Friday, December 29, 2017

Grocery shopping with Digital Coupons

I used to blog a fair amount about saving money, or getting by with a small grocery budget.  I maybe ought to go back to that.

One thing I have been doing recently is making use of digital coupons.  This came about at least partly because the food pantry at our church was so short on food, so if I could pick up a couple of cans of soup cheap, that was a couple more families who would actually get a can of soup.  That reminded me that I really can do well with the coupons.

King Soopers -- our Kroger chain in Colorado -- recently did a 25 days of Christmas event with a whole lot of great digital coupons.  Like their Free Item Friday promotion, the idea was that you have to log in on the given day and load the coupon to your card, and then you have some time to actually use it.

This was the result of my most recent shopping trip.  I certainly didn't use every coupon they had available, as things aren't always a good deal.  But I will pick up anything that is free, and donate it to pantry if we can't use it.

This shopping trip cost me $13.69, and it is all stuff I will use.  Some I'll need to be a bit creative about.  Like what does a family my size do with ONE Cornish Game Hen? 

The Blistex was the free Friday Download from December 15.  The Knorr Selects was a Free download from December 18 of the Christmas deals.  Everything else I paid for.  But not much:

  • Spectrum Organic Shortening - $2.99
  • Meatballs - $1
  • Sargento Sharp Cheddar Cheese - $1.69
  • Cornish hen - $1.74
  • Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup - $.50
  • Smokies - $1.25
  • Simple Truth Organic Cream Cheese - $1.19
  • Pepperidge Farm Crackers - $1
  • Betty Crocker Potatoes - $.50
  • Bic Lighter - $1.83
Most everything was half off -- so the Smokies were $2.50, and the coupon download was for $1.25 off, the Cornish hen was $3.49 with a $1.75 off coupon.  The shortening (which I only tend to use around this time of year) was $5.99 with a $3 off coupon.

The deals where you have to log on to get the coupons tend to be a lot better than many of the regular sales.  King Soopers/Kroger has a tendency to do a weekend deal as well.  This weekend, you can log on to download coupons for two different items each day.  I'm seriously thinking about a trip to town tomorrow, when I can get Campbell's Chunky Soup for $.75 a can, and Kettle brand chips for $.99 a bag.  Not sure on the chips yet.

I also have some free Friday coupons I can use, including free Barilla pasta, and the one YOU could go grab today in the Free Friday download:

I make it a habit to log in to both Safeway and King Soopers on Fridays to see what digital coupons they have, and what kind of weekend specials might be happening.

That is one way I save on groceries.

Friday, December 1, 2017

From This Day Forward: a Bethany House review

From This Day Forward by Lauraine Snelling is the fourth book in the Song of Blessing series.  I have previously reviewed A Harvest of Hope (book 2) and Streams of Mercy (book 3).

This book does stand alone, however, I do think it would be better if you have some experience with the characters and how they relate to one another.  Picking this series up from the start would be my preference.

One of the things I've loved about visiting the fictional town of Blessing, ND is that it reminds me of home.  Some of the crazy and very Scandinavian names are familiar to me from the older generation living on my newspaper route, for instance.  The characters seemed like younger versions of people I knew growing up.

I love that.

From the publisher:
Deborah MacCallister, head nurse at the Blessing hospital, has loved Toby Valders since her school days, but she's had enough of their on-again, off-again relationship. With the help of the young women of Blessing, Deborah decides that by the end of the summer she will either have won Toby's heart--or she'll give up on him forever.

Toby truly cares for Deborah, but he's never felt like he could commit to marriage or a family. When Anton Gendarme, the new schoolteacher, comes to town, sparks fly between Deborah and Anton. The sudden competition makes Toby do some serious soul-searching, but is it too late?

As the town of Blessing prepares for harvest, Deborah faces the most important decision of her life. But where does her heart truly belong?
That description is pretty spot-on, which is always nice.  The characters in the Song of Blessing series struggle with very real issues and very real decisions, and they are written in a way that you can truly believe they are actual people with real lives.

Everyone doesn't live happily ever after.  Not every conflict is neatly wrapped up by the time the final credits roll.  Life is a bit messy and complicated.  Messy and complicated does not necessarily mean dark or depressing though.  Overall, the characters are seeing the beauty of their lives and are working for better for themselves and their community.

This is what keeps drawing me back to Blessing. 

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.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Other Side of Infamy: a Tyndale House Blog Network review

A year or so ago, I had the opportunity to hear a speaker talk about his experiences at Pearl Harbor and World War II in general.  He was absolutely fascinating to listen to.  Not terribly long after that, I had a chance to review his book.  The Other Side of Infamy: My Journey through Pearl Harbor and the World of War by Jim Downing and James Lund is absolutely terrific, and I highly recommend it to everyone.

Once I got a couple of chapters into the book, I had a tough time putting it down.  Jim's life is fascinating, and the book is well written, so you really feel drawn in.

My high school senior is studying 20th Century for history this year, and we have just gotten through World War I.  I plan that once we hit World War II, he will be reading this book.

It is far more than just a war memoir.  Jim was constantly doing things to be reaching others for Jesus, including the weekend of Pearl Harbor.  Reading about all these major events from the point of view of one very small player in the whole drama was interesting enough, but reading how he was trying to act as Christ's representative in the midst of all of this drama made it so much more fascinating.

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. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

These are a few of our favorite things!

It has been another great year on the Crew, and we've reviewed some amazing products in 2017!

Some of the best, according to voting by the Crew, are listed here.  I'm linking to the Crew post for each, where you can go to check out all of the reviews. 

