Saturday, April 30, 2016

Money. . . What IS it really all about? - A Throwback Thursday/Scripture Sunday Post.

It's been a busy past couple of months and I realize I haven't been posting much more than reviews. Things have started to calm down a little bit so I am going to try to post more family and non-review posts. When I was thinking about what to write about the Lord led me to an old post from my old Angelfire blog. I think it was really to remind me of what is really important in life.

Families Again

Sunday, 1 August 2010
Money...What IS it really all about?
Mood:  not sure
Topic: The Purple Files

I've been thinking about money lately. I think about it off and on, but this bout began the other day. I was driving to a neighboring town to take one of my kids to therapy when I passed a pet grooming business. It got me to thinking about all of the people who actually take their pets and spend 20, 30, 50, perhaps hundreds of dollars a year. For what? For someone to comb their pets fur and put pretty bows in it? Now, we could go on and on about the benefits of having a pet and how therapeutic they are, etc. I am not against having a pet. We have a cat and a dog ourselves. But is that really the best use of our money? A use that would be glorifying to God?

Perhaps it's because we work with low income families and support kids through Compassion International. I have seen what it's like to live with little money here in the United States and I've read about and corresponded with children who have next to nothing in life. But, I've never seen or experienced extreme poverty before. My wife and I were talking about this just today. She made the comment that perhaps one of the reason God sends us on mission's trips is to jolt us back into reality when we get back. To make us realize what is really important in life.

A blogging acquaintance of mine, Kristen, from We are THAT Family has experienced just that. A few months ago Kristen was on the blogging team that went to Kenya with Compassion International to write about what they saw and post it on their blogs. You can read their amazing posts by clicking here. I could never verbalize it in the excellent way that Kristen did, but her Kenya trip had a profound impact on her. She came back a totally different person. So much so that her husband commented that he wasn't sure that he knew her anymore. To which Kristen commented back that she wasn't sure she even knew herself. Things just seemed so empty when she got odd.
On her trip Kristen experienced traveling through one of the worst slums in the world. So bad was this slum that they had to split up into groups of three or four and have a personal body guard. They were told not to stare and to refrain from taking pictures while traveling on foot to get to the Compassion project in the middle of the slum. One lady, a professional photographer did take pictures however. She took them from her hip from under a jacket. Those photographs are amazing to look at but disgusting as well. You can find them by clicking on the posts of the bloggers that traveled through this filth called Mathare Valley. Read more of Kristen's story appropriately titled "Today, I Went to Hell" by clicking here.
Kristen had experienced extreme poverty. This isn't the government housing area that Sarah and I work in, or the one in your town...this is EXTREME POVERTY! When she got home Kristen felt lost. She made the comment that she wanted to sell everything and live in her garage. She struggled with coming to terms with what she had seen in Kenya and what she came home to in America. She is still dealing with this and it has had a profound impact on how she and her family now live. I encourage you to click here and go to her blog to see what she and her family are doing now. It's amazing.
The stories that these bloggers told really had an impact on me. Since experiencing the poverty in Kenya through their blogs, I've been contemplating money a lot. I've been contemplating a lot of things a lot. And, no, it's not my depression this time. As some of you know, I've suffered from depression in the past. This time, however, it's God. God has been talking to me lately. I mean really talking to me. About a lot of things. This is just one of them. The other day I posted about another. I'll post more of my thoughts on this and other things that God is revealing to me in the future as well.
Money is just one thing that God has been dealing with me on. Don't get me wrong. I don't begrudge people that have money. Many great Christian people have had money. It's what people do with their money that frustrates me. It's what I do with my money that frustrates me.
I Timothy 6:10 says:
For the love of money is the root of all evil...

Notice it doesn't say that "Money is the root of all evil". It's not money that is evil, it's what you do with your money. Are you frivolous with what God has given you? A dear friend of ours who tragically died in an auto accident used to say "Hold on to things loosely". Don't allow things to get in the way of what is right and what is true in life. Contrary to what some people think, money cannot buy you happiness. In fact, most of the time it is just the opposite. Hold on to what you have loosely. Use your money and your talents to help others. Use them for the Lord.

