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

Thursday, October 31, 2013


Another Halloween has come and gone ( and that's fine with me ;) ) The girls had plenty of fun at various parties, and of course, trick or treating. Here are just a few pictures of the fun.

A very cute raccoon

Pink and black kitty cat

Gotta have those Jack o Lanterns

Trick or Treat!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Moment of Thanks

It's not quite November yet, but I thought that I would get a jump on my Thanksgiving posts. I don't know what it was that brought the particular memory to my mind, but I was remembering a time in my early married days. We didn't have any kids at that point, and I recall wanting so much to be a stay at home mom. I had this idealized picture in my head as to what it would be like, but I just felt the desire to be a mother very strongly.

That dream would be much longer than I could anticipate then. That in itself is a post for another time. But eventually my prayers were answered in the way that I hoped that they would, and so here we are today. I am a stay at home, homeschooling mom. The house is usually in some sort of disarray, there are toys strewn here and there. It's noisy, it's sticky, and I can't even get a moment alone in the bathroom. I dream of sleep, which is ironic, because I can barely get enough sleep to actually dream.

Being in the midst of the general fatigue that comes with the way of life that we've chosen can cause me to forget that I asked for this, that I wanted this more than anything.

After a few days of particularly trying behavior from the kids, and just feeling overwhelmed with the ever present to do list, I remembered that time when I had none of this. My house was a lot cleaner. I had privacy. I could be a lot more spontaneous. If I needed to run to the store, it didn't involve packing up for a half hour first, and then wheeling around cranky and complaining kids.

I realized that I have forgotten to be thankful for this chaos. I forgot that these days, while seemingly endless some days, will pass more quickly than I think. Before I know it, I will have that privacy, and time to sleep in, and the freedom to go and do what I want, when I want. And I will miss this.

So, I will be more intentional and enjoy what I have, and the season of life that I am currently living. I will smile at the sticky spot on the floor. I'll take the time to sit on the couch and snuggle with a kid and a movie. I will remember that God gave these kids to me and I will be thankful and cherish that privilege.  

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

VocabularySpelling City - A Review

So there I was, going about the daily routine of homeschooling our kids, just plodding along. I can't say that I thought a whole lot about our Spelling/Vocabulary program. It's a subject that comes fairly easy for the girls. They do their daily lessons, they're learning the material, they get great scores, so I figured that the program is working. Why in the world then, would I need to change what we're doing?
Yeah, that was what was going through my mind when this review opportunity for the VocabularySpelling City Premium Membership was presented to me, which is available from VocabularySpellingCity .

First, a little information about the website. The title of this online program reveals up front that this is a vocabulary and spelling program. But it goes beyond what many books and/or curriculum offer. This allows you as a homeschooling parent, or teacher in a traditional classroom, to totally customize the word lists to accommodate whatever it is that you are studying. Then, the word lists are used in a variety of activities with the expected goal being to learn the spelling and definition of the words.
You can also choose from their lists that include Homophones, State Capitals, Math words, Science vocabulary, compound words, and even more choices. An appealing feature of this site is that it covers pretty much every age, K-12.

A piece of advice that you would be wise to follow, is to take the time to watch the "how to" videos that are on the site. If you don't, you will potentially waste a bit of time trying to find your way around. I confess that in my initial set up and excitement in getting started, I thought that I would just get it all done myself. I figured it out. . .in time, but after then taking time to watch those videos, found out that it all could have happened sooner.

So, what are some of the activities?

Well, there are virtual flash cards. . .

and a bunch of fun games. . .

Other games that are popular with my girls are the crossword puzzle which is, well, an online crossword puzzle, and hangmouse (hangman, remember that one? :) )

There are also activities that cover handwriting, writing, parts of speech, alphabetical order, parts of speech, all spanning elementary, middle and high school. Wow!

Our word lists pretty much always have 20 words to learn, and I love that as soon as I import them into the program, up pops the definition for all of them. All that the girls need to do is click on a word, and it provides the definition and a sample sentence to put it into context. That has helped them so much, and is one of my favorite features. It's easy to organize the lists, and you can add descriptions for each student, grade, category, whatever you want or need.

