Product Review: SimplyFun Games

My kids love board games. So do I, for that matter. But so many of them require so much work and/or setup (counting money, sometimes even building the game board, designating a “banker,” separating pieces, and so on) that it feels like it’s barely worth it most of the time. So I questioned the wisdom of requesting a new board game to review, but now that we’ve played it, I’m so glad we got this game!

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Expanders is a game from SimplyFun, a company dedicated to producing educational games for children and adults from “3 to 103.” Their games help children of all ages develop their communication, math, science, and critical thinking skills, all while having loads of fun. They have over 90 products, many of which have won them multiple awards – and for good reason. If our experience with Expanders is any indication, all of the games from SimplyFun are sure to be winners.

expandersExpanders is a game that emphasizes simple math skills – addition to 12. Besides the adding, children work on their spatial reasoning and critical thinking through the play of this game. I’ll explain that a bit as I describe game play.

So, what’s in the box? There are six numbered strips (explanation on those to follow), two plain strips, a game board frame, a cloth bag containing four small plastic bags of colored tokens (I love that there’s a cloth bag included to keep everything organized!), and game instructions.

Game board setup for 3 players

Game board setup for 3 players

The first thing you have to do is build the board. I know, I know – I mentioned that as something I prefer not to do in games just a few paragraphs ago. But with Expanders, it’s really quick and easy. You simply open the frame and place numbered or plain strips (no more than six – the other two are left in the box for another time) inside the frame. The number of players (from 2-4) determines how many numbered strips versus blank filler strips you use. For four players, you use all six numbered strips. For three players, use five, and for two players, use only four. Simply place the strips in the frame, and you’re ready to play. The numbered strips are two-sided. One side is for easier game play, and the numbers stop at 8; the other side is for more advanced players, and those numbers go up to 12. You choose which side to use. (Play is identical regardless of which side of the board you choose to implement.)

Now that your game board is built, each player chooses a color – blue, orange, pink, or purple. The frame is comprised of these colors, so each player sits next to their chosen color and selects the bag of tokens (32 of each color) that matches their color. The tokens are see-through, which allows you to see the numbers even after you’ve placed your tokens on the board. So, now that the board is built and each player has their colored tokens, play begins.

There are three actions that players can choose from on their turn – excluding the opening three moves of the game. The first player must use exactly one token, and he can place it on any number on “his side” of the game board. This is defined as any of the numbers closest to his color in the frame. The second player must use no more than two tokens, and he can place one token on one number, like player one, or place two tokens on two identical numbers within his side of the board. The third player must use no more than three tokens, and he has the most options. He can make the same play as players one or two, or he can build an addition problem. This is done by selecting one number on his side of the board and saying it aloud. Then he finds two more numbers that are either touching the first number or made a chain starting at that number, and he says the math problem aloud. (Three is two plus one.) Starting with the fourth turn, players may make any of the three moves, with one exception: after the opening turns, any number of tokens may be played in a single turn using the “addition action.” (12 is 5+3+2+1+1 would use six tokens, for example.) The goal of the game is to be the first player to use all of his/her tokens. The main rule to keep in mind is that when building an expanded number, your numbers must all be in a chain and the first number (the sum) must be either on your row or touching one or more of the tokens (horizontally, vertically, or diagonally) you’ve already played. When using one of the other playing options, the same rule for placement.

We played this game three times within just the first two days we had it. I’d say that makes it a winner! The kids love that it’s fun, and I love that they’re working on math skills while we play. It’s easy to set up and easy to put away. Play is really fun and simple, and it’s a good mental workout, especially as you try to play more than three tokens per turn (it’s easy to come up with a x+y=z math problem, but much harder to come up with a+b+c+d=e one). Spatial reasoning is practiced as you expand your tokens – children must figure out where acceptable places to make plays are. Critical thinking is learned and practiced as children are careful not to allow themselves to be boxed in by their opponents – or try to do just that to another player! (If you don’t have anywhere to place a token, you’re out of the game.)

