Our Family

Our Family

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Review: Christian History: Biographies of Faith

Master Books is well known for their Creation based science books.  Now they are offering full curriculum sets for grades 4-12 (and also Pre-K), and individual subject sets.  I recently had an opportunity to use and review the Christian History: Biographies of Faith Curriculum Pack which is part of the 8th Grade Homeschool Curriculum Set.

In this study, students will study the lives of great US Presidents and Christian reformers to discover their influences, struggles, accomplishments, and how they were transformed by their faith, moral values, and pure courage.  The suggested schedule is to work on this over the course of one year (36 weeks) for 30-45 minutes per day 5 days per week.  The course is recommended for students in grades 7-9 to earn one credit in history.

Christian History: Biographies of Faith Curriculum Pack can be purchased for $75.44 and includes:

Life of John Newton
Life of Washington
Life of Andrew Jackson
Life of John Knox
Life of Luthor
Parent Lesson Planner.

Each of the books are beautiful, hardcover editions.  The Life of Washington is 295 pages long.  It was originally published in 1842 by ASSU and was written by Anna C. Reed, a niece of a signer of the Declaration of Independence.  The Life of Andrew Jackson is 395 pages long and is written by John S Jenkins, an American author who wrote historical biographies.  The Life of Luther is 496 pages long and was originally published in 1850 by ASSU.  It is written by Barnas Sears who served in areas of education and pastoral ministries.  The Life of John Knox was originally published by the ASSU in 1833, and is 140 pages long.  The Life of John Newton was originally published in 1831 and is 144 pages long.

The Parent Lesson Planner is a paperback 189 page book with perforated 3 hole punched pages. In it you will find a suggested schedule for completing the course in 36 weeks, worksheets, quizzes, test, and answer keys.  Each of the worksheets contain vocabulary words to define, short answer questions, long answer questions, and activities.  The activities vary and will require some additional research and reading to complete.  The quizzes have vocabulary questions, short answer, and long answer questions and the tests have vocabulary and long answer questions.

I love books.  When I received this set my first thought was how beautiful the books were!  And they really are and will last a long, long time.  At this time in history when textbooks are being rewritten to become politically correct or just better suit those with whatever agenda happens to be on the table, it is important for us to go back and look at history from a different view point.  Even in texts that are well written and historically accurate, we often just get snippets of important historical figures such as what battles they won and what important things happened in their lifetime.  We are not able to see details about their character, morals, fears, courage, or faith. Biographies are a great way to take a deeper look.  Through the course of this curriculum, students will get that deeper look into the lives of some great men who made a big impact on history.  They will see what qualities made them great leaders and will also be examples for them to learn by.  We will see them live their faith and overcome in many difficult circumstances.  And rather than trying to memorize a bunch of dates and places, students will enjoy reading about the lives of these men.  The stories themselves are captivating.

The Parent Lesson Planner is a great tool to guide you in this course.  It is set up for 5 days a week, but that can easily be adjusted according to your needs or your students.  The books were written in the 1800's so the vocabulary is more challenging than modern books (and please don't think I am mentioning that as a negative because I think it is a positive.)  I could easily make adjustments to the schedule to work only 3 days a week.  The worksheets in the PLP will ensure that your child is actively reading.  The questions are thought provoking and require your child to dig deeper to answer.  The vocabulary questions will help improve reading comprehension.  The optional activities are varied and you can pick and choose which ones will suit your child.  Most involve internet research,but there are also things like  mapping and Bible reading. I really like that the quiz and test questions are not multiple choice and require the students to put thought into their answers.  Photocopying is allowed for use within your family which is another big plus for me.  The answer key is in the same booklet as the worksheets, but they can be easily removed and stored in a notebook.

Once again I am greatly impressed with Master Books and their subject sets.  Stop by the website and see the great curriculum offerings that are available.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of these books 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: With Lee in Virginia

We were excited to have an opportunity to review the latest release from Heirloom Audio Productions, With Lee in Virginia.

