May 052014

Have you ever wondered if Australia would fit inside the state of Texas? (It doesn’t)

What about Brazil? I’ve always thought it was smaller than the continental US. It turns out it’s very similar in size.

I have just been introduced to a fun geography website:

OverlapMaps is a very simple, entertaining, and educational website. You select a country, state, river or lake, and then select another geographical area to compare. With a click of the green arrow, a comparison map is generated.


Pretty neat, isn’t it?

The use of OverlapMaps is free so go and try it out. I’ll wait.

Fun isn’t it?

The website is free, but if you want to give your students a little direction, I recommend the Activity Sheets. Right now, Educents has a special deal on the sheets. The e-book contains instructions for using OverlapMaps, plus 10 lessons that use OverlapMaps to learn about continents, oceans, countries, and states. It’s a good value at only $4.99. That’s 60% off the regular price!

*Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase the e-book, I’ll receive a small commission from Educents. 

So what did you find out?

Will Germany fit in the state of Texas?

What’s the largest country that will fit in Alaska?



Jan 172014

Say Goodbye to Survival Mode

In November I happened to see a post in my Facebook feed about signing up for a chance to be on the launch team for Crystal Paine’s (Money Saving Mom) upcoming book, Say Goodbye to Survival Mode. Based on the title alone, I decided to sign up. At the time, I really felt like I was hanging on by a thread. We had finished with the very busy fall cross country season. (OK, a month earlier) and there’s something about getting through a major busy time that leaves me feeling let down. So I felt blah but without direction, and  I wasn’t making any progress on anything.

Thankfully, I was chosen for the team. I started reading and found myself agreeing wholeheartedly. The first chapter was Stop Trying to Do it All. Honestly, I’ve always prided myself in not over scheduling. I felt like I had kept our schedule pretty open. But in this season of our homeschool with my oldest in high school, we are involved in several outside lessons and classes. And they’re at an all time high this school year.

Time doesn’t expand limitlessly. When I say yes to one thing, I must say no to something else.

I’ve definitely said yes to a lot of things this year. What have I said no to?

Consciously, nothing. But certain things were not getting done.

Things like –

  • Regular Exercise
  • Meaningful Bible Study
  • Going over lessons with my children
  • Some housecleaning tasks (like ironing and mopping) – OK, so I don’t mind skipping those.

But then came the part where I was supposed to write down my own personal priority list.

And I froze.

I’ve never been one for open ended questions. And trying to come up with 4 or 5 concise statements of my priorities in life is overwhelming.

But I knew I should do it. I couldn’t go on without doing it. But I couldn’t do it. But what if the rest of the book hinges on those priorities?

Finally after being stuck without reading, I decided to keep reading.

OK. On to Chapter 2. Say Yes to the Best. Oh no, we’re going to be using the personal priorities list! Just keep reading.

Pretty soon Crystal got to topics that are more comfortable for me: things like dividing your time and  setting up a routine. Those are more my style. That’s how I think naturally. I haven’t been doing them though. I wonder why not? What happened?

The book progresses from thinking about the big picture of our goals and priorities to more practical ways to organize specific areas of our lives such as finances, the home, and giving. Crystal’s writing is informative and engaging with a good mix of personal stories and practical tips. But it’s not an exhaustive organizing book with how-to’s on organizing everything under the sun. It’s more of a big picture book with practical tips to get you started.

I kept getting called back to that big picture. What are my priorities? Why am I doing the things I am doing? What am I doing with my time? With the new year approaching, it seemed an appropriate time to be pondering  all these things. As a result of reading Say Goodbye to Survival Mode  I started to implement some major changes to my schedule.

The biggest one is my no computer times I have set up every day. I have determined that I cannot do a good job with homeschooling while I am also checking e-mail, browsing Facebook, and working on my job. So I am requiring that my laptop stays shut and put away from 8-11 am every weekday. And in order to spend more focused time with my husband in the evenings, we have both agreed to no electronic devices between 6-8 pm.

