Category Archives: Parenting

Diary of a Real Payne Book 1~True Story: A Schoolhouse Crew Review

Diary of a Real Payne Book 1~True Story: A Schoolhouse Crew Review


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Sacha’s<25: Follow EJ Payne in her crazy adventures through her diary entries as well as the storyline which follows each entry!  You are in for a real treat and some huge belly laughs.

Home in the Trenches Product Rating (out of 10 stars)

Is it worth our time?10  stars

Is it worth the money?10  stars

Is it useful to me? 10 stars

Practicality- 10 stars

Quality-10  stars

Kid Rating-10  stars

Looking for a great novel for kids with a Christian world view? Look no further!  We received a copy of Diary of a Real Payne Book 1: True Story from  Barbour Publishing for review. This book is written by author Annie Tipton.

I decided to use it as a read aloud for my kids…Everyone loved listening to Emma Jean Payne’s antics, from my 14 year old boy all the way down to my 4 year old girl!  I would recommend this for a general age range of 6-12 year olds.  Of course, most 6 year olds would not be able to read it by themselves at 192 pages, but they will love hearing it read to them.  

Emma Jean is the typical 4th grade girl living in Spooner, Wisconsin.  What makes this book so great are her not so typical imaginary situations she gets herself into on a regular basis.  She imagines she is a race car driver while shopping for school supplies, a spy at her church’s fall festival, and she actually helps to save Christmas for a family in her neighborhood!

I loved the Christian messages woven through out the story. Simple things like knowing you are made in God’s image to serving those around you are flawlessly integrated into the storyline.  It never felt forced or awkward!  My kids loved the book for the funny things EJ always got herself into!  We read this book in the afternoons after our history lesson.  Never a day went by that we only read one chapter. They begged for another one.  There were a few evenings that they begged for me to read another one even though our school day was finished!

They really didn’t want this book to end though!  My 6 year old didn’t want us to finish the book.  I asked her why and her response was, “What will we do when it is over? There isn’t another book to read about more EJ!”  Very cute.  In fact, there will be another EJ book out soon, just not soon enough for my kids!  Coming March 2014 Book 2 – Church Camp Chaos will be available!  We can’t wait!!!!

What I liked:

  • Christian messages woven into the storyline.
  • We loved reading about EJ’s runaway imagination.
  • Easy to read, perfect for a read aloud….would also be great for a 3rd-6th grade girl to read by herself!

What I didn’t like:

  • It was a little hard to know how to tell my kids we were transitioning between her imagination and what was happening in real life.  The imaginary storyline is in italics, so I ended up having to tell them this every time we switched between imagination and real life.  This wouldn’t be a problem if you were reading the story by yourself!
  • This isn’t really a big deal but I sometimes didn’t like some of the journal entries or the interactions between EJ and her younger brother.  While they got along at times, there were times that I didn’t feel they were exemplifying a Christ-like attitude toward each other.  While this was pretty typical behavior in many families (and if they got along like angels all the time it wouldn’t be realistic) I still wasn’t thrilled with it.  For example in one journal entry EJ is talking about mittens attached to a string that goes through your sleeves and she comments “Babies like him wear mittens like that.”  Her brother is in Kindergarten, I just felt this was planting ideas in my kids heads that weren’t necessarily positive.

To sum it up: WE highly recommend this book to your family!  We loved it as a read aloud to enjoy laughing together while we learned some great lessons about serving others.

The important information:


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Diary of a Real Payne Book 1: True Story

Order from: Barbour Publishing

Price: $5.99   Sale $4.49

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew.


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God’s World News: A Schoolhouse Crew Review

God’s World News: A Schoolhouse Crew Review

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Sacha’s<25: God’s World News offers age appropriate monthly publications for K-12th grade. These cover current world news as well as interesting topics!

Home in the Trenches Product Rating (out of 10 stars)

Is it worth our time? 10 stars

Did it help us learn?10  stars

Is it worth the money? 10 stars

Is it useful to me? 10 stars

Practicality-10  stars

Quality-10  stars

Kid Rating- 10 stars

We were given a subscription to Top Story (Middle School) Magazine  from God’s World News for review.  When I first told Matthew (8th grade) and Joy (7th grade) that we would be reviewing this they didn’t seem very excited. I am not sure they even totally understood what we would be getting.  We have received 3 issues (so far) of the monthly magazine as well as a World Map to go along with the stories we would be reading about this year.  Our curriculum we used last year really stressed having students reading a newspaper or magazine and giving an oral report weekly on a current news topic that interested them.  It was one of the things that fell by the wayside.  I really struggled with finding a resource that wasn’t totally liberal or didn’t have other stuff I didn’t really want the kids reading about.  I have found that resource here…Thanks to God’s World News!

