Friday, November 30, 2018

Sugar Plums Dancing...Snowflakes Falling...Let's Write about December with Free Writing Prompts

As the winter officially approaches, many parts of the world are already under the grips of cold weather – from freezing blizzards to lovely snowfalls – winter weather can bring lots of changes to our lives. Many families are taking a break from traditional homeschooling studies to celebrate Christmas so this is the perfect time to work on writing skills in a more relaxed setting. Don't know what to write? Why not try these free writing prompts

Photo Prompts 

Ice skating

Person wearing winter parka

snowed in

Writing Prompts 

Download Here

What is your favorite thing to write about in the winter? 

Missed our other writing prompts? 

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Book Club: Book Review of Mark of the Raven

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

Secrets and special powers abound in Mark of the Raven, Book One of The Ravenwood Saga, by Morgan L. Busse. While reading and reviewing this excellent work of fantasy from Bethany House, I was drawn into the world of Lady Selene, her family, and the other houses introduced by Busse. I have read quite a bit of fantasy and I will be adding Busse to the list of authors I regularly read.

The story starts with a special ceremony in which the heir to the House of Ravenwood, Lady Selene, receives a special mark and eventually awakens with her new power – that of a dreamwalker. Sadly Selene is informed by her mother that the Ravenwood women do not use their gifts of entering another person's dreams for good. They actually are hired by others to gather information and sometimes as assassins. This realization – of the dark job that the dreamwalkers perform – does not sit well with Selene.

In the background of Selene's tale is that of the ever-encroaching Dominia Empire which had attacked the Seven Houses hundreds of years ago. While Selene is learning more of the past, representatives from the other Houses meet at the Ravenwood Home, Rook Castle, to discuss an alliance against the Dominia Empire. Not all the Lords and Ladies are in agreement as to how to handle the Empire. The disagreement causes more strife.

From the opening pages to the exciting conclusion of Book One, I could not put Mark of the Raven down. I was unsure what the tale would hold for me after reading the description and was very pleased at how much I enjoyed this work of fiction. The characters are very well-developed and by the end of the book, I felt like I knew Selene and Damien (Grand Lord of the House of Maris) well and wanted to learn more about the others in a future book.

The inclusion of magical-like gifts or abilities may cause concern for some but I found the inclusion of the dreamwalking and ability to control water or fire intriguing and fascinating. I have read a lot of fantasy novels and Busse's use of these gifts or talents was presented in a new way.

I recommend Mark of the Raven to those who enjoy fantasy. It is a well-written novel that poses some thought-provoking questions (which were explored on Instagram in late October and early November 2018). I know I will be keeping an eye out for Book Two of the Ravenwood Saga!

Instagram Discussion Questions from #FantasyReadAlong

Two of the answers I shared on Instagram

Selene's new power brings many challenges...which would be the hardest for you? 

Damien raises the sea would you respond in his place? 

Monday, November 19, 2018

Family Fun: Winter Crafts and Activities

Now that the weather is getting colder, are you dreaming of hot chocolate by the fire and putting up the holly and ivy? Commercials advertising Christmas gifts are popping up on TV and the sounds of the holiday season can be heard earlier and earlier each year in the malls and stores. All of the Halloween and Thanksgiving items are going on clearance. Are you eagerly awaiting the first snowfall? 

Over the years I have shared our winter arts and crafts and activities at A Mom's Quest to Teach. In order to help find those posts, I am sharing them again in one convenient place – right here!

Do you have a favorite? Or does your family partake in their own fun winter activity? 

Winter Crafts 

Snowflake Sun Catcher 

Snowman Names 

Toddler's Christmas Felt Tree 

Snowman Milk Container Craft 

Do you have a favorite winter time craft or activity? 

Friday, November 16, 2018

Holiday Unit Studies are Fantastic for Homeschooling! – A Review of Homeschool Complete Christmas Unit Study

Disclaimer: I received this unit study for free from the Homeschool Complete in return for my honest opinion. All thoughts and opinions are my own. For more information please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy. Thank you.

If you are looking for an all-inclusive curriculum as a Christian parent, Homeschool Complete might be the perfect fit for your family. Thematic units contain lesson plans that cover multiple subjects including mathematics, language arts, and physical education. There are a variety of activities in each unit to help you really meet the needs of your individual child and family. Because Homeschool Complete offers such great flexibility I was very happy to review their Christmas Unit Study (K-6).

What is in the Christmas Unit Study?

