Sunday, May 31, 2020

As the world seems to go crazy, Our Lady waits... with peace...

     with promise...
          with intercession...
               with strength...

                    with grace.

She asks us to join her.

To pray...

To process with humility...
     with hope...

          following her 
toward God.

May we accept her invitation.

May we move toward the Lord always.

Dear Mary, Mother of the Church, pray for us.

Come, Holy Spirit, come.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Everything You Need to Ace Computer Science and Coding in One Big Fat Notebook {A Review}

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 compensated in any other way.
Some links may be affiliate ones.

Have a computer lover in the house that wants to learn about coding?

The Everything You Need to Ace Computer Science and Coding in One Big Fat Notebook, published by Workman Publishing could make a great resource.

Aimed at middle schoolers, but good for a wider variety of readers, this eye-catching resource covers:

  • Computing Systems
  • Data and Analysis
  • Software Engineering
  • Algorithms and Programming
  • Universal Programming Principles
  • Programming with Scratch
  • Programming in Python
  • Web Development

My oldest son was excited by the opportunity to review the resource, so I am turning this review over to him.


I wanted Everything You Need to Ace Computer Science and Coding in One Big Fat Notebook, published by Workman Publishing because I want to run a technology company when I grow up and computers are an important part of technology. Plus, I am obsessed with video games.

When Everything You Need to Ace Computer Science and Coding in One Big Fat Notebook arrived, I noticed right away that the cover design is perfect for the book - with a purple and black color scheme and notebook feel. I also noticed that the text is perfect. It looks like someone is actually writing with uniform handwriting. Plus, the sketches bring out a notebooky feel. Overall, the book has a pleasing aesthetic.

Of course, the most important part of any teaching resource is not the aesthetic, but, rather, how well it communicates information to the student. This book does that well.

In nearly 40 chapters over eight units, there are:

  • simply written notes

  • vocabulary words highlighted in yellow

  • definitions set aside in green boxes

  • important people, places, dates, and things written in blue

  • and main ideas underlined.

The tone of the writing is light-hearted, informative, and easy to grasp.

The notebook also includes many sketches, quizzes, and examples of programming you can work along with. These help make the information stick.

The book discusses the universal basics of computer science and programming which gives a background for those new to the subject and a reminder to those who have experience with computer science and coding.

It then teaches you the basics of programming using Scratch, Python, HTML,  and CSS. It also teaches the basics of web development.

I have used Scratch before and dabbled in some other things, so some of the material was redundant for me, but I still learned new things. I like the book and will continue working my way through it.

Enough about me and my experience, though. Can YOU use it? I would suggest, "yes" if you are one of these three types of people:

(1) Someone taking a computer science and coding class who is struggling and needs an appealing and simple to understand supplement.

(2) Someone who wants to learn computer science and programming using a book.

(3) Those who know things about this topic, but like easy reference materials to look back upon.

The book is geared for middle schoolers, but I believe a younger audience with reading skills and a decent attention span could use it as well.

I also think high school students and adults with an interest in learning about computer science and programming could benefit from it.

The Everything You Need to Ace Computer Science and Coding in One Big Fat Notebook serves its purpose well as an introduction to the topic. It also is, truly "fat" at 566 pages, yet its small size makes it easy to handle.


As you can see, my 14-year-old appreciated the design and content of The Everything You Need to Ace Computer Science and Coding in One Big Fat Notebook. For me, that makes the book a win.

If you have a relative novice late elementary schooler on up, I would recommend the book! It is written by Grant Smith, a computer science education expert, vette by Dawn Dupriest, an award-winning computer-science teacher, illistrated by Chris Pearce, and edited by the same folks that brought the #1 educational seller Brain Quest to homeschools, schools, and families. So, Everything You Need to Ace Computer Science and Coding in One Big Fat Notebook has a great team behind it!  

Learn More

Twenty-five Homeschool Review Crew families tried this resource out.  Click though for links to all the reviews.

You can also connect on social media:

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Never Did I Ever Think I'd Be Praying for St. Brigid's Intercession Regarding a Chicken...

Never did I ever think I would be praying for St. Brigid's intercession regarding a chicken...

... and never did I ever think I would sleep on a couch while on chicken watch duty...

Nor did I ever imagine that I would spend an early morning before Mass using a gloved finger to apply oil to a chicken vent...

I also never thought that I would spend hours researching what differing colors and textures of chicken poop mean...

... and the list goes on.

Things that never once entered my brain before have now become a part of my present reality for the love of my children... and their chickens.

Yes, we've had a sometimes emotional, definitely educational, and undeniably unexpected couple of days here nursing one of the kids' chickens back  -we hope! - to health.

In doing so, we have tapped into the kindness and wisdom of local friends, countless websites and Youtube channels, and fellow chicken owners in Facebook groups.

We've also discovered that a saint we have celebrated and prayed to before is patron to chicken farmers! Thus, although we are hardly chicken farmers, I have been praying for St. Brigid's intercession for our dear chicken Pippin.

More than once in the past 24+ hours, I have prayed simple prayers, such as:

St. Brigid, please intercede that me may be guided in taking care of our sick chicken Pippin. For, while this matter is small in the large scheme of the world, my children's love for Pippin is strong. We know our Lord loves us and desires good. We wish to do what is best for our chicken. Whatever happens, please let my daughter and youngest son be at peace. Amen.

Now, yes, yes, yes. I know. With all the dire matters facing the world today, it may seem silly to pray for St. Brigid's intercession due to a sick chicken. Yet, here I have been doing so. For, in small matters and in large, prayer is vital, right?

Adoration. Contrition. Thanksgiving. Petition. Our Lord loves when we turn to Him.

The saints are there as intercessors.

And, so, we pray.

And we share in case you have chickens, too, and - like us - did not know that St. Brigid is, among other things, Patron to Chicken Farmers.

Now you do know and, should your family face time of chicken challenges, you can call upon her intercession.

Likewise, chickens or no chickens, you might also remember just how much Our Mother loves us and desires to help us no matter what we are going through.

I could not help but to think about that as my love for my children (and their love for their chickens) prompted us to do things over the past few days that we never imagined we would.

Love can drive us to do so many things. May one of them be turning to Our Lady in prayer.

We took a break from chicken care to do just that as a group today, praying for weightier matters, and it was wonderful.

Whatever your challenges and joys are, may you keep on praying!

Thursday, May 21, 2020

A Mini-Convention in a Bag {Don't Miss This May Promo!}

Did you miss going to a homeschool convention this spring and getting all the goodies there?

{This post contains affiliate links.} can fill the void with the May 2020 19 Gifts Promo!

Through the end of May 2020, new members who live in the United States can subscribe to the
Ultimate (PreK-12) Annual Membership for only $139 (reg. $224.97) PLUS receive a sturdy tote bag filled with 18 gifts brought to you by,The Old Schoolhouse®, and over a dozen homeschooling and family-friendly companies that they have teamed up with.

Essentially, the promo is a mini-convention in a bag that comes right to your home. You order the Ultimate Annual Membership and get INSTANT access to a complete PreK-12 curriculum with over 400+ courses, videos, World Book content, TOS Print subscription, and so much more that your ENTIRE family can enjoy. Then, within 6-8 weeks, a mini-convention in a bag, with a value of $527.71 arrives at your door! The bag will be filled with gift cards that provide you with information on how to redeem 18 complimentary gifts with no credit cards or additional purchases required, just following the instructions on the gift cards! Amazing, huh? A great discount on the Ultimate Annual Membership, a handy tote, and these 18 additional gifts:
  • Enrichment Studies: 100 Women Composers Through the Ages course
  • Character Concepts: Profiles of Valor: True Stories from the War of Independence eBook
  • Learn and Color Books: Color Thru History™ The People of Early Civilization AND Color Thru History™ The People of Early Civilization Elementary Supplement digital versions
  • IEW: Structure and Style Overview DVD
  • Travels with Music: One-Year Online Subscription to Travels with Music
  • Writing with Sharon Watson: Teach Your Child to Take Notes eBook
  • Apprentice Art Studio: How to Cultivate a Creative Life Video Lesson w/PDF
  • Spanish Educational Solutions: Online Elementary Program for the Entire Family (2 months)
  • HSLDA: $15 Gift Certificate
  • Everyday Education: Working It Out: Growing Spiritually with the Poetry of George Herbert AND Evaluate Writing the Easy Way eBooks PLUS bonus How to Teach Classic Literature to Teens MP3
  • Step Up Your Performance: Two-month Subscription to either Grammar for Proofreading OR The Simple Essay: Its Organization and Development
  • Nallenart: L'Art de LIRE Level 1
  • Etiquette Lessons Foundation: Etiquette Lessons Student Print Workbook
  • Brinkman Adventures: Brinkman Adventures Audio Download
  • Homeschool Court: Homeschool Court Digital Student Edition
  • Chess House: Pocket Chess Set
  • Grace Works Interactive: 1 Timothy Interactive Bible Game (Windows-Based Download)
  • Learn to Play Music Publishers, Inc.: Learn to Play Music One-month Family Membership
  • The Old Schoolhouse®: Tote Bag (colors vary)
That is some list of goodies with plenty I'm excited to check out, too!

Of the whole list, I am most looking forward to seeing Character Concepts: Profiles of Valor, because I love history, Scripture, and focus on virtues and character and this resource marries all three, telling the true stories of famous and lesser known heroes of America's War of Independence. Such stories are, of course, timeless - inspiring us to aim for heroic virtue. They also seem timely, for now is a time when a fight for continued independence looms largely in my mind and that of my children's. This resource - along with the other gifts in the promo - is sure to be appreciated!

So, if you'd love to enter into the summer and fall with fantastic resources at your door and onscreen, sign up NOW to receive your tote filled with goodies before they run out!
Use Coupon Code: 19GIFTS at checkout to receive this awesome promo!


Learn Latin at Your Own Pace { A Memoria Pres First Form Latin Review}

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 compensated in any other way.
Some links may be affiliate ones.

If you are looking for a beginning Latin program that your late elementary, middle school, or high school child can use independently or with you teaching, let me suggest the First Form Latin Complete set by Memoria Press, which my son requested for review.

What is First Form Latin by Memoria Press?

First Form Latin Complete set by Memoria Press is a popular Latin program designed for beginners of Latin from about Grade 4 or 5 and above.

It contains 34 Lessons to be worked through at a suggested speed of one lesson per week - broken down into daily parts - for an entire school year's worth of learning.  Due to the way lessons are presented, however, students can self-pace or parents can expedite or slow down lessons to meet personal needs.

The eight different components of the set (detailed below) allow families with no Latin experience to succeed with the course and also make the course accessible to visual and auditory learners.

Moving through the program as suggested will allow students to master the Classical "grammar" stage of Latin and, then, having done so, students can advance through other levels of learning using the entire series oLatin programs from Memoria Press.

Included in the the First Form Latin Complete set are:
  • a small, concise, softcover Student Text with 34 2-page lessons on uncluttered pages
  • a softcover Teacher Manual which includes Student Text insets, scripted "Chalk Talk" lessons, a recitation schedule, extensive teaching notes, FYI info for background, etc.
  • a softcover Quizzes and Tests book with reproducible weekly quizzes and unit tests which can be used to assess material as it is mastered
  • a spiral bound Workbook with 4-6 pages of exercises per lesson to help students move from practice to mastery
  • a Teacher Key with answers to the workbook, quizzes, and tests
  • a set of First Form Latin Flashcards with vocabulary and Latin sayings on them
  • a Pronunciation Guide CD, which includes all vocabulary and grammar forms for each lesson
  • a 9 hr, 3 disc set of Instructional DVDs which contain 15-30 minute video lessons with explanations by Highland Latin School teacher Jessica Walton and also offer on-screen notes, illustrations, diagrams, recitations, etc.

Why Did We Choose First Form Latin?
We decided to review the
 First Form Latin Complete set because my oldest son wanted to try it as an independent, self-paced language credit for high school. Key word there: independent. (My son is in a stage where he wants little to nothing to do with me working with him.) 

That worked for me as I don't know Latin myself, need time for my other children, and know that Memoria Press is well-reputed for their Latin programs, so, as long as my son is diligent, he will have quality teaching and be able to practice and master beginning Latin.

It also worked for me because, since it is a DVD course - not a subscription-based online one, if my son is not diligent and needs to extend the time it takes him to master beginning Latin, we will not be bound by a subscription with a deadline. (There is, however, a 13-month streaming video access option for a small additional fee for those who want that.)

I call the 
First Form Latin Complete set a win-win option for my family then: my son gets to pick a language course that he can work through independently, and I am comforted knowing that the instruction and materials are sound and that there is room for my son to fail-forward if need be - meaning that if he does not pace himself well, he can learn from that and continue on without the penalty of having to pay for another year of a subscription.

As an extra bonus "win", I also like that when/if I have time, I can learn Latin myself by purchasing my own student workbook and re-using the rest of the course materials my son is using and also that my younger two children can do likewise if they show an interest in learning Latin, for the workbook is the only consumable item within the set!

