afternoon basket, curriculum reviews

By The Way: New York City Review

My husband and I grew up not far from New York City, but we haven’t been back since our high school days.  My seven year old daughter loves American Girl dolls and said she wanted to go to the American Girl Store in New York City.  I though for a moment and told her it was a possibility sometime when we go to Pennsylvania.  She was SO excited!! Very soon after that I was reminded that By the Way Book publishes wonderful travel books for kids such as the New York City from the By the Way Book Series.  We had the opportunity to review their book about Pennsylvania about a year and a half ago.  We loved that book!  Here’s a link to the review.

I am reading this book to my 12 year old son and my 7 year old daughter during our “afternoon basket” time after lunch.  This is the time that we have set aside to come together and do those activities that we just don’t ever get to and the ones we can do with multiple levels.  So far this school year, we have done geography at this time, Bible devotions and a few chapter books.  By The Way New York City was a great addition to our afternoon basket.  We have been reading a few pages a day and enjoying learning about New York City and planning for our possible trip.

This book is very unique in it’s approach.  It’s not just a story book or a travel guide, it’s both and much more.  We are introduced to a youth pastor and his youth group as they get ready to head to New York City.  This book is woven with Biblical truths and perspective.  It also shows the very diverse ethnic background of the group and the destination.

We learned some very interesting facts about New York City:

  • it has 175 zip codes and you can keep that in mind while planning your visit.  See all the things in the same zip code at the same time.  Sounds perfectly obvious, but I would not have thought to look at the zip codes in my planning.  I also had no idea there were that many or that my kids didn’t really know what a zip code is.  Hopefully they do now.
  • we learned about pigeons and their importance in delivering messages.  Did you know they can see over 26 miles?  Did you know they can fly 700 miles in one day?

We learned about the subway, the Statue of Liberty, immigration, Ellis Island, nature in the city, the 9/11 Memorial, food carts, Wall Street, The Brooklyn Bridge, The United Nations, our military, Central Park, Rockefeller Center, Fanny Crosby, Staten Island, Brooklyn, turtles, Queens, squirrels and so much more!

We had just learned about Balto and how he helped get very much needed medicine to sick people in Alaska.  They kids remembered that a statue of him is in Central Park.  The book talks about it and has a picture of it.

We really enjoyed this book and will use this one and the Pennsylvania one in planning our next trip north.  I’m not sure when it will be, but we will have some great resources to help our planning!!

You can find By The Way Books on

Other families on The Homeschool Review Crew had the opportunity to review this By The Way book and a few others, Ireland, Indiana and Alaska.  Click on the banner below to see what they thought of them and how they used the one they received.


By the Way Book Series: New York City, Ireland, Indiana & Alaska {By the Way Reviews}Crew Disclaimer 

afternoon basket, Bible, curriculum reviews, homeschooling

Rescue Me! What Superheroes Can Teach Us About the Power of Faith Review

My kids really enjoyed the comic book, Rescue Me! What Superheroes Can Teach Us About the Power of Faith, from The Captain Sun Adventures.

I read this book to my 7th grade son and my 2nd grade daughter during our “afternoon basket” time.  This is the time that I have set aside for subjects that I would like the kids to do together.  I have gleaned some information from people’s “morning baskets” and made this a time for us to come back together, do those subjects that can span many levels and loop schedule some great new things like this comic book.  Our afternoon basket has worked well for the first 2 1/2 weeks of school and I’m looking forward to this time where I can add things that get so easily overlooked.

This was a read aloud while the kids colored.  They enjoyed the story and would, very often, stop coloring to look intently at the pictures.  I read it more like a storybook so they didn’t have to stop what they were doing.  This worked great!  I read it over 3 days, just reading a little at a time.  They looked forward to what was going to happen tomorrow.

My original plan was to hand off the book to my 7th grader in hopes that he would read it, then read it to his 6 year old brother.  That didn’t happen.  It was a beautiful picture in my mind though.  He got busy with other things and forgot he had it.  As my deadline loomed, I requested the book back and read it out loud.  I’m not disappointed at all.  If he would have read it I would have missed out.  I love reading to my kids and getting to enjoy their stories with them.  Reading to my kids has become such a precious time.

The hero in the story is Captain Sun.  He protects Capital City from the evil Black Out.  This is a classic story about good versus evil. Black Out comes to Capital Sun and blocks out all that is good.  Captain Sun rids the city of the evil with the help of a few others: Fogbank, Missile Man, Electro Lad and Landslide.  The story was great and parts were suspenseful as you hope the good guys to win.  But, my absolute favorite part was the newspaper looking article that appeared between chapters.  This brought the lesson of God’s love and salvation in.  God and Jesus are our Captain Sun and Satan is Black Out.  We all need salvation in this fallen world.  This was tied in so well.  I was very impressed with these pages.  The author could have skipped that and gone on with the comic and put in a blurb in the back, but he choose to make the lesson bigger and did a great job!

I had my kids make up and draw their own super hero or villain. I think they did a great job!

You can find The Captain Sun Adventures on these social media sites:


Many other families on The Homeschool Review Crew had the opportunity to review this book also.  Click on the banner below to see how they used it and what they though of it.

Rescue Me! What Superheroes Can Teach Us About the Power of Faith {The Captain Sun Adventures Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

curriculum reviews

Barbour Publishing: Who Was Jonah and Who Was Mary, Mother of Jesus Book Review

Barbour Publishing sent us two new titles Who Was Jonah?  and Who Was Mary, Mother of Jesus? which are part of their Kingdom Files series. These were two fun books to get our homeschool year off to a great start.

We started with the book about Mary.  I thought this would be a nice way to ease into schoolwork again.  I read this book to Evie, who is in 2nd grade this year.  This series is recommended for ages 8-12, but I thought I’d try.  This seemed a little bit more than her short attention span could hold on it’s own.  I thought she would be so enthralled with learning about Mary, that she would hang on my every word and beg for more.  She didn’t at first.  There were not enough pictures for someone just starting on chapter books.  She did enjoy the pictures that were there.  She was interested in the story though.  After a chapter I put it away for the day and brought it out the next day.  I gave her some coloring pages to work on while I read.  This was exactly what she needed.  I was able to read about half the book the second day and finish it the third day while Evie colored.  She listened and learned, but I still think it was a little above her level.  We will pull it out again in a few years, maybe at Christmas time.

I thought I was try something different with the Jonah book.  I decided to put this book in our “afternoon basket” (a morning basket done after lunch) and use it as a devotional for Evie and her 7th grade brother David.  I read one chapter of the story a day and then I jump back to the back of the book and read a “Power Up”.  This has worked out great.  It’s been an easy Bible study for them to do together.  It’s a quick and easy read and they have had lots of great discussion.

One thing I noticed in these books was that the author takes a little liberty with the story to explain how the main character is feeling.  The Bible doesn’t describe most of these feelings in such detail.  One great discussion we had was to always reference the Bible to see what it has to say.  Do you feel they match?  What’s different?  Do you agree?  Do you need to do more research?  Why do you feel the author added this?  Should you add or take away from the Bible?

These books were great stories to help us identify with the main character.  What did Mary think when she found out that she would be the mother of Jesus?  Why did Jonah feel so strongly about running away from where God sent him?  These stories pointed us back to the Bible were we had meaningful study and conversation. We liked them, but I would caution about taking each and everything mentioned as fact.  Look it up and see what you can learn!  We enjoyed the journey!

Here are other books in the Kingdom Files series:


The Kingdom Files website offers games and educator resources on their website.

Last year we read another book from Barbour Publishing: Imagine….The Great Flood.  Click on this link to read about that one.

You can find Barbour Publishing on these social media sites:


Many other families on The Homeschool Review Crew had the opportunity to review these books also.  Click on the banner below to see what they had to say about them and how their family used them.

Kingdom Files {Barbour Publishing Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

curriculum reviews

Reading Eggs: Mathseeds Review

A new year has begun and Thomas is starting first grade.  This is his first really big, official year.  He can now proudly say he’s in school because he will be starting Cub Scouts.  As kid number 7 and the very last to be “a Scout”, this is a huge deal!!!  So now that he’s officially official, we have been focusing on the Mathseeds part of  Reading Eggs while using the 200 Essential Math skills for Kindergarten, one of their brand new workbooks.

We received the first of the math books in the series.  They are offering Kindergarten through second grade.

Reading Eggs is now offering reading workbooks too for Kindergarten through fifth grade.

We have used Reading Eggs in the past and have found it to be effective, but my kids have a true aversion to any school on the computer.  I was hoping the younger kids would just follow the current trend of everything, including school, on a screen. But no! Only fun things that they choose can be on a glowing screen!  I am happy to report that my older children have taken online college classes very successfully.  I’m glad not doing school on the computer is something they can grow out of and overcome!

Thomas did use the online version on Mathseeds.  It’s cute and he did find it fun and amusing, but he really didn’t like to stay on it long and didn’t like that it didn’t save the lesson if he didn’t finish it.  The next time he came to do a lesson he had to repeat everything and that was frustrating to him.

