Thursday, March 24, 2016

U is for Ultimate Christian Movie Giveaway

I wanted to let you know that is having an awesome giveaway! I recently reviewed The Ultimate Gift DVD from I highly recommend this Christian movie! I plan on watching it a third time this weekend. Click on the DVD link above to read my review.

Visit Schoolhouse Review Crew Ultimate Christian Movie Giveaway to enter this contest. You'll need to provide your email address to enter. You have the opportunity to win a 5-Movie Prize Pack (retail value over $80). Review Review Review

Prize Pack Movies:
Good Luck! I see a few movies I would LOVE to watch and own! 

I will link this post up at Through the Calm Through the Storm's Blogging through the Alphabet Linky. Posts this week are themed around "Letter U." I will also link up at Year Round Homeschooling's Hearts for Home Blog Hop

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

TOS Review: The Ultimate Gift from Review

A physical copy of The Ultimate Gift from was sent to us to review as part of the The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew. We've already watched it several times and plan on watching it again real soon. Review

What is is a Christian online movie store that offers a wide assortment of family-friendly movie features from different genres including but not limited to drama, children's, Christian, romances, catholic, documentaries, educational, entertainment, comedy, and more. They carry wholesome video selections in DVD and Blue-Ray format. 

Movie Summary 
The faith-based movie is about a selfish and greedy trust fund baby named Jason Stevens (Drew Fuller) who learns some pertinent life lessons. Jason finds out that his grandfather, Red Stevens (James Garner), is deceased. Red's entire wealthy family shows their dislike and hatred towards him yet they still gather together for a will reading with hopes to gain his billionaire fortune. Jason who holds a major grudge against his grandfather expects to inherit absolutely NOTHING. Red hires a lawyer, Hamilton (Bill Cobbs), to be in charge of his estate. Before his death, they videotaped private messages related to a series of "gifts" or tasks. These tasks must be completed with success by Jason before he can receive the mysterious "ultimate gift" inheritance. If he fails then he gets nothing. Jason meets Emily (Abigail Breslin) a 10-year-old spunky girl with leukemia and her single mother Alexia (Ali Hillis) when presented with the Gift of Friends, a task requesting that he find and bring back one true friend. An unbreakable bond and beautiful friendship develops during the movie.

What are the Twelve Gifts or Tasks?
  • The Gift of Work
  • The Gift of Money
  • The Gift of Friends
  • The Gift of Learning
  • The Gift of Problems
  • The Gift of Family
  • The Gift of Laughter
  • The Gift of Dreams
  • The Gift of Giving
  • The Gift of Gratitude
  • The Gift of a Day
  • The Gift of Love
  • The Ultimate Gift
The movie recaps or sums up the 12 gifts at the end of the movie. This may help when having a conversation with your children about life and what matters most.

Additional Movie Details
The Ultimate Gift, which is a drama released in 2007, lasts approximately 117 minutes. It is based on a best-selling novel written by Jim Stovall. The DVD is rated PG due to mild language issues and some violence. For example, the word "hell" is used on several occasions. In the movie, Jason is confronted by a group of Ecuadorian drug lords carrying large guns they later fire. They threaten the lives of Jason and his guide. They captured and imprison them both after he learns the truth about his father's death. There is also a quick scene of Jason's gold digging ex-girlfriend wearing a skimpy dress while dining with a male figure. Smoking and social drinking scenes are evident in the move. The movie does contain off-screen deaths which may or may not be suitable for younger sensitive viewers. The suggested age range is 10-12 years old. I recommend previewing the movie in advance so that you can decide whether it is appropriate for your family or not.

Special Movie Features include Live The Ultimate Gift, Introduction to the Film by Jim Stovall, Behind-the-Scenes Featurette, and more. The movie has English or Spanish subtitled if desired.
Our Experience 
I watched The Ultimate Gift with my 8-year-old daughter who is very mature for her age. I didn't preview the movie ahead of time. We quickly put on pajamas and gathered our snuggle blankets to watch the movie in our living room on the comfy couch. Popcorn was popped, buttered, and ready to go. Throughout the movie, we discussed any discerning or problematic scenes or behaviors. We discussed alternative Godly behaviors after seeing Jason's rude and mischievous behaviors. We talked about etiquette as well. For example, at the beginning of the movie Jason arrives at the funeral location late in a loud, roaring car smoking a cigarette. We discussed the importance of being on time for important events and proper funeral behavior. We also watched this movie a second time with family members who recently moved to Texas as a way to relax after their long trip. They seemed to enjoy the movie.

