Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Mom Fail

WEEK 15!

My 17 Weeks of Learning to Live a Beautiful Life is almost over.

I'm currently basking in my post holiday endeavors.

Basking might be an ambitious term.

I have spent a few weeks days trying to get my act together.

My act is apparently on vacation until further notice.

I've decided to embrace the crazy...I'm throwing tinsel on the whole mess and calling it a party.

It's tough to come to terms with our expectations. It's especially difficult for us mommas out there.
My sister and I were talking about this just the other day.

Mom Fail.

We were talking about all the candy and cookie making my mom did back in the day. Divinity, fudge, peanut brittle, toffee, sugar cookies, Mexican wedding cookies....

My mom was not a stay-at-home mom. She was a Respiratory Therapist. In fact, for several years she was head of her department. This meant she would work double and triple shifts if needed. She took college courses on the side and even taught art classes.

I am a stay-at-home mom and consider it a triumph if a green vegetable shows up at supper.

How did she do it all?

If I were to ask her, I'm sure she would say, "I just did it."

I can't tell you how many times I have felt like a complete FAILURE when it comes to parenting. It seems all the more vicious to be because we worked so hard and waited so long to become parents to this beautiful boy.

I have lost my temper too many times to count.

I don't feed him the right foods.

I feel like I am struggling to school him the best I can (homeschool mom guilt).

He is growing up in this uncertain and scary world and all I can do is fuss at him to pick up his room.

Maybe I'm not alone. I have a feeling I'm not. The point is that there is a lot expectations we put on ourselves. We feel inadequate compared to those other moms out there.

You know the ones. They have spotless homes. Their kiddos are adjusted, well-behaved and learned all of their multiplication tables before the 2nd grade. They never get impatient with their families. They always look put together and classy.

My house has it's moments. Most of the time, I'm just happy we can find the toilet paper. And today I spent the whole day running errands in my workout pants, one of The Muffin's old t-shirts and mismatched socks.

And don't get me started about my parenting and homeschooling mom skills.

Here is the thing.

There are some things that I want to improve on. Nothing wrong with that.

Then there are those things that I just need to let go. We all have those things. And the truth is that we are missing life because our expectations are simply unreasonable.

I know you have heard this one.

"Spending quality time with your kids is better than spending quantity time."

Of course, there is truth to that statement. However, our quality time spent with our family members doesn't have to be all about epic adventures and awesome stuff.

Our kids just want US.

This week your challenge is to let some of the Mom Guilt go. If there are things that need to be addressed make a plan to do just that. I don't want to give you the impression that I think it's okay to be a Mom Slacker. Sometimes we do need to step it up.

On the other hand, we need to simplify our lives. Focus on those little moments and times with our kids.

We have to let go those expectations that things have to bigger and better for our kids.

I have struggled more with what I haven't been able to provide for Josiah.


I realized maybe I was overthinking the whole thing when, just recently, Josiah provided me with a whole dissertation on why it was cool to be an only child. He doesn't want a house full of kids. He is  perfectly happy with the way things are.

This week your assignment is to choose one activity to share with your child(ren). It doesn't have to be awe-inspiring...it just needs to be time shared together.

Let me know how it goes.

You can catch up with my Learning to Live a Beautiful Life Series here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A Review: The Pilgrim Adventure

We love history around here.

I think I’ve might have mentioned it a time or seven.

What I love most is when I can include great literature into our history lessons.

This past year, I was blessed to review great Science resource (which obviously has nothing to do with history).

The creator of Fantastic Unit Studies, Sue Kilbride, has also written an excellent historical fiction series called Our America Series for kiddos ages 10 and up.  

She was gracious enough to send me the first book in the series, The Pilgrim Adventure, to review.  

It sure wasn’t I expected.

For one…there is time travel involved.

Sign me up!

The series revolves around twins, Finn and Ginny. In The Pilgrim Adventure, the twins are living with their aunt and uncle. Their parents disappeared mysteriously and it was discovered that they went missing courtesy of the time machine the twin’s Uncle had invented.

The twins decide to find their parents and take off on a fantastic adventure.

They wind up aboard the Mayflower!

