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

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!™.

See what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew received from The Critical Thinking Co.:
Language Arts {The Critical Thinking Co.™}
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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!

Check out which Homeschool Legacy Unit Studies other members of the Homeschool Review Crew reviewed:
Once-a-Week Studies {Homeschool Legacy}
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