Friday, December 30, 2011

Year End Hodgepodge of a Post

So I've been particularly negligent of my blog lately.  It's just that life has been crazy.  So let's wrap up 2011 with a random post here...
  • Being a zero car family pretty much sucks.  Hopefully we'll ring in the new year with a new (to us) vehicle in the driveway... so pray for us tomorrow...  okay, well, pray for us on Monday, as New Year's Eve car shopping didn't pan out
  • Our family has some amazing friends.  And when my big boys end up staying over at someone else's house for a couple days, yet still doing dishes, sorting laundry, entertaining younger kids, shoveling snow... I love that.  
  • I hate not knowing.  That applies to a whole lot of stuff in my life recently.  
  • I had an amazing morning yesterday.  I slept in (which is great too, but not the point here).  When I got up, Thomas, my 11 year old struggling reader, he was... you ready for this?  He was sitting on the couch with his nose in a book.  A real book.  He was reading it.  And laughing.  And then giving me little tidbits about it.  Thank you Read Live.  
  • We had a fantastic review-product filled Christmas.  With very cool products.  I love being a reviewer.
  • I was blessed beyond measure right before Christmas... a package arrived via Santa Claus (aka the UPS Guy) from I don't know for sure who... and it contained a Kindle.  I screamed.  I've cried.  And I love it... It is making my life easier.  It is so small.  And every time I grab it, or even think about it, I feel pretty loved...  thank you, thank you, thank you...
  • I have a whole bunch of amazing virtual friends too.  I cannot imagine my life without you... and you probably know who you are...
  • I don't particularly like power outages.  About 8 hours without power at the house today.  Frustrating.  But hey, it was a good day for it... fairly warm, and the power at the well stayed on so we did have water.
And that is as much as I can handle writing tonight.  

If you are reading this, I appreciate you more than you know... and I wish you an exciting and amazing 2012...

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Reading Aloud Challenge: December 29

It's time for another Reading Aloud Challenge... and I'm reporting in that, um, I'm pretty sure I didn't read anything aloud all week.

With Grandma here, and Christmas, and two kids being gone to a birthday party...

I have absolutely nothing to report.  Okay, well, I did spend about 10 minutes reading about Protists with Thomas.

But I think that was it.

Not sure there will be much to report next week either, but I'll post anyway.

So... if you do have a report, I'd love to read about it.  And if not, I'd love a comment telling me I'm not alone.

It's been fun doing this.  Posting these every week (except Thanksgiving) has definitely made me more intentional about actually following through on my intentions.  And my plan is to continue in 2012, posting the reality here... even weeks like this where I post that I did nothing.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Review: Big Book of History

Every so often, I end up with the chance to review a product that is so incredibly cool I don't know how we managed without it.

Today, I'm telling you about one of those:  Big Book of History.

It isn't exactly a book... it is a fifteen foot timeline that you can fold back up into a book...

The timeline is fun... lots of pictures (photos and illustrations) and little text boxes, charts, graphs, etc.

And as you can see on the cover, there are four separate timelines running throughout the book...

Orange is for world events... all that stuff you expect to see on pretty much any standard timeline.  For instance, to choose a page towards the end, the 1852-1943 page talks about the Pony Express, the purchase of Alaska, P.T. Barnum, Buffalo Bill,  the first modern Olympics, the eruption of Krakatoa, the San Francisco earthquake, prohibition, the death of Ernest Shackleton, Charles Lindberg, the great depressions, the dust bowl, Amelia Earhart, and the holocaust.  Lots of different stuff.

Red is for civilizations and empires.  Also pretty standard stuff, like the American Civil War and the end of slavery, the 1st Sino-Japanese War, the Spanish American War, the first Pulitzer Prize, the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, WWI, the Russian Revolution, the League of Nations, Civil War in China, WWII, and the United Nations.

Green is for inventions and technology.  My boys love this line.  You get to see things such as a whole spread on Edison, the telephone, dynamite, basketball, the first movies, penicillin, the first television station, tv dinners, Hoover Dam... and a whole separate transportation timeline with the first mass produced auto, the first flight, the first helicopter flight, the Titanic, the Hindenburg, the first jet, and the death of Nikola Tesla.

And Yellow is for Bible and Christian history.  For this same page, that includes things like the start of the Salvation Army and Red Cross, Billy Sunday and the Scopes Trial.

Most of the above stuff is mentioned only briefly... but there is additional information on some things too.  For the most part, this can serve as a supplement to *any* history you are doing.

So let's take a look:

Here you can see Richard looking through it like a book.  Notice the timeline part running through the middle of the pages, and all the colorful stuff around it.

Here you can see Richard figuring out how to unfold it...

Isn't that cool?  But wait, there's more....

And that still isn't all of it.  But I don't have a good picture of it all stretched out.

And wow, do I ever need to wipe down the freezer...  <sigh>

How about a couple that show the pages a bit better:

For the homeschooler (or teacher) there is also a guide available, either in print, or as a free download, that really fleshes this out into more of a stand-alone history resource. 

I love this book.

Disclaimer:   I received this book for free from New Leaf Publishing Group.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review.   

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Reading Aloud Challenge: December 22

It's time for another Reading Aloud Challenge... and I finally get to post that I finished something.  I'm not reading aloud.  I'm barely keeping my head above water.  <sigh>  I know I'm not alone right now, and I'm going to post anyway...

Connor & I finished Peace Child.  And when I reported last week about it not being as gruesome as the first couple of chapters... cough, cough, gag, gag.  Oh, my.  The very next chapter I read was the worst in the book.  Connor actually told me I didn't have to read it aloud.  <shudder>

Amazing book.  Well worth the read.  Not for anyone below high school.

William & Thomas -- yeah.  We didn't even read a single chapter of God King.

Richard & Trina -- I opened Mountain Born.  Once.  Didn't read a single word.  But I opened it.

