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!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Can Do Cubes - Another WOW! Schoolhouse Review Crew Review

Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar Review

When Can Do Cubes from (just2ducks LLC) was offered as a review with the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I saw the neat letter/sound blocks and read the descriptions on the website and thought that this would be excellent for Jacob, my youngest, since he has difficulty reading. After all, it seemed like a good phonics program using good manipulatives, so it certainly couldn't hurt. My objective was to use it along side our regular phonics program to help him sound out some of the words with which he has problems.

Little did I know that Can Do Cubes are much more than just a supplemental manpilulatives. Although they can be and are often used along side another curriculum, they were developed to be used as a complete program on there own. As we dove into the program we realized how complete it was! It actually reminded me of my educational therapy days when I was an educational therapist for over 10 years. We did so many things similar to Debbie Hepplewhite's synthetic phonics program for which the Can Do Cubes were developed. I absolutely love this program!

Having said that, there is no way that I could tell you everything about this program in on small blog post, so I am just going to highlight all of the major things and the very, very, basics of how to use the program. Now, don't worry, although there is a lot to the program, as you will read in this review, it is very well explained and, therefore, easy to learn and use.

Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar Review

Highlights of the program:

The Cubes Themselves - This is the highlight of the program and we love it! There are two sets of cubes that come with the kit. The "Stage One" Set comes with 27 cubes that are divided into eight categories. The six category one cubes each have a, i, t, p, s, and n printed on the six sides, the next category has c, k, ck, e, h, and r printed on them and so on until all of the sounds for The Simple Alphabetic Code are represented. The Simple Alphabetic code is different than the regular Alphabet. It is the 44 individual sounds that are are needed to form the spoken words that we use in the English language.

The "Stage Two" Set comes with another 32 cubes that finish the Alphabetic Code and introduce some of the more complicated sound variations, double consonants and capital letters.

You can use these cubes in any number of ways - to play games, to teach words, and more  - however, it is suggested that they be used to learn basic sounds first. It is important for the sounds to be learned before the actual names of the letters, because the sounds are what we use every day, not the letter names. Often, when the names are introduced with the actual sounds, it becomes confusing for the child.

The cubes were what I was going to use along side of Jacob's regular phonics program as an aid to his learning how to read. However, as you read further, you will find there is so much more to the program.

By way, we love the size of the blocks. This program has thought of everything, even how big to make the cubes. They are an excellent size for children's hands.

The small Stage One and Stage Two spiral bound Home Edition books - Although these are small instruction and explanation books suggesting ways to use the blocks, they are packed with information. You could actually use the blocks effectively and understand the Systematic Synthetic Phonics approach by reading just these books. They contain everything you need to know on how to introduce sounds to a young child, blend sounds together to make words and how to decode words themselves. They also contain games to be played that make the learning fun, and add simple writing techniques that can be used. Also, the word charts and pronunciation charts are invaluable. Although, as I said above, these books could be used by themselves, I would suggest using the accompanying CD and DVD which I will briefly describe below along with these books.

The Teacher''s Guide and Template Book CD -  Although the title of this says "guide" it is really a set of guides and an excellent workbook that the you can print out for your child to use. We love the workbook. It has goes along with every step that is being taught. The guides are like the little books on steroids. It explains, in much greater detail, the Synthetic Phonics Approach and how to use it with your child.

The Teaching, learning and 'sounding out' with Debbie Hepplewhite DVD - Okay, if the small books and the expanded guides weren't enough, the DVD makes everything clear. From Debbie Hepplewhite explaining the program to her demonstrating the proper sounds to her giving examples of how to use the blocks by using a live student to more. This DVD has it and is excellent. I love this DVD! It reminds me of my therapy training and I love the British accents of Debbie Hepplewhite and the students. Just for your information in case you are wondering, though. Although Debbie Hepplewhite and the subjects are British, the sounds are very clear. You can completely understand everything.

Debbie Hepplewhite's simple and complex alphabet codes overview chart and Word Charts - These are "icing on the cake" extras that are marvelous. They explain the different sounds and the cubes that are used to make the different sounds and gives tons of word examples for you to use with your child.

Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar Review

As you can see, this is a thorough and well developed program that can be easy to learn and use with your child. We love it and plan on continuing to use it this year. I can't wait to delve into it more. The few short weeks that we have to review it gave us just enough time to scratch the surface. You may not want to use every component the way that it is used in the Synthetic Phonics program and that's okay. Use it however is best with your child. If that means using along side of another program then great! However, if you have a real struggling reader or even a beginning reader that you are just starting to introduce sounds and letters to, this program can be a used as a complete program in itself.

To find out more about Can Do Cubes or the other products that has to offer, just click on any one of the highlighted links above. To find what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew had to say about this awesome product just click on the banner below. Happy Homeschooling!

Can Do Cubes
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Sunday, August 21, 2016

It Ain't Over 'Till It's Over!

