Thursday, April 30, 2015

U. S. History Detective {a review}

I love The Critical Thinking Co.

This past month, we've been privileged enough to have U.S. History Detective, Book One in our home for review.

This book is fabulous.

They say this book is for grades 8-12, and I think that is a great recommendation.

What I really love about this book is that you can use the material to supplement your history program, or you can use it as a stand-alone US history program.  Either way, there is fantastic material available.

This book covers Colonial America up through Reconstruction.  It contains a total of 65 lessons, split into nine sections.  Each section includes some introductory material and some review material.  Let's take a look at Section 2, which is about the Revolutionary Era.

Section 2

Section 2 starts off with a single-page introduction, which includes a couple paragraphs of text, a map of the United States in 1783, and a timeline that goes from the French and Indian War of 1756-1763 up through the War of Independence of 1775-1783.  This sets you up for the lessons that follow.

The first lesson (Lesson 8) is on the French and Indian War.  This lesson includes three pages of reading, maps and a political cartoon.  In all of the lessons, the reading is broken down into sections (A. Who Gets the Ohio River Valley?, B. George Washington Fights for Britain, C. A Rough Start for the British, D. A British Victory With Important Consequences) and each sentence is numbered.

The maps and other images are in color, which certainly makes it more appealing.

This is actually Lesson 10

The worksheet from Lesson 10
After the reading, there is a roughly two-page worksheet to be completed.  Usually those consist of a few multiple choice questions, and some sort of written response.  In the multiple choice questions, you have to do more than just figure out the correct answer -- you also have to give the sentence number(s) that best supports your answer.

I love that.

This isn't just about what you know -- it is about being able to read text and support your conclusions. 

This lesson has two non-multiple choice questions.  One has them describing the meaning of a political cartoon.  The other, longer one, asks them to explain how the French and Indian War changed North America.

There are two more lessons (Resistance to British Rule; Organizing for Change) that are set up in a similar way.  Then there is a one-page review of those three lessons.  That review is shown here, to the left.  In this case, it is a matching activity.

After the next three lessons, there is a bonus activity that reviews lessons 12-13.  Then lesson 14, which is followed by a review of this entire Section (lessons 8-14).  The review includes three separate activities.  The first is on cause and effect, the second has them identifying where various quotes come from, and the third reviews vocabulary from this section.

If this is the only thing you are using for US History, it is probably a little light.  One thing I like though is that my oldest has had quite a bit of US History already, but not in an organized class.  With this, we can work through the materials and as we get to lessons that are unfamiliar, we can stop and do a little more reading from elsewhere.

To use this to supplement another US History program, we can pull some of the lessons out, especially ones that give perspectives not covered in our regular program.  In particular, I love the essay questions.  They require the student to have a grasp of what they have just read, and they require the student to be able to concisely summarize the information.

I simply love this book, and I fully intend to purchase everything that Critical Thinking Co. puts out in the History Detective series.  We also love World History Detective: Ancient and Medival World Civilizations.

If you are wanting to purchase this, or any other Critical Thinking product, you can get 15% off your order by using the code:  BLOGR315

Details: Offer expires 5/31/2015 at Midnight PST. Use Coupon Code BLOGR315. Online prepaid orders only. Valid one per customer. Offer does not apply to iOS or Android apps, or manipulatives such as Attribute Blocks, Interlocking Cubes or Pattern Blocks. Offer may not be combined with other discounts or offers, and is not retroactive. Not valid on wholesale orders.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. 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.”

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A Heart's Obsession {a Litfuse Blogger review}

Last month, I reviewed the first book in the Journey of the Heart series, A Heart's Disguise.  I enjoyed that short title, and looked forward to the next installment.

Today, I'm here to tell you a bit about A Heart's Obsession, which is book two in this series by Colleen Coble.

From the publisher:
Will Sarah’s journey west lead her back into the arms of the one man she can trust?

When her father succumbs to a long illness, Sarah Montgomery is freed from duty to family. At last she can be with the love of her life, Rand Campbell, who has gone out west to Fort Laramie, Wyoming. Sarah and her younger brother Joel make the arduous journey filled with hope.

But at Fort Laramie, the reception Sarah meets isn’t what she had hoped for. Her friend Amelia is thrilled to have her, but Rand seems to be in the clutches of Jessica DuBois, the scheming daughter of the post commander.

Sarah resolves to remain at Fort Laramie and try to win Rand back. But things will get tougher before they get easier . . . especially when her ex-fiancé Ben Croftner arrives in Wyoming, obsessed with having her back in his arms.
Much like Book One, this is an incredibly quick read.  In this book, Sarah's father has died, which didn't bother me as much as I expected it to.

I commented in the last review on how I don't particularly like any of the characters.  Book Two doesn't change that a lot, but I am starting to warm up to a couple of them. 

I love reading about the post-Civil War time period, and I do like it even more now that the action is taking place out west (Wyoming).

I am looking forward to reading A Heart's Danger, which is book three in this series, and you can be looking for a review of that in May.

Meanwhile, there is a giveaway and Facebook party coming up!

Can a woman held captive by her family make it back to the one man she knows she can trust? Find out in book two, A Heart’s Obsession, of Colleen Coble’s Journey of the Heart series. When Sarah Montgomery’s father succumbs to his long illness, Sarah is faced with a life-altering choice: submit to her brother’s will and marry the deceptive Ben Croftner . . . or escape through the dangerous American West to reclaim the heart of her beloved Rand Campbell at Fort Laramie, Wyoming.

