Friday, September 30, 2016

Nuggets of Gold Sept 30 (Music)

Well, it's been awhile since I've posted a nuggets of gold post, 
but I HAD to get one out this week~ 
some things that are too good to be missed!

Head on over to for a few GREAT songs! 
Unspoken and Hawk Nelson songs can be found on their free downloads page
MercyMe has their own special page ;) 
All you have to do is enter your email, 
and you can download these to your computer right away!  

And has a great song from All Sons and Daughters
I Surrender
Not sure how long everything is available for free download, 
so I suggest popping right on over if you're interested


Thursday, September 29, 2016

Another G. A. Henty hit! The Cat of Bubastes (Review)

My Middlest was delighted when a package from Heirloom Audio Productions (HAP) arrived at our door with their latest offering (and the first Henty book I had ever read ~ as well as one of the first e-books I had ever read), The Cat of Bubastes audio drama. He thoroughly enjoys listening to these Audio Dramas, with exceptional actors and actresses.
*I* was delighted, because this went along quite nicely with our start to World History, Ancient History being a subject we have only lightly covered in the past.

The story follows a prince (Amuba), who is sold into slavery when the Egyptians conquer his father's kingdom. Through the story we learn about Egyptian culture, customs and religion, a major aspect being that the Egyptians highly regarded cats, and killing a cat was punishable by death, even if it was an accident...

Heirloom Audio Productions always puts out an amazing product, with highly regarded actors and actresses, as seen above. The Extraordinary Adventures of G. A. Henty will rival any audio drama for professional and riveting production. See my reviews of other Heirloom Audio Productions: In Freedom's Cause,  With Lee in Virginia, The Dragon and the Raven, and Beric the Briton. As you will see, we have found them all to be first-rate.

Study Guide Printed and bound
Although my son did not use the Study Guide (which is geared more toward the middle school ages), I want to take a minute to mention a few things, because I really like the way this particular guide is set up.

  • I discovered a detail I missed in other HAP study guides (although it is there, I just didn't notice it right away): The section of the story for each chapter in the guide is clearly listed and includes the disc and time stamps for the portion of the story being reviewed. Very helpful when your child wants to go back and listen to catch details they may have missed. 

  • I also enjoyed reading the "Expand Your Learning" notes on many of the pages that gave background on some things that are not obvious, but add to your understanding of the culture in which the story takes place. 
  • While every chapter/lesson doesn't include an "Expand Your Learning" note, they do all follow the same format: 
    • Listening Well (Comprehension Questions)
    • Thinking Further (Deeper discussion/application questions)
    • Defining Words (Vocabulary). 
At the end of the study guide there are some extra pages, which are also useful and interesting.
  • More on Ancient Egypt book suggestions and resources
  • Bible Studies
    • Bible Study 1 "God Meant it for Good"
    • Bible Study 2 "The Knowledge of God"
    • Bible Study 3 "Idolatry and Tyranny" 

Here is a screen shot of the e-book from my computer screen. This works very nicely on the computer~ you can zoom in to make the text fairly large (For those who might require reading glass... ahem..). I did find that if I zoomed in, the pages refreshed in their entirety once I reached the end, but if I used "Zoom to fit" the text scrolled seamlessly, and the background remained static.
I personally found that reading the ebook on the computer screen worked better for me than the pdf on my iPhone, as there wasn't an easy way to enlarge the text and I had to scroll around the screen, just as an FYI.

A word about the Live the Adventures E-Newsletter (Available as a bonus with the 4pack purchase). It includes a Kids' Corner with hands-on activities and printables for all of the Henty stories that have been produced, Parent resources (inspiring and motivational blog posts), and more.

For a little taste of the quality as well as some behind-the-scenes action, you can watch the trailer here, or directly on their website.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
  • Company: Heirloom Audio Productions
  • Product: The Cat of Bubastes Audio Drama (2 hours)
  • Ages: Publisher recommended 6 - adult, My recommendation, 10 - adult
  • Price: 
    • $19.97 Download Version, Includes:
      • Study Guide (approximately 40 pages of actual 
      • Downloadable Poster
    • $29.97 Single Pack, Includes above and: 
      • Soundtrack MP3 download
    • $99.97 Four-Pack (Great for Gift-giving), Includes all of the above as well as:
      • The Cat of Bubastes ebook with colorful graphics and illustrations
      • Access to Behind-the-Scenes documentary  (18 minutes)
      • Access to Live the Adventures E-Newsletter
      • Printable Promotional Poster
You can visit Heirloom Audio Productions' Social Media pages here:

Facebook,  Twitter,  Google+, and on Instagram: @HeirloomAudioOfficial

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Friday, September 23, 2016 Annual Subscription (Review)

My Youngest was very pleased to receive his own email when we were given an Annual Subscription from  as part of the Homeschool Review Crew. He delights in the ability to send emails to family, and I appreciate the ability to monitor his use. has a number of settings that can be customized as each family desires. Here is a look at the basic control panel home for the parent. This control panel allows the parent to customize the amount of oversight for each email address separately.

