Beginning Narration with Aesop Fables

If you've been involved in the homeschooling movement for any amount of time, I am sure you've learned about the idea of narration as a teaching tool or should I say a learning tool.

I don't want to go into a whole description of narration today. That will be an article all by itself. Simply stated  oral narration is just saying back what someone else just read to you or you read yourself. Oral narration can be utilized in children ages 5 and up but starting in 1st grade is best. Never fear, you can start older!

This fall quarter, I decided to start my 1st grade son in some narration by reading some of Aesop's Fables. I would read at least one story to him a day. At least two or three times a week, I would ask him to tell the story back to me, and I would write it out in a notebook for him. I used one of those primary journal notebooks that has lines on the bottom half of the page and blank space on the top half. That way we could record his narration and he could then draw a picture of the story. Occasionally, I would just ask him what is something we learned from this story, and I would write in on the white board and he would record the moral of the story in his notebook in his own handwriting.

We finished our book of Aesop and now have several pages of narration recorded. It is a step toward learning to narrate which is a terrific skill to learn as your children devlop. Teaching this skill at age 5-7 is much easier than even 10-12 (but not impossible). Aesop's Fables are quite short and simple stories, making them simple for your early narrating student to learn these important narration skills. Give it a try. And let me know how it goes.

*Repost of my article on the Homeschool  Weekly Journal blog in 11/10/2010

Book Review: Braced for Love by Mary Connealy

It’s always an exciting day when a new Mary Connealy novel arrives in the mail! She is fast becoming one of my favorite authors especially if I am in the mood for western cowboys, excitement, humor and heart. 


Braced for Love is the first book in a new series titled: Brothers in Arms. In book 1, we meet Kevin Hunt and his younger half sister and brother. They are traveling from Kansas to inherit a ranch in Wyoming. The catch is that he has another half-sibling to share it with because the father Kevin thought was dead had remarried and had another son, Wyatt. There’s lots of suspicion between the brothers and then the danger gets even more intense. Add in pretty school teacher Winona who is a long time friend of Wyatt standing in between the two brothers and you have a stage set for some explosive fun and action.


This book sets up the series with lots of half-brothers and half-sisters to match up romantically. As always, I love Mary’s characterizations and her fun prose and exciting plots. I enjoyed reading Brace for Love and can’t wait to receive the next book in the series!

Her Secret Song by Mary Connealy: a Review


Mary Connealy’s 3rd and concluding novel in the Brides of Hope Mountain series: Her Secret Song is Ursula Nordegren’s story. I’ve been eagerly awaiting this final installment of this story since March and so excited to finally write this review. I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Book 3 picks up right where book 2 ended with the characters Wax Mosby and Ursula Nordegren on the verge of meeting. To be honest, these two seem to be the most unlikely of pairings of the series. Ursula is the oldest of the sisters but in many ways the timidest (or at least the most fearful) as she has been sheltered from the outside world and taught to fear it by their now deceased grandmother. Mosby, on the other hand, has a reputation of being a gun-for-hire without respect for persons. 


But Providence works in the lives of these characters and brings these two together to find their happily ever after. Mrs. Connealy does what she does best in writing romantic stories with cowboys. And by the end, you care for these characters and want to see them together, happy and safe. While these two are in the midst of falling in love, though, there is a whole mess of trouble to deal with and a huge gunfight during the last few chapters of the book. Lots of excitement! 


This is a continuity series meaning that the main characters change with each book as it continues forward in time. However, there are a couple over-arching storylines that will finally be answered by the end of this book, bringing the series to a satisfactory conclusion. I would recommend reading this series in order. 


The best part of Her Secret Song is the bringing together of a family. These three single, naïve girls are alone and by the end they are a part of a big, loving family. Hope Mountain at the beginning of book 1 really lacked hope in a future for these girls. And by the conclusion of book 3, it is filled with hope and the creation of a new generation living on top of Hope Mountain. Read the whole series. You won’t be disappointed.


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Structure and Style® for Students Year 1 Level C from Institute for Excellence in Writing® Review

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. 

The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Review Crew

Institute for Excellence in Writing

Structure and Style for Students Year 1 Level C

I've used Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) for many years off and on over our 17 years of homeschooling. When I was given the opportunity to review the brand new Structure and Style curriculum, I was excited to see the difference between the older Student Writing Intensive (SWI) and this new Structure and Style for Students (SSS) curriculum. 

We've had experience using the IEW curriculum using the SWI curriculum and several of the themed books and our students have had positive experiences learning to write. As some background, my oldest son who is now in college, is dyslexic and dysgraphic. This writing program is truly what helped him to become a successful writer. 

That being said, I am thrilled to share what IEW has done with their new curriculum. The Structure and Style curriculum has replaced the now discontinued Student Writing Intensive curriculum. 

