Wednesday, June 24, 2015

SmartKidz Media Library for Homeschoolers–A Schoolhouse Review Crew Review

SmartKidz Media Review
Ladies and gentleman! Boys and girls! Step right up to the one. . .the only. . .SmartKids Media three ring circus. Featuring SmartKids Media and their wonderful online program SmartKidz Media Library for Homeschoolers as the producers; Joshua and Jacob as the performers; and me, Tim, as the ringmaster reviewing this wonderful homeschool resource.

Now, don’t get me wrong folks. SmartKids Media Library for Homeschoolers is nothing like a regular circus. This program is very well organized and there are no tricks, however, it is entertaining, does include animals and there are some funny elements. SmartKids Media Library for Homeschoolers is exactly as it’s name implies – a Media Library for Homeschoolers! But it’s much more!

Let me explain by announcing what is in each ring of my imaginary review circus.

smartkidz 2
In the center ring we have the wonderful, entertaining, and educational SmartKids MediaFamily Media video and music library.

Jacob has loved the Animals and Wildlife collections. He has watched all of the Animal Journey series and many of the others. The Animal Journey series talks about amazing ways that animals migrate and even talks about the ways plants travel and grow in odd places. He has learned so much. He is looking forward to watching some of the Magic of Nature and Animal Babies videos. There are so many animal and nature videos to choose from!

Joshua, of course, loves all of the country videos. He has viewed many of the Travel and Adventure: Worldwide Discover videos that talk about different countries. He has even listened to some of the musical albums from the Music and Fine Arts sections. There are a lot of albums from countries from around the world. Russia has been his favorite so far (does that surprise anyone that knows Joshua?). What he is really looking forward to watching are the new history videos that just came out such as the series on World War 2 and the series on The Cold War. Oh, and we can’t wait for the U.S. History videos that are supposed to be coming out in the next month or so.
smartkidz 1
And then theirs Dad – you didn’t know that I was a performer in this circus also did you. Ah, but yes I am and there are many, many, things for adults as well. The cooking videos, for example, are what I am looking forward to perusing. And, of course, being a music major in college, I love the classical music albums that are available. Oh, and the relaxation music really helps me when I need to calm down. I have also enjoyed the Jazz and Blues Classics Collections. There’s also the section that combines famous paintings and artwork with the music of some of the great composers. And I haven’t even touched the science videos or the exercise videos yet! There are so many videos and musical selections to choose from (over 150) with more being added all of the time.

And that’s not all! Remember, this is a three ring circus review, not just a one ring circus! SmartKids Media Library for Homeschoolers has so much more to offer than just videos and musical albums.

smartkidz 4
In the ring to the left we have:

The Animated Ebook Collection – full of animated ebooks for mostly preschoolers and early elementary children. There’s the Aesop Fables collection and the Mother Goose collection as well as some song collections and even some Reading Readiness, Science and Bible Collection ebooks and some just plain fun ebooks.

The Baby Signs Collection – has videos on how to teach your baby sign language and some videos that help with potty training.

The My Animal Family Collection – has Video Storybooks, Fun Facts and Story Songs that are completely separate and different than the super animal videos that I talked about before.

The Quick Find Study Guides – are magnificent! These aren’t just small study guides either. They are full fledged guides for all kinds of Math, Science, Social Studies, and Language Arts Topics (accounting and foreign language study guides are coming soon). The topics go from elementary to high school level.

And of course if we have a ring to the left we have to have a ring to the right! It features the following:

The Early Learning for Special Needs Section – is for kids who have disabilities or other special needs. It is designed to help children meet different goals and includes title such as “What is Money”, “What do We See on the Farm”, “Handwashing”, “Taking a Bus”, “Taking a Train” and books on different holidays, sequencing and many, many more topics. Most books include two levels – a “Hear the Book” level and an “Interactive” level.

The Living Skills Section – is being developed and coming soon!

The Ready, Set, Sing – section has all kinds of songs geared toward preschool and elementary kids to get them singing and having fun.

The Fun Zone – section has games, riddles and puzzles that your children can enjoy.
As you can see, there is so much to do with the SmartKidz Media Library for Homeschoolers that we have only touched on all that they have in the few short weeks that we have had this to review. Even if we could have watched and seen it all, they are constantly coming out with more things and developing more things. We are loving this and are so glad that we have it for a year to use! You really need to check this out. We have really enjoyed it!

To get to the SmartKidz Media website, just click on any of the highlighted links in this review. To see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought click on the banner below. Happy watching…reading…game playing…puzzling…listening…oh, just HAPPY HOMESCHOOLING!

