Friday, March 28, 2014

Throw Back Thursday (Great American Road Trip 2006 #1)

I realized that my blog (as well as my youngest!) was non-existent in 2006 when I went on "The Great American Road Trip" with my two oldest children~ they were 8 and 6 at the time. We left on July 6, and returned home 1 month later on August 6. DH joined us halfway through, flying into Montana.

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to use some Throw-back Thursdays to document our trip because it really was an amazing time.

July 6 found us tooling through New England states, parts of New York, NJ, and on into Pennsylvania. A quick word about NY~ we stopped at the summit of Bear Mountain State Park on the west bank of the Hudson River. I was attempting to avoid the city and traffic, and took a very circuitous route to do so. The view was lovely:

However, the pull-off was a little eerie~ we were the only ones there when we stopped for a quick lunch. There was graffiti all over the signs, and then a couple of cars with totally black windows pulled up... and sat there... I very calmly gathered the two children and loaded them back into the van and left~ with a somewhat unsettled feeling. You'll have to wait for the very end of the series to hear more about Bear Mountain State Park in NY. ;) 

Our next stop was Morristown, NJ where we visited Jockey Hollow, home of portions of the Continental Army during the "Hard Winter." We watched a movie, visited with the park rangers, and Middlest (at that time the youngest) purchased a musket ball. *I* purchased our National Parks pass, which was the most-used pass on this trip. We didn't get to see the Ford Mansion where General Washington quartered during the hard winter, but this park is definitely on my want-to-return list.

After that we pushed hard and arrived at the home of a FIAR family near Hershey, PA who graciously offered their hospitality to us. How wonderful to meet people that I had only known as "cyber-friends" until that point. We spent part of the next day with them, touring the Hershey factory, and enjoying the quaintness of the town before we set off on our next leg. 

We drove through much of Pennsylvania, and stayed at our first hotel (Country Inns and Suites~ GREAT chain!) just over the border in Youngstown, OH.

Stay tuned for the next installment of Throwback Thursday~ hopefully I'll be on time next time! (It *is* still Thursday PCT!)

Friday, March 21, 2014

Spring Nuggets of Gold (Birds ~ Spring Celebrations~ Friday Freebies)

Hello Friends~

I've been keeping my eyes out for some little nuggets to share with you, and have found the following that seem to suit for the first week of spring! :)

Free Ebooks from Currclick 
our version of a fun art project 
Birdcall Memory Game  Nifty little pdf that incorporates sound with pictures for a memory game.
My Bird Guide Simple templates to use to create your own backyard/naturewalk bird guide
Nature study Birds ~ Notebooking Pages 50 notebooking pages in black and white, with lovely illustrations which can be colored in. Work well for narration or copy work. :)
Birds! Robins~ Mini Helper  Sweet little file with some little information cards, diagrams and coloring pages

 Project Based Zoology: Birds Class #3 Free Class Video for Middle->High School 


Fly Into The Night Game (Compass Directions) A Compass Game that I adapted to use with our study of Owl Moon

I hope you enjoy them~ and I'd love to hear if you found anything useful. 


Monday, March 17, 2014

St. Patrick's Day at our house

Do you celebrate St. Patrick's Day? We have a few little traditions, that I thought I'd share with you here.

I like to start the day reading a couple of just for fun children's books:
Click graphic to purchase
*affiliate link

(Out of Print~ check your library)

After that we had surprise green cereal (with a couple of drops of food coloring in the bowl, underneath the  cereal~ fun to add the milk)

Eldest put together this new cover photo for her facebook page:

Next we made green smoothies~ this year we used frozen kale and spinach for the green, a banana, 2 Tbs chia seeds pre-soaked soaked in milk, frozen mango, frozen pineapple, and a splash of vanilla. Yum!

On to more faith-based celebration~ This lovely song ends with a recitation of St. Patrick's Shield: (Slightly different translation in the song)
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

and on to Veggie Tales' retelling of the story of St. Patrick (Which can be found as a "short" on Sumo Of The Opera if you want to own it yourself~ in the meantime check out this youtube upload).

