Review: Hewitt Homeschooling

A man travels the world over in search of what he needs

and returns home to find it. ~ George Moore


I absolutely love living in Virginia!  We are so blessed to be able to snow ski in the mountains during the winter, swim in the Atlantic Ocean during the summer,  and visit so many historical sites like Jamestown or Monticello.  I’ve lived in Virginia my whole life and can’t imagine living anywhere else.  It’s true…there really is “no place like home!”


I was super excited when we were chosen to review Chronicles of __________ : State History Notebook published by Hewitt Homeschooling.  Part of Ryan’s lesson plans for next year include a six week in-depth study of Virginia, so I figured that this would be a wonderful resource to get us started and I was right 🙂 !


This 100 page notebook is designed for grades 3-8, retails for $19.95, and is divided into the following main categories:

  • Facts, Symbols, Emblems (e.g., state flower, tree, flag)
  • Geography, Population
  • Industries, Jobs
  • History, Government
  • Miscellaneous, Field Trips, Photographs


Also included:  an introduction letter for the parent/teacher, additional project ideas, resource suggestions, and even a fill-in-the-blank completion certificate.  The State History Notebook comes in a three-ring binder with a clear sleeve so that the student can add any photos, memorabilia, etc. to the cover.  I love that the notebook is in a three-ring binder because you can add any extra pages, projects, folders, etc. that you want and still have everything in one, neat and organized notebook!


Guess what state we are studying 🙂 ???



Here are a few pictures of Ryan coloring and learning about Virginia’s state seal:





Here is a page focused on learning more about the counties in our state.  Instead of making Ryan color each county (there are A LOT of them 🙂 !), I just had him find and color the county we live in and research the answers to the questions.



The State History Notebook covers a large variety of topics!  I really like how the curriculum incorporates different learning activities and subjects:  writing, photography, nature walks/collecting, drawing, research, music, graphing, statistics, mapping, tourism, history, government, interview skills, news articles, historical plays/skits, timelines, current events, filed trip reports, and MORE!!!  I cannot tell you how glad I am that we were chosen for this review – this State History Notebook is such a huge blessing!  Since we are scheduled to complete the in-depth six week state history project next spring, I don’t need to decide on what type of topics to research….I already have everything I need to guide us!


The Chronicles of __________ : State History Notebook was a perfect fit for our family and I think it’s a great tool for any student who wants to learn about their home state.  The $19.99 price is very reasonable and I love that the planning has already been done for the teacher! I also like that when finished with the notebook you will have a wonderful resource that you can keep for years to come.  You can even keep adding pages to your notebook as you continue to visit historical sites, tourist attractions, etc. in your area.  This is one product that will get LOTS of use in our homeschool 🙂 !


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Review: Beyond the Book Report


Although I had heard of Analytical Grammar, I was unaware of their newest program called Beyond the Book Report.  I found out that I was chosen for this review while at our local homeschool convention and I was excited to talk with and get a picture of the contributing author, Erin Karl.


Beyond the Book Report was developed by Erin and her mother, Robin Finley.  This mother/daughter team has a passion for grammar and literature!  Beyond the Book Report is geared toward middle/ early highschoolers.


Season One: ($24.95)  Covers following a rubric, conflict, point of view, climax, protagonist, antagonist, paraphrase, summary, elements of the plot, mood and tone, setting, genre, headline, byline, dateline, inverted pyramid, lead, objectivity, and bias.  It includes three projects: The Basic Book Report, The Pamphlet Book Report, and The News Article Book Report.

Season Two: ($24.95)  Covers alliteration, metaphor, hyperbole, simile, personification, stanza, rhyme scheme, verse, sonnet, haiku, limerick, dialogue, monologue, cast, props, staging, aside, blocking, comedy, drama, farce, and melodrama.  It includes two projects:  The Poetry Book Report and The Drama Book Report.

Season Three: ($24.95)  Covers the personal essay, literary essay, SAT essay, the DOs and DON”Ts of giving an oral presentation with slides, and how to write a research paper.  It includes three projects:  The Essay, The Oral Book Report, and The Research Paper.


Each season is available separately or you can purchase all three seasons in the Beyond the Book Report Bundle for only $69.95.  We were so blessed to receive the complete bundle in exchange for our honest opinion of the curriculum.  Originally, I was only expecting to get Seasons One and Two, but Erin and Robin generously gave us the entire program!


