Friday, August 31, 2012

Costumes with Character (Review)

Costumes with Character, by Amy Puetz, is the latest product I have had the privilege to review.  This was a very unique product to review in that it is a combination of history, character-building and home economics all in one! We loved it!

The details:       Costumes with Character : $21.95 (currently on sale for $17.95)
  • Three e-books are included in your purchase: Part 1, Part 2, and the Patterns. 
  • Includes detailed instructions on how to sew a basic dress and how to modify it for eleven different time periods in American history. 
  • The bonus e-book of the full-size patterns can be printed out on legal paper for your convenience. 
  • Includes fun information/quizzes about the women of each time period and wonderful personal stories from the author. 
The summary:  These e-books are designed to be used with your girls/young women of all ages.  Amy Puetz cheerfully takes the readers on an adventure and allows history to come to life in a very unique way! She takes a basic dress pattern and shows how the fashions changed over eleven different time periods in early American history.  There are plenty of pictures and guidance along the way.   

I consider myself just a so-so (or sew-sew) seamstress and had a bit of trouble with converting the patterns to size I needed for Abbey (she is a petite nine-year-old).  After several attempts and a bit of frustration, I figured out a solution--convert an old dress shirt of her dad's into a dress and make feminine details to dress it up.  Abbey's favorite book is Little House on the Prairie, so we took a page out of the Pioneer Days sections of Amy's book and tried  to make a dress/headwear that girls may have worn during that time period. 

Okay, I know what you might be thinking--April, you're not just a so-so seamstress, you're an awful one. While the end result is not a perfect specimen, as Amy Puetz demonstrates in her books, I want to tell you this:  Abbey and I had so much sewing together.  We laughed and bonded and made a pile of scraps and thread in the middle of the den floor and absolutely loved it!  With her new found confidence in sewing, she has taken the initiative to begin to sew her own creations.  I have been able to help her learn so much about the machine and the craft of sewing, and, more importantly, how to make do with what you have on hand---which is exactly what women in history have been doing forever, right?

Amy Puetz' generous spirit is very apparent in her writing and her offerings of this wonderful resource.  It is a beautiful supplement to any American history curriculum.  I promise your girls/young women will remember so much more about history by taking the time to sew any one of the dresses in Costumes with Character than just reading about it in a dry textbook.  

Amy Puetz is also the author of many other wonderful history resources.  Check them out here.  

As always, don't just take my word for it, see what other Schoolhouse Crew Reviewers thought about Costumes with Character it here.  

**Disclaimer:  In exchange for writing this review, I received a free copy of Costumes with Character.  No other compensation was received. :-)


Monday, August 27, 2012

Home at Last

Abbey is not a great traveler. Never has been. She was one of those babies who, instead of calming down when placed in the car seat, would scream like a banshee until we reached our destination. We avoided long trips with her like the plague.

 As she got older, the crying was replaced with whining and complaining.

"My tummy hurts.

I'm cold. 

My seatbelt's too tight.

Oooohhh, how much longer?" 

Now nine years old, she is getting a little better at enjoying the journey. One reason: she is learning the special trick we all eventually learn: taking a nap makes the trip go by a lot faster. On our last road trip, she observed, "You know, when I fall asleep in my car seat, I don't wake up when we're at red lights or stop signs. I don't wake up until we're permanently home." 

That made me smile and it made me realize something: 

Most days I feel as if I am not a very good "life" traveler.  

I am tired; I am hurting; I never get my to-do list completed.  Good grief.  Some days I look forward to bedtime from the time I get out of bed. And I am not alone. I know many of you feel the same way because our lives are so overwhelmingly busy. While I am happy and settled and blessed in my life and I don't want go Home yet, I am really looking forward to the day when I get to praise God 24 hours a day.

We Christians know that this life is temporary.

We know we are looking through a glass darkly.

We know that our bodies won't last forever and that one day we will see our Lord in completeness, face to face.

We know that beautiful, no-more-sand-in-our-eyes clarity will one day be ours.

We know that life, like a nap, doesn't last long.

And when we are all  'permanently' home, we will wake up like
never before. Oh, glorious day! 


"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." 1 Corinthians 13:12

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Passion Play

Driving down the road the other day, we passed a speed limit sign and I made some comment about Michael driving too fast. From the back seat Abbey randomly pipes up and says, “Hey, did you know a blue whale can swim 3 m.p.h.?”  Then, yesterday, she comes running in the room and says, “Do you know who are partners in the wild?! Warthogs and mongooses!! Isn’t that crazy?!! Now a gazelle and an oxpecker, that makes sense. But a warthog and a mongoose--no way!!!”  And off she ran to play. 

