Take the mystery out of all those High School Tests


Can I just tell you how much I, the MOM, needed a program like this?  Never mind how much my Junior and Senior in High School need it… I really needed it!

I am SAT illiterate.  I never took it.  I sort of thought it was optional way back then we rode our dinosaurs to High School.  I am aware of how it’s importance has morphed since the Ice Age, but I really didn’t know how to go about studying for it, or even figuring out where or when to take one. I went to the library and I checked out this book the size of an unabridged concordance and tried to make sense of what we would need to do to prepare.  All I ended up with was a headache from confusion, and a backache from lugging that book to the car.

College Prep Genius was, by comparison, a breath of fresh air.  When it arrived with it’s smart looking shiny black and red packaging, it was as if I could hear the distant sounds of the Calvary coming to my rescue.  A Textbook, Workbook, and  4 easy to watch DVD’s make up twelve lessons that will gently guide you and your student in preparation for taking the SAT/PSAT and NMSQT tests. 

My son is a Senior and in the process of going through this course at wham-bam sort of pace.  He appreciates how this course as taken the mystery and fear out of the SAT for him. He honestly had been thinking of avoiding the SAT altogether, because he was afraid to fail it.  He has gained confidence in knowing how the test is structured.

My daughter, who is a Junior, and her SAT illiterate mother are going through it at a much slower pace.  We are going to shoot for taking it once this year and then again next year.  Well, she is going to be the one taking it.  I am just soaking up knowledge so I can share it with others that plan to homeschool through High School, and be better prepared for the next two that are coming up through the ranks.

Bottom line is this.  If you have a child in Middle School, and you think that maybe, even a little bit, they might want to go to college some time before they are 50 years old…..  get this program. It will educate YOU the parent on how these tests work, and the timing of when some of them need to be taken.  The $99.00 price tag is worth every penny you can shave off of tuition in the college years.

Don’t be like me, and wait till they are a Junior and a Senior to get started.  Prepare for this when they are MUCH younger!

The people at College Prep Genius have put together an amazing website full of tips, information and a free online seminar.  I could keep you here on this post for hours if I tried to list all of the things this company has to offer, but I don’t think your coffee will hold out. So, please, please stop by their website to further educate yourself on how to earn money for college by helping your student study for their SAT/PSAT and NMSQT tests.

Lots of families were able to review this product and I am sure there is lots of information to share, so please take a few moments to visit the TOS Homeschool Crew page and see what everyone thought about SAT Prep Genius.



College Prep Genius provided members of the TOS Homeschool Crew their College Prep Genius DVD Set free of charge for the purpose of this review.  No other compensation has been received. All of the above opinions and experiences are those of this family using the product in our home. Thank you SAT Prep for your generosity in allowing the Crew to review your product.


hard to believe

It really was yesterday, at least in my own mind, when he started Kindergarten.  It’s a bit surreal to say that he is a Senior in High School, and about to Graduate.

Part of me breathes a sigh of relief, that some of the hard part is over….. the other part of me approaches the pre-adult/adult years with some trepidation. ….  I start to wonder things like, “Will he come home for Christmas?”

For now we will just relish the last year of High School and all of the fun that it brings.  He decided that he wanted to be in the Yearbook, at the Public High School he takes Choir classes at this year………  so I drug out the 6th Child (my Nikon…) and started snapping away.

Here he is:  The Senior

123a100 - Copy (2a)105 - Copy (2a)105 - Copy (3a)123 - Copy (3a)004 - Copy (3a)009 - Copy (3a)046 - Copy (3a)089 - Copy (3a)123 - Copy (2a)

Love ya bud.  Have a great year!


I have a secret

I have a confession to make.

My confession will help you understand this particular review. I am supposed to be honest with you, a transparent homeschooling mom.  I need to get it off my chest……….  I homeschool and I don’t teach Latin.

There.  I’ve said it.  Now you know my dirty little secret.

Wait! there is more!……  if you don’t understand this about me…. you are not fully going to grasp what I have gone through for you, to bring you this review.  I shall explain.