So, why haven't I been blogging lately? Well, first my computer crashed and hasn't been able to be repaired but I was able to buy another computer. However, I wasn't able to buy it until right before we left for our annual ministry trip to Canada where I teach Bible for one week in the summer and Sarah helps in the kitchen at beautiful Mill Stream Bible Camp and Conference Center. In fact, as I write this we aren't even home yet. We usually visit my sister in New Jersey right after our week in Canada and we that is where we are right now. We are leaving tomorrow and should be home on Wednesday but, until then I wanted to leave you with something that will whet your appetite for the posts to come that I will be writing about our trip. Just check out pictures of the friendly otter below that were taken at the Peterborough Zoo during one of our days off. The second shot perfectly exemplifies all of the things God has been doing in our lives. I can't wait to tell you about everything. Stay tuned! 

Friday, August 19, 2016

Okay Folks! This Ain't Your Grandpa's Jigsaw Puzzle! An Enlivenze LLC FlipStir Puzzles Review!

FlipStir Puzzles Reviews

Disclaimer #1 - Yes, I know that, as a homeschooler, "ain't" should not be used. But, it is in the dictionary and it added affect to the title of my post so . . . 

Disclaimer #2 - No offense to Grandpa or his regular Jigsaw Puzzles! If you continue to read my first paragraph after these ridiculous disclaimers then you will find out that I loved Grandpa's jigsaw puzzles. However the Statue of Liberty FlipStir Puzzle that I received from Enlivenze  LLC is in a class of it's own!

So, anyway, after reading the aforementioned ridiculous disclaimers, let me begin. 

I, like many of you all I'm sure, grew up with a set of grandparents that loved jigsaw puzzles. I knew that whenever we traveled to Grandpa Tinkel's house their would always be a 500 or 1000 (and often more) piece puzzle sitting on a card table in the living room. I loved being able to spend some time with Grandpa and Grandma helping them complete a complicated puzzle. I think that is why I have always loved puzzles of one sort or another and why my children also love puzzles.

FlipStir Puzzles Reviews

When I found out that we would be reviewing the Statue of Liberty FlipStir Puzzle from Enlivenze  LLC I was thrilled. FlipStir Puzzles are cool little 3-D Puzzles that are all contained in small compact plastic tubes. You solve each 10 piece puzzle by arranging and stacking each piece using a small wand with a little hook or "foot" on the end. The foot helps you to turn around and place the pieces where you want them until you have all 10 pieces stacked the correct way to complete the puzzle. It is that simple!

However, just because the method of completing the puzzle is simple, it doesn't mean that the actual completion is simple. I mean, after all, the method for putting a jigsaw puzzle together is pretty easy. Just pick up a piece and place it where it goes. As we all know, it isn't quite that easy though. It takes a while to get used to using the wand and hook. You might catch a piece but then drop it and it might ruin what you have done so far. Or, if you move the puzzle a certain way all of the pieces could get out of order and you have to begin again. It is very challenging! Just take a look at the pictures and of the video below and I think you will figure that out.

When our Statue of Liberty FlipStir Puzzle first came in the mail I was going to save it to bring out on one of our frequent ministry trips. However, the boys would have nothing of that and wanted to try it out right away. They each worked and worked at it but sooner or later had to put it down to do chores, schoolwork, or something else. So, who should pick it up and work at it to finally get it done (while neglecting his own chores of course) but me! Yep, I was the first to get it done. I held my head up high and posted the above picture proudly on Facebook! Now the kids are jealous and want to be able to complete it as well but, you know how Grandpa and Grandma would glue a particularly hard jigsaw puzzle together for posterity? Well, I have hoarded our FlipStir Puzzle so that they can't mess it up. I couldn't bare the thought of my great handiwork getting ruined!

But, alas, I am afraid I will have to give in and allow them to try once more. I am sure that after reading this review that all of you want to try it as well. There are several different FlipStir Puzzles that you can choose from. Just click on any of the highlighted links above to get to the Enlivenze  LLC website. Many of the other Schoolhouse Review Crew members reviewed other puzzles from Enlivenze  LLC and you can find what they had to say by clicking on the banner below. Happy Puzzling!

FlipStir Puzzles Reviews
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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

CTCMath - A Four Star, "WOW", Schoolhouse Review Crew Review

CTCMath Review
There are some homeschool programs or curriculum that just automatically click with a child or children. They are the few and far between programs that you pray for and finally find. The ones your kids love and really excel with. We call those "Keepers" around our house. Then there are the programs that are a step above "Keepers". They are the programs that you come into contact with that fit so well, they are like an old pair of slippers that you never would dream of departing with. Or that old sweater that feels so comfortable when you wear it that you would never think of throwing it away. They are the life changing programs that come around only a few times in your homeschooling career. They are the ones that you know are a true answer to prayer. 

We found one of those answers last year when we were invited to review CTCMath. It literally changed our middle child, Joshua's math life! Joshua is on the autism spectrum and has struggled with math since he first began homeschooling. He has always been way below grade level in math and, since he is going to be in 9th grade next year, I was worried. When we were given a Homeschool Membership from CTCMath last year we had no idea what an impact it would make. I'll describe the advances that he made in the next paragraph, but, let's just suffice it to say, that we jumped at the chance to review CTCMath again and receive another Homeschool Membership again this year.