Included in the bundle is a teacher packet with a detailed guide and a suggested step-by-step schedule. Also included are student examples and several glossaries of terms.  I hole-punched the packet and put everything into a binder.  Three DVDs contain video instructions, lectures, activities, and assignments.  The introductory video explains the curriculum thoroughly.   To begin Season One, all you need to do is choose a fictional book for your student to read, print off the handouts, follow the plans, and watch the videos when assigned!  Erin and Robin even included detailed rubrics are to help the teacher assign a grade if wanted.



I have really missed reading aloud to the kids so I decided that we would do this review together.  That way we could discuss the literary terms, watch the videos, etc. and work as a team on the assignments 🙂 .  I chose to read Surviving Jamestown – The Adventures of Young Sam Collier (historical fiction) by Gail Langer Karwoski since Ryan will be studying US history in the fall (and Brendan could always use a little review).  It was a wonderful book and perfect for boys!






The printouts are colorful, have lines for the students to take notes, and have fun cartoons to help reinforce the literary terms.


I really enjoyed working through the program together as we read aloud.  We could stop while we were reading to talk about the characters, come up with questions for our crossword project, etc.


Using “the dog ate my homework” excuse literally 🙂 !


There are videos included as part of the curriculum that correspond with the printouts:



Although the videos are very informative, we found them to be somewhat “dry”.


We chose to create a crossword puzzle as one of the assignments:



Here’s a glance at Season Two:




I appreciate how Beyond The Book Report provides suggested schedules depending on what grade your student is when they start the program!

Even though we didn’t get to Season Three, I read through it and it looks great!  It is set up so that it can be a “stand alone” program for those who don’t have time to complete all three seasons.  I definitely plan on having Brendan work through it since it covers writing essays (including SAT essays), oral reports, and research papers since these skills are essential for college bound students!

Although this not particularly a “fun” curriculum, the boys learned a lot from Beyond The Book Report.  I appreciate how the curriculum guides the teacher through step-by-step and that it covers a wide variety of topics including book reports, poetry, drama, essays, etc.  Click the Schoolhouse Review Crew picture below to see what others thought about Beyond The Book Report.


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Letter Slide – A Game Review

Don’t you just love products that make learning fun?!?

I know I do 🙂 !


As I was walking around the vendor hall at the HEAV Homeschool Convention last month, I had the pleasure of meeting Sharon Neff who is an independent consultant for SimplyFun – Learning & Connecting Through Play.  Her booth was so colorful and inviting that I was drawn to it several times over the weekend.

SimplyFun is a direct sales company that offers an award-winning line of games and activities that are educational and fun!  SimplyFun carries products for toddlers up to adults.  Their games and activiites cover a wide range of topics including language, math, geography, sequencing, teamwork, fine motor skills, spatial relationships, nutrition, and more!

After talking for a few minutes and telling me about her company, Sharon offered to give me a game to review and of course I said yes!



Sharon generously gave me a game called Letter Slide which covers spelling, consonants and vowels, and vocabulary.  Letter Slide retails for $34.95, is for ages 7 and up, and can be played by up to 4 players.

 The contents of the game include:

  • 4 Slide Boards
  • 200 Letter Tiles
  • 87 Word Cards
  • 1 One-Minute Sand Timer
  • 1 Storage Bag
  • 1 Rules Booklet


After opening and digging through the game, I was very impressed with the quality of the product and the simple instructions for play!  It’s definitely a game that would hold up well to kids of all ages.


The object of Letter Slide is to fill in missing letters on the Word Cards to form complete words.  The catch is that you have to come up with as many words as you can before the timer runs out and all of the other players are digging for letter tiles at the same time!

As you create words, you take one letter from each word and cover a letter space on your Slide Board. The first player to cover all of the spaces on their Slide Board is the winner!  I know this sounds simple, but it amazing how quickly your mind will go blank under pressure 🙂 !

We took Letter Slide with us on our camping trip to the beach last week.  I like to keep games in the camper for rainy days and when I find one that everybody enjoys and is educational…well, that is even better 😉 !



Last night we had my parents over for dinner and decided to see how they liked the game.  It was fun to see the variety of words that everybody came up with and it was even more fun to see them frantically searching for letters as the timer runs out 🙂 !



  • IMG_3017

Everybody gave Letter Slide a “thumbs up” !


The instructions offer two variations to adapt the game to younger players.  We decided that it’d be fun  come up with a few ideas that could add variation and make the game more challenging for older players as well:

  •  If another player comes up with the same word as you do, both players must throw those tiles back into the pile.
  •  Require each player to fill up their Slide Board in order from top to bottom.
  •  Create your own cards with more empty letter spaces.  For example: C R ___ ___ ___

I also think the Letter Tiles would be a great hands on/tactile activity for children who are learning to spell!


