Jul 302018
 

Disclosure –  I received a free copy of Christmas Around the World Unit Study in order to write this review. I was compensated for this post, but I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own.

It’s late July. What’s on your mind?

A. It’s hot.

B. I can’t believe that summer is almost over.

C. I really need to figure out school plans for this year.

D. We ought to do a Christmas Around the World unit study this year.

I’m betting the answer is probably not D. However, I know that Christmas always sneaks up on me. We have done a few fun Christmas activities over the years including Borax Snowflakes. But every year I think we should try to do a study focusing on Christmas during the holiday season. But I tend to think of that when it’s too late, and I’m already scrambling to buy gifts, bake cookies, and decorate.

But what if I did start thinking of that now? What if there was a resource that planned a Christmas Unit study for me?

Thankfully there is, and I was sent a copy to review. It’s Christmas Around the World Unit Study by Katie Horner.

Christmas Around the World Unit StudyChristmas Around the World is a a 6-week Geography Based Unit Study for grades K-6. It covers Christmas traditions in 29 different countries plus 1 lesson on Christmas Carols in a total of 196 reproducible pages.

There are 2 informational pages for each country. The first page provides text with information about the celebration of Christmas in the country. The second page includes a list of recommended resources for additional study. There are lists of books and websites that provide ideas to focus on history, home economics, geography, art, music, or math.

Following the informational pages, there are 4 additional pages for each country. For each country there is a coloring page and country information sheet. The other 2 pages include a variety of different activities such as word searches, writing prompts, matching games, and comparison of traditions in different countries.

The book is designed as a 6-week unit study with one country studied each day. Choosing that option, you could start in mid-November and study all the countries before Christmas. But there are many other ways you could use this resource.

  • Add it to your geography studies throughout the year
  • Divide the countries and have each student present what they learned at a co-op or other group
  • Study more than one country per day
  • Divide the countries by continents and study traditions from different regions spanning multiple years

I think I can cross one thing off my Christmas to-do list! You can too. You can purchase a copy of Christmas Around the World Unit Study for $26.97.

Now back to thinking about how hot it is.

 

 

 

 

Mar 272018
 

Disclosure – I received a free copy of Mexico Coloring Book & Geography study in order to write this review. I was compensated for this post, but I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Geography Study

I consider myself to be fairly knowledgable in the subject of geography. As a family, we’re committed to Raising Map Nuts. We make up geography games and quiz each other on the what state our tortilla chip looks like. We’ve visited all 100 county seats in our home state of North Carolina, and we have a goal of visiting every state capital.

Mexico Geography StudyWhen I received the Mexico Coloring Book & Geography Study by Tap and Katie Hornor, I was a bit ashamed to discover how little I know about the country of Mexico. I know all the provinces of Canada, but I not only didn’t know the names of the Mexican states, I didn’t even know how many there are! (There are 31 plus 1 federal district, in case you’re wondering.)

About the Book

The Mexico Coloring Book & Geography Study includes a black line map of each state. The capital city is marked for the student to label as well as the major rivers. Each map page also includes a small map of Mexico with the individual state marked for reference. On the bottom of the page is a catalog of facts about the state. These facts include the state motto, shield, area, capital, and other interesting facts. Each of the state pages is included in both English and Spanish.

Also included (in both English and Spanish) are notebook pages for compiling the data on the Mexican states. There are pages for Biography, Demographics, Coat of Arms and Motto, Geography, State History, and Historical Monuments. The entire booklet is reproducible for use within your family.

Suggested Uses

This resource would be a great spine for a full study on the country of Mexico. I think it would also be a great resource for Spanish teachers as a springboard for studying Mexican geography, culture, and related topics. You can purchase the book from Paradise Praises through Amazon for $14.97.

Feb 262018
 

Disclosure: I received a free copy of Bible Activities Genesis to Revelation in order to complete this review. I was compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own, and I was not required to publish a positive review.

Over the years, we have chosen a variety of different approaches to teaching Bible in our homeschool. Some years we’ve used a formal Bible program. Other times our Bible learning has been tied to our history program. During yet other times, we’ve not had a formal Bible curriculum, instead have used various devotionals and listened to Scripture. All are excellent ways of studying the Bible with our children. The most important thing is that we teach the Bible to our children in some way.

