The Lonely Path of Homeschooling Older Kids

While immersed in the world of homeschooling preschoolers and kindergarteners, it’s hard to imagine (because you have to go through it to accept it as reality) that kids really do grow up eventually. It’s true! At some point between when your kids stop taking daily naps and you start the habit, you become the homeschooler of an older child, a high schooler even, and that’s a different sort of life. It can even be a lonely sort of life some days.

I know there are some of you simultaneously nursing a baby, rocking a toddler, reading a book to a preschooler, and saying “sound it out” to a second grader for the 752nd time in an hour. I have eight kids—I get it. So some of you think that lonely sort of life sounds almost…appealing! You’re thinking it’s like a weekend alone in a hotel with room service.

It’s not.

Here are ten realities homeschool parents of younger children don’t understand about the loneliness that comes with homeschooling older kids.

First of all, the slew of doubt and prophetic disaster which relatives and random strangers hurled at you when you began homeschooling preschool (which I call raising kids) is multiplied about a thousand-fold when your kids reach high school. Regardless of the success and character your children have (hopefully) proven by this point, people often still think it’s a silly game. They think that when the stakes are high (as in high school, with college scholarship opportunities looming) you’ll stop playing school and do the right thing—send your kids to a “real” school. It’s even worse if your kids aren’t on the college track. If you want to face a world of incredulity and scoffers, homeschool your kids through high school. Bam—you’re a target!

Read the rest over at The Olde Schoolhouse.

Memoria Press Classical Composition {Review}

Memoria Press has done it again. You know that, even though we’re primarily Charlotte Mason homeschoolers, we like to incorporate classical products from Memoria Press. Currently our 12-year-old son is working through the first two levels of Memoria Press Classical Composition by James A. Selby, namely Classical Composition I: Fable Set and Classical Composition II: Narrative Set.

I am going to try to make this review humor-free. Just the facts, ma’am. Just the facts.

Who is Memoria Press?

Memoria Press is one of the big names in classical curriculum. They offer complete studies that your students can follow from little onward that will encompass their entire education. They also provide “piecemeal” products if you want to add one or two topics to your current studies. (We have some of their literature products as well as their First and Second Form Latin.)

They also have several wonderful special needs products by a mother of adopted special needs twins who have done remarkably well and are now adults.

Talk about the Classical Composition.


Author James Selby’s goal in producing the Classical Composition line is to raise excellent, thoughtful writers in the same manner that many of the greats (thin Benjamin Franklin) were trained for over a thousand years. He puts it into an easy-to-use format that will not strain the brain of the parent-teacher who may have not been trained to write well.

The purpose is to teach children not only to write, but to reason well, two skills that academia has found lacking in college freshmen. Combining logic with imagination is another goal. Who wants boring reason? Not us! By the end of the program, a student will hopefully be able to communicate logically in an engaging style.

The 14-step path to . mastering writing is intended to begin in the fifth grade, but that is not necessary. If your students start later, (my son began in sixth grade), they simply move faster. As a sixth grader, my son began with Classical Composition I: Fables, and works through five lessons a week to finish a lesson a week. He will then advance to Classical Composition II: Narratives, and progress at the same speed. Next year he will slow to the regular pace. (See the tweak section below for some personal information on how we do this.)

Classical Composition I: Fable Set

The fable stage contains 20 lessons that each follow a similar structure. Each lesson is based on one of Aesop’s fables, engaging stories my kids are highly familiar with anyway, which makes the experience more comfortable and enjoyable.

Each lesson has the student reading the fable several times, recognizing various aspects of the story, writing variations, narrating, outlining, inverting sentences, writing more variations, and producing a final draft. Ultimately, the students are reading the fables and imitating them, imitation being one of the greatest ways to learn to write well.

The narrative stage works in a similar way. There are 20 lessons that each follow a pattern, this time based on a narrative. Students orally narrate the story. They then learn to identify components of writing evident in each narrative they read. Then, similar to the previous level, they outline, narrate, paraphrase, and work on variations and tweaks until they eventually present you with a polished final draft.

The narratives are interesting and brief, so your student can focus on developing skills rather than wading through a mire of confusion.

Classical Composition II: Narrative Set

Classical Composition is a Christian series. While it will work with anyone, there are Scriptural references. You also will not find questionable behaviors or concepts promoted in any way.

Looking at some of these pictures, you might find some of the concepts to be quite advanced. It’s true. You will definitely be learning alongside your children. That’s why I recommend watching the videos with your kids and being involved, at least at the beginning. It doesn’t need to be entirely hands-on with the parent, although being available and knowledgeable enough to help will be an asset. The teacher’s guide will help you with that.

Personally, I am not highly involved, but I do read up a bit on what my boy is learning, so that I can assist him as needed. So far, I’ve only helped him about three times. The rest he does on his own after watching the videos.

You tweak everything! What did you tweak here?

We don’t generally use formal writing curricula around here in the early years, and sometimes not at all. We’ve used curricula in the past that have made my word-lovers hate writing. That’s not where I wanted to go!

