Everything You Need to Know Fact Cards

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Everything You Need to Know in a Box

My youngest child adores fact cards. We have a basket full of colorful flash cards from the Target Dollar Spot. Several books filled with animal fact cards sit on a homeschool shelf. She loves looking and touching and learning.

*Disclosure: I received a free set for review purposes and am being compensated for my time. I am not required to give a positive review.  As always,  I am sharing my honest opinion with you.

Sweetpea actually did a little dance when I opened up our box of Everything You Need to Know Fact Cards from Silver Dolphin Books.  They were developed in collaboration with the Smithsonian Institute. There are two levels of these beautiful cards available: Grades K-1 and Grades 2-3. Be sure to enter the giveaway below!!

Everything You Need to Know 1

Using Fact Cards for Summer Exploration

I’ve learned to pay attention and take note when my daughter starts asking questions about certain cards. That is my clue to use those particular cards as a jumping off point for further exploration. I can then hunt up some videos, craft projects, and recipes to go along with the cards.

Summer break is the perfect time to pull out a box of Everything You Need to Know Fact Cards. Choose a place to start and then hop on over to Pinterest to find some fun crafts and activities. Maybe even do a theme a week.

Everything You Need to Know 3

For example, let’s say you choose the dinosaur cards from the Grades 2-3 set. Everyone is talking about dinosaurs because of a certain blockbuster movie. 😉 For Dinosaur Week, you could make dinosaur ice eggs, excavate some salt dough dinosaur bones, and eat some fossil cookies. If you are a “mean” mom, you can even assign a dinosaur writing project. 😀 (Note: the dinosaur cards do not contain dates, so you are free to tailor them to your beliefs.)

Coming up with themes is often the hardest part of planning a fun summer. The Everything You Need to Know cards solve that problem.

Everything You Need to Know 4

Fact Cards as Kindergarten Curriculum

My favorite use for the Everything You Need to Know Fact Cards would be as an inexpensive Kindergarten or First Grade curriculum. Simply add in a math and a language arts program. If you choose those from my list of free homeschool curriculum links, you can create a a complete Kindergarten or First Grade curriculum for under $20!

There are a couple of ways to divide up your cards for the year. You can do topical studies by working your way through one subject at a time, or you can study cards from several different sections at a time. You could also assign subjects to different days – Monday is geography, Tuesday is science, etc.

Fact Cards 2

The durable cards are tabbed and labeled at the top. You can just stick the cards you’ve used in the back of the box each day without the headache of having to sort them back out at the end of the year, as long as you keep the topics together.

Once you have decided on the cards that you will use for the school year, you can turn once again to our good friend Pinterest to add in worksheets and activities. I chose a few categories from the K-1 Box and hunted up some fantastic Pinterest boards for each one to get you started.

Space/Solar System   1, 2, 3, 4 

Five Senses   1, 2, 3, 4

Plants   1, 2, 3, 4

Money   1, 2, 3, 4

Colors   1, 2, 3, 4

Animal Habitats   1, 2, 3, 4

States   1, 2, 3, 4

Continents   1, 2, 3, 4

Weather   1, 2, 3, 4

Parts of the Body   1, 2, 3, 4

Those are only about a third of the categories between the two boxes, so you could realistically get several years out of them.

Homeschool Kindergarten for Under $20

Be sure to check out the Silver Dolphin blog for more activities! Follow them below for fun product updates and freebies.


Silver Dolphin is giving away 10 of the Everything You Need to Know sets. You can choose either the K-1 or 2-3 set. Open to U.S. addresses only.

Paradigm Accelerated Curriculum for High School English

Paradigm Accelerated Curriculum

*Disclosure: I received a free set for review purposes and am being compensated for my time. I am not required to give a positive review.  As always,  I am sharing my honest opinion with you.

Sometimes I really miss our early years of homeschooling, when our schooling had a decidedly Charlotte Mason flair. Our days were spent reading lovely books and exploring nature. Then came high school.

I realize it is very possible to apply Charlotte Mason’s principles to a high school curriculum plan. However, I am a non-multitasking momma of five kiddos that range from kindergarten to twelfth grade. It’s just not going to happen.

