Tag Archives: book review

Book Review – “Homepreschool and Beyond” by Susan Lemons

Along the lines of the HomeSchool PreSchool series I have been doing, I have another awesome review for you!  I am hoping to provide you with lots of tools that will assist you as you go through preschool with your little ones.  This book is definitely one you would want to read through just before you start preschool.  But, if you have already started, Ms. Lemons has tons of useful information that you can still incorporate into your school experience.

One thing we’ve *talked* about already is deciding which “philosophy of school” camp you are in.  If you can have your feet firmly planted in how you want to approach homeschooling as a whole, it will greatly help you in all the subsequent decisions you’ll make along this road.  Check out my very first article in this series where I talk about what those different approaches are.  (Which, by the way, is the article where I first met Susan Lemons, the author of the book I am reviewing for you right now!)

About the Author

(From the back of the book …)

Susan Lemons is a homeschooling mother of four.  She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Child Development and taught preschool for eight years.  Author, speaker, and mentor, Susan is committed to helping new and prospective homeschool families get off to a great start.  Read her blog at susanlemons.wordpress.com.

About the Book

(From the back of the book … )

  • Focus on ages 2-8
  • 26 chapters that cover all areas of development
  • Read-aloud recommendations
  • Explains various homeschooling methods, resources, and curriculum options
  • Emphasizes spiritual and character building
  • Offers many activity ideas

Many parents struggle to know what to teach their preschoolers.  Some take a “hands-off” approach, providing little in the way of educational activities.  Other emphasize early academics, drilling their youngsters on colors, numbers, and letters while overlooking play and other experiences that are vital for normal development.

Preschoolers thrive somewhere between these extremes.  They need a balanced, faith-based, develpmentally appropriate approach that emphasizes relationships, simple daily routines, readiness and reading aloud.

Homepreschool and Beyond gives parents the knowledge they need to find “balance” for their family.  Find out what young children need to know – and how to teach it.  Gain the confidence you need to relax and enjoy those precious preschool years – and beyond.

My review

I really loved reading this book all the way through.  You know how some “how to homeschool” books are more instructional and you just read a chapter here and that section there?  This book was like having a conversation with a veteran homeschooling mom right in my living room.  It was very easy to read and understand.

Best of all, Susan brings homeschooling your preschooler to an attainable level.  It can sometimes seem so overwhelming with so many places to find information and advice.  She lets you know that it is much easier than you think and definitely do-able!

“There is an old saying: “Learning begins at Mother’s knee.”  Indeed, much of what we remember as early learning was probably at Mother’s knee – or, in my children’s case, “on Mommy’s lap.”  All those hours of reading and rereading favorite books and nursery rhymes, singing and reciting finger plays, cuddling, tickling, and giggling are the true heart of homepreschooling.”Homepreschool and Beyond” by Susan Lemons, pg 13.

When I read that, I breathed a sigh of relief!  I worry sometimes that I’m not doing enough, that my kids won’t be as “ahead of the game” as everyone thinks homeschoolers ought to be, that I’m going to miss some magical education moment that will affect the rest of their homeschooling careers.  From her experience as a preschool teacher in the classroom and the living room, I really appreciate Susan telling us what really is important in the end.

With this book in your hand, you’ll have tons of resources and ideas to draw from, great advice for daily activities, and reassurance when the day doesn’t seem to be going the way you want.

Where to Get It

(Prices do not include shipping and handling charges.)

You can find this book on Amazon for about $15.

Liberty Books has it for $15 as well.

Christian Book Distributors has it for about $12.

Accelerated Christian Education – How To Get Started

In a previous article, we talked about how to determine whether or not ACE was the right curriculum for you.  Reading the information there first will help you be better armed to progress to the next step in this journey – how to get started!

Now, we can discuss the plans and preparations that need to be made in order to start off on the right foot from day one!

The Commitment

If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time

I don’t know who first uttered this statement, but it has been repeated many times over because it is so very very true.  As homeschoolers, we have to have a goal, a finish line in our minds that we are aiming at with our children.  We must parent our children “on purpose” or lots of accidents will happen in their lives.

