Friday, November 29, 2013

Simply Put: {a Review and Giveaway of a High School Economics Curriculum}

I haven't had a chance to do a whole lot with my biggest kids lately, but when Amy from the Bow of Bronze Launch Teams mentioned a high school economics course?  Of course I was all over that.

Simply Put is just what it says.  Simple.  Very simple.  At first, I was really disappointed.  Sometimes with reviews, you really do get what you paid for, and based solely on the size of the book, and the length of the teacher guide pdf, I was certain this was one of those times.

But I committed to use the materials, and even though I was pretty sure this wasn't worth anywhere near the 1/2 credit that Catherine Jaime claims it to be, well, I had to work with it because I promised.

I am using this with all three of my teens -- 11th, 9th and 7th grades.  The older two are getting high school credit for this (which is the first hint as to my opinion!) and Thomas is just along for the ride.  There are 36 total lessons, along with eight appendices, a midterm, final, and a couple suggestions for extra activities in the Teacher's Key. 

We're doing two lessons a week, which means this course will last one semester (18 weeks) or a bit longer if we take a little more time for the midterm, final, and other activities.  You could also use it at a rate of one lesson a week and earn the 1/2 credit over a full year.

The basic process:
  • I read the lesson out loud.  I have a couple of struggling readers, so it is easier this way.  Regardless, though, the beauty of this course is the discussion, and in my family, that wouldn't happen the same way if we didn't interact with the material together.  I highly recommend this.  The readings themselves are pretty short, most of the time.  Five to ten minutes, max.
  • We discuss stuff as we go.  And all four of us are likely to be interrupting the reading to say, "That reminds me of..." or "But what if..." or "Do you think that is really true?"  I think the shortest (after the first week or two) discussion has been around twenty minutes.  And it usually comes up again when Dad gets home, or when we are all in the car going somewhere, or just out of the blue.
  • There are discussion questions in the back of the book.  I ask those, the kids generally can answer them pretty quickly, and for the occasional question that they simply don't know, I go back and re-read the pertinent paragraph (typically, that would be for a question like the last one in lesson seven, "Name two Austrian economists."  There were four names mentioned in the lesson, but after all the other discussions, the kids only came up with Hazlitt (Henry Hazlitt) by name.  They were able to say that the main one being discussed was in the middle of the last century and he was brought up because he was pushing the laissez-faire government idea.  But his name?  No one could remember at all.  The discussions are sometimes pretty short, but often they get us pretty involved too.
  • Some lessons have additional resources suggested.  These include videos from (I joined this year, specifically so I can get more resources for this economics course), YouTube videos, articles at, the materials in an appendix, etc.  We are trying to use as much of this as we can, because I have been incredibly impressed with the suggestions so far.
So, before I go giving an actual opinion here, let me talk about me for a bit.  I took a 1/2 credit economics class in high school my junior year.  It was one of the first classes I took that actually got my attention.  I got good grades in everything, really, but Econ was something that I found really interesting and I enjoyed it.  So much so that in my senior year, my parents helped arrange for me to take introductory economics courses at NDSU.  Dual enrollment was unheard of back then, but there I was, taking AgEcon 101 and AgEcon 102 (I'm not positive of the numbers!) which were the intro micro- and macro-economics classes.  I loved those, and aced 'em both. 

From there, I went to the University of Minnesota, and ultimately majored in Accounting.  I took as many Economics courses as I could, and I'm pretty sure it was enough to earn an economics minor (they wouldn't award minors at that time though).  My favorite was a course in economics in third world areas.

That means, economics is a subject I find fascinating, and I absolutely planned to insist on my kids taking a course before they left high school, only I hadn't found anything I loved.  Now that is SIMPLE for me to do.  And... finally... my opinion:

This course is practically perfect.
  • The cost is amazing ($6.99 right now for digital editions at CurrClick, or a physical copy of the book is $25 at Creative Learning Connection).
  • It is very easy to use, even if you don't understand economics.  Catherine puts things in a VERY easy-to-grasp way, using a minimum of graphs and math.  Very accessible.
  • It is thorough.  It may seem wimpy at first glance, with a skinny book and very short lessons, but there is a lot of information there, and it covers things well. 
  • Catherine is totally upfront about her biases.  I know I never saw that in any of the half-dozen economics texts I used, nor in anything else I've looked at for my kids.  Even if you don't understand what in the world she means when she tells you "This book is written by a 'classic liberal' -- nowadays more often called a conservative, and that clearly shows throughout." you at least know that she is admitting to her point of view, and you will learn what that means over the course of the lessons.
  • My boys -- all three of them -- love it.
I did say "practically" though.  There are a few issues, mostly having to do with the fact that this is quite new.  Some things aren't as clear as I'd like:
  • When do you take the midterm?  Okay, if I go look at the answer key, I see that it covers the first 18 lessons, but there is nothing in the text that I found to indicate that.
  • When do you use the various appendices?  Most have a note in one of the lessons referring to them, but there are a couple that I just don't see referenced at all.  I'll just add the material somewhere.
  • I love the use of the videos from Izzit, but it would be nice to have some idea as to which videos are going to be recommended and when, so that I could get them ordered in advance.  I went through and made notes by skimming the footnotes, but it is certainly possible I missed something.
  • The activities in the teacher's guide too, I'm not really sure at what point to try to use those. 
Basically, some type of overview chart in the teacher book -- or the student book -- would make this a lot easier to use.

I'd also love to see additional Izzit video recommendations.  We happened to have a couple of videos on hand (The World of Money and Too Much Money) and they went along perfectly with Lessons 8-9.  Of course, you can only get one video every 30 days (for free) with a paid membership (which is about $10 annually) so I'm already pretty much maxing it out.  Additional suggestions, though, would mean I could get those videos over time and have them available when my younger ones reach high school.

My kids' opinions:  All three of them are loving this course.  They've asked a time or two if I helped to write it, as "she says the same things you do, Mom!"  I'm looking forward to the chapter on price gouging, as they are just going to be amazed at the similarities there. (I read ahead before writing this review!)

