Win a Project Light Link from EEME!

So….you may remember when Jackson and I reviewed EEME’s Project Genius Light a few weeks ago….and how completely impressed and captivated we were by this tech project for children! 

Even for this non-technogeek mama, EEME has made their projects simple to use.  And their video tutorials and instructions are clear and easy to follow.

Working on an EEME project

Working on an EEME project

We thoroughly enjoyed it (AND learned a lot!) and are looking forward to our next EEME project.

Today, however, you have a chance to enter a giveaway to win an EEME project of your own!  Just follow this link to Project Light Link.  This will take you to the giveaway form.  EEME is giving away three Project Light Links, so your chances to win aren’t too shabby!

The Project Light Link is a hands-on kit where kids and their parents can build an LED circuit.  Along with the kit, the winners will receive the online curriculum.  So even if, like me, you have no electronic building experience, you’ll still be able to build–and complete—this circuit! Project Light Link Giveaway

If you’re looking for ways to add more STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects to your child’s life, EEME is one of the best ways I believe you can do it!

The Project Light Link giveaway ends August 5, 2015.  So enter today….and I hope you win!

Enjoy!  –Wren

Family, Fun & Homeschooling! Today, meet Rebekah from There Will Be A $5 Charge For Whining

Welcome back to Family, Fun & Homeschooling!  We’ve had a lovely time on vacation with out-of-town family (including my sister Finch and her loved ones–both two-legged and four-legged!) but I’m happy to be home again.  I’m also so glad to be posting Family, Fun & Homeschooling again.  While we were out of town, I had a serious issue with the wireless….which made me virtually absent for a couple of weekends!

F,F & H finchnwren.comYou are going to love meeting my friend Rebekah from There Will Be A $5 Charge For Whining.  As my son said, “You know with a blog title like that she is going to be funny!”  But Rebekah is much more than funny (although she definitely is that).  She is godly, inspiring, encouraging…and she has a pretty amazing story.  And I love, love, love her shabby chic blog design.  Read on to meet Rebekah!

Rebekah headshot

Tell us about There Will Be A $5 Charge For Whining.  How did you come up with your amazing blog?

I started my blog as a way to express myself. I was experiencing some pretty hefty challenges at the time. Previously, when I was a younger woman, I had been diagnosed with Cardiomyopathy. I had a few years of relatively good heart function and then BAM! I went to into active heart failure. This, unfortunately, was just the latest in some life changing events. Let’s just say that it wasn’t the first time I almost died. I had always liked to write and had done some professionally. My blog was a way I could lament to my heart’s content. It grew into something more as my health improved and life continued to take its twist and turns. I was blogging before we started homeschooling. I just naturally started talking about that, too. I’m not as concerned about growing a blog as I am about sharing my heart…At least I can count on my momma to read it!

Do you have a favorite blogging topic that you return to again and again?

I have a few. It is my desire to inspire and encourage. I want to help folks make most of the smallest moments in their lives. I have found that making a beautiful life is nothing more than embracing what comes and finding the joy in the small things. I talk about my faith and how God has been faithful in everything. I also talk about my weight loss journey and experiences. In the past few years, I have lost 80 pounds! Of course, I occasionally include utter nonsense. Sometimes I need a filter. And an editor.

Rebekah and hubby

Tell us about your family. How did you and your husband meet? And what would you like to share about your child/children?

My husband and I will celebrate our 24th anniversary in October. I have a secret. I am only 26. Hah! At least, that is what I keep telling myself. My husband is a pastor and we met at church. He was our children’s pastor at the time. I was 19. He was 29. I met him in April. We started dating in June and got engaged in July. We were married in October. We also spent our honeymoon at his ordination service. Nothing says romance like a District Assembly of God business meeting! Josiah came to us 10 years later. He was truly a miracle. I had miscarried my one and only baby just a few months before. Josiah was 2 weeks old when we received parental custody. I recognized him the minute I laid eyes on him. He is now 13. And perfect. As perfect as a 13-year-old boy with a hazy moustache can be.

