Homeschool Planet – A Review

Homeschool-Planet-Logo-Hi_Res%20872x_zpsirhewxf1Looking for an all-inclusive program to organize your homeschool… and your life?!?! Homeschool Planet is probably the solution for you. I searched and searched, tried different programs for keeping everything organized and simple, but Homeschool Planet is the software that I ended up using for our first homeschool year. I was also given a free year of the subscription for sharing this review for all of you. This program was created by the Homeschool Buyers Co-Op and offers a free trial, so you can make sure it’s the right fit for your family before you actually buy it.

Homeschool Planet is the most user-friendly online program I have found anywhere. It literally includes everything you will need. I’m sure I haven’t even used all of the fun features that are included… so many options. You can set up individual accounts within your profile, and the kids can even have their own logins so they can view only their assignments. Here are some of the awesome features within Homeschool Planet:

  • Different views so you can see your classes/schedule in whatever format you need, including a calendar view so you can see all calendars at once and a planner view so you can simply see everything you need to do and when.
  • Email and text message reminders to help everyone stay on schedule. Daily digest emails that can go to the whole family so everyone can see their schedule, assignments, and even their chores for the day.
  • Attendance tracking.
  • Transcript creation.
  • Compatible with Google Calendar, iCal, and other online calendars.
  • Mobile version that allows you to edit on smartphones.
  • A¬†rescheduling helper that pops up when you log on. It reminds you to check off completed assignments and grades in a BULK format. So incredibly easy to do, so that you don’t have to go into individual kids and classes to record grades. If you haven’t completed one or more assignments, you can reschedule them or just leave them ungraded if you prefer.
  • To-Do lists, shopping lists, lesson plans with assignments, web links, notes, lesson copying, text message sending, meal plan creation, and so much more.

Here are a few sample screenshots of what it looks like to actually use Homeschool Planet:

This is a pop-up helper that offers resources and helps to get started…

Online%20Help%20Video_zpspdelzcv6This is what it looks like in calendar view…



This is planner view…


This is the “manage family” pop-up. As you can see, you can track attendance, logins, and other information for each person in the family…


There are many options for printing reports. How I used it was to print out each child’s daily schedule individually and put it at his/her desk to make sure we stayed on track through the day. I have little ones, so it was mostly for me to stay on track. ūüôā You can also print the whole group on one report, one day on a report, the week ahead on a report, etc.

Honestly, after trying others, I just don’t believe there is a better online program for keeping everything organized in a busy homeschooling mama’s life. If you’ve never checked into it, make sure you go to this page for a free trial: Homeschool Planet.

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The Ripken Way – Review & Baseball Package Giveaway!

***CONGRATULATIONS TO DANA BOWMAN! You are the winner or the Ripken Baseball Package! Thanks to everyone who entered!***

Today’s post is sponsored by Ripken Baseball through the Bloggy Moms Network.

ripken-way-headerI’ve always loved baseball. It’s pretty much in my blood. The smell of outfield grass and hot dogs, the chalk dust, the chatter, the familiar tunes, the sounds of ball-hitting-glove and bat-hitting-ball, and every single baseball movie ever made!

My preteen/teenage Saturdays were spent at the ballpark watching my little brother, along with other boys I knew and liked. In high school, I was the manager of the JV baseball team (which meant I could keep a pretty mean scorebook and make sure stats were correct). ūüôā Then there was softball, which I played until I started having babies… and throughout all of this time, a deep love for the game of baseball and the Atlanta Braves.

So now, our oldest son loves baseball just like his mama. It’s fun to watch him as he learns the fundamentals and grows into a stronger player. There are so many lessons that our kids can learn from playing the game of baseball…

‘If we do all the little things right, then we’ll never have a big thing to worry about.’ – Cal Ripken, Sr.

Enter The Ripken Way. If you know anything about baseball, you’ve heard of the Ripkens.


Cal Ripken, Sr. was with the Orioles for 37 years as a player, coach and manager. Although his career was successful, Cal Sr.’s legacy is his love of the game and the wisdom that he instilled in players… and the wisdom that has continued to be passed down through others. He spent thousands of hours working with players, teaching them the fundamentals, about hard work, and about the other pieces of character building that would become known as The Ripken Way. His sons, Cal Jr. and Bill now continue the legacy through Ripken Baseball, which offers a virtual learning academy, youth camps, and travel team tournaments that teach kids their unique method.

