Friday, March 29, 2019

F is for Franklin (Blogging Through the Alphabet)


This post contains affiliate links. For more information please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

Benjamin Franklin – who exactly was he? Over time opinions have changed about his life and impact as generations reinterpret history. Just because society's attitudes and beliefs systems have changed does not diminish one person's impact on history when they were living by their own standards. We should not forget transgressions and mistakes but we should still value their input and influence.

Franklin has been called many things but let's stick with the positives in this post. He was a writer, scientist, philosopher, diplomat, politician, husband, father, and inventor. This post will only provide a brief biography of Franklin.

Early Life

Franklin was born on January 17, 1706 in Boston. He was the youngest son of Josiah Franklin (a candle-maker) and Abiah (Folger) Franklin. He began reading at an early age and trained himself in writing. He left school at the age of 10 to help in his father's candle-making shop but this wasn't the job for him. Josiah Franklin then apprenticed Ben Franklin to his brother James' print shop.

James and Ben did not really get along. Mistreatment, frequent beatings, and the fact that Ben could only get James to print his writings under a pseudonym eventually led Ben to leave Boston in 1723 (technically Ben Franklin still owed three years' service to his Master brother in his apprenticeship).

image of Franklin eating one roll from US History Images

Arriving in Philadelphia 

At the age of 17, in the fall of 1723, Benjamin Franklin arrived in the City of Brotherly Love – Philadelphia. Upon arrival he found himself hungry and short on money. He was able to purchase three puffy rolls at a bakery on 2nd Street and walked onto 4th street eating one roll and carrying the other two under his arm. It was on 4th street that a young girl observed his dirty clothes and disheveled hair. This young girl would become his future wife – Deborah.

Finding Success

It was in the city of Philadelphia that Franklin found success with his printing press. His press printed pamphlets, essays, magazines, and almanacs. Through these publications, Franklin helped shape American folkways and history.

Lifetime of Influence 

Franklin is considered the inventor of many items:

  • Bifocals 
  • Franklin stove (provided more heat with less fuel) 
  • Glass armonica (I think I got to see one on display at his home's museum in Philadelphia) 
  • Rocking Chair 

As a scientist, Franklin studied electricity and helped chart the Gulf Stream during his oversea voyages to England as a diplomat.

There are also many firsts connected to Franklin and the city of Philadelphia. He helped launch the first lending library in 1731, the first hospital and fire insurance company, and established the American Philosophical Society in 1744. 

While involved in politics, Franklin helped draft the Constitution and acted as a spokesman for the colonial legislature in London.

We can look back on Benjamin Franklin as a prime example that hard work and dedication will be rewarded. A man with little formal education was able to emerge – in his own words – "from the poverty and obscurity in which [he] was born and bred, to a state of affluence and some degree of reputation in the world." Through his own printed words we can also learn more about him and his philosophy to help us decide his place in American history.

Looking for more American History information? 

Looking for a good unit study that examines U.S. Symbols, how to study history using music, or maybe more information on another colonial figure? A Mom's Quest to Teach offers a variety of history-related blog posts.

Inlinkz Link Party

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Learning to Read: A Review of Classical Phonics with the First Start Reading Program

Each day our five-year-old son brings me the Teacher Guide of the First Start Reading Program and First Start Reading Book A published by Memoria Press and asks to work on his homeschool lessons. I would say this deserves a resounding recommendation from him as he has enthusiastically worked on these lessons and reads through Classical Phonics which is geared towards kindergarten and first grade students.

What Am I Reviewing? 