Now we need to make a treat for the open house at Eldest's Irish Step Dance Studio, and put her hair up for her performance this evening~

Then we'll be home to eat... and finish the day with a homemade "Shamrock Shake" (Mint chocolate ice cream shake, with ice cream from our favorite local dairy!)

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh!

Feel free to comment and/or link to your Irish celebrations in the comments~ I'd love to hear what you've done!


Friday, March 14, 2014

God's Not Dead (The Movie~ A Review) (2 thumbs up!)

My family and I recently had the opportunity to watch an advanced screening of God's Not Dead, which is coming to theaters across the country next Friday on March 21st. 

Keep up to date with them on Facebook and Twitter

Click the map to find a theater near you. Who knew there would be
so many showing a faith based movie on the liberal East Coast? WOW! 

The movie is an intense telling of the story of a young college freshman (Josh Wheaton) who stands up for his beliefs in his philosophy class, when he refuses to write "God's Not Dead" on his paper, as instructed. He is then invited by his staunchly atheistic professor to "Debate" him, and "prove" to his fellow classmates that God is not dead.

There are a number of side stories that follow various other characters (whose lives are somehow intertwined) and the choices *they* have to make, which give depth to the story, but add extremely emotional elements that are not suitable for children (hence the PG rating~ I would have been tempted to give it a PG-13 rating myself). 

Matthew 10:32, 33
 “Everyone therefore who acknowledges Me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven;  but whoever denies Me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven." 

This is a foundational point of the movie~ Check out the trailer below...

I know that "God's Not Dead" has been receiving some less than complimentary reviews from highly respected organizations run by Christians, who are concerned that this movie promotes evolution and will lead the younger generations down a slippery slope. 

I must disagree, and much of the rest of my review is more of a defense of the movie to Christian audiences, to whom I appeal to support the movie. 


While I am a literal creationist, and I appreciate and support those organizations who advance the scientific evidence for such, that is not the theme of this particular film. Thus, I feel making the Evolution/Creation debate a focus of any negative review is not fair to this movie. 

In the story, the character Josh is given a sum total of 60 minutes spread over 3 classes to persuade his fellow classmates that God is not dead (I suspect that he didn't have to persuade ALL of them, as many of them might have folded in to peer and other external pressures that we see Josh dealing with). His purpose in the limited time he has in front of his class is not to prove or disprove Theistic Evolution, but the very existence of God. 

In doing that, he uses quotes from scientists and atheists themselves to illustrate the point that the creation account is backed up by scientific theory. He uses the arguments and theories that his classmates are familiar with. The Big Bang theory itself points to God speaking the universe into existence (whether you agree with what follows in that theory or not). I applaud this quote from Josh in the movie "In other words the origins of the universe unfolded exactly as one would expect after reading the account in Genesis." He also says that for over 2000 years "The Bible had it right, and Science had it wrong." when speaking about those who believed in a steady state universe(no beginning and no end vs "In the beginning, God created"). 

Even though Josh starts off by saying that "most cosmologists now agree" that the world began billions of years ago, he never says that this is the position that he himself holds. He never says he agrees with evolution, (once again, in spite of his referring to what "most scientists agree on... " he's just stating the fact that most scientists agree (and as he pointed out before~ science can be wrong...)

I guess what I'm trying to get at is that even if there is a sentence or two that could be construed as "acknowledging" Theistic Evolution, this movie deserves our support as it proclaims the truth that God is not dead, and that people need to make a choice.

Whether you choose to love God~ or choose to hate God, it is almost impossible to deny His existence. It follows that if you love God, you have come to terms with your sinful state~ as no man can serve two masters... 

