Monday, April 30, 2018

Books With Bean ~ The Cloak of the Light

Books With Bean,book reviews by teens, Chuck Black

Title: The Cloak of the Light 

Author: Chuck Black 

Published: March 2014

Genre: Fiction, Adventure fiction, Christian Fiction

Summary: After Drew’s dad dies when he is a kid, nothing seems to go right for a long time. His grandma dies from cancer, and just when he finds a love of playing football and starts to do really well his mom looses her job, and when she gets a new one it is in Kansas which means Drew has to start over at a new school half way across the country. Something that is not easy when you are young and is even harder for Drew since he is in High school. Life doesn't seem fair to Drew but even in the new setting he finds both friends and enemies. He starts to play for the school football team and does really well and makes friends with Ben a strange kid who is as smart as he is weird and Sydney who is as nice as she is mysterious. Life seems to be going up again finally when Drew is driving some friends home from a party after a late football game and one of his friends distracts him causing Drew to crash and killing one of the other boys who was the star of the school football team. After that Drew feels like he can't even go to school as the small town mourns the loss of the star even thought Drew wasn't found at fault for the accident. His grades drop and he is ready to quit school when Ben, who left high school early for collage, comes back for a weekend visit and convinces Drew to work to get better so he can join him at collage so he won't just become closed off and resentful at the world. Drew’s grades rise and when he leaves for collage he feels like he can finally leave the weight of his friend's death behind him. He does well at collage and life finally seems to be going up again when Ben’s research professor disappears. The boys meet to discuss what might have happened and look over a picture that was taken with the professor's new experimental machine. In the picture is a ghostly figure that Ben is sure in an alien. Wanting to make sure however the boys go test the machine, looking through the lens Drew sees the strange figure from the picture but just as he fully comes into view the device explodes leaving the room all but gone, Ben badly injured and Drew blind. As a result of the accident Ben is expelled from the school, and Drew drops out due to lack of mobility. Ben soon visits Drew at his house in secret and tells him he thinks someone is after him for what he knows and he has to disappear. After Ben leaves Drew keeps to himself until one day he goes out with his mom and his dad’s best friend Jake and has a brief moment when he can partly see agin. The doctors say it is nothing to get their hopes up about but these moments come more and more often and then one day Drew has his sight fully restored if not better then it was before. However he soon realizes that he can now see the strange figures that before he could only see through the machines lens. They seem sister and threatening and Drew begins to wonder if these invisible invaders are aliens like ben thought they were after all. However when he begins to tell his family about it they have a Psychologist come and look at him thinking he might be going mad. Realizing no one will believe him, Drew decides to go and look for the long time missing Ben the only person he knows that will believe him and help him prove that what he is seeing is real and he isn't crazy.

What I liked about it: The series is really good, it deals with spiritual warfare in a way that both seems real and isn’t too complicated for the target audience age. Drew and his friends are interesting characters and the story keeps you guessing until the end of the book and wanting to read the next one as soon as you can. Drew is not a Christian and neither is Ben but Sydney is and it is really interesting to have a non-Christian dealing with the supernatural and not knowing exactly what he is seeing or what to do about it. I feel sometimes as Christians we take for granted that non-believers will just automatically know what to do in times of spiritual trouble like we do who have the faith and the knowledge of Christ. 

Language: There are a few instances of bad characters using a occasional slightly bad word but there is never any hard or long swearing.

Romance: Drew likes Sydney but it doesn't go anywhere in the first book as she makes it clear that as a Christain she cannot date an unbeliever. 

Violence: Sword fights, and gun fights in the spiritual realm, and the car accident in our world as well as some other violence as in his search for Ben Drew finds himself in the less affluent districts of Chicago. There is a lot of fighting especially between the Angels and Demons but it is rarely graphic.

Other Notes: I wasn't exactly sure where to put this in the above sections so I added this here as a side note. When Drew goes to his friend's house for the party after the game before the car wreck that kills his other friend it is clear that the boy's parents aren't home, there is a bit of underage drinking by others but when offered some, Drew takes a few sips out of pressure and finds it too gross to drink any more.  

Magic: There is no magic, the book deals with the world of Angels and Demons but in a realistic way drawing from Scripture as its source as much as it possibly can, and while it does add things from the author's imagination, he never makes Drew have any powers that would really border on magic like casting curses or flying or anything like that.

