Monday, February 29, 2016

Scripture Sunday - God's Word Will NOT Return Void

David, Skiler and Robert (the three boys beside me) at a recent Bible study.
My three sons joined them that day.
So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. Isaiah 55:11

Some of you may know that I lead a Bible Study with a group of teenage boys from a very impoverished section of our town. They range in age from 13-16. It started with just three brothers but they invited friends and others joined until it has now grown to about six. Another 18 year old boy was coming for a while but usually dominated the study and was very obstinate at times so Sarah and I are going to start doing a Bible Study with just him. I take the boys to McDonalds or Burger King, buy them a drink and sometimes a sandwich and we sit, chat, and study together.
You never know what is going to happen with these kids. There are some weeks where they are attentive and some weeks where their minds are in outer space or they want to joke and fool around. I invited them to a special praise and worship time at our church the other night and they sat like lumps on a log and didn't participate at all.
God's Word will not return void.
Each one of them has a wall that I am trying to break through.
Poverty built these walls.
Parents who are parents in name only built these walls. Being the outcasts in life built these walls.
Struggling to survive built these walls.
Life built these walls.
Each Bible study, each time we meet informally, each event that I take them to is an opportunity for God to chink a little of those walls away. Although I am thankful that two of the six kids have trusted the Lord since we began this Bible study last fall, I sometimes get discouraged that I am not seeing more fruit than I am. I hang my hope, though, on the above verse. Especially the "My word . . . shall not return unto me void" part. I know that even though I might not see the progress, God does. God knows what is going on and at just the right time his word will "prosper in the thing whereto I (God) sent it". God knows what He is doing and God will continue working on those young men long after I am gone.
God's Word will not return void.
Please pray for these boys. Pray for
And any other boys that might join our group. Pray that God will break down the walls that have been built around those boys. Pray that God will continue to use me and give me the words to say. Thank you ahead of time!
God's Word will not return void.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

We Designed our Own History Curriculum - Part Two!

In Part One of this series we talked about why we wanted to create our own history curriculum. However, I still had the nagging question of how we were going to do it. I knew that there had to be some organization. After a lot of thought here’s what I did.

1. I made a spreadsheet of all of the books that I had on their level. Since we moved into a smaller apartment a year ago, that meant going to storage and rooting through boxes of books. Thankfully I had all of the homeschool stuff in one area, so it wasn’t difficult. You will probably be a lot more organized and this will be easier for you.

It was a very simple spreadsheet. First I had a column for the person or event. I didn’t always include the full name of the book because that would take a lot of space. If I had two biographies of two books of the same event I might put the last name of the authors in parenthesis). I then had the birth date of the person or the beginning date of the event then the date of death or end of the event. Finally I had a brief description of the person or book. I’m talking very brief such as “First Lady, President, Founding Father, or Famous Ship (Old Ironsides).” I now wish that I had put the years that the famous person was most active. It gets a little confusing to see Stephen Decatur (born in 1779) next to Valley Forge (1777). Stephen Decatur’s famous acts weren’t during the Revolutionary War at all but much later. So, since the list is organized by date of birth or event I sometimes have to sort things out. My final column is just to put a check when we have finished a book. 

2. After making my spreadsheet,  I discovered that I had some gaps so I went looking for a core curriculum to use and also a few supplemental books. I remembered that a few years ago I had reviewed a great company called Heritage History. They put together CD’s of great historical books that are now mostly public domain. I found a great series of books written in the late 1800’s by Mara L Pratt titled "American History Stories". I realize that I will have to find other things to fill in the gap from the late 1800’s on, but Mara Pratt does an excellent job. It’s right on my boy’s level and the text isn’t filled with any political correctness or history revisions. I am very pleased.

3. We began reading and enjoying! We supplement with videos at times when we find them through online sites, at the library or in the store, but our main curriculum is the good books that we put together. Joshua and Jacob love it so much that they want to go to some of the places that we have studied about!

Do you think it would be impossible for you to do the same? Don’t limit yourself! You can do it as well!

