to the hymns, there are also some Christmas carols and The Star Spangled Banner.

They also have artist studies.  We've been trying to incorporate some art history into our schooling, so this is a fabulous resource. 

Claude Monet, for example, starts off with a gorgeous cover.  Inside, there is a brief biography, followed by six quotes for copywork.  Each of the copywork pages has a different painting included, and each quote is included in several different styles (beginner traceable, beginner lines, regular lines, cursive).  Also included are full-page paintings, so you can get a bigger version to study.

We are spending a week per copywork quote, and then also researching information about the painting online.  This is a beautiful book!

In addition to Monet, there are also books on da Vinci, John James Audubon, and multiple books on Van Gogh.

Another category is authors.  Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen cover that category at the moment, but there is also poetry.  I am really looking forward to using some of the poetry pages, as we are memorizing a whole lot of poetry with another review product at the moment.  At first glance, I noticed a few poems available as copywork that we will be learning soon:
  • Charge of the Light Brigade
  • The Poems of Lewis Carroll (we'll be learning How Doth the Little Crocodile and Jabberwocky)
  • O Captain, My Captain
  • Charge of the Light Brigade and Other Tennyson Poems
Another category is scripture.  Unfortunately, I didn't remember that 1 Corinthians 13 was in here, or I would have had Trina doing the copywork while she is memorizing the chapter for AWANA.  She has memorized about 1/3 of it in NIV, and the copywork is ESV (which I actually prefer).  I couldn't bring myself to making her switch versions.  In this category, there are also title on the Armor of God, Dragons of the Bible, rainbows, and one on Heaven.

There are science topics (transportation, human body, Wilbur and Orville Wright, birds, sharks, dogs, leaves, etc.), holidays (Christmas, Thanksgiving, St. Patrick's Day, Valentine's Day, etc.), and some miscellaneous other stuff (character building, Town Mouse, Country Mouse, William H. Taft, ninjas).

The other main category is of musicians.  Franz Liszt, Aaron Copland, Beethoven, Mozart and Duke Ellington.  Plus the one we're currently studying, J. S. Bach.

This has beautiful selections such as, "I play notes as they are written, but it is God who makes the music."

One thing I alluded to above is that in many of these books, each copywork page is provided in multiple forms.  I printed off all six handwriting "types" that are used in the J.S. Bach book, so you can see them side-by-side in the photo all the way up at the top of this post.

Working on a quote or two each week has been a fantastic addition to our month-long study of Bach and his music.

This is a fabulous resource, as long as you can manage to remember what kinds of things they have!  Amy does have a free membership option, and I most definitely recommend that you check into that!

Homeschool Copywork Review 

Crew Disclaimer

Monday, April 11, 2016

High School Diploma {a Schoolhouse Review Crew review}

Exclusive High School Diploma Review

I cannot have a senior.  I just can't.  But there is this adult male in my house who has been homeschooling for a dozen or so years, and he seems pretty convinced he is an actual grown-up. 

Which means that I do have a senior.  And he is graduating. 

Diplomas?  I was not ready to think about them.  So it was a thrill to end up with the opportunity to receive an Exclusive High School Diploma from

We are not blessed with a homeschool co-op that does massive graduation ceremonies and handles all those details each year.  We've talked about graduation a bit, but nobody here has been all that excited about putting a big to-do together.  Now that we have a diploma, maybe we do have to actually do something besides just hand it over to him.

Creating a diploma was nowhere near as intimidating as I had feared.  You pick a basic style for your diploma, and then you just start making choices as they are presented to you.  You can read more about the diploma styles at their Diploma Buying Guide, and it is a good idea to look that over pretty thoroughly before you start the ordering process.

The first decision was the seal.  We chose a Christian Education seal with the words "Thy Word is Truth" on it (pictured below), but there are three other options.  The next section is easy, just asking for the student's name and gender.  Gender is needed for any "he" or "she" phrases on the diploma.  You also list your school name, city and state.

