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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Blue Ribbon Awards


The 2017 Homeschool Review Crew year has officially come to a close. This year, the Crew reviewed over 75 items ranging from curriculum, audio recordings, religious tracts, books, and even movies and when all is said and done and the last review is written, the members of the crew then vote on what their favorite items were from the year.   The top vendors that receive the most votes in each category are then awarded the Homeschool Review Crew's Blue Ribbon award.

It's always hard for me to vote for my Blue Ribbon choices, as there are always so many wonderful vendors to choose from.   Many may wonder if, when they read my reviews, if I intentionally put a positive spin on my reviews but one the review is written, I stop using the product. I can assure you, this is not the case.  A large percentage of the items I review, I tend to continue to use in its entirety because they really are top quality products.  Many of the vendors who have been awarded Blue Ribbon awards are products I am still using with my kids.

Garrett's Top Choice - Reading Eggs



There are very few educational products that my son actually asks for - Reading Eggs is a major exception to this.  I've had to show him how to log into the website on his own after he hogged my laptop one too many times.  Garrett loves how learning with this program has become "play time" for him with the various activities, games and even the worksheets provided from this website.



Ashleigh's Top Choice -  Thin Stix paint sticks from The Pencil Grip Co.

If it's art, then Ashleigh loves it.  Kwik Stix paint sticks have been a huge hit in our household for a while and Thin Stix wins Ashleigh's top choice, hands down.   Along the same lines, Creating a Masterpiece was also a huge hit for Ashleigh who still uses many of the techniques she learned from this curriculum for her artwork today.


Alyssa's Top Choice -  Drive Thru History

Alyssa had a really hard time picking just one favorite, but ultimately, Drive Thru History won out
with her.  It might be because she has a crush on Dave Stotts though ;)  However, she says she learned a lot about the Gospels, Biblical times and the life of Jesus through watching the videos and enjoyed how Stott's presented the material to keep it from becoming what could have been a pretty dull documentary.

Mom's Top Choice - Let's Go Geography and Memoria Press's Prima Latina (tie)

This was a really hard choice for me and I couldn't just pick one item.  Hence, the tie.  We are absolutely loving using Lets Go Geography and the kids are learning. It's more than just learning to locate a country but also learning about the cultures and customs of those countries.  The neat little art projects that the kids get to make each week just add to the run.  Even Alyssa has been joining in with our lessons so that she can learn more world geography as well.

Tied with Lets Go Geography would have to be Memoria Press's Prima Latina, the introductory course for learning the Latin language.  The structure of this curriculum makes for easy learning week after week and it's been amazing how much Ashleigh has learned since we've been using it. 

So, those were our top picks for the 2017 Crew Year.  But, we're just one family out of many who reviewed this year.  While each one of our top picks was awarded a Blue Ribbon in this year's awards, we only listed our absolute top favorites and there were many categories that are taken into account in the Blue Ribbon voting, many which were categories that involved items we did not review because they did not fit our family demographics.

So, I present, the full list of 2017 Blue Ribbon award winners, as selected by the Homeschool Review Crew as a whole. 

Favorite Reading Curriculum – Reading Eggs
Favorite Writing Curriculum – Writing with Sharon Watson
Favorite Grammar Program – Eclectic Foundations
Favorite Penmanship Program – Channie’s Visual Handwriting & Math Worksheets
Favorite Literature Curriculum – Hewitt Homeschooling 
Favorite Social Studies Curriculum – Let’s Go Geography
Favorite History Supplement – Rush Revere
Favorite Science Curriculum – Innovators Tribe
Favorite Math Curriculum – CTC Math
Favorite Math Supplement – Times Tables the Fun Way
Favorite Foreign Language Curriculum – Memoria Press (Latin)
Favorite Fine Arts Curriculum – Creating a Masterpiece
Favorite Elective Curriculum – Doctor Aviation
Favorite Christian Education Curriculum – Drive Thru History
Favorite Christian Education Supplement – Brinkman Adventures
Favorite Preschool Product – Reading Eggs
Favorite Elementary Product – Susan K. Marlow
Favorite Middle School Product – Innovators Tribe
Favorite High School Product – Doctor Aviation
Favorite College or College-Prep Product – Institute for Excellence in Writing: High School Essay Intensive
Favorite Parent Product – Everyday Homemaking
The Resource I Didn’t Know I Needed –  Innovators Tribe
Favorite Planning Product – Only Passionate Curiosity
Best Online Resource – Reading Eggs
Best e-Product – Home School in the Woods
Favorite Book or Novel – Rush Revere
Favorite Audiobook or Audio Drama – Heirloom Audio Productions: Captain Bayley’s Heir
Best Product Just for Fun! – Drive Thru History
Kids’ Choice – The Pencil Grip: Thin Stix
Teens’ Choice – Drive Thru History
All Around Crew Favorite – Drive Thru History
Congratulations to all the winners and Thank You to each and every one of them for giving us an opportunity to use and review these wonderful items. 



Homeschool Review Crew Favorite Products for 2017

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Meal Planning



It's that time again.. When I make my list and head 45 minutes to town to get my shopping done for the next pay period.  Yes, you read that correct, 45 minutes.  Granted, we have a commissary on base, but their selections aren't that great and the prices are even worse so in order to save money, we make one big grocery shopping trip to town.  If I do happen to forget anything, well, luckily, I have the commissary 5 minutes away but when your a single income family of 5, saving as much money as possible is a good thing, especially with Christmas right around the corner.

Sunday - Sloppy Joe Meatball subs with chips

Monday -  Ham and Cheese Tortellini

Tuesday -Philly Cheese Stea Sloppy Joes with oven baked potatoes slices

Wednesday - Three Sister Soup with Fry Bread .




Thursday -  Thanksgiving meal.

My husband makes, without a doubt, the best turkey I have ever had, along with a homemade cranberry sauce that's so good, you could put it over ice cream.. lol  Along with Turkey, we also make a sausage and sage dressing, asparagus, Brussel sprouts, hominy and  Native American fry bread. (The hominy and fry bread is to tie our Native American heritage to our holiday).

Our Thanksgiving Spread a few years ago

Friday - Turkey and Dressing Pasties with Steamed Broccoli

When I took a temporary job years ago to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (to Houghton), we were introduced to pasties.  Once we crossed the Mackinaw bridge to the UP, we saw signs everywhere saying hot pasties for sale. We finally let curiosity get the best of us and pulled in to the next sign we saw and I went in to find out what it was.  DO NOT make the mistake I made and pronounce the A with a long A, it's a short A  (think of how a sheep says baaaah)..  These are hand pies typically filled with ground beef, potato, rutabaga, carrots, and seasoning.  However, our post-Thanksgiving version features leftover turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce.  ( I will actually blog the recipe for this one on Friday).

Saturday - Turkey Tetrazinni  (again, trying to use up the left over bird lol)

Sunday - Pulled pork bbq baked potatoes with steamed broccoli


Monday -  Baked Chicken Fajitas with black beans

Tuesday - Bacon Cheeseburger Tater Tot Casserole  with salad

Wednesday - Crock Pot Chicken and Gravy over rice with salad

Thursday -  PAYDAY.. I'll be honest, I will probably end up taking the kids to Panda Express or Subway before AWANA lol

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Weekly Wrap Up


It's Friday.. That means yet another week of school completed and in the history books.  It's always a sense of accomplishment when we get through another week.

Or original plans were to start our new year the first week of October but between illnesses for both myself and Garrett that didn't happen as planned.  This meant that we got a late start on 4th grade but are now a few weeks into our schooling.  Thankfully, we homeschool year round, so we will have plenty of time to play catch up for the two weeks that we missed.  We did take a week off from our foreign language lessons this week but will resume those next week.


The kids are doing review on their multiplication and division this week, using sheets from our 3rd grade book, as well as with lessons from CTC Math.  I just want to make sure the kids know this information and are able to recall their multiplication and division facts without difficulty before we move on to using our 4th grade book.


Ashleigh is actually doing well enough with the material that she tends to finish before Garrett. So her worksheets tend to be quite decorative ;)


For grammar, the kids are working on proper sentence structure and creating their own sentences from giving words.  I'm really happy with how much improvement Garrett has made with his writing, as it is looking much more legible.

If you recall, I recently did a review of Lets Go Geography.  I couldn't say enough good about this program in my review, we loved using it.  We did take a few weeks off so that we could add it as a full-time geography curriculum for our school year.  Last week we picked up learning about Haiti.  This week, we learned about Nicaragua.



The kids absolutely loved making these cute little Sea Turtle puppets, which was the craft for this week.


While we did this project last week, I figured I would include it here.. This was the artwork the kids did last week in regards to Haiti.


In addition to the Lets Go Geography curriculum. the kids have also been learning about various wonders of the world as we read through the book Richard Halliburton's Book of Marvels - The Occident.  Garrett is absolutely LOVING this book.  We read the chapters together and then we view videos from Expedia on Youtube to see the places we're reading about in living color.


This week, we read about The Panama Canal, Machu Picchu, Iguazu Falls, Rio de Janerio and The Rock of Gibraltar. Garrett really enjoyed the section about the Panama Canal and ended up watching a few documentaries that showed how the locks work.  Ashleigh has declared that between Lets Go Geography and the Book of Marvels, she wants to travel the world like Mr Halliburton and see all of these wonderful places in person.

In our history lessons, this week we learned about St. Patrick and his life, Attila the Hun and the Hun invasion of the Roman Empire, and the ultimate fall of the Western Roman Empire. We will probably do a more in-depth study of St Patrick's life when March rolls around, but the kids did get a really good overview of what a testament his life was.  Today's lesson about the fall of the Western Roman Empire led to a really great discussion about taxes and inflation and how we see similar examples of this in today's society.  We also discussed how Rome's moral compass led to their ultimate fall and whether or not we're doomed to repeat their mistakes today.


The kids had tons of fun with Science this week.  We have been discussing the digestive system in our anatomy and physiology course.  This week, we learned about how digestion begins in the mouth with the teeth and how amylase in our saliva begins the breakdown of carbohydrates in our foods.  Next, we discussed the stomach.  We learned about the sphincter valves at the top of the bottom of the stomach that keep the acids within the stomach inside.  We discussed how the cells of the stomach create a mucus that keeps the acids of the stomach, which are designed to digest the proteins in muscle, from trying to digest our own body.  We also discussed the small intestine, the pancreas and the liver and the rules that they play in digestion.

Science always means experimentation and this week wasn't any different. Our first experiment is one that will take a bit of time.  Currently, we have one of the kids baby teeth that they have lost in the past and it is soaking in a glass of Sprite. This is so we can observe while it is important to take good care of our teeth and the impact that sugar can have on the enamel of the tooth. We will continue to allow the tooth to soak in the solution til next Friday and will make observations then.


 A second experiment we did was to take a bit of cracker and place it on their tongues and just hold it there. The kids observed that originally the cracker tasted salty but over a few moments, as it began to get mushy from the saliva in their mouth, it began to taste sweet, due to the enzyme amylase breaking down the carbohydrates in the cracker. We followed this by following the same procedure with a piece of cheddar cheese. The kids noted that the cheese did not become sweet and we discussed that this is because cheese is a protein, not a carbohydrate. 

A third experiment was to imitate how the stomach works to break down food into chyme, the liquidy broth made as the body breaks down foods into smaller particles.  To show this, we simply placed a cracker and a piece of bread into a ziplock along with a bit of water and the kids got to squish the bag, just as the stomach does with food


Our final experiment this week was much like the one above, but this time we wanted to show how Bile helps to break down fats.  To show this, we simply poured a bit of olive oil into a ziplock bag with water.  The kids were able to observe that the oil ad water separated and would not mix together. The oil, which is a fat, remained in large blobs floating on the water.


We then added a bit of dish detergent to the mixture.  This allowed for the oil to separate and begin to break down.  Much like the dish detergent, Bile breaks down the fats and allows them to be dissolved within the blood to go to the places they are needed within the cells.


Not a bad week, I must say.. 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

AWANA Thursday



It's Thursday so that means it's another Truth and Training Thursday.

This week was Good Samaritan night at the Chapel, so after a quick trip to the Commissary this morning, the girls had bags of foods to donate to the local food pantry.  This year, food will be brought to the Grace Resource Center to help feed families in need.

Alyssa's Sparkies learned about the foretelling of the Birth of John the Baptist as written in Luke 1:5-23 and they had several kids who made the Sparky High Fliers Club.



For Ash's Truth and Training group, Ashleigh learned about the books of the Bible that are named after the various Prophets. She learned that the last 17 books of the Old Testament are often called the Books of Prophecy and that in these books, God used men called Prophets to warn people about their sins.  We discussed how these Prophets were able to give messages from God and how some of the prophets, such as Isaiah, even gave us information in regards to the coming of Christ. We also discussed false prophets and the "prophet test" to determine if a prophet was really from God or if he was lying.  If the word did not come to pass, he was a false prophet.