In My Son's Words

My son has been using the course and will continue to do so. However, he has not progressed as far into the course as most would have in the time he has had it. He explained more when I asked him for his review, saying:
This Latin course is well-structured and well done. 
I would have preferred if it was Classical instead of Ecclesiastical, but that is just my personal preference. 
I chose this program to get one whole year of high school foreign language credits on my own without my mother. 
At first, though, I got confused, because I did not read any of the Teacher Manual and thought one lesson was meant for one sitting in one day, which overwhelmed me. It seemed to take forever and so I paused. Then, my mom explained that lessons can be done in portions. Since then, I have been working out what pace will work best for me. I have a lot of courses I want to do right now, so I think I'll do Latin every other day or every third day, taking it at a slow pace around my other courses, because my other courses have a course deadline and Latin I can take longer for. 
I would recommend this course to people who like a traditional way of learning or people who want to self-pace. I am not the former, but I am the latter. This course sort of works for me and I will probably finish it.

Learn More

Find free samples online.

See other Memoria Press programs that we've reviewed.
American History

Traditional Logic

Greek Myths


Music Appreciation

Fifty Homeschool Review Crew families reviewed different levels of Memoria Press Latin programs.  Click through to find links to all the reviews.

Connect with Memoria Press on social media.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

As Requested...Get Your FREE Act of Faith Copywork Set

Have a request? 

I am happy to help out if I can.

I had posted a link to the free Memorare copywork set that I made in a Catholic Charlotte Mason-Inspired, Relaxed & Eclectic Homeschoolers group I am in, and a friend and blog reader asked if I take requests and would create an Act of Faith copywork set.


Here it is - for her and for anyone else who might be blessed by it during these times when affirming our faith seems even more important than ever.

As with most of my free copywork sets, the Act of Faith copywork set includes a cursive model:

A print model:

And a blank line sheet:

That way, your children can choose to practice their printing, cursive, or both.

Also, as usual, to help children remember to "ground" their letters, there is a double thick line at the bottom of each line on the blank sheet.  Plus, there are spaces between words on the model to prompt them to leave spaces between words as they copy.

I pray that this simple Act of Faith copywork set blesses your and yours.

If you have other requests, jut let me know.

You can find more free, printable prayer copywork here!

May your day be blessed and your faith be strong!

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Make Middle School Math Easy! {A Mastering Essential Math Skills Book 2 Review}

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 compensated in any other way.

If you're looking for a no-nonsense way for your child to review and learn foundational math skills at a middle school level, I would suggest looking at Mastering Essential Math Skills Book 2 Middle Grades/High School from Math Essentials - a 158 page, softcover worktext written by "America's Math Teacher" Richard W. Fisher.

This worktext offers a concise, self-contained, easy-to-follow math program which includes daily exercises that can help students master, maintain, and reinforce math skills through consistent practice and review in less than a half hour a day.

Each one-page lesson in the book is meant to be completed in about 20 minute and can be accompanied by free video tutorials - with access information on the first page of the book.

Our Experience with Mastering Essential Math Skills Book Two
My daughter, who has been hit or miss with math through the years, was interested in trying Mastering Essential Math Skills Book 2 Middle Grades/High School as a way to solidify her math skills, since she had dabbled in the first pages of Math Essentials' No-Nonsense Algebra and Math Refresher for Adults, which we already own, and found their style pleasing even if the problems in the books were a bit beyond her level.

Thus, she's been using 
Mastering Essential Math Skills Book 2 Middle Grades/High School consistently since it arrived at our home for review.
When I asked her for her thoughts about the book for this review, she said:
Mastering Essential Math Skills is a softcover math textbook that is for middle school and high school students. Students are supposed to do one page a day, which is meant to take around 20 minutes. Doing this, they will progress with math learning and reviewing:
  • addition
  • subtraction
  • multiplication
  • division
  • fractions
  • decimals
  • percents
  • geometry
  • integers
  • charts and graphs
  • word problems

I use the book 15' or one page at a time, whichever comes first. 

