Archives For Homeschooling

Monarch Bible 400 Review

We have been homeschooling for over six years now, but I certainly have not been able to try out all the amazing resources available for homeschoolers. So, I was pleased when I recently got a chance to review one item from Alpha Omega Publications Homeschool Division. I looked around at what they had to offer and honestly, it was overwhelming. So, I decided to try to find something that I felt was lacking in my homeschool for Em for this year. I had planned to do most of her coursework with books this year, and I felt that she was not as “into” her current bible work as she had been in the past. So I decided to shake things up and try to make bible time more fun for her and chose the Monarch online product Monarch 4th Grade Bible.

Monarch Online Curriculum


So what is Monarch? Well, Monarch itself is a Christian online homeschool curriculum for grades 3-12. You’ll really need a high speed internet connection and Mac or PC. You can use this 24/7, and you can choose from doing all core subjects plus electives or just pick and choose some courses. So, I chose to try this 4th grade bible course, which retails for $99.95 and is a license for 18 months. One of the pluses about Monarch is that it includes automated lesson plans and grading.

To begin, I want to share how Monarch actually works, rather than the content of our particular course (I’ll do that next). Here is a bit of a journal of how our experience is going:

We actually began the course on August 6, 2014. I logged into the system using google chrome on PC, set up the “teacher” (me) and signed up for a training the following week. I skimmed the teacher guide, which is available as a PDF. They also offer a student guide in PDF format. So far, I did not really mess with any settings, except to begin. I did find a teacher section where you can email our student so I started off with a simple email.

monarch online homeschool software

I then created a student and added a password. On August 7th, Em began her first lesson. She loved having her own dashboard online and password. I told her to just click around and explore. She promptly skimmed around her dashboard and found the “Spelling Bee” section. She was excited and then went from Spelling Bee to Vocabulocity. She asked “Why didn’t you get me more classes?”

monarch online homeschool software

She then did two days lessons. She seems to be doing okay, and all the settings are pretty much the default setting for grading as she works. As I watch her, I see she is going too quickly, in my opinion and I mention to her to slow down and take it seriously.

She finishes. I go in and run a report of work completed. She gets an 80 and a 60. She is really upset. We talk about how this online work is work and not just a game. She begins going more slowly and paying attention. I think we both pay a bit more attention! I then go in a change settings a bit to allow for more chances to get a question right and go to easier grading scale. I’ll watch her a while and then toughen up again, I’m thinking. I do find it hard to get used to the teacher dashboard, but I need more practice. They give enough help, I think, but you need to sit down and learn the system to really make use of it.

The first two lessons themselves seemed very good. She is used to the NIV version on the Bible and this is set for King James, but I’m okay with that.

I write down a question to see why I can get so many backgrounds in the teacher account, but the student one doesn’t have as many. I want the “girls room” one for Bem’s account… and then I wait for my online training.

When I did the training, I worked with Martie Hawkins, and she was wonderful. We went through a Getting Started powerpoint, and I really recommend doing this, I learned more about the dashboard and curriculum features. I learned more about the dashboard widgets and found out that we could have lessons read to us and that we could choose our own Bible version, and that we could print from the readings. Some other “teacher” stuff I learned from the training included how to block a unit test until ready and how to send problems back to rework.

I learned more about how to set field trips, so work is reassigned and also how to reschedule after the fact, as in a sick day. One of my favorite features of Monarch is how you can log in wherever you are. As far as records, Monarch gives you access to print your students work for 7 years, for say, a portfolio or transcript. They do have a monthly plan/subscription service as well.

I really feel like the webinar training is worth doing. Also, you can see videos online on the AOP site about how Monarch actually works.

Here is my teacher dashboard main screen:

monarch online homeschool software

Okay, I guess I should share about the actual coursework now.  Bible 400 is a study on both the Old and New Testaments. The course discusses Peter and Paul (Saul) specifically. Through the discussions and readings, students learn about the existence of God, Bible study methods, Psalm 23, Old Testament geography, and Christian witnessing.

The actual lessons themselves seem very biblically sound so far, and the use of all kinds of media keeps Em engaged and interested. Whenever she is a bit tired of whatever she’s doing, she can click over a play a game or do some vocabulary that reinforces her lesson, but changes things up a bit. The content includes movie clips, games, audio clips and web links.

In the first lesson Em did, Bible 400, she began with an adorable little vocabulary section with cute singing bees. Seriously. She then did a “read this” section which had a story with scripture and then a verse to memorize. I noticed the lesson format varies, say a reading, a video here and there, then a game or two, then a quick quiz, often 10 to 20 questions as the daily work. Quizzes can be true/false, multiple choice or even putting Biblical events in chronological order. I love the approach of mixing it up and keeping it fresh. There is also a dashboard section where kids can do several games and/or flashcards at any time (unless you have it set otherwise). Every unit includes projects which you can pick and choose from, with assignments like writing a letter and all kinds of project ideas.

