Deuteronomy 6:6-7

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. ~ Deuteronomy 6:6-7

Monday, December 19, 2011

The World's Greatest Stories

Audio stories are the best, don't you agree? I love using them as an alternative to television, long (or short) car rides, and for the kids to listen to as they fall asleep at night. If those stories are biblically based, that's even better, and that brings me to this week's TOS review.

The World's Greatest Stories are a wonderful collection of bible stories narrated by actor George W. Sarris.
No, that's not right. Narrated doesn't come close to being the right word. Mr. Sarris has beautifully and dramatically brought these bible stories to life in 6 different CD's:

Volume 1 - The Prophets
Volume 2 - The Life of Christ
Volume 3 - Beginnings
Volume 4Joshua and Esther
Volume 5 - Joseph & His Brothers
Volume 6 - Defeating Giants

We were delighted to receive and review Volume 1 - The Prophets, which features these bible stories:
The Blazing Furnace - Daniel 3
The Handwriting on the Wall  - Daniel 5

Daniel in the Lion's Den - Daniel 6

Elijah & the Prophets of Baal  - 1Kings 17-18

The Prophecy of Jonah - The Book of Jonah

These CD's work for ages 4 and on up, but our whole family was captivated by Mr. Sarris' storytelling. He affects such wonderful accents for the characters, and his take on King Nebuchadnezzar is simply marvelous. The little ladies couldn't contain their giggles.

What a great way to listen to the bible! You'll also be interested to know that these CD's are so affordable, only $7.95 each, making them a super gift for all occasions. This makes us really happy, because at this rate, we'll have the whole set very soon!

Check out the website for more information, and order a CD, or more, today!

See what other crewmates had to say about this product here:

Greatest StoriesThe World's
Ages: 4 and up
Price: $7.95 each
Available in NIV or KJV versions

**I received a free copy of The World's Greatest Stories- Volume 1 for free in exchange for my honest review of it, with no additional compensation.**

Monday, December 5, 2011

Artistic Pursuits - Book One K-3

When it comes to the subject of art, the homeschooling parents I've talked with seem to fall into one of two camps. The first group either loves, loves, loves art, and goes all out in providing a wide variety of art materials, trips to museums, and so on for their students.
The second camp is made up of the *ahem*, artistically challenged. They may feel that they don't know what they're doing, or even where to begin in presenting an art lesson.

Now, I'm speaking in generalities of course, and  I also realize that there are plenty of folks who fall somewhere in between the two categories I've presented; I myself am one such person.

I love art. Spending an afternoon at the art museum just feeds my soul. In fact, and this may sound silly, but simply walking through the art store for an hour or two has a similiar effect on me. I can't explain it, perhaps it's the possibilities that the oil pastels, paints, brushes, etc. represent.

That said, I often find myself at a loss at where to begin when it comes to teaching this subject. And then along came a most delightful art curriculum - Artistic Pursuits.

This is what I've been looking for all this time. An introduction to a variety of art mediums and techniques, an introduction to art history, all geared towards the age of my daughters, and therefore easy to understand.

Upon opening this wonderfully thick, spiral bound book, is a handy list of the necessary art materials. So helpful!

The book we're using (Book 1, for K-3rd grade) is divided into three sections:




 It is suggested by the author/teacher to have plenty of interesting objects to observe and sketch - goldfish, shells, bowls of fruit, small caged animals, and/or just going outside. And being a homeschooling family lends itself to a myriad of interesting possibilities in this regard, as we're not limited to the classroom! Just sayin'.

Let me show you what a typical lesson looks like. It begins with an overview of the topic, which might be what it means for an artist to compose a picture, or how nature inspires him/her.
Next is a simple exercise for the student to do, maybe a discussion or a walk outside. After that, it's time to take a close look at the featured painting or other work of art from the lesson and talk about it, the colors, subjects, perhaps some of the artists background.

Now the best part of all...let's create our own work of art! Each lesson features a particular art medium, and after a brief explanation of its purpose and how to use it, we get to try it for ourselves :)

I"m not exaggerating in the least when I say that from the first project, the whole family was hooked. *I* had been excited from the moment that I opened the book and saw the depth of the lessons, but I was pleasantly surprised to see how my ladies took to it all, art history included.
Of course, their favorite part is the hands on drawing, painting, creating aspect, and we did MANY pictures for each assignment. Especially when the medium is watercolor crayons. They are wildly popular in this house now.

I suppose that I'm stating the obvious when I say that we love this curriculum. It's the whole package in one easy, simple to teach, format. I would recommend Artistic Pursuits to anyone and everyone looking for a good at home art program.

You can read what my crewmates had to say about this and the other books in this series here...

Artistic Pursuits
 Book one - Grades K-3 $42.95

**I received a free copy of Artistic Pursuits Book One in return for my honest review of it, with no additional compensation.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Great Commission Languages - The Easy French

Laissez les bon temps roulez! Or, to put it in plain English ;) - "Let the good times roll!" Introducing my daughters to the French language has me so excited! I absolutely love this language, so when I was selected to use Le Francais Facile! with them over the past month or so, I was happily shouting Oh la la!

What we've been using:

Le Francais Facile! (The Easy French!)
Junior Level - for ages K-3rd grade

We received a thick, spiral bound book which includes 2 CD's, one of which has enhanced audio play, allowing you to listen over the computer, and also has a LOT of worksheets and extras to print off for your students. Within the first few pages is an exhaustive list of good resources, books and DVD's to expand your understanding of the French culture.