The only thing we didn’t like about the game was the required first three turns. Once we got the hang of it, there was always an argument over who “had to” go first (the way of determining based on the instructions – whoever was the most recent person to download an app – doesn’t work for our family since the children don’t have access to smart phones or tablets). It became clear very quickly that the first player was at a severe disadvantage over the third player.

Expanders sells for $34, and if you act quickly, you can use coupon code SHREVIEW to get 15% off your first purchase (of any game in their catalog) through July 31st. It’s recommended for ages 7 and up, and I think that’s pretty accurate; students need to have a fairly strong understanding of addition to play the game successfully. Our family highly recommends this Simply Fun game!


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As always with Crew reviews, I’m not the only person writing about SimplyFun games this week. Members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew received either Expanders or Shape Whiz (a math game for older kids) to review. Click the banner below to read more reviews on both of these games!

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Homeschool Curriculum Review: Home School in the Woods

A couple of years ago, I stumbled across a type of homeschooling called Unit Studies. We did a few of those when the boys were younger (all of which I “wrote” myself), and my kids really loved that way of learning. Through our relationship with the Schoolhouse Review Crew, we’ve kind of gotten away from that style because we’re always getting the opportunity to try out a huge variety of different curricula in various subjects. Well, for our “taking the summer easy, not off” goal, we received two unit study programs, one of which I want to talk to you about today.

Home School in the Woods is a family run company. Everyone listed on the “about” page of their website is a member of their nucleus family. Amy Pak homeschooled her children, and now that they’re all adults, they run the business together, including creating (writing and illustrating) the history curriculum they sell. They offer a huge variety of products for teaching your children history from simple timelines and lapbooks all the way to more complex items like full on unit studies. For the purposes of this review, I received a copy of their Project Passport: World History Study: The Middle Ages. There are currently three units in the Project Passport series, and all three are represented by the Crew reviews (more on that with a link to additional reviews later).

What It Is

The Project Passport series is a history curriculum that takes you back in time to the period of history you’re studying (in our case, the Middle Ages). Each lesson is called a “stop.” This keeps the illusion of physically traveling back in time alive. The stops start with “preparing for your trip.” This first lesson has your students get their scrapbook ready, prepare their passports, and create the suitcase folder, which will hold the final assessment of all of the assignments they complete during their travels. Other things that happen during various stops are adding to the timeline (which is created at the first stop), writing newspaper articles, creating and writing postcards to “send home,” making a lapbook (which is done a little bit at a time throughout the course of the study), as well as more hands-on activities like cooking recipes from the time period. Also included in the unit is a series of mp3 files to listen to at various points along the journey.

Our Use

I was really torn on how to use this at first. I initially wanted to use it with both boys, but then when I saw the amount of printing required and other supplies needed (more on that in a minute), I realized that it might not be feasible to do so. So then I was going to use it just with Seahawk as something he could do for his summer reading requirements through the library. Well, then he went off to church camp before I’d had a chance to figure out my thoughts on how we were going to start, so in the end Munchkin (age 8) got the most use from this product. I expect we’ll start over in the fall, when school starts up again full time, with both boys. When that time comes, I’ll need to spend more time going over all the different options and figuring out which kid will benefit the most from each activity.

With Seahawk away at camp for a week, Munchkin and I had plenty of time to work together on the individual stops. Because it wasn’t possible for us to get all the printing done that the program required, we went “old school” and I hand drew a lot of the elements just so we could get the review done. Due to the time requirement to do things this way, we haven’t finished the entire study yet (which is why I mentioned that we’ll be doing it again in the fall – hopefully then, we’ll be able to get the pages printed for real and we’ll have a more positive experience with the study).


I really like the idea of this unit study. The concept is really cool – traveling to different eras.


I was really frustrated with the amount of printing required. When I requested to review this product, it was mentioned that there would be “some printing required.” Some. Okay, cool. I can handle some. What I didn’t expect was that there would be hundreds of pages to print over the course of the study (and nearly 50 pages just for the first stop). Per student. For a family that doesn’t have a home printer – or even one that does have a home printer, but not an office-quality laser printer and is therefore paying 7-10 cents per page to print – this might not be the best fit. That was certainly the case for us.

