Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Switched on Schoolhouse: World Geography {a review}

When I started homeschooling a dozen plus years ago, I attended a small homeschool event.  Very small.  That included some of the biggest names out there at the time.  A month later, I was able to spend one day at our state convention.  That event exposed me to the "big guys" but also to a number of smaller homeschooling companies.

One company that I heard about repeatedly was Alpha Omega Publications.  I'll confess that I didn't look too closely at their materials at the time.  I don't think they had anything for 3 year olds back then.  But they are someone "everyone" seems to know.

Having the opportunity to review one of their courses was a huge blessing.  There is so much to choose from -- Horizons has workbooks for PreK-12th grades, LIFEPAC covers core subjects and many electives from 1st-12th grades with little workbooks, Monarch is their online program with materials from grades 3-12, and Switched-On Schoolhouse is the computer software version of their program for grades 3-12.

We chose a Switched-On Schoolhouse title, World Geography, which sells for $99.95.  I have both my 9th and 11th graders using it, and this has been a really nice fit.  World Geography is one of their core subjects -- this being their 9th grade History & Geography title.  If you continue with the Switched-On Schoolhouse sequence, you'd then take World History (10th grade), American History (11th grade), and Government and Economics (12th grade).  Or there are a number of history-related electives, such as The Civil War or Twentieth Century American History, if you'd like to customize it a bit.

Each grade includes five subjects: Bible, Language Arts, History and Geography, Science, and Math.  The complete 9th grade "core" would include -
  • This World Geography course
  • New Testament Survey
  • English I
  • Algebra I
  • Integrated Physics and Chemistry

Getting Started

What you get is a box with installation instructions and three disks.  Two are for installing the Switched-On Schoolhouse program itself, and one is for the World Geography course.  This does not work on Macs, which is frustrating for me, but we do have a couple PC machines around.

Installation was very straight-forward (once I upgraded Windows!), even for someone like me who never uses a Windows-based machine.  It took some time to get set up and going, but the process was painless.

Once the program and course was installed, I could go into the teacher software and get my teens assigned to the course.  That was also fairly easy, though not quite intuitive.  I clicked on days we wouldn't do school, and had it all scheduled with the push of a button.

Then the teens could sign in and start.

Using the Course

This is my favorite thing ever about doing this.  Everything is all set up.  The kids get into the program and right there it tells them what to do.  No planning on my part.  They can get in, do what is assigned today, and get out.  Below, you see that someone <ahem> is a bit behind.

But when he opens up the program, he knows that he needs to actually finish his project (more on that below), finish up the Settlement and Movement lesson, and then do today's assignment, the quiz.

Ideally, he'd be caught up on things, but life was a bit crazy at the end of last week, and he was busy showing me around the student side of this program on Thursday, so he did not actually get his project input (he has completed it) and with volunteering at the food pantry, he ran out of time to do his lesson on Friday.

There is some variety in the lessons, but mostly this includes on-screen text, maps and other images:

And then there are questions about those readings:

The program grades most of the material, however with anything more subjective, I get the chance to go in and grade those myself.  What is wonderful is that they do give the actual question, the child's answer, and some text to explain to me what they expect in an answer.  Very straight-forward for me to grade.  I have the ability to reassign a question to the student, which I have done, or to grade it.

There are also projects.  The first project (the one above that is past due!) involves summarizing a news article from a geography point-of-view.

I love that this isn't all computer-time work, and the kids do actually have to dig in elsewhere and do some independent off-the-computer work.  Some of the daily lessons include off-the-computer work too, such as pulling out a local map, plotting a trip, and noting geographical features that would be part of that; or an assignment that involved some research and summary graphs off the computer.

Course Content

The course covers basic geography.  The first two units are introductory in nature.  There are then eight units covering basic geographic regions, which may be a continent or a part of a continent.  For instance, there is a unit on North America, a unit on Western Europe, and a unit on Eastern Europe and Russia.

There are also two semester review units in there, including exams.

Bottom Line

I think this is a solid program for a credit in World Geography.  I love that the kids can be almost completely independent, and both can be working in the same course but they do not have to wait on each other at all.  Connor (11th grade) can get up and just get his work done.  William (9th grade) can dawdle and get to it much later.  And Connor isn't held up because William is sleeping in.  Yet they can still discuss it, as they are more or less doing the same work (William is moving a bit slower through the material).