About the lessons:

Every lesson begins with an audio portion. The script is in both French and English, and repetitive enough to help the student get the basic idea of what is going on. Following the audio is the vocabulary for that lesson. Then it's activity time! I love the note that can be found throughout the lessons - "This curriculum was designed for you, not you for the curriculum!" Meaning...there are many activities to choose from, but you decide which ones will fit the time and interests of your children.

One of the ongoing activities that we have been doing is the C'est Moi! Livre (It's Me! Book) There is a page-sometimes 2- for each lesson, a page to color, something to draw, to extend the lesson. As the girls complete them, we put them in a binder, and they sure are proud of their work so far!

Also included in the lessons are 'cultural notes' about life and times of the French people, and sometimes recipes and games.

Our thoughts:

C'est Magnifique! We love this program! The lessons are fun and engaging, and is designed to work with a variety of ages. I have *some* experience with the French language, but a family with no exposure can do well with this also.
I really love that this curriculum allows me to print out what I need for each student, without having to purchase additional workbooks. That makes it a wonderful value right there.

The girlies are loving their increasing knowledge of the language. They frequently practice their vocabulary, and are now very aware of anything that suggests an origin of France. Their enthusiasm for this product speaks volumes of its effectiveness.

Visit Great Commission Languages at their website and see if this is a good fit for your family too :)

Great Commission Languages
Le Francais Facile! - The Easy French!
Ages: K-3rd Grade
Price: $69.95

Read what my crewmates had to say about this here --->

**I received a free copy of Le Francais Facile! in exchange for my honest review of it, with no additional compensation.**

Friday, November 18, 2011

FFH - "One Silent Night"

Happy Thanksgiving! Are you in the holiday spirit yet? I am! That merry little feeling hit me this week as I was grocery shopping, more specifically, somewhere between the cranberries and the sweet potatoes ;) Naturally, now that I'm feeling so festive, it's only right that I should have some good Christmas music to keep this Holiday mood going strong.

Yay for me, because I was privileged to be able to review a great new Christmas CD - One Silent Night by a contemporary Christian group that you may have heard of...the one and only FFH!

In fact, it's their first Christmas album ever, and it was worth the wait! I guess you can already see that this CD scored big with me, huh? I'll give you a few more of my thoughts, but first, a few words about the band...

Press Release for FFH:

(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) Sept. 30, 2011– Best-selling pop group FFH will usher in the holiday season with its first Christmas album. One Silent Night, available Oct. 18, is a mix of original songs and Christmas classics.

Produced by FFH founding member Jeromy Deibler, One Silent Night has been four years in the making. Giving in to the persistent appeals of loyal fans, FFH has crafted a project worthy of your holiday music collection.

Listeners will recognize favorites like “Winter Wonderland,” “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” and “Jingle Bell Rock,” among others, while being introduced to new tracks including “The Birthday of a King,” “Glorious Impossible,” and “One Silent Night.”

Deibler comments, “We just feel blessed to be able to make this record and wanted to do the kind of Christmas music we like to listen to, something that’s not trendy but more of a classic style. For us Christmas is about remembering… slowing down to see what is important. And being reminded of the glorious impossible that was the birth of Christ. We hope this album reflects that desire and inspires others to do the same.”

FFH plans to support the album with singles “One Silent Night” and “Baby It’s Cold Outside” to radio Oct. 1 as well as select tour dates in November and December.

About FFH

Pop vocal group FFH has released thirteen projects, sold more than two million albums, and garnered 24 radio hits, including seven No. 1 singles and ten Top 5 radio singles. In addition to multiple Dove Award nominations, FFH has been recognized at the Inspirational Life Awards as well as the Billboard Music Video Awards. The group has performed more than 1000 dates since 2000 and continues to be a favorite on the tour circuit. FFH is also known for its work with the “Make-A-Wish Foundation,” Kurt Warner’s “First Things First Foundation,” and for its contributions to national ad campaigns for Coca Cola and IBM.

Good stuff, right? What I really like about One Silent Night is that it stays true to the classic Christmas songs that we all know and love, while adding enough of a twist with the fun FFH sound that is familiar to their fans to keep it fresh.

All of the favorites are here, like "Baby, It's Cold Outside" (which always makes me feel nostalgic for my childhood), "Jingle Bell Rock" ( this one has a sound that for some reason makes me think of some of the old Carpenters tunes, and I like it!), and "Winter Wonderland". Then there are some great new cuts that bring the focus back to the Reason we celebrate. I particularly like "Birthday of the King".

One Silent Night will be an album you'll find yourself listening to again and again throughout this Christmas season. Go take a listen and see for yourself!

Read more about the band, check them out on facebook and twitter, and/or get info on this album at the following links... 


"Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services
mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I
only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.
I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255:
"Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Monday, November 14, 2011

Math Mammoth - Light Blue Series - 1st Grade

I'm going to cut to the chase here and state up front that I dislike math. If you've read any of my previous posts on the subject, you'll see that I've made that abundantly clear. Knowing that I approach it with this bias, I really do try to tackle it head on, and jump in with both feet. So, when the opportunity to review Math Mammoth arose, I eagerly got to work with the girls.

We've been using the Light Blue series, and I absolutely love it! You can look over the available curriculum and grade levels to decide where to start your child, and/or take one of the placement tests. Math Mammoth creator Maria Miller works overtime to make sure you not only get to the right level, but that you are completely satisfied. As for our family, I looked over the choices and decided upon the Light Blue series, 1st grade. 

