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

Monday, October 16, 2017

Attention History and Audiobook Enthusiasts!

The good folks over at Character Concepts have been so good to us. After finishing my review of their history curriculum America's Struggle to Become a Nation, they gave us the opportunity to try the Uncle Rick Audio Book Club. You know we love audio books so we were all very excited to try it!

Character Concepts offers many CDs and downloads of Uncle Rick reading books of the Bible, historical books, and even holiday fiction. The Uncle Rick Audio Book Club takes that a step further. For $10 per month (as of 10/16/17), your family can enjoy 2 audio book downloads per month. Right now there are over 60 downloads to pick and new selections are being added.

We've been trying the Audio Book Club out for a few months. Around the same date each month, I received an email that a coupon code was added to my account. I could then go and browse the selections to choose our 2 audio books for the month. Once I checked out, our downloads were available to save to our computer and enjoy.

Currently, the Audio Book Club offers products in 6 categories: Adventure, Historical Fiction, History, Bible and Character Stories, Scripture, and Holiday. You can view all the selections and enjoy some free sample downloads on their webpage. The downloads vary in length. As Uncle Rick reads these books, he engages the listeners by telling little stories and adding extra information about the story or event in history.

So far, we've selected history and holiday books. We've all enjoyed listening to Squanto and the Pilgrims by A.M. Anderson , Stories of the Pilgrims for Children by Roland G. Usher, America First Volume 1 by Lawton Evans, and Revolutionary Heroes by James Parton. I just ordered America First Volume 2 by Lawton Evans and Stories of the Great Old West by Theodore Roosevelt. I'm certain they will be just as exciting as the others! While we haven't tried any of the Bible selections, I think it'd be fantastic to have my kids listen to an audio version of the book of James or the Psalms.

These audio book downloads are a great way to add more read alouds to our homeschool time. I don't always have the time or energy to do read aloud time so these make a lovely substitute. For only $10 a month, this is an excellent deal for adding extra history time for your family. It's also a wonderful alternative to screen time. Character Concepts offers gift certificates for the Uncle Rick Audio Book Club. Wouldn't that make an awesome Christmas gift?!?!

Thank you to Character Concepts for another fantastic product to review. I hope you will check out their selection of audio books, history curricula, and character curricula. We've been impressed with all of the products we have tried from Character Concepts.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Rooted & Grounded

Ephesians 3: 17-19  That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.

I guess I'm still stuck on "love". We hear a lot about love in our world, but unfortunately, it rarely follows the model Christ set for us. The love the Bible speaks about looks very different from the screaming, in our faces, forced "love" the world wants us to crave.

However, that worldly love won't ever satisfy us. We will always be wanting. The verses above in Ephesians tell us the answer. We must be rooted and grounded in love to comprehend and know the love of Christ and to be filled with the fullness of God.

Life gets hard. It's peoplyly out there, and people can be difficult. We can be difficult. Others can knock us out of a good mood or off-kilter with almost no effort. It's important to remember we do the same to others (hopefully unintentionally!). 

We are called to be set apart from the world. To stand out for our Christian faith. At this stage in life, in this lifetime, it feels like standing out means really loving others. Not by patting their backs or "coddling their flesh" (as I once heard a preacher put it), but by true love with kindness and pleasantness and concern and lifting hands to help and using feet to walk alongside.

Sometimes it feels as though a "like" or share on social media should be enough to let our friends know we care about them. It isn't. Personally, I've found myself in another season of drawing into our family and out of the world. There are certainly times when that is completely necessary. There are also times when that is the easy solution to avoiding messy relationships. One side effect to cutting ourselves off from others is we lose a little bit of our polish when it comes to dealing with people.

Call a friend. Plan a lunch or playdate. Join a Bible study or a book club. Volunteer in a new position at your church. Host another family for a meal. Get out there and love on people while being rooted and ground in Christ's love!

Friday, September 22, 2017


I love orderliness. Having things in order and scheduled and properly placed makes me so happy. When things are in disorder in my life, I feel ill at ease, jittery, and frustrated. Even with all my attention to order, when I received the book Ordering Your Private World by Gordon MacDonald for review, I realized some things in my "private world" were not in order. This book I received free from Handlebar is a revised and updated version of this book that was first released in 1984.

I am familar with Gordon MacDonald from reviewing his book Going Deep several years ago. In fact, this review made me wish I could reread that book, but I gave it away. I will be checking my library soon to see if they have a copy.

This book is completely different from that one. Ordering Your Private World focuses on our need to our private world scheduled and ordered. MacDonald touches on disciplines like prayer, Bible reading, journaling, singing, and times of silence and solitude. He also brings ideas like "sabbathing" to the equation. As he explores all of these private world components, he introduces quotes and ideas from many other authors and Christian leaders.

From the preface pg XIII:

"But there is also a busyness (a destructive busyness, actually) that reflects a chaotic way of life- a way of doing in which one is simply responding to the next thing in the day. The next thing! It makes no difference whether it has significance; it's just the next thing, and one does it because it's there to do."

That reflects the message I found most significant in the whole book. When our time isn't previously ordered, we fall victim to the chaos of having no direction. It's like Dave Ramsey's philosophy about money- if you don't have a plan for it then it just disappears frivolously. We are called to be stewards of the time and the money that God gives us.

This isn't a book with 10 steps to order your private world or 11 principles about ordering your world. Instead, it is a book of things to ponder, to contemplate, to consider. I've read very few books this year other than the Bible. I wanted to step away from all the books, all the written "noise", and focus on God's Word directly. I hesitated to accept this book for review but the word "order" enticed me. I'm so glad I did get it and read it. It has valuable ideas and information that are relevant in this day and time more than ever. It also includes an extensive study guide in the back making it perfect for a small group atmosphere.