God’s World News helps kids to grow in their faith and their understanding of the world around them. Six age-level packages provide engaging ways for kids to explore world events, discoveries, people and places, all in a safe Christian context.

There are 6 different magazines to choose from for your kiddos!  

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Top Story emphasizes News, Knowledge, and Wisdom, focusing on specific skill development for older students.

  • Editorials help teach critical thinking skills.
  • Lessons in the magazine and online use news stories as a springboard to teach concepts from Civics, Geography, Economics, Worldview and more.
  • MAP-IT! Locator maps correspond with a full-sized (20″ x 30″) world map sent in September to each class, homeschool teacher, and homeschool group coordinator (five maps sent to homeschool groups).
  • News graphics simplify otherwise challenging concepts.
  • DEFINE LINE teaches word meanings in context.
  • Quizzes test reading comprehension.
  • Age-appropriate website content expands the student’s experience and exposure to current news stories and thoughtful editorial cartoons at

Well, I had originally planned to read some of the magazine a few days a week with my kids and then discuss it.  However, that didn’t go as planned.  I pulled the magazine out of our mailbox and handed it to Joy to take a look at.  I didn’t get to see it for over a week.  She loves it!  She keeps coming and telling me about the different things she has read about in the magazine.  I love that she is learning about current news stories as well as interesting topics that are on an age appropriate level. I’m not sure we will ever go without at least one subscription to a kid’s level of God’s World News again (well at least till the kids are grown, and you know that will be a long time from now!).

We are big Mac fans at our house so my daughter found this article interesting and couldn’t wait to tell me all about it! That link will take you to the online version of the article she read in print!

I really love that this gives us a spring board of where to start on an age appropriate level talking about hard topics like whether the US should intervene in Syria and also interesting topics like companies who track our sales returns.  I really can’t speak highly enough about this publication.  At the end of the issue they have a quiz on some definitions of words used in the issue as well as a quiz checking comprehension of a specific article.

What I liked:

  • My kids love reading it.
  • It is a great magazine with good content and not “twaddle” and it is age appropriate!!!!!
  • No advertisements throughout the magazine.  Just the front and back covers have ads.  They seem to be for Christian schooling/college.
  • There is an online component.  All the content can be downloaded and viewed, as well as many of the articles can be read online!
  • If you are a subscriber you get access to all the levels online!

What I didn’t like:

  • I tried to look up the answers to the quiz online and it says “Not Found”. I am sure it is a glitch on their website.

To sum it up: I HIGHLY recommend this publication to you and your family!!!!!

The important information:

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Top Story (Middle School) Magazine

Order from: God’s World News

Price: $28.00 for a year subscription (10 Issues)

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew. Some Crew members tried out different grade levels of these magazines!


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Our New Vehicle–The Nissan NV Passenger “Van”

Our New Vehicle–The Nissan NV Passenger “Van”

Nissan NV Passenger

I am loving our new vehicle!  We bought it back in August and I haven’t had a chance to write about it yet!  But I am hoping that we are slowly falling into a routine for our schoolwork and that I will have more time for blogging.  My list of blog posts I want to write is growing by the day!

The interior of the Nissan NV Passenger van

There are 324 different ways to configure the seats. I don’t know that for sure, but that is what the brochure states. I love that we can take out 1 or 2 seats and move them around. We have taken out one of the last 2 seat sections in the back to make extra room for strollers, co-op stuff (I am teaching a sewing class, which means lots of extra stuff!) and general kid stuff that we end up hauling on a day to day basis. I was able to fit $250 of groceries in the back of the van without taking out any seats. If you leave the left side of the rear door closed you can pile the groceries pretty high and there really is quite a bit of room!

Interior seats

There really is so much to love about this vehicle!   It seats up to 12 people! It won’t cost you an arm and a leg either!  This really wasn’t much more than what we paid for our Honda Odyssey.

