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Monday, March 23, 2015

Easter Stories: Classic Tales for the Holy Season Review and Giveaway



God is good all the time, and He was especially good to my family with the timing of this review.  We were so close to finishing our family Bible devotional, and then along came this book, Easter Stories, just in time for Easter.  It was perfect.

Here's the official back-of-the-book blurb:
Everyone who believes Easter is about more than Easter egg hunts will be grateful for this new anthology of short stories that illumine the true meaning of the season. Selected for their spiritual value and literary quality, these classic tales capture the spirit of Holy Week and Easter in a way that will captivate readers of all ages. Parents and grandparents will find that children love to hear these stories read aloud, year after year.
Easter Stories is 383 pages and features short stories by multiple authors, many of whom you may recognize- C.S. Lewis, Leo Tolstoy, Oscar Wilde, Anton Chekhov, and others. Each story also has a black and white woodcut illustration to go along with it.  

OBM says:  I just love this book.  I have to admit as I read the stories aloud to my kids they often brought tears to my eyes.  I didn't love every single story, much the way those of us old enough to remember buying records usually didn't love every single song on them, but each one did make me think and reflect about Jesus, His sacrifice, and what Easter really is about.  I loved that this book came at a perfect time for us to use as a daily devotional to prepare our hearts for Easter, and I am sure your family will enjoy it too.  If you'd like to check it out, you can visit the publisher's website, Plough Publishing House, and they even the full table of contents and a few of the stories there for you to read.
To learn more about what Plough has to offer, visit Plough's facebook page or twitter or Pinterest or Google +.

To win your own copy of Easter Stories, and you live in the U.S. or Canada, please enter below.




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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Please, Help a Friend Out!

Very seldom do I throw myself at you, my readers, and beg for your help. And I understand after the chirping crickets and gathering cobwebs around here that you might have wondered if I was even still around. Well ,I am, and I've just been very, very busy. Life, it seems, does not ever slow down. I have TONS to catch you up on, and two giveaways coming up, if you hang in there, but right now, I need your help for a friend of mine.
 My neighbor is an architect. A really good one. She's worked in architecture for years, but just got her license or degree or whatever as an architect herself, not under someone else. And she's in a contest for up-and-coming architects. So I'm begging you to help a friend out because the contest is as much about popularity as it is talent, and only the architects with the most "adds" to other people's "ideabooks" will make it to the final round.

 So would you please go to this site:
All you have to do is create an account (takes about a minute), add the pictures to your ideabook(s), and be done. Dawn would appreciate it. I'd appreciate it too, because I was her photographer for the first house (kitchen/sunroom) pictured below, so the more positive recognition she gets, the more publicity I get.

 Thanks y'all, you are the BEST. Oh, and look for the first giveaway coming Monday.
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Thursday, February 19, 2015

The 5 Love Languages For Men Review and Giveaway



OBM here with something really different.  Not that reviews and giveaways are different for me, but that THIS one was written by my husband.  Yep, the Hubs wrote a review.  Why?  Because The 5 Love Languages for Men is written, well, for men.

Here's the official info:
At the heart of every man is a desire to master what matters. Getting a compliment at work or on the court is nice, but nothing beats hearing your spouse say, “You make me feel loved.” If you haven’t heard that in a while or feel like you are not bringing your A-game into your relationship, this books is for you. The 5 Love Languages has sold 10 MILLION COPIES because it is simple, practical, and effective. In this edition, Gary Chapman speaks straight to men about the rewards of speaking their wife’s love language. You’ll learn each language, how to identify your wife’s, and how to speak it clearly. Packed with helpful illustrations and creative pointers, these pages will rouse your inner champion and empower you to master the art of love.
You may already be familiar with the book's author, Gary Chapman.
 Gary Chapman, PhD, is the author of the bestselling The 5 Love Languages series, which has sold more than 10 million worldwide and has been translated into 50 languages. Dr. Chapman travels the world presenting seminars on marriage, family, and relationships, and his radio programs air on more than 400 stations. He lives in North Carolina with his wife, Karolyn.