Celebrate book two in Colleen’s A Journey of the Heart series by entering to win a Kindle Fire and RSVPing to her May 5th author chat party!


One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire
  • A copy of A Heart’s Disguise
  • A copy of A Heart’s Obsession
  • A copy of The Inn at Ocean’s Edg

Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on May 7th. Winner will be announced May 8th on Colleen’s website. Plus be sure to clear your calendar on the evening of May 5th because Colleen is hosting an author chat party on Facebook to celebrate her A Journey of the Heart series and the release of The Inn at Ocean’s Edge! RSVP here!



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

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Understanding Algebra I {a review}

I loved math in high school, and never really worried about teaching it to my kids.

Maybe I should have.

But then again, worrying about it wouldn't have helped anything.

It turns out my children all seem to learn in a completely different way from me, and from each other too.  So when I do figure out this high school math thing with one kid, it doesn't help me with the next one.  At all.

When I had the opportunity to review Understanding Algebra I from The Critical Thinking Co., I had to go for it.  I've loved every product of theirs that I've ever tried, and I have used others in the Mathematical Reasoning series.

This book can be used as a complete Algebra I course, which I really appreciate.  Like other Critical Thinking products, it is reproducible for use within your home, which is something I really love.  The book is set up so that all of the teaching is within the student book, so you don't need a separate teacher's guide.

One of the things that truly appealed to me is this description of most Algebra texts:
Many textbooks are written by a committee of authors, and many of those authors have little experience teaching beginning algebra students in middle school or high school. These authors divide their work by chapters and often do not consider how concepts in each chapter are connected to later chapters. This leads to textbooks that teach concepts without providing the necessary prerequisite knowledge and skills students need to understand the concept being taught.
This is something I've definitely noticed.

The upper math materials that tend to work for my children are ones that are written by one person.  A person who understands the math, and who knows what he is trying to teach throughout the entire course, so connections are made and steps aren't skipped.

This book consists of just over 300 pages of actual text, plus the answer key and some other information.  There are twelve chapters, which are each divided into a few sections.  The sections contain teaching material:

Now, I did have to do some additional explaining, especially right at the beginning.  My current 7th-9th graders (both of them) tend to be really good with the actual manipulation of numbers parts of things, but get a little stressed with details that don't seem to matter, in their opinions.  Like the difference between integers, natural numbers, whole numbers, rational numbers and irrational numbers.

Each section also includes some problems to be worked:

This includes all of the problems for this particular section.

These may not have been the best examples to show, but what my son has liked is that there are enough problems to get some practice, but you aren't stuck working them forever.  The text is also written to the student and "she treats you like a somewhat intelligent person who can grasp this."

Some of my kids thrive with lectures, which we can provide with DVD-based instruction.  Some, however, really thrive with this basic, cohesive textbook format.  There isn't a lot of extraneous stuff here, as it covers what you need to know to be successful.

This is a hit here.

If you are wanting to purchase this, or any other Critical Thinking product, you can get 15% off your order by using the code:  BLOGR315

Details: Offer expires 5/31/2015 at Midnight PST. Use Coupon Code BLOGR315. Online prepaid orders only. Valid one per customer. Offer does not apply to iOS or Android apps, or manipulatives such as Attribute Blocks, Interlocking Cubes or Pattern Blocks. Offer may not be combined with other discounts or offers, and is not retroactive. Not valid on wholesale orders.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. 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.”

Sunday, April 26, 2015

God's Story in 66 Verses {a BookLook Blogger review}

The subtitle of God's Story in 66 Verses by Stan Guthrie is "Understand the entire Bible by focusing on just one verse in each book."

That intrigued me.

I am forever looking for ways to go through the Bible or to teach through the Bible that help both ME and my kids.  This sounded like it could do that, because while I have read through the Bible numerous times, I have to say that there are lots of areas where I really am not sure why I'm supposed to care, or what the point is.

From the publisher:
Treasure God's Word in sixty-six easy verses.

The Bible can seem like a big, intimidating book-mysterious, tedious, and often hard to understand. Written over a span of fifteen hundred years, two millennia ago, God's Word sometimes feels like a mishmash of stories and literary styles. What can be done to make it more accessible to twenty-first-century readers?

Stan Guthrie's answer: begin by zooming in on one key verse for each of the Bible's sixty-six books. Seeking to bring clarity and simplicity to the study of God's Word, Guthrie has written a concise, easy-to-digest collection of wisdom anchored in one verse for each book, from Genesis to Revelation-a verse that summarizes or lays the foundation for that book, placing it in context with the rest of the Scriptures.

Read this book, and you'll feel as if you've read the entire Bible-but you'll also yearn to continue mining its depths and exploring its richness on your own.

My thoughts:  

This is such an easy-to-read book, and I love it.

The "book" part of the book is only a bit over 200 pages, which boils down to just barely over 3 pages per book of the Bible.

I can read 3 pages in one sitting.

I can read 3 pages aloud in one sitting.

Each chapter has a "key verse" obviously, but the part that really excites me is that the chapter not only explains why he chose that key verse, but also gives an overview of how that book fits into the big picture of the Bible.

The text does quote the book some as well, some books more than others.

What I didn't grasp before getting the book is that the point of the Key Verse is to pick a verse that sums up the book.  That means that a verse like John 3:16, while important, is not the key verse for the book of John. 

