Our Family

Our Family

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Beach Party Snack

This past week was VBS a our church.  The children really enjoy VBS and I am thankful that i am able to be a volunteer.  I also am thankful it only happens once a year because we were exhausted by the end of the week! Our theme this year was Beach Party, Surfin Through the Scriptures.  We had some yummy snacks all week long, but the Beach Party we had on Friday was so cute, I just had to share.  This would be a great easy snack for birthday or summer parties or activities.


One large cookie
Blue icing
3 Teddy Grahams
One gummy life saver
One small piece of Fruit Roll Up
One Crushed Graham Cracker

The children spread the blue icing on half of their cookie.  Then they put the gummy life saver around one of the bears and set him in the water.  They put another bear in the water as well.  They laid a teddy graham on the piece of fruit roll up (beach towel), and sprinkled crushed graham cracker over top as sand.  Another cute addition would be a small drink umbrella to put over the bear on the beach.  After they made their snack, they got to eat it!

Schoolhouse Crew Review: Veritas Press

Veritas Press Review
Veritas Press began as two parents trying to provide the best education possible for their children.  They desired to teach a classical education, teaching history chronologically and integrating Biblical history and events with history not found in Scripture.  Their curriculum began with Bible Flashcards and Veritas Press History and now with changes in technology has grown to include online self paced history courses.  As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, we have recently had an opportunity to use and review Veritas Press Self Paced History: Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Reformation along with the Middle Ages, Ren, and Ref Flashcards.

Veritas Press Grammar School Self Paced History Courses are designed to allow students to complete the lessons at their own pace.  When you purchase a course, you are given a full year to complete it.  How many days per week or lessons per day is completely up to you.  You can schedule vacations and start back up on the course when you return.  The courses are online so they can be accessed by any computer.  You do need to have Flash installed on your computer (it is free), pop ups allowed on the site, and a minimum internet speed of 768 kbps is recommended.  You can read more about these requirements here.
The Grammar School Self Paced History courses are recommended for students in grades 2-6th.  There are 32 historical events studied in each course over 160 class periods.  Lessons last from 30-60 minutes.  Every 5th lesson is a test.  The lessons are taught by interactive videos, games, quizzes, mapping questions, video footage, and even talking historical characters.  There are 5 different courses available: 

Old Testament and Egypt
New Testament, Greece and Rome
Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Reformation
Explorers to 1815
1815 to Present

Each course costs $199 to register one child and they offer a sibling discount of $100 off.

To compliment the course and help students learn the different events in their course, Veritas Press offers flashcards to go with each of their courses.  Each set of  flashcards can be purchased for $19.95.

I chose the Self Paced Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Reformation course because that is the period of time we were planning on studying this next school year.  My 7,8, 10, and 12 year olds have been using the course.  They all watch the videos together and take turns playing the different games and answering the questions.  My 12 year old has been taking the tests.  We completed 3 lessons per week.  

Our lessons began with St. Augustine converting to Christianity.  There are 31 other important historical events covered in this course including:

Barbarian Invasion and Vikings
St. Jerome Completes the Vulgate
The Council of Chalcedon
St. Benedict and Monasticism
Justinian the Great
Mohammed and Islam
Charles Martel, Pepin the Short, and Charlemagne
Alfred the Great
Otto the 1st and the Holy Roman Empire
The East-West Schism
The Feudal System
William the Conqueror and the Battle of Hastings
Cathedrals in Europe
The Crusades
St. Francis of Assisi
The Magna Carta
St. Thomas Aquinas
Marco Polo
The Hundred Years War, The Black Death, and Joan of Arc
The Great Papal Schism
John Wycliffe and John Huss
Fall of Constantinople to Mohammed II
Gutenberg Prints the Bible
The Renaissance
The Inquisition
Martin Luther Begins the Reformation
Ulrich Zwingli and the Anabaptists
The Act of Supremacy
The Council of Trent
John Calvin and the Institutes
John Knox, the Scottish Reformer

When the possibility for this review came up, I ran the computer test on the course website (you can find it here) and as expected my speed came back under the recommended numbers.  We live in the country and have VERY slow internet.  I was very interested in this review however and tried to watch some of the samples.  They loaded a little bit slow but after that ran fine.  I was so excited!  During the weeks that we have been working on it, we have had times that we had to pause the videos and let the load for a few minutes before starting them, but other than that have had no problems.  I am sharing this in case there are others out there like me who do not have access to high speed internet and may be interested in these courses.  Play the samples and see how it works for you.

I  love that the Self Paced History Courses can be used completely by the children without any needed help or teaching  from me!  Since it is a review, I did watch many of the lessons with the children but they could do everything on their own including logging in and starting the lesson.  They cannot skip any of the slides unless they have seen them already so there are no worries that your child is rushing through the lesson and missing anything important.  They have to complete the whole course.  If they want to repeat a lesson or activity they can do that without going through the whole lesson again.  They love the interactive format of the lessons, especially the characters.  The games and puzzles are a lot of fun.  My boys especially liked Augustine soccer and the Viking boat game. I like that there is review from previous lessons woven throughout the course.  We enjoy seeing photos of real places that we are learning about in the course such as the picture of a cave when we were learning about Jerome translating the Vulgate in a cave near Bethlehem.  We love the mapping exercises. 