Here's what The Hubs had to say:
As a man lucky enough to be married 22 years to my college sweetheart, after reading this book I realize how truly lucky I am.  Somehow I have muddled through.  Simply “getting by” however is not what God intended.  The 5 Love Languages has made me realize how truly different we all are when it comes to how we express and receive love.
The most important features of this book are that it is readable and is written with the male audience in mind.  As men, most of us are methodical, problem-solving fixers.  The book caters to those manly attributes by giving logical explanations, concrete steps for improvement and actual examples in a short and concise format.  There is even a Frequently Asked Questions section in the back.  The book covers each love language in detail using anecdotes and real life examples to emphasize the importance of each and the differences between them.  Each love language and its corresponding “dialects” are also summed up in “Phrase Books” at the end of each chapter to provide ideas and examples of how to “speak” that love language.  The book also includes profile tests for him and for her so that you can easily assess your respective love languages. 
The two additional chapters in this edition simply round out the desperately needed communication skills that we, as men, do not usually put a lot of effort into.  Apologizing and anger management have never been things I would say I did well and Mr. Chapman brings the same insight and common sense strategies to these critical behaviors as he does to the 5 love languages. 

Overall I would say this is an insightful, well-organized book that shows men how to communicate love to their wives in the language that they need to be fulfilled.  

Gary Chapman has a Facebook page and a Twitter page, if you want to check out more of his sage wisdom there.  There is also a website devoted to the 5 Love Languages books.  And you can purchase the book at major retailers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million.

Now you have a chance to win a copy of the book for yourself (or your husband).  Just enter the drawing below.  U.S. and Canadian residents only.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Rasmus and the Vagabond Review and Giveaway


Today, it is my honor and privilege to let you in on a little know secret...Pippi Longstocking's author wasn't a one hit wonder.  At least she shouldn't have been.  Astrid Lindgren was actually a quite prolific author in Sweden, and her works and are quite popular, although not all of them were translated into English, and none ever equaled Pippi's fame here in the States.  Here's some more about the author you might not know:
Astrid Lindgren, the creator of Pippi Longstocking, Emil, and dozens of other world-famous characters, has thrilled three generations of children with her storytelling. She is the only children’s author with a literary prize, a theme park, a museum, a satellite, and a minor planet named in her honor. (After this last honor, she suggested changing her name to “Asteroid Lindgren.”) A jury appointed by Swedish Radio’s Culture Department to elect the “Author of the Millennium” voted Astrid Lindgren second after William Shakespeare. She was awarded the Hans Christian Andersen Medal and heaps of other awards and honors.
Pretty impressive, yes?  I had no idea.  And this picture of her just captives me.  I wish I could have met her



So back to Rasmus and the Vagabond.  What a treasure!  Really, if I could end my review there, I would, because that pretty much sums it up.  How have I never heard of it before?  Honestly, I don't think I ever read Pippi Longstocking, but you can bet that now I will.  Here's a bit more about Rasmus before I gush on too much:
After running away from an orphanage, nine-year-old Rasmus finds the world a cold and unfriendly place until he befriends an extraordinary tramp called Paradise Oscar. Together they meet more adventure than they ever imagined, solve a mystery, and catch the culprits. Reassume dreams of finding a family and a home someday. But when he does, will he be able to part with his new friend and life on the road?

Rasmus is such a great character, and the book is just so well written.  Written in 1956, the language is rich and the settings reflective of simpler times and more complex cares and concerns.  Rasmus longs for a family of his own but he runs away from the only home he has in order to find it.  In the end, he finds both family and home in a most unexpected way.

Rasmus and the Vagabond's website has purchasing information.

If you'd like to win a copy of Rasmus and the Vagabond for yourself, just enter the drawing below.


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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Letting Art Just Happen in Homeschooling


This is the last week of the 2015 Virtual Curriculum Fair.  I've had fun, have you?I can't thank Susan at Homeschooling Hearts & Minds enough for all her hard work!  Her co-host this week is Lisa @ Golden Grasses.  This week's theme is Seeking Beauty: The Arts and Everything That Brings Beauty to Our World.

