Hi, my name is Melissa. Pour yourself a cup of tea and stay a while. I'm completely devoted to my Savior, madly in love with my husband, and joyously raising my daughters. I'm so glad you stopped by and I hope you enjoy your time here!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Homeschool Helper Review and Giveaway!

I'm so excited to hold a giveaway for one of my favorite homeschooling tools, the Homeschool Helper App! This app does everything I need it to and more! I used it last year, but this year feel more prepared to utilize all aspects I need to fit my needs. (You can read my original review here)

There are just sooooo many features in this app, many options that I think it will work for absolutely every family now matter how you homeschool or what curriculum you use. I'm going to highlight some of my favorites...

I absolutely love the attendance feature. Our state has minimal requirements, but one of those requirements is attendance. I have a form I am required to fill out, but it is a pain to take it out every day. I already keep my iPad handy, so I take attendance here and then update my required form every few months. You have the options for a full-day, a half-day, and absent.

I love how I dictate what courses we are studying and how grades are calculated. I can give percentage amounts and change how the letter grades are separated numerically. I prefer a 10 point grading system and only grade for classwork and tests for the few subjects I give. On the summary page for each student you can see not only their overall average at a glance, but also attendance records (just in case I forget to click that button one day!), upcoming field trips, and upcoming tasks. I don't utilize the task function yet, but I like the idea of having it available. 

Grading is probably my least favorite part of homeschool. It is funny how I used to pretend school as a kid and I thought this was the most fun! Now it is just a tedious necessity. Homeschool Helper has taken out much of the hassle. I already mentioned the ability to calculate grades as you want, but the actual inputting of grades is so easy. There is a little calculator to the side where you can input the number correct, the number possible, and it will calculate a percentage grade for you! I have been doing a much better job of keeping grades this year because of this app. I do take the time to input the lesson because if one of my girls struggles in an area I need to know what it was. This also lets me see how they are doing overall quickly at a glance. My total grading time if I do it all together in the afternoons is right around 15-20 minutes. I grade grammar, spelling, vocabulary, and math in the traditional way and the other subjects as a participation type grade.

Sweet little Grace is still officially in preschool, so I am not required to do any of this for her, but you had better not tell her this! She wants her report card just as much as her sisters and she isn't shy about telling me this. For her I use an effort based grading system which is an option I love. She's doing great so all of those E's mean excellent. I also love how I can add as many subjects for each student as I need. The most you can include is 14, but I seriously can't imagine needing all 14 ever.

The last really neat feature is the field trip planner. I have several field trips in mind, and I am currently using this list for my own use. However, once we take a trip, it will pop up on their summary and report cards, which is really cool. I do give my girls report cards because as much as I know grades are not everything, it is a good teaching tool. They can see where they are growing and learning and I think they deserve a chance to feel good about their hard work. It is also fun for them to show this to their grandparents which they heartily do!

 I think this is one of the best valued apps for the price I've ever come across. The current cost in the app stores is $4.99. It is well worth the price and it is available for Android users, iPad, Kindle Fire, and Nook color!

And now what you have been waiting for!!!! Your very own chance to win this app! I wish everyone could win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Week in Review: August 25-29

First of all....

Have you entered the contest yet?!?!?! Don't miss out on your chance to win a really great book just for you! http://gracefilledhomeschooling.blogspot.com/2014/08/prelude-for-lord-giveaway.html

AND an awesome new giveaway is coming to you again on Monday!

I'm posting this week from my iPad, which is a new endeavor for me. Our computer is having some issues so while a friend is checking it out for us this is the backup. I love my iPad, but I'm seriously missing my nice big keyboard and screen! I can't figure out how to make pictures smaller, so the foram will look a bit different. 

This week was good, maybe not as smoothe as last week, but good nonetheless. I started a morning meeting time over the summer. The experiment was a success and they have been asking me when we get to start again. I'm going to have to figure out how it will all work when we start with the homeschool classes my girls take which start up next week. We call it pahri mani conventu which means Lighthouse Morning Meeting in Latin. The girls love the name and have enjoyed the variety of things we learn about. Throughout the week we study a Greek or Latin root, study a painting, listen to classical music, sing a hymn, learn ABC Bible verses, study about an animal, read from Answers for Kids, and much more! One of our favorite things is reading from Grammarland by Edith Nesbit. This is a gem of a book which fits in quite well with the living book philosophy of Charlotte Mason and Heart of Dakota.