The two high schoolers are both incredibly pleased to have a fairly easy half-credit this year.  Even for kids who haven't had laws of economics spouted at them by a mother ranting against something stupid that a politician just said, we think this course would be on the 'less intense' side.  For my kids, though, it is easy.

Connor, the 16 year old, commented that he thinks everyone needs to understand this stuff.

Bottom line:  this is so affordable, I really think every homeschooled high school student ought to take this course.  Especially as it is a great chance for family discussions about some really important things.  And you'll probably learn something too.  I did, in the chapter on speculators.

I have the chance to give away a digital copy of this curriculum!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

There is a huge giveaway too!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

You can read more reviews at Bow of Bronze.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Related by Chance, Family by Choice {a LitFuse Book Review}

I've recently had the opportunity to read a really fantastic book Related by Chance, Family by Choice by Deb DeArmond.  This book hasn't been an easy one to read, and it is certainly not something I can just sit down and breeze through.  Far too thought-provoking for that.

First, here is what the publisher has to say:
Transforming Mother-in-Law and Daughter-in-Law Relationships. What does it take to create true family unity between moms and the women who marry their sons?

The caricatures are everywhere, the jokes are inexhaustible, and the stereotypes fill the screens. From Marie Barone (Everyone Loves Raymond) to Viola Fields (Monster-in-Law) to Internet sites and social media pages like and a Facebook page for ihatemymotherinlaw there is no shortage of examples of the caustic relationships that can develop between the two women in a man's life.

Deb DeArmond and her three daughters-in-law have conducted their own exhaustive research into the status of the women-in-law relationship. Their research, which incorporated online surveys, interviews, and discussions, included asking about the faith factor in the relationships they studied. Of the respondents, nearly 90 percent claimed they were Christians, and 79 percent said their faith was foundational and guided their actions and decisions. As discouraging as it may be, the numbers of those they surveyed who reported that their women-in-law relationships were "bad" were nearly identical to those in a survey conducted by a popular secular website that recorded no statistics on faith.

Beyond the statistics and their analysis, Deb brings to this book more than thirty years working with adults to improve communications and deal constructively with conflict. Aside from her research and her professional expertise, perhaps the most important asset Deb brings to this work is her own relationship with her three daughters-in-law that is so obviously and unusually positive that she-and they-are often asked to explain the secret of the relationships they share.

This practical and unapologetically scriptural book covers issues of personal perceptions, strained communication, the roles of sons and fathers in the relationship's success, how to begin these relationships on the right foot, and the necessity of trust and love. Deb's one motivating objective is to help women-in-law move from women who are simply related to strong and confident members of a truly spiritual family.
For a change, I think that description is quite good.

I had lots of reasons for thinking I ought to read this book.  Four sons, specifically, who hopefully will all someday find that God-chosen woman for them, and I pray that I can have that Daughter-in-Love relationship with all four of them that Deb speaks of in this book.

I've had some pretty amazing examples of truly wonderful MIL-DIL relationships in my life, so I do know those are possible.  I've also seen hurtful examples, and a lot of really strained ones, among people in my life.  One man I know sums it up when you hear him speak of those in-law relationships.  "Oh, I know, in-laws can be pretty awful.  My wife's mother-in-law is a real piece of work."  He always refers to his wife's parents and to "our in-laws."

I don't want my boys to refer to me as their wife's mother-in-law.

I like to convince myself that this isn't something I really need to worried about at this point, but really, my boys are not little anymore.  Three are taller than me (okay, the youngest teen may only be my height, or I may still have have a fraction of an inch on him, but I'm pretty sure he has a fraction of an inch on me).  The oldest is approaching his 17th birthday.  The next will be 15 before this month ends.  The third is now a teen.  Even my baby boy is approaching his first double-digit birthday.

No doubt they are growing up.

I'm trying to work on my part of moving to the leaving and cleaving stage of parenting.  And I've prayed, sometimes fairly consistently but oftentimes not, for their future wives.  This book is convicting me on a lot of fronts.  For one thing, I need to change that "oftentimes not" part.  I need to pray for my mother-in-law consistently too.

Deb (you can read more about her at worked really hard in this book to help you to look at things from a perspective besides just your own.

I think this is a book that almost every mom ought to read (I know a few people who definitely got it right on their own), and I know I need to go back through it again, and probably again when my boys are in serious relationships.

Deb DeArmond is celebrating the release of her book, Related by Chance, Family by Choice, with a "Day of Bonding" Spa giveaway!

One winner will receive:
  • A $200 SpaFinder gift card (perfect for a pampering day of bonding)
  • Related by Chance, Family by Choice by Deb DeArmond (2 copies)
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on November 30th. Winner will be announced December 2nd at Deb's blog.

Don't miss a moment of the fun; enter today and be sure to stop by Deb's blog on December 2nd to see if you won.

Disclaimer:  I received this book through LitFuse Blog Tour.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Christmas Quilt {a LitFuse Book Review}

I've recently had the chance to read The Christmas Quilt, by Vannetta Chapman. This book is part of the Quilts of Love series.  I reviewed another book from that series, Aloha Rose recently, and Tempest's Course arrived in the mail today, so that review will be coming in December.

The idea behind this series is that quilts have stories to tell, and the various authors are bringing together a variety of stories, whether women's fiction, historical romance, mystery, or (as in the case of this book) a contemporary romance.

I love quilts, though I've never spent a lot of time thinking about the story that any of ours tell.  So a chance to do some light reading this fall, with stories that have quilts as key parts of the story, well, that intrigued me.

From the publisher:
Annie's life is deliciously full as the Christmas season approaches. She helps her husband, Samuel, attend to the community's minor medical needs. She occasionally assists Belinda, the local midwife, and most days, she finds herself delivering the buggy to her brother Adam. Annie's sister-in-law Leah is due to deliver their first child before Christmas morning, and Annie is determined to finish a crib quilt before the boppli arrives. With six weeks to go, she should have no problem . . . but God may have a different plan. Leah is rushed to the English hospital when the infant arrives early, and Annie discovers the Christmas quilt may hold a far greater significance than she ever imagined.
My thoughts:  Honestly, I'm a bit tired of Amish fiction, and I hadn't quite grasped that was what I was getting here.  That meant I went into this book with not-the-best-attitude. 

