Monday, October 29, 2018

Orange, red, and yellow leaves fall to the ground...November Writing Prompts

Notebook and turkey clip art

With leaves falling all around you and your children, perhaps you could use some inspiration for your writing tasks for the month of November. Or maybe the snow has already started falling where you live. This month I am sharing several photographs and a new, free resource for you and your family. 

Happy Writing! 

Frost covered leaves

winding road through a fall forest

basket of veggies

If you or your children are inspired by any of the photographs or prompts, I would love to hear about it! Thank you.

Friday, October 26, 2018

X is for Xerxes (Blogging through the Alphabet)

City of Persepolis

Who would have thought that one of the letters that was the easiest for me to decide upon was the letter X? When I was preparing my list for this series of Blogging through the Alphabet, I knew the Persian king, Xerxes, would be a perfect choice. However, I did not realize that finding information about him would prove to be difficult if I wasn't relying up on the Internet.

Xerxes I ruled the Persian Empire from 486 BC, when he succeeded his father Darius I, to 465 BC, when he was assassinated. While he was king, he expanded the Persian Empire to include territory from modern-day Turkey and the North African coast all the way to the Indus River Valley. He also led a war against the Greek city-states. The land and sea force that Xerxes raised to attack the Greeks included more than 180,000 men.

Map of the Persian Empire

There are perhaps two things for which Xerxes is most remembered – the continuation of building his father's city and the capture and burning of Athens in 480 BC. 

sculpture from Persepolis


The third capital of the Persian Empire – Persepolis – was started by Darius I. When Xerxes took over the empire, he continued to work on completing the city. It is believed that Xerxes finished the work on the Treasury and its surrounding buildings. The city would disappear from history when Alexander the Great covered the city by earth but it would be excavated in the 1940s. In Persepolis, we see the diversity of the empire represented in the variety of architectural styles. One can find a great palace complex that holds offices, treasuries, reception halls, and audience halls. 

Attack on Greek City-States 

Perhaps the Spartans that faced Xerxes' troops at the mountain pass of Thermopylae are remembered more than the Persian king is? At the Battle of Thermopylae, Spartans held back the Persian troops as they marched south from Macedonia until a traitor told Xerxes of another pass through the mountains. 

The Persians were able to push towards Athens. They captured and burned the city – including the Acropolis.  Even though the Persians were victorious over the Athenians on land, things would not work out in their favor at sea.

Greek trireme

Approximately 1000 Persian ships sailed from home and they met the Greeks in the Bay of Salamis. The Greeks had a fleet of 20 triremes which were better suited to maneuvering in the bay. The Greeks were able to crush the Persian fleet while Xerxes watched from shore. With the defeat, he returned to Asia Minor. The Persians would never attack the Greek city-states again.

I created a Emperors of Persia Handout for you to download this week! It lists the emperors from Cyrus the Great to Darius III.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Minecraft Birthday: Punch Trees and Party!

This post contains affiliate links. For more information please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

Everyone in our family enjoys Minecraft (okay, maybe Dad doesn't enjoy it as much as the rest of us but he will still play the video game with us if we ask). When we asked our soon-to-be five-year-old what theme he wanted for his birthday party, Minecraft was a top choice.


Food and Minecraft decorationsAs our teen had a Minecraft-themed birthday party a few years ago, we wanted to try to serve some different foods this time. Plus – with our 5-year-old's birthday being in June, we were able to grill food outdoors rather than just rely upon indoor cooking like we usually do for our teen's birthday in September.  

We prepared hamburgers and hot dogs for the beef and pork of Minecraft. The other foods in the Minecraft world consist of bread (hamburger and hot-dog rolls), fish (Swedish fish), baked potatoes (potato salad), carrots, and melon (gummy melon candy).

We also had lots of different types of snacks and candies to represent the different ores and other items from the Minecraft game. 