And such is a typical day of conversation around here. 

Since she was two years old and watched her very first Baby Einstein video on which she met her first meerkat, she has been obsessed with the animal kingdom.  She can tell the difference between a kudu and a gazelle; an ostrich and an emu; a lemur and a bush baby.  She is absolutely passionate about God’s creations.  She is, as I write, literally typing up a Word document, three pages long (so far) with animals--quantity of each, scientific names for each, and what she should feed them.  The title of her document: “The Animals I Want In My Zoo”.  

We found scored an old set of eleven Funk & Wagnall’s Wildlife Encyclopedias at the thrift store the other day.  Did you hear her squeal of delight from where you are?!  

Are you that passionate about something? Anything? 

Watching her excitement grow as she learns more and more about the animal kingdom every day really does make me think. . .  

What am I passionate about?  My husband and my family?  Of course, yes. Homeschooling? Yes.  Being a foster parent? Yes.  But what else? 

I know what my answer automatically should be: Jesus and the Scriptures and making sure everyone one I know and love has a chance to know the Truth before this world is no more.  

I want to be able to confidently say to anyone who will listen, things like, “Hey, did you know a king actually helped finance the rebuilding of the temple at Jerusalem, as part of God’s divine design?” or “Did you know that the only book in the Bible in which God is never mentioned is Esther?”  

I want to easily know the difference between Malachi and Nehemiah; Ezra and Esther; Hezekiah and Habukkah.  

Sadly, I admit to you all that I spend ridiculous amounts of time on things that don’t really matter (scanning Facebook, surfing the net, watching mindless television) and not nearly enough time praying and studying the Word of God.  In order to be able to quote scripture as confidently as reciting my own name, I have to make changes

Taking a cue from my passionate, future-zookeeper nine-year-old, the new prayer of my heart is to become the truest picture of mercy and grace God desires for me to be---a passionate follower of Christ.

God spoke: "Earth, generate life! Every sort and kind: cattle and reptiles and wild animals—all kinds." And there it was: wild animals of every kind, Cattle of all kinds, every sort of reptile and bug. God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:23-25

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Vocabulary Spelling City (Review)

Vocabulary Spelling City is a wonderful online program from the folks at Time 4 Learning.  This ever-evolving site allows your children the ability to study weekly spelling words in very creative ways, but it is oh, so much more.   In fact, there is so much content, I am having to limit what I write about to keep this review from being three pages long. 

First of all the details: A premium subscription to Vocabulary/Spelling City costs $29.99 per year per family for up to 5 students. (Visit VocabularySpellingCity before August 25th and enter the coupon code Aug25T4L to get an annual family membership for $19.99, a savings of $10.)  Even at full price, Vocabulary Spelling City is a great value. 

 You can actually have access to the site for free, as I have done for the past two years.  Even the free membership allows for access to a ton of free games and spelling lists.  But here are some reasons why I think the premium membership is worth your money:
  • Students can sign on to their own page and track their own progress (parents can monitor their progress, too).
  • The number of games and subjects available to you (spelling, grammar, history, art appreciation, geography, and more) almost triples with the premium membership.
  • Teacher resources are off the chart! Language art lessons, instructional videos, useful word lists, Help and Information!  Take a look at the Teaching Resources Page:  
·  There are lesson plans with detailed instruction, videos to be used to teach the teacher, videos to be used to teach the student, pre-filled spelling lists by grade level (homonyms, tricky words, etc.), and more! 

·  Here’s a sample lesson on teaching your child different compound words lists:

Abbey and I have been using the Vocabulary Spelling City free membership for two years.  We have been creating our own spelling lists, based on her reading readiness level.  From that weekly list, we have been playing games and using the words in a sentence and playing Hang Mouse. We have taken tests and printed out the results for all to see.  By far, this has been the most painless way to get her to study her words.  It sure beats the dry, boring worksheet method.  She now enjoys the extra activities available to her via the premium membership!  

This past week she spent 30 minutes playing “Match the Modern Art” game found under the “Other Activities/Art Games” tab.  There is so much to explore. We will be utilizing this website for our entire curriculum.  It is a fun, educational break from the boring textbooks and worksheets she has to do so often. 