Then I had a hard time keeping all of the people straight in the first 3-4 chapters.  This story involves a lot of different people, more than just the five mentioned in the blurb above.  I was wishing I had jotted down notes.

Once I got a bit further, and especially once I got into some of the pregnancy problems, pre-term labor, and preemie issues, I was a lot more interested in the story line.  Itty-bitty babies have a special place in my heart.  I have to add that some of the medical stuff felt a little off to me, but wow, did Chapman nail some of the conflicting anxiety that is a part of trying to make that baby (or those babies, in Leah's case) stay put, and then the roller-coaster of NICU.

It was really a nice read, especially the way faith was woven into all the various storylines.  Once I reached a point around the fifth chapter, I did not want to put it down.

In honor of their new Quilts of Love releases, The Christmas Quilt and Aloha Rose, authors Vannetta Chapman and Lisa Carter are gearing up to ring in the Christmas season with a Kindle Fire HDX giveaway and a "Christmas Bee" Facebook Party on December 10th with fellow Quilts of Love author Lynette Sowell!


One winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire HDX
  • The Christmas Quilt by Vannetta Chapman
  • Aloha Rose by Lisa Carter
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on November 30th. Winner will be announced at the "Christmas Bee" Facebook Party on December 10th. Connect with the authors from the Quilts of Love series, Vannetta Chapman, Lisa Carter, and Lynette Sowell, for an evening of book chat, quilt trivia, Christmas traditions and gifts, PLUS get an exclusive look at January's Quilts of Love book!

So grab your copies of The Christmas Quilt and Aloha Rose and join Vannetta, Lisa, and Lynette on the evening of December 10th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the books, don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun; RSVP today by clicking JOIN at the event page. Spread the word—tell your friends about the giveaway and party via FACEBOOK or TWITTER. Hope to see you on December 10th!


Disclaimer:  I received this book through LitFuse Blog Tour.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own.   

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Nativity Story App {A FlyBy Review}

I haven't been reviewing apps lately, and this one reminds me of how much fun a great app can be.  The Nativity Story is available for iPad or iPhone.  We used it on Dale's iPad, as we could not get it to work on the 1st generation iPad that the kids have.  (The app requires IOS 6)

I was a bit skeptical about this app initially.  They say it is for ages 2-8, and I do have one in that range (Trina is 7), and the promotional blurb stuff sounded pretty neat.  Nativity story is a draw.  Electronic vintage pop-up book.  Woodcut-style illustrations.  Can use it with the narrator reading to you, or you can read it yourself.

So I went for it, and I'm thrilled that I did.  This is an app that is definitely worth all of the $3.99 (iPad) or $1.99 (iPhone) pricetag.

You start off with the opening screen, where you can choose a language.  Another HUGE plus... my kids can listen to it in English a few times, and then explore it in Spanish to support their Spanish language studies.

In the photo on the right, you can see that we've selected Spanish (the white one is the one you've chosen) so if we now tap the book (La Historia de Navidad) we'll get started in Spanish.

All of my other screenshots are going to be in English, by the way.

Then you start going through the story.  Fun, rhyming text, which certainly appeals to the younger set.  My kids chose to have the narrator read to them.  My husband chose NOT to listen to the narrator.  One really great aspect, though, is that you can change that without having to start over.  So if the kids read it themselves, but get tired or find it too challenging to finish, they can switch gears.

You see the little speech bubble-looking things on the screenshot?  When you tap those, the characters will speak.

Don't the illustrations really have that vintage old-timey feel?

I love it.

Within the text, there are red hints ("knocked on the door" on this page) that give the kids a suggestion of something they can do to interact with this page.

When you "knock" (tap) on the door, it opens, and a person comes out.  At that point, a speech thing pops up over Joseph.  After you have him talk, the person in the door has a speech icon too.

The other great thing is that initially all of the windows are closed.  If you tap on the windows, they will open up (like the one on the right) with a person in each window.

My husband thinks the greatest part of this pop-up book is that you can't tear all the little tab things, or have the pop-up illustrations fall off.

On this page, you have all kinds of things going on.  Tap the window, and all sorts of people appear at doors, windows, etc.

But the really great thing is that those two little kids on the upper floor?  They chase each other back and forth, a lot like the slide-y types of pop-up book activities.

My husband laughed when he came across this one (he was my screen-shot getter for this review, since it is his iPad).

Nostalgic is a word used in some of the promo materials. This page really had that nostalgic feel to it.

Trina's absolute favorite thing of all was to play with the chickens on this page.  The story has Mary & Joseph arriving at the market, and if you swipe at the curtain, it opens up.  But down in front of the stall are baskets of produce, and two crates of chickens.

You can toss the chicken crates up into the air and they end up bouncing around a bit like dice.  You can see here that one is flying, and the other has landed with the poor chicken being upside-down.

Trina thought this was so very funny, and she just giggled and giggled on this page.

At the end of the story, you can explore the actual Bible text that tells the story, which I thought was a great thing.  My kids pretty much ignored that though.

I think this app is a very worthwhile purchase.  Great story, fabulous illustrations, cute extra little touches, fantastic use of technology.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in 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."

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Adventure Bible Handbook {a Booksneeze Book Review}

I love Bible materials that I can use with my kids, especially when they are fun, creative, and drive my kids back to the Bible.  Bonus points if they touch on Biblical Archaeology.  So I jumped at the chance to review the Adventure Bible Handbook. Written by Robin Schmitt and David Frees, this book does live up to its subtitle: A Wild Ride Through the Bible.