My favorite topic of The Ripken Way is that baseball is a game of fundamentals. This is so true in life, isn’t it? Here’s an excerpt that explains the importance of fundamentals:

You’ll find an emphasis on the basic fundamentals of baseball at the foundation of every big leaguer’s career. But in today’s highly competitive youth baseball environment, players can miss out on the focused training that’s needed to truly rise to the next level. That’s why a camp experience is so important for young ballplayers.

Every chance we get to make an impression on a young ballplayer, Ripken Baseball stresses the importance of mastering the game’s fundamental building blocks. The players who advance from recreational leagues and travel teams to high school and college or beyond are those who master the fundamentals to the point that they become second nature. They don’t go out and practice fielding bad-hop ground balls, making diving catches or backhanding balls deep in the hole. Instead they field routine groundball after routine groundball, fine tuning the proper mechanics necessary to catch the ball and throw it accurately after the catch. Derek Jeter catches a groundball and throws it to first base the exact same way that your 10-year-old should. Be sure that your son or daughter’s coach is taking the time to teach the fundamentals during practice.

It’s so important to know the basics… and not just to know them, but to practice them so much that they become second nature. This is a good lesson for us all! Check out the opportunities that are offered for youth baseball players to attend a summer camp with Ripken Baseball: 2015 Youth Baseball Camps.

Team Mom Tips:

Are you a new sports mom? My biggest advice to you would be to:

  1. Stay positive. Encourage from the sidelines, don’t coach. Save that for after the game when you’re working on skills at home.
  2. Get to know the other moms! As an introvert, this isn’t the easiest thing for me. I tend to stay in my little chair and watch. So what did I do this year? I became Team Mom! If you’re an introvert also, consider jumping in! I loved getting to know other moms this year because I got out of my comfort zone a little.

Giveaway of Ripken Baseball Instructional Package!

Ripken Baseball has agreed to give away The Ripken Way Instructional Bundle, with 3 DVDs of hitting, pitching, and defense for one lucky reader! This retails for $59. Would you like to use this awesome teaching tool with your son/daughter? Leave me a comment on this post. I’ll keep the giveaway open until Thursday, July 16th at midnight. Winner will be announced here and you will receive an email from me! Make sure to leave your email address in the comment. ūüôā

Untangled by Carey Scott – A Book Review

I knew I wanted to review Untangled because I think the world of my friend, Carey Scott. I also knew that insecurity has been a constant struggle throughout my life. What I didn’t know was how much Carey’s words would resonate with my own experiences… and touch my heart! I’m so thankful for the transparency in this girl. Thankful that she allowed God to get into the innermost parts and open up a vulnerability that we ALL needed to see… and one that is so seldom shared.

Scott_Untangled_wSpine.inddAbout the Book: 

Untangled unpacks the struggle women have with feeling like who we are and what we do is good enough. We’re bombarded with daily reminders that we just don’t measure up. And unfortunately, we’re listening.

We might feel insignificant as a wife or ineffective as a mom. We might feel worthless because we don’t fit the world’s definition of beauty or battle feelings of rejection because of other women. We may gauge our value based on our income or how well we cook and clean.

Or honestly, it could be a million other things.

The truth is, there’s no shortage of not-good-enough messages tangling our lives every day. And unless we understand what they’re doing to us and ask God to unknot the insecurities that are choking our sense of worth, we will never have a healthy self-esteem.

This book is my story‚ÄĒmy journey‚ÄĒto find the good in me, and to learn how to silence the voices that have called me I‚Äôm worthless. Chances are it‚Äôs your story too. Insecurity is a thread that knits us together as women.

But there is hope.

The God who created us on purpose is relentless in pursuit of our healing. And He is the only One who can heal our black and blue hearts from the tangles that have bruised it. When we ask Him to heal us, He will.

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:17-18)

Do you want to be untangled from the insecurities that have knotted up your self-worth? Are you tired of feeling like you just don’t have what it takes? Do you want to find joy in life and contentment with yourself?

It’s time, friend.

Untangled is an honest discussion about the things that make us feel worthless. It’s not another self-help book. It doesn’t offer to fix you. And it isn’t full of empty promises. Instead it will challenge you to take a truthful look at your life, revealing the source of your own not-good-enough messages and making a case for why Jesus is the only One who can silence them.

Told with humor, vulnerability, and encouragement, this book will connect with the heart of every women.

18835864485_8786009508_mAbout the Author:

Carey Scott is an author, speaker, and certified Bible life coach who challenges women to be real – not perfect – even when real is messy. She speaks to women’s groups and writes an online devotional designed to help women be who God created them to be. She lives in Colorado with her husband and their two children.