This isn’t the run of the mill historical fiction story. The author does a terrific job of painting a true and sometimes painful picture of our history. I think that we become so fixated on the picturesque scene of Native Americans and Pilgrims sharing a Thanksgiving feast that we forget the hardships these folks experienced.

The Pilgrim Adventure also tries to clear up some of those historical fallacies we’ve come to accept as truth (say it ain’t so, Squanto!).

The book itself is an easy read. I think it’s a nice length and moves along quickly.

I am not going to give too much away, but obviously Finn and Ginny don’t find their parents in Plymouth. The Our America Series moves along and we are treated to more adventures.

Sue has also provided a collection of FREE activities to accompany each of her books. And true to form…they are all engaging, hands-on experiences.

This collection of books are excellent additions to any American History study.  We look forward to continuing the adventure! 

Sue's website (Funtasticunitstudies.com) is a great resource for homeschoolers. Be sure to check out her other products. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Use Your Words: 17 Weeks of Learning to Live a Beautiful Life

It’s Week 14 of my Learning to Live a Beautiful Life series.

Week 14!

This was a bugger of a week for me.

I have been struggling with a few health issues.

It’s hard enough when one has personal “stuff” going on, but it appears as if the world has gone crazy.

This past week a young man made threats to blow up a college campus. This happened to be the college my niece attends. Thankfully, local authorities acted and the young man was found and taken into custody. There was an explosive device found. My heart aches for this boy. What drives a kid to such desperate acts?

It’s hard to watch the news nowadays.

There seems to be angst, tragedy and mayhem at every corner.

We have to understand that there has always been evil in the world. But it sure is hard seeing it in action.

I think we often get confused about what Living a Beautiful Life means.

It doesn’t mean living a life free from conflict or difficulties.

It means living a beautiful life despite those conflicts or difficulties.

It means that you aren’t consumed with circumstances or expectations.

You learn to take each moment as it comes and develop a beautiful attitude in midst of the “whatevers.”

Let’s look at this moment in time. What is in your heart right now?

Chances are there is some sort of anxiety. Maybe some doubt or disappointment.

I want to talk about words just for a minute or two.

When Josiah was a baby he babbled constantly. His babble was also very specific.

“Ducky, ducky, ducky, ducky…”

That is all we heard.

“Ducky, ducky, ducky, ducky…”

There eventually was a “momma and dada,” but you can imagine our surprise when, at just over a year old, he came toddling in to tell me the phone was ringing while I was vacuuming.

And it wasn’t just any old conversation.

“Mom! AT&T is calling!”

Apparently, he associated the phone ringing with AT&T (who says there is no power in television commercials) and he spoke in such this little man voice. 

Life was never the same again.

When I taught little bitty kids I would often have to admonish them to "use your words" instead of the grunts, facial experiences and squeals that are associated with toddler speech. 

Think about what kind of words come out of your mouth throughout the course of the day? What kinds of words do we allow to penetrate our souls?

For myself, I find the Word of God to be a much needed balm in times of trouble.  I also find comfort in reading about other folks who have overcome great challenges.

This week I want to challenge you to fill your life with beautiful words.

First, ask yourself this.

Are you just babbling? 

Are beautiful words coming out of your mouth? Are your conversations encouraging? Are you proclaiming God’s goodness?

Consider measuring every word that comes out of your mouth.

Let’s talk about what kinds of word we are filling our hearts and minds with. 

Do you have a favorite scripture? A favorite song?

Write them on note cards and post them around your house.

Above our TV I have one of those vinyl Scripture murals. It is found in Isaiah.

The extended version goes like this.

 Have you not known?
Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the Lord,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:28-31 (NKJV)

I can tell you that my family has needed that constant reminder of God’s promises in our lives. 

You can catch up with my Learning to Live a Beautiful Life series by clicking on the banner below. 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

She was loved...

Do you have someone that has made a profound difference in your life?

I am fortunate to have been blessed with a few of those folks.

Heaven gained one of those precious ladies this week. I knew that she had been ill. She had battled for years. Yet...the news of her loss has left me with a sense of emptiness.