I am giving some really serious thought to working through this book with my family this summer, starting after AWANA is over (which is really tonight).  I think reading the chapter as a group and memorizing the verse, and then re-reading the chapter could be a really good study for the summer months.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers 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.”

Friday, April 24, 2015

A Dozen Things to Say or Do at a Funeral

It's been two months since Mom died.

It doesn't feel like it has been that long, and yet it feels like forever.

I'm not doing all that well today, and then I see two friends working through the recent loss of their husbands.  Ouch.  One of those men would have turned 47 today.  For the other, it has been six months.  I truly want them to be posting and sharing as they travel this horrible road, but -- selfishly -- both of those status updates were tough to read this morning.  And yeah, that response makes me feel guilty. 

Anyway, I've been thinking about writing a post about things to do, or not do, at a funeral.  This morning, with their posts, it just seems like the right time. 

I'm not saying I'm speaking for everyone who experiences a death in their family, or even that I'm speaking for everyone who loses their mother.  Just my observations, folks.  People all handle things differently, so take 'em or leave 'em. 

We were really blessed in that we had a lot of supportive folks around. 
  1. At the funeral, when coming over to talk to the family, give your name and your connection to the deceased.  Even if you think they ought to know.  It's really overwhelming, talking to so many people I don't know, but who knew my mom, or know my dad or brothers.  I may not recognize your name, and I'm quite sure I won't remember it.  But tell me anyway, and help me to make the connections.  I nearly broke down in tears when a lady walked over to me to express her condolences, starting with, "Hi, I'm Cassie lastname, and I..."  I cut her off at that point.  As soon as I heard her name, I knew who she was, and we had a nice conversation.
  2. If you start a conversation with, "You must be Glenn and Nadine's daughter!" the advice given above is even more important.  If you aren't positive who I am, then you can bet I don't know who you are.  One woman, who did start with the above phrase, continued with, "My name is Mae lastname and my husband and I had lunch with your parents quite often." That was enough of a cue for me to be able to say, "Oh, Dad said you were here!" and we had a nice conversation.
  3. If you were twelve last time I saw you, and you are now married with tykes of your own, definitely tell me who you are.  I might recognize you in other circumstances, but it isn't likely right now.  (Actually, her mom introduced us, which works too.)
  4. Don't ask me if I think my dad will remarry.  Just don't.  Not only is it none of your business, but my mother isn't even in the ground yet.  This is one where I feel reasonably comfortable speaking for "everyone" -- we are not ready for this question, so don't ask.  This is a family blog, so I'm not going to print what I wanted to say to the SIX different people who asked me this on that day.  What I did was smile and say, "I certainly have no idea."  Really, really, just stop and think about what you are asking.  I can think of NO situation where that question is appropriate at a funeral.  NONE.  I just pray that they didn't ask Dad that too, but some probably did.
  5. If you want to offer help, be specific.  "Is Friday a good day for me to bring over a casserole?  Your family will still be here, right?  I'll bring two then."  I can respond to that.  "Yes, please," or "Thank you so much, but actually, Friday is already covered.  Would either Saturday or Monday work?"  (The casserole was amazingly yummy too.)
  6. Tell me a story.  A short one.  "Your mother always had a smile for everyone.  Always." Or, "I'll always remember the first time I stopped by your house in high school, and your mom was sitting in the kitchen, completely bald, and I realized that she really was fighting cancer.  And she welcomed me as though she had invited me over herself."  It's even better when the story starts with, "I'll always remember..." because I like hearing that someone else will always remember. 
  7. Tell me a funny story.  And if someone else tells me a funny story, be approving as you glance over at me when I laugh.  Mom would have wanted laughter.  Like so many people said to me, she always had a smile.
  8. If you don't know us well, and we're completely sobbing after the funeral, it is a very nice thing to not come over and introduce yourself right at that moment.  Someone scored major points with me when I realized they had done that.  Giving some space to overwhelmed family is amazing. 
  9. If you are asking me how I'm doing, or how Dad is doing, really look at me so that I think you really want to know.  And be okay with any answer I give you.  We both know I'm not "fine," but that may be as much as I'm willing to say right now.  Don't push me for more.  And conversely, don't ask if you don't want me to be honest.  Because I might be.
  10. A hug is often a million times better than words.  Keep the words simple.  "I'm sorry" or "I can't imagine how you are feeling" or "You must still be in shock" are great.  "She's in a better place now" can wait.  So can, "At least she didn't suffer."  If I say either of those things, feel free to agree.  
  11. If you drop off a card, make sure your address is on it.  Just make it easier.
  12. If at all appropriate, ask if you can take a photo of the family.  I really love the extended family photos that were taken at my grandparents' funerals, but nobody thought of it at Mom's.   Posing for a picture and smiling isn't high on the list of things I'd have wanted to do that day, but I'd sure appreciate it now.

Certainly not an all-encompassing list, and I probably missed something obvious.

Funerals can be a really amazing time to celebrate a life, and to reconnect with friends and family.  Mom's was, overall.  It's also a time when people are frazzled, stressed-out and possibly a bit shell-shocked.  Even if the death was expected.  Moreso if it wasn't.

Think before you say something, but even if you say the wrong thing what matters most is that you are there.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Family Friendly Movies with gMovies! {a FlyBy review and giveaway!}

I've stated this before on my blog, but I'll say it once again:  we are always on the lookout for great family-friendly movies.


