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

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Journey Continues

Our Foster Care journey has been filled with its ups and downs. You know, you take all of the classes, but they don't prepare you for the reality that is foster care. I think that at this point in the process, I would have to say that the part about it all that has surprised us, involves birth parents.

I don't know what I thought our relationship would be like with the birth parents. Not that I had any particular expectations, but I figured that our focus would be the child(ren). And for the most part, that is true.

But. . .
I never expected to find myself truly interested in the progress of the birth parents. I didn't anticipate getting to know them. I was surprised to find that I was as anxious to see them succeed in their journey. Don't get me wrong, I didn't want anyone to fail. I just didn't imagine that we would be wanting to encourage and cheer them on as we hope we have. And you know what? It's been so cool.

I have no idea what will happen in these circumstances. Whatever the outcome, I truly hope that we will continue the relationships that have been forged. God knows, He is in control. What a ride.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Alone Yet Not Alone - A Book Review

About Alone Yet Not Alone (novelization):

Settled in the Blue Mountains of Pennsylvania, deep within America's new frontier, the Leininger family celebrates the blessings of a beautiful family and a bountiful harvest. That is, until tragedy strikes with the beginning of the French and Indian war and the devastating raid known as the Penn's Creek massacre.
The lives of this simple, God- fearing family are forever altered when Barbara and Regina, two young sisters, are carried away by the Delaware tribe. Driven by their faith in God, and the powerful bonds of family, Barbara and Regina hold firmly to the belief that they are never alone, even in their darkest hour, and that they will be reunited again.
Rich in historical details, Alone Yet Not Alone, is an inspirational, true story of a family caught in the crossfire of the French and Indian war.

Historical fiction is among my favorite genre of books to read, and when the story is based on actual events, it makes it all the better for me. I was really pleased to review this title over the past month. Christian fiction is great and everything, and I have read enough of it that has encouraged and inspired me. But isn't a story so much more compelling and faith building when you go into it knowing that the characters had a real place in history, and a real faith in God that they lived out? That does so much for my own personal faith.

This book is categorized as juvenile fiction, and as you would expect, it is targeted to the preteen and up group. I had thought that I would use this as a read aloud for my two daughters, as they love history. I did a quick flip through before reading it  before sitting down with the girls, and changed my mind. Not because I didn't care for the story, because it's a wonderful, and amazing tale of God and His provision. But, some of the initial content involving the Indian raid, and what happens to several of the family members in the story, would have been a little too scary for my almost 8 year old. So, I think it's best to wait a few years before she reads it. My older daughter would, and will love it, I'm sure, and I'll let her read it herself, but as an out loud reading time, I felt it best to wait.

It's usually somewhat difficult for me to write a book review, only because I don't want to give away all of the details, and ruin the experience for others. But I will say that this was  a difficult book for me to put down. I was on the edge of my seat, wanting to find out what would happen next. The faith of these women was just. . .wow!

This book is a special movie edition, so there are 8 pages of photos from the movie. I cannot wait to see it myself! The author concludes with a short note, and there are discussion questions to go through as well. All in all, this is a great book to add to your family's collection. I think you'll find that it will fuel your faith in God, and hopefully, push you to live out your own faith too.

About The Author:
Tracy Leininger Craven loves history and retelling real life stories in her historical fiction books. She also loves spending her free time in the great outdoors with  her husband David and their four children.

Alone Yet Not Alone (the book)
Written by: Tracy Leininger Craven
Publisher: Zonderkidz 
Paperback: 148 pages 

Now, would you like a FREE copy of this book to read and/or share? Then keep reading, because I've got a giveaway for you! For a chance at this, you can follow me and leave a comment. I'll select a person to receive a copy of this little gem. Your opportunity begins Thursday, August 29, 2013, and ends Thursday, September 5, 2013. Leave your email so I have a way to contact you!
Happy Reading!

About Alone Yet Not Alone (THE MOVIE):
Releases in theaters Sept 27th, 2013 - Find a Theater Here:

Families will love this film based on a true story!  Awarded 5 Doves from the Dove Foundation!


Starring: Kelly Greyson, Natalie Racoosin, Clay Walker, Jenn Gotzon, Joanie Stewart, Ozzie Torres, Tony Wade.