For her verse memorization this week, Ashleigh had to recite Deuteronomy 18:18-19.

I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brothers.  And I will put My words in his mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command him. 

And whoever will not listen to My words that he shall speak in My name, I myself will require it of him.    --Deuteronomy 18:18-19

Ashleigh also had to once again recite the verse she learned last week, which was Proverbs 1:7.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.  -- Proverbs 1:7

Finally, since we were learning the Books of the Prophets, that meant that Ashleigh had to also memorize and recite (in order) the final 17 books of the Old Testament. 

Isaiah   Jeremiah   Lamentations   Ezekiel   Daniel   Hosea   Joel  Amos  Obadiah
Jonah   Micah   Nahum   Habakkuk   Zephaniah  Haggai  Zechariah  Malachi

With this list memorized, Ashleigh has now finished memorizing the books of the Old Testament.  Next week she will begin to recite the books of the New Testament.  However, we've also been studying those along with the Old Testament over the last few weeks, so she already can recite them by heart. 

We will also begin memorizing 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 as well as Acts 13:48-49 for our next Awana club meeting.  Since next Thursday is Thanksgiving, there will not be a meeting so we will have two weeks to prepare. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

F'Arbys Sandwiches



About two years ago, our base got an Arby's restaurant.  Now, my husband absolutely loves Arby's, but when the two littles moved from kids meals to actual meals, well, let's just say my bank account doesn't love Arby's.  Five sandwiches, fries, and drinks will typically run us about 50 dollars, which is a large portion of my grocery budget.

So, I decided it was time to make my own roast beef and cheddar sandwiches in my own home for a fraction of the cost. 

Most of these ingredients are most likely things you already have in your cupboard already. And since this is a crockpot recipe, it takes less than 10 minutes to prep it - it would take more time to drive to your local fast food joint and go through the drive-through and you know whats in it. 


Here's what you're going to need for 6 sandwiches.

2 packages of roast beef (roughly 2 lbs)
1 envelope of onion soup mix
1/2 cup brown sugar (packed)
1 onion (chopped)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup of water
Salt and pepper to taste (I use very little since the meat and onion soup already has high sodium content)

This can't get any easier ;)  Just put the roast beef in the bottom of the crockpot (I actually used my pressure cooker on the slow-cooker function), dump all the ingredients on top of it and cook it on low for 5 hours.  


What's a roast beef sandwich without a nice sauce with a kick to go on top of it??  Well, that's easy to whip up as well..  and again, you probably have most of these ingredients in your cupboard right now. 



1/2 cup of Ketchup
5 Tablespoons of water 
1 Tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar
4-5 drops of  hot sauce (Tabasco or similar)
1/4 teaspoon of Garlic Powder
1/4 teaspoon of Onion Powder
1/4 teaspoon Salt (I use kosher)
2 tablespoons of Brown Sugar


Place all the ingredients in a small saucepan and heat over low heat for roughly 10-20 minutes, stirring frequently, allowing sugar to melt and ingredients to blend well. 


This makes roughly 10 ounces of sauce.  Pour into a glass airtight jar and cool in the fridge. Store in fridge up to 2 weeks :) 

After 5 hours of smelling the goodness coming from your crockpot, it's time to eat :)  I like to toast my buns to avoid the sandwich from getting "wet" from the meat.  Then pile your meat and onions on your bun, drizzle with some of the sauce you made earlier, spread a bit of warmed cheese sauce on the top bun (I admit, I bought a jar) and enjoy with a side of chips, fries, a salad or fresh fruit. 



I hope you enjoy this F'Arby's recipe and that it will save you time and money.




Slow Cooker F'Arby's Roast Beef Sandwiches  #copycat #recipes #slowcooker


Monday, November 6, 2017

Thin Stix Creativity Pack (A Homeschool Crew Review)


My kids were extremely ecstatic when the FedEx van pulled up and dropped off the Thin Stix Creativity Pack, the newest offering from the Kwik Stix family from The Pencil Grip, Inc. These have been a huge hit in our house and anytime they get a new set, they are pretty excited.

Thin Stix are paint sticks made with the same solid tempera paint found in the Kwik Stix, only the Thin Stix are thin and taller and they provide a smaller top for smoother control on projects. Thin Stix requires no water or paint brushes to use. Using the same design as Kwik Stix, kids simply draw or color with them much as they would with a marker.  The paint itself is creamy and the paint glides on smoothly and then dry to the touch in about 90 seconds.  The stick themselves work similar to a glue stick-  as more paint is needed the student simply twists the bottom to expose more of the paint stick.  The paint itself is a semi-solid, also similar to a glue stick and provide full coverage to the project they are being used on.   And the best part is that there is little to no mess at all.  What little cleanup that may be needed is easy with simple soap and water.

For this review, we received the 24 color Thin Stix Creativity Pack.  This pack contains 12 classic colors as well as 6 neon colors and 6 metallic colors. 






How We Used Them


It's no secret that Ashleigh really enjoys using both the Thin Stix and Kwik Stix paint sticks on just about anything.  Her creative juices have very little limits when she gets her hands on a set of Kwik Stix. However, recently Alyssa has also discovered that she also enjoys using the paint sticks for her own projects. So when our Thin Stix Creativity Pack arrived, both girls insisted that it was theirs. 


Originally, Ashleigh claimed them as hers. 




Until her big sister came into the room to find out what Fed Ex had bought. 




However, we have all been able to share equally and work on various projects with our newly acquired Creativity Pack. 


In the past, the girls have used the paint sticks for a variety of projects, such as painting rocks, creating colorful pictures, decorating on wood, ect.  However, this time around, I decided I wanted to try my hand with the Thin Stix myself.


We recently decided to decorate our car for the Trunk or Treat event at our Chapel.  This year's decorations were to be Disney themed, and so we opted to decorate our car as the Hunchback of Notre Dame.  After using sidewalk chalk to decorate two poster boards to look like brick walls, I realized that you really don't have Notre Dame Cathedral without stained glass.   But I knew I wanted something that could be opaque but transparent enough to be seen through, especially with a light source behind it.  


That's when I saw the Thin Stix just sitting there from Ashleigh's latest picture. I didn't know if it would work, but I thought maybe I could use the Thin Stix on a piece of parchment paper to give the effect that I wanted to achieve.  I will be honest, I did not know if this would work or not, as parchment paper has a waxy feel to it and markers and paint tend not to adhere well to it. But, if it did not work, nothing lost but a piece of parchment paper, right?



To my absolute surprise, the paint sticks not only adhered to the parchment paper but dried quickly without smudging or feeling wet to the touch.  Even rubbing/touching the parchment after painting it, the paint stayed put and did not smudge off. And so, I had the perfect stained glass window for my display. 




The "stained glass' made a great addition to our display and I was thrilled that it tuned out exactly as I had envisioned (even if I'm not much of an artist).



Alyssa has enjoyed using the Thin Stix with her adult coloring book pages.  She has especially enjoyed the metallic colors that are included with the Creativity pack and likes to use them to create a sparkly sheen to her pictures.  This effect isn't visible in the photograph of her artwork, but it looks really nice in person.  The smaller surface of the Thin Sticks allows for more precision in smaller areas, such as the headband.



Here's a beter image that shows the metallic properties of the Thin Stix.  




Ashleigh likes using the paint sticks to create original pictures, such as the picture of the zinnia flower below.






However, Ashleigh's favorite thing to do with Kwik Stix is to paint rocks.  The Thin Stix Creativity Pack is no different.  Thin Stix paint sticks adhere nicely to the porous rocky surfaces producing long-lasting bright colors that are relatively mess free.  Ashleigh has been using both Kwik Stix and Thin Stix to decorate the various rocks that she has hidden all over the base for other children to find and all who report finding them always comment how bright they are.







In the past two years of using Kwik Stix products in our household, we have only found one surface that they did not do well with: plaster of Paris.  Beyond that, we have used these on so many different projects with excellent results time and time again.  The fact that they dry quickly along with the fact they are mess free (and can be wiped away with soap and water easily) makes them a staple in our household, especially over spillable plastic containers of tempera paint.  We have enjoyed these so much that they were my top recommendation for Christmas gifts for under $25.


"The fact that they dry quickly along with the fact they are mess free (and can be wiped away with soap and water easily) makes them a staple in our household, especially over spillable plastic containers of tempera paint." #hsreviews #KwikStix, #temperapaint, #kidsartsupplies

For more information about the Thin Stix Creativity Pack as well as the other Kwik Stix tempera paint sticks, visit their website.  You can also find more information at the following social media sites:





Twitter: https://twitter.com/thepencilgrip @thepencilgrip






Thin Stix Creativity Pack {The Pencil Grip, Inc. Reviews}
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