  • Classical Phonics, Second Edition 
  • Teacher Guide for First Start Reading Program 
  • Books A-E for First Start Reading Program 
  • First Start Reading Book E Teacher Guide 

Classical Phonics: A Child's Guide to Word Mastery 

Cheryl Lowe writes in the preface to the 2010 edition: "Word Mastery is in fact a little gem, a well-organized and methodical presentation of phonics." There are changes from the original publication (1913) which include graphic and illustration changes, reduction of the number of words per page, and reorganization of words to make it easier for kids. Classical Phonics can be used to supplement any phonics programs and is a good fit for the First Start Reading Program from Memoria Press

There are four parts to the spiral-bound book (the fact that it is spiral-bound helps it to lie flat on a table or desk). The introductions to the units for the teacher or parent provide the goal of the unit and an explanation of what will be taught in that unit. For example, the Introduction to Unit 3 states that consonant blends will continue to be taught, final blends in short-vowel words will be covered first, initial blends are organized into three categories (s, l, and r blends), and examples of what the book is addressing are provided.

At the end of the 139-page book Classical Phonics, there are suggestions for the teacher which should be read prior to giving the book to children per the 1913 publication recommendations. There are also phonics and spelling rules and lists of common words provided on the final pages.

Our daughter looking through Classical Phonics while her brother works on writing the letter H.

Part One introduces the letters in a similar format to the First Start Reading Book A which is helpful for our son to review what he has learned. There are also additional words listed that demonstrate different uses of the vowel or consonant. For the letter T, the images are the same as Book A but include the words with T as the terminal (letter at the end of the world like mat and sat) as well as the initial sound (like tan and ten). 

I do wish that the Teacher Guide for Books A-D would be more specific as to when to use Classical Phonics. For example, during lesson 14, when reviewing the sound 'ft' students are referred to page 57 of Classical Phonics where there is a list of 6 other 'ft' words (in addition to six other final consonant blends). One way I intend to use Classical Phonics in addition to the ways suggested, is to use the lists for spelling words for our son. 

First Start Reading Program Books 

Each book lists the table of contents of the particular book at the front of the book. Here is a brief overview of what each book teaches. 

First Start Reading Book A covers ten letters/sounds, thirty-six common words, as well as punctuation, articles, capitalizing at the beginning of sentences, plural nouns, and more. The 68 pages include a word mastery review with the word families of am, an, at, and ap, pages for students to read words and then write down the words as you dictate them.

First Start Reading Book B is a little over 70 pages long with 26 lessons, a review, and an assessment. There is more of an emphasis on stories to read using the words introduced than just sentences and the question mark is introduced in Lesson 17. The letters and sounds that are addressed in Book B include short I, G, L, O, B, and D.

First Start Reading Book C is the longest with over 100 pages, ten letters and sounds, a variety of common words, and the introduction of quotation marks and paragraphs. The lessons on individual letters still follow the same format of an image to color in, a box for the student to draw something that starts with or has the sound of the letter (as in the case of the letter X), and space to practice writing the lowercase and uppercase letters. The stories are longer and some of the sentences continue onto the next line.

First Start Reading Book D examines the long vowel sounds, digraphs of sh, th, ch, and wh, final consonant blends, and s-, r-, and l-blends. The lessons in Book D cover more pages than the previous books. For example, Lesson 4 (the silent e) has the introductory coloring page, tracing and writing page, additional writing, illustrating page, and assessment pages.

First Start Reading Book E completes the series by discussing long vowels, soft c and g, and the three sounds of y. There is an introduction to each sound, the writing of words and sentences to read. There is also a short story to read as well as questions in the Teacher Guide. Included in Book E (similar to the other books) is a spot for dictation words and an assessment page for children. This is a perfect book to build up to with your children. 

How We Are Using the First Start Reading Program

Our five-year-old son is working through Book A as part of his regular language arts instruction in our homeschool. We plan on continuing to work through Books B-E and anticipate completing them by December 2019. As we operate on a more relaxed schedule with our two younger children, there are some days where we complete two lessons and others where we skip doing a lesson that day. Taking into consideration our homeschooling style, the First Start Reading program may take us about a year or more to complete. 

Prior to teaching each lesson, I review the information in the Teacher Guide. Then we work through the lesson as presented using our small white board, Book A, and the Teacher Guide. The lessons are progressive in that they build upon previous letters and words learned.

