Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Prayers/Book One Troubles - A Homeschool Review Crew Book Review

The Pray-ers / Book 1 Troubles

I am a book lover. My wife hates it. Not that she hates reading mind you, it's just that she hates that I love to collect books. You can thank my parents for that. My parents loved to read. They instilled that love of reading into my siblings and me. It was passed down from my grandfather who had a massive library. So, I have genes in me for reading and book collecting.

Because of my love for reading I am always on the lookout for good books. These days I usually only read Christian fiction and non-fiction unless it's a good historical novel or biography of course. One of the main things that I look for is if it will help me in my Christian walk or in my ministry. When I the opportunity came up to possibly review The Pray-ers/Book One Troubles from CTM Publishing Atlanta, I researched the book a little and thought it would be an interesting read. I love spending time in prayer but often feel inadequate in my prayers. This book looked like it might help.

Little did I know that this book is just what I needed! I absolutely love the way the author, Mark S Mirza, blends Biblical Truths, history, and great story lines to teach about prayer and how satan and his demons are always trying to discourage God's followers and keep others from following God. And if there is anyone that knows about prayer it is Mark S Mirza.

Mark S Mirza used to lead Charles Stanley's Men's Prayer Ministry called "Sons of Thunder" before starting his own ministry - Common Thread Ministries to help churches and individuals with their prayer lives. Before that he was in the corporate world. I don't know what happened in his life before working in the ministry, but God always uses things for His glory and he has turned the author into a masterful storyteller and teacher.

The Pray-ers / Book 1 Troubles

There are quite a few things that I love about this book.

I love the way the way different folks throughout history are used to teach about prayer. (Yes, I even got the historical novel with this book!). From the Epaphras in the first century to Brother Alexander Rich in the 19th century to the present day world track coach from Georgia named Dale Riley. All of these men have fantastic prayer lives that God has developed in them throughout their years but all of them have troubles (hence the name of the book) of their own that they have to deal with. It's amazing how the author is able to mix troubles that are past and present and troubles that are created by the central figures and troubles that come from outside forces. Isn't that the way we are? We have troubles all around us. Troubles that we have created in the past that keep haunting us. Troubles that we are going through now that either happened because of our inadequacies or come from the outside. However, as I learned from reading this book, it doesn't matter how the troubles came, God is bigger than the troubles.

I love the way that everything is backed up by scripture. All the way through the book, the characters are praying scripture. That is something that I absolutely agree with but fail to do so often. I can see myself in so many of the situations that are happening in the novel and so many of the scriptures that they pray are perfect for things that I am going through. I am so glad that the author referenced the scriptures at the bottom of the pages where they occur.

Although I can't say that I love this, I appreciate that the author tries to give us a glimpse of what the demon world might be like. The author states in the introduction that this book is not about demons, but just to show us that demons are very real and are trying to influence us.

The Pray-ers / Book 1 Troubles

The Pray-ers/Book One Troubles is an awesome book that I would encourage anyone who is striving to improve his prayer life to read. I am definitely going to continue perusing this book and using the scriptures provided to pray over. It has and still is teaching me so much about prayer. I am looking forward to the second book in this series that is due out in December of this year.

To find out more The Pray-ers/Book One Troubles just click on any one of the highlighted links above. To find what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew thought of this book just click on the banner below. Happy reading and blessed praying!

The Pray-ers / Book 1 Troubles
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Friday, September 16, 2016 - Another Wow! Homeschool Review Crew Review

Help Teaching Pro Subscription {}

One of the things that I love the most about being on the Homeschool Review Crew is the diversity of products that my family gets to review. We have reviewed everything from home and health products, to complete homeschool curriculum, to games and homeschool helps. I particularly like the homeschool helps category because it can be used for an awesome array of things to help me teach and the kids to learn. The Help Teaching Pro Subscription from is one of those products that help me and kids and they do it in an awesome way. This is one of those "WOW!" products that I am still discovering all of the uses for. has everything that you can think of for preschool through grade 12! There are test generators, game generators, already made up tests and worksheets for a plethora of subjects, there are even complete lessons that you can assign to your kids. The really neat thing about it is that you can even assign things to your kids on line, "invite" them via email to do the lesson online. Let me describe a few of the main sections (I don't think I could describe it all) and then I'll tell you how we are using and how I plan on using it this year since I have some BIG plans for it!