 "Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in 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."

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Family Hope Center - A Review

Most parents take for granted the  health of their children. And we probably don't take much time to ponder the inner workings of the brain. Why would we? I can't say that I've thought too much about the subject. Then I was sent the DVD Understanding Child Brain Development put together by international speakers and Child Brain Developmentalists Matthew and Carol Newell from Family Hope Center .

They take a unique approach to treating a variety of health issues involving brain function, i.e., autism, epilepsy, down syndrome. Rather than lump everyone together and offer a one size fits all answer, they present an individualized plan to help every child reach his/her fullest potential.

Through this roughly 2 hour DVD that was put together from one of their seminars, the Newell's provide an alternative solution for your children's health that doesn't necessarily include drugs. They hope to put parents back in the driver's seat, and help their kids reach their full potential. They do this by teaching some of the brain's characteristics, the how's, what's, why's of various behaviors   and natural ways to possibly treat them.

The DVD is divided into chapters, so you should be able to view the section you like without having to digest such a large amount of information. I was not able to do that with my DVD though, for some reason it would not allow me to watch individual parts, although I had no problem watching it straight through.

I have to be honest and say that this was not a DVD that I probably would have sought out to watch. But, I found it quite interesting pretty quickly, as did my husband when he sat down to watch with me. Matthew Newell is a very good speaker, who possesses a nice blend of knowledge and humor. He was pretty easy to follow.

I do think there were areas that could be improved in future DVD's, however. Right now, the DVD is basically a seminar filmed from the back of the classroom. The sound was not so great, and I had the volume turned all the way up, and it still could have been louder. Also, the visuals on the screen within the classroom were mostly cut off, with only a small part visible. Considering all of the information presented, I would have appreciated being able to see a large clear picture of those pictures.

I do not have children with special needs, so I had no immediate need for specific treatments, although there is just good general health advice that applies to everyone. But, we are foster parents, and I think this would be a good resource for other foster families who have kids in their home who would greatly benefit from the material here. I plan to pass this resource on to those I work with in this area for that very reason.

To sum up, except for the minor, and very fixable issues, I think this is a video well worth taking the time to watch. You can find more information, as well as read what other crew members thought of this, by clicking the links below.

Family Hope Center

Understanding Child Brain Development

Price: $19.00 + shipping

To order the DVD, please call 610-397-1737 or you can order Understanding Child Brain Development from IEW

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew

Monday, August 19, 2013

I Am Second - A Review

Actors. Athletes. Musicians. Business leaders. Drug addicts. Your next-door neighbor. People like you. The authentic stories on provide insight into dealing with typical struggles of everyday living. These are stories that give hope to the lonely and the hurting, help from destructive lifestyles, and inspiration to the unfulfilled. 
You’ll discover people who’ve tried to go it alone and have failed. Find the hope, peace, and fulfillment they found. Be Second.

When the opportunity to review this came about, I was intrigued by the idea. A website with a collection of videos to encourage the hurting, the defeated, those in or close to despair. What an amazing idea. I realize that there is no shortage of helpful books and other resources to address any and every issue one could think of, but there's just something about a visual portrayal. Seeing the people who have struggled, who have found themselves wondering where to turn, and then have overcome. . .It touches the heart in a way that text just can't. We need that human connection, don't we? Most of all, we need God!

This site is set up in a very organized way. Pick your area of struggle, and click on the title. You'll then come upon a variety of  short videos by people from all walks of life, some in the public spotlight, some just everyday folks. The setting is simple. just that person in a dimly lit room, sharing their story.
I was excited about this as soon as I began searching through the website. I love to hear personal testimonies! It encourages me so much, and builds my faith. It's reassuring to hear that I'm not alone in my struggles. Far from it! And it makes no difference what background you come from, rich or poor, famous or ordinary, we are all making our journey through this life.