At that point, the decision making starts to be more challenging.  HomeschoolDiploma has some great choices for phrasing the main section of the diploma, but figuring out which to use did take some time.  Do you want to mention meeting state requirements?  Do you want to explicitly state that it is a home education diploma?  Do you want a reference to college prep or honors study?  That's what we ultimately decided to do, after reading each of the four main choices, and all the variations in them.

We chose to add Proverbs 9:10 to Connor's diploma.  They have choices of Jeremiah 29:11 and Proverbs 3:5-6 also, or for a small fee, you can add your own.

This is a stock photo, as I'm not completely comfortable putting the entirety of Connor's diploma online.
The remaining choices aren't too difficult.  Which paper, what font, honors designations, who is signing it, that kind of thing.  Some of those options have additional charges, and for us that made it easier.  Go for the no additional fee choice, pretty much every time.

One thing we did add, though was an honors designation.  That is in a "seal" form, and both it and the Christian Education seal are firmly attached to the paper.  I should mention at this point that the paper is a good, thick paper that is higher quality than my high school diploma was!  It is held into the folder with ribbon, which is firmly attached and holds the diploma and a piece of acetate in quite firmly.

The great part about the ordering process is that you can always do a default in a section, work through to the end, and bounce back to finalize something.  You can't skip ahead, though, which is a good thing, as it forces you to look at each section.  I would advise you to pay attention, as it is quite easy to flip right by the dates.  You'd end up with a diploma dated January, 2016 if you do that! 

Once we placed our order, we just had to wait for the diploma to arrive.  It came quickly, and it does look very nice.  I am impressed with the quality, and the fairly painless process of creating it too.  It even includes information about how to sign the diploma! is about more than just diplomas, though.  They have class rings, caps and gowns, tassels, and some beautiful graduation announcements.  They enclosed a couple of samples, and these are high quality.

They even have cute Kindergarten Diplomas, and Eighth Grade Diplomas as well.

I know we aren't the only family who struggles to figure out a way of commemorating this special milestone in their child's and family's homeschool journey.  I know we aren't. makes it simple to present your graduate with a real diploma, and the whole cap & gown experience if you want to do that.

We're now thinking about inviting people over to church some weekend afternoon, and doing a fairly informal ceremony, embarrassing him only a bit.  Well, okay, truthfully, it is likely to include a lot of that.

And a beautiful diploma.

Sounds perfect to me.

Go see what other Crew members had to say about their experience ordering diplomas!

Exclusive High School Diploma Review

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Monday, April 4, 2016

Lots of Babies - and a giveaway too!

We are in the middle of a season where everyone seems to be having babies.  I'm an aunt for the very first time, for instance.  So I simply must show off my baby brother and his baby:

Isn't she precious?  I can't wait to meet her, besides via Skype!

We have three local friends who have had babies in the past month or two as well.  2016 has been a busy baby year.

All of this meant that when I heard that Danika Cooley was releasing a book called Wonderfully Made: God's Story of Life from Conception to Birth, I knew I wanted to participate in the launch.

Doesn't it look great?  Well, start off by checking out the giveaway, and watch for a review coming soon!


To celebrate the release of Wonderfully Made: God's Story of Life from Conception to Birth by Danika Cooley, I am hosting a wonderful giveaway with the rest of the launch team. The giveaway includes a hardcover copy of the book, along with several other books and products your family is sure to enjoy. The total value of the giveaway is nearly $600!

Wonderfully Made Giveaway

Here is what you could win: 

Wonderfully Made: God’s Story of Life from Conception to Birth by Danika Cooley – hardcover $9.99 value

Wonderfully made is an excellent book that introduces a young child to the wonder of God's creation - the wonder and miracle of birth. From conception in the womb through the nine months within the mother's womb Danika Cooley takes us on a journey of discovery... the discovery of life.

