Thursday, February 26, 2015

A TOS Review: In Freedom's Cause



I love, love history. I love reading historical novels and watching movies based on historical events. The big screen helps things come alive for me. Though I might be the only gal on the planet who hasn’t seen Braveheart. I know it’s about William Wallace and I have this memory in my head of the trailer that features Mel Gibson running about in blue face paint.  One of my new favorite history resources actually comes via audio theatre.  More specifically, Heirloom Audio Productions and their fantastic production of In Freedom’s Cause Single Package has found a place of honor amongst our ‘favorite history resources.”

I was blessed to review a whole package of wonderful things. I received:


The beauty of the audio drama is how easy it is to enjoy. This 2 CD set is approximately 2 ½ hours long and tells the story of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce...hence my earlier reference to Mel Gibson and his blue paint.
William Wallace inspired a nation and changed history. His heroic deeds also moved Robert the Bruce to action. He would eventually gain Scotland’s freedom. This is that story. Wallace was a passionate man of God and this production makes no apologies or sidetracks that part of history.

The story itself is based on G.A. Henty’s In Freedom’s Cause.  He is a British historical novelist from the late 19th century. We have personally enjoyed several of his books. They are always action packed and full of wonderful truths. This audio drama has been such a pleasure to listen to. It has brought all of the passion and adventure right to our home here in the Ozarks.

And the cast! They are absolutely superb. We were excited to hear a few familiar voices. Billy Boyd (from Lord of the Rings), Skandar Keynes (played Edmund in the Chronicles of Narnia and Joanne Froggatt (plays Anna in Downton Abbey!). I was so pleased the quality of the whole production. It was just a delight to listen to.
We also received the In Freedom’s Cause Study Guide in digital form. It is 49 pages long and is intended for all ages. It is divided into these kinds of questions.

Listening Well – these make up comprehension questions.
Thinking Further - these are questions that go deeper into the story.
Defining Words – this what exactly what it sounds like!

There is also a Bible Study guide included.


I used the Study Guide primarily as a resource for me. I was able to use the questions to facilitate conversation.

I also received the In Freedom’s Cause Soundtrack. It is an MP3 download. This was a big hit in our house. We loved the music and it just feels epic. We also really enjoyed the digital download of The Prayer of William Wallace. It is beautifully done. The prayer is taken from Psalm 23 and we can hear Wallace recite it in the production.

My Thoughts

This product was such a joy to review. We used it a little bit of everywhere. In fact, we were in the car when the first CD ended. Josiah looked at me and said, “Is that it? How am I supposed to know what happens?” Poor guy. He was relieved to know we had more to go!

Because this is a historical drama, I found that having the Study Guide available to guide our conversation was helpful.

One of the darker moments in the story is when Wallace is tortured to death. In Freedom’s Cause does not shy away from that painful party of history, but it does it in such a way that will not be disturbing for younger children. It was, however, very sobering to listen to.  I feel that it was timely given the horrific persecution that is taking place against Christians in parts of the world today. Again…if you are the parent of a young child I don’t feel that this production is going to frighten them. The folks who produced treated the story with respect.

The production is intended for ages 6-Adult and there is plenty of great information on the website if you want to inquire further.

I am so pleased that I get to have In Freedom’s Cause as part of our audio library. It will be one we listen to again and again. It is not only fascinating history, but it speaks of great Faith. I can’t think of anything better.

We were also given notice that Heirloom Audio Productions is getting ready to release yet another G.A.Henty book. It is With Lee in Virginia which talks about our own Civil War. Stay tuned!







You can connect with In Freedom’s Cause through the following social media. Click on the banner below to read more reviews.


In Freedom's Cause Review


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A Weight Loss Journal: The Challenge




It has been Fo'Evah since I posted a Weight Loss update.

No excuses!

I've been doing pretty good. As you know I have decided to ignore my scale for now. I tend to get a little too friendly with the scale (can we say 'obsessive'?).

I do have a few good indicators that I'm moving down in the right direction.

I have some saggy spundies. And that, my friends, is about as good as it gets.

I have also had a different kind of victory. I have been practically sugar free since Christmas. In fact, I haven't had any sugar AT ALL the whole month of February. Don't get me wrong. I have used sugar substitutes. I'm not that crazy. It's amazing, however, how conscience I have been about everything I have been tempted to put in my mouth.

The Muffin bought me pearls for Valentine's Day.

Yes, girls. That's my man. He didn't even wave a chocolate bar in my direction. I have a cute story to tell. My Dad bought my momma a box of chocolates. That. My friends. Is just. Plain. Odd.