From the publisher:
A fun and exciting journey through the Bible told in comic book style for kids ages 9-12. Companion to the bestselling Adventure Bible.
Kids (ages 9-12) and parents who love the bestselling Adventure Bible and want a fun and engaging supplement to their biblical study need look no further. The Adventure Bible Handbook leads tween boys and girls across the Holy Land and back in time on an entertaining, educational, and inspirational quest to find their missing father.
Four siblings travel with their archaeologist father to the Holy Land, where he is conducting an expedition in search of scientific truth. When he disappears, the children try to find him by joining an offbeat tour group organized by two zany guides whose mission, they eventually discover, is to lead kids on a fun, exciting, and life-changing quest for ultimate truth. Soon the group is visiting ancient cities, important geographical sites, and experiencing biblical times firsthand—traveling back in time with the help of some RSPs (Really Smart Phones) and all sorts of wacky modes of transportation.
It’s a fast, fun, eyewitness adventure around the world and through some of the greatest Bible stories to learn what life is really all about.
A word first on the age range:  if you go to the Zondervan website, their synopsis says that the book is for ages 7-10. 

My opinion:  the reading range is probably correct with the ages 9-12, but I do think the content is great for the younger ones (ages 7-8).  My 7-year-old isn't able to read this herself, but she is very much able to grasp the meaning of both the story and the explanatory text.

What is this?   There is a comic strip format (graphic novel) story, which is what is described in the publisher's statement I quoted above.  That story is a bit crazy, and certainly adventurous and exciting.  My 16-year-old picked up the book and read through the entire story portion in an hour or so.  He wasn't impressed, even when I asked him to think about it in terms of his 12-year-old brother, or even the 9-year-old.  He was bothered by the sci-fi aspects of the story, and insisted that they just didn't make sense.  He also confessed that he has never liked graphic novels though, and that he was probably not the best judge of that aspect.

The concern that he really had with the book though was that parents would probably purchase it for the non-story content (more on that below) but that kids were likely to ignore that and just read the comics.  Like he did, I'd add.

The part of this book that truly appeals to me is all of the explanatory text and graphics that goes throughout the book.  These talk about people, places, events, empires, and more. There is a lot of great stuff in there.

Periodically, there are "Adventure Readings" that pop up, where there are suggestions for reading from the Bible.  I'm sure The Adventure Bible is their preferred version!

My take:  I really like the explanatory text, even though I have some occasional quibbles with it.  For instance, in one place (page 23, "Languages of the Bible") they talk about the Bible originally being written in two languages, and they go on to give good explanations of Hebrew and Greek.  Just adding the words "most of" or "majority of" would have made that box accurate.  They didn't need to describe Aramaic.  I know, many people would gloss over that, saying this is basically accurate.  But with just a couple extra words, we can treat our children like we respect them enough not to over-simplify.  My 7- and 9-year olds both argued with that particular box.  They couldn't remember the other language (Arabic was their guess), but they vaguely knew there was one.

Another little text box early in the book (page 25, "Travel") talked about something being 9-10 miles away, and how long that took to travel at the time (all day), vs. the 5 minutes it would take you to drive that far in a car.  Both kids immediately objected to that statement too.  "Nine or ten miles would take 9-10 minutes," Katrina said.  Richard added, "If you were on a highway!"  He wanted to calculate how fast you'd have to drive to cover 9-10 miles in just five minutes (that'd be 108-120 mph, by the way).  Because of those two examples, my kids were skeptical of almost everything in the text boxes, unless they already knew it.  Pretty much every section has them asking, "Is that true?"

I still do find the book to be valuable, but it isn't one I want to just hand off for them to read.  We're slowly working through it, and really talking about all of the great topics brought up along the way. The maps, the photos of archaeological sites and artifacts, the artwork depicted -- we are loving that.

Another plus is the fun online activities available at  

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 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.”

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Bountiful Baskets: November 23

Bountiful Baskets today was fabulous as always! 

This is a photo of one of my baskets:

My TWO baskets contained:
  • 3 heads of Romaine lettuce
  • 5 1-lb bags carrots
  • 6 enormous yams
  • 12 enormous russet potatoes
  • 7 huge onions
  • 8 cucumbers
  • 12 tomatoes on the vine
  • 3 cantaloupe
  • 24 bananas
  • 13 apples
How will we use it?  Well... this one isn't really difficult.  It is pretty much all staples. Fruit will be eaten, yams and potatoes will become sides on Thanksgiving, lettuce, carrots, onions and tomatoes are just used.

Cucumbers -- a couple will be sliced and dunked in ranch dressing by the kids.  I'm going to try doing a vinegar thing with a couple more to see if I can't use them up.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Review: Christmas Comes to America

It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas!  No, not the weather, fortunately, as we need a bit more time without snow here so the road crews can take care of the tumbleweed invasion.

It looks a lot like Christmas, though, in our school life.  Because for the past few weeks, we've been fortunate enough to be reviewing Christmas Comes to America, an absolutely brilliant unit study from Homeschool Legacy.

My newer readers may not know this about me, but this review has to start with a confession.  I am not a unit study mom.  I think the idea is great, but in real life, push comes to shove, unit studies just never work in this household.  I feel like things are forced into the theme, the boys roll their eyes at that, I get frustrated at things, and it all just peters out.  And I again chalk it up to "I'm not a unit study mom."

Homeschool Legacy though?  Their unit studies actually work for me.  I reviewed We the People about a year ago, and really liked that.  And this Christmas study is amazing. 

So let me tell you a bit about Homeschool Legacy.  They have created a whole bunch of "once a week" unit studies on various topics that are applicable to pretty wide age ranges.  We used this one with all five kids, ages 7-16.  They all enjoyed it.

As a bonus, the studies incorporate requirements from Boy Scout and/or American Heritage Girl merit badges.  For Christmas in America, the merit badges are Music (BSA) and Music Appreciation (AHG).  That means that in addition to learning about Christmas in America in general, you are also learning a bit about Christmas music.  Oh, yeah, that gets my attention!  If you don't have children involved in either organization, obviously you could choose to skip the activities that are really specific to the badges.  But some of those assignments are really pretty neat.