Our one semi-success?   Unveiling the Kings of Israel.  I  reviewed it.   The book is fabulous.  We do still have to finish it up, but have gotten through most of it.  (I don't necessarily finish non-fiction titles before I review them... just fyi.  I read a good chunk, and I'll flip through/skim the rest, then review it.)  This one will probably (at the rate we're going lately) be on my Reading Aloud post for the next couple weeks.  In normal times, we'd be finished.

Plans for this coming week? You know the drill.  Finish some of what I just listed.  I don't think I'm going to worry about starting something new with Connor until January.

How did your week go?  Do you find you are too busy at this time of year for reading aloud, or is it just me?

To see my first post when this turned into a linky thing, check here.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Book Review: Behind the Veils of Yemen

Because of Sonlight Curriculum, I have read a lot of missionary biographies.  I'm always inspired by some of the "greats" -- you know, the ones thanking God for the wonderful meal they are about to eat even when there is no food in the house, where right as this faith-filled person says, "Amen" there is a knock at the door and food arrives in some miraculous fashion.  I want to be like that. 

But my favorites are the people who seem more real -- more like me.  The ones who struggle with their faith even as they are out in the mission field.  Because "struggle" and "doubt" are where I live.  One minute, I'm pretty sure that I'm doing what God would have me do at this time... the next minute, I'm questioning my purpose.  The next, I'm seeing God's clear answer to prayer in a bag of cheddar cheese.  The next, I'm questioning how I can ever be sure that I believe what I believe.

Audra Grace Shelby and her family served in Yemen... and she is as real as they come.  Aside from her name, which was changed to protect the people she knew in Yemen and the missionaries still serving there.  In Behind the Veils of Yemen, she shares her spiritual highs and lows.  She shares the lessons she learned, and the answers to her prayers.  She shares her doubts and her fears.  And she shares the lives she glimpsed in Yemen.

From the publisher:
With only prayer and a faith that always seemed too small, Audra Grace Shelby departed with her family on a one-way flight deep into the heart of conservative Islam. Here she recounts her harrowing journey as a Christian woman thrust into a culture dangerously different from her own. From the friendships she forged, to her gnawing doubt and fear, to her offers of hope when her friends' religion failed them, she gives us glimpses into a world most have never seen. And she shows how the grace of God transforms lives--even in the midst of an Islamic stronghold.
This is a book I think everyone ought to read.  I plan to add it to my kids' high school curriculum.   My boys aren't likely to be excited about it... but I think once they get a few chapters in, they will be hooked.  See for yourself with this excerpt:

Behind the Veils of Yemen

Disclosure:  Bethany House provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.  No other compensation was received, and all opinions are my own.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Book Review: Unveiling the Kings of Israel

When I first read about this book, I knew I had to get it for my archaeologist wannabe.  Thomas, 11, plans to go into classical archaeology.  Not necessarily biblical archaeology, mind you, but he does have that on his list of possibilities too.  He tends to be more interested in Rome -- particularly the early Christian era.  But a book like Unveiling the Kings of Israel with a subtitle of "Revealing the Bible's Archaeological History" is a sure-fire hit with him.  Written by David Down, who also wrote The Archaeology Book (which we own and love) and Unwrapping the Pharaohs (which I had hoped to get Thomas for Christmas, but alas, that isn't a possibility right now).

This book is fantastic. 

But you probably want to know more than that, huh?

Okay, so here is what the publisher had to say:
“Correctly interpreted, the historical records of Egypt and Israel show a remarkable consistency with the Bible records which we can accept as not only inspiring but entirely reliable.”
-From the Introduction
Unearth the history of the small nation of Israel – the troubled and devastating periods of loss and exile – once lost to time. Far from being a book of myths, the Bible is an amazing historical record, and each year, more archaeological discoveries continue to prove its validity and significance. Follow the intriguing clues found buried in ancient cities, on the walls of early monuments, and in the written records of our world’s oldest civilizations. Walk the ancient streets, explore the distant temples, and unearth the compelling history that continues to resonate with the world today.
  • Cultural references proven through artifacts and archives displayed in full color
  • Fascinating accounts that fill in some of history’s unwritten record
  • Follow the Biblical timeline through detailed photos and examples
This eye opening and provocative assemblage of literary history and effervescent illustrations, creates a book that you just can’t put down. For years to come, this book will be an enduring resource for children, scholars, students, or anyone interested in learning more about biblical archaeology and its place in history.
They list this book as being appropriate for high school level students.  However, I am reading it aloud with all my boys.  Connor (9th grade) is certainly an appropriate age.  William (7th grade) is as well, and I'd say this book is generally appropriate for junior high and up.  Thomas (5th grade)... well, this works incredibly well for him because this is what he wants to do when he grows up.  Richard (2nd grade) doesn't listen to it all... he checks out the pictures, and tunes in to parts that grab his attention.  He zones out or finds something else to do for pretty big chunks of it.

Trina (kindergarten)?  Yeah.  Her comment when I asked yesterday what they all thought of the book.  "I've got two words for this book:  bore.  ring."  Okay, so I have to work on her reviewing skills here... not to mention some English skills...

The big three though, they couldn't say enough about it.  "This stuff is fascinating!" said one.  "I don't want it to end!" said another.  "It is so great how, what is his name?  Mr. Down.  How Mr. Down talks about traditional dating methods and how the Bible isn't supported really well with those, but how using the revised chronology that he apparently details in that one Pharaohs book, archaeologists are finding exactly what they would expect if the Bible is true.  I like that he talks about the archaeological viewpoints that he doesn't agree with and he does so respectfully." 

I am impressed with the "next door neighbor" tone of his writing.  He doesn't intimidate or sound unnecessarily scholarly... though he does use a reasonably sophisticated vocabulary. 

This book starts with Genesis, and goes through Christ (we aren't quite that far yet).  Each chapter takes an era or a person, and it goes into the archaeological evidence, including some stories of how the evidence was found, and some writings from various archaeologists.  There are gorgeous photos throughout.

This is great for budding archaeologists, but also for anyone who is interested in general topics of defending their faith, or who would like some interesting insight into some of the Bible stories.

One way or another, we plan to own everything that David Down ever puts out.