The unit study is designed for K-6 grades with a variety of activities to accommodate beginning, intermediate, and advanced level students. For example, while both our children could work on saying the sounds for Lesson 4 in Part A of the student workbook, our five-year-old was able to read the words and we were able to complete the fill in the blank questions, too. And our three-year-old daughter (with help) was able to complete the matching activity (Worksheet 4a). As they get older, we will be able to reuse the Christmas Unit Study and look at the section on contractions and comparison of three digit numbers from Lesson 4.

At the heart of the Christmas Unit Study is the story of the birth of Jesus from the book of Luke. Each lesson introduces new parts of Luke to your children so you can work on memorizing it (or just enjoying it like we did). After the reading of Luke, there are a number of different activities you can complete for the different subject areas.

Sample Activities and Lessons

There are so many great ideas and activities in the lessons that I could see this unit study lasting more than the recommended two weeks for our family. As both our children are younger, we have been spending a short amount of time on the lessons each day spread throughout the entire day. In fact, we were able to complete one of the activities while waiting for dinner to finish baking. How is that for flexibility for the homeschooling family?

Flexibility and adaptability are two of my favorite things about homeschooling. I was able to adapt some of the reading of vocabulary activities to also include writing for our five-year-old. For example, in Lesson 1, one of the activities lists asks the child(ren) to read eighteen words. I wrote out some of these words in our son's notebook for him to read and write.

Some of the activities in the lessons include the following:

  • Read a recipe and make gingerbread cookies 
  • Count the days until Christmas using a paper chain 
  • Put words in alphabetical order 
  • Read A Christmas Tale by Geronimo Stilton 
  • Play Alphabet Toss 

Learning about positive and negative space using stencils and tracing objects.

Coloring ornaments

What We Like

From the Daily Calendar Routine to the ideas for physical education activities, we are really enjoying the Christmas Unit Study. We really enjoyed working on the different art projects such as using stencils and cut-out shapes to create positive and negative spaces as well as creating paper ornaments for our tree. 

Establishing a daily routine of identifying the date, days of the week, and months of the year has been a great thing to add to our homeschool day. We had been working on these skills but now the kids ask for each day if I should forget ever since we started using the Christmas Unit Study. 
  • Each lesson lists the materials needed (for example, the books, crafting supplies, worksheets, or even baking supplies) 
  • Very adaptable 
  • Each lesson lists the skills – so if you are looking for something specific to work on you can just reference the first page of each lesson 
  • Variety of books recommended and used 
  • Lessons include language arts, math, and physical activities 

Learning about time and making a clock

Our five-year-old son said his favorite part of the Christmas Unit Study has been learning how to read a clock. I think working on this particular skill has allowed him to feel more grown-up as he is navigating the world of time more and more on his own. Our three-year-old daughter enjoys any project that allows her to draw, color, or create something – which this unit study has plenty for her!

Personally, I would recommend the Christmas Unit Study for families from Homeschool Complete. I find it has been a perfect fit for us as we approach the holiday season. I look forward to continuing to use the activities in the different lessons as we get closer to December 25. 

How do you spend the month of December? Do you use unit studies or take a break from homeschooling? Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

A Gift Guide When Shopping for Teenage Boys

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

Shopping for others can be somewhat daunting and challenging. As our own children get older – or those in our family grow up, it can be difficult to pick out the perfect gift they will love and use – especially if they are a teenage boy.

What is your go-to gift for a teen boy? Do you ask the teen? Sometimes it might be easy because the parents will tell us they are saving up for something – a new gaming platform, sporting equipment, or a concert or trip. Other times they might even have an online wishlist. But what if they don't make it easy?

For the Gamer

The one thing our teen seems to go through is Xbox controllers. Perhaps you know of a young man who is also hard on their gaming controller? If it is within your budget you could purchase a new controller or a gift card to go towards a new one. They even make custom ones.

Headsets are a great option for teens who are allowed to play online games with their friends and family. And just like controllers, they often break and need to be replaced.

If the teenage boy has a favorite video game series, you can bet there are product tie-ins. For example, our son has a Destiny watch and socks. Other gaming series that sell merchandise include Fallout, Minecraft, and Bioshock.

For the Reader

Depending on whether or not your teen enjoys reading, you may or may not find our suggestions helpful. We have struggled for many years trying to find books that our teen enjoys to read for fun. While he liked the Harry Potter series, he wasn't reading them nonstop to find out what happened to Harry and his friends. However, he does enjoy Star Wars comics and reading books about World War II. This recommended reading list has been my husband's go-to list since he was a teen himself. We have provided several suggestions from it for our teen son.

Comics are also a great choice – I recommend finding your local comic book store and supporting them. We are fortunate enough to have one in our town.


