Saturday, November 10, 2012

5 Years Ago Today

Five years ago today, our family of five instantaneously became nine. After being gone for ten days my husband returned with our African children. We were finally one family under the same roof, after more than two years of heart-wrenching ups & downs and endless fundraising.

These were our first moments together:

We worked and prayed with everything in us to get to that day. We were full of hope for the future and dreamed of a better tomorrow.

The part I never anticipated living out was the loss that followed. Sometimes the Lord gives and sometimes He takes away. What I had hoped for and prayed for isn't what came to pass. What I've come to understand through it all is that I am a vessel. A vessel through which He works. A testimony for others to see His goodness. He is still faithful and He is still just.

What we have given is hope. Hope to children that were living in hopelessness. We have given opportunity when there would have only been mere survival.

Sometimes when we are walking through the deepest of valleys, it's important to lift our face towards the Son and remember that there is always goodness. Goodness in the midst of pain. Love in the midst of loss. Faith in the midst of doubt.

Today we celebrate. We celebrate the lessons we've learned, those we love and the memories that bind us all together. We celebrate and give praise for answered prayers, grace and hopeful futures.

"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." Matthew 5: 16

Friday, November 09, 2012

Grace and Truth Books~ TOS Review


Grace and Truth Books is a Christian bookstore built on the idea that “fancy packaging” is not what’s important, what matters is “what will glorify God, strengthen His people in their walk, and call all peoples to find joy in knowing His gospel and following Him.” They have books and audiobooks available on a myriad of topics for both children and adults alike.

We were given the choice of two books to review within the Boys Heritage Series. Please read below for our selections. 

The Boys Heritage Series are reprints from the 19th century for boys ages 8-14. Gerrit and His Dog is the story of a boy who experiences God’s kindness when he loses his dog and is then reunited with him. This book sells for $5.50.

A Faithful Boys Influence, by "Aunt Friendly," is a story about how a young boy initiated respect for God's servant by a good example. This book sells for $6.25.

A Faithful Boy's Influence

We just reviewed these two books but there is a total of ten books within the entire Heritage Series: Boys Books. This set of stories for boys, all reprints from the 19th century, are some of our richest, most challenging books for boys in this age range. They are also very suitable to read aloud with younger children or for family reading.

My boys began with Gerrit and His Dog. They read this book independently and really enjoyed the story line. When we began A Faithful Boys Influence, the boys weren't able to understand it on their own as well as the previous book. We then just began to read it together as all of the children listened in. If there happened to be words that the children were unsure of I was able to quickly explain and keep reading the story. I really enjoyed reading this with all of my children because the content is wholesome. I also didn't have a problem with explaining a few of the words because my children are on the younger side of the suggested age range. I also thought that hearing such vocabulary in a wholesome story like this will help to build their vocabulary.

I'm always looking for good books to provide for my children. I'm looking forward to buying the remaining books in this series as part of my boys' Christmas gifts! Thank you Grace and Truth Books for putting out such wonderful and wholesome materials!

To see what my fellow Crew Mates had to say about Grace and Truth Books visit the Homeschool Crew Blog to read more.

**Disclosure: My review and opinion written in this post is entirely my own. This product was provided to me for free in exchange for my review as a member of the 2012 The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Apologia~Journeys of Faithfulness


This book was such a gift! It was truly my privledge to review Journeys of Faithfulness by Sarah Clarkson.  Through a series of stories about biblical women such as Mary, Ruth, and Esther, the author challenges young women to explore and deepen their relationship with Christ.  The 232 pages of the paperback include devotionals and journaling spots.

Each story gives a historical fiction account of one of these women, using the details we know from the Biblical story and adding the author’s insight into what the characters could have felt and how they may have been affected by the events.  The book may be used as a devotional guide for adolescent women and their mothers, it is recommended for ages 12 and up.

My 12 year old daughter already enjoyed the stories of Ruth and Esther so she was delighted to have a look at this book. She was even more delighted when I told her we could go through it together. We really enjoyed reading about these amazing women, but my favorite part was ultimately our conversations afterward. I thank Sarah Clarkson for writing such an amazing tool that my daughter and I could use together to strengthen our own relationships in Christ as well as our mother/daughter relationship. :)


 Journeys of Faithfulness by Sarah Clarkson may be purchased directly from Apologia’s website.  The paperback version is $13.00.If you'd like to see a sample of this sweet, endearing book check here. The Table of Contents lets you in on the contents of the entire book.

To see what my fellow Crew Mates had to say about Journeys of Faithfulness visit the Homeschool Crew Blog to read more.