Grace: K4

Grace loves her lessons so very much. All of my girls have started their schooling with the same excitement and joy for learning. While this has waned somewhat as their work gets harder, they still love learning. Grace doesn't yet feel the pressure of more work, so her energy and excitement is fun to watch. 

We are working our way through the alphabet for handwriting using Fundanoodle and Handwriting Without  Tears. My first experience with HWT wasn't that great, but Grace seems to be doing well wtih it and it was given to us, so I'm utilizing what we have. 

Grace is flying through the Abeka readers faster than I expected. She is finishing up the K5 books and we will move right into the 1st grade level. Homeschooling allows such freedom with reading and I love that with both reading and math if we continue throughout the schoolyear then there isn't need for long and tedious review. 

After her lessons are over Grace enjoys playing PBS kids on the computer. Daniel Tiger is a new favorite of hers. 

Beth: Grade 2, Bigger Hearts for His Glory Unit 1 (second half)

 We finished up the second half of unit 1. She enjoyed the history activities, Bible, and poetry which we worked on this week. I think she is probably ready for full speed, but we start our classes in 2 weeks and I'd rather her get settled into that routine before trying out full-speed the first time. 


We are using the tactile handwriting cards from The Logic of English along with Classical Conversations Prescripts for cursive. She is doing great and is anxious to start stringing letters together. We'll finish up individual letters in about 3 weeks. Then we'll move onto some copywork I think. I have to still figure out what we're doing for handwriting next! 


Math continues to be an easy subject for Beth...almost too easy at times. What I mean by that is she has started getting rather careless in her work because she thinks she knows what she is doing, barreling ahead at times and not stopping to follow directions or really think about what a word problem is asking. This is something we are working through. It does help me personally to have both my older girls working on math at the same time so I can remain focused on just that subject. Math isn't the easiest for me and having to change mindsets in and out of math did not go well last year. 

We practiced arranging the continents, locating the continents and oceans, and some other fun geography activities. Beth really liked working on writing out the continent and ocean names on her own. We also studied poetry and she told me she missed getting to guess the title of the poem's name like she did in Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory. I told her we'd do that again for the next poem study. 


Beth did a great job studying her Scripture verses this week. It was a much longer passage than she was used to from Beyond, but she worked really hard and had it all memorized by Wednesday. We talked our way through the devotional questions. She understood about half of what was being asked, the rest we talked about. I'm okay if she doesn't "get" all of it right now. Bible understanding is a process and while she has asked Jesus to be her Savior, I don't expect her to understand it all yet. I'm pleased with her progress in this area. 

Here is the last bit of work we started this week. Typing Tournament is a really fun way to learn typing. I'm pleased that even though Beth is still working on the first level, she doesn't mind that she has to keep practicing for the test. She told me she's improving and was so happy about this! That matters a lot ot me. I want my girls to enjoy and appreciate the process of learning, not just look for high results. 

Rose: Preparing Hearts for His Glory Unit 19

Rose is doing great. I'm trying to encourage her to appreciate the process of learning like Beth seems to. She takes her work so very seriously. Part of this is just her personality, but I fear some of it is left-over from issues she had while in a traditional classroom. She does extremely well, but the littlest mistake makes her extremely discouraged. I'm trying once again to help her work through this and pray it will get easier for her one day. 

We did some of our reading outside since the weather has been so lovely. We've had a much cooler August than is typical here in the South. We have just loved Grandpa's Box and I am certain Rose will be sad to stay goodbye to this lovely book in a couple of weeks when we are done with it. 


Math is our big struggle area, but this seems to be going much more smoothly this year. I read a couple of great articles this week talking about brain growth and the need for mistakes. I wish I had known how to word this concept better to Rose early on in her education. It is the same sentiment I have tried to convey to her, but I think my words got in the way. I'm going to start doing this a little differently now. 

Research for the history project was fun this week! She looked up information about perfume and how it was made a long time ago. 

Then of course we got to make some perfume! This was so fascinating. We used rubbing alcohol as suggested and added a couple of cloves, a cinnamon stick, and a small bit of a vanilla bean. Now a week later it smells overwhelmingly like rubbing alcohol, but once you use it, that scent dissipates and what is left is just delightful. Wasn't sure what to expect, but I'm happy with how it turned out and the lesson of how the alcohol pulls out the plant oils which old the scent. 

