Book Review: Skip Rock Shallows

I just finished a book from Tyndale Publishing House that I loved.  I felt drawn to request Skip Rock Shallows by Jan Watson because it takes place in the mountains of Kentucky in a coal mining camp. I couldn’t help but think of my father and grandparents and the stories that granny told us of life in the mountains. 

Skip Rock Shallows Cover Image

Newly graduated from medical school, Dr. Lilly Corbett returns to the mountains of Kentucky to complete her internship before joining her fiancĂ©, Paul, who is completing his residency in Boston.  Her life is all planned out.  She discovers however that her heart is not aligned with her head. She is drawn to these people.  She earns their respect and she questions her decision to leave Skip Rock at the end of her internship. These people need her and she needs them. While struggling to establish herself as the coal camp doctor, she “crosses path with a handsome miner-one who seems oddly familiar.” 

I loved this book.  Perhaps I loved it because, while reading it, I kept picturing my grandmother.  My grandfather was a coal miner and my daddy was born in a coal camp.  Though I loved the writing, I was a bit frustrated trying to figure out the exact time period.  But my frustration didn’t prevent me  from enjoy the different characters.  For me this wasn’t so much a romance or love story (though there is romance and love) but more a story about a young woman examining her own heart and reaching for a future that includes her dreams rather than following the wishes of those around her. 

Lily comes to understand who she is and what she wants.  Her past and her future collide with the mysterious handsome coal miner.   The past finds closure and Lily sees the future with more mature eyes as she realizes that she must follow her heart and remain with the people who have come to mean so much to her.  I rarely cry while reading a book.  This book brought me to tears.  I highly recommend this book to those who love historical fiction but I especially recommend this book to anyone who has ties to the mountains of Kentucky.  Jan Watson captures the spirit of the people.  

Disclosure:  I received a FREE copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers.


Crew Review: IXL Math


For the past several weeks, Tailorbear and Supergirl have been using IXL Math, an online supplemental math practice program.  With an IXL membership (beginning at just $9.95 a month), your student will gain access to math skills ranging from Pre-K through Algebra.   A membership includes a parent account and one student account.  Additional students are just $2 a month.  Yearly pricing plans are also available.

I’ve used the word supplement, however, IXL uses the word “practice”.  From the User Guide “IXL offers a dynamic and fun environment for students to practice math.” (emphasis mine).   This program is not intended as a full curriculum but instead works alongside your regular program to provide additional practice for mastering each skill.  Did I mention that these skills meet state standards and that you can practice skills according to your state’s standards?

Explicit teaching won’t be found at IXL, however, explanations for each problem are available. When Supergirl or Tailorbear misses a question, she can choose to “show explanation”.  The program pops up with a “Sorry – incorrect box”.  She can click “ok” which takes her back to practicing or she can click “explanation” which will you give a hint or statement to remember and then show you how the problem should be worked. 

Choose by grade level
IXL Practice Tab

Or Choose by Topic
IXL by Topic

A few features I really liked:

  • The Weekly Family email report ~ This gives me an overview including what skills were practiced and how long each student spent on each topic.
  • FULL access to ALL the skills and topics ~ this means that either of my students can work on any topic or skill she needs.  Supergirl has been working through skills in the Pre-K, K and 1st grade sections.  Tailorbear has been working through mostly 7th and 8th grade topics.
  • Grade Level Can be Hidden ~ There is an option to hide the grade level.  This changes the “grade” to a letter level such as Level D or Level G.
  • Can choose skills by topic or grade(level) ~ When you click on the practice tab you will see a tabbed column on the left.  One tab is for grade (or level if grade is hidden) and the other tab lists by topic.  I love this!  If I want Tailorbear to work on a specific topic, I can send her to the topic tab and IXL will show her all the skills from every grade for that topic.
  • Math Problems can be “read” to younger students ~ For the Prek, K, and 1st grade, there is a “sound” icon the student can click to hear the problem read.
  • Deep Discounts for multiple children! ~ each additional child is only $2 per month or $20 per year.  This makes the program more affordable.

IXL doesn’t just want your child to excel at math.  “IXL is not just about helping your child learn math — it's also about helping your child learn to love the subject.”   IXL gives awards and prizes for things like time spent practicing and the number of skills mastered.  These awards are “like one big treasure hunt. But you only win when you excel!”

But what about our experience?  Would I recommend it?  (Yes, I would!)

Tailorbear reports, “It’s not a tutorial.  It’s practice.  If you don’t know it, you might need something else to teach it, but this is great for practicing to gain mastery.”   She also tells me that she “liked it. It’s really good for practicing stuff I have trouble with.”  I like this program for her because I worry that I haven’t been as consistent with math with her as I have been with her sisters.  I worry that she has gaps in her skills.  IXL fills in those gaps.

I love this program for Supergirl.  She needs so much practice for each topic and I can’t always provide more ways for her to practice, and cover such a wide variety of skills.  She can be independent with this program (as long as we’re working on skills at 1st grade or lower).  IXL steps in and provides the practice she needs and frees me to concentrate on teaching the other areas of Supergirl’s education. 

But what does Supergirl think?  “I like it because it’s fun but it was work to do all those pennies and nickels.”

There is so much I want to share about this program but I just don’t have the space in this post. Be sure to read the User Guide at the www.ixl.com website. It is full of information and includes a variety of screen shots!

Click on the banner below to read what other Crew Members had to say about IXL.com.


All information is correct and accurate as of the date of this review.

Disclaimer: As a TOS Crew member, I received a 6 month subscription for 2 students free of charge to review. I am required to write a review but I am not required to write a positive review. This review contains my and/or my daughters’ honest opinion with, hopefully, enough detail as to why I/ we liked or did not like a product so that my readers can make an informed decision. I received no compensation.


Q is for Quotable Quotes

I haven’t done a Blogging Through the Alphabet post in a really long time.  I took an unintended break but Marcy over at Ben and Me kept on going.  She’s up to Q now.  Q?  Q!?!  Quiet? Quake? Quote? (those were suggestions from Marcy herself <grin>) or maybe Quickly? Queenly? 

Well, if you read the subject line, then you know I decided on Quotable Quotes.  I’m always telling myself I need to write down those funny things my children say before I forget them.  I think I’ve forgotten most of them.  I may have already blogged about the ones I remembered but I think I have a new one or two I can talk about here.

Supergirl is developmentally at an age where what she says can be so entertaining. The other day ~one of the very few sunny days we’ve had this June~ she was chatting with her sister.  What BooBear heard was “Do you remember the <mumble mumble garbled sound>?”  Boo asked Supergirl to say it again.  After a few more attempts to get her older sister to understand she gave up and said “The [pool], you know, the bathtub outside.” 

I think my favorite quote though is the one involving Frank, the combine that acted like a Bull, in the Disney/Pixar movie Cars.  Tailorbear was telling Supergirl’s  Physical Therapist all about the movie.  “and then Frank, he’s a concubine, chased Lightning.”  Me: (trying not to be mortified and at the same time wondering where on earth she had ever heard that word!) “I think you mean, combine, dear.”  (Oh just where did she hear that word?  The BIBLE.  *sigh*  But no she didn’t know what it meant she just confused the two similar sounding words.)

I often twist my words around.  I wish I could say I stopped doing this when I grew up but either I haven’t grown up yet or I still keep doing it.  Many years ago, the spring before I met my husband, I was in a park with a friend.  We were in Birmingham England.  The trees had just started to have little leaf buds on their twigs.  I said “look, Carrie, the leaves have trees.”  Leaves have trees???!!!  We laughed until our sides hurt and from that point on it stuck.  Now every spring I say “the leaves have trees.”  At least I don’t have to explain it my husband and children anymore.

Is there a quote that one of your children have said that sticks in your memory?  Or maybe you’re like me and something funny you’ve said has stuck around? I’d love to hear what you or your children have said.

Be sure and stop over at Blogging through the Alphabet to read what Marcy has written.  You can read what other bloggers have written or write your own post and link it up!



Crew Review: MyMathLab Algebra 2 (Pearson)

When I was in 9th grade math was my favorite subject.  I’m weird.  I love math.  I don’t, however, always love teaching it.  I don’t always have the patience to go over the same type of problem over and over and I don’t always have the creative ability to present the same material in many different ways.  In other words, I could certainly use some help teaching math.  Especially at the high school level.

Recently, through the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I have had an opportunity to use MyMathLab Algebra 2 from Pearson Education with Turtlegirl.  This has been a fabulous experience for both of us.  This program has allowed me to be completely hands off with teaching and yet at the same time know exactly what Turtlegirl is doing and exactly how well she is doing.


This is a fully-digital course.  The Student Access Kit is $49.97 while the Parent Access Kit is an additional $30.00.  Instructions are included for registering and setting up your course.  You’ll want to set up the Parent account first and then repeat the process for the student.  The account includes everything you need to complete the course including teaching instruction, practice problems, homework, quizzes, and tests.

Let me start with the Parent/Teacher account.  I found it a bit confusing and not very intuitive to use.  After logging in, you must click on the name of the course.  Now you are at the HOME screen for MML and it looks exactly like the Student Page except on the lower left side is a button that says “control panel”.  This is the portal that grants access to what you need as an instructor: grade book, study plan, settings, etc.  I used the program with the default settings as I liked them.  The program comes with preloaded assignments and a default prerequisite setting of 90%.  This means that the student must complete one assignment with at least 90% before gaining access to the next assignment.  Ok, I don’t just like that feature.  I love that feature.  I can choose to remove the prereq or change the percentage but I want my daughter to master each step before moving on.

As the instructor you assign “date given” and “date due” to each homework, quiz, or test but with the prerequisite in place I didn’t feel the need to create due dates.  I set all the date givens as the first day of the course and the “date due” column is blank.

Though I wasn’t overly impressed with the Parent/Teacher aspect ~ it really is geared/designed for more of a classroom or school situation~, I love the student side of the course.  Love, love, love love it!  I love how independent my student can be.  She can watch a video, read the text, or ask the program to help her solve a problem.  And if she still has questions, she can let me know by using the “ask the instructor” feature which will send me an email!

I also love that I don’t have to do the teaching, or the grading.  My student is learning and I check her progress or make adjustments but I don’t have to spend time preparing lessons or re-learning math so that I can explain it to her.   I like that she sets her pace.  If she is struggling with a concept she can slow down and make use of the online textbook or videos.  If she grasps a concept quickly she can work through the problems and if she scores 90% or better she can move on. 

The biggest con that I can think of?  There isn’t a course for Geometry or Pre-Calculus. 


Thoughts from Turtlegirl: “I am really enjoying it. One of my favorite features is the “help me solve this” because it doesn’t do it for you but it takes you through the steps.  You have to work through it but it helps you by telling you what you need to do. I also like that you have to get a certain score before you can move on.  Overall, I really really like it. It’s a really good fit for me.”

My Bottom Line: I recommend this program.  Especially for families where mom may not feel confident in teaching Algebra. (There is an Algebra 1 program as well as the Algebra 2 program that we are using.)  This course can free mom up for other aspects of home education.

A year ago I had the opportunity of reviewing the All Together Social Studies First Grade text published by Pearson.  It was so difficult to navigate the website.  I am pleased to tell you that Pearson has a created a new website just for home educators (http://www.pearsonhomeschool.com/) and it is so much easier to navigate.  You can search by product or by subject or by grade level.  

The Crew reviewed several different Pearson Education products including different grade levels of Math, Reading and Social Studies.  Click on the Banner below to read what other Schoolhouse Crew Review team members had to say about these products.

All information is correct and accurate as of the date of this review.

Disclaimer: As a TOS Crew member, I received this product free of charge to review. I am required to write a review but I am not required to write a positive review. This review contains my and/or my daughters’ honest opinion with, hopefully, enough detail as to why I/ we liked or did not like a product so that my readers can make an informed decision. I received no compensation


Think Back: Animals, Animals, Animals

Yes, I know that it is supposed to be Think Back Thursday and I know today is Wednesday but thankfully Debbie over at Debbie’s Digest keeps her link open for a week.  (Thank you, Debbie).

This week’s theme is Animals.   I went through some old pictures that I have on a CD (Back in the days when we still developed film but you could also get a CD with all the pictures on them) and found a few that I wanted share.

This first one is from our first MAJOR vacation as a family.  We drove to Minnesota for a wedding and on the way we stopped in this tourist trap place in North Dakota.  We arrived after 10pm and were desperate for a hotel room.  We spent a bit of the morning looking around before hopping back in the van and continuing on to my sister’s house in Minnesota.   I know this is a statue but it’s an ANIMAL <grin>  This was June of 2004.  BooBear turned 9 on this trip.  The twins (Supergirl and Turtlegirl) were 6 1/2 and the “baby”, Tailorbear was 5.  Turtlegirl and Tailorbear were often mistaken as the twins. 



The following picture was taken by my husband.  I think it is in Saudi Arabia but I don’t know for sure.  He took this while he was deployed to the Middle East.  And we thought we had problems with deer blocking the road!



