Archive for the ‘Old Schoolhouse – Curriculum Reviews!’ Category

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For the past several weeks my son (10) has participated in one of Bridgeway Academy’s online classes and has enjoyed it beyond my expectations! He was disappointed to find out that it is soon coming to and end and keeps asking me when the next class starts 🙂

Bridgeway Academy offers homeschool families different options to enrich their homeschool journey. We have been asked to review Magic Tree House Social Studies – The Middle Ages with Mrs. Kathi Thomas (Grades 1-5), one of their Learning Labs! The Learning Labs are weekly, virtual, co-op classes taught by certified teachers. This online class was 9 weeks long, 45 minutes to 1 hour each week, and available at the low cost of $145 for the session.

They not only give children the opportunity to learn about subjects their parents may not know much about, but also the chance to interact with other homeschool students around the world!

Below is a sample video of Bridgeway Academy’s Elementary Learning Labs:

Our Experience

My son enjoyed attending this virtual class every Monday at 1pm. He enjoyed the topic and the way he could interact with the other homeschool students. During class Mrs. Kathi gave the students the opportunity to ask questions or share comments. The students communicated with the use of their microphone and/or the chat box. This brought the experience to life for my son and brought a welcomed dynamic to his homeschool week!

Mrs. Kathi always assigned homework, which was usually only 45 minutes long. The homework usually involved reading material and many times writing. Because my son loves the topic so much, many times we researched the topic further during the week. We watched documentaries on YouTube with his brothers and learned much more about the Middle Ages.

As a final project the students were to build their own castle! Isaiah chose to use Minecraft to build his. HE LOVED IT! I have never seen him willingly dedicate so much time to a long-term project, without loosing interest! I LOVED seeing him enjoy the feeling of satisfaction once he was done!

I appreciated the way the class was run and the program was put together. Each class was recorded. This made it very convenient to refer to while doing homework during the week. It also makes it very convenient for a homeschool family. I love knowing that we don’t have to miss the class if something comes up, and can still listen to what was covered!

Mrs. Kathi did a great job running the class! The kids had lots to share and ask every week and she also had lots to cover. This was challenging because we only had 1 hour to do everything. I appreciate the way she balanced these, and made sure the children were engaged while still making sure we moved forward.

Things I Would Change

In the beginning of class we always did a microphone check for each child. Considering how short our class was and everything that had to be covered, I think this process took too much time from the class period. If a mic check must be done, I feel it would be best to make the class 10-15 minutes longer.

I think the age range of the class was a bit too wide. I wonder if discussion times would have been more engaging and challenging if the class was 4th-5th grade instead of 1-5 grade.

Final Thoughts

I would absolutely consider Bridgeway Academy in the future as a way to supplement our homeschool journey! My son enjoyed the experience, learned so much and wants more! What more can you ask!

We love co-op classes and have participated in some in the past. I love the option of having my older children participate in these right at home, without having to take all the little ones out too!

If you are interested in supplementing and enriching your homeschool journey see Bridgeway Academy’s list of upcoming Learning Labs! Registration deadline is December 30th and classes start January 6th!

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God’s World News is one of my family’s favorite reviews this year!

As I educate my children I want them to know and care about things happening around the world. Most of all, I want them to have a biblical worldview. It is important to me that they learn to see the world the way Jesus does.

I believe that to truly educate them is not just to nurture in them the desire to stay informed. Ultimately, I pray that as they learn about the world around them they develop a desire and a passion to get involved and make a change!

This is why when God’s World News’ News Flash was listed for review, I jumped on it. It has exceeded my expectations!

So far we have received 3 issues, Map-it News and the online resources. It has already greatly enriched other lessons in our homeschool and most of all our conversations.

What is God’s World News

God’s World News is a magazine that covers a wide variety of current events from a Christian perspective. It includes articles and activities on science, social studies, geography, economics and so much more! It is a great addition to any curriculum or program you are using in your home.

God’s World News is available in 6 different grade-level groups. Our family reviewed News Flash, for children in 3rd and 4th grade. I used it mainly with my 9 and 10 year-olds, but my 6-year-old son sat through some of the reading, too!