Recommended Age: While many homeschoolers know Chuck Black as the author of the popular Kingdom series (which I also really like) these books are not meant for as young of an audience. They aren't just adventure allegories they are much more serious books about the power of God and His Angels, the Devil and his followers. As such while the Kingdom series is good for younger kinds I wouldn't recommend The Wars of the Realm for anyone younger then 14, even if the kid is at a more advanced reading level, as the content of the books is for the more mature audience. However I would not give these books an upper age at all, as I find them good for all ages even adults. (My Mom likes them too!)

book reviews by teens, Chuck Black, Cloak of the Light

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Psalm 19:1

May you take time today, and tomorrow, to go outside and look up. May God show you His handiwork - the beauty He has created for us to enjoy!

The hand-lettered Scriptures will return soon. I'm taking my own Spring Break now that it is finally spring-like outside!

Monday morning Books With Bean will be back in our usual line-up.

Stay tuned!

We appreciate you!

Carol & Arlene :)

Friday, April 27, 2018

The Heart's Appeal ~ a Bethany House book review

Bethany House, book review, historical fiction, romance

Julia Bernay applies pressure, quick thinking, and her nursing skills, to save the life of a man injured during a wreck on the London Underground. When she later learns this man might be the very person who closes down the Medical school she wishes to attend to become a Doctor, and then a Medical Missionary to Africa, she is not quite sure what to think.

Thus begins The Heart's Appeal, the second book in Jennifer Delamere's London Beginnings series from Bethany House. Julia is the sister of Rosalyn Bernay from Book One of the series, and while there is a small bit of overlap of characters, you can enjoy The Heart's Appeal even if you have not yet read The Captain's Daughter.

Like all good historical fiction, The Heart's Appeal contains realistic scenes from London's various social circles of the time. While Barrister-at-law Michael Stephenson and his sister Corinna run with the likes of Viscounts and other wealthy Londoners, Julia is a former nurse, a poor college student, and a solid representation of London's middle class from the 1880's. Michael and his set are the type to give money to fix a problem, while Julia and her classmates are the ones who give their time to help others in similar circumstances, or those who are destitute. Reading through this book gave me a stark reminder that there has always been poverty, and only through action and compassion can we overcome it on a person by person basis.

Spoiler alert

Julia and Michael interact upon several occasions, the first time after the accident on the underground is when Julia seeks him out at his sister's home, after her fellow female students tell her more about him. Michael is intrigued that she would seek him out, and surprised that she is doing so because she genuinely cares about his welfare and if he is healing properly from his wounds. In the circles Michael runs in, every action and conversation has an ulterior motive, and he is somewhat stunned and a little skeptical of Julia's lack of artifice.

When Michael makes a hasty request as to how he can repay Julia for her care in saving his life, he never expected her to want his time instead of his money. Julia realizes that as a barrister, Michael must understand Latin well, and that is where she is struggling the most in her studies. As she asks him to tutor her in Latin, Michael begins to realize just what a predicament he has gotten himself into with his generosity. His current legal case involves a libel suit against the Medical School Julia is working to get admitted to. He understands that his rash offer could get him in big trouble with his superior, and possibly even jeopardize the case. His sister Corinna, while concerned with his legal position, is even more concerned that his agreement to tutor Julia will upset her social scene and his chances of marriage to Miss Laura Maynard if anyone finds out about it.

I found The Heart's Appeal to be an interesting and entertaining read. It travels along at a decent pace, but does not draw you so far in that you cannot put it down to make dinner. The characters are believable, and just might make you think of someone you already know. Having heard accounts of how London was always a mix of the three social levels, I was drawn in by Mrs. Delamere's descriptions of the vastly different levels of societal living. Her passion for historic detail makes this a delightful book, but I am sure she could have put the interactions between Julia and Michael in any setting and still had them be enjoyable charters. They are so achingly human - foibles and all.

I recommend you pick up your own copy of The Heart's Appeal, either from the Bethany House website, your local bookstore, or request your local library to add it to their collection. I look forward to book three in the London Beginnings series. I sincerely hope she is already working on it!

Connect with Jennifer Delamere  

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review. I was not require dot write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions are mine. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.

Homeschooling Victories ~ a great education!

homeschooling victories, spring blog hop, home education, graduation

Over our 15 years of home education I have learned quite a few things. One of the most important is that you really CAN provide your children with a quality education while keeping them at a home. You also quickly learn that you do not have to stay at home while learning to be called a homeschooler.

Our girls have traveled with us through 11 states, countless zoo visits, and more museums than most adults have ever experienced. Our life is a field trip! They've been well-loved, well-spoken, and well educated. Through it all the one place we have visited the most (except church) is our library. 

Our state has very few home education requirements. 180 days of the "opportunity to learn", and that we provide an "equivalent education" to what they might have received in the local public schools. I'm here today to tell you we never tried to provide an equivalent education, but rather, the very best education we could - a great education! Our girls have always had friends or acquaintances who attended the local public or private schools, and we know several local teachers. We do not look down on those who chose a different educational route, but rather, we to stick to this journey that God called us to for our family.

