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

Monday, February 29, 2016

Our Favorite Ways to Study Words

The 2016 Virtual Curriculum Fair begins today. This is my first time participating! Today I will be covering "Playing with Words". The goal this week is to share with you what we are using in our homeschool for foreign languages, writing, literature, spelling, handwriting, and grammar. Instead of wandering through a convention hall picking items at random, you can read descriptions of various studies from other homeschooling parents.


This school year we have worked hard to finish up Latina Christiana I from Memoria Press. Apple started it last year for a review. In August, we restarted and Speedy joined in. I have enjoyed this study because it is DVD based. The kids watch the lesson together on Monday and then practice their words on Tuesday and Wednesday. On Thursday, they take a short quiz. For this study, each student needs their own workbook. The set we received also contained flash cards and a CD. They have almost completed the study. This is their last week. They're very happy with the Latin they've learned. Apple has retained more of the Latin words and phrases than Speedy. We may hold on to this so he can revisit it in the future.


While Speedy has struggled a little with Latin, he did a great job learning German! Last semester he completed Middlebury Elementary German I. This course was completely online. Once we got him set up, he was able to complete the course entirely on his own. I only needed to go on the website to record grades and check progress. The course is unique because much of the learning was done through fairy tales. He loved watching the videos and he really enjoyed all of the practice activities. He really knew some German when he was finished! I was so surprised when he selected German, but he worked out to be a great course for him. I will certainly look to Middlebury for more foreign language studies in the future.


We had our first experience with IEW's writing program over the summer. WOW! Teaching Writing: Structure and Style is huge! Andrew Pudewa does a great job of making writing make sense for kids. His program really guides them in writing in a step by step process. Apple and Speedy both think he is hilarious and they've enjoyed watching his sessions on DVD. Typically they watch a portion of the DVD on a Monday and then follow out the lesson that week. The second week is usually a chance to practice the same skill again before moving on. Both children have worked diligently on writing with IEW this year. Speedy has completed the lesson plans I had for him and Apple is just about finished with hers for the semester. TWSS can be used again and again and IEW makes it so easy to increase or decrease the level you are working with to make it fit your student. I will say that this program is teacher intensive. There are separate DVDs to watch as the teacher and although plans are included, it takes some digging and time to understand exactly how those should play out. It really is worth it though.

Speedy is currently working on an online writing curriculum from Here to Help Learning. I can't wait to share my review of this program with you! Apple will soon be beginning a new writing curriculum for review as well. Keep your eyes here in the coming weeks!


Literature is one of those subjects that can be as expensive or as cheap as you want it to be. Typically I go online in the spring and start developing a literature test for each child to use the following fall. I check major curriculum sites to see what they recommend and I also look around Google and Pinterest for lists from individuals. Both of my kids are readers and many times they are well beyond books for their recommended grade level. With Apple, she has usually already read them all multiple times! In order to make sure she is really focused on studying the book, I find it's best to look for some she hasn't read yet. Once I've made my list, I usually look for free online resources to go along with the book. I've found that many projects, discussion questions, and activities can be found for free. Since we usually borrow the books or pick them up used, literature is one of our least expensive subjects!

Now that Apple is in middle school, we have used several literature guides that are a bit more intense. Earlier this year she used a guide from Progeny Press with Tuck Everlasting, and she enjoyed it very much. She is currently working through a literature guide from Memoria Press and a review is coming soon!


It is hard to narrow spelling down to one or two choices. We've actually used an assortment of studies in this area this year. Before I break them down for you, I will say Apple is a natural speller. She has faired very well with spelling no matter what curriculum I've had for her.

Both children are finishing up their levels from Spelling You See. All 3 of us have loved this curriculum from Demme Learning. Apple is almost to the end of Level G: Modern Milestones which is the last level they have available at this time. Speedy has been working through Level D: Americana. With Spelling You See, they begin a new paragraph each Monday. They used colored pencils (included) to mark letters and chunks in words in the paragraph. Then they write the paragraph. They continue this on Tuesday. My kids actually do 2 pages on Wednesday because we complete our seatwork in 4 days each week. On Wednesday, Speedy does another page just like Monday and Tuesday and then he does a dictation page. Apple's study is a little different so she has a different activity page on Wednesday and she also does a dictation page. The last page is another dictation page. This is a spelling curriculum that really works and helps improve handwriting! They area also getting a little history lesson in each paragraph. I recommend this resource all the time.