It has been a long time since I have sat at her knee and been blessed with the honest wisdom I needed to hear. Though I can sure point to a variety of times in the past several years that I  needed it...

She was there during some of the most difficult battles of my life.

She was the one who told me that it wasn't sin for me to ask for help when I struggled with anxiety after my car accident.

She often reminded me of my resiliency...when I felt anything but resilient.

She and her family made me one of their own. They laughed when I laughed and cried when I cried. They let me hug on their babies when I struggled to find one of my own.

There have been so many times through the years when I would be experiencing a trial and remember something this wise lady had told me.

I can't even imagine what her beloved family is going through. She was their cheerleader, their wise sage...

It isn't surprising that 100's of friends and acquaintances simply referred to her as Momma Scotta.

I am encouraged that one day we will see her again in Heaven.

In the meantime, I am inspired to follow a little in her footsteps. To speak plainly with compassion. To help those I love to know I am on their side. To live life with plenty of hobbies, passions, people and love.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Your One Thing: 17 Weeks of Learning to Live a Beautiful Life

It's Week 13 of my 17 Weeks of Learning to Live a Beautiful Life series.

This week has found me in a tizzy. I am trying to find my Christmas season stride.

With little success.

Do you ever get tired of being "every woman"?

We are told that we need to be crafty, stylish, an excellent hostess, an ambitious employee, a marvelous cook...And notice I haven't mentioned anything about being a loving wife and mother.

I think many of those things are perfectly reasonable goals to have.

But Good Grief! ...Does it ever take a lot of work.

By the way. The Muffin and Josiah tell me that I say "Good Grief," a lot.

Moving on.

This week I am challenging you to chose ONE thing this Christmas season.

Well. Maybe not quite ONE thing in the literal sense.

But let's not make life more complicated than it already is.

Our goal is to LIVE a Beautiful Life. Simplify your life. Take care of yourself.

When life gets complicated, crazy and just a little busy, it soooo important to take a step back and make things easy for yourself.

Have you ever heard "a jack of all trades, but a master of none?" Let's slow down and concentrate on doing just a few things with excellence.

It might be easier than you think.

This is your challenge for this Christmas season.  Make a list of every party, occasion and potluck you will attend in the next few weeks. Look through your tried and true recipes and pick ONE (or two) thing that will be easy to put together.

This is an example of some of my list.

The Muffin's Work Party: Monkey Bread
The Muffin's Work Dinner (they eat a lot): Corn Casserole, Salted Caramel Apple Cake
Church Christmas Potluck: Corn Casserole, Salted Caramel Apple Cake
Youth Small Group Christmas Party: Monkey Bread

You seeing a pattern here?

Your other challenge is to look through your closet and make sure you have a snazzy outfit to wear to all of those Christmas activities. For example, my ONE outfit will make the rounds to a special evening at a show in Branson (we were blessed by a sweet friend), our church Christmas service and anywhere else I want to put on the ritz.

If you tend to practice the "One thing" philosophy consider updating that outfit; especially if that outfit has been your go-to One Thing for a number of years. Don't get stuck. The purpose is to feel beautiful. If you are still wearing your party dress from 20 years ago....You might need to revisit the whole thing. My party dress from 20 years ago was a size 6 and had puffy sleeves.

This philosophy is not just to be practiced during the busy Christmas season. There will be other times of the years that tax your energy, your creativity and your patience.

For us homeschooling momma's it might mean that we need to back off. Maybe we need to just concentrate on good literature, steady math practice and copywork. It might mean that we need to do less outside the home and spend more of those minutes and hours together.

Applying the "One Thing" trick doesn't mean that your turning in your creativity card. It simply means that you are using your creative energies for dreaming, for sharing and for rest.

You can read more of my Learning to Live a Beautiful Life Series by clicking the banner below.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

11 Must See Christmas Movies

My friends.

I am up to my neck in yarn, hot tea and a plethora of unfinished Christmas projects that need my attention.

You should also see my laundry pile.

On second thought. Don't look. Hide your eyes. It's not a pretty site.

I thought I would sit down with my hot tea and share a list of some of our FAVORITE Christmas movies evah.