Today, as I type, our girls are on the way to the movies. We have a 19 year old who is finishing her first year of college, and a 17 year old who will graduate later this year. Just a blink ago they were 3 and 5.  It fills me with an unspeakable joy to know that they have grown up as best friends. That our house has been filled with laughter and good books. That for every time we faltered, God was there to brush us off and put us back on the right path.

We have been blessed to find so many great resources to use over the years, the best ones being our Bible and our library cards! 

When our girls were little the homeschooling movement nationwide was still a little hush-hush as many people were mis-informed about whether or not home education was really legal everywhere. The Indiana ruling that upheld the ability of homeschooling to meet the state compulsory attendance law was given in 1904, it stated that a homeschool was a private school. The court defined school as "a place where instruction is imparted to the young..." Today, 114 years later, there are businesses and colleges that actively recruit homeschoolers for their love of learning, dedication, and willingness to think outside the box. 

It matters not to me if our girls choose to pursue higher education, or go along another path to their future. What matters is the quality of their characters, how they treat others, and how they share their passions. We had three goals for our girls when we started: 
1- to teach them about the love of Jesus
2- to teach them to read and enough math to survive adulthood
3- that they would know how to cook well enough and manage a household so they could one day move out on their own

Today, I am happy to report our girls have each met those three goals. They have also received an education far superior to what they might have at our local public schools, because it was tailored to them - their very now gifted and talented program. But most importantly - they are fun to people to be around.

How do they do educationally? Quite well. Emily made the Dean's List first semester, and Arlene received a full scholarship to a textiles convention last summer. We regularly receive complements on how well mannered they are and how much fun they are to be around.

One of my friends who is a retired public school science teacher has told me a few times how much she admired how we have raised our daughters. But what she said a few months ago was a reminder of why we have sacrificed to give them this education. She said,"Carol, I wish more children, really all kids, could have an educational experience like you have given your girls. Where hands-on learning and being a part of the local community were just as important as bookwork. You have done a fabulous job with your daughters, and I now see the great value in choosing to homeschool."

Very soon our homeschool will be empty, but we will continue to be advocates for home education, and hopefully be able to continue mentoring other, younger families as they make the choice to homeschool. The spot on my desk for the attendance sheet may soon be empty - but my heart is oh so very full!

homeschooling victories, spring blog hop, home education, graduation

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Thursday, April 26, 2018 May sale starting now!

*this post contains affiliate links

Because I wanted you to be some of the first people to know, here is the special for for May: $80 off making it $99 for a full year of unlimited access to over 370 courses, plus online resources for parents, printable planners, transcript record-keeping from Applecore, AND, you'll get a print copy of the The Old Schoolhouse summer issue delivered to your doorstep... and a little birdie told me there might even be a free tote bag for you included for those who sign up soon.

But don't wait until May 1st, the sale has already started, and you can jump on it today! Wondering what we like about SchoolhouseTeachers? A lot! Read my review from this January and find out more about Applecore Recordkeeping!

So if you've been waiting for a deal on to come along - this is it! Don't delay, just click on over and check it out today. The discount code:YEARLYOPTION should already be working, so you can sign up and save today.

Please remember that the scavenger hunt is still going on through Monday, April 30th. Make time this weekend to get that done!

Homeschooling Victories ~ family ties

Today we are celebrating close family ties. You don't have to homeschool to get them, but it helps!

family closeness, cousins, homeschooling, road trips

Let me tell you about one of our favorite aspects of home education: setting our own calendar! Because we are not tied to the local school's calendar year, we have the freedom to take a break whenever needed, or continue on to the end of the school year without as many breaks and have a longer summer.

Being able to set our own schedule has allowed us to build better family ties. We have vacationed in the off-season many times, and we can take a long weekend to go visit the cousins whenever the dads can get their schedules aligned. Our girls have spent a week at "hotel Grandma" more than once.

Not everyone is into homeschooling. That's ok too. What I want to focus on is the ability to choose. You as the parent need to choose the best educational situation for your children. We have chosen homeschooling and for us it has worked really well. It has given us the opportunity to live a learning lifestyle for the past 15 years. We have learned (and travelled) together. We've been to sporting events, art shows, botanical gardens, and Civil War battlefields. We've spent time visiting the cousins, and time in the woods by ourselves. Whatever your family relationship when you start homeschooling, it will be tested, tried, stretched, and refined over the years. It has been the very best difficult choice for us. It is often hard, usually tiring, but oh - so much fun! 

Homeschooling builds strong families - because you're around each other so much. You cannot let issues fester, you are forced to deal with them, forgive each other, and move on.