I know the importance of quality writing skills, and I know how rare they are. When I was a college writing tutor, every college freshman had to come through the Writing Center to be evaluated. There were three students (only one of them came straight out of high school–the other two were non-traditional) in my share of freshman class who had a solid grasp on writing…and I married one of them. (See how important good writing skills are?!) I couldn’t believe the junk I was reading! It was horrible!

I knew I wanted my kids to be “among the three,” but I didn’t want to destroy their love of writing with tedium, over-analysis, boredom, or the corniness that is so often part of courses for children. Oh my kids hate that! There is no corn in anything we’ve seen from Memoria so far, so we were good there, but what about tedium and over-analysis? A strictly classical education is an intensive study. That’s one of the reasons we switched to Charlotte Mason’s more gentle approach.

No problem! While I did find many of the questions and answers in the curriculum to be fairly subjective, learning to deal with “no right answer” is part of the writing and thinking process. It isn’t math…which is why some of us like writing so much. (Whoa, that was almost a joke.) IT’s difficult for the younger crowd to try and gasp what the author is getting at sometimes, and also to accept that there may not be one right answer. Learning that concept is crucial learning, but it takes a while to accept. I don’t want frustration to take over and be applied to the writing process while that learning is taking place.

So our tweaks? For the period of the review, we tried to stick with the advanced schedule as outlined by Memoria. Now that the review is over, however, we are going to slow down to maybe 3-4 lessons per week. We can do this in part because we school year round. Also, I don’t have any problem with Elijah doing 1.5 books in sixth grade and 1.5 in seventh and landing right back on track by eighth grade. Any time spent in these books will be beneficial.

Since Elijah currently wants to be a pastor, I want him to have solid writing skills. We’ve all sat through sermons which take you…nowhere. You arrive at the end wondering what on earth that story had to do with the point of the sermon, why he started randomly talking about women in the Bible when the focus was Moses, why there was all that fluff and no actual meaning, or what the whole sermon was even about! It’s a waste of time. I don’t want some of my son’s congregants bringing friends to church for the first time and having them walk out with fluff between their ears because my boy can’t write a decent sermon!

We’re going to continue on the Memoria Composition path until he at least finishes the first two levels. We’ll see where we go after that. But currently we are doing it at a slightly slower pace when necessary.

What does Elijah think?

“I think it’s fun, but challenging. I can still do it, though.”

He’s a pretty wordy guy, but not when I ask him for quotes.

Some technical details.

The sets sell for $85, currently two levels for $120, although I don’t know how long that special will last. For subsequent students, you will only need to replace the consumable student workbook, which is $19.95 as of this writing.

The set includes a teacher’s guide which includes answers (helpful for ideas, because some of the answers are very subjective), teacher helps, rubrics, and additional information throughout. It also includes a DVD teaching each lesson. Finally, there is the consumable student workbook.

If you want more information, you’re in the right place!

The Memoria Press products the Homeschool Review Crew has been using and writing about are listed below, so take a look at any of them that interest you. Memoria has numerous other products we like and have used (particularly their literature and Latin products in our house), so explore! Also, consider signing up for their magazine/catalog combo, which is an education in itself! Check out some of these other products:

New American Cursive:

Traditional Logic:

Classical Composition:

To read reviews on the above products from the Review Crew, click right here or on the image below.

If real life catalogs aren’t your thing, you can also follow Memoria on social media. They are everywhere! See:

Did I successfully publish an entire review without a single joke? Weird!

Arson, Counterfeit, Murder–Just Another Homeschool Day {Review}

I love it when people ask my son what he’s been doing in school, and he says something like, “I’m doing detective work. Something’s Fishy at Lake Iwannafisha,” and they think maybe their kids missed something in their regular school…or they think we’re nuts.

While both conclusions may or may not be true, Something’s Fishy at Lake Iwannafisha is a detective curriculum supplement from The Critical Thinking Co.™ that my 12-year-old son has been working through. He loves it! (If knowing that I can’t drag my 12-year-old boy away from his studies is enough for you, go look at Something’s Fishy at Lake Iwannafisha right here and skip this review!)

The Critical Thinking Co.™

Who is The Critical Thinking Co.™ ?

First of all, let’s call them CT, shall we? CT is exactly what their real name implies, a curriculum company which teaches your kids to do what about 3/4 of adults don’t do these days–think critically. (Wow, that was an intense social commentary I slipped in there, wasn’t it? Well…think about it…if you can.)

CT provides anything from a full grade-level curriculum to supplements to what gives every impression of being a game but turns out instead to be a “brain builder.” Some of their products are as simple as what my brothers and I did for fun as kids (brain teasers and logic puzzles), which made my college logic class a total joke to me–eeeeaaaasssssyyyyy! Others involves a semester- or year-long study in a certain subject (editing, algebra, etc.) or an in-depth course intended for the sole purpose of building thinking skills.

That’s my long-winded way of saying they have loads of goodies on all levels and in all subjects that will help strengthen your child’s critical thinking ability. We’ve been using their resources for well over a decade…and we thinks good. Wink.

