Homeschool Helper Review (for homeschool planning & record keeping)

homeschool record keeping | homeschool planning | homeschool reviews

Though I do not plan online or on my iPad, I have an iPad app that I love to use for my homeschool grades and records. Attendance, grades, and reports I’d much rather have that automated; numbers just aren’t my thing. So for recording grades and creating reports, I love Homeschool Helper on my iPad. It’s beautiful, user-friendly, and I actually look forward to opening it up and using it.

Set-up took a little time but wasn’t complicated. I set up each child with the subjects they would be covering for the year. For each subject, you can assign a grading system—A, B, C, or Excellent, Satisfactory, Unsatisfactory. You can adjust the grading scale and set up weighted grading (10% of the grade is for daily, 20% is for quizzes, 50% is for tests, 20% is for projects). Once set-up is complete, using the reports is simple, too.

Attendance is as easy as touching a date on the calendar. If I forget to do it daily, I can simply touch all the dates I know we did school. If we did a half day of school, I touch the date twice. It automatically records the total number of days we’ve done school and includes this info on the report card and other reports.

homeschool attendance | homeschool record keeping | homeschool helper review

Entering grades is just as easy. It even has a calculator. Enter the number of correct answers; enter the total number possible; touch “calculate.” The percentage grade and description is then saved for that assignment or test.

homeschool grading | homeschool record keeping | homeschool helper review

You can plan or record field trips and books read. You can also create a variety of reports, including report cards. Just enter the range of dates you want included on the report and information you want on the report. Then, you can either save or email the report. I usually email it to myself and then print it from the email. There is also a function to plan lessons, batch plan lessons, etc. But I can’t review those functions since I’ve never used them.

homeschool record keeping | homeschool report cards | homeschool helper review

I have used this app to record my grades for about 5 years, and I love it. I can’t see myself switching to anything else any time soon. While I love my pen and paper planner, I wouldn’t want to go without my Homeschool Helper.

homeschool helper review | homeschool apps
from the website

Visit the website or look for it in your app store.

Have more questions or want a little more help on the topic of homeschool planning? Read about different styles of planning, combining those different styles to find your perfect solution, organizing your child, and finding your rhythm—all in my free course “Planning your Homeschool.” Plus, get free downloads to get you started. 

Click here to find out more!

Mama’s Moodlifters Cards: review

Disclaimer: I was given a set of cards in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Do you ever have one of “those” days when everything explodes into chaos? No, me neither. But if you ever were in need of something to lift your mood, these cards are the cutest.

Mama's MoodLifter Cards review


Mama’s Moodlifters Cards are a set of cards with fun play ideas to shift the mood of your day. Each card has a super cute play idea—wrap your baby like a burrito and gobble him up, make funny faces, create funny “toasts” to each other, dance the “blues” away, and more—plus an inspirational quotation. Let me just say, I was sold with the idea of a baby-burrito. What could be more fun than throwing pillows and stuffed animals on a blanket and rolling your toddler (or 7 year old) up into a blanket burrito and pretending to eat him!

Mama's MoodLifter Cards review

Or for those days when I’m really scrambling for a moment, just one minute to regather my scattered thoughts, I’ll send them off with one of the ideas. It does lift my mood to hear them hysterically giggling in the bathroom as they make funny faces in the mirror. Then, of course, I get to see the “prize” faces, the funniest faces they could come up with, and we all get a good giggle.

Mama's MoodLifters review

It’s such a cute idea, and a real help. I’m not always good about thinking of creative things to play with my kids, but another reason I love them is that they help me to embrace my kids in those hard moments rather than push them away. They also make great “rainy day” ideas!

A set comes with 32 cards—32 fun ideas and inspirations—in a cotton drawstring pouch for $17. They are a fun gift idea for moms, too, especially with Mother’s Day approaching (*wink*). Visit the website to read more about the cards or to purchase your own set.

Disclaimer: I was given a set of cards in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own. You can read my disclosure policy here.

Art in the Mail: Kelly Kits review

During my online holiday shopping this season, I stumbled upon a product that was an absolute God-send. Art kits that come in the mail with all the supplies included! Can anyone else say “hallelujah”?

Kelly Kits Art Review

And I’m not referring to craft kits. This is real art—sculpting, painting, drawing, collage, and printmaking—complete with a mini-lesson on a famous artist and a cross-curriculum lesson incorporating another subject. Kelly Kits are sold as a monthly subscription service (purchased monthly or annually) or in packaged kits of 5 projects. The subscription packages come with enough supplies for two projects, $9.99 a month including shipping.

But when I received our art in the mail, I’ll be honest, I was a little disappointed. It was soap-sculpting. Sculpting soap was an art project I must have skipped at least three different times last year. I had no desire to see my children make a mess with a bar of soap and butter knife. I didn’t want the tears when their tools slipped and carved into their masterpiece. And I didn’t want to end up carving for them.

So when our mail-project included a bar of soap, I was bummed. (Why not watercolor, pastels, or print-making?) And yet, it couldn’t have been more perfect to illustrate the awesome-ness of Kelly Kits. Here I was at the kitchen table with everything my kids would need for this project: two bars of soap, different sized carving tools, and templates. I had no excuse.

Kelly Kits Art review


Kelly Kits art review

Of course, the kids thought it was fantastic. I showed them the instructions and helped to get them started (I traced the template onto their soap for them). Then I let them get to work. They needed a little help from me but did most on their own. And they loved every moment of it. When they were done, they even carved embellishments, a face and scarf on the snowman and ornaments for the tree. Because I had everything I needed, my kids got to enjoy a project that I definitely would have continued to skip over.

Our mini artist lesson was on Michelangelo. It gave an example project to google, a brief bio, and a couple of age-appropriate discussion questions.

The bonus was a science lesson and experiment with the left-over soap shavings. We learned about molecules and surface tension.

I did the whole kit in one morning. The kids had so much fun that they couldn’t believe they had done school. Because, of course, learning about sculpting, Michelangelo, molecules, and surface tension doesn’t count as school, right?

Kelly Kits art review

If art is something you have trouble fitting in, or if you’d just like the convenience of having all you need right at your fingertips, Kelly Kits are awesome!  You just can’t beat getting art in the mail, with project supplies, instructions, and everything included.I have been super-impressed with Kelly and with her Kelly Kits. Her YouTube videos are also fantastic and really give you a good picture of what the projects include.

Check out the new Kelly Kit website and art videos, or visit her Facebook page.

Singalong Stories for “big” kids: a Music Together review

Disclaimer: I received these products for free in exchange for an honest review. I have not been compensated for a positive review and all opinions are entirely my own. 

I’m finishing up a review I started in my previous post about Music Together Singalong Stories. Last post, I wrote about how much my toddler loves these. Now, I want to highlight how these same books engage my older kids, too. Older as in 5 and nearly 7 years old.

Their favorites:

five year old Middlest—Sandpiper, Ridin’ in the Car, and She Sells Seashells (see previous review here)

six year old Oldest—All Around the Kitchen and One Little Owl (see previous review here)

The storyline of these books is set to music, so the books are intended to be sung rather than merely read. Why is that important?

I’m no expert, but I’ve seen music hold my children’s attention riveted, while they’ll fidget through a typical read-aloud. Also, it helps my pre-reader really stay engaged on her own. She has the book memorized, every note of it. I hear her in her bedroom, singing through her books all on her own. (If you have a four or five year old, you know how important those four words are.) It’s a book that she can be independent with, a book with words no less, before she’s quite ready to read it by herself.

Music Together Singalong Storybooks review

Music Together Singalong Storybooks review

Then, there’s the pictures that carry multiple little story lines of their own. Every picture is a story in itself. The illustrations keep us talking about the book, stopping mid-song to point something out, practicing counting, or simply laughing at the characters.

Music Together Singalong Storybooks review

Last, there are the suggested activities at the end of a book. And what a perfect place for those suggestions. We finish a great reading time, and then—oh, wait! It says to make up our own song verses, or act out the actions in the song, or something similar. So what happens? We start the book again, reading it through with the suggested variation. And these activities are what seals it for my oldest. He’s big enough to read on his own, but now he gets to create, to act, to become part of the story and the action. He’s learning rhyme and rhythm. He’s learning creativity, and he’s learning to explore a book rather than simply read it and close the cover.

All Around the Kitchen activities
All Around the Kitchen activities

These are valuable lessons, lessons that, even though I’m a book-lover, I don’t think I would have thought of on my own! If someone asked me what books to include in a home library for their children, these would definitely be among my recommendations. I have never encountered a set of books before that so totally engaged my children, all of them.

The Music Together Singalong Stories are available as hardbacks ($13.95) or board books ($9.95) on the website or on Amazon. Visit the website to watch a video of one of the storybooks, listen to samples of the music, and read reviews from teachers, librarians, and language experts that rave about these books. 

(Note: My five year old helped with the taking of some of these pictures so that you could see us reading together. I’ve got such great little helpers!)

Disclaimer: I received these products for free in exchange for an honest review. I have not been compensated for a positive review and all opinions are entirely my own. For more, see my disclosure policy.