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb." Psalm 139:13

Touch of Life First Trimester Fetal Models $89.95 value

Sculpted from real-life photos, these four fetal models representing weeks 7, 8, 9, and 10 after conception have a personality of their own, and the life-like feel of the skin brings home the humanity of the preborn baby in its first trimester of life. Accurately portrayed thanks to medical descriptions and photos, these little samples of life are a great educational tool for helping to understand the wonder of the early stages of human development.

Bible Road Trip Year One Curriculum (includes Lower and Upper Grammar Notebooking Journals $60 value

The Bible Road Trip Year One Curriculum is a 463-page digital PDF download of the full Bible Road Trip Year One curriculum for all five levels, preschool through high school. The Bible Road Trip Year One Curriculum includes the Parent / Teacher Guide and 32 weeks of curriculum schedules for all grades.

$100 Amazon Gift Card $100 value

Enjoy shopping with a gift of $100 + an adorable bookmark.

Big Bible Science: Experiment and Explore God’s World by Erin Lee Green (Ages 5-11) $12.99 value

Big Bible Science helps children and those who teach them to explore God's World and God's Word through real live science experiments. There are twenty-one different units taking students through scientific concepts such as Gravity, Friction, Animal Classification and the Nervous System. 

My 1st Books and More by Carine MacKenzie and Philip Ross (ages 4-7) $15.99 value   

Who is God? What does he do? Can I know Jesus? Why did he die? Children always have questions about God. They want to know what it means to be a Christian and who Jesus is. My 1st Books and More gives a year's worth and more of bible readings, devotions and memory verses.

Living Water in the Desert: True Stories of God at Work in Iran by Rebecca Davis  $8.99 value

One man was overcome by the missionary's kindness. Another was stopped by a vision of men in blue.  One became sick and tired of his own religion. Another saw a man named Jesus in a dream, coming to him on a donkey.  A girl found a strange book on the floor of the library and visited a secret prayer meeting. All of them eventually came to Jesus Christ for His full and free salvation, becoming missionaries to their own people. Seventeen chapters tell true stories of the Living Water pouring out on the country of Iran, even up to the present day.

Lights in a Dark Place: True Stories of God at Work in Colombia by Rebecca Davis (ages 7-12)  $8.99 value

Colombia has been known as a land of violence, but God is at work! Even though the Colombian people have reacted with violence to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, God has delivered people from burning houses . . . God has healed ones who cursed . . . God has given people dreams and visions . . . God has rescued kidnapers . . . God has conquered demons of darkness. Read fourteen true stories of the Light of the World shining in the land of Colombia, South America.

Jungle Doctor’s Monkey Tales by Paul White $8.99 value

The wisdom of monkeys is proverbially small. They never could remember not to get too near to the hind feet of zebra, nor to throw coconuts at Chewi the leopard, nor to look into the eyes of snakes. Luckily for his little nephews, Uncle Nyani, the only survivor of a family of seven, is always near at hand to tell them how they can live to be as old as he is!

Jungle Doctor’s Tug-of-War by Paul White (ages 5-11) $8.99 value 

Even by monkey standards, young Toto is pretty dim! Those baddies of the jungle, Crunch the Crocodile, Mbisi the Hyena, Slinki the Jackal, Vibi the Vulture and Gnark the crow look as though they are going to have an easy time finishing him off. However, Toto soon finds himself in the middle of a tug-of-war, for his real friends, Elephant, Giraffe, Parrot and Hornbill are determined to rescue him from the clutches of the jungle underworld.

The Bible’s Big Story: Salvation History for Kids by James M. Hamilton Jr. $4.99 

With easily remembered rhymes and Bible verses take your child through the span of Salvation History from Creation to the Fall, the Flood to the Exodus, the Exile to the Crucifixion and beyond... James M. Hamilton writes about real history, God's Salvation History, and our future.