There are so many videos that I might choose to share as an example of what you'll find. This time, I'm choosing the testimony of Stephen Baldwin. I just like the guy, and enjoyed hearing his story. Before he knew Christ, he, like so many of us, was all about his fame, money, career. What did he need with God? And then along comes a housekeeper to shake up the world of Stephen, and his wife. He tells of how she sang songs about Jesus every day. One day, his wife inquired why she only sang about Jesus, to which she replied (after laughing), "You think my only purpose here is to clean your house." The maid went on to give a vision for the future of the Baldwins, and what God could do through them. I love it. Take a look:

That's just one example of the videos found here. If you're looking for encouragement in your faith, please check this out, and share it with your friends!

But that's not all. You can help more of these films be made through Seconds Change. Bring more faith building encouragement to more people by helping. You can make a difference!

About: Seconds Change
Give Change, Make Change- Many more stories are waiting to be told.  You can help.  Commit $2 every Tuesday to build film funds, and your contribution will be used to develop, produce and promote new films. Join the project and become an I am Second insider with access to exclusive content via Facebook.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Reading Kingdom - A Review

Reading has never been a subject that my kids have struggled with. I say that without an ounce of boasting, it simply is what it is. Still, can you get too much practice? I don't think so. This month, we've been reviewing a reading product that is providing that opportunity. Reading Kingdom
is an online program for children aged 4-10 years old, and aids in getting them reading to a third grade level.

This may be used as a stand alone reading curriculum, or as a supplement to whatever you are already using. For us, it was a supplement.
The material uses a patented, and researched six skills method by Dr. Marion Blank, who also happens to be one of the world's top reading experts. These skills cover:

These are all used together to reinforce and cover every reading base.

Before you begin, there is a small checklist to go through. Your child should be at least 4 years old, and able to sit quietly for at least 15 minutes. They should also be able to use the computer mouse. And while your student will be completing this as independently as possible, you should be available to help log on and get started.
Once you've gotten that taken care of, your child will  need to take a skills test to determine the best level  placement. And here is the really important part, do not help your child at all with this!
 The program keeps a record of the mistakes that are made, so it can present the correct lessons, so you can see that if you step in, the results might be inaccurate.

It is supposed to be an independent program, but that doesn't mean that you, the parent, will be out of the loop. This also provides progress reports so you can see at a glance how the lessons are going. You can check in with your account at any time and look at the report to observe the progress. Also, they will be mailed to you, and notified if attention becomes necessary.

This is best worked on at least 4 times per week. Naturally, the more lessons that are completed, the faster that your child will be able to move through the work.
Both of my girls have been working at the third grade level, at the suggested pace. A quick side note, you are not able to move to a different level without completing all of the current level's work. Should you find it necessary to move for whatever reason, contact the support team directly, and they will be able to help you.

I wasn't sure that at this stage, my daughters would benefit much from the program. I figured that they knew what they needed to, and this would sort of bore them. But after even observing the girls as they went through the placement test, I saw that yes, they could benefit from some review and more. It helps that the teaching is done through colorful games.


We actually reviewed this program about a year ago. Honestly, it wasn't my favorite. The biggest reason was that we were using it on the wrong computer! In order to get the most out of these lessons, it is very important that you use this on a computer with a big enough screen, and, you need to have high speed Internet. If you do not have these, prepare to be frustrated, as it will take forever for the pages to load, and your children may begin to make some noise!
The computer we've been using it with this time is way faster, although I will say that the pages still sometimes take more time than we like. However, the lessons have been so much more enjoyable for the girls. Oh, and with a screen bigger than you know, a notebook, we can actually see the images ;)

I am happy to say that having corrected these issues on our side, we've had a much sweeter experience. The evidence is in my daughter asking to do multiple lessons each day! That's a great thing for a child who can be quick to become frustrated with school lessons when they get a bit challenging. It's been good to have this to help her focus on slowing down, and taking the time to read each word, and not gloss over it all, resulting in more mistakes. We have a little ways to go in that area, but she's working on it. I think the pricing is alright, more so for us if we were to choose the monthly option, to split up the payments. That lump sum listed below, and paid for once a year, would be tricky for us. The 30 day free trial makes it worth it to try it and see if it works with your family. You have nothing to lose if it doesn't. I also like that if using the monthly option, you can cancel at any time. Click the links below for more info.

