Saturday, January 31, 2015

Psalm 23 {a BookLook Blogger review}

I've recently had the chance to review a really wonderful board book, simply titled Psalm 23.

Oh, my.

The author is David, of course.  And that is the only text, in the King James Version.

Illustrator Richard Jesse Watson really makes this a book to keep.  The illustrations are fascinating, intriguing, memorable, and realistic. 

The cover image, shown here, is the image for the last line:
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
I thought, when I requested this for review, that we would go through it and then donate it to church.  But after seeing the beautiful images, I'm not sure I will do that.  This may be a keeper book, even though my kids are all 'too old' for board books.

Watson also has a book out on The Lord's Prayer, and now I want to find that one too.

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.”

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Motivate Your Child Review

As a mom of five, ages 8.95 (she wanted me to express how she is really, really close to being NINE now) to 17.75, I have to say that I don't generally bother reading general parenting books.  I'll occasionally find something on parenting teens to be worth reading, and I'm always up for a book on parenting dyslexic kiddos.

But general parenting books are always saying things I already know, or they are speaking with authority about theoretical parenting (as the author's either don't have kids, or only have one), or they are guilt-inducing.  It boils down to -- they just aren't worth my time at this stage in my life.

Motivate Your Child appealed to me because I have seen other resources from National Center for Biblical Parenting, and I liked those.  I cannot say that I went into this book launch with a lot of excitement though.  I was explaining to friends yesterday that right at this moment, we're at a pretty comfortable point in the parenting gig.  My kids are mostly getting along with each other, they are mostly getting schoolwork done, they are helpful and cooperative at the moment.

So right at this moment, I don't have a high desire to be reading about how to be a better parent.

But that will change.  I'll be back to a point where the kids are at each others' throats, where I feel like they don't do anything unless I yell or nag, where school isn't happening and chores are not being done.

Of course, after I joined this launch team, I started questioning why I was doing this.  Until I started reading.

The basic premise of the book is that parents should be working to build faith and a good conscience into our kids.  Self-motivation, instead of the kids being motivated by externals (like Mom harping on them, and those are my words, not theirs).  That parenting is about the journey, not the destination.

Early on, there is plenty of encouragement that this is something you can start where you are.  Whether your children are teens or preschoolers, there are things you can do now.  And assurance that as you read through the book, you will probably find things you are already doing.

What I haven't seen is a lot of guilt-inducing junk about how I've messed up my kids.  Just encouragement on some things I can change, some things I can tweak a bit, and some things I can continue to do as I have been. 

A big thing that I need, with my teens in particular, is solid suggestions about encouraging them in making choices that are "the right thing" as opposed to just the short-term, I want it now, options.  My kids do a decent job of that, a lot of the time.  I need to not take that for granted, and I need to encourage them to continue and to do it in other areas as well.

I need practical.  Not theoretical.

Motivate Your Child has both.  And I confess that I do need a bit of the theory too, to encourage me to follow through.

There is a Facebook Party going on tonight at 9:00 pm EST, where you can learn more about this book.  And of course, the deal with getting extra resources is only good through January 31.  Click the banner above for info on that.


Monday, January 26, 2015

The Electrifying Nervous System {a Moms of Master Books review}

Anyone who follows my blog even a little knows that we are a science-loving family.  So learning that the newest Moms of Master Books title was going to be a serious science resource was exciting.

God's Wondrous Machine is a brand-new series by a homeschool mama physician, Dr. Lainna Callentine.  The first title is The Electrifying Nervous System, and it is a winner.

This series is planned to include NINE books in total, with The Breath-Taking Respiratory System being next, and The Complex Circulatory System coming third.

I can't wait for more.

And I don't even know where to begin in describing this book.  I've seen various ages mentioned as far as who this book is for.  K-8.  Grades 4-6.  Elementary (lower and upper).  3rd-6th grades.

Personally, I wouldn't choose to use this with a child in younger elementary ranges, except as a tag-along with an older sibling.  And I can totally see this as a middle school resource.  I'd peg 4th-8th grades as being ideal.  But maybe I'm just out of practice with younger elementary ages.

And I haven't actually used this.  January has been an insane month, plus I really want to get the Parent Lesson Plan to go with this book.  And I want to get some "stuff" to go with the book too.  I want to be doing some dissections, and a whole lot of hands-on.  So I read it myself.

So what do I love?

First off, there is some serious vocabulary in here, and that is color-coded so you know which words to emphasize with the younger learners, middle learners, and older ones can do them all.  The first level includes about a dozen words like neurons (the easiest word on the list, I think), cerebrum, and parietal lobe.  Level 2 is even shorter, with words like blood-brain barrier, corpus callosum, and homunculus.  Level 3 is much longer, including even more specific words like diencephalon, ventricles, and hypothalamus.

All of these words are defined in the beginning of the book, and they are explained in context when you get to them as well.