Homeschool Review Crew Favorite Products for 2017

My kids are all getting older, so many of these categories no longer apply.  Some of our favorites this year, though, included Doctor Aviation, which has resulted in high school credit for my two oldest, the aviation badge for AHG for my youngest, and a whole lot of excitement on the part of Richard.

Another favorite was Drive Thru History, which I thought was going to walk away with about a quarter of the awards below.  They were very close in a few other categories, besides the four Blue Ribbons they won.  I didn't write up a review, but I tell you, this was my choice for all-around favorite -- and two of my teens voted for it for Teens' Choice.

Creating a Masterpiece is another I didn't write a review for, but it has changed lives in this house.  I am going to be posting about some things we have done with that program.  I was excited to see it win Favorite Fine Arts Curriculum!

Innovators Tribe was another fabulous product this year, and we reviewed Thinking Like an Architect.  This has been another great way to get some science credits on my teens' transcripts.

Other fantastic products were part of this year too, such as the newest Illuminating Literature program from Writing with Sharon Watson.  We're still using the first volume, and my senior didn't want to change gears.  I read through a lot of the material though, and Characters in Crisis is every bit as wonderful as When Worlds Collide.

I could go on and talk about Let's Go Geography, High School Essay Intensive, Rush Revere, Bessie's Pillow, Memoria Press, and on and on.  Instead, I'll just give you a list of all of the winners, with links to the Crew post (go read reviews there!!) and to my reviews if I didn't link them above!


Favorite Reading Curriculum - Reading Eggs
Favorite Writing Curriculum - Writing with Sharon Watson
Favorite Grammar Program - Eclectic Foundations - my review of Level B
Favorite Penmanship Program - Channie's Visual Handwriting & Math Worksheets
Favorite Literature Curriculum - Hewitt Homeschooling - my review of Lightning Literature Grade 7

Favorite Social Studies Curriculum - Let's Go Geography
Favorite History Supplement - Rush Revere
Favorite Science Curriculum - Innovators Tribe
Favorite Math Curriculum - CTC Math
Favorite Math Supplement - Times Tables the Fun Way

Favorite Foreign Language Curriculum - Memoria Press (Latin)
Favorite Fine Arts Curriculum - Creating a Masterpiece
Favorite Elective Curriculum - Doctor Aviation
Favorite Christian Education Curriculum - Drive Thru History
Favorite Christian Education Supplement - Brinkman Adventures

Favorite Preschool Product - Reading Eggs
Favorite Elementary Product - Susan K. Marlow
Favorite Middle School Product - Innovators Tribe
Favorite High School Product - Doctor Aviation 
Favorite College or College-Prep Product - Institute for Excellence in Writing: High School Essay Intensive
Favorite Parent Product - Everyday Homemaking

The Resource I Didn't Know I Needed -  Innovators Tribe
Favorite Planning Product - Only Passionate Curiosity
Best Online Resource - Reading Eggs
Best e-Product - Home School in the Woods
Favorite Book or Novel - Rush Revere
Favorite Audiobook or Audio Drama - Heirloom Audio Productions: Captain Bayley's Heir
Best Product Just for Fun! - Drive Thru History

Kids' Choice - The Pencil Grip: Thin Stix
Teens' Choice - Drive Thru History
All Around Crew Favorite - Drive Thru History

It's been an honor to work with all of the great 2017 vendors, and I am looking forward to another fantastic Crew Year!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Joining 4-H

I am shocked to find myself posting this, but we ended up adding something else to our schedule this year.  We've looked at 4-H a few times over the years, but I always had such a tough time figuring out things like when and where clubs near us met, or just what exactly we would be doing if we joined.

Well, this year is the year for it.

I now only have three kids who are eligible.  All three are participating in Shooting Sports.  Dale took them to their first shooting opportunity.  Richard fell in love with the muzzleloading portion.  Thomas and Trina had a great time as well.

Thomas is going to be working on filmmaking as his second project.  Trina is going to be doing clothing construction.  Richard?  Still not sure.  I don't want to take on any livestock projects this year, but otherwise, pretty much anything is a possibility.

Tell me I'm crazy, or make a suggestion as to what Richard ought to do.

I think it is going to be a great year.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Thinking Like an Architect

Thinking Like an Architect

One of the greatest parts of being on the Homeschool Review Crew is the opportunity to add some amazing variety to my high school kids' transcripts.  Thinking Like an Architect was one of those amazing moments.

Innovators Tribe has two fantastic STEM programs available right now, with a third coming soon.  The Crew also had a chance to review Thinking Like an Engineer, so definitely hit the banner down below to see what people thought of that one.  Thinking Like a Carpenter is the "coming soon" one, and it looks really neat.

Technology and Engineering Education, the T and E of STEM Education, is what Innovators Tribe is all about.  They want to make TEE courses available to middle and high school students everywhere.  This isn't just for engineers, everyone needs to be technologically literate these days.  That means more than just being knowledgeable about computers.  Homeschoolers seem pretty on top of the computer technology aspect, but the rest of TEE has been a lot harder to teach. 

Mr. Kroeplin (aka Mr. K) is trying to change that, and these courses are a great way to make technology happen. 

Thinking Like an Architect is for 6th-12th grades, and I happen to have four students in that range (6th, 8th, 10th and 12th).  I decided that all four would do the course, and the older two will get high school credit for it.  One awesome aspect of this course is that the subscription can be used for an entire household. 

Since my kids started getting older, it has been harder to do school the way we used to.  I loved the days of sitting everyone down and reading aloud from various literature, biography, science, and history books.  Everyone was learning at their own level.  Those were some of my favorite homeschool days.