The same is true with the Accelerated Christian Education curriculum.  The whole family has to be committed to the end goal.

As with any curriculum there will be bad days, there will be parts that don’t seem to work well for you, there will be things your kids don’t like about it, there will be times when you want to quit.  Only your commitment to seeing this through to the end will carry you to the finish line.

Write out the reasons why you are choosing ACE for your child or children.  Post the reasons in a place where you can see them daily, like the refrigerator or on a cabinet door.  When rough times come, read through the list again and remind yourself of why you started down this road in the first place.

Ready?  Aim.  Fire!

The Workspace

A special area designated for schoolwork will be of great benefit to your child as s/he sets out to complete each day’s pages.  You can make a special workspace in even the tightest of quarters.  It is okay if that workspace needs to be taken down at the end of the day as long as the child knows they have a “spot” to do their work.

We have tried lots of areas in our home for my oldest son’s workspace.  The kitchen table worked very well when it was just he and his younger sister.  She and I would sit at the table and work quietly on letters or coloring while he worked.  When she needed time to be a little louder, she and I went into her bedroom to play with toys and he was able to keep working.

Once we had more children and those children got older and more active, Justus needed a better solution so that he could concentrate on the task at hand.  Watching his brother and sisters play was lots more interesting!

Different solutions will work at different ages.  Just know that whatever solution you pick now may need to be changed as the child gets older.  He is nearly 11 and I am comfortable with him being in a quiet room alone to do his work.  Now, he is not in the room all day long completely isolated!  Every three pages or so, he gets up and brings me his pages to correct.  He gets regularly scheduled breaks every hour on top of that.  He really enjoys having a quiet place to retreat in order to get his work done, knowing that when he is finished, he’ll get to run and play with the little ones.

Accelerated Christian Education - Homeschool Office

This is the setup that worked for us over the last two years.  My husband built this desk for Justus and installed it in the closet of his bedroom.  Room was left for the few hanging clothes he has and the rest of the space was for working.  This has worked out very well for us!  We’ve moved recently and, though we now have a whole room dedicated just to homeschooling, there isn’t a perfect little quiet spot for Justus to sit.  Once I get it figured out, I’ll post photos.

The Schedule

If you aren’t already on a schedule, implement one for your entire family!  Whether you are using ACE or just running from one field trip to another, a schedule performs absolute miracles in every family that uses it.  I have posted a three-part series on creating your own schedule to help you get one established in your home.  You’ll wonder how you ever did without a schedule after you start using one!

With a schedule in place, your child knows what to expect throughout the day.  There will be less opportunity for arguing and complaining about when to actually sit down and do the work.  If they also have their own schedule posted in front of them, they can see when the breaks are scheduled and they’ll be more likely to work until break time.

Communication is a huge key when it comes to parenting and a schedule is a wonderful way to communicate with your children about how the day should go.

You might be able to place the order for your PACEs first and then, while you are waiting for it to be shipped, start implementing that schedule.  It will be a little bumpy the first two or three weeks, but as I mentioned above, if you are committed to sticking with it, you will be surprised at how well it works.

The Diagnostic Testing

ACE offers free placement or diagnostic testing on their website.

If your child has already had a few years of schooling (homeschooling or otherwise) you may want to think about having him/her go through these tests to make sure you have an accurate reading on what level of PACEs they should start with.

Click on the words “Diagnostic Testing” above and you will be taken to the initial page where you will need to register.  Go through all the steps, which include telling them where you are from, student’s name and birthdate, what subject (they offer Math, English, Social Studies/Science, and Word Building) and what level you want to start with.  Then, you are ready to go!

Pay attention to how your child is dealing with the testing.  Justus completed it when he was about 7 years old.  I thought he would just think it was cool to have SO much more time on the computer and I misread how seriously he was taking it.  Once I clued in, I gave him enough breaks and helped him understand that this was just to see how much he already knew and where we should start in the program.  He was much less intense after that!

