Thursday, July 24, 2014

Book Review ~ Flourish : Balance for Homeschool Moms

Flourish Book Review
Overwhelmed  is a feeling I live with pretty much daily. I know we Moms have a tendency to put up a good front and make it look like we have it all together, but in reality we are struggling through most days. We get a lot done, but we can't help but see all that we didn't do and feel guilty.  Sound familiar?

Mary Jo Tate is a mom just like us. She homeschools her 4 sons, runs a home business, and she is also a single mother. How does she do it? How does she handle all of that by herself and not go insane? Her new book has answers to those questions, and she appropriately named it Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms, because that is exactly what she wants to show you how to do!

Her book is available for purchase for $15.00 through Apologia Educational Ministries. I'm sure you have heard of them before, they offer fantastic Creation based science and worldview curriculum that we just love using here in our home. They do not endorse just any book, so I knew this one must be a great one!

In Chapter 1 Mary Jo tells us her story of becoming a single parent and how she started her home business so she could stay home with her boys. Although I am not a single mom now, I once was, and I could relate to her struggles.

You can read the entire first chapter by clicking the Flourish Sample link on this page.  Go do it!

Flourish Book ReviewI love her open honesty in this book. She never comes across as a know-it-all or pretends she has always had things figured out. She made a decision to actively pursue her own goals for her life and shares how she did that and what worked for her.

She also states that not everything she shares in her book will work for everyone.....

"But there is no one right way to do all of these things. Take what you read here and adjust the principles to fit your own lifestyle. Test them, tweak them, and refine them. Pray to discern which are important for your family's life."

This statement gave me the freedom to read her book and not feel like I had to do everything just as she did in order to succeed. Thank you Mary Jo! I did just that, I read your wonderful ideas and I used some parts and some were not going to work for me. As a result I am beginning to feel like I have more control of my life.

 Are you a planner? I'm not for the most part. I do keep a to-do list but I have never really sat down and made goals and plans to achieve those goals. I didn't even know where to start before reading Flourish. Sometimes just starting is overwhelming in itself isn't it? Mary Jo breaks down these tasks into bite size chunks, and with the help of the planning forms she includes n the back of the book I am making progress!

I will never be one of those super organized people, and I know this. That is OK, I can use this new knowledge in a way that fits me and my family and still have any benefits!

There are chapters written especially for single mothers and home business owners. These chapters may not apply to you but read them anyway. I bet you know some single moms, and they could really use your encouragement! Maybe you have thought of starting a home business of some sort but have never taken the plunge because you feel like you are already overloaded with work. You may re-think that.

So, dear mom out there who is struggling, do yourself a favor and along with all that curriculum you are buying at this time of year get a book for YOU! If you don't take care of yourself who will?
Flourish Book Review

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Review ~ HomeSchoolPiano

Homeschool Piano Review 

Piano music is something I have always loved to listen to. We listen to lots of classical music and my kids have occasionally said they would like to play piano like that. We were recently given the chance to review HomeSchoolPiano, a program that lets you learn how to play piano at your own pace through video lessons. 

We received a lifetime subscription for up to 5 students that included the HomeSchoolPiano Complete Set of Books. A lifetime subscription includes.....
Core Piano contains 30+ lessons that teach piano essentials
Book 1 which was written for the absolute beginner
Book 2 works on rhythm, techniques, music reading, songs, and improvisation
Book 3 is for advanced players. 
Plus over 20 hours of streaming lessons. You can also download the lessons for use when offline too.
To use this program you will need.....

*A computer, tablet, kindle fire, or ipad with high speed internet access. You can also use your smartphone but we found the screen size too small for our liking.
*A printer to print the books, or you can have them printed somewhere else.
*A piano or a 49 key keyboard.

Homeschool Piano Review

I was very glad that we could use our kindle fire tablets to access our lessons. This made it very convenient for each child to log on their own kindle and stay logged in. I also didn't have to put the keyboard in the dining room where our family desktop is located. The kindle fits perfectly on the music stand.

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Setting up our account was easy and fast. Each child has their own log in information, and once they log in they simply click the "Where You Left Off" button to continue.

 The teacher is Willie Myette, and I really like the way he teaches. At the top of the screen you will see two views of the piano keys. The top one shows what keys are being played by highlighting them in red, below you have a full view of his hands on the keyboard so you can see clearly what he is doing. Down in the left hand corner is a window with Willie at his keyboard where you can see him as he speaks and demonstrates.
Homeschool Piano Review

My son tells me this really helps him to have the different views. He can get quickly overwhelmed and upset when he doesn't understand something. He also likes that he can watch the lesson over again and again if he wants to before he moves on.

We liked that the lessons are short, about ten minutes or less each, and daily practice is easier that way when you have a highly distractable child who doesn't want to sit and do lessons for too long. It is summer right now after all!

I tried using this with my younger children and they didn't have the motivation to sit and really get into the program at this time. My 11 year old son is who used it the most and because he does have interest he is working through it, although slowly. I tried out the lessons myself, and I do feel like it is more appropriate for older kids, 10 and up, unless your child really wants to learn it.

The website claims it is for all ages, but you know your child best, so go with what you know when deciding. The great thing about the lifetime subscription is that if my younger kids get interested later on we already have the program! It is so nice knowing we can go at our own pace as well and not feel rushed because our subscription will run out.

I would also like to add that I do not have any background in piano, so I am an absolute beginner just like the kids. Its been fun to do this with my son and learn the same things together. He sees me make mistakes just like he does and it encourages him to just keep practicing and its OK to mess up.

Homeschool Piano Review

There are two ways to pay for your lifetime subscription to HomeSchoolPiano.....

Success Package (One payment of $299)
Unlimited life-time access to HomeSchoolPiano along with all bonuses (downloads, jam tracks, sheet music) for up to 5 students.


Payment Plan (Payments of $99.97 per month for three months)
Unlimited life-time access to HomeSchoolPiano along with all bonuses (downloads, jam tracks, sheet music) for up to 5 students.

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

New Resource for Homeschoolers in Need of Curriculum or Wishing to Donate

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I recently ran across a new group on facebook that was created so that homeschoolers in need could get curriculum for just the cost of shipping. I joined because I had a few boxes of things I wanted to donate, and I was able to clear out those boxes in just a few days.

So if you or someone you know is going through a rough time financially and is in need of curriculum come join the group! Also if you have things to donate you are much needed there as well!

The group is called Homeschool Curriculum Free For Shipping. It has been around for about a month now and is growing very fast!

If you would like more information before you join, you can read all the details at the Homeschool Curriculum Free For Shipping Blog. Spread the word!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Random 5 on Friday ~ 7-18-14

The Pebble Pond

1. 20 years ago today my 3rd child was born. He is my second son. It always blows my mind to think of any of my 3 grown children as adults, but they are. When I was his age, I was pregnant with him. Yes that makes me 40. It still feels like not too long ago though.

2. Three of my kids are headed to 4H camp next week. Ill have just my two youngest girls at home. Whatever will we do? I'm kidding, we have all kinds of fun planned!

3. I have spent most of this week organizing. I have been reading this book, reviewing it actually, and it has inspired me to take control of my time and space back again. The book is called Flourish, and my review will be up next week so look for it!

4. It has been a month since we have been to church on a Sunday. I hope to go back this week. Between the chickenpox and mini trips we just haven't been able to go. I miss it.

5. Popcorn is the most irresistible food for me. Hows that for random? ;)

Have a blessed week!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Random 5 on Friday ~ 7-11-14

The Pebble Pond

1. I am so excited because I got to meet a friend whom I have talked with for 10 years online in person! We have had babies at the same time, homeschool, have large families, and so many other things in common. She also has a new baby and I get to hold her and smell that fresh baby smell I miss so much. It wasn't weird or awkward at all, we had a total of 12 kids here that day and there wasn't one fight, they played beautifully and the adults even got to talk. Amazing!

2. My second son is coming home to visit for at least a week. I am so glad God blessed us with this big house. I may hate the heating bills in the winter but I can have many many people here comfortably. That will come in handy someday when my 8 kids are all grown and we have a ton of grandkids. I already have 5 and only 3 of mine are grown. Actually those 5 all belong to my oldest.

3. We are going to visit my mom today and stay the weekend. The kids are staying in tents in the yard but I claimed the real bed. My back cant handle the tent camping thing anymore, although I miss doing that.

4. I still cant believe its July already. Why does summer go by so fast?

5. It finally got warm enough for me to feel it this week. Im a cold natured person so it has to be about 80 degrees or I keep cold chills. I know Im weird!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Review ~ Moving Beyond The Page ~ Poetry and The Fifty States ~ Age 9-11

Moving Beyond the Page Review

There are two things that get my kids excited about learning every time, stories and hands on projects. Moving Beyond the Page has combined these two so perfectly! Last year after we reviewed  Poppy and Life Cycles, the kids asked me to get them more. We ended up getting the entire set for the 7-9 age group.

This year we were so blessed to review a Language Arts Package: Poetry and a Social Studies Package: The Fifty States. These are just two of the units available in the age 9-11 full year package. With this age level the curriculum is written to the student, so for the most part the child is expected to work independently. We did that as much as possible, but with some things my help was still needed. That's OK with me though.

You can use Moving Beyond the Page as a full year curriculum if you choose, or purchase individual units as your kids have interest. It is very flexible to use, and you have different options for purchasing as well. Online versions and physical copies of the curriculum are available. The literature books can be purchased, or you can borrow from the library. With the full year package, all you need to add is math and you are all set for the year.

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Our Poetry unit ($61.86) included.....

The online version of the Poetry lesson plans and downloadable student sheets.

Physical literature books included.....

Love That Dog 
My America: A Poetry Atlas of the United States
R is for Rhyme: A Poetry Alphabet

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The Fifty States ($49.62) unit includes.....

The Fifty States ~ spiral bound book

Smart About the 50 States : A Class Report
Original Sculpey Clay - Terra Cotta
The Scrambled States of America Card Game

These two units can be used independently, but were designed to be used together and the activities compliment each other very well. For instance, while we were learning about the different states and regions of the United States (social studies and science), we were also reading poetry from those places at the same time (literature) and we could see how the authors were inspired by what they saw, things they felt, and experiences they had while in that particular area of the country.

While learning about the Southwest the kids followed links online to learn about clay pottery and adobe homes. We used the Sculpey terra cotta clay included in the package to make our own clay pots, home and other creations. This hands on exploration really gets kids excited about learning and trying new things. They also went on Minecraft and built adobe homes there, complete with a desert scene and animals you would find there. THIS is the kind of learning I LOVE to see in our home!

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In the Poetry unit we learned what poetry is, Parts of Speech and Rhymes in Poetry, Geography in Poetry, Haiku and Onomatopoeia, Figurative Language and Voice, Art and Poetry, Robert Frost, Writing About  What You Know, and Inspiration. There are lessons included for spelling, student activity pages to print, and reading and questions pages included.

Originally my 11 year old son was the one excited for this unit, and my 9 year old daughter claimed she had no interest at all in poems. By the end of the first week she was joining in and she surprised me one day by writing a poem herself! She said she felt inspired to write it after going outside and seeing beautiful things that not everyone in the world can see where they live. I was beaming with pride of course!

The final project for Poetry was to have a coffee house type of poetry reading, and make food and drinks and invite people over to hear either poems you like or ones you write yourself. This was what got my daughter really excited, she loves to cook and share with her friends. Our "reading" was very informal and didn't last very long before they had eaten all the food and were off to play outside, but the kids got a taste of culture they hadn't experienced before.

My kids all love maps, so the map work in The Fifty States unit was as fun as it was educational. "It didn't even feel like learning, it was just fun" is what they told me.Other lessons included learning state capitals, the Northeast, the Southwest, the Midwest, the Southwest, the West, Alaska and Hawaii, Relationships Among the States, People and the Environment, Analyzing State Data, and the final project is planning a region road trip.

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 The first time we played The Scrambled States of America card game they didn't know many of the facts included on each state card, the Capitol and nickname or where every state was located on the map. After playing a few times though the competition really got rough as they wanted to learn more in order to win. This is a game I like playing with them too! At first I was easy on then and let them win but now they can beat me even when I try to win.

As you can tell we all LOVE Moving Beyond the Page around here! I have to say that I really do prefer having the physical version of the curriculum versus the online. There are many benefits to the online version, such as being able to print as many pages as you want. However the curriculum itself is not printable, so you have to use it online. Once you activate a unit is it only available to use for 3 months. You can re-activate it later for use with a younger sibling for half price. With the physical book you will need a curriculum book for each child as their copyright does not allow you to make copies. But I like having that book in hand to use in our portfolios at the end of the year. The kids like showing off their work too. We do not always work on school while at home where we have internet access. But cost wise you cant beat the online version!

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Review and Giveaway ~ Ragamuffin ~ Life of Rich Mullins

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Do you know who Rich Mullins was? Are you familiar with his music? I did not recognize his name when I first heard of this film, but I am very familiar with his songs. Especially this one.....

Our God is an awesome God,
 He reigns from Heaven above,
 with wisdom, power, and love,
 our God is an awesome God!

Yeah, you know that one right? I bet you know more of them too. That song was on his 3rd album and made him famous, but that isn't what Rich ever intended to do. Rich simply wanted to share the truth about God's love, but inside he struggled to believe that God loved him.

This was a powerfully moving film to watch. So much so that I just had to watch it again. If you believe that the "church" is filled with hypocrites who try to look holy but aren't showing the love that Christ came to show us, this film will inspire you to action.

Rich could have had an incredible music career, could have been a millionaire, but if he was he never knew it. He asked his accountant to only give him what the average American lives on, the rest was given to where it was needed. He gave up stardom to serve God on a Navaho reservation where the children captured his heart.

This film is rated Faith Based with caution, because Rich struggled with drinking and depression. He was real about it, about how he struggled even though others tend to see people like musicians and actors as "having the ideal life". He blew that notion right out of the water and used his weakness to help others.

He considered himself a "Ragamuffin" after hearing an elderly preacher talk about what a ragamuffin is. This man helped Rich finally see that he was indeed loved by God, that we ALL are, just as we are.

I let my whole family watch this with me, even my younger kids. There is no foul language but there were scenes with Rich drinking alcohol, and being drunk. I felt like this was ok because we all know people in real life who struggle with something, be it alcohol, drugs, smoking, etc. I want them to know it is OK to show love to these people, because God loves them just as much as anyone else. We had some quite interesting discussions following this film.

If you know someone who needs to see this movie to be lifted up and inspired, maybe even yourself, I encourage you to buy it and share it with them!

You can purchase it online at or download it through itunes or Amazon.

I also get to give away a copy to one of my readers! Watch the trailer below then enter to win on the rafflecopter form below. If you are reading this in email click over to my blog to enter the giveaway.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”