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

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Word of the Year 2017

I have had a Word of the Year each year since 2010! That's a pretty good run if you ask me. :) Some years have been filled with success and others were not. I've decided I won't have a Word of the Year for 2017. I thought I would. I prayed and pondered.

I tried to force a word just so I'd have one. The best word I could come up with is "Better". Hmph. Not too exciting. Didn't really fulfill what I want and expect for 2017. I think it's just not meant to be for this New Year.

I still have plans and goals in mind. I have lots of things that I hope will improve in the New Year. I'm always setting goals and stretching and reaching for new things (otherwise I get bored!). Honestly though I feel expectant about 2017. There are changes already happening and changes coming. I don't want to get so stuck on my own goals that I miss out on what the Lord has planned for us. I don't want to be so busy sticking to my plans that His plans go unnoticed.

I don't disparage any of you with Words and goals for 2017! In fact...I wish I was one of you! That's my comfort zone. A plan of action. A specific goal to meet. Then it feels a little like I'm in charge. This just isn't the season for that for me though I guess.

So I can't make you any broad promises. I don't know what the blog will look like in 2017. I already shared that I wasn't joining The Schoolhouse Review Crew this year (sob...still sad). I hope to keep writing and sharing with you some.

For now, for this last week of 2016 (feeling a little sense of relief that we've almost made it to the end!), I'm rearranging our school room and praying over our school days for this new semester. We need some renewal. Some fresh perspective. A change of pace.

Where are you at this week? Do you have your Word of the Year or goals locked down? Are you prepping for the New Year and new semester? Do you feel dread or expectation about 2017?

Friday, December 23, 2016

This Christmas Season

This Christmas season has been a little different for us. The kids aren't in any sports. We are still visiting churches so there were no practices or special programs this year. "Regular" life (work, school, etc.) has kept us busy so we haven't felt like we had a lot of downtime, but there definitely hasn't been the super crazy, frenzied rush that we feel most years. We've still stuck with some of our favorite traditions- local Christmas parade, lights at a local State Park, time with family and friends.

I've missed some of the things that we didn't participate in this year but I've enjoyed the slower pace. Even with the slowness, I've barely finished all my shopping and Christmas prep in time. I got out the Christmas cards but all the decorations never made it out of the attic. We fixed treats for neighbors but didn't get any lights on the outside of the house. The house is tidy, but there hasn't been time for my normal big cleaning days.

The older I get the more I realize that things will carry on and seasons will come and go but they aren't going to look the same every year. I'm hoping Christmas next year will be different...but the same...if that makes sense to anyone else. I want my beloved traditions to remain, but I hope we are involved in a local church. I want to do all my decorating and prepping, but I want plenty of time to spend with family and friends. I want my kids to be enthralled with the season but not as wild and crazy as they have been this year. Ya know...

I read a version of The Christmas Carol and read it aloud to them. That was fun and new for us. Sometimes one little new thing can make the season feel complete.

Has your Christmas season been the same or different this year? Are you ready for Christmas?

A Merry Christmas to each of you who read this. May the peace and love of Jesus surround you and your family.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Hospitality Update

As 2016 comes to a close, it's fun to look back at my word of the year and reflect. I wanted to make hospitality a priority in 2016. There were successful months and some less successful months. All in all, I believe we had a great number of people in our home at various times, and I think they all felt welcome and comfortable here. While hospitality won't be my #1 goal for 2017, I hope the things I have learned will carry on.

I knew going into this challenge I set for myself that I would need to keep the house in better order. While I have always been a neatnik, part of hospitality is always being prepared for company. I've settled into a reasonable routine this past year. I finally have an attack plan that keeps my house neat and tidy most of the time. The kids each received more chores this year so they have lightened my load. Keeping a loose cleaning schedule is working for us. I pick a day (usually Saturday or Monday) and spend about 3 hours picking up and cleaning the house. Then the kids and I take on jobs throughout the week to maintain the house.

One thing that took me nearly a year to figure out is that I also need to have myself at ready. A few weeks ago I realized I'd feel better (and more prepared) if I would get up and get dressed and fixed up each day. I've gone back and forth in this area (much as I have a regular house cleaning schedule). The first advice I've always given stay at home moms who are struggling is to get up and get ready every morning. There's something about a shower, fresh clothes, and dry hair that makes us feel more prepared for the day. When we first moved to this little town, I realized people might drop by more often. I got caught in my bath robe several times. I went through a short time of getting up and readying myself each day. Sometime after we bought our home and moved again, I lost the habit. It can be a difficult task depending on which schedule Hubby is working. Now that there are specific days that we have to go out of the house and so I know I must get ready those days. I recently realized I would be more motivated during the week if I'd just get up and get ready. It makes a difference for sure. I hope I can stick with it so I won't be embarrassed when someone pops in for a visit! It's a tough challenge some days though especially as the weather is getting colder!