The flashcards are beautiful and a great resource for the children to look over during the lessons and to use as a refresher before they take the tests.  Each of the flashcards has a picture on the front with the key terms for that event and the dates and important information taught about that even in the lessons on the back along with the resources the information was obtained from.

The only thing the boys have not liked is the review song.  There is a song that is played in every lesson that goes over each of the important events that you learn throughout the course.  I think that it is a useful memory tool (I know it gets stuck in my head!) but they really do not like it at all.  Since they cannot skip any part of the lessons they do have to deal with it and listen to it anyway and hopefully it will serve its purpose.
Parents can see at a glance how their children are doing and how many lessons they have completed.  We are not a family that puts any emphasis on tests or grades, but I know that some families do.  If a child gets a low score on a test, they can retake it, but it does not change their score if they do better.  That may make a difference to those out there who give their children opportunities to improve their grades be redoing the work.  In these self paced courses, whatever the test score is the first time they take it, it sticks.

In addition to the Grammar School Self Paced courses, Veritas Press also offers Self Paced Omnibus I for ages 12 and up.

To see what my Crew Mates had to say, click on the banner below.
Click to read Crew Reviews

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Review: A Mother's Secret by Amy Clipson

Carolyn Lapp dreams of marrying for love. But will the errors of her past destroy this dream forever? Carolyn Lapp longs to have a traditional Amish family. But she lives on her brother’s farm with her parents and her 15-year old son, Benjamin. Carolyn has never revealed the identity of Benjamin’s father and lives daily with the guilt and shame of her youthful indiscretion. Her brother simply will not forgive her. His answer is to arrange a practical marriage for Carolyn to Saul, a widower with a little girl. But Carolyn isn’t convinced that Saul really loves her and believes he is simply looking for someone to help raise his daughter. When Benjamin causes trouble at a local horse auction, horse breeder Joshua Glick decides that he must be taught a lesson. Carolyn and Joshua are unmistakably drawn to each other, but Joshua mistakenly assumes that Benjamin is Carolyn’s brother. Carolyn fears that if he discovers the truth, her past will destroy their budding romance. After years of shame and loneliness, Carolyn suddenly has two men vying for her attention. But which of them will give her the family - and the unconditional love - she’s longed for?

I did not know this when I chose this book for review, but it is part of a series called Hearts of Lancaster Grand Hotel.  Book One is A Hopeful Heart and A Mother's Secret is Book 2.  I enjoyed the story and the characters.  I would be interested in reading other books in the series as well.  It is a bit different than your typical Amish novel since the main character is an Amish woman who had a child out of wedlock.  Carolyn's parents are very good to her and her son and have forgiven her for her past indiscretion.  Many others, including her brother has not and Carolyn lives everyday of her life feeling like it is hanging over her head.  In this story we learn about forgiveness, not just asking for it, but also giving it and giving it freely.  Also we are reminded that once we have asked God's forgiveness, we are forgiven and do not need to live our lives as Carolyn did holding on to the shame.  It is forgiven.  We also learn that we should not settle for less than God's best for each of our lives.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book for the purpose of writing a fair and honest review.  I received no other compensation and all opinions are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance to FTC regulations.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Schoolhouse Crew Review: Library and Educational Service

Go Science Review
Library and Educational Services  is a wholesale supplier of Christian, wholesome, educational DVDs, books, games, and more.  Their wholesale customers include schools, churches, libraries, resellers, and educators.  Homeschoolers are considered educators and able to set up a free account to purchase through LES to receive a 30-70% discount on anything they buy.  In 2012 we had an opportunity to review Go Science DVDs and recently we were excited to be able to review Series 2 of Go Science DVDS.
Go Science is a DVD series that features Ben Roy who teaches Science Methods at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and is the former director of a science television show.  There are 7 DVDs in Series 2: 
Volume 1: Sound, Gravity, Space
Volume 2: Life Science, Weather
Volume 3: Air
Volume 4: Motion, Friction, Electricity, and Light
Volume 5: States of Matter, Water
Volume 6: Chemistry
Volume 7: Engineering, Design, Flight

There are over 80 demonstrations on the 7 DVDS that will amaze children ages 4-12 and get them excited about science.  But, most importantly each one of the demonstrations has a spiritual application and points children to our Creator, God.
Each DVD has a list price of $14.95 but they are available at Library and Educational Service for $8.97. The set of 7 DVDs has a list price of $99.70 but can be purchased from LES for $59.82.
We received 2 Volumes for our review: Volume 2 Life Science and Weather, and Volume 6 Chemistry.
Go Science Review

There are 12 Demonstrations on the Volume 2 DVD:
Life Science:
Flashlight Animal Eyes
Animal Skulls
Bobby Pins
What Are You Looking At?
How Much Do Your Lungs Hold?
Eating Nails For Breakfast
Naked Eggs

Fire Tornado
Ping Pong Cannon
Liquid Nitrogen Cloud
Cloud in a Bottle
Garbage Can Vortex

Total running time for the DVD is about an hour.  Each segment lasts about 3-6 minutes.

