Monday, December 13, 2010




My family has been using ALEKS, a math assessment type program, online for the past couple weeks.  ALEKS stands for: Assessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces. This program is offered in English and Spanish and is designed for Math grades 3-12. ALEKS can be used to supplement your program or as the core subject. ALEKS is set up to teach according to state standards for each individual state. The system is set to function in two main modes, Student and Teacher and can be used by classrooms, homeschoolers, as a tutor for struggling or advanced students, or for individuals wanting to have a little extra practice in math.

There are several options for purchasing a single subscription:

Student Portion

I cannot emphasize enough that this program is completely personalized according to the individual child. To start the program an assessment is used to find out where the child is in their learning. In order to do that each student begins at a point pre-determined by his teacher/parent, and is given questions (NOT multiple choice) based on this pre-determined level. ALEKS determines what to ask next based on the answer to the previous question. The assessment usually takes less than an hour and has around 20-30 questions. The assessment is considered an artificial intelligence in that it determines what the student already knows and what he is ready to learn next. No two students will have the same assessment.


After the assessment you receive a pie chart showing which topics have been mastered and which have not. This pie chart is where the assessment ends and the learning begins. Your student can click on any section and there will be links to learning exercises that will help him master his weak spots, thus filling in his pie chart.

The learning mode offers plenty of practice of course, but even more, there are step by step instructions as well as personalized suggestions to help him better understand what is causing him trouble. Your child will be motivated to use ALEKS because he’ll want to get his pie chart full and because it’s fun and interesting.

Once he fills in the pie chart he can take a final assessment. If he passes this he’s free to move on to the next level.  If he doesn’t then he’ll be shown on his pie chart what areas need more work and he’ll begin working to complete those areas again. This is because mastery is determined by the assessment not the pie chart/learning mode.

Another very important feature with the ALEKS math program is Quick Tables. As you might guess, Quick Tables is used to help master addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts. Just like the assessment and learning modes Quick Tables also uses artificial intelligence to determine what facts need more work to move from short term to long term memory.

Students receive a color coded table to show which facts have been mastered and which they are getting close to mastering. There are games to play that will help your child learn his facts, but to earn new games they must complete 20% of their table (great incentive).

Teacher Portion

Once you begin ALEKS you will receive an account for your child and a Master account for you. The Master account allows you to quickly see your child’s progress, exactly how much time he’s worked per week (ALEKS recommends 3 hours per week minimum), what needs more work, etc.  Along with these expected resources ALEKS offers something, in my opinion, even greater. There is a section that lets you know how many topics are learned per hour of use and with that information ALEKS will project how many hours are necessary to reach your goal and approximately how many weeks it will take to make the goal if you continue to work at the same rate. This will let you know if your child needs more or less time on ALEKS. I LOVE the program I’m currently using, but this feature has caused me to rethink the course we’re using. I love the idea of knowing what needs to be done and having a goal set to get it done.

Also with the Master account you can generate quizzes and worksheets for the Learning Mode and Quick Tables. Also you can edit the Quick Tables to concentrate on new facts or facts that you feel like your child needs to work on. You can edit how much time the child needs to spend in Learning Mode before being allowed to play a game and how many games are allowed per daily lesson. There are other things that you can change/edit as well, including the cute character that is known as his instructor. There are four to choose from and the default character is ALEK’s himself:


How cute is he?



If you are interested in a quick easy to understand overview of the different aspects of ALEKS try one of the informative tours from their website. You should also check out some of the training tours to get a better idea of what it’s like to actually use ALEKS.

How Did ALEKS Work FOR US?

It worked wonderfully! Maybe too wonderfully because it caused me to second guess the math I’m using for my very bright 10 year old son, who all of a sudden isn’t enjoying his regular math these days. That part had nothing to do with ALEKS, he hasn’t enjoyed it all year.

I would like to go ahead and throw my one negative in followed by a positive that will hopefully help those who are as overwhelmed as I was initially. When I first started with ALEKS, it seemed like, well, too much information. I am a bullet list type person who likes to go in depth where I want to go in depth and skip the rest. It’s possible to do that when getting to know ALEKS but it’s not as easy as it could be. For example all of the different course products stumped me at first, but then I found this neat chart to make it easy to decide where to begin. I would highly recommend using the brief tour’s  and free trial to help you get started. Once I went through the tours and spent some time just playing around, it all clicked and I grew very fond of ALEKS.

As for my son and ALEKS, he was able to master 6% of his goal during our short time on ALEKS. He only averaged about 1 hour of work per week so had he worked the 3 hours they recommend he would have soared through this program. A big plus for my son was that he could choose what concept he wanted to work on each day. If he was feeling tired and not all together enthused about school (I know, I know, typical day for most kids, but you get the idea) he could work on an easy concept such as whole numbers. On the other hand if he woke up with an extra pep in his step and was feeling like he could conquer the world, well then that would be a fractions kind of day!

All in all I have been very impressed with ALEKS. I never dreamed math could be so individualized without being so time consuming on the parent. ALEKS has done a great job putting together a program that does just that! I knew it was a wonderful program but my son’s comment the other day convinced me, he said “Math is my favorite subject now!”

To find out what other TOS members had to say about ALEKS, click here.

**Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received this product free of charge, in exchange for my honest opinion/review. For more honest reviews from real homeschoolers, visit the TOS Crew website.