This is a fairly short study, just four weeks, and it is less intense than most of Homeschool Legacy's other studies.  Less intense is definitely something I appreciate when it comes to Christmas-time.  So do my kids!

How do these studies work?
  • There is a read-aloud suggestion each week, and the idea is to read from that daily.  For this study, actually, there are generally two family read-alouds going.  I love read-alouds, so that is my favorite thing about the Homeschool Legacy studies.
  • There are a whole lot of book suggestions too, so that the kids can be reading related books throughout the week.
  • Each week has a theme, and you have some readings, devotionals, activities, etc. related to that theme.  The idea is to do that "once a week" and that is how it worked for us (mostly) with this study.  
  • Each week has recommendations for field trips and/or a family movie night.  How simply awful is it to HAVE to watch Muppet Christmas Carol with the family for school?  There wasn't a single complaint in my household.  
This study is four weeks long, and each week has a "country" focus.  So you learn about the Dutch, the English, the Germans, and the last week is America.

The reading is always a highlight in my family.  The great part about doing this study in October/November is that I had NO competition for the books at the library.  I put everything I could on hold (which was almost every suggested book title) and all but one showed up at the bookmobile three days later.  That one holdout was available the next week.  If you are looking to do this study NOW, you probably will have a bit more competition for the books.  But that can be good too.  My kids felt a bit overwhelmed by all the titles showing up in the house.  How to choose?

Another highlight of the Christmas study is how there are so many activities relating to food.  Making hot chocolate mix, making our own marshmallows, making wassail... these kinds of things definitely get the attention of my teen boys!

We didn't try to do everything suggested in the study.  Some were problematic due to the time of year, and if we were starting here for Advent 2013, it would be more likely.  Suggestions such as going  caroling... well, I do know some friends and neighbors who would have played along, but the idea of Christmas caroling in October was just too much for us.  We sang for ourselves though.

Other activities were done by some kids and not others.  Like designing your own Christmas card.  My oldest rolled his eyes and asked if he could go do his calculus instead.  The younger three were eager to spend time drawing, and loved the suggested art books.

My bottom line:  This is a fantastic family-oriented resource.  They advertise that you can use it with grades 2-12, and we certainly found that to be true (though we only used it for grades 2-11).  I love that the kids can earn merit badges alongside the schoolwork, and that was worked in so very well.  This study includes all of the Boy Scout Music requirements, and all of the requirements needed to earn the AHG Music Appreciation badge at the Tenderheart and Explorer levels, but you would have to do a bit more to earn it at the Pioneer/Patriot level.

We loved that this study wasn't very intensive.  Not a lot of writing assignments, or heavy academics.  Homeschool Legacy's other studies are heavier in those areas. This one is fun, informative, and simply a great way to continue learning in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Another fantastic aspect of this is that it would be very easy to repeat the study, even every year.  Just choose some different titles to read, focus on different music and different movies, choose different activities (and repeat the ones that were especially fun!)  I'm not sure I'd want to do it every single year, but maybe.  I certainly can see that I will repeat it when Trina is an Explorer and when she is a Pioneer or Patriot.

Christmas Comes to America is available for $17.95, and I think that is a great deal!  If you spend over $50, you get free shipping.  A good study to follow up this one is the Birds of a Feather one. 

Disclaimer:  I received this study in exchange for an honest review  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own. 

Aloha Rose {a LitFuse Book Review}

I've recently had the chance to read Aloha Rose, by Lisa Carter. This book is part of the Quilts of Love series, and you'll be seeing a couple more reviews of other books in that series soon.

The idea behind this series is that quilts have stories to tell, and the various authors are bringing together a variety of stories, whether women's fiction, historical romance, mystery, or (as in the case of this book) a contemporary romance.

I love quilts, though I've never spent a lot of time thinking about the story that any of ours tell.  So a chance to do some light reading this fall, with stories that have quilts as key parts of the story, well, that intrigued me.

From the publisher:
When Laney Carrigan's adoptive parents encourage her as an adult to seek out her birth family, her only clue is the Lokelani quilt in which she was found wrapped as an infant. Centering her search on the Big Island, she battles fears of rejection from a family that abandoned her once before while her faith struggles to embrace God's love.

Along the path to her true heritage, she meets Hawaiian cowboy/helicopter pilot, Kai Barnes. Kai is determined to protect the people he's come to regard as family against a woman he suspects of being nothing more than a gold-digger, but he finds himself drawn to Laney in spite of his reservations. He's spent his entire life seeking forgiveness from past mistakes and longs for a second chance at happiness.

Laney's painstaking journey to find restoration and a place to belong among the breathtaking allure of the Big Island will lead her closer to her past and maybe even something more.
My thoughts:  I enjoyed this story, especially the parts that involved the ladies of Laney's Hawaiian family teaching her to quilt.  The story was fairly predictable, but it was still interesting to see it all play out, and to think about topics like forgiveness and loyalty.

I know lots of adoptive families, too, including adopted cousins who look a lot different from my aunt and uncle.  That made some of Laney's discoveries about herself particularly intriguing.

One thing I really liked about the story was how subjects like PTSD were addressed.  I felt like I learned something from that.  I also felt like I learned a bit about Hawaiian culture.

In honor of their new Quilts of Love releases, The Christmas Quilt and Aloha Rose, authors Vannetta Chapman and Lisa Carter are gearing up to ring in the Christmas season with a Kindle Fire HDX giveaway and a "Christmas Bee" Facebook Party on December 10th with fellow Quilts of Love author Lynette Sowell!


One winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire HDX
  • The Christmas Quilt by Vannetta Chapman
  • Aloha Rose by Lisa Carter
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on November 30th. Winner will be announced at the "Christmas Bee" Facebook Party on December 10th. Connect with the authors from the Quilts of Love series, Vannetta Chapman, Lisa Carter, and Lynette Sowell, for an evening of book chat, quilt trivia, Christmas traditions and gifts, PLUS get an exclusive look at January's Quilts of Love book!