Lord, although you haven't given my family much, thank you for what you have given us. Thank you for providing for all of our needs. Lord, please help us to "hold on to things loosely" as Betsy used to say. Help us to use what you have given us to further your kingdom. Not just the money that you give us, but everything that you give us. Out talents, our home, our ministry, our time, everything, Lord. Help us to use it for your glory. In your name I pray. Amen 

The following is a video of a group of Mathare children singing at the compassion project. Below the video are the lyrics.
Adhi e dala malo
Am going home on high

Dala gi yesu Ruodha
The home of Christ my Lord

Dala mar auma
The home of splendor

Tinga malo adhi anee dala
Lift me up, so I may see my home

Neuru achako achako wuoth madhi ka wuonwa
I have began, began this journey to the father

Gimaneno ndalo mabiro piny ni rumo
I realise that this world is soon ending

Neuru achako achako wuoth ma dhi ka wuonwa
See I have began this journey to the father

Gimaneno ndalo mabiro piny dong’ gunda
I realize this world will soon be uninhabited

Adhi e dala malo
Am going home on high

Dala gi yesu Ruodha
The home of Christ my Lord

Dala mar auma
The home of splendor

Tinga malo adhi anee dala
Lift me up, so I may see my home

Tinga malo tinga
Lift me up lift me

Tinga malo tinga
Lift me up lift me

Tinga malo tinga
Lift me up lift me

Tera adhi anee dala
Take me to see home

Wach ni awinjo
I hear this message

Wach no aneno komaka gi wuoro
This message feels me with awe

Omaka gi wuoro
Feels me with awe

Gimaneno ndalo mabiro piny ni rumo
I perceive this world is ending soon

Wach ni awinjo
I hear this message

Wach ni aneno komaka gi wuoro
This message feels me with awe

Gimaneno ndalo mabiro piny dong’ gunda
I realize this world will soon be uninhabited

Courtesy of Compassion International:


Friday, April 29, 2016

It's Coming! Favorite FREE! (or Cheap) Homeschool Resources!

Favorite  FREE / Cheap Homeschool Resources
The Schoolhouse Review Crew does so much more than reviews. One of the other things that they do is provide homeschool help to homeschool parents. Every couple of weeks they have what they call a "round-up". A round-up is when the crew members submit some of their posts that revolve around a certain topic. For this next weeks topic we submitted posts that talk about our Favorite FREE! (or Cheap) Homeschool Resources.
Have you ever thought about homeschooling but didn't really know how you could afford it? Well, let me tell you, we used to spend hundreds of dollars a year on homeschool things. Over the years, however, we have learned how to homeschool by spending little or no money. Of course, being on the Schoolhouse Review Crew has helped, and there are some things that John Allen used that we have used with our younger boys as well, but, many of the things we use now weren't from the Schoolhouse Review Crew or weren't hand-me-downs. They are things that we have found either free or very cheap. We have even developed our own history curriculum using inexpensive resources.
How do we do it? Well, you'll have to wait until next Friday when the Favorite FREE! (or Cheap) Homeschool Resources round-up goes live. When it does you'll find the three posts that I submitted and posts from many, many, other Schoolhouse Review Crew members. So, stay tuned and put on your calendar to come back to this post and click on the banner above. It will take you to all of the neat posts. Happy Homeschooling!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

GREEMU - A Plant Based Alternative to Emu Oil - A Schoolhouse Review Crew Review

Greemu Devonian Review

Okay, I'm going to get right to the point on this one. When I found out that we were going to get to review GREEMU developed by Devonian  and distributed by Koru Naturals, I was excited. With all of the intricate skin problems we have with our boys and Sarah and I as well, we use a lot of natural products. GREEMU is a new plant based alternative to emu oil. It has the same beneficial qualities of emu oil is not made by the fat tissues of emus, but is made completely by plants and natural butters.

I'll give a list of ingredients later, but first I want to tell you about my dilemma. While I was excited about trying out this new product, I really had no idea what to use it for! I had heard about emu oil, and had even used some products developed for aching muscles that emu oil in them, but I had never used emu oil myself. So, I had no idea how to use emu oil - or in this case natural, plant based GREEMU. I did some research on emu oil and Greemu and found that it can be used for all sorts of things. The main uses are for aging skin, dry skin and as a hair treatment, but it can also may help with muscle aches, arthritis, sun burns, and more. When I found all of that out, I was super excited to try it.

Greemu Devonian Review
As I mentioned before, GREEMU is completely plant based. Many people don't like using regular emu oil because it is animal based - made from the fat tissues of emus. GREEMU is a completely plant based alternative made from:

Macadamia Seed Oil
Palm Oil Certified Organic
Shea Butter
Sunflower Seed Oil
Rice Bran Oil

We really like using natural things when we can and we are very pleased with GREEMU. Sarah has used it for her skin and I have used if for my arthritic knuckles and we are both pleased. It really softens the skin. I have been thinking of all sorts of ways to use it this summer. Since we all have fair skin but spend a lot of time outside in the warmer months, this would be excellent for the occasional sun burn or chapped skin. My heals always get dry and crack in the summer but this year I'm going to slap on some GREEMU! Fair warning though - since GREEMU is plant based, it absorbs into the skin more slowly than regular emu oil so only a few drops are recommended for each use. We made the mistake of putting too much on at first and since it didn't absorb into our skin right away we had a little bit of oily skin. Using only a few drops, however, solved that problem and it worked wonderfully.