As a curriculum reviewer, I've been blessed to review many wonderful art curriculums.  But the truth of the matter is, when push comes to shove, art in our house just tends to flow as a regular extension of life and school far more often than it does as a result of some formal lesson.  

I already shared last week about how our history curriculum, Mystery of History, is a often the spring board for many of our art projects, especially this year as we are studying the Renaissance.  Why separate art out, when it can be studied within the context of its development?  And younger kids can do more craft type activities that focus around the seasons or holidays or books you are reading, or counting, or any other lesson you might be doing.  In fact, one year, many, many moons ago, we studied Eric Carle because an exhibit of his work came to our local museum.  So we copied his methods of painting on tissue paper, and then used that paper to cut out illustrations for our "Yellow is the Sun" math poem for Right Start math.  We made a book out of it that we still have to this day.  It was art and math all rolled into one.

You can do lots of fun science and art projects too, especially in the winter.  Pinterest is full of ideas.  Here is a picture of some colorful frozen water balloons we made.


St. Patrick's Day is coming up...playing with borax and pipe cleaners-cool crystals in fun shapes!

And any day is good for making colorful swirls in milk with soap and food coloring.

Legos and blocks are wonderful tools to let your budding architects bring their dreams to 3-d reality. In the picture at the top of the page, my son turned his lego figures in to a Star Wars band.  Here, my kids built a ziggurat out of blocks:

And this one made an entire Sumerian city out of paper and a cardboard box:

I guess my point is...this is all art.  I mean, have you SEEN some of the stuff that passes as "art" these days?  People splash paint on canvases willy-nilly, slap a thousand dollar price tag on it, and someone thinks it must be genius because of that.  Seriously.  Let your kids be kids.  They'll create all by themselves.  And as they do, you can talk to them.  Talk about perspective.  Or not.  Talk about vanishing points and horizons and rule of thirds and all that stuff.  Or don't.  If your kids show an inclination toward the arts, as at least one of mine does, then either a) their interest will guide them further because they will want to get better or b) you will be able to easily find them materials to teach them more because it matter to them to learn it.  Otherwise, it's probably going to come up at some later point in time anyway, and they will learn it then when it's applicable. 

My son designs amazing things on Minecraft, and it's boosted his real life artistic ability.  My daughter, who has always been good with "real life" art has recently transitioned to digital design with great success.  Don't dismiss online forms of art as just that-art.  That's the world they will be living in much more so that we do even now, 

There are wonderful art programs out there...but there's also just life....and Pinterest...and if I had to recommend a resource, I'd throw in these books that we love and use:



and all the others in the same series for your younger kiddos and then these:
 
and the others in the series for your slightly older kids. They teach how to draw historical things step by step, and we love both series.

So that's it-just let art happen, and be prepared to be amazed!

To see what other blogger had to say about Seeking Beauty: The Arts and Everything That Brings Beauty to Our World, check out the blogs listed below.  If you have a link you'd like to contribute, you can sign the link at the bottom.

The Art of Organization…or How Clutter Almost Ruined My Homeschool by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

The Shadow of Divine Perfection by Lisa @ Golden Grasses

Relaxed Homeschooling: Fine Arts in the Early Elementary Years by Brittney @ Mom's Heart

Fine Arts {Art Appreciation, Art, Composer Study Hymn Study} for 2015 by Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses

Adding Sparkle to Home Education by Sarah @ Delivering Grace

And All the Extras by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool

Teaching Art Using the Bible by Tauna @ Proverbial Homemaker

Art In Every Subject by Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break

Letting Art Just Happen in Homeschool by Amy @ One Blessed Mamma

Missing Art? by Kristen H. @ Sunrise to Sunset

Do YOU Have Time for Extracurriculars? by Michele@ Family, Faith and Fridays

Fine Arts in Our Classical / Charlotte Mason Homeschool by Sharra @ The Homeschool Marm

The Science of Beauty for a Delight-Directed Daughter by Susan @ The Every Day of Education

Seeking Beauty: How we Tackle the Arts in our Homeschool by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory

Learning To Appreciate Beauty With Fine Arts Resources@ As We Walk Along the Road by Leah@ As We Walk Along the Road


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Monday, January 19, 2015

Taking the Mystery Out of History, and Other Subjects Too, With Our Favorite History Curriculum


Today brings another subject on the 2015 Virtual Curriculum Fair.  This week, we are looking at Exploring Our World:Social Studies and More Science (history, geography, world cultures, worldview, biology, botany, geology, etc.).  Susan at Homeschooling Hearts & Minds is the founder of the Virtual Curriculum Fair, and this week Stacy at Super Mommy to the Rescue is her co-host.