Rebekah sonWhat made you decide to homeschool?

I was trained to be a teacher. I have taught preschool, music, kindergarten, first and second grade. I had some reservations when we put Josiah into kindergarten. I knew something wasn’t quite right, but decided that the school system could help me figure it out. He didn’t go back to first grade. We discovered later that Josiah is dyslexic. He also has dyscalculia and dysgraphia. Homeschooling has been a challenge, but one we haven’t regretted in the least. Of course, all of this was going on when I was recovering from a health crisis. We had had a couple of rocky years and we felt that Josiah needed consistency. I also wanted to spend every available minute with my family. I don’t take these years for granted.

Rebekah son 2What does a day in your homeschool look like?

Each day is different. Josiah has a few outside activities. He attends a PE class at a local university 2 days a week. He also is on the swim team at the Y. I teach a reading class to a small group once a week. I generally have a list ready of things to be accomplished throughout the week. We read a lot. I follow a hybrid Charlotte Mason schedule and try include lots of art, music and practical skills in our schooling. Josiah helps out with our laundry and can make a mean pancake. We do have our priorities!

Do you have a favorite “date night” you love to do?

What is this date night you speak of? I know! Having a date night is so important for any married couple. My husband works evenings 4 days a week. We make sure we have a family night and we commute on the weekends. The Muffin is the Associate Pastor at our church…which is over an hour away. We have tried to take an overnight trip on occasion. I have to tell you though that our favorite thing to do together is to go to dinner and then Thrift Shopping! Such treasures can be found at the Thrift Store!

What are some of your favorite mama-child activities?

Josiah gets lots of Momma time. We do have traditions. I take him to the cheap movie once a month. When the weather gets nicer we like to go to concerts in the park. At home we enjoy making interesting food, watching cool documentaries (Josiah is a weather buff) and just hanging out. There is something wonderful about unscheduled time. I do miss the bubble blowing and finger painting days.

Rebekah funny picIs there anything else you’d like to share?

I just want to encourage anyone and everyone to make the most of every minute. This doesn’t mean that you have to schedule Pinterest-worthy events. Just don’t sweat the small stuff. Learn to enjoy those people you live with and if it isn’t working don’t do it! And no, this doesn’t give us permission to cut out math in general…I’m talking to myself here! Just breathe in and out and smile. The day will get brighter.

Wasn’t that fun?  And encouraging?  I KNEW you’d love Rebekah too!  I also wanted to share a link to one  of Rebekah’s recent posts that I really enjoyed.  She hosted A Graduation Tea for her niece and you MUST see the pictures…and read about their lovely time!  The food looks absolutely scrumptious and the food…..well, let’s just say it’s probably good for Rebekah that I didn’t show up….I would have made a serious dent in those goodies.

Be sure to hop over and visit Rebekah at her beautiful blog….There Will Be A $5 Charge For Whining.  Thanks for visiting Family, Fun & Homeschooling.  Now that we’re home and using our own DSL, I’m hoping that this series will be back on schedule!

Rebekah Teague is a homeschooling Mama of one creative and highly-entertaining son. She has been married to The Muffin Man who is a pastor and a great guy. She resides in the Ozark Mountains and blogs at There Will Be A $5 Charge For Whining.

Enjoy!  –Wren

UnLock Math’s Pre-Algebra ~ A TOS Review

Recently, Jackson and I received a full year’s subscription to UnLock Math‘s excellent UnLock Pre-Algebra to review, via the Schoolhouse Review Crew.  We’ve really benefited from this online pre-algebra course.  I’d love to share our experiences with you!

UnLock Math banner

What is UnLock Pre-Algebra?