If printing isn’t a problem for you, then this product is one I can highly recommend. If getting access to printed pages is harder for you, like it is for me, then  you might want to look for something else to meet that history requirement.

Final Thoughts

As I mentioned before, there are currently three unit studies in the Project Passport series: Ancient Egypt, The Middle Ages, and Renaissance and Reformation. Home School in the Woods has plans to continue to add to this series in the future. Each study can be purchased for $33.95 for the download version (which is what I received) or $34.95 for a physical CD mailed to you with all the files on it.

Members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew are exploring all three of these units, so if the Middle Ages isn’t your cup of tea, make sure to click the banner below to find more reviews on the other eras.


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Homeschool Curriculum Review: Institute for Excellence in Writing

IEW review

After having been first exposed to the Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) last year, they’ve quickly become one of my favorite homeschool curriculum companies. So when I heard that they were offering the Schoolhouse Review Crew another product to review (I did their Fix It! Grammar last school year), I was excited. When I started researching exactly what they were offering, my excitement only grew. And when I learned that I’d been picked for this review, I was positively ecstatic.

What is this product that caused so much excitement for me (and several other Crew members)? Well, it’s really several products, which can be purchased together (as I received) or separately from the company. For this review, I received the Deluxe Combo Teacher/Student Writing Writing Package Level A with Fix It! Grammar Levels 1 and 2, which includes A Word Write Now, and Portable Walls. Yeah. Just the name is long and impressive, and let me tell you, the package is even more so. Included in the combo package are:

  • Teaching Writing: Structure and Style DVD set (teacher resource)
  • Seminar Workbook (teacher resource)
  • Student Writing Intensive DVDs Level A
  • Student Notebook with handouts and lesson plans
  • Fix It! Grammar Teacher books for Levels 1 (The Nose Tree) and 2 (Robin Hood)
  • A Word Write Now (student thesaurus)
  • Portable Walls

Whew! That’s a lot of resources! There’s a lot to go over, but I’ll do my best to keep everything fairly streamlined for this review.

Teacher Resources

teacher resources iewThe Teaching Writing: Structure and Style (TWSS) is a 12-DVD set (also available streaming online included with the purchase – which is the method I used since my computer doesn’t have a DVD drive and we don’t have a good DVD player in the house) just for the teacher. The Seminar Workbook is the “teacher’s student manual” for the class. All the paperwork you need for the class is included, as well as the dividers for the different sections, and a binder to put it all in. You do have to “build” the binder, though.

The DVDs (and streaming videos) are a seminar that IEW “bigwig” Andrew Pudewa taught and had recorded. The seminar covers everything you need to know to teach your child (or children) to write well, from 3rd grade all the way up through high school graduation. This one resource alone ($189 for the DVDs, streaming content, and seminar workbook) would be absolutely invaluable to any homeschool parent.

I watched the videos on my own, without the children, since it’s a teacher resource. While I was watching, I had the seminar workbook handy even though the pages are fully “formed.” This means that while you can take notes, you don’t have to. Everything that you would take notes on is already printed on the workbook pages. I was able to follow along with the video easily, and I got a good idea of how to begin teaching the boys what they’d be learning through the Student Writing Intensive by going over the TWSS program (well, part of it…) myself first. Because TWSS is a teacher resource, there is no photocopying allowed (there’s likely only one teacher per homeschool anyway, so this shouldn’t be an issue).

Student Resources

iew student resourcesEverything else on the bulleted list above is a student resource. Let’s start at the beginning, and I’ll give a rundown of the products and how we used them.