This course has given us a bit of that back, since I can use it with everyone.  Trina is learning a lot, but pretty much glazed over when math was seriously involved (one project involves estimating the height of your house, and that was reasonably challenging math).  That's okay with me.  I expect she is going to go absolutely crazy in the final section where you design your dream house.  Her having fun is far more important to me than whether she grasps the geometry involved in some of the details.

My high school students can get a little deeper, still doing this at their level.  Each course is around 30 hours of work, between the video and power point presentations and the activities assigned.  That translates to 1/4 credit.  I'm hoping that Innovators Tribe is planning a fourth course, so that in working through all of them, I'd have a pretty easy full credit in TEE.  Easy for me, not necessarily easy for them.

I like courses that are easy for me.

You need very few supplies, which is fantastic.  The lessons are very easy to work through, and the projects definitely get you thinking.  It is important to actually pay attention to what he tells you to do and to actually read instructions.  As you go through the course, you have opportunities to do a variety of activities, from researching an architect, to building an architect scale, to creating a blueprint of your house (see image below), to working with software to design and build a model of your dream house.

You can see a bit about how the course interface works in the image above.  The green checkmarks show lessons we have completed, and the green circle is the lesson we are currently on.  We can look ahead to see how long the various upcoming lessons will take, which is handy.  As you work through the course, you click the green arrows in the bottom right to advance through.  On that main screen, there is a "Resources" link that I had completely missed initially.  That gives you links to all kinds of fantastic information, sorted by lesson.  We just had to go back and watch a National Geographic video from lesson two, as "Great Cathedral Mystery" sounded too good to skip!

In the lesson pictured above, the kids have just learned a whole lot about blueprints and the symbols on them, and they are working on figuring out lengths of some of the rooms and other such things, using a REAL blueprint (okay, a pdf of a real blueprint).  We put it up on the screen so that everyone could work on it together, and that worked out pretty well.  Thomas is looking at the worksheet, and he and Richard are pointing to the sections they need to add up, I believe.  If I snapped the photo ten seconds later, Thomas would be pointing to the other part, anyway.  He had glanced back at the page and his hand moved.

The next lesson had them drawing a simple blueprint, of a chicken house.  They were to use the architect scale they had assembled in a previous lesson.  This lesson took a fair amount of time, more for some of my more detail-oriented children. 

The best part of this class, though, is the software that we get to use in designing our dream houses.  That part happens in the final section of the course, and we are just now getting to it.

Home Designer looks pretty incredible.  I've looked ahead and watched some of the tutorial videos, and this is going to be a very interesting set of lessons.

One really fun thing is that there is now an Architecture badge in American Heritage Girls.  Trina probably won't earn the badge this year, but one of the optional requirements is to design her dream home, another is to design the craziest house idea she can, and yet another is to design a house for a pet or other animal.  She can easily do the optional requirements (she needs to do two optionals) for this badge once we are through the course.

I am going to have her go through this course again as a 7th grader, as the badge requirements for 7th-9th grades are really easy to complete with Thinking Like an Architect.  She has to learn about different types of architectural drawings and draw her house with them.  She needs to learn about three American architects, and a female architect, so I'd adapt the research requirement in this course to fit the badge.  Designing a dream house with 3-D modeling software and a problem-solving optional requirement both fit this course well too.  In addition, she'd need to visit a construction site and an architecture firm.  Redoing this next year would mean that Richard could do it for high school credit as well.

I highly recommend Innovators Tribe for middle or high school, and I really look forward to seeing what else they come out with!

Thinking Like an Architect or Engineer {Innovators Tribe Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

It is autumn, and time for fuzzy socks

This is my favorite time of year.  I love getting up when it is really cool outside.  Cool enough that I put on my bathrobe, and grab a pair of slippers.  Or the fuzzy slipper socks.

Only this time of year is also when I struggle to find a pair of anything.  I already knew I had one gray slipper, and one bright blue slipper, and I have no idea what happened to the other half of either pair.

So this morning I went to grab slipper socks.

And... I'm not making it up... this is what I found:

Okay, so I straightened them out a bit to take the picture.  But those are the slipper socks I found, in the order I found them.

I did finally find two pairs, once I went to the basket of clean clothes that hasn't been sorted.  There was a black one, and a red patterned one in there.  So I am wearing a matching pair right now, and can put one on tomorrow too.

I keep thinking there is probably some sort of message in this.  Like maybe it is time I start actually pairing stuff up when it comes out of the dryer, or that I need to go find a 20-pack of identical slipper socks so I don't have to worry about it.

Or maybe it is that getting a job done is more important than what that all looks like.  Appearances don't matter so much.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Evidence That Demands a Verdict - Coming October 3!

I spent the past couple of days taking my high school senior and sophomore to visit their brother in college.  They do a weekend event, Focus, where high schoolers get a chance to come, attend some classes, hang out, and learn a bit about the school.

I ended up staying in the home of a couple who are on staff at the school.  We stayed up at least as late as the boys did on Friday night.  Both of my sweet hosts work at the school.  She is the registrar.  He (among other things) teaches an apologetics class to seniors.

We were discussing books in general, and she was giving him a bad time about how many books he's purchased in the past month.  He told her that he'll be purchasing a couple more here shortly, as the brand-new, fourth edition Evidence That Demands a Verdict is coming out next week.

As I have been reading a digital version of that updated book, I perked right up.

The original Evidence That Demands a Verdict was one of the very first apologetics books out there that was actually accessible to normal people.  Josh McDowell did a fantastic job of laying out the evidence, the rational reasons, for the Christian faith, and that book (and revisions since then) have been a huge help for so many people in defending their faith.