SmartKidz Media Review
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Saturday, June 20, 2015

A Heart Broke Last Week


A Heart Broke

We should have known we were going to have trouble with “R” when we went out visiting and passing out flyers for our summer day camps. The trailer park where he lives is full of run down, dilapidated, falling apart mobile homes and the kids who live there, through no fault of their own, look much the same. I had done a Bible Club there many years ago but had to stop because of no help and, really, no place to have it. Now that we have “The Bible Club Place” bus and a volunteer base, I thought that this fall would be a good time to begin a  new Bible Club and our summer day camps would be a wonderful way to introduce us to the kids and the kids to us.

Hardly anyone drives through this trailer park unless they have to, so as soon as we pulled in R came outside to see who the strangers were. We knew many of the people from helping them at various times so as soon as he saw that we were friendly R was all over us and the vehicle that we came in. Literally! He was on the back bumper. He was on the front bumper. He was hanging in the open windows. He would have gotten on the hood and eventually onto the roof if we wouldn’t have put a stop to it.

In my many years of working with children I have learned that a child hanging all over you usually means they are craving for attention. However, I have also learned that when they become defiant and won’t follow your kind requests to get off and move away from the vehicle they are usually looking for all of the wrong attention.

That was R. We soon found out that for whatever reason, this 11 year old boy who lived with his grandmother was doing all that he could, good or bad, to seek some attention. Unfortunately it was almost always bad. If we told him to sit in a certain place, he would sit in another. If we told him to come here, he would go there. He got into arguments and fights often and had to be constantly talked to and constantly watched.

There was, however, one time of the day when he didn’t have to be watched. That was during Bible time. Oh, we had the usual scuffle when he wanted to sit in one place and someone else was sitting there and it would take him a bit to finally settle down, but, once the Bible lesson began, he was all ears and listened intently.

Day after day R faithfully came to day camp. Through the first week and into the second week. We had the constant struggles with him, but he was always attentive during Bible class. It was as if wheels were turning inside his head. As if he were thinking and contemplating. What was going on inside?

This summer’s lessons are about the life of Jesus and after each lesson was over, whether the story called for it or not, I gave the plan of salvation and invited any child that wanted to stay after my lesson to talk with me if they weren’t sure they were going to Heaven. Midway through last week, while the rest of the children were leaving to go for game time, R lingered behind. When everyone else was gone he came up to me and said that he didn’t know Jesus and wanted to know Him. I asked him if he could explain how to know for sure the he was saved and he gave a very clear plan of salvation. After he assured me that he did, indeed believe that he was a sinner and the only way to have a relationship with God was to believe that Jesus died on the cross to take away our sins and that he was trusting Jesus to be his Savior, I asked if he wanted to tell Jesus that. I told him that he could tell Jesus what he just told me and that Jesus would love hearing from him.

I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. Luke 15:7

After bowing our heads R prayed one of the most sincere prayers I think I have ever heard. He said something like this:

Dear Jesus,

I know that I am a sinner and can’t get to Heaven on my own. I believe that you died on the cross for me to take away my sins. Please take away my sins so that I can go to Heaven.

And, Sir, please help me to stop being a jerk. Help me to stop being mean and getting mad and fighting with kids. Help me to obey my grandmother and others.

And, Sir, please help my mother to believe in you like I am and do what’s right after she get’s out of jail.


I often become emotional when a child trusts the Lord, but by the end of R’s prayer I was a basket case. All I could do was just hug him as I was sobbing.

Times aren’t going to be easy for R.  Satan’s not going to let them be easy. The next day there were signs of the old R but there were also signs of a new R that God was beginning to form. Please pray for R in the days, weeks and months to come. Pray that he will continue to come to day camp and come to the Bible Clubs that we plan to start in the fall. Pray that he won’t resist the changes that God is making in his life. Pray also for R’s mom. I have no idea why she is in jail. For that matter, I didn’t even know she was in jail before hearing his prayer.

You may think that the title of this post refers to R but you would be wrong. The title refers to me. You see, it was my heart that was broken this past week. My heart was broken thinking of R and the kids that live in that trailer park and of the kids that live in the other low income sections of our town and county. My heart was broken when I thought of how many churches and Christians will go out of there way to reach those outside of their town but refuse to look at what is in their own back yard. My heart was broken thinking about the churches that do want to do something but don’t have the resources, volunteers, or funds to really help. My heart was broken thinking about the churches who have reached out, but aren’t able to really form the deep relationships that these people so sorely need. And, lest you think that I am only ranting about churches, my heart was broken thinking about ME, the one who calls himself a missionary to the poor in our area but who has neglected so many opportunities.

Please, as well as praying for R, pray for and with ME.


Please forgive me for not doing all that I can to reach those that you have called me to reach. There are so many times that I am so self-centered and think only of myself and the circumstances that I am in and I forget all that you have given me and I forget others who are much more needy physically but especially spiritually.

