Monday, November 30, 2015

Thanksgiving verse

When presented with the option to take part in a Bible verse blog share, I thought this verse was appropriate for the day. This is my first verse "meme." I'm quite proud of it! 

New blog graphic

Saturday, November 28, 2015

I'm Happy For You (Sort of...Not really) REVIEW!

 I was so blessed to receive a copy of "I'm Happy for You (Sort of...Not Really.)" I excitedly opened the package and not only did I find the book, but also a little thank you gift in the form of cute "M&M" like candies! Seriously, it's the little things like that that make this blogger smile! I truly appreciate it when authors and vendors express their gratitude! 

With that said, I'm Happy for You (Sort of....Not Really) is a lovely book written by Kay Wills Wyma that brings to the forefront the culture of living our lives by comparing to others so that we can be content with what we have, not what we think we need to have in order to keep up with the Jones of the world. 

About the Book:

About I’m Happy For You (Sort Of…Not Really)
Our cultural obsession with comparison is undercutting relationships and sapping contentment. With disarming candor and humor, Kay Wills Wyma explores how to trade comparison for compassion and rediscover what life is all about.
It’s easy to get caught in the comparison games we play with our appearances, our kids, and our homes. Kay reminds exhausted families about tried and true remedies from the pressures ofcompetitive living.
In her warm, relatable style, Kay confronts the comparison epidemic raging in our homes, our neighborhoods, and our social-media feeds, offering remedies along the way.
With candor and humor, I’m Happy For You (Sort Of…Not Really) explores the troubling effects ofliving in an excessively competitive culture—and reveals simple yet effective ways to escape the comparison trap.

About the Author
Kay Wills Wyma is a blogger, mother of five, and the author of Cleaning House through which she has appeared on The TODAY Show, CNN, Glenn Beck, The New York Times, Focus on the Family, and more. Before becoming a stay-at-home mom, she held positions at the White House, the Staubach Company, and Bank of America. Kay lives in the Dallas area with her husband, Jon, and their family.

This outreach is not for the faint at heart…we’re moving into The Holidays which probably only makes COMPARISON a harder topic, right?

That’s actually the timeliness of this opportunity.  Join Kay and her family as she’s started to #HydrateForTheHolidays on her blog posts to learn how to recapture contentment and joy, especially in Nov. & Dec.!!  She’ll be sharing thoughts throughout the season!

My Thoughts:

This book was really an eye opener for me. I saw just how much "comparison" living I was truly doing in my own life. Are my clothes as trendy as so and so? Is my home as posh as my neighbors'? Is my house as clean as that other stay-at-home mom? Is my kid as smart, or smarter? Is my car better? So many comparisons go through our heads daily, that we can get so caught up in trying to live for other people and not for ourselves. this book is great to point that out, and help us navigate our own lives/thoughts/emotions to break the comparison habit and feel comfortable living our own lives for God and ourselves.

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"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC forproviding this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. Iyou have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

So I need a new couch. Mr. B's health issues have rendered my microfiber sectional to the level of -ICK. Meaning, it's bad. It's stained, ripped, etc. I NEED a new couch. The problem? I'm indecisive. I want something durable. I want something I know will last a long time. I thought about "Durablend" which is bonded leather, but I'm learning that's not a good choice since it easily fades/flakes/peels. What's the point of spending $700 on a couch if it's going to look all peelie gross in a year????

So now I'm stuck trying to justify spending  $$ I really don't have on leather. Or rather Leather Touch, meaning where you touch it there's leather. Seating, back, arms, etc. are all leather. The sides and back are a matching vinyl.

Suggestions and recommendations would be GREAT!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Old Schoolhouse BLUE RIBBON Award WINNERS!


So each year Schoolhouse Review Crew members are asked to do the impossible! We are asked to pick our FAVORITE products from the review year. It's nearly impossible to narrow it down, and I found myself doing a lot of coin flipping! First, I will link you to my personal favorites, then I will show you the whole 2015 list of Blue Ribbon Award winners!

Our top products of the year:

Reading/Literature: Progeny Press was our favorite here. I liked how well it flowed, the fact it was an eBook that I could easily print when needed, and the depth of the questions and work. 

Writing: Institute for Excellence in Writing. Does this even need explaining? It's just awesome. 

Vocabulary: Dynamic Literacy. I can't sing the praises of WordBuildOnline enough! The program is fun, fast, and the company truly has a heart for special needs and autism. They strive to make sure their products work and benefit kids with autism. 

Spelling: Institute for Excellence in Writing: Phonetic Zoo. We just LOVE this! It's fun, different, and great. 

Penmanship: CursiveLogic. Mr. B likes it because it is colorful. I like it because it just makes sense. 

History Curriculum: Homeschool in the Woods, hands down. THE BEST. It's hands on, fun, and just great. Our favorite supplement was Heirloom Audio. I can't decide between In Freedom's Cause and With Lee in Virginia. So I choose BOTH! 

Science: We love Digital Science Online. You get so much bang for you buck with them! I love it. I also really, REALLY like Critical Thinking Co. Surfing the Net: Science. 

Math: We reviewed a LOT of Math so it's impossible to just pick one. Unlock Math is great for Mr. B. He is able to follow the path so there's less prompting from me. A+ Math has fantastic printable worksheets and books, so I love it too. 

Favorite Foreign Language Curriculum: Middlebury Interactive Language-GO FRENCH!
Favorite Fine Arts Product: Maestro Classics, and it is the perfect time of year for it!
Favorite Christian Education Curriculum: Grapevine Studies:This is so fun. We are enjoying this a lot.
Favorite Christian Education Supplement: Firmly Planted. I loved this! 