As I mentioned above the advances that Joshua made using CTCMath this past year were astounding. He actually advanced a grade and a half in math where previously he struggled to make it through only a couple months of math in a whole year!

CTCMathis a completely online program that originated in Australia. In fact the fantastic male teacher has a really neat Australian accent. Once the parent goes through the very easy registration process and assigns log-in names and passwords to his students, the students are ready to go. You can choose from any grade level from Kindergarten all the way through High School Trigonometry. And you can even move between grade levels until you find the right fit for your child. If your not sure what grade level your child is on you can take one of the diagnostic tests to determine how well your child is doing. Once you choose a grade level the program will tell you the different areas that you will be working on and, after you click on the area, the different lessons that you will be learning. All you do then is click on the first lesson and get started! Each lesson contains a short video with the lesson animated on the screen. You never actually see the teacher but just hear his voice. We love the graphics and the easy to understand method in which the teacher explains each lesson. It really is easy and the child can watch the videos as many times as he wants. He can even print out a lesson summary if he desires. After the short lesson come the questions. At the lower, elementary levels, there are usually about 10 questions for each lesson. After a child completes the 10 questions he is given a grade. The parent has already set the desired percentage level that he wants his child to reach. Mine is set to 90 for Joshua and he generally reaches that and does quite well. If the child doesn't reach the desired percentage, or if he is working for one of  the certificates (yes they have fun certificates that the child can work for) then he can work through another set of problems. Each time he works through a set the average will change so he just keeps working until he reaches the level that his parent set for him. Then he can move on to the next lesson. It is as easy as that! Joshua usually does two or three lessons in one setting - sometimes more. Each week the parent is emailed a summary of how each child is doing. He can also log onto the parent page and check everything himself if he desires. The program is very complete for both the student and the parent.

I don't think that there is any doubt that we absolutely love CTCMath and it's Homeschool Membership. This has truly been a lifesaver for us and a program that we are going to continue to use for years to come. To find out more about this program just click on any one of the highlighted links above. To find what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought of CTCMath click on the banner below. Happy Homeschooling!

CTCMath Review

Crew Disclaimer

Monday, August 1, 2016

I'm Not A Good Kid Mr. Tim!

We sat across the table from each other at Burger King. It was the night of our weekly teen boy Bible study. This was his first time attending but none of the other boys could come tonight so we sat and talked. A friend of his who attends and I have been trying to get him to come for a few months. I had met him through my walks through the projects with Jojo. Since no one else was there it was a good time for us to get to know each other a little better.

He was brutally honest about his past and his problems. He told me he didn't know why he was telling me all of this. He said he guessed it was because he thought he was a good judge of character and I looked honest.

I knew better. It was the Holy Spirit working.

His past had been full of problems. Abuse, foster homes, drug use, and many, many, other issues. I sat there and listened. Although nothing surprises me a whole lot anymore when it comes to kids and youth, I was taken aback just a bit. In our talks in the projects he was always cheerful with a smile on his face. I had no idea that he was hiding pain, self esteem problems and anger issues behind the smile and cheerfulness.

As we talked I asked him about his belief in God. He said he believed that there was a God but that God wasn't a personal God. He was somewhere out there looking at what was going on in our world. After all, If God were a personal God why would He allow all of the bad things that had happened.

When I told him that God loved him and thought he was a good kid my friend bristled. He almost shouted "No! I'm not a good kid!". I have never had a child or teen be so emphatic in what they said! Again I was taken back. When I questioned why he would think such a thing he stopped and was silent for a couple of minutes. Finally, with pain in his eyes, he told me of something that he had done when he was quite young. He had done it to someone he loved. The person had never forgiven him and he couldn't forgive himself.

It had happened when he was seven years old!

He then confided that I was the only person that he had ever told about it. What a heavy burden he had carried around with him for all of those years! None of what I said after that made any difference. He was convinced he was a bad kid then and he was still bad.

I am often amazed at what God is doing in the ministry that He has given Sarah and I at Good News Ministries. It has evolved so much since the ministry first began nearly 20 years ago. One thing still remains, though. We are still committed to loving and working with the low income children, teens, and adults in our community. 

Still, if you would have told me a couple of years ago that I would be doing a Bible study with a bunch of teen boys and that I would be loving it, I would have scoffed at the idea. Children were always my thing and Sarah and I worked together with the adults. I would have never imagined the twists and turns our God has placed in our ministry the past year and a half. 

God has blessed, however, and is continuing to do amazing things.

Please continue to be in prayer for our ministry and the teen boy's Bible study that I am still holding every Thursday night at Burger King. Pray especially for this young man. Pray that he will find his worth in the Lord Jesus Christ and that he will realize that God loves him, He has great plans for him and He, especially, thinks that he is a fantastic kid.

"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" (1 John 3:1, NIV)