A subscription to News Flash is $28 per year. An issue is delivered to your home monthly (except May and December). In September, along with the magazine, you get a world map. You can use it with the articles and lessons throughout the year to show the child where in the world the events are happening. What a relevant way to practices geography!

With your subscription you also get access to lots of resources online! These include additional articles and lessons for you and your child to dig deeper!


How We Used It

We read through articles in the magazines in the early afternoon, during nap time. This is usually the time we do history/crafts/science etc. Depending on how the day was going I would have one of the boys read me an article I set aside ahead of time for him. Many times I would read some aloud to them.

Depending on their interest, we would explore the topic more, by doing more research/reading online, looking up YouTube videos and/or referencing the map.

One of the challenges as I educate my older boys is finding enjoyable ways for them to practice their reading and writing. News Flash is now a great tool available to me to further my efforts! I always found articles that would be relevant to them individually. This made reading fun!


There were a couple of times I asked them to write up a paragraph about what they read! It was usually in the form of a letter to their dad, “teaching” him something new!

Because of the wide range of topics each issue covers, we were able to use it to supplement our learning in other areas, just this month.

The boys spent a couple of hours at my husband’s job this month. My husband works in a manufacturing plant for a major automotive company. The boys were able to see very high-tech equipment and how they work!

In the September issue there was an article entitled “Bot or Not” explaining what makes an electronic device a robot! They even mentioned equipment in an automotive manufacturing plant and whether or not these are considered robots! It was a great way to discuss what they learned during their visit and put it in context!

We have been learning to play Chess as a family the past few weeks. In the September issue the boys learned about a 9-year-old girl who is considered to be one of the best chess players in the world! Of course, this inspired them and gave them a chance to consider the possibilities. We discussed the possibilities in other endeavors and how age is not a limitation!

My Favorite Things About News Flash

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Every issue we received has been an adventure for all three of my boys. I LOVED the wide variety of topics and activities covered in each issue, both in the print magazine and online. There is always something for everyone! Both my Animal Lover (9-year-old) and my Young Engineer (10-year-old) found something of interest in every issue we received.

The diversity found in each issue is not just in the topics of the articles. In the issues you will find features like:

  • Bible2Life: a short section connecting the article/topic to Scripture, helping the child to consider what God has to say about it!
  • Country Profile: A list of important information on the country featured in the article.
  • Map Illustration/Comics/Word Puzzles and much more!

MY FAVORITE THING OF ALL IS THAT EVERY ISSUE COVERED STORIES ON AND ABOUT PEOPLE OF DIFFERENT RACES AND BACKGROUNDS. It is truly about God’s World! As a person of color I felt like they were truly very intentional about this! I loved it because as we read it as a family and felt included! We read about and saw pictures of people who looked like us! For young children this matters!!

I can’t say enough to recommend God’s World News for you and your family! If what I have said is not enough, let me tell you that they also have World Magazine for adults!

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For some reason  Chess is a game I  just DON’T GET! When Chess House came up as a review opportunity on the Crew I thought it would be a great fit for our family! It has been for me and my boys and we have already learned so much!

We were asked to review Chess House’s Starter Chess Learning Kit. The kit comes with:

  • A full chess set with a vinyl mat
  • Elliott’s Chess School #1 PAWN Level DVD
  • Storage bag (in black or green)

When  we first got the game,  my family and I were most  impressed with the quality of  the set. The pieces are sturdy and feel like they are made to last. I am sure you know that in a family of 6 children this is a big deal! I especially liked the bag it came in. This will make  it very easy to take with us on trips, to the library or to grandma’s  house!

The instructional DVD is for beginners and recommended for children ages 6-12. I have been using it, the last few weeks, with my children ages 6, 9 and 10. The DVD was very age appropriate, even for my 6-year-old. They especially LOVED the activities in the booklet provided! These activities made the lessons much more inclusive for my 6-year-old and made the lessons much more practical!

As we used the DVD to learn and improve our skills we watched it 3 times a week, 1-2 sections at a time. We spent most of our time doing the activities in the booklet. We would make tournaments out of these. I would also have the boys take turns. Two would play and whoever wins played his other brother. My older boys were able to go through the activities at a faster pace than my 6-year-old.