One thing I've found, especially for high school, is that I really do need some things where they can just do it and I don't have to be terribly involved.  For my family, World Geography is a perfect choice for that kind of open-and-go work.

The kids opinions?  Well, neither of them love this, but they don't hate it either.  They like knowing exactly what is expected of them to be done for the day.  They like that they pretty much know where they stand as far as grades go, as they aren't stuck waiting on me forever.  When mom does get around to grading the manually-graded stuff, their scores usually rise a little bit.

Neither of them particularly wants to go all-out and use Switched-On Schoolhouse for everything.  But they both think this is a great way to do a course or two at a time, and they have both been eying some of the electives especially.

Other members of the team reviewed various other products, including Monarch, Life-Pac, and Horizons.  


We are blessed to bring you an amazing giveaway from Alpha Omega Publications Homeschool Division. The winner will receive one subject from each of the main product lines plus a $50 Amazon gift card. That could be a retail value of $450! To enter, please use the form below.

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Disclaimer: I received the Switched-on Schoolhouse World Geography course free of charge in exchange for my review.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions expressed here are my own.  I received no other compensation for this review.

Monday, September 29, 2014

She's growing up

Not much to say.

Except I snapped a photo of Trina in her new dress today, and wow.  She's growing up.

Thought I'd share.

The New Astronomy Book {a Moms of Master Books review}

It's time for another Moms of Master Books review.  This time, it is for a new, revised version of a book we already own.

My kids have been through The Astronomy Book already.  Great book, we really enjoyed it.  This is part of The Wonders of Creation series, and we own every book in the series.  As of right now, anyway.  There is a new one coming soon (on Minerals.  Yes, we need it.)

The newer books have a feature I really, really love.  And seeing this, The New Astronomy Book, by Danny R. Faulkner, reinforces to me just how much I love the new feature.

That is -- there are different colored backgrounds for different "age levels" of material.  Theoretically, that means I can go through the book with all of my kids, but have the younger ones drop out as I add more complex information.  Or, I can go through the book multiple times with the same child, just adding a new colored background as they get older.

Both options are cool.

  • Level One is on an off-white background, and is "basic" information and visuals.  This is great for elementary ages, I think.
  • Level Two is on a purple background, and gets into more vocabulary and deeper information.  This is great for middle school ages.
  • Level Three is on a blue gridded background, and has more advanced concepts/theories, and is meant to inspire students to dig deeper into other sources too.  This is great for high school ages.

For my family (of science geeks), the 3rd grader (and least science geeky of us all) is good with the Level One material, and she really doesn't care to get any deeper.  So for chapter 5, for instance, on the sun, she learned about fusion vs. fission.  Pretty much everything else in the Level One material was information she already knew (because she is surrounded by science geeks).

The 5th grader is good with the Level One and Level Two material.  Level Two adds information about the idea of gravitational potential energy (that was new for me too!) and information about sunspots.

The teens (8th grade and up) are all ready for the Level Three information too.  For the sun chapter, that means information about the 'young faint sun paradox' and more info on sunspots.

I am hoping -- even though it will mean spending more money -- that more of the Wonders of Creation books are going to be updated to this format, as I really love it.

Go see what other Moms of Master Books have to say about The New Astronomy Book.

There is a Book and a Treat Facebook party coming up tonight, September 30 at 7 pm Central Time, where you could win cool prizes -- and discuss the series 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.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Seeds Family Worship: The Word of God {a review}

Over the past week, my family has had the opportunity to listen to something new.  Seeds Family Worship just released a new album -- The Word of God.

It is fabulous.

I have heard of Seeds Family Worship before.  I've thrown some of their CDs into my wish list at places like ChristianBook.com, but I've never actually heard any of them.  After listening to this CD, I want to go get volumes 1-7.

It will happen.

Seeds Family Worship describes itself as a "music-based ministry that creates modern, relevant word-for-word scripture songs for families."

I think they succeed.

The music is catchy and, oh, what's the word I'm looking for here?  Current?  Fits in with other music you hear today?  Real? 

We pulled out our Bibles, and followed along with many of the verses, and while there were sometimes a couple little things that were different, and there would be the occasional "catch phrase" type of thing that repeats, yes, this does follow pretty word-for-word with the scriptures.

This particularly CD includes scripture verses from both the Old and New Testaments, but there is more in the New Testament.  The Old Testament includes Deuteronomy 6:4-7, Proverbs 31:30, and Psalm 119:9-11.  Everything else is New Testament, and all of that is from the letters.

My kids all like it.  There was a request made that I play this CD while they wash dishes from now on.  It only took a single listen before they were singing along to at least parts of some of the songs.  And the kids immediately recognized Matthew West, who performs the second track, Your Life is Hidden (Colossians 3:2-3).

The really great part?  When you purchase from Seeds Family Worship, you get TWO CDs.  One for you.  One to use to give away and plant seeds somewhere else.

You can check out the first song on YouTube:

This doesn't feel like a scripture memory song.  It feels like music.

This is a resource I highly recommend.

Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Seeds Family Worship for providing this CD for my family's use.  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.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Treasury of Bible Stories {a FlyBy review and giveaway}

Today, I have the chance to talk about a really cute Bible Stories product.  Treasury of Bible Stories, by Kelly Pulley, is put out by David C. Cook Publishing.  This hardcover book is available for $14.99, and is intended for kids aged 4-8.

Trina, my baby, is 8, putting her at the upper end of the age range.  She enjoyed listening to the stories, but since she is fairly familiar with the main stories of the Bible already, she thought this was a little young for her.  Her feeling was that this would be great for about the 3-6 year old range.

I think for kids who haven't had a lot of Bible before, that 8 is still appropriate.

This Bible features twenty stories in total, with a dozen from the Old Testament, and eight from the New Testament.  It is mostly the stories you expect to find in a Story Bible (Joseph, David and Goliath, Jonah, Daniel in the Lion's Den) but also at least a couple stories that aren't quite as common (Gideon, for example).

The rhyme is very easy to read aloud, and the pictures are filled with detail, so the youngest listeners are likely to stay interested.

Very cute story Bible.

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, September 15, 2014

Keeping it Real: Of Mice and Library Books, Part 2

A couple of weeks ago, I posted Of Mice and Library Books.   It had been a day, I was so very tired of listening to mice running around, and completely stressed out about all my library books. 

I had over $20 in accrued fines, plus another $0.70 already on the account.

Thirty-two books either late or due.

And I had no idea which I had put into the book drop and which I hadn't.

Well, I ended up owing $1.40 when all was said and done... except I had one (already two weeks late) book that didn't get returned.

I didn't find it to return it last week either.

My library account looks better than it did... but it still isn't terribly pretty:

I've hesitated to check anything out, but my husband held a whole lot of DVDs...

This morning, I received a threatening email about that top one... Seeker of Knowledge... that was due in mid-August.

Around noon, I found it.  I wasn't actually even looking for it.

So when I visit the library this week, I'll be able to clear that off of there without paying the $17 to replace it.


As to the mice, we've still got at least one.  Nothing like what it was like a couple weeks ago, where I could hear multiple mice scurrying pretty much all evening.  This one is more likely to be scurrying in the morning.  Hopefully one of the six million traps I set eventually gets it.

Okay, there aren't really six million.  Two glue traps.  Three "advanced" traps where you don't even have to see the mouse.  Two traditional wood snap traps.  And four "bait stations."  I'm going to add two more glue traps soon.  And two different "advanced" ones as well.  I think UPS is delivering those now.  So that is a total of 15... almost six million, but not quite.

Almost all of the above are review products too.  How cool is that?

Persuasion, Captain Wentworth and Cracklin' Cornbread {a Family Christian Bloggers review and giveaway}

Persuasion, Captain Wentworth and Cracklin' Cornbread, christian fiction, fiction, hathaway
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book 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 had mentioned a while back that I've started reviewing as a Family Christian Blogger.  I'm pretty impressed with Family Christian Stores, and look forward to the occasional review I get to do for them.

Review and giveaway, in this case.

My first opportunity involves a book by an author I had never heard of.  Persuasion, Captain Wentworth and Cracklin' Cornbread by Mary Jane Hathaway was a whole lot of fun.

Mary Jane Hathaway is a homeschooling mom of six, living in a small town in Oregon.  This is her third novel that focuses on Jane Austen, the South, Civil War history, and food.  Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits and Emma, Mr. Knightley and Chili-Slaw Dogs are the other two.   The main characters of those two books make appearances in this one.  (And the books are now in my wish list!)

The basic plot of this novel is pretty simple.  Lucy Crawford and Jeremiah Chevy were an item in high school, but Lucy's wealthy family didn't like Jem, as he was white trailer trash.  They convinced Lucy to dump him.  That's all ancient history, from about a decade ago.

Now, Jem is a doctor, and Lucy's family is facing bankruptcy.  Dr. Chevy is back in town as part of the Rural Physicians Program (to help pay off his student loans), working at a free medical clinic, that is about to start renting the back of the Crawford's antebellum mansion.  Can Jem forgive Lucy for dumping him?  Can Lucy forgive herself? 

If you are an Austen fan, that ought to sound familiar.  A lot like Persuasion, in fact.

If you aren't at all familiar with Persuasion, or with Jane Austen at all, Hathaway weaves in enough of the storyline so that you will see the similarities.  I confess.  Persuasion is one (the only, actually) Austen novel I haven't read, nor have I seen one of the many movie adaptations.  I'm rectifying that too.

What makes this book so fun isn't just that it is a modern retelling of the Austen story.  With the Civil War re-enactors, and Lucy's work at a Civil War battlefield site, in charge of the interpretive center.  During the course of the story, the center acquires a diary of a woman who disguised herself as a man and fought in the war. 

I loved the mix of Jane Austen fans (a Regency-styled wedding is held during the novel, with Lucy as a bridesmaid and Jem as a groomsman) and Civil War re-enactors, along with lots of details of modern life.  Bill collectors, finding time to visit the hairdresser, family relationships, the plight of the poor, race relations -- all fit into the storyline somewhere.

And it ends with recipes.  I'm making cracklin' cornbread for sure.  Today, however, it was just cornbread.  No cracklin'


You can win a copy of Persuasion, Captain Wentworth and Cracklin' Cornbread!

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Dolphin Tale 2 Releases Today {and a prize pack giveaway}

Today is a big movie day, as Dolphin Tale 2 is released.

I don't know about your family, but all of my kids, at least when they were young, were totally fascinated by Dolphins.  We read some amazing books through the years, and those are such cool creatures.

I was intrigued by the opportunity to try out a homeschool curriculum that goes along with Dolphin Tale 2.  Especially when I found out it was written by Sherri Seligson.  Who is that, you might ask?  She's the author of the high school level Apologia Exploring Creation with Marine Biology course.  I had the chance to hear her speak once, online, and she clearly knows her stuff.

First, a bit about the movie:
Inspired by true events, Dolphin Tale 2 continues the story of the brave dolphin Winter, whose miraculous rescue and recovery—thanks to a groundbreaking prosthetic tail—made her a symbol of hope and perseverance to people around the world and inspired the 2011 family hit movie “Dolphin Tale.” This film reunites the entire main cast, led by Harry Connick Jr., Oscar winner Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, Kris Kristofferson, and of course, the remarkable dolphin Winter as herself. Champion surfer Bethany Hamilton, who has been an example of courage, also appears in the film.

It has been several years since young Sawyer Nelson and the dedicated team at the Clearwater Marine Hospital, headed by Dr. Clay Haskett, rescued Winter. With the help of Dr. Cameron McCarthy, who developed a unique prosthetic tail for the injured dolphin, they were able to save her life. Yet their fight is not over. Winter’s surrogate mother, the very elderly dolphin Panama, has passed away, leaving Winter without the only pool mate she has ever known. However, the loss of Panama may have greater repercussions for Winter, who, according to USDA regulations, cannot be housed alone, as dolphins’ social behavior requires them to be paired with other dolphins. Time is running out to find a companion for her before the team at Clearwater loses their beloved Winter to another aquarium.

This curriculum is designed for a wide range of ages, but I think it is strongest for the upper elementary range.  It includes five lessons.  Each lesson consists of a video segment, featuring David Yates of Clearwater Marine Aquarium  (where the videos are filmed), and a pdf document that includes reading and activities.

There is a total of about 15 minutes worth of video, and that is fascinating.  David Yates presents information in a fairly straight-forward way, but it is interesting stuff, and with most segments only being a couple of minutes long -- and with plenty of footage of actual dolphins -- it is very likely to hold the attention of even the youngest viewers, without making the high schoolers roll their eyes.

The pdf component is coded with little dolphin and sea turtle icons -- the dolphin means the activity is appropriate for elementary aged students, while the sea turtle indicates that it is good for middle and high school.  Many activities have both icons, which is nice for a family like mine with a wide range of ages.

I have to confess that the only reason my high schoolers gave this a chance was because of Sherri Seligson.  Their initial response was a huge eye roll and a, "You are NOT serious!?"

The material included is really good though.  And it is fairly short.  Short is a good thing.  If my high schoolers were more interested, there would be plenty of meat to dive in further, but this way, they can work alongside the younger ones and move back to their regularly scheduled classwork.

I have a giveaway today too -- a prize pack containing a fun t-shirt, and a pair of sunglasses, modeled above by Richard.  My kids love them!

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.

Creative Freewriting Adventure is Released -- and a Giveaway!

I have really enjoyed using Stacy Farrell's products in my homeschool.  She's the brains behind Home School Adventure Co. and such amazing products as Philosophy Adventure (click for my review!), Philippians in 38 Weeks, The Wise Woman with Literary Analysis Journal Questions, and my boys' favorite, Mere Christianity Critical Analysis Journal (click for my review!).

She has a new product out that we haven't tried yet, and in celebration of that, this giveaway is happening.  I feel totally comfortable telling you about it because Stacy's stuff is always amazing!

Home School Adventure Co. is ready to release their latest biblical worldview resource -- Creative Freewriting Adventure - A Journey Into Freewriting!

Creative Freewriting Adventure is a collection of thought-provoking freewriting exercises designed to inspire creativity and critical thinking, even in reluctant writers.

The official release of this wonderful resource will be at a Facebook Party on Thursday, September 18, 9 PM ET. I've heard there will be lots of prizes given away that night (and some free stuff for all guests, too). I hope you will join me! You can RSVP here.

I am joining author, Stacy Farrell, and Home School Adventure Co. to celebrate the release of Creative Freewriting Adventure with this impressive giveaway, valued at nearly $300! One winner will win PRINT copies of all of HSA's resources, plus 4 biblical worldview books and a lovely canvas tote bag.

Creative Freewriting Adventure Giveaway -- Winner will be announced at the Facebook Release Party on September 18


Here's what you could win:

Creative Freewriting Adventure - A Journey into Freewriting ($21.95)

Bring joy and excitement into your student’s writing with these simple-to-execute (yet significant) writing exercises. No prep required. Just grab a pen and paper, set a timer, and have fun!

Writing can be hard work. Good writing most often results from much rewriting, and much rewriting can make a writer weary. Since Philosophy Adventure students polish one primary writing assignment over the course of several weeks (supported by clear step-by-step instructions and seven writing checklists), we created freewriting exercises to offset their hard work with play!


Philosophy Adventure™ — Pre-Socratics Complete Set with Resources CD  ($89.95

DO YOU NEED to teach advanced writing and speaking skills? DO YOU WANT your students equipped to discern truth as ungodly messages bombard them? DO YOU WONDER how to cover all they need academically as well as practically? Philosophy Adventure may be your solution!

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


Mere Christianity Journal and Softcover Print Bundle (Journal & Book) ($38.95)

Have we forgotten whose we are? In this “Age of Tolerance,” Christians are in danger of forgetting (or never learning) what distinguishes a Christian worldview from other worldviews. The Mere Christianity Critical Analysis Journal is a powerful tool to strengthen critical thinking while cultivating a biblical worldview. A companion to Lewis’s classic work, the Journal can be used for independent study with teenagers or adults, or as a group study in families, homeschools, co-ops, classrooms, Sunday school, and small groups.

This bundle contains the Print Edition of the Mere Christianity Critical Analysis Journal with a softcover edition of Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis’s original work.


Philippians in 28 Weeks -- Scripture Memory Resource ($28.95)

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


The Wise Woman with Literary Analysis Journal Questions ($28.95)

How do you train a heart?

George MacDonald's The Wise Woman enchants readers while it contrasts the ugliness of pride, selfishness and conceit with the beauty of humility, sacrifice, and compassion.

The Wise Woman is a perfect story for a family to read together curled up on the couch under a warm afghan or after a meal. (It is only fair to warn you: once you read the first chapter, you might not put it down. More than one mom has stayed up late to read after her children have gone to bed.)

Read each chapter and discuss the literary analysis questions and vocabulary. Clear writing requires clear thinking. The exercise of formulating and writing answers will strengthen your students’ thinking and communication skills. Middle school and high school students create a profound keepsake as they write their answers in the book.

By offering students 16 to 24 literary analysis questions per chapter, this 160-page spiral bound edition teaches critical thinking in a way that is engaging and transformational.


Nancy Pearcey Book Bundle ($63.98)

Nancy R. Pearcey  is scholar in residence and professor at Houston Baptist University, where she is also director of the Francis Schaeffer Center for Worldview and Culture. She is also a fellow at the Discovery Institute. Previously she was the Francis A. Schaeffer Scholar at the World Journalism Institute, where she taught a worldview course based on her book Total Truth, winner of the 2005 ECPA Gold Medallion Award for best book on Christianity and Society. She has also served as professor of worldview studies at Philadelphia Biblical University, during which time she wrote her most recent book, Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, and Meaning.

This bundle of books written by Nancy Pearcey includes:

The Soul of Science - Christian Faith and Natural Philosophy
Total Truth- Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity
Saving Leonard0 - A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals & Meaning


Home School Adventure Tote Bag ($18)

This duo color canvas tote is roomy enough to hold all of your Home School Adventure Co. reasouces! Sturdy and fashionable, it is emblazened with the Home School Adventure Co. logo on one side, and the words, "Cultivate and defend a biblical worldview" on the other.


The winner of this giveaway will be announced during the Creative Freewriting Facebook Release Party on Thursday, September 18, 9-10 PM ET. Please join us on the Home School Adventure Co. Facebook wall that evening to find out if you won!

(Winner does not need to be present to win.)

Be sure to RSVP here.


To enter the giveaway, please complete the Rafflecopter below. U. S. residents, age 18 and older please. Other terms and conditions are located in the Rafflecopter.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: This post does contain affiliate links.  I only promote products I believe in, and if I happen to make a little money, that will go back into schooling my kids. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

College Devotional Bible {a BookLook Blogger review}

I'm always interested in a good Bible for my older teen.  I wasn't positive that he was quite ready for something titled College Devotional Bible, but I definitely wanted to take a look.  If not now, maybe in a year.

He loves it.

There are a bazillion Bibles out on the market.  What makes this one appeal to him?  I think part of it is that it makes him feel older.  Part of it is definitely that the materials that are geared to high school students feel patronizing to him.  He's always complaining to me about that aspect of so many of the things we've looked at.

This isn't patronizing.  It is written to very young adults, obviously, and Connor is rapidly approaching that.

The publisher describes it this way:
Your college years are different from any other time in your life. You get a demanding new schedule – and it’s yours to manage 100% on your own. You make new, lifelong friendships as you spend time with other people on a similar path in the journey. You face unique challenges as you begin to see the world differently, including what your impact on the world might be.

This special time in your life is also an opportunity for you to deepen your relationship with Jesus. The NIV College Devotional Bible will help you strengthen your walk with God as you find your own way in life. It’s filled with stories that connect Scripture with the struggles, questions, and decisions every college student faces. In fact, it’s the same approach that Jesus used in his parables---taking stories from everyday life to illustrate eternal truths.
  • 222 school-year devotions with daily insights and applications on relevant topics
  • Devotions use a unique storytelling approach to connect God’s Word with your real-life questions, struggles, and decisions as a student
  • A practical reading plan that helps you stay connected to God during the 9 months of school each year
  • Quick-start guide shows you how to get the most out of reading the Bible
  • Subject index for looking up topics of interest
  • Complete text of the clear, accessible NIV Bible
When I asked Connor for his opinion, he practically gushed.  He loves the devotionals, and has read a few of them out loud to me.  He also really appreciates that they are not so intrusive as to "be in the way" when you are reading the Bible text.

The part he really went on about, however, was the reading plans in the back.  There is a fairly standard "one year" plan, that is dated starting with January 1. But then there are an assortment of numbered (day 1, day 2, day 3) plans, such as:
  • 60-Day Overview of the Bible
  • 30 Days for Beginning Your Walk with Christ
  • 30 Days with Jesus
  • 30 Days in the Psalms
  • 30 Days in Proverbs
  • 20 Not-so-Famous Bible Stories
  • 30 Days with Paul
  • 30 Days of Promises
  • 30 Days of Leadership
  • 30 Days of Prayer
  • 30 Days of Knowing God
  • 30 Stories of Great Faith
That's over a year there (380 days worth), and he's very interested in following those plans.

It also seems to me that by reading through the devotionals -- and reading the corresponding passages in the Bible -- he would also get a pretty solid overview of the Bible.  Some of the devotionals are suggesting only a verse or two, some a full chapter.

This seems to be a perfect Bible for my son at the moment.  Young enough to be relevant.  Mature enough to have some meat in the extras.

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.”

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Keeping it Real: Of Mice and Library Books

I know I've blogged about this before, but I've recently had another round of people thinking I've got things "all together" and that is just so not true.

I'm a real mom, with a really messy house, trying to do the best I can from one day to the next, and failing more often than not.

For instance, as I sit here writing this post, I can hear mice running in my kitchen.  Ewwww.  I know it is a problem for a lot of people out here this year.  The mice have been BAD.  "They" say it has something to do with all our tumbleweeds last fall.  More nesting space or something.

But I feel like a horrible housekeeper when they are this active in my home.  Probably because I am a lousy housekeeper.  The kitchen is a mess.  Again.  It's not just the dirty dishes from supper last night (Richard will get those washed when he gets up). The fact is that I have three open bags of dog food (I was blessed with the opportunity to review two different kinds!), and there are groceries purchased on Friday that have not been put away, and I cannot even see the counter on the island.  Again.

Then there is the library.  Just check out this screen shot.

I didn't look for a new bookmobile schedule last week... which means I got there an hour after they left.  Which means the twenty-one books that were due last week have not been returned.  Not to mention the two that were due the week before that (I cannot find one of them!). 

I dropped off all the books I brought with me last week in the book drop...

But that means now I have no idea which books I still have to find here, as I have no idea which books I put into the book drop.

Of course, there are another nine due this week.  So yeah, if you are counting, that's thirty-two books I need to find by tomorrow. 

I'm sitting here with $19 in accrued fines at the moment.  Which will go up by another $2.60 tomorrow (bookmobile day). 

That's me.  Together and on top of things. 

I could go on.  Talk about the fact that I'm not ready to lead an AHG meeting tonight, or any number of other "not together" things I have going.

Just when you do read my posts, talking about the good stuff -- and there are things I do right! -- know that the reality behind the post isn't all bright and shiny.  Same goes for other bloggers too, I am certain.  None of us have it all together.

Don't go comparing your real life to the "company face" that is put on the blogs or facebook status updates.  It isn't necessarily that we are trying to make our lives look more together (though I know I always crop at least some messy background out of any photos), but it is more fun to blog about the cool stuff going on than it is to blog about how disgusting the sink in the bathroom was before I finally got around to cleaning it yesterday.

Go Fresh {a Blogging for Books review}

I love cookbooks.  And I love cookbooks that help me make better use of the fresh produce that comes into my house by way of Bountiful Baskets and other places.

I also love to make delicious, healthy food for my family.

So Go Fresh: A Heart-Healthy Cookbook with Shopping and Storage Tips seemed like a no-brainer.   A cookbook put out by the American Heart Association, with yummy produce on the cover has to be a winner.

The publisher's description says this:

The more you cook at home, with a focus on fresh ingredients, the easier it is to achieve a heart-healthy lifestyle.

Making meals with fresh ingredients is not only healthy and flavorful but also fast and easy with Go Fresh. The American Heart Association offers more than 250 recipes in this cookbook, inspiring you to bring nutritious and wholesome ingredients into your kitchen. Enjoy full-flavored favorites—all made from scratch, made healthy, and made fresh—including:
· Cauliflower-Carrot Soup
· Blueberry-Walnut Chicken Salad
· Blackened Fish with Crisp Kale and Creamy Lemon Sauce
· Rosemary-Peach Chicken Kebabs with Orange Glaze
· Tomato-Basil Pork Tenderloin
· Butternut Squash Pasta
· Dark Cherry and Apple Crumble

In the book, you’ll also find Healthy Swaps for substituting seasonal fruits and vegetables in delicious new ways, Shop & Store tips for making the most of your trips to the market and what you buy, and Tips, Tricks & Timesavers for reducing prep time and getting meals on the table faster.
My take?  I love that there are more than 250 recipes in here, and they cover all kinds of types of dishes.  Most are fairly easy to prepare, and there is a definitely lack of ingredients like Cream of Something Soup.  I really love that.

Now, I did struggle to find many recipes that would work for my family.  I rarely purchase produce in the grocery store, getting almost everything through Bountiful Baskets.  That means I don't have a lot of control over precisely what comes into the house.  As you can tell from the recipes above, quite a few of the recipes end up combining produce -- cherries and apples, kale and lemon, peach and orange.  Just to name a couple from the recipes above.

That probably isn't an issue for most people though.

I did find some recipes to try out, and we had fantastic results.  Like last night, we had Chicken Gumbo.  Yummy.  Bell peppers, onions, tomatoes and garlic -- those were the fresh ingredients.  Well, it called for fresh parsley too, but I subbed dried stuff there. 

The directions were easy to follow, and the results were delicious.

One truly great thing about this cookbook is the appendices at the back though.  Charts with suggestions for where to store various products, and how long you can keep it there makes up the first appendix.  There are also charts with cooking times for various produce items.  Possibly my favorite is Appendix C, which gives ingredient equivalents...  like:

1 pound green beans = 3 to 3 1/2 cups whole and trimmed = 3 cups sliced

Great book, I'm glad I have it, and I am going to make a point to check the glossary after getting my Friday night baskets.

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

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Life {a Tyndale Blog Network review}

I don't think I really knew what to expect when I requested The Life from Tyndale House Publishing for review.  Published along with Youth for Christ, this is essentially a Magazine version of a portion of the New Testament.

That description wouldn't have convinced me to check it out though.    And that would have been a shame.

This feels a lot like a Reader's Digest... same basic size, maybe a bit thinner, same type magazine paper.  The table of contents feels that way too, so as I opened it up to read it, this definitely felt comfortable and familiar.

Of course, I don't know how many teens these days read things like Reader's Digest, so maybe there is a better comparison that I could make that would be relevant to the Millennial Generation.  For me, though, this is what I think of.

Opening it up, there is a brief introduction, talking about how Your Story and God's Story can overlap, and encouraging people to imagine Your Story becoming more intertwined with God's.

Then it goes into the NLT version of the Bible, with magazine-like headings for some of the sections.  There is some stuff that is not straight out of the Bible (some little devotional-type sayings/pictures, for instance) but the vast majority is straight from the Bible.  Included are:
  • The Book of John
  • In some little cut-in types of articles, there are some excerpts from Luke
  • Acts 1-11
  • James
  • 1 John
Each book of the Bible (except Luke) has a brief, paragraph-long introduction.  Most encourage you to get into the Bible to read more.

In between Acts (1-11) and James, there is a two-page spread called "Letters from Jesus' Earliest Followers" that explains the letters in general, and includes some sizable excerpts:
  • Romans 5:8
  • Romans 8:38-39
  • Romans 12:2
  • 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
  • Galatians 5:22-23
  • Ephesians 3:17-19
  • Colossians 1:15-20
There is also a concluding section that ties back to the intro, about finding life in Jesus.

Awesome resource.  In a number of ways.  First, the magazine format is appealing and not intimidating.  Second, it is skinny and easy to carry -- which is also not intimidating.  Third, the photos break up the text and help with the appealing, easy-to-grasp, magazine feel, without being extraneous.  They emphasize the points being made in the Bible text.  And finally, it doesn't scream out "THIS IS A BIBLE" when you pull it out of a backpack to read it.  That is something I know I'd have appreciated as a high school student.

Connor (17) commented that he loves that it is the book of John being featured, since most of the time, John is the book that people recommend that you read first.  He also really likes the look of this resource, that it is something that would be easy to give to a friend.

Bottom line:  Love this resource.  I'm tempted to pick up a dozen ($4.99 each) to hand to the teens at my church.

Disclaimer:   I received this book for free from Tyndale House Publishers.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review.