I was so thrilled to find this picture of our beloved cat Daisy!  We adopted her when we lived in NJ.  She moved with us to Missouri and then made the trip out west with us.  I don’t know exactly when this picture was taken.  It had to be after March 2001 (when we moved into the house) and before Mid July 2002 because that’s when we lost her.  She had feline leukemia.  The adorable little girl with all the curly hair?  That’s my Turtlegirl.  She would have turned 4 in late summer 2001.  I am thinking this picture is from summer of 2001.


After Honeybear came back from the Middle East we took a trip to the Ocean.  You can not see the Pacific Ocean in this picture but I assure you it is there.  One morning we were greeted with deer on the lawn.  Here BooBear watches the deer.  It was just a mini-vacation over a long weekend but it was great for re-bonding with Daddy after he had been deployed for nearly a year.  (This would have been sometime in June, I think, of 2003.  BooBear would have been turning 8.


Think Back Thursday is hosted by Debbie over at Debbie’s Digest.  The June 7th theme is Animals.  The next theme (June 14th) will be Outdoor Game(s).  


Which book, which book? So many books, so little summer!

The weather and the calendar disagree.  The weather has been dark, gloomy, cold and wet. The calendar says June. June means summer. Summer means reading fun books just for the pleasure of reading.

We’ll be schooling through the summer not taking much of a break from home education but because it’s summer, we’ll be adding in some just for fun books. 

We’ve decided that we’d like to do some of our summer reading as family read alouds.  The girls threw out suggestions such as The Jungle Book, or The Westing Game.  Perhaps we should read Treasure Island or re-read (again) the Chronicles of Narnia? I bet the girls would be thrilled if Daddy read any of the Percy Jackson series books.

Speaking of the Westing Game, Turtlegirl shared her reason for wanting this book read aloud again. (we’ve already read it aloud twice I think, and I’m fairly certain a couple of the girls have read it again on her own a time or two!) She says that she has fond memories of the first time we read the book. She had just learned a new vocabulary word, “carcass”.  She knew the word meant “dead body”.  She didn’t realize it referred to the dead body of an animal and not to human beings.  She continued to explain that her fond memory includes thinking that she was sure “they had discovered the carcass of Mr. Westing.” She went on to explain that she now knows it would have been a cadaver.

Whatever we decide to read this summer, I know that we’ll be making some great family memories.  On Tuesday the Schoolhousereview Crew: Blog Cruise will resume with the topic Summer Reading. After Tuesday you can read what other crew members are reading this summer.  In the meantime you can read past Blog Cruise Topics.



Costco is a Dangerous Place!

I wasn’t planning on a trip to Costco this week.  Poor planning and a need for clean laundry dictated otherwise.  Honeybear and I headed to Costco with a very small list: laundry detergent, frozen already cooked shrimp, cheddar cheese, V8 juice, coffee and produce (since the bountiful baskets sold out which ended up being a good thing since I couldn’t pick it up.)

What we came home with (in addition to the above items): Blue Diamond Smokehouse Almonds, almond butter, popcorn, lemonade, liquid dishwashing soup (for handwashing those items that don’t fit in the dishwasher), kitchen sponges, and an electric pencil sharpener.

No, we weren’t hungry.  We just happened to remember a few items we were out of and we remembered the Apostles Fast starts on Monday.  We’ll be eating more vegan and vegetarian meals for the next couple of weeks.  We decided that some almond butter and almonds for snacking for extra protein would be a very good idea.


And I gave up my Jelly Belly jellybeans.  Honeybear said I could get almonds or I could get my jelly beans.  I am pretty sure I will regret my choice at some point but I’m pretending that I’m trying to be healthier.

Please tell me I am not alone with thinking a trip to Costco is a dangerous undertaking!


Think Back Thursday: Historical Sites

The theme for the May 31st Think Back Thursday was Historical Sites.  When trying to decide what to post, I found some pictures of the day we went to the pioneer farm with several families from church.  Boobear would have been just a month past her 15th birthday, while Supergirl and Turtlegirl were a month from their 13th birthdays.  Tailorbear would have been 11. 


The girls tried out the desks in the one room school house while Honeybear and another dad checked out a map of the Territories.






There were inside chores to experience such as kneading dough and grinding coffee.  Tailorbear even tried on some of the clothes for a more authentic look.

There were animal chores as well.  Here Tailorbear shows off the chicken she caught!


Though this was only 2 years ago, I am amazed at how much the girls have grown and changed.  I think time really does move faster and faster the older I get.

This post is part of Debbie’s Think Back Thursday over at Debbie’s Digest!