The PACEs

If your child is just starting his/her homeschooling experience at the typical kindergarten or first grade age, it would most likely be just fine to start your student off in the PACEs that correspond to that grade level.  With a child that does not know how to read, you may think about starting with the “Kindergarten with Ace and Christi” program.  For children that are already reading, I would start with the grade one material.

You can order materials directly through ACE Ministries.

Or, you can get a bit of a discount (and support HomeGrownMommy’s efforts!) by ordering through ChristianBook.com!

The Support

Do you have a church nearby you that runs an ACE school?  Maybe there is a Christian school that uses this program in your area?

You can call or email the ACE customer service and they will tell you the location of the schools closest to you.

The reason I point this out is because going through an ACE school has really helped set me on the right course.  My son goes to the school run by my church back home (I currently live in Florida, “back home” is Wisconsin) for two months out of the year.  The first year I homeschooled him with ACE was a disaster.  The second year of our ACE journey was when he started going to the school for two months.

At the end of those two months, I had an opportunity to sit in the school and observe how things were done and ask lots of questions.  Since then, our school time at home has run so much more smoothly!  It has been an amazing transformation!

If you can locate a school and they will let you observe how things are done or even allow your child participate for a few weeks or a month, it would be a benefit to you.

But, if you are not able to find a school near you, there are other ways to surround yourself with support as you embark on this adventure.

ACE hosts “motel meetings” where a representative from the program comes to a hotel near you to talk about and sell the PACEs.  Or, you can attend one of many homeschool conventions in your area in which ACE participates.  Here is a link to the meetings and conventions ACE will be in, by state.  At the bottom, there is a listing of representative names and phone numbers, by state.

You can look online for other groups that center on using ACE.

And, of course, you can come back to this blog VERY often and post your questions, your thoughts, things that have worked well for you, and things that have not worked so well.  I would love to create a community atmosphere where you feel comfortable coming to share your experiences with the rest of the readers.  What a great resource this could be if we all worked together to help us all succeed in using the ACE program!

Sing up for new articles to be delivered to you via RSS feed or email so that you don’t miss a single thing!

Crew Review – Hank the Cowdog Book, Game, and CD

Hank the Cowdog SeriesI had never heard of Hank the Cowdog before doing this review but when I opened the package and the kids saw all the cool stuff inside, they were just drooling to be able to do the review right away! We were in the middle of moving to a new home and we all needed a break from the mountain of boxes and the constant packing, so I decided to sit down with the kids right then-n-there to look over the products. Everything was very colorful and looked exciting! I was planning to listen to the CD while we played the game and then start reading the book later that evening before bed. So, we popped in the CD, opened up the game and started reading the directions.

It turns out that I had a hard time understanding exactly what to do to play the game, so it was hard to listen to the CD and try to figure out the rules at the same time. Just before I turned it off, we heard a word that is considered “taboo” in our home – along the lines of dummy, idiot, dang, etc. I decided it would be a good idea to turn it off and wait until the kids were in bed to listen to the rest. Once we were able to figure out the rules for the game, the kids and I played for little while. Later on, we sat down for another packing break to read some of the book. There were a few things that I didn’t feel were in agreement with the way we are trying to raise our kids, so I put the book aside and read something else for a little while.

I’ll break down, piece by piece, what I thought of the products after a little background on the author.  “Hank the Cowdog” is a rather popular series of books written by John Erickson, who was a real cowboy in Texas and Oklahoma in the late 1960’s. In 1982, Mr. Erickson started his own publishing company, Maverick Books and the tale of Hank the Cowdog began. Currently, between writing new adventures for Hank, Mr. Erickson and his wife operate a real ranch and commercial beef cattle operation.

Hank the Cowdog Book #8 - One-Eyed Killer Stud Horse“The Case of the One-Eyed Killer Stud Horse”

This is just one of the many books in the “Hank the Cowdog” series and it’s the one we were given to review.  Let me just say right off the bat, I really really have a hard time giving a bad review to anyone.  I have been struggling with how to word my true feelings regarding this book.  But, I think the main goal of the Homeschool Crew is honesty so I’m going to do the best I can.