Reading Kingdom

Ages: 4-10 years old

Price: Initial free 30 day trial. Thereafter, $19.99 per month, or $199.99 per year (with 20% discount)
           Additional children get 50% off -$9.99 per month, or $99.99 per year. You may cancel at any

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Have you ever heard of a Lifebook? I hadn't, until we began our foster parent PRIDE classes. Really, to maybe simplify, it's kind of a scrapbook to chronicle the life and events of a child while they are in foster care. Most parents naturally snap lots of photos of their children as they make their way through various milestones.
That's not the case for many kids in foster care.

Foster kids can get bounced around from home to home, and think about the emotional effect that has on them. Where are their photo albums, keepsakes, art projects, and general history? What happens when they have one of those school projects that requires a baby photo? Think about the potential embarrassment and maybe shame at not having anything to share?
And what about later, years down the road, when they may have questions about birth parents, medical history, family. . .can you imagine the sense of loss that can cause?

I've had the subject of Lifebooks floating around my mind a lot over the past year for our foster child. I have the pictures, ideas, keepsakes, and now I need to put it all together so this child has a record of this time of life. I've put it off for too long, and now is the time. That's why I'm writing this post. I hope it will kind of keep me accountable, and spur me to action. I want to record my progress and ideas (in a general way, to protect the privacy of our foster child).

I hope that perhaps this will help someone else out there who wants to do this but doesn't know where to begin. So, there you go, now I'm gonna go and make a few plans. Updates soon!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Bible Study Guide For All Ages - A Review

 I have found that the best way for me to start the day with my children is with daily devotions. It sets the tone for the day, and helps keep the daily stresses of our life in proper perspective. During the school year, our time consists of the daily lessons the girls receive from their Sunday school at church, and  Awana memory work.
Summer is a time when we're more relaxed, and we read from various devotionals. The kids are approaching an age where they are able to work a little more independently, so they will do the lessons separately, and either before or after that, we'll do some of the reading together.
This past month was pretty nice, because we were able to try out and review the Intermediate Study Pages and Bible Book Summary Cards by Bible Study Guide For All Ages .


First, a little information about this resource.
This is a Bible curriculum  that will go through the entire Bible in 416 lessons. There is work in the New and Old Testaments, and timelines and maps for visual aids. It is meant to teach the Bible in "big picture" terms, and the goal is for students to learn how to apply biblical truths to their lives. A feature that I really like is that it can be added into your studies at any time, as there is no specific start time.
You may also be interested to hear that this is not written from any specific denominational view. It is simply taken from Scripture. The company has included a mission statement of what they believe about Jesus, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, and I agree wholeheartedly. They present the Bible, and that's it.

And yet another important bit to share. The lessons are not laid out with Genesis first, and then through each subsequent book in the Bible. They use both Testaments throughout the year. There are some good reasons for this. You get to the life of Christ faster, learn some fundamentals of the Bible as a whole, and, it helps not to get discouraged when you get to certain parts of the Old Testament. I know that last one has often had me losing steam in my Bible reading once I hit Leviticus. Just speaking for myself, I have had more success and interest since I 've been reading from both parts of the Bible this year. So, I think that is a great way to approach these lessons.

Are you ready to get started? Alright, let's do this! Each individual packet includes 26 lessons. You could really just flip to the first lesson, and it would be no problem figuring out how to work through the lesson. But, you don't have to do this, because there are "Quick Teacher Instructions" on the inside of the first page of the packet.
Here you'll find the materials each student needs, and the list is minimal. A bible, crayons, the student pages, Bible Summary cards, and a few optional materials- timeline, maps, song CD.

Then you have 8 different sections to complete the lesson. (It's not going to hurt though if you need to forgo parts of it depending on your pace and needs.)

*Remember It ? - This is a review section for all of the previous work

*Memory Workout - A part of the lesson with drills of different sorts to learn general and important
                                  Biblical facts.

*Guess What. . . - Definitions, vocabulary, history

*Discover the Bible -  Reading the Bible, follow along with illustrations, Q and A about the text.

*Time Line - This is considered an important part of the Bible guide, helping students understand the
                        storyline of the Bible.
*Maps - self explanatory, I think.

*Get Active - A fun activity to take a worksheet break while extending the lesson a bit.