Notable mentions: 

Koru Naturals. Just today I used my Honey and Propalis soap and my Skin Clear Cream. I love Koru Naturals, and my family will be loving them when they receive their products as gifts!

Homeschool Planet: I honestly use this every day. I schedule everything for everyone here! I can't stress my love for them enough. I have been a member for several years, and I hope to be a member for several more! The BEST DVDs!

USAopoly: These are great games, fun, educational, and fantastic for game night! We love Tapple and Wonky!

Here are the 2015 winners as voted by the Schoolhouse Review Crew!

Favorite Reading Curriculum: Reading Kingdom
Favorite Writing Curriculum: Institute for Excellence in Writing
Favorite Vocabulary Program: Dynamic Literacy
Favorite Spelling Program: Institute for Excellence in Writing: Phonetic Zoo
Favorite Grammar Program: Institute for Excellence in Writing: Fix-It gramar
Favorite Penmanship Program: CursiveLogic
Favorite Literature Curriculum: Progeny Press

Favorite History Curriculum: Home School in the Woods
Favorite History Supplement: Heirloom Audio Productions: In Freedom's Cause
Favorite Science Curriculum: Visual Learning Systems
Favorite Science Supplement: Ann McCallum Books: Eat Your Science Homework
Favorite Math Curriculum: CTC Math
Favorite Math Supplement: SimplyFun

Favorite Foreign Language Curriculum: Middlebury Interactive Language
Favorite Fine Arts Product: Maestro Classics
Favorite Elective Curriculum: Apologia Educational Ministries: Field Trip Journal
Favorite Christian Education Curriculum: Grapevine Studies
Favorite Christian Education Supplement: Brinkman Adventures

Favorite Preschool Product: La La Logic
Favorite Elementary Product: Star Toaster
Favorite Middle School Product: The Critical Thinking Co.
Favorite High School Product: Writing with Sharon Watson
Favorite College or College-Prep Product: Freedom Project Education
Favorite Parent Product: Koru Naturals
Favorite Planning Product: Apologia Educational Ministries: The Ultimate Homeschool Planner

Best Resource I Didn't Know I Needed: Homeschool Planet
Best Online Resource: Super Teacher Worksheets
Best e-Product: Home School in the Woods
Favorite Book, Novel or Audio Drama: Brinkman Adventures
Favorite Video:
Just for Fun: USAopoly

Kids' Choice: La La Logic
Teens' Choice: YWAM Publishing
All Around Crew Favorite: Institute for Excellence in Writing

2015 Schoolhouse Review Crew Blue Ribbon Awards

Friday, November 20, 2015

ESV Men’s Devotional Bible Review AND Giveaway!

Hey everyone! I have a FANTASTIC Giveaway right now that is just in time for Christmas! I was blessed to receive an ESV Men's Devotional Bible for Mr. M to look at and review. I'm a KJV Bible person myself, but I found this particular Bible to be really nice. I would love to see a KJV version of it! I appreciated the additional educational pages (seen below) that are interspersed throughout to give the reader a contextual and historical basis for each book, as well as the author of each book. The font was nice, as was the size.....though I prefer a large print with Jesus' words in red. If you enjoy the ESV Bible translation, then I think the men in your lives would really enjoy this. Please take a moment to enter my giveaway for your chance to win one! 

About the ESV Men's Devotional Bible:

Our world presents daily distractions that can easily displace Christ as the center of a man's heart and life. The goal of the ESV Men's Devotional Bible is to strengthen and encourage men through the life-giving Word of God and sound devotional content aimed at nurturing godliness. With 365 theologically rich and gospel-centered devotions drawn directly from the Bible, this all-new resource was created under the editorial oversight of Dr. Sam Storms with contributions from over fifty Christian leaders. Introductions orient men to each book of the Bible, exploring its unique contribution to a man's walk with God. Thoughtful and instructive articles address the importance of sound doctrine, life in the local church, leadership, the heart, calling, and a host of other relevant issues for today. The Men's Devotional Bible will strengthen men in their walk with Christ, helping them apply the gospel and the truths of God's Word in their homes, churches, and workplaces.

- 365 brand-new devotions
- Brand new book introductions
- 14 brand-new articles
- Dictionary of key terms
- Ribbon marker
- Smyth-sewn binding
- Lifetime guarantee on TruTone edition
- Packaging: slipcase (TruTone), L-card (HC), permanent slipcase (Cloth over Board)

Retail Price: $34.99

About Crossway:
The purpose of Crossway has been, from its founding as a not-for-profit ministry in 1938, to publish gospel-centered, Bible-centered content that will honor our Savior and serve his Church. They seek to help people understand the massive implications of the gospel and the truth of God's Word, for all of life, for all eternity, and for the glory of God.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

An Endless Christmas REVIEW AND GIVEAWAY!!!!!

So I received this book to review, and I KNOW you aren't supposed to judge a book by it's cover but....this is a BEAUTIFUL cover! When M opened the package, he even said, "Wow! This is a beautiful book! It even sparkles!" So, my first impression was instant WOW! Then I turned to the pages. And again, WOW! This is a really great book that shows the true meaning of love and family. Micah invites his girlfriend Katie to his family's annual Christmas gathering. He has chosen this time to propose to Katie, and she says NO! Ok first, can you imagine that?! He gets up the nerve to ask her, and she musters the courage to go against the norm of saying yes just because it is a public event and says no. Ok....let that sink in for a bit.....I'll wait.....still waiting....ready? Ok. So, she says no, but now she's stuck for a week with this family-her rejected boyfriend's family, after a very awkward moment. After getting to know the family, she realize this isn't the picture perfect family they appear to be on the surface, but instead a family who turns to faith to get through difficult times together, instead of apart. This is a light, easy read with a well developed plot and characters. There's depth, emotion, and faith. What more could you want?!

