I have recently started going through the photo albums my mom kept from our many vacations together before I graduated from college. If you have been reading my blog for a while, you may know that I am a fan of the history of England. In fact, I have shared several posts on Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. I had the chance to visit England in the late 1990s. Here are a few of our photographs, scanned and edited.
Wednesday, November 25, 2020
Tuesday, November 24, 2020
We had the privilege of reviewing many different homeschool curriculum and resources during this past year while being members of the Homeschool Review Crew. One of the traditions of the Homeschool Review Crew is to select their favorites and award them a Blue Ribbon for such topics as favorite math curriculum, favorite science resource, or favorite elective. While our family has not reviewed every product and vendor that was reviewed by Crew members this year, we did review quite a few and selected our favorites.
Language Arts-Related Favorites
There were many awesome language arts resources reviewed by Crew members this year that we also count as our favorites, including:
Reading Eggs – Both our younger children love working through the various parts of Reading Eggs such as Math Seeds and Reading Eggspress. They have enjoyed the addition of Fast Phonics, as well. Even though we did not write a review of Reading Eggs this year, it is no surprise that it was chosen for more than one Blue Ribbon by Crew members.
The Boxcar Children Early Reader Set – With reviewing this early reader set perfect for younger children – we were introduced to the Boxcar Children series. We have since purchased one set of the books and checked out several more from our library to read. I love that the stories are simple and easy to read aloud.
It was very easy for our two younger children to pick their favorite math curriculum/resource. They both agree that they love CTCMath. In fact, our daughter asks to work on her CTCMath on a daily basis (although she does add in an extra TC to the name). In addition to the complete online math curriculum of CTCMath, our youngest also said that she loved working on the materials from Page A Day Math, which made me very happy as practicing math facts to work on math fluency is important.
|One of the projects from Let's Go Geography|
As a history major and former history teacher, I love it when the Crew reviews history-related curriculum and resources. We started the year off reviewing SchoolhouseTeachers.com and then reviewing Let's Go Geography, which was a wonderful addition to our homeschool year. Then, we spent time reading about C.S. Lewis and his place in history, learning about elections, then the American Civil War with Home School in the Woods, and finally spending time with a family favorite – Drive Thru History®.
Let's Go Geography – While our second grader has spent the majority of the time completing the lessons of Let's Go Geography, his sister was able to join in all of the different fun crafts. I really like the fact that both our children can work together on this geography homeschool curriculum.
Home School in the Woods – We have used a number of resources from this great company over the years. I love how they truly bring history to life for those using these homeschooling resources. For example, they provide period crafts and recipes in addition to readings and projects to complete.
General Homeschool Resources
There were also a number of wonderful resources that were reviewed by Crew members that I found to be valuable additions to our own homeschool this year. About the time that I joined the Crew Admin team, we received a subscription to Super Teacher Worksheets and then My Teaching Library. I have been incorporating materials from both these sites into our younger children's homeschool day on a regular basis ever since.
Super Teachers Worksheets – From seasonal worksheets to grammar and mathematics, there are so many useful resources for our homeschool at Super Teachers Worksheets. We have incorporated mostly grammar into our second grader's homeschool day along with some fun coloring sheets for our kindergartner. I love the ability to search for items easily with their menus.
My Teaching Library – I have been able to find so many great resources to use with all three of our children, from a study on Beowulf, which our senior read at the beginning of this year, to monthly skills workbooks that I am using with our two younger children. I love that I can find seasonal worksheets to include in their homeschool day. It makes our weeks fun and exciting.
|A few of the worksheets from My Teaching Library|
There were several products that really stood out for our family in terms of complete curriculum. We were chosen to review My Father's World: God's Creation from A to Z as well as Focus on Fives from BJU Press Homeschool with our kindergartner. Both these curriculum have really helped our daughter blossom and develop a love of learning. And for our younger son, I have been using materials from Homeschool Easy for grammar and mathematics, but they have a complete curriculum for grades 1 to 5 with reading, social studies, science, and writing.
