Review: All American History Jr.

Apparently I never actually posted this, which would explain some people’s confusion on my saying we’d switched curriculum, and everyone should know this.  Instead it’s sat in my draft folder for about 3 months now.

Some days.

So, I commented before that I had mixed feelings on our history for the year, and they grew more frustrated as I realized my kids were not really getting anything out of it and the amount of prep work in printing was frustrating me.

After I’d ordered what we were using I saw All American History Jr, and was intrigued, but I didn’t want to look into it too much in case I got curriculum envy, you know where everyone else’s stuff looks better than yours.

I finally gave in and ordered it, and I wish I’d done so sooner.  Since this one starts at the same place as the last one, I figured I’ll go back and start over and then we can actually learn it.

So, what do I think of this one?

I LOVE IT!  Here’s why:

1.  I’m not having to print off the textbook, and it’s a hardback, so it’s sturdy.
2.  The lesson plans are a lot more thorough.
3.  The “workbook” portion is a lot less printer intense.  You can see samples here.  The line spacing is perfect for my kids.  The amount of writing expected per day is working perfectly.  It’s got some amount of crafts.
4.  They give you a modified reading plan for younger kids.  Instead of reading the whole chapter you only read a smaller part, and it is broken down into great segments.
5.  They give you a day by day plan of what to do, and some days are so easy you can do two at once.
6.  There are hands on crafts, which you can guess we LOVE!
7.  I love the additional suggestion activities.  When we learned about Eric the Red, they suggested watching “Lyle the Kindly Viking,” and compare what you learned about Vikings with the movie.  SCORE!
8.  Fun coloring pages.
9.  There’s a lapbook part that you can either let the kids fill in, or for younger kids there is a pre-filled in version that you can cut and paste together.
10.  I don’t have to buy 3 workbooks for my 3 kids because this is a download

1.  This is only for me, but we were about halfway through the material covered in this book already, so to really get my use out of it, I had to start over.
2.  They recommend getting the teacher’s manual for the older kids, and I think you could really get away with not having that.
3.  Lots of paper and ink to print it all off.
4.  You need to keep track of little pieces of paper for a while because all of the pictures for a quarter are all together (I’ve solved this by paper clipping it to the textbook where we’re reading.).


The other mom and I have already decided we’re using All American History 2 next year, so obviously we LOVE it!  I only wish there were a lapbooking/notebooking thing like this for Mystery of History.

Science Sunday: review Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day lap book

Whew, that was a mouthful, but I thought I’d show you what we’ve been using with our science pick for the year.

This is a printable lapbook created by “A Journey Through Learning” on Currclick.  I got it during one of their periodic 50% sales, at some point I should join their affiliate program because I talk about them frequently enough.
There is also a black and white version, but I liked the appeal of color, and if I want I can print it in black and white.
Besides my kids are very back and forth on coloring.
What has been working for me is printing off a chapter’s worth of materials at a time.  The picture here is showing Princess holding her drawing of what she thinks a mosasaurus looks like.  Apparently they’re pink.
Very pink.
She thinks a lot of stuff is pink.  But, it’s been an interesting window into their world having them tell me what they got from the readings for the day.  Some days it’s been insightful, others it’s “They eat fish, Mommy.”  Thanks kid, anything else?
All in all I really enjoy this.  I especially enjoy that if we go back to this textbook I can just print off the material again and they can fill it out again.
Here’s a couple of fun things ya’ll did this week:

Journey to Josie shared about their leaf field trip and I LOVE how they spent time picking up trash first.

Fantastic Five shared how they tested for starches in their food using iodine.

Do you have anything you’ve found super helpful like this?  Something that went with what you’ve been using and made it so much easier?

FYI: I changed how long the linky was open, I thought the people who linked up later in the week weren’t getting as much traffic as other people, so I decided to close it earlier so the people linking later in the week can instead be one of the first ones on Sunday morning.  Oh, and this forces me to visit people earlier……….

My history picks

Favorite Resource This Week
After seeing Susan’s post over at Learning All the Time, and she was asking about history programs.  I immediately thought, I’ll link up to my review of Mystery of History, and then I’ll get off my butt and write my review of Time Travelers later this week.

And then I did a quick search of my blog, and found out I hadn’t actually written one.