Friday, December 10, 2010

TOS Review: Apologia’s Good Morning God

My kids and I had a nice time during our Thanksgiving week, reading this beautifully illustrated hardback book, Good Morning God by Davis Carman. This book is published by Apologia Educational Ministries. The cost of the book is $14 and you can also purchase a coloring book to go along with it for $4. The child in the book is four years old and the publishers suggest using the book with children ages 1-8 years old.
The purpose of this book is to help children realize they don’t have to stop what they’re doing to worship, they can do it as they go about their daily lives. They don’t have to reserve prayer for bedtime and mealtime, they can talk to Him anytime. And it’s also a great reminder to us parents that we don’t have to sit down and have a Bible study with our kids in order to teach them about Him. We can, no we SHOULD, teach them as we go.
These Commands that I give today
Are to be upon your hearts.
Impress them on your children.
Talk about them when you sit at home
And when you walk along the road,
When you lie down and when you get up.
                                        ~Deuteronomy 6:6-7

In the front of the book they offer several tips on how to use the book. It is less than 25 pages so you can simply read it straight thru (something we will definitely do in the future). Or you can read it everyday for a week like we did.
The book is broken down by the days of the week, beginning on Sunday and ending on the following Sunday. Each day I made a point of letting my two youngest, ages 3 and 5, know what day of the week we were on. Since reading this book I’ve brought out my old wall cards “Today is ______” and “The weather is_____” to help them learn the concept of days, weeks, months etc. Each day we read the designated 4 short pages for that day of the week then I discussed with them using the discussion questions located in the back of the book. There are also scripture verses to use.  If you have older kids this would be a great way to get them involved. There is very little to read each day so you could easily do this in one setting, BUT the discussion questions would be a bit much to do all at once, in my opinion.
I think this book is great for the children, but it was actually more beneficial for me. It truly was a great reminder that I need to look for those teachable moments, and constantly have Jesus on the tip of my tongue, teaching them as I go…
If you would like to hear what other TOS members thought of Good Morning, God, click here.
**Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received this product free of charge, in exchange for my honest opinion/review. For more honest reviews from real homeschoolers, visit the TOS Crew website.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Free Womens Day Planner Giveaway

Tiany at The Homeschool Lounge is giving away a Woman's Day Planner. To enter click here. You will also get a discount code for 10% off, just in case you're not the lucky winner!

Monday, November 22, 2010

TOS Review for Bright Ideas Press: Hands on Geography


Today I will be reviewing Hands on Geography by Bright Ideas Press. Bright Ideas is a family based company that began when a mother created curriculum to help her homeschool her two boys, way back when homeschool curriculum was practically unheard of because homeschooling was practically unheard of.  Bright Ideas Press is not a new company, in fact you’ve probably heard of their Mystery of History series or their Timeline & Figures products.

If you visit their online store you will find they offer 11 different categories of curricula: Science, Audio Downloads, E-Books, Fine Arts, Fun and Games, Geography, High School, History, Illuminations, Literature, and also some miscellaneous resources and products found under Other Resources.

For this review I will be concentrating on a Geography product called Hands on Geography. This is a 142 page book with loads and loads of handsongeographyideas to make your geography course more interesting, fun, and sticky. What do I mean by sticky? Well, when my kids learn something using their hands, eyes, ears, and mouth, it usually STICKS, they retain it, remember it, understand it fully. With this book they use all of their senses and it suites all different learning styles.

This book would be a great supplement to any geography course or could be used as a stand alone course since it’s designed for the lower levels (K-5) where geography is usually not considered a high priority subject. There are enough projects and units to keep you busy for several years and at $14.95 you can't beat the price.

This is not a grab and go type course. You have to put in some time (not much) and effort for most of the activities (not all of them). There are many options to choose from when using this book. Here are a few:

  • You can choose an activity or game to go along with what you’re learning in your separate geography course. Example: if you’re studying China you can use the Passport Fair in chapter 4. Each child would create/collect posters, artwork, crafts, costumes, postcards, brochures, currency etc for the fair.  Then everyone sets up their ‘booth’ and displays a fact sheet and all the items they’ve collected. You can offer snacks using recipes from China. (This would also be great for a co-op project with each family focusing on a different place).
  • You can use an activity or game to go along with something you’re studying in a different subject. Example: If you’re studying about primates in science you can make a Homemade Book using the suggestions found in Chapter 2, there are 8 types to choose from to suite all ages. ABC book, Shape book, Once Upon a Time fiction book, and more.
  • You can use it ‘as is’. Example: Chapter 12 covers the 5 different Themes of Geography: 1) Location   2) Place  3) Relationships within Places   4) Movement and  5) Regions. Included in this chapter is an activity to teach each of these themes.
  • You can use it to learn more about Christmas! Example: Chapter 7 has a section entitled Christmas Around the World. What an amazing way to study geography, history, Bible, literature, and writing. all at once!

I could do this all day. This book just spurs my mind in so many different directions. I can find a dozen different ways to use almost any chapter in this book, and there are 13 different chapters including chapters to cover, Missionary Geography, Genealogy Geography, Language Arts Geography, Nature and Geography, and more!

So what did we do with it? We used it as a Bible study! Chapter 5 is called Joseph’s Journey. I used the referenced scripture to assign reading each day then there were questions he could answer and a map to trace Joseph’s journey. Speaking of maps, there are maps for each of the 7 Continents, the US, the US by Regions and by States, Canada, and Mexico.

So in conclusion here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of Hands on Geography:

  • Includes all learning styles
  • Could be used for several school years
  • Can be used by multiple grades at the same time
  • Affordable ($14.95)
  • Fun for Kids!!!

I really only have one disadvantage, and it is:

  • Most (not all, see below) of the activities require some work on your part. Not an easy, grab it and do it, type of program. So if you’re a busy or overwhelmed mom, you may not want to try this. Then again, for only $14.95 you could probably find several activities that would be easy enough to do even with a busy schedule.

I can’t end this review without mentioning the Field Guides. Now this one would be easy for the busy mom. Let your child choose what they want to study, print off an observation sheet (there’s one for critters and one for plants) give them a container for specimens, camera for pictures and then send them out to observe. (There are more detailed instructions to help with this in the book). What child wouldn’t enjoy learning this way? Especially boys! My boys would much rather have school in the woods/yard than in the house!