I have a secret for you, but you can’t tell. I’ll put it in parenthesis to make it super secret. (I use their workbooks as Christmas presents. Shhhhh.)

The Critical Thinking Co.™

Why is critical thinking important?

I remember being in late grade school and high school and even college and beyond, wishing I could think these things through for myself instead of guessing or wondering what “They” said about a topic. I’ve since developed critical thinking skills, but I see all around me those who don’t. You do, too, if you think about.

Consider Facebook:

The President Trump haters (the Trump-Dumpers) will say something negative about him and his decisions no matter how much they actually agree with his policies. And they only realize they agree if President Trump is removed from the picture and they are presented with the information “Trump-free.” (This goes for any bias, but this is the openly obvious one at this point.) I’m not talking about just teens here; I’m talking about people in their 20s, 30s, 50s who are passing their non-thinking outbursts on to their children. Scariness!

Critical thinking involves moving past bias, past emotion, and past personal preferences to get to the nuts and bolts of a situation and assess the viability, logic, and reality of a decision or scenario.

In other words, you clear out the muck and assess the big picture. It’s a beautiful thing, and something our kids need to be able to do well. Of course, critical thinkers aren’t always super popular. My husband is a critical thinker, and sometimes when I want someone to support me in my momentary emotional irrationality, yeah, he’s not the guy. Wink wink. And ultimately I’m glad!

Something's Fishy at Lake Iwannafisha

So what’s going on at Lake Iwannafisha?

There has been a murder, and it is the detective’s job to solve it. Your child is the detective or your children are a team of detectives. You are the sergeant.

As the sergeant, you give your detective(s) a detective training guide (sort of a refresher for all those years of training they underwent). You also give them the police report from the murder. As the investigation progresses, the detectives will come to you with requests for further information, like the ballistics report or forensics report. They can also request to interview a witness.

Of course, they can’t actually interview a witness. Other detectives have already interviewed witnesses and have their interviews on file. If your detective asks to interview someone whose interview isn’t “on file” (in the book), you as the sergeant simply inform them that that person wasn’t considered a suspect, so there is no interview on file.

You are an active part of providing them with the information (hand them a photocopied or printed sheet of paper with the information, and another piece of paper where they can record their discoveries.) Apart from providing them with information (pieces of paper), you are not involved. You don’t offer hints. You don’t help. You let them use what should be their greatest tool–the brain.

They have to infer conclusions from the information they request from the sergeant. Beware: there will be loose ends…you know, like in real life.

If, of course, you don’t want your kids working with forensics, ballistics, arson, theft, counterfeiting, etc., you won’t be interested in this course. I mean, there are a couple of murders. My son has been enthralled! He just bemoaned to me yesterday that the suspect has probably escaped the country by now since I haven’t given him his ballistics report yet.

This product can last for two days, two weeks, even a month or two if you’re taking 15 minutes or so out of class every few days to work on it. Personally, I enjoyed my son’s enthusiastic immersion in the course for two days before the death of the copier. He could leave his papers spread out (because we’re visiting Grandma and she has a room where he holed up and investigated) and pinned to the wall…like a real investigation, he said.

It’s recommended for grades 5-12+. My detective is in 6th grade, and was quite capable while working on this project.

Apart from passing out papers after they are copied or printed, there is really little to no parental involvement. There is a section where you can pause and have a discussion. I…ahem…didn’t formally follow through with this section. I was in the middle of a war with a copy machine (see the next section below). Also, I tend to discuss things informally. However, this is great for those who like things more scripted and are more hands-on than I am. Also, it’s excellent for groups! If you use this in a classroom, oh my cows-on-a-stick (aka corn dogs), your students will love you forever! 

The best part was how my detective read the information and determined for himself what further information he needed to progress in his knowledge. There was no, “Now, detectives, what was the murder weapon? How do we know this? What should we do with that information? We should…investigate the…class…class…what should we investigate? It’s called…b-…b-…baaaa-…balistics.” Gagarociousness. My kids hate that! They come out of a Sunday school class and are like, “Ugh. We’re not two.”

Something’s Fishy totally acknowledges that they are totally not two. Awesomeness.

An interview with Detective Bagasao:

What did you think of Something Fishy at Lake Iwannafisha?

I thought it was awesome.

What did you like about it?


Can you be more specific?

No. I liked everything.

Like…did you like having to use your brain and figure things out for yourself?


Ugh. Did you like that it was independent?


Ugh. You’re not giving me any good quotes.

What?! I liked the detective work–it was fun.

Ugh. Thanks. Go away.

There you have it. Straight from the mouth of he-who-will-not-be-an-interviewee-for-a-career. (Is that even a career option?)

And yes, I tell my kids to go away. Bad mom.

I wish Steve was eating donuts in that picture. I could make a great cliche joke.

Here’s my beef!

I usually have a beef, don’t I, and it’s often the same beef, isn’t it? This one is kind of a big deal…for me. (But there’s an ultra-positive, so if you read the beef, make sure you also read the prime rib below.)