Go Science Review

There are 11 Demonstrations on the Volume 6 DVD:
Chemistry 1:
Milk and Food Coloring
Elephant's Toothpaste
Staying Dry Diapers
Lava Lamp
Chemistry 2:
Instant Snow
Silly Slime
Hydrogen Bubbles
Grain Elevator
HHO Generator
Mentos Fountain

Total running time is 59 minutes with each demonstration ranging between 3 and 10 minutes in length. 
I watched Go Science Series 2 DVDs with my 3,5,7,8, and 10 year olds.  We had several rainy afternoons in a row and used that time to watch the Go Science DVDs.  We took 2 days to watch each DVD but you can easily watch more or less because there is a definite break between each segment on the DVD.

I said this in my last review of Go Science and it still holds true for Series 2 so it is worth repeating.  Ben Roy's passion and enthusiasm definitely comes across the screen and is contagious.  He makes science fun and interesting for children.  I love that the segments are short so you can choose how much or little you want to watch each time.  The DVDs teach fun and interesting science concepts to children.  I don't know that my children will ever look at their breakfast cereal the same way again! My favorite part is that the DVDs teach science in the context of knowing, being amazed, and giving glory to our Creator, God.

Some of the demonstrations you are going to be able to recreate at home with adult supervision.  We actually had done a few of the ones on the chemistry DVD but they were ones that we loved and the children didn't mind seeing them again.  Others are going to be demonstrations you are not going to be able to do at home.  Those I think are my favorite because it gives the children a chance to see those live even though we can't do them.  Their favorite one to watch was the Liquid Nitrogen Cloud.  We had to back up the disc and watch that episode a few times.  It was really cool!

To see what my Crew Mates had to say, click on the banner below.
Click to read Crew Reviews

Friday, June 20, 2014

Diana and Friends Experience History Through Music Giveaway--$700+ Value!

History is my favorite subject and I am always looking for ways to make it come alive to my children.  I was very excited to be able to part of the launch of a brand new product called Experience History Through Music by Diana Waring.  Experience History Through Music contains three different books: Musical Memories of Laura Ingalls Wilder, Westward Ho-Heart of the Old West and America-Heart of a New Nation and their corresponding music CD's.  You will truly experience History Through Music by reading wonderful back stories, seeing great illustrations and photographs, and listening to fantastic music, and possibly playing some of it yourself!

My full review of these products will be posted the week of June 30th, but until then, I have a fabulous giveaway to share with you to celebrate the upcoming release!
  Diana and Friends Giveaway
 To celebrate the release of Experience History Through Music, I am joining members of the Diana Waring Launch Team for an amazing giveaway. Friends of Diana have joined in and as you can see, someone's homeschool is going to be greatly blessed!  Here's what you could win!

From Diana Waring Presents

american history -- never this fun
Experience History Through Music - set of 3 books with CDs ($50/set) Diana Waring Presents is about to bring back into print the BEST folk music you have ever heard, combined with the fascinating stories they represent in American history!   The Experience Music Through Historyseries includes: America - Heart of a New Nation, Westward Ho! - Heart of the Old West  and Musical Memories of Laura Ingalls Wilder. The musicians are amazing, every instrument is real, lots of great vocalists, and more toe-tapping music than you can imagine! The books tell the stories behind the songs.  Together, they bring American history to life through it's music!!With fascinating history books and toe-tapping folk music CDs, American history has NEVER been this fun! EncouragementCollage2
Encouragement for Homeschool Moms Collection ($25) Every mom needs that word of encouragement from someone who has been there, who has grownup children and can speak with assurance about the journey. Homeschool moms have an extra portion of the journey to navigate, and often wish for an extra voice that will offer direction but without nagging or prodding. Diana Waring has that voice.  

From A Journey Through Learning

Logo New 300 trans
$50 Gift Certificate $50 to spend in the A Journey Through Learning store, applicable toward any digital download purchase.  


From Homeschool Legacy

westward ho I 300x400
Westward Ho! Part I ($19.95) Load up your wagon! Discover the extraordinary times of adventurous frontiersmen and brave pioneers as you travel cross-country along the Erie Canal,  Oregon Trail, and even “remember the Alamo” in Westward Ho Part I. Westward Ho! Part II ($19.95) Continue the exciting saga begun in Westward Ho! Part I as you journey with the forty-niners, ride the rails of the Transcontinental Railroad, experience life on the prairie, and discover the exciting era of cowboys and cattle drives in Westward Ho! Part II.  

From Knowledge Quest Maps

Map Trek: Atlas and Outline Maps of World History ($55) Map Trek is a historical atlas plus outline maps that allow you to teach geography alongside history. This is a resource that any homeschool parent can use with brilliant success, even if you don't remember a thing from your history or geography classes in public school.  


From Home School Adventure Co. 

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Philosophy Adventure™ Digital Download ($39.95) Philosophy Adventure™ is designed to help students 6th-12th grade cultivate and defend a biblical worldview by teaching them how to write skillfully, think critically, and speak articulately as they explore the history of ideas.  