TOS crew members have a very small voice in the items that we receive for review.  We are asked to comment on our level of interest for various products.  Then the review coordinators make the final choice, based on what best fits the vendor’s needs.  It is hard work, I don’t envy them in their decision process.

My level of interest comment about Latin review products went something like this:  “I would rather chew off my own arm, than try to teach Latin.  I can’t pronounce the words, it is miserably comical to watch. Please spare me and my children and choose someone else for this review.  However, if you need me, I will endure…”

Guess what?  The people that pick reviewers, have a wicked sense of humor and I received a Latin product to review.

When the package arrived in the mail, I whined, OH how I WHINED to myself, and now I will come clean and tell you about it, beyond whining……  I moaned. I had a “why me?? why must I be tortured” party…..

……and then I took a deep breath, put my big girl panties on….. and plugged in the DVD.  It was ten lessons.  How hard could ten lessons be?


Such a nice young man greeted me.  He spoke with a sparkle in his eyes about Latin and why it was important to learn.  I had to fight the initial urge to think he was crazy.  My experience with Latin was far different from what this man said.  My experience with Latin was painful, time consuming, and embarrassing.  How could it be possible that it was really important?

With my big girl panties firmly in place……. I listened on……..  I will to give this program a fair shot, I will give this program a fair shot….. it has become my mantra.    It isn’t their fault I am allergic to teaching Latin.

I plug on through Lesson 1A.  Verbs, the State of Being kind….  ok… good to know….. Lesson 1B… Sentences….. a crowd is beginning to gather behind me on the computer.  Hunter who is 9 has ceased doing his Math and is repeating after Mr. Bright Eyes on the screen.  Did he understand that?  Evan and Tayler, in High School are laughing softly at his jokes.  Jeremiah (4) is saying Deus est bonus….  while driving his racecar across my lap. Hmmmm…. the kids seem to like it…. why is it I was allergic again?

Lesson 1C…. reading Latin… what?  you tell me one verb, toss me a few paltry sentences and now you want me to read it?  I think the Southern humidity (umidus) has fried this poor man’s brain!  And then he tells me that he is going to quit speaking ENGLISH?  oh here it comes…. this is why I was allergic.

What was my mantra again???

Lesson 2…. I shall press on. Set up is the same…  grammar, sentences and reading.  He is still speaking English….  this is good.  He is on to predicate nominatives, and predicate adjectives….  something I barely understand how to teach in English.  This is a bonus…. grammar lesson and I didn’t have to teach it.  Bellum. (beautiful) Wait? Did I just think in Latin?  Weird.  How is this possible after only two lessons.  Kids are still crowded around, still engaged…..  still chortling at very silly jokes…..

And so it went as we skimmed our way through the DVD.


My mind is beginning to change on the possibility of incorporating Latin into our studies.

When we began again, as actual lessons during the week, we would watch a section and do the worksheet that was provided with it.  They are right there as a PDF on the DVD.  Pop it into your computer and print them out.  Very easy to do.  No one struggled.  No one whined….  I didn’t have to invent the way a word sounded….. it was all there on the DVD for me. If we didn’t get it… we went back and watched again. The kids were translating words within the very first page.  This program really gets them THINKING in Latin.   It was great!  (wait? did I just use GREAT to describe the teaching of Latin?)

So, if you are like me, and currently suffering from metus lingua latina (aka. Latin freaks you OUT!).

I highly recommend Visual Latin.  The creators are not joking when they say your child will ask to do their Latin.  Mine have, and still do.  They love it, even if you as the mom have no clue where to begin teaching Latin.  They guy on the video does!  He teaches for you! Painless, easy, non-time consuming….ahhhhhh…..

They offer a few Free Lessons, so you can see what it is like…. a try before you buy sort of thing. I would say that you could use lessons 1-30 as a High School level course.  But don’t limit yourself to only letting your High School students use it.  My 4 year old watched with us and learned Latin.  He didn’t do the worksheets, but he will when we review it again when he is older. My nine year old did the worksheets along with the videos and he walks around the house muttering sentences in Latin all day.  Good thing I watch with them so I know what he is saying….haha.   Visual Latin is for the WHOLE family.