Without me bringing it up, my husband suggested that we set some goals for the year and think about our priorities. Isn’t that an amazing coincidence? (I don’t think so. I love how God in his sovereignty oversees even the seemingly small details like my getting “randomly” selected for a book launch.) If I hadn’t read Saying Goodbye to Survival Mode, I wouldn’t have been prepared to set goals with my husband. I would have felt like he thought I was failing, and I needed help. But I was finally ready to admit that I did need help. And I came up with the no computer time idea. My husband had thought of that long ago, but knew better than to suggest it to me. Some things we have to see for ourselves. And I foolishly thought I could handle all that multi-tasking. And I continued to sink further and further.

Things are looking so much better. No, my life of homeschooling 5 children, keeping house, and working part-time is not suddenly easy. But I finally feel more in control. I still haven’t written out my priorities, but I’m going to. I have set aside a lot of the things that were wasting my time (mainly computer related), and I have been much more productive. Do I owe it all Say Goodbye to Survival Mode? Well, maybe not, but it certainly came at the right time and helped me to get out of the life boat and back onto the ship.

So take a look at the book. Right now it’s still pre-order only, but there are some great freebies that come with it. But hurry if you want the free stuff because the book will be released on January 21!

Disclosure: I received an advance electronic copy of this book in order to complete this review. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.



Dec 102013

I have a confession.

I have trouble being consistent with studying the Bible.

I want to. I plan to. But all too often, I let things get in the way.

Like sleep.

Or the computer.

Or chores.

Honestly, the thing that worked the best and the longest was being in a weekly Bible study with other women. Due to various circumstances, that’s not something I can do at this time, and I miss it. I miss both the accountability and the fellowship.

#puttingonthespirit #busymomdevosI recently was given the opportunity to review a new devotional by Katie Hornor titled Putting on the Spirit.

I definitely need that. (Really, who doesn’t?)

The sub-title is also intriguing: Ten-minute Devotions for Busy Moms.

OK. I’m a mom.

I’m busy.

Surely I have 10 minutes, right?

When I downloaded my copy of Putting on the Spirit, I expected to find some devotional thoughts on the different fruit of the spirit. Maybe some mom anecdotes.

However that is not what I found at all. I would classify this as more of a Bible study than a devotional. Not a complicated, in-depth Bible study, but still more study, less devotional.

Maybe I have a different picture of devotional, but when I think of devotional, I think of something that I read and think about. Hopefully something speaks to me, and I’ll think of it again during the day. But not always. But a devotional is just a short scripture passage and a few thoughts on the passage. It does not involve looking up other scripture or answering questions.

Putting on the Spirit does involve me. It’s a study. A lighter Bible study. (Don’t imagine doing multiple word stories and pages of cross references.) But there are cross references. And questions to answer. The author even provides a free workbook on her website. (

I am impressed with this study. It’s simple, yet deep. It’s short, but meaningful. It’s all of these things because it’s not much of the author’s own thoughts, but instead  her guiding you through the Bible for yourself.

Has this book provided the miraculous end of my struggle with consistency? Well, no. But should I expect any study to do that? No. That comes from being consistent. (I know that seems crazy, but it’s really true. The more time you spend with God in study and prayer, the easier it becomes because then you recognize your need even more.) But it’s a start.

This week Putting on the Spirit is only $0.99 on (Kindle version). And today (Tuesday) it’s free! There is also a Spanish version coming soon.




Sep 192013

I was recently contacted by Easy Canvas Prints with an opportunity to review one of their products. I have seen many advertisements for photo canvases, but I have never actually purchased one, so I was eager to see what they looked like close up.

Then came the hard part. (The only hard part.) Picking out a picture!

I finally decided on a picture from our Arizona vacation last summer. Of course that didn’t help narrow it down too much. My husband, son, and I went searching through the several hard drives where we had stored the pictures from 2 different cameras before finally settling on 1 of the Grand Canyon.

There were a few different options to choose from on the site. These include size, (Ours is 16×20), depth of wrap (0.75 inches), and border options. The free border options included wrapping the image around, having a mirror image of the edge of the canvas wrap, or making the border a color.



Do you see how the image goes right around the corner of the canvas? I love that!

Our canvas shipped quickly and was packed well for shipping. I highly recommend Easy Canvas Prints and hope to do some of my Christmas shopping there!