I wanted to add the above, because, although I haven't read anywhere that GREEMU is NOT recommended for animals I also have not read where it IS recommended for animals. Having said that, when Sarah's mom passed away we inherited her 10 year old dachshund, Wiggles. Wiggles has very dry and itchy skin. She is constantly scratching and biting. One day Sarah suggested putting a couple of drops of GREEMU on her back. It worked! It really helped her dry skin. So, while I would suggest you use great caution on pets and I repeat, neither Devonian nor Koru Naturals has recommended it for animals, it did work on Wiggles.
We are very pleased with GREEMU as we are all of the products we have received from Koru Naturals. I would definitely recommend it especially if you have objections to using animal based products. To find out more about GREEMU just click on any one of the highlighted links above. To find what some of the other Schoolhouse Review Crew members thought about this product click on the banner below.
Greemu Devonian Review
Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Heroes of History - Meriwether Lewis - A Schoolhouse Review Crew Review

Christian Heroes {YWAM Publishing Review}

Some of you may remember that late last summer the boys and I reviewed two great literature unit studies. We had a lot of fun reviewing them and I was so impressed with how much they learned and how attentive and excited they were when I was orally reading the books that I decided we were on to something. History had been a little lacking in our homeschool so I decided to create a whole United States History curriculum using some of the great biographies and core history texts that we had collected over the years. It has been a super success and I can thank those two literature unit studies that we reviewed for giving me the idea.

It just so happens that the first study that we reviewed, and probably the one that they liked the most, was a study from YWAM Publishing. When we were given an opportunity to review YWAM Publishing again through the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I jumped at the chance. We were given a couple of dozen choices of their great biographies to choose from and we chose one from their series Heroes of History - Meriwether Lewis along with it's accompanying Digital Unit Study. Of course we weren't sure if we would get our first choice, or, for that matter, if we would be chosen for this review at all, so we were pleasantly surprised when we were, indeed, chosen to review our choice.

Since we are doing an in depth study of United States History, we are still in the Revolutionary War and, of course, Meriwether Lewis is famous for the Corps of Discover also known as the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Those events happened a few years later but we adjusted our study a little without much of a problem.

We were given two things to review. The publisher sent us the physical paperback book Meriwether Lewis - Off the Edge of the Map, and then sent us a download for the accompanying unit study which is a digital product. The paperback book, written by Janet and Geoff Benge, arrived in excellent condition and the unit study was very easy to download and use.

Christian Heroes {YWAM Publishing Review}
Most of the great biographies published by YWAM are written by Janet and Geoff Benge and they are always very well done. This one is no exception. Since it is a biography, it begins at his birth, well before the great expedition for which Meriwether Lewis is famous. It's an adventure from the start. The drama begins right away and doesn't  finish until the end of the book. From Meriwether's rough boyhood through his days as President Thomas Jefferson's personal secretary and the leader of the Corps of Discover to his untimely death - Meriwether Lewis - Off the Edge of the Map is definitely an adventure and keeps your interest. There were several times where I couldn't stop reading where we were supposed to and had to read the beginning of the next chapter or the boys would have revolted! This 231 page biography is well written and exciting. The authors do fantastic research when they write their historical biographies so you can be sure that what is written is accurate.
The biography in itself is exciting, but when accompanied with the digital unit study the Meriwether Lewis and his adventures really come to life. It is packed with ideas on how to make reading the book into a full scale study. It has sections on expanding the study by having a display corner; using essay, artwork and other projects to expand the students knowledge; incorporating field trips and interviewing knowledgeable experts from the time period; incorporating this study into other areas of learning such as math and science and more. We particularly like the study questions that go along with each chapter. There are always four questions for each chapter - a vocabulary question, a factual question, a question that gauges the comprehension of the student, and an open ended, subject to opinion, question. We also enjoy the huge social studies section that has maps, points of interest, geography questions and more. I was also impressed with the bonus downloads that we received that tells how to use the great biographies that YWAM Publishing has as a full curriculum similar to what I am doing with the biographies that we have. I had never seen that before. YWAM's unit studies are always well done and this one is one of the best we've seen.
We absolutely love YWAM's materials and have (and still are) thoroughly enjoying Meriwether Lewis - Of the Edge of the Map. I even ordered some more of their biographies to use with the boys outside of the review material that we received. To find out more about this product and all of YWAM Publishing's materials, click on any one of the highlighted links above. Many other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew reviewed other biographies from YWAM Publishing and you can find what they had to say by clicking on the banner below. Happy Homeschooling!
Christian Heroes {YWAM Publishing Review}
Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

God Looks at the Heart!

1 Samuel 16:7 English Standard Version (ESV)
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

I wrote about this on Facebook a couple of weeks ago and, since it has a spiritual lesson, I thought it was worth posting on my blog as well.

I'm sure that most of you know the story from the verse above. King Saul had failed as ruler of the nation of Israel so God told Samuel that He had chosen a new king. The new king was to be from the house of Jessie. Samuel was to go to the house of Jessie and God would show him who the new king was to be. The first person that Samuel saw was the oldest son. He was tall and handsome and Samuel thought that he was the obvious choice. God, however, had other plans. That is where the above verse comes in. God does not look at the outward appearance, but at what is inside. The following story, although not completely, in some ways is an example of not looking at the outward appearance.

Our middle child, Joshua, bowled at the Tennessee State Youth Bowling Tournament a couple of weekends ago. One of his teammates from his four man team unexpectedly couldn't make it so we were given an alternate. We kept looking around for our alternate but, since he wasn't from our bowling club, we didn't know who he was or what he looked like. When our team was  announced out runs this little guy that didn't look over five years old. Sarah and I both thought "how cute, the little guy is going out with his older brother".

Oh no! How wrong we were! The "little guy" WAS our alternate! Let me introduce you to six year old bowling phenom Alex. Alex has been bowling since he could barely stand and won his first tournament when he was four! With six year old Alex and three teenage boys our team ended up in a tie for fifth place out of nearly forty teams!

This could also be an example of never judge a book by its cover or big things can come in small packages!

The little guy in the picture above is Alex. I didn't get a picture of him with our team so this is a picture of him with another team that I found.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Attention Everyone! - Have Bus! Will Travel!


Attention Everyone!
We have a bus and we're not afraid to use it!
For the Lord of course!
Good News Ministries is looking for places in the Overton County area to do 5-day clubs this summer. What is a 5-day club? It is like a Mini Vacation Bible School. We will come to your area with our bus every week-day for a week to do a two hour Bible Club. All you have to do is provide a place for us to park our "Bible Club Place" bus. A place to hook up electricity would be greatly appreciated as well so that we can run some fans on the bus. If you have a yard for us to have games it would be useful but not required - we have plenty of on bus games that we can do. It doesn't matter if you have one or two kids in your neighborhood or if you have a ton of kids. We can fit 15-20 kids on the bus at a time. If you think more than that will show up, we can make adjustments or maybe have two 5-day clubs for different ages. We would love to fill up June and most of July with clubs if we can and are available in the mornings or in the evenings. We'll provide everything. The stories, the games, the refreshments, and, of course, the bus! We would love it if an adult or teenager from your area could be there since they know the kids but we will always have at least two adult helping us at all times. My wife and I are full time missionaries with BCM International and, combined, we have over 50 years of experience in all kinds of children's ministry from directing Bible Clubs to running day camps and even over-night camps. For more information call Tim Tinkel at 931-319-2551. You can message me at that number also or contact me via facebook. Get your week scheduled now because we already have at least 3 slots filled!
Ps. If you know of a teenager or adult that is looking for a great ministry this summer we could always use some help.



Friday, April 15, 2016

Talking Fingers - A Schoolhouse Review Crew Review

Talking Fingers Inc. Review
I have mentioned before that one of the subjects from high school that has been the most helpful in my adult life, indeed perhaps THE most helpful was typing class. It was a simple one semester class, but taught me a skill that I use almost every day. In this day and age of computers and the internet, it is a skill that is very valuable and one that I want my kids to learn. John Allen has taken a couple of keyboarding classes in his lifetime as has Joshua, so I had been thinking about one for Jacob as well. Well, wouldn't you know it that God dropped one right in our lap through the Schoolhouse Review Crew. In fact, Read, Write & Type from Talking Fingers Inc. not only teaches good typing skills but also teaches reading and writing skills as well. God really knew what Jacob needed! And, it's very entertaining!
Talking Fingers Inc. Review
There are several things that I appreciate about this program.