Disclaimer:   I received this book for free from New Leaf Publishing Group.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review.   

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Reading Aloud Challenge: December 15

It's time for another Reading Aloud Challenge... and I just keep thinking this post ought to be incredibly easy to write.  Just copy and paste last week.

Instead, I'll just list quickly...

Connor & I read a couple chapters of Peace Child.  So we are down to something like four chapters.  We love it, I don't know why we can't get through it.  Well, partially because even though it isn't nearly as gruesome past the first few chapters, I still don't want to read about cannibalism to this extent in front of Richard and Trina.

William & Thomas -- yeah.  We didn't even read a single chapter of God King.

Richard & Trina -- okay, so I managed another chapter of Mountain Born.  One.

Our one semi-success?   Unveiling the Kings of Israel.  I may get this reviewed tomorrow.  I hope so.  The book is fabulous.

Our Christmas read-aloud, The Story of the Other Wise Man by Henry Van Dyke.  Never even opened it.

In more positive news, William started reading a King Arthur book aloud to Richard and Trina.  And he's reading a chapter a day aloud to me from the Bible. 

Plans for this coming week? You know the drill.  Finish some of what I just listed.  Finish at least ONE of what I just listed.  <sigh>  Since I failed at that last week.

How did your week go?  Hopefully better than mine... or hopefully you have some good excuses for why it was slim pickin's.  I don't. 

To see my first post when this turned into a linky thing, check here.

Review: World's Greatest Stories

I've said it before, but I am totally loving the TOS Homeschool Crew this year.  I have the chance to review so many incredibly cool products.  And this one is totally fun.

The World's Greatest Stories sent us the first volume in their CD series:  The Prophets.  On it, George W. Sarris tells the stories of the book of Daniel (The Blazing Furnace, The Handwriting on the Wall, and Daniel in the Lion's Den), one of Elijah (Elijah & the Prophets of Baal), plus the book of Jonah.

He doesn't just tell the stories... he memorizes the actual Bible passages,   and then he does the job of a master story-teller and really brings them to life.  But you wouldn't guess that when listening (or at least you wouldn't if you didn't listen to the introductory material where he says so!)

Sarris brings the characters alive... in The Handwriting on the Wall, for instance, it opens with Belshazzar at his dinner party... slurring his words and sounding like he's had a bit too much to drink.  Or in the story of Jonah, you can hear the quaver in the voices... the fear comes through loud and strong.

But what do the kids think?  They love them.  The older ones have all commented on how this isn't just another Bible story... "That guy really makes you feel like you are right in the middle of an action-adventure movie.  Well, except it is pretty short to be a movie."  (That quote was actually split between two kids, and I forgot which two.)  They would love to have more.

At only $7.95 these would be a great extra gift, and if you order today, you might have these in time for Christmas... this is exactly the kind of thing I love to put in Christmas stockings.  Santa, in my house, always brings some very, very Christ-centered gifts. 

There are six volumes at the present.  The Life of Christ, Beginnings, Joshua & Esther, Joseph & His Brothers, and Defeating Giants are the other ones.  There is also a longer one... The Real Story of Easter, which is only available in NIV.  These are intended for anyone age 4 and up, but the FAQ page said it best: "adult stories that children love to listen to".

I highly recommend these.  If you go to the product page, you can listen to a short clip from each (in both versions) but I don't think the clips do the product justice.

You can read what other crew members had to say about World's Greatest Stories here:


Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I did receive this game for the purpose of a review.  All opinions are my own.  For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Review: Fractazmic

When I was probably around 10 or 11, I started playing Rummy (and later Gin Rummy) with my grandma.  Well, Grandma and whoever else we could rope into playing with us.  I loved the game.  Some luck, some strategy, some making inferences based on what other people are discarding... and attention to detail.

I loved it.  And Grandma didn't coddle anyone.  At least not past the first couple games where she was teaching someone to play and we all had our hands showing.  In those hands, you could get away with not discarding the card she needed... but she would always explain why she was discarding the card you needed... because 'if we were playing for real, I wouldn't know you needed it, and this is the least valuable card in my hand and here is why.'

When she thought you understood the game, we'd start keeping our hands to ourselves... and it would be a long time before any of us kids won again.

I had forgotten how much I enjoyed the game... until recently, when I've been playing a game from I See Cards with my bigger boys.  Fractazmic.  One version is a lot like Rummy, only it is easier.  And harder too. I better explain, huh?

Fractazmic consists of a deck of 60 cards, split into 3 suits: tenths, twelfths and sixteenths, with each suit being a different color.  The tenth suit includes cards that have fractions that can be converted to tenths... either tenths, fifths or one-half.  The twelfth suit can be converted to twelfths, and it includes twelfths, sixths, fourths, thirds and one-half.  The sixteenth, similarly, consists of sixteenths, eighths, fourths and one-half.

(As an aside... I LOVE the suits they have chosen.  I think learning to deal with converting fractions is important... but the ones I am likely to use in real life are all pretty much covered here...  tenths pop up everywhere.  Twelfths (includes 1/4 and 1/3) I use daily.  And sixteenths (well, the 1/4 and 1/8 part) pop up fairly often too.  So my kids getting really comfortable with these specific fractions is great.  And if they are comfortable with this, on the rare, weird occasion when they need to add 1/7 plus 1/9, they'll be able to how to figure it out, because combining fractions will no longer be so intimidating.)

The basic idea is to lay down sets that equal ONE, within a single suit/color.  So the 1/4, 1/3,  1/12, and two 1/6 cards would work... assuming they are all blue.

Each suit has a different graphic... the twelfth one is the easiest... an egg carton.  The 1/2 card has a carton with 6 eggs in it.  A 5/12 card would have an egg carton with 5 eggs in it, etc.  The cards are cute... and definitely help the kids to be visualizing the fractions.  The tenth suit is a one liter bottle, marked off in 10ths.  The 16th suit is a ruler.  All have adorable little bugs on them.