They have lessons available for Download  or in DVD format like I received.  They even offer a live class.  Every option has worksheets that go along with it to help cement the lesson your child just watched.

Pricing ranges from $25.00 to $115.00 so please check their store out for the option that best fits your family budget. http://store.compasscinema.com/categories.php?category=Visual-Latin  If you ask me…. $25 is a heck of a deal!

If you would like to contact the company directly with more questions about how their program works, you can find them at:

The Compass Store

609 West Iris Drive

Nashville, Tennessee 37204

or go here for their email form.

I am sure there are parents out there who aren’t allergic to teaching Latin, who didn’t need to confess to the world their inadequacy in this area, when all the homeschoolers around them seem to just LOVE Latin…..  to read those parents reviews of Visual Latin Lessons 1-10, please visit the TOS Homeschool Crew page.

***** Disclaimer*****

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I received a DVD copy of Visual Latin Lessons 1-10 from Visual Latin, free of charge, solely for the purpose of this review.  It really has changed the way I view teaching Latin.  All of the above experiences and opinions are my own.  No other compensation has been received.


Big IQ Kids


BigIQkids.com presents a unique learning method designed to help each child develop the skills needed to perform to his/her full potential. Our award winning programs are designed for students in grades K-12 and promote spelling efficiency, vocabulary building, math fact mastery and US geography knowledge via multimedia reinforcement and independent learning.

BigIQkids made it’s PREMIUM program available to The Old Schoolhouse Magazine’s Review Crew in August, and we have been using it for a little over a month now. 

Hunter (9yrs old, grade 4) was our primary user.  I did create an account for Jeremiah (4) to see what the Junior Spelling Program that they offered would be like. ( It was great for those younger learners!) Big IQ Kids states their website is for children in Kindergarten – 12th grade.  I would make sure your Kindergartener is familiar with the Keyboard, and it beginning to spell small words before you begin using Big IQ Kids.  Jeremiah being in Pre-School did not get much use out of the program at all, during our test period, we will see if that changes as the school year progresses.

Hunter, on the other hand, used it, and enjoyed it! Except for Vocabulary… but I will explain that in a bit.

First, lets talk about what BigIQkids actually is. 

BigIQkids is an educational website designed to foster independent learning.  It is available as a free spelling and vocabulary program, to anyone who would like to improve their child’s skill in those areas.  The Premium Program builds on this base and has enhanced features for Spelling and Vocabulary, and adds in Math and Geography, with its U.S. States program.

Take a look at what they describe the difference as in their Free and Premium options:

The primary differences between the BigIQkids FREE and PREMIUM programs are the ability of the PREMIUM program to monitor the progress of the student and advance that student only when mastery of the subject matter has been achieved. Additionally, PREMIUM members have their progress tracked, saved, problem areas identified and these findings are reported via email to parents and/or teachers. The PREMIUM program offers students customized buddies, full game page access and the ability to save game coins and gaming high scores. These functions help double the fun while mastering core academic subject matter. The PREMIUM program has very LIMITED advertisement an no ads are displayed during lesson interaction.

You may purchase PREMIUM programs in a variety of ways.

Math only :


  States only:



Or as a complete bundle:

bundle price

Visit http://www.bigiqkids.com/membership.html for more detailed information.

We used BigIQkids as a supplement to our existing curriculum in Math, States and Spelling.  We tried to use it everyday, but some days we weren’t around the computer. 

What we liked:

One of Hunter’s favorite programs was the U.S. State Program.  Each day you start with the interactive map and learn a few pieces of trivia about a particular state.  When the program asks you the questions there is a button the student can use to hear the answers.  For those that are not strong readers this function is WONDERFUL!  It made his time on BigIQkids a completely independent learning experience.  I was free to change over the laundry or load the dishwasher, or help his little brother with Pre-School, during Hunter’s time working in this program.