Speedy also worked on Phonetic Zoo by IEW earlier this year. He really enjoyed Phonetic Zoo and he was sad when we put it away. I think the auditory aspect (listening to the words on CD with headphones) worked really well for him. I haven't given up on Phonetic Zoo, we just needed to put it away for awhile to work on other areas. Phonetic Zoo comes with 3 levels so it is a resource we can use for a long time. He liked it so much that he may pull it out and work on it over the summer. If you have a child that struggles with distraction, I this this would be a great curriculum to check out.

Speedy is also working on spelling in an all in one program that we just started. I will talk about it a little more with grammar.


Ugh. The handwriting in this house is not beautiful, flowing script. My own handwriting can best be described as "In A Very Big Hurry". Hubby's isn't much better, and the kids have inherited theirs from us. There are 2 programs I always recommend. I just recommended them to a friend on Facebook last night! For manuscript, I think Handwriting Without Tears is the very best. Both children have used the program on different grade levels. The Teacher's Manual can be helpful but I never used it much. The workbooks alone are very reasonable prices. For cursive, CursiveLogic was fantastic. Apple has used and completed that program and when Speedy is ready to attempt cursive, that's the one I will purchase for him. It is easy to understand and gets right to the point. Speedy's handwriting has slowly improved over the last year. The biggest thing that helped him was practice. Lots and lots of practice makes a difference. His handwriting still needs work but we will continue to practice, practice, practice.


We could be on this one for awhile. Every time I think I've found the perfect grammar for each child, it fizzles out. I think I started out all wrong with Apple. We initially used textbooks exactly like the ones used in the public schools. She deemed grammar boring and hasn't changed her mind much over the years. Shurley English was recommended by a good friend a few years ago and it has its merits. With the songs and repetition, your kids will definitely learn their parts of speech. Your kids may also get bored with the songs and repetition repetition repetition. It isn't so bad with just one or two levels but after awhile it all blends together. Fix It! Grammar by IEW isn't repetitive at all. It does need teacher involvement though. Since the lessons are so short (basically 1 sentence a day) there needs to be discussion each day to make it stick.

Apple has had some success with the Brookdale Middle School Grammar Workbook that we reviewed earlier this year. At this point, I just want to make sure she has all the parts of speech memorized and that she has a basic understanding of the grammar rules. Again it is about lots of practice.

Speedy has recently been trying Logic of English. It's another review item we received. I don't want to give my review yet, but I feel I need to share a little about this curriculum with you. It is spelling, grammar, and vocabulary rolled up into one study. It can be used over multiple levels and we really like it. That's all I can say. Zip. You'll have to come back in a couple of weeks for the full review.

To sum it up, this year we've been really successful with some new things we've never tried before. The kids have both enjoyed switching things up and trying new resources for the Crew. At times we've doubled and even tripled up in some subjects but that's happened regularly over our homeschool journey. In the area of words alone, there are hundreds of choices for curriculum out there. It can be really overwhelming really quickly. My favorite advice to new homeschool moms is always, "If it doesn't work, you can always change it later. Nothing has to be permanent." While I love routine and I love saving money, sometimes it's really necessary to change it up. In a private or public school setting, kids would be changing studies and teachers every year. Don't be afraid to try something new!

Over the next few weeks I hope to share more posts with you for the Virtual Curriculum Fair. Be sure to check back! Also, take some time to see the other posts. This is a great way to explore new curriculum options and to see how others are using them! The best part is you never have to leave the house.

This year the Virtual Curriculum Fair is hosted by Laura @ Day by Day in Our World, Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses and Kristen @ Sunrise to Sunset.

Language Arts: Words Make the World Go Round by  Laura @ Day by Day in Our World
The Language Arts in Our Homeschool and Everything Relating to it   by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory
Teaching Elementary Latin by Yvie @ Gypsy Road 
How to Learn ASL & Spanish in 20 Minutes a Day by Rochelle @ RochelleBarlow
Classical Word Study by Lisa @ GoldenGrasses
Language Arts Means and Methods by Laura @ Four Little Penguins 
Sprechen Sie....  by Jennifer King @ A Peace of Mind
The Art of Eloquence  by Jennifer King @ A Peace of Mind
Love Languages by Jennifer King @ A Peace of Mind
3 Reasons You Don't Have To Be Afraid To Grade That Essay - And It's Free @ LJSkool
High School Language Arts by Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break
Words, Words, and More Words by Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses
Finishing Strong - Starting Gently by Kristen @ Sunrise to Sunset.

Building Faith One Block at a Time #Faithbuilding

Our first Crew review for 2016 comes courtesy of Zonderkidz. Speedy was quite thrilled to receive the Faith Builders Bible. This hard cover Bible is in the New International Reader's Version (NIrV). It is 1144 pages of faith and fun for kids.

