Saturday, October 29, 2016

It is Almost Time for a Holiday Gift Guide

This year I am planning on putting together a Holiday Gift Guide.  I am looking for and reaching out to companies and individuals who would like to participate.  If you represent a business, own a business, or have a home based business, I would love to work with you.  It can be a large product, stocking stuffers, or even a service, I am more than happy to work with you.  The only requirement I have is that the product must be family friendly as this is a family friendly blog.
I am offering several options for your participation:
  1. Product Reviews - For this one you send me a product, my family and I will try it out and write a review.  I will take pictures and write up a review about the product with links to your site and social media.  I will also share the review on our my social media as well.  
  2. Giveaways - This can be combined with the first option.  If it is not in combination with a review, I would just do a write up about your product and host a giveaway for the specified product.  This includes sharing on my social media.  When the giveaway ends, I will send you the winner's information so you can send them their product they won.
  3. A Paid Post - I will write a post based on your site and the information you send me.  I will need quality photos to include and I will include links to your site as well as share this on my social media.  I charge $25 - $50 for the post depending on what your requirements are.
If you are interesting in being included in my Holiday Gift Guide with any of these options, please contact me.  I would also love to work with you if you have another idea of how I can include you in my Holiday Gift Guide.

Contact me today as I would love to include you in my Holiday Gift Guide.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

A Review of CrossTimber - Name Meaning Gifts

Have you ever thought about what your name means?  I have always thought it was very important to know what our names mean so that is why I was very excited to receive a Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse from CrossTimber to review.  What I didn't know when I got chosen to review this product is how much of an impact it would have on me.
Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse {CrossTimber} Reviews, name meaning, christmas gift, framed name plaque, name art, Personalized Framed Plaque, Personalized Bible Verse
CrossTimber is a family run company owned by John Denhart.  They specialize in name meaning gifts with a variety of ways these gifts can be displayed such as plaques, mugs, music boxes, and more.  Each of their Name Gifts include the origin, cultural meaning, Life meaning, and a hand-picked Bible verse that connects with the meaning.  This is why CrossTimber takes the time to research your name by looking through various resources.  They research not only the historical or cultural origin of each name, but also the encouraging, positive aspect of each name's meaning.  They also look to see how the meaning can be applied to a person's character and personality in a Biblical way.  The goal of their research on name meanings is to help others realize the significance and purpose of their lives from God's perspective which can being encouraging and inspiring to people.
Hubby's print
I originally thought that I would use this review to order a nice, surprise gift for my husband for our upcoming anniversary since we received one plaque, but I have 2 kids.  As I started looking around the CrossTimber website, I really started thinking about how important it is to know who God says you are and that this would be a great present for my kids for Christmas along with the anniversary gift.  My next step was to email CrossTimber and ask about my family's name meanings.  In the past I have looked up my family's name meanings very quickly on the internet, but I was very curious to see what John would find in his research because I knew his research would be much more thorough than my quick searches.  In a matter of couple of hours I had an email back from John at CrossTimber that told me what each of our first names and middles names meant along with Bible verses that went along with each name.
The plaques I ordered for my kids.  The frames are gorgeous!  I intentionally took these pictures in a way that would not show their names.
 As I read what our first name and middle names meant along with the verses that went with them I was in awe.  The tears started flowing as I realized that our names are not our names by accident.  It dawned on me that God had a plan for each of us when out name was chosen.  Even though as parents we don't always know the Biblical history of the names we choose for our children, the names each of us in our family have line up with us fulfilling God's plan for us.  We never thought that my daughter's middle name had a Biblical association, but John showed me that her middle name does have a Biblical association and it gave me goose bumps.  Her middle name is not common at all, but the meaning he gave me for it says "Treasured by God."  This immediately reminded me of when she was a baby and the doctor thought she might have some heart issues.  After many tests and much prayer on our part where I told God I knew she was His child on loan to me, we received word back from the doctor that the test was initially misread and none of the other testing showed any issues with her heart and we never received a bill for any of it.  I knew way back then she was "Treasured by God" but it was so powerful to see that associated with her name.  I was also encouraged and inspired by this review.  I personally have never appreciated my middle name even though I knew it had a Biblical meaning.  My middle name is Dianne and it means "Divine One."  The meaning that brought me to tears of my middle name is "Reflection of God's Glory."  When I think about this as my calling and name, it means SO much more to me than Dianne.  I am to be reflecting God's glory and that is His calling to me.  Wow!  I can also assure you that my hubby's and son's names have powerful meanings that just blessed me too.  The meaning of my son's name is exactly what we have prayed for him since before he was born.  That just amazed me.  I was so touched by finding out what our names meant, that I had to forward the email on to my hubby and share about the review and that I had intended to surprise him.  He was blessed by finding out our name meanings as well and suggested that we order something for each member of our family.  Our kids still don't know about this product and their plaques will be a beautiful Christmas present for them.
My name print
I ended up ordering a framed plaque with the first and middle names for each of my kids to hang in their rooms.  This way they can see exactly what their names mean and who God says they are every single day.  We pray it serves as a visual reminder of who God is calling them to be.  For my son's we picked the background of wolves because he loves them and it actually pertains to his name as well.  For my daughter's we picked the background of angel wings since it fit the meaning of her name.  I also ordered just a print of our first and middle names for my hubby and myself.  I did not order these in frames because I am not sure exactly where we will hang them yet and I want the frame to match the room we hang them in.  When the order arrived, very quickly I might add, both hubby and I opened it and I can assure you these gifts are BEAUTIFUL!!!  The backgrounds are clear and crisp, the fonts used are elegant, but easy to read, and the frames are perfect for each picture I had framed.  Each print also came with either a bookmark or a baseball card size name card of our first names which I appreciate because we can also use these regularly and be reminded of the meanings.
This is my bookmark that came with our order.
I can assure you that we will definitely be using CrossTimber again in the future for personal gifts with meaning.  I feel like they really took care of me and truly cared about my order.  I added my hubby's gift to my shopping cart and then shopped some more but somehow I deleted it from my cart and didn't see it wasn't in my shopping cart when I ordered.  So when I got my invoice email and saw I messed up, I called them and spoke personally with John and he fixed it for me right away.  I appreciated that so much.  Every email and phone call I had with them was so professional and you can tell that they truly care about what they are doing.  This along with being a Christian business ensures my future business.  CrossTimber is really a great company!  Please go and check out their website and the many products they have to offer.  These products make great gifts and the more you order the bigger the discount you get.  They are even hosting a giveaway right now that you can enter to win by clicking on the picture below.
Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse {CrossTimber} Reviews
CrossTimber 2016 giveaway
You can get started on ordering your own gifts from CrossTimber on their website.  You can also find them on Facebook and Pinterest.  Please be sure to check out what my friends on the Homeschool Review Crew ordered from CrossTimber and what they have to say about this company.
Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse {CrossTimber} Reviews