  • Details
    • Number 8 in the “Hank” series
    • 120 pages
    • reading level is equivalent to the middle of 3rd grade (or ages 7-9)
    • Retails for less than $5 in paperback and $12.49 hardback (also available on CD or cassette)
  • Pros
    • The book is written at a very easy-to-digest level.  If you had an older child that was struggling to read, this might be a great place to start. 
    • Also, it is definitely a fun book!  I can almost hear the Texan-twang in Hank’s voice.  Mr. Erickson does a great job of relating the mood of a real cowboy through that twang! 
    • Since there are so many books in this series (I believe there are 54 books in all) and other resources such as games and CDs, you could probably do a great unit study using the books.
  • Cons
    • I think the most important drawback to the book was the extreme conversational tone throughout the book.  I think it is part of what makes the book fun for kids, but also not a challenge for their minds.  It also tends to include lots of slang.  The story is told from Hank’s point of view as a cowdog and, as he is telling the story, he gets off-track by talking about silly things that don’t really pertain to the story at hand.  Occasionally, I will let my older son read a comic book, but other than that we don’t do too much “silly reading” around here.  I want the kids to be challenged by what they read on many different levels. 
    • Also, there were a few topics touched on in the book that really bothered me as a parent.  Primarily, Hank’s preoccupation with women was a turn-off for me.  He goes on and on sometimes about different females, talking about “the cutest little pointed nose you ever saw and red lips that were shaped like a bow and skin as smooth as whipped cream …” – it just got to be a little too much after a few times.  One time he said, “Just the thought of that woman gets me in an uproar” and I didn’t feel comfortable having my 10-year-old son thinking about women that way. 
    • Another topic that was bothersome was telling the kids how they can lie to their parents about who wet the bed.  This happened right in the beginning as Hank was introducing the story.  He mentioned that it was going to be such an exciting story, it would have the children scared enough to sleep with mom and dad for a week, maybe enough to wet the bed.  The advice he gives about what to do after the bed-wetting?  “Just pretend it didn’t happen … tell ’em that it rained during the night and the roof leaked.”  Obviously, he is just trying to be silly, but any kind of lie is a big deal in this house, even one that’s so silly it’s hardly believable.  How could I go on reading to my children when I’ve taught them that any lie is a bad lie?

Hank’s Tornado Game

  • Details
    • Portable – all pieces fit inside the fold-able playing board
    • For 2 to 4 players
    • For ages 5 and up
    • Retails for $12.99 on Hank’s official website
  • Pros
    • The game is quite a bit like the game Sorry
    • Because it has the same characters and cowboy-feel to it that the books do, fans of the books will really enjoy playing the game!
    • My 10-year-old really enjoyed the game!
  • Cons
    • The directions were a little hard to understand at first.  We did eventually get the hang of it, but it was hard to keep track of the rules.  Maybe it was because it was the first time we had played – it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks!
    • Each player is a specific color.  On the game pieces, the color is on the bottom of the piece so it was hard to keep track of which “Hank the Cowdog” piece was yours.

Hank’s Tales and Tunes CD

  • Details
    • 9 songs in all
    • Retails for $3.00
    • There is also a double CD package available with 45 songs, which include the 9 on this CD
  • Pros
    • Once again, the songs are silly!  Little boys, with their unique sense of humor, will really get a hoot out of most of the songs.
    • The songs have a very unique sound-quality as they were performed like an old-time radio show.
    • These are definitely cowboy country songs, through and through!
  • Cons
    • The songs are maybe just a little too silly for us.  I don’t mean to sound like we never have fun with our kids, but “silly” and “fun” have different meanings for us.
    • One song talked about how awful little boys are which makes you thankful for gals.  The song ripped on boys so much that it was pretty upsetting to me, especially since I have two of the cutest, sweetest boys in the whole world who would never “drive their tractor across your toes”.  He goes on to sing, “There ain’t much use for little boys” and “Little boys ain’t fit to keep, they’ll mess things up and make you weep.”  Yikes!  I would never want my little boys to hear that kind of stuff and wonder who feels that way about them!  No one in this house feels that way for sure!