Bible, Childrens, NIrVBible, Kids, Blocks

Opening this package created some excitement! Speedy quickly leafed through the Bible to see the special full color pages scattered throughout. Apple was also intrigued by this block building Bible. Those special pages give ideas for building Bible scenes and themes using toy bricks. We have lots of those little sharp edged bricks in our house, and the kids are always looking for new ways to use them. While you don't have to have those building blocks to enjoy this Bible, your kids are going to want to try making their own Nativity and Last Supper scenes. This Bible offers ideas for multiple ages with the full color bright picture inserts.

Faith Builders Bible {Zonderkidz Review}

We found several ways to "try" this Bible. Speedy used it during our family Bible study time. He also pulled it out many times during homeschool studies that required a Bible. Apple spent some time with it as well. Truth be told, she's the one in our house that enjoys building with blocks the most.

This is a Bible that presents the Word in a straightforward manner. The regular pages are scripture with the exceptions of the Table of Contents in the front and the Dictionary and Great Bible Stories pages in the back. There are no notes or devotions on the regular pages. The glossy pages contain pictures to inspire building and a verse with a shortened version of a scripture story. Those pages give this Bible a hands on aspect that I haven't seen with other children's Bibles.

Bible, Kids, NIrV

It's no fun building if all the pieces aren't on the floor, right? Speedy took some time to build a cross. Then Apple and Speedy found the Fruits of the Spirit page. They both made an attempt at a banana. My little monkey pretended to eat his! After looking through the suggested scenes, Apple was inspired to build a small scale version of Pharaoh's temple. Of course I didn't get a picture before the temple became something else!

Even kids that are in church on a regular basis can struggle to get in a regular routine of reading the Bible. A Bible that can pique their interest might be just the key. It may also highlight a verse or story that they haven't focused on before. I count anytime spent on God's word as a success. This Bible would be easy to carry to church or keep in the bedroom for nightly Bible reading. I think this Bible could also be useful for Sunday School and co-op teachers. It could inspire a class building project to go along with a lesson. Zonderkidz could even base a whole Vacation Bible School around a block building theme! Just throwing that out there as a VBS coordinator...

This is a Bible that Speedy will treasure for a long time. I'm hoping to keep it in the schoolroom for use with special studies or stories, but I'm sure it will end up in his room. Well as long as he can keep it away from his sister! I want to file it in my memory bank under rainy day activities. Who am I kidding? My memory bank has been gone. I need to write a physical list!

If you or your little builders want to learn more, see what other Crew members thought of the Faith Builders Bible:

Faith Builders Bible {Zonderkidz Review}

Join in on social media:

Crew Disclaimer


We pulled Apple out of public pre-k way back in 2009. That's really when our homeschool journey began. I stayed home with her from the time she was just a few months old but the decision to homeschool happened around 2009. I had a few friends that homeschooled their kids so I knew all homeschool moms didn't wear denim jumpers. Beyond that though my expectations were less than realistic.

I can't tell you an exact moment that we decided to homeschool because I fought the decision for quite awhile. I had looked forward to public school and time alone with little brother and eventually going back to work full time. I never expected to be a homeschool mom. It wasn't in my plan. I didn't think I could do it. Once we decided to give it a try, I jumped in. I had all these expectations. I'd cook a big breakfast every morning. We'd have perfect mornings learning and playing. I'd continue to get loads of things done at home because we'd have so much time and flexibility. I'd bake and we'd go to playdates. It would all be perfect.

Reality: It wasn't perfect then and it isn't perfect now. I'm always learning something new or trying something different to make it better. Sometimes we have more bad days than good days. Some days I'm certain I'm going to go crazy, or I'm going to drive my kids crazy. I like schedule and routine. Our days hold little of either.

Let me give you a few examples.

Expectation: We will all get up at 7. We'll have breakfast and ready ourselves for the day. All 3 of us will be at our desks by 8, and we will be ready to begin our homeschool time.

Reality: Even when we are all up at 7, we rarely make it to the schoolroom before 8:30. Someone is always dragging. The phone always rings. There's always some chore that needs to be done. The dog needs to be walked. Hubby is trying to get out the door. We overslept because we got home late the night before. There's nothing quick to eat for breakfast.

Expectation: The kids will do all their independent work independently. They'll read on their own and follow the instructions and finish in a timely manner. They will turn in neat, complete work that will render an A+.

Reality: They will ask questions. All of them. All of the questions in the world. They'll argue over the DVD player for math lessons. They will argue over the computer for online work. They will not bother reading any of the directions on anything. They will write their answers in such a manner that I will pray they are both going to grow up to be doctors because I can't read their writing. They will take FOREVER. They will go to the bathroom 643 times each. They will sharpen their pencils 452 times each. They will lose every paper, colored pencil, book, notebook, dictionary, pencil that they need. They will make me lose my mind.

Expectation: We will all sit in a circle and do our group work together. I will read and they will listen like little angels. Then they will work together to complete the tasks for those subjects.

Reality: There is no circle. There are no angels here. There will be an argument over completeing shared work. I'm not sure anyone listens when I read.

Expectation: We will finish at 12:00 (or earlier) each day and then have lunch together. Our state requires 4 hours, and 4 hours should be ample time to finish their daily work. After lunch they can do chores and then have free time or we can run errands.

Reality: Ha. There are days when we finish at 12. There's just as many if not more days that we are back in here working after lunch. Some days it takes ALL DAY. Like longer than public school. That's a rare bad day but it does happen. Some days it's just a war. Some days it just lags on and on. Some days I should probably just call it quits and save it all for tomorrow. But then we won't get done on time tomorrow, and I'd call it quits and we'd never get a break.

Whatever you've chosen for your life- working or staying at home, public school or private school or homeschool, fast food fanatics or health nuts- there's probably a gap between your expectations and the reality. Just remember that is true for all of us. Everyone around you experiences the same thing on a daily basis. I find lots of time in prayer helps me make it through. A quick text chat with a friend living in the same reality can be priceless. I think in this digital time my best suggestion when you are facing a dose of reality is to stay off of social media. There isn't much reality on Facebook or Twitter. Even some blogs are guilty of only showing off the perfect moments. I've even seen some #keepingitreal posts that feel very staged and unrealistic. Find a friend IRL and enjoy some reality with them.

I'll leave you with one last expectation vs. reality.

Expectation: If I know it's going to be a busy week ahead I will clean my whole house on Saturday or Sunday (rather than doing my daily cleaning). I ALWAYS do this cheerfully expecting my house will stay clean all week.

Reality: By the time I finish the last room, all the other rooms are already a mess. It never even feels clean for a whole day. I can even go back through and pick up and spot clean and within 24 hours it looks as though a small bomb has hit just my house. Sigh.

I'm sharing this dose of "R"eality on Blogging Through the Alphabet with Adventures with Jude and Through the Calm and Through the Storm.

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Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Cheerleader Journalist is on a Missing Student Case

The latest review book from BookLook Bloggers is a new Samantha Sanderson book. This is the fourth in the FaithGirlz series by Robin Carroll. Sam is a 7th grader who cheers and writes for the school blog and paper. Her mom is a journalist and her dad is a detective. She often drags her BFF Makayla into cases with her.

In Without a Trace, a fellow student has disappeared. The detectives on the case seem to think he is a runaway. Sam's dad doesn't have jurisdiction on this case but that doesn't stop her from doing her own investigating. Every clue seems to lead to a dead end. Will Tam ever be found?

While we have enjoyed the Samantha Sanderson books, this one did give me cause for concern in a few areas. Samantha does things her parents warn her against and at times it seems as though she's playing them against one another. Like other books, I'm often waiting for the big punishment to come, but it never seems to happen. As she solves these cases, she oversteps boundaries she shouldn't as a kid.

My bigger issue with this book was a paragraph that spoke of homeschooling as "lurking...just like a monster from a bad dream". While the paragraph is referencing the idea that Makayla doesn't want to leave school it isn't very complimentary to homeschooling families, and I cringed thinking of how Apple must have felt when she read the paragraph.

Like the previous books, Sam's faith is evident throughout this story. Several times she prays for her friend and his safe return. In the past I've allowed Apple to read these books first and then I read them. I believe if there are future books in this series, I will read them before she does in case the issues continue.

Apple had this to say about the book:

"I really like how Sam Sanderson is a detective. Even though she does things her dad asks her not to, she seems to respect him. I like that I can relate to her having a dad in law enforcement. It was kind of confusing in the beginning with the sirens and stuff so I didn't really like that. I think she could portray Sam as not always breaking so many rules though."

Obviously she and I had a conversation about respect and breaking rules. I wish more books were written with characters that obey their parents and still have fun and adventures.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Renuzit Sensitive Scents {Review & Giveaway}

Social Insiders sent me a trio of Renuzit Sensitive Scents to review. My package included a Pure Water Blossom and Cucumber ConePure Ocean Breeze Oil Plug-In, and a bottle of Pure White Pear and Lavendar Spray. I was not familiar with these Sensitive Scents prior to receiving them. This new line of home fragrances are designed for those who are sensitive to strong smells.

Personally I have more trouble with foul odors! I enjoy perfume and stronger scents in my home. However I have many relatives who have issues with those same scents that I love so much. Renuzit has designed this line for people just like them. The soft scents will not overpower but will offer some relief from stinky smells.

The Super Odor Neutralizer Spray has been just right for my rugs and throw pillows. We love our doggy but she is huge and comes with some huge pet odors. I can spray this Pure White Pear and Lavendar spray and the odors dissipate. The Pure Water Blossom and Cucumber Cone is just right for areas where you need to continually fight the odor battle. It is just right for a bathroom or near a trashcan. The small unassuming cone provides a light, enjoyable fragrance. The wall Plug-In offers a constant Ocean Breeze in my living room. I placed it in the plug nearest the door so it would greet any guests as they walk in. The Plug-In refills can be used in any Glade or Air Wick warming unit.

Enter to win a coupon good for one free Renuzit Sensitive Scents product (up to $5 value). Ends 3/2. US only.

Monday, February 22, 2016


I had a "Q" post almost complete and then something happened. My kids asked me to read them a bedtime story. My 8 & 10 year old wanted to snuggle up and listen to me read their favorites from years ago. Of course I couldn't say no! I honestly don't remember how long it's been since I read them a real bedtime story. We read aloud for school regularly. Sometimes Hubby starts a book with them and will read a passage to them at night, but it's been years since we did a regular bedtime story.

Speedy picked Llama, Llama Red Pajama and Corduroy. Gosh I love those stories. Both of those books were from the Imagination Library. I encourage everyone with children under 5 to check into the Imagination Library. My kids both LOVED getting a free book in the mail every month. Apple picked Goodnight Moon. That's actually our second copy of that book because the first one just totally fell apart.

In the days before they could read, every night we'd snuggle up and read stories. It was their favorite part of the day and mine too. Now they each lay in bed and read their own books every night. While they enjoy that, I did enjoy our nostalgic moment, and I hope I get a few more of those in before they grow up and move away! It was definitely a quality moment with the two of them.

We get "quantity" time together because the three of us are almost always together. Sometimes the "quality" is missing though as we focus on school and chores, and I work. I've always believed families need quantity and quality time. It's important to just be together sometimes. However we could easily be together all the time and never have any real quality time. Cherish that quality time mamas. Apple went from 0 to (almost) 11 in the blink of an eye.

Do you read bedtime stories to your kids?

I'm linking up this "Q" post with Through the Calm and Through the Storm and Adventures with Jude. Make sure to check out all the Blogging Through the Alphabet posts!

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Sunday, February 21, 2016

An Intriguing New Book by Kim Vogel Sawyer {Review}

Kim Vogel Sawyer's newest book released earlier this month. The book, Room for Hope, is a story of harship and mercy. Neva Schilling is enjoying her life with her 2 twins and her husband. He's out on the road every other month collecting goods for their store, but she's pleased with the lives they've worked hard to make. Then a deputy from a nearby town arrives to tell her that her "brother" (actually her husband) and his wife have died and left her custody of their 3 children. How can she tell her twins what their father has done? Will she be able to look at these other children or will she send them to an orphanage?

This story! Can you imagine? I knew reading the blurb about it that this story would hook me, and it did. The shock of all this is laid out at the beginning and the real story is Neva and the 5 kids now living under her roof. She wants to protect 14 year old Bud and Belle, but since she grew up in an orphanage herself, she just can't bring herself to send her husband's 3 illegitimate children away. While Neva finds unlikely friendships with her neighbor and with the new Sheriff, others in town aren't so kind. Can Neva raise 5 kids on her own and run the mercantile shop they own below their apartment? If she sells the store where will they live?

This really is a unique story. The book alternates between perspectives of the main characters. Each of the characters surprised me at different times, and the ending was nothing like I expected. This is a story of deception, betrayal, shock, mourning, mercy, love, and redemption. At different times, the story resonated with me as a wife, a mother, and a Christian. Most of the characters have a thoroughly explained personality and many of them grow throughout the story. I do wish more had been told about Neva's marriage to Warren before his untimely passing. I think a little more background on their interaction would have made the storyline that much better. However, Sawyer has given another great read in this new book. I think you will enjoy Room for Hope if you like Christian fictions. There are hints of romance, but it is not the main feature of the book.

I have 2 copies of this book to giveaway! I'm excited because I think many of you will really enjoy this story. Enter via the easy Giveaway Tools widget for  your change to win. Ends 2/28/16 and is US only.

Monday, February 15, 2016


I think if I could go back and count all the words I've said since Apple was born, my most frequently used word would be pick. Seems crazy I know but hear me out. I probably say pick 100 times a day.

As in...


Pick up your shoes. Pick up your plate. Pick up your trash. Pick up your books. Pick up your bicycle/ ball/ scooter/ basketball out of the yard. Pick up your cup.

And then the homeschool mom's words...

Pick which subject to start. Pick a problem and get started. Pick up your papers. Pick up your pencil. Pick up your book/ notebook/ eraser/ pen/ chair/ game/ crayons/ markers/ colored pencils.

I'm not one to give my kids lots of choices but you will occasionally hear me say...

Pick what you want to drink. Pick what you'd like to eat. Pick something off the menu. Pick which color you want. Pick which pair you want. Pick the one YOU WANT. JUST PICK. Pick a movie. Pick a show. Pick a book. Pick something. Pick anything. Pick and let's go.

You probably get the picture. Do you say pick frequently or am I the only one?

I'm linking up this "P" post with Through the Calm and Through the Storm and Adventures with Jude. Check out all the other Blogging Through the Alphabet posts.

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Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Glimmer Sisters Second Mystery {Review)

The Glimmer girls are off on their second mystery in Natalie Grant's new series. In A Dolphin Wish, the girls find themselves in San Diego with their parents and their nanny. The mom, Gloria, is still on her concert tour so the twins, Maddie & Mia, and little sister, Lulu, have time to explore Captain Swashbuckler's Adventure Park. They discover there is a mystery at the park and this time Mia is the one who feels compelled to solve it.  

I found I enjoyed this second book more than London Art Chase. The sisters now seem familiar and while some of their antics still included disobedience, in this story the parents did seem a bit more attentive to the problems. I still wish the girls wouldn't disobey (because I don't want my own child to read a book like this and feel it's normal to blantantly disregard things we tell her), there were many positives to this book. The mystery is innocent enough, and the dynamics between the sisters seem relatable. The nanny Miss Julia is always giving the girls wonderful educational information as they visit new places. The parents do seem to have some heartfelt moments with the girls in between all the other parts of the story. I also appreciate that the mom in the book spends time explaining the differences in a wish and a prayer. 

I think this book would be relevant to 8-11 year olds readers. If your child already has issues with disobedience, I'd recommend steering clear of this series. If that isn't an issue or if you discuss the real life consequences of it, then I think the books are okay. 

Apple (10) read this book also and she said,

"I like how Natalie Grant did this book from Mia's point of view. I also like that Maddie is starting to get braver but at the same time the twins were having troubles. I can see that happening in real life. If everything was perfect, I wouldn't enjoy the book as much. I know my friends will like this book too! I hope there are more books in this series. I wish the books were a little longer."

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Sisters on the Trail of a Mystery {Review}

We received a brand new FaithGirlz book to review. Award winner Natalie Grant has started a series of books for tween girls. The books focus on the Glimmer Girls who are 3 sisters with a Mom who is a singer. Two of the sisters are twins. This echoes Grant's real life where she has twin daughters and another daughter. The first book of the series is London Art Chase.

Twins Mia and Maddie are in London with little sister Lulu and their parents. Their nanny Miss Julia is along for the trip to care for the girls while their parents are preparing for concerts in the big city. The girls each have a unique personality, and this book begins with Maddie working hard to figure out how she fits into the family. The girls spend some time with their family and then set off on some adventures with Miss Julia. Along the way they find themselves in a real life mystery, and Maddie feels compelled to solve it. 

This book has a fun storyline about adventures in London. The mystery is intriguing and each character is unique. The characters pray and there are other Christian references scattered throughout the book. The parents seem to be loving and involved. However the attitudes of the three girls were less than desirable. There are multiple incidences of disobedience and even backtalk. I felt uncomfortable as I was reading each of those sections. While the nanny and/ or the parents addressed some of the behavior, no real consequences ever occured. There was talk of an overall consequence towards the end of the book, but it felt flat. I hope that future books in the series will include better behavior from Mia, Maddie, and Lulu.

Apple's review:

"I really like how she sort of related it to her own life based on the biography on the back of the book. I also liked that it wasn't "perfect" and showed the family having fights and stuff. Just like happens in real life. I also liked how unique each of the sisters were. It really explained them, and I could actually imagine meeting them. I really liked the mystery and the way the story went. I think kids a tad bit younger would really like the story. I can think of younger boys and girls that would like this story. I really like that Natalie Grant doesn't stick with just one thing. She sings and now she's writing books, and she's started an organization to help victims of hman trafficking. I really enjoyed the character Maddie because she likes art and I like art. I could relate to the things she was scared about, but I'm glad she had courage to try new things. I hope I can be more like that."

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Unique Book and Journal for Middle School Girls {Review}

Sherry Kyle has penned Love, Lexi. This book is aimed toward middle school girls and it is a unique combination of a fiction story with journaling pages throughout. Lexi is a 7th grade girl going through typical 7th grader awkward moments. She and her friends Ellie and Abby face exclusion as well as embarrassment in a typical day.

Lexi sets out to change the course of things at her school but will her efforts push away her best friends? Can things really change or will she just embarrass herself further? The author has done a fantastic job weaving together a story that could happen to any girl at any middle school in America. She has written Lexi as the typical girl next door who has some brave moments that bring on some big surprises.

The book is written as Lexi's letters to God. The form of the written prayers does a great job echoing a young girl's prayers in written form. The letters are each "answered" with a Bible verse. Then there is room for answering questions and journaling thoughts. Strewn throughout the book are "doodles" of kitty cats and chocolate bars and more Bible verses.

I really like this book, and I knew Apple would enjoy it as well. The only thing I'd change about the book is downplaying Lexi's crush. While most girls in the age range do have crushes, we prefer Apple's focus to be on her relationship with God and not particular boys. This book definitely zeroes in on a steady relationship with the Lord. The book did end on a happy note with more of a friendship vibe. Throughout the story, there is some great advice about popularity, honesty, and friendship.

Apple had this to say after reading the book:

"I really like the spaces to write and journal. I like the verses because they are written out so you don't have to look them up. I liked the unexpected turns, but I do think the ending could have been better. Some things were left unfinished. There could have been less about crushes. Otherwise I really liked the book and how realistic the story was. I could imagine myself in some of those same situations with my parents or sibling. I like that it is Lexi's point of view but the author still made it clear what Kate and others were thinking sometimes. I would recommend this book to several of my friends, and I hope the author will come out with more books similar to this!"


Monday, February 8, 2016

Occasion defines occasion as a particular time, especially as marked by certain circumstances or occurences. I am the type of person that really enjoys order and scheduling (ahem...control freak), and so I generally think of homeschool as a particular time and place. We have a school room. We have a fairly consistent schedule. I like to have everything marked down in a planner and check it off as we complete each item. For us, homeschool is an occasion (in some sense of the word because this week is "o").

Since we very first began homeschooling, a few negative thoughts have regularly plagued me.

Am I doing enough? Are we accomplishing a similar amount of things as would be accomplished in a private or public school setting? Are they learning enough? Are they doing well enough? Could we be doing more?

We do some school in the summer most summers. We work diligently through our regular semesters. We meet the state requirements for days and times, but I still question myself. In reality, I KNOW they are on target with their public/ private schooled peers (and beyond them in most subject areas). I KNOW they achieve many goals each semester. I KNOW how far they've come. Still it can be hard to quantify a level of learning in homeschool. We can do tests or use state standards to judge but I don't always feel like those are reliable measuring sticks.

God has sent a few people that give me grief in the opposite direction. "Do you ever give your kids a day off school? Aren't they on break yet? How can she/ he be working on THAT already?" (Thanks Mom.) Those comments do allow me to take a deep breath and relax a little.

The thing that gives me the most confidence though is what my kids choose to do on the OCCASIONS (like how I threw that in again?) that they aren't doing school. Now on a regular rushed day we do school, have lunch, do chores, do errands, have dinner, etc. On those days their free time is precious because it is short. On other occasions (now it's just funny), they have days off for our regularly scheduled breaks. Their favorite activities always make me smile.

They like to play with neighborhood friends. SOCIALIZATION! (Just saying.)

They like to read. FOR FUN. Apple usually finishes 2-3 books per week aside from her assigned reading. Speedy always has a book going that he is reading before bed or during free time.

They like to play games together. They enjoy checkers and other board and card games. Now they don't always get along, but they have days when they genuinely enjoy one another's company.

They play outside. Willingly. With no screens.

I could go on and on. They play with Legos. They cook. They make up jingles to popular music. They write "books" and make up plays and business plans. Sometimes they even watch tv or play online games but many times they opt for educational or religious themed media.

All this rambling to say, it doesn't matter if I do enough. They are learning and growing and electing for good activities even in their free time. It's easy to understand that when they are toddlers, they are learning through play. It's just as easy to assume that ends at a certain age. It doesn't always! Take heart. If you worry that the occasions you are doing school aren't enough, take some time to watch your kids in their free time. Think about what they are learning and accomplishing through those activities. Then take a deep breath and realize you are doing just fine!

I'm linking up with Through the Calm and Through the Storm and Adventures with Jude for Blogging Through the Alphabet. Be sure to check out the other "O" posts.

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Saturday, February 6, 2016

Non-Stick Pan Review

I jumped at the opportunity to review a 3 pack of Green Earth Pans by Ozeri. The opportunity excited me because I still frequently use the 10" Green Earth pan I reviewed for them a couple of years ago. This package of 3, available on Amazon, includes 8", 10", and 12" pans.

These pans are all non-stick. They are made with a textured ceramic coating called Greblon. This coating is tough. It keeps things moving in the pan and I haven't had any issues with the coating chipping or cracking. I've used these pans for a range of foods from sausage links to eggs to taco meat. The range of sizes makes these pans even more versatile. From cooking for 1 person (although that's rare around here) to normal weeknight meals to extended family meals on Sundays, this set gives you a frying pan for any situation.

These Ozeri pans are heavy duty without being too heavy. I've tried to cook with pans that are weighted before and that's no fun for anyone. Unless you are a body building cook. Then maybe you like super heavy pans. The grips on the handles add to the ease and comfort of cooking with these pans. At first I was a little disappointed that lids weren't included in the set. However I already had lids in each of these sizes! Ozeri does have lids available for separate purchase to fit these pans. Honestly not having extra lids is a plus for me. I like to conserve as much cabinet space as possible.

This is a great set for any home chef. It would also be a lovely housewarming or wedding gift. The set even includes 3 felt protectors to keep your pans in their best condition when you nest them for storage. Ozeri really pays attention to little details like that. As I said earlier, I've used my other Green Earth pan for nearly 2 years with no issues at all. These pans are easy to use and easy to clean.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Memory Verse

I was writing down the next memory verse for the kids, and I just felt really led to share it today. Maybe one of you needed this reminder or maybe some of you have never read this verse before. This is the NKJV version on a picture of the ocean from a few years ago. I first thought that the ocean had nothing to do with the verse (it's just my favorite place), but then we know God's love is like the ocean.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Hospitality Update

It's the first day of the second month of 2016 and I haven't done a fabulous job at my "Word of the Year" goal. To be fair (to myself), I haven't done a horrible job either. I did not manage to plan a meal or hangout at my house for January. However, my parents came to eat lunch on several Sundays, and we did have a drop in from one family friend. I had full intention of actually organizing a meal and having friends over but Hubby was on a schedule that made that difficult and the month really got away from me. However it's a new month with new possibilities!

Just to make myself feel better...I have been doing very well with meal planning! I've had a meal plan every week this year so far. I forgot how great it was to not need to decide what to eat every single day. I set myself up with a daily/ weekly schedule for working, cleaning, etc. I've only done so-so with that so far in 2016. Having the "work" schedule has been very helpful although I've had to rearrange a few dates here and there. The cleaning schedule will work if I can ever get a routine going. I have had "make up" days a few times when I needed to get the whole house clean in one day because my schedule fell apart. It seems crazy that some days I don't have 15-20 minutes to spend on the housework, but it does happen.

How is 2016 going for you? Have you stepped up and worked hard on your goals? Have you already completely abandoned them? Just remember February can be a fresh start!

Niece & Nephews

Growing up as an only child, I worried that I would never have nieces or nephews. I'm a "kid person" so that thought made me sad. Little did I know God would bless me abundantly in the niece and nephew division!

Our oldest nephew came a year after Apple. He's a smart, funny guy who is so similar to Speedy it's scary! Falling in the age range between our 2, he fits in with both kids and they are always happy to spend time together.

The only niece is the bunch is a shy princess. She always takes a little while to warm up to us, but once she does it's pure joy! She helps balance the boy/ girl ratio a little. Her quiet demeanor is unique from the other cousins.

Next by age is our nephew on the other side of the family. He recently got to come and stay the night with us. There was a LOT of giggling that night! He lives farther away than the others so we really try to cherish any time we get to spend with him. He always jumps right in on whatever activities we have planned.

Then we have one more little nephew. He's younger than all the rest so he's still developing his personality a bit. He makes sure his presence is known, and he works hard to get his way. Since my husband has 2 brothers, it seems fitting there are 3 grandsons on that side of the family now. No worries...the 2 girls hold their own!

I absolutely love to spend time with all 4! I only wish they all lived closer. I look forward to our kids and these kids all growing up with fond memories of time spent together. And I'm glad God gave me a beautiful niece and 3 wonderful nephews even though I grew up with no siblings.

I'm adding this N post to Blogging Through the Alphabet with Adventures with Jude and Through the Calm and Through the Storm. Be sure you check out the huge variety of posts each week!

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