Josh makes a key point when arguing with his atheistic professor that "What constitutes morality is a straight line that leads directly back to God." I don't know about you, but the image that immediately comes to mind when I hear that sentence is the cross... and there would be no need for the cross if there was no sin. Seems to me that what isn't being said should be "understood."

Whew! Now that I've said all that, I want to be sure you know that by and large, this is a very high quality production. The acting is excellent (Kevin Sorbo as the professor is phenomenal), as is the filming and orchestration (Which include not only the Newsboys, but a new single written and performed by Shane Harper who plays the main character, Josh Wheaton). I will say that I was disappointed because the conclusion of the story was a little anti-climactic and some of the dialogue was rather unrealistic given the situation.

Quote from my 16 year old: It's not a "Feel Good" movie, but it is a "Good" movie. It makes you think and promotes discussion. I think if you have the opportunity to see it, you should!  

I would love to see this film supported by as many people as possible, because unfortunately, money talks, and this is a good chance to show Hollywood that we want to see more good faith-based films. Please don't choose *not* to go based on what anyone else says~ go, and make your own decision. And bring your friends, whether they are Christians, unsaved, seekers, or atheists... you may be surprised at the outcome. There are so many good conversations that can be had about relationships, love, truth, and yes, scientific theory, but let those take a back seat to the main theme, especially leading up to Easter~ "God is NOT dead, He's surely ALIVE!" 


Disclaimer: I received a link to preview the movie God's Not Dead 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 I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC regulations. 

*NOTE: The God's Not Dead website has all sorts of resources, including study guides, sermon ideas if you're into that sort of thing. 

EGGLO Entertainment~ Easter Games and Activities for Children (TOS Review Crew)

I received some, but not all of the items pictured. 
I was recently sent a fun set of things to review from Egglo Entertainment, in preparation for Easter. The items in the package revolve around a story, The Egg-Cellent Easter Adventure. I received a copy of the book as well as an audio download of the story, which is also available as a narrated DVD. I also received Egglo Treasures Scripture Scrolls which can be hidden in the Glow in the Dark Egglo Eggs , which would be especially engaging if done as part of a planned Easter Egg Hunt.

Now, a little bit about The Egg-Cellent Easter Adventure. The story follows three children, Hardy and Anastasia, their cousin Pascal, along with their dog Zeke on an exciting adventure that takes them around the world, where they find clues and Bible verses in mysterious, glowing, "glow-rious" eggs. The Bible verses found on scrolls in the eggs teach them truths that help them on their fantastic trip. The children visit Egypt, the ocean, and an erupting volcano. The story culminates when they return home for their church's special Glow In The Dark Easter Egg Hunt. What an entertaining way to share the Light of the World, and show that "The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it." John 1:5.
We enjoyed reading the story, and seeing how the Scriptures were woven in to show not only why we celebrate Easter, but also giving some character training as well. The Audio is well done, and a nice option for those who listen to audio books frequently, or for pre-readers who want to try to follow along in their book.
The following video explains the heart of the Egglo products. 


and this video gives you a glimpse into the story

Of course the Glow In The Dark Eggs are the centerpiece, and most memorable part of the program. We used the eggs for an egg hunt in our own home, and the kids had a blast once all the eggs were found, trying to play catch and juggling with them (Well, Middlest is the only juggler in the family). I only wish that we had cameras that could capture that on video, as it resulted in gales of laughter and the occasional bonk off the head. 

Personally, as a family we have an Easter Egg hunt on Easter Saturday, and give the kids Easter Baskets then so that the focus is where it should be on both Good Friday and Easter Sunday. 

The final part of the package that we received was a download of The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure Program Guide/Curriculum. This is a pdf file filled with ideas and graphics for invitations, decorations, game and activity ideas, snacks, extra story times, discussion questions and coloring pages. I think Easter Saturday would be a great time for a church or group to host a larger scale Easter Egg hunt for their Sunday School or as an outreach, and The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure Program Guide is a super resource. I think this would be awesome as part of an AWANA program near Easter. 
The Egglo Treasures Scripture Scrolls are the perfect size to hide inside the eggs along with a couple of small treats, and are a good reminder of some of the promises of God. I think the scrolls would be cute pinned to a cork board, or turned into magnets as a post-Easter craft. Each one has a different verse based on Scriptures from both the Old and the New Testament. 