I hope I wasn’t too hard on Hank the Cowdog!  I am glad that so many children across the country have found something they enjoy reading instead of just consuming what comes from the television hour by hour. 

Hank the Cowdog has his own official website at www.HankTheCowdog.com where you can play some online ranch games, explore the ranch, order the books and tapes and sign the guestbook!

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Book Review – HomeWork: Juggling Home, Work, and School Without Losing Your Balance by Rebekah Wilson

Cover Photo of HomeWork eBookThis is the final review I’ll be conducting for The Oldschool House Magazine in order to apply for the Homeschool Crew. I’m not sure when the final selections will be made, but I’ll let you know when I find out!

Everyone was asked to review “HomeWork: Juggling Home, Work, and School Without Losing Your Balance” by Rebekah Wilson and I am so glad they chose this title. It hits so near to home – these last few weeks more than ever.

This eBook is a collection of other moms relating their experiences handling home school along with other work to bring in another stream of income to the home. Altogether, there are 16 families represented with a wealth of knowledge and advice for juggling so many large responsibilities.

The stories were broken down into categories: A Labor of Love, Computer Based, Creative Writing, Business Support, Tricks of the Trade.  Just a quick break-down of the type of businesses included:

  • A Labor of Love. These experiences were from families who work with their hands as a means of extra income.  There were businesses like sewing, book sales and breeding animals for sale.
  • Computer Based. The moms here are running businesses from their computers – one using the internet and one running a computer network management service.
  • Creative Writing. This segment included ladies that use words in all kinds of businesses from writing a book to running a printing and publication business.
  • Business Support. Medical transcription and tax preparation were included under this heading.
  • Tricks of the Trade. One of the most helpful pieces to the book, this section detailed very thoroughly the how-to of keeping your business finances and your home organized while working and schooling at home.

At 95 pages altogether, this is a substantial help to any mom that is thinking about starting a home business while home schooling.  There is just something about reading the stories of other families that helps you to realize that you can do it too.  These moms shared a little of their history and a lot of their heart as they let the reader peek into their homes.  I was completely caught up in each story as they related their highs and lows, how they started and where they hope to end up.

In my own life, I have walked many different paths to extra income, some were bad and some were really bad.  It was so nice to know that I wasn’t the only one who had taken the chance to step out there and failed more than once.  But these ladies were showing how they DID succeed finally!  Their stories breathed new life into my efforts to try another business and bring along everything I have learned from previous ventures.  Above all, they reminded me that the reason for the extra income is the children and to always put them first.

Overall, I love the way this book was presented.  Each category was broken down by the individual stories with a great deal of information and useable resources at the end.  This will be a book that I plan to read many times over during the coming years and I plan to put some of the organizational ideas into practice as well.

Click on the picture to order your own copy today!
HomeWork: Juggling Home, Work, and School Without Losing

You can read about the WeE-Books I reviewed for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew in the following articles:

And as always, keep on growing!

WeE-Book; “The Great Books: A TOS Interview with Classical Educator, Fritz Hinrichs” by Kate Kessler

Welcome again and thanks for joining me in this third installment of three WeE-Book reviews.  For my final WeE-Book review, I read “The Great Books: A TOS Interview with Classical Educator, Fritz Hinrichs” by Kate Kessler.  Check out the second review here.

This book is essentially a transcript of an interview that the author conducted with Mr. Fritz Hinrichs on the subject of “Great Books”.  If you are new to the term, this e-book covers everything you need to know, and it thoroughly grabbed my attention on the matter.

Mr. Hinrichs offers a Great Books tutorial program to homeschooling families in an online conference-style class.  But he did much more than try to sell his program, he shared his love of books.  He also reminded us of the need to share this love and the knowledge of the classics with our children.  There is so much to be learned from the great literary conversation that has happened in times past and continues still today.  This book renewed my desire to share literary masterpieces with my children when the time comes.

The subject matter in this book would be appropriate for those who are new to the Great Book concept or those who already want to incorporate it but just need a good reminder of why to teach from the Great Books.