About the book: 
An Endless Christmas
 (Worthy Inspired, October 2015)

Too many people, too much snow, and too little room should be a recipe for disaster.

Christmas takes a very different turn when the guests of honor break up instead of announcing their engagement. Trapped with his family, they learn that love looks different than either imagined. Both in their eighties, Dodie and Wilson Binder celebrate every Christmas as if it were their last. This year, their grandson Micah is planning to ask his girlfriend, Katie, to marry him so they can celebrate with the whole family. But things go very wrong when she says, "no." Now they are stuck. Too many people, too much snow, and too little room should be a recipe for disaster. But sometimes too much is just enough. Especially when it's Christmas.

Purchase a copy:
About the author:
Drawing from 33 years of on-air radio ministry, Cynthia Ruchti tells stories of hope-that-glows-in-the-dark through her novels and novellas, nonfiction books and devotionals, and speaking for women's and writers' events. Her books have been recognized by Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Awards, Selah Awards, the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, Christian Retailing's BEST Awards, and Carol Award nominations, among other honors, including a Family Fiction Readers' Choice Award. She and her plot-tweaking husband live in Pittsville, Wisconsin, not far from their three children and five grandchildren.

Connect with Cynthia: websiteTwitter,Facebook

There's no getting out of Christmas now, despite Katie rejecting Micah's marriage proposal. Cozy up this holiday season with Cynthia Ruchti's new novella, An Endless Christmas. The Binder family celebrates every Christmas as if it were their last. Too many people, too much snow, and too little room should be a recipe for disaster. But sometimes too much is just enough. Especially when it’s Christmas.

Celebrate the holidays with Cynthia and An Endless Christmas by entering her $100 Target gift card giveaway!

endless christmas-400 

One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A copy of An Endless Christmas
  • A $100 gift card to Target
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on November 30th. The winner will be announced December 1st on Cynthia's blog.

endless christmas-enterbanner

**I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions expressed are my own.**

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Five Times I Met Myself REVIEW

Have you ever found yourself thinking, "If only I could go back in time and tell myself XYZ, none of this would be happening right now" ?? I'm sure most of us have. That is the basis behind. Rubart's, The Five Times I met Myself. Brock, the main character, learns how to control his dreams after he has the same recurring dream. Thus, he is ultimately able to try and "fix" mistakes in the past to impact his present (and his future.) But he soon learns, sometimes the grass isn't greener on the other past side. Not a "dumbed down" book for sure !Thought provoking, and pretty great!

About the book:
The Five Times I Met Myself (Thomas Nelson, November 2015)

What if you met your twenty-three-year-old self in a dream? What would you say?

Brock Matthews' once promising life is unraveling. His coffee company. His marriage.

So when he discovers his vivid dreams---where he encounters his younger self---might let him change his past mistakes, he jumps at the chance. The results are astonishing, but also disturbing.

Because getting what Brock wants most in the world will force him to give up the one thing he doesn't know how to let go . . . and his greatest fear is that it's already too late.

About the author:

James L. Rubart is a professional marketer and speaker. He is the author of the best-selling novel Rooms as well as Book of Days, The Chair, Soul's Gate, Memory's Door, and Spirit Bridge. He lives with his wife and sons in the Pacific Northwest.
Connect with James: websiteTwitterFacebook


Overall, I found this to be an enjoyable read. It is not a light read, but it is not a stiff, difficult read either. It is not your average fiction novel. It is a thought provoking, "have to use your brain" type book, and I really appreciated that. for me, this book really makes you think about your current situation and wonder if you had the chance to do a remake, or talk to your younger self....would you? Would you risk everything you have NOW for everything you thought you wanted then? That's a big question to ask. Just because we know our past, and we live in our present, we have no way of knowing what our future holds. Food for thought....

**I received this in exchange for my honest opinion through Litfuse. I was not required to write a positive review, nor compensated in any other way. All opinions expressed are my own.**

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Just a few signs of Autism photo

I was doing an online search for signs of autism and I found this photo. And I thought, 
we always see posters or photos that tell us the signs of autism, but what does that even mean? "Inappropriate laughing or crying" what is that? Allow me to dissect this graphic and tell you what it means in our world. Keep in mind, if you know one child with autism, you know ONE child with autism. What these are in our world may be vastly different for yours. And please, if you are so inclined, go to the websites listed on this little image and let them know what an awesome chart they have! 

1.) Inappropriate Play with Toys: We had a Little Tykes play garden. This little garden had a yellow "gate" on it. Mr. B would open and close this gate over...and over...and over for hours on end. No less than 2 or more hours at any one time. He also had train tracks and the bases to mega block cars. He would take these wheeled bases and "drive" them over those train tracks over and over for over an hour at a time. Even now, at 10, he will take legos and build replicas of cityscapes to destroy them with tornadoes, or he takes train tracks (wooden) and builds highways and interstate splits. He's never actually ever played with a toy the way that toy was intended. 

2.) Inability to Relate to Others: If Mr. B feels it, he thinks everyone should feel it. If he likes something, then to him everyone likes it. He can't understand why I don't want to watch the Weather Channel for 12 hours a day. 

3.) Hyperactivity or Passiveness: We have the hyperactivity. He has been on ADHD meds since he was 4, and even then it's not enough at times to help him control his behavior. There are times he is on hyper drive and there's no stopping him. He can't be still, not even for a few seconds. He says his body feels like there's a charge going through it. 