Why is this easier than Rummy?  Well... you only have one goal -- making ones.  None of the decisions about whether to use the 10 of hearts in a 3 of a kind, or whether to use it to make a run of of 8, 9, 10 of hearts...  all you are focusing on is making it total 1.

Here's my kids playing.  What has been really interesting about this is that William (the one in the blue flannel) has done really well at this... usually beating his big brother.  Thomas (the one moping) took a few games before some things "clicked" for him in figuring out strategy.  This photo was taken while he was still in that pre-click stage... you know, the "this is awful, I hate it, my brothers always beat me, I hate this" phase.

Since having that a-ha moment though, he is actually finding the game fun.  In fact, he won the game the four of us played.

There is another version of the game too:  Trap.  In this one, the first player lays down a card, and each player then has to lay down another card in the same suit.  The goal is to either make 1, or force the player after you to go over 1.

Trap is easier to play, because you can coach younger kids along as you go.  "Okay, so if we add this up, we have 13/16... what would we need to get to one?" The coaching doesn't really take away from the fun of playing the game, and it gives a chance to model the fraction conversions.

I adore this set of cards.  I really want to be able to purchase the other two math games that I See Cards carries... Pyramath (which was reviewed by the Crew last year, but I wasn't on it) and Prime Bomb.  At $6.95 each, the price is reasonable.  And this game is FUN (and educational too).

I wish I could purchase both now, as they'd make fabulous stocking stuffers.  I will be getting them in 2012 though.  Sometime.

You can read what other crew members had to say about Fractazmic here:


Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I did receive this game for the purpose of a review.  All opinions are my own.  For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.

Monday, December 12, 2011

FIRST Wild Card Tour: God Gave Us Love

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

WaterBrook Press; Brdbk edition (December 20, 2011)
***Special thanks to Laura Tucker, WaterBrook Multnomah Publicity, for sending me a review copy.***


LISA BERGREN is the best-selling, award-winning author of more than thirty books, with more than two million copies sold. A former publishing executive, she now splits her time working as a freelance editor and writer while parenting three children with her husband, Tim, and dreaming of the family’s next visit to Taos.

Visit the author's website.


As Little Cub and Grampa Bear’s fishing adventure is interrupted by mischievous otters, the young polar bear begins to question why we must love others… even the seemingly unlovable.

In answering her questions, Grampa Bear gives tender explanations that teach Little Cub about the different kinds of love that is shared between families, friends, and mamas and papas. Grampa explains that all these kinds of love come from God and that it is important to love others because…

“Any time we show love, Little Cub, we’re sharing a bit of his love.”

This sweet tale will warm the hearts of young children as they learn about all the different sorts of love, while the gentle explanations of each provide a valuable opportunity to encourage children to share with others a “God-sized love.” Now in a sturdy format, ideal for the littlest hands at storytime, bedtime, or anytime. Would make a great Christmas gift!

My take:  This is a sweet book.  Lisa does a fantastic job of getting a couple of messages into a very few pages.  The illustrations are engaging... and very detailed.  A child can spend quite some time looking at everything going on in any of the pages.

I love the idea of explaining different types of love.  I love the idea of choosing to love.  And that God loves us even when we are less than loveable.  This would be fabulous tucked into a stocking for those littlest members of the family.

Product Details:

List Price: $6.99
Reading level: Ages 0 and up
Board book: 22 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press; Brdbk edition (December 20, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307730271
ISBN-13: 978-0307730275

Here's an excerpt from the first book in the series: God Gave Us You (Board Book). (Click on images to see them larger):

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Review: Birth of Jesus study

How is your Christmas season going?  Are the commercial aspects becoming too important, in spite of your vows to focus on the reason for the season?

Somehow, the materialistic aspects of our culture seem to rear their ugly heads each December no matter what I intend.  But it is not too late...

Today, I'm reviewing an inexpensive resource that is very easy to use, and it is focused on the birth of Christ.  Grapevine Studies has three different "Birth of Jesus" studies available.  I recieved a Beginner level intended for 5-7 year olds and a Multi-Level one, intended for ages 7 and up.  I recieved these as e-books... and since I have two who fit the age range for the Beginner, and 4 who fit the Multi-Level (Richard, 7, could do either... so those numbers do NOT add up to equal the number of my living children!) I had to make some decisions.

One was that in the craziness of the holidays, I really was not likely to keep up with both studies.  So I had to choose.  Sort of.  You know me... I can't do anything as written.  So I totally tweaked.  My kids love these studies...  Stick figuring through the Bible, how much better does it get?

The beginner level consists of seven lessons, intended to be done over two days each, plus a final review.

The Multi-Level consists of a timeline intro (8 pages), four lessons intended to be done over four days each, and a final review.

I ended up using the Multi-Level, but skipping the introductory timeline, going straight to the lessons.  I think, after we complete the lessons, we are going to go back to the overview timeline.  Maybe.

For Trina, I will use the Beginner Level review (I may use that for Richard too), and I'm not expecting the same detail in some of the lessons.

Let's take a quick look at lesson 2...
  1. The first day is a review of the timeline, so we spend time talking about Mary & Gabriel, and about Mary & Elizabeth, and we go over the memory verse, Luke 1:31.  This lesson does not take long at all.
  2. Lesson page 1 consists of four separate scenes, all involving Joseph... hearing the news, making a decision to divorce Mary quietly, Gabriel visiting, and Joseph's new decision.  This lesson also includes reading Matthew 1:18-24.  And there are five words to look up in a Bible dictionary.  I *love* that we are getting into some real Bible resources.  There are things to discuss.
  3. Lesson page 2 consists of three scenes, from the census decree to the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.  You read aloud Luke 2:1-7 and Matthew 1:25.  There is a mapping assignment on this day, and you work on memorizing Luke 2:7.  Plus discussion for each of the scenes, and some review questions.
  4. Student Drawing Page is where the student chooses their favorite part of the lesson to draw again, and you work more on the memory work.  This day is also usually pretty short.
The Beginner Level covers all of the same "scenes"... but those are completed over two lessons.  Basically, these younger students are doing no more than two drawings in a day, and skipping all of the review.  So Joseph, for instance, looks like this:
  1. Two scenes, that of Joseph hearing the news and making a decision to divorce Mary.  You read Matthew 1:18-19, have discussions about these, and look up two words in a Bible dictionary.  You start memorizing Matthew 1:24.
  2. Two more scenes, with the angel visiting Joseph and Joseph & Mary together, including discussion, and the reading of Matthew 1:20-24.
The Beginner Level does not include mapping assignments.