From Heidi St. John (The Busy Mom and Real Life Press)

Firmly Planted Family Devotional Digital Volume 3 ($39) The Firmly Planted Family Series is divided into ten-week studies and is your key to making sense of the Bible—even if you’re learning right along with your children. Each lesson provides a core idea, a simple narrative, memory verses and discussion questions for children of all ages. And the companion student workbook is filled with age-appropriate, full-color, reproducible activities for children of any age!  

From Raising Real Men

Free Registration to Boyhood Boot Camp or Boot Camp 9-12 LIVE webinar series (winner's choice) plus Mom & Dad Special Raising Real Men (Book for Mom to read in the bathroom + AudioBook for Dad to listen to on the commute) ($62-69)
Free Registration for Marriage Retreat Online plus His & Hers Special of My Beloved and My Friend: How To Be Married To Your Best Friend Without Changing Spouses (book + audiobook), ($65)  


From Institute for Excellence in Writing

$50 Gift Certificate $50 to spend in the IEW store, applicable toward any purchase.  

From The Old Schoolhouse Magazine

SchoolhouseTeachers.com ($139) A one year membership to the curriculum arm of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. Nearly 100 classes for Pre-K to High School, taught by expert teachers, and lots of extras
including the Schoolhouse Planners, Schoolhouse Expos, monthly free ebook downloads and more.


The Old Schoolhouse Magazine 2014 Print Book ($15) Be encouraged, enlightened, and educated with the all new 2014 Annual Print Book published by The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine.You’ll get a year’s worth of homeschool support in almost 300 pages in this full color one-of-a-kind print magazine for homeschoolers, by homeschoolers. This is a magazine you’ll refer to again and again.  

From Writing with Sharon Watson

The Power in Your Hands ($53.96) With The Power in Your Hands: Writing Nonfiction in High School, they’ll learn what they need to know for high school and will be prepared for college writing.

Writing Fiction [in High School] ($35) Are you raising the next C. S. Lewis or Jane Austen? Help your student develop their fiction-writing talents. Writing Fiction [In High School]: Bringing Your Stories to Life will help your students develop their fiction -writing talent with Writing Fiction (In High School): Bringing Your Stories to Life.

 To enter the giveaway, use the Rafflecopter below. Residents of the U.S., age 18 and older only. Other Terms and Conditions can be found in the Rafflecopter. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Making Decisions For Our Kids

 I offended a lady the other day.  It wasn't my intent and I still am surprised that our conversation offended her so greatly.  I did apologize for offending her, but still have not changed my opinion, because as the parent I am the one who is the best judge of what is best for my children, not anyone else.

This situation was caused by me inquiring about putting my two youngest daughters in an activity.  I was interested in something very specific and was asking very specific questions about what would be taught in the class.  When I told her that one of the particular styles that were being taught would not work for our family, she became VERY offended.  I was not saying there was anything wrong with it, or that it shouldn't be taught, I just said it wasn't what we were looking for. The rest of the conversation was spent by her trying to convince me that I was wrong.  That there was no difference between the style I was inquiring about and the others that would also be included.  I was told how much children that age enjoy such activities and that my girls would just love these classes.  I thanked her for her time and told her I would have to speak with my husband.  But, here is the thing.  They are MY girls.  I know what is best for them, not some stranger who has never even met them.  And, if there is something that I feel isn't right for my children, I should be able to have that opinion without people trying to convince me it's wrong.

It is the same with homeschooling.  10 years ago when I first started telling people of our decision and why we were making that decision, everyone tried to convince me I was wrong.  It didn't matter that I had very legitimate reasons for making the decision, or that we are in fact the parents, everyone else felt that their reasoning was better and we should listen to them, not our own hearts. (By the way, I no longer feel I have to defend my decision to homeschool.  I just say something like "We are educating our children the way God has led us to." and end the conversation.)

The same things happen over books, movies, activities (even church activities), and medical decisions.  It even happens within the homeschool community over what educational styles or curriculum you choose to use.  If you decide to take a path that many other people do not or choose not to make a decision that others do, they will try and convince you that you are the one that is wrong.

Your children were given to you by God for a reason.  It is our job as parents to be the ones to make decisions for our children.  I think that God gives us "mommy instincts" for a reason and we need to listen to those instincts.  That doesn't mean we will always make the right decisions.  We will make wrong decsions too many times to count.  We will second guess many deciisons that we do make.That also doesn't mean that we should not ask other people for help or advice.  Many times we can learn a lot from those who have "been here done that."   But that does mean that if you have strong feelings about something, other people should not try to convince you that you are wrong.  They are your children and your opinions and feelings are the ones that really matter.  You do not and should not have to justify your decisions to anyone except God and your spouse.

What that also means though, is that in return, we should not expect everyone to feel the same way we do about things.  I am very passionate about homeschooling but not everybody is.  I do not want people to try and convince me that I am wrong for homeschooling and should not try and convince others they are wrong for not homeschooling.  I will answer questions I am asked honestly and will try to encourage those who are interested as best I can, but I am not looking to "recruit" everyone to homeschool. The activity that I don't feel is right for my girls is right for a lot of other families and would not try to convince people otherwise.

In the end I think it comes down to respect.  We are all just trying to do the best we can with our children and make the best decisions possible.  We need to recognize that and respect other people's choices.  We need to do our best to build up and encourage, not tear down and criticize.