As far as look and sound in a typical lesson, the only improvements I would make would be to get the voices a little bit more engaging-the reader voices for passages are adults and not silly, which may be preferred by some because it is serious reading, yet my daughter loved the little bee voices and I’m wondering if they couldn’t use more fun voices for the more serious things as well…Yes, I told her I’d tell the creators. When I asked her for her input for the company she did request “they add more characters like the Spelling Bees, and add more games and maybe make it so you can win coins.” Okay, so maybe my daughter has too much internet time!

Overall, I have been impressed. And I say that with all honesty. I have tried to be very honest in my reviewing, as I know people will spend hard earned money on these items and I wanted to point out any negatives as well as the positives. For our homeschool, I like to use an eclectic approach with what types of curriculum I use, usually a mix of books and internet options, sprinkled with delight directed option and field trips. That works best for us so far. But, if you like a consistent online approach where you grade and lead, Monarch is available for all core subjects.

The content in Bible 400 seems good for a 4th grader. The interactive lessons are a good length without being overwhelming. You can set up how long you want the course to take, which gives you the ability to match your students’ needs. You can control everything about the course (besides the content) from the teacher dashboard. You can choose grading scales, and which lessons your student needs to complete. You can skip a test or add a project. Everything loads quickly, there are various media methods used to engage a student. The student dashboard is very intuitive and responsive.

Find Alpha Omega Publications on Facebook  Alpha Omega Publications Homeschool Division

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Disclaimer: I did receive Monarch Bible 400 Online to try out and review. I have given my opinion.


Back to School

Heather —  August 22, 2012

Teenagers at restaurant

As Summer slowly ends and we gear up into Fall, I try to organize all my homeschooling stuff.

This year, I especially want to highlight a wonderful homeschool resource:

Homeschool Mosaics

Yes, I have a special interest in this site as I am a columnist for this site!

My column is Treasuring Your Teens, and I write about this because my house is full of teenagers!

But, The WHOLE site is an amazing resource.

And, while I expected a lot from the site as I know many of the writers, I still honestly find myself impressed by how much content and wisdom is available on this site.

You will find columns covering homeschool methods, homeschooling encouragement, homeschool how-to’s, just to mention a few.

Follow Homeschool Mosaics for discussions on parenting, talking about child development, teaching gifted, special needs, recipes, bible study for little children, genealogy, discussions about transcripts, heading to college and Treasuring Your Teens.

Head over and take a look! Here are some of my old columns. I have a column the 21st of each month.


Treasuring Your Teens:

No teens at your house? No worries. There are articles to support every stage of homeschooling!


Follow Homeschool Mosaics on Facebook

Follow Homeschool Mosaics on Twitter

MathRider for Math Fact Games

Heather —  February 3, 2012

Do you find yourself looking for ways to drill in math that your kids will enjoy? I am constantly looking for ways to make this necessary reinforcement seem like fun for my youngest student! I was glad to try MathRider. Check out this math facts game that offers students races and quests and tracks their progress, using computer intelligence to adjust to their needed level as they practice.

Em really enjoys racing “her” horse and does very well doing timed addition and subtraction with this game. We do have several math fact type games and what she likes most about this one is having her horse and being able to do the quests, where she takes her horse on a journey and completes math questions to move on and complete her quest. The game has several quests and I would like to see even more , as she likes that portion of the game so much.

The game does track her progress and adjusts the questions to fit what she needs. There is quite a bit of background “code” so that the game can track her progress and intuitively advance her. It is easy for a parent and student to see how they are doing, through incentives like point bonuses, time bonuses, quest progress, progressively animated rewards and a comprehensive statistics screen.

I think the graphics are adorable and the sounds are very pleasant. Visit MathRider to learn more and get a FREE trial! Right now, the software is on sale for $37.

See what my crewmates have to say about Math Rider


I received a Trial download of Math Rider through the TOS Crew for review purposes. I have given my honest opinion.

How To Have a HEART for Your Kids

Book Club, Chapter 1: Have a Heart for the Things of God

So what is one fantastic way to Have a Heart For Your Kids? Do your own heart check. Where is your heart? In this chapter, Rachael shares on how having a heart for the things of God is the only place to start…

As I was reading this chapter, I thought about how my life, including my prayer life has changed and evolved over time. I would like to say I always get up at 6 a.m., make my family breakfast and then spend an hour or so poring over the bible. But, I am horribly undisciplined! Especially during the winter, I find it awful to get out of bed. Anyway, my little gets to sleep in as she’s not catching the yellow bus.

I do enjoy my prayer time that I have right now. I wake up with my husband and he makes coffee and gets ready for his day. He will bring me a cup of coffee in bed (I know, I am lucky) and then I’ll read my Bible, my devotional and pray for the days needs after he goes to work, before I wake up my youngest.

