Faith and Courage in the Crux of History

We were super hyped when Heirloom Audio Productions sent us a free copy of Beric The Briton to review. Hyped, I tell you! And for good reason.

Briefly, Beric the Briton is an audio production of the amazing adventure of a 1st century Briton in a Roman world, based on the book by G.A. Henty.

Heirloom Audio Productions does amazing work. As music missionaries with Christian music CDs for sale, we are ear-deep in the Nashville production world. We see the difference between the good stuff that accomplished artists create and the work of the fly-by-nights, and boy-oh-boy-oh-boy, Heirloom produces the good stuff.

Of course, authors like G.A. Henty deserve the good stuff. When you take an adventure like Beric the Briton and you throw in the voices of some of the great, such as Brian Blessed (Star Wars, Tarzan, Robin Hood) and John Ryhs-Davies (The Lord of the Rings, Indiana Jones) among others, you’re destined to have a great product. And the soundtrack–brilliant!

You’ve heard me rave about Heirloom Audio Productions before, so I won’t get redundant. Suffice it to say that Heirloom is excellent, Beric the Briton is magnificently produced, and any of the Heirloom Audio Productions would make an outstanding addition to your history, literature, and character studies. There’s more I want to say, though.

Beric The Briton Heirloom Audio Productions Review

There are two things I want to emphasize:

  1. The value of this study (all the Heirloom Audio productions).
  2. The extensive ways you can use this product (specifically Beric the Briton).

The Value

Have you noticed the similarities between our government and ancient Greece? Between our nation and ancient Rome? Between our leaders and early 20th century Germany?

What we do not see and do not comprehend we are destined to repeat.

From the executive producer of Heirloom Audio, Bill Heid:

The Bible … admonishes us to constantly “remember” and to teach our children to do the same. That’s why it’s so important to know where we’ve come from and who we are as Christians. If we forget our history and allow ourselves to become culturally conditioned by the world, we will lose our greatest possession.

So while we do everything we can to make our stories fun and exciting…there’s a lot at stake here…nothing less than the heart and soul of civilization itself.

Heirloom Audio Productions adventures are an exciting way to “ignite a passion for history and Christian character in the next generation,” and, quite frankly, this old generation, too! They’re that good…and that important.

Using It

So you see the value of this study. How can you make it more than simply an exciting two-hour listen?

Great question.

While the crux of the study is the audio production, there are numerous digital downloadable extras to enhance your experience. Extras include the sound track by John Campbell (hooray!), a digital version of the audio (or you can buy the digital instead), access to the adventure newsletter, the Henty ebook, two posters, a behind-the-scenes production video (love those!), and most importantly, the big boy in the bunch, a study guide.

All About the Study Guide

The study guide is fantastic. It offers historical context, an introduction, three Bible studies, and a recommended reading list, but those are just the bonuses. The study guide itself breaks the story into listening segments of 4-10 minutes. Each section includes “Listening Well” questions to help the child recall and understand what he has learned, which is great for the younger crowd that might not “get it” right away.

It then has questions that require more thought than recall, appropriately named the “Thinking Further” section. These would be great as writing assignments or open discussion with the older set. Then there are vocabulary words–always fun…seriously…because we like words and dictionaries and yes we are geeks thanks for noticing.

Now, to be honest with you, my kids, who were so enthralled with our previous Heirloom Audio adventure The Dragon and the Raven, tore into this and started listening with no pause for the study guide. Yup. But the fun didn’t stop there.

Other Ways to Enhance the Study

Because I am working through this at a slower pace for “official school,” there are many activities that we are doing or have planned. Most of them fit right into the study and may give you an idea of how you can use this program for your own homeschool or some fun summer learning together:

  1. Timeline work–Henty is already in our timelines, but Boadicea and Nero are not in the younger children’s timeline books.
  2. Have a Roman bread breakfast.
  3. Eat as the upper class Romans would have–lounging, not using forks, and having slaves cut your meat and clean up (take turns being slaves).
  4. Study leviathans and dragons.
  5. Launch into readings about Christian heroes (Hero Tales, Christian Heroes series, Ten Boys/Girls Who…series).
  6. Map work–we like to post a map while we’re going through something. Tracing the travels and mapping the battles would be helpful also.
  7. Character “mapping.” We sometimes draw family trees or “relationship trees” or write information about each character on a piece of paper and post it on the wall (a real wall, not like Facebook or something) to help keep everybody straight.
  8. Study the biblical nature of oaths, words too quickly spoken, and keeping your word, and have the children consider establishing a personal principle regarding oaths and promises.
  9. Make and eat Roman apple cake…and did I mention eat it?
  10. Discuss shipwrecks in the Bible and also near my home, which was along a treacherous shipping route known as Death’s Door. Sounds like a field trip when our travels have us back in that area!
  11. Recreate the Roman machines used to capture Beric…if that can be done out of toothpicks, plastic spoons, and whatever else we have in our home-sweet-travel-trailer.
  12. Study Nero.
  13. Study gladiators and the Roman Circus and parallel the fascination with today’s culture.
  14. Compare our God with the many gods of the Britons–somehow I want to make this a visual, but I haven’t figured out how yet. That’s okay; I have until page 24 to “figger” it out.
  15. Discuss the importance of Creation in view of the Gospel.
  16. Make Roman Noodle Bake.
  17. Build a diorama of Rome…and burn it.
  18. Discuss the good that comes from bad, such as the spreading of the Gospel that resulted from Christian persecution. Apply this to life.
  19. Write a story in Henty style, and turn it into an audio drama or reader’s theater.
  20. Eat Swiss chocolate. Why? Because the Papal Swiss Guard is one of the oldest military units in the world, and represent how important rulers often hired foreign soldiers. Any excuse to eat chocolate!
  21. Talk about Christ allegories…and watch Narnia…with popcorn.
  22. Read more about 1st century Rome from the book list at the end of the study guide. (Elijah just finished two books from this time period.)
  23. Watch a movie set at this time period…or at least Charlton Heston’s BenHur, which is close enough time-wise. It gives the imagination a little help for costumes and settings.

I barely tapped into the number of discussions that the study guide encourages. Many of them would make excellent writing assignments as well, never mind the fantastic dinner conversation fodder!

A Couple Thoughts

This, perhaps more so than some of Henty’s other works, has a strong Christian emphasis. It would make an excellent outreach tool as well as a character study and adventurous listen.

The study guide has a Creationist perspective. So does the Bible. Isn’t it great when people stick to the Bible!

The study guide also seems to teach that baptism symbolizes the forgiveness of sins. We understand baptism as a means of grace, not just a symbol. That’s a pretty big deal to us.

Additional Thoughts for my Fellow Roadschoolers

This takes up practically no space and almost no internet connection apart from a few downloads if you want ’em. Seriously good travel listening for the whole family…not like that one annoying song your kids sing over and over and over or those certain audio kids books where the narrator uses a squeaky voice that burns your ears. Nothing like those!

This is one of those “just do it” purchases. Listening to it over and over doesn’t get old either…not ever. I want the whole collection and so do my minions…and my kids.

Here are some thoughts from other Schoolhouse Review Crew members:
Beric The Briton Heirloom Audio Productions Review


TOS Crew Review Disclaimer



Writing With Sharon Watson: High School Nonfiction Writing Course Review

Disclaimer: We received The Power in Your Hands: Writing Nonfiction in High School, 2nd Edition, from Writing with Sharon Watson in exchange for this fair and unbiased review.

I know, I know, I KNOW! I’m the lady that raised and educated a freelance writer without using writing curricula and even had a magazine article published on that exact topic, and here I am reviewing yet another curriculum to teach your students how to write. It’s ironic, isn’t it?

Not really. First of all, I’m a professional writer with a BA in English, so I know what I like to see in quality writing. Second, I’ve raised writers, so I know what works (with them, anyway). Third, I’m tired, so why not rely on curriculum now and then, eh? (We just left the North Woods of Wisconsin on our travels, so I’m throwing “eh” in at the end of my sentences. It’ll fade.)

The program that my fifteen-year-old daughter, Elisabeth, and I are reviewing is called The Power in Your Hands: Writing Nonfiction in High School. Because high school homeschool purchases seem to carry more weight with parents than the grade school decisions, I’m going to leave my cheesy sense of humor behind and give you a straightforward look at what this program entails.

You’re welcome.

Writing with Sharon Watson Review

Features of The Power in Your Hands:

1. What does Mom or Dad need to do?

The lessons are student-directed. It is written to the student, so Elisabeth can do the lesson with minimal involvement from me. I do have the job of “grading” her or at least checking over her work. Relax. There is a teacher’s guide that explains the entire grading process so you know what you’re looking for and how to help your student improve.

Ms. Watson also includes grading grids or rubrics at the end of each chapter in the teacher’s guide so you know very specifically what to look for in each assignment. This is particularly helpful in the case where your child is working independently. For example, you don’t want to be tearing a paper apart based on something they haven’t learned yet.

2. Who is this for?

While it is advertised for high schoolers, it could potentially be used with a very advanced 7th-8th grader. It’s the other end I’m interested in. I see many, many adult writers (hello blogging world) that really aren’t and truly can’t. This would be a great resource for them, whether to polish up their skills (I’m doing a little polishing myself) or prep for college level essays.

It would also be ideal for the high schooler or college prep student who needs to write essays for scholarships or who doesn’t feel adequately prepared for the required writing in college.

The sections offer dual-level instruction to meet the needs of the beginner to the advanced.

3. What does the program teach?

Part 1

The student begins at the very beginning with the thinking and planning process, which writers know often takes more time than the writing itself. Ms. Watson then works through the structure of an essay and helps students get over common writing hurdles.

Part 2

The student then moves on to persuasive writing in many, many, many forms.

Part 3

The next section discusses proofreading. If I were a poet, I would expound in epic verse on the value of a solid proofreader and woefully lament the hours I spent in my college years editing papers that had obviously not been proofread before they reached me in the writing center. My eyes are still burning. Don’t skip this section! I’m begging.

Part 4

Part 4 teaches a variety of expository writing styles for all the common genres, such as newspaper, as well as the less common writing assignments which most curricula don’t touch, such as devotional writing and emails.

Part 5

Part 5 is the descriptive section, which is small. I’m glad it’s small, because so many other programs we’ve looked at beat that section to death, and that’s annoying. How many ways can you describe your dog before you want to take it out to the back 40 and shoot it–the writing book, not the dog. (You thought I meant the dog didn’t you. You also thought I was serious when I said I was going to leave my cheesy sense of humor behind.)

Part 6

This section address narration. A pet peeve of mine is what Ms. Watson calls Christianese, and here she cautions against it. That means when we get to this section, I get to drag out the red pen and go to town on all the Christianese…except Elisabeth doesn’t write that way, so my red pen will remain untouched.

That brings up another aspect of this program that I really like. Sharon Watson encourages parents to find something positive about each piece of writing, no matter how lame it may be. I’m completely opposed to empty flattery and rewards for merely showing up, but I’m a firm believer in praising the effort (if it was real effort) and applauding the improvement.

Part 7

Here the author gives the students an entire reference section of the many writer’s tools she has helped them build through this program. Similarly, she gives parents their own toolbox in the parent’s guide. This is definitely helpful and saves Elisabeth and me from flipping back and hunting things down.

4. Is this a Christian program?

Yes. You won’t be held under the baptismal water until you confess, though. It does use examples of Christian writing and also includes pieces on tough issues, such as embryonic stem cell research. She asks you to focus on the writing, and not on whether or not you agree with the essay.

Additional Thoughts for my Fellow Roadschoolers:

If you need a writing curriculum for your high schoolers, particularly if they need to hone their essay skills, this is it. While the teacher’s guide isn’t all that enormous, the student book is pretty thick–sorry. You could go digital on this and get the ebook version. I’m not big on ebooks–you can’t smell them. Maybe you like that, though.

There’s no need to worry about internet connections or data usage for this baby, so we’re all good there.

Personally, I think this program is worth the space it takes up. I really do. And from me, that says a lot.

There are several other aspects of this program that I really enjoy as a writer. I won’t go into them all here, but feel free to drop me a question in the comment section below or read what other Schoolhouse Reviewers have to say by clicking right here or on the banner below:
Writing with Sharon Watson Review

You could also follow Writing with Sharon Watson on social media. Jump aboard:

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An Online Art Course with a History Connection

Note: We received free access to ArtAchieve’s Entire Level II in exchange for this fair and honest review.

Homeschool parents often freak out about subjects they are unfamiliar with. Science and math are biggies, and for the non-linguistical, it’s English. Okay, I get that. But one of the biggest freak-outs is art. Art! I hear, “I’m not crafty. I can’t do art.” I hear it all the time, people!

Never fear, ArtAchieve is here!

Art Lessons for Children ArtAchieve Review

ArtAchieve is an online video course for homeschoolers or anyone else wanting to add some real art lessons to their lives.

Learning how to do art versus learning how to draw a picture:

I’m going to ramble a little about piano lessons, but there is a relevant point, so bear with me a moment. (I almost wrote bare with me, but all that bareness would be socially awkward. Narrow escape.)

I took piano lessons as a kid, which was great. Wanting to advance, I took piano lessons in college as well. All the teacher did was find out my current ability level and teach me how to play a stinkin’ song at that level! She just wanted me to sound good for the recital. No theory, no skills training, no ear training. Major boo teacher!

That’s what I was afraid ArtAchieve was going to be like. I thought the kids would learn how to draw one thing in each lesson–a cat, a horse, a bird–but not learn how to “do art.” I thought they would want the kids to look good on the fridge.

I was wrong. Oh, they learned how to draw a cat, a horse, a bird, but they learned art techniques in the process. Major hooray!

Back to piano lessons. One thing nobody likes about piano lessons is when you get one of those teachers who spends so much time on drills and skills that you don’t get to make music. Those are the kids that burn out. Major boo teachers.

Art teachers can have the same issue. Somehow (not sure how), the ArtAchieve program blends technique with creation–the kids learn art techniques as they are creating their masterpieces.

My second daughter, Marissa, is a self-taught artist with an art business, The Art of Marissa Renee. Recently she whipped out a picture of Lucille Ball and used some of the same techniques I witnessed her younger siblings learn from their ArtAchieve lessons. Imagine my delight to see they were learning real, workable techniques.

The Art of Marissa Renee Lucille Ball

Yup, some of the techniques 10-year-old Elijah used to make the dala horse below were the same techniques 17-year-old Marissa used to draw Lucille Ball above. Cool, eh? Totally.

You said something about history:

Yes, the students also learn a bit of history and culture connected to their project.

For example, my favorite project was the dala horse. Three of my youngsters (10, 7, and 4) drew the dala horse as a gift to send to their sister. They learned a little about the Scandinavian culture and the history of the dala.

When our travels took us to the home of a Swedish couple living in the northwoods of Wisconsin, we saw dala horses and other evidence of Swedish culture everywhere! And the kids were not ignorant of it. It was a joy to see them make that connection with that couple and their heritage.

Art Achieve

A personal note:

Something about the instructor really clicked with this boy above. He’s often rushed and focuses on just getting finished, but he really took his time on this project and made it his own. It doesn’t look like the instructor’s horse (which was not the goal). It is his own creation, and it’s charming, unique, and neat…as in tidy, but also neat as in grooooovy.

I was very happy with his efforts.

A note about age:

While we did this with my four-year-old, level II was a little tough for her. She definitely participated and did great, but she got it into her head that her pieces needed to look exactly like the instructor’s, which they didn’t–shocker. Still, she was happy with the end results.

A note about the freebies:

Please try out the free lessons! You will learn some important skills necessary for all art, such as line, shading, and perspective. We already studied these in depth, being an artistic family, and the lessons here are spot on with other things we studied–the benefit is that these are on video, so if you are not artistic, which I am not, you can rely on the teacher to demonstrate instead of trying to demonstrate it yourself with your own ineptness…speaking from personal experience. Go through the beginning lessons, including the Cheshire cat–you will know if this is for you.

Please try the freebies, and then share the freebie links with others as a thank you to ArtAchieve for offering the free lessons.

Additional thoughts for my fellow roadschoolers:


Blast it all, this course requires a decent internet connection to watch the videos. When we were touring Michigan, our internet connection rocked! Here in Wisconsin, our connection feels like we’re tapping into a rock. We’ve gotten almost all baddies here so far, which is why I can’t pull other project pictures down from the illusive Cloud to show y’all. Boo. Not boo like my college piano teacher, but boo like annoying.

This isn’t something I feel comfortable doing at, say, the libraries with their smokin’ connections, in case one of my kids decides to sign her name on the carpet in permanent marker. It happens. Test the freebies and see how your connection does.


You will need art supplies to take these art classes. Duh. You can do a large number of them with supplies you probably already have on hand. If you advance to level III (that’s 3, not i-i-i), you will need more supplies. Check out the supply lists before you make a decision.

You don’t need a big fat teacher’s manual, so that’s a good thing, right? Of course right.

The end results look great plastered to your RV wall, but look even greater mailed from some random place throughout the country to grandparents and aunts and uncles. Am I right? You know it.

Hey, connect with these people:

Twitter:  @artachieve

See what other members of the Review Crew think:

Art Lessons for Children ArtAchieve Review

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High School Literary Study Guide of The Scarlet Pimpernel {Review}

Take note: We received an electronic copy of The Scarlet Pimpernel pdf interactive study guide for high schoolers by Michael S. Gilleland and Eileen Cunningham in exchange for this fair and unbiased review. Thank you, Progeny Press, for this opportunity!

Don’t you love reading a book with your kids. I know I do. Now that I have teens (four teen girls, thank you), we often read books “together” without reading them aloud, although we’re still into read alouds. We don’t often do formal literature studies, because I had the joy sucked out of reading while attaining my five-year bachelor’s degree in English. When Progeny Press sent me the study guide for The Scarlet Pimpernel, I fought my instinct and assigned the book to my freshman, Elisabeth, and my seventh grader, Emily Rose, with the intention of reading the book simultaneously, but separately, and going through the study guide together. 

I sincerely enjoyed using the Progeny Press literature study guide for the Scarlet Pimpernel with these two lovelies!

Here’s the thing about youth–they can read a book without falling asleep. Both of them finished the entire book while I was still inching my way through chapter two. Sleep–you beautiful, cursed, necessity; how I love/hate you! I did finally finish the book at 2 a.m. one beautiful night.

Regardless of my slow pace through the book, the girls still were able to work through the study without my having finished the entire thing in advance. In fact, they didn’t need me to read it at all, but it’s so much more fun to read together than alone and to share quotes and frustrations and joys and laughs, isn’t it? Plus, I can add legitimately to the discussion if I’ve actually read the book. Duh.

About That Study…

The Scarlet Pimpernel study guide contains the following:

  • Instructor’s recommended usage guide with options–I love options!
  • Book synopsis, particularly awesome if you didn’t read the book–ack!
  • Author bio–fascinating! (I am totally over-using exclamation marks here–pet peeve.)
  • Historical background, which helps make this book an excellent history study, if only to add to a timeline or book of centuries.
  • Ideas for pre-reading activities…none of which we used, I have to confess, although we did use some as post-reading activities. We started reading the book before we received the study guide link.
  • Exercises divided into groups of five chapters, containing a fun variety of vocabulary activities (which my kids enjoyed), comprehension questions (which my kids didn’t like, since they already understood the book), analyses, and digging deeper activities (some of which they liked).
  • Overview, which can be used as a final review or exam.
  • Additional essays and projects
  • Answer key, in case you couldn’t stay awake long enough to read the book and therefore are struggling to contribute intelligently to the conversation.
  • More resources, including my personal favorite, further books to read–A Tale of Two Cities,


Literature Study Guides from a Christian Perspective {Progeny Press Review}
What We Did…

We each read the book independently, but simultaneously. We bought the book on Kindle for free, and also bought a paperback copy for a little more than free. The girls (and I) prefer a real book to an imaginary one, but someone (me) had to read the digital version until everyone else was finished with the real thing.

We then dove into the study guide. I printed up the vocabulary sections for them to complete together or independently. I did not print up the comprehension or digging deeper questions. Comprehension questions are usually a waste of time on my kids, since they “get it,” so we breezed through these together. We didn’t skip them, because sometimes there are misunderstandings of the story line, so the questions do prove useful. We did, however, often have to be sneaky about our answers, because the discussion around this book made it so appealing to others in the family that they wanted to read it, too, and didn’t want spoilers. For digging deeper, we discussed the questions orally…preferably with a bowl of popcorn at hand.

I assigned them the final “exam” overview section to work on as they were working through the study guide instead of at the end. I’m not much of an examiner…except in math. I love giving math tests–bwaa haa haaa!

We dug a little deeper into the history of the time. We used the study guide, the intro in the book itself, and the internet. We also added the French Revolution and Orczy’s life to our timeline books and Orczy to our list of new favorite authors!

The Big Question…

Did this suck the joy out of the reading experience? Here are three brutally honest opinions on that matter:

Emily Rose (13): I already understood the book, so the comprehension questions were boring. It would be good if you didn’t understand it, but I understood it. [Teacher interjection: I knew this and we talk about books that we read anyway, so I breezed through these questions.]

Elisabeth (15): I thought the vocabulary was a good idea, but the comprehension questions were just kind of lame. If you didn’t understand the book in the first place, you wouldn’t understand it to answer the questions. [Teacher interjection: exact opposite answer of her sister. Hmmm.] Some of the discussion questions were interesting.

Christy (That’s me.): While I certainly wouldn’t assign a literary analysis to every book we read, I do believe it has its value. Used on, say, every fourth book assigned, a literary study guide of Progeny Press caliber is quite fun…at least for this book geek! (Oops, another exclamation point. Good grief.) I really enjoyed studying the book and time period with my two middle girls–they sometimes get lost in the school shuffle as we teach reading to littles and help olders navigate college at home. This opportunity provided scheduled time to share my love of literature with my two lovelies.

While my daughter’s reactions don’t sound very positive, they enjoyed most of our discussions. Just today I heard them chatting about the revelation of the Scarlet Pimpernel himself with another sister who just found out his identity, and {SPOILER ALERT} describing it as a “dramatic irony,” something they learned from the discussion questions. They’re “doing” the discussion questions without even realizing it.

I love that.

Additional Thoughts for My Fellow Roadschoolers

Printing vs. Interactive

While ideally you would normally print discussion questions and activity pages, those of us who live in about 25 square feet of space are a little printer-phobic, especially if you have to unbury the printer like an ancient Egyptian treasure every time you want to transfer something from the computer into the real world. That said, printing up this guide is not that big of a deal–do it all at once, throw it in the kids’ binders, and you’re done. Or you can do what we did, and just print parts of it.

If you really don’t want to do any printing, I have good news! because this is an interactive guide, the students can type the answers directly into the file, so there really is no need of printing at all! Of course, then there is need of a computer to do the work. Our computer is named The Behemoth for good reason, so lugging that baby out requires a forklift and some crow bars. (You could also load it onto a Kindle and have them write the answers on paper.) I gave the girls the option of using the interactive guide on the Behemoth, looking at the screen and writing on paper, or using printed sheets. They’ve done all three, but paper is the winner.

Internet Access

The download time was not an issue, so even if you’re stuck in that po-dunk campground with the nearly non-existent internet access because everyplace else was booked by weekend warriors, you should still be able to download the pdf guide with minimal angst. That’s good news.

Weight and Space

Many, if not all, of the books for which Progeny Press has published study guides are available on Kindle, so that is not a space issue. Of course, there’s nothing like the real thing–nothing like it. So grab the paperback and swap it out at an RV park when you’re finished…if you can bear to part with it after falling in love with the brave heroes of this treasure.


Progeny Press digital study guides are a really great option for portable literature studies without breaking your leaf springs.

A Little More About Progeny…

Follow Progeny Press on Facebook or Twitter and get to know this small family company.

Click on the banner below to learn what other homeschoolers have to say about a variety of literature studies for kiddos of all ages from Progeny Press.

Literature Study Guides from a Christian Perspective {Progeny Press Review}

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Online Bible Curriculum for the Whole Family

Note: Veritas Press gave us a one-year family subscription to in exchange for this fair and honest review. It would be ironic, don’t you think, if I would be dishonest on a review about a Bible curriculum. Ha ha. Am I the only one who sees the irony there?

People ask us what Bible curriculum we use, and I usually answer, “God’s.” We read straight from the Bible and talk about it. It works for us.

But that doesn’t mean we’re the least bit opposed to other programs in addition to getting the goods straight from God’s Book. Veritas Press’ Veritas Bible program has been an excellent supplement for my children. I’ve even learned a few things and brushed up on some rusty information.

Old and New Testament Online Self-Paced Bible Veritas Review

Veritas Press’ Bible program is an online subscription that takes you through various chunks of the Bible. You can enroll in one segment, or purchase access to all three for the whole family, which is what we have for the year. They currently offer these three segments:

  • Genesis through Joshua
  • Judges through 2 Kings
  • The Gospels

The following are coming soon:

  • Acts through Revelation
  • 1 Chronicles through Malachi and Job

The sections cover 32 events from those portions of the Bible. The students are guided through the lessons by real life people in period clothing (or possibly there was some time travel involved in the filming). They chat with the student and banter with each other.

My prudish side didn’t always like the bantering, like when the siblings were bickering, but my laid-back rough-around-the-edges side thought, “Ha, good one! I’ll have to remember that line for when I see my brothers.”

Old and New Testament Online Self-Paced Bible Veritas Review

The videos move into animated lessons, with each collection introducing the kids to different animated friends–like a big ol’ gnat. Every kid loves a big ol’ gnat, right? Wink.

They then offer games and challenges for the kids to do to reinforce the lessons. The games might just make this the most exciting way to learn the Bible. See:

Old and New Testament Online Self-Paced Bible Veritas Review

If you read it online, it must be true!

Seriously, the games do a good job of reinforcing what was learned, and it does make it fun for the kids. They’re not those horribly obnoxious loud video game type annoyances either…although they are, technically, video games.

One issue I have with all children’s Bible programs is the lack of realism, which sometimes makes Bible truths look like fairy tales–can you say cutesie little arks? Of course, children might be scarred by a video of hundreds of thousands of dead bloated bodies floating in the water, so…there’s that consideration. There must be a balance. The live people help to get across the idea that the Bible is real, and I don’t think the cartoons negate that.

What we did:

I used this program with three of my kids:

  • Elijah who is 10
  • Rebecca who is 7
  • Eliana who is 4 (I’m four and a half, Mommy.) Eliana who is four and a half

Elijah flies through lessons with no assistance whatsoever. He is completely independent, and is doing all three sections at the same time. The course keeps track of where he is so I can check in.

Rebecca needs minimal assistance, usually merely a matter of our rebellious internet connection. Unless she has a problem, she’s completely independent as well. She’s working through the Genesis through Joshua section.

Eliana needs hands-on help. She can’t read, so the challenges and quizzes require guidance. If someone is willing to help her, she can do them, but she’s really better off doing the program with someone else. She is also working through Genesis, but isn’t moving very quickly…but that’s how we roll…slo-o-o-o-o-o-wly.

The kids are retaining what they’ve learned, asking to do their lessons, and enjoying the process. I’m pleased.

Additional thoughts for my fellow roadschoolers:

I’d love to recommend this for roadschoolers, but it is highly situational. As you know, the roadschoolers two main considerations are…you guessed it…space and internet connection.


Because this is entirely online, it takes up no space whatsoever, as long as you have the necessary electronic device to use it. If you’re reading this, you have the device, I’m guessing.

Internet connection

Here’s the rub. Some of you have great internet set-ups; others, not so much. We are not so much and sometimes we are not at all. This was a pretty big issue with this program. Sometimes it wouldn’t work at all with a slow connection, and other times it would alert us to the slow connection and work slowly, or at least switch screens slowly. When we had a good to great, this program was a delight; when we had a sub-par connection, it was frustrating for the kids.

One benefit is that when we would completely lose a connection and have to quit, the program saved our progress for the most part. That was nice. Elijah experienced some repetitions, which got dull, but when I worked with Eliana, we didn’t have that problem too often.

So consider this a situational recommendation. Remember, we are in a new place every 2-3 days and usually hooked up to church, RV park, or state park wi-fi. Your situation is almost definitely different than ours. For example, I have some great pictures of my kids using this program, but I can’t get them “down” from “the cloud,” because I have a not-quite-good-enough internet connection where we are this week. See what I mean? Of course you do. So make that judgment for yourself–if you can stream videos without frustration, you should be A-OK with this nifty Bible program.

Honestly, the best thing you can do is hop on over to their site and give the free trial a go.

Connect with Veritas Press at their social media links:
Twitter:  @VeritasPress

Click on the banner below to see what other homeschoolers from the Schoolhouse Review Crew think:

Old and New Testament Online Self-Paced Bible Veritas Review
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The Glass Castle–A Book Review by Hannah

HannahThis review is written by our 19-year-old daughter, homeschool graduate, freelance writer, and literature lover, Hannah.

Hannah’s Disclaimer: I received The Glass Castle by Trisha White Priebe and Jerry B. Jenkins from Shiloh Run Press for free in exchange for an honest review. I am older than the target audience and thus I view the characters and plotline from a somewhat maturer prospective.

Also, The Glass Castle isn’t usually the type of book I prefer to read. The writing style, while it is not technically flawed, is not my preferred style. Readers with differing opinions in reading material may find the book more or less enjoyable than I did. I have old-fashioned taste in novels and seldom appreciate recently-written books to their full potential.

The Glass Castle–A Review

By Hannah Bagasao

Exceeding Expectations

“The setting from The Chronicles of Narnia meets the action from Alice and Wonderland…” says the product description I received along with the book. When a new book is self-ranked among two of the greatest children’s books known to humankind, you can’t help but dive into it with soaring expectations. Unfortunately, The Glass Castle’s authors didn’t quite succeed in filling the extra-large-size shoes set before them.

The description leads readers to start the story in the mindset of one of these classic novels, expecting another masterpiece likes those of C. S. Lewis and Lewis Carroll. When such a masterpiece is not provided, the reader will be more disappointed in the novel that failed to live up to its description than he might have been in the same book with little or no expectations.

Having seen my share of books that claim to be the next “great American novel” only to fall flat in the end, I wasn’t quite convinced by The Glass Castle’s claims. I went into it with few expectations, only to find myself a bit pleasantly surprised.

The Glass Castle {Shiloh Run Press Review}

The Story (Sans Spoilers)

From its apprehensive opening paragraph to its unfulfilled cliffhanger forty-one chapters later, The Glass Castle is abounding with adventure and suspense. The story centers around a community of young people—all coincidentally orphans, all coincidentally thirteen years old—who are trapped in a castle for their own safety, under the very nose, it seems, of the person from whom they are hiding. A king’s failing health, the death of his first wife and strange disappearance of his firstborn son thirteen years ago, his new queen’s mysterious intrigue—somehow this all adds up to explain why the teens are where they are. A few cryptic remarks about younger siblings being held hostage as leverage and a price on the head of every thirteen-year-old orphan in the kingdom, along with occasional threats of the inscrutable Forbidden City, are enough to keep the children inside the castle day and night. They dare not so much as glance out a window for fear, apparently, of being seen.

The young refugees (or are they captives?) follow their orders to a T, and keep the castle running with a smoothness and efficiency that you wouldn’t expect from teenagers. That is, save one.

Meet Avery, the newest addition to the thirteen-year-old community, and the protagonist of the story. She is more determined than anyone to escape and reunite with her little brother, Henry. At least, in the beginning she is. A good deal of the story revolves around Avery’s unquenchable curiosity—curiosity about the castle, about the king, about the the supposed secrets he is keeping which, if exposed, may leave his crown and his line hanging in the balance, and about the beautiful but dangerous young queen who seems to know far too much.

The Writing

The writing style of this book was clear and concise without being dumbed down. Although the target audience is between ages ten and fifteen, the style itself could appeal to almost all ages. Slightly younger children will probably be able to read through it without a dictionary at hand, while adults and older teens will find it an easy but enjoyable read.

While the description and writing style deserve praise for clarity, some of the conversations between characters felt rather awkward at times, somewhat unreal. There’s a bit of purple prose intermingled with their undeniably twenty-first-century speech.

The Thing About Suspense and Too Many Secrets

With a new mystery around every corner and another secret on every other page, the story was suspenseful enough to keep me interested—as a matter of fact, I found myself hooked on it late into the night. At times, I did feel as though the story proceeded too quickly. As it was generally portrayed from Avery’s third-person point of view, the story keeps in pace with the multi-track and distracted mind of a girl who seems to have so much to think about that she can’t seem to focus.

While the book held my interest fairly well, I wasn’t a quarter of the way through before I began to feel a trifle overwhelmed. Secrecy was everywhere. The castle abounded with secrets, and pretty much everyone residing in the castle had a terrible knack for keeping them as well. Lines such as “She isn’t ready to know the truth yet,” and “Someday I’ll tell you, but not yet,” were a little too frequent. It felt as though most of the secrets being kept were solely for the sake of secrecy, and most of the secrets were never revealed in the end. It almost brought a smile to my face when Avery finally confronted one of these secretive teens and said something around the lines of, “stop trying to protect me and just tell me what’s going on.” Of course, it was that same Avery who earlier told another character “I won’t tell you what I know unless you tell me what you know,”

Well, our lives might be in the balance, Avery, but if you want to be petty…

The Characters

The main character, Avery, was not as endearing as a protagonist should have been. I cannot speak for the target audience, who are nearer to Avery in age and may be able to relate to her, but as an adult reader I found myself continually frustrated with her as she consistently disregarded rules and reason—even risking the lives of her family and friends—for her own spontaneous whims. The worst part was that she did this regularly and was never victim to any consequences (two unfortunate strangers did meet their demise partway through the novel, however, as a result of her reckless actions).

Avery was often rude, easily annoyed, and seemed to be unreasonable at times, jumping to unrealistic conclusions on the spur of the moment. Her pride was another issue; in spite of being the newest arrival, she seemed under the actual impression that escaping the castle rested solely on her shoulders and that none of the other children knew anything about their situation. On a positive note, I found Avery’s devotion to her three-year-old brother touching and refreshing, especially in today’s media portrayals of impatient teenagers scarcely tolerating the existence of their little siblings. I appreciated her love of reading, too.

Character-wise, there were a few stereotypes that had me wondering, at one point or another, whether I was reading a fantasy novel or a teen’s high-school memoirs. Three characters in particular fit the typical description for high-school stock characters. Avery, the “new girl in school,” didn’t really fit in around the others at first, but she was made relatively popular by some unexpected combined with her becoming the male lead’s love interest.

Tuck was the typical male teenage lead: tall, broad-shouldered, and charismatic, with “captivating” eyes and, of course, a surprising talent for poetry.

Ilsa was the “queen bee” who immediately ordered Avery to “stay away from Tuck,” (the usual high school situation, in which the lead female’s romantic interest was once involved with her diva-of-an-arch-nemesis). Afterwards, she targeted and despised Avery for no reason at all other than to add a bit of forced drama to the character relationships.

When Kendrick, one of the main characters as mentioned in the description, is first mentioned by name, he gives every indication of being the typical nerd: wiry, glasses, intelligent. Fortunately, he improved significantly and I considered him, along with Kate, to be one of the more interesting characters in the story. There’s a bit of mystery surrounding both of them separately—they each have a past that I think might be revealed eventually, and both seem to know a little more than they let on—and personally I’m rather curious to see how their lives pan out.

Objectionable (or Non-Objectionable) Content

As far as content is concerned, there is no foul language or gore. The deaths of a few characters are mentioned in passing, and younger or more sensitive readers may be disturbed when a boy is found poisoned to death with blood streaming from his ears and nose.

Romance seems to be a heavy subplot in the story, but there is nothing that could be considered inappropriate or disturbing (unless you’re like me, and you think the idea of thirteen-year-olds proposing marriage to one-another is disturbing). One boy kisses a girl on the cheek, and the story contains plenty of teenage crushes with the usual drama, a marriage proposal or two between thirteen-year-olds (which felt rather awkward to read), and the wedding of the king and queen. There is no foul language whatsoever. I appreciated the fact that the content was purely—or at least mostly—wholesome.

A Christian Book

Supposedly this is a Christian book. The characters prayed, read the Bible and referenced it at times, and even attended chapel (conducted by a nameless freckled boy acting as chaplain—one of my favorite characters in spite of his limited appearances). I did like the fact that a community of teenagers actually took it upon themselves to hold church services in their captivity.

It really didn’t seem as though the Christian values which these characters had really had much to do with the plotline. A genuinely well-written piece of Christian fiction must manage to tie Christianity into the plot itself, but I didn’t really feel that The Glass Castle accomplished that. The Christian values seemed almost forced, as though the writers forgot that they were writing a Christian book and had to thrust the values in wherever there was room. I don’t think religion was even mentioned until almost the one-hundredth page.

It Is the First in a Series

My greatest criticism regarding this book is the abrupt ending. It’s what some might call a cliffhanger, but be warned; this is a precipice like you’ve never seen. When I reached what turned out to be the last page, I turned it, expecting a “chapter forty-two.” But the book simply ended right there, as though it had been chopped in two down the center and the second half had gone missing. I feel that any book, even one ending with suspense, should leave you with a sense of closure, but I didn’t have a speck of closure—only questions.

I’m aware that this book is the first in a series, but I feel that it should have been capable of standing alone until the sequel was released. If this was for marketing reasons, it was definitely successful. I’m pretty sure I’ll be purchasing the second book in the series and probably every book after that, if only to relieve my nagging curiosity.

With that in mind, I have a note to parents of the intended age range: do be warned! The Glass Castle is only the first in a series of books, and the others have yet to be released. If your child becomes hooked (which is inevitable, considering the cliffhanger at its end) you may find yourself purchasing sequel after sequel the instant they hit the shelves.

Summary and Recommendations

To sum it up, I would say that this book is an enjoyable read for all ages, but it obviously would appeal most to readers within the intended age range. Unlike me, children within that range may be able to relate to the characters, and are less likely to be bothered by stereotypes, awkward conversational style, character flaws, and the main focus of the story bouncing around with more vigor than a pogo stick. Adults are more likely to notice these shortcomings. I would recommend this book to any child between the ages of ten and fifteen with a keenness for adventure, fantasy, and suspense. I might even recommend it to an adult looking for a easy-to-read, clean Christian series to pass the time.

I received this book for free in exchange for this review, and I doubt I would have given it a second glance on a bookstore shelf otherwise. But in defense of the book, I have old-fashioned taste in novels, and I barely give a second glance to anything written after the twenty-first century. On the rare occasion that I happen to pick up such a book, I instinctively tend to compare it to my old favorites—the works of Sir Walter Scott and Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle, G. K. Chesterton and Alfred Tennyson—authors to whom none can compare. All in all, I do not regret reading The Glass Castle. I enjoyed it, and I look forward to the release of the sequel.  

A note from Christy: based on Hannah’s review, and the fact that she’s going to want the rest of the series anyway, we are giving this book to Elijah (age 10) to read, since he is in the recommended age group of 10-14.

You can preview the first several chapters here.

Read what other members of The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew think about The Glass Castle by clicking the banner below:

The Glass Castle {Shiloh Run Press Review}

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More Than Just a Planner {Review of Hey Mama! Schoolhouse Planner}

This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase through my links, I receive a percentage of the cost at no additional cost to you–it’s lovely how that works.

A little bird must have told someone that my ratty old planning notebook wasn’t cutting it anymore. That must be why I received a complementary copy of the new Hey Mama! Print Schoolhouse Planner 2016-2017 from The Old Schoolhouse in exchange for this honest review.

I say complementary instead of complimentary, because the latter expresses compliments, as in pleasant and encouraging comments, but the former means free-to-me. In this case, I could have used both spellings and been correct, because the Hey Mama! Schoolhouse Planner is complimentary in many ways. In fact it is…

More than just a planner!

Hey Mama Schoolhouse Planner 2016 to 2017

But before I tell you about the the Hey Mama! Schoolhouse Planner, I want to address a little schedule issue.

Schedules Are Not Dictators

I love schedules, lists, plans, and what-not, because I like to organize. I am absolutely not a strict scheduler (anymore). I like to keep things flexible, but directed–like a spine.

A schedule is the spine to our week. It keeps things moving in the right direction, keeps a vision in front of us, and serves as a record behind us. It is not a steel rod that says we must do this at this time or get no cookies! With a spine-like schedule, you can always flex enough to still reach the cookies of life.

If you are not a scheduler and feel like you’re floundering or you’re so militaristic that you’re missing out on the beauty of life, maybe rethink your approach–be fleeeeexible…not mushy, not ramrod straight, but flexible with a vision.

About the Hey Mama! Schoolhouse Planner

Did I mention the  Hey Mama! Schoolhouse Planner is more than just a planner? It is, but first and foremost, it is a planner. So let’s check out some of the planning features:

  • Weekly planner (duh!)
  • Year-at-a-glance calendars for this year, next year, and the year after–whoa.
  • Monthly, semester, and yearly goals (You know I’m all about the simple goals–write it down or it won’t happen!)
  • Attendance charts for five kiddos
  • Reading logs
  • Curriculum planning sheet
  • Homeschool contact list


Here’s where the “more than just a” part comes in and why I know that the fax machine was invented in 1843, nearly 40 long years before toilet paper was invented–priorities, people! It also has the following homeschool helps:

  • Writing prompts
  • Story starters
  • Info on the thirteen colonies
  • Timeline of inventions (utterly useless, but really, really, really fun!)
  • United States Presidents and first ladies
  • Branches of the US government
  • United States and capitals (Did you know that it’s only spelled “capitol” when it refers to the actual building? True story!)
  • Transcript forms
  • Skills checklist
  • Course organizational form
  • Fascinating historical tidbits and images spattered throughout. Technically, they’re probably not spattered, but rather strategically placed.

And here’s where the complimentary with an I comes in:

The planner is filled with encouragement. Filled! On our travels we meet some people that are super encouraging and some people that drain you dry with their negativity and criticisms. This planner is one of the former.

Plus, my favorite thing of all, it tells you to eat cake. I’m going to cross off cake and insert cookies and pie, but still! Dessert, people! It’s pro-dessert!


Yes, yes, I ate all the cake. My planner made me do it!

A Note On Physical Versus Digital Schedules

On the road we’ve taken to being as paperless as possible. It isn’t necessarily to save the trees, although I don’t believe in waste. It’s to save space and sanity. Still, there are some things I need to hold in my hands, like a baby or a cookie or a planner. Digital just doesn’t cut it (for me).

I want to be able to stuff it in my bag, fall asleep with it, peruse it in the bathroom–I’m talking the planner, here, not the baby or the cookie. When I need to jot something down quickly, I don’t want to press power. I also don’t want to be distracted by the gazillions of distractions online.

I don’t mind being distracted by cake.

Additional Thoughts for My Fellow Roadschoolers

No internet needed!

I know this planner is not digital, so you do have to find a place for it, but you never ever ever have to find an internet connection, and if you’re moving every 2-4 days like we are, or if you favor open skies and boondocking, like we also do, then you’re going to appreciate the no-connectivity-needed aspect. I have turned down offers to review digital planners for this very reason!

No evil plastic comb binding!

Plastic cob binding is evil–it breaks, it’s ugly, it breaks, it’s bulky, it breaks, pages fall out, and worst of all, it breaks. Hey Mama! has metal binding and, while the pages could still tear out if you forget to take it out of the bag that doubles as school bag/hiking pack and find yourself spilling your trail mix and water on it at the bottom of Bryce Canyon (been there), it seems remarkably durable.

I was a skeptic until it arrived, but it seems like it will hold up, even without desks, shelves, and normalcy, because, yeah, mine has been stored on the floor, in the book cupboard, in the van, on beds, on the table, under the table, beside the table, and so far, it still has all the pages. Of course, we have barely begun using it yet, since the calendar doesn’t begin until July, but it still seems like it will do the trick.


Look how I snuck a little baby spam in there. Sneaky sneaky!

It won’t hurt your tow weight!

If your tow rating is ridiculously low for a homeschool, business, music mission, giant dog, and family of 10, I feel your pain. This planner is remarkably thin for all it contains and it won’t put you over the top. You’re welcome.

Do your kids really go to school?

When we lived in the wild, wild west, we didn’t keep track of the number of school days we had, because, hey, we were progressing and meeting some goals, falling short of others, and blowing others out of the water, I tell ya! Now that we are legal residents of the Midwest (although still full-time travelers), we have to abide by their slightly more civilized social order, which means counting to 180 every year.

You  know as well as I that 180 days of school does not mean sitting at a desk, because there’s a perfectly good education to be had in Appomattox Courthouse and at Pompey’s Pillar and boondocking in Utah and on that little known trail at Arches and at the deer farm in Minnesota and at Bear Country USA, right? Hey Mama! offers five pages of boxes you can check off to “prove” you did your time.

I’m not exactly sure how that’s actually proof, but it gives the government a warm and fuzzy to know we can count to 180. Personally, it makes me feel better, too, knowing that, while we say we homeschool year round, we actually are getting half a year in! Whew!



  • Great flex-planner
  • Encouraging
  • Informative
  • Useful
  • Christian
  • Pro-dessert

Discount and a Freebie–Sort Of

If you’re interested in a print planner, you can get $10 off until July 15, 2016 by using the code CREWCODE. If you want the printable version, that is available through this link, or you can get it free with a subscription to, which I reviewed here.

Coupon Code Hey Mama Planner 2016 2017

I’m sure you want to know what other, more stationary, closer to normal homeschoolers have to say about the Hey Mama! Planner, don’t you? Click on the banner below to find out.

Hey Mama! Schoolhouse Planner 2016-2017 Review

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