Overall, the Ultimate Gift is a family-friendly movie with talented actors who gave a stunning performance. I can't decide on my favorite character, because Emily and Jason both play dynamic, extraordinary parts. Alyssa's favorite character was Emily, because of her humor and attitude about life. She said a few sassy things, but Alyssa really liked how Emily whispered to Jason during her Christmas holiday, "If you got nothing out of the deal but her (Alexia) - you'd still be a huge winner." This girl really puts things into perspective for Jason. This movie has it all drama, action, romance, friendship, adventure, and so much more.

The movie definitely teaches some major character trait lessons. Children will learn about generosity, love, kindness, loyalty, persistence, hard-work, courage, selflessness, ambition, and other important character traits. The strong plot teaches us valuable life-changing lessons. Christian themes are interwoven beautifully into the plot with a handful of touching scenes. The main character, or protagonist, dramatically changes from a spoiled, arrogant, rich kid to a kind, lovestruck, and generous man. You'll fall in love with this character as he develops and becomes more mature and passionate about the important things in life and how you should live it. His adventure helps him learn about unconditional love, friendship, family, and gratefulness.

The Ultimate Gift is a must see! It made us go through a mixture of emotions. We laughed out loud during hilarious parts and cried during other parts. One funny part that made Alyssa and I both laugh was when Jason was being lazy on a Texas ranch. He didn't want to wake up early to work so Gus (Brian Dennehy), the rancher, woke him up with a cattle prod. Jason's facial expressions made us burst out in laughter. This was one of Alyssa's many favorite parts! I tried to take a photograph of the screen, but there's a shadow at the top because of my television armoire doors.

Jason also learns that he is no longer given the luxuries of first class airline passenger benefits when he gets sent back to the economy class seating area. For the first time in his life, he experiences the reality of airplane rides as he sits next to a man falling asleep on his shoulder and a crying baby. This was another movie scene that made us giggle. His facial expressions really help you feel or relate to the frustration he is experiencing during the plane ride.  

Will Jason figure out the real meaning of life? 

We hope to watch the rest of the trilogy in the near future. I had a desire to watch more and was super excited when I found out they had additional movies in this series. was already one of my go to movie buying websites. I visit their website quite often searching for Christian-based entertainment as gifts for my daughter. I love browsing through the $5 Christian DVD's or under the Bargains tab in hopes to find a new treasure to watch. You can even search movies based on Recent Offers for different percentages off. I reviewed another one of their products in the past called Little Boy which we also thoroughly enjoyed.

I highly recommend The Ultimate Gift for family fun movie night for mature audiences ages 10 and up. The lessons to be learned are meaningful and relevant in today's materialistic world. It really makes you think about your priorities in life. Grab a box of Kleenex and some hot, buttery popcorn ready to eat!

$6.99 - $14.98

Note: Prices are subject to change without notice. provides free shipping on orders of $40 or more. You can also subscribe to their email newsletter to receive a 10% off coupon.

Watch the movie trailer below to see if The Ultimate Gift sounds interesting to you.

Social Media
Twitter @christianDVD

Visit The Schoolhouse Review Crew blog to read the reviews for 10 different movies. Click the link to read the reviews and hear about other crew member experiences! 
Crew Disclaimer Review

I can't wait to read the reviews for Woodlawn which is one of the movies on my wish list! Review

Saturday, March 19, 2016

T is for Tubman: Harriet Tubman

We are anxiously awaiting our Harriet Tubman: Freedombound book from YWAM Publishing written by Janet and Geoff Benge. It is part of the Heroes of History collection. Click on the following link to see a chronological list of books in the Heroes of History collection.

We already received the 61-page corresponding downloadable Unit Study Curriculum Guide as part of the TOS Review Crew. Alyssa and I started collecting books from our personal library about Harriet Tubman, the Underground Railroad, Civil War, and Slavery for our Display Corner. We are so looking forward to studying a new history topic.

What are you studying in History?

Are you familiar with the YWAM Heroes of History books?    

I will link this post up at Through the Calm and Through the Storm's Blogging Through the Alphabet Linky where posts themed around the "Letter T" are listed. I will also link up at Year Round Homeschooling's Hearts for Home Blog Hop

Thursday, March 17, 2016

TOS Review: Rainforest Journey from EdTechLens

 Rainforest Journey EdTechLens Review

I've been reviewing Rainforest Journey 3rd Grade from EdTechLens with my daughter for a little over a month now and it has really sparked a huge interest in the rainforest. This curriculum gently introduced new topics to my daughter and provided a change to our homeschool science routine. We've been working through Earth Science concepts and switching to Life Science was perfect timing.