Having learned the letters A, T, M, S, F, and R in previous lessons, Lesson 14 asks students to blend together A and T to form AT. They then blend together M and AT, S and AT, R, and AT, F, and AT to make mat, sat, rat, and fat. Our son then traced the sentence "I am tan" and a few other sentences. After the lesson, our son practiced the letter H and then for Lesson 16 learned about apostrophes and formed two new words using the letter H (hat and ham).

We use our small whiteboard on a regular basis with the lessons.

Students are not just working with one letter after another. As they progress through the lessons, they learn letters and sounds and then create words and sentences. 

Our five-year-old son really enjoys drawing and coloring the pictures that accompany each lesson. He has been consistently working on proper writing along with pronouncing the vowels and consonants. And even though our three-year-old is not using the workbook, she is joining in on the lessons to recognize letters and listen to the pronunciations. 

What We Like 

I really liked the phonics overview in the 330-page Teacher Guide. Teaching phonics and the early skills required in language arts has always been one of my fears in homeschooling our younger children. I read through the first several pages of the Teacher Guide multiple times to help me get a hold of the philosophy and teaching methods of First Start Reading.

The Teacher Guide is written for both teachers and homeschooling families. Most of the information presented is geared towards a classroom setting. For example, the guide tells you to "walk around the room and put a star on each student's best letter."

Optional lessons that reference Classical Phonics. 

There are optional lessons which cover consonant blends and the four h-consonant teams. These lessons will be covered in Book D but are included early to help too much information from being presented at the end of Kindergarten. These optional lessons reference Classical Phonics on a number of occasions.

There is also a page addressing the proper pencil grip as well as three pages at the end of the Teacher Guide to display to help children hold their pencils correctly.

In general, each lesson is covered on two pages in the Teacher Guide while some of the reviews and assessments are on more than two pages. There is also room on the pages to make notes before, while, or after teaching the lesson.

One fault: the Appendix of the Teacher Guide for Books A-D is printed double-sided which means I can't just pull out the pages to hang up as recommended. These pages consist of early lessons that teach proper pencil holding and reviewing left from right, discuss hanging the mitten, writing poster, and other pages up in your classroom. If they were printed single-sided, I could easily remove them from the book and hang them up for our son. Without easy access to a photocopier or scanner, I can't hang up all the vowel posters, writing posters, etc. 

Do you wish to learn more about Memoria Press and their products? 

If you wish to learn about other products from Memoria Press, be sure to check out the other reviews. Members of the The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Review Crew also reviewed poetry curriculum and Latin curriculum.

Monday, March 25, 2019

April Writing Prompts: Do April Showers Bring May Flowers?

Looking for a quick activity for your homeschool language arts or creative writing class? For April, I am sharing three photo prompts and a free download of writing prompts for you and your children. April has always been one of my favorite months because the daffodils are blooming, the weather starts to warm up, and many people I love share birthdays in April. Do you enjoy the sometimes rainy month of April?

Download your Free April Writing Prompts Here

Photo Prompts 

photo of rabbit from canva

backyard photo from Canva

Tent photo from Canva

More Fun! 

Looking for some more fun activities for your homeschool during the month of April? Or perhaps you would like to check out the prompts for March or February?

There are so many neat projects to complete in April from painting pigs or designing chickens, springtime brings lots of wonderful arts and crafts opportunities for you and your children.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

From Preschool to High School: A Review of WriteBonnieRose Products

Disclaimer: I received the World War I resources for free from WriteBonnieRose in return for my honest opinion. All thoughts and opinions are my own. For more information, please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy. Thank you.

Our family has used products from WriteBonnieRose previously as we reviewed them as part of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Review Crew (Learning About Science Collection), used some of the worksheets from being part of her email list, and we purchased the Preschool Skills Fun Book as part of a bundle of early learning materials. When approached if we would share the reopening of the store and review another product, we eagerly agreed. So while our younger children are working on the numerous worksheets in the Preschool Skills Fun Book, our teen is using two World War I resources in his U.S. History II homeschool course.