I hope you have enjoyed this review series as much as I have enjoyed reading the books!  There is one more Homeschool Crew review that I’ll be doing which is a full length e-book.  Come back soon to read the review of “Homework: Juggling Home Work and School Without Losing Your Balance”.  Until then, keep on growing!


WeE-Book; “Building Strong Arithmetic Thinking” by Dr. Ruth Beechick

Welcome back for the second installment of three WeE-Book reviews.  I chose to read “Building Strong Arithmetic Thinking” by Dr. Ruth Beechick.  Check out the first review here.

I always struggled with math in school and now my oldest struggles with an “I hate math” attitude.  When I saw this title, I was very excited to get the opportunity to read it and glean anything I could to help my kids have a good basis for math.

I really am loving the short nature of these books!  I can whip through them in just moments – which is about all the time I have during the day to fit in anything extra!  They are so well written and easy to read that you are done before you even feel like you’ve started.  They are not lacking on great information for their length, though.  The books are action-packed with advice and stories that relate so well with what I go through.

That said, let’s get to the specifics of this particular book, “Building Strong Arithmetic Thinking”.  The author immediately brings the information to my level by having a few wingding characters written down and asking me to solve the math problem.  And then throws another one at me!  She then related that to children trying to grasp their first encounters with certain pieces of math.

There is a distinction between abstract math and concrete math and we are forcing our children to look at and comprehend the abstract far too soon. After laying the groundwork that we should be focusing on concrete math concepts all the way through to third grade, the author walks through what we should be doing instead. 

I like that she not only pointed out the problem, but helped me figure out a solution.  She made some very practical, easy-to-incorporate ideas that would work in my everyday life – not some top notch curriculum with a top notch price tag.

A very comprehensive checklist is included to help make sure our children have a strong foundation in math with such things as counting, skip counting, exposure to money, basic adding and subtracting, basic fractions and more.  I’m going to be hanging this in the house somewhere so I can be reminded daily of the math goals.

Finally, she covers the topic of common sense math – teaching our children the math of everyday life.  “We need to return 5 library books and only 3 are here.”  It’s a reminder to expose our children to the things that automatically go on in our heads before we know it.

Overall, I thought this book was very beneficial in redirecting us from teaching our children the abstract too soon and helping us to make sure the proper foundation of concrete math facts has been laid.

Join me next time when I review, “The Great Books: A TOS Interview with Classical Educator, Fritz Hinrichs” by Kate Kessler.  Until then, keep on growing!

WeE-Book; The “Me Time” Myth by Amy Roberts

As you know if you’ve been reading along with me, I am reviewing several WeE-Books for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine in order to apply for their Homeschool Crew.  This is the first of those reviews and I read The “Me Time” Myth by Amy Roberts.  What a refreshingly honest book!

The author talks about the idea that moms who stay home with their kids all day NEED a break from those kids.  I personally remember, when leaving my full-time job to homeschool, I was told almost immediately after the announcement to make sure I get some time for myself.  In my mind, I thought – “But, I don’t want any “me time”.  I really enjoy being with my kids!”

Ms. Roberts relates that she kept chasing the dream of this fulfilling, refueling, rejuvenating “me time” only to find an empty void and a messy home.  She was very candid that the desire for “me time” in her life continued to mount but “only served to overwhelm me even more and feed into my desire to escape”.  She finally realized that her pursuit of this time alone, away from her kids and husband was selfishness and she made a point from there on to stop searching for what she couldn’t find and begin to enjoy what she already had – a wonderful husband and children.

Once she blocked off her continual desire to have some time alone and just enjoyed where she was, the times that she did have doing things with other ladies or by herself were more enjoyable.

While this was a fast read, there was enough good solid content to keep me thinking for quite a while.  The author is not afraid to be hard-hitting and completely open about her life.  I appreciated her honesty and it helped me to look at my life more honestly in these areas

Overall, this was a very good book that I would highly recommend to any mom, but especially a new mom – how much easier her life might be if she could avoid the “me time” philosophy before it takes root in her heart.

Join me next time when I review, “Building Strong Arithmetic Thinking” by Dr. Ruth Beechick.  Until then, keep on growing!