Category Archives for Review

Math curriculum can be too dry and boring, too repetitive, and super tedious. But not Mr. D Math. It walks my kids step-by-step through what they need to know at a pace that actually works for them. Oh, how I am in love! | Online math | Algebra | Homeschool math | High school Math| Mr. D Math | Curriculum

Mr. D Math – An Honest Algebra II Review for 2020

(Note: I got a copy of this curriculum for free, and I was compensated for the time I took to write up this review. BUT I get to be completely honest about my thoughts, which is SUPER EASY because of how much I fell in love.)

I have been hunting for a great math curriculum for a long time.

When my kids were younger, we played math games and did lots of math activities. I taught them to count, and to add, and to multiply … and we did it with basic steps and some online review.

Then we hit Algebra

Then my kids hit fractions and decimals and pre-algebra. And we started to stumble.

Suddenly games and activities weren’t enough. My kids needed something more structured and more defined.

We lurched from one curriculum to another -- each would work for awhile (or not). But in the end, something always didn’t work.

 * It was too dry and boring.

 * It was too repetitive OR it wasn’t repetitive enough.

 * It required too much hands-on time from me.

 * It was all online and sooooo hard and tedious to listen to, we all wanted to poke our eyes out.

 * It moved too fast OR it moved too slowly.

So I kept searching.

Homeschool Math

And then I had the chance to take a look at a new homeschool math curriculum. And it is changing everything about math in our home!

Suddenly I’m feeling excited about math again because this curriculum checks ALL the boxes:

 * It walks my kids step-by-step through what they need to know at a pace that actually works for them.

 * It’s taught by a real human (not a “robot” human voice) and is actually easy to listen to.

 * It does ALL the teaching.

 * It provides tons of accountability because my kids correct their own work AND I can see how they are doing and determine if I need to step in to keep things moving along.

 * It provides extra help if the kids get stuck (which is really important now that my kids are past what I easily can help with).

 * It has both a self-paced version AND a live class version -- both of which have different benefits depending on what my kids need.

 * It’s easy to contact someone if we have any kind of question -- and we always get a quick and “real” response.

So what is this amazing math curriculum called? 

Mr. D Math -- and oh, how I am in love! (Seriously - you have to check it out!)

I feel like my search has finally come to an end. What a sweet feeling that is!

My son is currently taking the Algebra II course. And I’ll be signing up both him and my teenage daughter next year.

Check out my full video review for my complete thoughts on all of the benefits and features.

In my review, I’ve also done a complete walk through of the backend of the program, so you can see how it works and why I think it’s set up to support both the mom and the kids be successful from the very beginning.

(Is your kid a little young for pre-algebra and you’re still in the “play math games” phase? Then be sure to check out my favorite math games that we discovered over the years!)

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When my kids were younger, we played math games and did lots of math activities. Then my kids hit fractions and decimals and pre-algebra. And we started to stumble. We lurched from one curriculum to another -- each would work for awhile but in the end, something always didn’t work. | Online math | Algebra | Homeschool math | High school Math| Mr. D Math | Curriculum
Suddenly I’m excited about math again because this curriculum checks ALL the boxes. So what is this amazing math curriculum called? Mr. D Math -- and oh, how I am in love! | Online math | Algebra | Homeschool math | High school Math| Mr. D Math | Curriculum
WriteShop vs Structure and Style (IEW) - (2020 Curriculum Review)

WriteShop vs Structure and Style (IEW) – (2020 Curriculum Review)

Writing Curriculum Review

Finding a good writing curriculum for your middle school kid can be tricky.

(Okay … middle school age can be tricky with everything … but that’s a conversation for a different time!)

A good middle school writing curriculum needs to cover basics like constructing a paragraph and then teach how to write an essay, as well as other non-fiction styles.

Hopefully it will push a student to expand their vocabulary, vary their sentence structure, and learn to express their own thoughts.

And of course, you still want your kid to work on punctuation, grammar and other writing mechanics.

Finally, a writing curriculum will also push them creatively and help them LOVE writing.

So where do you find something that does all of this??

Writing Curriculum

I’ve been looking at writing curriculum since my 4 kids were little. And since 2013, I’ve taught writing and English at our local co-op to the kids who are 12 to 17. So I’ve seen and used A LOT of different curriculum -- some okay and some great. 

Today, I’m going to compare two curriculums that I find very compelling -- WriteShop I & II and IEW’s new Structure and Style (available May 2020).

NOTE: Be sure to check out my video where I give you a detailed look into the student and teacher manuals for WriteShop and Structure and Style.

*****Also I need to state the following:*******

  1. I received the product for free.
  2. I was compensated for my time.
  3. All opinions are honest, and I was not required to post a positive review.

Both curriculum are designed for middle-school/early high school (grades 6 through 9). And they both assume that your child knows how to construct a basic sentence (start with a capital letter, end with a period, have a subject and verb, etc.)

Both curriculum require that you have a decent level of writing, although you DO NOT need to be an expert with either. (Both provide teacher support -- but in very different ways.)

Each has a video teaching element that you can use if you don’t want to do the teaching yourself. WriteShop’s is like watching a moving slideshow with narration (the voice is easy to listen to). Structure and Style has filmed Andrew Padua teaching a full class of middle-school students.

And both are fairly mom “intensive” -- which is to be expected of a writing curriculum. (Writing is subjective so there’s no easy way to just send your kids off to do it on their own. Someone must review and respond to the writing for your kids to improve.)

WriteShop I & II

WriteShop focuses on teaching your kid how to write by starting with brainstorming and then gently leading them through all the stages of writing -- rough draft (they call it “sloppy copy”) through a final composition.

Each lesson follows the same basic structure:

  • Pre-writing activity (often something hands on - like handling and talking about objects)
  • Practice writing activity
  • Brainstorming
  • “Sloppy Copy” (rough draft)
  • Revision 1 (student led with checklist)
  • Revision 2 (after you make comments
  • Final Copy

Each lesson is designed to take two weeks -- with additional writing skill activities and narration/dictation skills built in as well.

I love that WriteShop I starts with just constructing paragraphs, and let’s the student work on their writing one paragraph at a time until they feel confident. Only then in WriteShop II, do they move on to longer non-fiction compositions -- like essays.

My experience teaching many kids is that once they’ve mastered good paragraph structure, it’s much easier for them to apply that knowledge when they start writing essays.

I also love the quantity and quality of writing skill practice that WriteShop I & II includes. There are three included in each lesson, and each builds on the last. These are a FABULOUS way for kids to practice skills that they can use over and over in their writing.

The brainstorming element of each lesson is also well done. Instead of just saying “brainstorm … here are a few ideas,” there is a detailed brainstorming outline that walks the kid through all the different ways to approach the topic. (These are AMAZING and I’ll be folding them into my co-op classes starting next week.)

The downside of this approach could be that it leaves your kid on their own to know how to write a good paragraph, but WriteShop compensates for this by providing TONS of examples of well-written student paragraphs. 

This is great for both the student to see examples AND as a mom (so you know what level of writing is appropriate to expect at this age).

Additionally, the resources in the appendix of the WriteShop appendix blew me away -- TONS of additional writing topics and creative writing ideas. This alone is a fantastic writing resource, and helps provide additional ideas for creative writing beyond the non-fiction writing that is the focus of WriteShop.

There are a few things I don’t love about the curriculum.

The formatting of the pages could be difficult to read -- especially for kids who have dyslexia or other reading issues. I think this is an excellent curriculum to consider for kids who struggle with organizing their ideas, so this is unfortunate. (Be sure to see my video if you want to see the pages for yourself.)