First, the Student Writing Intensive (SWI) DVDs. We received Level A because my kids haven’t really had any formal writing training. There are two other levels, called B and C, and if your students are older, or have more experience writing, might fit better for you. (You can find a link to more reviews at the bottom of this post, and all three levels will be covered by our team.) SWI Level A is a four DVD set, and it’s designed for students in grades 3-5 (perfect for our family!). The DVDs for SWI, much like TWSS, are a recorded seminar taught by Mr. Pudewa. This time, though, it’s aimed at kids, and his teaching style is great. My kids, though they weren’t excited by the prospect of this review, ended up enjoying the DVD portions of the lessons. The lessons are broken up into manageable chunks, and there’s lots of time for practice between lessons. Each DVD lesson runs approximately 30-40 minutes, but you’re only expected to do these once every week or two.

The Student Notebook with Lesson Plans is great. With your purchase, you’re sent a binder similar to the TWSS binder, as well as a manila envelope filled with every single worksheet you’ll need for this course. I love that the IEW copyright policy for student materials is so generous – one purchase allows you to make copies for all of your children. So I built one student binder and then bought each of the boys a binder from the Dollar Tree. The “official” binder holds all of the originals, and I made copies for their individual binders.

iew grammarIf you read my review for Fix It! Grammar last year,  you’ll remember that I absolutely loved this program. We used it as our official grammar program this entire school year, and will be finishing it up this week. The program is just great. It teaches grammar in a simple, easy-to-understand way, and my kids have retained every single thing they’ve learned from that program. It’s by far my favorite homeschool resource we’ve ever used. In a nutshell, the students are given one sentence of a story each day, and they have to spot and correct mistakes. Each day also includes a vocabulary word for students to define and record in their own “homemade” glossary. When they’ve made the corrections and completed their vocabulary work, they then copy the corrected sentence onto a separate sheet of paper. By the end of the school year (there are 33, 4-part lessons), the student will have corrected and copied the entire story. It’s a fabulous way to teach grammar, and I as just stated, it really sticks with the kids. My kids don’t even like doing these lessons and they’re still retaining the information. I think that really says something to the validity of the program.

Because we were already using Fix It! Grammar Level 1 (The Nose Tree), we just continued with that and didn’t adjust our schedule at all to have to add it in. I’m thrilled that since we received this review, I won’t have to buy Level 2 (Robin Hood) for next year, which was totally on my list. Even though the Deluxe Combo only includes teacher manuals for Fix It! Grammar, it’s no problem because the purchase of the teacher manual includes a digital copy of the student book. I love that! For one thing, you get everything you need to teach this program for one low price ($19), and for another, it’s one less book taking up precious space on a homeschooler’s bookshelf. (You can, however, purchase the student book for $15 if you want a pre-printed, spiral bound version.)

A Word Write Now is a spiral bound (it feels a lot like the Fix It! books, actually) student thesaurus. I find it much easier to use than an actual thesaurus, too. (I never have learned to use one of those properly.) The book is divided into four parts: Charactiew extraser Traits, Adjectives, Verbs, and the Appendix. This 107-page manual offers writers a huge variety of words to choose from to keep their writing fresh and interesting.

The Portable Walls is basically one giant “cheat sheet” for writers. Included on the tri-fold folder is a huge variety of writing “dress-ups.” This includes things like sentence openers (to keep your story from feeling list-like), a huge list of -ly adverbs, a list of words ending in -ly that are not adverbs, a list of prepositions (which are one of the hardest things for my boys to remember), a giant list of “said” synonyms, reminders of how to form an outline, and much more. Because of its tri-fold layout, the Portable Wall will stand up on the table and allow the student to easily see all of the different things at once.


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Watching the DVD and taking notes

I touched on how we used this a bit in my descriptions, but I want to talk about it again for a minute. This program is so thorough, and I love that the company provides a suggested syllabus in with the student manual. For the SWI, we followed this syllabus. This meant that on day one, we watched the video for the lesson. Then on the subsequent seven days (we run 4-day school weeks), we ran the suggested practice schedule. The handouts that come in that manila envelope I mentioned before include tons of practice sheets for each lesson, which is really great. There’s no shortage of opportunity to continue to learn and excel at the material. If you feel that your student is understanding things quickly, or is getting bored with “too much” practice, you can use fewer of the handouts. It’s really a very versatile curriculum.