What I HAVE done is try to avoid boring textbooks as much as possible when choosing curriculum for my high schoolers. We definitely fall into the Eclectic category. The downside to this is that I worry about gaps in their education because we are not just going step-by-step through a book.

Paradigm Accelerated Curriculum has really helped to bridge that gap for us.

PAC English IV

My twelfth grader has been working her way through English Literature and Philosophy. Instead of one large book, each of the four chapters has a text workbook and an activity workbook. There is also a Teacher’s Key with activity keys, quizzes, quiz keys, tests, and test keys. It is encouraging for my daughter to be able to work towards finishing one book and starting the next.

Study literary themes using historical texts

This English IV course studies historical authors who were “firsts” in their fields. Their writings are used to study literary themes, enhance vocabulary, and build moral character. The activity workbook is a good mix of multiple choice, discussion, and essay questions. *You can view samples at the bottom of this page.

These are just a few of the writers covered in the first chapter:

  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Phyllis Wheatley
  • Thomas Paine
  • Anne Bradstreet
  • George Washington
  • Samuel Adams
  • Jonathan Edwards
  • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The reading is meaty and meaningful, and the assignments really make my daughter think about what she is reading instead of just regurgitating information.

PAC samples

PAC is not just for Advanced Homeschoolers

Paradigm Accelerated Curriculum courses are advanced, but that doesn’t mean they are only for students pursuing an accelerated education. My daughter is not college bound at the moment. She will be interning with my husband after she graduates. But we don’t want her to take the easiest path just because she doesn’t need the extra credit. We want her to stretch her mind and, more importantly, strengthen her character. I simply break up each activity section into what I think she can handle in a day. I love the flexibility!

Another benefit to the individual chapters is the ability to purchase only what I need. I decided to give PAC a trial run with my tenth grader, so I ordered chapter one of the English Composition Skills course and also the digital Teacher’s Key. (I can’t wait to get it!) If it works for her, I will purchase the entire set next year.

More details about Paradigm Accelerated Curriculum

The PAC curriculum is also available in digital format through “Audio Enhanced Textbooks” which read aloud to students while simultaneously highlighting the text on the computer screen, smartphone, or tablet.

PAC is in the process of incorporating QR codes into all of their courses, allowing the students to access extra content via smartphone. As of now, the only course with this technology is biology.

Paradigm Accelerated Curriculum offers these discounts:

40% off for

  • homeschool groups (minimum purchase $1000)
  • single parents

20%  off for

  • ministry families
  • military families
  • farmers and ranchers
  • first responders
  • foster parents

Call Paradigm at 325-649-0976 for a discount code to use during the checkout process if you fit into one of these categories.

I really look forward to adding Paradigm Accelerated Curriculum to our school lineup next year!

Connect to Paradigm Accelerated Curriculum:

January Subscribe

Hands-Off (for Mom) Homeschool Writing Curriculum

Essay Rock Star Online writing Course

Non-fiction writing. It is the thorn in my homeschool side. I had no problems writing papers in high school, so it came as a surprise that writing is such a difficult subject for me to teach. There is no black-or-white answer key when it comes to grading an essay. I also find it hard to deliver constructive criticism to my little writers without crushing their spirits.

*Disclosure: I received this Essay Rock Star class at no charge and am being compensated for my time. I am not required to give a positive review.  I always share my honest opinion with you. This post contains my affiliate link.

When offered a chance to review one of the Essay Rock Star online courses from Fortuigence, my 9th grader volunteered for the chance to ditch the writing book for a few weeks. 

The Basics of the Essay Rock Star Online Writing Courses

Lily Iatridis, the founder of Fortuigence, has multiple degrees and more than a decade of classroom experience. She acts as a personal writing coach for these self-paced online courses. 

The Essay Rock Star Course is  a five step program that covers all the basics for high school requirements and college entrance exams. It covers the following essays, which can also be taken as individual classes if you just want to work on a specific style.

My daughter chose The Expository Essay as her course, which is broken down into seven lessons and assignments. She had to submit a sample of her writing as a pre-assessment.

How It Works

The student logs in and accesses the classroom. After choosing the current lesson, she watches a video, reads or listens to the lesson, and submits the assignment. Ms. Iatridis then emails corrections and suggestions. The student cannot move on to the next lesson until this assignment is fine-tuned. Extra help is available anytime throughout the course.

fortuigence classroom

What We Liked 

~ Writing Mentor ~

Lily Iatridis is very kind but also direct. Many of the video lessons that we’ve done in the past were so scripted that they became monotonous, but watching her videos is like sitting across the table from her and having a conversation. My daughter felt like she formed a relationship with Ms. I (how she signs her emails). Ms. I made sure to say something encouraging in every email that she sent.

~ Examples ~

There are plenty of pdfs provided to show examples of what is being expected. It is very helpful to be able to print out a sample outline when having to create one of your own. 

~ Multiple Ways to Learn ~

Each lesson has an instructional video and a written lesson. There is also an audio version of the lesson. Links are given for the course rubric, examples, and writing organizers. Need more help? Click the “Ask the Instructor” button.

~ Self-Paced ~

There is absolutely no insistence to speed through the course. No timer. No due dates. It took some of the pressure off of my reluctant writer. 

~ Mastery ~

There are no grades given for the assignments. Instead, the student must master each step before being allowed to advance to the next lesson. We use the mastery approach in our homeschool for most of our subjects, so this really appeals to me.

~ Hands Off ~

It was SO nice to be able to step away from the writing boxing ring. There were a couple of times when my daughter asked for my opinion on her assignments and I almost stepped in until I remembered … “Nope! Turn it in and see what Ms. I has to say.” . How wonderful to feel confident that she was receiving the instruction she needed.

The Downside

You knew there had to be one, right? We had a bit of a struggle keeping on track since there are no deadlines. Admittedly, this had to do with summer starting and our usual schedule being out of whack. It is NO fault of the curriculum. Just be aware, if you have a lollygagger or day dreamer, that you will need to stay on top of it with some sort of dedicated time for writing.

Thoughts from the Teenager

  • She enjoyed interracting with a real person that she could contact if she needed help.
  • She understood exactly what was expected from her.
  • “I still don’t love writing, but this is my favorite writing program so far!” (This is the first one she’s actually liked!)

Essay Rock Star


All of the Fortuigence Essay Rock Star Courses are 25% off if you purchase by August 18th using the code: 505-0-1520893

There is a 100% Money Back Guarantee, good for up to 14 days once the course is started.


Fortuigence is giving away an Essay Rock Star short course (winner’s choice). Contest ends 8/22/2014, 11 pm EST.

Click the image below to fill out the entry form. 

Essay Rock Star Giveaway


You might be interested in these Fortuigence freebies:

Connect with Fortuigence:





Write from History: A Writing Curriculum for Kids Who Don’t Like to Write

write from history

My 5th grade son dislikes writing. He would say “hates” if I let him. He’d rather be whacking something, taking it apart, or building it in Minecraft (where he would then whack it and take it apart).

Finding Write from History was like a breath of fresh air. It is a Charlotte Mason writing curriculum that uses primary source documents to teach writing, grammar, and history.

There are four books from which to choose:

The two levels cover grades first through fifth, but can be used on into middle school due to the upper level writings included in the books. The difference in the two levels is the reading difficulty and copywork style. You can pick manuscript or cursive. The readings are in the form of historical narratives, primary source documents, poetry, and cultural tales. A grammar section is located in the back of the book with lessons for color-coding the copywork. We have a grammar curriculum that we love so this one was a bit too basic for my son, but it would be a great fit for a beginner grammar course. Update: Brookdale House now offers Sheldon’s New Primary Language Lessons if you want to add a more formal grammar curriculum.


Each lesson includes these activities:

  • Reading
  • Oral Narration
  • Copywork
  • Grammar
  • Dictation

As a member of the Write from History launch team, I chose to review Write from Medieval History Level 2 Manuscript Models. We will be moving into this time period after the first of the year, and though my son writes beautifully in cursive, I didn’t want him to have to concentrate on that aspect. In fact I didn’t address his handwriting at all. I figure it will improve as he gets used to the longer copywork passages.


A few of my favorite things:

FlexibilityThis is a history supplement, so you just browse through the table of contents to find a passage that matches what you are studying. You can work your way from start to finish, but you don’t have to. The grammar is broken down into a new part of speech each month and works with any lesson in any order. I’ve always combined as many subjects and ages as possible in our homeschool (one of the reasons I love Charlotte Mason). These lessons are easily adapted for multiple ages because you have the freedom to structure them any way you want.

Scheduling- A detailed 5-day suggested schedule is included, as well as a couple of optional schedules.

Definitions- Many Charlotte mason newbies get hung up on the differences between narration, dictation, and copywork. There are a couple of pages of helpful definitions and examples to help you straighten it all out.

Interest Level- Because we aren’t starting medieval history for another month or so, I let my son browse through the table of contents and pick what he wanted to read. (He chose his first selection because it was one of the shortest copywork assignments. Ha!) I knew we had a winner a few minutes later when I heard the words that are music to this momma’s ears, “Hey Mommy! Did you know….?”. And while he still doesn’t like to write, he enjoys seeing exactly what is expected from him so that he knows when he is done.


A couple of my not so favorite things:

Lack of Answer Key for Grammar- Answer keys make my job so much easier, but a little birdie told me there could be one in the works. 😉

Too Much Flipping- It can get a little awkward switching from front to back to look at the grammar lessons or optional exercises, but there is an easy fix for that–> get the eBook! I will definitely go the eBook route for future courses. Super simple to pick the topic I want and print it out when I need it.

The Write from History books are priced at $22.99.

Your reluctant writer with thank you!!
(Or maybe not, but I bet they will no longer hate writing.)

I received a free book for the purpose of giving my honest review. No other compensation was given. My affiliate link is used in this post – thank you for supporting my site through any purchase you make!

getting off at the next port

Whew!  I did it!!  All of my reviews are done and today is the end of my voyage with the  2009-2010 TOS Crew.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I thought I was signing up for a 3-hour tour and it ended up being an extended stay on the island. I have loved (almost) every minute of it!

The free products have been such a blessing to our family – we received so many things that I didn’t even know we needed, but that is what happens when your Crew Leaders pray for God to direct the right items to the right families.

An even bigger blessing has been the TOS Crew Forum, a place where we could discuss ANYTHING and feel confident that no one thought we were TOO strange.

I would encourage you to check out the TOS Homeschool Crew if you are looking for curriculum for the Fall. That is how I found our beloved history curric, and also how I found out about The Crew. You can view reviews from this year and last year on the blog.

review – LobsterNetwork

When I found out we were reviewing a stuff-sharing site, I couldn’t imagine why it would be called LobsterNetwork.

Then I saw this neat-o logo & it all made sense:

LobsterNetwork is a FREE online community that you create to keep track of your stuff. You can create a group of friends & family and then you can lend/borrow each other’s stuff. You can also sell your stuff in the marketplace.

There are so many great uses for this site:

  • Inventory your stuff for insurance purposes
  • Make your own card catalog for your home library
  • Create a group with your church or neighbors to share stuff like tools, videos & books
  • Create a group for homeschoolers to share curriculum
  • Crafters could make a group listing all of the supplies they are willing to share
  • Make a wanted or for sale list for others to browse

LobsterNetwork has tracking features that  include automated reminders for the owner & borrower. No more wondering who borrowed your favorite book or tool.

I am going to start using LobsterNetwork as an inventory for books & build it from there over the summer. We have a small church building with no room for a library, so I think this would work great to have a virtual lending library among the members.

Check out the videos and the Getting Started Guide for even more ideas.

The Nitty Gritty: FREE!

Value: FREE!

See what my TOS Crew Mates have to say about LobsterNetwork!

I received no compensation for writing my honest review.

review – Cerebellum

I must confess that I have no idea what an AP History Exam is, so keep that in mind as you read this review, LOL. I don’t have a high schooler yet.

I received the History of the U.S. AP Exam Prep DVD, part of the Light Speed Learning series published by Cerebellum. You might be more familiar with their brilliant Standard Deviant DVDs, of which I am a big fan. That is the fast, fun style you will find in the AP EXAM Prep DVDs.

History of the U.S. AP Exam Prep has a DVD and a Digital Workbook. It reviews the 30 most tested topics and gives helpful strategies for taking the test. They go over each step of the test & what to expect, which makes this a perfect resource for those of us who stress about the unknown.

I will definitely be checking out the Cerebellum library before next year!

The Nitty Gritty:

  • $14.98, but they were on sale for $11.24 at the time of this post

Value: Great deal for tutoring & peace of mind.

See what my TOS Crew Mates have to say about Cerebellum!

I received a free DVD for the purpose of writing an honest review. No other compensation was given.

review – Super Star Speech

When our son was younger, I discovered how hard it is to find speech resources. Most of the articles and websites I came across were written from a professional aspect for speech therapists. It was just mumbo-jumbo to me.

Thankfully, he didn’t have a severe problem and just struggled with a couple of letters. We were able to slowly work our way through them the best that I knew how. If only I had known then about Super Star Speech!

Super Star Speech is the work of Deborah Lott, a homeschooler who is a licensed Speech language pathologist a with Master’s degree in Education/ speech pathology.

There are four books available:

~ Super Star Speech: Speech Therapy Made Simple helps you identify & correct your child’s speech. You might discover, after giving the assessment, that your child is simply too young to have mastered a particular letter. The thing I love about this book is that everything is broken down into simple charts & activities. It is very easy to follow.

If your child only struggles with a couple of letters, then you might want to purchase one of the following: Super Star R & L, Super Star S, Z & Sh, or Super Star Ch, J & Th.

Funny enough, my 5 year old has struggled with the letter R, yet when I gave her the test she passed it with flying colors. Just goes to show you that sometimes it IS just a matter of time.

Don’t have any speech problems? Be sure to check out the fun Homeschool Games.

The Nitty Gritty:

  • $18.95 spiral bound
  • additional discounts for a set or e-books
  • $3.50 ea. for games

Value: These are a great price for a valuable resource.

See what my TOS Crew Mates have to say about Super Star Speech!

I received a free set of e-books for the purpose of writing an honest review. No other compensation was given.

review – Ideal Curriculum

Ideal Curriculum offers monthly curriculum kits for preschoolers. They are available as downloads or print. I received the first month Transportation Theme.

Monthly kits include:

  • Daily Lessons & Activities
  • Teaching guides
  • Workbook
  • Music CD
  • Science, sight words, and concepts about print books
  • Supplemental activities

This is a really cute, thorough curriculum. It is not something that I would use because we do relaxed preschool, but it reminds me of the lessons I did when I taught at a private preschool. This would be a good fit for a new homeschooling mom who is unsure of what to do and is looking for something ready-to-go. It is a great fit for a preschool teacher or daycare provider.

Sign up for a free 1-week curriculum to see if Ideal is ideal for you.

The Nitty Gritty:

  • $30 downloadable
  • $50 print version
  • discounts for multiple kits

Value: This curriculum is very pricey, but you are paying for the convenience of  a complete kit.

See what my TOS Crew Mates have to say about Ideal Curriculum!

I received a free Transportation unit for the purpose of writing an honest review. No other compensation was given.

review – BeeYoutiful

BeeYoutiful sent me a list of products that I could review, and I chose the Milk & Honey Facial Bar. It is a lovely mixture of goat milk and bee products.

A little education from the website:

“Honey cleanses dirt and impurities while smoothing wrinkles by increasing your skin’s elasticity. Propolis—a mixture of the essential oils, pollen, and wax bees harvest from plants—nourishes dry, itchy skin. Pollen, rich in enzymes and vitamins, contains the complete family of amino acids. It promotes new skin cell growth while scrubbing away built-up dead cells without stripping the skin of its natural protection. Milk & Honey’s beeswax base is the all-natural “carrier” for other ingredients that leaves your skin feeling soft and clean.”

Ingredients: Raw Goat Milk, Distilled Water, Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Palm Oil, Vitamin E Oil, Vegetable Oil, Sodium Hydroxide (lye), Raw Honey, Bee Pollen, Bee Propolis, Beeswax, Sweet Orange Essential Oil

The facial bar comes in a cute beehive shape – I love to use things that make me smile. It leaves my skin feeling very clean and soft. I am not too crazy about the scent. I would prefer a stronger honey scent instead of the orange. The scent did lessen over time though, so I don’t mind it now.

The Nitty Gritty:

  • $5.00/1.75 oz
  • $10.00/4.25 oz

Value: This is a quality product and it lasts a long time.

See what my TOS Crew Mates have to say about BeeYoutiful Products!

I received a free facial bar for the purpose of writing an honest review. No other compensation was given.