Here’s a view of the whole canvas. (It’s very hard to take a picture of a picture!)


Now the other hard part is deciding where to hang it! (It also came with a hanger already installed.)

Interested in trying out Easy Canvas Prints for free?


Disclosure: I received a free 16X20 canvas in exchange for this review. All opinions expressed are my own. I was not compensated for this review.

Feb 122013

Since my last post was the post where I admit I was wrong, maybe this one should be the post where I admit I am late! I hope I’m not the only one that has let something go far too long. I’m really good with deadlines. But when there isn’t an exact deadline, then sometimes I procrastinate.

And procrastinate I have with this book. I don’t even know how long ago I received it. I don’t even want to think about it. But I do want to keep my commitments regardless of the late hour.

how-do-we-know-the-bible-is-trueHow Do We Know the Bible is True? is a compilation of treatises on difficult topics by various authors. It was edited by Ken Ham and Bodie Hodge and published by Master Books, a division of New Leaf Publishing Group.

When I ordered the book, I thought it was going to be a whole book that focused on proving the truth of the Bible. It is in a broad sense, but delves into a variety of different subtopics. Some of the chapter titles include:

  • Is the Old Testment Reliable?
  • Did the Physical Resurrection of Christ Really Happen?
  • Did Moses Write Genesis?
  • Did Miracles Really Happen?

All of those topics do deal with the broad subject of the authority of Scripture, but explore the arguments for and against the each of the questions.

I found the book interesting, but it wasn’t the type of book I can read straight though. (That’s part of the reason for the LONG delay in this review.) I think it is particularly helpful in pointing out the reasons someone might disagree with the Bible’s authority. I have a rather conservative upcoming and still hold to a literal interpretation of scriptures. (For those that are supposed to be literal anyway. Some of the Bible is obviously figurative language. The question for the ages is which is which.) I do think this book helped me to see some of the arguments for different interpretations and also why I do not agree with them.

I do not think this would be a good book to hand to a non-Christian to prove to them the Bible is true. I’m not sure that actually exists, but this book is definitely written with a believer in mind. It’s meant to strengthen existing faith and provide information to help a Christian to defend his faith.

I would recommend this book to others and plan to have my 9th grade son read it. He is always asking difficult questions and I think this book will help to answer some of them.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from Master Books in order to complete this review. I was not compensated for this review and all opinions expressed are my own.

Aug 072012

Writing is probably the most difficult subject for me to teach. I guess part of that is because it is subjective. There aren’t definite right and wrong answers in writing. Sure there are some things that are definitely wrong, but moving my children from acceptable writing, to good writing, to great writing has been difficult. And I’ve actually spent very little time on writing with my 10 year old. We’ve been focused so much on reading and spelling that the only writing we’ve done so far is dictation. I do have a writing curriculum for the older 2 that I am happy with. However, I am always on the lookout for additional resources for writing. I find it helpful to have multiple approaches in writing instruction.

I recently received How to Teach the Five Paragraph Essay, How to Teach the Paragraph, and The Home School Writing Action Plan from Create Better to review.

How to Teach the Five Paragraph Essay is suitable for students as young as 4th grade through 12th grade. It begins with a review of the paragraph, so a student who has good paragraph writing skills can start in the Five Paragraph Essay course.

From Create Better

How To Teach The Five Paragraph Essay is for you if your answer is “yes” to any of the questions below.

  1. Would you like to show your students how to write a strong five-paragraph essay to a timed prompt, and have them complete it in about an hour?
  2. Would you like to show your students a simple format that will help them write essays from any writing domain?
  3. Would you like your students to be able to write exciting introductions and conclusions?
  4. Would you like a detailed lesson plan that will show you, step-by-step, how to teach the five-paragraph essay?
This resource really contains what it promises. The instructions are simple but detailed. It does an excellent job of breaking apart the essential parts of an essay. I do not remember ever having such straight-forward instruction in writing an essay.I love how the whole process can be completed in as little as 20 days. It would be a great way to focus on essay writing before taking the SAT or any other test with an essay section.