Creators Matthew and Alesia Blackwood (who were not only homeschooled themselves, but are currently teaching their own children at home) have created a most unusual, and excellent math program.  UnLock Pre-Algebra is a complete online pre-algebra course for students in grades 7-8.  It covers a full scope and sequence of pre-algebra.  (Just scroll to the bottom of that link to view everything this course covers.)  Lessons are clearly taught (by a human teacher, not just an automated voice!) and students have immediate opportunities not only to put their new knowledge into practice, but to review recent facts and lessons.  And all of this is accomplished in a calm and enjoyable manner and environment.

UnLock Pre-Algebra Dashboard

UnLock Pre-Algebra Dashboard

How does this course work?

This online course itself is well-organized and easy to use.   Once the parent has set up a student account, the student logs into his dashboard.  The dashboard enables the student to access everything from the lessons themselves, to his cumulative score, to his overall progress in the course.  It also allows the student (or parent) to access his gradebook and progress reports, which break down his scores on each type of problem, lesson, or test.  UnLock Math records the lessons (and their scores) that the students complete, and each day when they log into the dashboard, the column on the left side will show them which lessons they’ve completed and which one they should work on next.


Alesia teaching a lesson

Alesia teaching a lesson


The online lessons are taught by Alesia Blackwood, a competent and enjoyable high school math instructor.  She is very experienced in taking math concepts and teaching them in such a way that students who’ve disliked math or even feared it, can understand and excel at it.

The lessons are organized so that each day, students: practice what they’ve already learned; watch a new online lesson; work problems on the new concepts; and even attempt an extra credit problem.  Here’s the format each lesson follows:

  • Warmup:  5 questions for the student to “get into” math mode
  • Video Lesson:  Alesia Blackwood presents the lesson/concept of the day.  These lessons tend to range anywhere from 5-15 minutes long, depending on what’s being taught.
  • Practice Problems:  Here, the student puts into practice what he’s just learned from the video lesson.  There are usually around 20 questions and they are scored.
  • Stay Sharp:  This section includes problems from previous lessons.  This practice helps students to solidify prior concepts and continue to build good problem-solving skills.
  • Challenge:  Each lesson contains one Challenge problem for extra credit.  These are, as the name implies, challenging math questions which really make the student think.  (If the question is missed, however, the student doesn’t lose any points.)

Tests and quizzes are also part of this curriculum, as are midterm and final exams.

A sample problem

A sample problem

How we used it:

This summer, we used UnLock Pre-Algebra as our main and only math curriculum.  We did about three lessons per week (except for the week we were on vacation).  Actually, since it was summer and Jackson (who’s going into 8th grade) wanted to get his homeschool lessons done as quickly as he could, he did all three lessons on one day most weeks.  This actually worked well for us, although during the fall/spring school year we’d spread them out to one lesson per day (or 5 per week), just so that Jackson’s math muscles get used every day.  It generally took him about 15-35 minutes to complete a lesson.  I would sit nearby and watch the lessons so that I knew what he was learning and how Alesia was teaching each concept.

The gradebook and progress reports are perhaps the best I’ve ever seen in a math curriculum!  I love being able to see how well Jackson did on every area (they both show how much time he spent on each type of problem, and the scores he made on them all), and knowing at a glance which areas we need to spend more time on.  UnLock Pre-Algebra can even give your student more practice in different areas, as needed!

Our impressions and conclusions:

I really liked Alesia’s methods and manner of teaching.  She is so interesting and so clear.  She also uses some amazing graphics and a touch screen board (to write on, display problems and work problems on) as she teaches the lesson, which I think will appeal to today’s teens.  I found this curriculum to be more challenging than the one we used last year, but it wasn’t too difficult for Jackson.  I think it just made him work a bit smarter and harder.

One issue that I sometimes have with online math curricula was completely set aside by UnLock Pre-Algebra.  Often, when we’ve done online math in the past, I have missed having a paper textbook that Jackson could use for review and just have alongside him when the lessons were taught.  I’ve felt that the lack of an actual textbook impaired the learning of new topics from time to time.  However, UnLock Math has instructional notes for each lesson, so you can print them out, keep them in a notebook and use them for reference.  That is great for review and further study, and he found it so useful.