Help me schedule my time wisely and to get my act together financially. Help me to reach out to churches and individuals who may be able to support us and our ministry both financially and prayerfully. Help me to be faithful no matter what circumstances bring and to keep on serving you.

Thank you Lord for all that you have done and are going to do.


Day Camp Collage

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Day Camp Two Is Up and Running!

Thank you all for your prayers regarding our ministry and summer day camps. With both Sarah and me working part time jobs, this summer has been different and challenging to plan, purchase needed supplies, and to just plain implement. Sarah’s work schedule is more flexible and she can take needed days off. At my job they have graciously worked around the day camps but I still have to work some evenings after day camp is over. It can and has gotten very tiring. Please continue to pray for my stamina.
Day camps have been a great success so far this year. We have many new faces as well as some children that have come in years past. For the first three weeks we are studying about Jesus using BCM International’s curriculum “Who Is Jesus Christ?”. Our last week of Day Camp we are going to be studying about the life of David using one of BCM’s studies that are written for Christian Camps. So far this summer we have had one boy trust the Lord during our first week and one girl trust the Lord this week. We have tried a lot of new and fun games this year as well. Pictures and a video of some of them are below. The summer lunch program is not going to be providing lunches for us during the week of June 29 – July 3 and there is a good possibility that they may not be able to provide them of for us the last week of camp as well. If you are local and would like to help provide meals or if any of you would like to donate for the cost of the meals please let us know.
Pray also for our support. This fall we would love to start using the Bible Club van to hold two or three Bible Clubs in different areas of town. We have several kids – all boys – that are coming to day camp that live in the same area – a very impoverished area of town. My heart has gone out to these boys and I would love to start a club in that neighborhood as well as in the projects close to where we live. With a job with a schedule that changes from week to week, it would be difficult to have a weekly Bible Club at a set time. Our goal was to increase our support by $500 by the beginning of summer. God has graciously given us an increase of $220 so far. In all actuality, we really need an increase of over $1000 but had set the goal of $500 for this summer. If you would like to know more about how to support us, or if you know of a church or other individual that might be interested in supporting us and our ministry, please contact us using the information below.
Thank you again for all of the prayers. They are greatly appreciated and felt.
Tim and Sarah Tinkel – Good News Ministries – 904 Lee Drive – Livingston, TN – 38570 – Tim’s Cell – 931-319-2551 – Sarah’s Cell – 931-319-3113

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The CTC Math Twelve Month Family Plan–It’s a keeper for Us!


My oldest, John Allen, seems to be a whiz in math. Even with his high school math, he seldom uses pencil and paper to write things down. Unfortunately, Joshua is not the case. Math is one of his weakest subjects. For a while, he was three or four years below grade level in math. I don’t know if it is his autism or what, but he just can’t wrap his brain around some math concepts. We are constantly looking for a program that he will like and will really help him bring up his math level. I think we have found it!

Recently the opportunity was given us to review the CTC Math Twelve Month Family Plan. I was both a little excited and a little skeptical. We had tried online math programs before so I was skeptical as to if this one would work. However, I was excited to try something new and pray that it might be just the ticket. I learned a long time ago to never give up and to keep trying. You never know if the next thing you try might be a winner so I was happy when we were chosen for the review.

CTCMath Review 

The Twelve Month Family Plan is a plan specifically developed for homeschoolers. It allows you to register up to 10 kids for one low price! Each child gets there own log-in information while the parent has a log-in of their own in order to keep track of what the children are doing. And, not to worry, every child in your home can use CTC Math’s Twelve Month Family Plan. It goes from kindergarten math all the way up to high school math including Algebra, Calculus, Geometry and Trigonometry. Another great feature is that it allows every child access to every level. I know that in the past when we’ve reviewed online math programs, we’ve had to register for one grade level or course. With this program, if a child works quickly through one grade level then he can begin on the next one. Or, perhaps you thought that your child was ready for a particular level but found he needed to review what he had previously learned first. No fears. Just move him back!

I wasn’t quite sure where to start Joshua so I went to the grade level that I thought he would match up (the previous curriculum we had been using was ungraded) and had him sit down to do the diagnostic test for that level. That helped me to know what he could do and what he couldn’t. We began on a topic that he had trouble with in the diagnostic test and went from there. For the grade level that we decided to start him on there were 20 topics with about 100 total lessons. However, the diagnostic test told us that he already had mastered the content for 18 lessons, so he only had 82 lessons to go to complete that grade level. The diagnostic test also allowed him to get a feel as to how to input the answers to the questions – a very easy task.