Hearing that there is a subscription service available, for only $4.99 a month, that offers nothing but family-friendly fare immediately got my attention.

As you can see from the drop-down box, there are quite a few different genres available. 

Another huge bonus for us is that we could install the app on the iPad, and we are able to either have kids watch something on just the iPad, or we can use the iPad to put it up on our TV.  And no, I don't understand how we do that, I just know that we can.

About gMovies:
gMovies offers instant access to almost 300 faith friendly feature films of every genre, in addition to animated stories, television series and biblical documentaries. Always available on your computer or mobile device, gMovies also includes the bible-based animated series “Pahappahooey Island;” teen drama “Much Ado About Middle School” starring Bill Cobbs, Lee Meriwether and Amanda Waters; and the “Left Behind” drama series starring Kirk Cameron and based on the New York Times bestselling books by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins.

gMovies is operated by UP, America’s favorite television channel for uplifting music and family entertainment, so rest assured that you are being offered the very best in faith conscious entertainment. The Parents Television Council™ has twice awarded its Entertainment Seal of Approval™ to UP for being “an authentic family-friendly cable network.” UP is the only television network to be so honored.
My favorite thing right now is this section here:

That is only the first two rows of documentaries.  We love the Torchlighter videos, and now we have the opportunity to see them all.  Over and over, if we want.

The video player is based on Adobe Flash Player, so you will want to be sure you have access to the latest version of Adobe Flash Player.  And this is best if your internet download speed is at least 3 Mbps.

Do you want to try it free for two weeks?  Go to the link I just added here, and use code:  FREETRIAL35

Let me know what you think!

I have a 6 month membership to give away!  US and Canada only, please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Kings of Israel: a Fantastic Family Strategy Game

My family loves to play games.  Particularly, they love to play games where they have to do all sorts of strategizing and planning ahead.

I'm not quite as big a fan of those games, mostly because someone always seems to feel picked on, and I just don't like listening to the "It's not fair!" complaints at all.  I'll confess that as they have gotten older, that behavior has diminished.  However, it hasn't vanished.

A cooperative strategy game, though, gets my attention.  Because then if someone is upset that "It isn't fair," everyone else commiserates.

A cooperative strategy game with a biblical theme is even better.  And this game has already helped all of us to be more familiar with the geography of Israel.

Kings of Israel  from Funhill Games is a fantastic game for 2-4 players, intended for teens and older.  However, both my 9- and 11-year-olds were able to play and do well.  They have had some strategy game experience already, which helps.  But since this is cooperative, it seemed pretty easy to integrate them.

The basic idea of the game is that you represent prophets in Israel, and you are trying to stamp out sin, destroy idols, and turn people back to the worship of God.  This is easier to do during the reign of good kings, like David, and harder to do during the reign of, well, most of the kings of Israel.

The goal of the game is to build a certain number of alters (the number depends on how many players you have) before Israel is conquered by the Assyrians.  Game play is pretty easy, once you have gone through it a couple of times.  Each "round" is represented by the reign of a King, and within that, some basic phases occur:

1. You draw a Blessing or a Sin and Punishment card, depending on whether it is a good king or a bad king.  This results in some sort of good or bad thing happening.

2. Sin increases (represented by black cubes) based on drawing cards from the location deck.  

3. The prophets go to work - the players take turns, and each gets to take four actions.  Actions include moving, preaching (to remove sin from their location), destroying idols, acquiring resources, building altars, making sacrifices, or giving resources to another prophet.

At that point, it moves on to the next king, and the above phases repeat.  Obviously, that is the simplified version.  It is slightly more involved than that, with idols appearing in sin-filled locations, and sin spreading, and short-lived kings having an abbreviated cycle, and so on.

One of the best parts about the game?  The oldest player goes first.  That's always me.  Ha ha ha ha. My kids think it is funny that I'm so tickled by that.

I would highly, highly recommend that you start by playing the easy version, where you get to lay out your cards so that everyone can see what everyone else has.  There is another way to obtain Blessings in Easy mode too.

It is possible to win playing in Easy mode.

I'm not convinced you could win in regular mode, at least not until you are a bit more familiar with the quirks of the game.

That, there, to the left -- that is easy mode.  Everyone can see that I have two Stone and one Wood.  So everyone knows that if they give me a Gold, I can build an altar.

Makes it a lot easier.

Our opinions:  We have played both Easy and Regular versions.  We haven't dared to try the expert version, where a false prophet is introduced.  We have played with 2, 3 and 4 players.

What is amazing about this game is that it is a lot of fun no matter how many players.  It is a very different game with only two, but still fun.  And significantly quicker to play.

It is also very different each time you play.  One of the first things you do in the game is to draw an Ability card that gives your prophet certain strengths.  If you draw the Sailor card, you are likely to be mostly staying near the coast of Israel.  Other cards make it a good idea to stay in the mountain areas, or near the borders with other countries.  The mix of abilities changes your strategy, and definitely mixes up the game play from one game to the next.

There is a great balance between the random factors (abilities, blessings, punishments, where sin pops up, what resources are available) and the strategy portions.  This is an amazing, fun cooperative strategy game and we will play it over and over. 

I'm a sucker for cute game pieces

But wait!  There's more! 

While putting together this review, I ran across a little note in the Rulebook about a Bible Study Rulebook.  That got my attention, and made it so I didn't post this review last week as planned.  It turns out there are three Bible studies available right now, with more (probably) to come.  One study covers the kings of Israel, another covers the prophets, and the last one covers Israeli geography.