Just a few thoughts that have been on my mind.

Happy Homeschooling!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Review: Seagrass Pier by Colleen Coble


"Seagrass Pier is the perfect place for Elin to hide from a killer, but an old love's ability to see her true heart could be her undoing. When Elin Summerall contracted a virus that damaged her heart, she was lucky to get a transplant. At first it was an overwhelmingly good gift. But then she began to remember a murder she never witnessed—the murder of her heart's donor. When she reveals what she knows to a disbelieving police officer, she's exposed as a witness and must flee for her life to a remote cottage on Hope Beach. Fearing what might happen to her daughter and mother, she asks Marc Everton for help, though she hasn't seen him since the night her father died. She remembers that night with shame, and she never told Marc about their daughter. Marc is less than convinced that Elin's "memories" are real. He is blindsided by the news about his daughter, but for her sake, he agrees to help. Then he begins to notice the small ways Elin is different. She now likes coffee, her musical tastes have changed, and she's ditched her jeans and sneakers for dresses and high heels. As Elin tries to stay alive and bring the killer to justice, she begins to doubt her own identity. Did her new heart save her life only to cause her to lose herself? And if she's really changed, why does her new heart love Marc just as much as her old one did?"

I have been waiting for this book to come out!  I loved the first two books in the Hope Beach series!  I saw that Seagrass Pier was being offered for review and grabbed an ebook copy as soon as it was available. There is a lot going on in this book all at the same time!  There are mysteries on more than one level. One that started in the past and continues in the present.  At the same time, Elin has a stalker that she believes is the person responsible for the lady that donated her heart's murder.  Then there is the added intrigue with the "cell memory."  I had never heard of anything like that before and found it very intriguing.  I like mild suspense stories, but do not like ones that are overly gruesome or  terrifying.  I thought Seagrass Pier had a good balance of suspense and danger without being overly scary or graphic in the least.  There was also romance for more than one of the characters, but was not overly romantic.  There was a lot in the story about identity and how our identity is not defined by the particular role we have in our lives right now.

I was glad to "see" some familiar characters being woven into the story but at the same time wished there was more of my favorites from previous books.  I wish that one part of the story had been developed a little more.  It was not the main plot but an intricate part of the story that I felt left the reader"hanging" instead of finishing it off nice and neat.  But, I am not going to tell you what that is.  You will just have to read Seagrass Pier for yourself!

I can't wait to read another novel in the Hope Beach series!

Disclaimer:  I received a complimentary copy of this book for the purpose of writing a fair and honest review.  I received no other compensation and all opinions are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance to FTC regulations.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

But It Looked So Good in the Catalog....

This time of year we get a lot of homeschool catalogs in the mail.  The other day, we got one from a company that we have used in the past that did not work for us AT ALL.  But, I glanced through the catalog because that's what I do, and still thought, "Wow.  It looks so good in the catalog.  I just wish it worked better in our homeschool."

I do my research.  Sometimes for months on end.  I look pour through homeschool catalogs.  I research products like crazy on the internet.  I read tons of reviews paying close attention not to whether or not they liked the product, but WHAT they liked and didn't like about it (this is something I learned after writing so many reviews myself.)  If I have an opportunity I look at the books in person, but honestly that just doesn't happen very often.  I spend a lot of time making before spending money and making decisions about what we will use in our homeschool.

But, even after all of that research, it sometimes just doesn't work for us.  Why?  You really don't know how something is going to work until you have a chance to actually implement it in your homeschool day. Curriculum companies come up with these products and put a ton of time and effort into producing and marketing them.  Product reviewers spend a TON of time (trust me on this!) testing out products in their homes and reviewing them to help other homeschoolers make decision.  Even when you get to go to curriculum fairs, the vendor is going to do their best to pitch their product because they believe in it.  But, they are not you.  They cannot account for each individual homeschooler's needs, and even a fabulous product just will not work for everyone.

So what happens when that curriculum that looked so good in the catalog does not seem to be working at all for your child?  You try something else.  Many companies will offer a money back guarantee if the curriculum is returned in so many days.  Or if it isn't a violation of copyright, you can resell it.  Or if it is not something that you (or your child) loves because it isn't as exciting as you would like, you can always supplement with something else, like adding in living books or a lapbook.  Do you have more children?  Maybe it will work better for one of them later on. There are a lot of options out there!  You do not have to stay with something that is making you and/or your child miserable.

Every homeschooler out there has made a purchase or two that looked much better in the catalog then it did in their homeschool day.  Don't feel bad about that.  Keep looking through those catalogs, reading reviews, and doing your research.  You will find the right product for your homeschool.

Happy Homeschooling : )

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Review: Four Weddings and a Kiss A Western Bride Collection

Four Weddings and a Kiss A Western Bride Collection contains four different novellas: Spitfire Sweetheart by Mary Connealy, A Love Letter to the Editor by Robin Lee Hatcher, A Cowboy for Katie by Debra Clopton, and Courting Trouble by Margaret Brownley.