Now for the fun part. The actual lessons! The lessons for Joshua are a lot of fun. CTC Math is a program that was developed in Australia but has been completely adapted to United States standards so the instructor is from Australia and therefore has an Australian accent. Since Joshua really loves geography and languages, the accent really intrigued him. You can’t see the actual person, but you can hear his voice while he is doing the lesson in a powerpoint style. The lessons are very easy to follow and explained very well. Joshua was excited (and so was I) that he was able to pick up on things quickly. The instructor explains a new concept and then demonstrates it four or five times in a video that lasts just a few minutes long. The recent videos that Joshua has watched have been less than three minutes but I looked ahead and some videos can last up to about five minutes. What is wonderful about these videos is that if Joshua doesn’t understand something he can always go back and review it again. It is like having an instructor that is always with you! I also like the fact that the videos are just the right length for Joshua. They are short and to the point.

After the video lesson is completed, he moves on the questions. So far on his grade level Joshua has had about 10 questions to complete for each lesson. In the parent section, which I will explain about later, the parent sets the bar as to what a “passing grade” will be. I set it pretty high for Joshua because I want to make sure that he really understands that concept before he moves on. So far he has only had to do two sets of questions one time to master a topic. Usually it only takes him one try. He has chosen to do more sets of questions in order to practice more and to bring his score up, but he didn’t have to in order to make the passing score of 90 that I had set. A student can do as many sets of questions as they want and the scores are averaged together. Joshua’s total math score so far is 97% so if he makes a grade lower than that, he usually does another set of questions to bring his grade up. The fact that he is that conscious about his scores has really impressed me. After he masters that particular lesson, he moves on to the next. Soon he will be able to take the diagnostic test again to see if he needs more work in that topic or if he can move on to the next. A person could actually skip around if they wanted, even outside of grade levels, but we have chosen to work in the suggested order. Some of the other things included are speed skills where he practices addition and subtraction and races against a count down clock to see how many correct answers he gets in a certain amount of time, and the award sections where he is given a level of bronze, silver, gold, or platinum depending on how well he does on the questions.

I really like the parent section. As I mentioned before, one of the things that I have control over in this section is what Joshua’s passing grade is going to be. However, there is so much more to this section. I can also set a new login name and password for him if I choose. I can check to see when he has logged on, what lessons he has completed and what grades he has made. I can choose see a summary or I can choose to see a detailed report. I really like being able to check in whenever I want to see if he is doing what he should be doing.

As you can tell, we are really impressed with our CTC Math 12 Month Family Plan. Joshua likes it and is doing wonderfully. If he continues at the rate that he is going, I can see him completing two school years of math in one year. CTC Math is a keeper for us!

I was going to take some screen shots of what Joshua is doing to show you all, but a screenshot really wouldn’t do this program justice. Click on any of the highlighted links above to get to the CTC Math website where you can find a video that shows a sample lesson, and you can sign up for a free trial to see if you like it. If you have half the success that Joshua has had, though, I think you will be very pleased. Many of the other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew reviewed CTC Math’s 12 Month Family Plan and you can see what they had to say by clicking on the banner below. Happy Homeschooling!

CTCmath Review

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Wordbuild: Foundations Level 1–A Schoolhouse Review Crew Review


JazzEdge  Review

I have written about how my older boys like to write. I have also been amazed in the past with how quickly they learn and use new vocabulary. However, we have been lacking in learning how to use that new vocabulary effectively. When we were given the opportunity to review Worldbuild: Foundations, Level 1 by Dynamic Literacy through the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I researched what it was and how it worked and jumped at the chance to use it with Joshua. It has proven to be well worth it. Read on to find out what it is all about.

What we receivedWorldbuild: Foundations, Level 1 includes three softcover books – two for the student (Joshua) and one for the teacher (me). The first, smaller, book, Foundations Level 1 – Basics, is an introductory book that introduces the student to the whole concept behind Wordbuild: Foundations Level 1. The Foundations Level 1 Student Activity Book is the main book that the student will use. The WordBuild: A Better Way To Teach Vocabulary – Foundations Level 1 Teacher Edition explains the concept, gives instructions to the teacher/parent and has the answer keys to all of the pages in the Student Activity Book.


JazzEdge  Review

What it’s all about – I really like the concept behind the WordBuild series. It is a very unique but sensible way to teach vocabulary to children and to build the students vocabulary quickly and easily. You begin with eight regular words. You then add a prefix, suffix, or sometimes both to those words to form and learn new words. Imagine this – you start off with eight vocabulary words – you add a prefix to those eight words and you all of a sudden have 16 new words, you take off the prefix and add a suffix and you’ve learned another eight words to make the total 24 words. But wait! Add the prefix and suffix both to the base word and now you have 32 new vocabulary words that you have learned in just one week! When you learn the meaning of a prefix and suffix, it opens up a whole new world to you because you can change the meaning of a lot of other words as well!