Another great aspect of the book is the illustrations.  Dr. Callentine explained somewhere that she is very image-oriented, and she always illustrates her notes in class or even her sermon notes.  The examples she showed were mostly drawings with very few words.  That visual aspect comes through in the book too, and it is wonderful.

Like this page, showing some of the technology used when studying the brain today.

This page has images of the machines used, it shows what the results look like, plus plenty of explanatory text.  Seriously, I'm learning a ton.  Can't wait to actually use it with the kids.

What I really love, though, is just how thorough this is, while still being so engaging.  She covers history, including naming a whole lot of people (I love when I can get scientists into my science studies!), she covers the biology aspect, she covers medical aspects, she covers health and nutrition, she covers careers, and she even includes sections with dumb jokes, great quotes, and crazy trivia-types of facts.

This is my new favorite for upper elementary/middle school science.

Go see what other Moms of Master Books have to say about The Electrifying Nervous System.

There is a Book and a Treat Facebook party coming up tonight, January 26 at 7:00 pm Central Time, where you could win cool prizes -- and discuss the nervous system too. 

Disclaimer:   I received this book 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.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Advocate {a Family Christian Blogger review and giveaway}

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Family Christian Stores through the Family Christian Blogger program, along with the certificate I am giving away. This post does contain affiliate links.  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.”

A friend of mine raves about Randy Singer's books, and I keep meaning to read one.  Now I have.  It won't be my last.

Why yes, I did read most of this book in the car
The Advocate, by Randy Singer, is the story of Theophilus, you know, the "most excellent Theophilus" in the book of Luke.  The story starts with him being trained by Seneca in Rome, takes him to schools in Greece, back to Rome, and then to Judea, where he is serving as a lawyer (assessore) to Pilate... including at the trial of Jesus.  He ends up back in Rome, and the majority of the story takes place there.  Eventually, he ends up representing Paul in his trial in front of Nero.

Along the way, Singer paints a pretty vivid picture of life under three Roman Emperors -- Tiberius, Caligula, and Nero.  I've studied some Roman history, and all of that seemed well-researched and well-written.  The legal stuff, well, I can't say I know a lot about that, but everything certainly felt realistic.

There isn't much known about the "real" Theophilus.  There is even debate about whether or not Theophilus was an actual real person.  But one of the theories is that Luke and Acts read very much like a legal brief, and that Theophilus could very well be Paul's Advocate, the guy who would have represented him in his trial in Rome.

That is the theory that is fleshed out in this historical fiction title.

Singer mentions in notes at the end of the book that there are extensive notes on what is historically accurate and where he took liberties on his website.  I'm going to be spending a fair amount of time there over the next days.

My opinions -- I had a hard time getting into the story initially, but once Theophilus was an adult and dealing with the politics of Rome and then of Judea, it was far more interesting.  At that point, I was hooked.  Singer has a very engaging style, and the suspense and intrigue kept me turning the pages.

I've told my 17 year old that he needs to read this next.  Do you want to as well?  I have a copy to give away, courtesy of Family Christian!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, January 24, 2015

A Stitch in Crime {a Litfuse Blog Tour review}

I have read a number of books in the Quilts of Love series, and all have been light, pleasant reads.  A Stitch in Crime by Cathy Elliott is the latest.

Clearly, from the title, this one is a mystery.

From the publisher:
Thea's first quilt show is coming apart at the seams!

Thea James has accepted an assignment as co-chairperson for Larkindale's first quilt show extravaganza. Juggling the new assignment with running her antique business, she's already feeling frayed when things start to unravel.

Mary-Alice Wentworth, a much-loved town matriarch, respected quilt judge, and Thea's dear friend, is covertly conked on the head during the kick-off Quilt Show Soiree, throwing suspicion on her guests. It also appears that a valuable diamond brooch has been stolen during the attack. The family is furious. But is it because of their mugged mother or the missing diamonds?

When a renowned textile expert goes MIA and the famous Wentworth heritage quilt disappears, Larkindale's reputation as a tourist haven is at risk. Thea attempts to piece the mystery together and save the town's investment in the quilt show before Mary-Alice is attacked again . . . with far worse results.

Learn more about this book and the series at the Quilts of Love website.
I read this while traveling, and it was a very nice diversion.  Elliott drew me in pretty quickly.  Thea was pretty likable, with a best friend who is now being snarky and rude to her, a guy she is interested in, and she is a bit over her head as co-chair of the quilt show.

Boy, could I ever relate to that.

Somehow, I seem to find myself in positions that I feel completely unqualified to tackle. 

Of course, Thea's situation involves things like crime scene tape.  I can't say I tend to get that over my head.

This is not my favorite Quilts of Love title, but the story kept me guessing. 

Don’t miss the newest Quilts of Love book, A Stitch in Crime by Cathy Elliott. Thea's first quilt show begins to fall apart at the seams. Will she be able to piece the mystery together and save the town’s investment in the quilt show before another attack happens . . . with far worse results.

Enter to win a Kindle HDX!