This seems to really work for me. Sometimes my youngest wakes early, but now, she’ll read her Bible as well until I am done. When I do this before my feet hit the floor, I do not get sidetracked by other needs. I used to have my big prayer time at night before I went to sleep, but between paying attention to my husband or being exhausted, that doesn’t work anymore!

Over time, I have done lots of reading plans and bible studies. Some I was very faithful with, while others I didn’t finish. A while ago, I did a Bible Study where I read a book called Stepping Heavenward, while reading through the Psalms and Proverbs and that has been one of my absolute favorites. It taught me to just slow down and really pore over a little bit at a time.

I used the Stepping Heavenward as a devotional for over a year and read through it slowly again while I read my Bible. I have read the Upper Room devotionals, and lots of others but what I always come back to is just plain reading my Bible.  I feel like I am missing the important thing if I just read a book or devotional and run out of time to really get into the Bible in the morning.

For the past six months or so, I have been reading through the Bible, just as much as I want, each morning. I began reading at the beginning of Genesis and also at the beginning of the New Testament. I would just read a bit each day. Right now, I have finished the New Testament and started that over and am almost finished through Job in the Old Testament. After reading, I will pray for the day and often also write in my prayer journal, a pretty leather book I got. Sometimes, I will also read a devotional as well. Right now I am reading a devotional a friend gave me that I think is marvelous called, “Jesus Calling”, by Sarah Young. I also have one I am reviewing called “Mornings with Jesus 2012”.

I do tend to thank God during my prayer time, and make my requests known to him. I do feel I need to spend more time praising him as well. As far as the children, I pray for them individually each day and try to pray for specific things I feel are important, although lately, as most of them are teens, I feel the need to just let God lead my prayers and show me what he is trying to do in their lives.

Just the other day, I heard something “through the grapevine” about one of my children and I just sat right down and prayed that God would protect them and use the situation, however it turned out, for their good. I felt very peaceful and I think I was a better mom in this particular scenario because God did lend me a peace about my child.

While I do believe in discipline for one’s children, I also know that they have free will and I want them to choose to be light and salt in the world because they want to and they see God working in all our lives, not because I have great plans and schedules…and control. (Of course, I do not!)

Anyway, I wanted to share this personal stuff with you as I go through answering the chapter questions in the How to Have a Heart For Your Kids book. The book is fascinating and has really helped me clarify in my own mind what I really expect from my children and myself. I loved chapter 2!

Would you like to join in? Visit for all the details!

Zeezok offers a number of educational products, with a common denominator being their appreciation of history, art and literature. I have reviewed several products for Zeezok, and I am always pleased with the content of their products. (Here is a previous review for Flyboys Z-Guide) They are so creative. With all the ones I have tried out, my students learned while having a great time. The content was solid educationally, they learned…they retained…and they had fun.

The “Z-Guides to the Movies” are no different. These movie viewing guides with activities are great fun and can help introduce or reinforce many educational subjects. For us, we were working through the historical period of the Early Church and the Middle Ages. For a fun, snow day and a transition from Attila the Hun onto the future, I got the “Z-Guide to the Movies” for Knights of the Round Table (High School). I got this in an ebook, immediate download format for $12.99. The movie must be purchased separately. I was able to find this 1953 movie to accompany the Z-Guide to the Movies available for instant download for $2.99 through Amazon. (Of course, if you want to, you can buy this movie, also).

So, I was just waiting for a snowy day in January to work on this!  Here is a brief summary of what exactly is in this Z-Guide to the Movies from their site:

Join Merlin, Arthur, Queen Guinevere, and Lancelot as they battle the evil Modred and Morgan Le Fay for control of the British Isles. This guide contains a topic overview, movie synopsis, and ten learning activities based on this classic tale. Learn more about medieval England and how to become a knight. Write your own code of chivalry or design a castle. Evaluate your personal beliefs with the “Worldview Activity.” Probe the director’s mind with “The Filmmaker’s Art” activity, and get the entire family involved with the “For Family Discussion” section at the end of the guide. Choose those activities which best fit your student’s course objectives, areas of interest, or time schedule.

So, we settled down to make this an all day thing, rather than do a little bit each day—which you also could. I ended up including my six year old as well as my highschooler, because with me sitting with them and the movie being pretty tame, I felt comfortable with this.

My highschooler ended up doing all the activity guide questions and especially like designing a castle. The little one was excited to hear about Camelot. Like I mentioned earlier, we have several of these now and I really like using these for a special treat with the kids. Take a look at these movie study guides for yourself, many titles are available and you can search by time period or by child’s ages.

Visit Zeezok at and see everything they have to offer.

Just another great Product from:

See what my crewmates have to say about Z-Guides to the Movies.