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Turning the paragraph into an outline. Students will then turn their outline into a paragraph using their own words later in the week.

As for the grammar portion of the program, we just continued to use this as we already were since it was our regular grammar curriculum anyway. One sentence per day, four days per week. Easy.


I was already a fan of IEW thanks to Fix It! Grammar, so it’s no surprise that I loved this program. We didn’t get through too much of the SWI during the review period, but I’m still going to set it aside for now (we’re entering summer break, plus we’re going to be moving in the next few weeks). I love that the program works slowly enough for students to have adequate time to really master the material rather than just presenting it and moving on. I love that the copyright policy is generous enough to allow one purchase to cover your entire family.

The only thing I would change would be to offer the SWI DVDs as streaming videos as well as having the teacher videos available that way. That would have been very helpful for our family. We made it work (we bought a portable DVD player to use), but it would have been a lot easier to have been able to use my laptop.

Final Thoughts

The price tag for this program might be a hard thing for some families (for everything I’ve described is $299 if purchased as a set, $378 if you purchase the different items individually), but I have to tell you, if you can swing it, you won’t regret this purchase. It’s totally worth it.


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Members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew reviewed all three levels of the Student Writing Intensive, as well as several products for special needs students. Please click the banner below to find a review for the product that would best suit your needs.

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Homeschool Curriculum Review: Famous Men of Rome

Will is super into Roman history. He likes watching the TV shows about it, and he’s even read a college level Roman history textbook for fun. Twice. So when the opportunity arose to review an elementary/middle school Roman history curriculum, I knew he’d approve. And that the boys would be very interested in learning about something that so fascinates their father. Additionally, given that the curriculum is produced by Memoria Press, whose catalog/magazine we receive quarterly and enjoy reading, I was confident that Famous Men of Rome would be a quality product.

The curriculum is a three-book set, all of which are (approximately; I haven’t measured them) 8.5 x 11 softcover books. There’s the text book, the student guide, and the teacher guide. These are available separately ($17.95 for the student and teacher books, $16.95 for the text book) or together for $39.95. To supplement the set, there are also flashcards available ($12.95), but I didn’t receive those so I can’t really tell you how good or “necessary” they are to the product. The text has 30 chapters, each focusing on – you guessed it – a famous leader of the Roman empire (well, the first 29 do; the final chapter deals with the end of the western empire).

The book starts with the founding of Rome by Romulus, and even though Memoria Press is a staunchly Christian company, they don’t shy away from the Roman mythology in this series. The book is written so that we can understand the ancient history of Rome the way it’s told traditionally, not just the way it literally happened. For example, as tradition goes, Romulus and Remus were twin brothers whose human mother slept with the god Mars, thus conceiving the twins. She died, and because their father was a god, he didn’t necessarily spend a lot of time hanging out on Earth, so the boys were adopted by a she-wolf who nursed them and raised them as her own (the story kind of reminded me of The Jungle Book). Eventually, they grew up and left their wolf family. They founded the city together, and each wanted to name it after himself. Despite having come up with a way to decide who should “win,” when the sign came, both thought they were the winner (Remus based on the timing of the sign, Romulus based on what the sign was). But Romulus was more . . . gutsy, shall we say. He went ahead and named the city after himself, Roma (Rome in English), and built a wall around it. Remus came to visit the city some time later, and after he mocked his brother’s walled city, Romulus killed him, thus becoming the first official emperor of Rome.

So you see, we as Christians (well, as modern thinkers, whether Christian or not) know that Romulus and Remus couldn’t possibly have been fathered by the god Mars – because he doesn’t exist. But that’s the way the story goes, so that’s what we get from Famous Men of Rome. Stories like that one opened up a lot of conversation opportunities with the boys regarding Roman mythology and why we learn about it but don’t believe it.

