TOS Review: Parenting Made Practical

parenting made practical

It’s funny to me how every stage of parenting presents its own challenges. When kids are little there are midnight feedings, endless diaper changes and the constant challenge of keeping them out of trouble. As they get older you face different struggles like teaching them to make good choices, dealing with friends, and peer pressure. Parenting older teenagers certainly isn’t any easier, though the methods change. Sometimes I feel like I am in a constant cycle of lecture my kids, see minor improvements, things go back to how they were and then I lecture again. So, I was very interested to check out the book Taming the Lecture Bug and Getting Your Kids to Think from Parenting Made Practical.

Taming the Lecture Bug and Getting Your Kids to Think Book

This short book offers many valuable pieces of advice to help you stop the lecture cycle and get your kids to start thinking for themselves about the choices they make. Written by Joey and Carla Link (the founders of Parenting Made Practical) it is based on their own experiences raising their three children. They intersperse the information in the book with highlights from their own lives, which I always appreciate. I hate when I read a book that offers advice, but doesn’t show you how the author has lived it out in their own life.

The book begins with descriptions of failed lecturing techniques with some real insights into why this doesn’t work and how kids think. This helped me to look at lectures from a kids perspective (believe it or not, it’s been a while since I was their age). I could see how, from my child’s perspective, lectures can easily go in one ear and at the other. I could also see how my constant lecturing was only feeding the cycle and in some ways, encouraging my kids to remain exactly where they were.

After the background information, Taming the Lecture Bug moves into describing real and practical ways you can change your own behavior (which should also lead to changes in your kids behavior). I found much of their advice easy to implement and I look forward to applying more of it in my life. This book also includes a lot of scriptural background for the techniques given, which is something else I appreciate.

At the end of the book is an appendix that includes the steps in the Repentance, Forgiveness, and Restoration process, helpful charts and book recommendations for teens that will encourage them to lead the life God has for them. I already have some on reserve at the library for my son.

So, what you really want to know is how did this affect my child? Well, at first he was pretty surprised at the lack of lectures he was receiving on a daily basis and I’m not sure he knew exactly how to react. He was skeptical to say the least. However, as time has progressed I have seen him taking more responsibility for himself and taking care of things on his own that I would have had to lecture him on before. Now, I am only human and I can’t say that I will never lecture my child again, but when I feel a lecture coming on I try to take a step back and review what I have learned. I expect that with time this will become easier.

If you feel like you spend more time lecturing your kids without seeing any results than I would definitely recommend checking Taming the Lecture Bug out. To learn more, connect with Parenting Made Practical on social media here:

Parenting Made Practical on Facebook

Parenting Made Practical on Twitter

Parenting Made Practical on Pinterest

To see what other members of the crew had to say about this book and the other products we received, click here:

 Parenting Made Practical {Reviews}

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TOS Review: CursiveLogic

Many people would say that since the advent of the computer, cursive writing has slowly become a lost art, and they wouldn’t be wrong. However, I’ve always felt it was important for my children to learn to write (and read cursive) and at the very least, be able to sign their names on documents and forms. For my oldest, this was not a problem. However, my youngest struggles with writing in general and so far, we have had no luck with cursive. For this review, we got to try out the updated CursiveLogic Quick Start Pack and The Art of Cursive from CursiveLogic.

Cursive Logic New Edition

This program teaches cursive in a very systematic way and is appropriate for all ages. Basically, anyone who wants to learn cursive, from kids to adults, can use this. My son is a junior in high school but he didn’t feel like this was babyish in any way (most of the books I had gotten from the store had cartoon pictures etc. He hated that). The Quick Start Pack includes a webinar for parents that goes over how to teach the program, step by step. This is very helpful if you don’t know where to start.

Cursive Logic Sample Page

The workbook itself includes information for teachers about the different parts of the program and how it is set up. I would highly recommend reading this information thoroughly before getting started. You begin with proper posture and instruction on how to hold the paper and pencil for both left and right-handed students. As a family of lefties I really appreciated this.

Exercises start with teaching simple shapes, that eventually help form letters. Students engage with CursiveLogic in multiple ways, not just through tracing forms on the page. The program encourages using their fingers to trace letters, reciting while learning and more that apply to different senses, making it an immersive learning experience. As they progress through the program, students learn more and more shapes and how they are connected and go on to forming strings of letters and eventually, words.

For my son, this approach seems to be very effective. I structure lessons for about 20 minutes per day, and he doesn’t seem to mind doing them, which is a big thing because he has found handwriting tedious in the past. The verbal cues he has learned help him to remember how to form the letters and it seems to be coming easier and easier to him.

As part of this program we also received the cursive coloring book, The Art of Cursive. I’ve noticed that coloring is kind of a big thing even for adults these days, and I have to admit I find coloring verses in my Bible very relaxing. This book includes gorgeous illustrations that incorporate many of the same movements from the workbook, accompanied by quotes from famous poets and people and Bible verses. You could easily use this yourself if you wanted, or you could allow your child to color pages one day a week (which is what I did). My son actually really liked this part the most I think.

The Art of Cursive Logic

Overall, we are very satisfied with how things are going so far. If you have a child who wants to learn cursive I would definitely recommend checking this out. To learn more, connect with CursiveLogic on social media here:

CursiveLogic on Facebook

To see what other crew members had to say about this program, click here:
The Art of Cursive & Quick Start Cursive {Cursive Logic Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer


TOS Review: Drive Thru History Adventures

Drive Thru History AdventuresHistory should be an adventure! Unfortunately for a lot of students (including mine) typical textbook instruction just doesn’t bring the stories to life. My youngest enjoys hearing and seeing things that relate directly to the topic he is studying. So, we were excited to check out the Homeschool Video Curriculum from Drive Thru History Adventures.

Drive Thru History AdventuresThis curriculum is a combination of videos/discussion questions and activities that let you explore history where it took place, all at your own pace! There are three specific topics offered: American History, Ancient History, and Bible History. My son decided to check out the Bible history portion of the course for this review. It offered 18 different lessons on topics all about the life of Jesus.

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The lessons include a video portion hosted by Dave Stotts, whom you may know from the TV series. He is an affable host as always, delivering information while making you feel like you are there with him the whole time. Videos typically last around 30 minutes or so, which was a good length for my son. In addition to the videos, you have access to discussion questions that are great for reviewing what your child learned after watching the video.

I also really liked how each lesson also includes the scripture it is related to and fabulous pictures and artwork as well. “Side roads” offer extra information about the people and places discussed in the lesson, and at the end there are additional links to articles and other websites that you can research for more information. The part that really ties it all together are the printable PDFs that go along with the lessons. Basically these are printed copies of the discussion questions along with the scripture readings, a lesson summary important quotes, and the side road from the lesson. So, you could actually use these to do the lessons if you didn’t want to watch the whole video (but I don’t know why you would do that because the videos are great!). Answer keys are also included.

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With this subscription you also get access to Adventures TV. Here you get all kinds of great extras including videos of extra side roads such as the history of recent holidays, Biblical sites, and random fun stuff like “the history of cheese”, behind the scenes looks at the filming of the series, and a separate set of “Dave’s Adventures” where you can check out the host talking about a manner of things serious and not so serious! My son really enjoyed a lot of these because they were short and usually humorous and he could watch them before or after completing a lesson.

When we finish with the Bible History curriculum my son wants to move on to the American History section. Since both the American History and Ancient History consist of about 12 lessons each, I think you could easily move through at least two sections in one school year. While I feel like the curriculum itself is aimed at slightly older students, I think younger children would simply enjoy watching the videos themselves without the additional activities if you wanted to do this with a family group.

We have really enjoyed Drive Thru History Adventures and would definitely recommend that you check it out! To learn more, connect with them on social media here:

Drive Thru History on Facebook

Drive Thru History on Pinterest

Drive Thru History on Instagram

To see what other members of the crew had to say about this product, click here:

Drive Thru History Adventures -  Subscription {Drive Thru History Adventures Reviews}Crew Disclaimer 


TOS Review: Bytes of Learning

UltraKey Bytes of LearningAs my kids get older, I realize the need for them to become more and more proficient with technology. While my son, a high school junior, is quite comfortable with computers one area that needs work is his typing skills. At this point his style is still more “hunt-and-peck” than anything else. So, I was excited to give the UltraKey Online Family Subscription from Bytes of Learning a try.

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This program is completely web-based, which is nice because we can access it from anywhere. It offers pretty personalized lessons, allowing you to set your own goals or choosing to allow the program to set goals for you. It also offers reports for parents on skill checks, games and more. You can easily track your child’s progress, seeing which skill checks they have passed complete with errors. This allows me to know if I need my son to go back and redo something.

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Lessons are a mixture of videos and slides, and the narrator speaks in a pleasant, even tone. As students type, a picture of the keyboard is on the screen with a model of where their hands are supposed to be. This was helpful for my son as he became comfortable with the proper positioning. Lessons begin with an introduction and some initial activities with specific keys, then move on to typing words and sentences. Students are given plenty of opportunities to practice before moving on to the Skills assessment. In addition to lessons on keyboarding, there are also very helpful videos on proper posture, finger placement, and even stretches you can use between lessons.