I love that Read, Write & Type is very entertaining with an interesting story line that keeps Jacob's attention. I'm sure you have noticed that super heroes are all the rage these days. Story lines with villains and heroes are what kids really like. Well, Read, Write and Type has capitalized on that and has a marvelous story line where Vexor, the villain, is trying to steal all of the letters to keep them from telling their stories. Someone needs to be the hero and foil Vexor evil plot! Who is that hero? Your child! Or, in our case it was Jacob. With the help of the two hands (pictured above), Lefty and Rightway, your child defeats Vexor all while learning phonics, reading, writing, typing and more! Jacob loves the story line. 
Talking Fingers Inc. Review
I love that Jacob is learning how to type correctly. I have seen people that don't know how to type properly and have to hunt and peck to use a keyboard. That takes forever, and, as I mentioned before, computer and keyboarding skills are a very important part of life these days.  Lefty and Rightway teach the kids how to position their fingers on the keyboard and how what fingers to use to reach what letters. And they do it all while teaching the kids how to read, which I'm going to get to next. I love the way that they integrate everything! 
Talking Fingers Inc. Review
I love that Jacob is getting practice in reading with a correct phonics based program. Most people don't know that I was an educational therapist for eleven years at a private school in Florida where I worked with learning disabled students. One of the things that we used was an excellent phonics program. The method that Read, Write & Type uses reminds me a lot of that phonics program. It teaches the correct way to make sounds and blend letter sounds together. I appreciate that. I also really appreciate the way that this program builds on what has been already learned and all of the reinforcements that this program has. This is really a well researched and well developed program.
Talking Fingers Inc. Review
Finally, I love that Jacob is getting rewarded for what he is accomplishing. As well as the "kudos" and "well dones" while actually using Read, Write & Type, Jacob earns certificates when he completes different levels. There are 40 different levels in this and I like that he gets constant encouragement.
As you can probably tell, our family really loves Read, Write & Type from Talking Fingers Inc. Yes, I said "our family". You see, Joshua used this program as well when he was younger and he loved it too! It has been a real blessing to us. To find out more about this great program just click on any of the highlighted links above. To find out what some of the other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought of Read, Write & Type click on the banner below. Happy Homeschooling!
Talking Fingers Inc. Review
Crew Disclaimer

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Homeschool Copywork - A Schoolhouse Review Crew Review!

Homeschool Copywork Review
Let me tell you a story. It is a sad, sad story of two boys, brothers in fact, named Joshua and Jacob. Poor Joshua and Jacob both had learning problems. Their learning difficulties were different, but they had one thing in common. They both had small motor problems. Their father, who was the major teacher in their homeschool, you see, they were both homeschooled, tended to use a delight oriented approach in teaching. Since writing, naturally, was not one of their favorite things to do, he tended to let them off of the hook when it came to that task. Well, lo and behold, the dear, loving father was taken aback when one day Joshua came to him and asked for something that would help him with his writing. He said that he really needed to learn how to write correctly so his writing would be legible. So, the father set out looking for a fun way to help not just Joshua, but Jacob as well. One day, through a Schoolhouse Review Crew opportunity, they were given a Lifetime Membership to Homeschool Copywork and their lives were changed forever. Here was a fun way for both boys to practice their writing and learn at the same time. They loved it and lived happily ever after! The End.
As you probably figured out, the above story is about us. Almost everything in it is true. One part that isn't exactly true is the "loving it" part. Joshua and Jacob still don't exactly love to write, but Homeschool Copywork has helped make the task a little more fun and a little more palatable. Let me tell you about what all they have to offer and what we did with it.
Homeschool Copywork is amazing. They have dozens of great copywork pages, really whole books, that cover an amazing array of topics. You can download copywork for famous composers, famous authors, and famous poets. There's Bible copywork, hymn copywork, and holiday copywork. They have copywork that can be used as a supplement for many subjects such as science and history. Both print and cursive copywork is available for all ages from kindergarten through high school. They even have notebooking and coloring pages. And more is being added all of the time!
When we first received our membership, I looked over everything and chose two that I thought would really interest Jacob and Joshua. Jacob loves history and, in particular, loves learning about presidents. When I saw the poem, O Captain! my Captain!, a poem written by Walt Whitman about the death of Abraham Lincoln, I knew this would be something that would interest him. I was correct. He really enjoyed discussing the poem with me and we have been doing the copywork part of it in small doses. This particular book could also be used for even lower elementary kids because they have some of the main words from the poem in the elementary block letter form with numbers and arrows showing where to start and how to print each letter. We have been using the more advanced pages where he just traces over the dotted outlined letters. In this book there are copywork pages for two different types of print and also cursive as well as the lower elementary pages. There are also blank pages for students to who are advanced and can write on their own. Joshua needs more practice in correctly forming letters so I used the trace pages.

Although Jacob loves history as well, his big interest is in animals. When I found the Animal Alphabet Copywork Pages with pictures of animals and short sentences for each animal to be copied, I knew this would be perfect for him. I was correct again. Although writing still isn't one of his favorite things to do, this has made it easier. The block print words for him to copy have been great for him.
As I mentioned before, Homeschool Copywork is fantastic and has something for every student of any age that has almost any interest. I am excited that we received the Lifetime Membership so that I can turn to this great site over and over again. To find out more about Homeschool Copywork just click on any one of the highlighted links above. To discover what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought of this company just click on the banner below. Happy Homeschooling!
Homeschool Copywork Review
Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

We Got John Allen's Diploma from! A Schoolhouse Review Crew Review!

