And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children. Isaiah 54:13 KJV

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Review: In Freedom's Cause from Heirloom Audio Productions

Our family loves audiobooks, and they are a great way to sneak in learning. One of our new favorites is the audio drama In Freedom's Cause from Heirloom Audio Productions. This is the real story of William Wallace and Sir Robert the Bruce as they led the battle for Scotland's independence. This exciting story really draws the listener into the historical events that unfolded as Scotland struggled to break free from English rule. This isn't just the reading of a book on disc, it is a radio theater production with voices, sound effects, and more. I received the In Freedom's Cause Single Package which includes the In Freedom's Cause 2 disc CD, In Freedom's Cause Study Guide, In Freedom's Cause soundtrack (MP3 download), and a printable copy of The Prayer of William Wallace. 
In Freedom's Cause Audio CD Review
The quality of the production is so impressive. The voices come from actors like Billy Boyd (Lord of the Rings), Joanne Froggatt (Downton Abbey), and Skander Keynes (Chronicles of Narnia). These terrific actors really brought life to the story. The story comes from G.A. Henty and the great musical score is from John Campbell. The music really adds to the drama and anticipation of the story. My kids were so wrapped up in this history of Wallace and the other characters. Speedy did ask why we needed to learn about Scottish history since we are American. I was able to relate it back to America fighting for independence from England as well. Both kids were really able to follow along with the story and have already asked to listen to it a second time. 
While I think just listening to fascinating history like this is educational, I like to ask the kids questions to make sure they are really digesting the information presented. We talk about the audio stories we listen to whether they are fiction or nonfiction. With this 2 disc CD, I was given some special downloads as part of the review package. I received the components of the single package as well as access to a full download of the audio drama, a printable cast poster, and an In Freedom's Cause ebook. The 49 page study and discussion guide was particularly useful. The study guide included some terrific extra information as well as questions to ask. There are "Listening Well" questions for comprehension, "Thinking Further" questions for reasoning, and even vocabulary words. We do our audio book listening in the car, so I spent time reading ahead and looking at questions on the study guide before we listened to the disc. The study guide is insightful and contains questions to fit different levels of thinking. It was great to have questions ready to go since I usually have to think of them myself! 
"It is very interesting and funny", says Speedy.
Apple says, "I LOVE IT!

Like most families, we spend a lot of time in the car. We find that many radio stations don't reflect our values so audio books have become a staple for our family. With at least a 20 minute drive to most of our destinations, we have listened to quite a few. I can easily say this Christian audio drama has been one of our very favorites. I personally love the historical aspect and educational aspects while the kids really enjoyed the action and adventure of the story. This is a great package for homeschooling families or anyone that loves an exciting escapade. This is one of those wonderful tools that will get your children interested in history and they won't even realize they are learning while they are listening. 
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Monday, February 23, 2015

Review: IndoctriNation the Movie

Educating our children involves so many personal choices, and parents must decide what is best for their family. Great Commission Films movie IndoctriNation is a great place to start for any family that is considering home education. We never thought we would home school, but it is what we feel called to do and we evaluate and pray about our decision constantly. I'm happy to do this review for the Schoolhouse Review Crew because I think this movie gives some great reminders about the issues in the public school systems. 
IndoctriNation DVD Review
IndoctriNation is an in-depth look at public schools in the United States. Colin Gunn and his family loaded up in a big yellow bus and traveled the roads of America for 3 weeks to learn more about the American school system. Colin (who was born in Scotland) and his wife homeschool their 7 children. The film explores bullying, sex education, abuse by authority figures, teen pregnancy, drugs in schools, and other issues. The statistics are staggering in each of those areas. The movie takes time to look particularly at the struggle of Christian children and Christian teachers in the public schools. 
My husband and I spent time watching this movie together. The DVD contains the 102 minute film and some extra features like deleted scenes. An interesting topic addressed by Gunn is whether our children should be in the school as missionaries or "salt and light" to unchurched kids. This movie takes the time to make specific points about why this doesn't work. Teachers and kids in the school system that attempt to bring their faith to school with them are often shut down or shut out. For students, it is often too difficult to remain in the minority as a practicing Christian in a public school. Especially for young children, I think this is an unrealistic expectation for them to find a way to live out their beliefs in the midst of reading and math. This film interviews some teachers and school officials who have tried to go into the public schools with their faith. They have some interesting stories they share about the difficulties they have faced. 
This movie serves as a great reminder for us. Our reasons for homeschooling are numerous but some of the top reasons are addressed in IndoctriNation. We want to be the ones to raise up our kids. We want to be the adults spending the most time with them each day. We want them to understand our beliefs and our history and why we believe the way we do. We feel strongly that God directs us to raise up our children and for us, for our family, that includes home education. We spend a big portion of our school time talking about God. We focus on character and morals. I feel like our kids have a much better chance to be strong in their own beliefs if we are able to foster them at home through childhood, the tween years, and the teens. 
In this age of Common Core, many parents are questioning the public school system. If you have considered homeschooling your children, if you currently homeschool and are considering returning your children to public school, or if you know someone that is thinking of taking the homeschool journey, I think IndoctriNation could be beneficial for you. I even recommend it to my friends who have kids in public school and don't intend to remove them. It's a good idea to watch it and see what your child may be facing in school that you haven't even thought about. Schools are not the same as they were when I attended public school. Whether you have children in public school or not, I hope you pray for your local schools, school leaders, and students. They are a part of our community even if we are not directly involved with them. 
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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Budget Battle