Rainforest Journey is an online customizable Life Science curriculum geared toward children in K-5th grade. We received a one-year subscription to the 3rd Grade curriculum. Each grade level digs deeper into the content at the appropriate level, but they all cover the same unit topics. There are 34 lessons covering a variety of Life Science components. The lessons are organized into 5 essential units: The Big Picture of the Rainforest, Adapt or Die, Animals, Plants and Fungi, and Ecosystems. Each unit is further broken down into chapters and lessons. There are 1-5 chapters in each unit and 1-5 lessons per chapter. It's a virtual e-learning adventure through the rainforest which is aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards in addition to the New York Standards.
Rainforest Journey EdTechLens Review

Three types of primary resources were included such as video clips featuring factoid snippets and eight expert interviews were provided and integrated into the content. Several daily journal entries covering Days 1-3 were documented in a trip journal.

The Teacher Resources section consists of Teaching Guidance, Course Materials, and Support. The Course Materials were used the most, because it contained the Lesson Reviews, Unit Assessments, and Hands-On Activities. The Support area provides you with a Quick Start Guide, User Guide, and Contact information. Finally, the Teaching Guidance section addresses Pedagogy and Lesson Planning.

How We Used Rainforest Journey
I used Rainforest Journey from EdTechLens with Alyssa (Age 8) as her core 3rd Grade elementary science curriculum approximately 3-5 times per week for about 15-45 minutes per day. Adobe Reader was necessary for printing the PDF files. The short lessons were completed on our MAC OS X 10.9.5 computer via the student dashboard. Be careful that your child isn't working from the parent dashboard. I did that the first few days and thankfully caught the error before she was further into the curriculum. Each child will have a separate username and password. I could differentiate between the student and parent dashboards, because the student objectives are listed at the bottom of the parent dashboard. Alyssa completed 1-3 lessons per day depending on the length of the lesson and the time spent on the computer. However, I had to pull my daughter off of the computer on many occasions, because her interest in the content was so high.

We covered the content sequentially which is the default guided order. Each section remained locked and couldn't be accessed until she completed a topic. You can change or customize this feature if desired. Her progress through the curriculum was tracked and her grades were recorded. Each completed lesson was marked with a checkmark within a circle. Circles with a dash meant that the material wasn't studied or completed yet. As you can see below, the units are collapsible. The green highlighted content is the portion of the program completed and the pink indicates what hasn't been completed yet.
Student Dashboard
Showing Progress

In the beginning, we printed the Lesson Reviews in PDF format after each lesson. However, we eventually decided to utilize this resource as a way to take notes during the lesson so it was printed before beginning a lesson. This definitely helped Alyssa pay closer attention to the content and details presented.

We started a rainforest-themed word study. Several of the tougher words were added to her personal spelling lists. Alyssa hovered her cursor over each word to immediately obtain the definition on the screen when words were given in green print. This saved us a lot of time looking up words in a dictionary and helped her understand the words and their meanings in the context of the passage.
Click to Enlarge
Decomposition Vocab Word Defined

Alyssa wrote each bolded vocabulary word from the passages on 3" x 5" index cards to review later. She also created word building flashcard games and made several vocabulary worksheets using another online program. Concentration was one game we enjoyed playing to enrich the vocabulary section of the curriculum. Here are a couple pictures of the flashcards she made and the game we played.

A glossary of words is provided at the end of each unit. A leaf icon indicates a new vocabulary word. The words mentioned are in bold print and listed with definitions at the end of each unit. Important illustrations were also provided at the end of a unit.

My daughter preferred listening to the audio narration. She could easily read the content independently, because she is a strong reader. However, she wanted to follow along as the text was narrated. This feature will greatly benefit non-readers, struggling readers, children with special needs, or auditory learners. The material was presented over several screens including a leveled Enrichment Passage which extends the learning. The material can also be printed in PDF format, but we chose not to print it. The Lexile reading level is a little higher than the norm for third grade which can challenge children in a good way by providing them access to higher level content.

The primary resources were utilized as supplements throughout the week as they were introduced within the text. She listened to or read about each expert interviewed. Her favorite scientist was Phil Torres. Alyssa also visited the daily journal diary entries in order to learn more information and background knowledge about the focused topics.
Click to Enlarge
Phil Torres Interview

The Hands-On Activities found under Course Materials added an offline twist to the e-learning curriculum. Alyssa truly enjoyed the Hiding In Plain Sight Scavenger Hunt. I hid several pipe cleaner "insects" for her to hunt down and eat pretending as if she were a frog. She tallied up the number of insects eaten and graphed them by color. This was her favorite activity by far! On the right-side of the picture below are the student pages for this activity. On the left-side are the detailed teacher lesson plans. Grab your pipe cleaners and get ready for some fun! My daughter also loves butterflies so her next favorite activity was a simple cut-n-paste life cycle chart.