Also, while the amount of help provided to the teacher/mom is extensive, the tone is insistent that you not skip anything and follow the instructions very carefully. While I can see why there are some moms who probably would appreciate that level of hand-holding, I found the way it was written felt restrictive. (I’m a big fan of modifying based on what’s happening in your home and with your kids!) 

Structure and Style (Institute for Excellence in Writing)

Structure and Style focuses on teaching how to write by giving the student well-written paragraphs, teaching them to deconstruct the paragraph (using keywords), and then asking them to rewrite the paragraph in their own words using only the keyword outline.

(Note: Structure and Style is the newly revised version of Teaching Writing: Structure and Style, that has been the flagship curriculum for the Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) since the 1990s. The bulk of my experience has been with their previous version, so some of this review is based on sample pages. The new version will be available May 2020.)

I like this because your kid sees great writing from the very beginning. However, this format of writing can get tedious at times and doesn’t encourage a student to write from their own ideas. 

Each lesson is structured as follows:

  • Pre-writing activity (some lessons)
  • Read a paragraph (or several paragraphs in later lessons)
  • Create a keyword outline
  • Retell (speak) the keyword outline in your own words
  • Rewrite the paragraph (or combine paragraphs) using the keyword outline
  • Review and revise (using provided checklist)

Of course, the parent is involved in reviewing and revising, but it isn’t scripted in the teacher edition. 

(IEW has a completely separate program teaching parents how to teach their programs that they consistently reference if you want more help reviewing your child’s work.)

Each lesson is designed to take a week. Additional “fix-it” (for grammar and mechanics practice) and literature activities can be included to flesh out the program, but must be purchased separately. There are some writing skill activities included in each lesson, but not as many or as thorough as in WriteShop.

I love that Structure and Style also starts by having students work with paragraphs and then slowly graduates them to writing essays and other non-fiction. And I’m impressed by the variety of topics that they encourage students to write about. 

I also love that there are several creative writing assignments -- and lessons on story structure -- sprinkled throughout the curriculum. These are more open-ended and really let the student flex a different kind of writing muscle. My students and kids enjoy these breaks from the “harder” writing assignments.

I’m a big fan of how Structure and Style does their writing checklists that the student uses in each lesson. They understand that a checklist can feel overwhelming, so they only include a few things at the beginning. The checklist grows as the new concepts are introduced. In essence, the student “grows” with the checklist.

While IEW’s Fix-its are not included in the basic Structure and Style curriculum, they are available and can be aligned with the lesson plans. I LOVE this style of learning grammar and writing mechanics, and I have incorporated these into every class I teach.

Finally, I HAVE to talk about the format of the teacher edition. IEW is slowly reformatting all their curriculum to match more traditional publishers, where the teacher edition is “wrapped around” the student edition. (Be sure to watch my video to see what this looks like.) I’m so excited that Structure and Style will now have this format!

This makes it sooooo easy to see how the teacher edition and student edition relate. No more flipping back and forth, trying to reference between the two. This is HUGE deal for me, and if it’s close between two curriculums, this will often tip the scales for me.

Unfortunately, the student edition formatting isn’t much friendlier than WriteShop’s. And the font they’ve chosen to use is particularly difficult for dyslexics to read.

Side-by-Side Comparison

Here are the main features of WriteShop and Structure and Style compared:

Structure & Style (IEW)

Writing process -- brainstorm, “sloppy copy,” 2 revisions

Writing process -- deconstruct paragraph with keyword outline, rewrite in own words, 1 revision

Variety of brainstorming styles encouraged - including outlining and mindmapping

Uses similar writing process through entire curriculum – deconstruct or outline, then write

Lots of student examples of written paragraphs in each lesson

Student samples only in the appendix

Brainstorm and rough draft

Deconstruct pre-written paragraph with keyword outline

Skill builders (3 for each lesson) reinforce writing skill focused on in that lesson

Some skill building – but focus is mostly on writing paragraphs

Thorough and complete checklist from the beginning for each lesson (can be overwhelming)

Checklist only includes skills taught so far and grows as more skills are learned

Uses standard vocabulary to describe conventions and style

Uses IEW proprietary vocabulary to describe different writing elements

Incorporates copywork/dictation for grammar/punctuation help – but requires copywork book (separate)

Incorporates “Fix-it” grammar into lesson plan – BUT requires purchase of upgrade bundle 

Video lessons – powerpoint/pictures w/person talking – focused and specific

Video lessons – live teaching classroom environment

Problem/solution section in teacher edition very helpful if you’re teaching and want to know what to look for

Gives some specific examples in teacher edition on how to structure teaching – but not a lot of help looking for student issues

Teacher edition separate and sometimes difficult to reference with the student edition

Teacher wrap-around edition makes it easy to connect information to student edition

Choosing Which Writing Curriculum Is Best for You

So which writing curriculum is best for your family? As with everything, it depends.

WriteShop is a great choice if you want to focus on student brainstorming and seeing student samples, lots of writing skill practice, and writing two revisions for each assignment. There is also fabulous parent support built into each lesson.

Structure and Style is a great choice if you want students to work with well-written paragraphs and then reconstruct them in their own words, learning how to structure as they practice. Also, if you want creative writing built into your lesson plan and easy referencing between student and teacher editions.

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WriteShop vs Structure and Style (IEW) - (2020 Curriculum Review)
A Fabulous Way to Help Your Struggling Speller

A Fabulous Way to Help Your Struggling Speller

Struggling spellers -- it’s a real thing in my homeschool. 

Spelling always came pretty easily to me. So I was a little surprised as my kids got older and three out of the four needed help with spelling … A LOT of help.

At first, I figured it was just a matter of working on memorization. But that didn’t work. They would just forget.

Then I thought if we just played lots of spelling games that would help. And spelling games DID make spelling more fun -- but it didn’t necessarily make them better spellers.

Because it turns out that three of my four kids have dyslexia -- some more than others -- which meant that they were naturally going to be poor spellers. It’s just the way their brains are wired.

Fortunately, over the years we’ve done several things to help them … and they are getting better at spelling!

(If you think YOUR child might have dyslexia or really struggles with spelling, I highly recommend you check out this book about dyslexia. It’s the first book I recommend to anyone!)

Recently, I was contacted by a mom who has created a great way to help visual spellers and others struggling with spelling. She offered to let me see what she had created, and of course I was intrigued!

I love what she’s put together -- so I want to share it with you.

These See-to-Spell cards focus on teaching spelling for visual learners and story-based learners, both of which I have found to be VERY effective with my kids.

(Sadly, my kids are all a little old to use these cards now, but I would have LOVED to have them when they were younger!)

CLICK HERE to check it out for your homeschool.

Want to keep reading instead of watch? Scroll to read a transcript of the video.

If you want to check out awesome homeschool resources for other subjects, check out my review page for games and books and toys for every homeschool subject.

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7 Ways to Create a Homeschool That Works (and you LOVE!)



My name's ToriAnn Perkey and from my homeschool to your homeschool. Today I want to talk about how you can help your struggling speller and specifically I have a really amazing resource that I want to share with you that I think could make the difference if you have a kid who's struggling to spell. Now, first of all, there are lots of reasons why kids might struggle to spell. But one is a big one, is that your kid may have some form of dyslexia. Now, there's nothing wrong with that.


There are so many successful dyslexics and dyslexia tends to run really strongly in the homeschool community because often the public school system is not designed to cater to dyslexic kids. And so there's a reason you probably brought your kid home and this might be one of the reasons for that reason. I'm going to say that dyslexia shows up in lots of different ways and you might have seen it and maybe even if your kid doesn't show all of these symptoms, it may still be a reason why they're struggling.