I received Z-Guide to the Movies through the TOS Crew for review purposes. I have given my honest opinion.

How To Have a HEART for Your Kids
Do you love your kids? Do you value them above yourself? Well, yes, you might say, of course I would give up my life for them… But, then again, it is one thing to throw yourself in harm’s way to take their place, a whole other thing to make choices to love them through the minutes of the day. The long drawn out, “I don’t want to do that, I want candy minutes…”
How do you really know what is best for them? What is your Foundation? If sometimes you sit and ponder these things, this book about how to love your children is perfect for you.
I am excited to be joining in this book club for the next several weeks. I have read the book, How To Have  a Heart for Your Kids before, and I think it is a fabulous little book. You can actually read my earlier review of the book🙂
I chose to join in the bookclub because when I first read this book, I felt like I should spend more time thinking about the concepts in the book and even doing some of the end of the chapter activities. But, I was busy. Busy, busy…you know!
As this new year begins, I want to focus more on the things that are REALLY important to me. And having a heart for my kids is one thing that is super important to me. Yet, it is not always urgent, and so gets lost in the shuffle of urgent, immediate things. I hate that!
Anyway, for this week, we were to read the introduction. A few things really jumped out at me from the introduction and I’d love to share those portions.
The author, Rachael Carman, is now a mom of seven. But, when her Mama journey began, she never anticipated having so many children or homeschooling. In fact, she confesses on page 9,
“I had lived most of my life principally concerned about myself and all in all, I had been rather successful.”
She also mentions that after the birth of her first child, she tended to be living for “Someday.” The day when she would “get her life back” and return to teaching.
I won’t tell you all the details, because this is a must read book~ but suffice it to say that she ended up being the teacher she and her husband had prayed their little boy would have.
I love all her stories about becoming a homeschooling mommy.
But, honestly, this book is not about homeschooling. This book is about keeping your heart open to God’s leading and listening to God’s plans for your life…and homeschooling.
When I began homeschooling, it was a funny and crazy time. (Here is a bit of the story) But I was very excited. I had already been a professional working woman, and the glamour of that had long worn off. I had already been a stay at home mom for a few years and homeschooling seemed like a logical choice. Looking back, I see that God had been preparing me for a long time and I probably missed many opportunities to begin earlier!
Anyway, on page 29, Rachael says,
“I had bought into the world’s lie that I had to harden my heart to find happiness as a modern women, when, in fact, that joy can come only by keeping the heart tender.”
So, for me, thinking about the introduction, I think this is the most important part. To make yourself vulnerable by being tender. To see what each of your children really needs. Beyond shoes or toys. Now, noticing what they really need should also not feel like a chore, but a joy–the world is so caught up in material needs that sometimes our children are spoiled and it is difficult to just be with them. Sometime this is their personality (they more needy ones) or sometimes it is our (the parent’s) fault.
Either way, to really love your children, these needs should be addressed. Sometimes this is so hard! And, when it is hard, go through God! Being with your babies should be a joy whether they are 2 or 22. This is God’s Gift to us, having our children!
okay. I better go get stuff done. I can’t wait to go read what my book club friends have written. I purposefully didn’t read anyone else’s yet — hope I followed directions:)
Would you like to join in? Visit for all the details!

Our Curriculum To Reflect Spring Semester Updates–2012

As I finished up our Fall Schedule and did grades for my two that I homeschool, I realized I have changed some things up, and added some curriculum I like. So, here is a list of what we are doing for the next few months:

11th Grade Curriculum, Nick

  • Bible: Deeper Roots, Discovering a Christlike Character
  • History: Illuminations, Mystery of History 2 (Renaissance) also some US Govt.
  • Geography: A mix of Illuminations Geography
  • English: Excellence in Literature, Intro to Literature, Institute for Excellence in Writing, Student Writing Intensive, C
  • Math: Geometry
  • Science: Apologia, Exploring Creation with Chemistry
  • Elective: College Prep Genius
  • Health Elective: Vintage Remedies
  • French, Easy French
  • Computer Science:
  • Physical Education: winter sports, skiing
  • Driving Course

1st Grade Curriculum, Emma

  • History: Illuminations, Mystery of History 2
  • Bible: Little Keepers of the Home
  • English: All About Spelling, level 1, First Language Lessons, Penmanship
  • Math: Math Mammoth 1-B, Life of Fred, Butterflies
  • Science: Real Science for Kids, Chemistry, Pre-level 1
  • Latin: Song School Latin, French
  • Physical Education: Soccer
  • Choir

I haven’t taken the time to link all these (as I am teaching, haha!) But, on my homeschool page I do have some linked if you are curious…and I have done some reviews on many of these (just use the search bar to the right). Otherwise, if you have a question about any of this curriculum, leave me a comment!

Also, please do let me know if you are using any of these as well for similar ages. That would be fun to see how things are working for you, too!