As an extra bonus, the instruction booklet even included some fun facts about the English language such as:

* The most common vowel and letter in English is E


I am very impressed with Letter Slide and think it would be a great resource for homeschoolers and any family with children!

You can see many other wonderful products offered by SimplyFun by clicking here.

You can also contact Sharon Neff (Master Playologist) at (240)449-0718,, or

Review: Flourish – Balance For Homeschool Moms

Many times when other moms find out that I homeschool, work part-time, and keep a somewhat organized home 🙂 they ask, “How do you do it all?”

I just laugh and say that with God’s help we take one day at a time!  I by no means “have it all together” and struggle everyday trying to find the right balance.  So, when I was given the opportunity to review Flourish – Balance For Homeschool Moms , I just had to read it!


Flourish – Balance For Homeschool Moms was written by Mary Jo Tate, a single homeschool mom of four boys who supports her family by herself…talk about someone who “does it all” 🙂 !!!

This beautiful paperback book, published by Apologia Educational Ministries is 288 pages long and retails for $15.00.  Although Mary Jo is a single mom and the bread winner of her family, this book is beneficial for any busy mom who needs help with organization, time management, and encouragement.




Flourish- Balance for Homeschool Moms consists of 16 chapters:

  1. An Invitation to Flourish
  2. Change Your Mind to Change Your Time
  3. The FREEDOM Toolbox
  4. Where Did My Time Go?
  5. Aim High: Setting Goals
  6. What Do I Do Next?  Seven Essential Planning Tools
  7. We Interrupt This Program
  8. It’s Time For An Attitude Adjustment
  9. Oxygen Masks and Monkey Bread Days
  10. Training Your Children
  11. Making Memories
  12. Managing Your Home
  13. All of Life is Learning
  14. Solo Act: Flourishing as a Single Mom
  15. Home Business
  16. Moving Ahead

Additional:  Appendix A : Recommended Resources, Appendix B: Planning Forms, and Notes



Flourish is full of inspirational and motivational quotes like this one:

♥  There are two sure ways to fail: 

Think and never do, or do and never think.  Zig Ziglar


Mary Jo shares the definition of flourish on page 6:  “What exactly does it mean to flourish?  It means to grow vigorously, luxuriate, be revived, or abound.”

I don’t know about you, but most days I don’t feel like I’m flourishing…I feel like I’m barely keeping my head above the water! I love how she reminds us that we need to spend time with God as our main source of refreshment!

The Lord will guide you always:  he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.  You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.  Isaiah 58:11




Some of my favorite takeaways from Flourish:

  • The reminder that nobody “does it all” and that I need to redefine what “it all” is.
  • Instead of “juggling” my responsibilities, I need to think more like a tightrope walker.  I need to stay centered on God, and make small adjustments gradually to balance everything out.
  • Learning that I need to “find peace in the space between the ideal and the reality.  Nothing is ever going to be perfect, so I need to learn to be happy with “real life”, even when it’s not how I would prefer it to be.
  • It’s OK to say no 🙂 !  When I say yes to something, that means that I’m saying no to something else (after all, there’s only so much time in a day).  I LOVE this quote by Elisabeth Elliot on page 29:
“If we really have too much to do, there are some items on the agenda that God did not put there
Let us submit the list to Him and ask Him to indicate which items we must delete
There is always time to do the will of God.  If we are too busy to do that, we are too busy.”
  •  The FREEDOM acronym: (Focus, Reflect, Educate, Eliminate, Discipline, Organize, Multitask)
  • This list could go on and on…

                     …but I think you should read this AMAZING book for yourself 🙂 !





Review: HomeSchoolPiano

One regret that I have always had is quitting piano lessons as a child, so when the opportunity to review HomeSchoolPiano by JAZZEDGE came up, I jumped at the chance!  HomeSchoolPiano is taught by Willie Myette, a graduate of Berklee College of Music.  Willie has toured the U.S. and Europe, taught piano lessons for many years, and even has music that has been published by Alfred®, MelBay® and Hal Leonard®!

We were blessed to receive a lifetime subscription to HomeSchoolPiano – Complete Set of Books for this review.  The books can be and found printed right from the website!  HomeSchoolPiano is an online curriculum that covers many different genres of music including jazz, funk, latin, rock, gospel, and blues.  We were blessed to receive a lifetime subscription in exchange for our honest review, so now I have no excuse to not continue my lessons 🙂 !