 For the Sports Enthusiast

To go along with the gaming theme, you could get a custom Xbox controller if your teen is into the NFL. And of course clothing is always a great idea when it comes to buying gifts for growing teens. From t-shirts and hoodies to jerseys and hats, there is such a variety of items available for any sports fan to wear to show their team pride. There are also fun items like Fathead decals or a tabletop foosball table.

Other Fun Ideas

One thing our teen can't seem to get enough of is candy. We don't buy it for him often – usually just the holidays – so candy would be a great gift idea. Even snacks you ordinarily wouldn't buy make for a great gift (and are perfect for snacking during the winter break!).

For the artist, new sketchpads, art pencils and pens, or other drawing materials is a great idea. For the musician, maybe a new case for their instrument or music by their favorite band.

Do your teens have a favorite gift they have received?

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Book Club: Review of Kate's Really Good At Hockey

Disclaimer: I received access to the e-book for free from the publisher in return for my honest opinion. All thoughts and opinions are my own. For more information please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy. Thank you.

I recently joined NetGalley after reading it about for a short while and have had the privilege to review a few books through this medium. The first book I reviewed was Kate's Really Good At Hockey by Christina Frey and Howard Shapiro. It is a graphic novel about the life of Kate and her best summer ever! She is getting the opportunity to attend an elite girls' hockey game in Denver and play with and against some of the best female hockey players in the world. 

Kate's Really Good At Hockey is a graphic novel that details the events of Kate's experiences just prior to and during her summer hockey camp. We follow Kate, her mom, her grandma, and teammates on a journey where she discovers herself through creating new friendships. Her original desires of staying in the dorms are squelched as her mom wants her to stay with her grandma. This change is actually beneficial to their relationship and Kate's time at camp. 

As an adult, I will admit that I knew something was up when Kate's mom insisted she stay with her grandma but I didn't foresee both of the reveals. Perhaps an elementary school-aged student (who I would think this is geared towards) would not be as quick to think something was up. 

Best. Summer. Ever. 

I like the dedication that Kate displays – even in the face of adversity – and would think she could be inspirational for young hockey players. There is a focus on family and friendship as well as dedication to dreams. I would recommend this book to children interested in hockey, but I would encourage parents to read it first because it deals with some complex issues. 



Kate's grandma has cancer. This may be a topic of concern if family members have experienced it or lost a loved one to it. 

Friday, November 9, 2018

Z is for Zhou Dynasty (Blogging through the Alphabet)

photo of bamboo and tea cup

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

One of the ancient civilizations that often seems to get glossed over in American classrooms is that of Ancient China. Perhaps that is why – when I was teaching high school world history – I made sure to spend several weeks talking about the different dynasties of Ancient China, including the Xia, Shang, Zhou, Han, and Qin. The early history of China saw the reign of two main dynasties: Xia and Shang but by the 11th century BC, the Zhou people led an overthrow of the Shang Dynasty.

A leader of the Zhou people, who lived in the western side of Shang controlled territory, put into place a plan to overthrow the Shang dynasty. Tai, the leader, presented a plan where they would achieve their goal over the next three generations. The Zhou people felt they were more deserving of the power and set about to take it. In this post, we will take a look at why the Zhou people believed they had been handed the "mandate of heaven."

Overthrowing the Shang Dynasty 

A number of factors – such as the migration of the Zhou people – increased communication and interaction with other peoples in the Shang dynasty (building up both a political alliance and the development of resources in the process). Around 1045 BC, under King Wu, the Zhou people launched a war against the Shang dynasty. King Wu gave a speech to his army which set out to overthrow the Shang capital.

There is historical evidence of the speech and the description of the violent battle that ensued. Blood supposedly flowed so that blocks of wood floated in it and swords and axes made of bronze caused great wailing and screaming. The Shang king was killed and the Zhou were in charge.

Leading the New Dynasty 

Even though King Wu was the ruler he was only a boy at the time of the conquest. The Duke of Zhou, King Wu's uncle, was probably the most important person in the new dynasty as he acted as a wise adviser to his young nephew.

"Mandate of Heaven" 

One of the reasons why the Zhou felt justified in overthrowing the Shang Dynasty became one of the central doctrines of Chinese political culture. This was the "mandate of heaven." Tian, or heaven, was not so much a place as it was a system that governed all the operations in the universe. There was a proper way for society to be organized and a good ruler was key.

The king had to be a good king – a good ruler. The power to rule was given to a good king by Tian and was passed down from generation to generation to create a dynasty. These rulers were to maintain peace and prosperity according to the mandate or their right to rule would be taken away from them. They had rights as rulers such as taxation but it was not to be oppressive according to Tian belief.