Monday, September 18, 2017


Yesterday, our pastor gave an excellent sermon on alignment. I won't steal his words to post here, but it did get me to thinking about the importance of aligning our lives with God's Word. It also connected to a book that I'll be reviewing for you soon. I won't go into info on that book just yet. However, when I sat down for some quiet time last night, I opened up to Ephesians chapter 5.

I've been doing a little Scripture writing and doodling on love lately. It's just been something on my mind so much recently. The world's current view of love is so vastly separated from God's words on love. As I've written verses I've been reminded of God's love for us and the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus made in the name of that love.

Anyhow, back to Ephesians 5. So I sat to write some of the verses from the beginning of that chapter. It isn't an easy chapter. In fact, it was plain uncomfortable as I thought about the alignment message along with these verses!

Ephesians 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them.
Those are the words in NKJV which is my preference. The NIV translates "filthiness" as "obscenity". Now I don't know about you but some of those gave me a little gut-check. It is serious when there is talk of no inheritance in the kingdom and God's wrath. Paul was writing these words to the church at Ephesus in love. A love that we don't see often today. A love wrought with correction for eternal consequences. 
The world as a whole isn't a place receptive to true love, but Christians I think we need to align our lives and our definition of love with God's Word. I will be continuing my personal "love" study for awhile. 
Do you have any "love" verse suggestions for me? 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Silly Soccer

This was a post from 6 years ago:

Silly Soccer

Perhaps we should have invested in one of these Little Tikes Easy Score Soccer sets and explained soccer to Speedy a little more before he began playing.........

He seems to really believe soccer is actually football (perhaps all the international knowledge and cultural learning has been a bad thing)........ Papaw says its because we watch too much football (guilty as charged).........It's not a good thing that Speedy keeps trying to tackle other players during soccer........ It's also not uncommon to see him fall on the ball and protect it..........He was so agressive about it tonight that all the other players just stepped back and watched him.......

The first game is Saturday...... think we can deprogram him by then? Of course in 2 years he'll be old enough to swap to football..........

Funny enough, soccer never really was his sport. Even though I try to prompt him every year, I haven't talked him into football ever. Just shows we never really know where their strengths, weaknesses, and interests will be.

Apple was our first soccer player and still loves it. It's been a rough season and for the first time ever we let her/ made her quit a team. God had better plans in mind and put the right coach with the team for the remainder of the season so she was able to continue playing. It was such a blessing during a difficult time. I love that God works out even the little things for us. It was also a great lesson for Apple about praying in tough situations, following God's prompting, then seeing how He worked things out. 

Monday, August 28, 2017

The Linen Closet

We have this awkward closet in our hallway. It's narrow but deep, and it only has 2 small shelves across the back wall. There's no room for a rod. The lighting fixture is just open bulb, and it sticks out from the wall instead of hanging so it makes the storage area even smaller. I decided it was only useful as a linen closet when we first moved in.

First, I tried stacking sheets and pillowcases and comforters on those two small shelves. Well, that wasn't nearly enough room for extra bedding for 3 bedrooms and guests. Then, I invested in some plastic totes. I can get about 4 of those in there, but it's a struggle to get them through the narrow door. We can push and shove and get them in, but every time we need something we have to pull out a couple of bins to get it. Of course, plenty of extra linens get thrown in on top of the bins. We have a vacuum shoved in the front of the closet now. There's some luggage thrown in there. No matter how many times I pull everything out and straighten it up, that closet is just a mess. I keep trying to think of ways to make the storage area more useful, but it's just so awkward. I want it to be nice and tidy, but it's a perpetual disaster.

Isn't life like that too? We get the job or the house we want. We meet a goal, and we expect things to be nice and tidy. Instead a new expense or illness or injury comes along and life feels like a disaster again. We think and plan and dream how a season will look and then something spoils it.

Sometimes I want to give up on that closet. I want to take everything out and lock the door and forget it exists. That would be silly though because I don't have anywhere else to put my linens, and it would be a huge waste! While the closet isn't perfect, it serves its purpose. It holds our linens. Not in the way we'd like but in a way that works.

Life isn't going to be perfect. We can't make it exactly like we want it because the bigger plan is God's plan. He doesn't do things the way we expect Him too.

Isaiah 55:8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.

Even as I typed this, I received some wonderful news that undid a big mess from last week. When your linen closet,, is a mess just stay in God's word and in prayer to see how it will all turn out. Some days the totes will be stacked perfectly and everything will be in its place. Some days you'll open the door and be buried by an avalanche.

Philippians 4:11b-13 For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengthened me. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Barnfest 2017

On Saturday, our family went to one of the BEST concerts in West Tennessee. This was the third annual Barnfest at The Barn at Snider Farms. Each year this FREE Christian music concert draws thousands from around the area. We went with a large group from our church. Although we've been to Snider Farms for other events, this was our first Barnfest experience.

It is AMAZING that this is a free event. Volunteers make certain that each part of the day is well orchestrated and loads of fun. There were people to direct us to park and people to greet us and hand out free hand fans as we went in. It was so, so, so hot in the West Tennessee sun but it was worth it to get there when the gates opened a couple of hours before the event began. We had wonderful seats. Our youth were given bracelets prior to the event so they could access the area right in front of the stage.

This was Speedy's very first concert. He had some concerns about the noise level and the size of the crowd but he ended up having a wonderful time. He stayed right up at the front of the stage for most of the performances! After the show was over, he purchased some cool drum sticks and had them signed by one of the bands.

I'm sure you wanna know who was there, right? Derek Minor was the first act and the one the boys of the youth group were most excited about. I had no idea that his wife was from West Tennessee! After Derek, we were treated to several songs by OBB. Apple and some of the others from church saw OBB in concert back at the beginning of the year during WinterJam. Speedy was able to meet 2 of the members of OBB and to get his drum sticks signed.

There was a speaker who gave his testimony, but I'm afraid I didn't catch his name. The main speaker was TJ Gilliam who gave a lovely message about God and how he has impacted his life. There were loads of decision counselors available for those who went down to the front after the message. I believe the count was over 100 who made the choice to accept Christ during the event. 

The fantastic evening ended with a set from Unspoken. By then the sun had gone down and so we were treated to a light show with the music. If you haven't heard the music of Unspoken, look them up! I love their song "The Cure". 

Aside from the amazing performers, there were food trucks, merchandise tents, medical personnel on the grounds, and plenty of portable pottys for the crowd. It really was a well planned event. It didn't seem like there were thousands there because lines were fairly short (except the lemonade stand!) and everything was so clean and organized. 

Our church group is already making plans to attend the event next year. I'd encourage you to follow The Barn at Snider Farms Facebook page if you are anywhere near West Tennessee! There are many other events there and you'll want to know all about Barnfest 2018 when the information is released.

I wasn't compensated in any way for this post. I just wanted to share about such an amazing event with y'all!

Do you attend concerts? Apple has been to several and now Speedy knows he likes them so I see more Christian concerts for our family in the future.  

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Romans 1:16

Romans 1:16

 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

My kids have been blasting some music from the 116 Clique lately. I have to admit I like a lot of it too! I decided to look up the key verse they reference, and this is it. What a great verse to memorize and take with us! Not only does it remind us that we should always proclaim God's Word but it's a verse to share with others who are looking for salvation. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Battles, Biographies, and Bible Verses #homeschoolhistory

Last year we got to review a really awesome history curriculum from Character Concepts. They were kind enough to send us the other set in that history series to review now! America's Struggle to Become a Nation: Understanding the Foundations of Freedom by Rick and Marilyn Boyer is an American history course for students in 4th- 6th grades. Speedy really enjoyed going through the whole Fight for Freedom curriculum last year and is thrilled to have this second dose of "History for Patriots". He was even willing to take a picture (which is RARE these days!).

America's Struggle to Become a Nation is a 384 page student textbook. There are 34 weeks of lessons included. The beginning of the workbook offers suggestions for a 4 or 5 day work schedule. Speedy works on history 4 days per week. Each weekly chapter is about 10 pages. Those pages include the main text as well as loads of colorful pictures with descriptions. There are also little extra boxes of information that are pertinent to the lesson. Sometimes, there is a mini-biography or a Bible verse highlighted in those boxes. Often, historic quotes are included in a sidebar. In additon to those extras, there are special blue boxes for "Storytime with Uncle Rick". The lessons take the student from the reasons for the War of Independence through the various events and battles in the war all the way to the signing of the Constitution. This textbook will give the elementary student a firm understanding of early American history. In a time when our Patriotism is under attack, I think it's more important than ever for my kids to learn how the American government began and why. The appendix section gives the student a chance to read The Declaration of Independence, The Bill of Rights, Washington's Inaugural Address of 1796, and Washington's Farewell Address of 1796.

The student textbook alone is full of rich history and lessons. To enrich those lessons, the teacher's guide provides weekly questions and projects. The suggested weekly schedules are included in the front and are followed by a worksheet with projects for each week. The projects range from something simple like a journal entry to research projects to designing a poster or newspaper page. There are 4 quizzes in this book as well to test knowledge retention from the lessons. There's even a bonus quiz! This teacher's guide gives permission to make up to 10 copies of each page. Since I only have 1 student and we won't be reusing this curriculum, I allow him to write his answers in my teacher's guide. It includes an answer key in the back as well as its own appendix of extras like Patriotic Song Lyrics and a timeline. Speedy misses the audio files that were included with The Fight for Freedom but Uncle Rick does offer an audio club for an additional fee.

As I said, Speedy works on this 4 days a week. That means he reads a few pages and answers 3-4 questions per day. On Thursdays, he finishes up anything left for the week and works on the project(s). He has become quite the history buff and America's Struggle to Become a Nation is one of his favorite activities each school day. He's very interested in the military and learning the specifics of many of the battles of the war against England along with the biographies of many historical heroes is perfect for him.

I really like this history curriculum because it is all inclusive. Everything he needs to complete his daily work is right there for him, and he can do it independently! He reads the schedule and completes the work on his own. I just grade it once per week and make sure he's staying on track. While I received this set for free for review, the price is so reasonable! Currently the student textbook and teacher's manual can be purchased for under $50. If you sign up for the Character Concepts emails, they often have sales with a percentage off and/ or free shipping.

If you are looking for a history curriculum with a Christian approach for your older elementary student, I highly recommend America's Struggle to Become a Nation or Fight for Freedom. Be sure to check out all the other great products that Character Concepts offers!

Monday, July 31, 2017

5th Grade

I shared all of our picks for Apple's 8th grade year last week. This week I'll be telling you about our choices for Speedy for 5th grade. My kids are exact opposites and so I look at what Apple did for the grade level when I'm planning for Speedy but often his year looks totally different than hers was. For a few years we were able to do most of the same things she did but as they grew up and their personalities emerged, our homeschool years looked different. While we stick with some of the same companies and products (Math-U-See!), we change many of them.

My goals are nearly the same for Speedy as they were for Apple in this stage though. Continuing to encourage independence in schoolwork is a big one. Speedy's handwriting struggles are far from over so we'll focus a good bit of time there. This year with both kids I will be trying some new techniques to ensure they are giving everything their best effort the first time around.

Speedy has come a long way in his schoolwork over the last couple of years, and I'm hoping that trend will continue this year. While sitting and working aren't his favorite activities, we've learned he does well with computer courses and with extra breaks in his school time so those things are on his agenda for 5th grade.

Bible- Veritas Press Self-Paced Judges to Kings with flashcards
     Speedy did the first installment of this course last year and enjoyed it very much. He really needed the flashcards to help him with the dates, but we didn't realize that until he was nearly finished with it.  Veritas included the cards with the course during a sale earlier this year so I expect his grades to be even higher this time around. I'm the teacher in his Wednesday night church class now, and he regularly answers questions from Genesis to Joshua with ease so I know he retained all that material!

Math- Math-U-See Zeta and CTCMath 5th grade
      Math-U-See has been our favorite for so long! While fractions last year were tough, I anticipate my mathmatically minded child will have fewer struggles with decimals. CTCMath is a great program, and it gives Speedy another computer course.

Science- Apologia Astronomy textbook and notebooking journal
       Speedy started Astronomy when we received it for review but wanted to finish the other Science course he was doing at the time. He will get a chance to return to Astronomy this year. It seems like a great time with the big Eclipse in August!

Language Arts- IEW's Fix It! Grammar The Nose Tree & IEW's Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization
        I planned for Fix It! Grammar to be his curriculum last year but he decided to stick with another one we received for review. We are going back to Fix It! this year. He will also continue to memorize poetry with Level 2 of IEW's program.

Writing- IEW's All Things Fun and Fascinating
        We love IEW. :) Speedy selected this curriculum himself. I wanted him to pick something he was interested in so he'd be more willing to write.

History- This is an exciting one! I just received the curriculum for this as a review product so I'm going to leave this as a mystery for a little while. Check back soon for a review!

Literature- The Hobbit (read over the summer). On the Banks of Plum Creek (trying desperately to get him to read the whole Little House series!), The Swiss Family Robinson, The Horse and His Boy, Johnny Tremain, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Treasure Island
          Speedy reads every night on his own. He enjoys it more than he lets on! He finds the large stacks I make for his literature selections overwhelming though. He usually ends up enjoying the books so I will continue to push him with challenging material each year. I may lose the Little House battle after this one however...

Handwriting- Speedy will be using a variety of copywork material again this year. As I said, his writing has improved but still needs work. He'd like to learn cursive but just isn't quite ready yet. If this changes through the year we will swap to some type of cursive curriculum.

Spelling- IEW Phonetic Zoo
          Speedy started Phonetic Zoo (again) last year and really liked it. He will continue with it this year.

Electives- Speedy really won't have too many electives this year. I am planning to put both kids in a homeschool PE program that begins in September. I think Speedy will really enjoy that opportunity, and it gives them both a chance to regularly be out of the house. We will likely also join the local co-op when it gets going again.

It seems like 5th grade will be a year to continue building on everything Speedy has worked on so far. I'm praying and believing this will be a good, solid homeschool year.

Are you ready for 2017-2018? Have you made all your curriculum picks?

Monday, July 24, 2017

8th Grade

Our school supplies are purchased and our calendar is set. I still feel very unprepared for my child to be in 8th grade though! Actually I watched a homeschool high school planning information session yesterday, and it made me feel much better. Still....8th grade!!!!!

We have 1 week of summer break left and then we will ease into a new school year. Honestly Apple is excited. She's ready. My goals this year for her involve getting her to "own" her education. She is fiercely independent, but I want her to really understand this year that her learning time is for her benefit. Our schooltime is not to check off boxes I've given her but to prepare her for her future education, work, and life. She's getting there, but I hope she gains more of an understanding of that before high school. She has goals already for high school and for college. I'm so proud of her for that but I'm hoping she will see this year that diligence will pay off in the end.

She has worked very hard up until now so 8th grade will be a little "light" for her. It's a chance to fill in any gaps before beginning to gain those high school credits.

Bible- Apologia Who is My Neighbor? textbook and notebooking journal
         We worked through the first 2 books in this series as a family. I'm planning to let her go through this one on her own because Speedy has something different for Bible this year. She'll also be continuing studies with her youth group.

Math- Personal Foundations for Middle School & Economics for Everybody
           Since she did Algebra I for 7th grade, we are taking things a bit slower for "math" this year. She'll be doing this consumer math study and an economics study. She will also begin Geometry at a very slow pace with CTCMath as she is actually planning to take it for her 9th grade math credit.

Science- God's Design for Planet Earth and God's Design Heat and Motion
            Again we worked on some books in this series years ago as a family through a local co-op. These are 2 that we never used. She will do both of these on her own and add in some extra resources along the way.

Language Arts- Writer's in Residence & IEW's Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization
              Apple began this when we received it for review awhile back. She didn't complete it at the time so she is going to use it this year. She will also continue Level 2 of IEW's Poetry Memorization program.

Literature- The Bronze Bow, The Children's Homer: The Adventures of Odysseus and the Tale of Troy, The Yearling, Words Aptly Spoken Short Stories
                Apple still consumes books. She's been begging for some Shakespeare for awhile so she completed a short Shakespeare Introductory course over the summer. She's also been reading Great Expectations so I felt good about giving her a lighter load for her scheduled schoolwork this year.

History- Mystery of History II
                We completed Mystery of History I as a family a couple of years ago. We've also listened to the third volume of Story of the World on audio book. She will work through Mystery of History II on her own this time.

Electives- Getting Started with French & Fallacy Detective
                 She began French last year in the midst of some Spanish studies so she will complete it this year. Fallacy Detective is a logic curriculum I won several years ago. I'm excited for her to finally take it!

I'll admit I've loved our long summer break, and I'm reluctant to start back. However, I'm excited about this 8th grade lineup, and I have high hopes that Apple will excel this year.

Monday, July 17, 2017

What Worked for 7th Grade

Last month I shared what worked for Speedy for 4th grade. Now I want to tell you what worked well for Apple for 7th grade. While many families regularly swap curriculum during a school year that goes against my planned and organized nature. When we did reviews for the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I had to learn to be more flexible as we were constantly trying new items for review. Since we did not rejoin the Crew last January, our curriculum was a little more set...or so I thought.

The first big thing Apple did differently for 7th grade was to take outside classes. Her science and language arts classes were both done outside our home by other teachers. She really enjoyed that experience and is looking forward to doing it again in the future. The program changed a bit so she's sad not to be able to do those classes for 8th grade but is hoping to rejoin in 9th grade. I thought it was great for her to experience other teachers. She learned some valuable lessons about turning in assignments on a particular date and about the importance of remembering to take your backpack to class! She was also involved in a local co-op both semesters so she was able to take brief Government, STEM, and Spanish classes. She enjoyed all 3 of those and learned some new things.

Now at home we had some struggles. The original Bible and History/ Government choices I had for her just really didn't pan out. She worked her way through part of them and then we swapped to something different. Since I didn't have access to as many new curricula items, we pieced things together from what we already had. She did several different Bible courses I had downloaded already, read some extra books for History, and basically worked on unit study and copywork type assignments. That wasn't at all what I had planned for 7th grade, but we made it work. I love the idea of saying she worked on X and completed it all but it just isn't that easy for 7th grade. I can say she worked on lots of different things and learned many new facts along the way. Since she was struggling in Bible and there were some character issues we needed to address with both kids, we started readying about a chapter a day of the Gospels. We made it almost to the end of John and enjoyed talking about the chapters each day.

Math is not Apple's favorite subject, but she is very good at it. It was hard but she worked through Algebra I with Math-U-See and with CTCMath. Algebra I took a good chunk of her time each day, but she completed it and was so happy to be finished.

Apple also read loads of books and did quite a bit of writing.

It's taken me so long to write this post because it's hard to define 7th grade! We realized some interesting things last year. She's read and studied so many things on her own already that taking outside classes meant she did quite a bit of "review". I tried to use that to keep calm about all the plans that went out the window mid-year. She also had some classmates tell her it was "impossible" to be doing Algebra I in the 7th grade. She went through a lot of emotions over that. She first doubted me. Then herself. Eventually though she realized it wasn't impossible and that made it that much sweeter when she finished.

Homeschool never gets easier. At least it hasn't yet for us! Each year brings on new challenges and new goals. Did you learn anything new in your homeschool year? Have you had a child that needed to chunk the plans and find something new?

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Busy Summer

Wow! Our summer has been so busy so far! We purposefully took this summer off of school so we could focus on other things. I never imagined we would be so busy with no school to do!

Speedy finished up his baseball season and attended two baseball camps. They were both new camps to him so he enjoyed both of them immensely. Apple participated in a two week drama camp that culminated with two performances. She loves the stage and had a great time getting to know new people and perform twice in a musical.

While we took the whole summer off, Speedy has been reading The Hobbit. He was a little intimidated by the size of the book so I've allowed him to read it through the summer at a leisurely pace rather than working on it this fall. Since Speedy "got" to read one of his books, Apple asked to read a literature book. She reads ALL the time so I gave her a short Shakespeare introduction course to complete instead. Of course she finished several weeks' worth in a short time.

In addition to camps and a little learning, the kids have been happy to make weekly trips to the library. They've also spent extra time with extended family, and they've been working on their kitchen skills. They've each stuck to making a meal per week, and they have 3 meals each left before school begins again.

Although these next few weeks should be slower, with VBS and soccer practices, I have a feeling life will feel just as crazy!

I hope to make up for a month with no posts! I will be sharing what worked for us for 7th grade as well as what we will be using for the upcoming school year. I also hope to have a new homeschool review for you soon!

How has your summer been? Has it been slow and leisurely or packed and busy?

Saturday, June 10, 2017

A Colorful Hardback Bible for Kids

It's been awhile since I've done a review but this colorful hardback Bible was a great way to get back to it! Handlebar Publishing sent me a free copy of the new Zonderkidz Kids' NIV Visual Study Bible. This Bible boasts 700 images inside! It includes the Old Testament and New Testament along with many study elements.

There are 1936 pages inside the Bible with a wide yellow sidebar on most pages. Each book begins with some information about the author and the book. There are also key verses and stories pointed out on these chapter pages. The yellow sidebars hold key verses and some four color pictures. There are images scattered all throughout this Bible. Some are simple drawings to illustrate the stories from the Bible. Others are informational charts and maps.

Every page doesn't have a chart or picture but many do! The added illustrations and study helps will keep readers interested as they work through the Bible. 12 full page maps are included in the back of the Bible.

Overall I think this is a solid study Bible for kids who are just beginning to read the Bible. I can see this as a good Bible to keep on a nightstand for nightly reading or in a desk for Bible study time. Our copy will be going to my classroom at church so we have an extra Bible on hand when needed.

Monday, June 5, 2017

What Worked for 4th Grade

Our school year is all wrapped up. Speedy finished 4th grade and is thrilled to be on a "real" summer break for a few weeks. We started 4th grade still reviewing a lot of curriculum but settled into a more regular routine for the spring semester. I thought I'd let you know what really worked for 4th grade for Speedy.

His all time favorite subject this year was history. He studied Government in the fall at co-op (and home) and World Geography in the spring at co-op. He enjoyed those but what he really loved was The Fight for Freedom. He can't wait to start America's Struggle to Become a Nation in the fall. 

In math, Speedy completed Math-U-See Epsilon and the CTCMath grade 4 lessons. He struggled a little with fractions but overall did very well. He enjoys CTCMath and so I purchased another 18 months of it. He and Apple will be able to utilize various levels with our Family subscription. Speedy will also move on to the next level of MUS.

For Language Arts, he completed the Logic of English lessons. He began Fix It! Grammar but we received a Critical Thinking Language Smarts Level E workbook to review and so he ended up sticking with that instead for the rest of the school year. We will pick Fix It! Grammar back up for 5th grade. He enjoyed moving around in the Language Smarts workbook. He completed the first level of IEW's poetry memorization program and began the second level. He also completed the Here to Help Learning Paragraph Level III. A mix of Perfect Reading & Beautiful Handwriting along with LOTS of copywork really made a difference in his handwriting this year. There is still room for improvement so we will continue to work in that area. 

Speedy also enjoyed doing his Bible class online with Veritas Press. He completed the Self Paced course for Genesis through Joshua and will be doing the next level for 5th grade. 

He wanted to do another level of German but Middlebury did not have another elementary option for it. He did Elementary Spanish I instead and liked it almost as much as German.

He complained about some of the Literature choices I made for him this year, but he ended up enjoying every book on the list! You can see the list and everything else we used this school year on our Curriculum Tab

Have you finished your school year? Are you taking a summer break?

Monday, May 29, 2017


When I was 16 years old, a beautiful friend died in a car accident on the way to our workplace. We were suppose to have that shift together. She was a tiny little thing with a HUGE smile. She always had such a joy about her. She had given her life to the Lord and been baptized only a few weeks before her death. I was just devastated over the loss. It seemed like a Missy sized hole was left for those of us that knew her.

Her death prompted me to be baptized. I'd been in church for some time and was positive that I wanted to know where my eternity would be spent. I will never forget Missy or the impact she had on my life.

While I've lost many loved ones over the years, it is so easy to take life for granted. We forget. We get so caught up in the little mundane petty things throughout the day. We lose sight of our purpose. We get wrapped up in our own lives and forget to cherish those we love. We forget to spread the love of the Lord to everyone we meet.

Recently I've been pretty torn up over a situation where an individual has treated my family poorly. I've given way to much energy to my anger over the past week. I've let one bad situation take precedence over all the really important things in my life.

Then yesterday...last night...I learned that a sweet friend passed away. A friend with a megawatt smile. A friend I'd known since Kindergarten. Another friend with a sweet soul and an indescribable joy about her. She's gone. Her children are left without their mother. Her husband has lost his bride. Her family and friends have lost a great treasure.

An unexpected accident has once again reminded me that our days are numbered. It has reminded me that our greatest treasures are those around us. It has reminded me that we shouldn't take our time on Earth for granted. It has reminded me that I shouldn't dwell on the things that don't have any lasting effect on our lives.

My friend left a legacy. A legacy of loving her family. A legacy of loving her friends. Everyone will remember her by her humor and the sweet spirit she had. She was wise beyond her years and every encounter with her felt like an important moment. I'm so thankful I was able to spend a little time with her a few weeks ago. There was no way to know that sitting by that pool at a birthday party watching all our kiddos would be our last time together.

Please pray for her dear family. Please pray for her friends.

I posted about Philippians 4 a few weeks ago, and it seems appropriate here as well.

Phil 4:6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Finding Peace

We went tent camping for a few days. If I talk about tent camping again, remind me it's crazy! Back in the day, we went camping with a group every year. Then when the kids were really young, we went on a really epic trip with a different group. One other time we took a short trip. We decided this year we would go for a few days with my parents.

I forgot how much work camping is. It rained the first 2 days. It was really cold the other 2 nights. It was a LOT of work. I remembered all the planning and shopping. I remembered setting up the tent. I did not remember some of the other aspects. Like all the stuff we had to take for 4 people. Like all the work to dig everything out of the cooler. Like someone complaining we forgot something every few minutes. Like never getting a minute to sit down because I had to trek to the bathrooms or fix food or get more ice or clean up the tent or dry everything from the rain. Dude.

So not the most fun we've ever had. We did have really great weather 1 day. That day the campground was FULL of campers and pop ups. There were only about 4 tents in the whole place. The campers were impressive too. Decks, full kitchens, bathrooms, big TVs....they had it all. And most of the families seemed just as cranky as we were! They were all constantly working too. Working to drain their plumbing (I thought of Robin Williams and RV several times). Working on decks and grills and fire pits. Parenting. It's work whether you are in a 15 year old tent or a recreational "home" that costs more than most yearly salaries.

Why do we do these things? Why work all week or all year to go on a vacation that's even more work?

I think we are usually seeking a break. As a mom of two, few things are actually ever a break. By the time I make plans, feed everyone, pack, do laundry, etc, there is never much rest involved. I do get to perform my daily duties in a different environment though.

We want to have fun. It's hard to make fun happen sometimes though. We always get in a few laughs but sometimes the stress of weathering a thunderstorm in a tent takes away one's sense of humor. While this trip didn't involve a lot of laughter, I'm sure we will laugh at the memories in the future. In many, many, many years.

Aren't we really just seeking peace? A little slice of calm away from all the daily responsibilities? As I looked around at the high end campers and shiny trucks to tow them, I realized once again that we'd pay almost anything for some peace. I wondered how many people in that campground knew where to find the real peace. We are in the Bible belt so most have probably heard of the Prince of Peace, but I don't know how many are actively seeking Him.

We had a little devotional time there at the lake yesterday morning since we were missing church. It was a bit strained (everything was during that trip!), but we ended up dwelling on Philippians 4:6-8 for awhile. It seemed appropriate.

6Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

Monday, April 24, 2017

The World

The world is so big yet so small. I've only seen a limited portion of God's great creation, but we now have connections in so many unique places. Years ago we met a lovely young lady who grabbed a little piece of our hearts.

She's been off on adventures for the last few years so we've only stayed connected via social media. She's decided to share some of her adventures with the world on a fun website called Run with the Unicorn. I hope you'll check it out.

She's being brave and doing something most people only dream about! I can't imagine traveling around Europe alone even at my age!

Are you a world traveler or do you stay close to home?

Monday, April 17, 2017

Write it Down

As the days tick away, I find that my memory isn't as stellar as it once was. I remember the days that I could remember phone numbers, addresses, and grocery lists without keeping them written down. Not so much anymore!

Now this post isn't about anything innovative or extraordinary. It's just something I had to start doing to help myself. I went to a local store and bought a little, inexpensive lined notebook. I brought it home and wrote "Prayer Journal" on it. I started writing down prayer requests in it. I know millions of people have done this, but it's new for me.

I've found that even if I don't have my little journal in front of me, I can remember the prayer requests better just because I wrote them down! I'm a firm believer in praying immediately when someone asks for prayer, but I also like to continually pray for those requests. This cheap little notebook is helping me do a better job of that.

I know some people use full size notebooks or larger journals. After buying this I purchased an actual prayer journal through a fundraiser. I think this little portable book may work best for me in the long run though. We had a friend/ Sunday School teacher who treasured his mother's prayer journals after her passing. What a legacy!

Do you write in a prayer journal or notebook?

Matthew 21:21-22 So Jesus answered and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done.  And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”

Monday, April 10, 2017

Home Ec: Meal Planning & Prep

Back a few years ago, I did a summer of cooking with Apple. We worked on at least one meal a week together. Since it was summer, the time it took to teach her and clean up afterwards wasn't as stressful. I'm so glad we did that! Since then she has been able to jump in and help with meals as needed. The older she gets, the more she can cook! She enjoys being in the kitchen, and I enjoy the extra help.

I recently realized that Speedy has never spent much time in the kitchen. He jumps in and lends a hand occasionally, but I haven't done any meal preparation lessons with him. When we decided to take a full summer off from homeschool, I realized it would be a great time to hide some home ec lessons into our days! I know from experience that hot Tennessee summers can equal crabby, bored kids so I like to have some planned activities ready.

So we'd make sure to get in our cooking times this summer, I estimated the number of weeks we were taking off and told the kids they would each be cooking one supper per week. We went ahead and made a list for each one of meals they'd like to try. Apple's list includes meals that take a little more experience, and she will be planning sides to go with the main dishes as well. Speedy's list is a little easier but includes a variety so he can try different cooking methods.

While one can't wait and the other is hesitant, I am excited that we have a lot of meals already planned for the summer months! I'm also looking forward to working with them on budgeting money and time for the meals. After loudly declaring I would meal plan for all of 2017, I'm sad to report those plans fell to the wayside around February! I hope this summer of cooking will reinvigorate my efforts to get us through the year!

Do the kids help out in the kitchen at your house? Do you have any big plans for the summer?

Monday, March 27, 2017

Fruits of the Spirit

When I start teaching a new group of kids, I always tend to default to the Fruits of the Spirit for the initial lesson or lessons. Galatians 5:22-23 is one of my favorite passages, and I love to share it with little people. My Elementary Wednesday night students have been working on one fruit per week.

Each week I peruse Pinterest for ideas to plan my lesson. I like to include several verses about the characteristic and a story from the Bible. We discuss the fruit and usually I read some scenarios to get them thinking about how the fruit translates to real life. I've used a variety of coloring pages, visuals, and fun to keep the lessons memorable.

For love, I found a cool way to "spread" red marker ink from one heart to other hearts. For joy,we made smiley face emojis, and I showed a piece of paper with 1 dot on it to show how we look for the fault instead of the good qualities. For peace, we colored thank you pages for our local police department. For patience, I took 3 sizes of rubber bands to demonstrate our patience stretching. For kindness, we squeezed out tubes of toothpaste to remind us we can't take back our words. For goodness, I used 2 pitchers of lemonade and added mud and rocks to one to demonstrate what happens when we let things that aren't good into our lives. For faithfulness, I took a bowl of water, a rock, and a sponge to demonstrate a faithful heart vs a hardened heart. We only have gentlesness and self-control left to learn. I plan to use some sand paper and cotton balls to talk about gentleness this week. I haven't quite decided about next week's visual, but I think it will involve candy!

You can see all the links I've saved for my Wednesday night class on this Pinterest board.

Our class is an hour to an hour and a half long so we've been working on learning 2 songs. The first is a Fruits of the Spirit song, and the second song is helping us memorize the Books of the OT. We've discussed the divisions of the OT books. We've also been playing lots of games to help us memorize them. The kids love playing a hot potato style game with a rubber ball. As they pass the ball around, they say the next book of the Bible. We've done some relay races with cards to put in order as well. I took an old Jenga set and wrote the names of the books on it. They like to build structures by putting the books in order. Last week, I made a big memory game with some cardstock. Once we've finished the Fruits of the Spirit lessons and learned our books of the Old Testament, we'll be singing our 2 songs on a Sunday morning.

Next we will work on the books of the New Testament and start another series of lessons. I'm leaning towards the Days of Creation.

Do you teach a children's class in your church? If so, what lessons are you working on right now?

Tuesday, March 21, 2017


That word has been all over my heart this week. Leadership. What does it mean? How do we lead in a Godly manner? Why are we called to lead? As my husband and I dive into a local ministry, I find us already in positions of leadership. My husband is a natural leader. He amazes me with his ability to take charge in a firm but reasonable way. We shied away from this particular church because we knew we would be called to lead in some form or fashion very quickly.

I wanted to take a break (and we did for a few months). I was hesitant to jump in and take on responsibilities. Couldn't we just chill out in a church for awhile? As I felt my heart being drawn to our friend's church, I thought back over our church experiences over the years. Each place we've been trained us in some way. We never got much training by sitting back and absorbing what was being given in the church.

In our first church we joined together, Hubby was an integral part of a missions team. I ended up on a prayer team. I was so nervous! I had not spend much time praying aloud in front of other people. As that season stretched on, I learned so much about prayer and praying from the heart without worrying about who was listening. We also both had opportunities within that church to work with kids and youth. It felt so awkward and unnatural at the time. I wasn't ever sure I was doing it "right". We still have relationships with some of our "kids" from that church. They are all grown up now and married with children. It is a joy to see their lives unfold even if we only get a peek on social media now and then.

Our next church experience involved a "home church", and there we learned what it really took to have a church. We learned more about God's Word. We learned more about the Holy Spirit. We learned about church organization and leadership. Our time there was short but I look back on it with fondness. It was an experience that gave us lots of worship time with family and friends.

When we moved on, it was to find a place for our kids. They were getting out of the baby stage, and we understood they needed a basis for their own relationship with the Lord. We went to a wonderful church. It was one of the sweetest seasons of our lives. I get emotional just recalling all the amazing things that happened in that church setting. Godly men and women poured into our children's lives and our lives there. Hubby took his first missions trip with a team there. We made the decision to homeschool during that time. It was also a time of great sadness as we suffered the loss of several loved ones during that season. In that time of sadness, God had provided a spiritual support team like none other we've ever had. We learned so much there. Again we were involved with youth and children's ministry. I took on a leadership role in that church that provided me with experience in working with children. That experience helped me teach my own kids as well as making a foundation for the future ministry work we would do. Those friendships we made in that setting linger. Those memories give me strength on some of the lonely days (and when you are homeschooling there can be many lonely days!).

At our last place of worship, we again found a group of friends that we would grow to cherish. We found ourselves teaching adult Sunday School. I learned all about VBS and how to execute one each year. Hubby preached a few times there and at other congregations. He learned about committees and leading committees. Again we learned more about church leadership, organization, and people.

Now we find ourselves at this new congregation. It is a small ministry that has built up slowly over the last few years. They are in a time of growth, and our friend had been praying for us to join them. He put us right to work. It isn't easy. It won't be easy. There are challenges that I haven't faced before. I feel confident though that the Lord has walked with me and planned my steps to prepare me for this time and place.

I listened to a great 5 minute video on RightNow Media of Cheryl Bachelder titled "Leader First vs. Servant First". It's one of those videos I just happened to come across while searching for something totally different. She's speaking on leadership in a business, but she did a great job of explaining how the most effective leaders are those coming from the standpoint of serving. If you search "servant leadership", you can find many speakers and posts on the idea. I've never thought of it in those specific terms but the truth is as Christians in any sort of leadership, we should follow the example of Christ in serving those around us.

Then I began to think about serving as a leader in our homes and homeschool settings. Am I leading to get my goals met or am I leading to serve my family? Am I leading to meet my quota for the day or am I leading to serve my children by teaching them more about Christ and His Words?

I've been grappling with a few issues recently. It's almost summer, and our plans are slim. As other parents plan big vacations and kids prepare for long summer camps, I'm looking for a frugal camping option for my family. As other families host lavish birthday parties, I'm working to treat my children to a special day with a low budget. When I really start to examine my motivations though, I wasn't worried about my kids and serving them. They are happy with whatever we provide them because they are secure. They don't dwell on earthly things nearly as much as I did at their ages (and still do!). They won't fuss or complain because they don't get the big lavish parties and trips. I'm the one with envy. I'm the one worrying about what other people are doing. I've been trying to lead with me in mind. Just like I was doing when I shied away from our new church.

I've rambled around a bit here (and I'm posting a day later than I intended!). Maybe one of you needs to consider servant leadership. Perhaps one of you needs to consider the ministry journey that you've taken. Perhaps you just need motivation to jump in where God is leading you. Most likely I just needed to get my own journey in writing to see where I've been so I have a clear path for where I'm headed. Whichever it is, thanks for taking the time to read.

Monday, March 13, 2017

How We Homeschool

So I shared with you what I'd go back and change about our homeschool journey. Now I'd like to share the things that have worked really well for us. They may not work well for anyone else but these are the things that have been a consistent plus for our family.

*Routine- I've shared with you recently about our scheduling and our schoolroom so I won't repeat those things here. However, a routine makes all the difference for us. Knowing that we will focus on school early in the day on certain days makes our lives calmer. Some families we know thrive on spontaneity and change. We aren't one of those families. Our lives have plenty of chaos so a school routine keeps us balanced. The kids wake up, have breakfast, and get ready for the day before our homeschool time begins. Then we work steadily until the work is completed each day. We know which days we will be doing school ahead of time. We only adjust if it's really necessary. Working hard on scheduled days means we have more freedom on our "off" days.

*Christian Education- We have included the Bible and devotionals and studies each year. We've focused on science and history from a Christian perspective. We use Christian resources for many of our educational choices. I LOVE that we have the freedom to teach from our hearts and beliefs. As a family our faith is a huge part of our lives and homeschool time is not an exception.

*Goals- While I don't always sit and make a list of specific goals for each child each school year, I do have some ideas floating around in my head. Typically, their academic goals go along with their curriculum for the year (Algebra I curriculum= learn Algebra). I also set goals based on their weaker areas (ie handwriting or spelling or whatever). I like to set life goals lessons for them as well. For example, I have some specific ideas for each of them about cooking lessons this summer. Kids live up to our expectations so we should set them high not low. These goals give us direction and aim our focus.

*Friends- It is SO important to have a homeschool support group. Whether it's a formal group that meets monthly or just 1 friend you can call or text in a crisis, you NEED friends that specifically homeschool. It's great to have older friends that can mentor you along the way because they've already done that season of life. It's imperative that you have friends who are in the trenches with you because they will get it. They will get you. They will understand when you are LOSING YOUR MIND BECAUSE THAT ONE KID WON'T EVER FINISH XYZ or when you are crying because you ran out of coffee. God has blessed me with a couple of those friends, and they are worth more than gold y'all. I need them. I am so thankful for them. Once you've been a homeschool mom for awhile, make it a point to reach out to a newbie so you can share your experience with them. Your kids also need other friends that homeschool. It helps them too. Otherwise they don't have anyone to text until after 3:00! HA!

*Laughter- I'd love to put "fun" here but fun isn't my specialty. Now laughter....I LOVE to laugh. My kids love to laugh. Even on the worst days one of us can usually get a giggle out of the others. Laugh y'all. Even if you aren't the fun mom (I totally get ya!). Crack a joke. Have an impromptu dance party. Play with Snapchat filters for a few minutes. Help make homeschool memories that prompt a smile in the future. Every day isn't awesome. Every day can include some laughter.

I could add other things to this list of things that have worked for us. These are just the first 5 things that stick out to me right now. They're the 5 things I'd probably recommend first to someone considering or starting to homeschool their children. What would be your #1 thing that has worked for your family?