Watching Christmas movies is one of our traditions. We consider ourselves aficionados of the whole Christmas movie genre. I am often in shock when I hear of someone who has never seen one of the classics.


So here 'tis friends. Take my list and learn. Find one you haven't seen before ...or enjoy one you've seen a thousand times. Assemble the Fam and heat up the hot chocolate.

This isn't an exhaustive list. These are the ones that will get played more than once (or twice) during the Christmas season (and possibly in June). These are the ones that have an honored place on our movie shelf.

And now...in no particularly order.

1. It's a Wonderful Life

It is surprising to see how many folks have not actually watched this one all the way through. What? You have something against Jimmy Stewart? Angels? Cute little girls named Zuzu? It is possibly one of the most encouraging movies in the whole wide world. I may or have may not seen The Muffin cry during this one.

2. The Rankin Bass Christmas Collection

I've included the whole shebang here. Surely you've seen at least one of these. We like to watch them while we are decorating the Christmas tree. Rudolph, Frosty, Santa Clause...The Little Drummer Boy is The Muffin's favorite...they all much loved familiar characters. The other night we watched an old movie with Burl Ives. It was a drama. I have to tell you it was disconcerting to hear his voice in that context. I kept expecting Rudolph and Yukon Cornelius to bumble (hah!) through the scene.

3. The Muppet Christmas Carol

Our favorite Muppet movie. And possibly our favorite version of The Christmas Carol.  This music is precious. This clip is One More Sleep Til Christmas. Michael Caine is terrific as Ebeneezer Scrooge. I am almost positive that this when Dickens visualized his tale he imagined it just the way. By the way...it is one of the most faithful versions.

4. The Santa Clause

Tim Allen all squishy and red. That is all. Actually, The Santa Clause 2 is The Muffin's favorite of the Santa Clause movies. He's a romantic softy and likes the love story.

5. White Christmas (my favorite)

Bing Crosby had liquid gold in his voice. And I adore Rosemary Clooney in this one. She was one of my tribe....The Alto. This movie has romance, loyalty, patriotism, fabulous music and buttermilk (which happens to be The Muffin's favorite beverage).

This clip is loverly.

6. Elf

There are very few Will Ferrell movies that we've been able to enjoy (sorry Will). We like to keep things more PG (emphasis on the G) at our house. But this movie is precious. And who doesn't know about the 4 main food groups? Candy, candy canes, candy corns and syrup...this is my kind of elf.

7. The Polar Express

So sweet. And visually stunning. The final song by Josh Groban cannot be missed. We have actually purchased a few copies of this one over the years. Josiah loved this movie when he was a Little. He watched it over and over. I even created a little unit study around the book and movie. 

Here it is. The Reason for the Season.

I love this simple retelling of the Birth of Jesus. Of course, there are a few liberties taken, but I think it's beautiful.

9. A Christmas Snow

This is a new one to our collection. This is a GREAT family movie. It's theme of forgiveness is one we all need today. We first discovered it when it was streaming for free on one of the instant video services. It isn't on either Amazon Instant Video or Netflix this year.

10. Miracle on 34th Street

I couldn't let a Christmas movie list go by and not have a shout out to this one. There have been quite a few versions made of Miracle on 34th Street. My favorite (and the one I linked to) is the oldie, but goodie starring Natalie Wood and Maureen O'Hara.  I recently realized something that made this movie even more of a special one. Do you remember when Kris speaks Dutch to a little girl when she is waiting to stand in line to see him? This movie was made in 1947...just a few short years after the end of WWII. If you remember your history you might remember that The Netherlands declared neutrality at the beginning of the war. Hitler invaded the small country anyway. One of my favorite books on the planet is "The Hiding Place"....A book about Corrie Ten Boom. She was not only Dutch, but she was a Christian and an active member of the Dutch resistance. She was sent to a concentration camp. Can you imagine what our country and the world had just experienced? It makes this movie so much more poignant.