I have decided I am definitely a truck girl. I love how it drives. I was very nervous about driving something so big, but it handles the road so well. I love how high up I am sitting. I feel like I am queen of the road. The seats are all very comfortable and I love the fact that the passenger seat belts are attached to the seats and not the ceiling.  Also they all have their own headrests.  Super cool, but they totally obstruct the view out of the rear mirror.

No big deal, I have a rear view camera. I can’t imagine not having that!  It comes as part of the tech package (depending on the model you purchase).  We bought the SV with a V8 engine (middle of the line) with the tech and tow packages!  Do not buy this vehicle without the rear view camera.  It really is an accident waiting to happen without it!

My iPhone connects seamlessly through the bluetooth as well as with the cord. I love that I can talk hands free through my car!  All the controls are either spoken or on my steering wheel!

Better yet is that everyone has space!  The kids aren’t fighting with each other (at least most of the time) and there is plenty of room for their stuff!  They also have many cup holders to choose from which pull out from under their seats.  Genius!

If you check out the huge thing between the 2 front seat that is a huge flip open compartment with a real power outlet to charge a laptop, which will fit in there.  It also has space for hanging file folders.  This was first designed for the commercial vehicle in mind so that is why it is there. I just store all kinds of things in there to keep them from flying around the car.  The top of that also slides forward to be used as an armrest if you want!

Oh, underneath the driver’s seat is a huge pull out drawer.  I keep a package of wipes and diapers under there to restock the diaper bag with.  Super handy to have there.  You could also store snacks etc.

Ok, I could go on for a long time with how much I love this vehicle.  I have to laugh because I get stopped at least once a week with people asking about it.  What is it?  I have never seen anything like it!  Can I see inside it?  What’s your gas mileage?  This is huge! Nissan is marketing this to the wrong group of people  Their ads/brochures are marketing this to hotels etc for concierge!  I wish they would realize that their market is large families!  It has only been on the market as a passenger van for 2 1/2 years now.  If you ask me it looks way cooler than the “white homeschooling/church vans!”

One of my only complaints is that it doesn’t fit in our garage.  It is too tall by about an inch.  And it also therefore doesn’t fit in most car washes!  We bought black.  It is hard to keep it looking clean and it is hard to find a place that it fits in.  Of course I can take it to the local do it yourself spray bay, I just haven’t felt the need to do that yet.

So, about the gas mileage.  I think I have be running somewhere between 13-14 MPG.  Not horrible, not great.  However, as one of friends with a large family stated, “We are getting really good mileage per person!”  LOL!

The Beginning of our School Year…Assessing Priorities and other Ramblings…..

The Beginning of our School Year…Assessing Priorities and other Ramblings…..

As many of you know because we review items almost year round there is always some kind of learning going on in our house, even during the summer!

This year was no exception.

This decided this year to ease into the school year. I highly recommend it. It sure does help to not have a full school day be such a shock to the system. Mid August we started with Science and Math. We did this while the kids were still studying very hard for the Bible Bee Competition.

Once the Bible Bee was over and we took a couple days to recover and get the rest of our school stuff ready we started our full days. We did that on a Wednesday this year. Kind of a weird way to start full swing.

I am a little bit bummed, we never had a real official start day so I never got my first day of school picture in or the usual traditions of sticks of gum in some of their school work as a pick me up and my writing on their bathroom mirror.

Now we are really back into the swing of things and our co-op has started as well.  I even forgot to take a picture that day!  Where has my brain gone?  I am going to not beat myself up for this!  Can I just take an unofficial first month of school picture? LOL!

Well whether you homeschool or not I hope that you are back into your school routine and things are going well. We have been overly busy this September and I am still assessing to see if our choices were wise ones.  We have kids going multiple different directions, which is something I normally try to avoid.  Time will tell, but I won’t be afraid to assess after this crazy season and decide if we should do this again or not.  Maybe it will work occasionally for us as a family.  I just refuse to get tied up into the American culture of having our kids involved in so many things that there is never time around the dinner table as a family.  I will not sacrifice our family time for kid or adult activities on a regular basis.  The best place for kids to learn and grow in the Lord is with their families and this can’t be rushed or hurried or crammed into a 30 minute window between ballet and soccer or school and drama.  You get the idea!