Bible Activities Genesis to Revelation

I was interested in reviewing Bible Activities Genesis to Revelation because we’re at one of those in between times without a formal Bible curriculum, and I thought it might be a good “extra” for Andrew to work in when I’m busy with other children.

 

What Bible Activities Genesis to Revelation IS

  • A collection of a variety of activities to enhance any Bible curriculum or study
  • 64 pages of activities
  • Appealing to elementary aged children

What Bible Activities Genesis to Revelation is NOT

  • NOT a curriculum
  • NOT a Bible study

In Bible Activities Genesis to Revelation, you will find word searches, crossword puzzles, coloring pages, mazes, code puzzles, sequencing activities, and more. With activities spanning the whole Bible it could be a useful addition to any Bible curriculum.

My suggested uses for Bible Activities Genesis to Revelation

  • Bible time at home
  • Sunday afternoon quiet time for children
  • Sunday school
  • Children’s church
  • Activity to use in child care during Women’s Bible Study

My thoughts on Bible Activities Genesis to Revelation

This is an average activity book. I don’t find it particularly unique except that it does contain activities for more than just the most common Bible stories. For example there is a word scramble for the book of Judges and a page on Naaman’s cleansing from leprosy. It also has a good variety of types of activities, but I can’t personally see myself using this as a supplement to a Bible curriculum. I can see its possible value in working with children in Sunday School or at a time when you have a group children with no set activities. (To use in a group other than your family would require either a group license or multiple copies of the book. Please contact the author at Paradise Praises if you would like to use in a group setting.) I will most likely give this to my youngest and allow him to work through it as he chooses. I think during my Sunday afternoon nap time it will be great!

 

Feb 062018
 

Disclosure: I received a free 16X20 canvas from Canvas Press in order to write this review. I was not otherwise compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Recently I was given the opportunity to review Canvas Press. I jumped at the chance because I love canvas prints, but rarely purchase them because they tend to be expensive.

Ordering Process

This was the first time I’ve used Canvas Press, and I was very pleased with the simple ordering process. The hardest part for me was deciding on a picture!

The first step in the design process is deciding on the thickness of the wrapped canvas. The options are 0.75″, 1.5″ and 2.0″. I selected the 1.5″ because one of the other canvases that we have is that width, and I prefer the way it looks compared to the thinner one that we have.

Next, upload the image. You can use an image from your computer or Flickr. When the image appears, it is easy to center the image and crop it. I like that the wrapped edges are shown in the preview.

Then select the size of canvas to purchase. You can use one of the preset standard sizes or create a custom size. On the next screen, there are options to select different finishes, color options, and enhancements. You can even request minor or major enhancements like changes in background or removal of large objects for an additional cost.

I chose the standard options because I had my son do some minor color enhancement on the image that I selected before I uploaded it.

Print Quality Indicator

I think that the most helpful feature on the site is the print quality indicator. The first image I uploaded was one that I downloaded from my on-line photo storage account because I couldn’t find the original.

Simple Canvas Prints

I looked at the print quality indicator and it was midway in the green area, so I was pleased. However, my son, who is very particular about images, asked me where I had found the image. He said he could see some data compression in it. After that I managed to find the original image and used it instead of the downloaded one. Notice the difference in the print quality indicator below.

Canvas Press Review

Although I personally couldn’t tell the difference looking at the images, and I doubt that I would have been able to see much difference had I used the first image file, I am impressed  that the site’s indicator is that sensitive. It’s hard to tell what an image will look like when it’s enlarged, so having an indicator is a necessity for customers to receive quality prints that they’re happy with.

Final Results

I received my order in just over 1 week! I am so pleased with the results. If you’re looking for simple canvas prints, I recommend Canvas Press.

Canvas Press Bryce Canyon print

Now if I could just decide where to hang it!

 

Oct 302017
 

Screen Addiction?

My kids are growing up in a different world than I did. Think about life before the internet. And now think about life before smart phones.