I stepped out of the room during spelling to deal with something else in the house and when I came back my sweet girl had a surprise for me on the board! She asked me to post it on my blog, so here it is! Rose is such a sweetheart! 

So that was our week...nothing really dramatic or overly exciting. It was simply a good, solid week of learning we can all feel good about in the end. I think those may be the best kinds. 

Here are the girls' weekly reviews! The novelty has already worn off. Beth wanted to write, "I don't know what to write." I have no idea if this feature will continue...only time will tell!

Rose (9-years-old)
Beth (7-years-old)
Grace (4-years-old)

Monday, August 25, 2014

Prelude for a Lord Giveaway!!!!!!

I have had the chance to read some great books this summer. My favorite without a doubt Prelude for a Lord by Camille Elliot. You can read my full review here.

Camille Elliot has generously offered to bless one of my readers with an autographed copy of the book! I'm so excited to have this opportunity because I personally love to read, but my book money is now reserved for wonderful homeschooling supplies and it is a rare treat to have a book all to myself.

The giveaway is open until next Monday and only for residents of the continental US.

I wish you all could win!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Week in Review: August 18-22

Phew! Week one down and many, many, many more to go. It was a great week, incredibly hectic, but great. I'm so proud of myself! I struggle immensely with keeping organized and especially keeping up with grading. Because I work from home for 2 1/2 hours every day I had to come up with a way to keep all this under control and I think I have found what works for me. I've tried several things including weekly grading (disastrous!), as soon as an assignment was finished (distracting!), and grading the following morning (Do I even need to say how horrible this was?). This past week I chose to do grading while my girls were having their alone quiet time and it is perfect. Grading was done promptly, I went any issues with my girls the following day before our lessons, and I am under less stress.

The Homeschool Helper App has been my best friend this week! I used it a lot last year, but I didn't really utilize it to the maximum of it's potential. I'm thrilled with how well it is working for me this year. I've also fallen in love with Motivated Moms all over again. My housework is getting done (mostly!) and there is a calm and peacefulness surround us because of it. If this is an area you need some help with, don't hesitate to give both of these apps a try! You can click on these links (Homeschool Helper and Motivated Moms) to see my full reviews from last year. Yes, that is a cup of hot cocoa...I like to reward myself for a job well done!

Now, on to my girls' week!

Grace: Preschool and Awaiting the Next Heart of Dakota Guide
Grace has just blossomed with her reading. I first want to say I have not pushed my daughter into reading early; she wanted to...begged me to. I think it is imperative for parents to only teach reading when their children are fully ready whether 3-years-old, 8-years-old, or even later. Homeschooling provides such wonderful room for learning at correct pacing and I hope you embrace this as you walk your own journey.

Grace is reading through her big sisters Abeka readers from her year at Christian school and is doing great. She almost always forgets what the silent e does on her own, but as soon as I remind her to think about this rule she gets it. My only issue with her right now is she doesn't see a need to read with me. She wants to do it all on her own, which clearly doesn't work out well sometimes.

We are using Fundanoodle for handwriting this year. I reviewed it last year and fell in love with its structure and format. We will also be using some Handwriting Without Tears workbooks. I'm not quite as big of a fan of this one, but a dear friend gave us the entire set which she no longer wanted. I'm all about utilizing free! It is good and goes well with Fundanoodle's structure.

For math we are using the old books from Singapore which are out of print. We do not have the ones used in the HOD guide and I'm not sure what I'll use for K5 math when she is done. I'm considering Fundanoodle for this as well.

All three of my girls loved the Rod and Staff ABC series. Grace finished up Book C and is soooooo excited to be on Book D now!

For Bible we are using Rod and Staff's Bible story book and coloring book. Grace loves this as well. There isn't anything flashy or enticing in and of themselves, but this series does its job and definitely engages my daughters.

Beth: Bigger Hearts for His Glory Unit 1 (1st half)

Let me assure you Beth is not as miserable as she appears! She is actually quite focused. I have seen many recent conversations in the facebook group about kids having a hard time with the history readings in this guide. This was only our first week, but we completed all the history readings and so far she has been fine. I remember the same struggle expressed with my oldest until about half-way through, but so far Beth seems to be doing great. My advice is to keep at it. I like my girls reading older history readings for several reasons. I do like that it was written closer to the historical source, but I also think it helps kids develop their reading skills.

Contrary to what I expected, Beth actually loved looking words up in the dictionary for her history vocabulary. Let's hope this continues all year!