Over the years I have heard this phrase way too many times, and it makes me sad, "I could never homeschool my kids, I couldn't stand to be around them that much." Oh, how much you have missed by not being around your children as they learn, grow, and explore. How much I have gained by being refined through this home education journey!

Think about the kind of relationship you wish you had with your children - homeschooling can let that happen. It has for us. Having time to pour into your children every day more than makes up for the times when we fall short of being a great parent. It gives us genuine relationship, and a chance to influence our children for their good.

Today I'm celebrating the close family ties we have made through homeschooling. What are you celebrating today?!

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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Homeschooling Victories ~ following your interests

The homeschooling victory we are celebrating today is the ability to follow your interests and chase down those rabbit trails with glee!

Spring blog hop, homeschooling, delight-directed learning, eclectic education

One of the most fun things about homeschooling is being able to allow our children the time to follow their interests. Their ability to learn about something new is limited only by their imaginations, and our ability to give them school credit for it is vastly different than in a traditional school. We have the freedom to add things together in a way that traditional one-subject classrooms do not have.

We have always followed a Charlotte Mason style of education for our girls, and that continues even today as Arlene is in her senior year of high school. We use short lessons, narration, and living books a much as possible. We have expanded on these ideas over the years and used them for our own benefit. Keeping book work concise and limited, and allowing a lot of time for nature study and outdoor play when our girls were little led to them having a lot of time for field trips. And on those trips we followed their interests as much as possible. 

Basically we field tripped the way through their school years as much as possible. I call this E3 learning: eclectic experiential education. It is hands-on learning at its best because it often immerses them in a new environment while they learn. It allows them to follow their interests and still meet the basic necessary requirements for graduation. A lot of their high school credits were earned away from home. Whether you term it delight-directed learning, unit studies on the go, or E3 learning, it all gives you the flexibility to care more about your child being well-educated than about them being classroom-educated. 

Our girls read a lot, they've always been a regular fixture at our local library. When they were little, if we did not visit each week, the children's librarians would ask what adventures we had been on. When choosing coursework for high school, I often assigned them several smaller, living books, and a lot of hands-on experiments or activities instead of handing them a textbook. One of the hardest lessons for most homeschooling parents to learn is how to relax. How to enjoy the freedom homeschooling offers. Stop stressing yourself and your children out by comparing what they are doing to what someone else is doing. You can meet all of your state's requirements and still have fun!

Both Emily and Arlene have spent several years volunteering at Conner Prairie - a living history museum - where part of their job was to dress  in period appropriate clothing and 'be' a person from Indiana in the 1800's. Arlene's time period is 1863. She is smack-dab in the middle of the Civil War. Her desire to be the best she can at her acting job has spurred her on to study the Civil War beyond anything you might find in a traditional high school textbook. She reads, researches, asks questions of other re-enactors from across the US, and occasionally attends meetings at our local historical society. She took it upon herself to follow that interest in the Civil War and learn more.

Another thing both girls have really enjoyed is the youth spinning program at Conner Prairie. Thanks to their mentor Sue, they've both learned to spin wool and ply yarn well, and Arlene has learned how to be an excellent weaver. They have helped the younger kids learn how to spin and improve their skills. These past two years Arlene has taken a real leadership position in the youth textiles program and devoted extra hours to helping the other youth succeed as well. She even taught me how to use a drop spindle!

Whatever interests your children have, whether it is horses or trucks, photography or zoology, allow them the time to pursue those interests. Follow down those rabbit trails with them - it just might lead to your own Wonderland!

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Matthew 13:52

Scripture Writing, Matthew 13:52, hand lettering

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Homeschooling Victories ~ friendship

Today's homeschooling victory to celebrate is friendship.

homeschooling victories, friendship, cross-generational, cultivating friends

Did you have a best friend while growing up? Do you have one now? How do they influence your life for the better? Some people can have a seemingly endless supply of close finds, and others of us only have a handful of those friendships. No matter how big or how small your inner circle of friend is - they are a valuable treasure - hold on to them!

Friendship is a relationship that requires both people to give, but both can receive so much more than they give. Intimate friendships are often hard to cultivate in this busy world, and that is why I'm focusing on friendship as one of our homeschooling victories to celebrate. I'm celebrating because even after all of these years, our daughters are not just sisters, but friends. In a traditional school setting it is often hard to cultivate a friendship with someone not in your grade, because the nature of the age-graded classrooms separate you. In home education, your children can cultivate friendships with other children of a variety of ages, and even with adults.