As I said, this all happens in the span of one week. On day one the eight base words are introduced along with the prefix/suffix (or both) that the student is to add along with it’s meaning. The student forms the new words and writes a definition down for each word. On day two you reinforce the new prefix/suffix by adding it to new words, writing the definition and using it in a sentence. Day three is a fun day. You match a word with it’s meaning and make a magic squire. I won’t tell you exactly how this is done because I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but it is a lot of fun. Day four is another fun day where the student completes a word search. Day five is a review – fill in the blank using a the words in the word box – day. That’s it! It’s that simple!

What we did with them – Joshua really likes working with this program. We began by using the small, twenty page, Foundations Level 1-Basics book. All it does is introduce the student to compound words and prefixes and suffixes. It included some fill in the blank type things such as:

A person who acts is an _________________ (actor)

_________________ are people who act. (actors – they added the s)

_________________ means doing it right now. (acting – they added the ing)

And so on.

It also included some word searches and other similar fun things. While I wanted to give Joshua some writing practice because he has some small motor problems and has atrocious hand writing, I also didn’t want to be overbearing. After all, this isn’t a handwriting book, it’s a vocabulary book. Therefore, a lot of this book was done orally. We easily completed it in two sittings.

After that, we got into the real meat of the program, the student activity book that I described above. Again, I use a mixture of oral work and him doing it on his own. On the first day I may have him write the new words formed himself, then I might ask him and write down what the new words meant. Day two includes a lot of writing as well but it is important to reinforce the meaning of the prefix/suffix and the word, so I often will have him complete that in two sittings. Days three and four are easy for him to do on his own, as is day five. At the beginning of the week I will often have to sit with him a little more until he understands the meanings of the affixes being used, but then, toward the middle of the week, I am able to explain what to do and he can do it on his own with me checking over his work later and explaining something if it is incorrect. There are 30 weeks in Foundations Level 1 with an assessment after every 6 weeks. Although we haven’t made it to an assessment (included in the teacher book) it looks like it can be easily done orally with a child or classroom of children.

The teacher’s book is excellent, and it has a lot of suggestions for a teacher to use this program in a classroom setting or for a parent to use in a co-op or with more than one child. Since I am only working with Joshua, I usually peruse the teacher suggestions, pick things that I think are applicable, and use those things. I really like the Teacher Edition, though, because it has a lot of suggestions to choose from and the ones that I use are very helpful. It also has a lot of information explaining the theory behind this method plus it includes the assessments mentioned above.

What we think – This is a winner in our book! I like the theory behind the method, I like how simple it is to use, I like the fact that Joshua is learning a ton of new vocabulary, and I like the fact that Joshua likes it! So many times I’ll review a homeschool item or curriculum with my family and we’ll kind of like it or just tolerate it, and then put it on the shelf when the review period is over. Not Dynamic Literacy’s Wordbuild: Foundations, Level 1. It is something that I am going to continue to use with Joshua and plan on using down the line with Jacob as well. It’s a keeper!

To find out more about Dynamic Literacy and/or Wordbuild: Foundations, Level 1 just click on the highlighted links above. Other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew reviewed Wordbuild: Foundations, Level 1 and other products from Dynamic Literacy and you can find what they had to say by clicking on the banner below. Happy Vocabulary Learning!


Dynamic Literacy Review
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Friday, June 12, 2015

Teaching Writing: Structure and Style, Student Writing Intensive Level A–A Schoolhouse Review Crew Review

IEW Review
John Allen, my oldest, has always been a writer. He took to it like a duck to water and is always looking for ways to improve his writing skills. Joshua, my middle son who has Asperger’s Syndrome hasn’t always been that interested in being an author. He is very smart and creative, but he would rather watch a history documentary or read an article about the things he is interested in. Imagine my surprise when Joshua approached me a couple of months ago and told me he was writing a book. He had a dream the night before and that inspired him to write it down and continue the story. Since we are somewhat of (but not totally) a delight driven homeschool, I went out in search of ways to assist him in his writing skills.
I was thrilled when I found that the Schoolhouse Review Crew had a chance to review the Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) Teaching Writing: Structure and Style, Student Writing Intensive Level A package and that Joshua and I were chosen. I had reviewed a more advanced version of this with John Allen years ago and he loved it (he is in fact thinking of going back and reviewing it again) so I was anxious to see how Joshua would do with this approach to learning how to write.
IEW Review
What we received – What did we receive? Everything in the picture above and more! I was almost overwhelmed at the wealth of material that we were given to review and wasn’t sure how I was going to get through all of it. Of course we weren’t expected to view and use everything completely in just five or six weeks, and I Joshua and I got further than I thought in the time that we had to use and review everything.
As usual everything we received from IEW for this review looks very professional and is done in a very professional manner. The particular package that was sent was put together to help special needs students and, as you’ll read later, did just that with our Joshua. Here are the different elements that were sent with a description of each.
  • Student Writing Intensive Level A  – Benjamin Franklin wrote in his autobiography that he learned to write by reading newspaper articles, breaking each sentence into three key words, then, without looking at the original, rewriting the story. He would then compare his newly written article with the original and evaluate himself. That is exactly what we are doing with Student Writing Intensive Level A designed to help students who are doing 3rd to 5th grade work.
I really like the way this course is set up. Everything that I need as a teacher is there, and everything that Joshua needs as a student is there as well.  The videos are wonderful. Andrew Pudewa, the main presenter and director IEW, is filmed teaching a classroom of actual 3rd – 5th grade students. There is some interaction with the students but he also interacts with the audience at home as well. Joshua feels like he is actually in the classroom. Andrew Pudewa is also very humorous and makes learning fun.
He begins right away to teach the students how to look at a short passage, break each sentence up into no more than three key words, and then rewrite the story using those words. They continue to do this in each lesson, which may seem boring, but he continues to add things that he wants included in their paragraph when it is rewritten. He has a list of banned words that aren’t to be used but instead the student is to use more exciting words that will make the story more interesting. For example, “said” is banned and is to be replaced with a more exciting word such as “shouted” or “gasped”. He also teaches the students to use a “who, which” clause to make the story better. In another lesson he instructs them on how to use adverbs and has a huge list of adverbs that the writer can choose from. So, as the student is breaking down a story and then rewriting it, he is learning and using more and more skills to make the story better. Joshua is getting to the stage where he needs extra practice before moving on. I like the fact that there are other stories that are provided for us to use on our own if need be.
You may wonder why he is having them rewrite stories instead of teaching them creative writing and how to write a story of their own. It is because he wants to teach the elements of how to write a good story and paragraph first. So many times kids are handed a blank sheet of paper and told to write a story only to encounter writer’s block and end up a miserable mess. This gives students something to write about and use the skills that they are learning. It is very ingenious and Joshua is loving it and learning a lot. Later in the course,  after the students writing skills are developed, Mr. Pudewa does transition into doing more creative writing.

  • Teaching Writing: Structure and Style – I must admit that I am the type of person who likes to jump in and teach. As I mentioned above, I had reviewed a more advanced level of the Student Writing Intensive with John Allen some time ago so I had a knowledge of what to do and began teaching Joshua right away. It wasn’t until a couple of weeks into things that I began to explore Teaching Writing: Structure and Style. Teaching Writing: Structure and Style is a whole other course teaching parents and teachers how to teach the IEW method in their home and classroom. It was filmed in front of a group of teachers and parents and is just as professional and well done as the Student Writing Intensive.
I really wish that I would have began to watch this from the start. Mr. Pudewa progresses in the same order as the Student Writing Intensive and not only instructs step by step in how to teach your student and introduce new ways to make their paragraphs better, but also instructs on the philosophy behind why they are doing what they are doing. Again, everything is included. You are even given a very sturdy binder with tabs, similar to what the student receives, to organize everything. From now on I am going to make sure that I am watching the section in Teaching Writing: Structure and Style that corresponds with the section that Joshua is working on. It will help so much in answering questions that Joshua has.
How we used it -
  • Joshua – In the packet that we received there is a suggested schedule on how to use the Student Writing Intensive. I didn’t go by that schedule at first and probably pushed Joshua a little too hard. We did get through much more in the weeks that we were given to review this, but I think afterwards I am going to go more with the easier paced schedule. Joshua loves Andrew Pudewa and his humor and had no difficulty watching the videos and keeping up that way. With his small motor problems, however, the writing assignments were more difficult. Although he usually didn’t complain a lot, I knew when he had enough and needed to stop. The one frustrating element was when he was copying the rough draft of each story for his final draft. The instructions are to do everything in pen and if Joshua made a mistake he would sometimes become very frustrated and fall apart. This is where I think I am going to have to break from the curriculum a little and allow him to use erasable pen. I understand the philosophy behind only using pen but with a child that has small motor problems it sometimes just doesn’t work. All in all, though, I could leave Joshua to do much of the work on his own and then check on things when needed and he did just fine. I could easily assign him to do something before I left for my part time job and then check it when I got home. I was really thrilled with that.
  • Tim – As I mentioned above, I didn’t begin watching the Teaching Writing: Structure and Style videos and working through the course until a couple weeks into the review period. I do not recommend that at all. You don’t have to purchase this program along with the Student Writing Intensive, but if you do I would recommend watching the videos on how to introduce something to your child before it is introduced to him so that you understand what is being taught and why it is being taught and you can better answer any questions that he might have. That is what I am going to do from here on out.
What we think – We are thrilled with IEW’s Teaching Writing: Structure and Style, Student Writing Intensive Level A and are looking forward to using it for the rest of the school year. Joshua loves it and I can see improvements in his writing already in just the few short weeks that we have been using this course. With Joshua having Asperger’s Syndrome and being on the autism spectrum, I was a little nervous as to how he would do with this course, but this is something that he wanted to learn about and he is doing surprisingly well. I am glad that I chose the level that was written for students a little younger than him though. He didn’t seem to notice the age difference of the kids on the video, and this level was a much better fit for him.
I would definitely recommend IEW’s Teaching Writing: Structure and Style, Student Writing Intensive Level A package to any homeschool family or co-op. It has been a great success in our household with both John Allen and now Joshua. To find out more about this great program, click on any of the highlighted links above. Many of the Schoolhouse Review Crew members and families reviewed other levels and other packages from IEW and you can find what they had to say by clicking on the banner below. Happy Writing!

IEW Review
Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Exploring Creation Field Trip Journal–A Schoolhouse Review Crew Review


Exploring Creation Field Trip Journal Review


As most of you know, we travel a lot and visit a lot of really neat places. Unfortunately, though, other than on my blog, we haven’t done much to record our travel memories. That’s why I was thrilled when we were chosen to review the Exploring Creation Field Trip Journal from Apologia Educational Ministries. Let me tell you, this book is really neat and has a bunch of ideas on how to record your favorite things about the places you visit. Before you get any preconceived ideas as to what this book is all about, though, let me just tell you that it’s not exactly a scrapbook, nor is it a journal. Really it’s a book that you can use however you wish and to journal whatever you wish. First let me  describe all of the features that the Exploring Creation Field Trip Journal has and then I will tell you how we have used it so far. Boy will it take a long time to fill this thing up – even with all of the traveling that we have done!


Exploring Creation Field Trip Journal Review
As with any Apologia product that I have ever bought or reviewed, this book is beautiful and well made. As you can see in the picture above, the cover is very colorful and the 64 heavy duty paper pages that are inside are colorful as well. Everything is sturdily spiral bound together.
The book begins with a section titled “Preparing For A Field Trip”. Although this section is written primarily for teachers preparing for a field trip with their class or a homeschool co-op parent preparing to take a group of homeschoolers, there are many things listed that apply to parents and families. We have only used our Exploring Creation Field Trip Journal for past field trips but are planning on using the great ideas listed for future excursions.
Following “Preparing For a Field Trip” is another neat section that lists dozens of suggestions for field trips ranging from your own back yard to around the world. It not only lists unique places that you may have never thought about, but also makes you think about near and far places on your own.
Although, the preparation and idea sections are fantastic, the next sections are what really make Exploring Creation Field Trip Journal enjoyable for my kids – the creative sections.
  • Places I’ve Explored Maps – This area has ready made maps for the United States and the World, and has a space for you to draw or paste a small map of your state. On these pages you can list the places you’ve been to on the lines provided and then pinpoint them on the map. I am looking forward to sitting down with my family to recall all of the wonderful places we’ve visited and to actually have a map to show the territory we’ve covered.
  • Field Trip Pages – These pages are what we have used the most. The section is divided into smaller two page units for each field trip you have been on or are planning to visit. One page has a space for planning and preparing for your trip – including listing books that you have read to learn about your destination and make your visit more interesting; posting a map ahead to locate the specific areas that you want to visit and prepare a meeting spot in case your group is separated; and a spot to add pictures. The other page has room to write about your trip and has a section to record something that you never want to forget.
  • My Special Spot Pages – This is a really neat section where a child picks a favorite outdoor spot and journals the changes he sees in his special spot though the different seasons of the year. I really like this because it shows a child that a “field trip” can be in your own back yard. It doesn’t have to be a huge museum or park.
  • As I See it Pages – Sometimes a child just wants to be creative and remember a field trip in his own way without any pre-set guidelines. If they want to draw a picture of what happens or paste pictures or souvenirs then they can. Some pages have simple prompts for the child to think about but they don’t have to use them if they don’t want.




We have had a wonderful time using this book and remembering all of the places we have gone. Joshua was the colorful one. He chose to use different colored pencils to write with as he was describing our visit to Niagara Falls, Canada. John Allen was my literary son and chose to write about a day we spent at Dollywood in great detail. Jacob and I talked about some of the many zoos that we have visited and he is planning on drawing a picture of one of our zoological adventures. My next step is to sit the family down to list all of the places that we have visited in the United States and Canada. Since we finally bought a new printer after spending the past couple of months futilely trying to fix our old one, we can now print out some pictures to add to our pages.