11. The Nutcracker Ballet

So. Full disclosure. It could be that I am the only one in the house that considers this one to be a Christmas masterpiece. This version of The Nutcracker Ballet was made in 1977 and stars Mikhail Baryshnikov. When I was little (I was 5 when it was made) it would come on PBS. It was one of our "must watch programs." I have seen other versions and I don't think it holds a candle to this one.

I also have another confession. We don't have this one on the Christmas movie shelf. However, I plan to soon rectify that very soon. But I have DELICIOUS news! The video I have embedded below is from youtube...AND it is the whole production. Sigh. Just perfection.

I hope I've encouraged you to start your Christmas movie binge watching, RIGHT NOW!

Friday, December 4, 2015

I'm featured today at Family, Faith and Fridays!

I happen to be especially fond of Servicemen and women. The Studly Muffin is an Air Force Veteran and a good portion of his family served, as well.  One of the precious gals who serves on The Schoolhouse Review Crew with me (in fact, she has just been promoted to one of The Crew leaders) is a military wife. Michele's hubby flies helicopters for the Air Force and they have just moved to Nebraska. She decided she needed a month or away from her blog (the delightful Family, Faith and Fridays) to concentrate on her new home and her hubby (who just came home from a deployment). I offered my rambling  writing services. Today you can go check me out. My article is basically the directions to make cute little Snowman Soup baggies and I offer a little doodled bag topper download to Michele's readers...which might be you.

Head on over! You can click on the banner below to get to Michele's series, The Gift of December. Click HERE to go to my post specifically. 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Light One Up! 17 Weeks of Learning to Live a Beautiful Life

I can scarcely believe it, but it's almost Christmas!

And it's Week 12 of my Learning to Live a Beautiful Life series.

You might notice I'm a bit late. Which means you will be blessed with 2 Learning to Live a Beautiful Life posts.

Yay! Just consider it an early Christmas present. Aren't you excited?

I'm not suffering from a case of sarcasm AT ALL this week.

The truth is that I could do with a few days in the comfy corner of the couch. However, my house doesn't clean itself (ding dang it!) and my guys like to eat. So I am adjusting my expectations and trying to get a little done at a time.

We often find ourselves stressed to the max during this time of the year. Life doesn't slow down...it ramps up at warp speed.

I challenge you to take some time to slow down and purposefully plan those cozy nights at home that not only make memories, but keep the stress level down just a bit.

For the rest of my series I want to provide some very doable and practical challenges.

The challenge for this week is really simple.

You ready for this? You might already do it on a regular basis.

Here it is!

Light a candle every day (or at least every day you are home).

I love candles. I even include them in my housekeeping routine. After deep cleaning my living room my final act is to light a candle.

I think they provide a peaceful atmosphere. If you enjoy scented candles they help with a little aromatherapy. I personally like candles that smell like something is baking in the oven. Floral candles remind me of my spring allergies so I try and stay away from those.

My favorite candle of all time is the Home Sweet Home candle from Yankee Candle. Of course, it is frequently out of my budget so I have had to find other alternatives when I am candle shopping. Sometimes I have even purchased a few of my favorite smelling votive candles.  I think where there is a will there is a way!

Currently, I have a wonderful smelling candle sitting on my bookshelf.

It is unlit.

The Muffin bought it for me and asked me not to light it until we put our Christmas tree up. He's a sentimental softy. Because it was a day that required a lit candle in the house, I brought out a few of my little votives and set them on my coffee table.

Here is the thing, my friends. Living a Beautiful Life means that we pay attention to those small moments in our life. We learn to love those little moments. Something like lighting a candle might seem insignificant in the whole scheme of things. We can't get trapped into thinking that life happens in big, sweeping gestures. If we make those small moments special the "whole scheme of things" become clearer. We find contentment in what we already have.

And sometimes lighting a candle just makes us feel cozy inside.

Nothing wrong with that!

You can read more of my 17 Weeks of Learning to Live a Beautiful Life series by clicking on the banner below.

Friday, November 20, 2015

An Attitude of Gratitude: 17 Weeks of Learning to Live a Beautiful Life

It's Week 11 of my Learning to Live a Beautiful Life Series. I have planned 17 posts in this series...My goal is to end at the end of the year!

Our little blue planet has had a rough week.