Exclusive High School Diploma Review
Okay, I admit it! It's all my fault! Now, I've got everyone's attention since I don't often admit to anything being my fault! So, what is this terrible deed that I did? Well, I messed up on John Allen's foreign language and he doesn't have enough credits to graduate. That being said, we are getting it worked out and he will be graduating next year and will be taking some college classes along the way as well.
Why am I mentioning all of that? Well, now that we are getting all of these things worked out we can finally think about him graduating. We want this to be something special for him since he worked hard in his public school days from kindergarten through third grade and definitely worked hard during his homeschool years from fourth grade until now. We are proud of him and, since he won't be walking down an aisle in any graduation ceremony or have any of the traditional graduation celebrations, we want to do something a little extraordinary for him. When we had the chance to actually order and review an Exclusive High School Diploma from I was excited because I knew this would be one of those things that would make his graduation special.
What I didn't expect was the special experience I got from working with this company. From the experience I had in ordering this beautiful diploma to the costumer service I had when there was a problem with my ordering to the shipping and packaging and receiving of the product, all of it was a genuinely special experience.
Exclusive High School Diploma Review
Let me begin by talking about the ordering of our Exclusive High School Diploma first. You would think that ordering a diploma would be a simple task. Just give the names that you want on the sheepskin and that's it. Right? Not with! There were over twenty decisions that we had to make in choosing just the right diploma for John Allen. Just some of the things that we had to decide were:
  • The color of the cover for the diploma
  • What kind of seal we wanted on the cover
  • The wording around the seal on the cover
  • The seal on the inside
  • How we wanted his name written on the inside
  • The font we wanted for the name
  • Do we have a school name
  • Do we want a verse or motto
  • Do we have a specific date for his graduation
  • What do we want as the official wording
  • What font do we want the official wording in
  • Do we want the father to sign
  • Where do we want the father to sign
  • Do we want the mother to sign
  • Where do we want the mother to sign

I think you get the picture! And those are only a few of the things we had to decide. You might think that that would be a tedious task, but the way had it set up on their website was really painless and actually kind of fun. The neat thing about it is that with all of the intricate details, this would be a diploma that would be like no other diploma. John Allen won't just have a run of the mill diploma that everyone in his class has, but he will have a unique diploma that his parents had the opportunity to design for him! Below are pictures of the outside and inside of his special diploma.

Now, let me also tell you that the folks from are some of the nicest people to work with as well. As part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, we were given this diploma free in order to review the process and the diploma itself. In order to not be charged when we ordered it we were given a special code. Well, you might not be surprised that I did it all wrong! I messed it up and was charged for the diploma. Now they don't charge nearly enough for the service and the product and I would have gladly paid the price, but since I was doing this as a review I felt I needed to do things right so I emailed them and sheepishly explained the situation. They were so pleasant when they wrote back and were so helpful. Other companies need to learn from their customer service!
Finally, the care that we took in choosing John Allen's diploma was equally matched in their making and packaging of the diploma itself. As you can see by the above pictures, the diploma is beautiful, and made sure that arrived in beautiful condition. You could tell that they value their products by the way it was boxed and delivered.
I was also pleasantly surprised to find some samples of graduation announcements and invitations that you can also order from They sent two completely different announcements that are in totally different styles and they were both beautiful. I will definitely consider ordering our announcements through them as John Allen's day of graduation comes closer. If the choices for the announcements are as diverse as the choices for the diploma, I'm sure Sarah and I are going to have a great time ordering them as well.
As you can see, we are very thrilled with the Exclusive High School Diploma that we received from and we are going to be very excited to present it to John Allen next year. To find out how you can order all of your graduation needs (even caps and gowns) from just click on any of the highlighted links above. To find out what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought about this great company and to see some of the diplomas that they chose click on the banner below. Happy Homeschooling!
Exclusive High School Diploma Review

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Monday, April 11, 2016

Lights! Camera! Action! - Stopmotion Explosion! - A Schoolhouse Review Crew Review

Stopmotion Explosion Review
I heard about Stopmotion Explosion years ago and I can't tell you how many times I have thought about ordering the kit. I thought this would be a fantastic thing for my boys. They are very creative and really need an outlet for their creativity. Doing stop motion videos would be an excellent addition to our homeschool. They would practice their writing skills when writing and planning scripts. Their art skills would be used when developing backgrounds and sets. They would need to use their computer skills when editing. They would need to work together. It seemed like an all around winner. When I found out that we were, indeed receiving their Stopmotion Explosion Animation Kit to review as part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew I was thrilled! But were my expectations too high? Was I expecting too much from just a single product? Would the kids really enjoy it? I can answer a hearty, "YES", and more to all of the above questions.
So what exactly is a stop motion film? Do you remember the old Gumby and Pokey T.V. show or movies? What about the Christian based Davey and Goliath shows? They are both examples of stop motion movies. If you aren't familiar with those shows then maybe you have seen the more modern Lego Movies. They are stop motion as well. Stop motion movies don't have to be done with clay or Legos though. It can be done with almost anything. Let me show you our first attempt at stop motion, then I'll tell you a little more about this fantastic kit.