I also reviewed How to Teach the Paragraph. It targets students in the 3rd grade and up who need more instruction in writing paragraphs. Like the Essay program, How to Teach the Paragraph breaks down the process into simple steps. It teaches the teacher how to teach the student. That is just what I need. It has suggested pacing guides for different levels and is very easy to adapt to meet the needs of different students. I predict I’m going to be spending a lot of time with William writing paragraphs this year!


In addition to both the writing instruction books, I also received The Home School Writing Action Plan. This plan presents a big picture of all the writing topics that need to be covered in writing instruction. It provides a good general framework and can be a guide with other writing curricula as well. It refers to both the paragraph and essay book, as well as the Complete Writing Program from Create Better I found the action plan a little more difficult to understand since much of it was an outline that referred to other sources. I received all 3 of these resources as e-books, and I think this is one time that a physical copy would have been helpful since I couldn’t physically look at both books at the same time. Also not having the Complete Writing Program made it a little confusing.


All these materials are available from Create Better


How to Teach the Paragraph is only available as an eBook for $7.99.
How to Teach the Five Paragraph Essay is available as an eBook for $17.95 or a soft-cover book for $19.95.
The Home School Writing Action Plan is available as an eBook for $15.95 or a soft-cover book for $19.95.
There are also several bundle deals available. Please visit Create Better for more details.


Be sure to visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew to read more reviews of Create Better


Disclosure: I received these products for free in order to write this review. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Sep 062011

What is the first book of the Bible a new believer should read?

I’ve always heard you should start with the Gospel of John. But in Begin, a new book from New Leaf Publishing Group, Ken Ham and Bodie Hodge suggest starting somewhere else: Genesis.

I agree with their logic.

In Genesis we learn the origin of the world. Genesis is where we learn how sin entered the world. We see in Genesis why we need a Savior!

But rather than starting in Genesis and reading straight through the Bible, Begin suggests a different Bible reading plan. After laying the foundation in Genesis 1-11 and Exodus 20 (the Ten Commandments), it then moves on to the entire Gospel of John, Romans, and finally Revelation 21-22. Included in the book is the English Standard Version (ESV) translation of the above scriptures. On each page there is also a fact or a cross reference or two. There is room along the edge of the pages for taking notes, and there are also thinking questions throughout the book.

In between the different sections of scripture are short summaries of what happened historically between the two portions of scripture. For example, between Genesis 11 and Exodus 20 there is “A Brief Review of History from Abram to Moses and the Ten Commandments”. These summaries are brief, but would be especially helpful to someone who does not have much prior knowledge of the Bible.

At the end of the book are 2 additional sections that are very informative:

What Does It Mean to Be Saved?

Ten Basics to Boldly Proclaim a Biblical Worldview



I think this book provides an excellent start to studying the Bible. I appreciate the fact that this Bible Study is in fact studying the Bible. So many Bible studies contain very little Scripture, and have in its place man’s opinions of Scripture. Begin would make a great gift for new believers, seekers, or anyone who wants to gain an understanding of the Gospel.

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

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Jul 112011

It seems that the Amish lifestyle is a hot topic these days. In our fast-paced, modern society, we miss what the Amish have: family, community, and simplicity. But although there is a trend towards people simplifying their lives, I don’t think many people are becoming Amish. However, the basic frugal principles that the Amish follow can be adopted by anyone. In Money Secrets of the Amish, Lorilee Craker outlines these principles and shows how they can be applied.

The tips shared in this book are not new or extraordinary. They’re just old-fashioned common sense. They include ideas such as avoiding debt, waiting to buy things, reducing spending on gifts, and bartering. But the book doesn’t read like a finance book. Lorilee shares stories of real Amish families. For example, she tells of one family who saved $400,000 for a down payment on a farm while raising 14 children!

The book isn’t just about how frugal the Amish are. Along with interesting descriptions of the Amish lifestyle are Lorilee’s own stories. Her stories are of how unfrugal she was, and how spending time with the Amish while preparing to write this book, showed her how much she was taking for granted and how many things she could do without. She writes from her heart and isn’t afraid to laugh at herself. For someone who has been already been seeking ways to live more frugally, this book probably won’t have many new ideas. Even so, I found this an enjoyable book to read and an encouragement to persevere.