I love, love, love that there is a workbook available now!!!  These are short, colorful, effective lessons.  We are currently working through number recognition and counting.  Thomas can do a lesson, which is 4 pages, in one sitting.  He does prefer to split it up into two days.

He is struggling on his fine motor skills and holding his writing utensil correctly.  But that doesn’t stop him from doing his lesson.  I am very pleased that he asks to do the workbook every school day and the online version occasionally.

I use a version of workboxes for the kids’ school.  Each drawer holds a days worth of work in it.

I tear each day’s lesson out of the book and add it to the correct drawer.  The pages don’t seem to be perforated, but they ripped out pretty well.  This has worked out very well for us.  I am looking forward to working through this book and possibly the next.  I am looking at the second grade one for his sister.  These workbooks are $19.95.  I think that’s a great deal for a math curriculum from a respected company like Reading Eggs.

You can find Reading Eggs on these social media sites:


Many other families on The Homeschool Review Crew had the opportunity to review this, other math levels workbooks and online.  Some families reviewed the reading workbooks and used the online site.

Online Reading Eggs Suite {Reading Eggs Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

curriculum reviews, homeschooling

God Schooling: How God Intended Children to Learn Book Review

As homeschool moms we all need encouragement from time to time so I was excited to read God Schooling: How God Intended Children to Learn written by Julie Polanco.

Author, Julie Polanco, is a homeschooling mom of 4.  She has been homeschooling for 15 years.  Mrs Polanco has done extensive research in writing this book.  As most homeschooling moms, she wanted the best education possible for her children.  She sought answers from the Bible and from many, many studies on child development, brain development and how people learn and respond to different techniques.

I love to read books about how to do things a little better around here.  I’m constantly learning and re-evaluating how and why we do our schooling and what we choose to do as a family.  I love to learn about different methods of homeschooling: Classical and Charlotte Mason, unschooling and child led, textbooks and school at home, morning baskets, loop scheduling, workboxes and many more.  I can find something in everything I learn to apply to our homeschooling experience.

We are heading into our twenty first year homeschooling.  We have graduated 4 children who have all gone on to higher education.  I currently have 3 students, a 12 year old in 7th grade, 7 year old in 2nd grade and a 6 year old in 1st grade.  We have 12 more years and I’m looking forward to every one of them!!  I have learned so much about my children and their very unique learning styles.  Each one has been so different and I hope and pray that I have been flexible enough with their education that they learned how to learn and kept their curiosity and love of learning.  There are certain things that I know work for the flow of our lives and I’m so glad for the wisdom I’ve acquired through homeschooling all of these years.

Mrs. Polanco has found that they do best by unschooling and backs up her decision Biblically.  I agree with some of what she has to say, but it looks very different in our house.  We are not a strict textbook family, but I do plan extensively to have goals met by certain times throughout the year.  If we don’t meet them all it’s fine, but if I fail to plan then I’m planning to fail.  Yes, God has intended children to learn through their environment, but he’s a God of order too and I lean a little more on the order part.  We don’t use a certain curriculum, we are very eclectic and pick and choose.  We do as much in the house at the table as we do outside.

One thing that I need to remember is not to compare myself with others.  I do believe that God gave us the children he did for a reason and trusts us to raise them up in the way they should go.  My way may look totally different than your way, but they both can be God honoring.

I feel this book is worded in a way that the author feels what she has learned, and has worked for her family, is the only “right” way and the only way God intended children to be taught.

I’m glad I had the chance to read what she has to share and evaluate whether I would like to implement them in our home.

You can find Julie Polanco books on the following social media sites:

Facebook: @juliepolancobooks

The e-book is half price sale through August 22, 2018.

Many other families on The Homeschool Review Crew had the opportunity to review this book too.  Click on the banner below to see what they thought of it.

God Schooling: How God Intended Children to Learn {Julie Polanco Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

art, curriculum reviews, geography, homeschooling, science

Branch Out World: Paddington Bear Review

We have been learning so much while having fun with the Picture Book Explorer Pack Paddington Bear from Branch Out World. This is a fun unit study based on the book Paddington.

This was a fun first for us: this is a British product!  It was one of those great timing things.  We have done a few things this summer that made this the perfect study for us.

  • We have been focusing on geography and learning about the different continents and people and cultures all over the world.
  • This is the first year we ever got a membership to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg.  The park is based on European countries which the kids quickly noticed and picked their favorite things from each.
  • We have spent every night we have been home this summer watching past episodes of Doctor Who which is a British show.  When the Doctor and his companions are  on earth they are in London and Cardiff in England and also in Scotland and Wales among other places.

Since we have spent so much time being in “virtual England” I thought that it would be great time to do a familiar picture book study from a company in the UK.