While the month isn't quite finished, we've done well with hospitality this month. We had a gathering earlier in the month, and we will have a number of family members in and out in the next couple of weeks. We won't be hosting any other large Christmas gatherings, but we will enjoy the hospitality of others as we attend some!

It was fun this year to have a quantifiable goal that I feel like I met. It was nice to reflect back each month and give you all an update. I'm still praying and pondering over a word for 2017. At this point, I'm not sure there will be a word!

How did you do for your goals in 2016? Do you have goals already set for 2017?

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A Different Set of Scripture for the Season

At Christmas time, we tend to focus on the traditional verses about the birth of Jesus. During this special season of Advent it seems we return to those same verses again and again. Prompted by a sermon I heard over the weekend, I opened my Bible to 1 Peter 1 this morning. It seemed like a good place to begin the day with the Lord. As I read over the familiar words, I felt like they were just what I needed for this time of year. I thought perhaps some of you might need them today too. I've enhanced the words that spoke to me the most in this season.

1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ:
Grace to you and peace be multiplied.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.
10 Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, 11 searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. 12 To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things which angels desire to look into.
13 Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; 15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”
17 And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; 18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. 20 He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you 21 who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
22 Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, 23 having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, 24 because
“All flesh is as grass,
And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass.
The grass withers,
And its flower falls away,
25 But the word of the Lord endures forever.
Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.

"In this you greatly rejoice, though for a little while now, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials..."
Haven't we all been in those seasons? It feels very much like my family has been grieved by various little trials all throughout 2016 but especially in the last few weeks. Most of them are minor annoyances but all piled together I have had moments of despair and hopelessness. I never stay in that place long though because my faith does find me praising, honoring, and glorifying Jesus Christ who brings us so many blessings each day. 
If you find yourself in a season of hopelessness, in a time of despair, turn to the Word of God. Rekindle your faith. Look around for your blessings. Don't dwell in the dark places but rejoice in the light of our Savior and the beautiful message of His birth. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Gained and Lost

This was a post from 2010:

What has been lost & gained in 2010.....

I know it isn't over yet, but the the end of the year is quickly approaching! This post has been on my mind for the last few days. I'm going to try to get my rambled thoughts into a coherent post.

2010 has been an interesting year for our family. It feels as though it has gone by so, so quickly but yet as I think back to January, February, March they feels as though they were long ago.

We have already lost 2 families from our church congregation (soon to be 3) to the missions field this year. Oh how I miss them! As we prepare for the third family depart, I feel the longing for the others more acutely than I have in the last couple of months. Will you pray for all our missionary friends? The R family to Norway, the N family to Saipan, and soon the S family to Uganda. To be honest my husband and I have just really began to understand international missions in the last 3 years. Prior to that I always thought there was more than enough missions work in our own country that needed to be done. Why go so far as Africa or Norway? Why send so much money to other nations when so many in our own nation are struggling? Our country does need more missionaries, more people to stand up and say "I believe in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for me. I'm going to live, and speak, and behave so that everyone knows about Him." Many in our nation are struggling financially and could have much to gain from assistance. But oh, the Lord has changed our hearts. He has gently reminded us over and over of Matthew 28:19-20 "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." Meeting so many missionaries from all over the world, watching friends heed God's call to other nations, and my hubby going on his first international missions trip has forever changed our hearts. So if you feel the way that I use to feel, I urge you to read deeper into God's word and to seek out blogs and articles on the things happening all over the world in the name of Christ.

We have lost loved ones. Dear friends lost their infant early in the year. We have seen again that the loss of a child bears so much pain. God reminded us in Matthew 5:4 "4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." I was so grateful for that reminder because later in the year, my grandma passed away. Still feeling the pain of loss from my father's passing, I wasn't ready to let go of someone else so near and dear to me. I feel though that I have gained understanding of the importance of God's timing and that His plans are so much better than mine could ever be. This was also a difficult time for Apple as she and Grandma had a close relationship. I feel like even though she is still sad and feels the loss, it has been a wonderful opportunity to show her a deeper understanding of Heaven.

On a personal note, I have lost 30 lbs this year and 3 pants sizes. Woohoo! I have gained a love for Zumba. I need to lose more weight and I hope to do so in 2011. I think this has helped me to see that it is perfectly acceptable to spend a little time and thought on myself and my health. It is so easy for me to engross every minute into my children and my husband. I know now that spending some time exercising is a great stress reliever and will help insure that my health will not one day prevent me from enjoying time with them. In all of that I have also seen this year how quickly just about anything worldly can become an obsession, eating, exercising, blogging, facebooking, television, reading. There are so many snares available to keep us from God. I hope in 2011 to be even more diligent about my priorities and just making certain that all things are done in moderation.

