Thursday, December 18, 2014

Everything Online for Homeschoolers

My kids are growing bored of books and worksheets and desks. I'm excited to review because this online learning alternative will get us away from the rut of seatwork. This is my first experience with this website, and I'm excited to share what I have found so far. Review

The website can be a little overwhelming at the beginning. It's a good thing because the overwhelming part is that there is SO MUCH information on the site. There are 8 tabs across the top of the page: Home, Teachers, Pre-K/ Elem, Middle/ High School, Family/ For Parents, Dailies, Resources, and Course Offerings. Some of those tabs also include drop down menus. Each tab takes you to a menu with a larger list of choices. For example the Pre-K/ Elem menu has sub-menus for classes with a year or more of content, classes with a semester or more of content, and then supplementary curriculum and materials. It does take some time to acclimate yourself with site and to find all the curriculum you can use with your family. Since you can get on a yearly membership, you will have plenty of time to explore it all.

Meal Planning

If you've followed my blog for awhile then you've seen my own meal planning posts. I got back into meal planning last year with some success. I want to continue to meal plan in 2015 so I was happy to find a meal planning section on this site. While this isn't traditional learning for the kids, they do have to eat and both of my children love to help in the kitchen. I always use those cooking times as a way to sneak in some extra math and of course grocery shopping, meal planning, and cooking are great home ec lessons. You can find Menus by Month under the Family/ For Parents tab. There are also links to some great grocery lists and meal planning pages that I came across in a home ec lesson. For even more printables, there are 5 free planner downloads included with your membership. The Schoolhouse Planner for teachers/ parents is chock full of organization and planning pages. The student planners are great for getting your kids on the road to doing their own planning.


Apple has had a Spanish curriculum every year but this one. It is usually book learning, although I remember a little Spanish from high school. I've wanted to expand her Spanish and get Speedy started on the language but it just hasn't worked into our plans until now. The Spanish lessons are the part of this online homeschool curriculum that my kids are the most excited about. They couldn't wait to start their practicing Spanish. There are 34 weeks of lessons for elementary Spanish. Each one includes a worksheet download and a video. My favorite part is that each lesson includes a Bible verse in Spanish as part of the lesson. How cool is that?!?!

The kids watched the video and repeated the words along with the lesson. 

Apple has been carrying around her lesson sheet and reading me the words. She LOVES it!


Spelling has been a particularly drab affair at the Carter Chaos Academy. We've used a few different curriculums over the years but tend to end up back at a boring spelling textbook. The word lists always seem too easy for my kids so typically they look over the words for the week on Monday and then I go ahead and give them a test. They rarely miss more than 1 or 2. Boring! has spelling units for every level. In the Lower Elementary levels, students have several activities for each week and a video! Videos definitely are not boring. Speedy watched a couple of them and now he's pumped up to swap to this spelling curriculum in January. I am really excited because the extra copywork included with the spelling is exactly what he needs to improve his handwriting.

Next, I want to check out the Bug Science lessons. They will line up pefectly with the Zoology unit I have planned for the first 2015 semester. I know the kids will be happy to step away from the books for special creepy, crawly studies.

So to sum it all up for you, is a Christian online homeschool curriculum website that includes lessons for subjects in levels from Pre-K to High School. The subjects span art, music, literature, science, and much more. The content varies from online video courses to downloadable, printable elements. The classes are archived so you can begin and end at any time. I'm thrilled to share this review with you right now because there is a sale! I know y'all love a good sale as much as I do and half off a yearly membership is a great deal. Review

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Do you use online homeschool curriculum? What is your favorite thing about it?

Crew Disclaimer

This is my first official review as a member of the 2015 TOS Review Crew. I'm looking forward to bring you more homeschool curriculum reviews throughout the year. See what see of the other members of the Crew thought about Review

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

DVD Organization

We have a lot of DVDs and Blu-Ray discs. We don't have cable. Instead we rely on online streaming, discs, and an antenna for any television watching. I will admit over time our movie collection for the kids has gotten a bit out of control. I have a really nice cabinet to hold all of them but the kids aren't great at keeping the cabinet neat. Okay really they are terrible at it. So when we open the doors stacks of dvd cases and discs fall out all over the floor. It's been a real problem for a long time. Hubby or I would put all the movies back in the cases and reorganize the cabinet with a stern warning to keep them neat. That never lasted long.

A few months ago I started brainstorming better solutions. They really do watch the movies often so I didn't want to get rid of them. I wasn't up for trying to go all digital with them at this stage of the game although we do enjoy the movies that come with a digital copy. So I decided to get a CD/ DVD case and put all the kids movies into it. First I had to choose a case. That's one reason this idea has been bouncing around for months. There are so many choices!

Last week the cabinet exploded again, and I went straight to Amazon and picked one. Yesterday it arrived, and I got to work. First I pulled all of their movies out of the cabinet. Then I got some index cards, scissors, and a marker. I cut the index cards in half and wrote the name of each movie on an index card. For some of you this will seem like a silly step. I did it so we will know if any movies are missing from the case and so the kids will *hopefully* put the movies back in their correct slot.