Ores: Lapis, gold, iron, diamond, redstone, emerald, and coal 
Lava and Water: Jello 
Sticks: Pretzel sticks 

Creeper cups and drinks

Treats and Sweets

Sweets and treats

We put together an Enderman Cake and decorated cupcakes like the cake from the game.

Enderman cake
Enderman cake

Birthday cupcake
Cupcakes decorated like the cake (It's a lie!) from Minecraft



As usual, I like to have the children involved with preparing the decorations for the parties. It provides the perfect opportunity to work on arts and crafts, learn new skills, and cooperate to ensure everyone has a fun time. 

Spider and Happy Birthday Poster
Our teen helped with making a Minecraft Birthday Sign

Minecraft Tools 

Our teen drew the templates for the sword, ax, and shovel and I traced them onto cardboard from boxes and cut them out. Then our two younger children and I painted them along with a few torches to decorate the house. Yes, we could have bought the foam ones but it wouldn't have provided as much fun as painting lots of Minecraft objects on the living room floor! 

Cardboard Minecraft swords, torches, shovelspainting a sword

Minecraft Creatures 

I had been saving old boxes for quite a while in our basement and now was the time to use them! I painted them white and then used both construction paper and plastic tablecloths to create a pig and enderman.

Minecraft Pig

Nether Portal and Photo Background 

At the entry way to our kitchen, I created a Nether Portal with purple and black crepe paper.

My husband and I used a blue tablecloth, white construction paper, and green construction paper to create a Minecraft backdrop for photos.

Minecraft Nether Portal


Other Decorations 

In a previous post, I shared how we created Minecraft Character faces to decorate. We also used Minecraft toys that our sons have gotten as gifts over the years. Our teen and I also created spawn eggs using permanent markers and old plastic eggs

Minecraft character


Creeper Cardboard Minecraft Game

The kids played Creeper Toss with Creeper Spawn Eggs and this giant Creeper Head I made from a cardboard box.

The party was a great hit with our son, family, and friends. I love being able to help our children celebrate with fun parties.


Monday, October 22, 2018

Book Club: Book Review of Day by Day through the Gospel of John

Image of Day by Day through the Gospel of John book cover

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from the publisher in return for my honest opinion. All thoughts and opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy. Thank you.

When my copy of Day by Day through the Gospel of John: 365 Timeless Devotions From Classic Writers compiled and edited by Lance Wubbels arrived for me to review, I was surprised by the quality of the book. It is a beautiful hardcover book with a ribbon to mark one's place over the course of the year. As this is a devotional, I did not read it cover to cover but instead started reading it at the beginning when I received access on NetGalley and picked up with the appropriate day when the hardcover arrived in the mail.

The introduction by Lance Wubbels provides an excellent explanation of what this book is:

"Verse by verse, following the biblical text consecutively through the life of Jesus Christ, here are 365 devotional readings packed with profound biblical commentary, sound wisdom, and practical application for a Christian's daily walk." 

Starting with January 1st and John 1:1 the reader is taken through the Book of John with Christian leaders and writers such as Alexander Whyte, Charles Spurgeon, Andrew Murray, Charles Finnay, Catherine Booth, and others. There are many days that I found particularly wonderful to read including February 23 which addressed one of my favorite Bible Verses - John 3:16. Alexander Maclaren writes "that however little I may love or think about Him [God], it does not make one ounce of difference as to the fact that He loves me." This is a great reminder in the middle of winter and each and every day of our lives.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God...quote from Day by Day

I love the fact that Day by Day through the Gospel of John makes available the writings of very important scholars, leaders, and writers that otherwise would be difficult to obtain or read. Each day I have enjoyed opening the devotional to read the Word of God in the Gospel according to John and a reflection by a classic writer. The ribbon attached to the book makes it so easy to mark my place as we move through the calendar year.

In addition to the daily reflections, there is an introduction by Lance Wubbels, short biographies of the classic writers and contributors, and the ribbon bookmark. These only add to the value of this beautiful hardcover edition.