Tests and Worksheets: My goodness this section is amazing! There are print ready worksheets and tests for English Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, Early Learning and even subjects like Physical Education, Arts and Music, and Holidays. If that isn't enough, there are pre-made worksheets to help with Study Skills and Organization. And I'm not talking just the basics in these subjects either. The Math goes all of the way up to Algebra, Geometry and Statistics. Their are worksheets and tests for World History, United States History and Geography. The Science worksheets and tests cover the basics all the way to Biology, Chemistry and more. Most of the subject areas have worksheets that comply with common core as well. What's really neat is that any of these things can be printed out, or they can be done online. They can even be assigned to your students to do later.

Lessons: I also love the lesson section of this website. They have complete lessons for Language Arts, Math and Science and they include teaching and videos from great dependable companies like Khan Academy, and Bozeman Science! Okay, I've used some of these lessons already with my boys, but I went back to check the lessons one last time for this review. The lessons go on and on and on. I just kept scrolling and scrolling and scrolling. There is everything you can think of in every one of those subjects that I just mentioned. From preschool to 12th grade. Language Arts includes grammar, reading comprehension, vocabulary, and spelling. Math goes all the way up to the high school subjects. Science also goes all the way up to highschool as well as elementary science. I am so happy I have this for a year to use!

Help Teaching Pro Subscription {}

Game Generator: I was so happy to see this section. You can create number bingo games, word bingo games using your own words, and word searches. I love the fact that I can create word bingo games using vocabulary words, spelling words, or new words that my kids are learning. The word search is invaluable for doing words from science, history, vocabulary, or if you have a child learning to read you can include new words.

Test Maker: I've already mentioned this great feature. You can create tests using your own questions, questions that are already made for different subjects or, if you are in a hurry, you can just type in a keyword, grade level and number of questions and it will make a test for you. And, of course, you can assign this test to your student to do on line or you can print it out. Since we don't do a whole lot of testing with my two special needs boys, I haven't used this section much but it is a really fantastic tool!

Extras: I couldn't list all of the extras if I had to, but some of the neat features are worksheets and lessons for children who are learning English as a second language, Common Core questions if that is required in your state, and even practice tests for the SAT! They are adding things all of the time so by the time I write this and you all click through to the website they are likely to have more!

As you can see, I am excited about this. I have already used some of the worksheets and tests with the kids and can't wait to use more. We are studying Astronomy this year and it has a fantastic selection of worksheets and lessons that I am going to use. We are completing the second half of United States History and I am still drooling over those and picking out ones to use. The kids have a fantastic math curriculum that they are using, but I am so glad that I have a back up if something comes up that they don't understand. Ugh! I can't say enough about how glad I am that we received to review.

To find out more about the Help Teaching Pro Subscription from just click on any one of the highlighted links above. To find out what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew though of this just click on the banner below. Happy Homeschooling!

Help Teaching Pro Subscription {}
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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Great Things are Coming for the Homeschool Review Crew!

Homeschool Review Crew Mainstay

You all probably know that for a number of years our family has been involved with reviewing great homeschool products and telling about them on this blog. Well, what used to be known as the Schoolhouse Review Crew has just become the Homeschool Review Crew and things are changing. It is about to become even better! Stay tuned for details!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Exploring Creation with Astronomy 2nd Edition - A Schoolhouse Review Crew Review

Apologia: Exploring Creation with Astronomy Review

When we first began homeschooling way back when my 20 year old was in 4th grade, I was obsessive/compulsive. It was kind of like when you have your first child. You wanted everything to be perfect and you wanted to do everything perfectly. Then, of course, your second and third children come around and all of your great plans are thrown out the window - but that's for another blog post. Anyway, I wanted everything to be perfect for John Allen and before we began I definitely did my homework. I pored over homeschool curriculum catalogs, read books, studied different homeschool methods, and talked to numerous home school parents about what they used and how it worked. One of the things that kept coming up over and over again in my research was the great Apologia Science elementary curriculum that was being written by Jeannie Fulbright. At that time, the different volumes were just being written, but there were a couple of them finished and Exploring Creation with Astronomy from Apologia Educational Ministries was one of them. So, that is what we went with for our elementary years of school.