So you may have noticed that your kid has trouble reading or that they're flipping letters. You may have troubled that they may not have any trouble reading, but you may see that they are struggling to spell. And you may see that they are even, that your kid might be able to tell you ideas but has a really hard time putting them down on paper either because they struggle spelling or they just struggle capturing their ideas and putting them into words. So all of these things can show up in spelling is a big one. Spelling can keep kids from reading, it can keep kids from writing and it certainly can keep kids from spelling. So let's talk a little bit about how to help that.

Favorite Book

Before I do though just want you to know I have a favorite resource that goes along with dyslexia. It's one of the very first things I recommend if you are definitely thinking your kid might be dyslexic. So I'll put a link down below this video if you want to go check that out. And last week I did talk about if your kid is struggling reading, particularly if they're older, and I'll also put a link down to that video down below, but today I want to talk about a resource that was shared with me that can help your child with spelling.

See to Spell Cards

It's called See to Spell cards and they look like this. They're kind of fun because what is going on here is these cards are designed specifically for kids who are having trouble learning spelling either phonetically, you know where you teach the rules or if you just learn by seeing the word over and over and over again and practicing it, which are two very traditional ways of teaching spelling.

These cards are a different alternative way for kids who think just a little bit differently. Now spelling is hard for dyslexics because their brain is wired differently or any kid who has trouble with spelling the traditional way. It's because the brain doesn't think of words the way a brain that learns spelling in a traditional way does and that brain often is significantly more visual and more story oriented. It just has to do with how all the neurons are connected. And so this particular resource that I am sharing today is really amazing because it leverages the story-based and the visual spaced learning that often these non-traditional learners do.

So let me tell you how this works. So the cards, you get 43 cards in each set. The card on one side has the word, these are sight words. And these are often the hardest to learn how to spell. And on the front is both the word and then a picture that's drawn into the word. And then on the back, which is the side that the parent is probably going to look at, there is a story that goes along with the words. So what you're going to do is you're going to work with your kids. And you're going to say, okay, here's the word "some". And you're going to talk about how you have a guy with a sombrero, you're gonna make a big deal about how he has maracas. It's really good to use some energy and some visuals there. And then you'll notice over here there is a taco. And the story that goes along with this particular card is he wants to have some tacos and you're going to stress that word. Some tacos, you're gonna make a big deal about how this word is like this.

Here's another one "his" his snake likes to eat ice cream. We have the snake, we have the ice cream, we have the like to eat it. And here is a third example. "Done", done is a hard word to learn how to spell. The mouse is happy, the pie is done. And so we have the mouse, we have the pie and how the mouse is eating the pie. So that all goes together. So you've got the visual cue, you've got the story, and you're going to work with your kid, looking at these.

Wish I’d found this sooner

Now by the time I found this resource, my kids were old enough that it no longer, I didn't need this particular resource to help them to spell. But the reason I'm so excited about this is this is a very similar resource to how I taught my daughter, who is dyslexic, to learn her multiplication tables. Another really hard memory skill for kids. And I'm going to leave a link to that. It was story-based, it was visual based, and it radically shifted her ability to learn those multiplication tables. And she still uses that information today, which is why I feel confident that this could be a deal changer for someone who's trying to also teach their kids how to spell. 

So I really wish I'd had this with her, and I'm really excited to share it with you today. So if you have a kid who's struggling to spell, I strongly recommend you check this out. I'm going to leave a link down below or up above, or where it is, wherever it is that you're seeing this video. I'm ToriAnn Perkey and I make these videos every week so that you can be a successful and confident homeschool mom.

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A Fabulous Way to Help Your Struggling Speller
A Fabulous Way to Help Your Struggling Speller
A Fabulous Way to Help Your Struggling Speller
What to Do When Your 11 Year Old Can’t Read

What to Do When Your 11 Year Old Can’t Read

Is your kid struggling to learn how to read? Do you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night thinking, “My kid can’t read … what am I going to do???”

If so, I totally get it! Of my four children, three of them took forever to learn to read. 

My daughters were both over eight before they could read. And my youngest son was ELEVEN before he started reading independently.

And during those years, I spent a lot of time figuring out how to help a child with reading difficulties. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing anything … and that I was doing everything that I could.

Turns out there are several things you can do to help a struggling reader … and there’s also a part that requires you to just “wait and see.”

Finding the balance between the two of those can be tricky. So today I’m sharing five tips I recommend if your child can’t read or you’re trying to teach reading to a struggling reader.

And in this video, I share some of my favorite resources that I found along the way.

Check out this post to learn more about what I recommend for dyslexia.

Check out this review of my FAVORITE chapter book series for teaching kids to read.

Want to keep reading instead of watch? Scroll to read a transcript of the video.

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7 Ways to Create a Homeschool That Works (and you LOVE!)


Hello, my name is ToriAnn Perky and from my homeschool to your homeschool today I want to talk about what should you do if your 11 year old is still not reading. And actually the content we're going to talk about today applies to your kid no matter what age they are. If you think they should be reading and they're not. Now this as a homeschooler can be a really kind of scary topic.

You get all excited, you're teaching your kid to read and you're not making progress and then you're looking all around and everyone around you, their kids are learning to read and suddenly they're reading these big books and suddenly they're, they're reading, you know, full length novels and series and your kid is still stuck on sounding out cat. You're thinking, what am I doing wrong? What is this? What's wrong with my kid?

You know, what do you do? Well, let me just give you a little bit of background on why I feel like I have a lot to offer here. And then we'll talk about exactly what it is that I recommend. So first of all, what you need to know is that three of my four kids, I've been homeschooling for over 15 years. I have four kids. Three of my four kids were really late readers. And by really late readers, I mean that I had one that learned to read fluently on her own at eight another was eight and a half and my youngest son was over 11. Eleven!

I can't even begin to tell you how scary that can be. I thought, what is wrong with this kid? But fortunately he was my last kid. And so by then I had some experience and I put in place the things that I'm going to talk about today and it helped a ton.

Now one of the things to keep in mind about reading is that it's a really interesting expectation that we all have in our culture. Not only should kids be able to read, but that they should be able to read well. And as a homeschooler you may actually feel really good about delaying teaching to read, which is totally fine. So a lot of homeschoolers and a lot of philosophy out there that actually shows that kids benefit from waiting until they're a little bit older to read unless they're asking for it. And that is absolutely an acceptable way to look at that.

But even someone who had kind of bought into that, and that was, that was where I was coming from. When my kids would start to get to eight, I would start to get nervous. And certainly with my son, by the time he was nine and 10 I was feeling that nerves. And the reason is that our culture expects that kids will be able to read at a certain time. And even though my kids don't go to public school, he was going to church classes where he was being asked to read. He was going to family functions where the fact that he couldn't read started to come up. And even though I would explain that we were working with him and that he was figuring it out and we were doing different things, it was really hard for him because as he was asked to read, he'd be embarrassed and he would have to figure out ways to hide the fact that he couldn't read or he'd have to admit that he couldn't read. And so socially it started to become a problem and it was hard for him and therefore it was hard for me and I was trying to help him through all of this.

So no matter where your kid is and how old they are, I want to acknowledge that if your kid is significantly older and still struggling with reading, this is not easy. And because they start to feel bad about themselves, potentially it starts to affect how they feel and see themselves as a scholar, as a reader, as someone who can do well in school and well with academic subjects. This is a really important thing to address. So let's go through this. I actually have five different things that I recommend you do. If you have a late reader, someone who isn't reading yet, and I found that we actually did all of these things with more than one of my children.

Get Eyes Checked

So if your child is significantly older and we're saying eight, nine, 10, and they're still really struggling with reading, the first thing I recommend is go get their eyes checked. It turns out that there are often vision issues related to reading that have nothing to do with being able to see far, you know, the blurry idea of "I can't see without my glasses." There's a lot of vision issues that can affect reading.