With Lee in Virginia Audio Drama Review
Heirloom Audio Productions is passionate about bringing real history to life.  Their active listening audio dramas are fast paced and uses many different types of sound effects and music to transport the listener back in time and immerse them in the story.  There are 3 different audio dramas at the time of this writing: With Lee in Virginia, In Freedom's Cause, and Under Drake's Flag.  

With Lee in Virginia is based on the book With Lee in Virginia by G.A. Henty.  It is geared for ages 6-adult.  There are some intense moments in the story, but it is not bloody or gory and I had no problems with my 4 year old listening as well.  The story is around 2 1/2 hours long and is split up into 2 separate CDs.  It is narrated by Brian Blessed and other names that may be familiar to you include: Sean Astin (Lord of the Rings, Rudy, Mom's Night Out) as Gen Jeb Stuart, Kirk Cameron (Fireproof, Monumental, Left Behind) as Gen Johnston, Chris Anthony (Adventures in Odyssey) as Mary Lee, Kelsey Lansdowne (Curious George, Batman Arkham Origins) as Lucy Kingston, and many more.

Fifteen year old Vincent Wingfield lives on a southern plantation.  One moment he is helping a slave escape north to freedom after being mistreated by his master and the next he has joined the cavalry of the army of Northern Virginia and is soon fighting alongside some of the most famous Confederate generals.  Vincent is very inspired by General Lee's devotion to God and his sense of duty and his heroic actions could cost him his life.
There are several options for purchasing With Lee in Virginia. There is an mp3 download option for $19.97 and comes with a study guide and a downloadable copy of a quote by Robert E. Lee.  Or you can purchase the physical CD set for $29.97 that includes the following bonuses: downloadable study guide, printable quote by General Lee, and the mp3 soundtrack.  Or you can purchase a 4 pack for $99.97 that includes the same bonuses as the single CD set plus unlimited access to the Live the Adventure newsletter, G.A Henty's With Lee in Virginia ebook, and a With Lee in Virginia poster.

The Downloadable Study Guide is a great way to expand on the lessons children learned by listening to the audio drama.  The guide is divided into 3 different sections:

Listening Well- Asks questions about what your child heard 

Thinking Further- Digs a little deeper.  Children may need to look up answers or speculate or draw conclusions about characters intentions or actions.

Defining Words- Vocabulary words that children need to define

There is a set of questions for each track on the CD. The guide also contains information on G.A. Henty, General Lee, and General Stonewall Jackson.  At the end of the guide there is a recommended reading list for further study and two different Bible studies.  There is also a section on sectionalism and slavery in the Bible.

I was excited to have the opportunity to review With Lee in Virginia because we loved the other two audio dramas from this company.  We listened to it on our way to and from the museum one day (a little over an hour drive each way.)  My children 13,11,10,8,6, and 4 were all in the vehicle with me and audiobooks can be a great way to pass the time while driving.  It was fantastic!  I loved the characters, and especially the music and sound effects.  The narrator is fantastic!  With Lee in Virginia tells a great story of a difficult time in America's history and has a great message for us all.  It is my favorite of the three audio dramas from Heirloom Audio Productions and we will be listening to it again when we study the Civil War later on this year.

To see what my Crew Mates had to say, stop by the Crew Blog!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Review: A Heart's Home by Colleen Coble

Book Description "This Christmas, a tragic loss at Fort Laramie ushers in hope and healing. When a young mother dies after giving birth at Fort Laramie, Emmie Croftner is shaken by the death of her dear friend-and reminded of the dangers of childbirth. She won't be able to hide her own pregnancy much longer. She's dreading the day that Isaac Liddle, the handsome soldier she adores, discovers her secret. Then the young infant's father offers a solution: Emmie should marry him so the child can have a family. With the Sioux Wars threatening soldier and civilian alike, a ready-made family could be the answer to Emmie's prayers for safety. But at what cost to her heart-and Isaac's?"

A Heart's Home is the 6th and final book in the Journey of the Heart series.  Each book in this series are short at just over 100 pages each.  The first 3 books in the series focus on Rand and Sarah while the last 3 books focus on Emmie and Isaac.  Jake and Amelia are other main characters that appear in all of the books.

