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:

Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Instagram  |  Pinterest  |  YouTube

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.

You can also connect with via social media:

Facebook  | Facebook 2  | Twitter  |  Instagram  |   Pinterest

Monday, March 8, 2021

Love Gameschooling? Check Out the Reading Game {Review and Giveaway Link}

 DisclosureI received this product free through the Homeschool Review Crew.

As a home educator and tutor, I am always interested in quality resources to enliven lessons and strengthen reading skills. Thus, I was excited about the opportunity to review The Reading Game, 2nd Edition from Allsaid & Dunn, LLC

The award-winning 
The Reading Game, 2nd Edition was created by Kenneth Hodkinson - known for his time-tested Wordly Wise program - and works to help children learn 180 sight words and begin reading with them using a systematic, game-style approach.

The 180 words include words from the Dolch Word List for Pre-K through 1st grade and from the Fry List (the100 most commonly used English words) and are first presented to the child through color-coded, leveled Memory-Match game cards, and, then, included on captioned picture cards, and in specifically written illustrated readers.

How Do You Play The Reading Game?

You - or any parent, teacher, tutor, or older child that can read - plays Memory Match with your child using the first set of red cards (10 cards of five matching words). As you play, you read the words aloud so your child can both see and hear the words.

Then, once your child has mastered this first set of cards - demonstrating an ability to read them during the game without hesitation, the next set of ten cards is used for playing Memory Match.

Once the second set of cards is mastered, you give your child the red picture card labeled 1-2 and your child tries to read its caption. (The card contains words that have been learned.)

If your child struggles with the picture card, you celebrate whatever your child had success with, and, then, play more rounds of Memory with the first sets of cards to reinforce with your child each of the 20 words previously presented.

If your child succeeds with reading the captioned card, you can move onto playing Memory Match with red word card sets 3 and 4. Then, try picture card 3-4.

After that, continue on through red card sets 5 and 6, reads the last red picture card, and, move onto reading the illustrated red book called, Skunk.

Of course, do not do all of this in one sitting. Simply play at your child's pace, picking up each time where you left off last time.

Following this pattern through the red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple sets of playing cards and corresponding picture cards and books, your child will learn 180 words and read those words in sentences on picture cards and in stories in the books.

What a low stress, fun, and systematic approach to early reading for typical learners!

The game can also be helpful for children with dyslexia and can tie into a phonics-based approach. (To see example phonics patterns found in the book, you can download the Rules Booklet online - which also comes in print form in your The Reading Game box.)

Is your child ready for The Reading Game?

If your child is a typical learner who is familiar with letters and shows an interest in storytime by pretending to read or wanting words pointed out while reading, then your child is ready to try The Reading Game.

If your child is a struggling reader who shows readiness as above but tends to need a more explicitly phonics-based approach, then you may wish to use the game slowly in addition to more intensive phonics-based instruction, for as you can see from the word list of the first book, the program jumps quickly from V-C and C-V-C word patterns to other patterns, plus sight words.

How Did I Use The Reading Game?

I have a 10 year old who is a typical learner and was curious about the game when we first received it, so I adapted the game material use for he and I to use during a couple 1:1 learning times. He moved quickly through the game materials, but enjoyed his foray with them, saying:

This game is under my level, so we adapted it. My mom had me spell each word and make sentences with the word cards. She also had me read the picture cards and stories fluently with expression. I liked reviewing with this game and think it would help younger kids.


We sometimes still take the word cards out and pull random ones to create silly sentences and stories.

My 13-year old is a struggling speller who just began to blossom with reading, so I also adapted the game materials for her use similarly. She said:


I like how this program has cards so if you wish, you can play games with it. I also like how it has the picture cards and books. I think that it would be nice for younger children to be able to play.

She also noted when reading the books quickly with me for fluency and expression that "some words have a dot in the middle" and asked why. I had her guess: Students just learning to read sometimes get thrown by compound words, so the makers of the material must have decided to divide the words for easier reading.