*Apply It! - Students read some text, and then compare it to a similar, modern story, and provide the
                    ending. They then answer questions to apply the lesson to their life.
I want to take a little time to talk about the Bible Book Summary Cards . These are not what you might picture when hearing the word "cards", because they are about 8 x 11 . There are 66 colorfully illustrated cards to represent each book of the Bible. The front has a picture to correspond with the truths/themes of the book. The back provides a little history of the book, and the events included. Then there are questions to go over with the students about the material.
I love the size of these cards, because they make it easier to go through the lessons with 2 kids. No one is crawling over the other in an effort to see. And the illustrations are really. . .hmm, cute doesn't seem to be the right word, but they are! Very inviting, I just like these a lot!

 Okay, so that's the basics of the curriculum. Now, how did we fare with it? Well, 2 thumbs up! What a great Bible program. We have not been unhappy with what we had previously been using, but now to have used this, I see what we've been missing. We've been using this 5 days a week, for the weekdays, and I'm happy to see the enthusiasm of my daughters. This has found a way to blow away the possible stuffiness and dryness of so many others. I really can't say that there is anything that we have not liked about it. The colorful pictures pique the interest of my girls, as do the illustrations within the lessons themselves. Something about a visual aid just helps in retention. And then the extra activities that include drawing, coloring, fill in the blanks, they all just keep it fresh. I'm going to be adding the other lesson packets, and the timelines too.
Time for you to head over to the website, and check out what they have.

Bible Study Guide For All Ages

Intermediate Student Pages - $5.95 per packet (Each packet contains 26 lessons)

Bible Book Summary Cards - $24.95 for all 66 books of the Bible

Ages: Grades 3-4

The Crew reviewed several levels from this company. Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Legacy Documentaries - The Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder - A Review


Oh, did I jump at the chance to review the DVD Little House on the Prairie: The Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder this past month. TOS Crew members were offered this as well as another title from Legacy Documentaries , Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura .
If you're a fan of the beloved T.V. series Little House on the Prairie, you'll recognize the name Dean Butler. He played the role of Laura Ingalls' love interest (and later husband), Almanzo Wilder. And he is also executive producer for this company that has put together some wonderful documentaries.

Honestly, there is not a week that goes by when I don't catch an episode or two of that wonderful show, Little House, so I was really looking forward to seeing this.
Upon receiving this little gem, I had decided to enjoy a quiet preview by myself before including the family. I had barely begun watching when I found myself surrounded by curious children. They were quickly drawn in, asking questions, comparing what they knew from the T.V. show versus the real life of Laura Ingalls Wilder. It was fun!

I'm the type of person who enjoys documentaries anyway, but I will admit that many can be dry and well, boring. This is not that kind of documentary at all. It has a really nice blend of narration, interviews, illustrations, historical reenactments, and photographs.

I know that for me it helped that I came to this with a positive attitude, so I was expecting it to be good, but it really and truly is!
I was familiar with some of the history of Laura Ingalls Wilder, but this filled in the missing blanks. We all know that television can portray events in an idealistic way. Little House on the Prairie showed viewers an often sweet picture of that time period. But certainly the true life story of this remarkable woman was filled with its share of hardship and struggle. The series shows beautiful landscapes of the prairie, clear water, a cozy cabin, and home-cooked meals. What we don't see is the tall grass filled with snakes and bugs, dirt floors, the struggle to keep food on the table through ruined crops, harsh weather, very little money, and so on.

There was a part of me that was discouraged at such a difficult life, which included the death of her infant son, a less than harmonious relationship with her daughter, Rose, and the general struggle to keep their livelihood afloat.
On the other hand, what an amazing testimony to the resiliency of that generation! It made me reflect on my pampered life, and the ridiculous things that I allow to send me into a frenzy. She was an example of making the best of what one had, and always getting back up when life knocks you down.
I don't mean to be dramatic, but they had what we would consider to be nothing, and yet in many ways, they had much more than we do today.

This DVD is roughly an hour, and also includes a little bit of bonus footage, including some behind the scene footage and a chat with Dean Butler. There are also trailers for  a couple of other videos put out by Legacy Documentaries. It was a lovely and nostalgic treat to watch, even if I did find myself near tears more than once! I think I need to grab a copy of the Almanzo DVD as well.  It's also definitely time to re visit those beloved books, and add them to the family read aloud rotation.

