Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Who Knew Douglas MacArthur Would Draw in Three Super Different Kids? {A YWAM Publishing Review}

I received this complimentary product through the Homeschool Review Crew.

If you are looking for fabulous biographies perfect for individual reading, family reading, unit studies, and more, YWAM Publishing is a name to remember.

Through the years, our family has been blessed to review a number of titles in their Heroes of History series and have thoroughly enjoyed each one. 

The latest - Heroes of History, Douglas MacArthur: What Greater Honor by Janet and Geoff Benge (which can be paired with a downloadable curriculum guidefollowed suit with being as engaging and well-written as the other books in this series we have read. In fact, for one of my children, it trumped all the other titles!

Seriously, this is what my 10-year-old dictated to me when I asked him for his thoughts for this review:

I thought this book was amazing in every single way, and we should get more of these stories. 

You may be wondering why I liked it so much.

Well, it is well written and engagingly narrates the life of Douglas MacArthur, who was a leading general in the army during World War II and the Korean War.

I was amazed by the courage, determination, and character of Douglas MacArthur and the way the story was told magnified the excitement of Douglas MacArthur's life.

For example, I like the way the beginning of the story started later in Douglas' life as he and his family were evacuating the Philippines and, then, the story flashbacked to MacArthur's childhood and told the rest of his story.

Overall, the story ignited my imagination as I pictured MacArthur fighting bandits in Mexico, driving off Japanese enemies in the South Pacific, and standing up for the Philippines, post-war Japan, and Korea. 

The story was a motivating and inspirational story that you - yes, you!- should read it.

I have read other books in the YWAM series and liked them, but this one is my favorite so far, because it was about a courageous man during war times.

He truly loved the book and would often stretch our read together times by asking for more of the book.

As you can imagine, he was quite disappointed when the book ended.

His big brother also enjoyed the book.

In recent history, my eldest child, 15, has rarely joined us for read aloud time without complaint. However, the Douglas MacArthur book eased his contention. 

When I asked him for his words for this review, he said:

We decided to read MacArthur as a family read aloud. Lately, I have not liked read alouds and have tried to avoid them, but this story drew me in.

I enjoyed it.


Before reading the book, I knew a bit about General Douglas MacArthur from a video game and thought he sounded cool. When we read the book, I realized he had an interesting life and was an amazing person.


Some things that stood out to me about him were:

  • how he overcame his medical condition to get into West Point.
  • how he always stood on the front line with his soldiers.
  • how he rebuilt the destroyed country of Japan and made it into an economic and cultural power.
  • how he believed that if you go to war, you must win it as effectively and as quickly as possible, yet, in peace times, he treated everybody wit dignity and honor.
  • that he possessed remarkable courage, diligence, and ambition.

I would recommend this book for any American. Even though Douglas MacArthur died in 1964, some of what he experienced and fought for affects us today, in particular, things related to China and Korea.

My daughter, 13, also noted how apropos the MacArthur book seems to current issues with China, Korea, Communism, and Socialism.

She shared:

Douglas MacArthur was a veteran in World War II and the Korean War, therefore, I had never been that interested in him, because topics I tend to avoid are the French Revolution and the World Wars. (Both tend to be extraordinarily gruesome.)

Still, when my mother introduced us to the YWAM book, Douglas MacArthur, I found out it was quite intriguing. 

I probably would not have agreed to listen to the book if I had not liked the other books in the YWAM series, such as Milton Hershey, Benjamin Franklin, etc. Because I found those books engaging even if the people and places in them had not seemed interesting to me before, I did not immediately disregard the Douglas MacArthur one. 

I did not regret my decision to listen to
Douglas MacArthur. As the book told it, his life was not as boring and gruesome as I expected to be. In fact, it was quite intriguing.

One thing that stood out to me were that the president that told Douglas MacArthur not to go ahead and crush North Korea caused many issues and conflicts that could have been avoided in later history. (This was not actually explained in the book, but my common sense when looking at the history in the book and current events filled in the gaps.)

I would completely recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn about an outstanding man who fought for freedom and treated others with dignity and respect.

So, as you can see, the book was a hit here and made a rather profound impact on my children.

I admittedly was wowed by some of the details and connections the book brought to light, too, and even found myself sharing about it at several recent homeschooling events.