God's Creation from A to Z – We were blessed with being able to review the complete kindergarten curriculum from My Father's World. This meant we added a great number of children's books to our homeschool library, as well as were able to incorporate important religious instruction into our homeschool day. I am eagerly awaiting starting the Christmas unit after Thanksgiving – it looks like so much fun!
Focus on Fives – This has been such a fun curriculum to use in our homeschool. I love how we have been able to incorporate the holiday-themed lessons from the last Teachers' Guide – such as the one on Easter and now Thanksgiving – into our homeschool day. And our daughter loves her 'bunny homeschooling.'
There were several other family favorites that I must simply mention. From fun games to learning a new language, we have added a lot of cool resources into our homeschool day.
Geography and mathematics have been studied in our homeschool, courtesy of two fun games from Byron's Games. Our entire family has enjoyed playing both Continent Race and Math Sprint this year. I love that we have two more board games that we can play – and they are educational, too!
Memoria Press – I have been circling the Prima Latina in the Memoria Press catalog ever since we started homeschooling. I really wanted to learn Latin alongside our younger children (our oldest took French in high school, like I did). So, I was very excited when we were given the chance to review the complete set! I love the organization of Prima Latina. It has been an excellent addition to our homeschool journey.
A Fun Homeschool Year
With all the bumps of 2020, we have been blessed with many great homeschool products to review in our home. The companies have been very gracious to share their wonderful resources with the Homeschool Review Crew, so we could review them and share our thoughts and opinions with you. I know that over the course of the past two years of being a Crew member, I have found several companies that I will be patronizing in the years to come.
If you are curious about who was awarded Blue Ribbons by the Homeschool Review Crew, I urge you to visit their post. While you are there, don't forget to check out the other Crew's posts as they share their personal favorites from this homeschool year.
Friday, November 20, 2020
"Diplomatic Security Service agent Brian Mullaney wants out. Against his will, he's been drawn into a dangerous international mission with world-ending implications - and his final assignment will pit him directly against the terrifying, evil entity known only as the Turk. Surely that's too much to expect from one flawed and exhausted man." – Book Jacket of Ottoman Dominion
I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing the first two books in the Empires of Armageddon series – Ishmael Covenant and Persian Betrayal. These two books illustrate quite clearly how DSS agent Brian Mullaney ends up just so exhausted as he tries to do his job in Israel to maintain the security surrounding the American Ambassador to Israel, Joseph Atticus Cleveland. The stage is set for the final meeting between Brian and the Turk to determine if good or evil will prevail.
About Ottoman Dominion
Terry Brennan has authored a 296-page work of Christian suspense that takes place in several locations – Israel, the United States, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and several other key places in the Middle East. Don't worry if you have trouble keeping locations straight – there is a handy map in the front of the book followed by a cast of characters where you can reference just who each character in Ottoman Dominion is. When I first started reading the series, I found the cast of characters to be invaluable, but after reading two books, each character has become well-known to me. Brennan does an excellent job of developing each of the characters, so they seem to come to life.
The end of Persian Betrayal left readers wondering what would happen to Brian and the rest of the characters as a supernatural earthquake rocked the world of the US Embassy and the Ambassador's Residence in Tel Aviv, Israel. Readers quickly see the results of this weird earthquake caused by the Turk and the havoc that ensues in conjunction with the protests and demonstrations being held regarding the Ishmael Covenant. The staff of the US Embassy loses more good men and women from the earthquake and the following attacks. So will good win?
Ottoman Dominion takes the reader through one very long day as Brian learns more about an 18th-century prophecy from a Rabbi and a Monk, Cleveland seeks the aid of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), and the Turk puts his own evil plans in motion. In the background, we see the hand of God helping the 'good guys' as they struggle with the Turk's plans. As usual, there is more happening behind the scenes because God is involved.
There are some intriguing details that I really like about Brennan's Empires of Armageddon series. The map and cast of characters I mentioned earlier – as well as the headings at the start of each section – help the reader distinguish the physical location, the date, and the time of the events. It could be very easy to get confused or lost when the action moves so quickly, so it is wonderful to have this aid in reading. I also really enjoy Brennan's style of writing. I feel like I am immersed in the story and transported to the different locales.
I really connected with DSS agent Brian throughout the three works. It was quite wonderful to see the resolution of Brian's storyline with his family at the end of Ottoman Dominion. He definitely had some difficult times. While Brian tried to maintain an upstanding character, there was at least one individual in Washington, D.C. who was using any means – right or wrong – to advance his own career to the detriment of Brian's own career. I really appreciated the fact that even in the darkest moments – meeting with the Turk – Brian continued to rely upon God and remembered to arm himself with the armor of God.
Ottoman Dominion is a wonderful reminder that in our darkest moments reaching out to God can be the only way to ensure we pull through to a successful ending. We see the characters of Ottoman Dominion calling upon God over and over in prayer and supplication. In the early chapters of the book, Cleveland prays: "This is not about us, Father. You have an awesome, eternal purpose in play here. We don't fully understand the way, and we can't see the how, when, or where" (66). How often could we say these same words in our own prayers to God? What a wonderful connection to our own lives. And even in what could be the darkest moments of Cleveland's life he says to himself: "My Jesus...my Jesus, I am purchased by your blood. I am righteous in your sight: pure and holy and blameless" (210). I love these reminders.
I recommend Ottoman Dominion by Terry Brennan to those who enjoy Christian fiction, suspense, historical fiction, and political fiction. Personally, I think you should read all three books because they are all excellent works that will bring you entertainment and moments of self-reflection.
About the Author
Terry Brennan is the award-winning author of The Sacred Cipher, The Brotherhood Conspiracy, and The Aleppo Code, the three books in The Jerusalem Prophecies series. His latest series is Empires of Armageddon, which includes Ishmael Covenant, Persian Betrayal, and Ottoman Dominion.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Tuesday, November 17, 2020
Even in the midst of stress and turmoil, it is still easy to find things to be thankful for in our lives. The sun continues to rise, and the rain continues to fall. As our son has been studying, the earth continues to rotate, the days pass by—and so do the months and seasons. Sometimes, it is easy to dwell upon the things that are going wrong. I know I often fall into the pessimist camp, looking at the glass as half empty, but during those moments, I remind myself of everything for which I am thankful.
I Am Thankful
I am thankful for my family. Without my loving husband and three children, I do not think I would be the strong woman of faith that I am today. I have been blessed with a husband who has stood by me through some dark times and helped me see how much God loves me for who I am. My oldest child – my step-son – made me a mom. He has proven to be such a loving older brother to his two younger siblings.
I am thankful for the ability to homeschool. We are blessed with so many wonderful opportunities to educate our children. I am thankful that I am able to create lifelong learners in them. From reading excellent books with them to doing fun projects together, we get to spend our days learning about the world around us.
My Children Are Thankful
Our oldest son shared with me the following: "I am thankful to have been given life by God. I am thankful I was born with food always ready for me to eat, a home I could come home to every day, and clothes appropriate for whatever weather conditions. I am thankful for the loving family I have and the friends that I have made."
Our youngest son is thankful for houses, food, and the Internet. The house provide safety from the rain and food prevents us from starving. He says he is thankful for the Internet so he can play games.
Our daughter is thankful for her mommy and daddy. She is also thankful for water on the Earth. She is thankful for toys so that she and her brother stay occupied so they don't argue. She said, "I am thankful that God made me so I can play."
My Husband Is Thankful
My husband is thankful for God's faithfulness, salvation, grace, and mercy; his wife's love and endurance, his family's love and loyalty to each other, and our church family's steadfastness. He has been attending our church's monthly men's breakfasts and comes home thrilled at how God is edifying those attending with sharing of the Word, prayer, and fellowship. Finally, my husband is especially thankful for author Dr. Michael Heiser, whose works (The Unseen Realm, Reversing Hermon, Angels, and Demons) over the last few years have bolstered his faith.
Thankful Last Words
As I was finishing up this post, our furnace was being cleaned. This was an annual check-up which turned into a bit of a nightmare. We will need to have the entire furnace replaced for quite a heavy penny because there are cracks. So, while it is hard to be remain ever thankful (we have had problems with our refrigerator (in fact, we still need to get it replaced), our dishwasher has been broken for over six years, and we have some plumbing problems that we are living with), I still have faith and hope in our Lord. I am thankful for our family and for all God has given our family. Even with all these problems, they will not be problems forever. For that I am very thankful.
Thursday, November 12, 2020
Searching for books about Thanksgiving for our children has been quite fun. There are a variety of options for books to read during our homeschool days – from board books to chapter storybooks. One could also include unit studies to learn more about Thanksgiving, too. And if a unit study or course is too much to include during the month of November, there are plenty of options to include fun Thanksgiving-themed worksheets into your homeschool day. There is plenty of time to discuss the history of Thanksgiving and remember to focus upon gratefulness, too, this month.
The Story of Thanksgiving by Nancy J. Skarmeas and illustrated by Stacy Venturi-Pickett
This is a lovely little board book that introduces both vocabulary and the story of Thanksgiving to toddlers. Children can curl up on their parent's lap and hear about the journey of the Pilgrims on the Mayflower and how Squanto helped them grow native foods. The Story of Thanksgiving ends with a reminder to thank God for our families, our food, and our homes.
Life on the Mayflower by Jessica Gunderson and illustrated by Brian Caleb Dumm
Children start with the sailing of the Mayflower and journey with the Pilgrims across the Atlantic Ocean. Subdued colors in the illustrations help tell the autumn tale of the Pilgrims, why they were called Separatists, how they entertained themselves during the time in the lower deck, as well as what happened when John Howland was thrown overboard. I appreciated the timeline of key dates, the strange but true facts, and the glossary at the end of the book. Perfect for helping take the story one step further in our homeschool.
Today is Thanksgiving! by P.K. Hallinan
This is a fun book that details the events of Thanksgiving Day, as seen through the eyes of two young children – a brother and a sister. On Thanksgiving Day, the siblings reminisce about the Pilgrims' first Thanksgiving, smell the wonderful scents of potatoes, turkey, and pie in the kitchen, and watch a parade on television. What Thanksgiving day would not be complete without a game of football and loads of family arriving for dinner?
Pilgrim Cat by Carol Antoinette Peacock and illustrated by Doris Ettlinger
After a journey to Plimoth Plantation and the discovery of a cat, the author decided to share the imagined story of one cat, named Pounce, who sailed on the Mayflower with the Pilgrims. The main character of Pilgrim Cat is a fictional one based upon real-life girls who journeyed to America. This tale will help your homeschooled children learn about the voyage as well as what life was like once the Pilgrims arrived in America. The Wampanoag Natives help the Pilgrims after they have set up their village and play a central role in the story. During all this Pounce gets into trouble and then disappears! Don't worry, there is a happy ending.
The Thanksgiving Story by Alice Dalgliesh and illustrated by Helen Sewell
This children's Thanksgiving book is a 1955 Caldecott Honor Book that starts with both the Mayflower and the Speedwell leaving England. It makes for a great inclusion to help children see the whole story of the Pilgrims. It also features the story of the Hopkins family, who had an addition to their family during the voyage – Oceanus Hopkins was born. The story closes with a time of Thanksgiving depicting the Pilgrims giving thanks to God.
Sarah Gives Thanks by Mike Allegra and illustrated by David Gardner
We read this book last year, too. I love sharing the story of Sarah Josepha Hale with our children. She provides such a fine example as a determined American. I am very grateful that she persisted after several presidents did not listen to her request to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. How very fitting that it would be Abraham Lincoln who issued the proclamation for a national day of thanksgiving. It may have taken her 36 years, but I am very thankful that we have this wonderful holiday.
Unit Studies and Useful Resources to Study Thanksgiving
My Teaching Library
There are 38 available downloads featuring Thanksgiving from My Teaching Library. You can very easily incorporate some fun word searches, memory verses, vocabulary activities, or even a game of bingo into your homeschool day. There are even two Roman Numerals downloads available that feature Thanksgiving-like mazes that require your homeschooling children to convert Arabic numerals to Roman numerals and back. I printed out several for our son because he has been wanting to learn Roman Numerals.
One of my favorite curriculum sites offers holiday and seasonal resources, including a wide selection of fall-themed lessons, Canadian Thanksgiving lessons, American Thanksgiving lessons, and Thankfulness and Gratitude lessons. From art lessons on how to draw a maple leaf or turkey to writing prompts and copywork, you can find a variety of lessons and activities to help fill out your homeschool days leading up to Thanksgiving. There is even a selection of math games based. And if you want to study the history of more than just Thanksgiving, History of Holidays in America will let your elementary student learn about 20 holidays.
Monday, November 9, 2020
I have been blessed with being part of the Homeschool Review Crew since 2018. It has not actually been a very long time, but I feel like the Crew Members and the staff of its parent company – The Old Schoolhouse® – have been part of my life for so much longer. Being on the Crew has had such a positive impact on our homeschooling quest, I wanted to share with you what it is like to be a Crew member. While I may share information about several different reviews that we completed, I will be focusing upon BJU Press Focus on Fives from BJU Press Homeschool in a few parts to better illustrate my points.
Read on to explore my days as a Crew Member – daily tasks, time commitment, using, reviewing, and writing
Seeing a New Product is Available to Review
Over the course of the year, Crew members will have the opportunity to review quite a number of different products and curricula. In 2018, I reviewed over 20 products. In 2019, I reviewed over 30 products. In 2020, before I joined the Crew Leadership Team this summer, I reviewed over 25 products. These are conservative numbers because I may have missed a few when I was looking through my blog planner (as a Crew member you get an awesome planner to help you track your reviews).
When a new product is available, Crew members are provided with the name of the company, the product, and links to each so we can research more about them. It is very important to take time and read over the available information on the company and product. Will this be a good fit for our family? Do my kids do learn best with online programs or hands-on curricula? How will we be able to incorporate this new material or curriculum into our homeschool day?
When deciding whether or not I would like to review Focus on Fives from BJU Press Homeschool, I looked over their website and spoke with our daughter because it is a kindergarten curriculum. There were eight components included in the review product, so I clicked through the different links to read about each part - the teacher's editions, worktexts, books, visual chart, and more. There were also videos available to watch to learn more about Focus on Fives.
Over the course of the year, when learning about other vendors and their products, I have even sought out reviews done by previous homeschoolers. Sometimes this means reading blogs or watching YouTube videos to see the product in action. All this research takes time but ensures that the materials will be the right fit for our family.
Making the Review Product a Part of Our Homeschool Day
I find it easier to incorporate new homeschool products and curricula into the schedules of our younger children than into our high school student's schedule. Of course, when a curriculum comes along that will greatly help our high school homeschooling student, it is easy to make a switch. For example, CTCMath was a great fit for our older son because he does better with video lessons for mathematics.
When reviewing Focus on Fives, we used the materials almost every day. It was requested that we use the curriculum three to five days a week, as it is a complete curriculum with reading, mathematics, science, social studies, and more. Since we are a homeschooling family, we adapted the curriculum to meet the needs of our family. So sometimes we skipped parts (e.g., lessons that were teaching skills our daughter already mastered) to include more of the optional activities.
How long does it take to use the product? Every review product will take a different amount of time to incorporate into ones' homeschool. For example, a game like Math Sprint from Byron's Games was rather easy to incorporate. We played the game several times after dinner. With Focus on Fives, our daughter and I sat down together during the day to complete the lessons. Sometimes, the lessons took 15 to 30 minutes. Other times, they took longer because we were completing art projects or reading story books.
Behind the Scenes of a Homeschooling Blogger
In addition to actually using the review product, as a homeschooling blogger, I need to take photographs of the product (or screenshots for online programs). I share some of those photographs on my social media platforms before publishing my review. This helps advertise that I have a review coming up on my blog and helps the vendor because their product will be seen by those who follow me. For me, it is a bit trickier to take photographs because I have chosen not to share the faces of our children. So, I have to position the product in such a way as to show off the work being completed as well as protect our children's identities.
Sometimes, I write my actual review post while we are using the product. I compose the general information about the company or the product in the beginning weeks (we usually have about four weeks or so to use the product before our review is due). I also like to prepare the information on my blog that shares links to the vendor and their social media accounts, the legal disclaimer, and the links back to the Crew's anchor post.
In the final days before the review is due, I write about how we used the product in our homeschool. I might also interview our children to share their opinion of the product. Sometimes, I even ask my husband to include his thoughts when he is editing my posts (I ask him to edit all my blog posts). It is during this final phase that I will make my graphics, too.
How long does it take to prepare the review post? If I am not interrupted, I can write my entire blog post in about an hour or so. I edit all my photographs on my phone, download them, and then put them into my blog or create graphics with them. This can take anywhere from one to two hours, depending upon technology cooperating. Putting in the links and ensuring they work takes a shorter amount of time – maybe 15 minutes or so. I will also check my links after I publish my blog post to ensure they are all correct.
Now that I Have Published My Post
Once my review is posted, I still have responsibilities as a Crew member. I must link up my review on the Crew's anchor post. There are specific instructions to follow to make it easier for the team to check that I included all the necessary information – links, photographs, how we used the product, etc. After linking up, I need to share my blog post at least two times on social media. I usually share more than that on multiple social media platforms. After I share my post on social media, I fill out a Google form to share those links. My links will be shared with the rest of the Crew members with the vendor! There is a possibility for great exposure for my review.
If you are already blogging, you probably have an idea of how long it takes to share your blog posts on social media. Personally, the only scheduler I use is that on Facebook, so I manually pin, tweet, and post all my shares. I use the blog planner provided by the Crew to track how many times I have shared my blog post on the various social media platforms. I try to share each review once to Facebook, twice to Twitter, at least once to Instagram, and three times to Pinterest. I space these shares out of the course of a week, so each day, I may spend 15 to 30 minutes sharing my most recent review.
Being a member of the Homeschool Review Crew is a blessing and a responsibility. It is important to use each product provided by the vendors in our homeschool, write a Christ-honoring but truthful review of the product, and fulfill the obligations in sharing the review. When I have needed help – a product did not arrive in a timely fashion or something was not a good fit for our family – I have been able to seek the advice and wisdom of my fellow Crew members and Crew Leadership Team. By joining the Crew, you will add additional time commitments to your day, but you will be joining a family that participates in card exchanges, swaps recipes, prays for each other, and promotes each others' blogs and social media accounts.
The only other part that I haven't discussed was that – to be an active Crew member – you must post at least one other non-review post a week. There are many opportunities to share non-review posts while being on the Crew. There are weekly blog challenges that allow you to link up and write a non-review post hosted by the Crew as well as other link-ups and challenges shared by Crew members. In the past, several Crew members (including me) have written weekly posts Blogging through the Alphabet.
Do You Want to Join?
Now that I have shared a glimpse into my life as a Crew member, would you like to join? You will grow your blog, YouTube, and/or social media platforms and – at the same time – review new and interesting homeschooling products. I invite you to apply to join the Homeschool Review Crew! As a team, we work together, using current on-the-market home education products and then share those experiences with our readers and viewers. If you are a homeschooling parent that is willing to review products, then this might be a great opportunity for you! Apply here: www.homeschoolcrew.com.