Both of these levels also have suggestions for doing this as a weekly class...

If I were to start this week... I think I would consider one of two things.  Either do the Multi-Level starting with the lessons, doing each lesson over two days, to complete two this week and two next week... and I'd spend the week after Christmas doing the final review.

Or, I'd go ahead and start with Lesson 1 tomorrow... doing a day each day, five days a week... which would get you through the shepherds going out and proclaiming Jesus' birth.

Then I'd follow up with all the "after" stuff (visiting the temple, the wise men, etc.) after Christmas.

In other words... it isn't too late.  And this study is really inexpensive.  Get the e-book version so you can have it almost immediately, and so you can print out copies of the student pages for each of your students.  Right now the teacher book and student book are on sale, and would cost just under $11.

There is also a Level 5 set available... meant for teens and adults.  I adore the Level 5 studies I've used, so if your children are older, this one would be my recommendation.  Sight unseen, I know I can say that!

What I love most about these studies is that other than being sure to have my Bible, a Bible dictionary, and some colored pencils handy, I really don't have to do any prep work.  Or maybe I most love that my kids think it is fun and they really remember what we have stick-figured.

Check it out.  And Merry Christmas!

Disclaimer:  I did receive the products as mentioned above for the purpose of a review.  All opinions are my own.  For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Bountiful Baskets: December 10

I have dearly missed doing Bountiful Baskets.

Colorado is an "A week" state... so all the locations are only every other week... and unfortunately, when Bountiful Baskets took the Saturday after Thanksgiving off, that was an A week. So it has been 4 weeks. And it will be 4 more, as Christmas Eve is an A week also.

Anyway, the three biggest boys and I headed out this morning to volunteer... once we located my glasses... which requires us to be out the door by roughly 4:10. We got there and were thrilled beyond measure to see the truck there (last time the truck was very, very late.... like over 2.5 hours late...)

And then we started to grasp how wonderful this basket was. I wish we could have afforded two... but alas, it was only one this time. And I was too stressed when we got home to get photos. However, the goodies included:
  • one bunch of asparagus. Yummm. Connor chose another one of these as his 'extra' for volunteering, so we actually ended up with two.
  • four tomatoes. Which we really needed.
  • a ginormous butternut squash. Even more Yummmmm. I chose another (a normal sized one) for my extra.
  • one bunch of romaine lettuce.
  • two green peppers. Something else we really needed.
  • two avocados. I'm the only one in the family who appreciates those.
  • six Fuji apples. We were actually out of apples, so this is quite appreciated.
  • six pears. We love pears.
  • twelve clementines. Those itty bitty orange-like things. These are yummy too.
  • one pineapple. Yum, yum, yum. Thomas chose a second one as his extra.
  • nine bananas. Those are always appreciated.
  • a big bag of red grapes. William chose a second one for his extra.
And we got a huge box of oranges.

Plans are pretty boring here. We'll eat the fruit. I may dehydrate some of the pineapple.

Tomatoes, green peppers and lettuce will simply be used without any planning necessary on my part.

The avocados? They aren't ripe yet... by the time they are, the guacamole in my fridge will probably be gone, so I'll make some more. I ought to come up with something else to do with one. I don't know though.

Asparagus will be served with dinner a couple times this week. And Butternut Squash keeps, so that will be served with dinner probably three times later this month.

The best part was finishing up and heading back to the van to watch the eclipse.  And we didn't have to get up special to see it!  

We've been clients and not just volunteers at a mission in town the past month or so... and today that meant lots and lots of oranges... 21 of them.  And a couple of grapefruit.  Some other produce too, but none of that overlapped with my Bountiful Basket.

I'll probably be juicing the mission oranges... unless I come up with something else I can do with them.  Like maybe I'll do some canning... I've never canned citrus before... but Pick Your Own has some pretty easy-sounding directions.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Reading Aloud Challenge: December 8

It's time for another Reading Aloud Challenge... and not an entirely bad week.  Though I can't seem to actually finish anything.

Connor & I are, yes, still nearly through Peace Child.  It's a good thing this one isn't actually tied to his history studies.  Because according to the Sonlight Instructor's Guide, he was supposed to finish this about five weeks ago.  Good thing he is doing great on the rest of the books involved.  I think we're going to plan for about 1/4 of the books (which are *intended* for him to read himself) to be read-alouds... and I'm not going to feel terribly committed to the schedule.  We will finish this week.  I think we're down to the last five or so chapters.

William and Thomas are still doing (barely) God King.  I got distracted.

We're still going through D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths.  I still love this book.  The illustrations are gorgeous and this is just a fantastic telling of these stories. 

And everyone is still working on a review book, Unveiling the Kings of Israel.  We're on track to be reviewing it next week.  If life wasn't so crazy this week, I've done enough to post it now.

Richard and Trina are listening to Mountain Born.  They are loving it, and I'm remembering why I love it.

And we started a Christmas read-aloud.  The Story of the Other Wise Man by Henry Van Dyke.  Never read it before.  And we aren't far enough into it that I'm actually recommending it.  The language used is great though... it was written a long, long time ago and you can tell that.  Ask me next week, when we're through more of it.

Plans for this coming week? You know the drill.  Finish some of what I just listed.  Finish at least ONE of what I just listed.  <sigh>

How did your week go?  Are you reading something for a Christmas read-aloud?  Sign the linky to link up your reading aloud post and I'll come visit your post and I will figure out how to comment.

To see my first post when this turned into a linky thing, check here.

Want to win some Bibles?

Okay, so I've always like the Life Application Bibles that I have seen, but I've never been able to afford to get one for myself.