This book is definitely one we all recommend!

Oo, and if you are a homeschooler that likes to turn books into studies or a teacher in a co-op or classroom, great news! There is a downloadable Unite Study Curriculum Guide available to go with the book, too.

Because we were so getting into just reading the Douglas MacArthur book together here, I did not pause to go over the Key Quotes, Chapter Questions, Maps, Extension Ideas, and more that are contained in the comprehensive unit study, but I did look them all over, and I have some quotes printed out that I intend to use for either copywork, dictation, or impromptu speech exercises as well as some essay prompts to challenge my older child with.

Surely, if I were still teaching at co-ops, I could easily run a full course with the book and all the materials and suggestions within the unit study. It's fabulous stuff!

If you'd like to learn more about how others are using this book title and its corresponding unit study materials - or if you'd like to read about some of the other studies, do click on through to the Homeschool Crew Review to find links for 40+ Crew reviews for YWAM titles.

You might also want to connect with YWAM Publishing:

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Sunday, April 25, 2021

Make a Mary Garden (& Enter a Contest, Too)

May is just around the corner.

So, I am already thinking about what we might do for our annual Mini Mary Gardens. I am also dreaming about finally putting together a full-size Mary Garden in our yard. 

Even if time, resources, and life do not line up for me to create a beautiful outdoor Mary Garden, though, I am excited at the possibility of inspiring my children in the creation of this years' Mini Mary Gardens by sharing with them news of  a contest the Museum of Family Prayer is running, which you might be interested in, too.

On the Feast of Mary, Mother of the Church (May 24), the Museum of Family Prayer will launch its 2nd Annual Mary Garden Contest!, which aims to  encourage gardeners and gardener wannabes to do something concrete to give witness to Christ our Life by creating beautiful spaces for personal meditation, family prayer, and observing the glorious natural wonder that God created.

Whereas traditional Mary Gardens have historically been enclosed gardens filled with flowers and herbs whose names connect to Our Lady which are planted around a statue of the Holy Virgin, the Museum of Family Prayer is opening the  proverbial field to include any space filled with plants and flowers where you and your family might go with Our Lady to focus on prayers, peace, and beauty.

A porch, a corner of an apartment, a spot in your yard...  Anywhere where you can grace your hearts and home with God's presence by creating your very own Mary Garden is fair game.

What a fun way to encourage some creative springtime planting fun and some summer-into-fall peaceful prayer.

Be sure to keep watch of the official contest page for forthcoming details. In the meantime, happy planning and planting.

Blessed Virgin, pray for us.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

AIM for Multiplication Mastery and a Bridge to Division {A Review}

I received this complimentary product through the Homeschool Review Crew.

When the subject "math" comes up among homeschoolers - especially homeschoolers with differently-wired or struggling students, the name Math-U-See typically comes up as well.

Lauded for providing effective, hands-on math curriculum materials, 
Math-U-See earns high regard. Thus, even though I am satisfied with my children's current full math curricula, when I was offered an opportunity to review Math-U-See's Accelerated Individualized Mastery (AIM) for Multiplication with a Bridge to Division complete set I was interested.

This instructor/parent-guided student-centered intervention program is specifically designed for students 10 years of age and older who wish to increase retention of basic multiplication facts. It focuses on:

  • specific mathematical strategies for each set of facts based on a process, not tricks or skip counting
  • "key" facts and "companion" facts that help students learn more quickly (applying the Commutative Property)
  • hands-on work with manipulatives which is faded out to instant recall when faced with oral or written multiplication problems
  • a logical bridge to division

The program is also designed so parents/instructors can easily adapt to a student's pace, moving towards mastery in weeks to months, depending on the student.

Plus, the program can be used in conjunction with any math curriculum and includes everything you and a child need to move towards math mastery. That is:

  • an AIM Multiplication Resource guide with program overview, lesson instructions, and more.
  • Math-U-See Integer blocks which are integrated into each lesson and strategy
  • Paper-sized Math Fact Strategy Posters which act as a visual reminder of multiplication strategies
  • Fact Check Cards which are used as an instructional tool to help determine mastery (and, according to my daughter, are strangely "satisfying to tear apart" on their dotted lines - LOL)

  • an access code for the AIM Multiplication Digital Pack which, of course, requires internet connection to access and includes lesson videos, instructions, solutions, printable resources, etc.
So, essentially, you get quality materials in a handy slim box in the mail and digital access online that offer you all you need o help you take your child from multiplication struggle to mastery.

In our home, this handy package helped two children.

One child already knew his multiplication facts pretty well, but had a few that sometimes escaped him as far as instant recall goes. Thus, we moved fairly quickly through materials with him, using the cards to (re)check each set of facts, then moving through the strategies in the lessons which corresponded with the facts he was weaker with.

To be 100% honest, this child said that our use of AIM Multiplication was "a little boring, but helped me get better and faster" with some facts.

Mind you, we are talking about a kid who would rather dispense with hands-on manipulatives and just keep moving forward, so his comment did not surprise me, and, knowing his opinion and preferences, I began to fade him quickly from use of the integer blocks, focusing more on the strategies for target sets and practice with the word problems and such.

This worked well for us, keeping "boring" at bay and moving us toward success.

Our use of AIM Multiplication helped this child strengthen his speed and sureness with the few math facts that had him stumbling.

AIM Multiplication also seems to be helping another child of mine.

This child has long struggled with math facts and benefits from using a variety of tools to help her review strategies and work towards more instant recall. AIM Multiplication is our latest tool and is helping her work out more answers correctly even if not always super quickly while getting speedier at a few facts along the way.

Since this child tend to have a pattern where it seems like she has mastered math facts, but then later  "loses" them again, I won't be able to say for a while if the kit has truly given her final mastery, but I will say it has been helping her gain ground with both speed and accuracy - and that is a good thing.

It's also good that the product can be easily stored and brought back out if needed. Not babyish. Slim  to store. Concrete to revisit. It will be easy to take out again down the road if my daughter needs further revision of facts and strategies.

Bonus - it is already proving easy to help me with a tutoring student.

Indeed, the other day, I took out the posters and manipulatives to use with a tutoring student whose mom asked me to help with division.

Undoubtedly, solid multiplication facts help with sound division strategies and this kit is a superb tool for that.

I would recommend the kit to anyone whose older children need some help with multiplication facts as well as to teachers and tutors that work with children with a wide variety of skills and styles. The combination of online/digital printables and  videos, hands-on integer block activities, logical math strategies and corresponding posters, etc. all make AIM Multiplication adaptable and effective for learners.

If you'd like to see how other homeschoolers have been using AIM Multiplication, be sure to head on over to find links to other Homeschool Review Crew video, social media, and blog reviews.

You can also connect with Math-U-See:

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Sunday, April 11, 2021

A Prayer Too beautiful Not to Share

Sometimes, you read a little prayer and it touches you so much that you feel compelled to share it.

Such was the case when I read the prayer of a holy princess, Mme. Elizabeth, daughter of a king, and sister of Louis XVI in Counsels of Perfection for Christian Mothers, a fantastic and seemingly timeless read which is also available as a free audio on the JMJ site, as a pdf on SCRIBD, and as a free audio on YouTube:

The book said that Mme. Elizabeth made the prayer each morning of her life and suggested that readers repeat it daily if not v
erbatim, then, at least in its general sense.

I think that suggestion is a wonderful one, so am sharing it forward.

Please consider joining in praying regularly:

My God, what will happen to me today, I do not know; but I do know that nothing will happen to me which Thou hast not foreseen and ordained for my greater good. I accept, then, Thy thrice holy will; I submit myself to it, and desire to delight in it despite all the revolts of my reason, and the repugnances of my nature. Amen

To God be the Glory



Life is full.

So full.

But not too full to stop and savor Sunday moments.


Family time.

Time to pause.

Time to breathe.

Time to look around and give thanks to God for the glory of creation.

For brilliant blue birds spied through the trees...

For bright red feather patches - so beautifully created.

For spring blossoms.

For laughter...

For shared smiles...

To God be the glory for it all.

I pray you are able to make time this Lord's Day to savor some moments of simple beauty.

To God be the glory!

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Alleluia! He Has Risen!

Pinterest perfect?

Not a chance!

Perfectly imperfect with simplicity and tradition?

You bet!

That's how we roll in our home...

For while I often dreamed of picture perfect holidays and even tried to create them now and again, our reality is often a lot more haphazard and chaotic.

So, simple traditions tend to be all that works here.

One that we tuck in just before Easter each year - as so many other families do - is dying Easter eggs.

And while I've wanted to try making natural dyes, test out Cool Whip Easter eggs, and introduce myriad other picture-perfect ways to make beautiful eggs for Easter morning, we tend to just go with ease.

Toss on "cruddy shirts" (old tee shirts that we do not care if they get ruined) and cover the table in recycled paper. Boil up some water, pour it into glass bowls, and add some vinegar drops of food coloring. Then, use oil pastels or wax crayons to decorate eggs if desired, or simply start dipping them.

Simple, traditional, low prep, and something we can manage every year despite whatever else is going on.

Low stress before the Easter Vigil, our simple tradition brings smiles on Easter morning.

Happy Easter morning!

Alleluia! He has risen!

He has risen, indeed!

Praise the Lord for all good things. May your Easter season be a joy-filled one!

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

What Curriculum Resource Has My Son Thinking about Changing His Future Plans {A Homeschool Court Review}

DisclosureI received this product free through the Homeschool Review Crew.

When I was offered a chance to review the digital Student Worktext, Teacher Manual, Case Summary materials, High School Supplement, and High School Teacher Manual, from Homeschool Court recently, I did not even have to ask my children if they'd be interested in doing so. For, I knew it would be right up my eldest son's alley and thought it might be fun to use as a family study.

Unfortunately, in the short period of time between when I jumped at this review and when we received our pdf downloads of all the materials for it, some things at home changed and so did my children's various  outside-of-home classes and work schedules. So, there went my plans for a mom-n-kids foray into law, government, and trying a moot court case together this season.

Fortunately, though, I was able to pivot my plan from a mom-and-kids study to a high schooler-and- mom one and what fruit that has brought!

My son and I began the study by taking turns reading and discussing the opening chapter of the Student Worktext and High School Supplement. Then, my son began doing the reading on his own with us discussing it and doing some of the exercises during 1:1's.

We were not a few sessions into working our way through Homeschool Court materials this way when my son randomly came to me with a jaw dropping statement:

 "I am rethinking what I want to do. I've always wanted to start my own business, and now I am not sure. I may want to go into law."


That came out of seeming nowhere.

My oldest son had loved the speech and debate club which he participated in until the pandemic canceled tournaments and put the club on indefinite hold, but he has never once been inclined towards making a career in law before.

Now, he is.


Homeschool Court!

Wow! I did not see that coming and could not be more grateful for how Homeschool Court has been capturing my son's attention and has encouraged him to dive into legal concepts, civics, etc. while also rethinking his future. 

What an unexpected win from a product I thought might offer just a fun family study and moot court activity. Clearly, even though we have yet to get to the actual moot court case yet, Homeschool Court is offering us so much more.

Now, I cannot promise that your child will have the same potentially life path-changing experience that my son is discerning, but I will say that if your child wants to learn about the American legal system, Homeschool Court offers an engaging approach to doing so.

My son agrees. When I asked him for his quick thoughts on Homeschool Court for this review, he said:

It's a very good program that teaches well through an easy to read worktext with good flow and plenty of exercises and opportunities to dig deeper.

I honestly enjoy it besides the heavy Christian influence.

In the beginning chapters, I learned about plaintiffs, prosecutors, and defendants, and we discussed how a "no vehicles in the park" law could be interpreted and also discussed an actual court case.

I also reviewed some history of American figures and saw how they were connected to law. Plus more.

Now, I am looking forward to moving through the rest of the chapters and getting to try the court cases.

I would recommend Homeschool Court to others. It's well put together!

The Student Worktext provides the meat of the program and includes nine chapters that cover everything from basic legal vocabulary and why we have laws, to who's who in the legal system, to crafting persuasive arguments and enjoying a mock trial. There are enrichment ideas at the end of most chapters and, if you get the High School Supplement, too, further concepts are taught. Research, writing, and real-world applications are all there, including up-to-date material on recent Supreme Court nominees.