But this book didn't just need a bit of updating to release a fourth edition.  It needed far more than that.  The tagline attached to a lot of what I've seen about this is "Because the TRUTH of the Bible doesn't change, but its CRITICS do."

Life is a lot different than it was in the early 70s, and the criticism of the Bible and of believers has certainly changed as well.  So Josh -- and his son Sean -- set out to make this classic more relevant for today.

Josh talks about some of the changes in his audience forty years ago vs. today.  I doubt it would surprise too many folks that the idea of whether or not truth even exists is one of the biggest changes. 

That is why my host is interested in this book, and we talked about that.  He is convinced this book is going to help in reaching millennials.  I think he is right.  This book is significantly different -- lots of brand-new content and quite a bit of what was in the book has been significantly updated.

I have really enjoyed reading it, even though I find it challenging to read a pdf book.  I'm really looking forward to receiving the hardback that I bought, which shipped this morning and should arrive tomorrow!

I think this is something I will be going through with my kids.  Even though there are so many choices out there today that can help you to know why you believe and help you defend your faith, this book ranks up there among the very best.  If you are going to have one such book, this is the one to get.

I seriously think this is a book that everyone should have.  You still have a day left to pre-order, and if you do so, there are some bonuses available.  Check out ReadEvidence for more info on that.  And more videos and other information too!

Disclaimer:   I received this ebook for free .  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received complimentary products does not guarantee a favorable review.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Keeping Faith in an Age of Reason {a Master Books review}

In the past couple of weeks, I have been reading a soon-to-be-released book from Master Books - Keeping Faith in an Age of Reason: Refuting Alleged Bible Contradictions.

Jason Lisle has done a fantastic job with this book.

It doesn't sound like fascinating reading.  The premise is that there is a 'definitive list' of 439 Bible contradictions that has been floating around the internet, and Lisle goes through to refute them all.

To me, it sounds like a long list, and something like reading the begats in the Bible -- you know, something that is probably important but just not something I truly want to do. 

I was wrong.

Lisle starts off with an introduction where he concisely explains some of the major logical fallacies that are present in so many of these biblical contradictions.  And then the individual chapters are organized so that each addresses one main type of contradiction.

I found that pretty overwhelming.  Contradiction after contradiction that are basically a variation on "this gospel writer says he healed a blind man, and the other gospel says there were two."  Since the first case doesn't say there is ONLY one, both of the statements could be true.  Just like when I'm asked if I have a son, I sometimes will say that, yes, I do.  When asked how many sons I have, I will say I have four.  Both statements are true.  It is also true that I have two sons, and true that I have three. 

I really liked seeing just how many of these contradictions are over such silly things.

The introduction alone is completely worth reading.  Even without reading on into the chapters with the actual contradictions, the few pages of the introduction give you plenty to chew on. 

Some of the responses are pretty straight-forward.  Others get a bit more involved, and those are definitely more interesting. 

One contradiction:  "How many men did David kill? Second Samuel 10:18 says 700, but 1 Chronicles 19:18 says 7,000."

Part of the response:
This is further supported by the choice of the Hebrew word harag translated “killed” or “slew.” This word also refers to the destruction of inanimate objects, such as the chariots themselves. (The word is used to describe the destruction of vines and trees in Psalm 78:47.) Even modern warfare terminology will refer to the destruction of a tank or a plane as a “kill,” regardless of how many people within are killed. Thus, to destroy 700 chariots, or chariot units, is 700 kills and could easily correspond to 7,000 individual deaths.
I found that really interesting.

This is a book I definitely recommend.  It is very readable, and while I certainly am not going to memorize all 439 of these, this does make it so that I feel fairly confident in talking to someone who is saying that the Bible can't be trusted because of all the contradictions.  I know I can answer some of these issues right off the bat... and I know I can find answers for pretty much anything someone throws my way.

Disclaimer:   I received this ebook for free from Master Books.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received complimentary products does not guarantee a favorable review.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Let's Go Geography {a Homeschool Review Crew review}

Geography is one area where I feel like I’ve missed the boat and not done nearly enough. At least with my younger two. The older ones spent a year studying various countries, and they spent a year studying each state in the US. But really, Richard and Trina have not done much.

So when Let’s Go Geography came along, I thought I could utilize this as a low-key, fun homeschool geography curriculum, even though both kids are well beyond the intended K-4th grade age range. Trina is in 6th grade, and Richard is in 8th.

Let's Go Geography

So far, this has been fabulous. We don’t do all of the activities, but we are taking a country each week and focusing on it. Actually, the first two weeks were spent on regions of the United States. Specifically, we studied the northeast US and Hawaii.

This program is year 1 of a planned 3 year curriculum, so each year has you learning about two US regions, and a bit more than two dozen countries from around the world. Each year, you cover a few countries in North America, a couple in South America, a few in Europe, a couple in Africa, a few in Asia and either Australia, New Zealand or Antarctica.

Over the course of three years, you will have covered a pretty good chunk of the world map, especially if you go by area. On each continent you are covering the largest countries, many of the middle-sized ones, and a few small ones too.

In addition to the US regions, we have studied Canada, Haiti and Nicaragua. I had hoped to get further, but Connor was home for a week before college starts, and Dad took a week off work. You know, life happened.

Completed map of Canada
The program consists of pdf files that include printable pages and clickable links. Each week, you learn some basic statistics and do some map work. You learn about (and color) the flag. You listen to some music, usually the national anthem. You have links to some great educational videos online, plus some text that helps you understand more about the geography and culture of that country.  Some great photos to help you remember some of the things you learned. There is a craft activity, a coloring page, and a notebooking page. 

That's a lot of information, and you can definitely pick and choose what appeals to you the most!

A screenshot of one of the Nicaragua videos!

Books about Haiti from the library

They also recommend checking your library for non-fiction books about the country. In addition to that, we’ve been grabbing videos and some fiction books as well.

We’ve also been scouting out recipes from the country, as food makes everything more fun. Especially dessert. And when we find out what the language is in that country, we go learn a few basic words. When a language duplicates, we’ll expand on what we have studied. The first time we encounter a language, we learn to say hello, goodbye, yes, no, please, thank you, and “Do you speak English?” The second time, we expand on that.

One thing I really love is that she has often taken a craft idea from online and adapted it to make it more applicable to K-4th grades. We’ve tended to go check out the original (the link is provided) and to work with that.

We haven’t been doing the coloring pages, but otherwise we really are doing most of the work provided.

A worksheet from one of the review weeks
Once you finish a couple of continents, there are review weeks.  I didn't expect much, but these review weeks are really great.  Of course, you have maps, flags, and activities to actually review all of the countries you covered for those continents.  You also cover some information about the continents as a whole. 

In addition, though, the review weeks are where you are introduced to things like latitude and longitude, hemispheres, etc.  I love that the geography terminology is formally introduced in these weeks.

My bottom line on Let's Go Geography?

This is a great program that doesn't suck up a whole lot of time, but does give your child a basic overview of around eighty countries over three years.  You can expand on it, as we have, to include things that are interesting or important to you.  Trina is working on her World Heritage badge for AHG, so that is why we added food, actual language study, and stories. 

Let’s Go Geography {Reviews}

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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Unauthorized {a Homeschool Review Crew review}

Every so often, as part of the Homeschool Review Crew, we get the chance to review something that is such a huge hit in my house that we end up buying more.  Chara Games is one such vendor.  Last year, we reviewed Commissioned, and I had to go out and buy more copies for gifts.

This year, we've been playing Unauthorized, and you guessed it... I've already purchased another copy as a Christmas gift for my son.  I think that tells you what my bottom line is with this review.  The game is fabulous, and you should get a copy. The premise is that you are in an area with an underground church that the state is trying to stamp out.  Each game includes at least one pastor, at least one police officer, and at least four players who could be for the state or could be for the church... and their loyalties can change during the gameplay.

What a fantastic way to introduce the conflicts and tension of living out your faith in a place where Christianity can land you in jail, or lead to your execution.


Unauthorized is a game for 6-12 players.  The age on the box is 12+, but my 11-year-old was easily able to play.  Patrick (the guy behind this company) assured me that they are hearing about it working well with kids as young as 8.  I think with a bit of adaptation, that could be true.  I wouldn't want to do it with a big group of 8-year-olds, but a couple younger people in a group of mostly 12 and up -- that could absolutely work.

We pulled this out to play while college boy was home for a whole week.  That meant we had seven players for the first couple of games.  We also played it without Dad, with a total of six players.  And played it again.  And again.  And again.  And then we realized it was 2:30 in the morning and maybe we should get some sleep.

The next day, we played it a few times more.  And we tried playing two characters each, to get an idea of how it worked with 12 players.  That was fun too, but sometimes a bit hard to switch from one person to another.

I think you could say it was a hit here.

The basic game play:

Unauthorized is a card-based game, where you are dealt a character to play, some experience cards that influence your choices, and then in 30 minutes, you play out the scenario and either try to grow the church, or try to stamp it out, depending on what your cards tell you to do.

To start the game, you need to pull out the character cards, and grab the appropriate number of pastors (one for 6-9 players, two for 10-12 players) and police officers (one for 6-7 players, two for 8-12 players), and then shuffle the neutral role cards and pull out the appropriate number so there is one role card for each player.  All the unused role cards are returned to the box.  You shuffle the role cards, and deal one to each player.  A cool factor is that there are different photos on the role cards, usually a female on one side and a male on the other.  Each player can choose which side to have represent them.  We opted to let the police and pastor choose from either card, actually.

Each role -- teacher, musician, clerk, etc. -- has different abilities.  So right off the bat, you have some big variations in the game when playing with fewer than 12 people.  The combination of skills available in a game can change pretty dramatically.

Once everyone has a role, you deal experience cards.  The police officer is dealt seven cards that favor the state, the pastor is dealt seven cards that favor the church, and then you shuffle all the cards together so that all of the neutral players get a combination of different experiences.  (You add more cards to the deck if playing with 8-9 players, and even more cards if playing with 10-12 players.)

Your experience cards determine your loyalty.  If you have more state cards than church cards, you must play in a way that is loyal to the state.  If you have more church-friendly experiences than state-friendly ones, you must play in a way that is loyal to the church.  A tie goes to the state.  If you start out pretty even (3 of one, 4 of the other) you might find your loyalties switching back and forth throughout the game.  That doesn't even count the fact that there are wild cards, and with those YOU get to decide whether they are pro-church or pro-state.  

Once everyone is set up with their role and their experiences, the game actually starts.  You play four rounds, and in each of your turns, you have the opportunity to try to influence another player, learn about a player, or get out of jail.  Every other player may try to influence you or learn more about you.

One tricky part is you are never quite sure where anyone else stands -- except the pastor and the police officer.  You have some hints.  Each player has at least some of their experience laid out for everyone to see.  But if they have two state cards in front of them, do they have five church cards in their hand?  You don't know. 