Our daily activities were different when we were kids, weren’t they? When I was a small child, the only screen we had was television. And that was hard to get addicted to with only 3 channels and an antenna on the roof. Technology changed dramatically between the time my oldest was a toddler and my youngest was a toddler. We had a computer with games for our older children, but there were no touch screens. Now smart  phones and tablets are commonplace. I see children in strollers playing on tablets while their parents walk!

Screen Addiction

Child Girl Screen Time by R. Nial Bradshaw is licensed under CC BY 2.0

 

I personally love  and benefit from much of the technology in the information age in which we live. I enjoy being able to almost instantly find out the answer to a random obscure question. (We have a lot of those.) I am able to work from home and homeschool my children all because of the internet. I’m extremely grateful for that.

But we as a society have a problem.

We’ve become addicted to our phones and not connected enough with real, live people. Even without meaning to, we pick up our phones and look at them INSTEAD of looking at our family and friends. Even when they’re talking TO US. It’s become such a habit that we pick up our phones and start scrolling without even thinking of it.

However, there is help for screen addiction. To start with, I recommend reading Calm, Cool, and Connected.

Calm, Cool, and Connected: A Review

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book in order to write this review. I was not compensated for this post. All opinions expressed are my own.

Screen Addiction?When I received the invitation to review Calm, Cool, and Connected by Arlene Pellicane, this was the opening paragraph of the invitation.

Do you ever find yourself mindlessly scrolling through social media, sometimes late into the night? Or maybe you’re prone to answer “just one more text,” even though your child is desperately waiting to speak with you. Perhaps your phone is the first thing you reach for in the morning, a Netflix binge is on your nightly agenda, and you’ve caught yourself texting at red lights. Has technology taken over your life?

I read that and knew immediately that I needed to read this book!

Calm, Cool, and Connected is a short, quick, and easy to read book. It is structured around the acronym HABIT.

H – Hold Down the Off Button

A – Always Put People First

B – Brush Daily: Live with a Clean Conscience

I – I Will Go Online with Purpose

T – Take a Hike

Making Changes

Though it is easy to read, it is not easy to implement. It has challenged me to make changes in my use of technology. I have caught myself repeatedly not looking up from my phone or computer when my kids have come to me with a question. I was unaware of this behavior before reading the book. There should always be a reason for going on-line. Without a specific purpose, I will get sucked into social media. I have been convicted about how much time that I waste looking at social media and playing games on my phone. I talk about how busy I am and use being tired as an excuse for not getting more work done, but I have a lot more time to be productive than I was admitting. If I don’t want to use my spare time to be more productive, I can use it to truly relax. Playing on my phone is NOT relaxing.

If you or your family struggle with screen addiction, I highly recommend reading Calm, Cool, and Connected. I think you’ll be glad you did!

screen addiction

Calm, Cool, and Connected is available at ChristianBook.com and other major booksellers.

This is an affiliate link. If you make a purchase after clicking this link, I will receive a small percentage.

Jul 082017
 

Creation versus Evolution

Evolution is taught as basic fact in schools. It is what all “scientists” believe. Only uneducated, brain-washed Christians believe that God created the universe and everything in it. Right?

It seems that there is a lot of division in the US and the world today. Creation versus evolution is just one of the issues dividing us. But is creation only for people who have “blind faith” in the Bible? Is evolution science, but creation religion?

Is Genesis History? seeks to show that a belief in creation does not require “blind faith” but is an entirely reasonable conclusion when viewing the evidence from a Biblical perspective. In the 101 minute film, Del Tackett visits 13 different PhD scholars in fields like geology, paleontology, microbiology, astronomy, archaeology, and Hebrew to discuss the Genesis account of creation and how the evidence that we find on earth is consistent with what we read in Genesis. In the discussions, they compare the ways that evolutionists and creationists look at the same data and come to different conclusions based on their starting assumptions. They also point out many of the inconsistencies in evolutionary theory.

The film is divided into the following sections with each one featuring a discussion with a different scientist.

creation versus evolution

  • Changing Our Perspective
  • What do the Rocks Tell Us?
  • A Question of Paradigms
  • What Does the Text Say?
  • How Do You Measure Time?
  • A Brief History of the World
  • The Origin of Fossils
  • When Dinosaurs Walked the Earth
  • Soft Tissue in Dinosaur Bones
  • The Genius of Design
  • The Potential of Created Kinds
  • The Purpose of the Stars
  • Where was Babel?
  • Genesis and Our Culture
  • A Changed Perspective

Our thoughts on Is Genesis History?