I didn’t mean this post to become a rant about the American culture of busyness but please take a step back and constantly reassess how your family is functioning and if it is what God wants for you…..

Do you have plenty of time to take this command to heart?

Deuteronomy 6:5-9

DISC Career Style Report: A Schoolhouse Crew Review

DISC Career Style Report: A Schoolhouse Crew Review

DISC Career Style Report: A Schoolhouse Crew Review

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Sacha’s<25: On online assessment to help you or your student in understanding which careers they might be better suited for, using the DISC assessment.

Home in the Trenches Product Rating (out of 10 stars)

Is it worth our time? 4 stars
Did it help us learn? 4 stars
Is it worth the money? 3 stars
Is it useful to me? 3 stars
Practicality- 2 stars
Quality-3 stars
Kid Rating- 4 stars

We received for review the DISC Career Style Report from PeopleKeys.  I was very excited to use this for Matthew (almost 14) to try and help him start thinking about career paths that might interest him as well as what classes he might want to pursue for high school next year.  We were given from the company a key code to enter in order to take the assessment. (If you purchased it you would receive the same)  Logging on and starting the test were very simple other than I didn’t know that I should have entered his name in along the way so all of our final paperwork says my name thoughout it instead of his.  Oops!

From the PeopleKeys website:

Our online assessment and resulting report identifies work force requirements and matches your behavioral style with suggested careers. By giving you insight into yourself and your inherent strengths and limitations you will be able to identify career choices that make sense for you. With the information gained, you will be able to meet your career challenges and choices with confidence.

The assessment was quick to take…only 15 questions.  At any time if you needed to stop you could quit and log back in to finish.  Matthew and I found the questions to be hard to answer.  They are written in a way for those who are already in the work force and are also much more aware of themselves.  Kinda weird for my 13 year old to try to be answering!

For example:

Question # 11.  My normal tone of voice is…

Emotional and direct, emotional and zestful, low-emotion and low-keyed, unemotional and reserved.

Matthew had to order these from most like him to least like him.

Question # 13. My preferred mode of dress is…

Conservative, Conforming, Casual, Formal.


I had to read each of the questions with him and then we talked about them before he answered them.  They just aren’t written for homeschool students (or any kids) to be answering.  They are written for adults in the workforce already.  No problem, that is what they say on their website as well.  It just isn’t what I would ask in order to figure out what careers would be a good fit for my 8th grader.

Once we were finished with the test we received a 9 page report with information about his personality as well as what careers might best suit him. This report was confusing to say the least.  While some of the descriptions seemed to be right on with him, others were really off base.  The report said he was a Reformer, with a High I Personality Style in the Workplace. Kind of funny since he has never been in the workplace!  He also was very high in the D style as well.

So from that assessment it gave us a list of about 100 careers that might be a good fit for him….Adminsitrator, Coach, Comedian, Buyer, anything in sales, Nurse, Lawyer, Sous chef, Firefighter, Music producer, Investment banker, Journalist, Contractor/builder, Fashion designer, News anchor, Pastor, etc.

OK, really?  This really is the most random list of careers I have ever seen based on personality styles.

What I liked:

  • This gave Matthew an interest in reading more about the DISC Personality Profile and we actually already had a book about it.  

What I didn’t like:

  • Not designed for a student to be taking.  The questions aren’t worded in a way for them to answer easily.  It should have been written on a level they could answer….For example, “On the playground I ….” “When I am with my friends, I tend to be….”, “When working on a big assignment I….”
  • The career list is so vast that really any career could be listed as one he could do.
  • There was no good explanation of how to understand the assessment or what it all really meant.  For that amount of money I expected a lot more information to be given to me.  How about even a good explanation of the DISC Profile?

To sum it up: While this was fun for Matthew to take and getting the results was exciting, I wouldn’t place a whole lot of stock in what it said.  It wasn’t written in a way for him to easily answer based on his life now and the results were so varied in the career options available to him.  I would use this assessment if I was looking to hire someone in a business I was running or possibly if I was thinking of entering the workforce….not for my student to try to decide a career path. 


The important information:

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DISC Career Style Report

Order from: PeopleKeys

Price: $32

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew. The Crew was able to review many different products from PeopleKeys.



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