Our Days {In Pictures} Homeschool Link-Up

Happy Friday!! I don’t have many pictures to share this week, because we are in the thick of moving! We’re closing next week, and we’re all very excited about the move and also very ready for it all to be done!

My one picture I have from this week isn’t at all school related, but it’s what our family did! We were able to walk the property line along our creek and took this lovely shot!


We plan to clear a few of the trees around the area and put up some picnic tables. I’m also excited that we’ll be able to do some serious nature study and nature walks right on our own land.

Next week, my older two children will begin their live courses with Veritas Press and the others will continue using Essential Skills Advantage and Mathletics. Yesterday, I shared our complete line-up for the year.

Welcome to this week’s “Our Days” link-up:

“Our Days” Homeschool link-up is a place to share our weekly projects and show our curriculum-of-choice in action.

Since we school year round, this will be a weekly link-up until further notice. :)

See y’all next week!

Affiliate links might be included in this post, please visit my disclosures page to learn more.

Curriculum For Our 2014-2015 Homeschool Year

I feel I’m a little late this year, but better late than never.

If you remember from last year, we had an extremely tight budget for curriculum and pieced together items from our curriculum closet, the library, swaps, and e-bay! Then we were blessed to be a part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew and received several high-quality products that my children have enjoyed.

Overall, it was a great year, and we’re bringing a few of our favorites with us into the new year!

Here’s our line-up!



  • Besides using various products from the Homeschool Bundle, we’re about to begin our fourth year working through My Father’s World’s Kindergarten!
  • Even though math skills are included in MFW K, my Kindergartener enjoys math and likes workbooks, so we’re adding Horizons K Math this year. If it ends up being too much, we’ll scale back.
  • Reading practice through Essential Skills Advantage

Third Grader:

Fifth Grader:

Seventh Grader:

It’s hard to believe that we only have two more years with her joining us in the cycle! I I can’t imagine how I’ll feel when she graduates.

And of course there’s the Baby:

  • Hanging out in the sling
  • Scooped up in Mama’s arms
  • Giggling and cooing with older siblings
  • Singing songs and reading as many books to her as I can.
  • I love a baby’s first year.

I’m sure we’ll add in extras here and there, especially since we have several more homeschool review items to come. Once we’re moved in and settled in our new home, I look forward to kicking off our official start of the school year!

Affiliate links might be included in this post, please visit my disclosures page to learn more.

Online Reading and Language Arts for K-6th Grade {Essential Skills Advantage Review}

Do you have children who enjoy playing games online? Want to use that enjoyment to give them an edge in Language Arts and Reading?

Language Arts was my favorite class in elementary and middle school, but a few of my children have a strong preference for other subjects. When I told them about Essential Skills Advantage, an online Reading and Language Arts program for grades K-6th (providing remedial work for those in higher grades), they had mixed feelings: one was excited, one was curious, and the other simply agreed to go along for the ride. Fortunately, we were able to review their full year, complete Premium Plan, so had many opportunities to explore and learn!

Essential Skills Advantage Review
During the review period, we experienced excitement, frustration, accomplishment, and most importantly, improved proficiency.

Essential Skills Advantage (ESA) offers a variety of topics, such as:

  • Phonics
  • Spelling
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Vocabulary
  • Grammar and Mechanics and more


Topics covered depend on the specific grade a child is in. For example, Phonics is only covered in the K-3rd grade levels, but Reading Comprehension picks up in 4th grade. Activities become progressively difficult and sufficiently challenged my children’s abilities. In our home, we enjoyed the Kindergarten, 3rd, and 5th grade levels for about 30 minutes at at time (or more on days when they were super focused on an activity). Earning their marks and completing a level gave them a great sense of accomplishment.


My Kindergartener has a severe articulation problem. His receptive skills are typical, so he understands everything we say, but we usually have a difficult time understanding him. His therapist encouraged us to use as much reinforcement as possible, and we wondered if hearing the reinforcement through the program would help strengthen this weak area. It was great to see that he could understand the program and could navigate it independently. Even though we didn’t see advances in his expressive speech, working through it was enough to give his therapist feedback, and she thought ESA sounded like a fantastic program for little ones.