I did not know when my son asked for this course that I would have to print or copy more than 2/3 of the book. When I found out that I would have to do this, I was pretty much the equivalent of a pouting two-year-old sitting in the corner not sharing his Scooby Doo toy and hiding his sister’s sippy cup. No, no, NO, NO, NOOOO!

I hate printing. And it costs money I don’t have. And our printer does, like a little bit at a time before essentially spitting in my face. So, you know, two pages, okay. Three pages, I’m going to whine. Anything more than that–that’s a deal breaker.

But the book was already in my hands when I learned this. But hallelujah! We were at my mom’s and she has this stellar copy machine, and so I copied pages straight from that as they were needed, and it was really great, and then it died! Halfway through the book, the copy machine just pppbbbbtttthhhhh…whirrrrrrrr…clink clank clunk…dead.

My detective wasn’t happy, as he was anxiously awaiting his ballistics report. So I thought of an alternative. If you have an honest kid, you can paperclip back the pages he can’t see yet, and let him access the pages he can have. Then he can write his conclusions in a notebook–simple-ish. But my detective preferred having pages he could spread out like on Perry Mason and Sherlock Holmes BBC edition with Jeremy Brett–classic! So, after two days of waiting for me to miraculously fix the copy machine (as if), he gave up.

So…the mystery remains unsolved. At the rate he was going, however, it would have been a two-day project at best. He was thoroughly engrossed and powering through it. And honestly, if he does his chores, math, and Bible every day, he can scrap everything else and immerse himself in one subject for two days if he wants to. Life is kind of like that around here anyway.

Here’s my…prime rib?

If you have a beef, which is a negative, there’s usually a positive side, too, right? And here it is. When I first received the book, I thought I handed it to him and he worked through it and done. No no! It is not a consumable book, as my beef already explained. So what does that mean?

It means this:

  1. His siblings can solve the mystery as well…and at their own paces.
  2. He can’t get hints and tips from looking at other pages in the book. He has to figure out for himself what information he needs to solve the mystery. That is brilliant! It’s so brilliant, that I don’t even mind copying.
  3. If you have a lot of kids and you want them all to do this, cut the binding and make friends at Kinkos. Or maybe your church will copy it for you? There is no Kinkos where we are right now. (If I could think of any job that would make me die every day, it would be working at a copying/printing place. Instant death.)

All in all, if you don’t mind running off copies or printing PDFs (which you can access through a link CT gives you), this program is absolutely brilliant! I am super happy with it and I would have gone through it again even knowing about the printing/copying. You know that really saying something for me. Oh technology, why do you hate me so? What have I ever done to you…I mean, besides breaking or temporarily disabling pretty much every tech device I’ve ever touched.

Summary: this program is more than worth the effort of copying and printing. And if you use the PDFs instead of copying, it’s not that difficult…unless your printer is possessed by the soul of Elvis, like ours is. Don’t even ask.

Speaking of tech issues, this picture would not rotate or crop. Evil picture.

A few technical details.

The book sells currently for $14.95. There is also a digital edition for the same price, but it only works on a Windows operating platform. Both give you access to printables, or you can use the book to copy what you need for your students. This is not a consumable workbook.

You want more information, don’t you?

The Critical Thinking Co.™ isone of those great companies that it really pays to follow. We follow them online, but most of our interaction is through their email list. They send weekly critical thinking puzzles for the kids (and the mom), plus there’s often a stellar sale or a clearance item that is perfect to occupy and grow minds while we travel or for screen-free weeks or for fun or, hey, for school as they’re intended. I mean, that’s probably a good use for their curricula also–school. I’m a thinker! Anyway, sign up for their emails online and give them a shot for a while. Make sure to subscribe to the free puzzles for your age groups. And you can also check out on social media below:

Other members of the Homeschool Review Crew reviewed the following items from The Critical Thinking Co.:

If you want to read other Crew reviews (less talk about copying, most likely) about the above or about Lake Iwannafisha, click right here on this little ol’ link or on the lovely banner below:












Instilling Independence in Homeschooled (or Any) Children

As homeschool parents, we carry our children’s education primarily, or in many cases entirely, in our own hands. That’s a school bus full of responsibility that most of us take very seriously. (Let’s not talk about the days when we toss it all and make chocolate chip cookies and call it dinner, math, and home ec.)

Despite the numerous blessings of homeschooling, there is a potential downside—we well-meaning parents can be over-involved in our children’s education and handicap our future young adults.

What?! What could possibly be wrong with being involved in every aspect of our child’s education?

At the risk of getting kicked out of the cookie line at the next homeschool convention, I want to point out two big problems with parental over-involvement.

1.) The child loses respect for the parent as a person as parental needs are repeatedly placed second to the demands of the child’s needs and education, to an extreme; this pattern is then repeated toward others throughout the child’s life. (The me-first mentality.)

2.) The child’s potential to be resourceful, to persevere, and to become a responsible, self-motivated, independent adult is, at best, hindered, if not handicapped.

Read the rest over at The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Review Crew Blog. (That’s a mouthful.)