I was/am delighted with what we received, a full year's curriculum, which is divided in 2 sections -A and B, teacher helps, tests, answer keys, game ideas and suggestions, worksheet makers, oh I know I'll forget something here...

I have a 1st and 2nd grader, and the older needs a little more time and practice before she really understands some of the math concepts, so this level has turned out to be a wonderful choice.

Here is what you can expect your student to learn with this series (this is from the website):

The two student books (A and B) for 1st grade cover the following topics:

•addition and subtraction concept and basic facts within 0-10

•place value with 2-digit numbers (a.k.a. tens and ones)

•some adding and subtracting within 0-100

•some geometry and measuring topics

•reading clock to the half-hour

•counting and using coins (US, Euro, or Canadian)

Some main features of the Lightblue Series books are:

•focuses on understanding of mathematical concepts

•uses clear explanations, lots of visual exercises and pattern exercises

•mastery oriented: concentrates fairly long on a topic, with fairly few topics per grade

•emphasizes mental math and developing number sense

•very little teacher preparation needed

I like the term "mental math". That's been one area that we've really struggled in - being able to figure out the problems in their head(s). There are sections for ever few pages that encourage students to do the math in their mind, and it's helped the girlies quite a bit.

We, (okay it's me) also like the variety in the methods taught in learning the various concepts. There are images to count, charts to fill in, word problems, games. Now, I do have to be upfront and say that while *I* loved these methods, my girls weren't always thrilled at having to think :) hee hee. But boy, they've made some impressive progress.

The teacher prep is as simple as anyone could ask for, since there's  like, none. Directions are aimed toward the student, so there's not a lot of explaining to do.

We received our curriculum as a download, which has made our lives even easier. All I have to do is print off the sheets we need for the day (which has been 2-3 average), and then we get to work. Easy Peasy! There is a CD and a print version available if you prefer though.

What else to say? I love this program, and we'll be keeping this one for our math studies in the grades to come. It's been a great fit for our family, and Math has been much less of a chore. You can visit their website here and see if it will work for you.

You can also read what other crewmates had to say about Math Mammoth over here...

Math Mammoth
Ages: Curriculum available for grades 1-8
Price: $34.00 for the Light Blue Series Grade 1 full year curriculum - download. Individual workbooks/worktexts available, including print version, see website for more info.

**I received a free download of the Math Mammoth Light Blue Series- Grade 1 curriculum in exchange for my honest review of it, with no additional compensation.**

Friday, November 11, 2011

Keyboard Town Pals

Things sure have changed since I was a student. Back in *my* day (snicker), we didn't learn to type before high school, and then it was on those old fashioned clunky typewriters. The world has changed a LOT since then though, and in this computer age, kids need to have that skill much earlier. Which brings me to the subject of this post...

This past month, the girlies and I tried out a typing program called Keyboard Town Pals. Now, there are plenty of programs available, but Keyboard Town Pals proudly declares its uniqueness in the following ways:

Why Keyboard Town PALS is a better way to teach kids to type: Do you remember the stress of typing class? Keyboard Town PALS is different!

■Children proceed at their own pace

■The puppets, humor and music are very entertaining

■The children easily recall the storyline

■Children will want to view it again and again

■No fear of making mistakes

■No racing against the clock

■No testing

■No scoring

■No anxiety

Now for an example of the lesson(s). Our teacher is a cheerful character named Sunny.

She introduces the student to a cast of  puppet characters that live on the keyboard - homestreet, downtown, and uptown to be more specific.

There are a couple of ways that the lessons may be completed, 2 half hour sessions, or 8 6 to 7 minute sessions. Choose the length that works best with your child's attention span. I should also note that the delete and backspace keys have been deactivated, as the creators feel it's better not to focus on mistakes that are made.

Once you log in and get to the menu, there are 8 lessons to choose from. Through a cute story line, songs and the puppets, lessons are fun to go through. Kids can go at their own pace, repeating lessons as often as they need to, although Keyboard Town Pals makes a point of saying that kids can learn to type in as little as an hour. After a short couple of minutes on a particular lesson, kids will be typing real words.

Our experience with Keyboard Town Pals:

Generally, both of the girls enjoyed the program. Since the delete and backspace keys are deactivated, there was no pressure, in either speed or accuracy, which I liked as they worked on proper finger positioning. My oldest was even practicing the finger positions in between lessons. The girls also enjoyed the puppet antics.

Now, while they did like it (mostly), they did tend to lose interest quickly, I'm not sure why, as they never had anything negative to say. My guess is that while the characters are cute, they are probably better suited to a slightly younger student than my 6 and 7 year old. Having said that, I personally like the no pressure concept of this program. There is a lot of forgiveness as the student develops the motor skills to negotiate the keyboard, and that was especially great for my easily frustrated 7 year old. These are aspects that are also well suited to those dealing with special needs.

From what we've seen and experienced with the program, this one is worth checking out to see if it's compatible with your homeschool.

You can read other TOS Homeschool reviews here:

Keyboard Town Pals
Phone: 1-866-200-8881
                                                               Ages: 7-10 years
                                                             Price: $39.95 - available as a web based program, or on a CD-Rom

***I received free access to the web based Keyboard Town Pals program in exchange for my honest review of it, with no additional compensation.***

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Lasting Impression by Tamera Alexander

I first became acquainted with the writing of Tamara Alexander this past summer, when the book club that I was attending  featured her novel, The Inheritance. I was hooked.