People who don't know me from my pre-mommy days usually don't know that my degree is in Social Science Education with a minor in History.  So I'm a little bit passionate about today's subject. Unfortunately, having come from a public school background myself, and having only taught in the public school system, what I didn't have any sort of good grasp on was where the Biblical timeline of all the stories I had heard growing up in church fit into the world history timeline (and I obviously wasn't the Bible scholar then that I am now thanks to nearly a decade of doing Precept Bible studies.)  So I knew what I was looking for when it came to teaching my own kids was a Christian history curriculum that blends the Christian timeline right into the timeline of the world, after all, it's all HIS story.  And it was that desire, that led us to chose Mystery of History (MOH) as our curriculum.
Cuneiform on "clay"

Mystery of History was, when my kids were young, everything I was looking for in and of itself.  Each book is organized around a 3 lesson week.  For each lesson, there are some additional activities that you can do, or not do-it's up to you.  We do some and not others.  Those activities are broken out by age (younger, middle, older students) so it's easy to figure out what might be "do-able" for your children.  All ages do the same lesson though, which is nice in a multi-child family.  Each week, days 4 and 5 can be used on the suggested map activities (called SomeWHERE in Time, and again broken out by age level), timeline figures, reading supplemental books suggested in each MOH volume to go with the lessons you did, and doing some sort of weekly wrap-up activity which is provided in the curriculum.  Or all those things can be done in the 3 days, and you can do something else entirely for 2 days.  I've just never found the split schedule to work for us.  

A few years back, a couple of things happened that tweaked our use of MOH a little bit.  First, we reviewed Illuminations, which is a comprehensive curriculum covering everything but math that uses MOH as it's "spine".  Similar to Tapestry of Grace or Heart of Dakota or Winter's Promise or Sonlight, it is a history driven curriculum from which many of the other core subjects "spur" off.  Then, not long after that, we were involved with a co-op that used Sonlight.  Having then tried both of those I decided I like the idea of  having history be our main thing.  After all, if the kids are going to be reading anyway (for English/Language Arts), why not have the book be something pertaining to what they are studying about in History?  I mean, isn't that why we are homeschooling?  Why double the work?  We've read some amazing historical fiction that makes the time period come alive far better than any history book could, even a wonderful one like MOH because in historical fiction, you get involved in one person's story for an extended period of time.  And why learn geography in a bubble when you can learn it as it pertains to the places you are studying in history?  Why write about some random subject when you can write about what you think really happened to the colonists at Roanoke?  Why do random art when you can paint in the style of Titian while studying the Renaissance?



The ultimate question with any curriculum not only does it work for YOU, but does it work for your kids.  To that, I'll say this.  I started this year with a different plan for my now teen-aged daughter.  Years ago, I bought a comprehensive 4 year curriculum for her to use for high school, and it involved using something completely different for history.  It was a book that was not nearly so narrative or engaging, but one that I thought did a nice job of presenting the material in a fresh way, so I thought it would be fine.  But she begged me, "Can I please come back to doing Mystery of History with you guys?"  So I think it's fair to say that the kids like it too.  She had the chance to be on her own,and chose to come back to working with us because she likes MOH.  And MOH of flexible enough to work for kindergarten through 12th grade with you tweaking the additional work you give them, so she's welcome to do that!  

In our house, Mystery of History is, or is the springboard for, history, geography, world religions, church history, the reading and writing components of language arts, weekly vocabulary/spelling lists taken from those readers/real alouds, most of our art, note taking, sequencing (timeline, keeping track of what happened when)...and the list goes on.  Pretty impressive for one book, eh?