**Disclosure: My review and opinion written in this post is entirely my own. This product was provided to me for free in exchange for my review as a member of the 2012 The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Samson's Classroom-- TOS Review

Samson's Classroom is an online educational tool, offering three products: Sight Words with Samson, Spelling with Samson, and Reading with Samson. I was very excited to work with this review as my second grader found learning in this environment SO fun!

We began with using Sight Words with Samson – this area was created for beginning readers by helping them to master 224 of the most commonly used words in our English language. This helps build a strong foundation for new readers to encourage them to be successful in reading. It uses a 5 step process to help each student learn these widely used words.  During the process they will see and hear the word a myriad of times as well as seeing the letters needed to create each word they are learning. Even though I don't consider my second grader a "beginning reader," she still benefited from the practice of sight words in this section!

The games my daughter played asked her to complete a sentence, spell a word, identify the word, or take a short quiz.  There is a scoreboard which helps both the student and parent keep track of where they are and what their result was.  There is also a portion in the resource center that allows the teacher to print out additional worksheets and even flash cards. And you can print a certificate out once your student has completed each level, my daughter is saving these! She's so proud!


My daughter was very unsure of spelling, sometimes she puts all of her energy into reading a word! Reversing the process to spell it was difficult for her at first. Then, we moved on to the Spelling with Samson section. Spelling with Samson is a comprehensive set of games that drills spelling words in a variety of mini games.  More than 7,000 words will all be used in games which are designed to grab the attention of your children to play them over and over again all the while building their spelling skill. You can customize the lists to match what you are learning in your curriculum OR you can choose to use one of the lists already created.  Spelling with Samson is similar to Sight Words with Samson where it also uses a multi-step process to build confidence in your student’s spelling ability through a variety of games. My daughter was encouraged to try spelling and she wanted to play in this section more and more. What a fun way for a 7 year old to get spelling practice!


Reading with Samson is a combination of reading comprehension and logical analysis where the student will learn to draw conclusions from what they have read to figure out the answers to the questions presented to them. The questions asked cover cause and effect, discovering the main idea, context, and sequencing to name a few. This program also uses an instant feedback system. If a student answers a question incorrectly the pertinent information of the passage that they read will be highlighted and the child is allowed a second chance at answering the question correctly. This section was a little more difficult for my second grader but she does try a little each day. I think we'll be able to work our way up to this area more and more as we progress through the school year.

If you decide to take a look at Samson's Classroom for your homeschool, there is a variety of pricing options for home use ($30 per year), as a family (4 users $50 per year), as a classroom (30 users $80 per year) and even more. You can try a demo of the program and make sure you check out this short but very thorough video demo.

To see what my fellow Crew Mates had to say about Samson's Classroom visit the Homeschool Crew Blog to read more.

**Disclosure: My review and opinion written in this post is entirely my own. This product was provided to me for free in exchange for my review as a member of the 2012 The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Crossbow--TOS Review

Crossbow is a company that provides many different kinds of learning tools. I was interested to see how I might be able to use their product in our homeschool. I had one child in mind that I thought might benefit the most from this review product.

When you visit their website you will find that they carry several tools designed to help you create a learning environment that promotes student achievement, especially for those with Dyslexia and Visual Stress. Because I have a child that I would categorize as having "visual stress," I was curious as to what this tool might do. I honestly wondered if I'd be able to see any difference or results.
Reading Rulers is the product we received to review. They are made of durable, color-tinted plastic; and you are able to underline and highlight about six inches of text at a time. Text is read through the transparent color. Each Ruler is small and convenient to carry, or keep in a book used as a book mark. “Reading Rulers reduce page glare, dancing, blurring text and other symptoms, while also providing valuable tracking support for reading.” They are available with duo reading windows – one is 1/2″ wide and the other is 1 1/4″ wide – to aid in reading a single line of oversize text, two smaller lines of text or a short paragraph.

Studies have shown that students need a spectrum of colors to choose from, to find the one that best meets their individual needs. I had my struggling reader start using the rulers and switch colors until he found one he "liked" reading with. Over time, I could see that he was always making sure he had a reading ruler with him and I saw that he was using it as a bookmark as well.

Crossbow Education has a Pack of 10 Eye Level Reading Rulers for $16.95. It is their most popular package, because it allows a student to examine each color, choose the one that offers the most benefit; and then order just that color. We received the pack of 10 to use and my son, as of now, has chosen 3 favorite colors to use when reading. I can't help but think this tool is helping him stay on track when reading pages with lots of texts and longer paragraphs.

I highly recommend this product for anyone with a beginning or struggling reader. I intend to continue using these reading rulers for as long as needed. Thank you, Crossbow, for making a product that helps us so much!