As I write this post, we have been in mourning with the citizens of France. Our nation's leaders are debating compassion, prudency and privilege. We are heading into an election year and the pundits and politicians seem to be suffering from the loss of civility and common sense.

I am heartsick with the thought of so many in the world suffering. There are peoples from all walks of life who deal with such life problems that we can't even begin to understand. Not only has terror struck so viciously in France, but in smaller and poorer nations. We haven't given those souls the same kind of attention.

I can't begin to understand it all or even form an opinion about what should or shouldn't be done. I am grateful to know that I serve a God who does not require such evil acts to prove my devotion.

He just asks for my heart.

This next week will be celebrating Thanksgiving. Americans all across our land will be feasting on roasted turkey and pumpkin pie. There will be many more who will rely on the kindness of others for a warm meal or a place to lay their head. There will be children who spend their holiday with not enough to eat.

This week I am not throwing you a call to action.

What you do make a difference in our world is up to you. It is a narrow and shallow existence to think that "your mission" is the only true and just one in the world. You have to do what you feel God has called you to do.

In the meantime, let's not get caught up in the cruelness and callousness of this world. Let's live in an attitude of Grace and Thanksgiving.

This week I want us all to mindful of the blessings we have been given.

This week I am to wrap The Muffin and Josiah in extra long hugs.

I am going to stare at crisp blue skies with appreciation and drink in autumn sunsets. If it chooses to rain, I am going to snuggle up with my loved ones and enjoy a hot cup of tea from the first sip to the last gulp.

I am going to make sure to smile at everyone I pass on the street. I am going to be a polite and considerate driver and remind myself that it's not always about me.

I am going to try not to take offense...even if I feel I am justified to feel offended.

I am going to slow down and maybe make a craft or three.

When I find myself frustrated with the cares of life, I am going to thank God for His provision and Grace.

Am I setting myself for disappointment and failure?

Possibly. It's hard to walk in an attitude of gratitude and grace. But it's sure the best way to travel.

Go, my friends. Make a list of your blessings. Take deep breaths in and out. Enjoy those autumn sunsets.

It is a Beautiful Life.

You can catch with my series by clicking the banner below.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Be Someone's Blessing: 17 Weeks of Learning to Live a Beautiful Life

It is Week 10 of my Learning to Live a Beautiful Life. 

I hope you are enjoying the glorious fall season and giving Thanks every step of the way. We have had really nice weather.

I want to talk to you today about stretching out beyond yourself.

I think we can become so absorbed with the comings and goings of our own lives that we forget about those who might need a blessing.

We also think that we have to be wealthy to give...which is such a big misconception.

The Art of Giving (I'm sure there is a book by that title somewhere) is not about doling out the cash...it is about giving what is in your hands.

If you have the cash to dole out, by all means find someone to bless.

But don't deny yourself the joy of a generous heart because you have to watch your pennies.

This week I challenge you to find someone (or someones) to bless.

First, think of a few people around you who might need extra encouragement.

I will tell you that there are a few friends in my life who have been absolute God sends. There have been times that they come through for me in ways that reached down into the worn out places in my spirit and brought me such hope!

I think there are those who have the gift of giving and encouragement. But all of us can do just a little something to brighten someone else's day.

Here are a list of no cost or inexpensive things you can do to be a blessing.

1. Send a card. We've gotten out of the habit. I love getting mail other than a bill. Don't you? Another idea is to write out a card of encouragement or "thank you" and hand deliver it.

2. Prepare a baked goodie. When I go to someone's house for the first time I usually like to bring a basket of muffins. They are easy to prepare and I can use the ingredients I have in my house.

3. Give something green. A bunch of wildflowers tied with a ribbon. How sweet is that? I personally don't have wildflowers blooming near my house, but I have taken an herb plant to a friend.

4. Do you know a shut-in or a young mother? Offer to do some housework or baby watching. I have been the recipient of both of these blessings.

5. Wrap a small candle in cellophane and make a tag..."You brighten my day."

6. Prepare a pot of soup for a sick friend.

7. Straightening up your pantry? Take some of your excess to a family in need. If you have the money buy the ingredients for a full meal.