Think I've covered it all? Think again. Check out the left-hand column of subjects below:

 If you are still unsure if you're ready to dive into a premium membership yet, I encourage you to sign up for their free membership and see how much fun your student will have at Vocabulary Spelling City!  

Don't just take my word for it, click here to see what other bloggers at the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought about it! 

Disclaimer: I was given a year-long premium membership in exchange for writing this review. No other compensation was given.  

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

This Week in History by A Thomas Jefferson Education (Review)

"Whatever you want to learn, whatever there is to teach, it starts with history!"

Do you know what happened on this day in history?  No? Well, thanks to the latest product I get to review, I can tell you! 

August 13

“1860: Birthdate of Annie Oakley

Her name was Phoebe Moses and she was born in Darke County, Ohio in 1860 and she could shoot the head off a running quail when she was twelve years old. Once, at the invitation of Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, she knocked the ashes off a cigarette he was holding in his mouth.” (

And the story continues, along with links to parenting resources, to the song "Anything You Can Do" from Annie Get Your Gun, and to fun activities about Annie. 
This little tidbit of information about this day in history comes from This Week in History, a daily resource from author Rachel Demille and Thomas Jefferson Education. With your paid subscription to TWIH, which equates to $2.50/wk, you will have access to history, math, current events, biographies, fine arts, music and more.  

A couple of weeks ago, on the birthdate of the author Carlo Collodi, Abbey and I learned some really cool things about Pinocchio; we talked about all the Christian symbolism found in the movie (based on thought-provoking questions that were provided by TWIH); we colored a fun coloring page from the Disney movie.  Finally, she watched the movie itself (found it on YouTube,in its entirety for free).  Did you know the very first Pinocchio looked like this?!

On July 27th,  we learned how to draw Bugs Bunny on the 72nd birthday of that famous grey hare! Abbey’s rendition of Bugs turned out a LOT better than mine!

Guess what we get to make on August 15th?  I can't wait! Oh, I mean, Abbey can't wait. ;-)

A Thomas Jefferson Education is classical in scope, but you don’t have to be that type of  curriculum teacher to enjoy this subscription.  It also flows smoothly with unschooling, Charlotte Mason, Montessori, Trivium/Quadrivium, IEW, Ecelectic, and more. There is such a wide variety of subjects that I am sure you will find something every single week that will fit into your homeschooling schedule. As with most of the resources that I have the privilege to review, a subscription to This Week in History can be enjoyed with many different grade levels and ages of children, and I think you will find it to be well worth the investment!   

Want to see a sample of This Week in History?  Please click here!  Want to see what other homeschool parents thought of This Week in History? Please check out the TOS Schoolhouse Review Crew


Disclaimer: I received a full subscription to This Week in History in exchange for writing this review. No other compensation was given. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

King Alfred's English (Review)

Hello, again, my friends!  I had the wonderful privilege of reviewing Laurie White’s King Alfred's English—A History of the Language We Speak and Why We Should Be Glad We Do.   And truly, we should be glad we do. 

It is an absolutely fascinating study on the history of the English language and the human stories behind the journey.  I learned things I had never known about this area of the world and the wonderful Christian heroes who fought to bring, and later keep, the Christian religion to various parts of the world. 

This is actually a textbook of sorts, written for 7th -12th graders, and I highly recommend that if you have children that fall in that category, you allow them to read it.  At the King Alfred's English Student Page on The Shorter Word's website, tons of supplemental materials and links are provided.  What a tremendous resource for busy homeschool moms!  This would be a wonderful book to use for a unit study.  

But please don't dismiss this book if your children are not that age yet.  As a homeschool teacher, you NEED to know these facts.  It is a history, linguistics, English Literature, and The English Bible lesson all in one.  Origins of popular words are discussed throughout the text, and I learned that it was not only a Latin influence that affects the way we speak, but also French, Norse, Celtic, and more. 

Laurie White provides maps that help the reader picture exactly where the different invasions were happening.  As a visual learner, I found this to be very helpful. 

Laurie's writing style is easy and conversational; it feels more like a bedtime story than a boring history of the world. You will be smarter for having read it.  It is an easy read, and I highly, highly recommend it! 
King Alfred's English  can be purchased at CBD for as low as $14.89.  If you are reading this before 9/30/12 and would like a code to receive the book at half-price, please comment below and I will share that code with you.  


Don't just take my word about what a great read it is, click HERE to learn what other bloggers thought about it!

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of King Alfred's English in exchange for writing and posting this review.  No other compensation was given. 



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