Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL 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.
After a year off, I am so excited to be part of the Homeschool Review Crew again! For my first review of 2020, I’ve had the absolute pleasure of reacquainting myself with SchoolhouseTeachers.com. In case you’re unfamiliar, it’s the all-in-one homeschool curriculum website run by The Old Schoolhouse homeschool magazine. When I say “all-in-one,” I really mean it, too. With my Ultimate PreK-12 Annual Membership, I’ve been able to find things for all three of my school-age sons (10th grade, 8th grade, and 2nd grade) to do.
There are so many ways to dig around and find things on SchoolhouseTeachers.com. If you’re trying to plan “circle time” with a wide age range of children, you can search by topic. If you’re putting together individual curricula for different children, you can search by age/grade.
For now, let’s take a short rundown of what each of my children used on SchoolhouseTeachers.com during the past month.
In order to find something for my oldest son, I first looked over SchoolhouseTeachers.com “by grade level.” Then I considered his interests as well as what “holes” I thought needed filled in his school year. Using those two criteria, I found the perfect course for him: The National Debt. This is a 24-page PDF that I downloaded to my iPad and sent him via email so he could have it on his own tablet to work through. The course includes reading, vocabulary, and written exercises. When he’d finished the reading on his first day of this study, I found myself really impressed with him because he came out from studying and told me all about not just the course, but also some independent research he’d done based on the course. I love that he took the initiative to go above and beyond what was presented in order to further his understanding of the topic.
For my second son, I followed a similar path in finding something for him. I chose a biography of Nikola Tesla. He’d learned a bit about Tesla through conversation and movies watched with his dad, so I knew this would pique his interest. The biography is on World Books, which is included as part of the SchoolhouseTeachers.com membership. In order to access the huge library of World Books, you login to that website using the username and password found on the members-only information page of SchoolhouseTeachers.com.
In accessing this part of the website (World Books), I had the opportunity to deal with the customer service department at SchoolhouseTeachers.com. I’d logged into World Books a few days before and emailed the link of the book to my son, but then when we tried to access it later, the login credentials didn’t work. Using the instant chat help feature, a very helpful person got me all squared away. Having that chat feature was really convenient and very effective.
My 7-year-old is a very inquisitive child. He loves being read to and learning about many things. Even though we’ve never used a formal curriculum with him, I have no concerns about his education at this stage (except for his reading) because of his curiousness. That said, it took me a bit of time to find something for him. The reading/spelling curricula for his age was a bit beyond him (he’s below grade level in reading but at or above in all other subjects). Combine that with it having been winter break (during which we were very busy with Nutcracker), and I wanted something light for him and I to do together. I found just the thing with the All About Inventions unit study. This teaches children about 15 fairly modern inventions, from bubblegum to Lincoln logs and fruit roll ups to laundry detergent. Each invention is given a short history (just a paragraph or two – enough to explain them to young children, but not to overwhelm them.) At the end of the short histories are a couple of activity pages for kids.
SchoolhouseTeachers.com has more than just classwork, though. They have planning resources (printable planners for kids and moms – and dads – of all ages), a report card generator, college and career planning, and much, much more. There are over 450 classes available, plus videos, ebooks, and interactive content. And the best part is that you get all this for one price for you entire household – not per student. For the single price of $179 per year (or $19.95 per month or $39.95 per quarter), you get access to everything SchoolhouseTeachers.com has to offer. But if you head over there this month (January 2020), you’ll find a coupon code to get your annual membership for just $99 (or $12 monthly), and that price is guaranteed as long as you keep your membership active.
As much as I love and endorse SchoolhouseTeachers.com, though, I encourage you not to just take my word here. Head over to the Homeschool Review Crew blog to find access to over 100 more reviews (and if reading isn’t your thing, some of those reviews are YouTube vlog reviews, and some are very short social media reviews).
For four years running now, my boys have danced in a local production of The Nutcracker. We started in 2016, when I was taking ballet classes myself (I quit because it was hurting my feet; I need to get serious about weight loss so I can do ballet again). The first year, my oldest son (then 13) had the part of the toy soldier in the party scene. My second son was an “extra” in the party scene. Both danced the Russian/Trepak dance with their boys’ tumbling class. For their second year, they had the same parts.
The third year, 2018, my oldest got a promotion. He’d been working really hard, taking multiple ballet classes a week (15-20 hours’ worth), and he was awarded the coveted role of the Nutcracker himself. This left the part of the soldier open, which our second son stepped into seamlessly. This is the same year that our third son joined the boys’ class (the minimum age is 6, and he’d turned 6 that summer). All three danced the Trepak that year.