The text is written to feel like a story, which makes it really easy to read and understand. We all sat around the living room while I read the chapters (one per week) aloud. Sometimes Will even joined us. The kids (ages 2, 8, and 11) really enjoyed the stories, and because of the writing style, they really retained the information throughout the week. In order to extend the lesson a full week, I would spend one day reading the story, we’d do the comprehension questions from the teacher/student guide another day, and the other activities (a timeline, map work, vocabulary, and other activities) on a third day. This schedule worked really well for us; we got a lot of good Roman history groundwork laid in the kids’ minds, and it didn’t take too long. That’s important with my kids; they don’t like working on one subject for very long, so products that work well in just a short period are really appreciated.

The teacher guide and student guide are nearly identical inside. The only difference is that the teacher guide lists the answers, whereas the student guide has blanks for the children to write. In order to include both Seahawk and Munchkin in the “process,” though, we did most of the work orally. It worked out better that way for us, anyway, because the boys don’t really love writing and they’re doing plenty of that in other subjects. I didn’t feel it was necessary to push it in the history class.

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A sample from the teacher book (click to enlarge)

men of rome student sample page

The same page from the student book (click to enlarge)

So, what did we think of the curriculum? We liked it a lot. There’s a lot of ways to expand it with outside videos and other books, but none of that is necessary. It stands on its own just fine. For those of you who like to take a curriculum and “make it your own,” this would be an awesome product for you. If you like to just use a product “as is,” these books work that way, too. I love the flexibility, even if I’m normally a “use it how it is” kind of teacher. I think my favorite part of the curriculum, though, is that Will was excited about what the boys were learning and took it upon himself to go over some of the things we were learning more in-depth with the knowledge he’s gleaned from other books. Normally, he likes that the kids are learning, but isn’t so concerned with what they’re learning. This time, he took a real interest, and I loved that. If for no other reason, this set of books was a blessing to our family.

Have a great day!


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Members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew are reviewing a variety of products from Memoria Press this week: Famous Men of Rome, Latina Christiana (for learning Latin), and The Book of the Ancient Romans (similar to Famous Men, but for older students). Click the banner below to read more of those reviews!

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Book Review: S is for Smiling Sunrise

The Schoolhouse Review Crew is known for reviewing homeschool curriculum for a variety of ages. Sometimes we get the opportunity to review things just for Mom (like the Koru Naturals I did earlier this year), and sometimes we get things for the littles in our families. S is for Smiling Sunrise is such a product.

Offered by WordsBright, this charming hardcover book goes through the alphabet with a short poem representing each letter. While it is moderately similar to other books of its style (A-is-for-apple, B-is-for-baseball), S is for Smiling Sunrise is different in that its poems and letter representations are designed to inspire parents and encourage children to be better people. For example, while “J is for Jewelry,” it’s not simply because jewels are beautiful, or because our children should aspire to have a lot of valuable things.

J is for jewelry,

Gems and metals fine

Dreams and goals are inner jewels

When heart and mind align!

In addition to having such lovely thoughts for each letter of the alphabet, the book illustrates concept beautifully. Some are done with illustrations while others are done with photographs. Despite this combination of mediums, it doesn’t feel choppy at all. Each page is just as beautiful as the one before or after it.

In addition to the book (information on pricing and availability is available on the website), there is a downloadable teacher’s guide for using the book as a “curriculum” with older preschool children. This includes instructions and ideas for turning each letter into a lesson by doing things like discussing the different aspects of each poem or creating a piece of art and visiting an art museum (during the A is for Artwork lesson). Because Small Fry isn’t even 3 yet, we didn’t really do any of these things. We just read the book. Again and again. He really loves it.

On top of the teacher guide, you can also download (for free) an mp3 from the website that is a song version of the book. While members of the Crew received a CD, this isn’t available for purchase; the free mp3 is the only way to access this song. And it’s the way I accessed it, anyway, since our only CD player is in our car. The download option for the song is quite easy. Enter your email address, and they send you a link within just a few minutes. It wasn’t complicated at all. And the song is just as charming as the book.

Small Fry and I would definitely recommend this book for kids from toddler-hood through preschool. It’s a wonderful addition to our library, and will be to yours, too!


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As always, I’m not the only one reviewing this lovely book this week. Click the banner below to read more reviews from other moms of littles.