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

A Review of Middle School Spanish 1 (Grades 6-8) from Middlebury Interactive Languages

We are very serious about learning a language in our house and Spanish is the language we have chosen to learn.  That is why we were very excited for Buddy to receive Middle School Spanish 1 (Grades 6-8) from Middlebury Interactive Languages for him to review.  When I checked out this Spanish course I thought that it was more in-depth than other apps and programs we have tried, so he might learn more of the mechanics and specifics of the Spanish language with Middlebury Interactive Languages. 
Spanish, French, German or Chinese {Middlebury Interactive Languages}, language, language study, foreign language, homeschool foreign language
Middlebury Interactive Languages offers many language course for you to choose from for what your family needs.  They offer online courses for elementary grades through high school.   Each of their K-2 semester courses offer 35 days of content while each 3-5 grade course offers 45 days of content.  Each of their middle and high school semester courses offer 90 days of content.  This is so you can fit the course into your school schedule.  They offer courses in Spanish, French, Chinese, and German. 
The online calendar with a suggested lesson schedule.
The Middle School Spanish 1 course (Grades 6-8) that we received online access to is filled with interactive language activities with instructions.  This semester long course is equivalent to that found in the first semester of High School Spanish I.  This course focuses on four key areas of language study: listening, speaking, reading, and writing.  It is broken down into units and within the units they focus on a vocabulary theme for each unit.  Each unit also teaches grammar concepts, reading and listening comprehension, speaking and writing, and more.  Each lesson has examples of conversation so that your student can hear the language being spoken correctly.  Their website says there are no prerequisites for this class, but as Buddy worked through the class it was helpful to him that he had worked on Spanish before.
When we received this online course we started Buddy at the very beginning of it.  I chose to follow the calendar they have set up on the website for our lessons, but you do not have to.  This calendar had Buddy doing 2 lessons a day and I chose to have him follow it so that we would be able to finish this course during the time period we have access to it, which is 6 months.  The two lessons a day usually took him anywhere from 25-45 minutes to complete.  I felt like this was a very reasonable pace for him and he didn’t complain about it being too much work to get done in a day.  For Semester 1 of this course there are 9 units and for Semester 2 there are 9 units for a total of 18 units.  Each unit is then broke down into lessons.  Each lesson focuses on different skills and activities.  There is even the occasional “pop quiz” in the lessons, along with unit quizzes.  So far in the different lessons and units that Buddy has completed he has had activities that have made him practice speaking, writing, and reading Spanish.  It is much deeper than just the basics of “hola” and “adios.”  This course has been teaching him how you address different people differently and it even discusses the language differences for different Spanish speaking countries.  It is teaching him more in-depth than any of the products and apps we have used in the past.  It truly feels like he is in a classroom with a teacher when he is working on his lessons and I really like that for this program.  Buddy has completed 4 units and will start his 5th unit tomorrow.  He just finished taking the midterms for Semester 1 and he did very well on them.  He will continue this online course as long as we have access to it because he really is learning Spanish by using this course.  He is able to tell me complete sentences in Spanish now whereas before starting this course he only knew some vocabulary and a handful of common phrases.
A sample lesson
I also really like this course for him because he really is learning the details of the Spanish language with it rather than just bits or pieces.  It has also been a little bit of a refresher course for me as I am listening to his lessons while he is working on them and have been reminded of why some things are the way they are in the Spanish language.  I like how the units and lessons are divided up.  They build on each other, but are also helping you practice the things you have learned consistently.  They don’t just introduce a concept and then move on, they introduce a concept and continue to build on it as you start learning new things too.  I also appreciate that there is a built in gradebook that records his grades on assignments.  There are some assignments that I have to grade, but Middlebury gives you a scoring guide so that you can assign the appropriate points for the lesson.  The only part of this I have not figured out is how to get these assignment grades into the built in gradebook, but I just ended up keeping track of them in my own gradebook when I recorded the grades for the items that were automatically graded.  I do appreciate being able to quickly go into the calendar and see which lessons Buddy has finished and which lessons are scheduled next.  I can also see which lessons he finished by going into the Table of Contents and looking through each unit and lesson, the calendar just gives me a quicker view.  I really, really like how detailed and in-depth this course is for Buddy.  It feels like it is just the right level for him without being too easy or too hard.  I like that it is teaching him not only the vocabulary, but also the grammar, mechanics, and the “why” for the language.  I like it that it feels just like he is being taught by a Spanish teacher because I can’t teach him Spanish by myself because I am not fluent in it. 
This is a screenshot of the gradebook
You can find more information about all the courses offered by Middlebury Interactive Languages on their website.  You can also check them out on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.  You can find the Spanish Course we received here.  My friends on the Homeschool Review Crew have also been reviewing courses from Middlebury Interactive Languages as well, but we have all been reviewing different courses, so check out their reviews by clicking the banner below. 
Spanish, French, German or Chinese {Middlebury Interactive Languages}