Each page is one lesson and includes a speed drill, review exercises, your main lesson, and a word problem (which I often forget to do if my mom does not remind me, because it is written at the bottom of the page. So, Moms and teachers, remind your children.) 
There is also a helpful hint on each page. I never read these because I don't care that much about them and, if I need a hint, I ask my parents. 
There are also video lessons available to help you, but I don't use those. I use my parents, because I prefer real life human interaction. 
At the back of the book is a section that tells you all the answers, so beware what section your children are in. I use it honestly to check my answers and tell my mom what I did wrong. I also grade myself. But, someone in my house, I know, may not use this section like this. That person has been known to, you know, seek ways to do work without really doing it at all. So, beware. 

With this program, I like that I don't have to ask my mom to do all the problems to tell me if I got them correct and that the program is not online (although there are online video lessons if you want to use them.) 
I also like the amount of white space on the pages and the multiplication chart and other charts in the back. 
There is also a Table of Contents, Glossary, List of Symbols, and some helpful charts if anyone is wondering. 

I don't like that the word problems are at the bottom of the page and written so small, because it makes me forget that it is actually there. I would like them where the Helpful Hints are and the Helpful Hints at the bottom of the page. 
It is kind of dry, but, you know, that's how work books are.
I like that I can do it for the day and be done. I don't have to worry about a long math lesson where I have to listen to a long math video before I even get to doing the math. 
I will probably continue using it all through next year. It will give me offline math work that will actually prepare me for high school math.
When I was younger, I did not like workbook math like this, but now it is not that bad. I appreciate that it is a straightforward math workbook without needless text that I have to read. 
I would recommend it to other students who just want to have their math done simply and independently (asking for help as needed) and then go do something else. 
It gets the job done!

I had to laugh at the honest assessment my daughter offered and wish to expand upon a number of things:

  • The lessons are concise and broken into parts. Each lesson is self-contained on one which can be completed - sans video - within 20'. My daughter, however, has some dyslexia / dyscalculia-type issues, so we opt to do the program in sittings of completion of one page or 15', whichever comes first. Since each lessons page is divided into a speed drill, review exercises, examples, problems, and problem solving, it is easy to break when a 15' timer goes off.
  • If you have someone with dyslexia or vision issues, please note that the book has little text and plenty of white space around problems. This made it easy on my daughter's eyes overall, however the Helpful Hints/Examples and Problem Solving font is small, which leads her to skip those portions unless I remind her not to.
  • A Notebook of Whiteboard could be hepful. Despite the relatively generous white space on the clean, no-nonsense pages of the worktext, there is not enough space for my daughter to work out problems. So, she tend to copy problems onto a small whiteboard one by one or in groups of 2-4 at a time to figure them out.

  • The online videos are helpful, but not necessary, depending on your child's style. To be honest, my daughter only watched a few of the video tutorials, because she much prefers to ask my husband or I for help/teaching as needed than to watch a video. I have watched some of the tutorials, however, and found them clear and well done. In fact,  have a feeling that if my youngest child opts to use this program for his middle school math, he will use it 100% independently using the videos as his teacher.
  • If you have a child that likes to cut corners, you may wish to tear our the answer key. My daughter, as she said, used the key as it should be used, so I left the key in the book. If another child in my house were using the book instead, however, I would have ripped it out, because that child looks for "easy ways out". Thus, I thought my daughter's warning to parents was a wise one.
  • For those with children who have memory issues, the Math Resource Center at the end of the book is helpful. My daughter appreciates using the charts in the back to check that her memory is remembering basic facts and figures correctly.
  • It really does get the job done. Because math has been hit or miss with my child, I often wished for a "Holy Grail" of math which would unlock skills and concepts for her and help her love math. I cannot say this book- or any resource - has consistently done both those things, but I can say this book has helped my daughter build and review skills without undue frustration. She appreciates that she can just sit down, get her math for the day done, and move on to other things. Meanwhile, I appreciate that she is actually progressing steadily. I fully intend to have her complete the book within the next year, which, I believe, will ready her for high school math.

There are no bells, whistles, nor gimmicks with Mastering Essential Math Skills Book 2 Middle Grades/High SchoolRather, the worktext provides clear, concise, and well-designed drill and practice which can lead struggling math learners to greater confidence and success.
Learn More

See our prior reviews of other Math Essentials products:

Are You Looking for an All-in-One Math Refresher? {A Review}

It Really Is Non-Nonsense Algebra {a Review}

Over 50 Homeschool Review Crew families reviewed either No-Nonsense Algebra, Math Refresher for Adults, or Mastering Essential Math Skills Book 2 Middle Grades/High School. Click through to find links to all of our blog, social media, and vlog reviews.

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