Music Together Lullabies Review

Disclaimer: I received this product for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Music Together Lullabies review We have thoroughly enjoyed our Music Together CDs (read my reviews of Family Favorites and Family Favorites 2), and I totally anticipated loving  Music Together’s Lullabies as well.

Then, Littlest got a nasty case of roseola about the same time he was cutting his top molars. It was a miserable week and a half for the little guy, and Lullabies sounded like just the ticket to soothe my suffering babe.

Lullabies includes 18 songs that have won 11 different awards. These are quality bed-time tunes, providing a diverse selection of music from various ethnic origins, including a Spanish and a Yiddish lullaby. I love this, and I’ve seen it to be especially appealing to the kids.

Music Together Lullabies review One of the things I love about Music Together products are the activity guides that come with the music. Each song has 2-3 activity suggestions that bring learning and parent-interaction into every musical encounter. Lullabies was no exception. From suggestions on how to personalize the songs by adding the child’s name or singing your own lyrics, to soothing “bed-time” routine ideas, this guide was the perfect compliment to the songs.

Littlest continues to enjoy his lullabies. And I found they were a great morning activity to prepare him for his nap time. He loves this music and asks for it nearly every morning, toddling over to the CD player and bouncing up and down. Who could resist that?

Music Together Lullabies review

Other places the Lullabies have come in handy: the airport and airplane (especially after weather delays got us home one whole day late); hotel rooms; and the doctor’s office (Littlest has had quite a summer fighting germies).  We’ve taken our Lullabies everywhere this summer!

I don’t have as many adorable photos, because I usually had my hands full of Littlest each time we played the music. But I do encourage you to grab your littlest and check out the samples on the website.

Music Together’s Lullabies is available for $14.95 for the CD or $9.99 for the download.

Disclaimer: I received this product for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Apologetics for kids: a review (How do we know God is really There?)

Disclaimer: I received this product for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Kids ask some tough questions, challenging our knowledge of physics, biology, and especially our faith. Why is the sky blue? Why doesn’t a ball keep rolling? Why does my tummy growl when it’s hungry? How do we know God is really there? I don’t know about you, but I like to be equipped to give them good answers, answers that will equip them for sharing and defending their faith—apologetics for kids!

apologetics for kids | Melissa Cain Travis Young Defenders series Melissa Cain Travis’s book How do we know God is really there? does an excellent job of defending the faith in a way that is easily understandable on a child’s level. It’s simple apologetics for kids that follows an engaging story line. The story takes place as a conversation between father and son as they look through a telescope in a treehouse. The dialogue throughout the story is relatable and makes the content easy to follow. The book is recommended for children ages 6 and up. However, it would be helpful for your child to understand the basic ideas of galaxies, time, and space.

apologetics for kids | Melissa Cain Travis Young Defenders Series

The book takes a “first cause” approach to answering the question. In other words, it takes us back to “how did all this get here in the first place.” The book addresses discoveries from Edwin Hubble (that objects in space are moving further apart) and presents a case that the opposite also has to be true (in reverse, all those objects would come closer and closer until they collided into nothingness). Something outside of time and space with a desire to create (a person) had to have initiated the “something from nothing.”

apologetics for kids | Melissa Cain Travis Young Defenders series

Our children are 6 and nearly 5, at the lower end of the recommended age, but they thoroughly enjoyed the book and illustrations. My husband used this book during our family Bible time in the evening, taking the time to explain some things as we went along. My children did not understand everything, but it was a great starting place for us. And the kids enjoyed it enough to ask for us to read the book on the following night as well.

Apologetics is really important to our family, important enough that my husband is pursuing a master’s degree (his second) on apologetics. So not only is this kid-approved, it’s Hubby-approved too. (wink!)

apologetics for kids | Melissa Cain Travis Young Defenders series

Because our children are young, this will be a book we read to them a few different times as their understanding grows. I love being able to not only lay a foundation of apologetics in their life at a young age, but also to lay the groundwork for our astronomy study this next year in school. I will be bringing this book out a lot as we study more about galaxies and outer space!

I was very impressed with this book and would highly recommend it. Answering our children’s questions is one of our most important jobs as we disciple them. Having help to answer those tough questions—priceless!

You can preview samples of How do we know God is really there? at Apologia Press. The book is available for purchase for $16 both through Apologia PressMelissa Cain Travis’s website, and

How do we know God is really there? is the first in the Young Defenders series to be written and published, and I’m thrilled to begin collecting this series for my kids.

Disclaimer: I received this product for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.