The only thing to keep in mind is that when you have a list of 20 or more words, it will take longer to complete the activities. This was an issue at first with some of the games for the girls, because it was tricky for them to figure out some of the words for hangmouse, and the crossword games in particular, and there were more than a few sighs of frustration with 20 words to unscramble. That didn't prove to be too much for them however, because that was and still is, one of the most popular selections to practice with. But I think that it would be a nice feature if the program allowed you to choose a certain number of words off of your lists to use, and not necessarily all of them at once.

We worked on this 4, sometimes 5 days a week. When we reach the end of the week, the girls take their tests, both vocabulary and spelling. You can do these online or print them. Now, usually I would be a traditional paper test kind of person, but the ease of taking them online won me over, and that is the way that we've taken them. And, the girls have the pleasure of having their tests graded quickly, and getting their results that much faster. They like that a lot. And as you would probably expect, this keeps track of the kids' progress, assignments, and where they are at in their lessons.

There are 2 ways to use this site, the basic (which is free), or what we reviewed, the premium. The premium gets you a whole lot more as far as the activities, progress tracking and teacher support. And really, I think the price is fair at $29.99 a year. I feel that there is a lot of bang for your buck, and recommend the premium for sure.

Overall, this has been a good fit for our family. I always know that a resource is a hit when the girls argue over who goes first, and when that has to do with anything school related, that is a beautiful thing.
The only aspect that I would like to see improved is the ease of making your way around the website. As I said, the videos are helpful, and should be watched, but it would be great to see the site changed a little to make it easier to navigate even without viewing them. I'm keeping this in our curriculum for the foreseeable future, as it's proven beneficial for us. With the option you have of checking out the free activities, I would encourage you to click on the links below and see what you think!


VocabularySpellingCity Premium Membership

Ages: K-12

Price: $29.99 per year

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Barbour Publishing - Diary of a Real Payne Book One: True Story - A Review

So, last month I was approached with the opportunity to review this chapter book titled Diary of a Real Payne Book 1: True Story . This chapter book, which has been put out by Barbour Publishing features a plucky young girl from Wisconsin, who has a huge imagination and large aspirations for life. How in the world could I refuse what sounded like such a charming read? I was also pretty sure that my girlie girls, who are enthusiastic readers, would be happy to add a new book to their library.

First things first, let's talk about the book. The star is EJ (short for Emma Jayne) Payne. She is from Spooner Wisconsin, where, according to her, nothing big ever happens there. To quote EJ herself, it is "the single most boringest place in the universe".
On the positive side, she has a wonderful family. There's her mom, who teaches second grade at the local elementary school. The thing that stands out about her mother is her beautiful hair, which is long and blond. And she doesn't put it up with just anything, but with all varieties of items. These include, but are not limited to, chopsticks, pencils, paper clips, and even pipe cleaners, which also happened to save the day at church for EJ's father on one occasion.

Then there's her father. He's the pastor of Vine Street Community Church. He especially loves games, and is quite good at inventing them.
Isaac is EJ's 5 year old brother, and like most siblings, can be the typical annoying little pest, but she loves him.
The last member of the Payne family is a Cockapoo mix dog named, get ready now. . .Matthew Cuthbert T-Rex Payne, but you can call him Bert. You know that with a name like that, he's got to be an awesome dog.

Each chapter begins with a journal entry from EJ. It's very cute too, the pages look like they are from a notebook, the text font is a bit whimsical, and there are little doodle drawings on the pages. After these diary entries, the rest of the chapter is a narration of her day to day life.
Now, one thing about EJ that her parents are continually doing what they can to (gently) reign in, is her very active imagination. She has a tendency to get sidetracked by vivid daydreams. She claims its out of sheer boredom with the little town they live in, but her mother encourages her to see what God may have planned for her even in her ordinary circumstances.