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Since Bytes of Learning is a self-paced program it is very easy for kids to complete on their own. They simply log in and start. My son spent about 15-20 minutes a day working on lessons, which was the perfect amount of time, keeping him from getting bored or losing interest. It was also really easy to fit into our already hectic days.

UltraKey Online also offers games which allow students to practice their skills while having fun. I appreciate the fact that the games also allow students to practice other important skills like spelling and even state capitals. My son enjoyed the games and you can get reports on those too and students earn printable merit awards as they complete levels. He liked challenging himself to improve his score each time he played. The rhyming game was his favorite.

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The UltraKey family subscription allows you to add three, five, or eight students at a time for a cost of $29.95-$49.95. I think this program is appropriate for all ages, even younger students. As a parent, I appreciate how easy Bytes of Learning is to manage, the interface is very well set up and it’s really easy to review your child’s progress. I would definitely recommend this program if you are looking for an easy typing program to get your kids comfortable with keyboarding.

UltraKey Online Family Edition 

To learn more about the UltraKey Online Family Subscription, connect with Bytes of Learning on Facebook:

Bytes of Learning

To see what other members of the crew thought of this program, click here:

UltraKey {Bytes of Learning Reviews}Crew Disclaimer 


TOS Review: Writing with Sharon Watson

Writing with Sharon Watson

High school literature can be tricky. There are programs that focus strictly on novels, programs that use a textbook-type approach, and a lot of online stuff to choose from. As a former English teacher, I personally prefer more of a hybrid approach, using both novels and some textbook-style teaching for my 11th grade son. So, I was happy to check out Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis from Writing with Sharon Watson, which suits my style perfectly.

Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis

This program is a two-semester, one-credit course for students in grades 9-12. It features three main components, a teacher’s manual, textbook, and a quiz and answer manual. All of these are individually priced, so you can choose which components you want to use. There are also a lot of downloadable options like a free downloadable Novel Notebook. You also have the ability to access online quizzes that are graded for you using the information in the textbook, so if you have a child who prefers to work online, you can do that too!

So, how’s the course? Really meaty and well laid out. For starters, the teacher’s guide gives a very thorough introduction to the program, including a list of books you will need with the ISBN numbers. This makes it really easy to find the correct books. The reason this is important is because the activities and questions etc. are geared toward specific pages in those specific books. Could you use copies of some of the novels if you already have them? Sure, but you would need to go through the chapters and match up the pages to make sure your child is in the right spot when they do their work.

The teacher’s guide also includes a suggested schedule, answer keys, and a layout for the lessons. Like anything in homeschool, this is all very tweakable, which I appreciate. I used the suggested schedule as a guide for where we wanted to be each month, but we set our own pace based on my son. If it takes a little longer to complete, or we don’t get to everything, that’s fine. Illuminating Lit is full of so much that I think, even if you skip a little, your child won’t miss out on much.

Your child will read five novels in this program, Silas Marner, Frankenstein, Much Ado About Nothing,  Sense and Sensibility, and The Hobbit. They will also read many different short stories, essays and more. The textbook includes lessons on topics like theme, archetype, antagonists, protagonists, dramatic irony, and much much more. I think that is one thing that impressed me the most about the course. It covers a lot of upper-level topics that other programs I have seen just don’t offer.

The downloadable Novel Notebook is a nice addition to Illuminating Literature. It offer a space for students to gather their thoughts about what they are reading in different ways. They might answer questions or jot down some notes, they might be asked to take on the point of view of a character to answer questions, or complete some type of graphic organizer. The teacher’s guide also gives you a heads up about what questions students are answering and suggested answers if you want to discuss this with them.

My son enjoyed the stories in Illuminating Literature and seemed to enjoy looking at the works through the eyes of the characters and I really like how this program is set up and how in-depth it is. At a cost of less than $100 for all three main components, it’s also a great deal!

To learn more, connect with Sharon Watson on social media here:

Writing with Sharon Watson on Facebook

Writing with Sharon Watson on Pinterest

To see what other members of the crew had to say about this program, click here:

Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis {Writing with Sharon Watson Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer



TOS Review: Innovators Tribe

Innovators TribeDo you have a middle school or high school student interested in subjects like engineering or architecture? Are you wondering how to incorporate courses in those subjects into your homeschool? Well, for this review we got to check out the online course, Thinking Like an Engineer from Innovators Tribe, designed to give students in grades 6-12 a taste of what it’s like to be an engineer. They also offer a similar course in architecture!