So, here’s my review of Time Travelers, and then I’ll go back later and get Mystery of History.
<a href=””> Widgets</a>

So far we have the first four, and currently the kids and I are doing “New World Explorers.”

I have mixed feelings on the series, but overall I like it.


  1. Everything you need is included, there are already lapbooking, what have you all included on the CD-ROM.
  2. There is a teacher helps section with a schedule, and an extensive list of additional resources to use.
  3. At least one major project is planned for each week, but you won’t totally miss out on what’s going on if you don’t do it.
  4. Very thorough in the coverage of the material.
  5. I can reuse it again when we get back to this topic and I can print as many copies of the pages as I need for my kids (I think there is a classroom version to buy).
  6. I can organize the printed pages however I want, which I could not do with MOH because of it being bound…….


  1. It doesn’t include as much to adapt to little kids.  It claims to adapt down, but some of the major notebooking pages aren’t designed for little kids handwriting.
  2. The style is much more dry than Mystery of History.  So, my kids have a harder time with understanding the lessons.  This would not be a con for older kids, but for mine this is a big one.
  3. I have to print it all out, since it’s all on CD-ROM.

Overall I think I like Mystery of History better as a curriculum, but there are some features in this I really like.  I enjoy not having to create the notebooking pages and the like for the kids, and the ones they’ve got are very well done.

But, it’s not as easily adaptable to my kids ages.  They have gotten rather lost with a couple of the lessons, which means I need to do a bit more prep, which I’ve done to some extent.  I just need to follow up on it.
Because posts without pictures are boring, even if this has nothing to do with the post…….

Oh, and if you’re using Mystery of History head over to Being Made New, where she is compiling a MOH blog roll.

Our curriculum choices for next year

Because let’s face it all homeschoolers love to see what everyone else is using for their school year.  It’s part of our curiosity or what have you………
<a href=””> Widgets</a>

I was going to separate out what the boys are doing and what Princess is doing, but let’s face it.  She insists she’s 6 whenever it’s convenient for her, so she’s doing mostly the same things.  She’s just a couple of month behind in math, and she does less of the writing than they do.  She does more tracing.  That’s the main difference.

Apologia Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day– All ocean animals all the time.  My kids are so excited!  I didn’t know how many of their favorite animals were ocean animals until we started this study.  We’ve done a couple of chapters, and we’re probably going to repeat the ones we’ve already done.  We’d be going through it a lot faster if I hadn’t cough cough misplaced my book cough cough.  That’s what happens when you haul it around everywhere.  I think it’s in a suitcase somewhere……..  Which one is the question.  I’d guess we’ll finish this mid-way through the year and just move on to land animals.

First Language Lessons– grammar, copywork, memorization, all of it in one book?  Awesome!  It’s a fairly gentle introduction to the material, so I think this will be a good fit for us.

Bob Books– I know last year I said we’d be using Sing, Spell, Read, Write this year too, but as I got further into it I ran into the problem the readers that came with it are just way too long for my kids right now.  One of the beginning first grade readers is 50 pages long for one story.  So, we’re going to be using Bob books for now, I’m curious to see if All About Spelling gets their other reading levels out soon because that might be the answer…..  We’ll see.

All About Spelling- I think this combined with Bob Books and the various other readers I have will be quite enough to get them spelling.  It’s a lot like Open Court Phonics which I used when teaching and I loved that.  We’re part of the way through book 1, in case you can’t tell I don’t really worry about finishing things according to any sort of school year.  At some point soon I’ll have a post up about different ways to practice spelling.  I’m still thinking through that.

Time Travelers Colonial Life– This is part one of a six part series on American history that we’ll be doing with another family.  I’m really looking forward to history with this family.  It’s going to be very interactive, only downside is it will be a lot of printing.  A LOT.

Math U See Alpha- I wrote a detailed review of Math U See last year, and the boys continue to love it.  Princess is struggling with it, and I think it’s mostly maturity, not academics that is her problem, so I’m trying to figure out how to balance all of that.

Educating Layton has a Homeschool Curriculum Round up (that is hopefully still going on), that I’ll be linking this up to.

Not Back to School Blog Hop

My Favorite Resource of the Week: All About Spelling

Favorite Resource This Week


I mentioned at some point earlier that we’re LOVING our All About Spelling curriculum, and someone asked for more information on it.