John Allen loved it! We had a fantastic first year of Science and we continued to use all of the Exploring Creation series for the rest of our elementary years. When my two youngest reached their elementary years of schooling I always pulled out the Exploring Creation with . . . books but always put them back away for one reason or another because of my boy's learning difficulties. Finally, this year, I thought the boys might be ready for them and, lo and behold, what might be offered to the Schoolhouse Review Crew but Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition! I am so glad that we were chosen to review this new edition. It is completely updated, looks wonderful, but has the same fantastic content as before. All of the stuff that we loved with John Allen is still there but even better. Plus we received copies of the Notebooking Journal, Jr. Notebooking Journal and Audio CD as well as the Student Text to review! WOW! And they are all great. Let me go over them one by one.

Apologia: Exploring Creation with Astronomy Review

Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition Student Text: As I mentioned above, the new 2nd Edition Student Text has the same great information that I remember but is updated to take into consideration new scientific discoveries.

I love that Exploring Creation with Astronomy is completely Christian. You could probably tell by the title but I just wanted to confirm that it actually is based on the six days of creation. If you don't believe in the literal six days of creation then you need to know that is what is taught in the Exploring Creation with . . .  books. There is so much scientific information in this book that it is a valuable study anyway. But, as for our house, we do believe in the literal six days and I love the fact that this series of books is scientifically based on that. I also love the fact that Jeannie Fulbright uses Bible verses throughout to enhance the study.

Having said that, the text is very scientific and your child will definitely be studying Astronomy in a scientific way. There are fourteen lessons (or chapters) in this textbook that include an introduction to Astronomy, the sun, the planets, the moon, space rocks, the Kuiper Belt and Dwarf Planets and, finally, Starts, Galaxies, and Space Travel. In the Notebooking Journals that I will discuss later there is a suggested daily schedule that is very flexible. There are 71 suggested lessons so, realistically, if you wanted to do a lesson every day then you could easily complete the whole book in a half a year. As for us, we do about three lessons a week, so it takes us about a year to complete the book. That also leaves us a little space in case we have to miss a lesson for some reason or another.

There are three main things that may be included in a lesson. Reading from the Student book, Completing something in the Notebooking Journal, or doing a Science Activity/Experiment. There are two types of experiments that can be done. You can purchase an Apologia Science Kit separately that includes everything needed for some special experiments, or you can do the suggested activities that are in the book. The ones in the book use things that are found around the house or can be easily bought. We did not receive the Apologia Science Kit that is sold separately so I can't comment on those although they look very fun. The ones included in the book are excellent, though, there are many that I remember doing with John Allen that were super fun then and were super fun for the younger two as well. Some new ones are included as well, though.

The text itself is written in a very personal and readable style. It is broken down into bite sized bits. There will be some text, then a "Think About This" activity or an experiment activity. Periodically the child is asked to stop and explain something to someone using their own words (Charlotte Mason fans would like that and so do I).

I am choosing to read the text to my kids since one is a very literal reader and the other, although he has high comprehension, is a slow reader. This allows me to stop and talk about things if needed. Never fear, however, because, remember that I mentioned above that we also received the Exploring Creation with Astronomy 2nd Edition MP3 Audio book on CD. This is excellent for parents that aren't able to read the book to their kids but their kids would benefit from it. And, it is read by Jeannie Fulbright herself! What a neat thing! I love to read the book myself to the kids because I learn so much along with them, but having the MP3/CD is a fantastic resource.

We also received both the Exploring Creation with Astronomy Notebooking Journal and the Jr. Notebooking Journal to review. I am using the regular journal with my middle child, Joshua, and the Jr, journal with my youngest, Jacob. I have to do the journals in bite sized chunks since both have small motor problems. In fact, I have to do a lot of Jacobs for him. But, that is the beauty of homeschooling. You can use things and adapt things to your own children.

As far as the notebook journals go themselves, there is little difference between the two except for a few things. They both have spaces for them to write their thoughts and what they learned from each lesson. They both have really neat activities for the child to do. There are very cool lapbook type activities in both of them where you make matchbooks, mini-books and more to be included right in your journal. And, both have copywork activites that are short but beneficial and can be done in either print or cursive. The differences that I saw, though, were some of the puzzle activities. The puzzle activities were made a little easier in the Jr. journal - a letter is added to the answers in the crossword or something like that. Also, in the regular journal there is a a review activity at the end of and it is replaced with a coloring page in the Jr. journal.

We are loving Exploring Creation with Astronomy 2nd Edition by Apologia Educational Ministries. The boys love the texts and activities. I love the easiness of the lesson plans and I love that the boys are loving it. As I mentioned above. It is the same wonderful Exploring Creation with Astronomy text we loved before only updated and improved (I didn't think the first could be improved but it was). To find out more about this curriculum just click on any one of the highlighted links above. To find what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought of this science curriculum just click on the banner below. Happy Homeschooling!

Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition Review
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Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Spiritual Circle Journal for Kids and Teens - An Awesome Schoolhouse Review Crew Review!

Spiritual Circle Journal

I'm going to be super honest here. As full time missionaries it is so easy to work with others to try to build up their relationship with the Lord that you sometimes neglect your own family. I can't tell you how many times that the Lord has bopped me on the head (figuratively of course) when I was praying for other kids and asked me how many times I prayed for my own kids that fervently. 

One of the things that I so often do with other kids and then am convicted about my own kids is teaching them how to have a personal devotional time. So, I was super thrilled when I found out that I would be receiving the Spiritual Circle Journal for Kids and Teens from the makers of the Spiritual Circle Journal. I had looked it over on their website and it looked like just what I needed for the kids that I work with, but, especially for my own boys. 

The Spiritual Circle Journal for Kids and Teens is a journal, but, then again, it's not a journal. It has all of the elements of a regular devotional journal, but it is ingeniously made in such a way that it doesn't seem tedious for kids. So many times, children and teenagers will look at a journal or look at ways to journal and think that there is no way that they can do it. Often it looks like too much writing for a child and even some teens to handle. I know that with my two youngest, there is absolutely no way that they can write a lot because of small motor problems and other learning difficulties. The Spiritual Circle Journal does require some writing but it is in small but concise doses. 

Spiritual Circle Journal

The Spiritual Circle Journal for Kids and Teens is based on the adult version called . . . well . . . the Spiritual Circle Journal. As you can see by the picture above, your "journaling" is divided into nine prayer areas:

  • Journal Entry
  • Lyric/Verse
  • Message
  • Confession
  • God Moving
  • Lesson Learned Light-Bulb Moment
  • Prayer
  • Thank You/Adoration
  • Actions 
Four of these prayer areas are based on what we might say to God and five are based on what God is saying to us. A child is to use his journal after a sermon, Sunday School or devotional time. 

I like everything about this concept, but here are a few things that I really like about the Spiritual Circle Journal for Kids and Teens:

1. I really like that, in the instructions, the author and creator of The Spiritual Circle Journal for Kids and Teens, Liz Lassa, really encourages us to teach the child about the nudging of the Holy Spirit in filling out these areas. To me that is very important. So many times we quickly process a sermon or devotional and make it fit how we are feeling instead of waiting for the Holy Spirit to teach us what He wants us to know. Our feelings are important to God and to our relationship with God, but that isn't the whole picture. We need to listen to the Holy Spirit as well.

2. I like that this method is super easy. For people that like to journal it is okay to write lines and lines of what God is teaching us, but for a beginner and for children, sometimes it can be overwhelming to think that is what we have to do. With the Spiritual Circle Journal for Kids and Teens, a child is encouraged to just write one line for each area. In fact, if a child can't think of something for an area or if the Holy Spirit isn't nudging him in a specific area, they can leave it blank. Which brings me to the next area.

3. I like that it is super flexible. As I just mentioned you don't have to fill in every area. Or, you can fill in some areas today, pray and think about things, and then fill in other areas tomorrow. I like that it can be used once a week, a few times a week, or every day. The parent is encouraged to make it fun for the child. There is also a space above the journal page where a child can draw a picture, place stickers or pictures or whatever to help in his experience.

4. I like that in the instructions the parent is encouraged to be very pro active in his child's devotional/journaling experience. That is very important to me. I think that a parent needs to know what is going on in his child's life. Not necessarily to read his private journal, but to have a relationship where there is good communication.

Spiritual Circle Journal

I think it is very evident that I like the Spiritual Circle Journal method and the Spiritual Circle Journal for Kids and Teens. I say "I", because I wanted to try this method out first before trying it out with my kids. My oldest regularly journals through the Bible but this is new to my two youngest. They are such different learners that I wanted to know what it was like before teaching it to them. I think they will love it. It may take some time, but I know my boys and I think this is just what they need. 

To find out more about the Spiritual Circle Journal for Kids and Teens just click on any one of the highlighted links above. To find what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought just click on the banner below. Happy Journaling!

Spiritual Circle Journal
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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

What if I Stumble? Will You Still Love Me? - Scripture Sunday

because God has said,

"Never will I leave you;
Never will I forsake you."