So maybe I'll win a set of them...

If you are on Facebook, go visit the link in the above graphic.  Here's what is being given away:
  • One random person each day will win a Life Application Study Bible Family Pack (Guys Life Application Study Bible hc, Girls Life Application Study Bible hc, Student's Life Application Study Bible hc, Life Application Study Bible hc, Life Application Study Bible Large Print hc).
  • One Random person each week will win an Apple iPad 2!
  • Everyone that signs up gets a free download copy of the Life Application Bible Study – Book of Luke!
I would love to win... Trina would get the Girls one (eventually), Thomas would probably get the Boys one, William the Student's one, Connor the regular one, and ancient me could have the Large Print one.

Wouldn't that be simply amazing?

Anyway... go.  Enter.  And if you win and can't use them all, you know how to find me... or you could donate them to a local organization that hands out Bibles...

Disclaimer: Posting this gives me an extra chance of obtaining some Bibles... but no other compensation was received.  I just think this is a fabulous giveaway.

Review: Medieval Machines Pack from Pitsco

I have the feeling that I'm going to be sounding like a broken record here... but I am thrilled, thrilled, thrilled to have had the opportunity to review a totally amazing product.

Pitsco (no, I hadn't heard of them either) makes incredibly cool stuff.  We got to review their Medieval Machines Pack.  I mean, really... anything with a name like that is going to score points in my testosterone-filled house, you know?  It is intended for roughly ages 10 and up... though with most children closer to 10, you'd definitely need to plan on providing some assistance with the assembly and also with the math aspects of the Siege Machines book.

The kit includes a catapult kit, a trebuchet kit (plus weights), and a Siege Machines book.  It looks something like this:

Pitsco also threw in some extra clay, as that is the only approved projectile for these kits.  My boys laughed...  and started plotting a way to make a bigger one that they can use to fling their sister away.  But I digress.

Since Thomas had a birthday coming up, and since he wanted to work on earning his Engineer Activity Badge for Webelos, and since one of the requirements for that is to build a catapult... well... yes, this was a birthday present for my newly 11 year old son.

He was a bit underwhelmed.  I mean, he thought it looked "kinda cool" but it didn't have him jumping up and down.  Seriously, who can blame him?  The above image doesn't do this pack justice...

Then his 14 year old brother took charge of helping him to assemble it.  And once the catapult was about half complete, he had a completely different opinion.  "Mom!  Look!" was heard quite often.  He spent a couple of days playing with the catapult -- and I confess, I knew it was complete when Lego guys started flying across my kitchen.  They not only violated the safety rule about "approved projectiles" but they also violated the one about being sure "everyone is clear of the target area."  Fortunately, nobody was hit.  Nor did any lego dudes meet an untimely demise in a pot of soup.  Basic rule in my house -- toys in the food = toys in the trash.  (Tell me I'm not the only person who has to actually make insane rules like this???)

Basically, assembly required the kit and a couple things we had around the house... super glue, we used waxed paper as a surface, a toothpick... maybe a pencil or something in there.  And Connor was impressed by the thoroughness of the directions.  "I'm really liking the instructions.  They do give you a pretty good idea as to what is coming up so that you don't put glue into a place where it will mess you up later."

After a couple of days with that, it was time to build the trebuchet.  Only that called for a hobby knife, and while we think we own one, we couldn't locate it.  Fortunately, they are a recently discontinued item at Airgas... so Dale brought home the last two they had at the store.  Employee price on those was about a buck each.  I love when life works out that way!

The trebuchet was more complicated to put together and it definitely took longer.  Connor commented on the directions being a bit harder to follow.  For one thing, it used pictures instead of diagrams, and he found the diagrams easier to work with.  However, the big boys all thought it was fairly intuitive.  Though they did say that already having a pretty good understanding of how a trebuchet works probably made a difference. They said they could see how it might be confusing if you didn't already have at least a basic grasp of the physics involved.  (I was impressed they knew it was physics...)

The kids DID stick to clay with the trebuchet.  So far.   Experimenting with how much weight is needed to make the trebuchet work with various sized clay balls occupied a fair amount of their time.  And they discovered that if they use the trebuchet to launch a clay projectile at William's birthday present (a MegaBlock King Arthur castle) it will smash the chain holding up the drawbridge, or whatever it was.  The catapult, however, didn't inflict any actual damage.

To be quite honest, this set would have been well worth the $21.95 price tag just for the two kits and the weights.  We have built catapults here before.  They usually cost us roughly $7-10 for a kit, and they generally handle a couple hours of use before they start to fall apart.  I've never seen a trebuchet kit before, though we have casually looked.  Anyway...this catapult has withstood a lot of use already, and it is still solid.  The trebuchet seems a bit less sturdy, but the kids figured that out too and are a bit more careful with it.

To sound like an infomercial here... but wait!  There's more!

Remember I mentioned a book.  Oh.  My.

This book is fabulous.  It's a skinny little thing, but don't let that fool you.  The book starts with four pages of history... we learned about Dionysius I, Philip of Macedonia, Alexander the Great, the Romans, the Chinese, the Crusades, Medieval castle sieges, the resurgence of siege weapons in museums and classrooms, catapults used in WWII, and the Punkin Chunkin Contest.

As if that wasn't enough to make this mama's heart go pitter-patter, there are nearly a dozen activities that you can do with the catapult or trebuchet.  And by "activity" I mean interesting scientific explanations, serious science experiments or real math work.

Wow.  Just wow.  We aren't very far with this.  Yet.  But let me go through a bit of it so you have a clue as to what I'm talking about.

The first activity is dealing with tension and torsion.  There is a full page, with a couple of illustrations, explaining the two forces at work in a catapult.  Fascinating stuff.  And having built and played with the catapult, this made total sense to the three older guys (11, 13 and 14) and even the 7 year old.  So this first one is essentially all information.