I first saw All About Spelling when Jolanthe over at Homeschool Creations first reviewed it (her review).  It sounded interesting to me and then she kept talking about it.


I was going to wait to start it until 1st grade and then I won a copy of it and started looking through it and realized it’d be perfect to go along with our reading program and is almost a reading program in itself (for any former teachers that used Open Court Phonics it reminds me of parts of that, but is less scripted).


Here’s how it works:  First the kids memorize all the sounds a letter can make.  That’s step 1 (they don’t give timelines for any part, just steps).


Some sounds have ones I hadn’t thought of prior to this, so I’m learning a lot.  For instance “a” has 3 sounds a in apple, a in cake, and a in was (notice that one is a short u sound).


From there the program (in level 1) takes them through important steps needed to be able to spell.  Hearing beginning sounds, middle sounds, ending sounds, so on and so forth.


After 5 or 6 steps you actually start spelling, but by that point it’s almost easy for the kids.  It’s very hands on.  To figure out the sounds you pull down the letters you need from a white board, right now we’re just using the letters you see above because I’m still working that out.


Eventually when the child is ready you move on to paper and pencil.  That’s what I’m having the kids do right now for their spelling to practice handwriting.


Aside from the ability to move at our speed without having an artificial deadline I also like the review that is built in.  Each step has cards that can go in 3 categories: not yet taught, review, mastered.  If your kiddo has mastered something then move it into that category and only review it every once in awhile.


We’re about to introduce our first digraphs next week, and we’ll see how that goes.  I’m intrigued because it’s introducing them, and talking about it, but we’re not using them in the spelling words yet.  Just learning the sounds.  I’ll be curious to see how well the kids do with it.

review: Sing, Spell, Read Write

So, I have very mixed feelings on this product.  On the one hand, I do have to agree my kids are really enjoying it, and they seem to be catching on better (we haven’t hit the part where they hit a snag before yet).

But, on the other hand, I have to say their customer service is atrocious.

I ordered the K/1 combo kit, and it comes with a large number of workbooks, lots of games, a CD of the songs, and a treasure box.  It also came with a VCR tape of how to use this curriculum.  Yes, I did say VCR tape.  Really.  No, I’m not kidding.  VCR.

It has a teacher manual for the first grade materials, and a 2 page pamphlet for the kindergarten, and a VCR tape to explain how to teach this.
So, here’s where the problem set in.  I don’t have a VCR, ours broke 3 years ago, and we didn’t replace it.  I managed to borrow a VCR from my brother, and discovered the video is somewhat helpful, but not really.  It’s mainly going through step by step what it says in the 1st grade teacher manual.  Not too helpful, and very self congratulatory.

Also, it’s heavy on consumables.  They’re high quality, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a LOT of workbooks.  For each letter in the K program there are at least 6 or 7 pages.  I’m not sure how many you’re supposed to do a day because it never says, but I’ve simplified it down to 4.  Though, I’m guessing it’s one a day.  Maybe.

Now, as to their customer service.  When I discovered it was  VCR tape, and the scant K teacher manual they had said “watch the video,” I sent an email asking if there was a DVD available, and asking if there was more to the teacher manual somewhere.  It took over a week to get a response back, and it basically said, “No DVD, and look at the first grade manual.”  Not so helpful.

Now, here’s how I made it work for us, because heaven forbid I actually use something the way it was intended to be used.

As I said, I scanned all of the pages for one letter and put them into a word document and then I’ve simplified it down so they all print onto 2 pages.

For the cut and paste part, I have them glue it into a spiral notebook, and write the letter for the day again.

I will say this, for all of my frustration with the way it’s set up so far.  They really like it.  I don’t get complaints about sitting down to work on it, and they enjoy the different ways they present it.


They love to play the games.  I’ve glance through the readers, and I think they’ll love those too.  They’re bright and colorful and not too many words per page.


And, it seems to be working.  We’re not to the point of trying to read yet, but I see progress with all of them.  They’re handwriting is getting much better and it’s in amounts they can do at one time.