To see what others in the 2015 Virtual Curriculum Fair had to say, check out the blogs below:

Exploring World History Through the Eyes of Scientists by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

Exploring Our World With Social Studies by Stacie @ Super Mommy to the Rescue

Relaxed Homeschooling: Science and Social Studies in the Early Elementary Years by Brittney @ Mom's Heart

Living History by Sarah @ Delivering Grace

Classically Influenced, Project Strong, Adaptable Middle School History by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool

Primary Sources for Delight-Directed History by Susan @ The Every Day of Education

Watching History, or Using Video Courses for Social Studies by Debra @ Footprints in the Butter

Exploring our World: High School Studies of Ancient History, American Government and Economics by Laura @ Day by Day in Our World

History, Geography, and Worldview Lessons in Our Homeschool by Jennifer @ A Glimpse of Our Life

Our Curriculum Choices 2015 ~ Science, History & Geography by Renata @ Sunnyside Farm Fun

Our Favorites for History, Geography, and Science by Becky @ Milo & Oats

Globe Trotting by Lisa @ Golden Grasses

Around The World by Michele @ Family, Faith and Fridays

Bible-Based History Curriculum and Resources by Tauna @ Proverbial Homemaker

13 Living Book History Series for a Charlotte Mason Based Homeschool by Chelli @ The Planted Trees

Social Studies and Science in Our Classical / Charlotte Mason Homeschool by Sharra @ The Homeschool Marm

The Science Life by Laura @ Four Little Penguins

History, Geography Science for 2015 by Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses

History Social Studies and Science...VCF Week 3 by Denise @ Fullnest

Learning About our World and History by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory

Taking the Mystery Out of History and Other Subjects Too With Our Favorite History Curriculum by Amy @ One Blessed Mamma

You can add your own link or see what others might have contributed by clicking on the linky below:
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Monday, January 12, 2015

The Identical DVD Review and Giveaway


The Identical, starring Ray Liotta, Ashley Judd, Seth Green, and Blake Rayne is a redemptive movie about a young man, the son of a preacher, who rejects his father’s desire for him to join the ministry and instead embarks on a career as a rock singer. As he struggles to pursue his dream and rise to stardom, he finds love, pain, success, failure and ultimately uncovers a hidden family secret that reveals who he really us. The Identical is a captivating story about a family restored and a life discovered that lifts your soul and warms your heart.

Here's all the social media information for the film:
Click here for the official website!

Click here to view and share the trailer!

Check out this special offer from Family Christian —> http://www.familychristian.com/catalog/product/view/id/291528/ 
Purchasing the DVD from this link comes with The Identity Series DVD (more info on THE IDENTICAL website)

Official Facebook


Official Twitter

OBM says:  I was really, truly, pleasantly surprised with this movie.  See, I "grew up" in Memphis, and so Elvis is kind of "been there, done that, got the t-shirt" for me.  And I was confused about this movie when I first saw information about it because it's not Elvis, but clearly he looks like Elvis, and sounds like Elvis, and his story (except for the whole twin thing) is similar to Elvis.  So I was afraid I wouldn't really care for it.  I was wrong.  I really, really liked The Identical.  I'll admit here and now that I still don't get why they went with making the main character so similar to Elvis (even living in TN-but Nashville-and with a home called Dreamland, not Graceland) when he could have had his own unique look and sound and it wouldn't have detracted at all from the film.  But other than that, it was excellent.  Ray Liotta was excellent as a preacher man, and Ashley Judd did a nice job as "The Identical's" mama.  But Blake Rayne as Ryan Wade/Drexel Hemsley-he is a remarkable talent.  The Identical did an excellent job of capturing the era as well, and the original score was authentic to the time period but refreshingly new.  It was a sweet, tender, entertaining, plausible movie that found me shedding a tear or two, and I'm so glad I had the chance to review it.

Now you have the opportunity to see it too.  It will be released to video on January 13, 2015.  And one lucky reader can win a copy for themselves by entering below.


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