I like the fact that as the states program was asking you to spell something, it showed it to you.  It didn’t expect you to automatically be able to sound out the word.  Hunter struggles with spelling, and this was a great feature for us.  He was able to do what the program asked, and feel successful completing the lessons.

I enjoyed how the math program was customizable.  So did Hunter! The default setting is for 50 questions, and that is A LOT of math when you are already doing it away from the computer.  I was able to go in and change the program to only show 10 questions making math on the computer a nice quick review.  We were able to answer questions in simple addition and subtraction, multiplication and division, and double digit addition and subtraction, every day.  This was a great way to keep him experienced in all types of problem solving without having lots of worksheets to do.

With Hunter’s spelling struggles, I expected him to be resistant to the spelling part of the website.  However, the opposite was true.  He really liked it!  He was eager to spell the words and play the games.  He seemed to have a great time sounding out the words, something he struggles with on paper, but on the keyboard he didn’t seem to mind. Again, the showing of the spelling word for many days as you are spelling it within the lessons was a large help and confidence booster.  He had SEEN the word spelled so many times and places correctly that when he would spell it on the tests he would SEE that it wasn’t quite right, and be able to change it. The program will not let you pass a spelling list until you have passed at 100%, which is another feature that helps assure that you are really spelling the words correctly.

We will take longer than a week to do a list of spelling words, but by using this program in conjunction with the flash cards that I am already using, I believe we will being to make some serious progress in this area.

What we didn’t like:

Sometimes the computer generated voices are weird, at least for me, but Hunter didn’t seem to care one bit.  I did make sure that I was saying the spelling words out loud with him the first few times we worked on a new list so that he understood how the computer was pronouncing them versus how we really say them.

Sometimes the program seems a bit glitchy, but I think that was a browser issue (Chrome) and not the program itself.  We would have to toggle around awhile to get to certain programs because the option to choose them didn’t appear on each page.

If you went to the games page to use your coins after each lesson, you had to log in again to do more lessons.  Sometimes you had to log in 3 or 4 times a day.  Great for password memory skills, but it didn’t always make for smooth user interface in the first few weeks.  There were lots of “MOOOOOMMMMMM, it logged me out!….again!”

Vocabulary wasn’t much of a fit for OUR family, at this time.  Hunter didn’t need two different lists to study words on each week.  It was too much.  So we just chose to skip this option.  Now, if you chose to use the vocabulary words AS your spelling words in the combined spelling and vocabulary list, it might work better.  I did like very much the way it gave the definition, the antonym, and synonyms for each word. The lessons and games for the vocabulary portion are very thorough.  Your children will really know the word by the time they are through with the vocabulary program. I think that after we get a handle on the spelling, I will incorporate this using the spelling list he is currently working on.

Closing thoughts:

It is really important to remember that while almost all portions of BigIQkids is available for free.  It is customizable only within the Premium Program.  Having the Premium Program is where you can make it work for you.  Changing problems in math, adjusting passing percentages, adding word lists, unlocking games, adjusting grade level work…… are all part of the advantage when you purchase the premium program.

Overall we liked BigIQkids and plan to continue using it as the school year progresses.  This is not just a homeschooling curriculum.  Children attending more traditional schooling institutions would also benefit greatly from using BigIQkids. This would be a great way to “tutor” the struggling public or private school child without ever having to leave the house. Grandma?, Grandpa?, this is a great educational gift to invest in for Christmas and Birthdays. 

Never. Ever. … take just my word for product reviews.  Lots of families, with lots of different learning styles spent time using BigIQkids this last month.  You can read what they have to say HERE.

Take the time to visit BigIQkids.com and see ALL they have to offer.  There is SAT prep, Vowel games, interactive homework lessons, E-books, and much, much more.

See you soon, Happy Schooling!

name gif


we received free access to the BigIQkids Premium Program in exchange for an honest product review.


Uncivilized? well, Civilize This!

PhotobucketFounded in 2007 by a Canadian Mom, Griddly Games states : “Our philosophy is to offer games that encourage social interaction, learning, strategy and challenges that anyone can enjoy.”

Early in August we received their Wise Alec Game, Civilize This! to review.  This game really makes history fun.


Created for children ages 8 and up, and for 2-4 players, we found our family pushed the envelope.  We had our 4 year old play along with us, and we had no trouble playing with 6 players.  The game contains 4 decks of cards and a colored die.  You roll the die to see what cards you will answer questions from.  Each card contains an easy question and a harder one.  You answer questions about Ancient, Modern and Medieval time periods.

Our favorite deck was the Wise Alec deck.  These cards were great for family members of ALL ages to participate with.  You will find yourselves marching, saluting, speaking in accents, doing pushups, and pretty much laughing until you can hardly breathe. 

This is a stand alone travel game or can be used as an expansion set for the Wise Alec Trivia game.


Point values are assigned to answers on the history cards, and for the actions on the Wise Alec cards.  The game suggests playing for a certain point value, yet we found it easier to play until a timer ran out.  It kept the games from going on too long and kept the younger children engaged. 

I will tell you, this game exposed exactly how much or how LITTLE we knew in certain areas of history.  As a teacher/mom I was able to see what areas we should go back and review!  You don’t need to be a homeschooling family to receive benefit from this game.  If your children attend school outside the home and you want to help them brush up on their history facts, this is a great way to sneak learning in!

We were not able to be as competitive with this game as we have been with others.  This was borne from the fact that the majority of family members were stumped as we played the game.  Still, everyone was eager to glean new bits of trivia each time we played.  It is becoming much more of a school time game than a family fun game.  I often use it now as a break from the History books, and a way to get all the kids learning together.

If you are interested in purchasing this game for your family; please visit the Where to Buy page of the Griddly Games Website.  Prices may vary depending on where you purchase, but a common retail price seemed to be around $15.00.

Be sure to check out what other families have to say about this game and how it worked in their homes, by visiting the The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew blog.



As an independent contractor with the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I received a Civilize This! game free of charge. It was provided by Griddly Games solely for the purpose of this review.  No other compensation has been received.  I am under no obligation to furnish a positive review.


Teachers Toolbox

Today is the first of September.  Many Public and Private schools are back in session, and from all I see on message boards and across Social Media sites, many Homeschoolers are back to the books as well.

I just wanted to remind you of an amazing resource out there for homeschool families.

This month’s subject is Struggling Readers, please be sure to stop by and check out all the great information other homeschoolers have gathered to help you in this area.

The menu this month is completely FULL of Crock pot recipes to help ease your load with easy to prepare, family friendly meals.

All this is free to those who already subscribe to The Old Schoolhouse Magazine.  Click on the Toolbox above to get your subscription today!


Homeschool Transcripts made easy

Are you freaked out a little bit at the thought of making a transcript for your high school student?

I know I was. 

I mean, I knew I could make one in a spreadsheet, or create one in a word document…… but that takes time.

Time is something I am short on these days.

I didn’t want to have to format, fiddle, rearrange, fiddle, format some more, do the math to make the GPA right…. ugh…  and hope that it looked all nice and professional.   I mean really, let’s face it…. coffee stained, handwritten transcripts are not the things that inspire a college to admit your little genius.

I am excited to tell you about an amazing product that I was privileged to be a beta tester for.


This has to be the greatest thing since parents decided to educate at home.  It is SO easy to use !!

The getting started wizard asks you to name your school, enter the years you are creating a record for, select the grade point values of your letter grades, it gives you a helpful list of possible classes…. or you can just skip the wizard and get right to work setting up the program.

It is easy to add students, classes, subjects, and grades.  You can enter how many credits are needed to graduate your student.  (I found that information out by just searching the Internet for the graduation requirements for my state.)
If your student attends college classes, or takes honors classes, you can weigh those classes more heavily into their GPA….  The program does it all the math for you.  You can enter testing data, extracurricular activities…. and it will all show up on the Transcript.