8. Words of encouragement. We all know someone who could use a good word. Don't be stingy with your smile.

Here are a few words of advice.

Get your kids involved. They can make cards or draw pictures as a Thank You or to provide encouragement someone in need. One Christmas we had a sweet bunch of kids go through their toys to pick out a couple of extra special ones for Josiah. Some of them even made their own creations.

If you are the "giver" never make the "receiver" feel like you are doing them a favor. The Muffin and I have been on the receiving end so many times. We feel so blessed that others have thought about us. There is also some shame involved. It is hard to be a "taker."

If you do bless someone do so with a merry heart. Nobody likes to feel like an obligation.

You can find more of my 17 Weeks of Learning to live a Beautiful Life by clicking on the banner below.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

A TOS Review: Grapevine Studies

“Day is done…gone the sun…from the lake…from the hills…from the sky”

Anybody else remember singing TAPS in Girl Scouts? This is my last review of 2015 for the Old Schoolhouse Review Crew. We get to take a little bit of time off until the next batch of reviews come in 2016. In the meantime, I have one more review for you.

We have been blessed to be able to review a couple of terrific downloadable ebooks from Grapevine Studies. I received Old Testament 1: Level 3 Creation to Jacob and Old Testament 1: Level 4 Creation to Jacob. I also received the Teacher’s Guide.

I had heard of Grapevine Studies before this review and knew I wanted to try it out. It is a Bible Study that is really hands on. The students learn by using stick figure drawings and timelines.  I decided that this would be a great product to use in our Bible Study at church with my teen group. I have ages 13-18 and wanted to provide not only a hands on experience, but something that really allowed us to study God’s word thoroughly.

This was a simple and fun study to implement. I had copies of the ebooks made for all my students. We have a copy place in town that has .5 copies and will punch holes in them for free! Level 3 requires just a Bible, dry erase board and markers, colored pencils or crayons. With Level 4 a topical Bible, concordance and Bible dictionary is also needed. My husband, the pastor, has a whole bookshelf filled with such books so that wasn’t a problem.

If you chose to go through this study daily with your student a schedule is provided for you.  It looks really easy to implement.  Because I used it as a study for our teen group we went through an entire unit in one session. This was easily done in our allotted time.

The Teacher’s Guide makes the whole thing easy to use. It is a scripted study and I found that my preparation time was minimal. I simply looked over the lesson the night before and made sure I had all of our supplies gathered.

This is a screen shot from the Teacher's Guide. You can see that not even the teacher needs exceptional artistic ability 

Because I was dealing with older students, everyone took turns reading the Bible verses involved. We then would go through the lesson together. I would draw out the stick figures myself and the students would copy them. I had a few very creative artists! Grapevine Studies was unlike anything any of them had ever done before. It appealed to every style of learner. 

This is a screen shot from the Teacher's Guide instructions for Level 4. Level 4 students have a Quest Page. I loved having this opportunity to show students how to use Bible reference resources. My Level 3 students weren't required to fill out the Quest Pages (they didn't have them), but they still received the benefit of hearing the lesson. 

My son, who is dyslexic and dysgraphic, is also in the class. This was a curriculum that he definitely could handle. In fact, he really enjoyed himself.

The Timeline is so easy to complete and comprehend. You can see how it would appeal to so many different ages and kinds of kids! 

This is not only a great product for a Sunday School or Bible Study group. Homeschoolers will find it to be a terrific resource for daily devotions.

Here are a few links you might be interested in. This chart helps parents and teachers choose where to start. You can find downloads of samples of the Grapevine Studies here. 

I have just a short little story to share with you before I close this review. Just this past week, Josiah's personal devotions have been in Genesis. While we have read in Genesis before, he had the extra advantage of going through the Grapevine Studies. Because the study also places such an emphasis on God's plan for the salvation of man, he understood more of the consequences of Adam and Eve actions. The study not only teaches the kiddos chronological history, but really lays out God's love for us. He made provision for Adam and Eve. He has made provision for us. 

I am anxious to continue our Grapevine Studies journey. Be sure to check it out!