King Wu used this idea – the "mandate of heaven" – to explain why they had the right to overthrow the Shang dynasty. In his speech prior to the battle at the capital, he states the Shang had become cruel and the ruler only indulged in his own past-times.


Growth of Zhou Dynasty 

A new capital was established by the Zhou on the Wei River. They created Xian to be a permanent capital, unlike that of the Shang who had shifted the capital city every few decades. They also extended their power south and north as they conquered new lands. But as their empire grew, the problems they had planted with the idea of political justification of overthrowing a bad ruler through the "mandate of heaven" would come to fruition and they would be overthrown themselves.

If you enjoyed this post, please check out these other history-related posts!


Image of bamboo and tea by δΊ”ηŽ„εœŸ ORIENTO on Unsplash

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Book Club: Book Review of Lady of a Thousand Treasures

Book cover of Lady of a Thousand Treasures

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.

I really enjoy historical fiction – perhaps it is because I was a history major and a history teacher – so I jumped at the chance to review Lady of a Thousand Treasures by Sandra Byrd from Tyndale Fiction. The novel is centered around Eleanor Sheffield, an evaluator of antiquities, and her attempt to advance her family business and make an important decision regarding a "thousand treasures." We also meet Harry, Lord Lydney, and many other people important to Eleanor's story.

"A threading of voices spooled throughout the expansive chamber wherein we waited..." 

The novel opens in 1866 in Oxfordshire, England, and we quickly learn that Eleanor is the temporary trustee of the Late Lord Lydney's collection of art, armor, jewelry, silver, and other antiquities. She must decide whether the treasures stay at the house – Watchfield – with Lord Lydney's surviving son (Harry) or if they should be donated to the new South Kesington Museum. Both choices provide Eleanor with advantages and disadvantages. So what will she choose? It is a difficult decision for Eleanor. What would you choose?

The plot, while surrounding missing antiquities, fake urns and coins, is also a love story between a middle class lady and a new Lord. Throw in an ailing uncle, new servants, Italians fleeing war, and money issues and you will find you cannot put down Lady of a Thousand Treasures because you want to see what happens next. There are so many wonderful small and big moments in the story that made me keep reading well past my bedtime.

I love that we get to know all the characters through their conversations with Eleanor and her thoughts about the characters and their actions. Books where we really get to know the characters are so great to read.

I recommend this book to those interested in historical fiction – especially of the Victorian Era as Lady of a Thousand Treasures is part of the Victorian Ladies Series Collection. I found the book to be a quick, good read.

Learn more about the author – Sandra Byrd – by visiting the following sites:

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Looking Back on a Year with the Homeschool Review Crew

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

A year ago, I filled out an application to join the Homeschool Review Crew after seeing a post from I wrote a course for and figured why not see if I would be accepted to the Crew.


Now – a year later, I can reflect upon all the things I have learned.  And I have learned so many different things! From homeschooling to blogging to parenting – the Crew has helped me grow as a wife, a mom, a blogger, a homeschooler, and a teacher. I have made new friends and for that I am very grateful, as well. 

My blog has become more regular – and not just because members of the Crew need to have at least one non-review blog post a week. I have found a renewed love of writing about history (hence my focus on the Blogging through the Alphabet with history-themed posts). And I get to create materials for families and teachers to use again (one of my favorite parts of being a teacher was writing and designing curriculum). I have also been able to grow A Mom's Quest to Teach on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest

A Few Favorite Products 

Our children have enjoyed using so many of the products that we had the privilege of reviewing this past year. There are still days when our daughter will talk about her 'bear program' aka  MESSYLEARNING FOR PRESCHOOLERS AND KINDERGARTNERS from Panda Parents and our five-year-old son is still using Home School Navigator, Reading Kingdom, and Picta Dicta on a regular basis as part of our homeschooling. As a family we still enjoy Drive Thru History Adventures, while the Audio Dramas from Heirloom Audio Productions have become a welcome addition to our audio library.

Home School in the Woods - Hands-on History Lap-Paks (Knights)

As a family who enjoys role-playing games like classic Dungeons and Dragons, our younger son has really had a great time learning about real knights. I love that we can reference this while playing games or watching movies so he can learn more about the history behind one of his favorite hobbies.

In addition to the Hands-on History Lap-Paks (Knights), we also received several A La Carte Projects that enabled us to play games together as a family. This is one of the best parts of homeschooling – having more time to learn together as a family!