Keep up with Carey at, on Facebook (careyscotttalks) or by following her on Twitter (@careyscotttalks).

My Review:

From the time I started reading Untangled, it was like I was sitting across the table at Starbucks talking with a dear friend. Carey speaks my language for sure, and it seemed like we were kindred spirits in so many ways. She is REAL in this book… something I believe we all need a LOT more of. If we’re honest, we all are insecure about something… and Carey helps us to realize that we are definitely not alone.

Through chapters of talking about real-life struggles, and offering us what God says about those struggles, she helps us all learn how to break free of our personal tangles. If it’s something that happened in childhood, an insecurity about our physical bodies, our abilities, etc… Carey leads us on a journey to allow God to untangle our messy lives and our messy hearts.

I’m so thankful for Carey, for her heart, and for her vulnerable story on paper. This is a book for every woman to read. It’s not a typical self-help book… you’ll feel like you’re hearing from one of your closest friends!! Seriously, go buy it today and see how God uses it in your life!

Also, make sure you check out to find out your specific tangle(s) and to learn more about how to become untangled!

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of Untangled: Let God Loosen the Knots of Insecurity in Your Life from Revell in exchange for an honest review on my blog. This review expresses my own personal opinions.

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A Friend In Me: Book Review

A Friend In Me: How to Be a Safe Haven for Other Women¬†introduces us to the issues that prevent¬†Christian women from building strong inter-generational friendships. It presents a case for why it’s important for us, as women, to get past our differences and join together for the cause of Christ.


About the Book: 

Young women long for relational connection with women further ahead of them on the journey. Yet, without realizing it, many of us tend to distance ourselves from those in younger generations.

Can we really have close relationships with women who have different thoughts on church, different experiences with family, and different ways of talking about God? Where do we start?

In¬†A Friend in Me, Pam Lau shows you how to be a safe place for the younger women in your life. She offers five patterns women need to internalize and practice for initiating relationships and talking about issues such as faith, forgiveness, sexuality, and vocation. Most significantly, she reminds you that there doesn‚Äôt need to be a divide between generations of women. Together, we can have a global impact‚ÄĒand experience a deeper faith than we‚Äôve ever known.

About the Author:slideONE3

Pamela Havey Lau is the author of A Friend in Me, Soul Strength and numerous articles for such publications as Christian Scholar’s Review and Christianity Today. A graduate of Liberty University and Colorado State University, she has taught writing at George Fox University and speaks around the country at conferences and retreats.

After her three daughters were born, Lau began teaching writing at private day schools until 2010 when she started her own business, Real Life Real Image, where she writes, edits and speaks. Lau is married to Dr. Brad Lau, a college administrator. The two make their home near Portland, Oregon, with their three daughters. 

Keep up with Pamela Havey Lau at, on Facebook (pamela.h.lau) or by following her on Twitter(@pamelahaveylau).

My Review:

It is obvious that Pamela has a passion for bringing older women and younger women together in relationship. A Friend In Me addresses and tackles many of the issues that stand in the way of strong Christlike relationships within multiple generations. Basically, the older generations feel that they can’t relate with the younger, and vice versa. However, if we can get past this and take the time to LEARN about each other, we can do a lot to further the kingdom. If the older generations can REMEMBER what it was like to be young, they can offer a lot of experience and help to the younger women. This is a great read for anyone who is involved in women’s ministry…¬†it’s a call for us to have a different, Christ-centered, newer mindset for reaching younger women for Christ. It’s a book that teaches us that ministry is about relationship, not our events.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of A Friend In Me: How to Be a Save Haven for Other Women from Litfuse in exchange for an honest review on my blog. This review expresses my own personal opinions.

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IEW Primary Arts of Language: Reading & Writing – A Review

Because Katherine has continued to struggle with learning to read, I was excited when we got the chance¬†to review The Institute for Excellence in Writing’s¬†Special Needs Curriculum: Primary Arts of Language.¬†We received the Reading Complete Package and the Writing Complete Package for this review.

At first glance, the program can seem overwhelming because of all of the pieces included. However, Jill Pike’s introduction videos walk you straight through the why, how, and what of the entire program. After watching and learning from her laid back and very calming explanations, I was no longer worried. She makes the process simple… and fun!

The Primary Arts of Language: Reading Complete Package uses poetry, letter stories, and daily games to give a well-rounded approach to learning concepts.

Primary%20Arts%20of%20Language%20Reading%20Complete_zps2qlzypqt-2The package includes the following:

There is such a flexibility with how this program is put together. The Teacher’s Manual, Phonetic Games book, and Phonetic Farm folder are all printed materials. However, the student workbooks and readers are included on the DVD-ROM, so you can just print them off as you need them. THIS allows you the option to use them with multiple students. It’s the best of both worlds!

The Primary Arts of Language: Writing Complete Package uses printing, copywork, and composition and fits right together with the Reading lessons.


This package includes:

Again, just like in the reading package, consumables are in PDF form on the DVD-ROM, so you can print out materials as you go along.

The Overall Program:

When you put the reading and writing packages together, it becomes a very holistic approach to learning the art of language. One poem is presented each week, with a different activity being implemented every day. This helps kids to really grasp the concepts in the poem, and helps them learn how to retain what they read. The games reinforce everything and make it tons of fun. The letter stories help to make sounds visual, as opposed to just learning the letters themselves. There are so many beautiful pieces to this curriculum and they all fit together like no other program I’ve seen.

What do we think of IEW’s Primary Arts of Language: Reading & Writing?

After trying MULTIPLE Language Arts/Phonics programs with Katherine, she¬†has continued to struggle with learning to read. All of the programs we’ve tried have been good, and have had a lot of good components within them, but nothing has seemed to click with her. We tried a program similar to this one with many different pieces to it (readers, worksheets, writing, games, etc.), but it all seemed too disjunct and complicated… so I pretty much gave up on that one. PAL, however, flows together flawlessly. We also tried a program that was more simplified, but it was too boring for my artsy, visual girl. After searching (and I feel wasting time) this entire school year, I believe¬†that IEW’s Primary Arts of Language will be the¬†tool that finally develops her confidence. I am personally confident that she will be reading by the end of the summer. I HIGHLY recommend this program!

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Apologia Exploring Creation Field Trip Journal: A Review


Apologia Educational Ministries produces so many incredible products for homeschooling families, including science textbooks for all different levels, planners, journals, and so much more! When I was given the opportunity to review their Exploring Creation Field Trip Journal, I jumped at the chance! After all, our kiddos love to go on field trips. ūüėČ


Apologia’s Field Trip Journal is divided into several sections:

  • Preparing for a Field Trip;
  • Student and Teacher checklists for the week before, the night before, on the way, and at the ‚Äúfield‚ÄĚ;
  • Over 100 Field Trip Ideas;
  • Over 100 suggestions for studying plants, animals, Earth, space, aviation, the human body, history, government, culture, and more;
  • Places I‚Äôve Explored Maps;
  • Three separate sections help you document the date and destination of any field trips exploring your state, the United States, and the world;
  • Field Trip Pages;
  • Specific field trip pages help you plan out your visit, document any books you‚Äôve read about your field trip, create a ‚Äúmust do‚ÄĚ list, take personal notes, tell the ‚ÄúStory of my day,‚ÄĚ and record ‚ÄúSomething I never want to forget‚ÄĚ;
  • Special Spot Pages;
  • As I See It Pages.

This beautiful, spiral-bound journal is designed to help your student slow down and notice the fascinating changes that occur from one season to the next.  Four times a year, your student will map out a specific location to see what happens over time, recording things such as color, flowers, leaves, sights, sounds, animal clues such as track or droppings, temperature, average rainfall, and much more. It was created to help your child document thoughts using imagination to capture an experience as only he or she can see it.

Here are a few screenshots of sample pages:

Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 1.04.45 AM Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 1.04.31 AM Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 1.04.17 AM







I really wish I would have known about this journal at the beginning of the¬†school year. We would have used it at SciWorks & several other places. We talked through our trip at the Children’s Museum with it, but we could have used it so much more extensively if we had it earlier. If you and your children love field trips, or if it’s hard to get them talking about what they learned on field trips, this is a great tool to help conversation.

We were able to have a conversation about dinosaurs during (and after) our trip to the Dinosaur Exhibition at Broadway at the Beach today, so I’m thankful that the ideas presented in this Field Journal are now just a part of how the kids and I learn.

If you are looking for a notebook/journal to help your kids (and you) to learn more during field trips, I highly recommend that you take a look at Apologia’s Exploring Creation Field Trip Journal. It will help you discuss things in more detail, and will serve as a learning tool that you can keep and look back to for years to come!