EJ is skeptical though, and that thought takes a backseat as the middle of the book is filled with very cute and zany adventures of this fourth grader and the various people she finds herself interacting with. Then along comes the holiday season, along with the Christmas play. Will she get the coveted role that she desires? Will she finally find the adventure that she craves? I hate to leave you hanging here, but there would be little point in reading the book if I disclosed too much. And honestly, this is such a fun book to read, for grown ups as much as for the younger set! I will say that the ending is a sweet one, and left us looking forward to March 2014, when Book 2 of this series is due to come out :)

We used this as a read aloud with all of us taking turns at a chapter. It was kind of funny to me that my eldest, who loves to read, but not aloud, was not crazy about taking her turn - at first. Once we got rolling into the story, she was actually requesting more pages to read. Success!
I think that the age range of 8-12 years is spot on, and as I said before, I enjoyed reading it myself :) I was also surprised - in a good way- about the price. It lists for $5.99, which in my opinion is a good deal, but to make it even sweeter, you can find it on the website on sale right now for just $4.49. Great to pick up for gifts, don't you think? All the way around, we like this book a lot, and worth checking out.

Barbour Publishing

Diary of a Real Payne Book 1: True Story

Ages: 8-12 years

Price: List - $5.99 but right now you'll find it on sale for $4.49 on the website -yay!

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Easy Slow Cooker Applesauce

Fall is my favorite season of the year, and I especially love the warm, cozy, comfort foods that accompany this time. One of the recipes that I love to make is homemade applesauce. It makes the house smell wonderful, and the best part is eating it while still warm, yum! I was very happy to have a recipe passed on to me that uses the slow cooker. That makes it even better, because I can assemble it all, and leave it to simmer for a few hours while I chase after the kids ;) Try this one for sure, it's sure to be a new favorite for your family.

You will need:

8 cups of apples, sliced and chopped.
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 Tblsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

Mix it all up and put it in a slow cooker. Cook on High for 3 hours, or until apples are tender. Mash up apples with potato masher to desired consistency. So good!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Zondervan - The Homeschool Mom's Bible - A Review

Before our daughters were even close to preschool age, my husband and I decided that we would homeschool. 4+ years down the road, we don't regret the decision. Having said that, I would be lying if I said that there weren't days when my vision gets a bit cloudy, and I need a reminder of why we chose this path.
It was on such a day when I was fighting homeschool fatigue, that I discovered that Zondervan would be sending me a copy of their NIV Homeschool Mom's Bible. I cannot tell you what an encouragement that news was, and I waited for that sweet little package with great anticipation.

I was not disappointed. I didn't have any particular expectations, but I was certainly delighted with what I found when I opened the box. This sturdy, hardcover, Bible, is beautifully illustrated, not only on its cover, but also on the Bible itself. I love a pretty visual, and just the sight of this makes me want to curl up in my comfy chair with a hot cup of tea, and pour through the Scriptures.

What's so special about this Bible? Well, of course, being the Bible is special enough. But this one has been tailor made for the homeschool mom. Inside are 365 daily devotions and prayers that are written by veteran homeschooling mom Janet Tatman, who has over 25 years of experience to her credit. The foreword is given by Vicki Farris, wife and homeschool mom to Michael Farris, whose name you may remember because he is the founder of the Homeschool Legal Defense Association.

 The devotions begin within the first few pages, with a January 1 reading. Each devotion has the page number for the next day's reading at the bottom. That is perhaps the traditional way to read through
the meditations. Another alternative is to use the topical index at the back.
As one would expect after a glance at the title, the subjects of these readings pertain to the homeschooling mom, and those issues unique to that way of life.

I am a believer in Jesus Christ. He is my Savior. And I love that He sees me and cares about what I am going through in life. What really encourages me to my core, and restores my spirit in times of trouble, is when the Lord comes through and speaks through His Word, and/or various circumstances that come my way.
When this review came to me, I was struggling with some things. I was really in need of  a boost to keep me going. I needed a reminder that He does care about the small details of my little life. Well, I got it, and on the very first day that I received this Bible, and began reading. The passage came out of Hebrews 10:35-36 :

"So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised."

It was just like a cool drink of water on the hottest of days. I  love when He gives me little glimpses of Him.

I have been using this in place of my ESV Bible for my quiet times, and I've enjoyed it a lot. I like the daily devotionals, and the topical index makes it handy to quickly look up a subject. There is only one thing that I would change, if it were possible. As they are now, the readings have no Scripture that applies from the very book of the Bible and page that it is on. So, a reading may be in the pages of Isaiah, but the Scripture readings are from somewhere in the New Testament. I would prefer that they address a topic having to do with the page of Scriptures they are found on.
That is the only thing that I would change. I would recommend this, and buy it as a gift for any homeschool mom out there. I look forward to many more days of reading through the   NIV Homeschool Mom's Bible, and I hope that you will consider it when the time comes for you to make a Bible purchase too.