I don’t think there is any doubt that Apologia’s Exploring Creation Field Trip Journal is a hit with our family. It is just what we need to keep a record of all of the adventures we have gone on. It has also inspired me to think outside of the box when planning new field trips to explore God’s great creation.

To learn more about the Exploring Creation Field Trip Journal or any of Apologia’s materials just click on any of the highlighted links above. You can also click on the banner below to find out what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew have to say about this great resource. Happy Field Trip Planning!


Exploring Creation Field Trip Journal Review
Crew Disclaimer

Monday, June 8, 2015

God is Faithful!

Day Camp 1 


God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 1 Corinthians 1:9 (NIV)


Last week was our first week of Day Camp for 2015. Many of you know of the challenges that our ministry has faced for the past year. God has been gracious in allowing us to use an old mom and pop grocery store with a home attached for the past 17 years for our ministry. The generous local doctor who owned the buildings and land allowed us to use them for free. For the past 14 years we lived in the house and used the old grocery store building for our ministry. This past November we received word that someone was looking to buy the buildings and property. In December we were told that the buildings sold and we faced the challenge of moving our home and ministry.

For several years we have held day camps for the children who lived in the projects and other low income areas in town. Each year the day camps have grown. This year, however, since we didn’t have a building to hold the camps in, we had to look elsewhere. A wonderful church in town allowed us to use there youth facilities (the same facilities that the church that my family attends on Sundays uses). Since we would have to transport all of the kids to the new location, we were unsure as to how many would attend.

As always, God is faithful! We shouldn’t have been worried. Last week was our first week of four weeks and it was the biggest week we have ever had. Since the facilities were already scheduled for use on Thursday and Friday we could only have day camp for three days but if all of the children that came would have all come the same day, we would have had nearly 50 kids. Our three days easily averaged right around 40 children. Some of our regular helpers couldn’t come but God blessed in that way as well by introducing us to a couple of new parents who were tremendously helpful. Yes, God is always faithful! All of the kids said that they would be back and since some children couldn’t come the first week our next week should be even bigger!

Please continue to pray for my family, the helpers and the rest of the day camps. Since Sarah and I are both working part time jobs, our planning and preparation time has been cut down. I had to go into work several of the days last week after the day camp was over which very much tired me. Next week, however, one of our main leaders, fellow missionary and great friend Lois Lass, who wasn’t able to be here the first week will be able to help. She has been with us since we first began doing our Good News Ministry Day Camps 15 years ago.

Please also pray for the kids. One little boy named Christopher trusted the Lord. Please pray for his growth. We also visited a very impoverished area of town where we used to minister but haven’t been able to for several years. Six boys faithfully came every day from that area. Other new families and children from the projects and other places around town also came as well as many of the old faces from years past. There are some kids that have a very rough home life that are attending this year. Please pray that we can reach them for the Lord.

Thank you, faithful blog readers and supporters of Good News Ministries. If you would like to know more about our ministry and how you can support us as missionaries or our ministry or how you could help us otherwise, please email us at or contact us via facebook on my personal page or our ministry page

Enjoy the pictures!


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Always Remain Faithful

Let us not become weary in doing good,
for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9 (NIV)

Most of you know that Sarah Trull Tinkel and I both have taken on part time jobs in order to pay off a couple of bills. Tonight a young man came in to the store where I work and said "You don't remember me do you?". When I admitted that I didn't, he told me who he was. It was a boy who attended Bible Club at Good News Mission years ago. His older brother would push him and another brother up to the mission in a stroller each week. After a couple of years they moved away (evic...ted) from the projects and I would here bits and pieces about them. The mother has been in and out of trouble. He explained that at the age of 12 his older brother, then 18, got custody of both younger brothers and raised them. The mother won't talk to them and they haven't spoken to her in years.

All three boys are doing well. The older brother is married and has four children of his own now. The two younger brothers are both working and one is going to college as well. As we talked he seemed genuinely concerned about what was going on with Good News Ministries.

This proved to me once again that, working with children, you never know what an impact you may have on a child. This is a perfect example of the verse found in Galatians 6:9 - Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

I'm not saying this to heap accolades on myself, but to encourage all of you who minister to children. You never know what the teachings, encouragement and love might mean to a child. Keep on keeping on. Don't give up. It may mean the world to one of the kids you are working with.

This originally was written as a Facebook post, so if it looks familiar you know why. I wanted to share it with all of my readers to encourage them.