April 17, 2015


This post is a review for a product I received in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you for reading!

In February, I joined the ranks of moms with teens.  Teens! It's scary and uncharted and I'm still trying to figure out whose voice is coming out of my baby's body, but I can also see the awesome-sauce in this stage as well.  Read: babysitter, big helper, and way more in-depth conversations.

Jarrod and I are really careful with what big gifts we give our kids for their birthdays.  We've learned that once you open a can of worms, there's not much success wrangling those worms back into the can, so we choose with care about what we buy our kids.  But 13 seemed like such a great, big deal we decided to bless our little guy with his very own iPad.  He had been asking about one and saving for one, but I think when he open the box, he was totally surprised, which is always fun to do as a parent.

With all technology in our house, we have some rules; time spent on is limited, we have the password to iTunes, and one that I thought was pretty smart on my part: for every game downloaded, he has to download an educational app. Brilliant, right??

The only thing is, for us, it's hard to find apps that are actually educational AND fun.

The Beautiful Intersect of FUN and MATH: DragonBox Apps

This is where I tell you how excited I was to review DragonBox's products.  Seriously fun GAMES disguised as math is just what my kids needed.  After downloading Clash of the Clans or some darn thing, Noah promptly downloaded DragonBox Algebra onto his device.  He was able to choose his own avatar and get going.

The programs hit on a number of topics, like:
  • addition
  • subtraction
  • multiplications
  • fractions
  • factorization
  • distribution
I love the sneaky way that they are really learning.

 Why Algebra Apps Are a Mama's Friend

It's been very busy here lately.  I had a little "moment" on Instagram yesterday about how the chaos of moving has really put a cramp in my style at school and how I was feeling bad about being an UNfun homeschool mom right now.  My OCD tendencies won't let me just carry on with the messes--I have to settle things first.  So lately, I've been giving my kids assignments they can do on their own while I work.  This is why apps like Dragonbox are our friend.  Here's a list of why's for good measure:
  • DragonBox is something my kids can do on their own, allowing me more time to get this house organized after a big move and still teach  my kids some math! Yay!
  • Technology is super fun for kids, but learning while they're playing is SUCH a huge bonus to having quiet, occupied children.
  • Algebra apps, like DragonBox fill in holes that their math books may have left out.  I know we homeschool mamas are always thinking about the possible holes in our kids' education. 
  • Time in the car or waiting at the doctor's office can be well-spent with algebra apps.

DragonBox offers several different apps for both older kids, younger kids AND for Android and iPhone products.  There's the products they offer:

DragonBox Algebra 5+

DragonBox Algebra 12+
DragonBox Geometry
DragonBox is offering a giveaway to 100 readers across the web.  They're giving away their web-based versions of their products, so no device needed! Sign up below:  

To find out more about DragonBox, you can follow them on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

April 16, 2015


A house update! Finally!

If there was every any doubt before, I will remind you...moving completely bites it.  Bad.  It's no fun and I've felt a little twitchy and sweaty for days now, but in the end...there is a house.  My name is on the title.  And for that, I am eternally grateful. 

Whatever the hold-up was and for whatever reason, finding a house here was a headache.  It started fun enough, but after driving the five hours back and fourth between South Dakota and Minneapolis too many times to look at more and more houses, it got old in a hot minute.  We had looked at so many and by the end we had totally changed our area of focus.  It just so happened that the new area of focus included a ton of options of houses that I didn't like.  At all.  But here's the deal, when you need a house and you've looked at 84 of them, even the crusty ones you don't really like start to look okay. 

We almost settled.  Almost.  I did one more Zillow search just a bit out of where we were currently searching...and it was there.  A house on a quiet street with wood floors and a fireplace, but best of all...a chimney. 

I know it's weird, but it really meant a lot to me to give my girl a house with a chimney.  I'll fill you in.  Last August, just a month before we found out we were moving to Minnesota, my girl saw a house she loved.  She loved the house, but mostly the chimney.  She wanted to be just like in the storybooks where the kids are outside playing in the snow and the smoke is coming out from the chimney behind them.  I loved that.  And I knew right then I had to find one with a chimney for her.  But I knew what she meant...it wasn't just any chimney, but the kind that show from the exterior from top to bottom.  My Sophie know what she likes.