Apologia Anatomy–Brains, Hearts, and the God Who Made Them {Review}

There are a few things we’ve used in our homeschooling from the dawn of time (our homeschooling time, that is). Apologia is one of our mainstays. To be a mainstay for my family, you have to be fantastic, because I am a member of SGA–Second Guessers Anonymous. And Apologia, in our book, is fantastic–no second guessing there!

They sent us Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology for the purpose of this review, and to totally educate our elementary and middle school kiddos on the fine workings of the human body.

They sent us the following:

  • Textbook
  • Notebooking Journal
  • Junior Notebooking Journal
  • MP3 Audio CD

The components of the course.

The textbook is broken up into 14 lessons covering each of the main body systems, as well as an introduction to anatomy and physiology, a chapter on the senses, a chapter on growth and development, and a chapter on health and nutrition.

As is the case with all the Apologia Young Explorers books, they approach science in a Charlotte Mason style, which is ideal for us. Each chapter is broken up into short sections. There are pauses encouraging students to retell what they’ve learned (narrations) or to answer a few questions.

Each chapter also includes lab activities. The supplies can mostly be found at home, but you can also order a supplement including all the objects you will need for the activities organized according to chapter and activity.

A personal person project runs throughout the course. Your student builds a body adding each system as the student learns about it.

Because Apologia is an apologetics course, there are also Creator-focused sections such as Why Did God Create Me in Growth and Development, Creation Confirmation in the Digestive and Renal System, and Our Faithful Father in Immune and Lymphatic Systems.

The textbook is officially the only item you need to complete this course, making it budget friendly.

There is also an mp3 audio disc available. The recording is professional and easy to listen to. It includes the textbook read by Jeannie Fulbright, the author herself. (She’s an interesting person, so look her up on social media!)

Two notebooking journals are sold separately also. They are not necessary, but they are extremely helpful. There is a junior notebook which is recommended for kindergarten through second or third grade, and then another for third or fourth on up. Both are consumable and meant for one student. They contain copywork, coloring pages, puzzles, notebook pages, and lab record forms, among other things. Your child will use it for his personal person, his experiments, note-taking, making little bookslets, and refreshing his memory on all the wonderful things he’s learned.

A note about the immersion method.

The Apologia approach to science at the elementary and middle school levels is immersion. If you want to understand more about that, watch this video. They explain it better than I do. What I can tell you is how well the immersion method has worked for my family.

We have gone through most of the Apologia Young Explorer science courses, and my children come out of them with a thorough understanding of, interest in, and appreciation of the subject they studied for the year. I find it far superior to the little-bit-of-everything approach to science I grew up with, which doesn’t give you the opportunity to completely fall in love with a subject. I guess it doesn’t give you the chance to totally hate it either. Ha.

What did we do?

As with all the Apologia Young Explorer texts we use, I read aloud from the textbook to my current students, and usually someone younger who hangs around for the fun and the intriguing photos throughout the book. I may read an entire section (maybe 15 minutes max), but usually I read for no more than 5-7 minutes so that everything can sink in and I can hold the kids’ attention. (I have a kindergartener in the mix.)

I ask the questions when they pop up and will often ask for narrations on shorter sections. I almost always ask for a narration the next day as a review. We do this four or five days a week.

I do not use the audio disc because, first of all, it doesn’t play in our van, which is where we do our science readings–on our drives. Secondly, while the reading only takes 5-7 minutes, we discuss quite a bit as we go, often smack dab in the middle of a paragraph. That would be a little less natural with an audio recording, although the discussion could take place at the breaks. I also improvise as I read a bit, because it’s what I do–it certainly isn’t necessary, because the text is highly readable. Honestly, if the disc played in our van, I would probably use it.

As far as the experiments are concerned, we did not buy the supplement package due to budgeting and storage. (Remember, we live in a travel trailer–all ten of us.) We do some of the labs and experiments, but not all of them. We pick those which would help us understand the project best and use supplies we have on hand, like this mummifying experiment that the girls did on their own from chapter 1.

Well, maybe not quite as on their own as they would have liked.

Two-year-old assistants are exciting.

If we can’t do an experiment due to time, driving, or supplies, we have no problem going back and performing an experiment from a previous lesson when the supplies are available. It’s a great review.

We’ve also been known to get creative about supplies. For example, Elijah made this heart from chapter 8, and the only appropriate ingredient he had were the graham crackers.

That’s totally a heart!

The experiments definitely add to the program and aren’t burdensome, so I recommend doing at least one or two per chapter if not all of them.

My readers (third and sixth grade) are able to perform the majority of the experiments without help. My kindergartener is capable of being actively involved, but needs help with the reading and reaching things. She’s still tiny.

My third and sixth graders are using the regular journals. The third grader was originally going to use the junior journal, but decided it was a little too simple. She’s right on the border, so we purchased a regular journal. My kindergartener is using the junior journal, but it’s really too advanced for her. Basically, she dictates to me some of what she has learned and illustrates it. She also does the copywork and coloring. If you do get them, each child needs her own.