We loved reading through the study picking out all the differences in vocabulary.  We have been familiarized with them so it was great to pick them out. One being queue for a line of people and some variations of spellings like coloured.  We loved it since it brought together everything we have been learning.

I decided to use this study with Evie.  She is 7 and going into 2nd grade.  She LOVES the Paddington movies so I knew she’d like this!  This curriculum is written to be used in five days.  Each day you read the story followed by and activity or two (or more).

  • The first day explores the setting, looking at England and Peru on a map and also their flags.  It introduces migration and when the story took place.
  • The second day teaches you about the author, explores vocabulary, grammar and writing.  We talked about the author with the information given.  We also talked about the time period this was written.  Evie imagined being an author and coming up with a story for a book.
  • The third day is about the illustrations, the artist, and design

We looked at the illustrations in the book taking notice of pictures that have things in the foreground and background.  We also looked at lines and shapes.  I put together a bowl of apples and Evie drew them.  We also looked at some famous artists works to see what we could notice.

  • The fourth day is science day.  It talks about bears, shaving cream, steam and nature/garden.

We talked about chemical reactions and made a volcano with yeast and hydrogen peroxide.

We talked about the shaving cream in the book and made some shaving cream slime.  Evie’s brothers joined in.

  • The fifth day is math and craft day.

There is so many great activities to pick from! We didn’t do them all, but I would like to definitely come back and do this one again and also try some other book studies from this series.  There are so many to pick from!  There are also some for chapter books and lapbooks!!! I love that I can get these digital products from another part of the world and expose my kids to another culture’s perspective.  Even though the differences were slight we loved it!!  We have been very intentionally seeking out things like this all summer!

You can find Branch Out World on these social media sites:

Facebook:    @BranchOutWorld
Pinterest:   @belzibow
Instagram:   @belzibow
Twitter:  @belzibow

Many other families on The Homeschool Review Crew had the opportunity to review this book study also.  Click on the box below to see what their families thought of Paddington Bear.

Paddington Bear {Branch Out World Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

curriculum reviews, science

Learning about Science Review

We like to add fun subjects like science to our summer studies so I was excited to receive Learning About Science Collection, Level 1 from  WriteBonnieRose.  We received a digital download of 7 different science topics and one file for the teacher with loads of great links to add fun websites and videos for each study.

Set of 7 topics:

  1. Animal Habitats of the World
  2. Earth Layers, Earthquakes and Volcanoes
  3. Exploring States of Matter
  4. Familiar Plants and How they Grow
  5. Fruits and Vegetables Around the World
  6. Learning About Life Cycles
  7. Our Senses and Systems and How they Work

We chose to focus on Animal Habitats of the World for this review period.  There were a few things that came up this summer that made this the perfect study.  First, my kids attended a summer reading program at our local library where they learned a fun song about habitats.  They are still singing it and that was a great introduction for this science unit.  Second, I read the Ocean Habitats section during shark week.  All of our reading and activities focused around sharks and marine biology.


Here are a few other shark week activities we added. First we made puppets.

Then we made ocean habitat jars with water, food coloring and baby oil. Thomas even added a shark.

I liked that the sections were short and engaging.  We did a little at a time and it was perfect for summer.

I will be adding these units all through the school year as these topics come up.  These will fit right in with the unit and book studies I have already planned.

We study a country a week and I will add in the Fruits and Vegetables Around the World unit.  This is also tie in with Earth Layers, Earthquakes and Volcanoes.  I love it when I find curriculum that work so well with the other things we have planned.

We will work through the Familiar Plants and How they Grow and Learning About Life Cycles in the spring when we plan on reading the Hungry Caterpillar.

I like to color with them. You’re never to old to learn or color, right?

Each of the studies are set up the same.  There is a small blurb of information, a picture to color and a word to trace.  I was able to read the paragraph as the kids were coloring. When I was done reading I brought over my laptop and clicked on a few links from the teacher’s resources.  The lessons were short and active enough to keep my kids attention and they remembered what they learned.  I am very happy to have found this company and love all the things that have to offer.  I even get a few freebies in my email inbox!

You can Find WriteBonnieRose on these social media sites:

Facebook:  @WriteBonnieRose
Twitter:  @WriteBonnieRose
Pinterest:  @WriteBonnieRose

Many other families on The Homeschool Review Crew had the opportunity to review this product and Learning About Science Collection, Level 2, Learning About Science Collection, Level 3 (Print)

and  Learning About Science Collection, Level 3 (Cursive).

Click on the banner below to see how they used it and what they thought about it.

Learning About Science collections {WriteBonnieRose Reviews}Crew Disclaimer