And with my son, it turned out that was one of the issues. He had trouble focusing with his eyes. The muscles were weak and because the muscles were weak, when he looked at the page, it was blurry. So we got his eyes tested. We went to a specific doctor that had a more specific training on how to help with this kind of a reading issue. And I know where they are in my area, but depending on where you are living, I recommend you ask in your homeschool community, maybe online about specific eye doctors that might be able to help with vision issues that relate to reading and it made a big difference. We got him some glasses, he did some exercises and that definitely accelerated his ability to learn. I saw a huge improvement.


The second thing I recommend is definitely look into dyslexia. Dyslexia may actually have been one of the first things you start to think about when it comes to your kid not being able to read. And it turns out that three of my four kids, all of the children that had a hard time learning how to read turns out that dyslexia was part of the picture. Doesn't mean they can't learn how to read, but it does mean that you're going to need to approach it in a different way. You're going to need to be more patient and you may need to take advantage of other resources that are specifically geared towards learning how to read.

Now I actually have one of my favorite, favorite, favorite books and a bunch of other resources all related to dyslexia. I made another video about this. I'm going to put the link down below so you can check that out if you are interested in learning more about dyslexia resources that can help with your homeschool. So that's the second thing I recommend is definitely learn some more about that and how you can potentially incorporate that into your homeschool.

Don’t Stress

The third thing that I recommend is continue to work together but don't stress about it. So by continuing to work together, what I mean is you're going to be sitting and you're going to teach your kid to read. You're going to be going slowly and you're going to approach it differently. For us. What I found worked is that we would sit one on one, we would read together, we would go and that was part of our special time together and it meant that we delayed some of the other academic things that I might've had him do in order to focus more on reading and that was true for all my kids, but particularly my child who was 11 before he really learned how to read.

One of the things I really, really like to do is start them into chapter books. I have a specific chapter book series that I love. I will also leave a link down to my review of that series. But what we would do is I would start with, I would read a paragraph and he would read a paragraph and then it got to the point where when I would read a page and he would read a page because the reading was so taxing on his mind and his eyes that we needed to slow down the pace that he was required to put effort into the reading, but speed up the pace at which he was getting the story.

Because there comes a point where the child no longer wants to read those really, really early readers. So we would start to read the harder books, but we would do it in a way that still allowed him to be supported as he was learning how to read himself. So check out that link. I have a specific series, a chapter series book that I love, love, love. If you are just at that beginning stage and it works particularly well with older kids because it's funny and even adults enjoy it, but it still is at a reading level that works for these early kids.

Trust the Process

The fourth thing I recommend if you are trying to help an older kid learn how to read is be patient and trust that they are going to figure it out. There are so many elements to reading that require brain development, that require patience, they've required dedication, and depending on what's going on with your kid, it may be a really slow long process. So you want to be consistent, but you want to keep your personal mindset in a place where you're going to feel hopeful, where you're going to believe that it can happen because it will happen.

I believe that if you put all the right pieces in place, every child, just about every, child can learn to read and if your child is one who isn't going to learn to read, you're already aware of that because there are such severe other special needs that you're dealing with and so trust the process. Trust that if you're getting the right things in place, it's going to work out.

Check your Expectations

The last thing I want to recommend, and this is an interesting one, is that you may have to adjust your expectations. You may actually have to step back and embrace the idea that your kid may never be a lover of reading. And the reason I put this here is because I love to read. I actually learned how to read when I was really, really little, like age three, and I read constantly as a kid in elementary school and then into junior high, high school.

And now as an adult I read all the time the idea that I could have a kid who doesn't want to read or one doesn't want to read a lot. Part of, a little part of me kind of dies inside because it's such a huge part of who I am. But the truth is that I have unique kids with unique gifts and unique skills and unique challenges. And some of my kids love to read and some love to do other things and that doesn't make them any worse. And it certainly doesn't mean that they can't get a good education, that they aren't going to be successful adults and they can't be happy and fulfilled and well educated. It simply means that the route they're going to take to get there is going to be different. So I've had to adjust how we talk about learning in our home.

I've had to adjust the resources that I put in front of my children and provide for them. I've had to adjust my expectations of how they're going to acquire knowledge. And as I've done that, I've been able to calm down. They're able to still move forward and our entire homeschool experience has been magnified and de-stressed because I've adjusted my expectations. So that's my fifth recommendation is you may have to change how you see learning in your home.

If you have a kid who really struggles to read, doesn't mean they can't learn to read, but they never, they may never be a, you know, just a vacuum cleaner when it comes to reading. So that is my recommendation. That is what I recommend those steps. If you have a kid who is struggling with reading, definitely take advantage of all those different ideas and I know that you're going to figure out the best avenue to help your child accomplish this really important and basic skill when it comes to your homeschool. My name is ToriAnn Perkey and I make these videos every week so that you can be a successful and confident homeschool mom.

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What to Do When Your 11 Year Old Can’t Read
What to Do When Your 11 Year Old Can’t Read
What to Do When Your 11 Year Old Can’t Read
Best Storytelling Games for Kids

Best Storytelling Games for Kids

We have used A LOT of games in our homeschool over the years, and storytelling games are some of my favorite!

I’ve shared in the past how we use storytelling in our homeschool to help with creative writing and also for kids who are struggling with writing.

But we’ve also just played storytelling games because they are so much fun. They bring out the creative side in my kids -- which helps them with creative writing and problem-solving.

These kinds of games also help me get to know my kids better. Family storytelling games get us talking and laughing and sharing. I love hearing my kids thoughts -- I learn so much about them that they might not tell me otherwise!

I also use these games in the homeschool co-op writing classes I teach, because storytelling games in the classroom also work really well. They are great creative writing games that help them get started with stories that I ask them to write.

So today I’m putting together a list of my favorite storytelling games for kids all in one place. 

(And don’t forget to check out my review page for games and books we love in every homeschool subject.

I also did a review of my Favorite Math Games for Homeschool you can check out if you want games for math!)


Storymatic bills itself as a “gazillion stories” in one box -- and that’s an accurate description.

I love this game because there are two kinds of cards - character cards and situation cards. The situation cards are often silly or intriguing, which pushes the storytelling into new places that you might not otherwise think of.

Check out my full review of Storymatic here or watch the video review below.

Rory's Story Cubes gives you nine dice with six pictures per dice, which gives you 54 images that can be combined in so many ways!

This game is great because it’s so simple, and it works fabulous for kids who are still not reading comfortably yet. (Although I have played just with adults, and it’s also tons of fun!)

Roll one or several cubes and begin creating a story. The game comes with multiple ideas on how to use the dice to play in different ways. (And there are additional dice packs you can purchase to increase the fun!.

Check out my full review of Rory's Story Cubes here or watch the video review below.

Dixit is a storytelling board game that combines storytelling with hints & guessing to create a game that all ages can enjoy together.

This is one of the storytelling games that my family pulls out on “game night” and not just during the school day. We played it for years when my youngest still couldn’t read (he was 12 before he was reading comfortably). It’s challenging for all ages -- but simple enough that even young kids can understand.

Dixit also has several expansion packs you can purchase that we’ve really enjoyed.

Check out my full review of Dixit here or watch the video review below.

Tell Tale is also an image-only storytelling game, which makes it great for all ages.

These cards are more detailed than the Rory's Story Cubes, which is great if your kid needs a little more help figuring out where to start. I also love the graphics AND the shape of the cards! And this game also comes with several ways to play to get your creative juices flowing.

Tell Tale also has a Fairytale version that’s fun if you enjoy the original.

Check out my full review of Tell Tale here or watch the video review below.