I review for BookSneeze®Disclosure: I received a copy of Money Secrets of the Amish to review from Book Sneeze. I was not compensated for the review. All opinions expressed are my own. This post contains affiliate links.

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Jun 272011

Not every homeschooler chooses to homeschool for religious reasons. However, a great many homeschoolers do choose to homeschool so that they can teach their children from a Christian worldview. But after finishing high school, where should a young Christian continue his education if he chooses to do so?

State University?

Community College?

Christian College?

There are plenty of options available. Many Christian parents choose to send their children to secular universities, believing their children have been trained in the faith and are ready to face the worldly influences found there. But others feel that a Christian college is a better choice for their child.  At a Christian college their student will be surrounded by other believers. He will have Christian professors who believe the Bible is the infallible Word of God and who will help to strengthen his faith.

Unfortunately, that is not always the case. In fact, it’s probably less often the case than you think.

What do you think of when you think of Harvard, Yale, and Princeton? Elite private schools? Does anyone still remember that these Ivy League schools were founded on Christian principles? Already Compromised begins with a description of the compromise that led to the secularization of these schools. Are today’s Christian colleges going down the same path?

Ken Ham and Greg Hall with Britt Beemer of America’s Research Group sent surveys to presidents, vice-presidents, religion and science department chairmen at Christian colleges nationwide. These surveys contained a variety of questions like:

Do you believe in the inspiration of Scripture?

Do you believe in the inerrancy of Scripture?

What does your institution teach about the Bible?

Do you believe in God creating the earth in six literal 24-hour days?

The answers, found in Already Compromised, may surprise you.

I cannot say that I was surprised at the percentages of those surveyed who do not believe in a six literal 24-hour days of creation. What was surprising to me was the inconsistency in the survey answers. There were people who answered that they believed the Bible was literally true, but did not believe in a literal interpretation of creation. The book contains many other examples of these inconsistencies.

The book is more than the results of a survey however. It is a call to action. How did we get to this point? What should the church be doing? What questions should we ask before we send our sons and daughters to a Christian college? How should we teach them before they leave? There is even a chapter written directly to the student.

This book has forced me to start thinking about some of the tough decisions we’ll be facing in a few years. Our oldest son is going into the 8th grade. It doesn’t seem like college is that close, but I know that the next 5 years will pass quickly. We’ve spent more of our time worrying about how we’re going to pay for college than thinking about where he should attend. I’ve also got a renewed vision to make sure that my children understand what we believe and why we believe it. This book is a must read if you’re considering Christian colleges for your children.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book to review from New Leaf Publishing . I was not compensated for this review and all opinions expressed are my own. This post contains an affiliate link.

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Apr 262011

Who was John Knox? He was a leader (if not THE leader) of the Protestant Reformation in Scotland. That is about the extent of what I knew about him. I also had a sort of vague idea that most of the modern history books aren’t too kind to him.

That was before I read the recently republished book, Life of John Knox, originally published in 1833 by the American Sunday School Union. Now I know more about the life of the tireless preacher of the Gospel. This short book gives biographical details of the events of his life and is sprinkled with quotes from his sermons. He was unbending in his zeal. He spent much of his adult life in direct conflict with Mary Queen of Scots, a devout Catholic, and had to flee the country several times to avoid imprisonment. His commitment to the cause of the Reformation was unwavering.

I appreciated several things about this book. First, I was glad to read about John Knox from the perspective of Protestant Christians of almost 200 years ago. I enjoy the old-fashioned writing style, and it was untainted by the revisionist history of today. Was the book unbiased? Certainly not, but is any book ever truly unbiased? I also liked that the book was short. It covered the major events of John Knox’s life without much extra. I personally need more background information on Scotland at that time, but this served as a good introduction and can serve as a springboard for more study on the Reformers. Finally, I liked the physical size of the book. It’s a lightweight hardback book that I could read in bed. That might sound silly, but I don’t have a lot of time to read right now and a heavy book that is uncomfortable to read in bed just isn’t going to be read right now.

The book is available at New Leaf Publishing,, and CBD.

Disclosure: I received this book from New Leaf Publishing for review. The opinions expressed are my own. This post contains an affiliate link.