Notebooking Pages Lifetime Membership $97

1000s of topical pages, themes, and designs . . . Perfect for any subject or study A to Z!

Art Study ♦ Copywork ♦ Character Study ♦ Famous Men & Women ♦ Geography (state/country studies, continental, world maps) ♦ History of the Ancient World, Medieval, Renaissance, Reformation, and Modern Times ♦ Music Study ♦ Nature Study ♦ Science ♦ Timelines ♦ and more!

Mom's Toolbelt Lifetime Membership $24.95

A customizable home management planner for every area of your life that craves order.

Hal and Melanie Young: Mom & Dad Special: Raising Real Men (book + audiobook) plus a free registration to both Boot Camp 9-12 AND Boyhood Boot Camp. $101 value

If this is God’s chosen gift to us, then why does it seem so hard? How can we prepare these boys to serve God when we can barely make it through the day? Isn’t there a better way? The answer is yes.

When You Lie Down: Lullabies and Scripture Songs CD $12.97 value

These twelve songs remind us that true rest, comfort and hope come from God alone. This music is an awesome way to experience God’s Word with your baby, kids and family. You will discover that this album will be a powerful addition to use in your personal time with God.

Seeds Onesie- Psalm 139:13-14  $14.97 value

Seeds Family Worship Onesie featuring Psalm 139:13-14 on the front with a small Seeds logo on the back.

Cultivating Responsibility: Parenting Wisdom for Ages 9-12 by Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, RN $14.99 value

The later elementary age years are among the greatest times to build responsibility in children. Heart transformation takes place when parents use other tools than behavior modification.

Elementary Foundations: Parenting Wisdom for Ages 5-8 by Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, RN $14.99 value

Many new things happen during the ages of 5-8. Children start school, develop significant friendships, learn to think abstractly instead of just concretely, and have a greater ability to draw close to God. Parenting during this stage produces a number of challenges and opportunities so you'll want to be prepared.

To enter the giveaway, use the Rafflecopter below. Giveaway open to residents of the U.S. and Canada, age 18 and older. Giveaway will end on Wednesday, April 20 at 11:59pm EST. Winner will be announced at the Wonderfully Made Facebook Release Party (winner does not have to be present to win, but we hope you'll be there!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

You're Invited!

Join us for the Wonderfully Made Facebook Release Party on Thursday, April 21. We'll have even more giveaways and freebies, too! The party begins at 9pm EST, and you can RSVP on the event page

Please RSVP!

Wonderfully Made Facebook Release Party, Thursday, April 21, 9pm EST

Logic of English - a new edition of Essentials!

Logic of English Review

A couple of years ago, we were introduced to Logic of English when the Crew had the opportunity to review a number of their programs, including the 1st Edition of Essentials.  I loved the approach so much, especially with my dyselxic and/or struggling readers.  But the reality of trying to make it work with five kids, ages 7 to 16, was more than I could figure out.  I kept meaning to pick it back up and try harder, but that just didn't happen in the reality of my crazy life. Now, there is Essentials 2nd Edition and this is something we actually are able to do. 

Just look at everything that comes with it:
Logic of English Review
Four years ago, what most of my kids needed most was the reading instruction, though everything else was important too.  Now, they are all reading well, but the grammar and spelling are more important for us.  The new edition is perfect for both scenarios.

First off, Logic of English has a mission statement that I love:
We as a company seek to become a leader in reversing and solving the literacy crisis in America. Our goal is to make the Logic of English common knowledge among English speakers and increase awareness about sound, effective teaching methods through books, curriculum, software, and training. We seek to build collaborative relationships with other literacy organizations and support research and product development for the service of English speakers and learners worldwide.
Having a severely dyslexic son has made me so much more aware of reading issues as a whole, and one thing I'd love to do when my children outgrow my Homeschool Mom job is to do something to address the literacy crisis in my community.