To hear what other homeschool reviewers thought of this product, click here.

**Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received this product free of charge, in exchange for my honest opinion/review. For more honest reviews from real homeschoolers, visit the TOS Crew website.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Book Samaritan

God has provided a wonderful ministry to help my family with our homschooling needs and I just want to share it. It’s better than anything you can imagine. It’s called The Book Samaritan. They are non-profit organization that helps homeschooling families with curriculum. 
I have sent requests the past two years and they have helped meet my needs. They tell you to put what you need but not to expect to have it all filled.  This year they really blew me away by fulfilling EVERYTHING I asked for including Math U See and Queen Homeschooling! I didn’t expect that at all, but felt very blessed.
The only rule they have is you cannot resell items you must give them away. So here are some items they’ve given me over the past two years. These are miscellaneous items they sent to help fill in the gaps. These are free for the taking, just send me an address and list of items you want. If you have a few extra bucks to help with shipping that’s fine if not, no worries Smile


Life of Christ Bible Study

Family Guide to the Bible (this is a large hardback book by Readers Digest)

Electing our Presidents by Helen Stone Peterson

Scholastic Art Magazines (these are from 2000)

Social Studies: Regions and Resources (by Silver-Burdett Ginn)

Leadership for Students ages 8-18 (by Karnes & Bean)

If you see it and you want it…let me know and it’s yours!

Thursday, November 18, 2010 Giveaway

My kids have been spending a lot of time on the computer lately…with my permission! We have been given a subscription to a fun and exciting program from JumpStart. It’s an online game that keeps changing and growing and becoming more and more interesting, or at least it seems that way to my kids.
With our subscription we were able to set up an account for each of my four children, ages 10-.3. They designed their little man to look howeverJumpstart boy they wanted (the one pictured on the right is dressed for Thanksgiving), then they picked a name that consisted of a real name, a color, and an animal. Example “Charlie Black Horse” My younger two kids were not able to play without me but my 10 and 8 year old boys had a blast all on their own. One would play while the other watched. We did have some difficulty at first but I talked with tech support and they were quick to jump in and help me solve my problem right away (the problem was in my computer, not their program). Excellent customer service!
Once you set up your little person, then your head Down Town and choose whatever adventure your heart desires. They have many to Jumpstart mayflowerfrontcroppedchoose from such as: Enchanted Sanctuary, Future Land, Adventure Land, and Marine Land (just to name a few). It’s now Thanksgiving in Down Town, so there are many Thanksgiving themed activities for the kids to enjoy.
I love the idea of learning while playing and the computer offers many opportunities for that. JumpStart has proven themselves over and over with their CD-ROM's (JumpStart Kindergarten, First Grade, etc) and now their online site. In Science Land you can learn about anything from Ants to the Solar System. There are quizzes and you earn points for prizes. Over in Future Land you can experiment with how things may be inJumpstart earning the future. Playing games earn you money for clothes, cars, skateboards, etc JumpStart Stadium has games on reading, shapes, math and other important skills.
In addition to your online games you also receive 4 Downloadable Games with your subscription. My First Adventure, The Legend of Grizzly McGruffin,Trouble in Town, and Quest for the Color Meister.
The Jumpstart Blog is the place to go to keep up with all the latest and greatest happenings
In the few weeks my kids spent playing, there were at least two new adventures added. One had a Halloween theme, and the other was a Thanksgiving theme. Main Street was decorated for autumn with scarecrows everywhere.  They also have a treasure hunt going on that changes, I believe, with the seasons and/or holidays. Right now there is a Thanksgiving treasure hunt and the leaves are steadily falling. Can’t wait to see what Winter and Christmas will be like.Smile
JumpStart offers three different options for purchasing a subscription:
Monthly $7.99  Yearly $74.99 or Lifetime $149.99 With each of these subscriptions you can add 6 children to the account.

What my kids thought of
Jordan’s Fav(age 10): “The best part was getting a Mythie from the Enchanted Sanctuary. I played with it, fed it, petted it, put it to sleep, just like a real pet. Now my Mythie (Silver Shark) is all grown up.”
Jordan let me wake his Silver Shark Mythie from his nap and feed him and I tell you, it was pretty fun having this little dog-dragon-like creature tag along with me Smile
Josiah’s Fav (age 8): “Jumpstart Stadium is my favorite part. I enjoy playing Volleyball. Using the arrow keys you hit the balls, but the trick is, you have to tell if the ball is a real word or not. In basketball you do adding, subtracting and other math skills. Football is shape learning and color skills.”
I would recommend for anyone who doesn’t mind a little learning media style. It was great!
If you would like to win a Free 3 Month subscription please leave a comment here and link this to your blog. Drawing will be November 30!!
Edited Dec 3 CONGRATULATIONS Paula! Winner of a 3 Month subscription to JumpStart!!
  “Disclosure: I was provided with a JumpStart membership at no cost by Knowledge Adventure in order to test the products’ abilities and give my own personal opinions on it. The opinions I have given are mine and may differ from others but were not influenced by the company or the free product provided.”