4.) Inappropriate Laughing or Crying: Mr. B cried during the Lego Movie. If he gets in trouble, he laughs. He can't control it. He even takes his hands and pinches his jaws together to try and stop the laughing and smile, but he just can't.He knows it's not funny, but he can't control it. 

5.) Oversensitive or Undersensitive to Sound: Mr. B has to wear ear plugs when going to the movies. During a thunderstorm, he will put his fingers in his ears. He can hear things I can't even hear when it is pointed out to me. Blenders, vacuums, drills, saws, and sudden noises cause him pain, sometimes excruciating pain. 

6.) Strange Attachment to Objects: There have been many tears shed over trash. Trash that has been his favorite color for example. There was a few different packaging boxes that had sea green on them, and I had to keep them forever. I had to keep papers hanging on my walls for a couple of years. I've had to dig through restaurant trash for wooden blocks that had to be taken everywhere with us for over 5 years. It's a child's lovie on steroids. One child I know of had a meltdown over a clothes hanger. Right now, Mr. B takes a 30 sided die with him everywhere. 

7.) Poor Speech or Lack of Speech: Mr B. did not talk, for years. He was over 4 before he started speaking, and then it was stringing together just 2-4 word phrases, or repeating everything he heard. He'snow 10, and talks all the time, but he will still resort to echolalia. I have been hearing him say more and more random and his own words, and it's music to my ears! He also had a speech impediment for a long time. Apraxia and Echolalia are major factors in autism, but you CAN overcome them with a lot of hard work. 

8.) Difficulty Dealing with Changes in Routine: I once heard of a child who would ONLY get in the car on one side, and out on one side. When I heard this, I vowed then to now allow Mr. B to get caught up in a rigid routine. His cousin could not handle change, at all. So much so, that in school the teacher would rearrange the seating chart every month or so. Mr. B's cousin had to remain in the place because he couldn't handle the change. Mr. B has never had much of a problem with change. Any time I caught him developing a habitualized routine, I changed it right the. 

9.) Lack of Awareness of Danger: Running out into traffic. Running down the stairs as fast as he can. Wandering off. Jumping off tall objects. Running out onto a not so frozen pond. Hanging off things. Bouncing off glass doors. These are just a handful of the things Mr. B has done over the years. Thankfully, he's developing a sense of danger awareness now. 

These are just a few of the signs or characteristics of Autism. This list is by no means a comprehensive list! Feel free to comment below!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

After all these years....

After all these years, I still get so nervous when I send out a couple's wedding photos. I wait, sometimes even patiently, on pins and needles to hear what they think. And it's messages like the one I got tonight that make it so worth it. The bride loved her wedding photos so much she cried. Their exact words, "We love them so much. They are beautiful. The wife....she cried. Thank you so much!" They thank me....every time. That still blows my mind. I thank them. I appreciate them for giving me the blessing and the honor to be apart of their special day, and such an amazing moment in their lives....and they thank me. I still feel amazed and shocked every single time. I truly hope that feeling never leaves, for when it does it will be come a job. I don't want it to ever become a job.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Ology Book REVIEW

I am always on the hunt for Bible study products for Mr. B (and for myself) and The Ology: Ancient Truths Ever Now by Marty Machowski is a lovely addition to our growing collection.

 I liken this as a Bible Study disguised as a storybook. It is a lovely book that would be appropriate for bedtime reading, daytime read aloud, and as a Bible study. It uses "real world" analogies to make points, and is written in an easy to read, easy to understand manner.

The cover is a durable hardback, that is beautifully designed. It feels soft and smooth to the touch, yet is very durable and will hold up over time. The illustrations by Andy McGuire are amazing! I found myself just flipping through the pages, looking at the pictures!

About the book: 

The Ology: Ancient Truths Ever New (New Growth Press, October 2015)

A page-turning storybook of theology for kids

In the cellar of the old stone cathedral, Carla and Timothy uncover a life-changing treasure, a carefully wrapped ancient book known as The Ology. What adults might describe as a beautifully illustrated storybook of systematic theology, the kids discover to be a story of adventure, mystery, and wonder that leads them to the truth about God, themselves, and the world around them.

Truth is for kids, not just for adults! So The Ology gives kids of all ages a beginner's theology book to help them understand who God is and how we, as his children, relate to him. Arranged within a traditional systematic theological framework, each truth in The Ology is also connected to the larger redemptive story of Scripture. The doctrine of God, for example, is presented in the larger framework of creation, where the attributes of God are more clearly on display. The Ology takes abstract theological concepts and makes them easier to understand with the use of creative examples, illustrations, and analogies. The goal is not to say everything that could be said about a theological topic, but rather to share the key thoughts behind a theological concept. The Ology is a starting point to learning theology and aims to create a hunger and desire in children to learn more as they grow older.

Designed for six-year-old through preteens, this flexible resource includes built-in adaptations for use with younger or older children, so that entire families can enjoy it together. Read The Ology to preschoolers, read it with grade-school kids, and let older kids discover the "hidden" truths by reading the corresponding Scripture passages for each section. However you read it, The Ology will give your children a gift that will last a lifetime---a solid foundation of life-changing biblical truth that will point them to the God who loves them and gave himself for them.

About the author:

Marty Machowski is a Family Life Pastor at Covenant Fellowship Church in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, where he has served on thepastoral staff for over twenty years. He is theauthor of the Gospel Story for Kids series, which includes The Gospel Story Bible, Long Story Short, Old Story New, and the Gospel Story Curriculum, as well as the Advent devotional and curriculum Prepare Him Room. He and his wife, Lois, and their six children reside in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

Our Thoughts:

We found this to be a really nice book! It's a great starting point for a theology discussion. The illustrations are beautiful, and it also makes for a great "storybook" style book. It is well made, well written, beautifully illustrated, and a great book to pass down.