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
The prices listed are regular prices, but there is currently a sale on some of the Egglo products, just in time to prepare for Easter! :) There are also a variety of stickers that can be used for decorating the eggs, invitations, or whatever else you might come up with. 

Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Review Crew and see what others had to say. As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.

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Thursday, March 13, 2014 ~ Algebra 1 Tutor DVD Review

Near the beginning of my TOS Review Crew journey in 2009 I was introduced to Jason Gibson and his Math Tutor DVD's. You can read my review of Algebra 2 and Word Problems in It's Not Rocket Science, People! It is worth noting that this particular review was written when I didn't have an age appropriate student doing Algebra~ but I was still highly impressed!

I later reviewed the Pre-Algebra and Texas Instruments TI-84/TI84 Calculator videos. Once again, my students were not at *quite* the right age for the DVD's (my daughter has passed Pre-Algebra, and my Middlest wasn't there yet), but I was again impressed.

This year I was given the opportunity to review for Jason Gibson once again via his new website,, with the only Algebra level I hadn't yet had experience with, Algebra 1: Volume 1 and Fractions Thru Algebra Companion Worksheet CD. This time I have a student who is actually in just about the right place for this! Hurrah!

Just a quick word about Jason Gibson~ he *is* a rocket scientist, and he truly has a heart for making math and science understandable and accessible. With the resources found on his website he is hoping to help students not only gain mastery of their science and maths, but also to understand why they are useful and how they fit together. There *is* a purpose to being able work with fractions, but if one doesn't understand the application, it is difficult to generate student enthusiasm.

Now to some specifics about our experience this time around.

Although Middlest isn't *quite* at the Algebra 1 level, he was close enough for me to want to give this a go and see how he did. So far it has been a winning combination. Jason moves very methodically through the material, making no assumptions about prior knowledge. He explains the concept thoroughly, and then walks the students through a number of example problems for each concept to help ensure that they know what they are doing.

Middlest has decided that he really likes the Algebra 1 Tutor video lecture approach over a text book approach, because he felt that the visual explanations and multiple problems worked by the instructor were more thorough, and helped him to have a greater grasp of the concept.

We decided to work through the DVD doing basically one lesson per week, especially as this was just a tad above my son's working level. Middlest watched the lesson the first day, and then went back to watch (if necessary) specific problems when he was going through the Companion Worksheets. The worksheets correspond nicely to the video, with very detailed answer keys, to help explain exactly what should be done if there were any problems.