So grab your copies of The Christmas Quilt and Aloha Rose and join Vannetta, Lisa, and Lynette on the evening of December 10th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the books, don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun; RSVP today by clicking JOIN at the event page. Spread the word—tell your friends about the giveaway and party via FACEBOOK or TWITTER. Hope to see you on December 10th!


Disclaimer:  I received this book through LitFuse Blog Tour.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own.   

Schoolhouse Review Crew Blue Ribbon Awards!


The 2013 Crew Year has just come to an end.  Wow, this year FLEW by.

For the past few years, the Crew has ended the year by voting on their favorites in a whole lot of categories. 

This year, we ended up with 38 total categories, and awarded ribbons to 28 different amazing wonderful vendors.  These companies were fabulous to work with during the year.

It is really interesting to be the one tallying up those votes, I tell you.  Some of these votes were incredibly close.  Some really great companies -- like TouchMath and Flip Flop Spanish, to name two off the top of my head -- lost by a single vote.

I have to say that personally, we loved almost all of the products listed here.  There are a couple that I wouldn't have voted for, but mostly because my kids are <gasp> too old.  That's a weird thing too.

This year, I really didn't write up reviews for all that many programs, so I'll stick to just linking the Crew Blog post.   But I'm making some comments as I go!

Language Arts programs:  What amazing options.  Logic of English changed our lives, we adore Institute for Exellence in Writing, I've always been a fan of Handwriting Without Tears,  Moving Beyond the Page is just a FUN program, and well, Fundanoodle looks great for kids younger than mine!

Favorite Reading Instruction Curriculum: Logic of English
Favorite Handwriting Curriculum: Handwriting Without Tears
Favorite Writing Curriculum: Institute for Excellence in Writing
Favorite Language Arts Curriculum: Moving Beyond the Page 
Favorite Language Arts Resource: Fundanoodle

Social Studies:  We decided to use the Notgrass materials next year, when most everyone will be studying American history in my house.  What colorful, wonderful stuff though.  YWAM is always good, and I love the changes in God's World News!

Favorite Social Studies Curriculum: Notgrass Company
Favorite History Resource: YWAM Publishing
Favorite Social Studies Resource: God's World News

Science, oh, yeah, science.  Always my favorite subject.  The Apologia Elementary Science books are a lot of fun with the notebooking! We're using the Land Animals set. BrainFood Learning makes incredibly neat videos.  I cannot count how many times we've watched the insects one.  And I love, love, love Homeschool Programming.  GREAT curriculum!

Favorite Science Curriculum: Apologia Elementary Science
Favorite Science Resource: BrainFood Learning
Favorite Technology Curriculum: Homeschool Programming

Math was fun this year, so many fantastic programs.  My kids love Math U See, and everyone has used at least one level now.  And some of my kids enjoy Math Rider too!

Favorite Math Curriculum: Math U See
Favorite Math Resource: Math Rider

Electives: Connor thinks Homeschool Spanish Academy is the best thing to ever happen to high school foreign language!  Thomas voted for See the Light as the Kids' Choice winner, and was thrilled to meet some of the See the Light folks at Teach Them Diligently in Omaha!  We love the Bible Summary cards from Bible Study Guide for All Ages.  

Favorite Foreign Language Curriculum: Homeschool Spanish Academy
Favorite Fine Arts Curriculum: See the Light
Favorite Fine Arts Resource: Gryphon House
Favorite Christian Education Curriculum: Bible Study Guide for All Ages
Favorite Christian Education Resource: God's World News

By age, well, I don't have preschoolers, but Flowering Baby made me wish I did! What a neat program!  I've already mentioned most of the others here.  The new High School Prep Genius from the College Prep Genius folks is brilliant.

Favorite Preschool Resource: Flowering Baby
Favorite Elementary Resource: Apologia Elementary Science
Favorite Middle School Resource: Institute for Excellence in Writing
Favorite High School Resource: Institute for Excellence in Writing
Favorite College or College-Prep Resource: College Prep Genius
Favorite Parent Resource: Picaboo

Oh, this next section? Yes to all of these! Supercharged Science is amazing, Homeschool in the Woods makes some incredible products, IXL was a huge hit here AGAIN, and Circle Time?  Who knew how much I needed that encouragement?

Best Online Resource: Supercharged Science
Best E-Product: Homeschool in the Woods
Best App: VocabularySpellingCity
Best Resource I Didn't Know I Needed: IXL
Best General Homeschool Resource: Circle Time

More cool stuff, like a funny book about a "Real Payne" and Chess instruction.  Oh, yeah.

Best Book, Novel, or Magazine: God's World News
Best Children's Book:  Barbour Publishing
Best Game or Toy: Chess House
Best Hands-On Resource: Apologia Elementary Science
Most Adaptable Resource: Apologia Elementary Science
Most Family-Oriented Resource: Apologia Elementary Science

The Presidential Game?  Oh, probably the family vote for best product of the year.  What an awesome game!

Kids' Choice: Chess House
Teens' Choice: The Presidential Game
All Around Crew Favorite: Apologia Elementary Science

Congratulations to each of the Blue Ribbon Award winners, and thank you for the amazing opportunity we had to serve you this year!

Head on over to the Crew Blog Post to see what other Crew members have to say about this year's winners!!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Review: The Answers Book for Kids, Volumes 5 and 6

We own the entire series of The Answers Book for Kids by Ken Ham & Bodie Hodge.  When I saw that Volumes 5 and 6 were coming up to review for Moms of Master Books, I was both excited and a little hesitant.  I mean, really, they've covered so much in the first four volumes, why are they continuing?

It turns out that I think these are the best books of the series so far (assuming more come out!) and I'm really happy to have them both.  Even my 16 year old sat down to read through them, and his first comment was "These are even better than the ones they wrote 'for teens'"

The description of the series in general, from the publisher:
Never short of questions, let these titles bring answers to children who may just want to know, or who may be struggling in their walk with Christ. Parents and teachers need not to be afraid of the tough questions with these solid apologetics titles in The Answers Book for Kids series. Too many children have grown up and left the Church because they are asked tough questions and no one seemed to have an answer. Now, here are those answers!
The Answers book for Kids Volume 6 is all about the Tower of Babel and the Ice Age.

The basic format in all of the books in this series is that you have a cute kid (or kids) on one side of a two-page spread, asking a question, with fun pictures on that 6"x6" page.  Very visually appealing.

The right side of the two-page spread has the answer to the question, usually.  One complaint I have is that the "answer" sometimes doesn't really answer the question.  Interesting information, but it doesn't always actually provide the answer.  My geeky kids notice that.  Sometimes (How big was the Tower of Babel?) the answer is obviously vague (bottom line on that one was, "the tower was probably about 7-8 stories and 300 feet (91 meters) high.") Those are fine, as they are answering the question.

And actually, paging back through this book, that isn't a problem in this title. So I guess I'll address an example down below. 

The Answers Book for Kids Volume 5 is all about space and astronomy.  This is hands-down my favorite book in the series.  Easily.

Volume 5 has the same basic format I described above.  Let me start with an example of not really answering the question though.  "Did Christians believe the earth was flat?" is one example.  And the answer just feels misleading.  They give a Bible verse (Isaiah 40:22) about the circle of the earth, which is great.  They talk about ancient people believing in a round earth, including Christians.  They talk about Eratosthenes calculating the circumference of the earth.

The statement "Very few Christians ever believed that the earth was flat." does, I guess, answer the question, but everything in there is discussing Christianity in the 200s (Lactantius mixing flat earth concepts with Christianity).  The answer ends with a warning about taking information from outside of Scripture and combining it with Christianity.

All of that is good... but MY kids read through that and said, "When people challenge Christians about flat earth, they are really asking about Columbus and early explorers, not some obscure person from the early church."  I agree.  I would have been more impressed if the answer got at least a little bit into the ideas of sailing off the end of the earth, and our misconceptions about just what it was that scared the sailors about exploring so far from known seas.

The bigger problem was the question on the big bang.  One son summed up his response to that two-page spread with, "It boils down to 'the Bible says it didn't happen so it didn't happen' and I want a bit more than just that.  There are major problems with the Big Bang theory, so why not address at least something there?"

In re-reading that page, the book says, "The big bang has several scientific problems, too."  That's it.  My kids wanted more.

However, like I said above, this is seriously my favorite in the series.

Questions like "What is the purpose of stars?" get fabulous answers that are easy enough for kids to understand, yet are likely to make parents say, "Huh, I never thought of that aspect."  The question about black holes is the best explanation I think I've ever seen.

What are comets?  What would happen if a comet ran into an asteroid? Do meteors burn up and are they dangerous?  This book has fabulous questions and really great answers.  Even the answers that I think should have been a bit longer are really GOOD answers, they just need (in my opinion) a bit more.

I recommend this entire series highly.  Especially if you have kids in the 8-12 age range, but even for teens.

You can go see what other Moms of Master Books have to say about The Answers Book for Kids.

There is a Book and a Treat Facebook party coming up November 19 at 9 pm EDT, where you could win cool prizes including (I assume) these titles -- and discuss the books too. 

Disclaimer:   I received this books for free from New Leaf Publishing Group as part of the Moms of Master Books program.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received complimentary products does not guarantee a favorable review.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Bountiful Baskets: November 16

It is Bountiful Baskets time again!  I got so much HEAVY stuff this week!

Check out the photo of my ONE basket --

And between my TWO baskets, I got:
  • About 14 pound of Yukon Gold potatoes.  Yummy
  • 5 pounds of carrots
  • 2 bunches celery
  • 2 bunches romaine lettuce (only I traded one away)
  • 4 cucumbers
  • 5 enormous yams
  • 4 coconuts (only I traded one away)
  • 17 bananas
  • 6 mangoes (plus 3 I got in trade, so 9 total)
  • 10 Fuji apples
  • 19 Satsuma tangerines
What will we do with this?
  • apples, tangerines, and bananas just get eaten
  • mangoes usually turn into smoothies, but with this many, I'm going to do some investigating so I can maybe do something a bit more fun
  • carrots, celery, and potatoes are just used.  Though, umm, I have a LOT of potatoes in my house right now, so I probably need to start planning for them.
  • Lettuce, well, salads.  I traded one away because I simply have far too much lettuce around at the moment.
  • Cucumbers will be sliced and dipped in ranch dressing
  • Yams -- I am SO making up a sweet potato casserole or two or three. I tell you, these things are ENORMOUS.
  • Coconuts.  I don't have the first clue.
I also got a hostess pack.  Doesn't this look amazing and yummy?

It includes:
  • 1 living lettuce 
  • 1 pineapple
  • 2 parsnips
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 4 good sized russet potatoes
  • 3 big Granny Smith Apples
  • 3 small Granny Smith Apples
  • 12 oz bag cranberries
  • parsley
  • sage
  • rosemary
  • thyme
What do I do with all of this?  Well, mostly we're talking staples here.
  • The lettuce will keep nice, and I just love the living lettuce for that!  
  • Potatoes an onions will be added to the stash.  
  • I'll use the Granny Smith apples to do some baking.  
  • Cranberries, well, that was the big draw with the hostess pack in the first place.  We'll eat those with Thanksgiving.  
  • Parsnips, I'll be investigating.  I'm considering this Roasted Parsnips and Carrots recipe (with carrots from the basket, and parsley from this pack.
  • Pineapple may be used in baking, or I might dry it.
  • The herbs, well. I'm thinking about those.  I may make some oils... 
Fun basket.  Next week is the last one for November, so I'm looking forward to that.  And although I've heard that we won't have the chance to purchase a box of cranberries, well, I'm still hoping.  I would dearly, dearly love to get a whole box.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Stories of the Pilgrims: Review and Giveaway

Okay, one of the very first reviews I ever posted to my blog related to how much I love iSchool.  You know, get a good audiobook, rip it over to an iPod, and school on the go.

Stories of the Pilgrims, put out by Jim Hodges Audiobooks, is the perfect iSchool product, I tell you.  We've been listening here for a bit (I'll confess we have not finished it... mostly because we've been sick a lot and just not driving anywhere!) and the really awesome part is that there's a fabulous study guide to go with it.

One thing I am simply loving is that the individual chapters are a perfect length.  With only three exceptions, the chapters are under ten minutes each, and most are in the 4-6 minute range.

I love that.  Although we typically end up in the car for an hour or two at a time, these chapters are short enough that we can listen to one on our drive to church, or listen to two while we drive to the bookmobile.  We don't end up hanging out in the driveway for 15 minutes waiting for a chapter to end.  In fact, so far, I don't think we've ever sat for more than a minute.

The reading is clear, well-paced, and without distractions that make it tough to listen in the car.  I always appreciate that!

We are also making use of the study guide.  Now, I'll confess that I wasn't so sure about using a study guide with an audio book.  We're usually doing audio while out and about, and it isn't like I really have time or a desire to be reading questions or doing complicated activities.

This study guide, however, can be really simple, or a bit more in-depth, and the guide is appropriate for a fairly wide range of ages. Every four chapters, there is a study guide "assignment" that includes vocabulary (love that!), discussion questions, and activities.  Some activities are great for hands-on fun (cooking, crafts), some involve maps, some have you watching videos, and some involve research.

I'm very impressed.

I got this with my younger children in mind (2nd grade, 4th grade, 7th grade).  But since obtaining this audiobook, my 16 year old has switched gears and is studying US history for his junior year.  This (with the study guide) is absolutely part of his classwork.  The audiobook is a bit over four hours, and he can listen while he runs.  He is not likely to go making clothespin Pilgrims, but using a Venn diagram to compare and contrast Puritans and Separatists?  Yeah, that sounds like a perfect activity.

Right now, the audiobook is available for only $15, and the study guide is $5.

Or you can win it, plus loads and loads of other amazing books.  I want to win this set, let me tell you...

a Rafflecopter giveaway

You can read more reviews from the Bow of Bronze Launch Team.  There are some great ones there.

Bow of Bronze Launch Team Disclaimer Graphic

Giveaway! Devotions from the Torah

I am just thrilled to be announcing a fabulous giveaway as part of The Devotions from the Torah Launch Team!  I am in the middle of reading Devotions from Genesis (well, okay, I'll confess, I'm not quite to the middle yet) by Nicole Halbrooks Vaughn, and this really promises to be a fabulous series! The other book, Devotions from Exodus Part One, is waiting for me.

The Devotions from the Torah Launch Team is excited to help Nicole celebrate the release of the first 2 books in this series -- Devotions from Genesis and Devotions from Exodus Part One -- with a special giveaway of incredible books, several of which will enhance your study of the Torah! This giveaway is a $160 value!

We would like to thank the following companies for their generous sponsorship of this giveaway! Be sure to stop by their websites to say thank you!

Home School Adventure Co.

Knowledge Quest

Great Waters Press

To enter the giveaway, use the Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post. One winner will be selected and announced by noon ET on December 5, 2013. U.S. residents age 18 and older only please. Other Terms and Conditions can be found in the Rafflecopter.

Here's what you could win!

Devotions from Genesis by Nicole Halbrooks Vaughn

See for yourself how Genesis, the book of beginnings, is not just ancient history and that the Word of God is still alive and timeless. Nicole Vaughn’s Devotions from Genesis will take you on a journey from the garden of Eden to the courts of Pharaoh in Egypt, allowing you to see your own hurts, struggles, and joys through the lives of patriarchs from Adam to Joseph. You will gain insight into your heart and more importantly, insight into the very heart of God. One day at a time, you will be reminded that you are not alone with these Devotions from Genesis.

Devotions from Exodus Part One by Nicole Halbrooks Vaughn

Devotions From Exodus Part One will take you from the bondage of the children of Israel to their freedom. The children of Israel were set free from their bondage in Egypt, and they had to learn how to live in this new freedom. As you study through these first twenty chapters of Exodus, you will see that after God delivered the children of Israel out of Egypt, he still had to get Egypt out of them. Our deliverance in Christ is no different. God delivers us from the world, but he still has to get the world out of us. We, like the Israelites, are learning to live in this freedom.

Philosophy Adventure: Pre-Socratics (digital download) by Stacy Farrell

Philosophy Adventure™ is designed to help students 6th-12th grade cultivate and defend a biblical worldview by teaching them how to write skillfully, think critically, and speak articulately as they explore the history of ideas.

Philippians in 28 Weeks (digital download) by Stacy Farrell

The Bible is banned in many countries. Countless believers have sacrificed their freedom—and many, their lives—to spread the message of God’s love and salvation contained within its pages. Are we exercising our freedom responsibly. Memorize the entire book of Philippians in 28 weeks!

A Child's Geography: Explore the Holy Land by Ann Voskamp

Iraq, Jordan, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Turkey...your family probably hears or reads about these names frequently. In an increasingly complex world, it is vitally important that children learn to see the world through their Creator's eyes. As we explore the Holy Land you and your family will delight in incredible, mysterious landscapes, hidden wonders and beautiful peoples - all created in God's image.

A Cry from Egypt by Hope Auer
Have you ever wondered what life was like in ancient Egypt? As an Israelite? And a slave? Want your children to understand the Bible is history? Adventure, excitement, love, and faith come together when Jarah and her family fi nd themselves at the culmination of four hundred years of history.

Purposeful Planning eBook by Phyllis Sather

Do you need a plan to keep your family moving in the direction the Lord is leading you? Perhaps you don’t know where the Lord is leading you. Phyllis takes you step-by-step through the process of planning a time together for your family to help determine the path the Lord is choosing for each area of your life. Her family has followed this format for over 12 years and has found that it provides the compass they’ve needed to plan and stay on course.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Doesn't this package look amazing?  It is.  I own all but that last one, so I can say this is a package that is well worth winning!

Disclaimer: As a member of the promo team for Devotions from the Torah, I received 2 books in exchange for an honest review and promotion.  No other compensation was received.  I am disclosing this information in compliance with FTC regulations.