The greatest advantage to this program for my family are the Safety settings:

  • Receive mail from contact list only (yes or no) *other messages sent to queue to be reviewed by parent
  • Send mail to contact list only (yes or no)
  • Allow child to edit contact list (yes or no)
  • Send parent copy of incoming mail (yes or no)
  • Send parent copy of outgoing mail (yes or no)
  • Allow images from incoming mail (yes or no)
  • Allow links in received emails (yes or no)
  • Allow attachments in received emails (yes or no) (can be further customized to attachment type)
  • Allow bad words in received emails (yes or no) *most common bad words filtered out
  • Add tagline to sent messages (yes or no) *makes sure recipient knows they are communicating with a minor (Older teens will appreciate having this turned OFF ;)) 
  • Send email sender a notification when email goes to queue (yes or no) * This setting lets an unapproved sender know that their email will be delayed until a parent approves it (or refused if not accepted)

Some of these settings are no brainers for any age (Filter bad words... umm.. who wouldn't?) and others depend upon the maturity level of each child, and the amount of trust placed in each child.

The one setting that the children have total control over is the appearance setting~ there are a number of backgrounds that can be chosen, with a number of options to satisfy the tastes of many ages.

Tested it with my older teens (because there is that option...) and my daughter, who uses her iPod almost exclusively was having problems with the site~ The emails window is so small that she had to zoom in to write anything. You can see how tiny it is in the screenshot to the right. Then, if she wanted to add an one of the smiley faces, she would have to zoom in even further to be able to click that button. After clicking, rather than returning her to that location in the email, the program would zoom her in to random parts of the screen, and she'd have to click around to find the text again ~ rather frustrating. Thinking that this may not be optimized for tiny mobile devices.

My Youngest didn't seem to have any problem using it on the iPad as far a reading and writing emails.

However, he did run into another problem when he tried to send a drawing to his Dad from the iPad. The drawing tool wouldn't allow him to make multiple strokes, so he wasn't able to actually DRAW much (ie... a smiley face or written words unless in cursive). He did figure out a little go-around, as you can see at the bottom of the screenshot to the right...  but it took three different attachments. We checked it out on the computer, and drawing on the trackpad worked fine, but I'd like to see this feature optimized for mobile devices, as that is what is used most often in our home, whether a tablet or an iPod, and I suspect in many other homes as well.

While I have never had any reason to distrust my older kids' communications, my youngest has very little discernment at this point, so the ability to give him the freedom to communicate (like his older siblings) and yet monitor what goes in and out is a really nice option. The world is rapidly changing around us as technology grows and becomes more commonplace, with access being granted/expected at younger and younger ages (particularly as families travel or live long distance from grandparents, etc), so I appreciate when companies step up to help make it safer for our youngesters to be able to communicate with friends and family.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
  • Company: 
  • Product: Annual Subscription
  • Ages: Literate through teen
  • Price: 
    • Free 30 day trial
    • $38.95 Annually for up to 6 accounts ($2.99/month)
    • $4.95 Monthly for up to 4 accounts
You can visit on their social media pages:
Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, and Instagram

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Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Pray-ers / Book 1 Troubles (Review)

My daughter and I have been reading a new Christian Historical Ficton novel, The Pray-ers / Book 1 Troubles by Mark Mizra, published by CTM Publishing Atlanta. I would suggest that this is not a typical novel, or a quick read. In trying to describe what it is about, I came up with a 1, 2, 3 description, although not listed in order of importance.

  • One central theme ~ Prayer (with examples of both effectual and non-effectual).
  • Two spiritual beings ~ an angel named Hael and a demon named katepa (note that the author chose not to capitalize the demonic names in this book as a personal choice) who are influences in each of the:
  • Three time periods and three main human characters
    • First Century ~ Epaphras, a contemporary of Paul
    • 19th Century ~ Alexander Rich, a contemporary of D. L. Moody
    • Current Era ~ Dale Riley, a university athletic coach
One of the reasons that this is not a "quick read" is because the story skips around between time periods and viewpoints. There are also a number of footnotes throughout, mostly including Scripture to back up a particular phrase or sentence as they come up in the story. I find these to be something I will spend more time on with a slower, second read of the book. 