Spitfire Sweetheart- Maizy MacGregor was the cause of ranching neighbor Rylan Carstens injuries.  To make amends, she becomes Rylan's caretaker and housekeeper.  Maizy is more at home working outdoors than indoors on the ranch, but she tries to be a "proper lady" to make up for her mistakes.  Maizy will do what she has to to make things up to Rylan, but as soon as he is well, she is going back home and not going to be trapped with a man who cannot allow her to be who she really is.

A Love Letter to the Editor- Molly Everton writes the most popular column in the town's newspaper which is owned by her father.  She is heartbroken to find out that instead of making her editor, her father has hired a stranger for the job!  She is determined that she will find a way to make Jack want to leave town.  Jack is equally determined to stay and change Molly's mind about him.

A Cowboy For Katie- A tornado struck killing Katie Pearl's ranch killing her father and trapping her for days in the rubble.  The townspeople think she has gone completely crazy since that day.  She must rebuild her ranch but can't do it on her own so she turns to Treb Rayburn a cowboy who is just passing through, only staying in town long enough to afford to buy a new horse.  Treb has a desire to travel and does not want to be tied down, but after getting to know Katie will he be able to leave?

Courting Trouble- Grace Daniels has been arrested for murder.  Her husband has been found shot and they believe she is the one responsible.  There isn't much law in the west and she doesn't hold out much hope.  But, her son hires on a big city attorney who is new in town, Brock Daniels for .56.  Brock wants to say no, but after meeting Grace he finds he cannot.  He will do whatever it takes to save her and maybe himself as well.

I started off reading quickly through the first two novellas thinking they all would be just fun, light hearted, quick and easy reading.  Then I came to A Cowboy For Katie.  This story was not light hearted, it was heartbreaking!  But it still was very well written and a worthwhile story to read.  Courting Trouble was also not such a light hearted easy read.  It too had incredible sadness, but also a great deal of faith and hope and showed that God can and does use all things for good.  I enjoyed this set of novellas and went back and reread it a second time.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of Four Weddings and a Kiss for the purpose of writing a fair and honest review.  I received no other compensation and all opinions are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance to FTC regulations.

Schoolhouse Crew Review: We Choose Virtues

We Choose Virtues Review
We Choose Virtues was created by Heather McMillan because of her desire to see children reach their personal potential.  She knew that children could not be successful in life without good character and created a list of virtues and catch phrases to help inspire children and equip parents to teach these virtues.  We recently had an opportunity to use and review the Parenting Cards along with a download bundle which includes: Kids of VirtueVille Coloring Book (PDF Download), Family Character Assessment (PDF Download), Teacher's Handbook (PDF Download), Sing Along Song Sheets (PDF download) and Butterfly Awards For Kids (PDF Download.)
We Choose Virtues Review
The We Choose Virtues Parenting Cards ($38.49) are for parents to use with their children ages 3-11.  The set includes 13 double sided 8.5x5.5 color cards made using high quality card stock.  One of the cards contains teaching tips and fun demonstrations to use with your children, the rest of the cards are 12 virtue cards: Honest, Patient, Gentle, Helpful, Forgiving, Self-Controlled, Perseverant, Attentive, Content, Obedient, Kind, and Diligent.  The front side  of the card has the virtue, the virtue catch phrase, and a Bible verse (you can choose either NIrv which uses both old and new testament verses or the KJV which uses only old testament verses.  The back side of the cards contains a Virtue User Challenge, What to say after "I'm sorry", teachable moments, and a story of the Virtue Kid that goes with that virtue. 
We Choose Virtues Review
We Choose Virtues Review
The download bundle is a compliment to the Parenting Cards and can be purchased for $7.99.

Included in the download bundle you will find:

Teacher's Handbook-56 page PDF containing: 4 Simple Steps for Teaching Virtues, and 9 Inspiring Tools for Teaching Virtues

Kids of Virtueville Coloring Book-16 page PDF download with one coloring sheet for each virtue

Family Character Assessment-1 page PDF download with a form to assess each person's character

Butterfly Award- 1 page color download with an award certificate that you can fill out for each child's virtue accomplishments

Sing-along Song Sheets-13 page PDF download of songs sung to familiar tunes featuring lyrics for each virtue.

I have been using We Choose Virtues with my 3 and 5 year old daughters.  One of the biggest benefits to using the Parenting Cards with the other complimentary products is that you can use them however it works best in your homeschool.  It is not designed to be a structured curriculum, rather in minutes a day when you can fit it in, you take the time to focus on one virtue.  They suggest using one virtue per week and it doesn't matter which one you start with.  In our house, the girls have been having a really hard time remembering to be kind to each other, especially when it comes to sharing toys.  So we started with kind then moved on to self-controlled, content, obedient, and so on.  We read the front of the card every day and colored the coloring pages to go along with the virtue.  Lillian liked to have the card in front of her while coloring the pages so she could make them match.  Throughout the day when I saw her not being kind to her sister I would gently remind her of Kettle Grettle and the being kind virtue.  When I did see her being kind I would praise her for remembering to be kind.  Lillian really liked the little stories on the back of each cards about the Kids of VirtueVille. 

The cards are made of good quality card stock and are thick and sturdy.  I think that laminating them would allow them to stand up even longer.  The suggested age range is 3-11, but in my opinion these would work the best with the younger elementary ages or the older children could help teach them to the younger children.