The kids -- ages 11-20 -- and I loved this game.  The hardest part for us was playing someone who was really neutral -- 3 state cards, 3 church cards, and a wild card to start with (like the photo above), and then a lot of other players influencing us so on one turn you'd be pro-church and the next you'd be pro-state.  It was hard to actually act against the church when you could clearly see that you were likely to change back to being pro-church in the next round.

But that reflects reality, doesn't it?  When your experiences are pretty much all favoring one side or another, it is easier to act that way.  When you are waffling in the middle, neither hot nor cold, life isn't so easy to figure out and choices are harder.

Get the game.  It is inexpensive, pretty easy to learn, and every time you play is different.

Unauthorized {Chara Games Reviews}

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Friday, September 1, 2017

Random Stuff on a Friday

I have been severely neglecting my blog.  I know it.  I have all these ideas go through my head about things I could post about, but just don't find the time to put something together.

I remember I used to do a random stuff post.  And I know people who do some kind of random 5 weekly post.  I think I am going to try to do that whole random 5 thing every week, and we'll see if I can pull that off.

  1. Been busy trying to sort through a whole lot of stuff lately, and feeling a bit like Mrs. Incredible.  Why do we have so much junk?  Dale is taking some of the trashbags to work to put in the dumpster when they haven't filled it.  He left today with three bags and a box.  That feels good.
  2. Connor has been back to school for two weeks now.  I still need his schedule.  I'm not a helicopter mom / control freak, but I do like knowing what classes he is in.  I want to be able to look at the schedule and realize what class he is in, and pray for that teacher and pray for the kids, um, I mean adults, in class with him.  Maybe if I send him a link to this blog post, he'll get the hint and get me a copy of it.
  3. Watching the coverage of the hurricane has me thinking about how prepared I am -- or am not -- for the junk of life.  I definitely need to get some things together and organized again, so that I know if we get hit with blizzards this winter and can't get out, that we are good.  I also keep thinking I should blog about that.
  4. School with my at-home kids is interesting.  Two in high school, two in middle school.  It is weird thinking in terms of not having elementary kids anymore, though Trina (6th) can still be called an elementary student.  Being honest though, she really has turned into a middle schooler.
  5. A picture I found, while sorting junk (see #1) -- just because.

Now, let's see if I can do this again next week.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The 10 Minute Bible Journey {a New Leaf Press review}

For our brand-new school year, we have begun something new.  We are working through The 10 Minute Bible Journey from New Leaf Press.

Once upon a time, we were pretty consistent about reading the Bible as a group for school.  We would pick a plan and go through the Bible in a year.  We started with some pretty basic story Bibles, moved into some in fairly easy language, went through a chronological Bible, used a podcast version, and more.

But everyone started going off in different directions and it was hard to get everyone together for long.  Group Bible reading fell to the wayside.

When I had a chance to check out this book, I thought it looked interesting.  I had no idea that it could lead into rekindling that particular habit.

The book includes 52 fairly short readings that start "In the beginning..." and end in Revelation.  They aren't straight Bible stories, but they weave apologetics in alongside the words from the Bible.  And they really do take only about ten minutes. 

The back of the book has a Bible Reading Plan that we are now officially following.  They call it a "Summary First" method, where you start by reading through this book, to get a summary view of the entire Bible before you dive in to all of the details of the Bible itself.  Once you start working through the Bible, they have you going in a more-or-less chronological way.

I love that.

I also love that all of my kids are getting something out of this book.  They range from 11 to 18, and this bite-sized chunk thing is great for them all.  We are making a lot of use of the footnotes, which are extensive, and we find ourselves going and looking up the Hebrew with some electronic resources (we're still in the Old Testament).

The best thing for me is that we started this on some random date in August.  I can bookmark it, and on days we are home, we read the next one.  On days where everyone is off in different directions, we don't necessarily get to it.  Since there are no dates or week designations at all, we don't have to feel guilty that we aren't keeping up.

I certainly recommend this book, and highly recommend using it as a family. 

Disclaimer:   I received this ebook for free from Master Books.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received complimentary products does not guarantee a favorable review.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Patterns of Evidence: review and giveaway

I first saw Patterns of Evidence: The Exodus a couple of years ago, when I reviewed it.  I gave that copy away to a youth leader, and bought myself a new copy.  I proceeded to give that copy away, planning to purchase yet another copy.

Then I was offered the chance to do a review and giveaway of the Director's Choice Edition.  I thought it would be really interesting to review it again from a different point in life, so I quickly said yes.

This time through, I was watching with two adult children, one of whom is in school training to be a pastor.  I hoped that his perspective now would be valuable.  It was really fascinating to watch this with him, but I'm not sure that it really did end up giving me more insights that help to write the review.

What this movie does is to take a look at the basic pattern in the Bible story of the Exodus -- beginning at the end of Genesis with Joseph's rise to power in Egypt, and ending in Canaan with the Israelites conquering those first cities -- and try to match that up with the archaeological evidence.

The whole thing is fascinating.

What I most appreciate about this long film (two hours) is that Tim Mahoney is allowing all kinds of opinions to be put forth.  You feel confident that you know what he believes, but he has all kinds of experts who certainly disagree, but who truly get a chance to make their points and present their case.

I find that refreshing.  You are invited to hear all sorts of evidence for and against the Bible as myth... and you are invited to evaluate that evidence and decide for yourself.

There is so much information packed into this DVD that I am certain I could watch this every day for a month and still pick up new insights.