And I will also tell you that we’re so impressed with this that we plan to continue with it throughout the year!   I love its format, the challenge it provides to Jackson, and how thorough each lesson is.  I give high marks to UnLock Pre-Algebra!

You can visit UnLock Math at the company’s social media hangouts:

You may purchase UnLock Pre-Algebra from UnLock Math for $299 annually, or $49 monthly.  And, the Blackwoods are offering a $50 coupon for any of our readers who purchase the annual course of either UnLock Pre-Algebra or UnLock Algebra 1.  Check out UnLock Math’s pre-algebra course.  I think you’ll be impressed…and your students will really learn!

UnLock Math Review
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Enjoy! –Wren

DISCLOSURE:  Finch and Wren have affiliate relationships with a number of excellent companies.  If you purchase an item through our affiliate links, finchnwren will earn a commission.  However, you will never pay more for the item when you purchase it through our links.  And, we only recommend products that we truly believe in.  Thank you!

Things we love….The ODoggy app!

ODoggy app

Discovered this app before a recent trip, it has access to hundreds of places to board your pets all over the country. They connect to the camera systems at the facility and for only $4.99 per year you can log in and see how your pets are, For us it was a blessing as our pets are our children and I generally call the “spa” as we refer to it at least once sometimes twice per day. No need now…we have complete peace of mind and it’s always real time.




SimplyFun’s Shape Whiz ~ A TOS Review

SimplyFun is a company which makes fabulous educational games.  Recently, we had the opportunity to review SimplyFun‘s geometry game, Shape Whiz, for the Schoolhouse Review Crew.  What a great way to add fun to math studies!

Shape Whiz banner

Math is such an important subject.  Yet often, I find that we do our math studies and then immediately move on to other lessons.  I find it challenging to think of ways to do review work that is fun, or just to make the subject itself enjoyable.

SimplyFun to the rescue!  This company makes educational games in many different categories.  Shape Whiz is a game based on geometric principles for ages 10 through adult.  And whether the players are math geniuses or not, they’ll be able to enjoy the game.  And, they’ll even learn geometric principles while they play!

So what is Shape Whiz, exactly?

Shape Whiz is a card game for two to four players.  The object of the game is to get rid of all the cards in the players’ stacks, by using their knowledge of geometry.  The game includes 3 sets of sturdy cards plus an instruction booklet that explains game play as well as principles of geometry and geometry definitions.

ShapeWhiz 1

In Shape Whiz, there are yellow Whiz Cards, green Shape Cards, and blue Shape Cards.  Each player is dealt 15 shape cards (you can either use the blue cards alone, which is easier, or shuffle the blue and green cards together for a more challenging game).  The stack of yellow Whiz Cards is placed in the center.  The players lay down three of their shape cards, turn over a Whiz Card, and game play begins!  The Whiz Cards have a picture of a geometry clue in the center of the card along with the same clue printed in words.  Here’s an example of some of the Whiz Card clues:

  • One To Four Angles Less Than 90 Degrees
  • Greater Than or Equal To Three Sets of Parallel Sides
  • Two Different Lengths of Sides
  • and many more

Shape Whiz 2


Each player will look at the three Shape Cards he has laid down to see if any of them matches the clue on the Whiz Card.  The Shape Cards all have a geometric shape on one side (parallelograms, circles, squares, etc.) in a grid, plus a listing on the back side of the cards that describes the shape’s properties.  The properties list includes:

  • # of Total Sides
  • Lines of Symmetry
  • Total Perimeter
  • # Angles Less Than 90 Degrees
  • and more!

Less advanced geometry students will be able to use the properties information on the back of the Shape Cards to determine whether or not their cards fit the Whiz Cards that are face up.  But more advanced students can simply look at the shape displayed on the Shape Cards to see if there’s a match, thinking about area, perimeter, and the properties of the shape itself.

How We Used Shape Whiz

I found Shape Whiz to be a fantastic addition to our math studies.  We’ve progressed in our homeschool math studies to the point of pre-algebra on the schedule for the upcoming year.  (We’ve just completed seventh grade.)  So, we haven’t spent that full year on geometry that middle schoolers and high schoolers eventually get to.  But we have, of course, had introductory geometry lessons along the way, and have covered shapes, perimeter, and area.  (And a little on pi.)

Shape Whiz 3However, we still found Shape Whiz not only accessible but extremely fun!  It is a fast-paced card game, since the player who matches a Shape Card (with a geometry shape) to a Whiz Card (with the geometry clue) first wins the round.  We do play a lot of card games as a family, and some of them are based on speed while others are based on skill or the luck of the draw.  So, a game based on knowledge and speed was very easy to learn and enjoy.

We played it a number of times over several weeks, and both of us LOVED it!  We intended to play with my husband for a game between three players rather than two, but we never did actually do that.  (Which might have been good for Jackson and me, because of the three of us, my husband is the math genius!)

Our conclusions:

Here’s what my son Jackson had to say about Shape Whiz:

“I actually think that this is a fun game!  It was something fun to do in the summer, and not hard to do.  It wasn’t like school.”

This is high praise coming from the student who wants to do math first thing every day, so that he can get it over with.  Each time we played it, there was no complaint, and we both enjoyed it so much.

As I work on lesson plans for the new year, one of the things I’m wanting to do is to add more math fun in.  There are computer math games, of course; but I think that nothing beats actually sitting down together to play a game.  And if you can learn while you’re doing it, even better!  So I’m definitely planning on including Shape Whiz for additional math fun this year.

You can purchase Shape Whiz from SimplyFun for $24.  I recommend it highly if you want to add a little math fun to your family game nights or your homeschool days!


You may visit SimplyFun at their social media hangouts:

Simply Fun Review
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Enjoy! –Wren

The Best Middle Ages History Curriculum Ever! ~ A TOS Review

Have you been looking for an amazing history curriculum for your 3rd through 8th grader?

Middle Ages banner

If so, I have the one for you!  Through the Schoolhouse Review Crew, Jackson and I were given the opportunity to review Home School in the WoodsProject Passport World History Study: The Middle Ages.  Believe me when I tell you that I have never run across a more complete, fascinating or satisfying children’s history study!  We have had so much fun with this, and we have learned more than I imagined we could about the Middle Ages.  (Talk about an eventful time period!)  Let me tell you about our experiences!


What is Project Passport World History Study: The Middle Ages?

Home School in the Woods sent us an extremely complete downloadable (and printable) file containing the entire curriculum for our Middle Ages study.  It has everything you might possibly require for a historical study:

  • 25 history lessons, called Stops, on time periods, events and components of the Middle Ages from the fall of the Roman Empire through the start of the Renaissance
  • Audio lessons given by “tour guides” from various periods
  • Teacher’s guides, called Travel Itineraries
  • An additional reading list, for further study (both fiction and nonfiction)
  • Maps, photos, printable images
  • Crafts and activity projects for each and every Stop (over 50 in all!)

With this study, you’ll need stock card paper, regular paper and a printer.  Each lesson, or Stop, has a Travel Itinerary or list of step-by-step instructions.  These include a lesson to read, timeline figures, and several different projects that will further inform the student.  You can complete all of the projects per lesson, or select a few to work on.  All of them provide interesting and hands-on activities for the student.  The downloadable file you receive contains all the masters you need to print for your family’s use, as well as very complete directions that Mom will appreciate as she prepares the lessons!

Here are some of the exciting events that this Middle Ages study contains:

  • The Barbarians and Rome’s End
  • The Medieval Class structure and the Family
  • Clothing and Food in the Middle Ages
  • Life in (or around) a Castle
  • Knights and Court Life
  • Scientific inventions
  • Art and Education
  • The Church and more!