One winner will receive:
  • A Kindle HDX
  • A Stitch in Crime by Cathy Elliott
  • Masterpiece Marriage by Gina Welborn
  • Swept Away by Laura V. Hilton and Cindy Loven

Enter today by clicking the button below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on February 8th. Winner will be announced on the Quilts of Love blog February 9th.



Enter today and spread the word—tell your friends about the giveaway via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning.

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

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Jesus Is ___ Student Edition {a BookLook Blogger review}

I'm always interested in a resource that I can use with my teens or tweens in talking about a real faith and what Christianity really is.  So, I eagerly signed up to review Jesus Is ______. Student Edition, by Judah Smith.

This title is geared towards the 10-14 age range, but I think it works well with kids outside that range as well, such as my nearly 9 year old daughter.  Even my 16- and 17-year-old sons are finding it to be interesting.

Right off the bat, I have to say that we found the bright color to be appealing, without being patronizing.  So many tween/teen resources out there just look like they are trying too hard, and my teens balk at giving them a real look.

You can only say, "You can't judge a book by its cover" so many times.  My teens have determined that Christian books that look patronizing on the outside almost always are even worse inside.  So I loved that this one just looks bright and fun.

From the publisher:
The New York Times bestseller shows students that discovering who Jesus is will change who they are!

In Jesus Is _______. Student Edition, popular speaker, author, and former youth pastor Judah Smith reveals the character of Jesus and the importance of Christ's message. Adapted for a student's age and life experience, this compelling book will get younger readers thinking about what Jesus means to them.

Judah Smith, pastor of the City Church in Seattle, Washington, is a former youth minister. He understands kids and writes as if to a friend. With enthusiasm and humor, Smith shows that Jesus is life, Jesus is grace, and Jesus is your friend. The student edition includes new content for younger readers ages 10-14-humorous lists, callouts of key text, sidebars with additional information, and discussion questions. This is a book for kids who have grown up in the church, are new to faith in Jesus, or are seeking to know more. This book will allow students to grow with Jesus from a young age and to know that the point of life is having a real, honest relationship with Jesus.

In the introduction, Judah Smith tells us who he is.  A 33-year-old pastor, who isn't perfect and isn't going around judging everyone else.  He also talks about the "Jesus Is" campaign that they started at their church, with the idea of getting people thinking about Jesus, and how that is the mission of their church.  Nothing in the introduction is remotely patronizing or condescending, and THAT gets my kids' attention.

The book is split up into 15 chapters in six sections.  None of the chapters is particularly long, which is wonderful for tweens.  Most are in the roughly 10 pages range, with some being a bit longer, and some being a little shorter.  That is something that we can read and discuss without losing them.

The language is fairly casual and friendly, without being a lecture or without a whole lot of over-the-top "when you get to be my age" stuff (which my kids also hate, especially coming from anyone under about age 35).

When approaching an idea like how Jesus hung out with sinners, and not just sinners, but those with a reputation for being the bad crowd, Smith is careful to distinguish a why there.  He outright states that your parents might forbid you from hanging out with a certain crowd and that you have to respect that.  Let me quote that paragraph:
Don't misunderstand me here.  I'm not talking about hanging out with bad people because you want to do bad things, or because they are cool, or because it's exciting.  I'm talking about spending time with people others usually reject because you love them and want to help them.  Remember, there might be times when your parents will ask you not to hang out with certain people because they are a bad influence or they are making dangerous decisions.  It that is the case, you need to trust they they know what they are doing.
Each chapter ends with some discussion questions, and these are questions that don't prompt a lecture.  They actually promote discussion. 

I am very impressed with this resource.

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.”

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Masterpiece Marriage {a LitFuse review}

I've read quite a few books in the Quilts of Love series, and I have enjoyed most of them.  Each of the books features a quilt, many feature quilting, and they all have a love story.

Beyond that, they can be pretty different.

This one, Masterpiece Marriage, by Gina Welborn, is set around 1890, and while not exactly historical fiction, the historical setting and detail is quite good.

Here's what the book cover says:
She thinks studying the growth pattern of her tomato seedlings is more time-worthy than pursuing a mate. When she needs illustrations of her prized plants Mary turns to Priscilla Dane Osbourne for help.

Zenus Dane also seeks help from his Aunt Priscilla.  In order to salvage his flooded textile mill, he wnats to sell her hand-drawn quilt patterns alongside his repurposed fabric scraps.  No quilter has national name recognition like his aunt, but Priscilla is fiercely protective of her patterns.  Convincing her will not be easy.

It seems Priscilla is the answer to both their prayers.  But Priscilla would rather weave a masterpiece marriage for her nephew than save his flooded business.  Trouble is, her plans don't include Mary, whose own growing attraction for Zenus could jeopardize Priscilla's goodwill toward her.  If faced with a decision between love and ambition, will Mary be able to choose?
I found the characters to be quite likable, particularly the main three: Zenus, Mary, and Aunt Priscilla.  Mary is English, and has been all over the world, earning degrees and trying to become a professor.  That is not an easy task for a woman at the time.

Zenus worries about his employees, who are mostly single mothers, and he's also interested in finding a wife.  He has his eye set on Arel Dewey, so his trip to get help from his aunt also gives him a chance with Arel.

Priscilla is a wealthy widow, quite used to getting her way in everything.  I wasn't quite sure what to make of her initially, but she really grew on me and is probably my favorite character in the book.

Like most other titles in the Quilts of Love series, this is a pretty light and easy read.  Perfect for a lazy Saturday.  You can see what other LitFuse reviewers thought of the book too.

Don’t miss the newest Quilts of Love book, Masterpiece Marriage by Gina Welborn. December’s QOL release celebrates the ebb and flow of marriage.
Enter to win a Kindle HDX!

One winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire
  • Masterpiece Marriage by Gina Welborn
  • Swept Away by Laura V. Hilton and Cindy Loven
  • Quilted by Christmas by Jodie Bailey
Enter today by clicking the button below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on January 18th. Winner will be announced on the Quilts of Love blog January 19th.


Enter today and spread the word—tell your friends about the giveaway via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning.

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

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Identical {a FlyBy review and giveaway}

We always love a chance to watch a good, family-friendly movie.  So reviewing The Identical was an easy decision.

Especially given that there are some familiar names in here.  That always makes my husband more interested.

About the movie:
The Identical, starring Ray Liotta, Ashley Judd, Seth Green, and Blake Rayne is a redemptive movie about a young man, the son of a preacher, who rejects his father’s desire for him to join the ministry and instead embarks on a career as a rock singer. As he struggles to pursue his dream and rise to stardom, he finds love, pain, success, failure and ultimately uncovers a hidden family secret that reveals who he really us. The Identical is a captivating story about a family restored and a life discovered that lifts your soul and warms your heart.
The movie starts off with the birth of twin boys, to a poor family, during the depression.  At a revival meeting, the father feels God is telling him to give away one of the twins, Ryan, to the preacher.  The majority of the movie takes place with Ryan as a young man and then an adult, and you see him striving to balance what he wants from life with what his father wants from life.

The music in the film is a lot of fun, and definitely sounds like it could have been written in the various eras represented (50s, 60s, 70s).  The acting was wonderful as well, with some very believable characters.  I was particularly drawn to both of the mothers.

And then there is also nearly an hour and a half of bonus features.  Those were even more fun, especially the part about the preemies.

Check out the trailer:

I have one to give away!

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 the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

Monday, January 12, 2015

When the Game Stands Tall {a Family Christian review}

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this DVD free from Family Christian Stores through the Family Christian Blogger program. This post does contain affiliate links.  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.”

I don't watch a lot of football.  I used to.  But my husband isn't a big sports fan, and it just isn't the priority for me that it once was.

However, I am still a fan of my original alma mater, North Dakota State University.  They've won three national championships in a row, and this past weekend they were going for four in a row, against Illinois.

A friend let us come over, as we don't have ESPN, so we could watch the game.  I wore my Bison sweater, we had lots of good food, it was a great day.  I watched the game, hoping to catch a glimpse of my parents in the stands, but being rather complacent about the game itself.

Because the Bison have done so well.  I just knew they'd win.  After all, for the seniors on the team, they've never lost a national championship.  In fact, they've only lost three college games.  I didn't expect a nail-biter.

Not exactly the makings of a sports movie.  Sports movies always feature a team that is down and out.  They aren't expected to do well.  But they have pluck and determination, and a coach who spurs them on to greatness.  They overcome horridly rude opponents, discrimination, awful schedules, and a myriad of other setbacks, and surprise everyone by winning in the end.

Or at least that is the formula I'm used to.

When the Game Stands Tall follows a different formula.  It starts off with a Christian high school team who has a hundreds-of-games (151 of them) winning streak going.  As in, they haven't lost a game in DECADES.  They don't expect to lose anytime soon either, as they have a strong team and great coaches.  Everyone expects the streak will continue. 

Lots of horrible things happen, and the team stops acting like a team.  They get away from their fundamentals, which have everything to do with everyone setting goals involving a perfect effort, and a focus on love and family.

It was refreshing, really, to have the exact opposite of the majority of the sports flicks out there.  This isn't Cinderella finally getting a chance to be noticed.  This is the folks on the top, the ones who have everything going right. And what happens when they lose that golden touch.

A bit like Job.

What happens when things aren't going my way?  Do I praise God in the storms?

Do you?

Will this team and this coach?

We loved the movie here.  Family Christian brought another winner to my home for this review.

Tackling High School Science

I'm attempting to participate in the Virtual Curriculum Fair again this year, but wow, everything seems so challenging this year.  This week, the topic is Discovering Patterns, or discussion of things like math, science, and logic.  This is hosted by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds, and co-hosted this week by Laura @ Day by Day in Our World.

I usually choose to talk about math, but this year I thought I'd focus on science.

High School Science.

Because that is one of those totally intimidating things, and one of the first objections people always threw at me back when Connor was five and they learned I was going to homeschool kindergarten:  "But how will you teach high school chemistry?"

So what options are there?

When it comes to teaching high school science, there are so many amazing possibilities now.  You have traditional textbook approaches, like Apologia Science, or Science Shepherd (to stick with programs I've used).  You get a book, you get science supplies, and you work through the materials and the labs.

Or you can take a live class online, through Apologia, Red Wagon Tutorials, Virtual Homeschool Group, or about a million other places.

You can do an online course that isn't "live" such as Fascinating Education, Plato Education, Thinkwell (again, to stick with things we have used).

You can join a homeschool co-op, where someone else will teach your kids a science class, or will do the labs as a group, and you can focus on teaching a class in a topic where you know what you are doing.  We haven't tried this.

You can often do a community college route.  We haven't done this.  Yet.

You can pull together your own thing.

And there are other choices too, like DVD-based courses (Biology 101, Chemistry 101) and others that just aren't even occurring to me at the moment.

Our 2015 Plans:

We're planning a pretty science-heavy year.

All three teens have just finished up some introductory electronics work, with Applied Inspirations.  I'll link to my review for this soon.  We're giving 1/2 credit for this work, but we haven't yet decided if we are going to go on to make this part of a full-credit electronics course, or if we're stopping here. 

They have been doing chemistry, using Fascinating Education online, only we opted to skip the labs in that.  Because we are about to start using a very lab-intensive set.  The Home Scientist has a kit, CK01, and we're thrilled to be working with that.  This is going to give them a full-year of Honors Chemistry. 

Just look at all that amazing stuff!!

We've also been working through some materials from Master Books, specifically their Survey of Astronomy.  

Told you.  Science-heavy right now.

What plans do we have going forward?

In the fall, I'll have three high school students.  The main plan for Connor is for him to do a calculus-based physics course.  Possibly at the community college.

William and Thomas will do biology together, using Science Shepherd Biology, which I really love, as you can see in my review for The Old Schoolhouse.  William has already worked through part of the course, but we are going to start over, and have the two of them working together.

We're also talking about getting the Forensic Science kit from The Home Scientist, and having all three of them work on that.

Past that?  I'll chat with Thomas and William to see what else interests them.  I would like them all to end up with at least 3 science credits -- biology, chemistry, and physics.  But there are so many amazing other things too.

William loves geology, so I'll probably work with some of the Master Books materials to get him a full credit of geology somewhere in there.

Bottom Line:

There are so many amazing resources out there now, and not all require a whole lot of scientific knowledge on the part of Mom.  What are YOUR kids interested in?  I bet there is something available!

To see what others are saying about Discovering Patterns, check out some of these blogs:

Learning about Patterns in Our World Through Math and Science by Laura @ Day by Day in Our World
Relaxed Homeschooling: Mathematics in the Early Elementary Years by Brittney @ Mom's Heart
Using a Bible-Based Math Curriculum by Tauna M @ Proverbial Homemaker
Math, Science and Logic for 2015 by Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses
Playing with Numbers by Sarah @ Delivering Grace
Unschooling Science by Kristen H. @ Sunrise to Sunset
Logically Speaking: Math, Science, and Logic for 7th Grade  by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool
Numbers and Molecules! by Michele @ Family, Faith and Fridays
Math and Science in Our Homeschool by Jennifer @ A Glimpse of Our Life
5 Math & Logic Resources We Love by Becky @ Milo & Oats
Giving Your Kids The Right Start With Math by Amy @ One Blessed Mamma
Math in Our Classical / Charlotte Mason Homeschool by Sharra @ The Homeschool Marm
Classical STEM by Lisa @ Golden Grasses
Math, Science and Logic - How do we Tackle Them? by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory
The Physics of Delight-Directed Learning by Susan @ The Every Day of Education
Choosing Math Curriculum for Special Learners by Heather @ Only Passionate Curiosity
Math for all ages by Denise @ Fullnest
Middle School Monday - Math With Fred by Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break
Learning With Math and Science Resources  by Leah @ As We Walk Along the Road

Motivate Your Child Giveaway!

I'm really thrilled to be part of the Motivate Your Child Launch Team!  Not like I've had a lot of time to do much with the book yet, but really... who doesn't need some words of wisdom when it comes to encouraging those teens and pre-teens?  Aside from folks who don't have kids, I suppose.

I've been impressed with materials from National Center for Biblical Parenting, and this one seems to be the best yet!

To celebrate the release of Motivate Your Child: A Christian Parent's Guide to Raising Kids Who Do What They Need to Do Without Being Told,  members of the Launch Team are sharing a wonderful giveaway filled with a Go Pro Camera, $50 Mardel Gift Card, $25 Amazon Gift Card, and book bundles from both the National Center for Biblical Parenting and Thomas Nelson Publishing! Three winners will win prizes with a total value of nearly $800!

motivate your child giveaway

Here’s what you could win:

GRAND PRIZE  ($500+ value)

Go Pro HERO3+ Silver Camera ($300 value)

HERO3+ Silver captures gorgeous, professional-quality 1080p60 video and 10MP photos at speeds of up to 10 frames per second. Built-in Wi-Fi enables you to use the GoPro App to control the camera remotely, preview shots and share your favorites on Facebook, Twitter and more. Compatible with all GoPro mounts, you can wear it or attach it to your gear for immersive POV footage of your favorite activities. It’s waterproof to 131’ (40m) and built tough for all of life’s adventures. Combined with stunning low-light performance, high-performance audio and an ultra wide-angle glass lens, HERO3+ Silver makes capturing and sharing your life easier than ever.

NCBP Book Bundle ($115 value)

 The Christian Parenting Handbook  and Companion Guide

Parenting is Heart Work

God's Awesome Story

Hero Training Camp Children's Curriculum


Thomas Nelson Book Bundle ($90 value):

The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst  Desperate by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson

Say Goodbye to Survival Mode by Crystal Paine

All Pro Dad by Mark Merrill

The Passionate Mom by Susan Merrill


FIRST PRIZE ($165 value)

$50 Mardel Gift Card


NCBP Book Bundle ($115 value)

The Christian Parenting Handbook  and Companion Guide

Parenting is Heart Work

God's Awesome Story

Hero Training Camp Children's Curriculum


SECOND PRIZE ($115 value)

$25 Amazon Gift Card


Thomas Nelson Book Bundle ($90 value):

The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst  Desperate by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson

Say Goodbye to Survival Mode by Crystal Paine

All Pro Dad by Mark Merrill

The Passionate Mom by Susan Merrill

To enter, use the Rafflecopter below. Giveaway dates: January 12, 2015 @12:00am ET through January 28, 2015 @ 11:59pm ET

Terms and Conditions: This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.  Void where prohibited by law. Must be at least 18 years of age. This giveaway is in no away associated with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or Amazon. No purchase necessary for entry. Odds are determined by the number of entries. Selected winner will have 48 hours to respond to email notification to claim their prize or another winner will be drawn.

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Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Patmos Deception {a Bethany House review}

We happen to really enjoy archaeology in this household.  We also happen to particularly enjoy archaeology relating to the early Church (Greece, Rome, etc.)

So a book called The Patmos Deception, that lists a "forensic archaeologist" among its main characters?  Oh, yeah.  I want to review that one.

I've read other titles by Davis Bunn, and I have enjoyed them.  His work is fairly action based, though there is a fair amount of discussion.  What it doesn't include is a whole lot of emotional fluff.

Especially not romantic emotional fluff.

I find that refreshing.

From the publisher:
An Ancient Island Holds an Ancient Secret . . .
Nick Hennessy, 
a young Texas journalist yearning for his big break, finds himself in Europe--his assignment, to investigate the alarming disappearance of invaluable Grecian antiquities. Nick has the credentials--and cover ID--to unearth the truth. And he knows just the researcher to help him...

Carey Mathers, fresh from her studies in forensic archeology, has accepted a job with the prestigious Athens Institute for Antiquities--a dream come true, really, particularly when the Greek isle of Patmos, where the Apostle John received his vision of the Apocalypse, was a particular focus of her research.

Dimitri Rubinos, for whom the Greek islands represent his life, holds on by his fingernails to the family charter boat business. But his country's economic chaos isn't the only thing that has turned his world on its head...
There are a number of twists and turns in this story that definitely kept me guessing.  I particularly loved getting to know two Greek families -- one family who "adopts" Carey when she arrives at the Athens Institute for Antiquities, and Dimitri's family in Patmos. 

I also loved some of the history portions, where someone is explaining life in the early church, or John's time in Patmos, or other history of the various locations.

The book is set up for a sequel, and I will be checking that out!

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

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Taste of Many Mountains {a BookLook Blogger review}

Back as a junior in high school, I took an economics course for one semester.  I loved it.  So much so that as a senior, I ended up enrolling at North Dakota State University to take a college course in Macro Economics, and then the next semester I took Micro Economics.

Once I got to the University of Minnesota, as an accounting major, I decided I was going to minor in economics.  That meant I started finding more Econ courses to take.  Eventually I discovered that the business school wouldn't actually award a minor.  I don't recall if I actually finished doing all the required coursework, or if I was a class short.  But the point is that Economics really fascinated me.

The absolute best Econ course I took ever was an upper level course called something like Developmental Economics.  We spent that quarter doing all kinds of reading, analyzing, and writing about the realities of economics in developing nations.  College is a long time ago, and I don't remember the details, but I do remember that some of the projects involved the ideas of sweatshops and exploitation of native workers by Corporate America.  One thing I definitely got out of that was the idea that exploitation isn't as clear-cut as it is usually portrayed.  Economic realities collide with activist theories way too often.

Why am I talking about this?

Bruce Wydick, an economics professor, wrote the novel The Taste of Many Mountains.  It was a fantastic read.  Let's read the publisher description before I go on:
A research trip to Guatemala illuminates truths both intimate and global for three young travelers.

The graduate students arrived in Guatemala energized and ready to take on the world. They planned to follow the path of coffee beans from a peasant coffee-growing community in the western highlands through the chain of buyers, co-ops, exporters, and roasters, all the way to a café in San Francisco.

As the students investigate the profit made at every link in the coffee chain, they confront a series of unexpected events that illuminate globalization in surprising ways. They befriend a coffee-growing peasant family who recounts their family stories of fortune and tragedy wrought by coffee over generations of their Mayan family history. The relationship deepens between the family and the students. Then catastrophe strikes and the students must choose how to respond.

A surprising, beautifully engaging novel that illustrates the many ethical dilemmas of our increasingly globalized economy.
The story centers around four graduate students (the three mentioned above, plus one already in Guatemala) and their research into just what happens along the entire chain from coffee plant to the coffee shop.

The story involves the relationships between these students, their research, their interactions with some of the coffee growing families in Guatemala, and how they start seeing things differently as they work through this project.  There is also a fair amount of economics included, and a lot of history of Guatemala specifically, but also coffee-growing in general.

My teens have already earned a half credit in economics, but I'm planning to make this novel required reading for them.  That may get an eyeroll, but I really do think they'll enjoy it once they get going.

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.”

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Good Rat {a Family Christian review and giveaway}

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Family Christian Stores through the Family Christian Blogger program, along with the certificate I am giving away. This post does contain affiliate links.  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.”

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to review a DVD that promised to teach theology to little kids.  We really did enjoy that movie, and I keep thinking I'd like to get more Theo DVDs.  But the kids are older, and I wasn't sure it would still be something they would watch.

Then I got the opportunity to review The Good Rat as part of the Family Christian Blogger program.  This book features Theo, Luther, and Belfry, and I found that this is definitely something that still has some appeal to my family.

The Good Rat is a retelling of the story of The Good Samaritan.  And it is a pretty good retelling.  My 17-year-old read through the book a couple of hours ago, and his comment was, "They really nailed the story of the Good Samaritan.  Rats are a really good representation of the Samaritans."

He's right.  Basically, this story involves a shrew heading off for town in his best outfit.  He is ambushed by weasels (you can vaguely see that in the photo below), who take his money, his beautiful vest, and leave him half dead.

The church mice (Luther and Belfry, below) come by, but they are on their way to play rugby and even though they know they should help, they don't.  A hedgehog comes by, but she's on the way to market to sell her scarves and quilts, so she only assures the unconscious shrew that someone will be along shortly before she heads off.

And then comes a rat.  Even though it will make him late for a job interview, he stops, tends to the shrew, and carries him to Theo for further healing.

The story directly asks who was a good neighbor, and it directs you to Luke to read more.

We loved it.

The illustrations are cute.  The text includes some big words, but is great for reading aloud (or stretching a young reader a bit!)  Trina read it herself, fairly successfully.  She needed some help!  She loved the story, but she said I had to be sure to tell everyone that "I still don't like rats!"

I have a $10 appreciation certificate good at Family Christian to give away.  That is almost enough to purchase this book, or you can get something else!

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A renewed focus on Reading Aloud

I'm attempting to participate in the Virtual Curriculum Fair again this year, but am struggling to get words on the screen.  Funny, since this week is about Playing with Words.  This is hosted by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds, and co-hosted this week by Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses.

I had no idea what I was going to write about for the Playing with Words subject, as it seems like I'm doing pretty much the same thing as I did last year.  See my post on creating a high school English credit for those nuts and bolts.

But something that has been gnawing at me as of late is how I really need to get back to seriously reading aloud.  For all of the kids, not just the 8- and 10-year-olds.  My teens, by the way, are 14, 16 and 17.

So I'm heading into 2015 with the idea of being very intentional about read alouds again.  Like I used to be.  Maybe not getting back to the time when I was pretty consistent about reading aloud for at least two hours a day.  But I am getting back to reading aloud daily.  To everyone.

An old photo.  They don't fit on my lap anymore.


Oh, let me count the reasons.  Reading Aloud does amazing things for kids, and I think it does especially amazing things for kids who struggle at all with academics.  I once stated that Andrew Pudewa's Nurturing Competent Communicators talk was something I needed to listen to at least once every quarter.  I'm actually going to go scheduling that this year.

A couple of years ago, I started posting every week about what I was reading aloud.  I had been using All About Reading with Trina (something I'd love to use with her still, but I just can't afford to!) and she was urging, as part of that program, that we do 20 minutes a day of reading aloud.  Her statement was that would be 10 hours a month (that would be if you read aloud every day, not just school days) or 120 hours a year.