The SSS Level C Year 1 Basic set includes the Teacher Manual, student binder with dividers and student pages, and lessons taught by Andrew Pudewa either as DVDs or a code for streaming forever. There are also several included downloads noted in the Teacher Manual. For review, I received all printed materials and streaming lessons. This worked for very for us because our internet is good. Assess your internet and determine if the DVDs would do better for you.

The course includes 24 weeks of instruction for each level of the program. The first 9 weeks cover structure, and the style is taught throughout the whole course. The 24 weeks are broken down into nine units. Those units include:

  1. Note Making and Outlines
  2. Writing From Notes
  3. Retelling Narrative Stories
  4. Summarizing a Reference
  5. Writing From Pictures
  6. Summarizing Multiple References
  7. Inventive Writing
  8. Formal Essay Models
  9. Formal Critique
 You can start this course in high school even if you have never used IEW in the past. The thing to remember is that you do not have to move on to the next lesson and unit if your student is not ready. Work on the skills especially in the first 5 units until they are ready to use those skills well in the remainder of the course.

What I really liked about the new Structure and Style for Students:

1. All new source material.
As mentioned before, I have used the older SWI curriculum and I loved how this course has refreshed their writing program. New source material means it is not just the same ole same ole. I found it more fun to teach and my high schooler found it fun to learn and write.

2. New stories and jokes from Mr. Pudewa.
If you have never used IEW, you will meet Mr. Pudewa who teaches the course. He understands kids (I think boys especially) and he uses fun stories and jokes in his teaching. Somehow he came up with a whole year's worth of new material to go with this new curriculum. My boys loved it!

3. Board Notes.
While teaching, Mr. Pudewa uses the white board and makes notes for the paper/assignment. It was great to now have a page in the Teacher's Manual where those 'Board Notes' can be found for reference. This was very helpful.

4. Literature Suggestions.
In the Notes for each lesson, there is a section called LITERATURE SUGGESTIONS. This is great for those who need a reading list for Literature. The choices go with the source material being used for the writing assignments.

4. Organization.
Everything is broken down day by day for each lesson. It makes it very easy to implement. The lesson video is even broken down for Part 1 & Part 2 so you know where to stop. And it gives lesson plans if you would like to include their Fix-It Grammar program into your English studies. Check lists are included to help with grading and so the student knows what to include with structure and style into their writing. It is just very well organized and that makes it that much easier for you as the teacher to implement and for your student to get writing accomplished. 

5. Writing Topics.
I really like what is included in this Level C for high school. The first 5 units use source material to get students writing and learning structure and how to incorporate certain stylistic inclusions in their assignments. Starting in Unit 6, they begin more inventive writing such as: summarizing from several references, university application essay, responses to literature and even how to use MLA. Since I have a student in college, I can tell you that these are assignments that they will have to do in their College Writing classes. This is great preparation for these courses. 

Our family enjoyed reviewing this curriculum and we've even had the opportunity to show it to a few other friends and homeschoolers who have used IEW in the past. They've all been impressed by the changes in this new program. Whether you have an elementary student through a high school student, this curriculum will help your young writer to improve their writing and prepare for college and beyond. 

Learn More

Learn more about the curriculum and the different levels available by reading all the reviews.  You will find them linked up HERE on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.  Also, please visit the website for the Institute for Excellence in Writing to learn more about this curriculum. You can even download the first 3 units if you would like to try it for free

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Review: Progeny Press Literature Study Guides

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

I have used Progeny Press Study Guides for Literature from a Christian Perspective in the past, and I was excited to review the  Little Women Study Guide this month. What I love about Progeny Press guides is that they allow you to study classic literature from a Christian perspective. As a Christian homeschooling educator, that is so important in this day in age as we prepare our students with a solid foundation before they go off into the world. 


Progeny Press study guides are thorough. I would recommend only doing a few each year. They go deep and take some time to complete (8-10 weeks). I would not use one for every book you read this year. You want your students to enjoy literature. Don’t kill the joy by doing too much.


I received the pdf downloaded version of the guide and the teacher's edition. What I like about this option vs the print version is that I can give the file to my student on their device and they can fill in the pdf with their answers as there are digital answer boxes for them to type inside of. This works well for students with dysgraphia or poor penmanship. At the end, you can print it out and have a nice copy of all their written work.


These study guides are great because they have everything you need to study a book. So many times I have had to spend a lot of time and energy in putting something together myself as we prepare to study a book, but these guides make it so much easier. It includes a synopsis, information on the author with internet links for more research, historical context on the historical period and on the literary period, pre-reading activities and then it takes you into chapter by chapter assignments. 

There are vocabulary studies for each set of chapters (for instance, chapters 1-4). Then there are some basic questions. For example, “Why is Mr. March away from home? What is his job? Explain. The other questions are more Why and Explain types of questions, not the very basic ‘what happened’ types of questions. This guide is for high school; therefore, the questions are of a higher thinking level.