This is a great resource whether you want an accompaniment to a history lesson, or just a good, family friendly documentary to enjoy. We need more videos like these! Check them out by clicking on the links below.

Legacy Documentaries

Little House On The Prairie: The Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder - $24.95

Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura - $21.95

Ages: Elementary grades and up

Click to read more reviews about this DVD as well as Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

BrainFood Learning - The Fascinating World of Birds DVD - A Review

Two of my favorite resources to review, are books, and DVD's. This month, our family had the pleasure of watching The Fascinating World of Birds , by BrainFood Learning . They were created by  Bryce Mooney Ph.D, and Jennifer Mooney M Ed.. The two were searching for educational videos that would also be fun to watch. After looking with little success, they decided to put together their own series. Sounds like many a homeschool family, if you can't find the right resource for your child, make your own!
When this little package arrived in the mail, the girls and I found the colorful cover appealing and inviting. Birds featured in this video:

* Ostrich
* Penguin
* Canada Goose
* Owl
* Hummingbird
* Woodpecker
* Macaw
* Pelican
* American Robin
* Eagle

Honestly, when I called the girls to come and watch this, I did not receive an enthusiastic response. After all, it was still summer, and they had other activities in mind. So they sat down with skeptical attitudes as I turned it on. The turnaround in their demeanor within 2 minutes was amusing, as the various birds made their debut onscreen. My eldest popped up, asked me to hit the pause button, because she wanted to grab a notebook so that she could journal as she watched! This was completely her idea. The youngest was not about to be left out, and she also zipped upstairs to get a journal as well.

I didn't go in with any particular expectations. I was impressed with the lovely screen images, and the nice narration by both an adult, as well as a child. I noticed that this even held the attention of our easily distractable toddler. Which reminds me, this DVD is suitable for any age really. As an adult, I liked it, as did the 7, 9, and 1 and a half year old. It has a really nice blend of simplicity and interesting facts, and even fiction that you may have mistakenly believed about some of these featured creatures.

Our main science curriculum has focused on birds this year, which was great. The girls had some of the basic facts already, and they frequently piped up with an enthusiastic, "I learned that!, or "Yeah, I remember that!" There was also plenty of information that they, and I, had not known, so nobody was tuning out with boredom. I'm not sure how they managed to create this in a way that appeals to a young child without being too "babyish" for the older ones, but they did. And both girls scribbled furiously throughout, writing down new facts. Proud momma moment :)

I found the length to be just right, at 44 minutes. Enough time to learn a good amount of information, but not too long for those with a shorter attention span.

The DVD ends with a review section, and this part includes several levels. They begin with easier, basic questions, like, "What kind of bird flies backwards?" and then progress to more difficult ones in the final sections with longer vocabulary words, and definitions, like metabolism, what you call a bird that has toes that point both in the front, and in the back, and so on. I wasn't sure my kids would be into this part, but we all sat shouting out the answers, and cheered when we were correct.

As an added bonus, there are free lesson guides that are available for download with these videos. These are appropriate for elementary students, and will cover about 5 days. They provide expected outcomes, definitions, field trip ideas, and some really pretty, and colorful, classification cards. The end also includes quizzes. Great ways to extend the learning!

The family consensus was beyond positive. I will likely collect the other 2 DVD's in this series as we plan our science for the upcoming year. These are great to use alone or with animal studies. The lesson plans helped put it over the top for me. I recommend this enthusiastically!

Brainfood Learning

Fascinating World of Birds

Price: $14.99

Ages: All ages

The Crew reviewed several great titles in this series. Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew.

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Fast Route to Burnout

The past year and a half has been a roller coaster ride. It's largely due to our decision to become a foster family. That first month was an exhausting, but happy blur. I had no idea that I could love someone (apart from my bio children) before I even met them.

So, those first weeks after our recent placement were spent with me neglecting some things, sometimes even proper meals for myself. I was in a constant flurry of harried activity. There was another little person to care for, and we found ourselves back to diapers and bottles, and sleepless nights.

And the privacy our family had previously taken for granted- gone. Now the doorbell rang often, bringing visits from, caseworkers, licensing reps, attorneys. . . There were more visits to doctors and phone calls from this DCFS worker, and other state officials.