Our children learn their model of what friendship is from watching us interact with others. When we call someone our friend, they store up the ways that they see us interact with that person as their definition of friendship. More is caught than taught. You can read all the picture books in the world about friendship with your kids, but if they never see you interacting with your own friends, your children may not think true friendship is important. We must choose to take time to invest in our friendships as adults, and we need to include at least some friends that come with families attached so our families can interact and our children see what true friendship entails.

Good friends are often called the "family you choose" and that has been no truer than with my friend Sharra who passed away last year after a battle with cancer. She was the arms and feet of Jesus to so many people, and she shared her love for Jesus with everybody. Our friendship impacted not only myself, but our entire family for the better. She was a big cheerleader for our daughters, and they miss her too. Her memorial service was attended by hundreds of people who she had impacted - most of whom called her a friend. 

Sharra, the love of Jesus, friendship
Sharra and I -May 2017

I often think of friendship in light of the things God taught me through my friendship with Sharra. Whatever the situation, she always pointed me back to seeking out and following God's path for my life. When I look at the friendships our daughters have been able to cultivate over the years, I am reminded of the joy that having a close friend brings. Today, as young adults, our daughters choose to spend time together because they are not just sisters, but friends. They share a lot of the same group of friends, but they also have individual friendships that do not overlap. 

When I think about how it affects me to spend time with my friends, and how much better I feel about life afterwards, I am encouraged that our daughters have friends who like being zany or serious with them as the moment requires. Our daughters have the gift of friendships outside of their own age ranges too, and that I credit to the many opportunities they have had as homeschoolers. We have had the physical time to make the emotional investment into the lives of other people, and other adults have invested in our children as well. Our daughters have friends that are much older then they are, some even older than Kurt and I are, these friendships have often grown from a mentoring situation, or an interaction of sharing the love of Jesus with others, both inside our church and out. The girls also have younger friends, ones that they are mentoring, or just enjoy spending time with. While I am so very thankful for their friends that are in/ around their own age group, I am thankful they understand the value of cross-generational friendships as well!

Because of the flexibility of home education, our daughters, who would be two years apart in a traditional school, and worlds apart in the social scene at a public school, have experienced life together. Bonds have been forged that tie them together in a way only God could orchestrate. Yes, they do still ague at times, but what holds them together is so much stronger than anything that threatens to tear them apart.

For those of you reading this who are one of those friends of part of or all of our family - thank you! We are so blessed to be able to make time for the important things of life along this home education journey and beyond - and finding you as  our friends has been one of the many highlights, and victories, we have celebrated along the way!

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Monday, April 23, 2018

Homeschooling Victories ~ a love of learning

Today begins the Homeschool Review Crew's annual Spring Blog Hop. This year we decided to let each member of the blog hop team choose their own home education related topic - so you are in for some real treats! Everything from planning your first year of homeschooling to what happens after graduation! For our part, I choose to look back over our 15 years of educating our girls and choose some homeschooling victories to share with you. I hope you enjoy this week's posts. To see what everyone else is sharing, just click the links at the bottom of this post.

homeschooling victories, a love of learning, hands on learning, nature, art

Day 1 ~ a love of learning

Our first goal was not to re-create school at home, but rather to offer our girls an education tailored to their needs. One that helped strengthen them in their weaker areas, while allowing them to excel at their strengths. As such, our days were widely varied, and we rarely used a desk, unless it was to hold our art supplies! Our goal was to instill a love of learning, and I truly believe we succeeded! Not only do our daughters love to learn, they also love to help others learn.

Emily is almost 20 and studying to become a librarian. Her goals are to help adults overcome illiteracy and to make libraries more user friendly for those with learning challenges like dyslexia or dysgraphia. Besides sharing her love of books, she enjoys teaching children about spinning wool into yarn, about animals, and about superheroes.

Arlene is almost 18 and in her last year of high school. She excels in textiles, particularly spinning and weaving, and is always wanting to learn more, plus share what she already knows with others. She is a huge cheerleader for the youth spinning teams at Conner Prairie and is always trying to mentor younger spinners and weavers to help them improve their craft. Arlene has been learning about Indiana's Civil War history for several years and shares her passion for it on the grounds at Conner Prairie, both in first and third person interpretation areas.

Where does a love of learning come from? From God. Our children are born with a fascination for exploring new things, and it is our job as parents to not snuff it out! 

But wait...what if my kids are bored with learning?

Fear not! You can rekindle that love of learning in them. It just takes patience and time and room to grow. You need to stop thinking about how your children compare to the kids down the street or how they compare to their cousins and focus on making learning fun again. Our favorite ways to enjoy learning include art supplies and time spent outdoors. 

Have you ever heard of square foot exploration? You take a 4 foot long string and make a one foot square out in the yard. Now give your child a paper and some crayons or colored pencils and let them record what they find. It is not a race, just a fun way to sit outside for 15-30 minutes and learn how to observe. Maybe all they think they see is grass, or dirt, or sand. Give them time and let them find the worm, the ant, or the tip of a blade of grass. Let them look for tiny flowers or aphids on the back of a leaf. It is time to not be rushed. Maybe hand them a magnifying glass and walk back over to your own square. Too often we want our children to hurry up and finish a lesson so we can move on to the next thing.

What if the next thing is really doing nothing?

Sometimes our children's greatest need is to relax. 

To just be

To watch with their eyes and listen with their ears and see what God has placed around them. This learning to be at peace in a natural setting is a great lesson to absorb when they are young. It grounds them to the natural world and can be used to make them better stewards of the resources God will someday place in their hands. 

Will your kids get dirty? Oh, I hope so! God made them washable for a reason! Let nature soak into their souls at an early age and God will use it to speak His lessons to them as they grow up.

I still have a love of learning inside of me. My parents cultivated it by letting me explore: the backyard, the art museum, the beach, the woods. Kurt and I have tried our best to create a home environment where everyone is free to explore new things and learn at their own pace. 

Do you have enough down time in your schedule for your children to explore? If not, it is time to re-think your schedule and add in some margin. Some unplanned time each week where a love of learning can flourish. Allow yourself some time to learn something new as well. Our children learn more from what they see us doing than what they hear us saying. 

When did you last learn something new? Just a couple weeks ago Arlene started teaching me how to use a drop spindle to turn wool into yarn. It is not easy, but I am having fun learning! If you want to see how it is going you can check out our Instagram feed.

Stop back by tomorrow to hear about another great homeschooling victory!

Now where is my wool ...

homeschooling victories, a love of learning, hands on learning, nature, art

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Friday, April 20, 2018

More wildlife options!

*this post contains affiliate links*

The Old Schoolhouse, April sale bundle, nature learning

Ok, I just heard that this month's The Old Schoolhouse sale bundle is all about nature ... kind of reminds me of that post about I wrote for this past Monday...

So, if your children are nutty for wildlife, or you need a swift and easy way to cover nature and the outside world, check out the bundle sale that includes 4 print magazines and 13 digital products for only $29! It is the "Cultivate What You Want to Grow" bundle, and covers all sort of natural wonders, from how sunflowers grow to zombie fire ants. And ... if you're still really struggling to incorporate nature into your homeschool - fear not - check out Creative Nature Study, one of the 13 digital products. 

I always enjoy the print magazines. They're timeless, so the ideas and articles can rejuvenate your learning and teaching time for this Spring and beyond. They're great to keep in your bag, or in the seat-back pocket of your car so you always have one available whenever you find an extra 5-10 minutes of wait time. We live in a town with a lot of trains, how many? So many that John Dillinger never robber a bank here because he knew he would get caught by a train! So... I've been known to put the car in park and read that print copy of The Old Schoolhouse that's right behind the seat for five minutes at a time while I wait for the train. Us working and homeschooling mamas know how to squeeze the most from what few free minutes we have. :)

The Old Schoolhouse, April sale bundle, nature learning

Remember, next week is the Spring Blog Hop, and I think you'll be both encouraged and surprised by some of the great articles coming up from members of the Homeschool Review Crew. My friend Hillary over at Walking Fruitfully is writing about post-graduation options other than college. I'm looking forward to reading her words of wisdom, and hope you'll be sure to stop in each day to read our offerings and then hop over to read hers. This home education journey takes a lot of twists and turns, and it is great to know you have options that will work for all of your kids!

We'll be off in nature ourselves this weekend. Follow our Instagram feed to find out where!

P.S. If you're a member of, remember to go to your dashboard and sign up to have this summer's print copy of the magazine shipped to your house! If you're not a member yet, check out the scavenger hunt and maybe you'll be a prize winner!

Monday, April 16, 2018

Wildlife options at

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There are two weeks left in the Spring Scavenger Hunt at and it got me to thinking... what do you do the most of in your homeschool? Do you have one subject you cover every day like maybe reading or math? Or is there one topic your children keep asking you to go back to? 

For us the recurring theme was and still is Nature Study. Next month Arlene will turn 18. In this last year of her homeschooling journey we are still finding ways to add nature learning into our daily learning. Just yesterday afternoon after church we took a short trip to see some birds. What kind of birds? White Pelicans! Yes, truly, we saw pelicans in Indiana! They are known for their migratory stopover in southern Indiana, but Kurt and I saw a flock of about 2 dozen of them here in Central Indiana Thursday evening and we drove the girls by to see them this afternoon. Likely by the end of the week they will have moved on, but in the interim, we got to enjoy them!

On Saturday Arlene, Emily, (17 & 19) and I stopped at Conner Prairie to see some of the new spring babies in the animal encounters area. Emily used to volunteer in this area a lot, and I could tell she was feeling a little blue. So we stopped for some baby animal (therapy) fun. Lots and lots of baby goats and lambs. By the time we left everyone was smiling.

Do you like to regularly take your kids out in nature, or is it a struggle for you? You do not have to live in the country to enjoy nature. We started by taking the girls out into the yard and letting them crawl around when they were less than a year old. I have an infamous picture of Arlene on the wall that shows her eating dirt just before her first birthday. Did it hurt her? No. Is it a funny memory for me? Absolutely! Does she love the outdoors? Yes!

If you are struggling with finding ways to incorporate nature study or biology into your home education routine then why not check out the offerings on There is a Nature Journal PDF suitable for any age to use to record their finds. Your 3rd-6th grader might enjoy the Wildlife Adventures course. Your older students could probably learn a lot from the Biology or Botany courses. Or maybe you just want to get better at taking pictures of what you find while you are outdoors? Then check out the 30 week course in photography and learn the skills to work with your camera instead of against it!

Whatever your child's interest, there is probably a course on that can fill a need. With over 370 to choose from, why not take another look around? Remember, the scavenger hunt is only through April 30th and someone will win a laptop. Others will win a Kindle Fire or a year's membership to
It could be you! But only if you go play and enter!

Remember that next week is the Spring Blog Hop where we will be talking about homeschooling victories! Have a great week - and get outdoors!

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Isaiah 30:15

Repentance and rest, quietness and trust.

I realize that I have been resisting these things that God wants to offer to me, just as He offered it to the nation of Israel. May I choose to repent of my hardness of heart, and find the rest and quietness that He offers. Will you join me?

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Blog Hop coming soon: Home Education Victories

Coming Soon ... 2018 Annual Spring Blog Hop

The Homeschool Review Crew will be hosting its annual Spring Blog Hop from April 23-27.
This year, everyone is choosing their own topic. It's going to be a fun week of peeking into a lot of different families and finding some encouragement for your journey! I've seen the topics list and there will be something for everyone, wherever you are along your adventure, from just starting to almost finishing. :)

With this being Arlene's senior year of high school, I thought I'd take you back through these past 15 years of our family's homeschooling journey and share some homeschool victories. Some may seem small, but in the big picture they have become integral parts of our two girls' growth towards adulthood.

How crazy it sounds when I think about 2019 and being finished with homeschooling. One thing I have learned recently, is that even after they graduate, they still need their Mama (& Daddy!) This is a new stage of life our young adults enter after high school and some loving encouragement goes a long way.

I hope you'll join us each day from the 23rd-27th and find some fun, some adventure, and a lot of encouragement!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Princess Cut ~ a Crew movie review

Princess cut, romantic drama, dove approved

How do you start difficult discussions with your teenagers? Are there topics you know you have talked about in the past, that you want to revisit, but are unsure how to bring them up again? I think all of us as parents have struggled knowing how to begin a conversation about tough issues. If you are looking for ways to either start or continue the conversation about dating with your young-adult daughters, you may want to check out the movie Princess Cut from Watchman Pictures that the girls and I watched recently.

I am going to give some spoilers here, so if you just want a general overview, we give it a B. There are some characters we wish had been better developed during the 97 minute movie, and some Christian cliches that made the girls roll their eyes. It is a solid movie, and worth the watch for the right reasons, it just could have been better. Princess Cut is a movie to reinforce the idea of waiting upon God for direction, not necessarily a movie to teach the lesson of waiting. Our girls are about to turn 18 and 20, so if they had seen this when they were 15 & 17 they might have scored it a little higher, but not much. On on overall scale, this is a family friendly movie, as there is nothing objectionable that the younger siblings should not see, but we are recommending it for ages 15 and up because once you watch it, you need to have a serious discussion about it. Which things that happen in the movie do you agree with, and which are contrary to your own family's plans or beliefs?

Now, the spoilers...

Grace, the main character, is in her early 20's and on the lookout for Mr. Right. Grace is convinced she will know when she has found him because he will slip a Princess Cut diamond engagement ring on her finger and vow to love her forever. Before you think too harshly of Grace's dream, remember that all girls spend some sort of time daydreaming in those years between 15 and adulthood and/or marriage, and it usually involves guys.

Unfortunately for Grace, the one she thinks might be Mr. Right (this time) - Stewart, turns out to be another dud. Grace is frustrated and a bit angry because she sees all the faults in these young men and wonders if she is ever going to find the right one. She has yet to realize some of the faults may be her own. Thankfully her parents realize that Grace is struggling and her Dad takes time to talk with her about waiting upon God for her future, and about how she needs to let God change her into the person He wants her to be, instead of focusing on finding the right guy. Truer words were never spoken!

At this point Grace decides to break off her dating relationship with her current Mr. Wrong - Jared, and gets a bunch of devotional and bible-study books to read. We see her spending time reading and making notes. Her attitude towards her younger brothers improves and she helps out more at home.

Shortly after this point in the movie our daughter Emily (almost 20) said she wished they had developed this part of the movie better. Instead of just showing Grace journaling her thoughts, Em wished they had shown her getting together with her girlfriends and talking out all of their right and wrong ideas about love, dating, and marriage and focusing instead on the Biblical mandate to trust God for our futures. The problem with that idea for this movie is that Grace's supposed best friend is a horrible influence and obviously living by Christian values.

As the movie continues, we see Grace and her family spending time with their new neighbor, Clint, who turns out to be Grace's Mr. Right in the end. The movie shows a more courtship style of relationship developing, and Grace and Clint are forced to work out some real struggles brought about by the arrival of Clint's ex-girlfriend.

The movie has a happy ending with Clint proposing to Grace and everyone hugging, then a brief look ahead into their married life.

Now our other thoughts

I'm not opposed to courtship as a means of building a relationship that will probably lead to marriage. I think overall it is a safer route than the traditional dating that many of us used in the past to find our spouses.  Courtship can help protect hearts, but it is not perfect either. We are sinful people, even as Christians, and we need to be involved in the lives of our young adult children.

There are some things the girls and I want you to know before watching the Princess Cut.

First up: the girls both agreed that the best situation for watching this movie would be in a family or small group setting where you had been studying God's word and what it says about marriage and/or relationships. There are several good devotional and small group Bible studies available that would help your young adult daughters and their friends have good conversations about healthy relationships. Watching Princess Cut alongside one of these studies would give opportunities to discuss what Grace and her parents did right, and what they did wrong.

Secondly: sadly, this movie does not focus on what to do while you are waiting for God to show you His plans for your life. There could definitely be a better development of the growing up involved while searching for God aspect of the story. Grace's character is naive and self-centered. Both of our girls pointed out that parents should not wait until their teen or young adult daughters are struggling with dating relationships to get involved in their lives. They both were sad that Grace lacked direction in her own life, as evidenced by her focus on the ring she wanted instead of the character of the man who might become her husband, so they found it no real surprise that she did not have any clue about what to look for in a boyfriend. They also wondered at Grace's best friend and her poor influence on Grace's choices, and why her parents had not been more involved along this path as well. We don't choose our children's friends, but we do want to help them understand how they can influence others for good, and how to recognize when their own friend might be leading them astray. During the movie Grace comments that she feels confused about what the right choices are, and while she thinks she knows what her parents would choose, she is not sure if she agrees. This leads me to the conclusion that Grace has not made her parents' faith or morals her own, but is adrift, needing a sure foundation from which to make her choices.

Don't be turned off by our girls' assessment of the movie characters. It is still a solid movie, worth the watch, and worthy of discussion. It might be the wake-up call you need to get more involved in your children's lives. Although most teens and young adults crave the independence that comes with being older, like being able to drive, choosing their own friends and dressing in their own style, they know deep down inside that they still need the dependable guidance of their parents. Spending time tying heart-strings with your children at any age can set the stage for real conversations about all the new situations they face at this age. Learn something from Grace's parents in this movie - about asking for forgiveness when you've fallen short, and about staying involved in your child's life even when they reach adulthood. There is a vast difference between not letting your child grow into an adult and abandoning your responsibilities as a parent. We want to fall somewhere in the middle - where we heed the call of God to gently guide our young adults without trying to run their lives.

Both Emily and Arlene agreed that the character of Dr. Clint Masters should have been better developed. Although we are told he is a Doctor at the local clinic, there is only one brief scene where it shows him doing any doctoring, and it is a pretty weak representation of the medical field.

One point Emily wanted me to stress is that you need to talk to your girls about the movie after it is over. Princess Cut could give some viewers the impression that if you give your life over to waiting on God that you are almost automatically guaranteed to get what you want, as Grace did in the movie. That is not a true representation of how God moves. He is God, not a fairy godmother, and sometimes He tells us "No."

You can purchase the Princess Cut movie on their website, where they also offer three different books about boy/girl relationships for the young adults in your life. If not one of these, please choose an appropriate title form your local Christian bookseller and continue the conversations that a the movie began. Our young adult children need parents who are lovingly involved in helping them grow into the people God designed them to be!

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Princess Cut {Watchman Pictures Reviews}