The DVD is 49 minutes in length, divided up into 10 short sections which include:

  • Intro to Chess
  • PawnsChess
  • Rooks
  • Bishops
  • Queen
  • King
  • Knights
  • Castling
  • Pawn Shields
  • Development

Each section is about 5-10 minutes in length. The sections are complemented by activities in a booklet that comes with the set. This booklet is what made this  program a success with our boys, ESPECIALLY my 6-year-old. The activities in this booklet helped the boys practice what they learned in each section. It also made the different parts of the game of chess more digestible and easier to understand.

One of the first activities was my 6-year-old’s favorite. This activity involved setting up just the pawns. Each player moves the pawns as taught in the DVD and whoever gets one of their pawns to the other side first, wins.

This was simple enough for my 6-year-old, who usually gets overwhelmed when trying to play a regular game. It also helped him to focus and solidify his understanding of pawns, how they move and how they capture other pieces.

In each section they learned about the piece featured, it’s value, how they move and how they captured. Each section also taught some strategies! My older boys loved this and enjoyed using them on their dad! Their favorite was learning how to “castle the king”!

We are having fun learning more about Chess. We look forward to spending the next few weeks going through the rest of the activities provided! You can teach your children Chess, too.

Visit Chess House’s website to purchase your Starter Chess Learning Kit for the sale price of $39.99!

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Kids Love Technology

I love exposing my children to different activities and experiences. A wide range of exposure helps them explore and discover their God-given talents and passions.

Like many kids his age, my oldest son LOVES technology and gadgets. He is also looking for ways to start his own business.

As I look for ways to help him think like a creator/inventor/business man and not just a consumer, computer science sounds like just the thing we should try next!

Computer Science for Kids Bible Games

I was excited when the opportunity to review Computer Bible Games for Microsoft Small Basic was presented to me.

Computer Bible Games for Microsoft Small Basic  is one of many Microsoft Small Basic Programming Tutorials published by Computer Science for Kids.

The tutorial is designed to be used by teachers, homeschool parents and children that have little to no experience. The language is simple and easy to understand, and uses clear step-by-step instructions.

After using the program the child/student will be able to develop his/her own applications and computer games using Microsoft’s Small Basic Development Environment for Beginners.

Computer Science for Kids’ tutorials are appropriate for early middle school, high school and adult students.

Computer Bible Games for Microsoft Small Basic contains a total of 13 lessons (click to see Table of Contents). Depending on the age of the child and his/her prior experience, each lesson is expected to be covered in one week. To fully grasp the material it will take the student a total of 3-6 hours of time to complete each lesson (click to see a sample Chapter Preview). The tutorials are self-study and self-paced and the times are just recommendations.

As soon as 10 weeks into the program your child can be programming and playing his/her own Computer Bible game! The games he/she will learn to program include:

  • Noah’s Ark
  • Daniel and the Lions
  • Elijah and the Ravens
  • The Good Shepherd
  • The Prodigal Son
  • The Lost Coin
  • Bible Scamble

Computer Bible Games

Our Experience

The lessons are written in simple language, easy to understand, regardless of your or your child’s level of prior experience. Though the exercises and practice assignments can be performed by a child that is 10 years old, I found the reading material to be above an average 10-year-old’s comprehension level. This did not stop Isaiah from being introduced to the world of computer programming!

I would read through the lesson the day before and work through the practice programs. At this point I felt comfortable enough to walk through the assignments with Isaiah, and would have him do the practice assignments. If he asked or if I thought necessary, I would explain some of the theory or definitions from the book to him

I would not go too much into the technical wording and theory with my son. I would give him as much as he asked! I would answer questions, or explain when he asked me to. My purpose is to expose him and let him have fun with computer science and let his questions drive the experience. The technical jargon made him lose interest quickly!

My Thoughts


  • I found it difficult to keep track of the terms and definitions.  It would be helpful to have, at the end or beginning of a lesson, a list or chart of terms and definitions. This would be especially helpful as one moves further in the program and the lessons are more lengthy and involved.
  • The lessons are downloadable and are available in Word format. PDF would be much easier to navigate.