The story emphasizes and models effective prayer in daily situations, and shows how that impacts our wrestling not "against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places." (Ephesians 6:12)

Mark Mizra, author
Founder of
Common Thread Ministries
I greatly appreciate the fact that Mark Mizra worked hard to not "glorify" angelic/demonic beings in his attempt to give us a picture of what warfare might look like on the spiritual realm. It reminds me a little of Frank Peretti's books, but with perhaps a little less "intenseness" (which could be a good thing ;)). 

I found the sections that dealt with prayer specifically to be at times enlightening, and others were good reminders. While this story is NOT Scripture or entirely devotional in nature, it could be a good springboard for personal contemplation, a discussion on prayer, or an addition to devotions, reading a section at time, taking the time to look up the specific Scriptures in the footnotes.  

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
You can visit the Pray-ers social media pages on Facebook and Twitter.
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Friday, September 16, 2016

Friday, September 9, 2016 (Christian HomeSchool Hub) CHSH Download Club Annual Subscription (Review)

As a homeschool parent, Support Group Leader, Awana Leader, Church Musician, and general chauffeur to dance, baseball, youth-group, and any other activity, I don't have the time OR the energy to reinvent the wheel. I'm sure that many of you feel the same, and that's why sites like are such a boon to the busy homeschooling family. With over 50,000 pages of educational material, many homeschoolers are sure to find useful a number of ready-made worksheets, as well as forms and other pages to use for notebooking, lapbooks, journaling, and general portfolio-building.

While there are quite a few free resources available, in order to access the entire site, members of the TOS Review Crew were given an annual subscription the CHSH Download Club. In order to get a feel for the quantity of downloads available you may wish to peruse their catalog. You'll find the downloads organized in a few different ways:

By Subject:

  • Arts, Music and Crafts
  • Bible Related Resources
  • Electives
  • Health
  • Language Arts
  • Languages
  • Math
  • Science
  • Social Studies

By Grade Level
1st-3rd Grade
4th-8th Grade
9th-12th Grade (High School)

By Month (2 months at a time, with seasonal highlights)
General Organization and Classroom Helps
Miscellaneous including Curriculum Treasures from the Past, Fun Pages, and Lapbooking and Notebooking Units.

Sampling of some of the variety of pages/units available to download.
Because it was summertime during our review period, we weren't doing a lot of work that was required "extras," plus we spent two weeks on a cross-country road trip, so I actually mostly checked out some of the e-books available, rather than using worksheets.

I was intrigued by the "HomeEc" section of of the "Curriculum Treasures From the Past" and downloaded A Little Cookbook for a Little Girl. As many books printed around that time, the instruction comes in the form of a story about a young girl who wanted to learn to cook *now* not when she was older. Her mother, grandmother and aunts all work together to create a cookbook for her birthday with some of the "simple" recipes from their cookbooks.

How interesting (And what a history lesson) to read through this cookbook! While some recipes could be attempted today, some of them might be harder to alter, as the instructions are based on cooking over a fire, or possibly on a wood stove. I was also amazed at the recipes that were considered "simple" as some of them are nothing my graduate would like to attempt.

At any rate, it was a learning experience that gave a little glimpse into the practicalities of one of the basics of life (cooking) a little over a hundred years ago.
An excerpt discussing how to cook bacon. I especially love the way it ends... ;)
This is much nicer than bacon cooked in the fryingpan or over coals, for it is neither greasy nor smoky, but pink and light brown, and crisp and delicious, and good for sick people and little children and everybody.

I did take a peek at some of the other areas, and am sure that as we get our fall school schedule up and running there will be a number of useful items. These really only touch the very tiny tip of the iceberg as far as the pages available...

The Graphic Organizers file includes 80 different organizers as well as a number of examples, which is very helpful. There are generic organizers as well as author study sheets, graph paper, storyboards, language/grammar/writing organizers, science, reporting, and more. Pretty useful bunch of printables!

I was pleased to find a unit on Johnny Appleseed geared for upper elementary ages rather
than the usual first and second grade offerings. Johnny is a favorite of ours, as he shares a birthday with one of my sons, and got his start in Massachusetts. The unit found at has some information included that I had never read before, so will be new and interesting to my Youngest.

I am also looking over the High School World History course (Student textbook and Teacher manuals all available for download). School starts for us on Monday coming, so I haven't gotten that far with him just yet, but it looks very thorough. Part 1 covers 3100BC-1800's with 21 units and over 600 pages in the student text. The 242 page teacher manual includes Unit Focus, Suggestions for Enrichment, Unit Assessment, and Answer Keys for each unit.

I am very impressed with the quantity of resources presented on, and expect that I may find myself checking here first if looking for a resource for a specific topic.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
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