How we used it:

MA teachers

Home School in the Woods sent us a downloadable zip file of Project Passport World History Study: The Middle Ages, plus instructions on how to open and save it.  Once we’d followed those, I opened the file.  At its beginning are the directions for the course, plus all the printables you’ll need to begin the study.  (We chose to print about 3 lessons at a time, along with all their projects.)  The rest of the file reads like the chapters of a textbook.  Each chapter has a reading, timeline figures, and a variety of projects you can complete.  (There is also a Travel Planner: Quick Stop Itinerary, which has a chapter listing of each Stop, along an index of all the projects included per chapter.)

Middle Ages 1

We used the Middle Ages study about three times per week.  On the first day, my son (who’s going into 8th grade) would read the lesson, which is known as the Guide Book Text.  (Sometimes I read the lessons aloud, but you could do either depending on the age of your student.)

Middle Ages 2Next, we’d cut out and place the timeline figures/events on our timeline.  I’ve always appreciated timelines for history study, just because it’s helpful for the child to get a view of where in recorded time events happen.

Then, the history Jackson read was brought to life through the activities.  We listened to audio tours.

Middle Ages 3He drew scenes for postcards from famous people.

We created a menu of Middle Ages “cookry.”  (Fyne Cakes with Rosewater Icing, anyone?)

Middle Ages 4Jackson wrote newspaper stories recording events as if they were just happening.  And, there was so much more!


Home School in the Woods

Our conclusions:

One of the things I loved about this study is that Home School in the Woods’ curricula are very self-contained.  Everything you need to read or complete is found in the downloadable file.  You would need to provide stock card paper, printer paper, a few office supplies, and other craft items.  But you won’t need to purchase or track down specific book titles that are required for the text.  That is a real bonus for homeschool moms, who might be on either a time or financial constraint.  There is a recommended reading list included, but this is truly for extras, and not an obligation.  That was a real relief for me.  (We did, by the way, check out two of the reading list books from the library.  But there was no pressure!)

I also loved its very design.  You might wonder why this curriculum is called Project Passport.  The answer to that question is that the student, in his imagination, actually travels to the historical times and geographical locations.  One of the printables is a facsimile passport, where the student can glue the place/time he’s visiting.  The audio “tours” are led by “guides” who introduce you to the people you’d actually meet in those eras.  It’s an imaginary time travel trip, which makes for fascinating history!

Parents who love to include a variety of learning styles in their homeschool study will really appreciate Project Passport World History Study: The Middle Ages.  There are lots of opportunities for reading, listening, and hands-on work in every single Stop.  I also find that using many learning modalities increases a child’s ability to retain information learned.  So that’s a huge bonus as well.

I have heard about Amy Pak and Home School in the Woods for a number of years.  Every homeschooler I’ve known has raved about what fantastic curricula this company produces.  I am happy to concur; they’re every bit as wonderful as I’ve heard!

You may purchase Project Passport World History Study: The Middle Ages from Home School in the Woods in a couple of ways:  first, in a CD format, for $34.95; and second, in a downloadable version, for $33.95.  Each one is worth every penny!

You can visit Home School in the Woods at their social media hangouts:

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Home School in the Woods Review
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Enjoy! –Wren

Things We Love ~ Fountain Dr Pepper

Is Dr Pepper the national drink of Texas?



Growing up, I certainly thought so.  This was back in the day when you’d put coins in a Coke machine (we called all sodas Cokes, til we needed to be specific), open the tiny rectangular door, and pull out a cold glass bottle with a metal lid.

Now THAT’S been awhile!

Now, I haven’t seen a Dr Pepper in a glass bottle since Dublin Bottling Works had to stop making its amazing Dublin Dr Pepper.  (And don’t even get me started on that.)

These days, I substitute a delicious fountain Dr Pepper from Chick-Fil-A.  They have the BEST fountain Dr Peppers, in my opinion.

I’d really rather have a good Dr Pepper than dessert.

Enjoy!  –Wren


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