Personally, I really do find that each day speaks to me and I hope that you will also find this to be true. The text of the book is easy to read and I found it lays flat on the table which makes it easy to read. I recommend this book for those seeking a new way to study the Bible, those who enjoy devotionals, and those looking for a gift for a loved one.


Saturday, October 20, 2018

W is for Washington (Blogging through the Alphabet)

This post contains affiliate links. For more information please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

Studying the history of the United States would not be complete without learning about the Founding Fathers of the nation including George Washington. The first American president was also commander of the Continental Army and president of the Constitutional Convention thus having a great impact on the historic foundation of the United States government.

How Can We Learn about George Washington?

There are so many great resources available to learn about George Washington. From primary sources of writing by Washington and about the first president to historical sites and even crafts and costumes! Learning about history does not have to be dull.

A fantastic way to learn about Washington is through read-alouds with your children. There are some great choices from different well-known publishers such as Landmark Books or National Geographic.

Learning about George Washington does not need to be relegated to older children and adults, as he is a good role model for all children. Some of the myths and stories told about Washington help us teach valuable lessons. For example, who hasn't heard the story of the cherry tree and the young Washington stating, "I cannot tell a lie" story? 

Reading through his Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation (which he wrote as a school exercise before he was 16) is a great way to study Washington and apply it to character education. Washington was a leader among his school friends – friends had even said he was not a fighter but a peacemaker on the playground. 

image from pixabay of Mount Rushmore

One of the themes that displays itself again and again in Rules of Civility is that of modesty and self-restraint. These are two great virtues to instill in children today. An interesting point made in the introduction of my copy of Rules of Civility by Letitia Baldrige is that in the time of Washington "the family was the center of the universe" and people attended church regularly where they would discuss good and bad behavior. Baldrige continues: Washington "would find our society today extremely foreign and probably unkind" (14). 

"let your Countenance be pleasant but in Serious Matters Somewhat grave." 

To assist you in teaching the Rules of Civility, I have prepared some materials for you to use in your home or classroom. You will get three rules you can hang up in your house! 

Another great place to study George Washington is Our family has been enjoying several history courses already including Drive Thru History: American History. 

There are also interesting courses like American History for Beginners which utilizes interactive content to teach children of grades K-2 over the course of 34 weeks. Students will learn about events from 1492 to the creation of the Bill of Rights in 1791 through crafts, maps, studying vocabulary, and even recipes. 

Where can you choose from 43 history courses for your kids, with no per-course or per-student fees? offers your entire family can access 400+ preK-12 courses across all subject areas also gain access to ten full libraries of World Book Online for research and timelines, a glimpse into nearly 600 historical events through This Day in History, and a huge streaming video library that includes Drive Thru History and Torchlighters titles! Make family history this year with all the great resources available at!

You might also enjoy:


Friday, October 19, 2018

Homeschooling and Creativity Go Hand-in-Hand

This post contains affiliate links. For more information please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

Art has always been one subject our teenage son has been interested in but – after an overview and history of art course in public school – we were afraid he had lost interest in the art world. It turns out that he would rather work with a camera and photographs at this time in his creative life. So I was very excited to discover Image Editing and Creation from This 36-week online course is geared for grades 6-12 and teaches the basics of editing and manipulating an image. The course uses a free software program – GIMP – at the core to teach the students about image editing and creation.

Photo unedited 

Our son has been working through the 36-week lessons, learning about the basics of GIMP, color alteration, and the sharpening and blurring of images. In order to take the course, we had to download GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) onto our desktop. This process was very easy, especially considering a recent computer crash resulted in our "new" computer being one put together from many others. Once our son familiarized himself with the program through the early lessons, he has enjoyed the different assignments. He edited a photo that he took of his younger brother to create a series of color altered photos as well as edited some at my request for this post.