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Homeschool Moms Review: Successful Homeschooling Made Easy

Are you a mom thinking about homeschooling your kids? Are they in public school, and you want to bring them home? Or are they just getting to the age where they’re old enough that it’s time for you to make a decision? Have you been homeschooling your kids for years and are starting to feel “burnout”? Then today’s review is going to be something you simply must look into. From Successful Homeschooling Made Easy comes the Successful Homeschooling Made Easy Course, written by veteran homeschooling mom of five Stephanie Walmsley.

I wasn’t sure whether I would be a good candidate for this product of not for a couple of reasons – first, I’ve been homeschooling for several years, and second, because of my relationship with the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I don’t buy (or choose) curriculum in the traditional way. Pretty much all of what we use are items I receive for review purposes. But you know what? I still learned things through taking this course (and I’m not quite even halfway through it yet!).

When you first sign up, you’ll get an email with your first lesson within just a couple of hours. And this first lesson is a doozy! Of all the lessons I’ve received so far, this one has made the biggest impact in our schooling. In it, Ms. Walmsley talks about the importance of having a schedule. Your schedule doesn’t have to look the same as the local public school’s, nor does it have to look like that of the other homeschooling families you know. It just has to work for your family. She offers two basic outlines for schedule, and the one  you choose is based on whether your family are “morning people” or “night owls.” No, she doesn’t suggest keeping your kids up to all hours of the night doing their schoolwork, but she does suggest that if they sleep in, school them in the afternoon instead. It’s okay. (We definitely fall into that category, and while it’s been hard to readjust my thinking to do the heavy hitting on the schoolwork after lunch instead of before, it’s been much easier on the kids.)

Beyond scheduling, Ms. Walmsley walks you through such topics as choosing curriculum (which, like I already mentioned, isn’t really a problem/option for us at this point), creating a lesson plan, teaching your children, how to keep up with the housework while living the homeschool life, and much more.

But she doesn’t tell you how to run your homeschool. That’s what makes this course so helpful for people in every step of the homeschooling journey. She gives tips and suggestions, but it’s easy to modify her ideas to fit your own idea of what you want your homeschool to look like. Or even more importantly, what your kids need it to look like. Her ideas and concepts are sound, and yet easy to adapt. That’s what I love most about this course.

That, and the bonus lessons that you occasionally get in between lessons. So far, I’ve received one bonus lesson, and it was on math games to play with the children. Despite all of our drilling, both boys (especially Seahawk) have gotten a bit rusty in their math facts. So yesterday, we utilized one of the games in that bonus math lesson. We went outside and wrote numbers, 1-20 on the driveway with sidewalk chalk. Then I would say things like, “Seahawk, skip to the number that is 6 times 3.” “Munchkin, hop on one foot to the number that is 5 times 2.” They really enjoyed that game, and we’ll definitely be playing it again.

So, long story short: This course consists of 26 lessons, emailed to you one per week (about 14 pages each, including a title page and copyright information). You have the freedom to print them off and keep them in a binder if you’d like, or you can just read them on your computer. Each one – and you get a completely different topic each week – is extremely helpful in this thing called homeschooling. I would definitely recommend this course for any parent who is currently, or currently considering, homeschooling their child or children. It’s that good.

Still not sure if the Successful Homeschooling Made Easy Course is for you? You can get the first lesson absolutely free to see what you think. If you decide, after seeing how awesome that first lesson is, that you want to continue the course, you can do so for $10 per month (for 6 months), or you can save 20% on the course by purchasing it all at one time for $48. (See the website for information on international pricing; it’s all spelled out there very clearly and easily.) And what’s more, if you purchase this and decide you don’t like it, Ms. Walmsley will refund your money, no questions asked. So it’s definitely a no-lose situation for you.


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As always, I’m not the only person reviewing this course this week. Click the banner below to read lots of other opinions on Successful Homeschooling Made Easy.