Beginning activities were simple and covered things as sequence, sounds, and other uncomplicated phonics building activities, moving right into sight words and light reading exercises. He loved earning his three stars after an activity, and when he didn’t earn them, he could easily go back in and re-try it. Eventually he encountered activities that were too difficult for him to easily answer, which was great because it provided more challenge and proved that this is a program with which he can grow, and he loved feeling an ownership of learning.

Screen Shot 2014-08-25 at 9.24.49 PM
As part of the Reading (Phonics) sections, parents will find an activity guide that explains the skill to be introduced, goals, and easy instructions for the teacher or parent.
kThis memory game above was a favorite of my son. He was so excited to see the final picture.

k3Screens such as the one above helped us to track progress, see which tasks were completed, and where extra help may be needed.

k5See the ladybug in the bottom left hand corner of the screen? Whenever we experienced a glitch, we clicked it to “report a bug” and a report was sent to the admins. We only had to use it once. This feature is just one of several small details that prove that the creators care about the subscriber’s experience and feedback.


Third Grade

My third grade daughter loved the program the most. This wasn’t her first experience with ESA though and was interested in what the third grade level would offer. While some may find it distracting, she enjoys the nature sounds in the background as she feels it gives the whole program an upbeat and pleasant ambiance. Personally, I found the nature sounds soothing. They reminded me of the sounds heard during the peaceful early morning hours.

The focus in 3rd grade is spelling and strengthening phonics. Since she was a late blooming reader, and ESA is doing an excellent job cementing her reading skills and preparing her to be a strong, independent reader.

Other topics include:

  • synonyms and antonyms
  • prefixes and suffixes
  • parts of speech and more
  • spelling using a variety of rules and more

31Words in blue are clickable so that children who need assistance can hear it and learn new vocabulary.

35While some activities required clicking the correct answer, I liked that others required the the student to type the word, reinforcing both spelling and keyboarding skills

3 32 33Fifth Grade

I was most nervous about my 5th grader, who has a few learning difficulties. I was also most impressed by this grade level offerings, especially the reading comprehension activities. After trying a variety of other reading programs with him, I felt that ESA offered the perfect balance, enabling a child to experience challenging activities and attainable goals.

His level also included activities for:

  • spelling
  • grammar
  • vocabulary

5He clicked on the blue words to learn new vocabulary, and the questions were neither too difficult nor too easy.

51As you can see in the image above, the correct answers are over a green line. When the student types in an answer, the line changes from blue to green when the answer is correct. This was especially helpful for my children since it taught them self-correction skills. If they typed in an answer and the line was still blue, they could review what they may have missed before hitting the enter key and submitting the answer.

52Parent Portal

Within the parent portal, I set up the children’s accounts, user names, and passwords. From the portal, I could also check in on how they were doing in different subjects, what had been completed, and how many “marks” they had.

Essential Skills Advantage Review

Cost and Discount Code:

The Premium Plan, which is what my family reviewed, usually costs $9.99 per month, per student. Before committing, a family may give it a free test-drive for 14 days.

If you’re on a tight budget, ESA has started a new sponsored version that is completely free. To learn more about this option, visit http://www.ESALearning.com. The biggest difference between the free program and the paid is that users will have sponsored ads and won’t have a few of the features from the Premium membership.

If you prefer an ad-free experience, ESA is currently offering a discount of 50% off the monthly membership fee, when you use code TOS50. This means that you’ll be able to get the full Premium Package for $4.99 a month, per student. The coupon code expires October 1st, 2014.

Every family needs to do what’s comfortable for their unique budget, but personally speaking after reviewing the program, I see a definite benefit of taking advantage of the discount and getting the full Premium Plan. The little touches, such as easily reporting a glitch, and their continual improvement of the programs, lets me know that they pay attention to detail, and I don’t want to miss out.

Bottom Line:

Having children with different learning abilities can make homeschooling difficult and some subjects harder to teach than others. Language Arts is one of those subjects in which my special needs learners struggle. What I appreciate the most about Essential Skills Advantage is that it takes a subject that can be intimidating to my young students and turns it into non-intimidating games, puzzles, and activities that build competency. ESA wins full marks in our household!

To learn more about Essential Skills Advantage:

Like ESA on Facebook
Follow ESA on Twitter
Join ESA on Pinterest
Follow ESA on Google+

Click to read Crew Reviews
Crew Disclaimer

Affiliate links might be included in this post, please visit my disclosures page to learn more.