Thinking Like an Engineer 

Thinking Like an Engineer offers interactive lessons that your child can follow at their own pace. Hands-on projects are also a part of the course and the 3D CAD design software is included in the program so your technical needs are met. The course consists of six units that are divided into multiple lessons on topics like roller coaster design, types of bridges, introduction to 3D design, nano-engineering, and more.

engineer 1

The program begins with an introduction to engineering, lessons on the types of engineers there are, and some activities to get kids going. Lessons vary in length, with some being around 20 minutes long and others (specifically the activities) taking as long as two hours. For those lessons, we broke them up into shorter chunks, to suit my 11th grade son’s attention span. One thing I really like about Thinking Like an Engineer is that the activities do not require a lot of special materials, which can be difficult to locate for a busy homeschool mom. In general students use paper, card stock, tape, scissors and an engineering level (which can be found online) to complete the challenges.

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My son enjoyed the narrator, Mr. K, who was lively and fun to watch. The lessons are a fair mix of videos and slides, which kept him from getting bored. (there are even a few bloopers at the end of some lessons which made him laugh) As your child moves through the course, their progress is tracked, making it easy for you to see how they are doing. If they skip a lesson, it shows up on the dashboard as a bouncing icon, so they can easily go back and finish it.

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There are about 14 design challenges in the course and let me tell you, they were not easy. In fact, it was interesting to watch as my son figured he would easily be able to complete a few of them and then found out he was wrong. I am glad that this course really did force him to think carefully through the challenges and problem solve along the way. These are skills he can apply to other areas of life whether he becomes an engineer or not.

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We both felt this course was very interesting, and I would often sit on the couch with him to watch some of the videos (we did skip ahead to check out the part about the scariest bridges, which was pretty cool!). My son appreciated that he could work at his own pace, because with juggling other high school courses being on a tight timeline would only stress him out. We would get together on Mondays and look over his work for the week and then set some goals for what he would complete in Thinking Like an Engineer for that week. It may take him some time to finish the course, but he is enjoying it and he is learning and that’s all that matters. Since it offers a total of 30 hours of work, I am going to give him a 0.25 credit for the course as well.

If you have a budding engineer in your family (or architect or capenter) I would definitely recommend checking Innovaters Tribe out! To see what other crew members thought about the courses we got to try, click here:

Thinking Like an Architect or Engineer {Innovators Tribe Reviews}Crew Disclaimer


TOS Review: CTCMath

CTCMathEveryone has those subjects they just love, and also those that, well, they don’t like so much. For me, the not-so-much subject has always been math. Fortunately, my youngest likes math a lot more than I do,  but he finds it easier to learn it from someone who is not me.  I am always on the lookout for programs I can use so he can learn at his own pace, and I was happy to check out a single student membership from CTCMath for this review.

CTC offers a wide range of math programs, from elementary to the high school level. For this review, my son, who is a high school junior, tried out their Algebra 2 program. This class is divided into three sections, each one sub-divided into topics like solving linear equations, polynomials, rational expressions, and more. Lessons consist of a video of math problems being solved narrated by an instructor who explains each step. My son preferred this to a video that showed an actual teacher working on a board, because he said it made it easier to focus on the problems themselves. The narrator speaks very clearly and at a good pace, and my son enjoyed his accent!

CTCMathAfter watching the video, students can then complete a worksheet that gives them a chance to practice what they learned. They can do the work on paper or you can print out a copy of the sheet for them to work on. Students type their answers into CTC and it tells them how many they got right. Students can make multiple attempts on the worksheets and even go back to watch the video again if they want. Afterwards, students can then view complete worked out solutions for the problems if they can’t figure something out. I can’t tell you how much I love this feature! Having the problems worked out step by step really helped us identify where my son made a mistake. Often, you will get an answer key with the simple answer, but that doesn’t help much once you get into upper level math, so this is a part that I really appreciate.

The results tab lists the scores for each lessons, the numbers of attempts made at each lesson, and the date the lesson was passed. This makes it very easy to track your child’s progress. For parents, CTC allows you to log in and set tasks for your child to complete. These tasks will appear under the “tasks” tabs on your child’s page. You can set a date for completion and you get notifications if tasks are not done on time. In addition, you get weekly emails with reports on your child’s activity for the week. These are really helpful if you’re in a busy season and can’t be on top of your child every day because you can easily see if your child is on track.

CTCMathAdditional features I really like about CTCMath include their speed drills, where kids can practice math facts, and their diagnostic tests. You can assign these and use them to determine what things your child really needs to focus on. On the whole, I think CTC is a very solid math program and a great help for parents who want to give their kids more independence. In addition to single-student memberships, CTC also offers family memberships and they allow you to do a free trial so you can check it out first! If you are interested, you should check out their special pricing which runs from now until 11/15/17 which gives you a discount of 60 percent off!

To learn more, connect with CTC on social media here:

CTCMath on Facebook

CTCMath on Twitter

CTCMath on YouTube

To see what other members of the crew thought of this program, click here:


CTCMath Online Math Tutoring {Reviews}Crew Disclaimer