Other Fun Storytelling Game Options

As always when I do these roundups, I find lots of other options that look absolutely amazing but I don’t actually own (yet!).

Here are several other storytelling games that definitely make my short list.

Tall Tales Storytelling Game Review

Tall Tales has been on my short list to try for several years.

It looks similar to other games that I’ve already tried, but the TOKENS! Eeeeek … I’m such a sucker for small cute objects.I think this game would be particularly good for kinesthetic kids who would benefit from touching an object instead of looking at an image.

Danger Storytelling Game Review

Danger: The Game looks like SO MUCH FUN! Players get trapped in bizarre and crazy situations -- and you have to figure out how to rescue them with crazy storytelling ideas. 

This game takes storytelling and puts it in context, which means you can work on their creativity with kids who may be struggling to come up with ideas on their own.

Plus I think there would be LOTS of laughing, which is always a bonus!

Story Slam Storytelling Game Review

Story Slam is similar to Storymatic above, but instead of character chards they focus solely on plot.

I love that they give you both a “set the scene” card AND a “plot twist” card. This helps kids understand how stories are built - which helps their writing - and moves the storytelling along if you’re trying to write a story or play with a group.

What's Your Story 60 Seconds Storytelling Game Review

What’s Your Story: 60 Seconds looks fabulous because it incorporates soooo many elements of any good story - character, setting, problem, and solution.

With only 60 seconds to create a story that has all those elements, your kids will have to work hard to be concise and clear. Practicing these skills will make them much better writers - whether they write fictional stories or essays.

Memory Palace storytelling game review

The Memory Palace is a storytelling game designed for younger children and incorporates elements from several games I’ve already mentioned.

This storytelling game is image only, which is great for non-readers. It also has a memory element to the game, which is fabulous for younger kids who are still building those skills as well.

If you want to check out awesome homeschool resources for other subjects, check out my review page for games and books and toys for every homeschool subject.

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Numbers league math game review

Practice Mental Math with Superheroes {Numbers League Game Review}

I love finding new math games for kids.

Over the years, we’ve used math games in our homeschool to explore new math ideas, review math concepts in fun and engaging ways, and just have fun as a family!

The coolest part of playing a math game -- as opposed to doing math worksheets or even reviewing online -- is that your kid is engaging more parts of their brain when they play.

And today I want to introduce you to another math game that I find different from all the others AND it definitely will work your mental math muscles.

It’s called Numbers League -- a card game with superheroes, villains, and lots and lots of elementary and pre-algebra math review.

When you combine mental math AND a great game, what’s not to love?

(BTW: They also have an app to play the game as well. You can check out the app here.)

Want to keep reading instead of watch? Scroll to read a transcript of the video.

NOTE: I was compensated to write this review, but my opinion is completely my own and I only recommend things that I absolutely love!

CLICK HERE to check it out for your homeschool.

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Confident Homeschool Secrets

7 Ways to Create a Homeschool That Works (and you LOVE!)


Hello ToriAnn Perkey here and from my homeschool to your homeschool today, I want to talk about a really fun game that helps your kids learn, multiplication, division, addition, subtraction with superheroes. So with the Avengers movies and all the other superhero movies that are coming out these days, superheroes are a big deal. And the idea that you can have a math game that practices all of these basic skills while playing the superheroes is just super fun. I get so, so, so excited.

Okay, so the game is called Numbers League and it has got a lot of fun pieces. So the basic premise is that you build superheroes to capture the villains and your superheroes can have additional help in this in different tools that they get that make it easier to accomplish the task. Which is to capture the villains as the basic premise of the game.

But if it were just that, maybe it would be just so so, but the way this game is put together is so much fun. It is a card game. And let me show you the different pieces. First of all, let’s talk about the villains. The villains come in three pieces. They come in heads like this. And I am going to just tell you right now, I love the graphics. So here is a head. You need to know that all of the graphics are amazing. And then there are bodies and then there are legs. And so as you are getting your different cards in your hand, you are getting various bodies, various heads and various legs. And I do not know if you have ever had one of those games when you were a kid where you could flip the, uh, the different parts of the book and create different characters. Well, it is that kind of concept.

So your first goal is to create a superhero and all the graphics lineup together. So you get this superhero character that looks like this. We can build them any way you want. So you might end up with a superhero that looks like this, or he might have, you know, different heads, different body. And you'll notice on these cards there is a number. See there is a two, there is a one, there is a three. And the numbers vary depending on the card. It is not like all the heads are twos or anything like that. And based on how the numbers line up on the superhero after you have built it, is the numbers that you have to work with. And you can add the numbers together. You can multiply the numbers, you can add two numbers and then multiply them with the third number. There are all kinds of ways to do that.

So you are creating numbers, a full number based on the superhero. So in this case it would be two plus one plus three. So that would be six, right? So this is a number six. Now to capture a bad guy, you have the bad guys are already set out and you have two kinds of bad guys. You have the blue bad guys and the green bad guys. The green bad guys, the pictures the same, but you'll notice that the number is different. And that is because the green side, they are easier to play with. And the blue side, they are harder to play with. And here we have a green side. It is a 15 and it goes all the way into the negatives with this game is the negative four and so we take the superhero which has now been built and we have a six and we can do different things with that six I am not going to go into all the rules, but I will link in with the video to places where you can learn how to play.

But based on different combinations of that six you then capture this 15 card or you capture this 38 card. The one extra card that shows up in this game that I love are these booster cards and they are the superheroes extras. So you have here, you have a ray gun. I think that is, I do not know what that is. And it is a times three who you have boots, it's a plus 10 and these can be added to the superhero. So instead of a six you might have a six times three is 18 or you might have a six plus 10 is 16 so you're constantly doing all this mental math while you play. And I have to be honest, I was playing with my son and my brain was doing this as it was trying to figure out how to make different combinations with my superheroes to be able to capture the villains.

Now let me just tell you a couple of reasons why I really, really liked this game. And again, I didn't go into all the rules and you can check out the link below to check out the links for the rules. But first of all, I love the fact that it really pushes the mental math in a fun, different kind of way and the graphics are so much fun. I love that your brain and their brain is going to have to work really, really hard. It's great for upper elementary and even middle school where they're still learning how to do that. I love that.

There are lots of ways to play with the cards so you can play the basic game, but how do you receive this game? Initially when my kids were much younger, we probably would have started by just building superheroes and building superheroes and we would have practiced just adding the numbers together and seeing what happens when we put different superheroes together.

That alone would have been so much fun. I know that some of my kids would have sought out the cards that match to create the superhero with all the same character traits. You know what I mean? So I love the fact that I can do that. You can play a timed version of the game. You can play an untimed version of the game. You could play where you are just playing collaboratively and you are trying to capture and you are all on the same side. Or you can play the competitive way, which is the way the game is originally set out.

I also really love that the game feels really high quality. This is not, I mean this is built by a family who does not put out a lot of games and so it is not like they have a ton of resources behind them, but they have put a lot of time and effort into this game. And it comes across in the quality of the cards, the quality of the artwork across the board. I love this. I love the effort that they've put into this game .

And I will tell you there are a couple things about the game that as I was playing I thought, mm. There are a couple of things that I just struggled with just a little bit and they are not deal-breakers. I just wanted to let you know. The first one is I do think it is a little complicated to learn the instructions that they sent. We really had to kind of wrestle a little bit with the instructions. Although I will say we did not go watch a YouTube video that just talked us through how to play. I think if we had done that, it actually would have been a lot easier, but we were trying to read the printed instructions and it just took a little bit of time to figure it out.

Once we figured it out, super easy to play and I could sit down and play it again right away. But it did take a little bit of time to figure out. The instructions I was sent, that came with the game I got, were a little tricky to read. Just, because of the way they were formatted, but it could be that they have upgraded it since then based on when you're watching this video. So I'm just going to put that in there as a caveat.

I did find that as you are playing, the more superheroes you build, it gets a little challenging to keep track of all the different numbers. And maybe if you are really good at math, that would not be hard. But I think for a kid that might be a little tricky. So if we, as we continue to play, one of the things that we plan on doing is having some kind of piece of paper with us to just track the numbers, all the different superhero amounts so it moves the game along just a little bit faster.

I do think that a mathy kid will love this game. My mathy kid was like "That was awesome. Let's play again". I think a non mathy kid would benefit from doing a more collaborative style of playing possibly just because it was a little stressful because there was so much mental math and if we had been playing together. I think we could have had a lot of fun practicing those skills and they would have just had a little bit more support as they had played along.

Definitely. Definitely, definitely like this game. I just want to make another side note that they actually also have developed an app that you can download and you can play the game in an app format instead of with cards. So if you are more inclined to want that tech side as opposed to something physical you can hold in your hands. The app is another great way to go and I will leave a link to the app in the comments. All right you guys, this is Number Leagues. This is my review. I think this is a great addition to any family that is looking to do mental math with their homeschooler in their homeschool. I hope you enjoy it. I am ToriAnn Perkey and I make these videos every week so that you can be a successful and confident homeschool mom.

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Number league math game review
Transcontinental railroad living history book review

Best Book to Learn about the Transcontinental Railroad {Echoes of Hammers and Spikes Review}

Do you remember learning about the Transcontinental Railroad in school as a kid?

I do. I remember being fascinated by the race between the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific.

I remember thinking it wasn’t fair that the Central Pacific didn’t have to go nearly as far … until I learned they had to blast their way through the Sierra Nevadas.

And I actually remember being super excited as a kid that they met at Promontory Point in Utah to drive the final golden spike -- because I lived in Utah! 

But, I ALSO remember my textbook being really boring -- with black and white pictures and dry text.

Which is why I’m so excited to share this new book called Echoes of Hammers and Spikes.

It’s EVERYTHING that I want in a living history book to teach the Transcontinental Railroad to my kids.

Engaging text written by professional storytellers.

Brand new, commissioned songs to go along with each chapter.

Enhanced audio version of the book -- including background music and engaging narrators.

Lesson plans and study guide questions are available to download as well.

Seriously -- whether you’re teaching Utah history or American history, this book is AMAZING!

Want to keep reading instead of watch? Scroll to read a transcript of the video.

NOTE: I was compensated to write this review, but my opinion is completely my own and I only recommend things that I absolutely love!

CLICK HERE to check it out for your homeschool.

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Hello ToriAnn Perkey here and from my homeschool to your homeschool, today I want to talk about a new resource that's just come out that is amazing at teaching the history -- American history at the time of the transcontinental railroad. It's called Echoes of Hammer and Spikes. And this is unlike anything I've ever seen. You guys, I am so excited to talk to you about this today.

Okay, so this book was put out by a man named Clive Romney, along with Sam and Susan Payne. I want to make sure I said all their names right. And their goal was to teach the history of the transcontinental railroad in a new and different kind of way.

And so I'm going to go through all of the different pieces that are included in this book. And I'm going to tell you, if you're looking to teach this time period of history, if you're looking to teach American history this year, if you're looking to really involve different kinds of learning styles, different kinds of interests, this is going to rock your homeschool.

I can't even tell you how excited I am about this. I rarely get a new resource and every time I turn a page or find one more piece of it, my mind just gets bigger and bigger and bigger. I thought I'd seen it all. This one blows it out of the water.

Okay, so to start with this book, it has 20 chapters, so it covers each piece of the transcontinental railroad in a chapter. And I love that this book does a really good job, because it is so new, it does a good job of covering all the different facets of the history. So each chapter is kind of from a different perspective. So there's a chapter on the Chinese immigrants that worked on the railroad. There's a chapter on the big bosses. There's a chapter on Abraham Lincoln. There's a chapter on the Mormons. And every single chapter covers a different focus.

So first of all, here you go, clear, beautiful design pages. Lovely, lovely text. The first thing I would do is I would just be sitting down and reading this with my kids. I want to make sure you guys get a good idea of what this looks like. The really, really strong graphics. The text is easy to read. It's conversational. Clive Romney and Sam Payne are both storytellers, so they know how to tell a good story.

Now, if this is where this book stopped, then it would just be another history book, but it doesn't. The second thing that they have done is that every single chapter has a song that's attached to it -- a brand new commissioned song by a professional artist. And I fell in love with these songs. Oh my goodness. Different styles. Many of them have kind of a folk song feel because that's the time period.

These boxes in the book go through and talk a little bit about why the artist chose-- who the artist is that chose to write the song. They chose to write the song -- mostly what the artist's inspiration was -- kind of what their creative process was. And then also the lyrics to the song. The book comes with a CD that you can download but you -- that you can put and listen to. Or you can go to the website once you've purchased the book and you can actually download all of the songs and put them on your phone or an mp3 player or whatever.

And these songs are good enough that if you just wanted to put them in the car and play the songs, it would be an engaging soundtrack to listen to for this time period of history. So there's songs that go with each chapter by different artists and then there's the book, but we're not done yet.

They've also put out a series of discussion questions that you can ask your kids that go with every single chapter. So you have a little bit of that educational support after you've read the chapter. If you want to have some questions-- you want to have your kid just look at the questions and then answer them, either writing them-- or you know what I mean? Like if you want to turn it into assignment, they have that piece.

And they also are in the process-- and they haven't quite finished this yet but by the time you're watching this video, they might have -- they're in the process of creating an enhanced audio version of every single chapter where the chapters are not only read but it's also got music in the background, and it's got the song attached to it, and it's all kind of blended together. And I listened to some of the early releases of those, and again, I was blown away by the quality, the intensity, the beautiful package that this book is.

So if you want to explore this chapter of American history, you want to explore this chapter of Utah history, or you're just looking for a really great way to make history come alive in your homeschool, this is going to be a product that you want to get. I promise you, you won't be disappointed.

I'm going to leave a link to access, you know how this works, up above or down below-- you know, wherever you're watching this video. I'm telling you this is one you want on your shelves. It's going to be something you look at over and over again.

I'm ToriAnn Perkey, and from my homeschool to your homeschool, I make these videos every week so that you can be a successful and confident homeschool mom.

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best math games for kids reviews

Favorite Math Games in Our Homeschool (for All Ages)

We’ve always been a fan of using math games in our homeschool to practice math facts. Addition, subtraction, multiplication, division … if there was a game, I wanted to play it instead of reviewing in more conventional ways.

I also wanted to find games that weren’t “just” practice … but also were fun and had great replay value.

We’ve tried a lot of games over the years, and only a few have really hit the mark with me and my kids.

Some of these work great for little kids. Others you’ll need your kids to be in elementary math or higher. 

And some work great for kids who are all ages with their math. Those are my favorite because everyone can play and have fun!

These are the best math games that we’ve played over and over in our homeschool.

(And don't forget to check out my review page for games and books we love in every homeschool subject.)

7ate9 math game review

7Ate9 is a fast-paced math card game that reinforces addition and subtraction skills. 

I love this game because it reinforce mental math in a non-linear way -- great for my “different-thinking” kids. AND it’s fun enough that we pull it out during family game time, not just when we want to do school.

Check out my full review of 7Ate9 HERE or watch the video review below.

prime climb math game review

Prime Climb is a visually stunning math game that teaches fundamental pre-long division skills, including factors, multiples, and primes.

There’s NO reading in this game so my kids could play easily even if they struggled with words. And the game is so clever in how it visually connects different numbers, I found MY brain learning all sorts of amazing mathematical connections that I hadn’t realized before.

Check out my full review of Prime Climb HERE or watch the video review below.

zeus on the loose game review

Zeus on the Loose is a math card game is based in Greek mythology and reinforces addition, subtraction, and skip counting up to 100.

I love how simple it is to play. I love the graphics. I love the history and language arts element. And I love how even my non-mathy girl was willing to play.

Check out my full review of Zeus on the Loose HERE or watch the video review below.

sumoku game review for multiplication factors

In Sumoku, you review math multiples using a Scrabble-like format.

Not every kid in my home liked this game, but I was surprised that it was my non-mathy but pattern-loving kid who asked to play it the most. Because it focuses on one skill AND because it’s slower paced (read: no speed in this game), I think it appeals to a different kind of learner.

Check out my full review of Sumoku HERE or watch the video review below.

tiny polka dots math review for preschoolers

The visually exciting cards in Tiny Polka Dots help build number sense for preschool kids and kids with special needs.

Polka Dots is made by the same game designer that made Prime Climb, so the minute I saw it, I knew that the quality and the graphics were going to be superb. I was thrilled to also find that the variety of cards and the different ways of playing also far exceeded my expectations.

There are soooo many things you can do with these cards -- from learning to count, to visually practicing basic addition and subtraction, to finding number patterns.

Seriously -- I feel like the possibilities are endless.

(I loved this game so much, I bought two copies even though my kids no longer needed to really learn these skills. One I gave to my sister who uses it all the time with her preschool aged kids. The other I’m saving … I’m SO excited to be able to put it to really good use when I start to have my grandkids come over.)

tenzi dice game review

At first glance, Tenzi seems like a simple game ... roll 10 dice and try to match the instructions on one of the cards.

But with so many options (many of which require some kind of math), this is a game that kids of all ages can enjoy playing together.

Some cards require you to color or pattern sort. Other cards require you to add or subtract or find multiples. 

You can buy the Tenzi cards separately if you already have dice -- but remember you'll need TEN of one kind for each person playing.  I did not buy Tenzi dice when we purchased the cards. Instead, we bought a set of 10 dice like this to save money and to get more dice.

The original game is fast-paced, with you racing against your opponent(s) to get what the card explains. However, not all my kids love competition, so we've played where the goal is for everyone to get their card ... and we all help each other.

And you have the added bonus of acquiring a large number of dice, which opens you up to so many additional (no pun intended!) ways to do math without any specific game. From color sorting for preschool kids to crazy math combinations for older kids, this game has a TON of great ways to play with it!

Numbers league math game review

Numbers League

Superheroes, Villians, and family time! The coolest part of playing mental math games is that your kid is engaging more parts of their brain when they play.

Another math game that I find different from all the others AND it definitely will work your mental math muscles.

It is so much better than trying to teach a skill. This is how to make mental math fun! Love this game. 

Other Fun Math Game Options

We don’t own the rest of these games, but they look like sooooo much fun. I wish I had an unlimited budget so that I could just buy and try every game out there.

From what I can tell, these games would check all the boxes for me and are definitely on my short list. 

(Some of these are geared toward math skills that are below where my kids are now, but again, I’m hoping that grandkids will be in my future in the next few years … so we get to start the learning fun all over again!)

proof! math game review

Proof! is a math game that helps practice mental math skills with all different kinds of equation combinations.

At the most difficult level, you can use all four basic operations, plus square roots and other higher level math.

However, it's easy to simplify the game to only do  addition and subtraction, for example, although you might have to removed some cards.

clumsy thief math game review

In the easy-to-learn game Clumsy Thief, kids match cards to create piles that add up to 100.

This has a speed element, so not all of my kids would have loved it. But I love the simplicity and learning how the different 5 combinations add up.

This game has been popular enough, that they've also made several variations that may also be interested in.

monster sock factory game review for math

Monster Sock Factory appeals to me because it review multiplication by focusing on making groups ... which is another way of saying multiples.

You're packing socks based on the the number of legs on your monster, so the variations are endless each time you play.

I love the shape of the cards and the graphics. And I love the name! (What is it about "monster" that just makes things seem like they'll be more fun?)

Numbers league math game review

Numbers League

Superheroes, Villians, and family time! The coolest part of playing mental math games is that your kid is engaging more parts of their brain when they play.

Another math game that I find different from all the others AND it definitely will work your mental math muscles.

It is so much better than trying to teach a skill. This is how to make mental math fun! Love this game. 

If you want to check out awesome homeschool resources for other subjects, check out my review page for games and books and toys for every homeschool subject.

Want tons of FREE resources to
help your homeschool?

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Best math games for kids for homeschool
Best math games for kids for homeschool
Best math games for kids for homeschool

Fabulous Graphic Novel Historical Fiction Series for Kids – {Nathan Hale Hazardous Tales Review}

We LOVE historical fiction in our house! It’s such a fabulous way to make history come alive and for kids to really remember key historical events.

We ALSO love graphic novels … 



Okay - full disclosure - I’ve been a skeptic of graphic novels for years. After all, can it REALLY be great content if it looks like a comic book?!?

But the world of graphic novels is no longer the fluffy “comic book” world! Graphic novels are different kind of storytelling -- using pictures instead of words to give the sense of emotion and setting.

And my dyslexic kids … my visual learners … the ones who struggle to learn through just reading get so much out of graphic novels.

Which is why I was THRILLED to find this series by Nathan Hale called Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales.

This series combines solid history, fabulous graphics, and great sense of humor all in one.

Each book is a treat -- and he is still coming out with new books. So far, the book series includes:

  1. One Dead Spy (Nathan Hale, American Revolutionary War)

  2. Big Bad Ironclad (American Civil War)

  3. Donner Dinner Party 

  4. Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood (World War I)

  5. The Underground Abductor (Harriet Tubman, Slavery)

  6. Alamo All Stars

  7. Raid of No Return (WWII)

  8. Lafayette (American Revolutionary War)

  9. Major Impossible (Wesley Powell, Exploration of the Grand Canyon)

What do they look like inside? And which are our favorites? Check out the video to find out!

Rather read than watch? Keep scrolling to read a transcript of the video.

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7 Ways to Create a Homeschool That Works (and you LOVE!)


Hello, this is ToriAnn Perkey, and from my homeschool to your homeschool, I regret that I must recommend these history books. No, just kidding. I'm super excited to recommend these history books! But I had to start that way because the first one is about Nathan Hale, and Nathan Hale is the patriot at the beginning of the American revolution who before he died said, "I regret that I have but one life to give for my country."

And these books are in fact -- that I'm going to recommend -- are in fact named after him. The very first one is called Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales. You guys, I wholeheartedly just love these books, and I'm so excited to tell you about them today.

First of all, I just want to tell you, they are graphic novels, and I'm a big fan of graphic novels. I think there are a really great way for kids to get information. Obviously you don't want all their reading to be graphic novels, but graphic novels definitely have value.

And for kids who are dyslexic (like mine) for some reason the visual aspect of the graphic novel makes it easier for them to consume the content. So that's the first thing.

The second thing I would do is tell you about the author. His name is actually Nathan Hale, and he is named after the spy that was caught by the British who was then executed by the British. And just as a side note, I feel a personal affinity because I actually went to high school with him. And he was an amazing artist then, and he's an amazing artist now. It's just a little side note.

What I love about these books is the science ... The science ... The history is rock solid. It's so good. The first one is about the American Revolution and the story of Nathan Hale. And what happens in these books ... And the first one sets up the kind of the frame for all of these ... is Nathan Hale's about to be executed. And then he offers to teach history through a big book. And through teaching the history, they decided to stay his execution long enough that he can finish telling his story, kind of like Arabian 1001 Nights.

And so the first one is all about the Revolutionary War. There are eight more books in the series. I believe there are more to come. I'm going to tell you about the two that my kids ... it's their personal favorites, and then I'll tell you the rest.

One is called Lafayette. It's the only other graphic novel in the series that is also about the American Revolution. And this is of course about Lafayette, the French men who came and helped the Americans during the Revolution. The other one is called the Underground Abductor, and it's all about Harriet Tubman. And those two Lafayette and the Harriet Tubman are both ... my kids really do love those.

But there are also books about ... there's a book about World War I. There's a book about World War II. There's one about the Civil War, the Alamo, and there is one about the Donner party. And you guys, this one is called Donner Dinner Party. And here's what's really interesting. It actually gives a warning about a couple of pages to skip if you're extra squeamish about the Donner Party, you know, eating each other. But I didn't find it very graphic at all, which is ironic because it's a graphic novel. It was done so tastefully [!], and all of these books are done so tastefully.

My kids are learning so much history as they read these books. And let me give you an example.

This is the WWI book, Treaties, Trenches, Mud and Blood, and WWI is a really confusing topic. There's so many countries and so many different things going on, and everybody's aligning themselves with different people.

And he's so cleverly been able to show those distinctions between all the different countries by assigning a different animal to each country. So for example, there's one country that is lions, and one country that's peacocks, and one countries that that's bears. And then as you're reading the book, you're learning about the different storylines that these different ...the roles ... these different countries played in WWI. But you're looking at different animals, you know, dressed up in soldier costumes. You know, look at that. And so you're able to follow the plot plot of WWI much better than if you're just reading about different countries.

So guys, love, love, love these history books. I can't strongly recommend them enough. If they sound like they'd be something that'd be a good fit for your family, go ahead and click on the link up above, down below. You know how this works and check them out. I think you are going to love them.

I'm ToriAnn Perkey, and I make these videos every week so that you can be a successful and confident homeschool mom.

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Homeschool writing ideas prompts dixit game review

Sharpen Kids’ Creative Writing Skills with THIS Wordless Game {Dixit Game Review}

Creative writing is super important in our homeschool.

I think it helps my kids express themselves, figure out who they are, and how they want to relate to the world.

Homeschool writing ideas prompts dixit game review


It also provides an easier way to practice grammar and punctuation and all the other writing conventions that will help them communicate well as they get older.

But some kids have it easier than others.

I have two kids who took to creative writing like ducks to water … writing long stories -- first on paper and then the computer.

However, two really struggled to write much -- mostly because they struggled to write at all.

Dyslexia (for both) and dysgraphia (for one) made it so the creative ideas in their heads couldn’t make it to the paper easily. [I talk about all the skills you need to write in this post.]

So I went hunting for ways to help them express their creativity sooner while their reading, writing, and typing skills caught up.

I wanted them to practice their storytelling skills -- and I was looking for additional storytelling ideas to make it happen.

And THIS game is one of the answers I found.

We LOVE Dixit in our home … fun and fast to play. Works for all ages. And there’s NO reading so my youngest kid (who couldn’t read until he was 11 ½ !) could still play along with everyone else.

One caveat that I don’t mention in the video -- a few of the cards are a little creepy for a few of my kids (we have VERY sensitive souls over here) -- maybe two out of the entire deck. We just put those aside and play with the rest. It doesn’t affect game play at all.

CLICK HERE to check it DIXIT for your homeschool.

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7 Ways to Create a Homeschool That Works (and you LOVE!)

Hello, I'm ToriAnn Perkey, and from my homeschool to your homeschool, today I want to tell you about a really cool game that will help you sharpen your kid's creative writing skills ... and the game doesn't have any words.

I know pretty crazy, but stick with me.

So the game ...So first of all, before I tell you about the game, what I want to explain is why I think this game works the way it does. You see, creative writing involves a lot of things. It involves being able to write on the paper. It involves creating sentences and involves knowing, grammar, punctuation, all those things.

But no matter what age you are, the number one thing you have to be able to do to be a strong creative writer is to be able to come up with really cool stories. And this game helps support that even before kids can read and even before they can write.

And what I love about it is if your kid is a struggling reader or a struggling writer -- and we have several of those in my homeschool -- then this is a game that they can play that can be strengthening their writing skills as you're still working on some of those other pieces.

So what is the game called? Well, the game is called Dixit. And this is a game that is well loved in our family. It actually -- the word Dixit means to tell or speak in Latin -- and it's a storytelling game.

And how does it work? Well, the game comes with 84 cards. And the cards look like this. This is the back of the card and this is the front. Each one contains a storytelling scene, and they're all kind of surreal. I'm going to hold these up so you can see them. As you can see, they're kind of different.

And the idea is that you're going to come up with a story element about one of these cards. Now, that alone is a very fun way to do storytelling, and you can play with the cards just like that. But let me tell you a little bit more about how the actual game works.

You sit around -- it's up to six players (unless you play on teams) -- you sit around. You have five or six of these cards in your hand and nobody else can see them. And when it's your turn, you pick one of your cards, and you try to come up with a phrase that you think will match not just your card, but other cards that people are holding. And it can be a sound, it can be a word, it can be a short phrase. It's not a whole story, it's just a small piece.

Then everyone else ... so you say that and you put your card down. So if I have this card, for example, I might say "message." Simple, right? If you look really closely -- let's see if I can get that to focus -- this guy is holding an envelope with a message.

All right, so now I have said "message." I put my card down. Everyone else in the circle goes through their cards and tries to find a card that will match. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't. Kinda like Apple to Apple ... Apples to Apples, if you've ever played that game.

Then I, as the storyteller, flip all the cards over and everyone looks at all the cards. They don't know which one was mine and which one belongs to anyone else except themselves. And then everybody gets has these tokens, one to six (I only held up two) and the they vote for which one they think ...which card they believe goes with the word that the storyteller -- the word, the sound, the phrase --that the storyteller said.

And if they get it right, they get a certain number of points. If as the storyteller,people pick my card, I get a certain number of points. If nobody picks ... if everyone picks somebody else's card, -- oh, if somebody -- if they pick someone else's -- if someone picks their card, they get a point. So there's different ways that you get points.

The goal is the storyteller is to pick a word or a phrase or a sound that is not too obvious, but not too obscure. You want to hit right in the middle. And it's a really clever way to really think about what are the other cards probably going to do. What does your card do? And it pushes the brain in problem-solving with language in a way that I've never done with any other game. And when you're done, you keep score and then you move on. It takes about 30 minutes to play depending on how many people you have.

Now we love this game so much that after we purchased the original game, we actually purchased several expansion sets as well. And this is one of the expansion sets right here. Each expansion set comes with a whole new set of cards that have the same back so you can mix them all together, which is why I'm just going to put in the caveat that these cards I showed you may not actually be from the original game because we've mixed all ours up and now I don't know which cards come with the original game.

So that is a game that I strongly recommend you consider for your homeschool. So much fun to play. All ages can play together. You don't have to read. And it really, really, really pushes the brain to think about words and language and sound in a different kind of way that actually helps with their creative-writing skills as well.

So if this is a game that sounds interesting to you, you can check it out at the link up, above or down below. You know how this works. It's wherever you are watching this video. I'm ToriAnn Perkey, and from homeschool to homeschool, I make these videos every week so that you can be a successful and confident homeschool mom.

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Homeschool writing ideas prompts dixit game review
Homeschool writing ideas prompts dixit game review
Homeschool writing ideas prompts dixit game review
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