For the months of June-August, We Choose Virtues is offering 20 % off of anything in their store with code "BTS20"

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Favorite Recipes; Baked Oatmeal To Go (Gluten and Dairy Free)

I saw this recipe floating around and decided to try it.  I am always looking for new (and easy) breakfast and snack options.  The great thing about this recipe is that not only is it easy, a batch makes quite a bit, freezes really well, and it is healthy too.  It is also gluten and dairy free.  And it tastes good and even my pickiest eater likes these (I don't think he knows there is oatmeal in there.)

I did play around with the original recipe a bit until it turned out what I thought was the best.

2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups unsweetened applesauce
1 banana
1/2 cup of honey
1 tsp cinnamon
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
5 cups of rolled oats
2 cups of Almond Milk ( you can substitute regular milk)
1 cup raisins, walnuts, chocolate chips, frozen fruit, etc...

In a mixer mix eggs, vanilla, applesauce, banana, and honey.  Add in oats, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt.  Pour in milk and mix well.  Add in chocolate chips, raisins, walnuts, etc... of your choice (I like chocolate chips.)

Place cupcake liners inside a muffin pan and spray with cooking spray. This is important because if you do not they will stick terribly (ask me how I know.)  Bake in a 350 oven for 30 minutes.  Cool and enjoy or place into freezer bags to freeze and enjoy later.  Yields 30-36 muffins.

Monday, June 9, 2014

And the Winner Is........

The winner of the download version of Visual Latin 1 or 2 is

Jodi Galland!!!!


Thanks to all who entered this giveaway.  I have a couple of more good ones that will be coming up this summer!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Review: The Heart's Pursuit by Robin Lee Hatcher


A Colorado beauty abandoned at the altar. A rugged bounty hunter haunted by his past. In this dramatic historical novel by best-selling author Robin Lee Hatcher, two wounded hearts join forces in a pursuit across the Old West. Silver Matlock is a Colorado beauty in search of revenge against the man who stranded her at the altar and fled with the remnant of her family's fortune. She is determined to find the man who betrayed her trust. Jared Newman, rugged as the West itself, is relentless in his pursuit of lawless men---but unable to escape his own tragic past. Hardened by his life as a bounty hunter, he must learn to forgive before he loses his soul. Joining forces, the two set out in search of Silver's betrayer. The handsome but embittered Jared finds himself powerfully drawn to the beautiful woman whose drive for justice equals his own. But lack of honesty keeps Silver and Jared from fully trusting each other, even as a shocking revelation intensifies their pursuit of the cunning - and deadly - quarry.

Robin Lee Hatcher is one of my favorite authors so whenever one of her books come up for review, I take the opportunity to review it.  The Heart's Pursuit was a little different from the other books that I have read by Ms. Hatcher, but I enjoyed it just as much!  It had action, adventure, romance, and some heart break and sadness too. Silver Matlock shows a lot of bravery and determination to set right what she thought she had done wrong in her life.  She also doesn't have a whole lot of self confidence and feels that she doesn't deserve love.  Jared has one main goal and focus in his life and will stop at nothing (he thinks) to achieve that goal.  As I was reading through the story, I had figured out a bit of the plot.  But I couldn't for the life of me figure out how Ms. Hatcher was going to resolve the conflicts to bring about a happy ending for both Silver and Jared and Dean.  Without giving the story away, I will tell you that the ending was wonderfully written and I thoroughly enjoyed reading A Heart's Pursuit.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book for the purpose of writing a fair and honest review.  I received no other compensation and all opinions are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance to FTC regulations.  

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Schoolhouse Crew Review: Learning Wrap ups

Learning Wrap-Ups Review
It always amazes me when a review product comes at the most perfect time to address a specific need in our home, but that is exactly what happened with Learning Wrap ups.  With our regular school year coming to an end, I was looking for a product that the children would think was fun but help them memorize and remember their basic math facts and keep them working on vocabulary and language arts concepts as well. I was very blessed to receive a variety of products from Learning Wrap ups including:

2nd Grade Math Learning Palette 1 Base Center Kit 

2nd Grade Reading 1 Base Center Kit 

Learning Wrap up Math Intro Kit w/o CDs

Learning Wrap up Vocabulary Intro Kit

10 Days to Multiplication Mastery Wrap up and Book Combo

10 Steps to Addition Mastery Wrap up and Book Combo
2nd Grade Math 1 Base Center Kit
Learning Wrap ups carries Math Palette 1 Base Center Kits for grades K through 5th Grade.  For our review we received the 2nd Grade Math Learning Palette 1 Base Center Kit ($71.99)  The kit comes with one Learning Palette Base, and 6 Curriculum Packs with 12 cards in each pack for a total of 864 questions and answers.  Topics covered in this set include: adding and subtracting 2 digit numbers, understanding 3 digit numbers, money, fractions, simple multiplication and division, algebra concepts, geometry and measurement, and probability and statistics.  If you already have a Learning Palette and just wish to purchase the 2nd Grade Level Curriculum Packs you can purchase the set of 6 for $57.99 or individual sets for $9.99 each.