I also used the game with two of my tutoring students, ages 7 and 9, that have dyslexia. Both of these students were thrilled to see me pull out The Reading Game and, immediately, began laughing and smiling as we played 1:1 Memory Match with it as directed in the game instructions, with the small addition of me suggesting that whoever finds a pair must make a complete sentence using the word before keeping the pair and going again.

One of the girls definitely needed me to explain/hint at some of the phonics needed to read some of the sight words, so, for example, for the word "they", I pointed to the t-h and said, "Oh, t-h says /th/ and e-y here says 'ay'. So, that's they." Or, "Mmmm, w-h says /wh/ and the a here says /ah/, so this is wh-a-t." Both girls, though, progressed and, so far, have been able to read red cards 1-2, 3-4, and 5-6 with some help and, by their requests, tackled reading Book 1, too.

Further, both girls LOVED the back-and-white photos on the cards - guessing at what the captions would say before they read them - and equally enjoyed the illustrations in the book.

I have also pulled sentences from the picture cards and book for the girls to use for copywork and dictation sentences.

The girls quite enjoy The Reading Game and, even though some of the words presented in it are truly challenging for them, happily persist, learning as we go. One of them saw the game on my table the other day and exclaimed, "Oooo, I love that game. Are we going to play it?" (Of course, we did.) The other always comments on the cute animal photos and illustrations.

Would I Recommend The Reading Game?

If you are a home educator, teacher, or tutor, I would definitely recommend this game as a well-made, simple way to teach or reinforce reading, pending on if you are dealing with typical learners or those with challenges.

I always appreciate games that can be used again and again and are not parent/educator/tutor intensive. This is definitely one of them.

The materials are well made, the box is sturdy, directions for play/use are clear and simple, and success has already been had with my students.

Although I was not able to play the game on a daily basis with right-level learner yet, I can see how playing a few minutes a day could get a child from playing with word cards to reading within a week or so. For, with my tutoring students, we progressed from cards to the first within just a few sessions.

Further, six staged sets of memory games, picture cards, and storybooks can be revisited with older/more skilled learners, with random cards being pulled for sentence and story writing challenges, the picture cards being used as visual prompts for independent writing.

Plus, for those that need data-driven/reportable proof of learning, you can find pre- and post-assessments and class recording sheets online. These can also be printed - or the back of the book word lists referenced - for a quick look at which words have been presented.

Learn More

If you are the type that likes visual examples of things, find video demonstrations of The Reading Game online

If you would like to see how other beginning or struggling readers have been enjoying some gameschooling and having chance to build
 confidence in reading through The Reading Game, click on over to the Homeschool Review Crew to find video, social media, and blog review from 25 families.

At the Homeschool Review Crew page, you can also enter to win one of 5 The Reading Game boxed sets that are being given away!

Finally, you can find The Reading Game on social media at

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Get FREE Printable Morning Glory Consecration Prayer (Short Version) Copywork in Cursive and Printing

Recently, I have found my memory clouded and my mouth stumbling as I go to make my Morning Glory Consecration, so I decided that to help me with (re)memorization, I would make a Printable Morning Glory Consecration Prayer (Short Version) Copywork set for myself.

I am sharing the FREE PRINTABLE set in case itFREE PRINTABLE set might help you, too.

As I typically do when making copywork sets, I have made this one with a print model:

...a cursive model...

...and a blank line sheet.

That way, your children children can choose to practice printing, cursive, or both if they use the set and you can use whichever is more comfortable for you.

I also included a blank sheet if you like to write without lines.

On the lined sheets, I used a double thick line at the bottom of each line to help children remember to ground their letters, I also used spaces between words on the model to help children remember to leave spaces between words as they copy.

I hope this simple Printable Morning Glory Consecration Prayer (Short Version) Copywork blesses your and yours as you work on practicing prayers and handwriting.

You can find more free, printable prayer copywork here!
Soul of Christ, sanctify us.


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