To read more reviews, please check out Litfuse.

**I was given a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review with no other compensation. All opinions expressed are my own.**

GrapeVine Studies REVIEW

Grapevine Studies Review
I love Bible study curricula, so being chosen for 2 levels of GrapeVine Studies was very exciting for me! For this review, we were given a digital copy of Old Testament 1: Level 2 Creation to Jacob and Old Testament 1: Level 3 Creation to Jacob. Level 2 is intended for ages 8-10, while Level 3 is intended for ages 10-12. GrapeVine Studies Stick Figuring Through the Bible Creation to Jacob allows children to study the Bible in a fun way that reinforces memory and understanding. They cover the same material, the difference lies the amount of work in each level, with each level building on the previous one. So if you have children of differing ages, you can use different levels to study the same topics, with each student working as his or her own level. Level 2 is 45 daily lessons that give your children the ability to draw the Old Testament timeline, and understanding which books are the Books of Law vs. which are Books of History. Level 2 also incorporates memory verses. Level 3 also includes 45 daily lessons and stick figure drawing , but it adds geography and and important Bible facts.  

Grapevine Studies Review

Grapevine Studies Review

How We Used This:
I wasn't really sure which level to choose for Mr. B since he was right on the border between the ages. Sometimes Autism lends itself to be a grade/age or two higher or lower, just depending on the product, so I was very appreciative of the offer or trying out BOTH levels. I would also like to take a moment to say thank you to the vendor for being very helpful in answering any of my questions!

I took both of these levels and had him do a lesson from each a couple of different times to determine how they differed, and how they could be used together. They can be used together with great ease! The Level 3 has more emphasis on writing, while the Level 2, for me anyway, emphasized oral narration to a greater degree. They both have the same questions, and the same lessons each day. So if you are on the borderline, like we are, either level will work just fine.

With that said, once I figured this out, We did one lesson per day. On some days we did more writing with Level 3, on other days we stayed with Level 2 for more oral reciting. One thing I really, really like is the section review! The section review is comprised of a list of questions that go over what you have learned in the previous section. In the review, the levels differ a bit, but not so much that you can't use them together. For example, in the 1st section review, Level 2 had 3 additional questions that were not in Level 3. 
Here are two really great graphics to help you decide which level would be best suited for your family.

Grapevine Studies Review
Grapevine Studies Review

Overall I really like this Bible study program for kids! GrapeVine has everything I've been looking for in a Bible study. It gives us flexibility, pencil and paper work, and questions to answer to make sure he's following along. The art aspect is really fun, and it helps him to remember what we have learned. It's really a neat spin on a multi-sensory approach since he has to physically apply what he's learning in a graphical manner. 
Please click the banner below if you would like to read reviews on the other levels offered, or more reviews on these levels! 

Grapevine Studies Review

Crew Disclaimer

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Critical Thinking Co. Surfing the Net: Science REVIEW

Hey everyone! I've been searching high and low for a really great science curriculum that covered a wide range of topics and was in a workbook form. I found everything I was looking for, and then some, with Surfing the Net: Science by The Critical Thinking Co. Surfing the Net: Science  is a fantastic workbook that not only is a science workbook, but it also teaches your child how to conduct internet research! For this review, we received one physical workbook.
About the Book

At 250 pages, Surfing the Net: Science covers a huge assortment of topics, while also providing the answers in the back. Each main topic is broken into several subtopics. Your child is expected to answer the questions using the internet to either research specific key words or go to specific sites to gather information. This not only teaches each topic in depth, but it also helps to reinforce your child's critical thinking skills while teaching proper internet research. Today's students literally have the world at their fingertips, and Surfing the Net: Science helps to showcase what an amazing resource the internet can be.
How We Used this 

As I mentioned before, I've been searching for a workbook style science curriculum that was more than just reading and regurgitating information. I love science (I was a biology/pre-med major before Mr. B came into existence) so it only stands to reason that Mr. B would also love science. As a result, I found most texts to just be lackluster for our style. Surfing the Net: Science  is more than just regurgitating information. It is taking a topic, researching that topic, then applying what you have learned. In one instance Mr. B was tasked with researching a specific type of frog, then a specific type of salamander, then creating his own new species that was a blend of each of those. Not only did he learn about the species he was researching, but he also learned about taxonomy (classification) as well as Venn Diagrams. 

"Chubby Avolotl Froggamander" 

Our Thoughts

Surfing the Net: Science is a well written, comprehensive science curriculum "workbook." It is not a small book at all. I really appreciate the topics that are covered, the amount of research students are introduced to, and the critical thinking/information gathering skills that are reinforced. Mr. B appreciates the variety of the topics, and the enjoyable links that are provided. There are videos, games, etc. that your child will be looking up and visiting to keep the learning challenging, but fun. 

As you can see, the list of covered topics is quite long! 


Overall, I REALLY like this science book! Surfing the Net: Science is packed with so much due to the assignments and research, you could really use this as a stand alone science curriculum! 

Does The Critical Thinking Co. Surfing the Net: Science Pass My 4 Ingredient Test?

1.) Customization: Is it easily adaptable? Can we customize it to fit “us?” Can we modify or set our own schedule? Can we take breaks, jump ahead, or flat out skip?

There is no set schedule, and since this is a physical workbook, you have the freedom to move at your own pace. I would suggest following through with each subtopic.

2.) Value: Is it long lasting? Will it cover multiple grade ranges? Are you locked in to one specific grade level? Are there hidden fees?