I have another die-hard fan of Life of Fred in the house! She thinks he is so funny and I find it a great addition to our regular curriculum.

Of all my kids, Beth is the most apt to learn anywhere but her own seat. Sometimes on the floor beside me, sometimes on the porch swing, sometimes in her bed, sometimes in the living room...I even found her under the table in the kitchen a few times last year! Here she's working on math. My only rule is she has to sit at the table for formal handwriting. She's a little wiggle waggle and I try to give her the freedom to move as she needs.

I've introduced dictation in addition to our All About Spelling work. She's half-way through AAS level 2 and doing great. Dictation will be a learning process, so I'll let you know how it is going later.

Ahhhh grammar! This is one of the subject Beth asks to do right away. My girls love it and I love that they love it! Rod and Staff grammar is incredibly solid which I'm seeing even more now with my oldest. Rose fixed a writing assignment on her own to make the verbs match tenses without my saying anything about it! This is huge in my estimation.
I like giving my girls something a little extra for vocabulary every day to help them in preparation for required standardized tests at the end of the year. In addition to grammar and vocabulary she is also reading The Littles and loving it!

Rose: Preparing Hearts for His Glory Unit 18

Starting back in Preparing with Rose was easy peasy! She had been asking for a while to read Grandpa's Box this summer and was thrilled when I pulled it off the shelf on Monday. She loves history and this guide has been such a joy to teach. We're going full-speed and I hope to be finished in December or January. Right now history is focusing on the Roman occupation of, well, everywhere within the context of the life of Christ. We'll be quickly moving on though.

I love the timeline cards she is making on her own. A lot of people print pictures or buy cards, but this has been a fun experience for her in each guide.
Math is getting a little easier. Thanks to some wonderful advice from my sister-in-law who also homeschools we are breaking her math assignments into two parts each day. She likes this idea and is able to handle the assignment better than when we try to do it all at once. We are continuing on with Math Mammoth and I am very happy with the scope and sequence of this program.

Rose is into All About Spelling level 4 and doing fabulous! I love this program as well and it is helping me become a better speller in addition to my girls! We've moved onto the next level of dictation and she is showing great maturity.

Learning Together

We learn all together. Sometimes on the same subject, sometimes not, but all together. Here are some pictures of what it looks like practically. 

All About Spelling Levels 2 and 4

Grace and our neighbor's daughter reading together.
Grace and I doing Bible while her sister finish math. 

This year I'm doing something a little different and giving you a chance to see what my daughter's had to say about their week as well! This is a great way for them to participate, practice typing (except Grace who isn't ready yet), practice editing, and actively participate in this blog. I hope it lasts, but we shall see. You can click on each name below to see what they had to say about this week on their very own Grace-Filled Kids Blog!

Did you have a good week? Did you have a rough week? Either way, I'd love to hear about it!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

From the time I first read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe as a young girl I loved C.S. Lewis. Lewis inspired my imagination and like so many other children Narnia has become real to me. I have read a few of his other works, including The Screwtape Letters with my middle school students in class and A Grief Observed right after we lost our first baby to miscarriage. Again and again Lewis' works inspire and speak to me. 
I had never read Mere Christianity, but did so along with a study guide I reviewed a few months ago. At the time I didn't realize this was actually a series of radio broadcasts completed for the BBC during the terrifying period of World War II. I have been fascinated with this period in our world's history for many reasons, the biggest being my grandfather served during the war. I was all the more intrigued to learn about this radio series which was intended to give hope and meaning to life for all of England. 

I was very excited for the opportunity to review C.S. Lewis & Mere Christianity by Paul McCusker. We are long-time Adventures in Odyssey fans and I was very familiar with his name because of that. He also wrote the script for C.S. Lewis at War which dramatizes much of what I read in the book.

This historical account of what was going on behind this classic is simply fascinating. C.S. Lewis did not recognize at the time how full of impact this was or would continue to be decades later. This wonderful biographical and historical work will provide the story behind the classic.

I love how the many different players of this time in history are all given time. We not only find out about C. S. Lewis during this time, but many others such as James Welch, the director of religious broadcasting for the BBC, not to mention the historical details. All of these are strung together seamlessly so the reader can get the full picture behind this classic. I very much appreciated the use of breaks within chapters. This keeps the reader clear on the change of subject or individual creating diverse continuity.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was the perfect blend of history and biography written by an incredible story-teller. If you are a fan of C. S. Lewis' works you will truly appreciate this historical account.