The end-of the-unit assessment resources were used to see if Alyssa was retaining or recalling the material taught. I appreciate that EdTechLens offered three built-in assessment methods: Factual Assessment, Depth of Knowledge, and Open-Ended Assessment. The Factual Assessment was a multiple choice test which my daughter preferred taking, because it seemed easier having answer choices with the amount of material covered in a lesson. The questions were automatically graded. The Depth of Knowledge contained multiple choice, matching questions, and other higher order thinking skill questions. She typed out her responses to the Open-Ended Assessment questions which needed to be manually graded by me. You must set aside some time for this task. I have to admit sometimes I waited a few days before grading them. I didn't always sit with Alyssa to hear or read the content so it made grading a little more difficult and time consuming. The program offered possible answer choices to the Open-Ended questions which helped when grading her assignments. I encouraged complete sentence responses, but accepted incomplete sentences.

I did add in related reading and writing assignments as supplemental enrichments. I wanted her to make even more connections with what she was learning. The fascinating non-fiction text passages and beautiful images turned out to be great research and report writing topics.

Overall Thoughts and Results
My daughter retained some of the information learned using Rainforest Journey from EdTechLens. She mainly remembered the facts that she felt were most important based on her interests. The grade level Open-Ended assessments proved to be a bit challenging at times, but she was a good sport. She did look forward to me grading them and expected feedback in the message area. I have to tell you a funny story . . . Alyssa also played a trick on me and sent a "Warning" message telling me I had to grade my child's assignment. I seriously thought it was from the company until I heard her giggle behind me as I read it aloud.  
Click to Enlarge

She was immediately drawn to the content especially the information about the unique animals found in the rainforest. The clear and vivid photographs were breathtaking. Most of the photographs are taken up close with what seems to be a macro lens providing exceptionally detailed images. The photographs were my favorite part. The photographers definitely captured the beauty of the rainforest.

Rainforest Journey seems more like a supplement. It is comprehensive for its purposes, but unfortunately we couldn't use it as a full year science curriculum. The content can definitely be covered in less than a year's time. My daughter has completed more than half of the program in a little over a month. The only way for us to continue this program would be to add a new grade level to our account. I am sure she'll be disappointed when she completes the program. At the rate that Alyssa completes the lessons, I wouldn't be able to afford adding the number of grade levels in one year that she would need in order to make it a full year science curriculum on a single mom's budget. Not to mention, this is only a Life Science curriculum. We're looking for a curriculum that covers several science fields for next year, but overall Rainforest Journey makes an excellent online unit study or interactive supplement.

I really appreciated being able to track my daughter's progress through the program. It proved to be a helpful overview with regards to the content she's covered and what topics are left to complete.
Parent's Dashboard
Alyssa's Progress

Numerous topics were addressed in the course outline, including but not limited to, the water cycle, life cycles, ecosystems, layers of the rainforest, animals, plants, fungi, predators, prey, and animal adaptations. Any topic discussing animals was Alyssa's favorite subject. She was extremely impressed with the content.  The factual information was thoroughly covered. It drew in her attention and inspired her to further research the topics of interest.

I can't tell you how many times she called me in from the other room to show me something new she learned. She wanted to share every interesting fact and photograph with me. And when I say every  . . . I mean EVERYTHING. I had to be near the computer just in case.

She is extremely interested in learning about animals. Alyssa liked how the curriculum was organized into separate units. She says it helped her learn the material better, because it was in categories. She also likes the different topics being studied. We will definitely finish the 3rd Grade curriculum before the school year is over. The rainforest theme was a topic we hadn't discussed much so this journey benefited our homeschool greatly.

What We Liked
  • Interesting Multi-Media Videos
  • Fascinating Non-Fiction Reading Passages
  • Integration of Hands-On Activities
  • Scientist Biographies and Other Primary Resources
  • Audio Narration Available 
  • Easy to Navigate and Use
  • Accessible on ANY Internet Connected Device
  • Visual and Auditory Learning Styles Addressed
  • Beautiful, Real Photographs
Wet Sundew Plant
Dew attracts insects and it feeds on them. 
Alyssa said, "Awwww I want one.
Mom, come look!"
Possible Vendor Suggestions
  • Lesson Review Answer Keys would be helpful even if they don't give exact answers. Otherwise, the parent must grade the papers by reading the content or watching the videos with the child which isn't always an easy task for larger or busy families. Some information will obviously be known by the parent or educator too.  
I recommend the Rainforest Journey from EdTechLens as a homeschool science curriculum supplement to any homeschool family or classroom with children in grades K-5 especially if the rainforest is being studied. It will work great as a whole class activity for a single grade level if viewed on a whiteboard system, small group classroom computer station exploration, as a single grade level co-op class, or as an individual study which is what we did. All learning styles and preferences are addressed. This curriculum is a fantastic option for ALL students wanting to explore the rainforest!