I love to read, and there are many authors whose work I thoroughly enjoy, but in all sincerity, my favorite writer these days is Tamara Alexander. There is something in her style, a beautiful richness in her writing that  engages the reader from the opening pages.

Naturally, after seeing that she would be featured on an upcoming blog tour, I was delighted to have the chance to read and review her novel,  A Lasting Impression.

Before I share my thoughts though, allow me to provide you with a little information about the book and the author...

About the book:

A fake. A forger. More than anything, Claire Laurent longs for the chance to live an authentic life, to become the woman she wants to be. And she'll be given that choice. But will it come at too costly a price?

Claire Laurent's greatest aspiration is to paint something that will bring her acclaim. Yet her father insists she work as a copyist. A forger. When she's forced to flee from New Orleans to Nashville only a year after the War Between the States has ended, her path collides with attorney Sutton Monroe. She considers him a godsend for not turning her in to the authorities. But after he later refuses to come to her aid, Claire fears she's sorely misjudged the man. Finding herself among the elite of Nashville's society, Claire believes her dream to create a lasting impression in the world of art is within reach--but only if her fraudulent past remains hidden.

The Federal Army has destroyed Sutton's home and confiscated his land, and threatens to destroy his family's honor. His determination to reclaim what belongs to him and to right a grievous wrong reveals a truth that may cost him more than he ever imagined--as well as the woman he loves.Set at Nashville's historic Belmont Mansion, a stunning antebellum manor built by Mrs. Adelicia Acklen, A Lasting Impression is a sweeping love story about a nation mending after war, the redemption of those wounded, and the courage of a man and woman to see themselves--and each other--for who they really are.

About Tamera :

Tamera Alexander is a best-selling novelist whose deeply drawn characters, thought-provoking plots, and poignant prose resonate with readers. Having lived in Colorado for seventeen years, she and her husband now make their home in Nashville Tennessee, along with their two adult children who live near by. And don't forget Jack, their precious--and precocious--silky terrier.

For more information please visit

Alright, back to me. *Sigh*. I LOVED this book. The plot, the characters, all worked together from the very beginning and were simply captivating. The heroine,Claire Elise Laurent, is portrayed with a mixture of grace, sympathy, vulnerability, - let's see how many adjectives I can insert here- and a resilient spirit. Very early on, the story suggests that she is seeking *something*, a meaning to her life beyond her present circumstances, and I found myself silently urging her on to find that Truth.

I appreciated that every character had their own story, but all contributed to the main plot.  The author gave us little bits here and there to give the reader an understanding of the motives of those characters, and why they behaved as they did. For me, it was that aspect that gave me a sympathy for even some of the more cantankerous characters.

This was true in the portrayal of Adelicia Acklen, the privileged Lady of Belmont Manor,who is not the harsh and abrupt woman that she initially seems to be. In fact, it is soon apparent that she is a caring woman of faith who has known a good deal of pain in her life, and yet has come through it stronger.

My review would not be complete without including the romance between Claire Elise and Sutton. The tension was just perfect between the two, with enough suspense to wonder if they would indeed end up together. Do they or don't they? I suppose you'll just have to read the novel for yourself and find out.
This would be a good place for me to add that I think this would make a lovely first book in a series...

I only have one complaint as it relates to the book. I didn't want it to end! For me, A Lasting Impression was a sweet indulgence, and I savored every moment, every page. Thank you Tamera Alexander for a wonderful read!

Want to buy the book?  Here you go...

Check out the whole Blog Tour schedule here

**I was given a free copy of the book A Lasting Impression by Tamara Alexander in exchange for my honest opinion of it, with no additional compensation.**

Kindle Fire Giveaway and Facebook Party from Tamera Alexander!

While Tamera and her book,  A Lasting Impression, are traveling across the country virtually
(with a few international stops as well!), she will be hosting a Kindle
Fire Giveaway
(11/4 - 11/15) and preparing for a lavish Southern-Style Facebook Party (11/15) (dripping
with hospitality, of course). She will be giving away Southern Food
Baskets, books, and an array of other fabulous freebies! Don't miss a
minute of the fun. Swoon!

Read what the reviewers are saying here.

One grand prize winner will receive:

  • A Brand New Kindle Fire (shipped as soon as it releases)
  • A copy of A Lasting Impression and 3 other special books Tamera wants you to have (for Kindle)
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends at noon on November 15th. Winner will be announced at A Lasting Impression Facebook Party on the 15th. Tamera will be wrapping up the A Lasting Impression celebration
with an author chat and giving away Southern Food Baskets (Loveless
Cafe Food Baskets, books, Amazon & Starbucks gift certificates, and
copies of Christy Jordan's Southern Plate cookbook), six gift certificates to Starbucks and, and copies of A Lasting Impression! So grab your copy of A Lasting Impression (it's
okay if you don't have one yet- you might win one!) and join Tamera on
the evening of November 15th for an author chat, a trivia contest (How
much do you know about the 1860's?) and lots of Southern-inspired
giveaways (complete listing here).

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

Don't miss a moment of the fun. RSVP today and tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER. Hope to see you on the 15th!

Monday, November 7, 2011

THE THREE TREES - A Traditional Folktale by Elena Pasquali

It's Autumn, and what better time could there be to review a book called The Three Trees
I was pleased to be able to share this beautiful book with my daughters this month, and I'm happy to be able to tell you  a bit about it as well. I'll start with a little excerpt  about the book:

Three forest trees dream of what they will one day become. One dreams

of becoming a royal throne; one of being a ship that can withstand any

storm; and one longs to stay in the forest and grow as tall as tall can be.