We have in a sense "lost" friends and family members to divorce this year. An alarming number really. We have seen many separations and rifts in marriages too. Satan loves to attack the family. He loves to bombard marriages. Please pray for yours and mine! It is so very easy to become selfish in marriage. It is so easy to start a line of thinking of "I deserve......" This was one of my statuses on FB earlier in the year "Do you work as hard at your marriage as you do your job? Do you treasure your marriage as much as your hobbies? Do you fight for it like you fight for your friendships? Do you pray for your marriage like you pray for your material desires? Do you love your spouse like Christ loves the church?" And these were the verses that played over and over again throughout the year Col 3:18-21 "Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged." Does Christ expect us to stay married? Absolutely!!! Does He expect us to be bitter and unhappy? No. BUT we are to live our lives in service to Him. Not for our own pleasure. Part of our service to Him is following scripture which clearly includes do not divorce. It is gut wrenching to see the father of 3 walk out because "he is unhappy." It is painful to watch him chose another woman and her child over his wife and children. It is heartbreaking to see a husband and wife chose hobbies, friends, and work over their spouses. It is terrible to see a wife chose revealing clothing and flirtation over her husband. Guard your marriage as you would a treasure. Choose to love your spouse everyday.

I have lost friendships over silly things, nothing at all, and some over reasons unknown to me. I try very hard to be a good friend. I try to be someone that is trustworthy, helpful, and a joy to be around. I try to give in every relationship expecting little in return. Sometimes however this just doesn't work. I have found this year that sometimes things just aren't going to jive. Do I expect everyone to be my best friend? Obviously not but I do treasure friendships. Growing up in the environment that I did, friendships were vital to my survival. As a teenager I could truly depend on my friends more than my own family in many situations. I, as most women, really value friendships. Other women that I can talk to, confide in, and bounce ideas off of, are really a blessing to me. Our choice as a family to walk out our journey with Christ has cost us some friendships. Our choices about homeschooling, traditions, and lifestyle have cost us some friendships. My specific choices in a few instances to choose my husband and children over friends have cost me. I will not apologize for those things. I will say that I am saddened by those losses. I carefully chose those that I draw closest to me (as I belive everyone should) and so friendships that have spanned 20 yrs, 10 yrs, and 3 yrs are big losses. I continue to pray that feelings will be restored and that healing will happen in all of those friendships. God has shown me that community and friendships are so important to our spiritual maturity. He has shown me what a blessing real true friends can be. Pray for your friendships, that they be strengthened by a love for Him!

I have gained a love for homeschooling, a new found respect for law enforcement, a host of new friends, a Panera Bread in my hometown (one of my favorites), and a renewed sense of awe for our Savior.

What have you gained or lost this year?

It's amazing how many of these words are just as fresh and valid as they were 6 years ago. So many of the things are the same. Loss of loved ones, loss of friendships, and loss of marriages around us. When I reflect on these things, it seems like we can never do enough. We must be in prayer and conversation with those we care about. We must be about the Lord's business sharing His word with those around us. Of course to share His word, we must be in His word memorizing it and studying it daily. 

I'm still praying over my Word of the Year for 2017. I've looked back over previous years, and I've been thinking ahead to the things I'd like to accomplish in 2017. I think one reason it is taking me longer to find my word is because I want to make sure the end result will be pleasing to the Lord and not just to myself. While I always pray about the choices and my goals, I want to make certain this year that it will bring glory to God in some way. 

Have you chosen your word of the year yet? 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Hospitality Update

November is a fun hospitality update! We hosted 42 people in our home for a Thanksgiving feast. This is our second annual dual family celebration at our home. My Hubby's family came from out of state, my family came from all around the region, and even a few friends joined us. We had sososo much food. It was amazing and wonderful. I snapped one pic of a couple of the kids with the first plates of food, and then I decided I didn't want to spend the whole time tied to my phone. I put my phone away and really enjoyed chatting with each person that was here. I hopped from table to table and place to place to make sure everyone had everything they needed and to make sure to speak with each person even if it was only for a few minutes.

One reason we picked our house was because of the large amount of living space. It's perfect for large gatherings. I enjoyed this year so much. Although a lot of work goes into the cooking and cleaning, my mom lends a hand and really helps pull it altogether. Hubby also did a lot of work to get things together including frying 2 turkeys. Speedy made brownies for the meal, and Apple made wassail. She was also around all that morning to assist when needed.