What Does WriteBonnieRose Offer offers over 500 titles to help families on their homeschooling journey. There are so many great resources available from subscriber freebies to resources that cross the subject areas. If you are interested in learning or teaching about missionary work, composers, history, literature, or science, there is most likely something to meet your needs.

science worksheets from WriteBonnieRose
Some of the science pages our son completed when reviewing the Learning About Science Collection.

Preschool Skills Fun Book

There are 105 preschool skills worksheets included in the Fun Book which are arranged into several themes including:

  • Fruit
  • Animals
  • Shapes
  • Construction 
  • Birthday Party 
  • Weather
  • Sports 

Depending upon your homeschooling approach to early childhood education you can use these worksheets in a number of ways. You could use them as they are arranged in the Fun Book by just working on the pages sequentially or you could use them as you and your children study different themes. Another way you could use the worksheets is by using the ones that focus upon the skills you wish to practice with your children. 

Some of the activities are:
  • Color by rhyme
  • Color by shape
  • Color by number
  • Color by animal 
  • Mazes
  • Complete the patterns
  • Tracing pictures 
  • Counting 
  • Dauber pictures
  • Sequencing 

How Our Family is Using the Preschool Skills Fun Book 

This particular homeschooling resource is one that we are letting our children use for fun. When our three-year-old and five-year-old want to work on homeschooling lessons but I am busy, I let them flip through the binder with the worksheets and pick out what they wish. So they can sit at the dining room table with me and homeschool without too much guidance or instruction, allowing me to finish up my own projects.

Our three-year-old usually needs more guidance as she doesn't read yet but she can work on the color by number, shape, and animal worksheets, the dauber painting pictures, counting, and tracing worksheets by herself. Our five-year-old son enjoys working on the color by rhyme sheets and the tracing pages. We have also found it useful as I had the Fun Book printed single-sided to use the back side of the worksheets to practice writing words, numbers, and a place to draw additional pictures. 

World War I 

Our teen son has always enjoyed studying World War II, so I was very hopeful that he might enjoy studying the first World War as well. Prior to using the two resources from WriteBonnieRose, he has watched a brief documentary, we discussed an overview of the war with a PowerPoint I created for my history classes, he watched All Quiet on the Western Front, and he has been reading a book about trench warfare. Adding in the 30 Days of History: World War I and the World War I Research and Notebooking Unit has rounded out our study of this time period quite nicely.

30 Days of History: World War I 

Since we have already discussed some of the events prior to World War I (assassination of Franz Ferdinand, the "blank check," and the alliances formed, I had our teen start using the four worksheets on Weapons and Equipment from the resource. I had originally planned to assign a different worksheet over four days but (as we are flexible in our homeschooling style) I instead let our teen decide if he wanted to complete them spread over four days or work on them all at once.

As the Weapons and Equipment worksheets state: "There were many developments that made World War I a more devastating war than any before it." This is part of the reason why I wanted our son to look more closely at the various weapons, equipment, and fighting styles that developed. By answering the questions he was able to study the military draft, machine gun, use of railroads, aircraft, chemical warfare, and submarine warfare.

World War I Research and Notebooking Unit 

If your family uses notebooking in your homeschool, this is a perfect resource for you and your children. It starts with an introduction that provides you with several ideas as to how to use the unit in your homeschool. There is also a list of 168 World War I battles and engagements, maps, and notebooking templates to use as your children study the different topics.

I printed out the World War I battles by year and asked our son to pick one from 1914 to start his research. Each week I will ask him to pick a battle from the next year to study in more detail. The goal is that he will be able to compare and contrast the troop movements, weapons utilized, and other events of the battles when he is done his research.

Our son also filled out the maps of Europe, the Middle East, and Africa so he could have a visual understanding of the events of the Great War. There is also a map of Australia included in the Unit.

What We Like 

I really like that the Preschool Skills Fun Book is arranged in such a manner as we can pick and choose what we need for our family. So many preschool workbooks or curriculum are too regimented which make it difficult when a child is not ready to practice a certain skill. Our children love being able to flip through the binder and pick fun worksheets to complete. They often don't even realize they are learning! 