The second activity is an experiment... mass vs. distance.  The students construct balls with different masses, and the text walks them through how to test to see how far the different mass balls go.  The only thing I didn't like is that it isn't explicitly asking the students to make a prediction.  So I just added that in.  Of course, since my guys have been playing with this pretty much non-stop, they mostly rolled their eyes at me.  Point being... this second one is very hands-on.  (And a later activity does focus on predictions, so that part of science is not ignored here.)

The third activity is a math one.  It has them working with converting the measurements from the experiment into metric (so inches to centimeters).  Having worked with a group of junior high students in a science class last year... anything that is giving kids some real data to practice conversions is a good thing.

In addition to the activities actually mapped out in this book, there are a whole bunch of extension activities or additional variables... so you can do far more than just the listed activities.

And if that isn't enough... they also have a Trebuchets Teacher's Guide and a Catapults Teacher's Guide available.  These look pretty amazing too.

In addition, they have a lot of other incredible looking projects and kits.  I've been staring at the Bridge Engineering Pack (something else we could use for that Engineer badge) and the Solar Water Heater Pack

I think these are a fabulous value.

You can read what other crew members had to say about the Medieval Machines Pack here:


Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I did receive the products mentioned for the purpose of a review.  All opinions are my own.  For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Book Review: The Mirror of N'De

Wow.  Just wow.  I want to purchase a case of these and hand them out to a lot of the young people in my life... and to suggest that their parents read it too.

I don't know what exactly I was thinking when I signed up for the LitFuse Blog Tour
for The Mirror of N'De by L. K. Malone.  I like fantasy. I like some Young Adult titles.  But a debut novel, with a title I can't pronounce? (I went with something like nuh-DAY)  And the publisher's description doesn't make me anxious to pick it up:
In the mythical city of N’de lives thirteen-year-old Hadlay and her people, the Ramash. Scorned and abused by the unloving and absent Emperor, the Ramash are poor people, placed second to the ruling class of the Oresed. Young but bold, Hadlay rages against the injustice in her city. When she is chosen for the honor of serving the Prince in the Tower, she hopes to find a way to right the wrong... but soon discovers that things are worse than she believed.

While Hadlay works to better her people’s condition, she struggles to abide with the abusive Oresed and understand the meaning of her dreams in which a fantastical white horse appears to her and speaks in riddles. When Hadlay stumbles into one of the Tower’s secret rooms, she discovers a hidden mirror that doesn’t just show her reflection, but reveals much more: the horse’s name is Sirach and he has a plan to save the children of N’de, if only Hadlay can bring them to the mirror. Hiding her knowledge of Sirach from the Prince, Hadlay sets out to do Sirach’s bidding. But when Sirach’s presence is revealed, Hadley’s life is in danger and the only way to save her is for Sirach to give up his own.

Crafting powerful narrative and creative characters, author L. K. Malone spins a compelling tale that combines exciting entertainment and the Christian story. In The Mirror of N’de, readers will empathize with the desires of an oppressed people, will anger at the affliction of a cruel adversary, and ultimately rejoice with the revelation of a Savior.
I am so glad that I did sign up.   Check out the video trailer (which tells me that I did pronounce N'De right!):

I don't even know where to begin in describing this book.  From the description, it sounds like a fantasy re-telling of the story of the Jews under Roman rule, and the coming of Christ.  And it is.  But it isn't just that.  The plot is rich and multi-layered.  There is so much to think about -- loyalty, betrayal, the consequences of your actions...

And on another level, it is a standard coming-of-age story.  Most of the characters are in their 13th year, but the complexity of the plot makes this a novel that would appeal to kids and adults. 

I will be handing this to my kids. 

The publisher is sponsoring a $50 giveaway.  I know I can always find something to buy at Amazon!

To enter all you have to do is send a tweet (using @litfuse) about The Mirror of N'de  or share about it on Facebook!

If you tweet we'll capture your entry when you use @litfuse. If you share it on Facebook or your blog, just email us and let us know ( Easy.

Disclaimer:  I received this book through LitFuse, and by blogging about it I earned one entry in the above mentioned giveaway.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Book Review: December 1941

As we come up on the seventieth anniversary of "a date which will live in infamy" I find myself thinking about the changes brought about by that fateful attack on Pearl Harbor.

So when I heard about the book December 1941 by Craig Shirley, I knew it was something I would want to read.  I was able to obtain a ePub copy to read on my Nook.  I think it was a good way to go, as this book is HUGE.  The hardcover would have overwhelmed me.  On my Nook, it is 741 pages, with the last 150ish pages being notes.  Since this book traces the events of the month day by day, that is an average of 19 Nook pages per day.

The description from the publisher:
December 1941 traces, day-by-day, the most important 31 days in the history of America’s participation in WWII, which snuffed out the lives of millions and changed history forever.

From December 1, 1941, until the morning of December 7, 1941, America was at peace and—with the exception of the stubborn and persistent high unemployment of the Great Depression—was a relatively happy country. By the afternoon of the December 7 attack on Pearl Harbor, America was a radically changed country, forever. Its isolationist impulses evaporated, and both major political parties became more or less internationalist. The month also introduced food and gas rationing, Victory Gardens, scrap drives, a military draft, and the conversion of Detroit into an "arsenal of democracy." From the moment of America’s entry into World War II, people of all kinds, but mostly women looking for work, flooded into the city. Instant apartment buildings sprang up, as did eating and drinking salons, all to the advantage of the massive increase in spending generated by the federal government.

December 1941 is a fascinating and meticulously researched look at the American home front—her people, faith, economy, government, and culture.
The book is great.  Craig Shirley pulls information from so many different sources and it is fascinating to read what was in little newspapers (and big ones) on the days before Pearl Harbor especially.  That is not something I've ever seen before.

Of course, the reports from during and just after the Pearl Harbor attack are fascinating as well, and I was a little surprised at how much else happened in that single month. 

I was a little worried when I understood that this book was pulling so much from newspapers and other original sources, but it is woven together incredibly well.

While I can't sit and read this for hours at a time (mostly because there is just so much information) this is totally worth the time.

Disclaimer: As a Booksneeze Blogger, I did receive this ebook for free from Thomas Nelson. No other compensation was received. For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Review and Giveaway: Cooper and Me and the Winter Adventure

Today I have the chance to talk about a cute book for kids... written and illustrated by a mom/daughter team where the daughter is about the age of a couple of my boys.

Cooper and Me and the Winter Adventure is the story of a couple of dogs who head out to play and end up getting lost.  From the back cover:

Cooper and Bella can't wait to go sledding, but what happens when they wander a little too far from home and a snowstorm makes it difficult to find their way back?

This book provides a wonderful opportunity to teach children the importance of making good decisions and the gentle lesson of how to be prepared in case they get lost.
I got this title with my 7 year old, Richard, in mind.  He is the one who I end up finding at the customer service desk at Walmart.  He's not so bad outdoors, but in general, if a child is going to wander off and end up who-knows-where, it is this one. 

The big thing I found in this is that it is a non-threatening way to reinforce the message about what to do when you are lost.  Since it is a couple of dogs who get lost, not little kids, it is so much easier to talk about what they did right and what "you" should do.

This book is cute and inviting. The illustrations are sweet, as you can see from the cover photo above, which is pretty typical of what you find inside.

And... $1 of every Winter Adventure book sold will go to advance research & treatment of pancreatic cancer, via the Lustgarten Foundation.

Also, the great folks at Cooper and Me are offering a special deal for my blog readers now through December 15.  Make any purchase of $25 or more at and get FREE SHIPPING by using the code COOPERBLOG at checkout.

I also have the chance to give one away.  This giveaway will end next weekend, so the book can be shipped out early next week... and it ought to arrive with plenty of time for Christmas!  This would be a great thing to slip into a stocking or put under the tree.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Reading Aloud Challenge: December 1

It's time for another Reading Aloud Challenge... and I have to apologize for taking an unscheduled week off for Thanksgiving.  I planned to post on Turkey Day... but I woke up with a migraine, and ended up deciding that it could just wait until this week. We took last week off school anyway, since Dale had vacation time he had to use.

Besides, ummm, well, I haven't done much.  <sigh>

Connor & I are nearly through Peace Child.  It's a good thing this one isn't actually tied to his history studies.  Because according to the Sonlight Instructor's Guide, he was supposed to finish this about a month ago.  Good thing he is doing great on the rest of the books involved.  I think we're going to plan for about 1/4 of the books (which are *intended* for him to read himself) to be read-alouds... and I'm not going to feel terribly committed to the schedule.

I finished Hittite Warrior with William and Thomas.  Great book.

We started (barely) God King.  Can't say anything about that one yet.

We also started D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths.  I love this book.  The illustrations are gorgeous and this is just a fantastic telling of these stories.  Though I know not everyone is a fan of teaching mythology... but... I think for my teen (!) and pre-teen, the discussions we can have about this mythology-culture as a backdrop to so much of the New Testament makes it totally worthwhile.  But it isn't only that.  Understanding the culture at all means understanding their beliefs and their stories.  Anyway, I didn't mean this to be a why study mythology lecture...

And everyone started seriously working on a review book I haven't talked about, I don't think.  Unveiling the Kings of Israel.  We started it awhile back, but life got crazy and we weren't doing more than a section at a time.  Picked it back up last week, and we are hopefully going to finish it up sometime next week.

Richard and Trina are listening to Mountain Born.  They are loving it, though we haven't gotten far.

And of course, the usual stuff.  Reading poetry and history aloud, and some science. 

Plans for this coming week? Finish Peace Child with Connor.  (I don't want to type that again!)  Work on the rest of the above stuff.  And hopefully get started on a Christmas read-aloud as well.

How did your week go?  Sign the linky to link up your reading aloud post and I'll come visit your post and I will figure out how to comment.

To see my first post when this turned into a linky thing, check here.

Do you know a kid? Have we got a giveaway for you...

 My kids have NO idea about the huge, gigantic gift that they are going to receive for Christmas...

A fort.  A giant fort.  An American-made giant fort.

It's like a ginormous set of tinkertoys... and *that* means I'll be getting back the dining room table, chairs, and various other pieces of furniture that they keep tossing blankets over and turning into a fort as well.  I won't, unfortunately, be getting back the blankets.  But at least I'll always know where they are... instead of now, where they could be mashed under the table, behind the chair, or in between bookshelves...

Is that the coolest thing?

Toydle (is that a great name?) is the company behind this.  And if the above still-photo didn't do it for you, you simply HAVE to check out the video.  It's worth it just to watch the kid dancing:

I wish I had one when I was a kid.  But at least I don't have to wish I had one for my kids.  I do have one.  A big one.  And they have NO idea.  (What will I do if they ever start reading my blog?)

Toydle is located in Idaho... and each wood block is hand-crafted by a real person.  And they are gorgeous.  The forts have an unconditional lifetime guarantee.  We just went through Cyber Monday, and whatever it was they were calling the Saturday (with the emphasis on supporting small businesses)... so this is an opportunity to do both... buy a fort online, and support a small business too.

They have started a blog... with only two v-log entries right now.  But both are worth watching.  One is on why they started the company in the first place.  The other is a factory tour... about the sticks.  I can't wait to see one about the blocks!  (And I'm thinking a trip to Boise is in order... I want a live, in-person tour, I'm telling ya!)

The really cool part!

Do you know a kid who would love this?  As long as you are not employed by The Old Schoolhouse, or a part of the Homeschool Crew... have I got something to share with you!  We are giving away THREE of these... and you do NOT have to homeschool to enter.  Wouldn't it be amazing to win one of these and give it to your kids?  Or your grandkids?  Or a special niece or nephew or godchild?  (Or even to make a fort for yourself and hide out... I'll certainly never tell on you!)

Go here.  Read about how to enter.  And do it.  It's easy, I promise.  And these forts are SO STINKIN' COOL you just gotta do it...

Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I did receive a fort in exchange for posting about this giveaway and blogging a  review.  This post fulfills part of that obligation.  The review is coming in the beginning of January.  All opinions are my own.  For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.