Our biggest struggle is still dining out. Just keeping it real. It is hard to eat at home 3 meals a day, 7 days a week. It just doesn't happen every time. I think being aware of it and paying attention to the cost is the key. I'm writing down EVERYTHING while I work to keep us on a budget. I'm low-tech. I've always kept a notebook to keep up with bills. Now I have pages to track all of our expenses- gas, groceries, clothing, dining out, etc. It's great to look and see how much we spent last week or last month in a particular area.

We are also working on an envelope cash system. I originally priced wallets designed for the purpose but they are expensive! Who wants to spend money to stay on a budget? I pulled out an old planner and filled it with some regular envelopes. Money spent=$0

Moral of the story. Track your money. All of it. Every penny. See where your money is going and decide where you can/ should tweak the flow. Keep your receipts and post them in your low tech notebook or computer program a couple of times a week. 

How do you track your money? Do you use an envelope system?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Just Over a Month Away

{Affiliate links are included in this post.}

In just over a month, Hubby and I will be headed to Nashville to enjoy our very first homeschool convention. Teach Them Diligently will be at the beautiful Opryland Hotel March 19-21. Big names like Dr. James Dobson, Israel Wayne. Ken Hamm, and Rachael Carman will spend the three days sharing and encouraging parents. I can't decide if I'm more excited about the speaker sessions or the HUGE exhibit hall full of curriculum vendors! (My name is Edie and I'm a curriculum junkie.) TTDNASHVILLE 2105 250

If you are near Tennessee and you need encouragement, curriculum, or just some time to gather with other homeschoolers then I hope you will consider TTD. Although we've never been I've heard so many amazing things about it. There are programs for teens, kids, and a special men's breakfast!

Teach Them Diligently will be in 3 other cities as well! Find out more about TTD.

Ice Day!

Here in Tennessee, we are on day #2 of the ICE. It is sunny today so things are thawing out a bit but with cold temps forecasted for the rest of the week, things are at a halt. Schools are closed, church services are being canceled, kitchens are stocked with milk and bread. Of course home school doesn't have to cease due to a little ice or snow!

I have not made my "Snow Day Soup" but I did make a pot of Taco Soup and a pot of chili yesterday. Today I have my first attempt at white chicken chili in the slow cooker.

The kids did school yesterday morning then took a break lay with some kids from the neighborhood. They came back in to finish school and then spent the whole afternoon sliding on the ice and playing. Last night they decided to do most of today's work so they would have the majority of the day to play with friends who are out of school due to the ice. They've been out most of the day other than a short lunch break inside. I'm glad we are in a neighborhood now where there are other children. Schools here are also out tomorrow so I see a repeat this evening and tomorrow. I reminded the kids this morning what a blessing we have with our flexible home school schedule!

What's the weather like in your area? Do you enjoy snow/ ice days?