You can connect with Grapevine Studies via the following social media outlets. Don't forget to click on the banner to read more reviews.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GrapevineStudies
Twitter: https://twitter.com/grapevinestudy
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/grapevinestudy/ 
Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+Grapevinestudies/posts
Periscope: @Grapevine Studies

Grapevine Studies Review

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A TOS Review: Surfing the Net Science

I hate to brag, but I have a superpower. I am an AWESOME researcher. In college, my favorite papers were those that required me to spend hours upon hours in the library surrounded by post-it-notes and index cards.

In our house the encyclopedias had a place of honor. I don’t even think Josiah knows what an encyclopedia is. He does, however, know how to research his favorite football player and look for youtube videos that demonstrate how to beat a level on his favorite video game. I’ve come to realize that along with teaching Josiah the three “R’s” I also need to be showing him the finer points of research. Of course, now-a-days a body can find anything and everything online. I recently had the chance to review Surfing the Net: Science from The Critical Thinking Co. This wound up being a terrific resource to accomplish my goals.

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to review World History Detective I from The Critical Thinking Co. I knew I could expect an excellent product this time around. I wasn’t disappointed.

I got the physical copy (in paperback form) of Surfing the Net: Science.  It also is available as an ebook. It is intended to be used for grades 3-6. As you might know, Josiah is in 8th grade, but he is dyslexic and I figured it would be a good fit for him.

Basically, Surfing the Net: Science is a interactive workbook. Inside its pages are challenges and activities that not only teach science, but assist in helping teach them those internet research skills. The activities vary…the student might watch a video, look for keywords, play an online game or read an article.

The subjects don’t build on each other so it can be a wonderful supplemental resource to be used with whatever science subject strikes your student’s fancy.

These subjects include:

Ecosystems and Habitats

I started my review by letting Josiah decide what he would like to learn about first. I thought he was going to choose the Atmosphere unit, but “surprise, surprise” he chose Space.

I assisted Josiah as he worked through the lessons. The “key word” activities can be specifically daunting for a kiddo with dyslexia. There are generally so many sites that pop up and we walked through each lesson together. I was able to show him what kinds of sites to look for…reputable, easy to read and navigate.

Just a little aside. I haven’t wrote a research paper in years, but when internet research was a brand new thing at the time. We weren’t allowed to use internet sites as “cited sources” because “anybody can put anything on the internet" (including 40- something hillbillies)

I still think it’s important to “consider the source” and I LOVED that Surfing the Net provided me so many teachable opportunities.

Be prepared to spend a little time with each lesson. Josiah enjoyed following a few rabbit trails along the way.

The Space Unit had Josiah do a variety of activities. He began by listing the planets and answering questions using "key words." We got to get into the whole "Pluto is not a planet" thing (I'm still bitter). He watched videos from NASA and 

 Surfing the Net: Science is really a lot of fun. We had a good time sitting around the table discovering interesting and important facts about the sun, constellations and even the Cold War Space Race. 

What more does a guy need than a good snack and something to watch?

In the mammal lesson, Josiah used his estimating skills while guessing the weights of a blue whale, camel and a raccoon. He then wanted to find out who much the "megladon shark" in comparison to the blue whale. I told you, rabbit trails.

Another fun activity gave him a web address to search for mammals and list their unique characteristics. The web address didn't quite take us there, but we managed. I'm not sure what happened. It could have been our mad web browsing skills.

I don't know if you can read it, but under Mammal 2 Josiah wrote down a Dolphin as his mammal. He wrote "Miami" above Dolphin. His other two mammals were "Buffalo" and "Lions"....Is it coincidence that these are also sports teams? I think not.

I have to tell you that I LOVE using this product. We have had so much fun! It just has so many wonderful things to like about it. Not only is Josiah learning to research and explore via the web, but he is learning more about science in a truly interactive way. 

This is one we are going to keep on using. I find it fits into our school day nicely. 

The Critical Thinking Co. has many other great products available. I hope they come out with more Surfing the Net titles. 

You can connect with The Critical Thinking Co. via the following social media outlets. Don't forget to click on the banner below to read more reviews! 

The Critical Thinking Company Review
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