To see what my fellow Crew Mates had to say about Crossbow visit the Homeschool Crew Blog to read more.

**Disclosure: My review and opinion written in this post is entirely my own. This product was provided to me for free in exchange for my review as a member of the 2012 The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

ZooWhiz--TOS Review 

ZooWhiz is the FREE Online Learning System that gives children comprehensive coverage of Math, Reading and English in a fun, motivational and interactive learning environment. ZooWhiz is a free site for parents and teachers and kids. It works a bit like Skype where much if its functionality is free but if you want the best then the PREMIUM subscription is for you. Premium access is usually $30 per child.


This online learning website for children allows them to practice reading, math, grammar, vocabulary, and word skills while “collecting” animals and playing games with the points they earn. It is designed for kids ages 5-15, and allows the parent to customize levels of learning to suit their child. Children can also customize their account by choosing their own “zoologist” character to play as.


Zoo Whiz was created for users across the world, with options that include American or British spelling, and different units of measure and currency. Parents are able to access progress reports that allow them to see how their kids are doing in each area. Kids are able to play learning games in different disciplines, and earn coins they can spend on animals and games.


As children play, they also learn about the animals in their collection. They get information about their habitats, whether or not they are endangered, what they eat and other information. They can even collect “rare” animals like dinosaurs and a phoenix!Many different skills are covered in the Zoo Whiz program, including basic math facts, phonemics and phonics, and more advanced skills as well. The learning levels are adjustable, so you can customize them to fit your child's ability level.

As I mentioned above there is a free account available on Zoo Whiz, I was able to try out the Premium account, which currently costs $14.95 for a year. You can't beat that! Zoo Whiz is still being developed and new content is being added all the time.

To see what my fellow Crew Mates had to say about ZooWhiz visit the Homeschool Crew Blog to read more.

**Disclosure: My review and opinion written in this post is entirely my own. This product was provided to me for free in exchange for my review as a member of the 2012 The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Box of Ideas, Pearl Harbor--TOS Review


Box of Ideas is a company dedicated to creating interactive, learning modules centered around various subject areas. When using this product you can't help but find yourself irresistibly drawn into critical thinking & knowledge building! The variety of fun topics makes learning intriguing and fun.


A Box of I.D.E.As. (Ideally Dynamic Enrichment Activities) contains ten or more modules that supplement learning on a given subject or provide an interesting journey into usual topics.  Each module contains quick, fun activities that allow your student to dive deeper into the subject being explored.  At the end of the Box, a student will have created a small portfolio of projects representing what he/she has learned.  Additional links are provided with each module for further exploration.  For older students you can take advantage of the SAT style test (included in each box) to determine if your child has mastered the information.


Box of Ideas modules can be taken and used anywhere: in the car, at the doctor’s office, waiting for a sibling to finish an activity, etc. My family was able to review World War Two: Pearl Harbor in PDF form. I used this comprehensive module with my 3 oldest children (ages 13, 12 and 10). We haven't studied WWII yet in their schooling but this was a fun and easy way to begin! I couldn't believe the amount of information available in this kit. Not only was it extremely thorough but the instructions were very user friendly and the kids' loved all of the graphics. 

This Box of Ideas was broken down into these categories regarding Pearl Harbor:
  • Before becoming a naval base
  • Beginning of a naval presence
  • Weeks before the attack
  • Day of infamy
  • Day after the attack
  • Weeks after the attack
  • Six months after the attack
  • A year after the attack
  • Four years after the attack 
  • Decades after the attack
Each category began by explaining the contents of that particular module, what we'd be working on and what I needed to prepare (copies of certain sheets or cutting that needed to be done beforehand). After the directions on the prep work, the module began with instruction and references. There were colorful pictures that corresponded with the information given. Each module was, on average, 7-10 pages long. I was very pleased at how comprehensive this was and what my older children learned (and remembered!).

No program would be complete without grading sheets! The answer keys were broken down by each module and then for the final test at the end.

There are other Box of Idea versions available, check out the website to see which one you'd like to try first! PDF versions cost $49.00 while a physical box costs $79.00.  Extra modules can be ordered for $4.00.
Box of I.D.E.As. can be used for students of multiple ages allowing a homeschooling parent the opportunity to engage all students at once.  The age range recommended is 9-16.

To see what my fellow Crew Mates had to say about Box of Ideas visit the Homeschool Crew Blog to read more.

**Disclosure: My review and opinion written in this post is entirely my own. This product was provided to me for free in exchange for my review as a member of the 2012 The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew.