Embracing a Healthy Family

Goldtown Beginnings Jem's Adventures by Kregel Publications Homeschool Review

Finding good books for kids is fun for me as my whole family enjoys reading. We had an opportunity to read two books from the Goldtown Beginnings Series by Kregel Publications review. The books, Jem Strikes Gold and Jem's Frog Fiasco, were full of fun and adventure.


Set in 1859, the series by Susan K. Marlow, tells the imaginative tale of the series hero, Jem, and his adventures set in Goldtown, California. It's the height of the gold rush and 7 year old Jem and his family pan gold. Jem and his dog brings readers ages 6-9 an adventure to not forget.


The 78 pages paperback is short and packed with words which is perfect for the young reader. The black and white illustrations are just right for the storyline offering no distractions. It's really a good book for the next stage reader. It is a cute story with a few main characters consisting of seven year old Jem, his younger sister Ellie, their parents, a bully named Will and a dog. The story provides the reader with a bit of history going back to the California gold rush and seeing what life was like for a child. The children back then did a lot of work and when he wasn't panning for gold, he was with his sister delivering pies and laundry. The siblings show empathy and care towards one another and face adversity against the bully child named Will. Along the way in the story, Jem meets a dog that will prove its weight in gold. The stories do note God and praying but it's not full of multiple references to Biblical versus or God. Both stories are clean and provide a lesson.

The end of the book includes two pages looking back in time and providing more history on California and gold.

Example of "New Words" to review.


This one is 80 pages and is also a paperback. It's book two in the series and Jem is now working for cafe owner, Mr. Sims, to help pay for dog food for the dog he found in the last book named Nugget. This story spans across the adventure of Jem's job responsibility of catching frogs for the menu. As Jem works, Nugget and his sister Ellie get in the way providing for a frustrating time for Jem as he learns it's not quite so easy to catch frogs. As Jem's anger elevates, Ellie becomes missing and the story line continues with finding Ellie and what happened. Of course, I don't want to give away the whole story. 

The ending two pages include a factoid about coyote holes. 


There are also some fun activities to go along with the books with a free Activity Guide. The guides include a daily schedule that coordinates with each chapter. Each book has a Guide that is 128 pages.

I first started by printing the Schedule for both books. I'm going to focus only on the Jem Strikes Gold book as my homeschool lessons. The book is broken into 24 days which can be any set of days you prefer.

For Day 1, for example, we read chapter 1, discussed the new words (11 new words) and completed activities on page 7 of the Guide.

As the days proceed, the activities increase. For Day 18, we read Chapter 9 and completed page 18, 9-12.

Overall, we enjoyed the books as part of our night time reading hour. The ability to incorporate some extra work was a bonus for me with the worksheets provided. The stories were short enough to not lose my granddaughter's attention yet exciting enough to keep her wanting more. We look forward to the next books in the series and recommend each one.


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Check out what others on the Homeschool Review Crew, a division of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, thought by clicking on the (photo) link below:

Jem Strikes Gold & Jem's Frog Fiasco  {Kregel Publications Reviews}

British Beef Tenderloin Pie - Modified

I previously wrote and shared our British Pork Pie recipe since we started on a little road of discovery all about Britain.  I'm a dual citizen (by descent) since my mom is from there thanks to a changed law that recognizes the maternal link.  I'm also an ardent Jane Austen fan and that is slowly creeping into my daughter's interest.  I instantly fell for a quirky movie based on the love of Austen titled Austenland.  Low and behold, my younger who is a self-proclaimed 'mini-me', loves it too which has inspired all this new found interest in England.  We previously had our first tea party with homemade strawberry scones followed by a luncheon with finger sandwiches which didn't go over well since they are not egg fans.  

Our latest dish was a modified pork pie using beef tenderloin or filet mignon which was very tedious to make.  

So, with only three dishes on hand, we proceeded to make our British modified pork pies.  I called my mom since she's the resident expert in this area and when I told her what the recipe entailed, she proclaimed it wasn't like the pork pies she grew up with and that they ate them cold and they had a gel substance inside.  I can honestly say I can do without the gel thank you very much!  So here are our pictures of the long process but very condensed:

The dough is made after the beef and bacon mixture have been prepared and is cooling in the refrigerator.  It was a basic flour and lard recipe and was simple to make.

I added small bits of potatoes this time.

The skillet included onions, garlic and green apple:
Half the beef and thick bacon mixture is pulsed in a food processor and returned with the other half.   It does not look too appetizing!

My two girls are the pickiest eaters ever but they really enjoyed the filet mignon pot pies!  It was a win!

Not quite like the recipe picture but it was still good!  Want to try it?  Here is the link for British Pork Pie recipe.

Our Calvert Homeschool Online Review: Making Homeschooling Easier

As we move into a new semester, I wanted to try out another online homeschool curriculum to see how my children would adapt to it. I chose to review the Calvert Homeschool Online family plan by Calvert Homeschool. With this review, we had access to all the courses from grades 3-12. This was a nice feature because it allowed me flexibility when assigning courses to each of my children. 

Signing up was easy and setting up both of my girls was equally easy. Whenever I sign on now, I see the following in the screen shot below. It's arranged really nice in an aesthetically pleasing flow. The dashboard provides a one stop area for managing my students, messages, the application, reports, and administration. The help feature is also an asset.


Once the courses are assigned, click on Calendar to see all the assignments that are due each day. If you have more than one student, it will list them. I like how I can view everything in one location. For this example, I'm going to use Little Women: Theme of Ambition as I click through the calendar.

By clicking on the link, it provides another window that provides objectives, vocabulary words and much more for each lesson.

There are many great features for the teacher/parent to access and to manage their students to include great reports.

STUDENT LOGIN - Geography 300

For my review, I will focus on History and Geography 300 with my older student. The course begins with an overview and an introductory and moves into lessons. First, the student reads the material and then answers the questions. For this course, she had a couple of assignments and then when complete, she had her first quiz. Once started, the quiz has to be completed.

In between assignments and quizzes are projects. After a few assignments, projects and quizzes, there are unit Review Activities which consists of multiple games the student can choose from. These games help the student retain what they learned and can be repeated as many times as one likes. The teacher/parent will be required to grade some questions or assignments.

As the student(s) progress, reports such as this one can be run to see how they are doing:


For the next part of the review, I'm going to focus on my younger student who utilized Science 800 - Our Atomic World. The course is set up just like the one my older student used. The videos are nice additions to the learning material and what she liked the most were the duration of each lesson. She is not always a huge fan of online curriculum but didn't mind this one at all given the shortness of each one. She liked how they mixed up reading material with videos and other exercises.

The course assignments started with core objectives. For Safety First, she was able to read the rules of safety and had the option to print off the rules to reference later. As noted above, Calvert does embed videos to compliment the lessons and they also provide a transcript of the video. After each page, they have the option to continue reading or they can proceed with answering the graded questions. Sometimes, Calvert even throws in a pop quiz to keep the students on their toes. Once they move to the question section, they can choose to enter any notes that might want to remember and they have have three attempts at answering them. Once they complete them all, they will get a final confirmation that they are done and then they can mark the lesson complete and move forward. 

Overall, both girls liked the length of each section. They thought it was a nice compliment of different ways to teach each lesson from reading to video to projects and quizzes. The only improvement I would have is to return to the course the student was in when an assignment or quiz is complete. I'm suspecting the reason it does not do that is the expectation is once an assignment is complete, the student would move to another subject. Nonetheless, it wasn't a big deal and I really liked how Calvert Homeschool has set up each subject and the curriculum. I think each assignment's length is just right and the projects are pretty cool too. We recommend. 


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Check out what others on the Homeschool Review Crew, a division of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, thought by clicking on the (photo) link below:

Calvert Homeschool Online {Calvert Homeschool Reviews}

Our Homeschool Lesson: Making Scones for Our British Theme

I love Jane Austin mostly because I was introduced backwards via movies instead of books first.  Maybe it's because I'm a dual citizen by descent or not but all things British have an enormous appeal to me.  My mom and dad were married there while my dad was in the Air Force and I've been there a few times thanks to work (picture above).  I adore Austenland, a quirky movie about Jane and Mr. Darcy with a modern spin.  My youngest, who is proud to be a junior version of myself, enjoys it too.  As part of understanding how learning is picked up better when it interests children, I couldn't ignore exploring the British route to teach.  As a spur of the moment idea, I decided we would bake scones, have a high noon tea (chocolate milk) and printed off some educational sheets.


I believe they had fun and they even liked the scones!

Jehovah's Mighty Acts Bible Stories from Reformed Free Publishing Review

This post is a review and we were provided a free copy of the book. Our opinions are our own.

We love books in our house from ages 4 through 50 something. We are also a Christian homeschooling family so we love to include biblical based books in our library. Recently, we had a chance to review Jehovah's Mighty Acts Bible Stories Book from Reformed Free Publishing. This is the first book of what will be part of a series of books to read aloud to children or to have them read by themselves as the recommended ages are 7-10. The series will be not in chronological order, rather by theme. Jehovah's Mighty Acts Bible Stories, by Nathan J. Langerak, is about the Old Testament and God's mighty acts. The next book, Old Testament friends and servants, is to be released in the fall of 2010.

About the Book

  • Hardcover book
  • 100 pages
  • Beautiful old world appearing illustrations by Michael Welply
  • 31 chapters
  • Book one, Jehovah's Mighty Acts, is part of a series entitled Tell His Wonders.

Table of Contents

It begins with the beginning, the creation of the world (GENESIS 1-2). It's not words and sentences taken from the Bible rather it's a story that provokes the child(ren) to think about the Bible. It's a great introduction to make the words from the Bible easier to understand to little minds. Each chapter is short enough to be a great night time treat before bed. 

Chapter 2:  God's Friends (GENESIS 2)

Adam, Eve and the garden are introduced. The stories are in alignment with the Bible but are told in such a way, it's so easy for children to understand.

"Do you remember that God made the heavens and the earth? God made the world and everything in it in six days. On that sixth day God made the first man, Adam. He formed Adam out of the dust of the ground and breathed into Adam's nostrils the breath of life."

Chapter 9: Abraham Sacrifices Isaac (GENESIS 18, 21-22, HEBREWS 1)

"Abraham was God's friend. That means that God made his covenant with Abraham. In his covenant God promises to be the God of his people, to save them from their sings by Jesus Christ, and to take them to heavenly glory."

Chapter 18: Across Jordan (NUMBERS 20, DEUTERONOMY 34, JOSHUA 3-4)

"In Moses' place God chose Joshua. Joshua was one of the two good spies, and he had been Moses' helper. He would lead Israel into Canaan. God told Joshua that he would work a mighty miracle so that the people would see that God was with Joshua as God had been with Moses. God would also work this miracle so that all Israel would know that God was with them."

My daughter said she really liked how the stories made the Bible more understandable and she liked how there were definitions that followed more difficult words. She also said she liked how synonyms were utilize to help reinforce the word.

Overall, we really enjoyed the book and I foresee it being a classic in our family library for many years to come. 

To purchase, just click on the book link:  Jehovah's Mighty Acts Bible Stories

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