Would I buy it again?  Yes, though I probably would just get the 1st grade kit rather than the combo.  At which point I would buy multiple copies of the workbooks because those actually use all of the page.  Overall, mixed feelings on the whole thing.  UPDATE:  As we got further into the year the stories became too long for my kids and I had to quit using it.  There was too much frustration.

Disclosure: I bought  this, I was not given a copy to review, I’m just sharing my opinion for others to know what I think and help them make decisions.

Our curriculum choices 2010-2011

All right here goes.  I’ve done a lot of thinking, and I like everything we’ve chosen.  I’m pretty confident these are all choices we’re going to stick with for several years.



As I’ve mentioned before we’re using Reading A to Z and I still like it, but have come to the conclusion my kids need more than a bare bones approach that I’ve been using.  They’re very much audio kinesthetic learners, and while this would work for someone who’s good at just sitting and learning, this isn’t working for them.  My subscription is good through May, so I’m going to keep downloading and saving to my computer, but I’m going to add in a more structured lesson set with games and music, Sing Spell, Read, and Write.  I found a great deal through the Homeschool Buyer’s Coop, and bought it at half off.  Otherwise I wouldn’t have even considered it and we’d probably be struggling for a while longer while I looked for something different.  This will be our reading curriculum for the next two years.  I spent enough I sure as heck better stick to it.


For writing I’m going to finish up some workbooks we have, and then use the Jan Brett tracer pages to reinforce more.  If you haven’t check out her site, it’s AWESOME!  She has so many activities to go with her books and just for school use in general.  Be prepared to use a lot of ink when you go there.




I’ve mentioned before I’m using Math U See, and we continue to love it.  Right now I’ve put on h0ld continuing lessons until they’re better at writing numbers.  They could keep going, but I got tired of them telling me the answer, my writing it, and then they’re tracing it.


To practice this, I’m thinking I’ll just print off the Jan Brett tracer pages rather than buying a workbook.  I’ve got plenty of workbooks already, and I just need to make them sit and write, write, write.  Which they won’t like, but there are some parts of learning that aren’t fun.  Just like there are some parts of life that aren’t fun.




We’ve already started going through this, but we’re using Apologia Science Flying Creatures.  I first saw it reviewed over at Homeschool Creations and fell in love with the idea behind it.  It covers one topic per year and covers it thoroughly, unlike most elementary textbooks.  When I was teaching elementary school, most of the teachers (and this is me included) didn’t really use the textbook for more than a guideline of what to teach, and we found picture books to teach the same topic.  This lets me have a science textbook that is actually useful.


My plan to document how they’re learning is to create a notebook of what they’ve learned.  I picked up some lapbook templates from Currclick using a gift certificate I won from Chasing Cheerios (Bird Notebooking pages, Insect mini-books, and ready to assemble lap-books).  I’m also going to continue with the Science Journal Jeff started with them last week.  I’m thinking they’ll draw what we read about each day and as they’re writing, write a sentence.


And as always we’ll continue to post about this in my weekly linky Science Sunday.




We’re using the Mystery of History primarily.  I LOVE it, seriously.  Have you seen what we’ve done so far for Ancient History?  I had picked up The Story of the World, but didn’t like the way it was written, it just rubbed me the wrong way.  It’s not bad, just not for me.  But, I do like the activity supplements to go with it.  So, my plan is to use some of those when it works with our lesson for the day.




For geography we’re going to continue through the United States.  We’re slowly making our way through the 50 states, we’ve covered 8 so far (I think, but I want to go back to Colorado I have no documentation of what we did really).  As part of my gift certificate I picked up some of Teacher Book Bag’s United States stuff, which is apparently mostly in their $1 and 50 cent section).  I thought to use some of that as a game for the kids to play.


History and Geography I’ll link over to Debbie’s Geography/History linkie at Children Grow, Children Explore, Children Learn.




I’m slacking here.  I’m just going to use the artwork we create in our different projects in other areas (think of all the artwork we’ll cover in history alone!).  That and the stuff we do in stART (over at A Mommy’s Adventures , which I admit is mostly crafts if you want to get technical.




My kids run around enough right now that I’m not too worried about them.  Me, that’s another matter.  I’m trying to figure out how to get back into going to the gym and manage  the school schedule I want to keep up.


Well, that’s our plans for the year.  I’m going to hook this up to Mama to 3 Blessings when she gets the curriculum post up.