One of the BEST things about HomeSchoolPiano is that you can watch the videos on your home computer, laptop, or even your tablet or smart phone!  When using a home computer or laptop, you can use keyboard shortcuts to speed up or slow down your lesson and HomeschoolPiano will even track your progress and update your records automatically.  It’s like having a private teacher right in the room with you!


HomeSchoolPiano offers four different levels:

1)  CorePiano – designed for absolute beginners
2)  Book 1 –  for beginners (and those who may be brushing the dust off and coming back to piano after some time)
3)  Book 2 -appropriate for beginner to intermediate levels (starts incorporating more complicated concepts, songs and improvisation ideas)
4)  Book 3 – for intermediate skills  (includes concepts like syncopation, voice leading and more advanced scales for improvisation)


What’s included with a subscription?

  1. All Online Access benefits (unlimited, lifetime access to
  2. Tracking and quizzes for up to 5 students
  3. Unlimited lesson streaming to any device
  4. Unlimited music downloads
  5. Unlimited lesson video downloads
  6. Jam Track CD (download version)
  • Two payment solutions:
    • One-time payment of $299 or (3) easy payments of $99.97 per month for three months


HomeSchoolPiano uses a 6 step cycle to teach piano (meets the National Standards for Music Education):

  1. Technique
  2. Rhythm
  3. Ear training
  4. Reading music
  5. Song
  6. Improvisation


We started off using my Galaxy Tablet to watch the lessons, but got frustrated because the videos kept filtering (not HomeSchoolPiano’s fault – we just have old tablets 🙂 )….


The colored sticker were from Rock Band, but unfortunateIy I couldn’t get them off without making a sticky mess!


….so we moved downstairs to my home computer and everything worked much better!


Ryan started with Core Piano.  He has played guitar for three years, but is completely new to the piano.  It was nice that we could watch the videos together (normally during private piano lessons, the parents are in another room).  I love how Core Piano starts with the very basics and covers everything from how to sit correctly at the piano to scales.  Ryan didn’t take as many lessons as I did because he had had a lot of extracurricular activities this summer, but since Willie graciously gave us a lifelong subscription in exchange for our review, Ryan can pick up  the pace when he has more time in the fall 🙂 .


Watching his very first lesson from Core Piano!


Since I have taken lessons in the past, I went ahead and started with Book 1.  Much of it was familiar, but it was a good review.  I like how Willie encourages his students to “have fun”!  My piano teacher (many, MANY years ago 🙂 ) was much more formal and somewhat strict so it is nice to take lessons in the privacy of my own home where I can just have fun and play around with the music!


Below is a picture of one the first songs in Book 1.  The music is in a large font and broken down by measures to help students not feel overwhelmed:


It is then condensed into the full song:


As I worked my way through the lessons, I learned that it helps to already have the books printed out and ready to go.  A few times I forgot to preprint the pages and had to stop the video and go find the pages needed (oops).  I like how Willie assigns goals and tasks for the student.  Later in Book 2, he even encourages the student to create their own goals.  Quizzes are provided periodically to reinforce what you’ve been learning.

Willie is a fantastic teacher!  He is fun, encouraging, and “talks” directly to you from the computer screen 🙂 .  I was somewhat apprehensive about learning improvisation at the end of Unit 1…I like to follow directions and know that I’m doing something right, so improvising was out of my comfort zone.  The way the lesson was broken down into small segments made it much more comfortable, and I actually found myself having fun with it.   By Book 2, I was really getting the hang of it!


Here are just a few reasons that HomeSchoolPiano is so cool:

1) You can learn how to play at your own pace and in the comfort of your own home.

2)  HomeSchoolPiano is for all ages…even 40 year olds like me 🙂 !

3)  You can watch the video lessons as many times as you need on your phone, tablet, or computer.

4)  Printable worksheets and sheet music are included with your subscription.

5)  The program teaches using the 6-step cycle (including technique, rhythm, ear training, reading music, song, and improvisation) that makes learning easier for students of all levels.


The customer service for HomeSchoolPiano is excellent!  They offer support Monday-Friday from 9-5:00 EST, you can e-mail them with questions at, or even chat live while you’re taking your piano lessons.


While I think that having a “live” one-on-one piano teacher is probably the best fit for most students, HomeSchoolPiano is a fantastic option for those times when that is not possible….plus, your subscription can be used for up to five students (very economical)!   It is a GREAT option for homeschoolers and others who want to learn to play piano in the comfort of their own homes and on their own timetable!