The planning pages I created really helped. We did a little shopping at a time over a span of a few weeks. I also was able to write my yearly notes on the same pages and tuck them away into my family planning notebook for next year. I always keep up with all the folks that attended and all the food we had. Years and years ago we started that tradition at my mom's, and we've continued it here. It's fun to look back and remember the Thanksgivings past.

Did you host a Thanksgiving feast? Did you try anything new this year? We added corn casserole to our menu. It was well received and will replace traditional corn next year.

Our Favorites from 2016

The Homeschool Review Crew has wrapped up its 2016 run and they have announced the Blue Ribbon Award winners for the season. Many of our favorites made the winner's list.

We reviewed products that won in all 21 of these categories:

Favorite Reading Curriculum – Logic of English
Favorite Writing Curriculum –  Here to Help Learning
Favorite Vocabulary Program –  The Critical Thinking Co.
Favorite Spelling Program –  Talking Fingers: Read, Write and Type
Favorite Penmanship Program –  Homeschool Copywork
Favorite Literature Curriculum –  Institute for Excellence in Writing: Poetry
Favorite Literature Resource –  Heirloom Audio
Favorite Science Curriculum –  Apologia: Astronomy
Favorite Fine Arts Product/Curriculum –  ArtAchieve
Favorite Elementary Product –  Veritas Press
Favorite Middle School Product –  Apologia: Writers in Residence
Best E-Product –  Grapevine Studies
Favorite Book, Novel, Audio Book, or Audio Drama –  Heirloom Audio
Just for Fun! –  FlipStir
Favorite Science Supplement –
Favorite Math Supplement –  Trigger Memory System
Favorite Christian Education Product –  Chara Games
Favorite College or College-Prep Product –  Everyday Education
Best Resource I Didn’t Know I Needed –  ForBrain
Kids’ Choice (Ages 0-12) –
Teens’ Choice –  101 Series
All Around Crew Favorite –  CrossTimber

Favorite Grammar Program –  The Critical Thinking Co.
Favorite History Supplement –  Carole P. Roman
Favorite Math Curriculum –  CTC Math
Favorite Christian Education Curriculum –  Veritas Press
Favorite Foreign Language Curriculum –  Middlebury Interactive Languages
Favorite Preschool Product –  The Pencil Grip
Best Online Resource –  Veritas Press

We didn't review the particular products that won in each of these categories:

Favorite History Curriculum –  Home School in the Woods
Favorite Elective Curriculum –  Stop Motion Explosion
Favorite High School Product –  101 Series
Favorite Parent Product –  MyFreezEasy

We have purchased the Times Tales DVD from Trigger Memory System recently. I wanted to help both kids solidify their multiplication tables. We've just gotten started with it, but we are impressed so far. I ended up being really jealous of the MyFreezEasy reviews. Everyone seemed to love the meal plans! I've been pricing the different plans and hope to purchase one after the first of the year. 

Many of our favorites made the list, but we had some items we particularly loved that weren't recognized. 

Science Shepherd Introductory Science- Speedy LOVES this Science program. He knows he is getting close to the end so he keeps telling me they have other programs. He doesn't want it to be over. He enjoys the format of the online videos with the workbook. The questions are just at the right level for him, and he is excelling in this subject. The Creation based Science is just what we look for in a science curriculum.

Heirloom Audio The Dragon and the Raven, Beric the Briton, and The Cat of Bubastes- While Heirloom Audio received 2 awards, we reviewed 3 separate audio dramas from them this year, and they were all amazing. They needed an extra mention because everything they produce is wonderful.

Everyday Education Perfect Reading & Beautiful Handwriting- Everyday Education received an award but not for this product. I've raved about this Italics curriculum, and I will continue to do so. It's been perfect for Speedy.

We received so many amazing products for review this year. I could take all day and list them all and tell you something great about each one of them! These were the ones that stood out to us the most and made it into our regular school days. Be sure to check out everyone else's favorite picks!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Seeking Our Place

I have briefly mentioned a time or two that we are searching for a new church home. We have been visiting congregations closer to home. We are looking for a place to worship and to serve the Lord. Not to serve in any official capacity but we always jump in and get involved with our congregation. I've had a few observations as we've visited churches these last couple of months. We have gone to a variety of denominations so I'm not pointing fingers at anyone in particular.

First a positive. We live in a small town. We came from a larger city. We had a time of church visiting in that city so it's kind of neat to compare. Here almost every single congregation has been overwhelming welcoming. People are just kind. They are happy to have visitors. It's a small place so they really seem to want to get to know families that come in for a visit. Out of a bunch of churches I can't think of any that we left feeling ignored or unwelcome. Most churches have had some familiar faces and a couple of times we've only spoken to people we already knew. However in just about all the churches we have been greeted by strangers and left feeling like we made new friends. I've been really impressed with the people of the body of Christ. I hope everyone that everyone who steps in those churches leaves with a smile like we did. Whether you are in a huge city or a little town like ours, I hope your congregation seeks to be friendly. A smile, a handshake, and a little chitchat can go a long way with someone who has stepped out of their comfort zone to walk into a church.

Now this one is truly an observation. It's something I had only noticed one time at one church years ago. Many new churches now have small sanctuaries but huge activity rooms. Some have more square footage for classrooms and fellowship halls than they do for the actual sanctuary. It seems so backwards to me! My thoughts are all over the place on this point. I know so many churches do activities to draw in people. (I'll get back to a similar path later on.) I think it is important to have children's and youth areas in a church. Those would be well used places. I also think it is wonderful for a church to have room to do Wednesday night and occasional Sunday meals. Fellowship time is of utmost importance in a congregation. However in a few of these newer buildings, I felt packed in like a sardine for service! I'll be the first to say it can be hard to focus on worship if the sanctuary is too small. Now if a church has grown and exceeded its space then that's a totally different scenario. Some of these are brand new, just built buildings though. Is this a common trend in other areas?

Touching on activities again, almost every church we've visited has been having a special Sunday. Maybe our rotation is just off and this is a happenstance. It has left me wondering if churches need to make every Sunday a special Sunday. Isn't it enough to have a special time each week to worship the Lord? It's almost become a joke before we walk into a new church. I wonder if they'll be having a potluck today? I wonder if the regular preacher will be speaking or if it will be a guest? I wonder if its missions/ special holiday/ youth/ college/ whatever Sunday here today? This one is a little tongue in cheek because I also know it probably doesn't seem that way looking over a church's schedule as a regular attending member.

Now for a serious note. Many churches are in a time of crisis. Many are seeking new pastors. Some are seeking support staff. Some have abandoned the Word of God for the word of the world. A few have seriously let go of worship and have become a fun place to go and see friends. There is a decline in Sunday School classes. There is a decline in kids staying in church service and instead they go and do fun activities that have little to do with the Lord. There are churches closing their doors every day. Let's be in prayer for the church. Not any particular congregation or denomination but for God's people in general. If you are in a church, I hope your church is focusing heavily on the Bible. Not on devotionals or study guides or books but on THE BOOK.

We've been involved in some amazing congregations in the past. I'm looking forward to settling into the one God has for us here. I'd appreciate your prayers as we continue to visit! Since it's a small community, we'll be starting to do a round two for some soon. Have you ever found yourself looking for a new church home? Did you have any funny or curious observations?

Monday, November 14, 2016

Fun Gift for Grandpas #ChristmasIdeas

Many times the hardest people on my Christmas list are the grandpas! It seems like grandfathers never really "need" anything, but of course we want to bless them with something fun for Christmas too. I usually end up getting pretty creative (for me) for their gifts. They also tend to all get very similar gifts! Last year we picked up some really nice memory foam pillows during a Black Friday sale. Every grandpa got one! Then I purchased some inexpensive white pillowcases. I let the kids go to town on the pillow cases with permanent markers. They made a unique design for each pillowcase. At Christmas all the grandpas were so happy with their new pillows and personalized pillow cases!

I'm looking for new gift ideas for this Christmas! Do you have anything unique you've gifted the grandpas in your family?

Monday, November 7, 2016

Changing it Up

I posted awhile ago about priorities. I've really been concentrating and praying over my priorities and how to work those out in real life. We've had some challenges over the last few months (really when do we NOT have challenges?), and I've wanted to chuck all the responsible thinking and just roll with the flow. I'm not really a roll with the flow type person, but it always sounds intriguing!

Two years ago I joined the Crew to give our homeschool some variety. I wanted to try new things and so did the kids. At the time, I also entertained the idea of making this blog more lucrative. We have loved our time with the Crew. The members are amazing, wonderful ladies who are full of wisdom. The various products we have received have been huge blessings. Our kids have enjoyed trying new languages, new literature, and even new math. This year the Crew products became the backbone of our homeschool time. I've spent very little money on any homeschool materials this year because we've had a plethora at our disposal. The Crew is an amazing thing, and we have loved it. After much prayer (and a little heartache), I've decided not to join the Crew for the 2017 run.

The blog is going to slow down, but I do hope to keep it active in some ways. I want my life, my hours, and my minutes to reflect my priorities. Blogging started as a fun venture that became a way to earn some free products that has never really made much money that became a time drain. Blogging is an amazing outlet, and it can surely become a lucrative business. For this season in our life, I need to dial it back a bit.

So stick around! To keep up with all the amazing Crew reviews that I know are coming in 2017, follow some of my lovely friends from the 2016 Crew.

Just for fun, in 2016 I have completed over 100 product reviews (not all here on the blog). I've amped up my graphics skills. I participated in a weekly ABC Blogging challenge (began in 2015). I improved my blog organizational skills by keeping printables in a binder. I lost a large portion of a very important review and had to rush to fix it in tears. I felt like I found a groove to writing and prescheduling posts. All of my followers stats went up. I spent many hours on the computer doing all of these things. Thus my need for a little break. :)

I hope you'll stick around...because our chaos never ends!

Language Smarts E

Grammar is always a tricky subject for us. The Critical Thinking Co.™ sent us Language Smarts™ Level E to review. This is a 4th grade grammar workbook that can be used as a supplement or a full curriculum. We put aside the grammar Speedy had been using to focus on this workbook for awhile. There are 363 pages included so your student could work on about 2 pages a day and complete this in a school year. 

Language Smarts E is divided by topic. There are sections on Syllables, Word Parts, Word Relationships, Reference Materials, Parts of Speech, Sentences, Writing, and more. Each section goes through the topic at hand using various worksheets with instructions on each lesson. The worksheets include a variety of activities like filling in the blanks, word searches, word scrambles, and choosing from a word box. Between some sections, students will find Editor in Chief pages. These pages model the stand alone curriculum Editor in Chief from The Critical Thinking Co. Students will take what they have learned and edit prewritten passages. Writing Detecive is another popular product from the company and this curriculum includes Writing Detective pages too. Those pages focus on reading comprehension and are a great break from "regular" grammar work.

Language Smarts E is set up for flexibility. You can start at the beginning and work through a couple of pages per day in order. You could start with a particular topic and work through that topic, and then skip to another one. If your student understands the basics of grammar, they could skip around and do different topics every day for practice. Speedy started with the beginning and completed all of the Syllable pages. He worked on some of the Word Parts pages, and then skipped around to try some different sections for our review period. He has enjoyed using this workbook for grammar because "it isn't boring". Since the activities are different each day, students won't get bogged down by routine during grammar time.

We've tried lots of different grammar curriculums over the years. Some are teacher and student labor intensive. Most feel repetitive because there are only so many grammar parts to learn! I think it is really important for students to have a firm foundation with their grammar skills, but I don't think it is necessary to labor over grammar each day. Language Smarts E is certainly meaty enough to be used as a full curriculum for a student who has already studied the grammar basics. It is a workbook that can be used independently and completed in a short amount of time each day. It has plenty of practice work on each topic, and the material seems just right for 4th grade.

The answers are included in the back of the workbook. I'm always hesitant to leave those in books that the kids use. I haven't removed them from this workbook, but I'm sure it could be done with ease. Really this workbook is great for teachers. There is no lesson to read and the instructions seem very clear. Speedy has needed only minimal help to complete his pages. I love that there is such a variety of material included. This book could be done with no planning (do 2 pages each day until completed would cover it), but you could glance ahead at lessons and put easier activities on certain days. Like Speedy does "car/ on the go schooling" on Wednesdays. It would be great to give him easier pages on those days as we always struggle to finish everything. It is perfect for taking on the go because all he needs is the workbook and a pencil! No need for wi-fi or extra paper or multiple books. We haven't found a product from The Critical Thinking Co. that we don't like!

Are you looking for something for your littles? Find out more about Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic Before Kindergarten!™.

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Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Learn the Rich History Behind Thanksgiving #holidayunitstudies

When the kids were really little, we studied and made a big deal out of all the holidays. I've fallen out of the habit the last few years so we were excited to receive Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims from Homeschool Legacy for review. This is the first Micro-Study we've ever used. While it is listed as a Once-A-Week unit study, there are ideas for using it 20-30 minutes a day for the 6 week period. Since we are so close to Thanksgiving (and for review purposes) we've sped it up a little. Each weekly lesson can certainly be accomplished in a day or two. I can definitely see where it would be fun to slow it down and really dig in for 6 weeks too! This is recommended for grades 1-8 so it was just right for Apple (7th) and Speedy (4th) to do together.

Once-a-Week Studies {Homeschool Legacy}
This is a Downloadable Grab-N-Go that I put on our home computer. We've used it directly from the computer as there wasn't really anything to print and there were direct links to some outside sources in the ebook. The first thing I did was go to the library to search for some of the recommended additional resources. I was only able to find one of the 3, but I found a fun additional resource. We read If You Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620 by Ann McGovern aloud in the evenings during our first week of study.

The children are both doing a Government study in a local co-op so many of the recommended discussions in the Micro-Study were things they'd recently learned about in class. I love when studies unexpectedly come together! Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims offers several different methods of studying about the Pilgrims. First are the weekly sections to read. Some weeks contain some questions to cover orally with the students. There are pictures too. Activities that can be done at home are recommended. Vocabulary, some crafts, and even some recipes are included as well. The outside links take you to virtual tours and some short videos. For week 2, there is a clip from Kirk Cameron's Monumental movie. The clip is all about the National Monument to the Forefathers. Now both kids want to take a trip to Plymouth, Massachusetts!

Homeschool Legacy Micro-Study Unit studies are written from a Christian perspective, and this one included some Bible verses. I feel so blessed that my children have been able to freely learn about the forefathers of our nation and their intentions through this study and our local co-op. It's so important that our children really understand our heritage and the principles that America was originally founded on.

This study would be ideal to begin in November and end in December. The first 4 weeks really focus on Thanksgiving while the final 2 weeks start to discuss Christmas. Apple was thrilled to find her favorite Wassail recipe included in week 6! She served it at our Thanksgiving meal last year and intends to do so again this year. Since this is a download item, you have plenty of time to get it and get started!

Once-a-Week Studies {Homeschool Legacy}

While this was our first Homeschool Legacy unit study, I am positive it is not our last! I'm already looking at Christmas Comes to America since this study whet our appetite for a little more Christmas history. They offer many other history unit studies as well. While we haven't been consistent with unit studies, we have tried many over the years, and the kids both enjoy them. I am going to have to work harder on regularly including them in our study time!

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Monday, October 31, 2016

Hospitality Update

10 months into the year! Time has really flown right by. I'll be honest. Our visitor count this month was extremely low. We've had a couple of people around but nothing to post (boast) about.

However I look forward to my November Hospitality Update to be an exciting one. We are hosting a large Thanksgiving meal for both of our families and some friends here next month. I'll say that's why our October hospitality has been so dismal. I've been diligently working on holiday plans and on our house. I am so excited for our Turkey event!

While it is disappointing to have low results for my "Word of the Year" goals for this month, it's been a calmer, more relaxed month. There have been no sports. We've had a couple of free Saturdays. While we've still had plenty to do, it's been at a slower pace than our normal race.

Have you been keeping up with your 2016 Word of the Year? Have you started to pray about and consider goals for 2017?

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Online Elementary Spanish #languagestudy

Speedy loved his Elementary German course from Middlebury Interactive Languages last year. He was thrilled to receive a year of Elementary Spanish 1 Grades 3-5 from them for review this year! This is a 100% online language course. This is a full year course with enough work for 2 semesters. Courses are offered with teacher support, but we received an independent course.

There are 16 units in this Elementary Spanish 1 curriculum. Speedy has used it on his Chromebook with no technical issues. Since it is an online course, internet is required of course. There are speaking labs for each unit so if you want your student to take advantage of those, a computer microphone is required. On an independent course with no teacher support, it is up to you to go in and check those speaking labs. Last year I was able to submit a grade for those. The Demo version I have received for Spanish is not giving me that option, but it isn't a big deal. 14 of the units include 6 lessons each. Unit 8 is a midterm review unit with 3 lessons. Unit 16 is a final review unit that also includes 3 lessons. 
Spanish, French, German or Chinese {Middlebury Interactive Languages}

One of the unique features in each unit is a story told completely in Spanish. The stories include lots of animation and focus on the words the student is learning for the lesson. These stories are an immersion lesson for the students as they learn a new language. They see and hear the story more than once so they understand it a little more each time. Speedy loved these stories in his German lessons, and he is enjoying them just as much in his Spanish lessons! Other work in the lessons includes matching pictures, the speaking labs, quizzes, and even coloring pages! Each component speaks the words so the student is hearing them again and again. There are even some cultural lessons included to help the student get a better understanding of the people who natively speak the language.

Speedy has currently been working on the program 4 days per week. It doesn't take him long to do each lesson so I haven't made him slow down. At this rate he will be finished in about a semester's time. Typically an elementary student could work on this 2-3 days per week and finish in one school year. There is a calendar on the website for the lessons, but it is based on a 5 day per week schedule. I believe it is mostly for use with teacher support packages. The first page after login will show the next lesson based on the calendar. Since we aren't following that schedule, Speedy uses the table of contents to find his next lesson. Completed lessons have a check mark next to them in the drop down menu.



One reason we love Middlebury Interactive Languages is because it can be done independently. Speedy can go in and complete his lessons without any help from me. His work is graded immediately, and I can go in at any time and check his scores. I can see his grades by activity or check a "Grade Report" for an average. Since I cannot grade the speaking evaluations, he doesn't have a grade for those.

The courses are on the higher end of the budget for a single class, but they make it worth it because everything is so easy to use! I needed some help from Customer Service when we first received access, and they were super helpful and quick to respond. I'm already impressed with how much Spanish Speedy is retaining while using this program. He enjoys it, and I love exposing him to other cultures and languages! Middlebury Interactive Languages offers courses in Spanish, French, Chinese, and German in a variety of levels. 

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Spanish, French, German or Chinese {Middlebury Interactive Languages}
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Monday, October 24, 2016

Leading Up to the Holidays Part 2

A couple of weeks ago I shared my game plan for early prepping for the holidays. Yesterday we had a "free" Saturday. That never happens! I took advantage of the time to continue my holiday planning. I got a few more dates and times on my calendar. I worked on my Thanksgiving shopping list by marking off the items we already purchased. I cleaned out all my kitchen cabinets (looking for a lost slow cooker cord!).

I also made all my Christmas planning sheets. In the past, I've used a few planning pages in my homeschool planner. The one I have this year didn't include those types of pages. Just like with my Thanksgiving pages, I set out to find some free printables online. I couldn't find anything like what I needed! I then did a check in my downloads folder here on my computer and found a free Christmas planner from a few years ago. I decided which of the pages I could use and printed those. I used some very pretty snowflake paper I bought years and years ago. I've dragged that paper through all of our moves never knowing what to use it for. It was perfect to print all my Christmas pages! I stuck them in my big family binder that I started using this year. Now they stick out so I can find them easily, and my kids shouldn't be snooping in the binder at all.

I made a Christmas Card list to keep track of those I send and receive. I also realized my address file is woefully out of date so I will be working on updating that over the next few weeks so I can send out cards after Thanksgiving. I also made a Christmas menu page and shopping list page. We don't usually do a huge dinner here for Christmas, but we will have a small meal. I can also keep up with the dishes I need to take to gatherings on those lists. I made a separate shopping page for gifts. The big portion of my pages is devoted to gifts. I found a few years ago that it is a good idea to keep track of the gifts I buy. Otherwise when I start so early shopping I forget what I have and buy some people more gifts than I intended! I also think it's great to start early thinking about who you will need to shop for so there aren't too many surprises on an already thin holiday budget. While I'm not the most organized holiday shopper, I do think I'm improving a little each year.

Don't be afraid to make your own printables rather than finding freebies online or paying for them! Most of my Christmas pages included simple tables or lines. Pop a centered title at the top and hit print. I spent less than 20 minutes making the printables that I designed. Not only was it fast and insured I had exactly what I needed, I didn't put a lot of extra images or designs on them so I saved ink. Using pretty paper made them unique without wasting a load of ink.

Have you started planning for Christmas? Are you an organized shopper or do you just wing it?

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

My New Bible

When my Sunday School class was reading through the Bible together, I really highlighted and marked my way through my NIV Bible. As we read and studied each week, we compared versions. I realized I really wanted to get back to a NKJV Bible. While I've enjoyed NIV through the years, I've always kept a variety of Bibles to study and use. While we own many Bibles, I found I didn't really have one convenient for carrying to and from church. During that year, I also discovered holding a physical Bible daily and each Sunday really made a difference in my study time.

So I set out to find a Bible to become my new, unmarked primary Bible. I found the opportunity to review this NKJV Study Bible from Thomas Nelson. It has a blue on blue imitation leather cover and it is a large size Bible. I was disappointed because the website lists this as a red letter Bible (which I really wanted!), but the version I was sent does not have red letter. It has a blue on blue cover. I already accidentally put a little ink mark on the cover so I've order a Bible cover for it!

This Bible has a classic feel to it. There are silver edges to the pages. The text is split in the middle with references. The bottom of each page contains study elements to go with the texts. There are in text charts, maps, and word studies. The front holds a table of contents for easy reference for each of those. The Old and New Testaments are both included. The back of the Bible is a full section of study tools from indexes to a concordance to full color maps. 

Even though I wish it was red letter edition, I am looking forward to studying, marking, and carrying this Bible for a long season. I believe it will hold up well especially with an additional cover on it. I want my children to see me USING my Bible. I want them to remember me walking in to church every Sunday with God's Word at my side. 

This Signature Series Bible is guaranteed for life and included a free study download. Registering my Bible and receiving the download was an easy online task.