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Homeschool Curriculum Review: Real Life Press

Last school year, the boys and I read the entire New Testament together. This year, I’m sorry to say, has been a lot less Bible-rich. That’s why I was thrilled to have been chosen to review a Bible study curriculum: Firmly Planted, Gospels, Part 2 from Real Life Press. I received PDF versions of both the family study guide (which I used as a leader’s manual) and the student workbook.

The Firmly Planted curriculum was written by Heidi St. John and her husband, Jay. As homeschooling parents of seven children, they really wanted to teach something of true value – not what the media tells our children they need to know. Additionally, they felt that the media was constantly changing, never consistent (which I absolutely agree with). They wanted to teach their children the one thing that never changes: Christ. This was the beginning of Real Life Press.

The Gospels, Part 2 covers stories from the life of Jesus, including two parables, Jesus’s meeting with Zacchaeus, the adulterous woman (“whoever is without sin should be the first to cast a stone”), and several others, going through to the crucifixion and resurrection. Having just celebrated Easter, I chose The Gospels Part 2 (rather than part 1) because I wanted to go over the crucifixion and resurrection in detail with the children.

The parent guide ($9.95 for a PDF) is 102 pages, and it covers everything you need to teach the bible histories presented. They include the full Scriptural text of the stories being presented, as well as a variety of activities using a seed-planted analogy (the seed is the main concept of the story, planting the seed is Scripture memorization, and watering the seedling is a short lesson based on the Scripture). There are also four daily lessons for each bigger lesson, in which you read part of the Scripture with your children and explain some things to them, all laid out for you in the parent guide. For example, in the first lesson, The Parable of the Sower, the day one lesson explains what a parable lesson is as well as why Jesus taught using parables rather than straightforward lessons.

The student workbook ($24.95 for a PDF) includes activities for both older students and younger students (different difficulties of the same activity), which really makes Firmly Planted a full-family bible study. These include activities such as copywork, a self-reflection journal, mazes, word finds, crossword puzzles, and much more. Because the student workbook has all of the activities for a variety of age levels together, it’s 265 pages. Depending on the ages of your children, you definitely don’t have to print multiple copies of that, though.

Real Life Press the Gospels Part 2 student pages sample

A sampling of some of the student pages

The first thing I did was to find an online PDF splitter so that I could print just the pages I wanted/needed to get started without having to sift through the entire document every time to choose the pages to print. I printed only one lesson at a time to help minimize the costs since we print at a copy shop. For the first lesson, I chose to print the upper-level activities for both boys. I wouldn’t go straight into saying that this was a mistake, but I will say that those activities were considerably harder for Munchkin (age 8) than they were for Seahawk (age 11), which surprised me. It probably shouldn’t have, since he is three years younger (he can normally keep up with his older brother academically, no problem), but it did. So the next week, I was more selective in which pages to give him as upper-level and which to give him as lower-level. (He can do the writing and copywork at the upper level, but the mazes and other “game” activities he needed at the lower level.)

As a whole, I really loved this study. It incorporated Scripture fully, and it was very easy to follow the plan. The kids really enjoyed the activities that went along with it (except for Munchkin and the hard maze the first week – there were tears over that!). My only complaint, and it is very minor, is that the pages in the parent guide seemed to be kind of wasteful on the printing front – they were half-pages rather than full pages, and centered on the sheet, so there was a lot of empty space. I would love to see those pages made to fill the 8.5×11 sheet (by combining pages, not just stretching the existing format) or have two instructor pages on one sheet of paper to help cut down on printing costs. (I just didn’t print the parent guide after the first week, and instead read it off of my computer.)

Bottom line: we would definitely recommend this to others looking for a great Bible study. 


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Members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew have reviewed tons of different products from Real Life Press, not just family Bible studies. Click the banner below to find out more about two books – The Busy Homeschool Mom’s Guide to Daylight and The Busy Homeschool Mom’s Guide to Romance – as well as a lapbooking resource for moms of younger children. Additionally, there will be more reviews of The Gospels part 2 (which I wrote about today), plus The Gospels part 1 and Books of Moses part 2. Just click the banner below to access reviews to all of these products.

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