The Stopmotion Explosion Animation Kit comes with everything you need to make a video like the one above, or with almost any medium you can think of. We received an HD quality 1280 x 720 camera with a built in microphone. It has a hand dandy grip mount to attach it to almost any surface and a 4 1/2 foot cord to attach it to your computer. It can also be used for video chatting when not being used to make stop motion videos. We also got  a CD with all of the downloads to make the camera work on our laptop computer along with a program that allows you to make stop motion movies, sound effects for almost anything that you can think of, and a bunch of extras. There was a Quick Start Guide included, but the huge "Stopmotion Explosion: Animate ANYTHING and Make MOVIES" 294 page book is fantastic.
"Stopmotion Explosion: Animate ANYTHING and Make MOVIES" has chapters on every aspect of making a stop motion film. The book includes chapters on How Movies Work, Animation, Creating Stories, Building Sets, Cameras, Lighting, Flight, The Art of War, Sound, Video Editing, Frame Conversion, and much, much, more! It was an easy read but oh, so fascinating and informational. We have learned so much and have so much more to learn.
Stopmotion Explosion Review
So, after seeing everything included and hearing what the book contains, are you worried that their is no way that you and your kids could actually make a movie? Are you concerned that it will be too complicated? Please! If I can do it, you guys can! It is super easy! The program included was easy to install, and very easy to use. All we did was point the camera and start clicking the pictures. Of course we had to move the figures a little bit each time so that when the pictures are put together it looks like they are actually moving. It really was a lot of fun, however, it is time consuming. You click, move the figures, click again, move the figures, click again, and every so often you run the pictures together in a movie form to see how it looks. Then you have to edit and add sound effects or, in our case, background music and credits. All in all, the above clip took about 4 hours to make. So, you can see how long a full length movie would take. However, it is oh, so much fun and rewarding! I would much rather have my kids doing this than sitting around playing video games all of the time. It is really an inexpensive hobby. You can go out and buy a lot of stuff if you want, but most of the time you just use things that are around the house.
We are having a fantastic time with our Stopmotion Explosion Animation Kit. As I mentioned above we have learned so much but have so much more to learn. I must say I have a whole new appreciation for movie making. To find out more about Stopmotion Explosion and it's products just click on any one of the highlighted links above. Other members of The Schoolhouse Review Crew reviewed this product and you can find out what their creations looked like along with what they thought about the product by clicking on the banner below. Happy movie making!
Stopmotion Explosion Review
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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Times Tales - This is One of Those *WOW* Schoolhouse Review Crew Reviews!

The Trigger Memory Co REVIEW
Our middle child, Joshua, has a difficult time with math. He is excellent at geography and is way above grade level, but with math he has problems. Times tables are one of his weak areas. Our youngest, Jacob, on the other hand, although weak in some areas, is strong at math. I have always been skeptical of methods that try to teach math in nontraditional ways, so, when I had a chance to review Times Tales from The Trigger Memory Co. and did some research on the method I was unconvinced that this method would really work. Boy was I wrong!

Times Tales is very unique in the way it teaches times tables. As the name suggests, it actually uses short stories instead of the traditional math fact memorization. Each number from three t0 nine except five is made into a character that resembles that number. For example, the number three is a butterfly, four is a chair, six is "the sixth grade class", seven is "Mrs. Week", eight is "Mrs. Snowman" and nine is a treehouse. I won't totally give away how they do this, but for each multiplication problem using the above mentioned numbers, there is a short story. Each story reveals the answer to the problem. All the child has to do is remember the short story and he knows the answer to a multiplication problem! And, what makes it even more fun for the parent is that everything is done using quality animated cartoons contained on a DVD or in a download (we received the very easy to do download).

First the child is introduced to the characters and numbers they represent. It is very important to learn each step in the proper order or the child may get confused. If the child doesn't understand what number each character represents, then he won't understand the multiplication problem that the story gives the answer to. After the child is quizzed to make sure they know the character, the stories begin. I mentioned that the quality animation above, well, let me tell you that the stories are equally well done and entertaining. My kids love them, but, I'll tell you about that later. After learning the stories, the child is quizzed again to make sure that they can correctly tell each story in the proper order. It is very important that they learn the proper order or they won't get the problem correct in the end. For example, the story for 8 x 4 goes something like this:

Mrs. Snowman stood on a chair to reach her three buttons and two mittens.

In order for the answer to be correct the child can't mix up the story and say two mittens and three buttons. The story has to be memorized in the exact way it was told.
The Trigger Memory Co REVIEW
You might be wondering how the child is ever going to connect the story to the actual problem. Well, that is where the next step comes in. After the child is sure they know the story, the connection is made to the actual multiplication problem. First they use flashcards with the characters that represent the numbers on them, then they advance to using flashcards with just the regular numbers.