Logic of English uses a variety of methods to logically proceed through phonemic awareness, phonics, reading, grammar, spelling, and vocabulary.  You learn a total of 74 basic phonograms and 31 spelling rules, and have fun in the process.

So how are we using this?

To begin with, I had used the first edition with all five of my kids before.  We loved it, and were learning a lot, but it was so hard to actually implement.  I had an early reader, a mid-elementary reader, two seriously struggling tween/teen readers who were far below grade level, and my eldest who could read absolutely anything but couldn't spell.

And I'm a busy, work-at-home mom.  I finally gave up, as I couldn't figure out how to do it all.  I had my younger two use Foundations at that point.

When I head about the second edition, and got a good look at it, I breathed a sigh of relief and thought, "this I can do."  The biggest change, besides just being prettier, is that there is now work for Levels A, B and C students.  This means there is a lot more information per lesson.  That also means that the Second Edition is split into a Volume 1 (lessons 1-15) and Volume 2 (lessons 16-30).

Right at the beginning, you do a pretest with your students to see which level they belong in.  I have students who test into each of the three levels, and that right there probably sums up why I struggled to implement this before.

Here's a side by side of the new book (the colorful one on the left!) and the old one (on the right!)

Obviously, the new teacher book is more visually appealing, but that isn't enough to get me excited about the changes.  What does thrill me is also visible in the above photo, if you blow it up.  Like before, this lesson focuses on the ar, ch, and oo phograms.  But for Level C students, it also covers the bt phonogram, used in words like doubt.

As you work through the lessons, it is clearly broken up into five days, so I don't have to guess at how much to do in a given day.  There are cute little symbols (the blue "All" square in the photo above, on the line that says "Phonograms") to indicate which students do the work being presented.  I don't necessarily follow that completely, because tweaking is just what this homeschool mama does, but it is still very nice to have those clues.  Let's walk through Lesson 6.
  • Day 1 - you cover the ar, ch, and oo phonograms with everyone, writing and saying the sounds and drilling with the phonogram flashcards.  You cover the bt with C students.  Everyone goes through a section about the schwa sound, which covers spelling rules.  You also cover the spelling rule about double letters at the end of a word (staff, tall, class, etc.)
  • Day 2 - you review phonograms with a game and review spelling rules.  Everyone works on the Spelling Journal.  There are lists for each level, with A doing words like ball and sharp, B doing words like igloo and fearless, and C doing words like spectacular and pendant. 
  • Day 3 -  you start off by reviewing again, and everyone ends up doing a grammar lesson on commas in a series and parts of speech.  Finally, there is dictation, which is different for each level.

  • Day 4 - again, you start with review.  The focus is vocabulary, and that varies a lot by level.  See the photo!  Level C is pretty lengthy.  There is dictation for each level.  Level A students have a composition assignment, and there is also a lesson in the optional Essentials Reader.
  • Day 5 - you finish it up for the week, by reviewing and then doing a few assignments to demonstrate what you've been working on.  
Making this work with all of my students is so much easier now, and the flexibility is fabulous.  My dyslexic teen is doing the Level C phonograms, the Level A spelling and dictation, the level A, B and C vocabulary, the Essentials Reader, and I decide individually about some of the other items.

My oldest son is doing straight Level C.

My elementary students are doing a combination of Levels A and B, but listening in on the vocabulary and advanced phonograms as well.

That all sounds a bit complicated, but it isn't.  I can pick the book up and pretty much just teach.  I don't spend a lot of time preparing for lessons.  We have all the cards and tiles together, and the kids grab what we need as we go.

What do we think?

I love this program.  Especially if you have kids who struggle with reading or spelling.  All of the reading research I've done over the past few years tells me that the approach used by Logic of English is fantastic for dyslexia especially, and is a solid approach for any student.

My only complaint is that Volume 2 isn't available yet.

Check out what the Crew thought!  Many of the reviews are of Essentials, but some also reviewed the Foundations programs.

Logic of English Review

Crew Disclaimer