Friday, October 21, 2016

Being a Tourist in Michiana: Part 1

Recently my husband was asked what there was to do and see in this area by someone who is coming for business and sightseeing.  That got me to thinking that there is a lot to see and do around where we live and I thought I would share some of it with you today.  We live in Northern Indiana, very close to the Michigan border, so our area is very commonly referred to as the "Michiana" area.  There is plenty to do and see here when I really think about it.
Shipshewana, Indiana
One of my favorite towns to hang out in near me is Shipshewana.  This is what we refer to as an Amish town as there are many Amish people living and working there.  You can regularly see their buggies driving down the road here and the town is very laid back with a slower pace of life.  My favorite places to visit here are:
  1. E & S Sales - I commonly call it my "Amish Sam's Club" because you can buy bulk food there like flour, oatmeal, sugar.  It is where I get all of my baking supplies in bulk.  They also have great deals on closeout foods that are typically "seconds" and need to be sold right away but still are good...think granola bars, cereal, etc.  I go here to stock up on pantry items.
  2. Davis Mercantile - This building is filled with a lot of fun stores to shop through and even some to eat at.  Stop for a handmade pretzel from JoJo's...YUM!!!  I love The ScrapYard for unique scrapbooking supplies, Aunt Millie's Candy for their selection of candy, and I might have a habit of wandering through Lolly's Fabrics to touch all the beautiful fabrics.  I also love wandering through the other stores in this building just to see what they have.  One of my favorite parts of this place is the carousel.  I love riding it with my kids even though they are older now.  Be sure to check out all the stores around the Davis Mercantile too as they offer many unique finds.
  3. Blue Gate Restaurant - Make sure you have plenty of room in your belly to eat here.  You can order off the menu or if you are really hungry, eat family style.  You will not walk away hungry from this place.  Be sure to either save room for their pie or walk into their bakery and buy a pie to take home.  YUM!!!
  4. Shipshewana Trading Place Auction and Flea Market - This flea market runs May - September and you can find just about everything there.  Be prepared to spend the whole day as there are so many aisles to go through.  They have auctions year round here and you would have to check out their website to find out what they are auctioning off.
There are also other various shops in town that are definitely fun to wander through including some antique shops.  I have never been to Menno-Hof, but it is on my list of places to visit as I have heard many wonderful things about this information center that teaches all about the Amish and Mennonites.  

Middlebury, Indiana
Middlebury is another small town rich in tradition and history,  It is just a little town and probably mostly known for being home to several big RV manufacturing companies, but we know it and love it for being a small town, close to home.  Here are my favorite stops:
  1. Rise'n Roll Bakery and Deli - If you stop here early in the morning be prepared to wait, but don't visit our area without stopping here.  I promise it is worth the wait.  Amish baked goods, breads, and food...if that wasn't enough, Rise'n Roll is home of the Cinnamon Caramel donut.  This donut melts in your mouth and is worth every single calorie.  If you can stop at just one, you are a much better person than me.  Those of us that live near enough to get these donuts regularly call them "Amish Crack" donuts because you can't eat just one.  I have had breakfast and lunch here too and have never been disappointed.  We love their Smoked Sausage Roll (bread) as well.  Slice it and fry it in butter for a great breakfast treat!
  2. Das Dutchman Essenhaus - This is a restaurant, bakery, inn, and shops.  Stop by the restaurant for a delicious (Amish) meal and a slice of homemade pie (I suggest the Peanut Butter Pie).  They still make their noodles for chicken and noodles or beef and noodles.  This is another place you can eat off the menu or choose family style dining.  Either way you won't walk away hungry.  You can walk off your meal by walking around the grounds and checking out the inn or the shops for unique gifts.
  3. Pumpkin Vine Nature Trail - This trail that is perfect for walking, running, or biking actually goes all the way from Goshen, IN to Shipshewana, IN with plans to connect it in other places that eventually you can ride the trail even further.  Our favorite place to catch the trail is located behind the Dairy Queen in Middlebury and it is perfect for walking or riding.  The walk is beautiful as you look out over farms and walk through the woods.
There are also various shops in Middlebury that you can walk through and find plenty of unique gifts.  
Bristol, Indiana
Bristol is a little town that if you blink you will miss it.  The actual town is not very big, but there are a few places worth checking out.
  1. Bonneyville Mill County Park - This gorgeous park has over 200 acres of land to explore.  It has hills, valleys, a waterfall, and a working mill.  They only run the mill here during the summer, but you can see it year round.  There is also a wood tower you can climb the stairs to to the top and see out over the country side.  This is one of our favorite parks to visit because it is breathtaking year round.
  2. Bristol Opera House - This opera house is the home of the Elkart Civic Theatre and they run plays here year round.  It is a small theater that puts on big productions and I have very fond memories of attending plays with my mom here.
  3. Elkhart County Historical Museum -  This is a hidden treasure of Bristol.  This little museum has big things to offer when you stop in.  They always have interesting exhibits and they love to share their knowledge with you and help you in your research projects.  
Once I started typing out my list I realized there is more to do around where we live than I thought so I will be making a couple of more posts with more things to do.  So stay tuned for part 2 of Being a Tourist in Michiana....

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

What Being on the Crew Means to Me...

If you have been around this blog and reading it in the last year you know that I am a part of the Homeschool Review Crew (you may have also seen me call it the Schoolhouse Review Crew because they switched the name during the year) and I can tell you that being a part of this Crew, no matter what it is called, has been an AMAZING blessing to our family.  Let me tell you how...
What being on the Crew means ...
It Gives Me a Voice, a Creative Outlet, and Confidence
I was officially invited to join the Crew in December of 2015 with my first review being due in January of 2016, but the process started before that.  One day while I was on Facebook, I ran across a friend's post that announced the Crew was accepting applications for membership.  This came at a time where I had just decided to end a home-based business and I felt like I had lost a creative outlet for myself so I decided that I would pick up blogging again which I have done off and on again for years.  My blog was so inconsistent that I thought it would be a waste of time for me to apply to be a part of the Crew, but I thought I would read about it anyway.  The more I read, the more I thought it was something I could do.  The only thing I thought that would hold me back was my inconsistent blogging up until then.  I had a little nagging voice in my head that kept telling me it couldn't hurt to put in an application because the worse thing that could happen was that they would say no and I would rebuild my blog anyway and re-apply the following year.  So I filled out my application and focused on blogging.  I had almost completely forgotten about my application when I received an email from Debra, the Crew leader.  I had to do a trial review since I had not really posted many reviews, but it wasn't long after that trial review that I received another email with an official invite to be on the Crew.  I was shocked, excited, and nervous all at once.  They thought my little blog was good enough to be a part of the Crew and that gave me confidence I didn't even realize I was missing.  They took a chance on me and I am forever grateful that they did.  I get to give my opinion on homeschooling products and send my voice out into the world.

It Gives Me Freedom and Courage to Choose Again
The other thing that I was struggling behind the scenes with at the time was the curriculum that we were using for my son.  I have posted about this and how it wasn't working for him and I knew it.  I was so stuck in my curriculum rut that I didn't know what to do.  I would have to research tons and tons of curriculum again and I just dreaded that.  Then I got my position on the Crew and reviews are what we do on the Crew.  We receive products to use, teach, check out, and figure out what our family thinks.  So while we finished out the 2015-2016 school year using the curriculum that wasn't working, I was able to start subbing in review products that Buddy liked better and ones I felt worked better for him.  Then over the summer I had time to pray, process, and decide that I would not use a boxed curriculum for him for the 2016-2017 school year.  We would use review products we had received and I would build our own curriculum buying what I needed to fill the gaps.  Being a part of the Crew and seeing so many great products (whether I reviewed them or read reviews from my Crew friends) gave me the freedom and courage that I needed to know that I could once again plan out school for Buddy on my own and I didn't need a boxed curriculum for him.  We still use about 1/2 of a boxed curriculum for Little Miss but she asked to continue on with that curriculum because she loves reading all the books.  We do use the reading part of the curriculum and the rest of her school is all review products that we have reviewed this past year.

I've Made Friends Around the World
If you read my reviews you will see at the end of every one of them I point you to "My Friends on the Homeschool Review Crew" and encourage you to read their reviews of the products too.  I do this because we all use the products in ways that fit our families and we are all different.  I also do this because I know without a doubt, they are giving you their honest opinions just like I am.  I also do it because I trust these friends because we do get a chance to get to know each other and become friends on a private forum that is just for us.  I value their input and we ask each other questions all the time.  We share about our lives, share our struggles, and share our successes.  It is truly a great group of friends that I know I can go to and chat with for wisdom, encouragement, support, and more.  We rally each other and support each other.  The Crew is International so I really do have friends around the world.

There is more, I really could go on and on, but I won't.  I wanted to tell you some of the things I love most about being on the Crew to invite you to apply for the Homeschool Review Crew for the upcoming year.  If you are a homeschooler and a blogger, you should definitely consider applying for the Crew.  Take a chance and put in your application. Tell them I sent you.  You can get more information and read the requirements of being on the Crew by clicking here.  Click on the banner below if you know you are ready to apply to be a member of the Crew and don't forget to tell them I sent you.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

A Review of Educeri Lesson Subscription Service

Imagine there was an online website that had thousands of lesson plans with printable worksheets in several different subject areas for multiple grade levels, wouldn’t that be a great resource to have access to?  This is exactly the website we found when we recently got a chance to review the Educeri Lesson Subscription Service from Educeri……Educeri a division of DataWORKS.  This lesson subscription service gives you access to over 1,000 lessons in multiple subjects for all grades. 
Educeri Lesson Subscription Service Reviews
Educeri is a company that wants to have lesson plans ready for you at any time for multiple subjects whether you teach school in a private setting or a public setting.  Their lesson plans feature standards-based content, real-time feedback through built-in checking, and research-based, classroom-tested procedures.  Every lesson also comes with printable student handouts that you can download and print.  They have lessons in Math, Science, English Language Arts, History, Art, P.E., Music, Spanish, English Language Development, and Other Resources such as Engagement Norms.  These lessons are available for K-12 grade.  They offer plans for individuals (such as homeschoolers) or for schools (such as a public school district).
I used the Educeri Lesson Subscription Service for both of my kids.  I was excited to see so many English Language Arts and Math lessons available for 3rd grade and 8th grade.  These two subjects always seem to be the ones that I look for new ways to teach the concepts of when my kids need to re-enforce concepts or teach them differently if they are struggling.  I was also excited to find a really nice Civil War lesson for Buddy as this fits with his History this year. 
See the "Additional Resources" area, this is what I forgot when we first did this lesson.
The first lesson that I had Little Miss do was a lesson on multiplication called “Memorize Multiplication Facts.”  She is currently learning division in math so I thought that making sure her multiplication facts are memorized would be a great asset and help to learning division.  I had her sit at the computer and watch as she clicked through the lesson slides.  It was nicely set up and had great charts of multiplication facts.  As she clicked it would fill in the chart for her and we would go over the fact.  The whole time I kept feeling like we were missing something and she should be doing more than just clicking to put up the facts.  It turns out we did miss something.  I completely missed that before you click the button to start the lesson there is a button you can click for additional resources.  This additional resources area is where the printable student worksheet  that accompanies the lesson is.  So I went back and found that to print off and the lesson made much more sense as she could fill out the worksheet and then use the slides to check her answers.  I also had her do a lesson on fractions as she is also learning this concept in her math.  I printed off the worksheet before she started the lesson and I had her click to start the lesson.  We went through the first few screens of the lesson to introduce it and so I could teach her the material they were discussing.  Then I had her fill out her worksheet.  Once she had it finished, I had her click through the slides to check her answers and see if they were right.  Then we finished up the lesson.  Little Miss and I have also tried a couple of the English Language Arts lessons as she has been working on writing a report and there were some very helpful lessons in there.
The first lesson that I had Buddy complete is called “Describe the Major Battles of the Civil War.”  We worked through this lesson by having him sit at the computer and I had him read the information from the slides to me since he is in 8th grade.  This lesson is full of great information on the battles and I had him write down some of the major facts from this lesson.  We also discussed the facts given in this lesson as there were a lot given and we have not read much about the battles of the war yet.  We also looked at one of the History lessons on Abraham Lincoln since we have read a couple of books about him for school this year already and I thought this lesson could be very interesting to Buddy.  It gave us a chance to discuss and compare what was in the lesson to the material we had read before this lesson.  We are also using this site for some English Language Arts lessons as Buddy is working on a big report right now and there are some good lessons about transitions and informative text.
Overall, I like this concept of this website and their lessons.  If you need a quick lesson plan to fill in, teach a lesson in a little different way than you have been, or review a concept,  this site is great.  I will use this site again while I have access to it for some other lessons that fit into our school for both kids.  I did not like the method the lesson used to teach fractions.  It was confusing and complicated what I thought was a simple lesson in the way the lesson asked the questions.  This particular lesson asked what fraction the shaded area represented and then it tried to break it down into more questions.  They asked what fraction the parts represented and then what fraction the shaded part represented.  This really confused Little Miss as she knew the shaded part was 2/3, but it confused her about the fractional part where the answer was the shape was broken into 1/3  pieces.  The way the questions for this were written felt very tricky and like you were going in circles.  I believe this is part of the new “common core” math stuff that I am not particularly a fan of because I think it over complicates math instead of doing it the simple “old school” way I learned growing up.  I feel that for the most part the lessons had very good content, but they really felt like the kids were sitting in a public school classroom.  The lessons felt very task oriented and like I could check off each part when I got done.  This isn’t a bad thing, it is just what I have been trying to get away from to give us more freedom to research topics of interest in our school.  I believe that the lessons may work better in larger settings like public schools or if I was teaching classes in our homeschool group because it felt at times there should be discussions between students. 

Check out the Educeri Lesson Subscription Service from Educeri……Educeri a division of DataWORKS and see if it will work for your school.  In addition to finding them on their website, you can also find out more on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.  You can also find out what my friends on the Homeschool Review Crew thought about this product by clicking the banner below.
Educeri Lesson Subscription Service

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Goodbye Solomon

It is with heavy hearts and many tears that we said goodbye to our beloved Solomon. This old boy lived to be 12 years old and passed away late yesterday afternoon peacefully in his sleep. Our furry friend loved cheeseburgers from Grandpa, chasing cats, popsicles, and playing ball. We love you and miss you Sol!!!

Friday, October 14, 2016

Hold Your Horses!!!

We have entered into a new season in our house.  Little Miss is now taking lessons for something I never thought we would get into, but I am totally excited to see her get into it.  She is taking HORSE lessons.  Of course she is like every little girl and has been telling us for a couple of years now that she wants to ride horses, but I didn't take that as seriously as I should.  We have family that has horses and my only regret now is that I didn't get her started in lessons sooner.  Anyway...
Little Miss and Aunt Sherri.  She is riding Shadow.
Little Miss on Roanie with Aunt Wendy
Little Miss at her most recent horse show being lead by Brian.  She is riding Shadow.
We went to see one of the horse shows that my aunts are helping run and see what it was all about this summer because Hubby is helping my aunt create a program for the horse show.  At that show, Little Miss was hanging out in the announcing booth with my Aunt Sherri and I knew it was a matter of time until she was on a horse.  Aunt Sherri had her up on a horse in no time and Little Miss just sat up there like she had been riding her whole life.  She showed no fear, she sat up big and tall, and listened to all my aunt told her as she was lead around outside the arena.  Little Miss did great for her first time on a horse and when they were done, they headed back up to the announcing booth.  We watched more of the horse show which reminded me of my summers watching my Aunt Sherri race and just enjoyed figuring out what was going on.  Next thing we knew Aunt Sherri came down from the booth, said "Get your camera ready!" and Little Miss was off.  She actually competed in that horse show in the Pee Wee division so that she can be lead.  Brandye lead her in the event and Little Miss won!!!  She was hooked and loved it!  Who knew Little Miss would be racing horses in Western events?
Little Miss won the overall in the Pee Wee Division at her 2nd horse show
Getting instructions from Aunt Wendy during lessons
Little Miss at her most recent horse show.  She is being led by Uncle Brian.
Love this sweet shot of Aunt Sherri and Little Miss cooling down Roanie and Shadow after the last horse show.
Since that first ride we have been working with Aunt Wendy (Sherri's sister) and getting lessons.  Aunt Wendy is thrilled to have a little girl to teach riding to and Little Miss loves that Aunt Wendy is willing to teach her.  She has been learning the basics of riding a horse - from caring for the horses to riding to what to do in the "what if" situations.  They have been so patient and caring to teach her.  Little Miss even rode one of the big horses completely on her own in one of her last lessons.  Since the first horse show this summer, Little Miss has ridden in 2 more shows and she cleaned up.  She has been lead in every show because she isn't quire ready to ride on her own yet, but she will get there.  We are thinking she will be riding on her own by next Spring which is fun and a little scary for this Mama at the same time.  We are EXTREMELY grateful to Wendy, Brian, and Brandye for the use of their horses and so, so, SO grateful to Wendy for the lessons.  It has truly been a blessing to see Little Miss get so excited about something.  She also loves her boys, Shadow and Roanie!
Shadow (the black horse) and Roanie
I am totally going to be using this Fall and Winter to brush up on all things horses including cute cowgirl boots.  Got any ideas?  I am going to need some for my horse loving girl...

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Online Christian Filmmakers Academy–A Review of Family Gravity Media, a division of Families for Christ Ministries, Inc.

One area of creativity that Buddy has expressed some interest in is photography and filmmaking, but I really do not have enough experience to guide him to a great project.  This is why I was very excited to receive a year’s membership to the Online Christian Filmmakers Academy from Family Gravity Media, a division of Families for Christ Ministries, Inc. to review.  I thought that this product could help him learn more about using cameras and creating videos while helping him pursue his creative interests.
Online Christian Filmmakers Academy {Family Gravity Media}, Christian Filmmaking, Christian Filmmakers Camp, Online Film Camp, Online Film School, film school, Christian film, Christian Filmmakers Academy, online film academy
Ken and Zack Lawrence are a father-son team that have been working together at the Online Christian Filmmakers Academy since 2007.  Prior to that they were operating the yearly filmmaker camp that students can attend at the Rocky Mountain Christian Filmmakers Camp.  Both of these gentlemen have experience with producing, directing, and acting.  Ken is also a pastor, author and homeschool father of four.  Zack also wrote, produced, and directed the feature film “In His Steps.”  As you can see, both of these gentlemen have a lot of knowledge they can share with those interested in pursuing Christian filmmaking.

The Online Christian Filmmakers Academy is designed to train those interested in filmmaking and using visual media for the glory of God.  This online course is designed so that students can work at their own pace in their own home.  It features five modules and includes bonus documents, templates, insider interviews, and quizzes.  They are also working to develop and add new content throughout the course.  The five modules covered are:
  • The Camera
  • Cinematography and Lighting
  • Sound
  • Pre-Production
  • Production
I was very excited for Buddy to get this product to review.  He has shown interest in photography and the visual arts and of course being a Christian, I really would love to see him use his talents to honor God.  This is another reason I was very excited for him to receive this course, it helps students focus on using visual mediums to promote the Gospel and further the Kingdom of God.  The fact that we could take this course right in our own home, was an even bigger benefit of it.  This allowed Buddy to watch the videos when it fit into our schedule.
Buddy watching a video for Module 1
Buddy jumped right into Module 1: The Camera and started watching the videos.  This module taught him about two different types of cameras and then the different lenses that you could get for those cameras.  He also learned about frame rates, shutter speeds, and tripods.  This helped him figure out which kind of camera he already has and what kind of cameras he wants to look for in the future.  The module finished off with a quiz that checked to see if he learned the information in that module.  Buddy was able to answer the quiz questions without any problem and when I asked him to explain why he picked his answer, he would tell me, “It said in this video…” and explain what he meant.  He really soaked in the info and he used what he learned to figure out more information about the cameras we own.
The videos Buddy has completed for Module 2.
Buddy is currently working through Module 2: Cinematography and Lighting.  He is over 1/2 way done with this module.  He really focused on lighting on our recent trip to Turkey Run State Park and because he was using what he learned in this module, he captured some really neat pictures.  He originally planned to make a movie with our friends we are camping with, but then decided the opportunities to play with taking photographs and the lighting in the park were way too good to pass up.  I have to say I am very impressed with the angles he finds for pictures and the lighting he used.  I can’t imagine what he can do with a better camera (he has Canon PowerShot ELPH115 currently and we do plan to upgrade him).  He definitely has an eye for unique photographs and they are shots I just don’t see until he shows me.  It makes me excited to encourage this passion for photography and cinematography in him.  Now that we have been home for a week and are settling back into our school routine, Buddy is picking up where he left off in this course.

These are just some of the pics Buddy took using light, angles, and more that he learned from this course so far.
So far, we are very, VERY pleased with this course.  Buddy likes that he is learning all about something that is interesting to him and he is excited to see what he will learn as he gets further into this course.  I am happy that I have found a Christian company that teaches this material because I can rest assured that they are teaching safe material in a God-honoring way.  I also appreciate that it is teaching him to use his talent to honor God and this is something I definitely want to encourage.  Buddy will finish using this course and I am excited to see what he ends up doing with it.  He has talked about making a small movie and when he does so, I will do my best to upload it for you to view (I hope there is a lesson in his course on this so he can help me with it). 

If you want to learn more about the Online Christian Filmmakers Academy you can checkout their website.  You can also find out more information about them on Facebook.  The course costs $299 for a full year of access. You can get a discount code of $100 just for being my reader if you enter FALLCREW16 on their checkout page.  This code is good only until November 30, 2106.  Check it out and see what you think after you read the reviews from my friends on the Homeschool Review Crew by clicking the banner below.
Online Christian Filmmakers Academy {Family Gravity Media}

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A Review of the Freezer Meal Plan Membership from

Have you ever wished that someone would take all the guess work out of planning and preparing meals for you and they would just hand you recipes, ingredients lists, and tell you what to do?  I know I have wished for this even though I regularly menu plan, this is why I was super excited to review the Freezer Meal Plan Membership from MyFreezEasy.  I recently received their Premium Annual Membership to review and I couldn’t be happier with how quick and easy the meals are to prepare for the freezer and then how delicious they are when it is time to cook them.
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Erin Chase is the founder of $5 Dinners and she recently created the freezer cooking meals plans from FreezEasy.  Her goal is to help people spend lesson money on groceries and save time when getting dinner on the table.  She also wants to help make getting dinner on the table less overwhelming and give you more time to spend with your family.  Using her methods, strategies, and resources will help you get organized in the kitchen and help you get dinner on the table without losing your mind.  The MyFreezEasy Freezer Cooking Meal Plans help you prepare 10 fantastic meals to load into your freezer in les than one hour.  There are several options in the freezer cooking meals plans to accommodate for special diets and to meet your family’s needs that you get access to when you become a member of MyFreezEasy.  These options include:
  • Traditional Meal Plan
  • Gluten-Free Meal Plan
  • Slow Cooker Meal Plan
  • Clean Eats Meal Plan
  • 20 Meals Plan
  • All Chicken Meals Plan
  • All Ground Beef Meals Plan
  • All Pork Chops Meals Plan
MyFreezEasy offers several different membership options so that you can find what fits your family best.  They range from Basic Membership to the Premium Annual Membership.  Each level of membership gives you more customization options with the Premium Annual Membership having the most options and flexibility.  Every meal plan comes with organized shopping lists, assembly details, printable labels to put on your bags or trays before popping them into the freezer, highlight videos with tips and tricks for the recipes in each plan, dairy-free and gluten-free modifications for every recipe.  The Traditional Meal Plan also includes an instructional assembly video for its meals.  As a bonus each recipe tells you how to make it to serve tonight and how to make it for the freezer. 

Chicken from the New Mexican Chicken Lettuce Wraps (I added the tortillas and beans)
I do menu plan and I must confess that it is not my favorite thing to do.  This is why I was excited to be part of this review.  I was also excited because I have been wanting to figure out how to take advantage of freezer cooking for quite awhile now.  I just didn’t know where to start, but I figured getting the Premium Annual Membership to review would give me the perfect place to start.  It did.  Freezer cooking is setting aside some time to prep and prepare meals in advance that you place in freeze bags, aluminum pans, or in my case I used my Gladware containers.  We first received access to this product in September and reading just the title of the meals in the various plans had me drooling.  I looked over the site that is very user-friendly and decided to start by printing out the Traditional Meal Plan and the All Chicken Meals Plan.  The recipes on both sounded delicious and there was nothing that my family would not like on either of these meal plans.  The very first meal I tried out on the family was the “New Mexican Chicken Lettuce Wraps (Filling).”  I had some chicken that I needed to use up and so instead of prepping this meal for the freezer, I used the instructions to make this meal for that night.  I actually ended up throwing all the ingredient to make the chicken filling in my instant pot because it was a night we were running out the door.  When the chicken mixture got done, it was time for us to jump in the car so I used flour tortillas and made this filling into burritos for us.  I did add lettuce to our burritos so that we still got the same flavors of the recipe.  My family really liked this meal and said they wanted it again.  That is a WIN in my book!
Meals ready to go into the freezer...we highly recommend this one.

Grilled Citrus Salmon Packets before being wrapped for the freezer
The next recipes I pulled together were from different sections of the meal plan including using the Premium Membership feature of Create Your Own Meal plan.  I knew we had an upcoming camping trip and that I wanted to prepare freezer meals for our dinners for our week of camping so I picked out Beef Stew Foil Packs, Dutch Oven Italian Chicken & Potatoes, Frito Pie Filling, and Grilled Citrus Salmon Packs.  I printed off the recipes, their instructions, the shopping lists, and the assembly directions.  Then Little Miss and I headed off to the store to pick up the ingredients I didn’t have on hand for these meals.  Many of the spices and a few of the extra ingredients (like tomato sauce) I had on hand already.  I was shopping mainly for the meat and veggies for each of these meals.  We got home and put everything in the fridge to prep our meals the next day.  The following day while the kids were working on school, I prepped 3 of the 4 meals I had picked out in about 45 minutes.  I just followed the assembly prep for each meal and it went super quick.  Later that evening I prepped the 4th meal and this one took a little longer, but only because instead of buying already cut up stew meat which was not on sale at the store that week, I bought a roast and cut it into chunks myself.  For each of the meals I made, I followed the instructions to make 2 meals because each recipe also gives you instructions to make just one meal.  I placed both prepped meals for each recipe (so 8 meals total) in my freezer when I got done.  When it was time to leave for camping I was able to pull out the meals we were taking, put them in the bottom of our cooler and use them to help keep the rest of our food cool.  Each of the meals I prepped for camping were simple to prepare over the open fire (that is how we cook when we camp) and they were each DELICIOUS!!!! We ate the Frito Pie Filling the first night over chopped up lettuce with cheese, salsa, and cheddar cheese tortilla chips.  All we had to do was warm up the meat as it was a meal that was fully cooked when it was put in the freezer.  For the Grilled Citrus Salmon we cooked the foil packets right on the grill grate.  We shared with our friends we were camping with and everyone loved these.  We served this with a bagged salad mix and dinner couldn’t be simpler especially when camping.  The Dutch Oven Italian Chicken and Potatoes was a whole meal in itself.  I planned to serve it was salad but we were so full from the delicious meal no one wanted salad.  This one my family decided was their favorite while we were camping and they asked to have it again.  We also had the Beef Stew Packets and everyone liked them too.  They were filling and my family also requested those again.  Having the freezer meals for camping made it super easy and I plan to prep my meals ahead of time for every camping trip now.
Frito Pie Filling
Beef Stew Foil Packets ready to wrap for the freezer
Cooked Beef Stew Foil Packets
The 2nd servings of the meals that are in my freezer are coming in handy this week.  I had minor outpatient surgery this week and I already have the frozen meals in the freezer ready to go for my family.  They just have to pull them out and put them in the slow cooker or my instant pot.  They don’t have to worry about what is for dinner this week and I can give them instructions from the couch.  I love that I don’t have to worry about trying to get up and get dinner while I am recovering and I don’t feel guilty that we are eating out or that I can’t help, I just helped ahead of time.  I will continue using the MyFreezEasy for our subscription period and then I am seriously considering continuing on purchasing the plan.  I have already checked out the new meals put up for October and will be cooking several of them later this month.  This meal plan has made life so much simpler for me lately and I love just being able to grab a meal out of the freezer and cook it.  I am sold!  You can find out more information about Meal Plan Membership at their websiteHere is the link to the Premium Annual Membership we received.  You can also learn more about MyFreezEasy on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.  You can also find out what meals my friends on the Homeschool Review Crew tried by clicking the banner below. Freezer Meal Plan Membership {MyFreezEasy}
*Please note this review does contain affiliate links.  This means if you decide to make a purchase I do receive a small commission.