Again, the journals are not essential for the course, so if finances are an issue, don’t let the journal costs keep you from using the course. They do, however, add significantly to the course in my opinion. I like that the reading age kids can follow the guidelines within the journal and I don’t have to guide them through anything. Technically, they could read the textbook and do the labs and the notebooks entirely on their own, but I feel the benefit immensely from the discussion we have.

Just some thoughts on age.

We move more slowly than recommended through the course because we have a kindergartener in the mix. Otherwise, the recommended pace of two weeks per lesson is quite reasonable.

While I include all ages of my elementary school kids in my Apologia science studies, I would not begin with Anatomy and Physiology if my oldest was under, say, third grade. This is one of the more difficult topics, despite how well it is all explained. It seems easier for my littlest kids to grasp the concepts in astronomy and even botany. Still, I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to include the younger set when I’m teaching this to older students. Just don’t expect them to grasp it all, and be ready to repeat it when they’re older. and can easily be completed in one full school year of solid learning.

 In summary

This is our second time working through Apologia Anatomy and Physiology. It is a program that strongly prepared our previous set of children for their high school level biology and other science studies, also through Apologia. Highly recommended–all 20 thumbs (and four paws) way way up.

You probably want to know what other people think about. You can read other Crew reviews right here or click on the banner below:

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Classical Christian Music Appreciation Course {Review}

Memoria Press is one of my top curriculum companies. Recently they offered us a chance to check out their Music Appreciation I book. I may have drooled a little.

If you are a full-fledged classical Christian educator, you’re probably already familiar with Memoria; if you aren’t, you should be, because you’ll fall in love with their complete grade level curricula sets. If you’re a different sort of educator who takes a classical bent toward some things, then check out their individual courses, such as, oh, this Music Appreciation course!

Let’s talk about that a bit. Actually, a lot.

Memoria Press Music Appreciation Course: What It Is

The Music Appreciation Course is a single book with two CDs. (The picture below shows the book open and closed–it’s the same book. I mean, they have two of the same book. You will get one book. You understand!) The book includes chronological lessons covering the history of western music. Lessons are broken up into several sections. Each lesson references a single portion of a work by a single composer. The works are available online, and the website links directly to them. This is the only internet access you will need.

Each lesson goes through the following:

  1. Listen to the selected peace. I wrote peace instead of piece, but you know what? Every time I play it, the van gets quiet and people really listen, and then they get loud as they start dancing and grooving and percussionating (real word) to the music. It’s very peaceful. And each peace-piece is extremely well performed and produced on an oral and visual level–no high school bands or home recordings (sorry high school bands and home recorders). All the selections are available on YouTube and iTunes. I don’t get iTunes on my not i-phone, so I can’t tell you the quality there.
  2. A brief history of the composer and the piece. This is brief, like a full page, but super interesting! It’s well-written and captivating, and I’m ultra picky.
  3. A little lesson (and I mean little) in some sort of music theory. It’s done little by little, topic by topic, and builds upon or repeats with a slight expansion of previous topics. It’s really quite interesting and accessible.
  4. Listening exercises to learn and use the new music theory knowledge. This is where the discs come in. They are not mp3s from my understanding, because my Flintstone van doesn’t play mp3s and it plays these discs. Each lesson is different, but essentially the disc plays a small section of a piece, like one theme, section, or line, to emphasize what was discussed in the music theory lesson. It is well done, although, ahem, my family of professional musicians wasn’t super excited about the Twinkle Twinkle singing and would have preferred a more soothing voice. That’s the only complaint so far! (I say this because audio and voice quality are curriculum winners or killers for people in the audio field, just like poor video production or artwork or writing will kill an item for someone in the video, art, or writing fields. You audio people are completely safe with this program so far…after Twinkle Twinkle in lesson 1.)
  5. Another little history lesson, but this is more music-based than composer-based.
  6. Review. The review is great. It’s sort of like this: Hey, did you catch this and that and that and this? I use it each week to review quickly some of the previous lessons, especially the music theory if there was something I didn’t think everyone was solid on.
  7. Extra practice. This is, uh, a little extra practice–sort of a “listen again for this” opportunity. It’s great to tie everything together. My kids often say, “Again!” After which I say, “I didn’t hear a please….” But we do it again anyway.

After four lessons there is a test. The tests are all together in the back of the book and so are the answers. I had my kids do the tests on a separate sheet of paper. I trust them with the answers right there, but someone spilled coffee on a bunch of paper, and it had to be used up. Truth.

Age Recommendations

Memoria Press–such a lovely name–recommends this for grades 3-5, which makes me feel like an dunce, because I’ve learned a ton through this program! My husband studied music theory in college and is a professional musician, so he knows most of the theory, although it’s a good review for him. I took piano lessons for four years and took the obligatory music class in high school which basically taught me how much I looooooaaaaaathe group projects and that Kansas is a state and a music group. Essentially what I think they’re saying is that children in grades 3-5 are ready for this information, and that it is a good age to start them.

That said, I am using this program exclusively in the van when the entire family, including Steve the husband and dad and professional musician, are awake. That means everyone from 2 to 21 and parents are all enjoying this course together. Some parts are review for some people, but we have all  learned something, and most of us have learned quite a bit…and we’re a musical family.