As I was working, Hubby asked if I was alphabetizing them. I did not. For one thing anytime we added a movie I would need to move every movie that came after that one. Also my kids seem to find things better if they are grouped a bit. Since I wrote on cards and not on the actual slots, I can always move discs as I see fit. It was such a big task that I only grouped together holiday movies and movies with sequels. 

We put all the empty cases into a plastic tote for storage and it went to the basement where it would not be in the way. Now all the movies are neatly stored in a BIG media case and the cases will no longer avalanche out of my cabinet. Yay! This solution gives us lots more room in the cabinet and will hopefully save my children from my wrath over movies. 

The small black case is one we have always used for traveling.

What is your favorite storage solution for DVDs? 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sweatin' in Style #Suddora

I tried this product free and received compensation in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own. 

So have you started considering your resolutions? Do you plan to add more exercise to your routine? Maybe you are going to take up running or some other regular exercise. If so, let me recommend some rocking sweatbands for you. Suddora headbands and wristbands are made from cotton, spandex, and nylon and are offered in 10 different colors. 

To be sure sports headbands and wristbands haven't been as popular recently as they were in the '80s but I see them making a big comeback. I know several ladies that regularly wear sweatbands to Zumba and TONS of folks were them to 5Ks and other running events. It isn't that they are a fad, people wear them because they are useful. I am particularly enjoying mine because it keeps my hair totally out of my face while walking, running, or dancing. Unlike some hair accessories, this headband isn't going anywhere and it gives the added bonus of reducing sweat around my face. The wristbands give me the ability to wipe away any perspiration that may distract me. 

As you can see, we've had some decent weather here for December. We've tried to take advantage and get outside as much as possible. While it isn't warm, I definitely work up a sweat quickly doing my fast walking thing. 

Suddora sweatbands are versatile. They can be used for basketball teams, charity runs, or ninja training. I may have trouble keeping mine away from my daughter....

These colorful bands hold their shape well, are comfortabe, and come in a large variety of colors. I think these would be great to order for a team or event. The sweatband sets are available for kids and adults and large quantity discounts are available. Speaking of discounts you can use the code "GetFit10" for 10% off an order from now until January 31, 2015. Use that discount and fill up those Christmas stockings with a little resolution motivator from Suddora. 

I received this product free and was compensated for this post. All opinions are my own. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Another Pumpkinvine Trail Murder

I received this book free from BookLook in exchange for my honest opinion.

There's been another murder on Pumpkinvine Trail in Middlebury. The employees of the Amish Village can't believe there's been a fresh tragedy just as they were settling down from the last one. Vannetta Chapman introduced Amber, Hannah, and the other employees of the Village in Murder Simply Brewed. Now in Murder Tightly Knit, Amber and Hannah find themselves trying to solve the latest crime. Of course local lawman Gordon Avery is on the case but Amber and Hannah feel compelled to look for clues and information at the village. The mix of Englishers and Amish make the Village a unique tourist destination. 

A young man named Owen was killed in an unusual manner on the Trail. His close friend Mary, who runs a shop at the village, is acting strangely. There are rumors about a survivalist group that Owen may have joined. The investigation isn't turning up many clues. Will they ever find out who killed Owen? Are other people in danger at the Village? 

Amber just can't seem to stay away from the investigation and her employee and good friend Hannah is right by her side. This plot continues to twist and turn. In the midst of the sadness, there is the continuing relationship between Hannah and Jesse. Is marriage in their future? Amber and Tate are technically still newlyweds. Will this latest murder affect their marriage? I enjoyed this easy read. This Amish Village Mystery series is quite different from the typical Amish romance fiction. The mystery moves the story while the romances continue to slowly blossom. 

Murder Tightly Knit will be available December 16, 2014. 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Prepping for the New Year

Because the rush and hustle during Christmas isn't busy enough, I like to start preparing ahead for the new year as well. That was sarcasm by the way. Someone really does need to invent a sarcastic font. Back to my topic, I take it a little at a time but I find that the new year isn't nearly as overwhelming if I do a little extra organizing and planning BEFORE it arrives.

Now of course some of you work better on the fly or in a crunch. I am not one of those people. I get overwhelmed when things are in disarray. So since this weekend was basically an at home working weekend, I took the opportunity to work on some planning. I pulled out my shiny new Chick-Fil-A calendar (if you don't have one yet you need one- the monthly deals are well worth the price) and my 2014 calendar and transferred birthdays and anniversaries. Since I was feeling particularly OCD, I went ahead and filled in paydays and Hubby's shift changes as well. I have some cool new colorful markers that I used to color code the different types of entries.