What I Liked

  • The program is a great introduction to more complex computer languages (i.e. C++, Java). I would especially recommend it for students 12+. If your child is interested in technology, it is also a program a parent can go through with him/her.
  • The program was well-organized, starting out simple and gradually getting more complex, making it easy to follow and keep up. The theory was explained in clear language, making the world of computer programming reachable to anyone!
  • The lessons do not just teach the computer language and program design, but also good habits! When the student gets the opportunity to design their own programs, the text explains and encourages important practices to keep, like:
      • keeping notes in your program, making future changes and collaboration with others easier.
      • good planning skills
      • building your program in stages…otherwise, errors compound.

I enjoyed how this program made teaching computer science not just possible, but fun!

You can order Computer Bible Games for Microsoft Small Basic at Computer Science for Kids! You have the option of ordering Beginning Microsoft Small Basic Tutorial (the same as the one reviewed, with secular games to program).You have the option of ordering the  paperback textbook Plus E-Tutorial Digital Download for $59.95 (free shipping in USA) or the digital e-download, ON SALE NOW for only for $34.95!

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I usually don’t have a line of children anxiously waiting to work on their handwriting activity. 1Unfortunately, writing is usually an activity my children engage in with hesitation, especially handwriting, which can be monotonous. This past month things were different, though. Handwriting has been an enjoyable for all of us! My kids, ages 3-9 were all struggling to share and take turns using Handwriting Without Tears’ new App on my Android tablet.

Last month we received their new App, Wet-Dry-Try. Wet-Dry-Try is an electronic version of Handwriting Without Tears’ Slate Chalkboard activity. It is available on Google Play and the Apple Store for $4.99!

RemediateWet-Dry-Try helps in helping children (PreK and Kindergarden) learn proper letter formation and encourages correct stroke sequence. The App focuses on capital letters and numbers. It also works great in helping remediate older children’s handwriting. It is easy to use and you see results quickly with as little as 15 minutes a day!

The program can be personalized for each user. My kids each had their own username under which their progress and settings were saved. They used the program one of two ways:

  1. Pick and Practice: They would practice each letter 3 times. Each time the sensitivity increased, making it more challenging. When using Pick and Practice the boys were able to practice. On the 3rd time they earned a winning card! My 6-year-old was able to collect winning cards for the whole alphabet!
  2. HTW’s Winning Order: When practicing the letters it is in a pre-set order, according to Handwriting Without Tear’s developmental teaching order.

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  • Jonah (6) while using it for the first time was excited! I asked him if he liked it and he said “I don’t like it, I love it! It is the most bestest thing in my whole life!”
  • Elijah (8) “This might be just for little kids but it’s good for big kids too!”

How We Used It

We used the App on my 10.1 Android tablet. I used it with each of my children everyday. Though you only need to use it for 15 minutes per day, I did not need to worry about this with any of my children. My kids would use it for about 30 minutes and I would have to make sure that they would give their sibling their turn.

I had my 3-year-old use it during the older boys’ lessons. We also used it while out running errands or while piano or gymnastics lessons. Some days I would do the activity with my 3-year-old, and review letter recognition.

Wet-Dry-Try worked great for our family because it was designed both for early writers (preK and K) and remediation for older children:

  • My 3-year-old found it fun and entertaining and it helped him with both handwriting and solidify letter recognition.
  • It was great for my 6-year-old because it was not as tedious as holding a pencil can be, so he practiced for a much longer time than he would have otherwise. He actually worked through the whole program, both letters and numbers) hoping to move on to cursive. Sadly, he has to wait, because it is not yet available.
  • I loved it for my two older boys! I took advantage of their enthusiasm and had them work on numbers and letters they struggle with.

What I Liked

  • This is a program even my 3-year-old can do independently!
  • Because of the mobile option it’s an activity we can do anywhere (the car, during sibling’s practice, etc)
  • I loved the engaging and interactive voice commands! The coaching and immediate feedback!
  • The rewards system made the lesson fun and kept my boys coming back for more!

Handwriting Without Tears is a program I have used since my oldest was 3 years old. I am very pleased with this addition to the product line! I am excited to take advantage of my boys love of electronics and with it making handwriting a more enjoyable process!

PhotobucketDisclaimer: I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

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