When they are felled, it seems their dreams are over. But as each tree is

crafted into a new item—a manger, a fishing boat, and a rugged cross—it

becomes clear that through the role they play in one important life their

hopes are more than fulfilled.

This traditional folktale is accompanied by stylish artwork from a highly

soughtafter children’s book illustrator, and will help set the Christmas

and Easter stories into the overall context of the Christian faith.

About the Author: Elena Pasquali studied romance languages at

university and has a special interest in researching folk tales. She worked

for some years in children's publishing before going on to be an author in

her own right.

About the Illustrator: Sophie Windham has illustrated books for

Bloomsbury and Orchard and was shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway

 Medal for Unicorns! Unicorns! by Geraldine McCaughrean.

Filled with wonderfully rich illustrations, The Three Trees engages the reader from the very first page. Three trees dream of accomplishing great things in their lives, but are disappointed when it appears that they will be relegated to a painfully ordinary life.

It is only as Jesus crosses their respective paths that they realize that His presence with them makes their existence anything but ordinary, and ultimately, they find that each of their heart's desires does indeed come true.

Author Elena Pasquali has done a lovely job presenting us with the story of Jesus and how He takes our everyday circumstances to bring glory to Himself. Children and adults alike will find this book appealing and meaningful.

I absolutely love the illustrations, as there is always something on every page that I didn't notice previously. When our family wasn't looking through these pretty pages, its home was on a coffee table in the dining room, a pretty decoration in and of itself. An appropriate story for Christmas, Easter, and anytime in between, I highly recommend this one for you too!




32 pages

Trim Size: 8.5 x 10.25

Publisher: Lion Children’s Books,distributed by Kregel

Publication: September 30, 2011

*I received a free copy of the book The Three Trees - A Traditional Folktale in exchange for my honest opinion of it, with no additional compensation.*

Friday, November 4, 2011

Gratitude Challenge November 4, 2011

I know I'm not alone when I tell you that these days, finances are tight. In addition to groceries, gas, and all of the usual expenses, we've had a few costly auto repairs and vet bills to deal with. And it has really made this lady discouraged.

But this is supposed to be a post about gratitude, right? Well, it sure is. Because the Lord has been gracious to us in this, more gracious than we deserve , I'm sure. Through a series of events, we discovered that it would in fact be possible to make all of these expenses, and even have a little financial breathing room. So we thanked God for that blessing.

But it hasn't stopped there. He went over and above that provision, as He often does. (I'm crying as I type this) I posted last time about the mistake that the repair guy made when replacing our windshield, resulting in a more lengthy repair- this time in the shop for 3 days. Well, not only will we pick the car up today, the auto repair shop has waived the deductible, meaning, we pay nothing! It was no small amount either.

God is very gracious, and His timing is so very sweet for me, as I've struggled in my faith this week. So I'm thankful. For a God who sees us. He knows our need. And He provides.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Person I Marry, by Gary and Jan Bower

I have often joked that it will take a very special man to marry my youngest daughter - who is currently 6 years old-, and that I'm praying for that soul now. Of course I love my daughter, and I really love her vivacious personality, and it's all meant in fun. But, there is a good principle in there. I should be praying for both of my daughters. And no, it's never too early to begin praying for their future spouse.

I was very pleased to have the opportunity to review a beautiful book by Gary and Jan Bower called The Person I Marry. Here are a few words from Gary Bower...

This book is part of our "Bright Future Series" which shares Biblical principles for families in beautiful and down-to-earth ways.  The Person I Marry was awarded "2010 Book of the Year" by the Christian Small Publisher Association.  We created this book the year of our 30th anniversary as a tool for tenderizing the hearts of our own 12 children, and sparking comfortable conversation about marriage amongst ourselves. 

This hardcover, 32 page book is simply beautiful, from cover to cover. Award winning artist Jan Bower has painted wonderfully lifelike pictures of children in various scenes for each page. My daughters actually gasped in delight when we first opened the book and flipped through the pages. My girls have always been enthusiastic readers, but I noticed that they were particularly captivated by this book. As I read it aloud, they were completely still and focused on each page.

As for me personally, I found The Person I Marry to be soul soothing, if that makes any sense. This was just a very restful book for me. I tend to be a more touchy feely type of person, and this was a book that fed my soul. I realize that I said this before, but again...beautiful.

The content, the theme of the book - choosing a spouse with specific qualities - was presented in a perfectly age appropriate manner. Written in rhyme, children can easily understand what qualities are important in a mate. For some of the harder to understand qualities, purity for example, the author did a nice job introducing the concept without presenting more information than a young child can handle.

Click on this link and get a glimpse of the book, as well as a few words from Gary and Jan Bower.

This 32 page hardcover is priced at $11.99, a great price for this lovely book. For the purpose of this review, I received an ebook form of the book, but I will be going out and purchasing a physical copy for our family. Once you take a peek, I'll bet you do the same :)

Happy Reading!

**I received a free copy of The Person I Marry in exchange for my honest review of it, with no additional compensation. **

The Person I Marry, by Gary and Jan BowerHardcover, 32 pages
Age: all ages
Price: $11.99

See what my crewmates had to say about this book...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Gratitude Challenge 2011

So, I'm participating in this year's Gratitude Challenge, because it seems that almost every year, as soon as Halloween has come and gone, I find Thanksgiving is here before I know it, and I feel like I missed the purpose. Do you know what I mean?

I'm striving for something better this year, and the best way to accomplish that, I think, is to be intentional. So here goes.

It's Tuesday, November 1st, 2011. I'm thankful for humor. I LOVE to laugh, any of my friends will attest to that. Nothing diffuses the tension better than a good giggle, whether it's with my little girlies, my friends, or family.

Today was one of those days that might have been very ugly were it not for the grace of God and a LOT of laughs.  Wanna hear about it? Goodie.

My husband's car was the victim of a nasty little rock hurtling through space, and ultimately landing upon the windshield, leaving a large crack. It's been cracked for several months now, as our funds were limited.
Well, we were finally able to work it into the budget this week, and scheduled the auto glass guy to replace it.

He arrived bright and early this morning and all was well, until he came to the door with a *look* on his face that I knew meant trouble. Unfortunately, during the process of removing the windshield, he cut a gash into the car's roof several inches long :/

He felt terrible about it, and for some reason, it just made me laugh. I guess it was because it seems that in our family lately, if anything can go wrong it will, it does, it has. And maybe it was just the Lord giving me enough grace to laugh.

But you know what? I know my response blessed this guy. I could have responded angrily, after all, he inconvenienced me, right? Now we had to deal with towing the car, an additional repair, rental car, etc...Now let me be clear here, I'm not trying to portray  myself as some wonderful pious soul, I lose it enough times, and those close to me know it. Whatever the reason, I was able to stay relaxed, and enjoyed several laughs with the towing people, the insurance agent, and it was alright.

I hope I'm able to keep that perspective more often, and, forgive the cliche, not sweat the small stuff.

Ooka Island

So, parents, let's talk about reading. How's it going? Do you have enthusiastic readers? Not so much? Have you heard of Oooka Island Adventure? No? Well then, pull up a chair, and let's chat.

Ooka Island is an online reading program for kids in the pre-K to 2nd grade range to teach reading, fluency and comprehension. Does that sound boring? ;) If you ask my kids, they will be quick to tell you...Nope!

The fun - especially as far as my daughters are concerned- begins with the creation of their own avatar. Woohoo! Pick your favorite hair color, eye color, skin color, then dress her (or him) up. Our avatar was a crazy looking blue supergirl. Really cool ;)

The program is set up to take your child through a lesson that lasts about 20 minutes. They are then rewarded with 8 minutes of free play time, and then another lesson starts. Let's talk about the lessons.

Your mission is to unlock a series of books through the completion of various learning activities. Take a train-like ride through the cave of sounds, which allows you to progress as you identify the correct sounds being pronounced. Once you've completed the journey, use a magnifying glass to find the hiding letters.
Visit the popcorn library and take out a book to read aloud with the Ooka pals. Then complete the various reading activities that go along with it.
 Climb up alphabet mountain, and put the letters in their correct order. When you reach the top, skateboard all the way down, and perform a few tricks along the way. That game was the very favorite of my little ladies!
Or, help the Crazy Wacky moving company after the Ooka elves leave the back of the moving van open, dumping its contents into the nearby river. Retrieve the objects with the correct sounds before they go over the waterfall!
There's even more than that! Ooka Island really makes learning to read a fun experience :)

Now, this is a BIG download folks, we're talking over 2GB! It took me about 4 hours to download on my high speed computer! There is a lot here. 85 digital books, 3D graphics, and more, so, be patient and you'll get there :)

What's the price? Here you go...

Generally speaking, my kids really liked this program. My youngest has asked to use it first thing every morning since we began. We did have a few issues during our our trial period though.
I mentioned before that Ooka Island Adventure is geared for pre-K to 2nd grade. My girls are in 1st and 2nd grade respectively. They were already well along in their reading when we started, but, practice makes perfect, right? Anyway, as I also mentioned briefly, the lessons last 20 minutes (which I think is a stretch for preschoolers, let alone 1st and 2nd graders), and my oldest became bored with having to complete the basic lessons for so long since she already knew the material.

 The biggest point of frustration was in the Popcorn Library, where it was required to read the same book many times in a row before being allowed to move on. We had a few tears over that one.
The other issue was a minor one regarding the volume. In several different parts of the program, the volume is much too low, even with ours turned all the way up. The other times it's fine. I have no idea why it worked that way, but as I said, it was a very small thing.

As for our family the pros outweighed the cons, and if you have a preschooler in your home ready to begin reading, Ooka Island Adventure would be worth checking out. So, why don't you?

Ooka Island Adventure
Ages: Pre-K - 2nd Grade
Price: INDIVIDUAL -$12.95/month  $59.95/6 mos.  $99.95/year
FAMILY - (up to 4 log ins) $19.95/month $99.95/6 mos. $129.95/year

**I received a free subscription to Ooka Island Adventure in return for my honest review of the program, with no additional compensation.**

See what my crew mates had to say about Ooka Island Adventure here...

Monday, October 24, 2011

North Star Games - Wits & Wagers

Alright game lovers, we've got a new one to add to Family Game Night. Wits & Wagers Family!  If you're familiar with the original Wits & Wagers, you'll appreciate this simplified version that families can enjoy together. On the other hand, if this is the first time you've ever heard of it, let me begin by telling you what's included, and the basic rules.