1. Start by looking at what you have. I’ll bet you have a lot of good historical novels that you have already purchased. Then start searching used book stores, thrift shops, yard sales and more for books to add to your collection. Are you a big library goer? Check out what they have as well. Don’t know what to look for? There are plenty of sites that have good, living, historic book lists. Sonlight, Beautiful Feet,  and Heritage History. I also reviewed a fantastic resource called "Timeline of Classics" a few months ago that is very helpful.

2. Make a spreadsheet of what you own or is available to you from the library. I used Microsoft Excel, but you could use your favorite program.

3. Choose a core curriculum to fill in the gaps such as “American History Stories” by Mara L Pratt. You can find many for free on Amazon, Project Gutenberg, or other online resources.

4. Begin reading and discussing and enjoying your children!

It really isn’t difficult at all. I know you can do it as well! My kids are loving it and, since you know your kids better than anyone else and, therefore, can pick books that you know they will love, I think your kids will love having their own curriculum as well. Happy Homeschooling!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Climbing Knights - A Schoolhouse Review Crew Review

SimplyFun Review

I remember playing games as a youngster. It was a big family thing at our house. I know that there is a lot of talk these days about kids spending too much time on computers, tablets, and cell phones and not enough time with family. I tend to agree. Don't get me wrong, though. My kids are like a lot of other kids and spend much too much time on electronic items. For that reason, I look for any opportunity to play good family games with my kids. Since we are homeschoolers, my search for good wholesome games to play with the kids includes educational games. That's why I was thrilled to be chosen to review The Climbing Knights from Simplyfun.

We have reviewed some of the great educational games from Simplyfun before and have loved them. We found that not only were they fun but they indeed were very educational as well. The Climbing Knights is no exception. It is one of four newly released games by Simplyfun.

Let me tell you, I was just as amazed as my children as to the enormity of this game when I put it together. Now, I'm not talking about enormity as in the rules. The rules are quite easy. I'm talking about enormity of the size! Once put together the tower is huge. Never fear, though. The magnetic tower was super easy to put together and the game is super fun to play. As well as the tower, which folds easily for storage, the game includes four magnetic knights to climb the tower, three dice, two guards that walk along the walls of the tower, and eight flags (two for each knight) that the knights must climb the tower to retrieve.

As you can probably tell by now, the object of the game is to get your knight to the top without getting caught by a guard so that they can retrieve their flags. If they are caught, they must slide down to a lower level and begin their climb again. The rules are very simple. Each player rolls the three dice and moves the guards and their player accordingly. The grey dice is for the grey dressed guard, the black dice is for the black dressed guard, and the white dice is for your knight. Each guard moves in a different direction around the tower and if they land directly above or below your piece, or if you are on a walkway when the guard comes around the corner then you are knocked down a level. If, however, you are hidden by a ledge then you are safe. It is very challenging to be able to time your ascent so that the guards don't catch you. It requires a lot of strategy. The game is for two to four players ages 8 and up and the directions say that it takes about 30 minutes, but all of our games took over that amount of time. Maybe because we strategized too much.

SimplyFun Review
We absolutely love this game. I was a bit unsure if my youngest would understand it or not, but he understood right away and was nearly better than me. Ahem . . . I said nearly! I love it because it requires my kids to think and use strategy. So many board games these days are all fluff and require no thinking. Video games sometimes require thinking, but when you are actually playing a board game and actively moving pieces around, you are using a different part of the brain than you are by simply playing a video game. Also the social interaction of a board game is invaluable. That's why I am a fan of board games and especially of The Climbing Knights. This game is definitely a hit with us. To find out more about this game and other games by SimplyFun click on any of the highlighted links above. To find out what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew had to say about this game and another great SimplyFun game click on the link below. Happy Game Playing!
SimplyFun Review
Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

We Designed Our Own History Curriculum - Part One!


I don’t think it is any secret that I love history. I have written on my blog before about how my parents, especially my dad, instilled a love of history in me by taking me to many historical places while I was growing up. We went to Gettysburg numerous times, we traveled to Williamsburg and Jamestown in Virginia, we vacationed in Massachusetts and visited Plymouth and Boston, we spent time on Mackinac Island, and those were just a few of the places that we went to. I think the fact that I was blessed to be able to experience America’s Bicentennial in 1976 helped a lot as well. Good history teachers in school didn’t hurt matters either. At any rate, I love history and I try to instill the love of history to my children as well. 

Because of that, choosing a good history curriculum was very important to me when we began to homeschool. After doing a lot of research on learning styles and different curriculums, talking to other homeschoolers, and taking into consideration John Allen’s strengths (the only child school age at that time), we chose Sonlight Curriculum. John Allen loves to read, and reading good, living, history novels seemed to be a great match. I was not disappointed at all. He loved it and we spent the next several years using Sonlight’s great history products.

The past few years have been different for us, though. John Allen has fulfilled all of his history requirements and we have been focusing on geography with Joshua who excels in that area. Poor Jacob has just been too young to do anything but basic civics until this year. So, we haven’t worried about history in a couple of years.

I really wasn’t even planning on doing a lot of history this year. It is kind of funny how it all came about. Through the Schoolhouse Review Crew we were asked to review two different reading unit studies. I decided to do the unit studies with both Jacob and Joshua at the same time and, since the books were above Jacob’s reading level I used the novels as read alouds and read them to both of them at once. I was very pleasantly surprised at how they both soaked up the books and the studies. We had a fantastic time reading, discussing the books, and answering the questions. About that same time a friend of mine called and said that there was a huge yard sale with a lot of homeschool stuff so I went down to look. The lady’s daughter was a retired school teacher getting rid of a lot of her books and, lo and behold, what should I find but a whole box of the old “Childhood of famous American” biographies. There were at least two dozen of them and, of course with my love of history, I couldn’t pass them up.

That was the beginning of me thinking that maybe we had something here. Since the boys were soaking up the books that I was reading to them and we had all of these great biographies plus more historical novels that I had collected over the years, maybe, just maybe, we could create our own history curriculum.

But how do we set it up? I knew that there had to be some organization. Part Two will tell you how we did it and Part Two is on its way!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Home School in the Woods - A TOS Review Crew Review

U.S. Elections History Lap-Pak  Review

I have said it before and I will say it again, we love history in our house. I have always loved history. I credit my parents and a great ninth grade Pennsylvania history teacher named Miss Mogart for that. You see, my ninth grade year was 1975-1976 (yes, I am that old). Those were exciting times in America! Three big events were happening in 1976 that brought about national pride. The Olympics were always something that pulled America together, but 1976 was also an election year, AND it was our Bicentennial. Miss Mogart may have been a tough and no nonsense teacher, but she was also one that knew how to take advantage of things to make history fun. We not only covered Pennsylvania history but she also taught us all about elections. She instilled a love of history and an interest in government in me that remains today.

When this election year came I wanted to pass on that interest and love to Joshua and Jacob but wasn't quite sure how to do it. After all, there is a big age difference and they both are special needs to some extent. When I found out that I had the opportunity to review HISTORY Through the Ages Hands-on History Lap-Pak: U.S. Elections by Home School in the Woods. I THOUGHT that this might just be the thing to use. When I researched the product and looked at some of the samples I KNEW that it would be great for the kids and I was so happy when we were, indeed, chosen.

U.S. Elections History Lap-Pak  Review

We have reviewed other lapbooks from Home School in the Woods and have enjoyed using them and we have enjoyed this one as well. What I like about this U.S. Elections Lap-Pak is that it includes everything with the purchase of either a download or a CD, it is recommended for grades 3-8, and it is flexible and can be either added to your regular history studies or can be used as a study on it's own. Jacob was my main worry as his reading level is below third grade but I felt that intellectually he should be able to handle the information if I read it to him. He has soaked up the information and loves it.

AND, when I say everything is included I mean everything that is needed is included in the download or on the CD. There is the "Reading Text" where all of the information for the study comes from. I like that because in other lapbook studies that we have done we have had to search for the information on our own. They include every piece that is used in the lapbook and each section can be printed out separately. I appreciate that because I don't have to print out everything at once (which takes up a lot of ink) and try to store it. I can just print what I need when I need it. They even include pictures of everything so you know if you are putting together the lapbook correctly.