I would definitely say my kindergartener, who is 6, is too young to fully benefit from the program, but she is learning things, is being exposed to phenomenal music, is becoming more familiar with names of musical greats, and is listening to music in a different manner, even if she can’t pronounce ritornello. I wouldn’t hesitate (and obviously didn’t hesitate) to include younglings in the mix with the older kids.

My third grader is in the recommended age group and is the reason we accepted this course. She is completely enjoying the program and doing quite well in it. She is, however, highly interested in the subject and has a good head on her shoulders when she chooses to use it. If a child finds this frustrating at age 8 or 9, I would definitely hold off a year or two and come back to it later.

Outside of the age group on the older end, I have a sixth grader (12), freshman (15), junior (17), college senior (19), and a 21-year-old. They are all listening and learning, although the 21-year-old is an accomplished pianist and knows some of this already, but it’s great review. I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to use this with high schoolers. Not one second!

And then there’s the two-year-old.

Ha ha. Potato chip boy doesn’t like anything to be louder than he is, but he too is getting into the music. My favorite for him so far is one of the earlier lessons–Vivaldi’s winter–during which the children match the poem to the song so they can hear the music as stomping feet or chattering teeth or howling wind. Mine reenacted that…for a long time…and quite enthusiastically. That might explain the blown tire.

How We Make It Work

We do one lesson a week and only when everyone is available and only on driving weeks…which is most weeks, since we drive all the time! We follow the program exactly as written. First we listen to the piece. Then we read the history. That’s it for the day–maybe 10-15 minutes depending on the length of the piece. (We do a minute or two of review at the beginning, so make that 12-17 minutes if you want to be picky, and right now I’m feeling pretty picky.)

Next driving day we do an ever-so-brief (30 seconds) review and then study and practice the musical concept taught that day. This is about 20 minutes max.

Next driving day or the same day if people want more (usually same day), we go through the review and practice sections and listen to the piece again with our newfound knowledge. The entire lesson takes us no more than an hour, and usually less. The only reason it takes us up to an hour is because we listen again and again to some sections or pieces, either because we love them or because we want to practice some more.

(That picture is after they finished listening, because my camera and phone and listening device are one and the same, but this is what the participants look like sitting in the van. )

Every four weeks there is a test based on four lessons. For my large group, I pass around the book and let them take it on their own (10 minutes for most, although the third grader took about 30), or I ask questions aloud and have them write answers. There is a listen-and-identify section that we do together. The reviews we do before each lesson are mostly sufficient to prepare them for the tests, but they can also go back and review on their own if they’re so inclined. Also, once they’ve taken the test, I let them go back and use the book for any answers they didn’t know.

(She did more than one problem–I took the picture at the start of this examination because, confession time, I fall asleep a lot in the van. Plus I forget things.)

That’s it. It’s super simple. Everything is laid out beautifully, understandably, simply.

I know I say we’re a musical family, but personally I’m kind of a musical dunce. I teach my kids basic piano and make them sing hymns in harmony, but I don’t know stuff–you know, stuff. Even I can do this course. Sometimes I might have trouble finding a theme or detecting an instrument or something, but it’s all a matter of ear training, patience, and practice–there’s no rush! And if you don’t “get” something, it’s okay. You will still garner quite a bit of interesting information from this course.

There is a technological side to this course. When the technology brain cells were handed out, a bird ate mine. True story…maybe. But I don’t let that handicap stop me. Here’s what I did to make this work for us in the van. (Some of you are going to be like, “DUH! That’s so easy!” To you I say, “Show me the pastern and coronet on a horse, diagram the Preamble to the Constitution, make me some chocolate without sugar, and treat this diaper rash with no chemicals.” We all have our gifts.)

I made a shortcut on my phone to the website where all the videos are linked–I don’t remember how I did that, so ask YouTube instead of me. Each week when we want to listen, I simply tap the shortcut icon, select my selection, and BAM! It’s playing on my phone.

That’s a screenshot of my phone’s app page. I know–so many apps! And in Spanish! Ugh. See the shortcut in the upper righthand corner? Easier than pie.

To run it through the van speakers, I plugged my phone into the van’s input using my headphone cord so the van speakers are like my headphones…but louder and less private. I can’t take a picture of it, because, again, my camera is on my phone, and the music is playing on my phone, and my phone is hooked up, so here’s a picture of my van’s radio.

Wow, that was helpful.

That’s all the tech advice necessary, unless you don’t know how to play CDs. I won’t judge.

Our Final Assessment

I love this course and the offspring do as well. I’m setting aside what we were previously doing and continuing with this course until I’ve done the whole thing. Then I am hoarding it so I can do it again later when the younglings are old enough to gain more from it.

It is exactly what I was hoping it would be, except more interesting. Sometimes I want to do three lessons in a week! But I stuff a potato chip in my mouth and sit on my hands.

Memoria offers a free sample page right here, so check it out if this sounds like something that might interest your crew.

You know what though–I shouldn’t be surprised. We love everything we’ve ever gotten from Memoria Press.