First of all, here's what's included in the set:

150 question cards
5 dry erase answer boards
5 dry erase pens
5 large Meeples
5 small Meeples
1 dry erase score card
1 full color rules

Time to play, so decide how many people are playing. 3 to 10 may play, and you can play individually, or in teams. Next, after setting up the scoreboard in the center of the table - or floor - wherever you're playing, everyone takes turns guessing an answer from one of the question cards, and writing it on a scorecard. After everyone has guessed, the scorecards are sorted in numerical order from smallest to largest - all of the guesses are always numbers.

Time to make your guess! Take one of your Meeples and place it on the guess you think is the best answer, and that doesn't have to be your own. After everyone has placed their Meeple on the boards, flip the question card over and reveal the answer. The winner is the one who guessed closest to the real answer without going over.

The winner, or winning team, is the one who scores 15 points first. Super fun!

What we think...

We really like this game. The suggested age range is 8+ , but we found that our 6 and 7 year old were able to play as well. Because the idea is to guess the closest answer, there is a bit of leeway. It does help that the girls can read and write too.

And, everyone in the family found questions to identify with, whether it was "How many colors of Froot Loops are there?", or "How many Disney princesses are there?" We all had fun learning new bits of Trivia.

Sound fun? It is! Go get one and play it tonight!!

NorthStar Games - Wits & Wagers
Ages: 8+
Price: List Price is $19.99, but right now Amazon is offering it for the low price of $15.23 Nice deal, don't miss out :)

** I received a free copy of the game Wits & Wagers in exchange for my honest review of it, with no additional compensation.

See what my crewmates had to say about this game here -

Refuge on Crescent Hill by Melanie Dobson

I don't know about your neck of the woods, but Autumn has arrived here in the Midwest, in all its splendor. The crisp days, changing leaves, and shorter days provide all the inspiration I need to grab a hot cup of tea, and curl up with a good book. And, have I got a good one for you this month!

If you're looking for a little reading material that offers suspense, intrigue, romance, and inspiration, I think Refuge on Crescent Hill is just what you're looking for. I was blessed to receive a copy to read and review this month, and I'm excited to share my thoughts with you. But first, allow me to share a little snippet from the publisher...

Moving home after a recent job loss was supposed to reassure Camden Bristow but what she finds is an empty mansion 150 years old. What happened to the house she played in as a child, the bedtime stories that told of secret passageways and runaway slaves, and all those family memories?

When antiques start disappearing and footsteps are heard, Camden wonders what really happened here . . . at Crescent Hill? Who still has access to the house? And for what purpose? As she works to uncover the past and present mysteries harbored in her home, Camden also uncovers secrets about her family that could change the town--and her life--forever.

Has your interest been piqued? Good. Now, I have to be honest with you, initially, as I was looking over the basic plot, I wasn't sure how much I would like this book. I enjoy the occasional suspense story, but, it seemed as if parts of the book might be a little spooky for me.
I kept an open mind however, and dove in.

Guess what? Couldn't put it down! Some books take FOREVER to get going, but within the first pages, I was hooked.

The first few chapters introduce all of the main players, jumping back and forth between their respective situations. We meet Camden Bristow, a struggling photographer who finds herself without a job or even a place to lay her head. Feeling desperate, she embarks on a trip to Ohio and Crescent Hill, the mansion where her loving grandmother Rosalie lives. It was Rosalie who provided the only love and stability that Camden ever knew.

Our next player is Alex Yates, a young man working as an economic developer in the very same Ohio town as Camden. When the two meet, we soon find out that Alex is dealing with his own skeletons from the past.

Every novel needs a dangerous character, and author Melanie Dobson generously provides us with two ;)
Edward Paxton and grandson Jake kept me on edge as they plotted and schemed to get to the bottom of the secrets surrounding Crescent Hill. Up until the very end, These characters kept me on the edge of my seat as I wondered how far they would go to achieve their purpose.

And then there's Stephanie, a college student writing a research paper on what else? Crescent Hill! Her interest in the subject reaches beyond the paper though, and it isn't until the final parts of this story that we see how her role ties everything together.

I won't give away all of the plot, it's just too good, and I'm hoping you'll read it for yourself. That said, I enjoyed how the author developed the characters. She brings them from their individual places of brokenness and heartbreak, but it's only as they seek guidance from the Lord that they find wholeness and purpose.

My thoughts...
 Great book!! I found it engaging from start to its satisfying ending. It provided everything you could want in a good novel, something for everyone you might say. Through it all, the Melanie Dobson used the story and characters to point the reader back to God.
Add this to your Fall reading schedule or Book Club. I bet you'll love it too!

You can check out more about the book, Melanie Dobson ( including information and pictures of the mansion that inspired the creation of Crescent Hill ), and more of her books at her website.

Now for a bit of exciting news. Beginning October 30, Refuge on Crescent Hill will be available on Amazon Kindle for FREE!!! Yes, you heard right! This will only be available for one week, so don't miss out! Make sure you take advantage of this wonderful offer :)

Happy Reading!!!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Apologia - Educating the Wholehearted Child

Discipleship, Whole Books, and Real Life! Wholehearted Christian Home Education for Ages 4-14

There's something about an Apologia book that feels like coming home. I realize that sounds corny, but, in this age of technology, with every computer and digital device available, I still love reading an actual, physical, great, big, good, book. And Apologia never disappoints me.

I admit it, I'm terribly biased. I love their books. Educating the Wholehearted Child  has been no exception. This resource for homeschooling parents soothes my spirit every time I pick it up. Why? Because it is so Christ centered. The entire book is filled with the rich words from scripture, and as I drink it all in, I not only feel encouraged and inspired as a homeschooling mom, but my spirit is lifted, and I feel my perspective put back where it needs to be.

I want to tell you a little of what you'll find inside the book, but first a few words from the Apologia website:

God did not forget to include "school" in his biblical design for raising children&mdash:home education is a natural expression of all that God intended for parents and their children. Clay and Sally Clarkson's Educating the WholeHearted Child is about rediscovering God's original design for the family. What you'll find in this book is a homeschooling model that makes sense. It's an approach that is based on sound biblical principles of nurture, discipleship, instruction, and learning. Newly revised and significantly expanded, Educating the WholeHearted Child is about much more than homeschooling; it is about life. Effective Christian homeschooling must begin with the sure foundation of a Christian home, and the Clarksons' uncomplicated, common-sense approach to life and learning will provide you with the tools you need to experience God's abundant blessings for your family.

Alright then, let's get down to it. There is so much to this resource, and I wish that I had both the time and space to delve into it all. I don't, but that's okay, because then you'll just look forward to reading this one yourself :)

 In the introduction and the first chapter, the authors talk about the decision to homeschool. They provide a list of biblical reasons to homeschool, they compare the experiences of attending public school vs. homeschooling, but at the end, they admonish the parents to make sure that they have counted the cost of this decision, and are certain that this is the right path for their family. I really appreciated that!

Moving on...The book is divided into 4 sections.

Section 1.) HOME
This part of the book includes determining what are the most important priorities of a christian home, how to answer those who disagree with your decision to homeschool, legislative questions and answers, and various ways to add character development to your home education.

Section 2.) LEARNING Here you'll read about various teaching methods, and the importance of tailoring your approach to your child's needs. You'll learn how to make your home an inviting place to learn, and how to create discovery centers. You'll also learn about your childs' learning style, and overall, how to disciple him/her.

Section 3.) METHODS
Learn about MANY different ways to teach and encourage learning of the Bible, the three R's, as well as music, nature, history and more. One of my favorite parts of the book!

Section 4.) LIVING
What are the respective roles of the homeschooling father and mother? What are your priorities? What does your school day look like? How will you,or how do you, keep order within your home? Where can you find support in this homeschooling journey? You'll find out answers to these questions and more in section 4.

Every chapter has a little paragraph here and there called In Our Home. I like these a lot, because the Clarkson's give us little snippets of homeschooling as they do it in their home, kind of a tips and techniques kind of thing.

Another aspect that I find appealing is the margins of each page that contain various scriptures, quotes, and other useful information. They have wasted no space! ;)

At the end of the book is a delightfully lengthy appendix of resources to check out. There are also quite a few planning forms, some for chores, book reports, daily lesson plans, and general biblical values.

I cannot say enough positive things about this book. There are many good resources available for the homeschooling parent, but, Educating the Wholehearted Child is at the very top of my list as a MUST HAVE book. This is a book that, if you're anything like me, you will refer back to again and again, because believe me, you won't get it all the first time around. What are you waiting for? Go get a copy! :)

Educating the Wholehearted Child - third edition
Price: $22.00

*Note: I received a free copy of Educating the Wholehearted Child in exchange for my honest opinion of it, with no additional compensation.

Read what other crew members have to say about this excellent book here.

Friday, October 14, 2011


What's for dinner? In my house, that is often the dreaded question. I can't tell you how many times I have made a personal vow that *this* week I would finally get myself organized, and have my weekly meals planned out, freeing me of that chore. Yet, day after day, week after week goes by, and still I struggle.

Well, imagine my relief when I found out that I would have the opportunity to try out a meal planning website that also is designed to keep a family's budget under control. And that's just what E-mealz is. Want to hear more? Good, let's talk.

E-mealz works with grocery sales, seasonal discounts, and even special diets to save you time and money. They do all of the prep work for you, putting together the meals and shopping lists for you. It doesn't matter if you have a sizable family, or if there are only two of you, there is a plan for you. Do you have special diet that you need to follow? E-mealz has plans for gluten free, low carb, low fat, even vegetarian. It doesn't even matter where you shop, because there are plans that use 5 of the most popular nationwide grocery stores, as well as plans for any store. There are sample meal plans you can take a look at, and you do have the option of switching meal plans once every 3 months, should you decide the first plan you tried isn't the right one.

When you visit their site, look over the plans and choose the one that best fits your family. Each week, a new menu will be available to download and print off. All you need to do is go shopping! Should you happen to miss printing off your menu, don't worry, each week's menu is available for 2 weeks.

So what does this cost? E-mealz bills you $15.00 for every plan you choose (by debit or credit card). I like how the website puts it..."Your mental maid for $1.25 per week..."

Our thoughts...

I really love the concept of E-mealz. The program has done all of the heavy lifting for you, all of the planning, right down to the shopping lists and even the aisles where you'll find the groceries. And, by planning according to sales and seasonal products, it helps so much with the budget, which is definitely an issue for our family.
That being said, this program just wasn't  a good fit for our family. We have four different people with several different dietary needs, and one particularly picky eater, which made it difficult to find more than two meals per week that everyone could enjoy together.

For most families though, I think this is a great way to solve the issue of meal planning on a budget, and I recommend you head over to E-mealz and see what they have to offer.

Price: $5.00 per month, billed $15.00 every 3 months

** I received a free 3 month subscription to e-mealz in exchange for my honest review of the program.

Read what other crewmembers had to say about e-mealz.