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JazzEdge: PianoWithWillie – A Review

I was SO excited to get an opportunity to personally review¬†JazzEdge‘s piano¬†curriculum, which is called¬†PianoWithWillie.¬†As a musician, and someone who has wanted to learn the piano and more in-depth music theory, this program has¬†given me the¬†opportunity for me to do just that. For this review, I was given a Studio Membership for one year, which includes 3500+ lessons, a 30-day start program, sheet music, audio downloads, unlimited support, and more.

JazzEdge was founded by Willie Myette, a Berklee graduate, who wanted to put all of his jazz education and performance ventures in one place. He has lessons available in jazz, funk, latin, rock, gospel and blues for everyone, including homeschool families. The different programs offered by Willie are: PianoWithWillie, DrumsWithWillie, Homeschool Piano, and Easy Piano Basics.img-home-play-slide1_zpsvfgbjtyp

Willie’s teaching theory includes complete integration between¬†Rhythm, Technique, Reading, Song, Style, and Concept. His idea is to make learning fun.. not just learning the foundations, but to make it fun in the process. By the 4th lesson in his 30-day start program, you are playing a fun little song. This will keep students entertained as they learn. By the 8th lesson, students are already learning about improvisation.

This program is extremely comprehensive. The 30-day start program is great for either a refresher course or a cram course for a newer player. After that, there are a TON of lessons that will teach you how to play a variety of songs in many different genres. Willie’s demeanor is great, very relaxed, and makes you see learning the piano as¬†what it should be… fun.img-home-play-slide2_zpsolv6lwdl

It works on all different types of devices… computer, iPhone, iPad, etc. You basically watch the lesson video of the day and work on the musical piece you’ve been given. All of the sheet music and mp3s are downloadable for you, along with instructions, so you don’t have to worry about something not being explained. The interface shows Willie’s instruction at the bottom of the screen, along with a shot of him playing the keyboard with another virtual keyboard above, showing the notes he’s playing. It’s really, really cool.


I actually am going through the curriculum myself, as my kids have never had any real music training so they’re not to the point that this program would work for them. I would recommend that anyone who uses this curriculum¬†is already a musician and has a basic understanding of the piano and reading music. If you are a true beginner, Willie’s Homeschool Piano may be a better fit for you. There is also a program for young beginners called Easy Piano Basics that you may want to check into.

I highly recommend that you check out all of Willie’s programs for your homeschool music lessons. Your kids will get a good foundation of music theory and practice no matter which program you choose. It’s an incredibly rich and comprehensive curriculum that shows he has put a ton of time, effort, and love of music into it.

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Never Say No: Book Review

Never Say No: Raising Big-Picture Kids¬†is a parenting book like none I’ve read before. It is an invitation to grace-filled parenting that helps our kids explore who they are created to be individually. Mark and Jan very intentionally raised their kids to fulfill their greater purposes in this life.


About the Book: 

The question Mark and Jan Foreman are most often asked is: How did you raise your kids?

Never Say No takes you on a personal journey to learn first-hand how they raised Jon and Tim of Switchfoot. They share practical advice for instilling wonder in a media-saturated culture, cultivating specific gifts, and balancing structure with individual choice. Our purpose as parents is the same as our child’s: to live creatively beyond ourselves, bringing the love, beauty and nature of God to this world. Let the adventure begin.

Mark & Jan Foreman live in the San Diego area, where Mark is lead pastor of North Coast Calvary Chapel in Carlsbad, California. Mark is the author of Wholly Jesus, and holds advanced degrees in Theology, Education, and a Ph.D. in Counseling & Pastoral Care.

Jan is a gifted teacher and artist, and also facilitates partnerships with underprivileged women and children both locally and in developing countries.

Together, they love surfing, sailing, travel and especially being with their family.

My Review:

This book opened my eyes to a different way of looking at parenthood. Well, maybe not really different, but it opened my eyes to things I’m doing which are contrary to what I believe I SHOULD be doing. Never Say No is basically an invitation to lead your children to become the best they can be… to truly become who God is calling them to be. In essence, we need to spend more time saying “yes” to them than we spend saying “no.” It’s not saying that we don’t need to discipline and correct… it’s saying that we need to spend more time WITH our children. Understanding them. Guiding them. Letting them be free to find themselves. We need to help our kids understand that there is a greater purpose behind every choice they make, which develops character and strength. It is not a rules-oriented way of parenting. Instead it is a way to help them learn to make choices with integrity, and it is also a beautiful way for the family to be a closer unit. This is a must-read, in my opinion, for every parent or every future parent!

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of Never Say No: Raising Big Picture Kids from Litfuse in exchange for an honest review on my blog. This review expresses my own personal opinions.

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