The Learning Palette is very easy to use.  You (or your child) selects one of the topics and chooses a card. 
You remove the colored discs and place the card question side up on the palette.  Your child answers questions by placing the colored discs in the slot with the correct answer for each of the twelve questions. 

Question side
 When he is finished your child can simply flip the card over to check his answers.
Answer side
2nd Grade Reading 1 Base Center Kit 
The Reading 1 Base Center Kits are available for grades K-3.  We received the 2nd Grade Reading 1 Base Center Kit ($61.99)  The kit comes with one Learning Palette Base, and 5 curriculum packs with 12 cards each for a total of 720 questions.  Topics covered in this set include: Capitalization and Punctuation, Reading Comprehension, Word Usage, Vocabulary and Grammar.  If you already have a Learning Palette Base, and wish to purchase  2nd Grade Level curriculum packs , the set of 5 is $47.99 and each individual pack is $9.99.
Reading Comprehension card

Question side

Answer side
Math Intro Kit w/o CDs
The Learning Wrap up Math Intro Kit w/o CD's ($44.99) is suitable for elementary aged children.  It contains 5 different Wrap ups: addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and fractions.  It also comes with a teacher's guide with ideas, crafts, and awards.  There is an option to purchase the Math Intro Kit ($59.99) which is the same as what I received except it also contains "Wrap up Rap" audio CDs for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

There are 10 Wrap ups in each set and instructions on the front of each one (x1, +2, -3, etc..)  You start on the left and wrap to the right and around.  When you are finished you can tuck the string in the bottom and flip it over to see how you have done.  If the lines match up they are all correct.

Vocab Intro Kit
The Learning Wrap up Vocabulary Intro Kit ($35.99) is also suitable for elementary ages.  It contains 4 sets of Wrap ups: Synonyms, Antonyms, Homonyms, and Compound Words.  There are also 10 of these in each Wrap up with the instructions on the front to find either the synonym, antonym, the definition of the homonym, or the matching part to the compound word.  You follow the same format as the math Wrapping from left to right and around and can check to make sure the lines match up on the back to see if you got them all correct.

Multiplication Mastery and Book Combo
10 Days to Multiplication Mastery Wrap up and Book Combo  ($12.99) is for elementary aged students who need to practice or learn their multiplication tables.  The combo includes a multiplication Wrap up and a consumable student workbook with exercises and activities to help students master those multiplication tables.
Inside the workbook
Addition Mastery Wrap up and Book Combo

10 Steps to Addition Mastery Wrap up and Book Combo ($12.99) is for elementary aged students who need to practice their addition facts.  The combo includes an addition Wrap up and a consumable student workbook.  The workbook contains a variety of adding activities, word problems, and timed exercises to do with the Wrap up.
Inside the workbook
I have been using the Learning Palette with my 2nd grader. He also has been using the 10 Steps to Addition Mastery Wrap Up and Book Combo and the Subtraction Wrap. My 1st grader has been using the Addition Wrap up.  My 4th grader has been using the 10 Days to Multiplication Mastery Wrap up and Book Combo and the Learning Wrap up Vocabulary Intro Kit.  Each of the children have used these products several times per week.
When the box arrived I was very impressed!  I liked what I saw of the Learning Palettes on the website, but they were even better in person.  The bases are bigger and sturdier than I had pictured.  When the box arrived, Anthony got right to work.  He could NOT wait!  He worked on them until he had finished an entire set of cards.  The next day he started on the Vocabulary.  The math he was able to do completely on his own.  The Vocabulary required some reading assistance from me at times.  Some of the younger children wanted to give them a try as well, and after being so impressed with the 2nd Grade items, I ordered some 1st grade and K ones as well so the younger children could enjoy them too.  
There are a few cards that are a bit challenging.  Anthony had a hard time doing the double digit subtraction with borrowing without writing them down.  I got him a piece of paper to help him work those out.  There are a few questions on the reading that are not clear at first.  One of the sentences said, "Mmm this is good." and one of the pictures was a child eating a watermelon and another was a child drinking hot cocoa.  Anthony was unsure which one it meant so we had to wait a bit until he could figure it out by process of elimination.

I was equally impressed with the sturdiness and durability of the Learning Wrap ups. The children got the hang of them right away and have already shown an improvement in their math fact retention.  And they think it is fun!  The Vocabulary Wrap up Intro Kit is great for older elementary children to help them remember what synonyms, antonyms, homonyms and compound words are and to help them remember the most common ones.  
One of the products I was most thankful to receive was 10 Days to Multiplication Mastery Wrap up and Book Combo.  My 10 year old just finished working on multiplication in our math curriculum last year and one of the things that really slowed him down was that he did not have the facts memorized.  This set has helped him a great deal.  We did not work through it in 10 days however.  We chose to work on only one fact family per day.  The 10 Days to Addition Mastery Wrap up and Book Combo had the same benefit for my 2nd grader.  We are working through the book slowly to help cement those facts in his brain.  He loves using the addition Wrap up!

I love the quality of everything we received!  I think it is wonderful that the children can use them mostly on their own.  They can be used to supplement any math curriculum you are already using or just as a refresher when you need them.  We will be using everything we received from Learning Wrap ups for a long time to come in our homeschool!

For a 20% discount use coupon code "HOMESCHOOL"
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