This year, all their roles were reprised. Because our second son started taking ballet this year, his Toy Soldier dance was expanded to include more ballet movements:
(Pardon the unfortunate angle – I filmed this from my spot in the audience during an actual performance.)
The Russian dance:
And finally, my oldest as The Nutcracker Prince with his Clara:
Ballet has been a very positive influence for my kids (even our 4-year-old takes class now – he’s the only boy in the “Baby Ballerinas” class!), and I wanted to take a moment to share it here.
This year is our family’s first time celebrating Hanukkah, and I am trying to embrace that by making some decorations for our home. (Christmas decorations are easy to find; Hanukkah ones not so much.) Even finding patterns to make your own is difficult, so I created this dreidel and am excited to share it here today.
Gauge is not important to this project. Use any yarn you like and an appropriate hook for the yarn. The hook and yarn you choose will affect the size, but not in a positive or negative way. It’s all about preference. I used worsted weight yarn and a size H hook to get a dreidel about 3x3x5 (including the stem).
chain 11. SC in second chain from hook and each chain across. Ch 1. Turn. (10)
Rows 2-10. SC across (10). Ch 1. Turn.
Row 11: SC2tog, sc 6, SC2tog (8)
Row 12: SC2tog, sc 4, SC2tog (6)
Row 13: SC2tog, sc 2, SC2tog (4)
Row 14: SC2tog twice (2)
Row 15: SC2tog (1)
Fasten off, leaving a long tail for sewing.
On each panel, surface slip stitch a (stylized) Hebrew letter.
Row 1: SC in second stitch from hook and all the way across. Ch 1 and turn. (10)
Rows 2-5: SC across. Ch 1 and turn. (10)
Row 6: SC in first 4 stitches. Chain 2. Skip next 2 stitches. SC in remaining 4 stitches. Ch 1 and turn. (8 SC + 2 chains)
Row 7: SC in all stitches, including the two chains. Ch 1 and turn. (10)
Rows 8-11: SC across. Ch 1 and turn. (10)
Fasten off, leaving a long tail for sewing.
Into the buttonhole made in row 6, attach yarn with a slip stitch. Ch 1. SC into same stitch. SC in each of the other 5 stitches around the buttonhole (the two chains on each side, plus one side stitch on opposite sides.) Join with slip stitch to first stitch of round and chain 1 but do not turn. (6)
Rounds 2-4: SC around. Join and turn. (6)
Round 5: SC2tog three times. (3)
Fasten off and use the short tail to close the top of the “stem.”
Sew the top of the side pieces to the sides of the top piece, one at a time. (See pictures for clarity.) Starting at the bottom of each side piece, sew them together until you get to the upper corner of each one. Stuff lightly before sewing the final side closed.
I hope this blesses someone out there!
I have a free crochet pattern that I’ll be posting in a couple of days, but I wanted to post this tutorial on the surface slip stitch first, because my pattern requires use of the technique. You may be asking yourself, What is surface slip stitch? It’s simply a way to stitch designs onto your work that’s easier than using a crochet chain as an appliqué. The method is easy once you get the hang of it, so if you’ve never used it before, I hope this inspires you to try.
The main thing to remember about this technique is that your working yarn should be behind your main piece all the time. With that in mind, here’s a step by step tutorial. (These steps assume that you know how to crochet and have an idea of the design you want to make.)
1. Insert your hook from front to back of your work, right where you want your design to begin. Attach your “drawing” yarn to your hook with a slip knot, then pull the loop through to the front.
2. Keeping your design in mind, push your hook down through the fabric about one stitch away from where it is now. With your hook on the back of the fabric, yarn over and pull up a loop. With that loop now on the front of your fabric, complete the slip stitch.
3. Continue in this fashion until you’re done with your design.
4. When you’ve completed your last stitch, remove the hook from your work and gently pull out the final stitch. Push your hook back through the fabric in the same spot you just undid that stitch from, this time from back to front. Grab the loop from the second to last stitch and carefully (without pulling too tightly and distorting your stitches) pull it to the back.
5. Break the yarn and fasten off as normal. Tie the beginning tail and ending tail together in a knot at this point, just for extra security. This also assures that your work will stay in place without you having to weave in the ends (since your yarn is probably a contrasting color to your main work, weaving the ends in is less than ideal). Once the tails are knotted together, you can cut the ends short.
I hope this helps you!
I’ve been watching loads of “Dollar Tree DIY” channels on YouTube lately (did you even know there was such a thing? They’re so cool!), and they’re all very inspiring. These crafters have sent me into the Dollar Tree store more during the past three months than in the past three years! And one of those times, I saw this snowman sign that I knew I wanted. The only problem with him was that he said NOEL at the bottom, and I wanted a sign that would last all winter long. So, using some tips and inspiration from all those YouTube creators, I made a few adjustments to my snowman to make him look more winter and less Christmas. Here’s what I did (Unfortunately I don’t have a before picture, and I can’t find the sign I got on Dollar Tree’s website either.)
First, I found a gift bag that said “Season’s Greetings” in a font I liked (also from the Dollar Tree). I cut the “greetings” portion off (because after all, “greetings” is another way of saying “welcome”). After sanding all the glitter off of the “Noel” part of the sign, I used Mod Podge to glue the paper down. Because I was using Mod Podge, I also painted glue over the top of my bag cutout.
I got a piece of blue fabric from Walmart for 97 cents and cut out pieces for his scarf and mittens, using Mod Podge to cover up the red. I had some jingle bells leftover from another project, so I painted 8 of them in “cool blue” paint from Apple Barrel (50 cents at Walmart). Then I used hot glue to apply them over the top of the ornaments on the snowman’s wreath.
I love how this sign turned out, especially for my first project of this type. Seeing it outside my door every time we come or go makes me happy, and I won’t be embarrassed to leave him out all winter now.
All year long, I’ve been working on a “mystery crochet along” or MCAL, with Jayda from the YouTube channel Jayda InStitches. She does one of these every year, but this is my first time participating (definitely not my last though!). For 2019, the calendar blanket is a mural of sorts. We started the year, way back in January and February, by crocheting the canvas for our blanket. The color changes represent different landscape areas, from the dark blue “water” at the bottom up through the light blue “sky” at the top.
Each month from March through December, there has been a new appliqué to crochet and sew onto the blanket – some months two or more. As of today, we’re still waiting for the December appliqué pattern to be released. There will also be a border added this month. (I will post the blanket in its entirety when I finish.) But for now, here’s what I’ve done on it.
October: Pumpkins and Sunflowers
In addition to these “official” parts of the blanket, Jayda has released a few optional appliqués. I haven’t gotten around to those yet, but I do plan to add them to my blanket as well (clouds, toadstools, and evergreen trees). I also added the tractor’s trailer on my own (no pattern), thanks to a suggestion from Seahawk (my 16-year-old son). And of course, a tractor pulling a trailer to the barn needed to be full of hay! I will also be adding a sheep next to the horse.
Being married to a graphic designer who specializes in books, we’ve been on the lookout for a way for him to easily take his book covers and make them look like actual books for use in ads. This has been difficult for many years… until I was emailed about BookBrush.com. I looked over it briefly, then asked Will if he wanted to try it out for review and he said, “Sure.” So I requested the review, and we’ve been playing with it a bit over the past couple of weeks.
Using the website was fairly easy for Will, considering his experience with graphic design programs in general. In just a few minutes, he was able to poke around, learn how it was laid out, and upload his own book covers onto their templates. Now his flat image looks like a real book, ready to be used in ads! In a matter of 20 minutes, we were able to put together 3 “books” and one Instagram ad. And before we’d been at it very long at all, he was already asking me, “How much does this cost?” I think that means it’s safe to say he was very impressed with the site and already thinking beyond our review access and into purchasing a subscription.
(For the record, there are two pricing structures. You can set up a free account – no credit card required – and make up to 3 images per month, plus have access to a limited number of Book Brush’s 3D templates, stamps, and fonts. Or for $8 per month, you can create unlimited images, have access to ALL of the 3D templates, stamps, and fonts, the ability to upload your own fonts for better branding, get 5 free video creation credits per month, and customer support. Both accounts give you access to over a million background images and the ability to upload your own.)
In addition to making your flat cover images look like real books, there are templates for e-books, so you can put your book cover right on an “iPad.” The stamps I mentioned in the pricing structure paragraph are things like the Amazon and Audible logos (among many others), which show customers where they can buy your product. There are loads of fonts available for the text you include on your ad, and you can put it in a box (like we did above) or right on the transparent background. There are also image-based backgrounds you can use. We went with a plain one because that fits our product best.
If you’re in the business of selling books, you should definitely check out Book Brush. I think they’ll be your new best friend.
As part of the older boys’ honeschooling, they each have to complete 2 semester-long projects each year. This teaches them time management as well as gives them the chance to really explore a personal interest on a deep level.
For his first semester project this school year, Seahawk made a documentary about tree frogs. He used mostly stock images coupled with information he found from several different sources. Small Fry acted as his narrator. The film was made using Adobe Spark Video on my iPad. I hope you enjoy the “show”!