These can be used in a variety of ways.  One suggestion for the Kings study is to ask the questions at the beginning of each "reign" and if they get the questions right, you begin play for that round.  If they get a question wrong, there is a hint.  If that doesn't help, there is a Bible verse to look up.

Since my kids do already know a fair amount of biblical history, this seemed a good choice.  Between them they know quite a few of the answers, and it doesn't take long to look up the others.

I love that they are actually learning something in the process, and I look forward to working through the other two studies as well.

Bottom line:  This game is great, whether you play it simply as a strategy game, or whether you use it as part of a family Bible study, or if you take it to a classroom setting.

Homeschool Blogging Connection is giving away a copy of this game, among other great prizes, in their April giveaway.   If you don't win it, you really ought to purchase it.  This game is fantastic.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received products and/or other compensation in exchange for this review.  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.”

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

April Homeschooling Giveaway!

As part of the Homeschool Blogging Connection team, I'm excited to be bringing information about a really amazing giveaway to you.  I have personally used everything in this huge giveaway, and I highly recommend it all.

In fact, later this week, I'll be posting a review of the Kings of Israel game.  A sneak preview of that:  everyone in this house gives it two thumbs up.

The other products are wonderful too.  This is an incredible package to win.

This homeschool giveaway is brought to you by the Homeschool Blogging Connection team. We will have one grand prize winner who will receive a copy of each prize. That's worth a total of $549! We will also have two additional winners for The Reading Game. Isn't that exciting? The giveaway will remain open until April 30th at 11:59 p.m.

Homeschool Giveaway.

Prize: CTC Math Curriculum 12 month family membership Value: $297

free 12 month-01

CTC Math Curriculum provides a complete on-line learning experience and each lesson teaches as much as an entire school math lesson in an average of just 5 minutes! The family membership is appropriate for all ages.
  • 1,367 animated and narrated math lessons
  • A bank of over 57,000 interactive questions
  • Diagnostic tests
  • Instant feedback to students and regular reporting to parents
  • Algebra, statistics, geometry, trigonometry, probability plus more
  • Your online math tutor

Prize: The Reading Game - Value: $34.95 (3 winners!)


The Reading Game includes six beautifully illustrated story books, six decks of matching playing cards, & a Teacher and Parent's Guide. The Reading Game is appropriate for all children learning to read.
  • Your child can be reading in a week with “The Reading Game”!
  • It starts with a simple fast action-memory card game that teaches five words at a time.
  • Picture flashcards reinforce words learned through game play with simple phrases and introduce capitalization and punctuation.
  • Each of the content rich stories is told using only the 30 words learned through game play.
  • This staged learning format ensures success and no frustration - and builds confidence and enjoyment
    in reading!
  • On completing the series, the student has a reading vocabulary of 180 words, many of them Dolch and High Frequency words and will have successfully read six storybooks all on their own.
  • The Reading Game was created by “Wordly Wise” author Kenneth Hodkinson.

Prize: King Of Israel Board Game - Value $49.99

Kings of Israel Board Game on White Background

Funhill Games is offering one winner the King of Israel Board Game. This Biblical board game is fun for the whole family and educational at the same time. The King of Israel Board Game is labeled for ages 14 and up, however younger children can play the game with assistance.
  • Kings of Israel is a cooperative game that places two to four players in the role of prophets struggling to save their nation from threats both internal and external.
  • Kings of Israel is a board game taking place in Israel (the Northern Kingdom) during the reign of its kings up until Israel’s destruction by Assyria.
  • Players are on a team and each person represents a line of prophets that are trying to remove evil and idols from Israel, while building altars to help guide Israel in the upcoming difficult years.
  • If the players are able to build enough altars before the game ends, they win.
  • If the group runs out of sin cubes or idols, or if the timeline token reaches Assyria destroying Israel, the prophets lose.

Prize: Math Mammoth Light Blue Series CD, grades 1-7(A) - Value: $167.50 USD


Math Mammoth Light Blue Series constitutes a full elementary mathematics curriculum for grades 1-7A.

Some of the main features of the curriculum are:
  • It is mastery oriented, concentrating fairly long on one topic, with fairly few topics per grade;
  • It focuses on conceptual understanding.
  • Visual models and exercises are used a lot.
  • Mental math and number sense are emphasized.
  • The curriculum is nearly self-teaching for many children, since the explanations of concepts are found in the student worktext. Thus it requires fairly little preparation time from the teacher.
  • The curriculum meets and exceeds the Common Core Standards.
Special: Get 33% off of any Math Mammoth Light Blue series products! Use coupon code MAMMOTH777 on this page: Math Mammoth Light Blue Series. This coupon offer is valid 'til April 30, 2015.

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Disclosure: All entrants will be added to the Homeschool Encouragement Delivered Newsletter. The vendors in this giveaway will also be provided with your email address.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Grace of God {a FlyBy review and giveaway}

It's been a crazy few weeks in this household, as many of you know.  One thing we always like to do is to sit down and watch a family-friendly movie.  Sometimes, scheduling that in isn't too easy.

We finally did sit down to watch Grace of God  last night, and we really enjoyed it.