This calendar stays in my kitchen close to my GIANT whiteboard. I glance at it a couple of times a week to stay ahead on birthdays and anniversaries although I will admit I have missed some the last couple of months. Sorry if I missed yours. It's been CHAOTIC at the Carter household. I also keep a calendar on the wall in the homeschool room. In particular, Speedy has been very interested in the calendar lately. He tends to be a bit......"organized" as well and likes to count ahead to various events.

Along with my calendar efforts, I took time this weekend to tackle our 2015 budget. This is something we intend to be more diligent with this year, and I LOVE the clean slate feeling of a brand new year. We work hard to be proactive in so many areas of our lives and now it is time for us to take a more proactive stance with our finances. If you are looking over your calendar, budget, or other planning areas, I encourage you to spend much time in prayer alone and with your spouse as you work out goals. There can be no real success in any area of life without God's hand.

I will admit I feel an ease and a peace about 2015 knowing that I have done some prep work. Now as we begin new sports seasons and consider activities, we will have a good starting point. What do you do to plan ahead for the new year? Or are you a nonplanner? Hubby is a nonplanner so we balance one another well.

We also did some serious cleaning here at the Carter house today. Next week begins Christmas parties and fun times and I wanted to get as many responsibilities as possible out of the way this weekend. I may or may not have went on a tiny Mommy rant and thrown out some puzzles that were missing pieces and were in total disarray. Hey gotta make room for those Christmas presents somewhere!

Friday, December 12, 2014

You Are Invited to Hope Crossing

I received this book free from Blogging for Books in exchange for this honest review.

Back 3 years ago (where does time go??), I read and reviewed Cindy Woodsmall's book The Harvest of Grace. It was the third book in the Ada's House trilogy, and I really enjoyed it. I had every intention of going back and reading the first two books about Dry Creek and Hope Crossing, but I never did. Sometimes the review books come in so fast that I lose track of other books I want to read. I need to start a list......and put it in the pile with all my other lists.

So when I got the opportunity to review Hope Crossing: The Complete Ada's House Trilogy, I jumped at the chance. I couldn't wait to revisit the characters from The Harvest of Grace and learn how the stories all began.

The first book included is The Hope of Refuge. This book contains the story of Deborah and her moody fiance. It is tells the tale of Cara and her daughter Lori finding their way to Dry Creek. This New York mother and daughter stick out like a sore thumb in this quiet Amish community. Cara has vague memories of the place as a child. Will she be allowed to stay long enough to discover her past?

The Bridge of Peace continues the stories of Deborah and Cara and focuses on the life of the local teacher Lena. The story of Grey and Elsie also is told. Grey and Elsie have an unhappy marriage. Can this Amish couple ever find peace with one another? Will Lena ever find a beau despite her birthmark on her face?

And of course the trilogy ends with The Harvest of Grace. The two communities of Hope Crossing and Dry Creek are so interwoven and this book in particular bounces back and forth. Ada's House in Hope Crossing has become a successful bakery and family destination. Business is thriving. In contrast the Blank farm is in debt and failing. Sylvia Fisher is hired to help but then Aaron Blank unexpectedly returns. Can these two every work together? Will the farm be sold?

Cindy Woodsmall does a wonderful job of seamlessly weaving these stories together. It was great to read straight from one to the next. The book is rather large and bulky but totally worth it. The blooming relationships in each book are predictable but there are always unexpected twists and turns. In all these are terrific Amish gentle reads with engaging characters and interesting stories.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Deeper Advent

There are many ways to approach the Advent season. For some this time of year is simply about Christmas. Others try to teach their children the importance of Advent in a light hearted way such as a Jesse tree. For some, Advent is a time to delve deeply into the spiritual significance of Christmas. Christmas was the light-hearted, ho-ho-ho season for me for many, many years. When our children were born, Hubby & I began to strive to teach them the true meaning of Christmas beyond the glitter and presents. As they get older (and we get older!) we have embraced the traditions of Advent slowly.

I received a free copy of this book from Handlebar for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own. 

This year I wanted to do something a little more than the Jesse tree. While we have loved this special ornament covered little tree for the last several years, it felt like it was time to move to something new. I guess with the kids' schedule of 5 performances the first week of December I should have known better! I haven't had the time to talk with them daily about Advent like I had hoped but all of their performances have had a wonderful message about Christmas and the birth of Jesus. I have been reading Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas.

This book has samples from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther, CS Lewis, and more. I was excited to see so many amazing authors on the table of contents. I had hoped I could share these readings with the kids but to be honest *most* of the readings are very deep and some are quite long. To be sure, devotions, poems, and excerpts are fantastic but many are far above the interest level of my kids. A few were above my own level! Not really but there are some that would require silence and a lot of concentration to fully appreciate. I love the poems. I love the diversity of the writings and styles. Most of all, I love that each of them point to the beautiful birth of Christ in a most unlikely place. 

If you are ready for a deep, meaningful journey through Advent then this book will certainly start you on your journey. Personally I am looking forward to the slower days of January to spend some mornings curled up with this book and a hot cup of coffee. The glory of the birth of our Savior will be just as sweet in the beginning of the year as it is at the end!