There are a number of sample videos like the following clip available on the website. 
The contents of Algebra 1: Volume 1 :
Disk 1
  • Sect 1 - Real Numbers And Their Graphs
  • Sect 2 - Review of Fractions
  • Sect 3 - Exponents and Order of Operations 
Disk 2
  • Sect 4 - Adding and Subtracting Real Numbers
  • Sect 5 - Multiplying and Dividing Real Numbers
  • Sect 6 - Algebraic Expressions
Disk 3
  • Sect 7 - Properties of Real Numbers
  • Sect 8 - Introduction to Equations 
  • Sect 9 - Solving More Equations
  • Sect 10 - Simplifying Expressions to Solve Equations
The Worksheets cover the material in both Volume 1 and Volume 2 are as follows:
  • Worksheet 1 -- 25 Pages - Real Numbers And Their Graphs (There is a sample of this worksheet if you scroll to the bottom of the Worksheet DVD page)
  • Worksheet 2 - 96 Pages - Fractions 
  • Worksheet 3 - 31 Pages - Exponents 
  • Worksheet 4 -- 27 Pages - Add and Subtract Real Numbers 
  • Worksheet 5 -- 32 Pages - Multiply and Divide Real Numbers
  • Worksheet 6 -- 27 Pages - Algebraic Expressions
  • Worksheet 7 -- 27 Pages - Properties Of Real Numbers
  • Worksheet 8 -- 33 Pages - Introduction to Equations 
  • Worksheet 9 -- 28 Pages - Solving More Equations 
  • Worksheet 10 -- 30 Pages - Simplifying Expressions 
  • Worksheet 11 -- 26 Pages - Solving Inequalities
  • Worksheet 12 -- 42 Pages - Natural Number Exponents
  • Worksheet 13 -- 27 Pages - Zero and Negative Exponents
  • Worksheet 14 -- 27 Pages - Polynomials
  • Worksheet 15 -- 25 Pages - Add and Subtract Polynomials
  • Worksheet 16 -- 25 Pages - Multiplying Polynomials
  • Worksheet 17 -- 25 Pages - Divide Polynomials by Monomials
  • Worksheet 18 -- 24 Pages - Divide Polynomials by Polynomials
  • Worksheet 19 -- 24 Pages - The Greatest Common Factor
  • Worksheet 20 -- 21 Pages - Factor By Grouping
  • Worksheet 21 -- 19 Pages - Factor The Difference Of Two Squares
I will repeat what I said in my previous reviews~ The instruction on these DVD's isn't flashy or exciting, but it IS understandable, dependable and promotes steady progress. Because of this, Middlest is beginning to feel confident in his ability to work Algebra problems, having worked successfully through a number of the lessons on the DVD. If you are intimidated by teaching higher maths, this might be a great resource for you.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

UGleePen~ an Ergonomic Pen Review

Disclosure: I got this product as part of an advertorial.

I like writing implements of all sorts~ I like pencils, I like pens. They're useful, they're fun, and they come in pretty colors (sometimes).
I *don't* however like a hand fatigued by writing. I have arthritis in my right hand~ and writing for very long is a bit of a chore. For this reason, I was pleased to be able to try out a new ergonomic pen.

One might notice that it is called the "UGLeePen." It is not because it is ugly... I like the colors. You see that gel grip on the lower portion of the barrel? It adds interest as well as comfort! Not really ugly~ it glitters(but not too much for the male of the species)!  If you visit the website you may learn how the UGLeePen got it's name, and discover why it is such a relaxing pen. ;)

This pen was invented by Dr. Lee, who received his MD from Stanford University School of Medicine. Over the course of his education he was required to do a LOT of writing, as you can imagine. As he says "Writing should not be a painful experience." Although Dr. Lee is unable to ease the painful anxiety that sometimes accompanies writing, he has done his utmost to come up with the ultimate pen.

In comparing writing with the UGLeePen, and writing with generic pens, I can say that my arthritic hand has found it less wearying to use than a traditional pen. In an un-scientific test (because I had very few test subjects...):

I found that my children wrote a little more rapidly with the UGLeePen than with another pen. For example, Middlest wrote 51 dictated words in 4:40 minutes with a traditional pen. It took him 4:15 minutes to write 54 words with the UGLeePen. The selections were similar in difficulty and punctuation. That's pretty interesting, since he didn't know that I was timing him. :) I also had him use the UGLeePen 2nd so that he would be using it when his hand was more tired. Like I said, not totally scientific, but interesting, none-the-less. :)

Littlest says that the UGLeePen is "Cozy" on his hand. ;)
Middlest likes that the ink is "Bolder" than many other pens.
Eldest holds her writing implements with a different grip, and the UGLeepen doesn't hurt her knuckles like everything else. She also likes the fact that the barrel is easily found by feel when digging in her bag. :)

If you believe, along with Dr. Lee, that "writing should be enjoyable and shouldn't get in the way of your work," then enter my giveaway! While the actual WORDS may not come any easier, the mechanical process just might be more smooth.

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a Rafflecopter giveaway


I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.



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