It is a great value. The book is not a little, thin workbook, but rather it is a thick, and jam packed book. It will most definitely cover multiple grades with ease since the pages are reproducible. There are no hidden fees. The websites included are free, and child safe. When it comes to the internet, I always advocate safety. You can easily obtain a free internet safety for your children. There are a number of them available, so you can choose the best one for your family.

3.) Attention span: Is it boring? Is it engaging? Is it varied enough for ADHD? Does it last too long?

It is NOT boring, and it is very engaging. Mr. B really enjoys the variety, and the lessons are not very long. The way the subtopics are arranged, you can easily take breaks and pick up where you left off.

4.) Does it tie into other things we already have.

I can see how this could tie into things you may already have, but you don't really NEED to use anything else with it. If you have science kids/experiments, you can easily tie those in with no problem, but due to the nature of the links provided they aren't a necessity.

The Review Crew reviewed a number of products from The Critical Thinking Co. to read more reviews on Surfing the Net: Science, as well as the other products offered this time, please click the banner below!

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Motivational Monday 11/9/15

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Another Way Home Review

Hey Everyone! I am happy to bring you a review of Deborah Raney's newest novel, "Another Way Home." "Another Way Home" is the 3rd book in her Chicory Inn series, and it is fantastic! 

"Another Way Home" once again showcases the Whitman family, this time focusing on Danae and Dallas. Suffering from infertility, Danae and Dallas long for a child. This longing and inability to conceive causes strife and tension between Dallas and Danae, and the rest of the family.

What makes this book so touching, for me, is that it hits close to my heart. I have suffered from infertility for years and years. It took 4 1/2 years of praying and trying to conceive my son. I've suffered infertility and loss ever since. To see God work in such amazing ways in the book....I just think it will bring a peace to your heart like it did mine. There are twists and turns that keep twisting and turning until the very end, and then suddenly it all makes perfect, beautiful sense.

About the book: 
Another Way Home (Abingdon Press, October 2015)

Sometimes God's ways are not at all what we expect . . . and exactly what we need.

Grant and Audrey are adding grandchildren to their family left and right, but middle daughter, Danae, and her husband, Dallas Brooks, have been trying for years with no baby in sight.

Though Danae is ready to consider adoption, Dallas will not even discuss it. Despairing of ever having a family of her own, Danae decides to pour her passion and energies into volunteer work with a newly opened women's shelter in town. Looking for a good cause to fill her lonely days, she never expects to give her heart to the hurting women she meets there. She's finally learning to live her life with gratitude, but then heart-wrenching events on Thanksgiving weekend threaten to pull the entire Whitman clan into turmoil-and leave them all forever changed.

About the author: 

Deborah Raney's books have won numerous awards, including the RITA, National Readers Choice Award, HOLT Medallion, and the Carol Award, and have twice been Christy Award finalists. She and her husband, Ken, recently traded small-town life in Kansas-the setting of many of Deborah's novels---for life in the (relatively) big city of Wichita, where they enjoy gardening, antiquing, movies, and traveling to visit four children and a growing brood of grandchildren who all live much too far away.
Find Deborah online: websiteTwitterFacebook

Click here to purchase your own copy! 

For more information:Deborah Raney on Litfuse

**I received this book in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way. All reviews expressed are my own, or those of my family. **

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Brinkman Adventures Season 3 REVIEW

Brinkman Adventures Season 3 Review
I had never heard of The Brinkman Adventures before being chosen to review The Brinkman Adventures Season 3, so beyond the samples on the main webpage, I wasn't really sure what to expect. It was a very nice surprise to be greeted with a lovely audio drama full of interesting dialogue and an emphasis on God and missionary work.

The Brinkman Adventures Season 3 in another installment featuring the exciting adventures of The Brinkman family, a family of missionaries who travel the globe spreading the message of Jesus. This is available as a physical CD, which is what we received for this review, and as an MP3 download. Season 3 comes well packaged in a multi-disk case that includes 4 CDs packed with 12 episodes with over 5 hours of adventure listening fun! An interesting thing to note: The episodes are based on real life accounts of a missionary family, whose names have been changed to protect their identity. Each member plays themselves, and some parts have been dramatized. You can click on the link for each episode to learn more about the real life adventure that inspired that episode! 

Brinkman Adventures Season 3 Review

How We Use It: 
We tend to road trip a lot. My family lives over an hour away, so when we decide we want to go for a visit, the trip is at least 2 hours. Add to that my mom was moving back from her summer place in the mountains to spend the winter back here and we were helping her movie, and you have the perfect time for audio drama listening! 
We did not use these as school work much, which is how I initially thought we would use them. I figured we would use this as a great geography component. We could track the family and the adventures where they take place, we could research the situations more, etc. and use each episode as a unit study of sorts. It sounded great in theory, but we decided we just wanted to enjoy listening to them with no strings attached.

The 1st CD started out a little awkward for us. At first I thought there was something wrong with it, or I thought maybe it was continued from season two. The CD starts as if it is midstream already, then after a few minutes, the narrator comes on to introduce the episode. I found this to be a bit odd, and at the time it was frustrating to think we were missing something. So....when you pop your first disk in, don't fret! You've not missed anything! 
After that, the stories are very easy to follow, and very interesting. They showcase an emphasis on trusting the Lord and following what God has planned for you, regardless of what you may have planned for yourself. This provided really good opportunities for family discussions and conversation on the topics presented. The very first Episode, God's Mule, is a great example of one such discussion. We talked about placing God above family and friends, and the amount of faith required to do that at times. 
The Brinkman Adventures also provides a "Fun Stuff" tab on the site that features coloring sheets illustrated by Gina Graham. These sheets are available at no extra cost. There are also behind the scenes videos, and other links that you can explore to learn more about the "Brinkmans" and missionary work. Which is exactly what we did! 
The characters are cleverly portrayed with varying accents and vocal ranges. There is slight background and ambient sound within the episodes. I actually think the ambient sound could be played up a bit more than it is, but as it stands it is still nice. The music is great....GREAT. That's one of the first things Mr. M said! He commented that the music was fantastic and he really enjoyed hearing it. It is not obtrusive at all, and really adds to the overall audio theater experience. 
Overall, we really like The Brinkman Adventures, and we are looking forward to season 4! 