Carole P. Roman Books

As a history major and teacher, I just love these books from Carole P. Roman. And after I wondered if there were any books with a female character as the main character in my review, Ms. Roman was nice enough to send me a few books where girls told the story. This was totally unexpected and greatly appreciated. I will not hesitate to recommend her books to anyone interested in learning more about history or geography!

More Than Just Reviews 

Through my time with the Crew, our family has done more than just review the products merely to review them. We have used them to help us grow and learn as a homeschooling family. Through some of the different projects our teen and I have grown closer (even when I beat him playing the The War to End All Wars File Folder Game). And our two younger children have enjoyed starting their homeschooling journey with a love of learning. Learning really has been fun in our house.

If you are interested in learning more about joining the Homeschool Review Crew, please see the information here

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Creating a Masterpiece with A Review of Master Kitz The Starry Night

Master Kitz The Starry Night

One of our children's favorite things to do is create art. They were so excited when the box arrived containing Master Kitz The Starry Night produced by! Our five-year-old son and three-year-old daughter couldn't wait to take everything out of the very well-made box to explore the different materials included. Children and adults (ages 5-105) will have a great time learning about the artist, creating an individual masterpiece, and sharing their work with family and friends just like we did.

Master Kitz The Starry Night Materials

Master Kitz The Starry Night Materials What Do You Get with Master Kitz The Starry Night

  • Reusable Artist's Tool Box 
  • "Instructions Inspiration" in English, French, Spanish, German, and Italian 
  • The "Instructions Inspiration" in English is a foldout, colorful poster-size paper
  • Van Gogh Learning Materials (biography and a presentation of the styles of Van Gogh compared to other artists)  
  • Two rollers – a plain yellow sponge one and a custom Van Gogh roller 
  • Paint (in custom blue, black, and white)
  • Oil Pastels (in white, blue, yellow, and orange)
  • Two pieces of 16" by 20" paper for your artwork 
  • Sheet of temporary star stickers 
  • Stencil for countryside scene 

Master Kitz The Starry Night Materials

Creating a Masterpiece

When our Master Kitz The Starry Night first arrived, we took everything out of the box and looked through it all. Our younger two children and I talked about the different products and what they would be used for in the kit. I then laid out the rolled up paper to flatten out under books. A few days later we read through the information on Vincent Van Gogh and watched the videos on to see some examples. Our five-year-old son was very excited to see all the different products that are available. (We want to try the Claude Monet one in the future!)

Painting with rollers
After putting on the temporary stickers, you need to paint your paper with the special roller using the blue and then white paints to create the night time sky.

I was very happy that everything we needed was included in the reusable box. So if you wanted to create your artwork the moment it arrived, you could very easily roll the art paper back and forth a few times in the opposite direction, as the instructions suggest, to get started right away.

The directions are broken down into 12 steps for you and your family. From preparing your work space to using the different rollers, paint colors, and oil pastels, the information is clearly presented with illustrations and text to let you know what to do.

Using stencil to create The Starry Night painting
Once the temporary stars have been removed, you attach the stencil and paint the scene using the black paint and the yellow sponge roller. 

Our children's favorite part was getting to paint using the rollers with the different colors. If they had been a little more proficient with the rollers, we would have seen the pattern of the Van Gogh roller show a bit more in the final product. They tended to use the rollers more like paint brushes rather than rollers.

Using oil pastels
The final part was adding the finishing touches to the stars and buildings and trees using the oil pastels. 

Using Oil Pastels

We are all really pleased with the completed products. They look beautiful! 

The Starry Night Painting by five-year-old
Our five-year-old son's masterpiece

Our Thoughts

It was definitely helpful to have our teen helping our two younger children create their masterpieces. The recommended age is 5 to 105 so it was a bit complicated for our three-year-old daughter but with my help and her older brother's help, we were able to help her follow the inspiration.

I love the way the finished masterpieces turned out! The only problems we seemed to have was the temporary stickers were too attached to our paper when we tried to remove them. The paper tore a little as our teen and I were removing them from the two paintings. This then meant our fingers were covered with blue paint as we tried to slowly remove the stickers.

As our two younger children get older, I would purchase another Master Kitz from They enjoyed getting to paint – to use different materials and techniques – to create their own masterpiece. I loved that we could allow them to be creative but still learn about a famous artist and his work.

Reviewing Master Kitz The Starry Night also started a conversation up with an aunt-in-law through which I learned that The Starry Night is her favorite art piece. I love learning new things about the people in my family. And that is one of the features of the Master Kitz – Learn – Create – Share.

Our three-year-old daughter's masterpiece

Because each artwork created can look different – which is a great feature of using Master Kitz – please be sure to check out the the other reviews from the Homeschool Review Crew!