Since we've been here, the house with the chimney, we've discovered how really we've scored so awesomely where location/street/community is concerned.  There is so much to do just within a mile of our house...we hadn't realized that when we found it.  The lakes, parks, adorable community, library, shops...it's all within walking distance and for sure a bike ride away.  Between unpacking boxes, we made sure to spiff up our bikes and go for a few rides.

Currently, we're still working on everything...hanging things, finding where things go, organizing...all that.  It all still feels a little off-kilter, and I admit, with the new creaks and house noises, it doesn't quite feel like home yet, but it will.  Every box emptied is a small victory and every nail in the wall makes it feel more like us. 

They'll be more house posts....any maybe some project posts.  But for now, we're settling...saving the projects for later and enjoying the normal for a while.  But, we have a house.  We have a house.

April 13, 2015


Isn't this one of our biggest fears as homeschool moms? How do I know if my child is on pace with the rest of the kids their age? How do I know if my child is learning?

This is such a common feeling, and I wanted so share some great advice from mamas who have been there too. The following is a great list for you to keep on file for future reference of ideas, advice, thoughts, links, and blog posts from other amazing homeschool mamas.

-- How Do You Know If A Child Is Ready For Next Year's Curriculum, by Cindy West

-- "If you keep a blog, go back and look at old posts.  You'll be amazed at how much they've grown and learned in that time."

"Talk to your kids, and see what they remember.  The most helpful "tests" have been verbal with my kids."
                                                      -from Ticia Messing of Adventures in Mommydom

--"I, too, look back on the blog that I maintain. I also enjoy keeping journals for each subject. That way, I can easily look back and see what they were doing x-many months ago in any subject. Finally, I keep a simple journal for myself just to remember what we were covering."
                                                      -from Cait of My Little Poppies

-- "Measuring progress has always been part of the jitters of homeschooling. However, the longer you homeschool, the more you see your children not just reach your standards but set a bar or standard for themselves. When you relinquish the teaching hat to supervisor hat, as your children grow and enter high school, you see all the rewards for your hard work because what you have taught them comes bubbling forth in the upper grades."

Am I Doing Enough When Homeschooling?

Gauging Homeschool Progress-Masters of Their Material?

                                                     -all from Tina Robertson of Tina's Dynamic Homeschool Plus

--"I confess I've always felt better when I have formal evaluations, such as tests, for my kids -- even from a fairly early age.  But I don't do them in all subjects in the elementary years -- just English and Math.  In other subjects, I think if they are reading, they are learning.  Another idea is to keep samples of their work throughout the year -- then you can look back at what they were doing in September, for example, to see if there is improvement."
                                                    -from Ann Karako of Annie and Everything

--"If you are asking this, then he is. Conscientious  parents ask this question. And conscientious parents are great homeschoolers. Trust the process and stop stressing. Really."
                                                    -from Jimmie Lanely of Jimmie's Collage

--"Before my daughter started kindergarten I did a Google search and found several online tests and checklists I could use to gauge her reading...  Since then I have found checklists online for nearly every grade that I can use to gauge her progress.  Sometimes you don't see the progress in the day-to-day, but by taking time at the end of the year or every quarter to evaluate a child's progress via some sort of checklists helps both you, the homeschool mom, and your child know they really are improving."
                                                     -from Kathy Gossen of Cornerstone Confessions

--"My advice is to watch for the little moments. This week at therapy my 3 year old with severe special needs pointed to a 2 on the wall and said "Oh no, the two is stuck!" and when his therapist and I were both shocked and not sure if he had really said that, he pointed to the 3 and said "Oh no, the three is stuck!". Or last week my 5 year old was looking in one of his Bibles and he brought it to me very excited because there was a map that showed Egypt. He told me the entire story of the two kings of Egypt that we had just read about in history and showed me the nile river and the different regions we had learned about. I was pretty sure that lesson had gone completely over his head, but they are retaining more than you think! Watch for the tiny moments because they add up to big learning."
                                                  -from Kaylene George of This Outnumbered Mama

--"In addition to the times during the day that I hear my children say amazing things that show they are learning, we use narration and end of term exams to assess learning."

Narration: Evaluating What Your Child Knows

Charlotte Mason Examinations

                                                 -from Crystal Wagner of Triumphant Learning

This is all awesome advice.  I know I will refer back to it often.  For us, we do the following pretty much every year:
  • We keep journals and write in them everyday.  This is great to look back and see how writing and penmanship has improved.
  • At the end of every school year my older kids take a standardized test.  We use tests from Seton.org.  These are required by our state, but also I just want to see how they're doing.
  • I will also find checklists and online evaluations like Kathy mentioned above.  These are really great if I'm questioning a certain area for my child.

Above all, just pay attention to your kids.  Don't move on until your child has mastered a topic.  As homeschoolers, we have this fabulous blessing to do that! Enjoy those little students today!


There's still time to sign up for Learning Well Ecourse! Get your membership today! So much good stuff packed into this five-day course.

April 7, 2015


This post is a review.  I received this product in exchange for an honest report of the product.  As always, I'm very choosy about what I share here and never share things that I don't use myself or would purchase myself.  Thanks for reading!

With our recent move, trying to pick up where we left off in our normal homeschool routine seems crazy.  I'm looking for new, fresh ways we can finish out our homeschool year instead of jumping back into the same old thing...because really, where the heck are our spelling books??

That said, I was more than eager to review an exciting geography curriculum called The Adventurous Mailbox.  If it were nothing else than receiving a super cool package in the mail, I think that would almost be enough.  My kids freaked out when the package came in the mail.  It came all the way from Taiwan and was covered with stickers and secret stamps that looked like it came straight from a secret spy club! It was addressed to them which made it all the more exciting!

But what's in the box?

Reading Adventures for Kids are Real Adventures for Kids

I'm a firm believer in teaching with literature...Adventurous Mailbox is just this; teaching with stories that stick. 

Your package will include a set of eight books...gorgeous books with beautiful illustrations.  Unlike other mailing subscriptions, this is a one-time set.  You don't have to wait for more every month, but you can add on additional upgrades to personalize your package.  Not having a monthly charge is a big perk in my opinion, I like to pay once and be done!

Back to the books.  This set of eight books each cover a different country, recounting the travels of Crameye Junker, a very cool homeschooled kid who goes on mysterious travels around the world with this family.  These stories cover the sights, the smells, the feels of these countries and inspire your kids to want to learn more about these places.  I love that! You can read through these books one right after another or you can go more slowly and create a unit study around each book, it's totally adaptable to your schedule.

My kids are obsessed with book series.  They love continuing the story they love...just like us, when a story sucks you in, they don't want it to be over! Adventurous Mailbox is perfect for your young readers (about ages 8-12) but it's also great for younger kids too who will sit and listen as you read.   I know your kids are going want to read these one right after another.

Continuing Your Cultural Education

I love that the curriculum is totally rounded out with additional teaching resources. As an additional add-on to the book set you are mailed, you can choose to sign up for access to the Teacher's Lounge.  I love this part.  In the Teacher's Lounge, you will find printable workbooks to accompany each book.  Here's some of the things covered in the workbooks:
  • Vocabulary
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Fill-in-the-blank reviews
  • Crossword puzzles
  • Writing
  • Critical thinking
  • Projects
  • Country-specific resources and projects

What's Available from Adventurous Mailbox?

I love when I company is innovative and continues to think of great ideas.  This company is great and only getting better.  They currently are offering Series One of Adventurous Mailbox for a one-time payment of $79 (including shipping) which includes the following countries:
  • Finland
  • Taiwan
  • Brazil
  • Thailand
  • Greece
  • Tanzania
  • Peru
  • and Peru, Too!
Like I said before, they also offer access to the Teacher's Lounge for an additional $20, which is a total steal for all the things you are offered here!

Later this year, they will be offering e-book versions on their books AND Series Two will also be available for purchase.  Ultimately, they will have a total of five series...40 total books, all with accompanying lessons in the Teacher's Lounge.

Discount for my Readers!

You all have a great opportunity to purchase the first series of Adventurous Mailbox at a discounted price! Yay for you!

Until June 30, 2015, get $10 off the first series and free access to the Teacher's Lounge.  Just use the code: HSadventure when you check out!

To learn more about The Adventurous Mailbox and follow along with them, check them out on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Google+.

March 30, 2015


Hi there.  I bet you forgot I moved in November....but we did.  And we still haven't made it to our new city.  We've been camping out at my aunt's in South Dakota since mid-November.  Finding a house in Minneapolis was hard.  We started looking right away in November and after five attempts at getting one, we finally found the one.

I'm excited.  And tired.  And the thought of unpacking again makes me more tired.  But we're almost home...almost. 

Tomorrow. Tomorrow.  Tomorrow we'll be home.

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