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Sunday, November 1, 2015

A Chameleon, A Boy, and A Quest REVIEW

Hey everyone! I'm excited to bring you this review of A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest, written by J.A. Myhre
This is a very cute book written as a Christmas gift to the author's children. Knowing the reason why the book was written just adds to the overall special feeling! 

About the book: 
A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest (New Growth Press, October 2015)

A Boy Named Mu, an African Journey, and You

"Mu, a ten-year-old orphan, has lived his entire life in the heart of Africa. For as long as he can remember he has served in the household of a great-uncle where he is unloved and ignored. In his drudgery-filled life, Mu has little hope of happiness, and little hope that anything will ever change.

But one day, everything does change. On his way to draw water one morning, Mu is astonished when a chameleongreets him by name and announces that they will embark on a quest together. And what a quest it turns out to be! Mu faces danger and finds unexpected allies as they journey through a fascinating and ever-changing landscape.

A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest blends magical realism with a compelling story. The exciting story line combines an orphan's journey to find a home with the plight of child soldiers and the dangers of the Ebola virus and, along the way, highlights universal themes of integrity, loyalty, faith, and love. Written by long-time medical missionary J. A. Myrhe, the artful story is laced with subtle gospel themes and handles cross-cultural issues with grace and sensitivity. Kids will encounter good and evil and learn the truth about hope, happiness, and what it means to be human in this page-turning first book in a new series.

What you'll find in A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest: 
  • A page-turning children's action and adventure story set in a fictional African land 
  • Blends magical realism and compelling storytelling with gospel themes to draw kids gently into the truth 
  • Deals with real-life but (seemingly) faraway themes like the plight of orphans, the duties of child soldiers, and the reality of the Ebola virus 
  • Written by a long-time medical missionary to Africa who handles cross-cultural issues with grace, sensitivity, and love"

About the author: 

"J. A. Myhre serves as a doctor with Serge in East Africa where she has worked for over two decades. She is passionate about health care for the poor, training local doctors and nurses, promoting childhood nutrition and development, and being the hands of Jesus in the hardest places. She is married to her best friend and colleague Scott, and together they have raised four children for whom many of her stories were written as Christmas presents."

  • Overall:
Overall, we really enjoyed this book. It is not large, but it is also not a story book sized book either. The illustrations are FANASTIC, and the artist is someone who had first hand experience with the stories as they were created. I liken this as a fantastical African Narnia experience. J.A. Myhre paints a beautiful picture with words and storyline that is hard to put down once you pick it up. A+! 

**I was given this book in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions expressed are my own, or those of my family.**

War For the Waking World REVIEW

Wayne Thomas Batson  brings another hit to his "DREAMTREADERS" series with The War for the Waking World.  The War for the Waking World is the conclusion, and final book in the Dreamtreaders series that features a teenage boy is is one of only a few who have the ability to not only enter his dreams, but also to explore them. At any point in time, there can be only 3 Dreamtreaders, and 15 year old Archer Keaton just happens to be one of the 3. The War for the Waking World ties faith and friendship into a fantasy woven story line that is hard to put down once you pick it up. 

About the book:

The War for the Waking World (Thomas Nelson, October 2015)

Would you be willing to fight for your dreams?

"Fifteen-year-old Archer Keaton has the ability to enter and explore his dreams. He is a Dreamtreader, one of three selected from each generation. Their mission: to protect the waking world from the Nightmare Lord who dwells beyond the Slumber Gate. But as Archer's dreams become more dangerous and threatening, so too does his waking life.

In this fast-paced conclusion to the exciting fantasy trilogy, the dream world and the waking world bleed into each other when a rift is formed between the two. People in the real world suddenly find their waking lives resemble their wildest dreams. Now it's up to Archer and his fellow Dreamtreaders to race to reverse the rift before too much damage is done and to battle Archer's ex-best friend, Kara, who sits on the throne of the Nightmare Lord. Kara is building an army of her own. Will Archer be strong enough to stand against her?"

About the Author:

"Wayne Thomas Batson is an American writer. He has been married to his wife, Mary Lu, for seventeen years and has four children. He currently works as a teacher at Folly Quarter Middle School teaching sixth grade English language arts and is the youngest of four children. His most recent series, Dreamtreaders published by Thomas Nelson Inc (2014), is a modern-day paranormal YA adventure dealing with the subject of dreams."

My thoughts:

I was graciously given a physical copy of this book in exchange for my review, but in addition to that I was also given the first 2 in the series in a PDF format. My thoughts are this, GO GET THIS SERIES! Why are you even still reading this? GO! Now! Honestly, if you like fantasy style books, this series is great. Not only that, it is "clean." It brings faith, humility, fantasy, edge of your seat action and adventure, and friendship-all packaged in a fantastic book series. You could read just this book alone, and enjoy it. But why not get the entire series?! It's that good. It is appropriate for young adult readers, middle school'ish would be ok, 30 somethings will enjoy it....etc. The emphasis of friendship is faith, two things that are so very, very important in life, is a good solid lesson for us all, regardless of age. The twists and turns will keep your attention and your mind spinning. Overall, I loved it!