I know I just said this about a book I reviewed yesterday, but I really do think everyone should see this, and every Christian parent should watch this with their teens and young adults.  My teens were glued to the screen, and this resulted in fairly extensive conversations in our household.

Check the trailer:

Now that I've written all of that, I went back to find my previous review and hoped that I was saying something a bit different.  My bottom line then was:

If you trust me at all, you just need to go out and GET this DVD. We loved it. The end.

I can't argue with me.

If you go purchase this at their store, use the code MK1 to get $3 off the price of the DVD.

There are some amazing resources to go along with this.  I'm really interested in the Young Explorers set.  Maybe that is something I need for Christmas.  Hmmm.

To win a copy, you must be in the continental US.  Thanks!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255:  “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”):  Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway.  Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation.  I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller /FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days on the same blog, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again.  Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

God's Crime Scene for Kids {a Litfuse Blog Tour review}

Earlier this summer, I finished God's Crime Scene, by J. Warner Wallace.  It was a simply fabulous book, and my first thought was, "I wonder how long until the 'for Kids' version is available."

A couple of days later, I got an email about a blog tour for God's Crime Scene for Kids.  Obviously, I signed up for that quickly.

The tough part of writing this review is that most of what I want to say, I already said in my review of Cold-Case Christianity for Kids.  This book follows the same format, is just as well-written, and is also a book that I think every parent ought to work through with their kids in the age range of 8-14 or so. 

The subject matter is different though.

God's Crime Scene is focused on whether or not there is enough evidence to "convict" God of the crime of creating the universe.

But let's read what the publisher said about it:
Hone your reasoning skills as you investigate evidence in the universe to determine the most reasonable cause for everything we see in creation.

In this companion to Cold-Case Christianity for Kids, Jason uncovers a mystery in his grandmother’s attic. He and his friends, Hannah, Daniel and Jasmine, enlist the help of Detective Jeffries at the Jr. Detective’s Academy. Along the way, they develop the skills needed to investigate the mystery and the evidence of God’s existence. The cadets learn logical-thinking skills as they examine the contents of a mysterious box and the vast universe.

In God’s Crime Scene for Kids, real-life detective J. Warner Wallace shows kids ages 8 to 12 what skills are needed to solve Jason’s mystery, and at the same time looks at evidence in the universe that demonstrates God is the creator. Ultimately, kids will learn how to make their own case for God’s existence.
What I love about working through this with my 11- and 13-year-olds is that even though my kids have been through a lot of materials about "In the beginning..." and they end up getting a bit of the eye roll going when we come across the topic, this book presents the information in a way that is fun and engaging.

We've been reading a chapter, while they fill in the answers on the pdf notes page.  Then we watch the video on their website.  The kids follow up by looking into some of the extra sidebar things in the book, and doing the game-type of pdf file as well. 

I'd love to be working with my older teens on God's Crime Scene, as it is incredibly easy to coordinate the two books.  But it's been an insanely crazy month, and that just was not going to happen.

I really do mean it when I say that I think every Christian parent of a 8-14ish year old should work through both of these books.  And if you have teens, you should be getting a set of all three of the adult books for them (Forensic Faith for Kids is coming soon!).

And you should have a set of your own too.

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

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Doctor Aviation {a Homeschool Review Crew review}

Doctor Aviation
I had no idea how much we needed this course.  It never occurred to me to go searching for an aviation homeschool program at all.  Now that we've been using it, though, it has been fantastic for everyone.

Doctor Aviation to the rescue, when I didn't even know I needed rescuing.  We've been using our subscription with the entire family, and it has been great on multiple levels.
  • William (senior) and Thomas (sophomore) both need more science on their transcript. 
  • Richard (8th grade) loves all things aviation.
  • Trina is using this course in earning her Aviation Badge from American Heritage Girls.
I'll talk about all three a bit more below.  But first, what is Doctor Aviation?

A clip from Lesson 5
When you subscribe to Doctor Aviation, the meat of the program is fifteen video lessons.  Each lesson also includes guided notes, and a pdf of suggestions to learn more.  You can get tests as well, which are great if you are using this for high school.  I chose to do my own testing.

Each lesson consists of three sections.  The first is the most science-y portion, as you learn about the physics behind flight and other technical aspects.  The second section is a biography of someone important in the aviation world.  The third section is either about an aviation event or it is about a specific aircraft.

The videos are roughly an hour in total, with clear breaks between the three sections.  That brings me to my one and only complaint about this program -- I wish the weekly sessions were actually split into three separate chapters (with chapter markers) or even separate videos, so that you could easily watch one part at a time.  We lived with it, but that would make a big difference in ease of use.

High School

For high school, a 1/2 credit course is often defined as requiring 60+ hours of work.  To get there, we needed to do around four hours of work per lesson.  The video was one of those hours, and discussion usually added at least another half hour.  Each of the pdf files easily provides multiple ways to get another couple of hours of work in.

We found the audiobook through the library
Depending on which options you choose, you could easily use this course in multiple subjects.  We chose science, so we tended to do things like read the scientist biographies, watch the science of flight youtube videos, and do some of the hands-on science activities.  We have been doing each lesson over two weeks, but to get through in six months, we'll have to do a few over one week.

You could very easily make this aviation history, by focusing more on all of the biographies and doing more with the events.  William would have preferred that, but he has plenty of history credits. 

You could make this a general elective too, of course.

American Heritage Girls

Trina is working on her Aviation Badge at the Explorer Level (4th-6th grade), and this course is fantastic for really doing that.  This course directly covers a lot of the badge requirements, and most of the remaining ones are easy to add in.

Assuming she hadn't earned this badge before, she would have to (these requirements are simplified for this blog post, there is more detail in the actual badge book):
  • Learn about the four forces of flight (directly covered).
  • Learn about different uses of airplanes (covered) and Mission Aviation Fellowship (the course covers Nate Saint directly, and it would be very easy to add a bit on MAF at this point)
  • Identify parts of an aircraft, control surfaces, etc.  (covered)
  • Identify flight instruments in a cockpit (covered)
  • Make and fly some paper airplanes (easy to add)
She also has to do two additional things, among the choices are:
  • Read about the Wright brothers and their experiments (a couple biographies are recommended).
  • List some things a helicopter can do which a conventional aircraft cannot (covered).
  • Demonstrate the Bernoulli principle (the principle is covered).
  • Explain what an airplane does in yawl and pitch (covered).
  • and a few other options that could be added in like a visit to an airport or aviation museum. Or the Air Force Academy.

Basically, in order for her to earn this badge, we need to be intentional about doing things as we hit them in the course, and we need to spend some time making paper airplanes.

My Aviation Nut

I saved the best for last.

Richard has always been fascinated by helicopters.  A couple years ago, when he had to do an assignment for AWANA about why he would be a good missionary, he chose to write about why he would be great as a missionary pilot.  He wasn't really all that serious about it, but I think it did get some wheels turning.

Starting this course, though, has really made him think.  He is recognizing that he could actually fly.  And that he could start doing that soon.  We are only 1/3 of the way through the course, and he has started investigating Civil Air Patrol.  He checked out every single book the library had on making paper airplanes (so I put him in charge of Trina's paper airplane badge requirement above!)

This course is making him think about what he can do with the rest of his life.

Will he be a pilot?  I have no idea.  He's still only 13, so he has lots of time to change his mind.  But right now, it is giving him a direction, and it is spurring him on to understand why he might actually need to learn science and math.

I call that a win.

Go and see what other members of the Crew had to say about this fantastic program.  I think it is wonderful, and am grateful for the opportunity to use it.

Aviation Course {Doctor Aviation Reviews}

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Sunday, July 30, 2017

Secrets {a Litfuse Blog Tour review}

Last month, I attended the homeschool conference in Denver, Colorado.  It was a fantastic experience and I had the chance to interact with a lot of really great people.  One of those amazing people was Melanie Young, of Raising Real Men.

We had a number of really fascinating conversations, but one of them really stands out.

Melanie and I were talking about porn.  In the middle of the vendor hall at the convention.  For a half hour or more.  We're part of a group of homeschool moms, busily planning the best math program, or the right history sequence.  Meanwhile, there is an epidemic out there impacting men, and we are fooling ourselves if we think that Christians are exempt.  We are fooling ourselves if we think homeschoolers are exempt.  We are fooling ourselves if we think that it couldn't happen to our boys.

I was left with the conviction that as part of the "older women" in homeschooling circles, I can't stay silent about the issue, no matter how uncomfortable it makes me.

So, when Litfuse was looking for folks to review Secrets: A True Story of Addiction, Infidelity, and Second Chances by Jonathan Daugherty, I knew I needed to go for it.

I'm glad I did.

Secrets starts off a lot of years ago, when Daugherty first encountered porn in a magazine as a 12-year-old.

Let me tell you what the publisher had to say:
Everyone has a secret or two, a part of their life they would rather not share with the rest of the world.

But for Jonathan Daugherty, his secret was so life-altering and relationship-ending that he fought to keep it hidden at all costs. And it did cost him. His secret kept him from contentment, peace, and the possibility of being known and loved for who he truly is. That's what any secret addiction can do-but in particular a sex addiction.

After his wife finally discovered his secret, their marriage appeared to be over. In Secrets, Jonathan honestly and courageously shares his story of addiction to pornography and how he lost everything to it.

But that's not how the story ends. While Jonathan struggled, someone else was at work-his heavenly Father. At the lowest possible moment of his life, God stepped in and brought him hope and healing. This is a story of both loss and redemption that gives hope to anyone who has ever experienced the power and struggle of addiction and its life-destroying effects.

Addiction doesn't have the final say over Jonathan's life or in his marriage. The God who finds the lost, heals the sick, and brings life from death has the last, victorious word.
  • A courageous, honest and open account of life as a sex addict and how sex addiction destroys marriages.
  • A life-affirming and personal story of recovery and redemption that will inspire readers.
  • Offers hope to all who struggle with pornography and sex addiction.
  • Each chapter includes a "Living in the Light" section designed to equip and help readers find freedom from addiction.
  • Suitable as a study for support groups of addicts and those who care about them.
I expected to struggle through this book.  Instead I was surprised to find this a relatively easy book to read, and I was pulling for Jonathan.  And for his wife.  There is no doubt that he has an addiction and that he makes a lot of mistakes, but the descriptions are not graphic.  Of course, it helped a lot that the description of the book told me this was a story of recovery and redemption.  I'm not sure I would have been able to get through it if I didn't know this book offers hope -- and not just to those who struggle, but to those who know people who struggle.

Daugherty pin3
There are lots of people out there struggling.  And porn addiction does ruin lives.  It breaks up marriages, ruins relationships with friends and family, and absolutely kills trust.  But God.

God is bigger than all of that, and God uses broken people all the time.

All the time.

This book reminded me of that, and Jonathan Daugherty is doing fantastic things by putting this book out there.

This is a book I'd love to get into the hands of lots of people.  Because porn is easier than ever to find, and the statistics show that kids -- male and female -- are finding it at younger and younger ages.

We need to not bury our heads in the sand.

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