A Teacher Manual and High School Supplement Teacher Manual correspond to the Student Worktext and High School Supplement and provide everything a parent or teacher might need to learn alongside and/or teach a child. The text from the Worktext is included in the manual along with answers to exercises, discussion tips, activity suggestions, and links to audios. videos, and other recommended resources. Well-written and easy-to-follow, the Teacher Manual is easy to pull up on your computer screen or print out and follow along with as you learn alongside/teach your child.

Then, there are three case summaries and Teacher Case Summaries that include additional notes and materials, including a case overview, roles to fill, etc. The cases are:

  • Contested Will - a trial that contests the validity of a signature on a will and includes witness statements, jury instructions, evidence, vocabulary terms, and more.

  • School Prayer - a Supreme Court case about whether school prayer is constitutional which includes a summary of facts, lower court decisions, prior case, law, etc. and also requires engaging oral arguments rather than the presentation of evidence.
  • Dog Bite at the Dog Show - a civil trial where the plaintiff seeks compensation for injuries sustained from a dog bite and one where there is an evidence summary chart, tips on presenting evidence, and notes on the actual case the mock court case is based on.

Without question, all of these materials are quality ones that my son and I highly recommend to anyone wanting a solid study on civics and law.

If you'd like to see what other families have thought about Homeschool Court, be sure to click through the review links at the Homeschool Review Crew. You can also connect with Homeschool Court through:

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Sunday, March 28, 2021

Host an American Needs Fatima Home Visit

Have you heard of America Needs Fatima's Fatima Home Visitation Program?

We had the blessing of being invited to share in a program that friends hosted at their house.

What a beautiful time!

A kind and knowledgeable custodian brought a beautiful statue of Our Lady to our friends' home and led us in an informative program before we all joined together to pray the Rosary and concluded the evening with refreshments and socialization.

As a part of the program the mother of the home ceremoniously crowned the statue of Our Lady as we sang a hymn in Mary's honor.

Then, the custodian offered a short, interactive / question-and-answer type history of the origin of the statue and Fatima story before showing a 20-minute or so video on the story of Fatima and Our Lady's message, which further brought home the relevance of Our Lady's prophesies in our modern lives.

After that, the custodian distributed special card envelopes where we could write petitions to be taken to Fatima, Portugal to be places at the exact spot Our Lady appeared. 

Then, each family present led a decade of the rosary before we enjoyed refreshments and socialization - and also could browse the religious materials that the custodian had brought.

Truly, it was a lovely event and I encourage you to look into hosting or attending a similar one.

If you'd like to host one, you can request to do so here.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

My New Favorite Way to Use Learning Cards

{This post was initially shared in 2014 at Upsidedown Homeschooling Blog where I was a contributor. That blog can now only be found using the Wayback Machine, so I am resharing the post here for easier access.}

Between homeschooling and tutoring, I make and use a lot of learning cards! Vocabulary cards, spelling cards, math cards, Alerting Activity ABC Cards, 3-Part Movement Cards, Saint Symbol Cards, Life of Mary Sequencing Cards, 3-Part Bob Book Cards, M and N Discrimination Cards, Act Like and Elephant Cards… You name it. Week in and week out, my children, my tutoring students and I use all types of cards to tackle new learning objectives and to review old ones.

Almost any learning objective becomes hands-on and interactive when learning cards are involved.

Of course, being so card crazy, we have developed a regular repertoire o10+ games and activities for using learning cards, and, we love adding to it!

Even when little ones are too young to play with siblings, they can with your help. My youngest likes to place markers when I play with my oldest.

Over the past two weeks, we did just that!

We revamped the simple strategy game of Tic Tac Toe to be a learning card game

Playing is easy, effective and engaging.

Winning rounds happens quickly, which keeps the game pace moving along and motivates children to keep learning and reviewing.

To playyou need nine or more learning cards and two piles of distinct markers. (We use Bingo chips, but coins of two different colors or any distinctly colored or shaped small objects would work.)  Set your cards up in a 3 x 3 grid.  Then, you are good to go.

Playing Learning Card Tic Tac Toe

  1. Have Player One start the game by selecting a card. If Player One can read the card, spell the word on it*, solve the problem on it, state a key fact related to it, make a sentence with the word written on it, name the part of speech of it, answer the question posed on it or do whatever the learning objective of the card is, Player One may put a marker on it.
  2. Player Two then chooses a card and does likewise.  Play continues until a player has three markers in a row or until all the cards are covered.
  3. At that point, players shuffle the places of cards within the grid, or trade new cards into the grid, and play another round.
  4. Whoever wins three out of five rounds is the winner.