$50 per year/per grade level/one student
$180/year for classrooms (up to 35 users - one grade level)
Register for a free account to view grade level sample lessons

Visit the FAQ to learn more about Rainforest Journey.
Rainforest Journey EdTechLens Review

Social Media
Twitter @edtechlens

The Schoolhouse Review Crew blog has a collection of reviews from my colleagues covering several different grade levels of Rainforest Journey created by EdTechLens. Check them out!
Rainforest Journey EdTechLens Review

Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

S is for Spanish Suitcase

Alyssa loves learning Spanish. I wanted to share an activity we completed this week. It's an Interactive Suitcase. She's learning about clothing and accessories (La Ropa y Accesorios).

She cut and assembled her suitcase using a brad to hold it together at the top. Her task was to draw and number clothing articles inside her suitcase. Then, she made a corresponding numbered list. She tried color-coding them so I could find and match them up easier. She titled her suitcase, "La Maleta de Alyssa."

The activity was found on Teachers Pay Teachers for FREE. So, if your children are learning Spanish you may want to check it out.

I will link this post up at Year Round Homeschooling's Hearts for Home Blog Hop. I will also link it up at Through the Calm and Through the Storm's Blogging Through the Alphabet Linky. This week we are all sharing "Letter S" posts. 

I hope you enjoyed visiting A Learning Journey! Come back again soon. :)

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

TOS Review: Here to Help Learning Homeschool Writing Curriculum

Here to Help Learning Review

Alyssa and I received a one-year online subscription to all 6 levels of content on Here to Help Learning to review as part of The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew Team. We've been working through the Flight 1 Paragraph Writing lessons. This subscription also included their recently released Island of the Blue Dolphin literature study. The author of this amazing curriculum, Beth Mora, is a homeschool veteran who presents lesson content as different costumed characters. The program centers around an airplane or flight theme. The curriculum doesn't have to be completed in order, but the flights do build on each other.
Here to Help Learning Review

I was hoping to add a little more creative writing fun to our day. I also wanted my daughter to learn how to write cohesive paragraphs with attention grabbing openings and relevant closing sentences. Furthermore, I wanted to review this curriculum to see if it would be appropriate for a homeschool co-op class.

Product Description
Flight 1 Paragraph Writing is suitable for children in 1st-3rd grade. There are a total of six flights organized into two main groups. Three of the flights are meant for students working on Paragraph Writing and three are set-up for students working on Essay Writing which is designed for students in 4th-6th grade. Each flight is equivalent to approximately one-year of instruction if you utilize the lessons at the suggested pace.

Here to Help Learning teaches writing with a simple step-by-step approach. It addresses several writing styles including narrative, descriptive, persuasive, expository, and poetry writing. Not to mention, it incorporates the writing process into each project. Six projects or units will be completed during the course. Each flight provides the student with interactive videos, reinforcing worksheets in PDF format, and printable scripted teacher lessons. Visit the following link to see the scope and sequence.

There are 32 lessons included in the Flight 1 Paragraph Writing curriculum. Click on the lesson number and then the light blue rectangle for content.

How We Used Here to Help Learning
The subscription was used on a MAC OS X 10.9.5 computer. I suggest using Chrome for printing and viewing purposes. Click on the printer icon to access the materials. I tried using Safari, but the margins weren't printing properly.

If you are considering this writing curriculum, then I definitely recommend that you sign up for the free trial to explore the website, the lesson format, and organization of the program. I had Alyssa attempt one of the writing lessons so that I could see whether or not she'd like it.

There's a moderate amount of teacher prep and involvement. The parent serves as the facilitator guiding the student through the lessons. I printed the worksheets ahead of time. I watched the videos with my daughter and was available to help.

Teacher Folder
The Teacher's Guide or Writing Overview, which explained the curriculum and activities in a logical manner, was printed in PDF format and stored in a 3-ringed pocketed folder followed by the detailed, scripted, and numbered teacher lessons. The Quick Reference Guide was printed, three-holed punched, and placed in my folder too. It's chocked full of grammar and punctuation resources.
 Here to Help Learning Review

Writing Binder
We organized Alyssa's 5-tabbed binder so she'd be ready to go before the subscription arrived via e-mail. It'll store and categorize her assignments as follows: Notes, Writing Warm-ups, Projects, Flying Solo, and Language Helps. We added the 36-page Language Helps Booklet, which is a useful reference tool for budding writers, to the back tab in her binder.

I used Here to Help Learning 2-4 days per week completing 1-2 full lessons per week with Alyssa (age 8). We completed the lessons in sequential order since the skills build on each other within a flight. The recommended pace is to teach one lesson a week over a two-day time period. I liked that you could adjust the pace of the lessons. The first day covers the filmed instructional components and the second day is dedicated to independent writing assignments. I suggest keeping this pace with children who struggle with or dislike writing.

Day 1 
Video Instruction
The professionally filmed videos are the core part of the instructional program. The manageable lessons could be further broken down over several additional days if desired. We paused the action-packed video for games, activities, writing warm-ups, and for brain breaks. Mrs. Mora is a very passionate instructor who clearly models all the steps. I carved out 15 minutes to 1 hour for this portion. The parent should be involved in the lessons. This isn't a curriculum where you pop in a DVD and leave the room. The pause prompts guide you as the educator so you'll know when to step in and teach.

Day 2
Writing "Flying Solo" Assignments
Alyssa made a "Do Not Disturb" desk sign as indicated in the video, sharpened her two pencils, and gathered the necessary supplies. She was given 30-60 minutes to complete the age-appropriate independent writing assignments. It'll take approximately 5-6 lessons or 5-6 weeks to complete a unit project. We followed the suggested pace but usually aimed to complete the routine twice a week working on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.

The videos are organized and segmented into five distinct parts.
  • Pre-Flight Checklist
  • Flight Check-In
  • Take Off
  • Full Throttle
  • Flying Solo
The Pre-Flight Checklist contained supply lists needed to prep for a particular lesson which served as helpful reminders before getting into the meat of the lesson.

The Flight Check-In section reminded me to "paws" the video to check Alyssa's Flying Solo assignments and to give her Discovery Tickets for completed work. At this time, the biblical memory verse Colossians 3:17 was recited from her decorated scripture poster every class session.

During the Take Off component, we played games and she participated in the Writing Warm-Ups. Games such as "Sentence and No Sentence" and "Dead Words" are an included in this component. Alyssa would give me a "thumbs up" if it was a sentence and a "thumps down" if it wasn't a complete sentence. The "Dead Words" timed activity greatly enhanced and enriched her vocabulary knowledge. It gave her more colorful words to choose from when writing. The noun game motivated her to utilize more colorful and descriptive words.

I was responsible for leading the Writing Warm-Up exercises. Alyssa chose and wrote six key words in the word box. I assisted her with spelling. This method has proven to be a helpful tool to aid her writing and help her focus on a topic rather than stressing about spelling. She knew she could raise her hand during the timed session to get spelling assistance so she kept the words related to what could be seen in the picture. I set the iPhone timer for 7 minutes and said "Pencils Up." She worked and then afterwards edited her writing for 2 minutes.

Mrs. Mora reminded Alyssa to use a capital at the beginning of a sentence and to punctuate appropriately. She also encouraged her to choose her writing expectations and goals. Her usual writing goal was to write at least 10-12 sentences. My daughter's other goal was to write better opening and closing sentences. She tried writing a beginning, middle, and end for each picture prompt story.

My daughter was thrilled to participate in the Writing Warm-Ups. She thought the colorful photo-cropped pictures were funny and she immediately thought of writing ideas. The company has a Writing Warm-Up Gallery should you ever want to add a "free write" to your day in order to practice daily penmanship and inspire creativity. It could also be utilized on days when a Here to Help Learning writing lesson isn't scheduled.

Next, Alyssa recited the steps for the writing process with hand motions. Sometimes actions such as broad jumps or hand clapping were added as another form of physical movement. This really got Alyssa up and out of her seat which I believed jumpstarted her excitement. The completed writing process step was colored in and the next step was discussed.

Full Throttle is where the main lesson content is presented so it was the longest video section. Hands-on activities are often integrated into this component such as teaching the writing process steps with graphic organizers.

Captain Knucklehead, the costumed air pilot basset hound, makes an appearance when Flying Solo assignments are given. His personality made my daughter giggle every time she saw him. He clearly explained the "flying solo" instructions with a hint of dry humor.

Writing Process
Each project was taken through the entire writing process. Alyssa quickly learned, memorized, and recalled the corresponding hand motions for each step of the writing process. Each step was thoroughly explained and modeled.
  • Brainstorm
  • Make a List
  • Webbing
  • 1st Rough Draft
  • 1st Input
  • 2nd Rough Draft
  • 2nd Input
  • Final Recopy
  • Publish
Let me explain what we did during each step.
She really liked being able to brainstorm her ideas in a 2-3 minute time period by writing them down in all directions on her unlined paper. Mrs. Mora encouraged the children to be respectful to each other's writing ideas. For instance, during the brainstorm session children are not allowed to "make judgements" about the suggested writing ideas presented. The focus shifted to the number of ideas generated. Each time Alyssa brainstormed, she would generate an even longer list of ideas increasing or beating the number of ideas previously written. She earned Discovery Tickets when she beat the number of ideas written previously. In the end, she circled her top three writing choices and starred her favorite one. She was allowed to use a better idea if it popped up later. I look forward to seeing other creative ways Mrs. Mora teaches brainstorming as part of this curriculum.
Make a List 
Alyssa gathered information about a topic during this step using a listing graphic organizer. She LOVED that she didn't have to write in complete sentences. My job was to encourage her and show an interest. I could also teach her where to find information including but not limited to the following sources: Memories, photo albums, books, observations, informal conversations, and online research. 

The webbing graphic organizer helped my daughter group similar content together. It consisted of three white ovals for the main parts of the writing and two shaded ovals for the opening and closing sentences. Each oval was labeled with a heading. This step usually took us a little more time to complete. She needed to decide if an item occurred at the beginning, middle, or end of her writing. She also needed to discard impertinent ideas. I do wish that there was more lesson material to teach her about creating proper opening and closing sentences. The Teacher Overview offers the parent useful questions to ask their child during this step to aid the process. 

First Rough Draft
Now it is time for Alyssa to express her voice and ideas through writing rather than focusing on a perfect paper. This can be a difficult step if your child has perfectionistic tendencies. She skipped lines when writing. We discussed colorful or descriptive words and how they activate the five senses. She used other writing resources to identify better words. The Transitional Word List found in the Language Helps Booklet was a great reference to utilize during this step. I encouraged her to use 1-3 transitional words. She loved barking like a dog when doing the gesture for this step.

1st Input
During this step, Alyssa worked on improving the content of her writing. This helped her realize the importance of feedback and collaboration. Mrs. Mora's brilliant idea of PIP (Praise-Input-Praise) was another aspect of the program that I absolutely adored. She encouraged the use of respectful and loving words when giving input to one another. She also encouraged grace and good manners when receiving input. Children should say "thank you" and "please" when giving or receiving input. Mrs. Mora reviews the Rules of Respect before input sessions begin and she stresses the importance of reminding children about the use of PIP.

Alyssa would present her rough draft to me and I would record my PIP suggestions on the input sheet. We hope in the near future we can get friends more involved in this step. The author provides you with praise stems and mentions the importance of giving specific input. I challenged Alyssa to change 1-3 overused words. It is imperative that the parent focuses on only 1-2 specific areas needing improvement rather than tearing apart the whole writing project.

Second Rough Draft
After viewing the suggested input ideas, Alyssa read aloud her paper and changed the content thanks to the reminders from O.C.H.A. (Organizational Composition Home Authority). She LOVED the fact that she didn't have to rewrite the entire paper. She could add large chunks to her story by inserting numbered circles. She added in details on the blank lines and dived into her thesaurus in search for alternatives to replace dead words. She utilized several marks from the Editing Checklist provided.

2nd Input
We worked together to edit grammar and spelling errors. We almost always used a blue pen but when we buy other colors she'll have the choice as to which one we'll use for corrections. Mrs. Mora tells the parent to play the "hot and cold" game in order to teach the child to find the errors. The Quick Reference Language Charts and Second Rough Draft Editing Checklist helped during this step. She also stresses the importance of being a praised editor rather than a grammar cop. She wants the experience to be enjoyable and for the learning environment to be a place of encouragement.

Final Recopy
My daughter worked independently with some guidance on her assignments and created a colorful cover for her essay folder. Alyssa worked through the writing process steps and ended with a neat final draft ready to be published in her essay folder. We always used the 1/2" horizontal printable lined paper provided on the website. They offer many different sizes in both vertical and horizontal formats. The "flying solo" assignments are in checklist format. Alyssa received a Discovery Ticket for each checked off completed assignment.
Final Draft
What are Discovery Tickets?
The Discovery Tickets are available online in PDF format. This built-in motivational system rewards her writing efforts. I printed them on colored paper and gave Alyssa one for each assignment completed. All of the tickets were placed in a glass jar. Once she reaches our goal 20 tickets she will be rewarded with an ice cream mother-daughter date or outing. I also like to throw in extra Discovery Tickets for especially neat work or to reward her progress.