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Budget Battle

Doing something different is usually hard. Stretching ourselves is necessary but not easy. This week I gave up my daily cups of coffee from my Keurig. Now don't misunderstand. I didn't give up coffee altogether. Back in 2012, I got a Keurig Vue from House Party. I was so, so, so excited. I love the Vue and the wonderful, steamy cups of coffee it gave me each morning (and most afternoons). I kept my original Keurig for a little while but I loved the Vue so much that I couldn't see going back. I sold the original Keurig and had a long, wonderful relationship with my Vue until recently. I could go into a long drawn out explanation of Keurig's recent changes but that isn't what this is about. Let me just say that Vue cups are now only available online or at Bed, Bath, & Beyond. The closest store is a long trek from me and it was becoming a hassle to go there for coffee. Vue cups are not cheap (at all) and I've had issues ordering them online before. I struggled through it for awhile before deciding the Keurig Vue needs to be put on break. The coffee was eating up a big portion of our grocery budget and it wasn't feasible. So now my beloved Vue is shoved into a corner and a sleek new traditional brewer has center stage on my counter. It hasn't been easy. The coffee isn't the same. 8 minutes to brew vs under a minute feels like an eternity. I may have actually cried over this. It's so silly. I know. I'm happy to report that after a week of drinking "regular" coffee, I'm almost acclimated. It can be done. It is hard, but it is possible.

What has been your biggest struggle as you try to maintain a budget?

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Budget Battle

We are still moving along on target with our intentional 2015 budget. Staying out of the store (in real life and online) is key. So is paying in cash, always knowing what I have available to spend in each category, and sticking to my list.

Hubby and I had a date last night. We try to have a dinner or movie date once every couple of months. It is imperative that couples make their marriage a priority after kids! We used a gift card we received at Christmas along with a coupon. Our meal cost us almost nothing out of pocket and the food was great! It was a shorter date than normal though. Usually we'd go to the movies or shopping after dinner, but we didn't want to spend any more money so we cut it short. It was still some sweet time together without the kiddos.

I am not good at asking others for help or favors. I'm trying hard to overcome this issue. I actually won tickets to Teach Them Diligently from Bible Based Homeschooling! YAY! In order to make the trip feasible for us, I had to ask family friends if we could stay with them overnight. They are happy to oblige, and we are excited to see them. It was difficult to ask for the favor, but I'm so glad I did. We will also be taking another short trip in a few months (our vacation for the year) and we will be staying with other friends rather than shelling out the money for a hotel. We are so blessed by friends that are willing to open their homes to us and now we have some things to look forward to doing without breaking our budget.

If you have your own budget battle, consider places and people you could visit rather than taking a traditional vacation this year. If that isn't a possibility for you, then think about someone who might like to take a trip with you. We've shared cabins, hotel rooms, and condos with friends and family in the past. It is a great way to cut your lodging bill in half!

Duck Devotions

I received a free copy of this book from Tommy Nelson in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own. 

There are so many devotionals on the market for adults and kids. Finding one the right one can be difficult. If you are looking for a great devotional for your kids it is important to make sure:

*It is age appropriate. The words and material doesn't need to be over their head or they will miss the point. On the flip side, if they pictures and wording are below their age level then they will also lose interest. Before selecting a devotional, thumb through it to make certain it is targeted to your child's age and reading ability.

*It must be interesting. If you aren't interested in a book then you will put it down and not pick it back up. Kids feel the same way. If you want your child to really read a devotional every day, then choose one that piques their interest. 

*It matches up with your beliefs. Again it is important to take a few minutes to read through all or part of a devotional to make sure the author has similar beliefs to your own or read with your child so you can discuss differences in opinion. 

The new Duck Commander Devotions for Kids met all of our requirements. This fun, hard cover devo was written by Korie Robertson (of the Duck Dynasty fame) and her mother Chrys Howard. They teamed up to bring kids this great book filled with their own family stories, Bible verses, prayers, and actions to put the ideas in motion. The colorful illustrations by Holli Conger just add to the appeal. Speedy is reading this devo every night and loves it. The stories are engaging and interesting. I think I like the actions for each devo the most. For a devotion on love the action is a collage craft with a heart and cutouts or drawings of things they love. How awesome is that? 

Check out a special sneak peek of Duck Commander Devotions for Kids then enter the giveaway for your chance to win a copy. 

Friday, February 6, 2015

More Soup for You!

Meals are tough. They are hard for home school families. They are hard for stay at home moms. They are hard for working parents. They are hard for single parents. It is difficult to find enough time in the day to cook, clean up after cooking, eat, shop, and repeat. Restaurants are big business but eating out is expensive, and quite frankly it is usually not good for you or your kids. What is a mom to do?

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A few years ago, some friends and I did a short lived freezer meal exchange. I really loved doing it! We would make large quantities of freezer meal and then exchange. One afternoon of cooking equaled a week or more of meals. Plus there was a variety in eating meals made by another mom. Had my friends and I lived closer to each other I think our little exchange would have lasted longer. Being on different schedules and living in 4 different directions made it hard to keep it together. Courtney Allison, Tina Carr, Caroline Laskow, and Julie Peacock came up with a similar idea. They are neighbors who started a soup exchange. The four of them took turns delivering meals to one another in the form of soup. From their idea came The Soup Club Cookbook.

I expected this to be an all soup cookbook, but I was pleasantly surprised. There are plenty of soup recipes (hot, cold, meat, broth,etc) contained in these 240 pages. Hearty, pureed, seafood, chili? There's a soup for everyone. I have so many I want to try! From their take on classics like chili and Chicken Tortilla soup to new ideas like Post- Thanksgiving Turkey and White Bean Soup, I'm certain you will find recipes you will be interested in as well. I must give my standard cookbook disclosure that there are some recipes in here that call for ingredients I've never heard of before. Maybe substitute something more southern in place of sunchokes......Many of the recipes call for herbs. I need to get my herb seeds going ASAP!

I am most excited about the salad dressing recipes in here! They are all very exciting. There are also some salad and side dishes included. If you enjoy cookbooks, soup, trying new things, laughing at ingredients you've never heard of, and/ or taking meals to others then this is the cookbook you need to put on your wish list. Warning: These recipes are intended to feed a crowd (like 4 families) but with a little math you should be able to taper it down. I'd recommend freezing the extra portions if you aren't planning to exchange them.

Spark Their Interest in History

I have always enjoyed studying history. In high school, I received an award my senior year for taking so many history classes. I've found the best way to get my kids interested in various time periods and events in history is to find the right book. Or let them watch Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure....but I'd never do that....ahem. 

I received a free copy of this book from BookLook in exchange for my honest review. 

Patriots, Redcoats, and Spies is a fiction book about twin brothers that become accidental messengers during the American Revolution. Lamberton Clark, father of the 14 yr old boys, is a Patriot and spy. When he is shot while retrieving a message for George Washington, he must send his boys to the general with the secret document.

This book is action packed. From the first pages, the chase is on. John and Ambrose must travel carefully and trust no one. This fictional story contains quite a bit of real history from figures like General George Washington, to reference to the the Culper Spy Ring, to places like Kings Ferry. The glossary in the back of the book is helpful to kids who are just beginning to learn about the American Revolution. 

Exciting stories like these are the perfect way to pique your child's interest in history. Now that Apple has read this book she is seeking out more information on 1777 and the Patriots. I mean they won the Super Bowl and everything! (Just kidding. Really.) While we aren't specifically studying this time period in home school right now, when we get to this period she will already have a head start on some of the names and places. 

Robert J. Skead and Robert A. Skead are already working on book #2 of the American Revolutionary War series. An excerpt of Submarines, Secrets, and a Daring Rescue is included in the back of Patriots, Redcoats, and Spies

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 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, February 2, 2015

Budget Battle

We have survived another week on budget! YAY! It was tough, but we made it. Did you watch the Super Bowl yesterday? We are big football fans, and normally we are the Super Bowl party people. We always have over friends and family. This year we were not the Super Bowl party people. To be honest, it made me sad. I love having a crowd of people over to eat and watch the big game. We no longer have cable and the channel hosting the game was a channel we haven't been able to pick up on our antenna so we couldn't have people over to watch with us.

To be fair, we were invited to a few parties and places to watch the game, but we decided to stay home. We saved our gas. The kids were excited about the game so we popped some popcorn, made some cookies, and huddled around the laptop. I'm so thankful that the game was streaming online for free. The kids had to go to bed before Seattle was so sadly defeated. What was up with that pass? So we spent $0 on the Super Bowl. At least the Carters got a victory!

We had another family over to eat with us earlier in the weekend. I couldn't bear to do chili and hot dogs again so we made a taco/ nacho bar. It wasn't very expensive, fed all 8 of us, and was really good! 2lbs of ground beef cooked with taco seasoning and put in the slow cooker to keep warm, a bag of the delicious black beans I made a couple of weeks ago (yay freezer beans!), chips, tortillas, salsa, diced onion, diced jalapeno, sour cream, shredded cheese, black olives, tea, and homemade brownies. It was a feast y'all. I worried it wouldn't be enough food. It was plenty and everyone enjoyed.

If you are facing your own budget battle in 2015, I encourage you to host inexpensive dinners with friends. It's something to look forward to each week or so and it doesn't have to cost a lot of money. We've spent several Saturday evenings eating with friends and then playing Phase 10. It's just a break from the monotony of trying not to part with any cash.

What budget victory did you have this week?