Color Enhanced 

What We Added 

So far, the only thing I have added was quizzes that I created based upon the vocabulary in the lessons. I haven't felt the need to add any other other assignments at this time.

Our teen has used both images from the Internet and photographs he has taken himself in the course. I find this provides a perfect opportunity to discuss copyright and plagiarism with him as well as to introduce him to sites that offer free images for commercial use. – A Great Resource to Foster Creativity 

Every Subject! Every Grade! Every Student! 

Image Editing and Creation is just one of the many great elective courses available at They offer a variety of unique elective courses including courses available in other subjects that are often used as electives: art, computer and technology, drama and speech, health & fitness, and music!

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Book Club: Book Review: Shelter of the Most High

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from the publisher in return for my honest opinion. All thoughts and opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy. Thank you.

From the crash of the ocean to a welcoming inn in Kedesh, Shelter of the Most High by Connilyn Cossette is a fabulous book that truly brings to life individuals living during the interim period between the Conquest and the Judges of the Old Testament. This book is the second in the Cities of Refuge Series but I did not feel at a loss for not having read the first book – A Light on the Hill.

Shelter of the Most High opens in 1388 BC on the Island of Sicily with Sofea and her cousin Prezi enjoying the water and caves along the coastline before returning to their pagan village to help with the fish. The lives of the two young girls quickly changes when pirates attack their village and take Sofea and Prezi across the sea to the shores of Canaan. Both girls have to overcome physical, social, and psychological challenges as they spend their time in Kedesh – a city of refuge. Under Hebraic Law, cities of refuge were appointed by God – and told to Joshua – to protect those who accidentally kill another. The killer would cry for refuge from the city elders and would be judged accordingly. (See Joshua 20 for more on the topic.)

In addition to telling the story from the viewpoint of Sofea, we also see events as they unfold through the eyes of Eitan, an Israelite living in Kedesh with his adopted mother, father, and siblings. After Sofea and Prezi are brought to his mother's inn, we see his growing interest in Sofea as well as learn more about the past he has guarded from friends.

The changing back and forth between the viewpoints of Eitan and Sofea was smooth and – from my viewpoint as a reader – was not confusing. I enjoyed being able to see a bit more into the reasons behind their feelings and actions. For example, we see the blossoming love between them from Sofea's viewpoint: "His accent curved around my name, lending it fresh beauty and a sense of intimacy that I knew I should not desire" (127). And with Eitan we learn of his growing love as he "kept my eyes roving over the teeming crowd, hoping to catch a glimpse of Sofea" (149).

There were moments, while reading the book, that I laughed aloud, felt sorrow and cried with the characters, and felt happiness for them as events worked themselves out for the main characters. It was a very quick read because it was so enjoyable.

Shelter of the Most High also contains a map of the area, a note from the author, and questions for conversation. These added details make the book all the more enjoyable to me as a reader. I happily recommend Shelter of the Most High by Connilyn Cossette to those interested in Christian fiction.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Exploring History Through Audio Theater – A Review of St. Bartholomew's Eve

There is something about history that has always intrigued me but I know many do not share my passion for the tomes of old. But we are fortunate that there are so many great ways to learn about the past including fantastic audio theater from Heirloom Audio. Our family was blessed with the chance to review their newest edition of the The Extraordinary Adventures of G. A. Henty – St. Bartholomew's Eve. My husband and our teenage son listened to the CD while traveling to Connecticut and thoroughly enjoyed it.

"Huddled together in a small chateau, mothers and children cling to each other. Weeping. Men stand guard. Waiting." 


To understand the tale of St. Bartholomew's Eve better, let me provide you with a little background history. The people that are central to the tale are the Huguenots – French Protestants who were in the middle of political and religious turmoil in France in the 1500s and 1600s.

During the reigns of King Francis I (1515-1547) and King Henry II (1547-1559), the power of the Huguenots as a group grew which led to government persecution. It was after the death of King Francis II, in 1560, that things moved violently against the Huguenots. King Charles IX and the French government were influenced by the queen mother – Catherine de Medicis – and she encouraged the Huguenots only to balance the power of the Guise family.

Eventually, a civil war broke out but with the Huguenots possessing some of the best military leaders in France, Catherine allied herself with the Duke of Guise. On Saint Bartholomew's Day, August 24, 1572, pro-Catholic forces murdered thousands of Huguenots. The massacre began in Paris (where Huguenots were gathered to celebrate the marriage of their leader – Henry of Navarre (later King Henry IV of France) to the king's sister – Margaret of Valois). Many well-known Huguenots were killed in Paris and the mobs and massacre spread throughout France. Henry of Navarre only saved his life by becoming Catholic (but he later converted back to Protestantism).

St. Bartholomew's Eve CD

The two-disc set provides 2-1/2 hours of adventure for your family as you listen to the events of early Renaissance France. Actors who help bring the story alive include Brian Blessed, Elizabeth Counsell, Brian Deacon, David Shaw-Parker, Andy Harrison, and Hugh Docking. The story will take you from your living room or car to 16th-century France where you will fight alongside the Huguenots and French Catholics.

"I have not considered it necessary to devote any large portion of my story to details of the terrible massacres of the period, nor to the atrocious persecutions to which the Huguenots were subjected; but have, as usual, gone to the military events of the struggle for its chief interest." 
Preface to St. Bartholomew's Eve by G. A. Henty

Possible Talking Points

While listening to St. Bartholomew's Eve, I quickly thought of many different topics and talking points you could further research and discuss with your children. These include:
  • Armor of God 
  • Fighting techniques of the time period 
  • Trained soldiers versus citizen soldiers 
  • Changes in weaponry 
  • Standing by your word 
  • Royal marriages and their influence on the citizens of the kingdoms 
  • Compromise and diplomacy 
  • Discrimination (the doors of the Huguenots were marked) 
  • Hiding in plain sight 
2 CD set with liner notes

What We Like

The narration of the events and actions by Brian Blessed as he portrays G. A. Henty is fantastic. For example, during one of the battle scenes, he narrates the action and we hear the clash of swords and men fighting in the background. This really brings the whole story to life. My husband also agreed that Blessed's narration was one of his favorite parts. 

From the beginning of the tale when Henty finds the two boys who are going to skip church to the end when the boys change their minds, the entire process of narration is well done. I really like the ending of the tale...the final track with Henty speaking about being able to worship freely based upon the actions of those in the story...this was a great conclusion! It brought everything together for me and also presented another great teaching moment.

Our teenage son thought it was told well considering it was "told virtually, not visually" and that overall the production was good. (Although he thought some of the sound effects were "a bit cheesy" but I contribute that to his being a teen.) His favorite part was "when the little kid with the peg leg wanted to fight."

When talking with my husband, he said the most jarring memory of the tale was when the actual slaughter began. The most stirring to him was when the Huguenots stood up to the Catholics. The climax of the audio drama was the most memorable to him.

Notes about the Audio Theater

As this production does portray battles, fighting, and some of the more violent aspects of religious intolerance, I recommend previewing St. Bartholomew's Eve before listening to it with your entire family. It is recommended for listeners of age 6 and up, but I don't know if I would let our children listen to it at that young an age. In fact, I would say that the audio drama is not for the faint of heart. For example, in one instance it describes the execution (not really in gruesome detail) of a young man who was thought to be a Huguenot and not a Catholic. They also discuss the deaths of families (being dragged into the street and meeting death). So while nothing is graphically detailed, it could be upsetting for younger children.

We enjoyed St. Bartholomew's Eve and are glad to add it to our collection of productions from Heirloom Audio. It is a great addition on our CD shelves next to Wulf the Saxon which we reviewed in February 2018.

To learn more about Heirloom Audio, please visit:

And don't forget you can read the reviews of other members of the Homeschool Review Crew!