It’s that simple!

A Note on Playing with Spelling Words

Flip the cards over to use Tic Tac Toe as a Spelling game.

To use Tic Tac Toe to practice spelling words, place all cards face down.  Have Player One hand a card to Player Two, who reads it to Player One.  Player One then must spell the word correctly in order to place a marker down.

Learning Card Tic Tac Toe is adaptable, too!

Just like learning cards themselves are, so is Learning Card Tic Tac Toe, and that is one of the reasons I love it.  I am constantly coming up with new variations and uses for this easy card game:

  • Learning Card Tic Tac Toe can become Four-in-a-Row or even Five in a Row to cover more material in one round.
  • For students who need more movement in order to meet sensory needs, the game can be super-sized with full-sized sheets of paper as cards and stuffed toys as markers. 
  •  To make this game equally valuable for multi-disciplinary review as it is for focusing on one specific learning objective, cards used can target a single subject or a mixture of subjects and skills – English Language Arts, Math, Science, Character and Virtues, Social Studies, just about any topic...
  • Students who are reluctant to practice handwriting or spelling can be encouraged with the “carrot” of making game cards.
  • Almost any age can play.

In fact all three of my children, plus two of my tutoring students, have played round after round of this game with me in the past couple weeks.

My three year old used Learning Card Tic Tac Toe to practice basic phonic sounds; my six and eight year olds mastered spelling, vocabulary and reading words with it; my high school tutoring student learned and reviewed SAT materials with it; and my fourth grade tutoring student practiced parts of speech, sentence building and target reading words with it.  In doing so, all of us found Learning Card Tic Tac Toe quick, easy and effective at providing lots of learning through enjoyable repetition.

Learning Card Tic Tac Toe is a keeper!

So, what are you waiting for? Grab some cards and markers and go play a quick game with your learner today.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

When There are Bumps, Bruises, and Bends in the Road...

When we first began our homeschool journey, I shared here that I hoped it would turn out "with lots of love, laughter and learning along the way" and "a fair share of bumps, bruises and unforeseen bends in the road" no doubt.

If I am to be honest, many times there is more of the latter than the former, and some of those bumps, bruises and unforeseen bends have caused much pain and challenge.

It is definitely not all happy hearts and laughter here.

And, that's okay.

Our sorrows can be united with our Lord's.

Mama Mary can wrap us in her loving and protective mantle.

God will take care of what we cannot.

We can do a lot, but cannot do it all, and, when parts of life, learning, and parenting get to be more than we can handle, we can simply hand it over.

Offer it up.


Peace can happen in the chaos.

I am praying it does for you if you're at a rough patch in your journey, too.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

What a Helpful 2-in-1 Resource for Essay Writing, Style and Usage! {An Excellence in Literature Handbook for Writers Review}

DisclosureI received this product free through the Homeschool Review Crew.

Do you have a middle school or high school student who could benefit from a writing reference resource which is comprehensive yet offers clear, concise explanations and examples?

The Excellence in Literature Handbook for Writers from Everyday Education could be just what you are looking for.

We have recently had the opportunity to review this 400+-page reference guide, which addresses essay writing, including style, grammar, usage, and punctuation, and is effectively two books in one.

The first "book" introduces and details essays and arguments. It devotes over 200 pages to illuminating for students how to structure an effective essay, emphasizing that a thesis must be "arguable" - not simply a point of fact or an opinion most already agree with.

Part One then takes students through the "anatomy" of an essay step by step, explaining how to write paragraphs that define terms, give background information, provide details examples, etc.
 discussion of essays arguments and more.

Through clear examples and exercise, Part One can truly help students craft effective and passionate arguments in clear and engaging writing. 

The second "book" of the Handbook is a style and usage guide. It includes more than 200 pages that offer tips and guidelines for grammar and word usage, covering spelling, punctuation, parallel structure, formatting, APA and MLA guidelines, and so much more - all listed in an extensive table of contents explained clearly with effective example, and numbered by paragraph for easy reference.

Together, the two-books-in-one work as a thorough teaching and reference tool which is designed to be used with high school through college students, yet is written and organized in such a way that it can he helpful for eager middle school students, parents, tutors, and teachers, too, I believe.

Middle school and high school students can take a break from other ELA studies to use the Handbook to fill in gaps in knowledge and to learn how to write strong essays. They can also use the reference in tandem with other resources, checking style, grammar, and usage points in the Handbook as they move through other curricula. 

College students can access the reference to tighten and improve their writing. They can also take comfort in knowing that by looking up key points in this vetted Handbook rather than, say, some random article they find on Google, they are getting sound examples and explanations.

Parents, teachers, and tutors can use the rubric in the Handbook to grade and give feedback to students. They can also direct students to specific numbered sections of the Handbook to review specific points. Plus, they can use the material in the Handbook to improve their own writing.

Most definitely,  I see the Handbook as a guide that can help students (and grown-ups) now, and also for years to come.

How Have We Been Using the Handbook?

I have been browsing the Handbook to become familiar with al of its parts so I can use portions of it to direct all three of my children to as I edit and evaluate their writing.

I have also been using the book as my high school age son's current ELA studies. Having had him fail to fully utilize other writing resources he has begun, I have opted to use this one together with him during 1:1's.

Basically, we read portions of it together, do the exercises in them aloud, and discuss examples. I also use the Handbook as a reference when I see mistakes and areas of improvement in my son's creative writing.

My Son's Thoughts

When I asked my son for a few words for this review he said:

When you first told me we would begin work with this Handbook, I thought, "Whatever." I have begun a multitude of writing programs - especially about essays - but never finished one, because they tend to bore me. I prefer creative writing, particularly writing fantasy tales. 

Since then, we have taken time to sit together, read this, and do the exercises out loud, and I think the Handbook is well written, besides its overuse of the words "very", "really", and other such weak words.


I would recommend this Handbook to others.

My son also made me smile at the end of our 1:1 the other day, when, after balking at having to come do the 1:1, he said, "Mom, this Handbook is good. It makes sense." 

I am glad it is working for him!

My Thoughts

My son, who loves to write fantasy fiction and does so well, still has much room to grow in writing nonfiction pieces. He also has always had trouble formulating clear, interesting theses and following them with on-point and effective arguments.

As we've been moving through 
Excellence in Literature Handbook for Writers, I am seeing his understanding of how to craft persuasive writing grow.

I appreciate that the Handbook is part teaching tool and part ready reference. It does well encompassing many aspects of style, grammar, and usage and I like that it:
  • teaches how to construct logical, engaging arguments for essays, debates, and research papers
  • dives into different ways to organize essays and literary critiques, from research papers to narratives, outlining essential components for each.
  • offers images, outlines, examples, and more to drive home ideas.

  • offers a thorough treatment of paragraph structure, teaching about transitional words interpreting evidence, paragraph coherence, and more.
  • discusses how to read and write thoughtfully about literature including Shakespeare, classics, short stories, poetry, etc.
  • presents how to use inductive and deductive reasoning.
  • gives topic sentence outline examples for papers across curricula.
  • is organized with numbered paragraphs in the grammar and usage portion
  • provides multiple examples and exercises
  • goes over basics such as phrases, clauses, and dependent clauses, confusing words, etc.
There truly is much "meat" in this 2-for-1 Handbook.

The only things I have not liked so far are the overuse of unnecessary words such as "really", the lack of an index, and the fact that I don't have a physical copy of the book.

To this last point, we  received a PDF edition of 
Excellence in Literature Handbook for Writers and, although it is handy to have it available on my computer so that no one can misplace it around the house, I find myself missing the ability to pick up a print copy to flip through. Thus, I would recommend that if you - like me - prefer to have your reference resources in a physical format, it might be worthwhile to get the print version of this resource.

 Handbook for Writers Excellence in Literature is available in both print and ebook.

You'll find a complete list of contents and more information on the Handbook page at the 
Everyday Education website and, I believe, will find this Handbook an excellent resource for writing!

Learn More

More than 25 Homeschool Review Crew families have been using the Handbook for Writers Excellence in Literature. Click on through to find links to video, social media and blog reviews.

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