More From Memoria and the Homeschool Review Crew

Other members of the Homeschool Review Crew reviewed numerous other publications:

And here’s my review on their Fourth Grade Literature Guide Set.

To read their reviews, click right here or on the banner below:

For information on their other great books, including sales and new publications, follow Memoria Press on social media:


Homeschool Diploma — A Personalized Diploma Experience {Review}

We’ve been homeschooling for so long that I’ve noticed an odd pattern emerging from people who ask us questions about our education lifestyle. One of the questions we hear, strangely enough, is “What about a diploma?!”

I used to say that we were going to make our own, which had people looking up the number for social services faster than you could say “burger and fries.” Thankfully, Homeschool Diploma has appeased our curious questioners with their array of diplomas, specifically their Standard High School Diploma and the Personalized High School Diploma.

High School Diploma with 7

All my longtime followers already heard me gush about Homeschool Diploma and how they made me cry happy tears a couple years back when we ordered a diploma for Hannah. You can read all about that right here. I don’t want to repeat myself, so I’m going to talk to you today about the numerous options you have for personalizing a diploma from Homeschool Diploma.

Homeschool Diploma offers numerous options, including the following:

I want to walk you through the numerous options involved in personalizing the high school diploma we created for Marissa. Wait, what?! Isn’t Marissa graduating from college in a few weeks? Yes, yes she is. Here’s what happened. At 16 she sort of morphed from high school into college and we never really celebrated. We just called her a high school dropout and that was that. Ha! So we ordered a high school diploma for her backdated to 2015 when she was sweet 16. Next week we’ll be giving it to her at her big high school graduation bash, which is just us at Red Robin using all the birthday money I’ve been saving up. Got that? Good.

Okay, onto the details that make the personalized diploma so special.

Size options

You can go for the standard 8.5×11, the more compact 6×8, or the totally portable wallet size.

Seal options

There are three standard gold seals to choose from, and several upgraded seals for an additional charge. You can focus on home education, Christian education, or one of the other options. You classical educators will be thrilled to know there’s even an option for you.


The name of your graduate and school are up to you, of course. We are boring and used our daughter’s real name.

You can include your city and state if you wish. We use our country, since we’re a USA traveling roadschool.


This is one of my favorite parts. The wording options are quite extensive. You can choose a more state-like diploma, an honors diploma, a thanks to God option, or the Godly wisdom wording, which is my personal favorite and what we chose for both our graduates so far.

There are also options for single parent homes, double parent homes, or excluding the parents altogether if, you know, the lunches they packed for four years weren’t worthy of having their names on the diploma. Very possible!

Verse or Motto

You have the option of choosing a verse or motto for the diploma. There are a number of options or you can add your own. We have used our girls’ confirmation verses to make them even more meaningful, particularly since our girls have chosen their own confirmation verses.

Dates and Signature Lines

You can backdate, forward date, or present date your diploma. You can also choose how to label your signature lines. We did the simple Father and Mother, although I was considering King and Queen.

Paper and Lettering

There are two paper options, and this was super hard for me, because you can’t go wrong with either one, which makes it super hard for me. I know–weirdo!

The lettering options include hand-lettered calligraphy for an additional fee. We opted for printed…I think. I can’t remember.

Honors Seal

You can opt to add an honors seal in English or Latin. I always use the Latin because Latin is cool. Why? Because my high school Latin teacher said it was, and if Mr. Winter said it, you know it’s true.

Diploma Cover

You have choices of colors and seals or no seal at all.

You may also upgrade and add your graduate’s . name to the outside of the diploma, a nice little touch. We got the name on the outside for Marissa, but not for Hannah. Apparently we like Marissa better.


You may order an archive copy so you’ll have a copy for your records. This is also where you order the wallet-size copy. We got one for Hannah, but not for Marissa. Apparently we like Hannah better.

Cap and Gown and Tassel

You may add a cap, gown, and tassel, or just a tassel, or nothing at all. Hannah got a cap and tassel. Marissa only got a tassel. We really do like Hannah better!

If you need to back-date your tassel charm, that’s no problem at all! You have a seriously huge array of options for tassel colors and charms. We don’t have school colors, so I go with colors the girls like, which is not easy, so I think I’m choosing school colors before Elisabeth graduates next year.


You can add a ring for your grad, invitations, a darling little gold tassel for your diploma, a pen–so much stuff!


You have the option of saying, “Oh, rats! I forgot to order a diploma for the gaduation ceremony that is taking place in two sleeps!” You can get it made and shipped super fast.

Customer Service

I have communicated with Homeschool Diploma a number of times over the past couple of years, and I always feel like I’m talking to an old friend–not the old that’s awkward to talk to because you stopped sending Christmas cards and they didn’t. I mean the old friend that you see after ten years and it’s like you never missed a beat, you know what I mean?

Now then, let me say again that you can go back and read my other review of our first diploma experience with Homeschool Diploma right here. You can also go see what other Homeschool Crew Review team members think of their diplomas, gowns, hats, and other fun goodies by clicking here or on the banner below:

You can also follow Homeschool Diploma on social media: