Tag Archives: review

Review: Free Printable Blog Planner from Homeschool Creations

Here’s my very first review for the Mosaic Reviews Team, from Homeschool Mosaics. Members of the review team were given a list of free blog planners to choose from. It was a difficult choice! I might have chosen a one-page planner that sort of hit the highlights, or a blog planner that had a nice introduction to blogging and a mini-lesson on setting priorities.

But the Free Printable Blog Planner from Homeschool Creations really spoke to me. I almost passed it by, at first glance. I found 63 planner pages to be overwhelming. I barely have enough time to keep up a blog as it is… and yet, as I perused the pages I found so much practical help that I kept reading. I can also reassure you that you don’t really get 63 unique pages to agonize over. Much of the planner is made up of the same few pages, 12 copies of each, so that if you print the planner and bind it, it’ll be good for a whole year.

Anyone can be a hit-or-miss blogger. I’ve done it for years, but I’m trying to get more methodical in this endeavor, as in many others. However, with blogging, as with so many other things, a little planning goes a long, long way. Now if I could just get a little ahead on my blog posts, so that they could be automatically scheduled and just, plunk! — sort of post themselves. That takes time. I’ve gotten better at planning, but too often lately I’ve been thrown off my blog plan by an unexpected curve ball, like coming down with a cold, or a too-busy schedule.

With a blog planner, though, I can think through the coming days and weeks, write down themes and ideas, and actually have a target to shoot at. It’s so much better than sitting down at the keyboard, looking at that blank page, and thinking in a panic, “I have to blog something!

So what do you get in this blog planner? There’s a pretty cover sheet, a link to a blog post where the author shows how she uses her planner (I always find this kind of thing to be very helpful, as I tend to be seized by paralysis when confronted with a blank form), and a 2013 year-at-a-glance calendar. For each month, there’s a blank monthly calendar, with an area to record a focus (or eleven) for the month; a page to document reviews, giveaways, notes, and contact information; and two pages of weekly calendars with room for a to-do list for each week. (I haven’t used the weekly calendars yet, but I can see how they would be useful as I ease into regular blogging.)

Additional planning helps include pages that will help you keep track of blog statistics, websites and passwords, affiliate information, Twitter hashtags, linkups, an income and expense sheet, and (for the serious blogger whose blog is her business) even a mileage tracker.

A couple of “Notes in my head” pages round out the planner — honestly, these two pages are the ones that I’ve found most useful. Now I’m keeping my notes in one place, rather than stuck on sticky notes that end up who-knows where.

The planner is done in a pretty pastel pink-and-green color scheme. It looks really nice on the screen. Mine is printed out in grayscale for the sake of my budget, but it still works.

You can print the planner and bind it, or punch the pages and put it in a separate section of a planning notebook, or even break out the monthly and weekly pages and incorporate them among your homeschool/home planning pages. It’s a versatile format!

You can download your own copy of the planner at the link above. It’s free!

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TOS Crew: Excellence in Literature

I was so excited to hear the Crew would have the opportunity to review Excellence in Literature from Everyday Education!
You see, we’re already familiar with excellence in writing, specifically, the Institute for Excellence in Writing. IEW’s Andrew Pudewa co-published the American and British Literature levels, and his involvement was enough of a recommendation for us to want to jump into this program.

There are five levels in this college-preparatory course:

– English I: Introduction to Literature
– English II: Literature and Composition
– English III: American Literature
– English IV: British Literature
– English V: World Literature

Each level follows the same format, and levels do not have to be completed in order, but can be matched, for example, to your history studies. The author chose the literature covered in the curriculum  “because they reveal truth through the power of story.” The material is directed at students in Grades 8-12.

Our family received English I: Introduction to Literature.

What I like:

The book is written directly to the student, not talking down, but as the meeting of two minds, in a workmanlike yet conversational tone, with the occasional flash of humor. (Yes, the author is a human being, and not a textbook committee!)

Literature studied in context, not in isolated snippets or excerpts.

Emphasis on discerning worldview in literature. That fits right in with the moral philosphy we’re learning through our King’s Meadow studies (formerly Gileskirk).

Lots of links to Internet resources. These make the studies more interesting, for one thing, with material that relates to the literary works (“virtual field trips”!) in particular and literature, analysis, and writing in more general terms.

“Something to think about” and “Be sure to notice” notes to the student, setting the stage for deeper study, not just surface reading.

Suggested schedule to follow; well-organized lessons that follow a standardized format for each of the nine units

Built-in writing projects (more about that in a bit), and included rubrics to help the parent/teacher evaluate student writing

Reading list for English I (from the website)  

(plus a few comments from our perspective):

Unit 1: Short Stories by-
• Sarah Orne Jewett: A White Heron
• Edgar Allen Poe: The Purloined Letter (This one is not scary, if you’re concerned about that.) (a classic that I’ve seen mentioned in a lot of literature, but I’d never read it before now)
• Guy de Maupassant: The Diamond Necklace
• O. Henry: The Ransom of Red Chief (hilarious! I remember reading this in my grandfather’s library and laughing out loud)
• Eudora Welty: A Worn Path
• James Thurber: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (I’ve often quoted from this story to the girls, and now they know why.)

Unit 2: Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne (As a teen, I enjoyed Jules Verne, and am glad to introduce the girls to his writing)
Honors: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

Unit 3: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain (fun, but wry and thought-provoking, too)
Honors: The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain

Unit 4: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Honors: Shirley or Villette by Charlotte Brontë

Unit 5: Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
Honors: Murder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot

Unit 6: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
Honors: Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson

Unit 7: Animal Farm by George Orwell (I hated both of these in high school. We might read Animal Farm, which I hated just a little bit less than 1984, or we might skip this unit until Youngest is a bit older.)
Honors: 1984 by George Orwell

Unit 8: The Tempest by William Shakespeare
Honors: A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

Unit 9: Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift (I already know we’re going to have to go with Pilgrim’s Progress when we get to Unit 9. The girls detest Gulliver’s Travels from a previous exposure, and it’s not worth the battle to try to get them to read it again so soon. Maybe they’ll enjoy analyzing it at a later date.)
Honors: The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan

An introductory section tells you (or more specifically, the student; though it’s all stuff the parent should know, too) how the course is set up, what materials you need, and some basic underpinnings, like how to read a book in an analytical way. Each unit is divided into four weeks of work, and includes reading the main text and additional reading for context, as well as writing assignments. Background information might include websites, biographies, videos, and encyclopedia articles. Extensive resource lists are provided, with suggestions for finding more material.

And now, the “more in a bit” about the writing portion of the course you were waiting for…

While a “Formats and Models” chapter explains the basic format for writing assignments, the material assumes your student is already familiar with writing basics: how to construct a paragraph, how to write a five-paragraph essay. The author recommends writing lessons and handbooks to be used in conjunction wtih Excellence in Literature.  Samples of student work are included to give you an idea of how your writing assignments should look.

I have to admit that this course is a bit of a stretch for our eighth-grader. I really appreciate the multitude of resources, including videos and Internet audio links, and the author’s suggestion to use audio books for a student who struggles with reading. It makes a real difference! Writing is still a struggle, but with techniques and resources from the Institute for Excellence in Writing we’re keeping our heads above water. Mostly.

Excellence in Literature promotes just that: thoughtful reading and interacting with classic texts, on a high school level. It’s been a bit of a stretch for me, not just Youngest (high school was such a long time ago, and I’m not sure how much I actually learned, much less retained…), but it’s been a good stretch. I’m learning right along with my students.

Purchase information

See a free sample unit here.

English I: Introduction to Literature is available both in print form for $29 plus shipping, or as an e-book for $27. Click here for the order page. You can order any of the five levels individually, or a set of all five together, either printed and bound, or in downloadable e-book format.

Read more TOS Crew reviews of Excellence in Literature at this link.

Disclaimer: Our family received a free PDF copy of English I: Introduction to Literature for review purposes. No other compensation was involved.

TOS Crew: Say Anything from Northstar Games

Some reviews practically write themselves (especially when we’re enthused about a project!) and some are difficult to write — either we’re really excited about something and I’m afraid the written word won’t do it justice, or it didn’t work for our family… but let’s not go there, because that certainly isn’t the case today!

When the TOS Crew learned that Northstar Games would be participating in this year’s cruise, you should have heard the cheers!

You see, last year our family reviewed Wits and Wagers, and had a blast doing it. What fun!

(Don’t just take our word for it. You can find this year’s Crew impressions of Wits and Wagers at this link, by the way.)

It was a different kind of game, in that it evened out the playing field. Youngest had just as good a chance of winning as anyone, and sometimes better! (She knew, not guessed, the number of Disney princesses… and other unique trivia questions, and when she guessed, her guesses were as good as anyone else’s, and she soon figured out a strategy that worked very well for racking up the points.
One fun thing about NorthStar Games is the Meeples. We’ve fallen in like with these cute little “people” who populate the games, serving as game tokens, or decorating the boards (more about the boards in a minute). They make fun mascots!

Say Anything! — a new family pastime — is another game where you don’t have to have a storehouse of trivia at your fingertips, and if (like Youngest) you struggle with spelling, it’s okay because creativity trumps spelling in this game. In other words, even if your handwriting is hard to read, or your words are oddly spelled, just so long as other players can read your writing, you can play. Younger players may want to team up with older players to get around the “8 and up” (which helps assure the player can write) suggestion.

Here’s how the game works. You each have a dry erase writing board and pen. The person who’s “It” (the “Judge”) draws a question from the stack of cards and reads a question aloud. (“What’s the best way to spend a rainy day?” is an example I just thought up out of my head, but with the stack of questions included with the game, it may well be in there. There are six questions on each card. Having a choice of more than one question gives the reader a little latitude. For example, if you’d be uncomfortable with the topic “What would be the weirdest secret to hear about my mother?” or you don’t know what an A-list celebrity is (“Which A-list celebrity is most likely to be forgotten in 10 years?”), you can fall back on “What’s the best thing about living in the country?” — a sampling of one card.)

All the other players write down an answer to the question, wacky or serious as you wish. The Judge secretly selects one of the answers and then everyone else tries to guess which answer the Judge likes best. You place your tokens on one or two of the answers and when all bets are placed, the Judge reveals the winning choice.

You get points for choosing the winning answer and also for writing the winning answer. There can be a lot of jockeying for position and strategy involved. Knowing the Judge well (and everyone gets to take a turn at judging) is a definite help!

Materials are sturdy (well, fairly sturdy — we almost wrecked the Judge’s secret choice recording device until we realized it wasn’t supposed to be used as a spinner — memo to self: read the directions before trying to play the game for the first time and don’t count on a kid who says she read the directions already…), colorful, and convenient. All play is done on dry erase boards, even scorekeeping! Pens are provided with the game, but when they run out (and ours haven’t yet), you can probably use dry erase crayons or any dry erase markers. However, if you’ve had the game for less than a year, they have a fantastic replacement policy.

From the Northstar Games website:

Free Parts Replacement – Don’t let a lost or broken component stop you from playing. If any of our game component(s) should fail (or even be lost) within the first year of ownership, we will deliver an identical or comparable replacement to your door free of charge! Requesting replacement parts is a breeze… simply e-mail us the requested part(s) along with your mailing address. We’ll send the parts out within two weeks.

Suited for 3-6 players (and you can have more if you play in teams), ages 8 and up (but again, younger players can team up with older players) Say Anything is available where games are sold and retails for $19.99.

Be warned. This game is addictive. (And fun!)

Check out more TOS Crew reviews of Say Anything here.

Disclaimer: Our family received a free copy of Say Anything for review purposes. No additional compensation was involved.

TOS Crew: e-Mealz

Back in January, I confessed my meal-planning woes. You see, we went partially gluten-free (GF) about a year ago — this meant I was cooking regular meals for the family and modifying things to make Eldest’s meals completely GF. We had a menu-planning and cooking system in place that had been working pretty well. At the end of each month, we “girls” would plan the next month’s meals. We cooked on a rotation basis, meaning each of us (mom and daughters, that is) ended up responsible for cooking, washing dishes, and kitchen clean-up about twice a week.

With Eldest’s gluten sensitivity, I sort of took over all the cooking once again. Oh, if a meal was naturally gluten-free, one of the girls could manage. But I was paranoid about cross-contamination, and so if a meal contained gluten ingredients, I took it upon myself to do the cooking.

Two months later, DH was diagnosed with a severe gluten sensitivity, and I made the decision to go completely GF, at least at home. (The younger girls and I still get glutenous food on occasion, when we’re out and about.) Now, GF cooking is not as difficult as I thought it would be, but it was different enough that I — still learning — took on all the cooking. (I know. I should have included the girls in the learning and exploring. My only explanation is that I felt like I was in over my head.) I had kind of a mental block against menu planning. It all seemed overwhelming. We got into a rut of rotating the same few meals, and I was doing all the cooking once more.

I made a couple of feeble stabs at GF menu planning, but it was pitiful. Just pitiful.

Enter The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew, and the opportunity to review an online menu-planning service. When I heard they had a gluten-free option, I jumped up and down (virtually, anyhow) with my hand up in the air, yelling, “Pick me! Pick me!” Anything had to be better than what I was doing.

Choosing a plan

When I found out our family was on the e-Mealz list, I went to the e-Mealz website and read everything I could find about their menu plans. They have so many plans to choose from, including store-specific and special diets (low-carb, low-fat, low-cal, vegetarian, and yes, gluten-free). There are even small-family plans if you’re cooking for just one or two people. The store-specific plans take into account the stores’ weekly sales. We’re talking Wal-Mart, Aldi’s, Kroger, and Publix for specific stores. We don’t have Aldi’s and Publix for sure, so it was easy to eliminate those choices. But for the rest… it was tough! I went through all of their sample menus.

I finally settled on the Wal-Mart gluten-free plan. It appears to be identical to the “any store” GF plan, except that it includes prices on the shopping list. Oh, but I’m getting ahead of myself…

How it works

You select a meal plan from the options available and sign up. A three-month subscription is $15 (which works out to $5 a month, as you probably already noticed), billed to your credit card or debit card. Your subscription is automatically renewed, or you may cancel at any time.

By the way, I’ve found from personal experience that when I plan my meals and stick to my plan, I save money on groceries (for one thing, it cuts way down on impulse buying, and since what I buy is on the plan, it gets used and doesn’t end up forgotten, in the fridge), as well as time. No more last minute trips to the store for forgotten ingredients! No more last minute trips to the store, period, just because the fridge and cabinets are reasonably full of ingredients but “there’s nothing to eat.”

Every week a new menu is available for download. (You can actually download two weeks’ worth of menus, “this week” and “last week,” so our first week, I got two weeks’ menus to work from.)

My gluten-free e-Mealz menus have each been three pages: two pages of menus spanning seven days, plus a shopping list which includes what I need to buy in a weekly shopping trip, prices, space to write additional items, and a list of pantry staples that I need to have on hand (or buy, if they’re not in my pantry) to fix all the meals for the week.

Our meal plans usually included at least one of each of the following:
– fish
– Mexican
– chicken
– pork
– beef
– meatless

For each day, there’s an entree and a side in the menu plan, with a list of ingredients and preparation instructions. We’ve made some substitutions; for example, when a recipe calls for quick-cooking brown rice, I substitute regular; we don’t do fish on a weekly basis as one of the girls won’t eat any fish except canned tuna, and we only eat pork about once a month, not once a week.

The recipes are pretty easy to make, and the results have been, for the most part, delicious. (Remember, I haven’t made all the recipes because of food preferences.) The GF menus average on paper about $90 a week. Some weeks we spend less because we have a supply of meat already in our freezer. Some weeks we spend more because when we do buy meat, it’s the hormone- and antibiotic-free kind, which costs more.

But what about other allergies?

Because gluten is our main concern, these menus have worked fairly well for us. (I say “fairly” because of our fussy eater, who prefers her food pretty plain.) If your family has other food allergies (for example, corn or dairy) you might not fare as well (pun not intended but it certainly works well, doesn’t it).

In summary

Click on any of the meal plans at the e-Mealz website to see a summary of that plan, and to find a link to a sample menu/shopping list for that plan. Check out a variety of plans — you’ll get an idea of how it works. You can sign up and choose a plan, and if it doesn’t work you can switch plans once every three months.

I think I’ll stick with the Wal-Mart gluten-free meal plan. I don’t always get to Wal-Mart, as sometimes I have to consider the cost in gas compared to the grocery savings, but I like having the prices and the option. I like having menus planned out for me, and with the easy-to-follow recipes, the girls are finally able to learn to cook gluten-free. This one’s a winner for our family.

Read more TOS Crew reviews of e-Mealz here.

Disclaimer: TOS Crew members were provided a free 3-month subscription to e-Mealz for review purposes. We receive no monetary compensation for offering our opinion. Opinions offered here are our own.

TOS Crew: Visual Latin

We’ve tried a few different approaches to Latin over the years, and so when the girls heard that we were reviewing Visual Latin, I’m afraid there were a few groans.  Youngest was already happy with the Latin she was learning with a group of friends. She wasn’t interested in trying something else. Her older sisters are up to their chins in Biblical Greek, a college level course with lots of homework. They weren’t all that interested in adding Latin to the schedule.

I’d heard good things about Visual Latin, though, and especially wanted to see how Youngest, our wiggliest learner, would take to the course. It looked like this was going to be a tough review to manage, with nobody (except me) interested in this course.

And then I put the DVD in the computer drive and started watching. Pretty soon there were people watching over my shoulder, talking back to the screen, laughing, calling out responses. Youngest said, early in the first lesson, “Let’s switch to this Latin course, Mom. He makes things so easy to understand!”

What’s special about Visual Latin?

This is a video-based Latin course, for one thing. It’s not a textbook-based Latin course for which you, if you are a parent who never learned Latin in (or out of) school, can buy videos to teach the course for you. The videos themselves drive the course: You watch a presentation and complete a worksheet. The lessons are short and lively (or maybe I should say the instructor is lively, but more about him in a minute). Many of the worksheets combine explanation of the material covered in the video with application of the concept learned in the lesson (“practice on paper”).

There are ten lessons on the DVD, each lesson in three parts: Grammar, Sentences, and Reading.

Grammar: Introduce the concept covered in the lesson. Concepts are broken down into small, manageable bites. You learn a lot about English grammar, too. (Not surprisingly. I didn’t learn much, if any, English grammar in school until my first high school foreign language class.) Mostly lecture, although “lecture” is such a boring, mundane word it doesn’t really fit with what you get on the video.

Sentences: This is where the teacher applies the grammar, working through examples on a chalkboard.

Reading: This was a fun part! The teacher reads aloud a short, easy story which draws a lot of its words from material presented earlier. After the explanatory Reading section in Lesson 1, the Reading sessions are all in Latin. You hear the teacher read the story all the way through, then a sentence at a time, and then you read through the same story on a worksheet and translate what you read. The stories build on each other, beginning in the Beginning. Literally! By the end of Lesson 10, you’ve worked your way through the Biblical account of Creation, up to Day Seven, and all in Latin.

You watch a part (which takes less than ten minutes, sometimes as little as four minutes) and then do the associated worksheet. You could easily fit Latin in at the rate of a lesson a week, for example, setting aside 20 minutes or so on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to watch a video segment and complete a worksheet.You could whiz through all three parts in one sitting, I suppose. We did that with the first lesson, just because the material was easy and familiar and the girls were enjoying the presentation so much.

The teacher, Duane Thomas, is not only an experienced Latin teacher, but he’s a homeschool dad. This (along with his teaching style) makes me think that he understands wiggly kids like mine.

Watching the video, you feel almost as if you’re taking part. Our girls were calling out answers, and not because I told them to, but because the instructor has a deft sense of timing, a way of engaging the camera that makes it seem as if he’s talking directly to you. He’s good at keeping up the interest level, with jokes and unexpected moves. (Just wait until you get to the lesson where he loses his chalkboard eraser…) However, learning is going on the whole time.

Duane is constantly throwing in English words derived from the Latin words he’s using as examples. He’s real, and not afraid to make mistakes and own up to them. As a matter of fact, Middlest commented during an early lesson, “I like this guy. He’s real. They’re not constantly cutting and editing the video to make it look perfect.” Somehow, his easy manner makes Latin simpler to tackle, less scary, and mistakes less dreadful.

There are several free downloads on the Visual Latin website. Four introductory videos plus the first two lessons in the program are available to download for free. You can also watch a sample lesson online, and download the associated worksheets.

Visual Latin is available on DVD or as a download. Latin I, Lessons 1-10 (which is the DVD our family received) costs $30 for a single family purchase, or $150 for a group license to use the material with a class of five or more students. A single-family download version costs $25.

Lesson video formats include High Definition (HD) mv4 files usable with Apple iTunes on a Windows PC or Mac, an iPad or iPhone 4.0; and iPod mv4 for use with Apple iTunes, iPod, iPhone, and iPad. Worksheets and answer keys are also on the DVD in PDF format, or available to download free from the Visual Latin website.

In case you were wondering what material is covered in Lessons 1-10, here’s a list from the vendor’s website:

1. Being Verbs Basics | To Be and Not to Be
2. Being Verbs Basics | Predicate Nominatives and Adjectives
3. Gender | Boy Words and Girl Words
4. Singular and Plural | E Pluribus Unum
5. Declensions | Meet the Cases
6. Adjectives Learn to Agree with Nouns
7. The Case Files | Nominative and Genitive
8. Counting to 10 in Latin
9. Active Verb Basics | Indicative Mood
10. The Case Files | Accusative

Once you finish lessons 1-10, more lessons are available. Latin I consists of 30 lessons, suitable for a full year of Latin instruction at the rate of a lesson a week, or a semester if you do two lessons a week. A Latin II course is in the works, with the first ten lessons available now and more to come.

I wasn’t sure what to think of Visual Latin before I actually saw the lessons. I thought it sounded easy. Too easy. I was wrong. As Duane Thomas likes to say, Latin is easy! (A whole lot easier than I ever thought it could be…) But don’t take my word for it. Check out the free lessons available for download, and see if you agree with me.

Read more TOS Crew reviews of Visual Latin here.

Disclaimer: TOS Crew members were provided a free DVD or download copy of Visual Latin, Latin 1, Lessons 1-10 for review purposes. We receive no monetary compensation for offering our opinion. Opinions offered here are our own.

Movie review: Courageous

This will be fairly brief, as I ought to have written this review a week ago, right after seeing the movie. However, I still remember enough to give it an enthusiastic thumbs-up.

The theme of the movie is fatherhood. Five fathers, four of them policemen, one an accidental acquaintance who becomes part of a brotherhood of fathers. All swear together to be deliberate in their relationships with their children, setting high standards, being the best fathers they can, with God’s help.

Of course, things didn’t start out that way. At the beginning of the movie, the main character is… well, he’s like a lot of us. He’s busy with his job. He takes his family for granted. They’re always there. They always will be, won’t they? It’s painful to watch, but it sets the stage for the change to come.

A tragedy happens to open this father’s eyes, and he almost drowns in the pain that follows. Then out of the ashes (to mix a metaphor) arises a new determination, a focus, a goal. He asks his friends to keep him accountable, and they are moved to make the same resolve: to be real fathers to their children.

We have a range of families here. There’s the intact family with mother and workaholic father. There’s the divorced father who sees his child on weekends. There’s the intact family with a father struggling to find work, to provide. There’s the man who fathered a child and abandoned the mother.

This is no neat-and-tidy gospel presentation, although the Gospel is there. The people who made this movie show that it takes hard work to live life abundantly, as the Bible would have us live.

The makers of Courageous grow in skill and movie-making maturity with each movie. The seeds of greatness were there in their first movie, Flywheel (which we felt impelled to revisit today), visibly growing in Facing the Giants and Fireproof. There are familiar faces in each movie, not surprising, as one church is behind these efforts. There’s the same mix of tears and laughter, a deftness in the timing, realistic (and often dramatic or comedic or both mixed together somehow) dialog.

We were reduced to tears several times during the movie, often bursting out in laughter bare moments after a moving scene through the skill of the scriptwriter and the actors. At the end of the movie, the audience burst into spontaneous applause.

If you want to be moved, if you want to be inspired, if you want to be challenged in your parenting, you’ve got to see this movie.

TOS Crew: Ray’s Arithmetic

Ray’s Arithmetic is math the way it used to be, before the “New Math” came in and changed the way our children learn (or don’t learn) math. (I remember the introduction of New Math in school. From one year to the next, I went from understanding and enjoying math, to confusion and hating the subject.)

Ringing endorsement

Talking about Ray’s reminds me of a conversation about math among a group of homeschool moms. One whose husband is an engineer told the rest that her husband insisted that she use Ray’s Arithmetic from the earliest years up until they were ready to start Algebra. He’d looked at a variety of math programs, and Ray’s was the one he chose. There’s an endorsement for you! (I’m not an engineer, but the most mathematically savvy people I knew in college were the engineering majors…)

I’ve been familiar with Ray’s Arithmetic for a long time. I bought a full set of Ray’s years ago, during our struggles with Eldest and math. (Didn’t seem like any program quite clicked over the years, one step forward, two steps back, that sort of thing, but we keep plugging away.) I have to admit, though, that I didn’t “get” it until I read the instructions that came with the download from Dollar Homeschool (Manual of Methods, in case you were curious).

The whole enchilada

You see, that “complete set” of Ray’s that I bought years ago… wasn’t. I have found out that there are books in the Ray’s Math Series that weren’t in my boxed set. More books. Lots more! There are 38 in the Dollar Homeschool set, to be exact, which is 30 more than I started out with. You can see a list of the books here, but in brief there are student books (basic, intermediate, and advanced math), keys, teacher editions, and “extra-curricular texts,” i.e. bookeeping, astronomy, logic, physics, and surveying and navigation among them. There’s a book that explains how to teach Ray’s arithmetic, and also a set of White’s arithmetic books as a bonus (similar approach, different author).

I paid about as much for my set of eight books, used, as Dollar Homeschool is asking for their 38 books on CD. A lot of the early work in Ray’s is done orally, which means that you can just read off the screen to your student, without having to print.

The books are in PDF format, making viewing and printing easy. See sample pages here. The pages are in their original format, reprinted from the books published in the 1800s, simple black and white pages sprinkled with old-fashioned illustrations, nothing fancy. The problems are straightforward and practical. Some concepts might seem obsolete (like the rod, a measure of distance — except that I’ve actually counted in rods, by which portages in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area are measured). You’re not going to find pears at three cents apiece, nowadays. Still, the math is sound.

Lose a book? No problem

One problem I have in our homeschool is misplaced materials. It doesn’t matter that books have a home on the shelf. Sometimes they don’t get put away, and sometimes they even disappear, and I just cannot emphasize how frustrating that is to me. That is why I love having textbooks on my computer. I can just reprint the pages I need!

I’m very excited to have the complete set of Ray’s Arithmetic books at my fingertips, and that’s not all you can find at Dollar Homeschool’s website. Their Eclectic Education Series is on my wishlist. The series includes, in addition to Ray’s, the McGuffey readers, as well as history, science, and grammar books.

The complete set of Ray’s Math Series is available on CD for $59 at Dollar Homeschool. At the moment, for a limited time you can get the entire Eclectic Education Series on CD for $159. (Just click on the Eclectic Education Series link above to find out more.)

To read more TOS Crew reviews of Dollar Homeschool products, click here.

Disclaimer: TOS Crew members were given product downloads from Dollar Homeschool for their personal use and for review purposes. No monetary compensation was involved.