I still have nine and a half years left with Trina...  which would be over 1100 hours of reading aloud I could still do with her, before she graduates.  In 20 minutes a day.

How huge could that be?

Even with the boys, I still have 900 hours for Richard, 540 for Thomas, 420 for William, and 180 hours for Connor.

Reading aloud helps get bigger ideas into their heads, better vocabulary, and grammatically complex sentences that go *into* their brains.  Reading aloud gives us a common frame of reference for talking about all kinds of things.  Reading aloud gives us the chance to explore what makes a hero, or what causes a good person to fall.

Plus it is just fun.

Realistically, I am not going to regularly read aloud on weekends.  But during the week, I want to be getting back to doing something more in the 45-60 minute range.  That would be more like 200 hours a year, which leads to even more staggering numbers.


That's the big question.

I am going to start off by getting more intentional about reading aloud the lit options for Richard and Trina's history.  Veritas Press New Testament, Greece and Rome.  So that means -
  • Black Ships Before Troy
  • Twice Freed
  • d'Aulaires Book of Greek Myths
  • A Triumph for Flavius
Which is roughly the first third of the course.  My statement to my teens was that I plan to be reading these aloud, and if we are reading titles they've never read, I will require their presence.  When reading titles they know (Black Ships, for one) they will be able to opt out.

I am also going to be grabbing titles that are more high school appropriate.  One source will be the College Bound Reading List that Lee Binz put together.  What I'll probably use most, though is the Reading List that IEW has created.  I don't know that they sell it, but it is frequently available as a free item, so watch for it.

Bottom Line:

My kids are excited, I am excited, and we are going to work through some great (and not-so-great) literature this year, as a family.

To see what others are saying about Playing With Words, check out some of these blogs:

Building a Foundation of Words by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds
Language Arts for 2015 by Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses
Bible-Based Language Arts Resources by Tauna M @ Proverbial Homemaker
Relaxed Homeschooling: Language Arts in the Early Elementary Years by Brittney @ Mom's Heart
Loving Books and Words by Sarah@Delivering Grace
5 Language Arts Resources We Love by Becky @ Milo & Oats
Teaching Reading at Home: A Tale of 5 Readers by Kristen H. @ Sunrise to Sunset
A More Simplistic Approach to 7th Grade Language Arts by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool
Language Arts Reading for Delight-Directed Learning by Susan @ The Every Day of Education
How To: Spelling Dictation by Heather @ Only Passionate Curiosity
The World of Words in our Homeschool by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory
Unschooling and Words, Words, Words by Nicole @ Schooling in the Sun
Learning With Literature and Language Arts Resources by Leah @ As We Walk Along the Road
Words and More Words! by Michele @ FamilyFaithandFridays
Language Arts in Our Homeschool (2014 � 2015) by Laura O @ Day by Day in Our World
Our curriculum choices ~ Language Arts by Renata @ Sunnyside Farm Fun
The 2015 Virtual Curriculum Fair ~ Language Arts in Our Homeschool by Jennifer @ A Glimpse of Our Life
Loaded Pistols: Virtual Curriculum Fair Playing with Words by Lisa @ Golden Grasses
Language Arts in our Classical / Charlotte Mason Homeschool by Sharra @ The Homeschool Marm
Logic of English Foundations: The Grand Prize Winner of Phonics by Chelli @ The Planted Trees
A Sentence a Day Teaches Grammar the Fun Way by Amy A @ One Blessed Mamma
Tackling Language Arts by Jacquelin @ A Stable Beginning
Middle School Monday - Lightning Literature and Composition by Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break
The Great Grammar Discovery by Laura @ Four Little Penguins

Thursday, January 1, 2015

My Perfect Pantry {a Blogging for Books review}

I've been in a rut as far as feeding my family goes.  Especially lately, as I've drastically cut my food budget to pay for medical expenses.

My Perfect Pantry by Geoffrey Zakarian sounded like it could give me a boost.  You know, some celebrity chef talking about the 50 "essential" items for your pantry, and giving three recipes showcasing each of those ingredients?  Sounds right up my alley.

Well, except for the fact that I don't really care anything about "celebrity chefs" and have never heard of this guy.  Apparently lots of folks have though.

I love the concept.

I love that there are photos of every recipe.

I loved reading through the ingredients, with the discussion of why it should be a staple.  Those were fascinating.

I loved many of the recipes too.  Especially since, for the most part, this isn't using totally wacky ingredients.  Aside from the meat and some of the produce, most of the time, I do have the ingredients in my house already.  The recipes are pretty straight-forward to follow, and the results are pretty fabulous. 

Some of the ideas for using some of the staples are really intriguing too. 

This isn't going to become one of my go-to cookbooks though, because it is arranged by ingredient, and that doesn't always make a lot of sense to me.  Like a very good recipe for Clam Chowder, which you can find in the Chicken Stock section.

That is not where I would look for it.

If I was a Food Network fan, I'd probably be a lot more excited about this.

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.