About half way into the beta testing process, I contacted the developer with a question….  I wondered if we could add some sort of a progressive or projected GPA to the transcript.  You see, in my state homeschoolers are allowed to participate in Public School Sports programs……  but that means they need to have grade check like everyone else does….  Steve Sensenig, the homeschool dad and creator of this program, went right to work adding this progressive feature to My Homeschool Transcripts

Last week,  we were in the school office paying our fees for Softball…..  (she made JV by the way) and the Athletic Director came out and asked if there was a way I could get them Tayler’s grades.  I looked at him and smiled….  “Yes,”  I said.  “I will go home and email them to you this afternoon.”  I got that look, the one that says….  “sure you will, homeschoolers don’t ‘do’ grades”

Thanks to My Homeschool Transcripts, I was able to go home, plug in her 3rd quarter grades and in under 5 minutes I had a PDF transcript to email to the Athletic Director, with her projected GPA right on it.   HA!  It was great ! I felt so smart and organized !

This web-based application has an introductory price of $ 59.00, that is 25% off the regular price of $79.00.  For that price, you receive access to the application for LIFE….  all your kids, for all the years you homeschool…. how nice is that?  Including the 2 I have IN high school, I have 2 more still to go through high school and into college, and My Homeschool Transcripts is going to be there to help me do it !

This program is really worth the investment.  You can’t put a price on peace of mind.  Go and get it now at this great low price!

*** disclaimer***
I received a copy of My Homeschool Transcripts for free in exchange for beta testing the software.  No other compensation has been received.  I was not asked to write a review on this product and have done so of my own volition.  I just think it is a great product and people need to know about it.


Homeschooling High School Options

Ok High School is coming…..

and the two things that are on your mind are:

How in the world am I going to get a Dissection done for Biology? 


There is no possible way I am going to be able to teach upper level Math…..

Relax… I have ya covered.

Stop with the premature panic attack… go refill your coffee cup…. get a few good clean breaths… and come back and finish reading when you are ready.

We will start with Science…
I have found this great resource that you can use to supplement any curriculum that you choose.  OR you can use it as your curriculum.

Go and sign up for the Landry Academy Newsletter.  Before you tell me you don’t need another newsletter sent to your inbox, you do need this one for science.  It isn’t overwhelming, but it will keep you informed of all the upcoming free classes that he offers…. and get this………

HE DOES THE DISSECTION….  can a get an amen from moms across America?!!?  This is great news for kitchen scientists everywhere!….  No more dissection trays in the kitchen sink when there is dinner to prepare.  No more scalpels falling into the wrong hands and them reshaping the couch…..no more of that “smell” on your counter tops and in your sponge…. uggh!

To get a feel for how they are…. there are two recorded dissections available for you to look at right now!

As for High School Math……  You need to read the reviews I have written on several of the top online, and textbook curriculum’s that are out there.  There are free trial options that are available, and you can spend some time this winter trying out a new curriculum, or over the summer try on a few programs to see if they are a fit for your family.
Really tho, remember that you can teach High School.  I really believe that anyone who lived through those years comes with automatic qualification to teach about those years.  High School is only an extension of what you have done in the past.  I am surprised daily at what I understand and remember about Algebra, and how I am able to explain it in a way that  makes sense, simply because I know my kids, and how they think.  I even understand some stuff about Algebra 2 ( and I never even took that class! ) 

I speak from experience… I have 2 in High School now, and we are making it just fine….  I know you will too!
Hope these resources help !


Determining Highschool Credits

My goal for the summer is to have a real good handle on transcripts for my oldest two children.
So this morning, I went to consult the oracle (google) with my query “determining high school credits”. The oracle replied with a very informative link from the HSLDA.  I suggest that anyone with a middle schooler or above go and check it out.

I can now rest assured that the 104 bazillion hours that we seem to spend around musical activities, practices, performances…. will add up quite nicely as an elective classes for the kids.  One for instrumental music, the other for Choir.

Also, in case anyone is on Facebook…. I recommend that you friend Lee Binz- The Homescholar. She is a wealth of information on transcripts…. and she is flat out FUNNY!  Her blog is here, and here website is here.

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