**I was given a copy of this product in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way. The opinion expressed here are my own. **

Standard Deviants Accelerate REVIEW

Standard Deviants Accelerate Review
If you are looking for an online supplemental course, then you should check out Standard Deviants Accelerate. Standard Deviants Accelerates (SDA) is an online membership based site that hosts a huge assortment of courses such as Algebra, AP Biology, Nutrition, U.S. History, Earth Science, etc. Most of the courses are geared to the middle and high school ages, with an Arithmetic class available for 3rd grade. For this review, we were blessed to receive a full year's access to their line of Homeschool Courses
Standard Deviants Accelerate Review
How It Works:
As I mentioned above, there's a huge assortment of classes. SDA is a very organized program, so even though there is a wide assortment of classes, they are easy to navigate.  When you register, you are given a master account. This is where you add students to your account, and also add them to specific classes. Note: Each student will need their own independent email account to be registered as a student. If you have multiple students, you can assign them individually to specific classes, instead of having them all do the same thing. You can also view the overall class percentile, which I think is pretty interesting if you have multiple students doing the same class. In addition to that, you have the ability to view progress reports for each student, making grading and record keeping a breeze. 

From the student side, the classes are also very organized to streamline progress and reduce distractions. 

When you choose your subject, you will find a menu of sorts, as you can see above. The subject is broken into subtopics, and each subtopic into lessons. As you can see from the graphic above, I've chosen Algebra to illustrate this. 

Here's where the great organizational aspect comes into play. Each lesson then has tabbed sections. First there is a video you can watch, with a printable transcript- OR you can actually scroll along and follow a transcript on the side. In addition to that, a great feature is the note area. As your child/student watches the video they can take notes. Then, they can either print these notes or save them for later. 

After the video there is a Vocabulary tab. This holds true for each subject we have tried out thus far for this review. The Vocabulary tab will reinforce specific vocabulary words from the current lesson. 

The Quiz tab is pretty self explanatory. It is a quiz on the lesson. The quizzes are extremely short. at just around 5 questions each. 

After all of that, there is a critical thinking component to each lesson with a written answer question. 

This portion asks the same two questions each time, and has your child think critically in order to answer it.

My thoughts:

 First, I would like to point out how accommodating and expedient the customer service was in helping me when I could not get my son registered. I was assisted in not only registering him, but having him added to the classes. 

Each course is fleshed out nicely, and I like the ability to print the transcript to follow along. That is beneficial to students who have difficulty focusing, such as is the case with ADHD and Autism. The note taking ability is also a great way to reinforce that skill, which to me is very important, especially on the collegiate level. Printing the notes or saving them is also a nice feature. I wish the quizzes were a bit longer. I don't think 7 or 10 questions would be too much, but I don't feel as if 5 is quite enough.

Being honest, I like the written answer part, but not after each lesson. I think a better option would be to either have that as an optional component or as a bonus points objective. That way the parent could choose if they wanted it after each lesson, or perhaps after each subtopic. I understand the point and reasoning behind it, and it is a good one, but I would like more flexibility there. 

This membership program is really great if you have multiple students. It works well with only one student, but if that one student needs more than one course, it could run into a bit of money as you have to choose and pay for each class individually. Each class allows you to add up to 4 students to the class. Most classes are a monthly subscription of  $9.99 and some are $4.99. So if you needed 3 classes, that could be as much as $30/month.  There is an option to purchase all of the classes and have a lifetime membership, but again the cost could be a concern for some. I would like to see an option where a parent could choose a plan that would allow full access for a set amount of time, perhaps 3 months, and pay either per student (with a discount for additional students) or one set price for the family. Or maybe even a package deal where a parent could choose multiple subject areas for a bundled price.

I would also like to see printable work. Mr. B does quite well with paper work. I think it helps to ground his attention and focus. He preferred to access the courses online, but do the work on paper. Sometimes, he prefers online, and others paper. This was just one of those times he wanted paper. A print option for the quizzes would be great. There is a "Print Work" option for the quizzes, but it will not print the quiz before answers are down.

Does Standard Deviants Accelerate Pass My 4 Ingredient Test?

1.) Customization: Is it easily adaptable? Can we customize it to fit “us?” Can we modify or set our own schedule? Can we take breaks, jump ahead, or flat out skip?

You can easily skip ahead and move around as you need. You can't modify in the sense of printing and doing the work that way, but you can set your own schedule, take breaks, etc.

2.) Value: Is it long lasting? Will it cover multiple grade ranges? Are you locked in to one specific grade level? Are there hidden fees?

This is the question I struggle with. First, there are no hidden fees, and the subjects can be multi-grade, but within reason. high school classes would cover most high school ages, and so on. Next, there is a full year's worth of content for each subject. With that said, membership is only 1 month, and it is PER subject. So if you sign up, you are not paying 9.99/month to access all of the subjects, but only 1. And only 1 for up to 4 students. So if you have 5 students who each need their own course, that's going to be 9.99/month for each subject, and only 4 of those students can access the subject.  The bright side to that is that you don't pay for it longer than you need it.

3.) Attention span: Is it boring? Is it engaging? Is it varied enough for ADHD? Does it last too long?

Ok, the videos are a BLAST. I love the varied actors, the costumes, the enthusiasm. The videos are GREAT. I stress GREAT. They are varied and attention grabbing, and really good for ADHD students. Autistic students may or may not enjoy them, it all depends. it depends on if they have issues with the characters. In the case of autism, I would suggest the 7 day Free trial to do a test run with your specific student.

4.) Does it tie into other things we already have.

I see this as more of a supplemental program to use in conjunction with things you may already have. As a supplemental product, it is very fleshed out and great. The whole point to a supplement is that it works with what you already have, and this would do just that depending on the subjects chosen. 

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