The multiplication problems are divided into two parts. First the child learns the stories for the multiplication problems using the numbers 3 and 4. Then they learn the stories for the problems using the numbers 6,7,8 and 9. They recommend taking a week after part one to review the 3 and 5 multiplication problems using the included printable worksheets, flashcards and games that are included on the DVD or with the download. There are also printables to be used after learning the upper Times Tales as well.

Let me tell you, it really works! I worked with Jacob first. By the end of Part One Jacob almost completely knew his 3 and 4 times tables. And, it was fun! Joshua had almost equal success. They both loved watching the excellently done animated clips that explain and elaborate on each of the Times Tales and that made it easy for them to remember the story. I loved seeing the "ah ha" looks on their faces when they realized how the stories actually told the answers to the problems.

Times Tales by The Trigger Memory Co. is a winner with us! To find out more about this great program click on any one of the highlighted links above. To discover what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew think about Times Tales click on the banner below. Happy Homeschooling! 
Times Tales by the The Trigger Memory Co REVIEW
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Friday, April 1, 2016

The Fourth Grade Literature Set from Memoria Press is a Winner - A TOS Review Crew Review

Memoria Press Literature Guides Review
Homeschooling two special needs children can often be difficult. I won't go into all of the problematic things right now, but I will say that teaching reading is one of them. I try to do as many subjects as I can with both boys at once. History and Science are easy subjects to do that with, but reading is not. When I had the opportunity to review one of the literature sets from Memoria Press through the TOS Review Crew one of my first thoughts was if it was possible to review it with both of my kids at once. Jacob, our youngest, has a very difficult time reading but his comprehension level is excellent when I read to him. Joshua, our middle son, on the other hand, can read very well but has a hard time with comprehension. We were able to ask for what level we wanted to review so after researching all of the grade levels, I chose the Fourth Grade Literature Guide Set and hoped that it would work for both of them. I was not disappointed. It was great.
This excellent set includes the student guides and teachers manuals for the following books:
  • A Cricket in Times Square
  • The Blue Fairy Book
  • Dangerous Journey: The Story of Pilgrims Progress
  • Homer Price
Memoria Press was generous enough to send all four student books and teacher's manuals even though we would only have time to work with one of the selections during the review period. I decided to work with The Blue Fairy Book with Joshua and Jacob. We haven't studied fairy tales that much and I thought that the nuances and object lessons in The Blue Fairy Book would be good for them. Although, this set was meant for the child to read the story himself and then do the questions in the student guide, I chose to read the stories aloud to the boys because of the nature of their disabilities. I may have Joshua read some of the other selections and do some of the other literature guides himself in the future.
Of course, the Blue Fairy Book is a classic. Although it has fairy tales, this is not a Disney fairy tale book. It uses advanced vocabulary and, although not inappropriate or overly frightening, the situations are not sugar coated in any way. This made reading the stories to them very interesting. We stopped many times to discuss the situation or for me to explain something. I did this especially for my oldest who is a very literal thinker. However, even though the stories could be "deep", the boys enjoyed them very much.

Memoria Press Literature Guides Review
We also enjoyed working with The Blue Fairy Book Student Study Guide as well. It is divided into six sections:
  • Reading Notes
  • Vocabulary
  • Comprehension Questions
  • Quotations
  • Discussion Questions
  • Enrichment
The Reading Notes section briefly explains two or three things that may not be clear from the story. This section was really handy for my group.
Four words from the story are chosen for the Vocabulary section. This includes sentences where the vocabulary word is used. The student is then asked to choose the correct definition from a "Definitions Bank".
The Comprehension Questions are asked to make sure that the student has a clear understanding of what he is reading.
In the Quotations section a quote is given from the story and the student is asked to identify who said it.
The Discussion Questions provided some great family time talking about the story.
The Enrichment section was different each time and asked the student to do different things that would help them to apply the lessons learned to their own life. 
The Teacher's Guide provides answers or suggested answers for all of the above questions, but also has Quizzes that are to be given after every two stories are completed and a Final Exam when the whole book is completed. Both the Quizzes and the Final Exam are a mix of matching, multiple choice, "definition bank", short answer comprehension questions and paragraph comprehension questions.
We have really enjoyed using the Fourth Grade Literature Guide Set from Memoria Press. I am looking forward to using the other books with the boys as well. To find out more about this set and other literature sets from Memoria Press click on any one of the highlighted sections above. Other members of the TOS Review Crew reviewed other literature sets from Memoria Press and you can find what they had to say by clicking on the banner below. Happy Reading!
Memoria Press Literature Guides Review
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