A Heart's Home being the last book in the series is supposed to tie everything together and bring resolution to the different conflicts.  Throughout the last three books dealing with Emmie, we find out she has a secret and she has this fear of what will happen when Isaac finds out.  I was expecting a big moment when this issue was resolved, but there wasn't one.  Also, in Book Five we are told that a character that we thought had died in an earlier book did not so I expected he would return for Book 6, but he does not.  He is mentioned in the Epilogue.

Overall Journey of the Heart was an enjoyable series to read.  I liked the characters and these short little books were packed full of action, adventure, faith, and romance.

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, July 26, 2015

Our Week in Review (July 20-25)

Monday was blazing hot.  We did have archery although we only shot for an hour while we still had a pretty good amount of shade.  I am quite impressed with how well the boys are shooting and how much they have improved since we started.  Tuesday and Wednesday were just ordinary days that didn't have anything exciting going on.  Thursday we had our July 4 H Meeting.  The children seemed to enjoy the activities that I prepared.

Friday we cleaned house and had pizza and a movie.  After the movie the children wanted to swim.  When we came in from swimming Art walked past our thermostat and noticed the temperature in the house was 4 degrees above what it was supposed to be.  The fan motor on our A/C unit is broken! The part is ordered but it will be a few days until it can be fixed.  Until then I am very thankful for ceiling fans!!! And that we had a window A/C unit that we used for camping that is keeping upstairs fairly cool.  It's been around 100 outside and we are holding around 86 degrees in the house.  We will be grilling, using the crockpot or eating sandwiches this week!

Saturday was Anthony's birthday!  My sweet boy is 10 years old!  For his birthday he wanted to decorate his own cupcakes. I got up before 6 Saturday morning to bake them (before it got too hot) and then he decorated them with red and white frosting and sprinkles and arranged them in an Avengers sign.

I was babysitting for a friend on Saturday.  My children loved having company over and they asked if we could keep the baby.  They have missed having a baby in the house.

They enjoyed cupcakes with us but I did not give any to the baby :)

For his birthday supper Anthony asked for Pizza Hut so the girls and I drove to town and picked up pizza.  He loved his gifts and said it was the best day of the year!

We picked some cantaloupe from our garden this week.  It was really good!

In our homeschool this week we completed stops 16 and 17 in Passport Ancient Egypt.  In AAR Level 2 Christian and Anthony completed Lessons 29 and 30.  I have set up an award system for them to encourage them to read more on their own in their spare time.  Also, I put a new ebook on their Kindle along with the audible version and with that immersion reading it highlights the words in the ebook while the audiobook is being read.  I think that is fantastic and need to get them some earbuds so they can listen to those at night.

Lillian finished her study on the human body and is working on First Start Reading.

Emelia only had two days of Horizons preschool this week.  One day she was just too cranky in the afternoon to do school (she had fallen down and hurt herself and she just really wanted to snuggle and watch a show), and the other day I was too tired after the 4 h meeting and errands.

Nick started working on a new review of Sharon Watson's new literature curriculum, When Worlds Collide.

I hope you had a great week in your homeschool!

Friday, July 24, 2015

July Nature Seekers 4 H Meeting

Normally we meet in June and take off July, but June had a lot of things going on and I could not squeeze a meeting in.  I was trying to think of a good meeting idea for July and since it is so hot decided we would have our topic be water.  I got on Pinterest and found some fun ideas to have at a water themed meeting.

I had a list of fun facts about water printed out and started out the meeting with those.  While I was doing that, my older boys and one of the mamas were filling squirt guns with water and paint for our next activity: squirt gun painting.  I had to buy the squirt guns and paper ( I used water color paper), and used tempera washable paint that I had at my house.  We were supposed to mix the paint and water 50/50 but we added some extra water so the paintings came out a little thinner than the example that we made at home but the children had fun making these paintings.

After that we did two water experiments.  One was called walking water.  You need three glass jars that are the same size, a paper towel torn in half and folded in half, and two colors of food coloring.  Fill the outside jars with food coloring and leave the middle jar empty.  Put one end of the paper towel in the jar with the water and the other end in the empty jar.  The water will walk up the paper towel and start filling the empty jar.  This does take awhile.  After an hour there was water in the middle jar.  Eventually all three jars are supposed to have the same water level.  This would be a great experiment to do at home.

We did another water experiment called leak proof bag.  Fill a ziplock bag with water and close it.  Stab some very sharp pencils through the bag.  The bag will not leak.

Next up was soap foam painting.  Each child got a bowl, a straw, and a piece of water color paper.  I put a good squeeze of dish soap in the bowl and filled it with water.  The children blew bubbles with the straw.  After they had a good amount of bubbles I put a few drops of food coloring in the bubbles and they placed their paper over top.  The soap foam made a pretty design on the paper.  I had them blow bubbles again and put a different coloring food coloring.  The paintings turned out really cool.

After that we used their same bowls and made bubble snakes.  A plastic water bottle with the bottom cut off and an old sock was all that we needed.  Place the sock over the bottom of the bottle, dip it in the soap solution and blow.  The children were pretty impressed with this bubble blower.

Next up was ice cream in a bag.  This was a challenge because our ice was melting really fast and so was our ice cream once it was made.  But they enjoyed it.

Then we did a water balloon toss.

And for our last activity we made pool noodle boats out of a piece of pool noodle, straw, and foam triangle with two holes punched it in.

This meeting lasted about an hour and 20 minutes and the children had a great time!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Schoolhouse Crew Review: SimplyFun

SimplyFun has a variety of fun, educational games for children of all ages.  They believe that play is an important part of children's social, academic, and emotional learning process. In 2012, their games won over 50 awards.  We recently had an opportunity to use and review Expanders.
Simply Fun Review

Expanders is recommended for ages 7 and up.  It can be played by 1-4 players and takes around 20 minutes to play.  The object of the game is to be the first person to use up all your tokens by expanding numbers using reverse addition.  Expanders uses critical thinking, spacial reasoning, and addition skills.

The game includes:

128 tokens (32 each in pink, blue, orange, and purple)
6 numbered double sided circuit boards (numbers 1-8 on one side and numbers 1-12 on the other side)
2 filler boards to use if less than 4 people are playing
1 mainframe
1 token storage bag
Instruction Book

Each side of the mainframe is a different color that corresponds with the colors of the tokens.  Players sit around the mainframe and get the token color that coordinates with where they are sitting.  In a 4 player game you use all the circuit boards.  In a 3 player game you use 5 and one filler and a 2 player game you use 4 with 2 fillers. The side that has numbers 1-8 are for an easier game and the side with 1-12 is for a more challenging game. The last player to download and app is supposed to go first and then play moves clockwise.

There are 3 different actions you can do on your turn.  Action 1 is to place a single token on the first row on your side of the board or connected vertically, horizontally, or diagonally to any of your other tokens.  Action 2 is place two of your tokens on 2 matching numbers in the first row on your board or connected vertically, horizontally, or diagonally to any of your tokens on the board.  The 3 rd action is to expand a number by placing a token on a number in the first row on your board or connected to  any of your other numbers and place tokens on numbers that add up to that number that are connected to each other so they form a single group.  So if you placed your token on an 8 and have a 4,3,1 that are connected you place your tokens on those.  There are special starting rules that on the first turn you can only do action 1 on the 2nd turn you can only do action 1 or 2 on the 3rd turn you can do action 1, 2 or 3 but can only use 3 tokens for action 3 but after action 3 you can do any of the actions and use as many tokens as you can.

I have been playing Expanders with my 6,8,9,11 and 13 year olds.  Since the game only plays 4 we take turns.  Reading the instructions was a bit confusing, but once we got the game set up and we read it aloud step by step while playing it began to make more sense.  The children caught on very quickly and even my 6 year old was able to play with no trouble.  I didn't even know she knew how to add!  We have had a lot of fun working on our math and strategy skills while playing Expanders.

Members of the Crew reviewed Expanders and Shape Whiz.  To see what my Crew Mates had to say, visit the Crew Blog.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The One Thing You Need to Be a Successful Homeschooler

I have a lot of respect for public school teachers.  They do an amazing job in often less than ideal circumstances and many times end up being the best role model that some children have.  The Public School system is not a good fit for every child or every family and for many reasons (that I am not going to lost here) the homeschool movement is growing and will continue to grow.  There are a few fears about homeschooling that hold people back and I wanted to talk about those today along with the one thing that you do need to be a successful homeschooler.

I am not educated enough to homeschool.  How much or little education you have doesn't really make a difference.  I have known people who homeschool that didn't even graduate from high school. I have also known people who have Master's Degrees and everything in between.  I personally am convinced that the hardest thing to teach in a homeschool is reading.  Once your child is reading everything else is a piece of cake ;)

I don't have enough money to homeschool.  I have actually had people say to me that if they were independently wealthy then they would homeschool.  Fortunately for me, you don't have to be wealthy.  Cost of homeschooling varies greatly. It is possible to homeschool for free or you can spend thousands of dollars.  We set aside a certain amount of money every month for "educational supplies" which can mean everything from text books to crayons to field trips.  There was a time several years ago though when there was no money to set aside for anything ( we had lots of medical bills that year, a busted hot water heater, flooded downstairs, and multiple other things that broke) but God worked it all out and we did just fine homeschooling that year.

I don' have the patience to homeschool.  I am by nature not a patient person.  I love children though and have learned a lot of patience through them.  I don't think you need any more patience to homeschool than you do to parent.  Homeschooling is like an extension of parenting.  When you loose your patience you take a deep breathe, apologize, and either take a break or move on.

I work so I can't homeschool.  I know many, many families who successfully homeschool and work as well. It may be more challenging but it can be done.

So if you don't need education, money, patience, or a lot of time, what do you need?  It sounds so simple but it really is true.  The biggest thing that you need to be a successful homeschooler is a desire to be a successful homeschooler.  If you think that homeschooling is the best choice for your child and you want to homeschool them then you will do everything you can to do the best you can to make it happen.  That desire to provide them a great education will ensure that they will get the best education.

That does not mean it will always be easy!  I am afraid like most things in life that are worthwhile that it will not be easy.  You will get tired, you will get overwhelmed at times, you will second guess yourself, you will get impatient.  Your child will not always be a willing, happy worker.  But, it will be worth it.

Happy Homeschooling!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Schoolhouse Crew Review: Project Passport World History Study: Ancient Egypt

Every year during our "summer school" I try and do something fun and hands on that is a little different from our regular school year.  This year I was very excited to have an opportunity to review Project Passport World History Study: Ancient Egypt from Home School in the Woods.

I have to tell you that I am a big fan of Home School in the Woods.  Home School in the Woods is a family ran company that was formed when Amy (the mom) could not find timeline figures that she liked to use in their history studies.  In 2002 they published their first set of figures and have grown since then after they received requests for fun and interactive history materials. I have used their timeline figures for years.  I also have done the History Through the Ages Time Travelers American History Study: The American Revolution  and The Great Empires Study.  I cannot speak highly enough of the products we used and couldn't wait to get started on this study of Ancient Egypt.

There are currently three studies in the Project Passport World History series: Ancient Egypt, The Middle Ages, and Renaissance and Reformation.  In each of these studies you travel through history to learn about cultures in the past.  You will make a passport and a luggage folder to travel to your destination and take a tour of the area making 25 different stops.  A "Guide Book Text" accompanies each stop giving information about the topic.  The "Travel Itinerary" gives instructions for projects. Students will create a Scrapbook of Sights notebook and a lap book as well as have many different hands on projects to create.  There are also audio tours to listen to as they go on their adventure.  Each of the studies starts with a stop called "Packing for the Trip" which gets everything set up to complete the study.