Monday, November 15, 2010

Adventures in Odyssey: Cause & Effect

Adventure in Odyssey
I’m so excited to share the latest Adventure in Odyssey review. We were thrilled to be given this product because we LoVe Odyssey! My kids didn’t waste anytime diving into this 5 hour long CD set. There are 4 CD’s with 12 different audio programs and they finished them in less then a week I think.
Adventures in Odyssey was created by Focus on the Family and has been around since 1987 and If you’ve never heard them then you just don’t know what you’re missing.  Adventures in Odyssey are audio stories with biblical truths and character lessons built in. You actually begin to feel like you know the characters after awhile. Odyssey is the make believe town and most of the stories begin and end at Witt’s End, a soda shop run by the very wise, Mr. Whittaker. As you can imagine there are several interesting people that hang around Witt’s End.
The latest Odyssey series is called Cause & Effect and there are plenty of mysteries to be solved and laughs to be had. My kids thoroughly enjoyed Wooton’s Broken Pencil Show. They laughed and laughed (and they weren’t the only ones laughing, their Dad chuckled a time or too as wellWinking smile). Opposite Day was another big hit around here. It took me awhile to figure out what was going on when the boys were talking to one another and saying things like “it’s such a beautiful day” when it was actually raining outside. Or telling each other “Good Morning” before they went to bed. They had a good time with that one.
Cause & Effect also covered some serious issues as well. Topic’s included: Secret sins, Fear, Fasting, Friendship, All Powerful God, Trust, Thanksgiving, Responsibility, Honesty, and the true meaning of Christmas!
TyndaleI would highly recommend this or any other Adventure in Odyssey. You can pick up your copy of Cause & Effect from Tyndale Media Center today. The cost is just $24.99 and it’s worth every cent!

Disclaimer: Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of Cause & Effect,in exchange for my honest review.

TOS Review: Corps of Re-Discovery

The latest product/company up for review in the Pickrel household is called the Corps of Re-Discovery. Until doing this review I had never heard of this family run company. I have enjoyed spending time on their website and learning how Corps of Re-Discovery came to be. Apparently they began to dream of taking their family on a cross country trip in an effort to explore and learn all they could about America (her land, her history etc).

About ten years ago their dream became reality as they embarked on a 14 month trip, spanning 47 states, 20 national parks, and numerous museums. After digging deep into our nations rich history, this family felt a need to share what they had learned using exciting dramatizations and by developing hands on projects to aid children in “re-discovering” America.

They offer numerous products from three main time periods. Here are just a few of the items I found interesting:

American Indian: Moccasin Boot Kit, Leather Vest Kit, and Seneca Lite Throwing Knife

Pioneer and Colonial: Patchwork Quilt Kit, Quill Feather Pen Kit

Frontiersman: Flint and Steel Set, Frontier Craft Pack

The prices for these items vary depending upon what you want.            They start at $1.99 for a Coon Tail  Coon Tail $1.99                                                                                                             All the way up to $71.92 for a full Frontier Craft PackFrontier Craft Pack $71.92

We were given a small coin pouch that retails for $4.99

353  354

My 8 year old worked at putting it together during a long van ride one afternoon. He finished about half of it before he came up for air. I felt like this particular product was good for him because it forced him to use his small muscles and it helped with hand eye coordination,  which is something we can always use help with around here.


So when your doing your American history lessons and your kids complain that it’s boring, remember Corps of Re-Discovery has everything you need to enrich your history study.

If you’d like to see what other TOS reviewers thought of this company, click here.

**Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received this product free of charge, in exchange for my honest opinion/review. For more honest reviews from real homeschoolers, visit the TOS Crew website

Friday, October 29, 2010

TOS Review: Buckets-O-Fun


I was very excited when I learned I would be reviewing Buckets-O-Fun because I had already checked out their website and it was full of neat toys that my husband and I could use with our family or with the middle school students he works with at Youth for Christ. They have any thing you can think of from inflatable toys to rubber chickens, water fun to yuck. Yuck! Did I say yuck? Yes, I said yuck! Okay, I'm a clean person, I don't do yuck! My kids on the other hand (3 boys, and the one mud lovin' girl) love yuck, in any form.

So this was a nice review for them, not so much for me :-) I had hoped to use it with the youth at YFC but when I mixed up the sticky yuck I realized it wasn't going to be enough so we just looked at it basically. It was too messy to do anything else with. We needed to be outside but it wasn't possible at that time.

Oct 10- Oct 25, 2010 134 Next we mixed the saucy yuck. It made more than the sticky so there was more that we could've done with it, had we been outside. Again, it was dark and rainy, we couldn't go out. So we just playedOct 10- Oct 25, 2010 138 in it. They enjoyed that. Also there was a short handout that we used to make it more educational. The handout explained polymers, natural and man made.

The sticky yuck was very sticky and yucky (appropriately named) and the saucy yuck was more like applesauce. The boys enjoyed the feel of it on their hands. I wondered if we could add some food color to either of these to make for some interesting pranks ;-)Oct 10- Oct 25, 2010 139

Included in this review was a game sheet and a FAQ sheet. I reviewed 4 types of yuck: Saucy, Snowy, Sticky, and Chunky. They range in cost depending upon how much you order, and which yuck you order. The price range is from $16 to $400. You can also get a free sample of yuck, just visit their website to find out more.

If you'd like to see what other TOS reviewers think about Buckets-O-Fun, click here.

  **Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received this product free of charge, in exchange for my honest opinion/review. For more honest reviews from real homeschoolers, visit the TOS Crew website.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