U.S. Elections History Lap-Pak  Review


I also love how Homeschool in the Woods gives you choices. The "Main Reading Text" that they use to gather all of the information can be printed out in two formats. One is a neat little booklet similar to what is shown above or you can print it out in notebook fashion to put in a notebook if you want. You can even not print it out and listen to the recording of it if you would like. Yes! I said recording! How may other lapbook companies provide that option?! As I mentioned above, you also have the option of printing all of the pieces out at once, or individually to be used when needed.

I also really appreciated that when I downloaded the U.S. Elections Lap-Pak I didn't just download a bunch of files that I had to sift through myself to find what I needed. There was a start page that was also downloaded that served as a kind of portal to all of the information. Everything is organized under headings. You click one link to print out the pieces needed, one link for the directions on how it is to be put together, another link to see what it is supposed to look like and still another link to listen to the recording if you want. It is very convenient.

U.S. Elections History Lap-Pak  Review

So, what is actually covered? Instead of trying to explain everything let me list what is included as it appears on the Homeschool in the Woods website:


 Definition of “Election”
 Different Forms of Government
 The American Experiment
 The Three Branches of Government
 Who Do We Vote For?
 Terms of Office
 A “Handful” of Political Parties
 Caucuses & Primaries
 National Conventions
 The Presidential Campaign: Platform
 The Presidential Campaign: Stump Speaking
 The Presidential Campaign: Media — News Source
 The Presidential Campaign: Campaign Advertising — Spreading the Word!
 Raising Money
 Election Day
 The Electoral College
 Inauguration Day
 The Electoral Race!
 The “Vocabinet”
I was very impressed that this wasn't a lapbook just explaining elections, but also included explanations of different types of governments; how we formed our three branches and the powers that the three branches have; a history of elections in the United States; and, of course, the election process.

As I mentioned before, my kids are soaking this up. It is amazing that my 10 year old has a good grasp of what monarchy, oligarchy, republic, democracy, and anarchy means. I mean . . . oligarchy? I'm not even sure I could have defined that very well before this study. Joshua has enjoyed putting the pieces to the lapbook together. He is very creative. For some reason Jacob is resisting the coloring part of it this year but that is no fault of the U.S. Elections Lap-Pak. It is just a phase he is going through. Although they may each have their favorite elements, they are both loving the study and have learned so much. It has been a great supplement to our U.S. History studies this year.

I would highly recommend HISTORY Through the Ages Hands-on History Lap-Pak: U.S. Elections by Home School in the Woods. It has been wonderful for us and I think it would be wonderful for you as well. To find out more about this great product click on any of the highlighted links above. To find out what other members of the TOS Review Crew have to say about it click on the banner below. Happy Homeschooling!

U.S. Elections History Lap-Pak  Review
Crew Disclaimer

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Toccoa, GA - Taking Our Missionary Work on the Road!

I have talked a lot about what we do here in Livingston, TN, but often we travel to other locations to help fellow missionaries with their ministries. Last weekend we had the opportunity to help our great friend Lois Lass with her ministry in Toccoa, GA.

Cookie Decorating at the Valentine's Party

We arrived last Wednesday and almost immediately set out helping her get ready for the two big events she had planned for Friday and Saturday. Sarah and Lois spent almost all day Thursday baking 20 dozen cookies for Lois' Saturday Valentine's Day Party with the Hispanic kids that she works with. Before that, though, on Friday, we had the pleasure of helping Lois with her ministry at the Toccoa Boy's and Girl's club.

Boy's and Girl's Club
Sunday was spent visiting the church that Lois attends and watching the Super Bowl before traveling home on Monday. It was a whirlwind trip but we had a lot of fun with both groups. I pray that the lesson that I shared with both groups, making sure that God had first place in their hearts, was affective. I am very proud of my boys who jumped right in talking, playing and witnessing to the kids that we ministered to.

Hispanic Ministry Valentine's Party

I'm Proud of My Boys