I don't think I remember him ever buying her chocolates. A power tool, maybe.

Anyhoo. When he presented said chocolates to her he said, "I know you have fat issues."

Oops. He probably should have rephrased that.

The truth is that she is watching her weight. She is 4'11 and weighs next to nothing, but had put on a few holiday pounds she wanted to shed.

For such a smart man....

This past weekend my niece (who was feeling really sorry for me) tried to pass me a piece of chocolate under the table. I assured her that I was doing just fine without it and that it was better for me to keep my commitment to a "No Sugar February."

I'm not so sure I would have been able to resist the same over at the beginning at the month.

So here is your challenge. Is there something that you can't live without that might not be so healthy?

Bread? Pop? Sugar? Candy?

You might be surprised what you can live without.


A TOS Review: IndoctriNation



Anybody else out there a product of public education? I do have some wonderful memories about my school experience. I learned to play poker on the bus. True story. There were also a few tough moments. Mainly, my whole math education up until college. And that whole unfortunate 5th grade year. As an educator, I have always been a big proponent of school choice. I believe that parents should be able to make the decision to educate their child in manner they see fit. I've also been very careful not to sit in judgment of those who choose an educational path different from one my husband and I have chosen for our son.

 I recently had a chance to review the film IndoctriNation, which was produced by Great Commission Films. The film certainly challenged my own passivity concerning public education and our responsibilites as Christians.

The movie begins as award-winning filmmaker Colin Gunn (along with his family of seven) boards a big, yellow bus for a trip across America to discover the influence the public school system has had on Christianity in America. Are schools neutral in the matter of morality and worldview? Is it possible for a Christian to be salt and light in a secular institution such as the public school?
All manner of thoughts and ideas are presented. We hear from a public school graduate, a principle and teachers. Mr. Gunn interviews a variety of authors, historians and public figures.  I was blown away when I learned where our modern day school system got its start. I had heard many of these names from my education classes in college. I was unprepared for the ideology that some of these men stood behind. Some of it was quite chilling.

The more common (unfortunately) aspects of the public school culture; sex, violence, drugs and alcohol were also discussed.  The DVD is mainly for Christian parents. I might watch it with Josiah in the future, but I have a feeling that some things brought to light in the film will bring about lots of questions. Just be aware that IndoctriNation doesn’t shy away from those things that make us uncomfortable. After all, they are a part of our culture. There is nothing salacious or seedy about the content…the film just speaks the truth.

The DVD is 102 minutes long. I watched it a few times and found myself forgetting to take notes! There is so much meat and things to chew on.  If you have a chance to watch the deleted scenes don’t miss The Federalist Papers segment. It gave me a chuckle.

My Thoughts

I was really touched by this film. It made me sad. I still feel that education should be the decision of a parent. However, what a decision!

My own public school experience was fairly innocuous. I went to smaller schools. My first grade teacher read from the Bible out loud daily and started our morning with prayer. Today she would be been fired. Sadly, teachers with different agendas and beliefs would be allowed to keep their jobs and praised for their progressiveness.

The movie doesn't attack those who make the choice of educating their child in the public school…Nor does it attack teachers. I have many teacher friends who are truly making a difference.  They are truly missionaries. Sadly, I know of many missionaries who would not be kicked out of their host country if they mention the name Jesus or try and defend their faith.

One part of the film really spoke to me as a parent. Here is the quote.

"Is there anything more radical in the history of the human race than turning your children over to total strangers who you know nothing about and having that stranger work on your child's mind out of your sight for a period of 12 years?"

Precisely!

Call me an overprotective mother, but this really hits the nail on the head for me.

Much of my own teaching experience has been in Christian schools. I never had to make the choice between praying with a student or my job. But better than that I have the opportunity to truly pour into my own son! I can fill his education and life with those truths that my husband and I hold dear. 

This morning while driving to a PE class, Josiah told me that he was glad he didn't have to go to “real” school. For one, “there are too many school shootings.”

Gun control advocates will tell you that we need to get rid of the guns. I don’t want to get into a political debate, but I believe that there is a whole different issue at hand.

One of the most touching parts of the film was an interview with a father of one of the students who was killed in the Columbine school shooting. This father was officially notified of his son’s death by opening up the morning paper and seeing his son’s lifeless body lying on an outside sidewalk. This father felt some responsibility for his son’s death. He said, “I’m the one who put him there.”

It broke my heart.

When we made the decision to homeschool is was primarily to meet Josiah’s unique academic and developmental needs. We have now been on this journey for 6 years. It has become a calling and a lifestyle. We also have realized that we have to be faithful to do what we believe God is calling us to. It has not always been a popular or understood decision with loved ones and friends.  This film uses scripture at every point. I really believe that there are no gray areas concerning what I believe God has called me to as Josiah’s mom.

If you are on the fence about Homeschooling and want an informed decision I suggested you watch IndoctriNation. It might just change your life.








You can find IndoctriNation on these social media outlets. Check out other reviews by clicking on the banner below. 

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/IndoctriNationMovie


IndoctriNation DVD Review

Monday, February 23, 2015

What I'm Fixin' - February 23, 2015







Some yummy food is going to be springing forth from my little kitchen this week...baring any unforeseen events. Like the plague or an impromptu trip to Tahiti.

I've got a few favorites I bring back every week or so. The Muffin is really easy to feed. Josiah less so, but he does is fairly predictable with what he likes.

This is what I'm fixing this week.

Monday - Patty Melts (a burger on toasted bread with cheese and sauteed onions), Broccoli Salad (I make mine with apples, bacon and toasted almonds...you can't go wrong)

Tuesday - Roasted Chicken (I got 2 last week on special ...this is round 2), Smashed Cauliflower and Brussel Sprouts

Wednesday - Crab Patties (These are made with flax meal so it cuts down the carbs), Baked Potato (for The Muffin and Josiah) and Thai Coleslaw.

Thursday - I adore these Korean Style Chicken Lettuce Wraps. I am also making The Pioneer Woman's Sesame Noodles. Josiah made these last week and they were a big hit. 

Friday - It's Mexican Food night! I'm making all the fixings for a Burrito Bowl. Which will be black beans, baked brown rice, homemade salsa and probably some taco meat for the carnivores. 

Saturday and Sunday are going to spent at my parents' farm. This past weekend, Mom cooked up a big ham, pinto beans, cornbread and I made a smashed cauliflower casserole (which mimics a hashbrown casserole) and an apple cobbler. There is nothing like some hillbilly comfort food on a cold day.

Have a wonderful week!








I am linking up to Meal Plan Monday!


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Random Thoughts: A Winter Update


Okay.  I've been missing in action on the blog this week.

So I've decided to dedicate this post to a Random Thoughts...to update you on the comings and goings and other nonsense in my life at present.

This will probably be more nonsense than you need for a random Thursday.

Pour yourself a cup of tea. This might take a while.

1.  For the past few months I have been doing some genealogical research for my Aunt Susie. This is a picture of a quilt that was used by a young man in the family who hiding from Bushwackers during the Civil War.  He hid in a cave deep in McDonald County (Southwest Missouri). His mother and aunt brought him food and helped him stay alive. Fascinating stuff! The quilt hung in a museum for a time. It is at home at my parents' farm. Right now I'm in the process of scanning a pile of old  yearbooks. I think this stuff is so interesting. It is much more interesting than, say, laundry.



2. A few weeks ago it was sunny and 75.  The Northeast was battling a blizzard. We were wandering around in our shirt sleeves. On this particular fine Sunday afternoon my Mom chased Josiah and cousin Chris away from the video games and out of the house. You can see what happened next.

Boys.

My mom's Australian Shepard (Amy) tried so hard to get up there with them.


This is Solomon (The BBD...Big Black Dog). That, my friends, is the look of love.

He wuvs me.

Solomon and Amy played a game of...I'm not sure exactly what game they played.


But involved a little of this.


And some of that.


She got him!


Then they played again.


I guess it was his turn to win.


Solomon is one BBD. I'm just glad he decided not to play the game with Mom and me.


3. About a month ago, The Muffin fell coming home from work. We live across the street and his commute is pretty easy going. Only this time he fought the curb...and the curb won. It has been a long and drawn out process, but we found out that actually fractured his arm. He won't have to have surgery or a cast. I can tell you that he has been such a trooper. He has worked and just kept on going.

Valentine's Weekend found us at the VA clinic (Veteran's clinic). All the Vets who came in got to eat their fill from a huge table of cookies and kool-aid. And they all received a lovely Valentine's letter. The Muffin's came from Grace. So sweet. I am currently on a sugar fast so I abstained from cookies and Kool-aid. Josiah was thrilled. You can imagine. We don't feed the child. At all.


4. This week we've had our SNOW of the year. At least I hope this is about it. Don't complain to me about your 10,000 inches of snow. We are hillbillies. We don't do this snow thing with much grace or ease.  The Muffin has been THRILLED. He is from the frozen tundra of Indiana. The beauty of living in the Ozarks is that the weather is as temperamental as our chickens. Next week we could have summer.Fo Shizzle.



5. We don't take many 'snow days' as homeschoolers. We take off when it's sunny and 75.  Josiah didn't get much of a break this week. Though the boy doesn't have too bad. He is doing science on the computer in his room...surrounded by his football guys and wearing one of his many football hats. Not to mention he's not bothered to put on a shirt. What a life. We sure have it rough!


6. Today Josiah made sesame noodles. He did such a good job. He's decided, however, that he doesn't like the sesame seeds in the 'sesame noodles." Josiah did eat 2 plates of his noodles. The most challenging part about teaching my busy boy to cook is teaching my busy boy to cook. I think his brain goes a million miles an hour in a hundred different directions. He is just plain fun.


7. I don't have a picture to accompany this last thought. I thought about googling "cute and fit girl working out" and then pretend that it's me. The truth is I haven't exercised in weeks! My usual routine happens during Josiah's swim team practices. I've had a hard time getting things together. I feel so much better when I exercise, but I think I'm dealing with some anemia (not to mention our cold weather). I am eating really well, taking my supplements and drinking plenty of water. I just need to get moving again. Ugh. I wish there was some sort of magic switch for motivation.

That's about it!


Have a wonderful (and warm) weekend!


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

10 Favorite Hacks for Teaching Special Learners






It's a challenge. I know. Teaching those kids with special learning needs.

Josiah has a little bit of everything.

I don't have any easy fixes for you. I don't think they exist. Like with most things in life good things take time and consistency.

And chocolate.

I do have a few tricks I have employed over the years with success. Just remember this. You have to do what is best for your individual and unique child. Pay less attention to the way a curriculum is taught and more attention to learning styles. Don't put your homeschool in a box.



Is your child constantly distracted? I get it! Josiah is my only. It doesn't matter. These kinds of kids can be distracted by anything. And everything. I learned this trick a long time ago when I taught school.

I had a particularly busy child I needed to isolate so he could concentrate on his own business during seatwork time.  I found that a pattern cutting board worked wonders! They are foldable and inexpensive. It provides an easy partition against the distractions of the room. You can buy one some place like Hobby Lobby (use a 40% coupon).


I love music. I taught elementary music for a very short period of time. Playing classical music during the day is another trick I implemented even when I moved to a kindergarten classroom. I would occasionally hear my students humming Bach or Chopin. It is still one of my favorite tricks for our homeschool day. I have a few favorite playlists on youtube. I would suggest just searching for a classical study playlist. Another tip is to find one that actually lists the music being played. That way you and your students can become familiar with the composers. This article has wonderful ideas for implementing music in all kinds of ways. I was inspired to add even more music to our day. Not only does it help soothe and calm, but it can assist with memory. I have my eye on some memory aids for math using classical music. This most likely will be a purchase very soon. As it is I play classical music almost daily during our school time.


When we discovered that Josiah was dyslexic I had already spent so much time and money on reading programs that just weren't meeting the need. I was beyond frustrated. Sometimes it just take time. Josiah certainly has improved with age. One thing that seemed to work for him was playing online phonics games. It helped him work through some things in a fun environment. We used a free site called starfall.com. A few paid sites were even more successful. Reading Eggs and Reading Kingdom were most effective for us. I also utilized phonics videos from youtube. The Electric Company has a whole channel.


Josiah is very much a kinsthetic learner.  When he got to be a certain age I caved into to the teaching practices that said that children of a certain age weren't supposed to rely on manipulatives and sensory activities. I brought out the worksheets that I had banished from my home while he was younger. Shame on me. I have nothing against worksheets, but they aren't as effective for Josiah as those hands-on experiences. Josiah is now 13. I still use playdough in our lessons. He spells words with it or creates historical figures or events. This site has a really great printable list to give you an idea about what you might keep in your homeschool cabinet to help make a great hands-on learning environment.


I found that I had to pay close attention to what kind of font something was written in. He was confused by really decorative fonts. If I thought it was cute it probably wasn't practical. Even the font in this particular font is not the best for a dyslexic. Notice the a's or g's. Josiah still struggles with reversal. I started to created our own reading sheets when I could. I use this Primary Penmanship font and I've just started to use this dyslexie font.  I print out scripture, poetry and reading selections from old readers and books. Old-Fashioned Education has many old readers you can use. I love these readers from Yesterday's Classics. We still read out of them for practice.



Speaking of practice, something Josiah has struggled with is being comfortable reading aloud. His reading is halting and unsure. I have started having him read picture books to me. He can better pay attention to punctuation and story. We talk about flow and personality and engaging the listener. Have your child pick out his or her favorites to read. Sometimes I will have Josiah read the same ones over and over. A good thing to try is to pick out a certain passage in the book. Practice reading them together with certain emotions. "Read it now like you are sad." I also will model it for him and he must mimic my tones and inflection.


I adore Audio Books. I felt early on that I didn't want Josiah to miss out on the wonderful stories I had enjoyed so much as a child and later as an adult. I have always read aloud to Josiah, but utilizing Audio Books has allowed me to have more time to do what I need to do. I do have to admit that I sit down on occasion with my doodle pad in my lap and enjoy the story right along with Josiah. There are so many free options for enjoying audio books. I'm a bit particular about my audio book experience. The librivox site is always a good resource (though they depend on volunteer readers...which has mixed results). Youtube also has audio books online...even some of the BBC Radio Dramas and the Focus on the Family Radio Theater recordings. Another good resource is Homeschool Radio Shows. Audible is a paid subscription. I used it for a time and got good quality audio books of The Hobbit and all of the Eragon books. Of course, there is the wonderful public library. One more great resource and then I'm done. I love StoryNory.com. Fairy Tales, poetry, classic books...there are 100's of stories on this site read by actors.



Math. Ugh. This is our trouble spot right now. I have found some good tips on Dianne Craft's website. This lesson plan on math was particularly helpful.  Josiah has difficulty with the abstract. He thinks literally. He has had difficulty connecting the math processes with his life...which really is how he learns. The Life of Fred books have been a lifesaver! They are short. They tell a story. They are funny and they won't break the bank. I also found a really old arithmetic textbook that teaches in word problems. It's ironic that my dyslexic learns math through word problems. We will often draw out the whole story on the whiteboard.


My last Hack is one I have posted about before. It is Menu Math. Basically, I have a folder of menus from all over town. We can create all kinds of scenarios.  He takes mom and dad out for supper.Dad wants a burger, fries and a chocolate milkshake. Mom wants a bowl of chili and a chocolate shake with caramel. And whipped cream. And a cherry. And extra cheese on the chili. I have needs.



Now I'm hungry! This post is part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew Round Up. Several of us have posted all kinds of ideas for Special Learners. Go check it out by clicking on the banner below.











Valentine's Day Resources

What I'm Fixin': Going Bunless...





Yes, Ma'am! It's Monday.

Boo! Hiss!

You can tell I've jumped into my week with a sweet attitude. The weekend was absolutely gorgeous. Sunny. Warm.

Then.

I woke up this morning to 35 degree weather. Really? I know some of you are rolling your eyes. How can I complain about 35 degree weather? Let's see. Cloudy, cold and miserable. Sunny, warm and springy. You take your pick. I know which one I would rather go with.

Despite my protests Monday is here and so begins the week. My menu this week has to be easy and healthy. We have a busy week and thankfully, I only have to worry about what to fix 4 nights this week. I do follow the Trim Healthy Mama Eating Plan and we are generally at my parents' farm for the weekend. Thus the strange references to certain products.

Monday - Take out burgers. Yep. I did it. The Drive-Thru is sometimes my friend. Josiah has swim team practice tonight and we have to leave early to run an errand. Sometimes the $1 menu is what we have to do. This is one of those nights. In my defense, my burger is going bunless. It is has been hard for my frugal self to set aside my bun, but I sure feel so much better without it.

Tuesday - Chicken Tetrazinni and roasted asparagus.  I don't exactly have a recipe figured out for this yet. My traditional recipe is not Trim Healthy Mamafied so I'm going to attempt to do just that. I'm using Dreamfield's pasta.

Wednesday - Burrito Bowl (inspired by Chipolte).

Thursday - Meatball Subs and pasta salad. I'm using leftover meatballs that I have in my freezer and making up a pasta salad I can fix ahead of time. I'm using a Joseph's pita for my sub and keeping the pasta out of my salad. I've got broccoli, grape tomatoes and a green pepper to put in the salad. And maybe a can of black olives. Josiah loves black olives.

Friday - The Muffin is taking me out to eat! I'm voting for Sushi. We shall see...

Have a great week!








I'm linking up to Meal Plan Monday at orgjunkie.com



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