Our son loves getting creative with the tracing pages.

Our three-year-old daughter really likes the counting pages.

As this is our first year homeschooling our teen, we are using a variety of resources for this journey. I love that we can include resources from WriteBonnieRose to help us study World War I. I look forward to seeing what else we will be able to use as we move forward in our study of U.S. History. 

I recommend WriteBonnieRose products to homeschooling families who are more flexible and might not use a boxed curriculum. The resources would also be helpful for families who might use a boxed curriculum but are looking to supplement topics with their children and for families where children attend public school.

Do you want to learn more about WriteBonnieRose? Please check out the following sites.

Website – Pinterest – Twitter – Facebook 

Friday, March 22, 2019

E is for Elizabeth I's Speeches and Letters (Blogging Through the Alphabet)

This post contains affiliate links. For more information please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

Queen Elizabeth I remains one of the monarchs I enjoy reading about the most. Well, to be truthful, I enjoy learning more about the rest of her family as well. The Tudor period of English history is one of my favorite time periods to study.

One of the assignments in my education classes at college was the preparation of several lessons and the mock teaching of them to my fellow classmates. As a history major, I wrote history lessons including one entitled: An Introduction to Elizabeth I through her speeches and letters.

In order to understand the words of Elizabeth I, it is a good idea to look back on her family's life. A timeline of events prior to her life is a good starting point to understand Elizabeth's point of view. Some of the things to think about include the following questions:

  • When did the Tudors come to power?
  • Who was the father of Elizabeth I? 
  • Who was the mother of Elizabeth I?
  • What was the Great Matter? 
  • What happened to Elizabeth's mother?
  • Who ruled after Henry VIII? Edward? 
  • What happened during the reign of Mary? 

Important Speeches and Letters 

During the lifetime of a leader, they will pen many important letters and make many important speeches. For Elizabeth I, the majority of hers dealt with marriage and religion, as these were two very important topics of her reign. Let's examine a few of the notable ones. 

Response to Parliamentary Delegation on Her Marriage, 1559

On February 7, 1559, the speaker of Parliament requested the Queen marry and a later addition to the petition was that she marry within the realm – not a foreigner. In this 1559 speech, composed and written by Elizabeth herself, she wanted to assure the House of Commons that she would not make the same mistake as her sister, Mary, and marry outside the realm. 

"I am descended by father and mother of mere English blood, 
and not of Spain, as my late sister was." 

While she appreciates their petition, she also reminds them that she does not need to meet their demands as she is the Queen. She believes that God has preserved her and led her in her reign. She will not make a hasty decision, nor one that causes harm to her kingdom or her subjects.

Response to Erik of Sweden's Proposal, 1560

In a letter of statesmanship, Elizabeth writes that she has no affection for Erik (or anyone for that matter) and still wants to live a single life. She writes her refusal to marry him is not because she has not seen him, although she will not marry anyone she has not seen (she is covering all her bases here – no fooling Elizabeth). 

Response to Parliamentary Delegation on Her Marriage, 1566

Necessity forced Elizabeth to answer Parliament in regards to marriage again. On October 21, 1566, the Lord Treasurer met with her to explain that both the House of Commons and the House of Lords petitioned her regarding marriage and succession. They begged her to either declare her will on the matter or put an end to Parliament so they could all go home. 

Elizabeth was very angry with them. She had already answered their questions regarding marriage. She promised them she would marry and would do so as soon as possible – when it is convenient. When addressing the second point, succession, she said she was annoyed that they – the foot – should dare to direct her – the head. It was not up to Parliament to meddle in her affairs. 

"My Lords, do whatever you wish. As for me, I shall do no otherwise than pleases me. Your bills can have no force without my assent and authority." 

On Religion, 1583

In this speech, Elizabeth is reminding her people that all matters must take root in religion. The slandering of the queen by the clergy cannot be tolerated. Elizabeth has read God's book, the Bible, and believes God has made Britain wonderful for them. She will rule her subjects by "God's holy true rule." 

The Farewell Speech, 1601 

The love of Elizabeth's subjects was like a jewel to her. She was very thankful to be queen over them. she loved her subjects. 

Elizabeth was grateful to be God's instrument to preserve her people from peril, dishonor, and oppression. She never set her heart on worldly goods but ruled in answer to a higher judge – God. 

"I see all and say nothing" – Elizabeth's motto 

Elizabeth I had learned greatly from her sister's mistakes and knew that she had to identify herself with her subjects, her people. In order to not rely upon Parliament, who were forever pushing her to marry, she cut her expenses in half and established a solid credit line. Elizabeth did not have to rely upon Parliament to request money. 

In relating her thoughts and opinions to Parliament and her subjects, Elizabeth displayed her fine education. She was an eloquent writer who used involved sentences to share her thoughts on many subjects including those of religion, marriage, and succession.

Looking for more information about the Tudors? Why not read about Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, or the Tower of London

Resource and References 

Elizabeth I Speeches: Response to Parliament (1566), Spanish Armada, Farewell Speech 

Selected Writings and Speeches of Elizabeth I at Fordham University

Free Download of Tudor Events Timeline 

Blogging Through the Alphabet 

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Book Club: Book Review of Far Side of the Sea

This post contains affiliate links. For more information please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

On occasion I happily stumble upon new books to review that check off all the boxes for what I enjoy in a book. Kate Breslin's Far Side of the Sea from Bethany House is a work of historical fiction set in World War I Europe with a touch of a light, Christian romance. One of my favorite styles of books is historical fiction. I also like nonfiction works and I love studying World War I so this book was one that I quickly finished in a few days.

The main characters of Far Side of the Sea are Lieutenant Colin Mabry and Ms. Johanna Reyer. We journey with them through France to Spain in search of Jewel, Johanna's sister, and Jack, their father. A few of the characters were first introduced in Breslin's earlier novel – Not By Sight – but I did not feel at a loss for not having read this prior novel. (Although I will be reading it soon as I enjoyed Far Side of the Sea so much!)

"That trust is quickly put to the test, however, when their pursuit leads them straight into the midst of a treacherous plot and their search for answers quickly turns into a battle for their lives." 

Over the course of 367 pages, Breslin takes us on an intriguing journey of spies, coded messages, carrier pigeons, and a brief history of the Irish fight for freedom from one girl's perspective. The paperback book also includes an author's note which provides a few historic details about World War I and ten discussion questions that are good for a book club.

Throughout the adventure of searching for her sister and father, Johanna learns from Colin to trust in God and that miracles can happen. During their journey to Barcelona, Colin shares a wonderful story about how he overcame his stutter and came to talk to God once they "got to know one another."

While some may see the events that took place in regards to his stutter as mere coincidence, it is very easy to see that God had answered Colin's prayer and aided him in being like the other boys at his school. Now he just has to trust God's plan for him after his injury on the battlefield.

I would recommend Far Side of the Sea by Kate Breslin to those who enjoy historical fiction or Christian Romance. If you like spy tales or mysteries, this might also interest you as it is a complex tale of German, French, British, and American agents. I will definitely be looking for other books by Kate Breslin in the near future.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Wordless Wednesday – Using a Homeschool Class to Learn How to Edit Photos

This post contains affiliate links. For more information please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

Our teen son is taking Image Editing and Creation at and for one of his assignments I asked him to choose from several photos and apply the different editing techniques he had learned to those photos. Here are the results for the photograph of the Abraham Lincoln bust.

Lincoln bust
Original photograph 


Lens Distortion 



Interested in more Wordless Wednesday posts? 

I have shared photographs in the past that our son has taken at Walt Disney World, of nature in our home state, and spring. In addition to sharing his photographs, I have also shared Wordless Wednesday posts of trips to historic sites and museums like Eckley Miners' Village Museum.

More About the Course 

Image Creation and Editing from is a 36-week long course that teaches students how to use GIMP (a free image editing software program).