In the Ancient Egypt study students will learn about topics such as:

Everyday Life

Agriculture, Trade, and Transportation


Literature and Writing

The Sciences

Medicine and Disease

Ancient Egyptian Arts

The Great Builders

Religion and the "gods"

Governing the land

The First Dynasties

From Chaos to Order Back Again to Chaos

A Land Divided

The New Kingdom Begins

Egypt's Most Famous Woman

The Conquering Pharaoh

Akhenaton and Tutankhamen

Egypt Fades Away

Ancient Egypt and the Bible

Bringing Back the Past

Project Passport is recommended for grades 3-8.  It can be purchased as a download for $33.95 or as a CD for $34.95.  It is designed to be completed in 8-12 weeks, but that can be adjusted depending on your schedule and how much you choose to complete.

You will need some other items to complete this study.  A 3 ring binder, pocket folder with the prongs down the middle, printer paper, card stock, colored card stock, double sided tape, plus regular school supplies like glue, scissors, and colored pencils. You will also need more specific supplies depending on the 3 D projects that you choose to complete.  Several of the projects use everyday supplies but I did have to purchase a few specific things.

As I mentioned above we are using PP Ancient Egypt for our summer school.  I am really good at completing hands on projects for science but not so good at doing ones for history.  I thought this would be a great study to use with my 8 and 10 year old boys and my 6 year old has also been participating in some of the projects.  We have been working on this 3-4 days per week and completing one stop per day.  There were a few stops that had multiple projects we wanted to complete so we spread those out over 2-3 days.  There are quite a few different ongoing projects along with projects specific to each stop.  You do not have to complete all of the projects, you can pick and choose what you would like to do.

I worked on the Packing For the Trip section myself and got everything printed out and ready for the trip.  I print out the travel itinerary for each stop so I can easily see what needs to be printed and how it needs to be printed (card stock, colored card stock, white paper, colored paper,) but the Guide Book Text I chose to read off of the computer. We are working on this project together making one lap book and one Scrapbook of Sights.  We are also working on most of the projects together.

I want to show you a little bit of what we have been working on.

The Scrapbook of Sights

This is the notebook that you will store some of your projects in such as your timeline, postcards, map, and other notebook pages.  My boys are not big fans of coloring so our cover and timeline figures are a little plain.

Notebook cover


Postcard Rack

Social Pyramid of Egyptian Authority Page

Draw Like an Egyptian Page

Map of Ancient Egypt

Lap Book Pieces- The Lap Book is an ongoing project.  Different pieces are made at most of the stops.  Pieces are stored in a Ziplock bag until the last stop when the lap book is put together.  I can't wait to see what the finished product looks like!  Here are some of the pieces we have made so far.

Hands on Projects- There are instructions for several really cool hands on projects throughout the study.  Here are a few of the projects we have made.

The girls painting the diadem

Lily dressed up.  She wanted to make the boys Falcon Pectoral necklace too.

wrapping mummies

Christian making his name out of hieroglyphics 

Diorama of an Egyptian Temple


We are loving this study of Ancient Egypt!  The text for each stop is around 2 pages which is a perfect length for my children.  They have been fascinated with a number of topics we have learned about especially the mummification process and the medicines the Egyptians used.  We love the mapping and timeline activities.  The audio tours are another great element that are not typical to this type of study and we have enjoyed listening to them.  I think lap books are a great way for the children to look back on what they have learned and the lap book pieces for this study have been great quality and so worthwhile to complete.  The children have LOVED the hands on projects!

From the homeschool mom perspective the instructions are clear and easy to follow.  The project instructions are written step by step with color photos. There is even a list of resources included in the study if you wish to dive in a bit deeper.  Printing out the necessary pages is a bit time consuming.  You cannot just batch print these pages. You have to print each page one by one because some pages have to be printed on the backs of others and some are printed on regular paper while others are on card stock or colored card stock.  My children are on the lower end of the age range (3 and 4th grade) so I have had to work with them on all the projects, older children may be able to work more independently.

Members of The Crew reviewed all 3 of the Project Passport World History Studies.  To see what my Crew Mates had to say, visit the Crew Blog!