The guide also includes in-depth questions that are more essay style and even sections of literary analysis. In the Little Women study, they are learning about simile/metaphor, allusions, anthropomorphism, etc. They will learn about transcendentalism and other items specific to reading this time period. And intertwined in these questions are Biblical connections and Bible verses to look up and apply to what they are reading. This is so important to our kids as they are growing up and reading these pieces of literature. 

After each section of chapters, there are additional activities. These are lots of fun! For example, there are several recipes included. So, you can make buckwheat pancakes like the March girls had on Christmas. There are art projects and natural science activities, as well as, group discussion and field trip ideas. There are so many options that your students will definitely find something that they want to do to extend the learning. My teen boys even had fun cooking!

The cons of using these guides are that there is just so much included. It could be overwhelming to some moms and students. My son #1 is dysgraphic and dyslexic. So, I often will go through and do some of the questions orally or I will type answers for him. Also, be free in choosing to just assign certain questions to answer. You don’t have to do it all. Pick and choose what works for your family and your student.

The Progeny Press study guides are a great way to study classic literature in a home or class environment. I have spoken with so many homeschool moms who are worried about being able to teach literature to their high school students especially as it comes to literary analysis. These guides make it very easy. It is all in the guide at your fingertips. And the guides are also fun to do especially when including any of the optional activities to make the book come to life. I definitely recommend these guides. Both of my boys have thoroughly enjoyed them. 

Check out the Progeny Press study guide on Little Women.


Visit the Homeschool Review Crew blog to read more reviews of Progeny Press Study Guides.




Review of Love Riot: A Teenage Call to Live with Relentless Abandon for Christ by Sara Barratt

Before starting this book, I had heard it was a combination of Crazy Love and Do Hard Things. I totally agree with that assessment. I’d even throw in Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman. Though intended for youth, I, as a mom, youth worker and author, found the book to be fantastic! Parents and Youth Workers need to get this book and read it with your kids/students. There is fantastic discussion questions included at the end of each chapter. Brett & Alex Harris wrote Do Hard Things as older teens back in 2008. Ms. Barratt’s message is in the same vein as that book of teens not only getting off the bench and rejecting low expectations, but also making a choice to be Christ followers. And to become not just a Christian in name but in heart and in deed. 

But don’t take my word for it. Read some of the quotes that I found most impactful.

“The church isn’t made up of perfect people but forgiven people.”

“Being a picture-perfect Christian might build our egos, but being a Jesus follower isn’t about building our egos but building His kingdom.”

“He meets us where we are and says we’re never too far gone. He turns a mess into a message, a failure into a conqueror, an outcast into a child of God.”

“I’ve learned my comfort zones may feel safe, but in reality, they’re a prison keeping me from fully following Christ.”

“Friends can lift you up or pull you down. Choose friends that challenge you to read your Bible, pray for you, and inspire you to follow Jesus.”

“We keep on creating little pockets of heaven on earth when we offer grace instead of wrath. Forgiveness instead of hatred. Purity in a world of impurity.”

“My prayer for our generation is that we fall deeply in love with Jesus and grow passionate about the gospel. I pray He sweeps us off our feet with the beauty of His sacrifice and sets a fire in our souls to share Him with others.”

Though intended for youth, this young lady convicted me, taught me and inspired me. This is a must read for this current generation.

Buy a Copy Today. Releases everywhere 5/5/2020. 

I received an ARC from the publisher and this is my honest review.

Book Review: Woman of Sunlight by Mary Connealy

This is Book 2 in Mary Connealy’s Brides of Hope Mountain series. I only just finished Book 1 (Aiming for Love) 2 weeks ago, and I was so excited to be able to review this next book as a part of Mary’s launch team. I did receive a copy of this book for free in an exchange for an honest review.

In this book, we take up with Mitch Warden and Ilsa Nordegren where we left off with them in book 1. These two characters were introduced in the first book, and they continually butted heads. In the next book, their interactions quickly change and before you know it, they are married out of an issue with propriety and on an adventure of their own in Chicago shortly after the 1871 fire.

Because this is a story of marriage of convenience, we get to see Mitch and Ilsa fall in love. They find themselves on a honeymoon that includes Ilsa comically figuring out the modern world (since she’s lived her entire life on top of Hope Mountain with only her sisters as company) in the midst of murder attempts, kidnappings, shootouts, and carriage chases through the city. The last portion of the book is very exciting and you will be on the edge of your seat. A honeymoon is a time for a married couple to bond together and that’s exactly what happens with Ilsa and Mitch. Who knew a honeymoon could be fraught with such danger and mayhem! 

The Brides of Hope Mountain is indeed a series. There are plot elements that continue from book to book. The focus just changes from each book depending on who the main point of view characters are. In book 1, both of the major problems are introduced. One problem is solved in Book 2 and the rest I imagine will be resolved in book 3. It would be wise to start at the beginning in book 1 and continue with all three books. You’ll be glad you did.

Woman of Sunlight is an enjoyable and amusing story. It contains characters to care about and root for, an engaging plotline and in the end it will leave you with a warm, feeling to combat the troubles we are currently battling in the world today.