And of course, I still had to homeschool, make meals, keep up with the laundry, and keep a clean house. I could never take the chance that someone might find the house not up to speed.

Well, guess what? It simply is not possible to keep up such a momentum for an extended amount of time, and not find oneself sliding into exhaustion. And approaching burnout very quickly. That's when reality set in. I am not perfect. I do not have it altogether. And that's alright. People actually live in my house, and that means that there are piles, and laundry, and cheerios on the floor. You do what you can, but when you start neglecting yourself, and it sounds cliché, I know, it's a bad place to find yourself.  I know it, because that's where I've been for too long.

You have to realize that you cannot, and will not, please everyone all of the time. I finally realized that lack of sleep, exercise, and lousy eating habits were catching up with me. Exhausted, crabby, I willed myself to put in that exercise DVD. And it was an act of the will. But now, I have a month behind me, and it's making a difference. I'm feeling and looking better. The eating habits still need tweaking, but are improving as well. I still need to get a bit more sleep, but I continue to move forward.

I'm getting better at not feeling the pressure to have everything just so for the caseworker. That's going to take a little more time. I'm such a people pleaser. No one ever said it would be easy, and it's true. But worth it.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Gryphon House - Global Art - Activities, Projects, and Inventions From Around the World - A Review

All it took for me to get excited about this review was the sight of one of the authors' name, MaryAnn F. Kohl. I don't think that I've seen that name in a lot of years. The reason for my enthusiasm is that I associate her with a few of my very favorite art books for young children. I've spent a lot of time paging through her books, and enjoying various crafts and projects with many a preschooler in my care.
This time around, Gryphon House sent me a copy of the book Global Art - Activities, Projects, and Inventions From Around the World to read and implement with my children.

When the book arrived in the mail, I thought I heard giggling when I opened the package. I realized it was me :) I soon had three children crowded around me, clamoring to get hold of this paperback delight. The combination of a book and art, oh it doesn't get any better than that! They share my love of arts and crafts, so their reaction was no surprise.

Now for the details. With nearly 200 pages, this book is filled with all kinds of crafts, cooking projects, and lots of artsy stuff from all over the world. But, this is not a typical art book that may come to mind when you think of the subject.
It's divided into sections by continent and/or cultural group. For example, there are sections to represent Africa, Antarctica, Asia, Europe, North America, South America, and so on.

The art projects come from regional customs, celebrations, and often simply things native to a particular culture.
The emphasis in the book is to focus on the process of the art, not the product. That phrase is deeply ingrained in my mind from all of the early childhood classes I took in college. And I remember it from this very author, whose other art books I have long enjoyed. These activities offer the basic idea, but your child's imagination can take it even further. I've been watching that very thing happen as my girls have been trying out different things in this book.

The beginning of the book includes a key for icons that are include in every project. These include 1 to 3 stars, indicating the experience level, with 1 being easiest.
Then there are icons to see at a glance what medium will be used, whether it be painting, sculpture, collage, or other.
The other icons are a 1,2, or 3, which indicate how easy or difficult it will be in prepping for the activity.

Each individual activity provides a brief description of what the child will do to complete the activity. Then, on the side of the page, is a little cultural note or fact about the region where the art originated. The girls have been just as interested as I have been in reading these little paragraphs and learning new things about other parts of the world.

This book could be used in so many different ways. The obvious way being alongside a world history curriculum.
Of course, using it as we have been this month, in a laid back, just learning for the fun of it during the summer months, has been fun for us too. Look at a few of the things we've been working on. . .

                                               Scarab stones from Egypt.

                                              Hands around the world paper dolls.

Drying out apple heads for apple dolls.
Next up, sugar cube snow sculptures :)

The verdict? Love, love love! This is a great art resource that covers a bunch of grade levels, and certainly can be adapted for even a toddler. It's versatility allows it to be used alone or in conjunction with a history curriculum.  I'm planning my list of other books to purchase from this author and publisher. I am so happy to have been reacquainted with this group of books. Check them out!

Gryphon House

Global Art - Activities, Projects, and Inventions From Around the World

Ages: K-5

Price: $16.95

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew.