Friday, October 28, 2016

CrossTimber - An Absolutely Fantastic Company - A Homeschool Review Crew Review

Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse {CrossTimber} Reviews

I'm going to tell you right now that there are times that I dread writing a review. Not necessarily because we didn't like the product that we are reviewing, although that is possible, but usually because I just don't know what to say about it other than the basic stuff. Reviews usually have a minimum number of words that are required and, even though I am long winded, I sometimes have a hard time coming up with enough words.

Well, not for this review! I can't say enough about CrossTimber, their amazing products, and their absolutely fantastic customer service! This is one review where I may have a hard time not writing too much. We were supposed to review the Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse but read on about how that changed just a bit as time went by.

Have you ever seen those name meaning plaques and items and always wondered where to buy them? You can usually buy them from stores or from many, many, different websites. It can be hard to choose. You never know if a company will send you a product that is worth the money spent or if something is going to shabby and you are stuck with it. Also, some of the name meanings that companies come up with can be a little questionable.

I can tell you right now that CrossTimber is a fantastic company that makes very well made and beautiful products. Other than the fact that they make top of the line products, I like them because they are Christian. Sometime when you can, after you read my review of course, click over to their website and read the story of how this company began through a homeschool project. It is fascinating!

Before you read their story, though, first read mine. My desire to be chosen for this review began when their website first appeared on the Homeschool Review Crew private forum as an upcoming review. We are encouraged to click around the websites to become familiar with companies so that we are ready to fill out the vendor interest forms when the review time approaches. As I was clicking around their website I found the "Names of God" section and an idea began to formulate about a room in our house where one of the Names of God plaques would be perfect.

Okay, I'm about to make a big announcement here. Thankfully, not many of my friends, unless they are homeschool friends, read my reviews, so they probably won't read this and wonder why they had  no idea what we were planning. Anyway, Sarah and I have been praying about being foster parents for years. The opportunity came up recently, but we were unable to take a foster child in because of the size of our small apartment. However, because of some savings and an inheritance that we are about to receive we have put in an offer for a larger home so our dream of becoming foster parents may become a reality. I thought that it would be really neat to hang one of the Names of God plaques in our foster child(ren)'s room and then, whenever it is time for them to reunite with their family, present the picture to them to take home. We want to love them with God's love and also to teach them that God loves them more than they could ever know, and there was one of the Names of God plaques that would be perfect for that.

Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse {CrossTimber} Reviews

When I contacted John Denhart, the owner of CrossTimber about receiving a Names of God artwork instead of a personalized name picture, he seemed genuinely touched by our story and what we wanted to do, and graciously allowed us to choose one of their Names of God artwork and even said that he wanted to make personalized name bookmarks for three boys that I mentioned that we had been praying for. After several emails back and forth, usually because I was dragging my feet in choosing, we finally got the order placed and I waited for the final product.

When the package came a few days later I was thrilled with the results. Below is a picture of the High Tower print that we chose. The picture doesn't do it justice. It is beautiful. The three bookmarks, that for privacy sake I am not going to take a picture of at this time, are equally beautiful. However, when I began looking inside the package, there were even more freebies that they sent! Those are pictured below as well! We are absolutely thrilled and can't wait to move into the house, choose a suitable frame (CrossTimber could have framed it for us but we won't be sure of what kind of frame before we actually see the room colors etc.), and hang the print.

CrossTimber has many, many different products to choose from. In addition to the Name of God prints and the personalized name prints, which, by the way, are each, individually researched for accuracy, there are mugs, bookmarks, name cards, music boxes and more. All can be personalized with beautiful background art. The CrossTimber website is very easy and fun to navigate. I have gotten on the site several times just to dream!

I think you can tell that we are thrilled with this company. Not only do they make quality merchandise, but they are super great to work with. This is a company that we already have plans to use again very soon.

To find out more about CrossTimber just click on any one of the highlighted links above. I would really encourage you to click on the banner below to check out the other Homeschool Review Crew members reviews and peak at the items that they received. I have heard nothing but good about this company. If you are a social media person, their social media links are listed below as well. Have fun dreaming!

Hey, and check this out! Click on this banner for a big giveaway that CrossTimber is having right now!

CrossTimber 2016 giveaway

Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse {CrossTimber} Reviews
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Thursday, October 27, 2016

Middlebury Interactive Languages - A Homeschool Review Crew Review

Spanish, French, German or Chinese {Middlebury Interactive Languages}
I have mentioned before and I will mention again that my kids love learning languages. None of them, except perhaps John Allen with Latin, has really learned a language in-depth, but they have all three delved into learning at least one language if not a couple. Joshua and I have reviewed one or two elementary language programs in the past and I thought I had seen about everything there was when it came to learning Spanish. We have reviewed traditional methods and very non-traditional methods. So, when I was assigned to review Elementary Spanish 1 : Grades K-2 from Middlebury Interactive Languages, I wasn't particularly super excited. However, when I received the link to this online course and began to use it, I found that it is different than any other Spanish course, or, really, any other language course that we have reviewed.

Although Jacob is technically out of the grade range for this, I though this would be perfect for him since he would be at a very beginning level with Spanish. It really was the perfect level for him, but for reasons that I will explain later, this course didn't work out for him at all. Let me let you know ahead of time, that it is not the courses fault, though. So, Joshua stepped in to review it with me. Joshua is the one who has reviewed many other Spanish courses with me but recently he has been focusing on Russian so this was a good review for him and we were able to compare it with some of the ones he reviewed when he was younger.

Spanish, French, German or Chinese {Middlebury Interactive Languages}

I am really impressed with Elementary Spanish 1 : Grades K-2. As I mentioned before, it is different than the other programs that we have reviewed. Let me describe what a typical lesson might entail.

First of all it is very easy to know what lesson you are on. After you sign in using a simple user name and password, the first screen shows you exactly where you should begin.

Each unit is made up of several lessons. I really like how there are a variety of activities that are used to review the things learned in the unit. For example, Unit One was all about Greetings. Lesson one is an introductory lesson. It introduced the greetings in several different ways. Joshua may have to click on a black in white picture and a voice will describe what is happening in the picture and the picture will be colored in. When he clicked on the picture of a boy coming through a door and greeting a girl a voice came on that said "Hola" and then gave the English word - "Hello". In another lesson he had to drag the greeting to match the picture that is describing the greeting. The last lesson in the unit is always the review lesson and the test taking unit. The lessons in between are always reinforcement lessons of what was learned in lesson one. I really like that there is always a story in each unit where the student is immersed in the Spanish Language. In Unit One "The Spots of the Ocelot" was read aloud while pictures were shown. Although the phrases that words that the student is learning in the unit are in the story, there are always several other words that are used. The more the student watches the video, the more the words are being learned are reinforced, but he is learning other words as well. Their are also occasional worksheets that need to be printed out for the student to do on their own. The worksheets are very easy, often just drawing a picture, and, again, they reinforce what is being learned. There are also periodic lessons on the Spanish culture. For example, during the Unit where words used at school are taught, there was a whole lesson covering the differences between schools in Hispanic countries and schools in America. The tests in the last lesson are also fairly easy. The Unit One - Greetings test was a mix of listening to an audio of a greeting and choosing the picture that describes the audio, or seeing a picture and choosing the audio that matches the picture.

Now for the part that Jacob did not like but Joshua was fine with. There are several occasions a student has to listen to a phrase, record his voice, and then listen to the recording to see if his voice matches. Jacob did that a couple of times and became very upset because he didn't think he sounded like his recorded voice. Unfortunately that is the way with kids who are on the autism spectrum. Sometimes something will just set them off and they cannot handle it. Jacob refused to do any more lessons so I had to start all over again with Joshua. Joshua did much better and really liked the lessons.

I like the lessons as well. They are a good mix of listening and doing. The visuals and lessons are right on the level of a K-2 grade student but they aren't just a "Oh, we learned the numbers from one to ten in Spanish so we learned a lot" type lesson. They go much deeper than that. When a student is done with this course, they won't be fluent in Spanish but it will be a good beginning in understanding the Spanish Language and culture. During the twelve units in the first semester they will learn Spanish words for Greeting, Numbers, Family, Colors, School, Body, Animals, Calendar, Food and Descriptions.The remaining two units are review units.

To find out more about Middlebury Interactive Languages and the Elementary Spanish One : Grades K-2 Course, just click on any one of the highlighted links above. Middlebury Interactive Languages also has many other languages to choose from for elementary all the way to high school. Many of the other Homeschool Review Crew members reviewed different languages and different levels and you can find what they had to say by clicking on the banner below. You can also find out more about Middlebury Interactive Languages on social media. There different social media outlets are listed below as well. Happy Homeschooling.

Spanish, French, German or Chinese {Middlebury Interactive Languages}
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Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Familyman's Christmas Treasury - More than a Review - A Miracle!

The Familyman's Christmas Treasury - Audio Collection {The Familyman} Reviews

God truly does work in mysterious ways. Ways that are hard for us to figure out and understand. However, His ways are always the best ways and, when He reveals Himself it is always astonishing.

Before I explain what I am talking about, let me give you some background. I was first introduced to Todd Wilson and The Familyman ministries a few years ago when I was nominated for the Homeschool Dad Blog of the Year. Back then we were able to keep track of how many votes each nominated blog received. As time went by I found that there was another Homeschool Dad blog that had the audacity of giving me a run for my money! Yep! You guessed it! It was Todd Wilson's Familyman blog! I couldn't believe that another blogger would actually think that their blog was better than mine! As you can probably (and hopefully) tell, I am just joking. The Familyman blog is a fantastic blog and there really was no rivalry. I can't remember who won that year. I know I one a year or two and I think his blog did as well. It really doesn't matter. I've kept track of Todd Wilson throughout the years and have watched his ministry grow into a fantastic resource for Christian dad's. When I found out that we were going to get to review The Familyman's Christmas Treasury - Audio Collection. I was thrilled we received a CD of one of the stories and also were sent Digital Downloads of all of the stories.

Now, back to explaining my first paragraph. As many of you know, my wife and I are full time missionaries that work with low income families, children and youth. There is one area where I do a weekly Bible study with the adults. It is a run down trailer park that would rival the pictures of any run down trailer park that you could find. Every Tuesday I trek to "Grandma's" trailer, sit in her living room and study and pray with 5 or 6 other adults, usually relatives of hers that live in the park. Each week I pray that God would give me just the thing that those people need to hear that week but on one recent week I just couldn't get a grip on what I was to do with at the Bible study. God seemed to be silent. It was Tuesday afternoon and I still didn't have a thing. As I was praying God spoke clearly and told me that He didn't want me to say anything. I was to play one or two of Todd Wilson's Christmas Treasury stories for them. Of course, as often happens, I laughed and told God that He was obviously joking. This was the middle of October! You don't want me to play a Christmas story for them do you? However, my argument with God was to no avail. He gave me nothing else and the thought of playing a couple of the Christmas story's was stuck in my head.

The Familyman's Christmas Treasury - Audio Collection {The Familyman} Reviews

As I was still pondering all of this, "Grandma" calls. She had taken the two hour trip to Nashville to a doctor's appointment and wanted to tell me the results. I asked if she still wanted me to come over that evening. Surely she was too tired. She would have none of it! Of course I was to come over! I should know better than that!. So, a little while later, I picked up my phone (on which all of the stories were downloaded) and headed over to the trailer park. When I walked into Grandma's run down trailer I was astonished! Instead of the usual five or six people there were 16 adults, children and teens crowded into her small living room! They had saved one chair for me but other than that it was standing room only. I sat down, greeted everyone, explained what I was going to do, prayed and pressed the button. I intended to play Harold Grubbs and the Christmas Vest but, once again, God had other plans. It was not the Harold Grubbs story that came on, although I am sure that was the link I had pressed. Instead it was Gladys Remembers Christmas.

Gladys Remembers Christmas is a story about a crotchety elderly lady who goes to clean out her even more elderly fathers house after he was put into a nursing home. Gladys hates a lot of things. She hates her name, she hates non-punctual and disorganized people, and she especially hates Christmas. She has hated Christmas ever since her mother died when she was six. After working until the evening she remembers that her father had requested that she go to the attic to find an old green box and bring it to him. Finally after much searching she finds the box, opens it, and miracles begin to happen. The house begins to smell of fresh baked cookies; the rooms are transformed back to the way that they were 60 years ago; and, Gladys hears a sweet familiar voice that she hadn't heard since she was a young girl.

I won't spoil it and tell you what happens next, but, as we all listened to the story that was expertly told by the popular story teller Jim Hodges, I looked around the room. I looked over at one dear lady who had had a very rough life. Tears were running down her cheeks. I watched a 14 year old, rough around the edges, boy's eyes begin to soften as he sat transfixed. I saw a husband put his arm around the shoulders of his wife and squeeze. The same husband and wife that argued and fussed with each other daily. I glanced at Grandma and saw her holding her face in her hands trying to hide her tears. Miracles weren't just happening in the story, but miracles were happening in that room as well. When the story was over and I was about to pray a closing prayer, they all looked at me and practically begged to listen to another story. So I sat back down and, this time, was able to play Harold Grubbs and the Christmas Vest. It produced equal results as the story of Gladys.

As you can tell, I was astounded at the reaction that these stories had on my little group of Bible study folks. Why? I don't know. I shouldn't have been. From the first story that I listened to - Captain Chaos and the Manger Blaster - I was hooked. It and, all of the stories that I listened to produced similar emotions in me as they did to my special friends in the trailer park. Todd Wilson is a masterful story writer who wrote these good, old-fashioned, wholesome, Christmas stories and partnered with Jim Hodges to masterfully tell the stories. I found myself in dismay with Jason as he goes in search for a Christmas that seemed to all of a sudden disappear in Captain Chaos and the Manger Blaster. I cried and cheered with Cootie McKay in Cootie McKay's Nativity. All of the stories in this collection are fantastic including the stories that I haven't talked about - The Stranger and The Bishop's Dream.

I didn't tell you that at the end of the night every family asked me if I could get them copies of all of the stories to listen to so I guess Todd Wilson and The Familyman are going to be busy packing an order for me in the next month or so.

To find out more about The Familyman's Christmas Treasury - Audio Collection and the rest of the products that The Familyman has to offer, just click on any one of the highlighted links above or on any of the social media links below. To find what other members of The Homeschool Crew thought just click on the banner below. Happy Listening!

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Friday, October 14, 2016

The Online Christian Filmmakers Academy - A Homeschool Review Crew Review!

Online Christian Filmmakers Academy {Family Gravity Media}

My kids are really creative (if I must say so myself) but often I don't give them a chance to show their creativity. I know that one of the things that they have often talked about, and two have started to do, is to write a book. They often dream of turning the book that they are writing into a movie. However, we have often  wondered what it would be like to make a movie but had no idea where to begin or thought that it would be even impossible to accomplish? We even thought about making movies of just our every day crazy family life but didn't know the first thing about how to do it. 

Recently, through the Homeschool Review Crew, we were given 12 months of access to the Online Christian Filmmakers Academy from Family Gravity Media, a division of Families For Christ Ministries, Inc. and found out that making a quality movie as a family was indeed possible!In this day and age of independently made films becoming more popular, writing and producing a film is becoming less of a dream and more of a reality. More individuals and families are now successfully producing movies regularly.

The Online Christian Filmmakers Academy teaches you everything you need to create your own movie from start to finish. Ken and Zack Lawrence have been operating the Rocky Mountain Christian Filmmakers Camp since 2007 and, in 2012, transferred the material taught there to this online course.

The six categories of the course include:

  • Introduction
  • Module One - The Camera
  • Module Two - Cinematography
  • Module Three - Sound
  • Module Four - Pre-Production
  • Module Five - Production
  • Bonuses
Each module contains 5-10 lessons along with a quiz that covers everything to do with the filmmaking process including writing a screenplay, cameras, lighting, putting together a team, filming and directing the movie. Everything you can think of is covered in short but information filled videos.

Online Christian Filmmakers Academy {Family Gravity Media}

Now, before I go any further, let me tell you that each of these modules is very detailed! John Allen is the one who is working his way through this course, but I watched some of the videos as well to get a feel for it. When they say you will learn everything about a certain topic they are correct! I watched several of the Module One - The Camera videos and they talked about every part of the camera. There were two full lessons that talked just about lenses. Now, when I tell you that you will learn a lot, I mean it, however, this isn't going to be like a university class. Ken and Zack have a way of putting a lot of information into short and succinct videos but making it easy to understand and fun to learn about. I loved the videos and John Allen did as well. Here is what John Allen thinks about the course so far:

"I thought it was really cool and informative. It teaches you about the camera and video making itself. it also gives you a bit of the background of video making. The information was easy to understand and the videos were short but had a lot of information.The instructors were really neat, Christian people. They knew a lot and knew what they were doing. They gave all of the glory to God."

He is a man of not many words and, he was half asleep since he's been working many hours! But I think you can figure out that he is really enjoying it! 

I am thinking about allowing my two youngest to go through this course as well. I can envision a lot of great homeschooling involved. Script writing, acting, speech . . . the possibilities are endless!

As you can see, we are really impressed with  the Online Christian Filmmakers Academy and we think you will as well. Find out more about the Online Christian Filmmakers Academy by clicking on one of the highlighted links above or by checking out what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew by clicking on the banner below. I am also going to begin giving social media links to the products and companies that I review. You can find those below as well. Finally, the Online Christian Filmmakers Academy has generously provided a coupon for $100 off of the purchasing price for this great course. Just use the coupon code FALLCREW16 when checking out. This coupon code expires November 30. This would be a great Christmas gift for one of your aspiring filmmakers! Happy Filmmaking!

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Current facebook page for our hands-on film camp is:
New facebook page for just the Online Christian Filmmakers Academy: 

Online Christian Filmmakers Academy {Family Gravity Media}
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Friday, October 7, 2016

Working it Out: Poetry Analysis with George Herbert - A Homeschool Review Crew Review

Beautiful Handwriting, Literature and Poetry {Everyday Education, LLC}
Every once in a while I like to reveal little known secrets about myself. Well, this review of the great resource Working it Out: Poetry Analysis with George Herbert from Everyday Education, LLC actually combines two of my favorite things. One that I'm pretty sure most of my readers already know about and the other probably not.

Most of you know that I love reading the Bible and spending time with the Lord. As I read more and more of God's Word I love it even more. I will spend as much as three hours a day devoting and praying.

However, what a lot of you may not realize is that I love poetry. No, I'm not one to go to the park, sit under a tree and read poetry aloud or something like that, but I still love poetry. I think it's because of the great teaching I had in high school. I remember one class where we spent a good part of a semester reading great poets and learning how to write poetry. I loved it and still pick up books to read some of my favorite poets. 

So, when the opportunity came to review Working it Out: Poetry Analysis with George Herbert I jumped at the chance. You see, I found out when doing my research, this book isn't just about his poetry, it is actually a devotional book that uses his poetry and combines it with great Biblical truths. It seemed like a great match for me and, thankfully, we were invited to use it ourselves and not just with our kids if we wanted, so I decided to do this review on my own.

Beautiful Handwriting, Literature and Poetry {Everyday Education, LLC}

I'm not sure if I had ever heard of George Herbert or not, at least I don't recall reading his poetry, but the more I have used this devotional the more I am liking him and his work. He was a Christian poet and his poems, at least the ones in the downloaded ebook that I received, are full of great Biblical themes and meaning. The themes that are touched upon in Working it Out: Poetry Analysis with George Herbert are:

Looking Back, Moving Forward
Letting Go
Depending on God

Special Blessings of the Church
and more

In each section, there are several poems that represent each theme. 

George Herbert is very deep and his poems can be sometimes difficult to understand and follow at first glance, but with the help of this great book I am beginning to learn to not only understand his work but to apply it to my Christian living as well.

I love how the author, Joseph L. Womack has organized this devotional. For each poem there are five steps:

The Big Picture
The Parts of the Picture
The Parts of the Picture Come Together
Scriptures for Further Reflection

After reading the poem, the author gives us The Big Picture. The Big Picture is just a basic overview of the poem, what it is about and how it applies to God's Word. He then breaks the poem into parts and explains each stanza in "The Parts of the Picture". After breaking it down, he puts them back together once again to talk about how it fits all together. In he Reflections section, there are questions asked for us to reflect on what the poem is saying and how it applies to our Christian walk. Finally, the author supplies several scriptures if we want to explore the topic even more. It's all one complete package and works wonderfully. It is suggested that you take about a week per poem to work through each section.

Lest you think that this is all there is to this wonderful devotional, let me explain that there is much more. Although this isn't a complete poetry course, it is designed to help students understand poetry and how to analyze poetry. The method that the author uses to break down each poem can be used to analyze and learn from other poets and their writings.

As I said above, this is all one big package and it is awesome. I plan on turning to this resource over and over again in my Christian walk. To find out more about Working it Out: Poetry Analysis with George Herbert from Everyday Education, LLC just click on any one of the highlighted links above. Several members of the Homeschool Review Crew reviewed this item plus other items from Everyday Education, LLC and you can find what they had to say by clicking on the banner below. Happy Devoting!

Beautiful Handwriting, Literature and Poetry {Everyday Education, LLC}

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