What are Essay Folders?
Alyssa created an essay folder for each completed writing project. She started the third project this week. The essay folder was created using 12" x 18" manila colored construction paper. It was folded in half and her final draft written on lined paper was stapled inside the folder. Once placed in the essay folder, the paper is ready to be published.

It's time for Alyssa to happily share her writing. She read aloud her "All About Me" paper to a younger friend hoping to encourage her when circumstances are difficult. My daughter also completed a self-evaluation form which assesses her strengths and areas needing improvement. Finally, her published essay folder was stored in her yearly portfolio.
Click to Enlarge

What are Self-Evaluation Forms?
At the end of each project, Alyssa was given a self-evaluation form to complete. She did a wonderful job evaluating her work efforts and personal goals. Afterwards, we discussed her evaluation together. I gave her positive feedback about her progress and ask her to share her future writing goals with me.

What is a Yearly Portfolio?
A yearly portfolio was assembled to store Alyssa's unit projects. I printed a two-page instruction sheet and we followed the directions for assembly. She decorated the front cover. I did the folding and stapling, because poster board is pretty thick and difficult for younger kids to handle.

Other Helpful Resources
I found several neat homeschool helps under the "Resources" tab such as the printable writing paper, discovery tickets, and a language helps workbook.

Feature We Liked
  • Segmented Videos
  • Writing Warm-Ups and Gallery
  • Captain Knucklehead's Goofy Humor
  • Repetitive Familiar Routine
  • Scripted Teacher Lessons
  • Flight Supply Lists
  • Interactive and Engaging Lessons
  • High Interest Writing Projects
  • Costume and Prop Use
  • Interactive Games and Activities
  • Christian-Based
  • Energetic and Hilarious Instructor
  • Flight Supply Lists

Overall Thoughts and Results
My daughter's confidence is growing and her writing skills are improving immensely because we are using Here to Help Learning. She's not as embarrassed or shy when presenting her work. She is growing more independent as we progress through the lessons. I am not worried about whether or not she is bored with her writing assignments, because I see the joy on her face. Furthermore, I'm confident that we are addressing everything needed for her to become a successful, better writer.

The yearly portfolio will serve as a treasured keepsake for years to come. I love having the ability to share Alyssa's writing gems with our friends and relatives. She plans on showing her portfolio to her aunt and uncle the next time they visit. This makes it easy to share her writing with her father too.

I appreciate that each child can write at their own level based on their own abilities. They choose their own risks and writing challenges. Adaptations can be easily made for struggling writers such as using dictation. The multi-sensory program addresses several different learning style preferences such as visual, hands-on, and auditory.

Mrs. Mora's enthusiastic personality and methods captured my daughter's attention. Her special quotes reiterate the words I say throughout the day such as "Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference." We've discussed the importance of attitude and its impact the people around you.
Here to Help Learning Review

Another feature that caught my attention was that it was based on a Christian Worldview. I appreciated how Mrs. Mora requested that children write God honoring stories. Many references to God and scripture were made throughout the lessons.

Here to Help Learning was easy-to-use and tapped into Alyssa's writing style creativity. This effective homeschool writing curriculum deepened her love of writing stories. It offered her meaningful writing projects with intentional purposes. Alyssa completed two projects: All By Myself (narrative) and Heroes Today (descriptive). She's eager to finish the Make Me Hungry (expository) project we just started which I believe will be her favorite one. It was truly an honor and blessing to review this curriculum!

The Here to Help Learning online subscription is available for ONLY $6.99 per month per family which includes all 6 levels of content. I definitely think this affordable price is worth the cost of the program and what you get in return! You can also purchase the curriculum in DVD format with accompanying workbooks in their online store.

I HIGHLY recommend Here to Help Learning to ALL homeschool families and homeschool co-op teachers working with small groups in search for a complete and comprehensive Christian writing curricula to use with their children. Several activities may work better with larger families, but it can definitely be used with families homeschooling an only child as I've done. The author gives suggestions and tips online for adapting activities for specific situations. For example, since an only child would be missing out on the input interaction, you can print additional input worksheets for designated friends and family members who are willing to help.

The multi-level writing curriculum will work well with reluctant, budding, and proficient writers. This program can be used with multiple children at multiple grade levels making it easy to differentiate assignments and lessons. Mrs. Mora's methods create a positive, encouraging, and respectful learning environment.

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