Here's the description of the film:

Having lost his faith many years ago, Detective Bill Broadly is called to investigate the disappearance of the local church’s collection plate. As he questions its various church members, rumors swirl as more congregants learn about the theft. When one unexpected church-goer confesses to stealing the funds, the confession resurrects Broadly’s views on God, and helps him see that through faith and belief there really is rebirth and redemption.
The thing says this is faith friendly for ages 12+, but we all watched it (including the 9- and 11-year-olds) and I thought it was fine for everyone.

Part of the concern for younger viewers might be all the questioning of faith going on.  The detective is fairly antagonistic about faith issues when he arrives to start trying to figure out what happened with the $30,000 from the safe.  He isn't a real likeable guy, and he raises some tough questions.

My 17-year-old spent a lot of time talking back to the screen, so the movie took much longer than the 1:39 it is supposed to last.  We had to keep pausing, as he'd be responding to something the detective had said.

We all talked back when he said something about the church being full of hypocrites.  As our pastor says to that, "Oh, no!  We're not full of hypocrites.  There is always room for one more!  Won't you join us on Sunday?"

I have a DVD to give away!  US and Canada only, please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Friday, April 10, 2015

My Real Life Homeschool has Bright Spots Too

I had plans to write a bit more this week, but it has been just a crazy couple of months, and this week was at least as insane as all the others.

So I could talk about guilt.  That was one topic I planned for.  You know, because every time my kids struggle, I feel like I have totally failed them.  "If only I had..." comes up far too often in my thoughts.

Or I could talk about how long it has been since I've had serious one-on-one time with an adult.  Except that actually, I had a couple weeks of it recently with Dad.  Not quite the same, so be careful what you wish for. 

I could talk about all the things we are missing out on, like paid-for dual enrollment for Connor.  But that depresses me.  Because maybe I am failing him.

Or I could talk about how my job ends up getting me totally crazy busy doing things and I don't have the time to actually do school.  You know, another area where I'm failing.

But there is a completely different side of my Real Life Homeschool.

That is evident when I see my 14-year-old making a stop-motion film with his little brother.  Or when the 16-year-old is brushing his 9-year-old sister's hair.  Or the 17-year-old is making sure I realize that I've hurt the 14-year-old's feelings.

These guys interact in ways that matter to me.

My Real Life Homeschool also includes moments where I'm trying to get out of someplace, only I can't.  Because my kids are busy cleaning up, or putting away chairs, or otherwise being responsible, productive, helpful people.

Real Life Homeschool also includes moments where I have a teen explaining 4th dimension theory to me (not that he succeeds in making me understand it) and people who do understand the theoretical implications inform me that he does have a solid grasp of it.

Or the 11-year-old is having a casual conversation with adults, and they have to get him to define some of the vocabulary he is using.

So, I suppose, I can't be screwing everything up.

Discover real life in other homeschools with the Schoolhouse Review Crew bloggers! Join the blog hop to read more!

Real Life Homeschool Blog Hop

Here are some of the other blogs that are participating.  I'll be linking up ten a day!  Twenty today, because <ahem> I didn't post yesterday.

Life at Rossmont
A Stable Beginning
Happy Little Homemaker
Joyful Hearts and Faces
Day by Day in Our World
Mama's Coffee Shop
Delightful Learning
Double O Farms
Tales of a Homeschool Family
Home Sweet Life
A Rup Life

Indy Homeschool
The Open Window-An Autism Blog
Creative Madness Mama
Hopkins Homeschool
Tots and Me...Growing Up Together
Our Journey
Crystal Starr
A Little This ... A Little That
For the Display of His Splendor

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

How do you do it all? {Real Life Homeschool}

I fully intended to write a post yesterday for the Real Life Homeschool blog hop.  But, well, life got in the way.

So I figured now was a perfect time for a post about my least favorite question.
How do you do it all?
The honest answer is -- I don't.

Some days are like the first two this week.  Or today, for that matter.
  • I am not feeling well, and end up taking a nap or two because I desperately need it.
  • I have five different kids who need to be doing school, and all of them need at least some attention from me.
  • I have a house to clean.
  • I have deadlines for work, and those projects always seem to take far more time than I think they will.
  • I haven't done laundry in forever and that is in desperate need of getting done.
  • I want to read.
  • I want to start stitching on the cross-stitch project my mom was working on before she died.
  • My family seems to think they should eat.
  • Did I mention I need a nap?
 I don't have time to do it all, and especially not to do it all well.

You know that saying out there, "Anything worth doing is worth doing well"?

Yeah.  Right.  I have a different one.

Forget doing it well.

And honestly, I don't even finish all the stuff that is worth doing.  But when it comes to certain things, I do not worry about doing it "well."

I have to cheat something.  So that means that you can't eat off my floors.  The inside of the fridge is usually not never pristine.  I use audiobooks instead of reading aloud to my kids. I make them figure out their own school stuff way too often.

The difference between a toilet scrubbed "well" and one that is "just done" is a whole lot of time, mostly.  I've got hard water stains, and yes, I've seen the miracle vinegar trick on Facebook to get rid of them.  But that takes time.  Time I could be spending reading with my kids, or working on math, or heading outside to run around.

I don't fold socks and underwear either.  They get stuffed into drawers, and that is good enough for me.

As for the homeschool stuff, I feel like I never quite do enough there.  Which is probably my topic for tomorrow.

Bottom line for today, though.  I don't do it all.  I probably don't even do all the important stuff.  And the stuff I do get done is often at the last minute. 

Discover real life in other homeschools with the Schoolhouse Review Crew bloggers! Join the blog hop to read more!

Real Life Homeschool Blog Hop

Here are some of the other blogs that are participating.  I'll be linking up ten a day!  Twenty today, because <ahem> I didn't post yesterday.

For This Season
Unexpected Homeschool
For Him and My Family
As We Walk Along the Road
Growing in His Glory
Homeschool Coffee Break
Daily Life
There Will Be A $5 Charge For Whining
Proverbial Homemaker
ElCloud Homeschool

Treasuring Life's Blessings
Double O Farms
Simple Living Mama
Fried Clams and Sweet Tea
This Sweet Life
A Net In Time
Counting Pinecones
Some Call It Natural
Kingdom Academy Homeschool
Debbie's Homeschool Corner

Monday, April 6, 2015

Sometimes Life Totally Derails Your Plans {Real Life Homeschool}

Six weeks ago, I started what I thought would be a fairly normal week of homeschooling.  I had a birthday the next day, but that wasn't likely to interfere with our school schedule much.

It didn't work out that way.  Because sometimes you get a curve ball, when you weren't even aware you were playing baseball.

On that birthday, my father called to inform me that he was in the hospital with Mom, who had a bit of a headache that escalated to more.  And now the doctors were saying she'd never wake up.

She didn't.

Officially, she died on Wednesday, the day after my birthday.

I spent almost the entire day on Wednesday on the phone.  Talking to people at their church, a conference call with Dad and my brothers, trying to figure out timing for a funeral, talking to Dad, canceling some appointments, and so on.  Honestly, I couldn't tell you if the kids did any school at all.

Thursday was similar.  As was Friday.  Talking to Dad, calling some extended family members, trying to get some other arrangements made, talking to Dad, talking to my brother, arranging to get mail stopped, talking to Dad.  I have no idea if the kids did any school either of those days.

I was in crisis mode.

One foot in front of the other, just to get through things.

We all left for Fargo five weeks ago.  I thought we might get some school done while we were there, and I do think at least one teen did at least one math lesson.  I know the high school students did a bit of reading.  But that whole week was a whirlwind of arrangements to be made, people to tell, people to see, places to be.  And sitting up with Dad and a bottle of wine until he was tired enough to fall asleep.

My family headed back home without me, with the promise that they'd do some school.  I stayed away almost another two weeks.  I did get multiple email notifications that kids were completing math lessons, but I really don't know what else might have happened.  Some reading.  Little two did some history.

I returned home with my mother-in-law, who had already planned a trip out here.  She stayed a week and a half, which meant we did little to no school then either.

So now we've had six weeks with barely any school, and on this first day of this Real Life Homeschool series, I'm looking at basically starting over.  We did some school last week, but certainly not a full schedule. 

Sometimes real life is like that.  Something happens that completely, utterly derails your plans.  And that is okay, really.  But at some point, you have to pick up and get back to school.  I can't dwell on what we've missed or the time we've lost.  We need to figure out where to go now.

Ready or not, here we come.

Discover real life in other homeschools with the Schoolhouse Review Crew bloggers! Join the blog hop to read more!

Real Life Homeschool Blog Hop

Here are some of the other blogs that are participating.  I'll be linking up ten a day!

Every Bed of Roses
Ben and Me
Mountain of Grace Homeschooling
Counting Our Blessings
Homeschooling for His Glory
Ozark Ramblings
Chestnut Grove Academy
Only Passionate Curiosity
Farm Fresh Adventures

Weaver Book Company Giveaway

If you are anything like me, you are always on the lookout for something you can use to teach your children about the Bible.  Or to learn yourself while teaching the kiddos.  I never feel totally capable of doing this on my own.

But maybe that is just me.

This is the week I'm being a bit more transparent about my real life struggles, and one of those is my struggle to clearly present my Christian beliefs to my children.

Especially with my teens.  My younger children have programs available to them at our church home(s), but there isn't as much for the teens.  I've found one possibility, though, for teaching the teens about the Bible:

Introducing Weaver Book Company - and their brand new Bible Fluency Complete Learning Kit.

Have you been looking for a way to give your child a complete overview of the Bible?

The heart of the Bible Fluency Kit is really in the music. Top-notch vocalists have recorded the seven songs, covering 400 (400!) Bible main themes, characters, and events. Besides the music though - Bible Fluency includes 400 color-coded flashcards, 2 DVDs with an instructional guide, and a workbook.

The flashcards feature simple and easy to remember learning icons that correspond to particular lines in the song lyrics. The workbook goes deeper to connect the learner directly to the passages in the Bible that form the basis for the lyrics. And the teaching DVDs with instructional guide go even deeper by providing 22 lessons taught by Dr. Kenneth Berding, a Bible professor at Biola University.

Bible Fluency can be used in a variety of ways. It works well for individual study, group study as a Sunday school class or Bible study, or as homeschool curriculum. And as an added bonus -- lesson plans, handouts, tests and quizzes can be downloaded for free at

Read a full review of the Bible Fluency Kit on LJSKool.

The Homeschool Blogging Connection team is delighted to bring you this giveaway for the Bible Fluency Complete Learning Kit from Weaver Book Company valued at $60.

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All entrants in this giveaway will be added to the Homeschool Encouragement and Weaver Book Company email lists. You must be 18 years old or older to enter, and live within the United States. Please read the full terms and conditions before entering.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

America the Beautiful

My oldest son discovered that he really likes what Ben Carson has to say, so when I had the opportunity to review a book of his through Family Christian, I had to jump at it.

America the Beautiful did not disappoint.

Connor grabbed it immediately and started reading.

He proceeded to come to me pretty much every time he picked up the book and say something like, "Mom, listen to this.  It makes so much sense!"

One thing he said to me was that this is "not a book to sit down and just read through in an afternoon as it requires a lot of thought."

He did take it slowly, reading a chapter or even less in a sitting.  This child takes after his mama, and he can easily read almost anything in a single sitting.  Except, perhaps, his homework.  But that's another post.

Let's check out how the publisher described the book:
What is America becoming? Or, more importantly, what can she be if we reclaim a vision for the things that made her great in the first place? In America the Beautiful: Rediscovering What Made This Nation Great, Dr. Ben Carson, author and professor at John Hopkins Medical Institutions, helps us learn from our past in order to chart a better course for our future. From his personal ascent from inner-city poverty to international medical and humanitarian acclaim, Carson shares experiential insights that help us understand what is good about America, where we have gone astray and which fundamental beliefs have guided America from her founding into preeminence among nations.

Written by a man who has experienced America's best and worst firsthand, America the Beautiful is at once alarming, convicting and inspiring. You'll gain new perspectives on our nation's origins, our Judeo-Christian heritage, our educational system, capitalism versus socialism, our moral fabric, healthcare and much more. An incisive manifesto on the values that shaped America's past and must shape her future, America the Beautiful calls us all to use our God-given talents to improve our lives, our communities, our nation and our world.
Dr. Carson goes through each of the ideas listed in that second paragraph and he gives a whole lot of historical background to the issue and presents his ideas as well.  "He presents a problem and lets you think about it, and then presents his solutions.  He keeps you involved." was how Connor described it.

Connor has finished reading the book.  I have not yet.  I've heard about most of it though.

What I have read is written in a conversational style, with lots of examples from all kinds of different people.  I completely agree with my son that Carson is engaging and encouraging.

One message that Connor appreciated was summed up in this quote from Benjamin Franklin, which is included in the notes.  "The U.S. Constitution doesn't guarantee happiness, only the pursuit of it.  You have to catch up with it yourself."

Another statement he liked, which Carson brought up more than once, was "If two people believe the same thing about everything, one of them isn't necessary."

One of the best things about this book is that it goes over so many of the issues that are so very important in the United States today, and it gets you thinking about them.  Especially as we are going into a presidential campaign again (didn't we just finish one?), there is plenty of food for thought, and we do have room to disagree with Carson.  However, as Connor put it, "I think that this book should be required for everyone voting for the first time as it is making you aware of what the issues out there really are."

I have a copy to give away! With a bonus entry if you have a first-time presidential voter in your midst.  I'm doing that for Connor, and I obviously have no way to check that, so I'm trusting you on that one!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book and an appreciation certificate for a giveaway, free from Family Christian Stores through the Family Christian Blogger program.  I was not required to write a positive review, and any affiliate relationship does not impact my opinions. 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.”

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Seven Men {a BookLook Blogger review}

I tend to have a pretty good idea as to what I'm getting myself into when I request a book for review.  I've read at least one other book by Eric Metaxas (Bonhoeffer) and I enjoyed his writing there.

Seven Men: And the Secret of Their Greatness still surprised me.

It shouldn't have, I suppose, as the publisher's description is quite accurate.  Here, you can read it for yourself:
In Seven Men, New York Times best-selling author Eric Metaxas presents seven exquisitely crafted short portraits of widely known-but not well understood-Christian men, each of whom uniquely showcases a commitment to live by certain virtues in the truth of the gospel.

Written in a beautiful and engaging style, Seven Men addresses what it means (or should mean) to be a man today, at a time when media and popular culture present images of masculinity that are not the picture presented in Scripture and historic civil life.

Each of the seven biographies represents the life of a man who experienced the struggles and challenges to be strong in the face of forces and circumstances that would have destroyed the resolve of lesser men. Each of the seven men profiled-George Washington, William Wilberforce, Eric Liddell, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jackie Robinson, John Paul II, and Charles Colson-call the reader to a more elevated walk and lifestyle, one that embodies the gospel in the world around us.
Now, I expected to enjoy the book.  I thought I might suggest that Connor (my 17-year-old) might want to consider picking up the book to read too.

I didn't expect to decide that my teens had to read it.

In fact, I'm starting over and reading it out loud to them.  Because I'm more than happy to go through the material again.

Let's talk George Washington, the first profile in the book.  Metaxas makes it clear that he placed Washington first because he had decided to go chronologically.  But.  But if he had chosen another order, he would have put Washington first because, "When it comes to true greatness, Washington's tough to beat."  That is a glowing sentiment.

It doesn't mean, however, that nothing negative is said about Washington.  Metaxas points out some behavior from fairly early in Washington's military career that isn't emulation-worthy, and comments on more than one occasion about Washington's flaws.

You finish the brief 30-page biography, however, with a solid picture of who George Washington really was, though, and why Metaxas rates him so highly.

These are exactly the kinds of biographies I want my older children to be reading.  Not rosy, overly positive hero worship biographies.  Not overly critical, beating them up based on some weird standard of today biographies.  But biographies that show what normal, flawed people can become and can accomplish. And in a form that is short enough that we can add it to the schedule of a too-busy teen.

I hope Metaxas writes more titles like this one.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers 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.”