Price: $34.99

Age: No specific, if you can read, you can read this, but it is specifically geared to Homeschool Mom's

Other Crew members reviewed this as well as the KJV
Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew

Friday, October 4, 2013

Rufus and Ryan Go to Church - Book Review

About the book:

Rufus and Ryan is a new series of books for preschoolers, featuring Ryan, an energetic boy, and his stuffed monkey Rufus. Basic Christian and church concepts serve as the foundation of the series, with an additional focus on character traits and development. The text is presented in young Ryan's voice as he teaches Rufus about the concepts he is learning himself. Each story is about 150 words, using age appropriate vocabulary and themes.
Also available now, Rufus and Ryan Say Their Prayers.

You know, even if I didn't have my girls, the first section that I would visit in a bookstore would still be the children's books. I cannot express the sense of calm and contentment that comes over me when I have the opportunity to leisurely browse through the many wonderful selections for kids out there.
When I have the chance to review one, I look forward to it as much, and maybe more than my little rugrats.

This book is a sweet little board book designed to help littles understand what to expect when they attend church services with their families.

Board books are just what our family needs for our busiest little bee, who, at her young toddler age, can be tough on paperbacks. It's also much easier for little fingers to flip through the pages as we snuggle in the rocking chair to read together. The illustrations are colorful, engaging, and overall child friendly. Children can identify with young Ryan, and his cute, stuffed sidekick, Rufus the monkey.

Ryan's mom and dad gently teach him how to navigate through the church activities, and he then guides Rufus. The text is simple and age appropriate for the toddler/preschool set, and this would be a book that young children will enjoy looking at over and over again.

I love that my older daughters are old enough to read aloud to our baby girl, and that they like to do so as well! We each take turns reading to her, and at her age, she loves the repetition, and the cuddles of everyone is great too :) I'm happy to see that this is one of a series so we can enjoy more titles with these characters. I suppose to sum it all up, you could say that this family gives this book 4 seals of approval. Check out the links below to see how to purchase this for the little one in your life.

About the author:

Kathleen Long Bostrom is a published children's author in both the Christian and trade markets. She has a Master's in Christian Education and  a Doctorate in Ministry in Preaching, and she has worked in children's ministry for many years. Kathy and her husband Greg, have three grown children and live in Illinois.

About the illustrator:

Rebecca Thornburgh began illustrating children's books full time in 1996  and today has almost 100 books to her name. Rebecca's vibrant watercolors have been showcased in previous Ideals titles including the new edition of The Story of Christmas. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and two daughters.

Rufus and Ryan Go to Church!

Written by: Kathleen Long Bostrum
Illustrated by: Rebecca Thornburgh
Publisher: Ideals Books
Board Book
Available at

Buy it/Stay connected

"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." 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

A Foster Minute

It may seem an obvious thing to say, but when you decide to foster, something very big to ask yourself is whether you have the where-with-all to commit. Taking in a child is no small thing, and I guarantee,  the road WILL get rocky sooner or later. It's not always a bed of roses to care for a child that is not yours biologically.

Adding to that fact alone is the various issues that will arise due to trauma and/or neglect that the child has gone through. They have experienced  loss, and it reveals itself in so many different ways.

Hopefully, as you all adjust, you become a safe place for your foster child. As such, you can expect some very honest behavior. The question is, do you have the stamina for it? Will you be able to see the case through to the end, whether that end is reunification or adoption?

I guess what I'm saying is that this is not a decision to take lightly. The days can be long and difficult, and sometimes with few bright spots. One needs to consider the long term effects to their own bio family, the foster child, and if they can truly commit.

This may seem like a negative post, and I don't intend it to come across that way. But I do feel that families need to count the cost carefully, and know their strengths and weaknesses. You won't be doing any potential child, or yourself, or your family, any good to take in, and then possibly re-place that child if you decide it isn't working. On the other hand, the feeling that comes when you know that you know that you will see a child through their conflict is a great one, and you can do something amazing in that child's life when they know you are that stable place for them.

Pray, talk, count the cost, then do it.