The film is well-made and interesting. It does a nice job of displaying beautiful scenery while explaining key concepts. I think the graphics are nicely done and are helpful. I like that the chapter divisions on the DVD  allow for a quick review of certain topics. The film flows well as a whole and does not seem a pasting together of individual chapters.

Our family is not new to the study of creation versus evolution. My husband and oldest son are especially educated on the topic. We have a relatively large home library of books and videos dealing with the topic of Biblical creation and evolution. So with that in mind, they had a couple of criticisms of the film.

First, neither my husband or son liked the conversational style of the video. Both of them felt it made it seem scripted, and somewhat disingenuous. I personally wasn’t particularly bothered by the conversational style, but it may grate on some. My son was particularly frustrated by the section on stars and the universe. He felt that in an attempt to keep things simple, they glossed over some very important ideas and current creationist hypotheses about how we can see starlight if the universe is only thousands of years old.

Considering that this film is intended as more of an introduction to the various topics discussed, I think that it fulfills that role nicely. It should inspire someone less familiar with creation versus evolution issues to do further research into areas that don’t seem as clear, and seek out resources that more fully address some of these difficult topics.

You can purchase a copy of the film in DVD or Blu-Ray format. A DVD/Blu-Ray combination package is also available. You can view the various options at Compass Classroom.

Are you interested in science curriculum from a Biblical creationist perspective? Try Apologia Science .

Disclosure: The links provided are affiliate links. If you purchase through the links on this post, I will receive a small commission. I received a free copy of Is Genesis History? in order to write this review. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Feb 112017
 

Disclosure: I received Thin Stix by Kwik Stix to review. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

The Reality of Art Projects

“Mommy, can we paint?”

In my head –  “Ugh.  Not paint. I will have to find newspaper for the table. And where did I put those shirts we were using for smocks? And then there’s the wet paint on everyone’s hands.”

What I say –  “Wouldn’t you rather play outside? Or color with crayons?”

“No, we want to paint.”

In my head – “I really should let them. Kids should be allowed to experiment with different art media. It’s ok if they make a mess. If they were in school, I bet they’d have more chances to paint.”

“OK, Give me a few minutes to get everything set up.”

15 minutes later…

“Everything’s ready. You can paint now.”

5 minutes later…

“Thanks Mommy! Do you like my picture? We’re going to play outside now.”

Sigh.

Art Time

Does anything about my story sound familiar? I want my kids to have fun doing art projects. I want to be a “Yes” mom. But extra work and extra mess goes against my nature. Sometimes I just say yes and deal with the mess. But other times I just say no. Not now. And that’s ok too. However, I have found a solution to those times when the kids want to paint, but I don’t want the mess..

Thin Stix by Kwik Stix

Thin stix

The solution is Kwik Stix! Kwik Stix are tempera paints in a stick. There are no brushes to clean and no liquid paint to spill. There is no need for smocks. It dries in 90 seconds so there’s no running, smearing or smudging.

I received a package of Thin Stix by Kwik Stix to review. I opened them up and gathered my review team. They immediately went to work creating a variety of pictures.

The paint goes on smoothly and evenly. The colors are vibrant and the stix are easy to use. You just twist up more when needed, like chapstick.

Is it painting? Technically, no. But it is art.

These are great for school projects like posters. It is so much easier to write letters with Thin Stix than a paint brush.

Interested in trying Kwik Stix? You can purchase at Amazon.com and select retailers such as Books A Million and Target.

Thin Stix Art Gallery

Abstract Art by Lizzie, age 10

Flower by Anna, age 16

Rainbow by Andrew, age 6

Bob and Larry by Andrew, age 6

Sunny scene by Anna, age 16

 

 Posted by at 7:26 pm  Tagged with:
Oct 162016
 

There are a few subjects that strike fear in the hearts of homeschoolers. Advanced math and high school science are a couple that are usually on the list. But there’s another equally scary subject and that’s…

FOREIGN LANGUAGE!

Why is foreign language so scary? The simple fact is that most of us in the US are not bilingual. And it’s really hard to teach something that you don’t know. So by necessity most homeschoolers either look for someone else to teach their students a foreign language, choose a foreign language that isn’t spoken like Latin, or choose a foreign language curriculum that teaches directly to the student with little parent/teacher involvement.

When I was approached by Speekee to review their Accelerate Spanish program for homeschools, I jumped at the opportunity because I’m one of those typical Americans who isn’t bilingual. I’m also stretched for time, so I’m always happy to find educational opportunities that don’t require much input from me. Speekee provided me with 1 year of free access to the program in exchange for my honest review.

Speekee Accelerate Homeschool Spanish

The Facts

Speekee Accelerate is a video-based Spanish curriculum designed for students ages 8 and up. In addition to short videos, Speekee Accelerate includes worksheets, audio clips, and activity ideas for additional instruction. Each of the 40 weekly lessons is divided into 4 parts. On day 1, students watch the entire video (about 15 minutes). This video is completely in Spanish, spoken by native Spanish speaking children. There is very little explanation in the video, rather it immerses the student in the language. For the next 7 lessons, various sections of the video are watched again with emphasis placed on a different topic that was covered in the video like numbers, colors, greetings, etc. There is also an option to receive a weekly e-mail with activities and links for each lesson.

Speekee Accelerate Homeschool Spanish Screen Shot

A peek at the lesson interface

My Opinion

The video lessons are quality productions. We did not particularly entertaining, but these are not designed to be entertaining.  The videos allow the student to hear the language spoken. They have kept the dialogue to a minimum. I think that makes them not as overwhelming as watching a regular television program in Spanish. (We do find it interesting to do that occasionally, just to hear the language, but we could definitely not learn Spanish that way.) It’s really not possible to create a very exciting storyline with limited Spanish vocabulary.

I love the fact that the lessons are short. It makes it much easier to fit into our busy days. The weekly e-mail is a fantastic idea and the activity ideas are extra helpful and add some fun to the program.

Speekee Accelerate is a great way to add elementary Spanish instruction into our homeschool day.

Speekee Accelerate Homeschool Spanish Sample Worksheet

A sample worksheet

The Cost

Speekee is a monthly subscription product. You pay just $7.50/month for access to 4 different learning products. In addition to Accelerate, there is Speekee Fast Track for ages 4-7 and Speekee TV which I previously reviewed here. Speekee Play is an on-line game to reinforce and learn more Spanish. If you’re unsure about Speekee, they offer a 2 week free trial and you can cancel your monthly membership at any time.

If you’re looking for an easy way to add some elementary Spanish to your day, I recommend that you try Speekee.

 

Aug 032016
 

Compass Classroom recently released a new modern history class entitled Modernity, and they gave me the opportunity to preview the course. Covering a wide range of topics from modern history including the Enlightenment, Napoleon, the Industrial Revolution, and the World Wars, the high school level class consists of 27 weekly lessons. Each lesson includes 5 video segments with instructor Dave Raymond that are approximately 20 minutes long.

Along with the video, there are accompanying reading assignments available in Kindle, pdf, and epub formats. In addition to the lecture and reading, the student works on a portfolio and several projects over the course of the school year. The modern history projects include a Reformation Imitation Project, a Speech on Tradition, a Research Paper, and the Hour Project.

The Hour Project is an open-ended final project of the student’s choosing. It should be something that takes a substantial number of hours to complete (they recommend 30-40) and can showcase the talents and interests of the student. Some examples in the teacher guide include copying a famous paintings, making a reproduction of a piece of Victorian furniture, or creating an illustrated children’s book.

 

4 things to love about Modernity

  1. Easy to teach – The course is well-laid out and teacher friendly. It’s divided into daily lessons so it’s very open and go with little to no planning required.
  2. Interesting presentation –  Dave Raymond is excited about history and it shows in his presentation. He’s interesting to listen to. While much of the video is lecture, there is a nice blend of related images mixed with the video of the speaker.
  3. Christian Worldview – There is plenty of opportunity to study history from the politically correct, secular worldview. This class not only teaches history from a Christian perspective, but also provides the Christian perspective of why history is important to study.
  4. Variety – While the format is predictable with 5 daily videos and corresponding readings, the projects and portfolio pages add the opportunity for students to be creative and truly own the content.

If you’re looking for an American History course you can read my review.

Discloser: I received a free download of 8 lessons of Modernity in order to write this review. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own. This post includes affiliate links.

Apr 202016
 

As a homeschool mom of 5 who works part-time from home, I have a lot to manage. Between working, keeping up with my teenagers’ schedules, teaching my younger children, and managing my home, free time is rare. Recently I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my lack of close friends. I’ve tried to analyze the reason. I realize I don’t often write personal posts here (OK, so I don’t often write at all), so bear with me as I share.

Why don’t I have close mom friends?

Part of my situation can be explained by moving. I had a couple of very close friends as a young wife and mother. I made those friends at a time when it’s easy to make friends. My husband and I were newly married, and we had no children. Our friends also had no children at the beginning of our friendships. We were free to do lots of things with our friends and spend many late nights, talking, laughing, and playing games. We continued to do so after we had babies. What are portacribs for, right?

Then we moved to a different state. We joined a church 30 minutes from our home. It was hard to invite people over. With young children it seemed harder to build friendships. Being new, everybody already had friends. But I tried, and in that season I made some pretty good friends. I went to women’s Bible study at church and developed some friends there. I was no one’s best friend, but I did have a few ladies that I could talk to. During this time I also had a neighbor that I used to chat with a lot.

Then we moved again, closer to the church. Ironically at the same time that we moved closer, we left that church and joined a much smaller church. I had begun homeschooling a couple of years earlier and it had gotten to the point where attending a weekly daytime women’s Bible study was difficult because we basically lost an entire day of school. Around that time I went through a very difficult time after being rejected by a friend whom I had been meeting with for prayer and fellowship. Desperate to feel like I belonged, I asked to join a group of ladies (from the former church) who had been meeting for a regular evening Bible study. They let me join, and for a while I felt like one of the group. However, after the birth of my 4th child, I needed to host the group in my home because my husband was working a second job in the evenings and I had no childcare. The leader rejected my request, so that was the end of my involvement in that group.

That was over 9 years ago. The sting of that rejection is still there. That group of women still meet and go on weekend getaways. I’ve fought against the sadness that rises up when their pictures show up in my Facebook feed. I’ve wondered for years, what is so wrong with me?

Better Together: Because You’re Not Meant to Mom Alone

Better Together Cover Mom Friends

I was recently given the opportunity to review the book Better Together: Because You’re Not Meant to Mom Alone. Since I had already been pondering the topic, I thought it might be a good read.

Jill Savage and her adult daughter, Anne McClane. do a great job analyzing the different levels of friendship and the various types of friends. The book has helpful tips for meeting new people and getting to know people. There is a mothering personality inventory and a variety of creative ideas for ways that friends can share each others’ burdens in the busy seasons of life. These include swapping baby sitting or having freezer cooking get togethers. One that I had never  thought of was working with a group of friends taking turns meeting at a different house to do a project with the friend that needs help.

Better Together is a useful resource, especially for those in women’s ministry leadership. It helped me to think through the hurts of my past and admit that one of the reasons that I haven’t made close friends is a fear of rejection and bitterness over past hurts. I also realized that another reason is that I am a bit selfish. I don’t often offer to help others and I’ve failed to invite people over because I’m too busy with my own family.

Important Reminders

Even though I can identify reasons in my own behavior to explain why I may have been in this season of lacking close friends, I  also remind myself that God is sovereign. He knows that I’ve been going through this, and He could have sent a close friend in spite of my friendship flaws. Instead, I have learned more about contentment. In my loneliness, God has been faithful to draw me closer to Himself.

I’m reminded of a quote by Elisabeth Elliot,

“God has promised to supply all our needs. What we don’t have now, we don’t need now.”

So while I agree that friends are good for moms, I can’t fully agree with the subtitle of this book. No, we’re not meant to mom alone, we’re meant to mom alongside a dad. Having close friends is a bonus.