Hebrews 13:5b (NIV)

I have been reading through the book of Judges in the Bible lately. When God led His people, the Israelites, into the promised land He told them to not associate with the nations around them. He warned them that if they did, they would begin to worship the gods that their neighbors served. 

Time and time again, though, the Israelites would wander away from God and begin to worship those other gods. And, time and time again, God would have to show them the error of their ways and, like any good father, sometimes punish them. Then, after the Israelites begged God to forgive them He would break the bondage that the other nations had on the Isrealites and He would allow them to live in peace for a number of years. Then, undoubtedly, the cycle would repeat itself.

As I would read all of this, I would almost face palm myself and wonder why the Isrealites just didn't get it. Then, God would gently remind me that I am the same way. I mess up time and time again. God helps me out of the situation and tells me what to do but then, after a while, I mess up again.

Sometimes I wonder if God will ever decide that He had had enough and just leave me. I am so thankful for the verse above. I know that my God is a Perfect Father and will never leave me! It reminds me of an old DC Talk song from years ago. I looked it up recently and want to share it with you all. Listen carefully to the words. We all are going to stumble and fall periodically, but if we have trusted the Lord as our Savior, He will never leave us.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Dad Bought Me a Phone - A Mill Stream Prayer Request

For the past several years God has graciously allowed us to go to a fantastic camp in Canada that we have grown to love very much. Not only have we grown to love the directors, leadership and staff, but we have also grown to love the kids that go to the camp. Mill Stream Bible Camp holds a very special place in our hearts. 

Of course our main ministry is with the folks in Livingston, TN, and I write about them a lot. However, this post is about a couple of boys that I met this summer at Mill Stream. Due to the nature of this story, I am not going to use their full names. 

V and L are both 12 years old and best friends. V's mom was looking online for an over night camp that he could go to when she found Mill Stream Bible Camp and thought it would be a great place for V to go. Soon L's mom was called and he was registered for camp as well. V and L do a lot of things together. They go to the same school, they go to the same church, they play on the same hockey team, and now they were at camp together.

Although many people would call it a coincidence that V's mom found Mill Stream online, it wasn't a coincidence at all. God knew exactly what he was doing. They both come from broken homes and even though their parents seem to be very loving, both of the boys are searching. They are searching for something that activities and the church and school that they go to aren't giving them. They are searching for Jesus. You see, the church and school that they go to are both catholic and they weren't being taught that God loves them and sent His son Jesus Christ to die on the cross and save them from their sins.

From the first Bible class V and L listened intently to the lesson and they became frequent visitors to the Bible table during their free time. The Bible table is where kids can come and say their verses, get help with their camp Bible book, or to just talk with the Bible teacher about the Bible and life. Since I was the Bible teacher that week, I had the great pleasure of listening, helping and talking.

During one of our discussions we talked about their home life and their relationship with their parents. V was telling me what the rest of his summer looked like. After camp he was going to his dad's for a few days and then it was back to his mom's house. When I asked him who makes the decisions about when he goes back and forth he immediately said that he does. He went on to explain that his dad and mom don't speak to each other and that's why Dad had bought him a phone. 

I was taken aback! V had to make all of the arrangements himself! He, a 12 year old boy, was the one who had to call back and forth and be the intermediary between his parents because they didn't speak to one another. Although V looks happy, I know it has to take a toll on him. 

Many times that week I know that V and L heard a clear plan of salvation. They expressed to me how different it was than what they were taught in church and at school. You could tell they were doing a lot of thinking. When I was talking to L at the Bible table midway through the week he told me that he trusted the Lord during one of the Bible classes while I was giving the plan of salvation a couple of days earlier. Praise God! V, however, never expressed that he had accepted the Lord but did have a lot of questions.

Please pray for these two boys. You can just use their initials if you like. God knows their real names and all about them. Pray that God would send someone into L's life to help him grow as a new Christian. Pray for V as well. Pray that God would send someone to water the seed that was planted. Pray for his home situation also.

As I travel around to different camps to teach Bible, and continue to minister here in Tennessee, I am struck at how much the same kids are. They may live in a different culture and even in a different country. They may do things a little differently but, they are all searching. They all need Jesus and His love. 

Thank you for your prayers for these two boys, your prayers for the work at Mill Stream Bible Camp, and your prayers for our ministry, Good News Ministries, here in Tennessee. Your prayers are greatly appreciated. God bless you all!