TOS Review: PG Key

TOS Homeschool Crew
I have discovered, thru TOS Homeschool Crew, the neatest device to help protect our children while online. It’s called PG Key, and here’s how it works.  You simply plug it into your computer’s USB port, allow the drivers to load and assign a password that the kids can’t guess. If the Key is removed the computer doesn’t work.   After set up you’re ready to personalize it or jusPG Keyt use it as is.  It really is that simple.
If you’re like me I wanted to personalize my PG Key so I added a few sites to block and some key words to block.  I also downloaded my favorites into the list of safe sites. Here are some of the options available:
  • Chose to only allow sites that you deem acceptable
  • Add additional sites to be blocked
  • Block key phrases and/or words
  • Set Time Allowances to keep kids from spending all day on the pc
  • PG Safe Search, search engine
  • Remote access
  • Automatic notifications, to let you know where your child has been
  • Session Recording
In my opinion the greatest tool would be the session recording. This feature allows you to actually replay what your child has been doing while online. It’s like a surveillance system so you can see exactly where they’ve been and who they’ve talked with, what was said, etc Imagine how beneficial that alone would’ve been for those parents who’s children fell victim to online predators.
Yes this little device can do all of that! And it only costs 49.99 (plus shipping) You can request a free trial by going here. The PG Key has been featured in numerous articles, magazines and newspapers. I would also like to add that the customer support is extremely efficient. I thought I was having trouble after adding some safe sites to my lists and they were there to help me. I really didn’t have an issue, I just hadn’t waited long enough for the settings to go into effect.
Although PG Key is an amazing tool to HELP us protect our children. There is no substitute for adult supervision. You still need to monitor your children and teach them internet safety.  I am not 100% satisfied with the search results that  show up when I type in certain phrases. I will continue to tweak this and see if I can block everything I want blocked, but for now I have to say, it’s not blocking all the filth. My children have certain sites they go to so it’s not much of an issue at this point, but when they’re older and doing research I will definitely want a better system then what I have in place at this point.
If you’d like to see what others are saying about PG Key, click here.

**Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received this product free of charge, in exchange for my honest opinion/review. For more honest reviews from real homeschoolers, visit the TOS Crew website.

Monday, October 25, 2010

I am the Vine. Abide in Me (Part 2)

25As I explained in my previous post, I recently drifted from my Father and found I didn't have the will to find Him again. There was something standing between us and it was almost like "out of sight out of mind." I know that sounds awful but it truly seems that way sometimes. I'm so weak on my own, I can't even go to Him!

Thank you Jesus, You came to me (again). This time it was through Pastor Mike's sermon. I knew God was telling me, "no matter what you do, where you go, how far away you move, I'm still here. I love you"  In that moment I felt truly special to Him. We are all that special to Him, all the time, but we seem to forget it so easily. Before I left church that day I asked Him to please get me out of bed the next morning, I didn't want to miss my time with Him. He woke me up at 6:30 am on the dot. I practically sit straight up in bed. When I saw the clock I remembered my prayer at church the previous morning. I usually don't remember things, especially when I first wake up, so I knew it was Him, giving me my special wake up call.

Now that I was up, I had to decide what to do for my quiet time. Should I continue with the Bible study I was using but not particularly enjoying, or should I just dive into His Word on my own. I decided I should continue the Bible study (I hate not finishing something I've started) and I'm so glad I did.

Over the next few days God began to speak to me with different verses. I now have a practical plan in place to help me battle some things I've been dealing with in my life. These are issues that I've been struggling with for years and I've felt moved to lay them all on the alter and seek no outside council. I'm usually the type that will ask other believers, read Christian books on the subject matter etc. But I've done that and I'm still fighting these same battles. Here are the verses He gave me:
Psalm 126:5-6
5 Those who sow in tears
    Shall reap in joy.
6 He who continually goes forth weeping,
   Bearing seed for sowing,
   Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing,
   Bringing his sheaves with him.

I realized that although I've been battling this for quite sometime, if I could just keep sowing the harvest would be joyful in the end. I will rejoice when this struggle ends.

Galatians 6:8
8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life
9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.
10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Keep sowing---harvest time will come! The tricky part will be to sow to the Spirit and not my flesh, which is my natural tendency. I will need to sow the seed (God's Word) by putting it into practice! I must die to my fleshly desires in order to reap His Spiritual rewards.

John 15:4-5
4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.                                                                                                                         5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

There it was, in black in white! The answer I'd been looking for. Isn't it funny how something you've read 100's of times becomes clear all at once. None of these verses were new to me, but they all became new to me when the Spirit revealed His plan for me to overcome this particular struggle I had been dealing with. I'm so glad He broke it down to me in simple terms. I'm simply to Abide! When I don't know what to do, that word pops in my head~~ abide!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

I am the Vine. Abide in Me (Part 1)

Am I the only one who struggles to stay with Jesus on my spiritual journey? It seems I always get distracted by life or selfish desires. I see myself as a small two-year-old following behind her Father in a forest full of interesting and dangerous sights.forest Always stopping along the way to pick a flower or remove a stick in the way. Sometimes needing to rest I’ll sit down instead of asking Him to carry me for awhile. Then when I least expect it something will catch my eye and off I trot on my own path in the opposite direction of my Father.

This scenario has played out time and time again in my life, but it always ends the same. My Father draws me back to Himself. It happens in different ways each time, but I always know it’s Him calling me back. Recently I followed my own path which lead me to sleep later than usual and miss my quiet time more often then not. It started around the middle of the summer when my normally ordered life became very unorganized and disrupted. I saw this coming and started a personal Bible study to hopefully keep me on track. The Bible study wasn’t the best and for that reason I didn’t really mind skipping it on occasion (too many occasions) for a couple extra winks of sleep.

Pretty quickly I noticed a dangerous pattern in my thought life, but instead of squelching it quickly I allowed it to linger. This is such a dangerous thing to do because as the saying goes “be careful what you think because your thoughts become your words and your words become your actions.” For several months I allowed myself to think more about “me”  and put myself in a higher position than I deserved. I also chose not to recognize my sin nature taking hold of my heart and life. Praying was very difficult and my usually strong desire for God’s Word was becoming non-existent. These are always red flags in my spiritual walk but by the time they’re popping up I’m usually far enough away from my Father to not really care so much. I’ve got a taste of freedom in my mouth and I’m longing to do things MY WAY! I realize there is pleasure in sin for a season and I’m blinded by the allure of the pleasure to come; I’m equally blinded to the consequences my sin will bring once it’s given free reign in my body.

Forest During these weeks, I knew things weren’t right but I felt helpless to find my Father again. My desire for Him was alive, and yet it wasn’t strong enough to snap me out of my haze and bring me to the realization that I was headed for trouble. Does that make sense?  He was there, I knew He was close, I hadn’t gone too far from His path but I couldn’t even bring myself to call out to Him. Looking back to where I was, and where I was headed, scares the heebie-jeebies out of me.

Thank God He called out my name!

To be continued...

Friday, October 15, 2010

TOS Review: Young Hearts Longing For God by Soli Deo Gloria Resources

For the past several weeks my 5th grade son has been doing a Bible Study by Kim Kargbo at Soli Deo Gloria Resources. The study he is using, Young Hearts Longing for God,  is a  pre-inductive study of the Psalms. It is a 30 week study of 28 SoliDeoGloriadifferent Psalms. They cover one Psalm per week, except for Psalm 119 which they spend 3 weeks covering. This particular study was designed for 4th-8th graders, but in my opinion it would be easy to use at any age. It is a very simple study to use. Each day the child reads the Psalm and answers 1-2 probing questions or some days they will have to look thru the Psalm and underline or circle a particular reference. At the end of the week they are to write a journal entry pertaining to the Psalm. There is accountability in the form of a study checklist for them to check off each day.The cost of this workbook study is $16 and you would need to purchase one workbook per child/adult participating in the study.
For us this was an easy add-on to my son’s AWANA program. He just needed a little something to go with the memorization he was already doing and this was a good fit, in my opinion. He was instructed to read the Psalm each day and answer a question or two, saving the last day for journaling. Another option would be to have him read the Psalm each day and save all the questions for the last day. I prefer him do the questions slowly each day giving himself time to absorb the Psalm.
Soli Deo Gloria is Latin for “to God alone be the glory.” The mission of this company is to “educate God’s children for God’s glory alone.” They offer numerous different Bible studies, as well as courses in Geography, History, and Science. They also offer a very reasonably priced kindergarten program that I found interesting as I was exploring their website.
If you’d like to see what others have to say about Soli Deo Gloria, visit the TOS blog here.
This Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew
**Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received this product free of charge, in exchange for my honest opinion/review. For more honest reviews from real homeschoolers, visit the TOS Crew website.

Monday, October 11, 2010

I’ve been tagged---Again!

One of my mini-mates, Elizabeth from Expand, has tagged me again, so I will answer her 8 questions here.

  1. What is your favorite Psalm? Very hard to pick a favorite. If I have to choose one I’ll choose Psalm 121
  2. What do you want God to say to you at the end of you life? Well done my good and faithful servant, enter now into the joy that was prepared for you
  3. What would you like God NOT to ask of you? Let one of my kids go. For whatever reason, death, disobedience etc
  4. Do you have an alter ego? Not that I’m aware of
  5. Is there a movie you would watch over and over? No, there are too many good ones left to be seen to spend time watching one over ;-)
  6. Who would you love to have met before they died? Jesus when He walked the earth as a man
  7. What is your favorite thing to do while by yourself? Read!!!
  8. What is a favorite quote? Motherhood is a journey out of self-centeredness ~author unknown

Saturday, October 9, 2010


I attended the Schoolhouse Expo Tuesday  and was blessed to hear speaker Dianne Craft. I learned a lot from her hour session but not enough, so I decided to visit her website where she has tons and tons of information on right brain learning. I also emailed her with a few questions and in her response she sent me several other documents.
As I was combing thru all of the info this morning, I came across an interesting strategy for teaching spelling to children who have difficulty writing. My son, Josiah doesn’t have trouble writing but he does have trouble with short term memory and the strategy they use is similar to the one we’ve learned with Barton. Only Dianne takes it a step further.
Let me explain. With Barton we have sight words and we write them on an index card in black all except the ‘tricky’ letter. The tricky letter (any letter not making it’s normal sound) is written in red. Josiah stares at the card for a while, then tries to picture it on the wall, then he writes it really big on the table using two fingers. After that he is to write it from memory on paper. This works okay but it does take several sessions for him to actually memorize it and remember it. We only do three at a time. The past two weeks he’s been trying to learn want and what but he continually mixes the two up. I tried to help him remember by telling him funny sayings using What hat and Want ant but this didn’t work.
What Dianne does is add pictures to the card, because right brain learners tend to have photographic memories. She said they will get the image in their mind and be able to look up and recall the word well enough to spell it forwards or backwards. Kind of like the spelling bee kids.  So I decided to give it a shot.  Sept 2010-Oct 9 2010 165 I added ants to Want and a couple hats to What. And to my surprise, it worked! AND he could spell them backwards. BUT, he’s still struggling with keeping these two apart at times.
So I asked him if he could spell his first name backwards. He did it without hesitation. I asked him to spell his last name backwards. No problem.  He had a little hesitation but not much. So I took a shot in the dark and pulled a word out of my head AMERICA, and wrote it on an index card like this: America  I also added a picture of the American flag. I gave him the card (I didn’t tell him I would ask him to spell it backwards) and he looked at it 30-45 seconds and said he was ready. He spelled it forwards beautifully. I asked him to spell it backwards and to my surprise he spelled it PerFectlY!!  I was in utter shock! I called my husband and while on the phone I asked him to do it again and he hadn’t forgotten it…he could still do it. Now I can not spell it backwards without looking at it so I had to have my index card to check him each time.  The amazing thing about this is, he doesn’t spell it forwards or backwards by sounding it out, like we would because he can’t sound it out. He just memorized it. But not with his short term memory, because he doesn’t have much…remember he couldn’t keep want and what apart. It’s his photographic memory that helps him.
The following video was taken on the fly, without a warning and it was 24 hrs after seeing the card:

All of this after staring at the card less than a minute. Now that’s impressive!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Tag! I’m it!!

Catherine at Our Village is a Little Different has tagged me in this fun meme. She has asked me to answer the following 8 questions. At the end of the post I will tag 8 more people with 8 new questions. Here goes:

  1. What is the last thing that made you laugh out loud?  Redneck fireworks video my sister posted on Facebook
  2. Do you have any pet peeves? I hate to be ignored! By anyone! It makes me feel unloved, inferior, and I get down right angry when my kids do it :-)
  3. Which is your favorite domestic duty? I have no favorite but I cook and clean because I love to eat and I hate a mess,lol!
  4. Is there anything you’d like to do when the children are all grown? I really haven’t given it alot of thought. I would like to be able to help them when they have kids and I would also like to be able to work with my husband in his ministry with Youth for Christ. I guess the Lord will give me a desire when I need it, but for now my only desire is to be a godly wife and mom.
  5. What can always cheer you? My husband. He can make me laugh like no one else and when he’s happy I’m happy :-)
  6. Are you a very organized person? I try to be because I like order and don’t function well in chaos. But I’m definitely not overly organized, I could always stand to improve.
  7. Do you have a special thought that helps you in our daily life? God is in control. Nothing takes Him by surprise and all of the tools I need to survive this journey of life are at my disposal thru Him.
  8. Are you a morning person, or a night owl?  I am an AWAKE person. Now that doesn’t mean I like to wake up. No, no, no quite the contrary. I hate waking up, that’s why I don’t do naps. I am an AWAKE person meaning I love living, and you can’t do that asleep in the bed. I like to stay up late and get up early!


Okay now I will tag the following people to answer the next 8 questions:

  1. A Better Life Than I Deserve
  2. Expand
  3. Adventures in Unsell Land!
  4. Reaping A Harvest...Raising My Three Sons
  5. Loving Learning at Home
  6. Discover Their Gifts
  7. Day by Day in our World
  8. Through the Calm and Through the Storm

Here are your eight questions (I’m going to answer these too, lol):

  1. How did you decide to Homeschool? It all started when my first baby was still in the womb and we met some great homeschoolers. After that it just seemed like God was gradually leading both of us in that direction until finally we had to make the choice and by then it had kind of been decided in our hearts already.
  2. What is something about you most people would be surprised to know? I think I’m good at sports, lol
  3. What is your favorite praise and worship song? Praise Him in the storm by Casting Crowns. Because it’s a reminder that God inhabits our praises and the best time to praise is when we’re at our lowest.
  4. If you had no children and homeschooling wasn’t necessary, what would your dream job be? I think I’d like to be speaker and Bible teacher for women. I’m not gifted in this area so I know it’s not from the Lord. Just a fleshly dream.
  5. What book(s) are you currently reading? I’m reading two. 1) Francine Rivers’ latest “Her Daughter’s Dream” and Mary Beth Chapman’s “I choose to See”
  6. How has Jesus changed you? I was on my way to being a teenage alcoholic when He stepped in and changed the desires of my heart. It was such a dramatic, quick, change that I haven’t gotten over it yet and it was 16 years ago!
  7. How would you like to be remembered by your children? As a mom who cared deeply and loved passionately about every aspect of their life. A mom who would understand and listen without condemning. Who would sacrifice anything to help them see The Way, The Truth, The Life JESUS!
  8. How will your children likely remember you? Ouch, this is gonna hurt. They will probably remember me as a mom who yelled too much, had way too little patience and even less time to spend listening to their problems. A mom who selfishly desired ‘me time’  a little too often, and complained about being ignored a few too many times. Okay seriously, I’m not always yelling and searching for ‘me time’ but to them it may seem that way. They’re going to remember something and now’s the time to make those memories good ones! Realistically I want them to have more good than bad memories. They’re going to have both but hopefully the good will out weight the bad by tons!!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Homeschool FuN DaY

Yesterday our local homeschool group sponsored a Fun Day and hotdog supper. We aren’t as involved in the group as we could be, but we always have a grLucas in the 3 legged race with a new friendeat time when we get together. We just never seem to have the time or money to do a lot with the group. I’m so glad we attended this event, because there were some new families there and it was fun meeting everyone.
The kids were separated according to age and rotated around to each station/activity. They had a water relay,  Josiah and his partner ended up perfecting the three legged race and won for their grouphoola hoop fun, tug of war,  a three legged race, sack races, cake walks, face painting and more.

Even the adults had fun  with the tug of war at times. It was Jody was so good with Shiloh,helping her with the sack hoppinga wonderful afternoon, full of activities, food, and fun. The ending was wonderful because the kids took of their shoes and played in the creek while the adults cleaned up. They had a blast searching for ‘creatures.’ My boys found a few crawdads and captured them for a short bit. We turned them loose before we left :-)
boys tug of warA Great Way To Start The School Year!!!!!!!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

TOS Review: New Monic Books

Homeschool Crew
As part of my involvement with the TOS Crew, I was asked to try a new vocabulary book. It’s called Vocabulary Cartoons and it’s made by New Monic Books. This was good news to us because neither our Language Arts nor our Spelling offered vocabulary. We needed vocabulary and this book has fit in perfectly with our homeschool.
New Monic Books offer several different books for vocabulary and spelling and they range in price starting at $12.95.  We reviewed the original Vocabulary Cartoons.  It is priced at $12.95 and they offer a discount for buying in bulk.  It could very easily be used by multiple children because it has about 250 pages and only about 20-25 are consumable. You could simply have them use a separate sheet of paper for those, or make a copy. It is best used with grades 3rd-6th. My son is in 5th and it has worked beautifully for him.
Vocabulary Cartoons offers a simple, fun way to learn new vocabulary without forcing the child to look up and write definitions. The amazing thing is that it seems to be working with my auditory learning child, and he’s doing it on his own, I’m not reading it to him.
Each day he learns a new word and after he’s Vocabulary Cartoons learned 10 words, there’s a little quiz. The way you learn a word is simply by looking at and reading a cartoon. The trick is they use mnemonic’s (nuh MON ic) to teach. This is something we all use when we want to remember something. It means assisting the memory and it’s kind of like word association. Sometimes they use rhyming mnemonics just like we did when we learned this little rhyme: “Columbus sailed the ocean BLUE in fourteen hundred and ninety-TWO.”
Another form of mnemonics they use is called Visual mnemonics and that’s where the cartoons come in. They create little stories to go along with the word association they are trying to create. This is huge because for most of us we don’t forget what we’ve seen and studied with our eyes. So the child will spend about 60 seconds looking at the picture, reading the cartoon, definition and different ways to use it in a sentence and poof, they remember it.
It really worked well with my son. Here’s an example to help you see why it works so well:
Buffoon: One who amuses with jokes and tricks; a bumbling or ridiculous person, a fool.  Sounds like: Baboon
Then there’s this little cartoon of a baboon doing playing tricks on two of his friends. They remember Buffoon and Baboon and then see the cartoon in their head and it all falls into place, they remember! Or at least my son did. Also under the cartoon there are a few sentences using different forms of the word.
They have some sample pages that will give you a good idea of what it’s like. Note: In the book the word is used in three sentences but the samples do not show the word being used in a sentence.
I tried to ask my son each evening what his vocabulary word was and he always knew what it was and what it meant. Then I would ask about some of his older ones and he remembered those too. One thing I did that is probably not necessary, but I felt like my son needed the extra handwriting practice, I had him write the word and definition in his vocabulary notebook.
I feel blessed to have been given the opportunity to use the Vocabulary Cartoon’s and we will continue to use it for the remainder of the year.
If you would like to read more about this product, click here.

**Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received this product free of charge, in exchange for my honest opinion/review. For more honest reviews from real homeschoolers, visit the TOS Crew website.

Monday, September 27, 2010

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A Day at the Fair

Monster Truck Mania

I am NoT a big fan of the fair but I am a big fan of my family. So when Mark mentioned that he was taking the boys to the fair I at first thought I’d stay home, but knowing Shiloh wouldn’t get to go if I didn’t, I quickly changed my mind. I’m so glad I did. We had a great time. The kids rode a few rides and we walked around, saw a few friends, Petting Zoopetted the animals
Petting Zoo
and of course had  our ear drums blown away by monster trucks!  Shiloh couldn't stand the noise but she enjoyed the trucks The weather was PerFect-O! A lovely evening to spend outdoors  with the family. One of my all time  favorite memories will be Jordan and Josiah riding the “roller coaster,” coaster is a  very appropriate name for this ride;-) and Jordan, all smiles, saying “it’s scary mama” as they went around for their third ‘coast’ down the hill. I LOVED it!!! And so did they!
Monster Trucks
 Monster Trucks   

Monster Trucks
Monster Trucks

Friday, September 24, 2010

TOS Review: Schleich


As part of the TOS Homeschool Crew I have been asked to review some fun products made by Schleich. Most of you have probably heard of Schleich before and seen their product in stores. Recognize the red S? Schleich  We actually already had several of their animal figurines because my 4 year old son loves He seems to want to be alone at the moment playing with small animals like these. This was right up his ally and I am so thankful to be chosen! It has been the easiest review so far. In fact, the hardest part was keeping his personal Schleich animals and the review Schleich animals separate. Most of the review animals we received were wildlife and horses which are exactly what he loves! So in the end we decided it really wasn’t necessary to keep them apart because when it comes to Schleich figurinesthe more the merrier’ is definitely true.:-)
A little about Schleich. This is a company that was founded 75 years ago and is headquartered in Germany.  All of their products are hand crafted by a German master craftsman and each figurine can take up to 6 weeks to be made. Each is individually painted and includes very The Cowboy is not a Schleich product accurate details of each animal, person, or item it represents, so no two are identical. They offer more than 500 different figurines to choose from.
The purpose of Schleich is to encourage creative play in children. The ‘ideal’ age may be for children that are beyond baby toys but not yet reading, but in my family all of my kids enjoy these toys.  However, my four year old definitely enjoys them the most.
Schleich specializes in figurines ranging from animals to fantasy. They have animals from the ocean, Africa, Antarctica, Europe, farm animals, tons of horses, dinosaurs, and dogs, and even small pets such as birds and a dwarf lop (rabbit). And if animals aren’t your thing, how about some knights in shining armor complete with a princess! They also offer American Indians along with all the fixings such as covered wagons and teepees. Maybe you would prefer something a little less ‘real’.  How about something from the fantasy world of Bayala or the cartoon world of Smurfs! Yes they even have the Smurfs!
With this review I received a catalog that organized each of these types of figurines into four sections:
  • World of Nature (wild and farm life)
  • World of History (Prehistoric animals, The World of Knights, and The World of the American Indians)
  • Bayala (Iloris and Arelan)
  • Smurfs
The catalog also offers the scientific name of each animal and in some cases interesting tidbits of info.
As part of this review we received 8 animals:
Przewalskis Horse, Swabian Hall piglet eating, donkey, Dartmoor pony, Asian elephant calf, Okapi, Gnu, Gnu calf. He enjoyed each and every one and will continue to enjoy them for many days to come. Thank you Schleich for allowing us to try out your wonderful products!
For more fun Schleich reviews Click Here
**Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received this product free of charge, in exchange for my honest opinion/review. For more honest reviews from real homeschoolers, visit the TOS Crew website.
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