Bringing Children to Jesus (review)

Halloween can be a truly divisive “holiday” among people of faith. Some think it’s no big deal and that it’s just about the candy and having fun in costumes. Some think it’s a satanic day to be avoided at all costs. We tend to fall into the former category, but I am definitely sensitive to people in the latter one. And just because we aren’t averse to participating in Halloween doesn’t mean that we want our children to focus on the pagan aspects of the holiday. Nor do we wish to imply that something like a holiday is more important than our Lord. This is where the Is There Anything Better Than Candy? Box-Tract from Let the Little Children Come can be a great tool.

Let the Little Children Come box tract

What is it?

better than candyThese little boxes come packaged flat, and all you have to do is punch them out and lift the flaps up and over the “stem” to create the pumpkin-shaped box. When in its flat state, the box looks a lot like a flower, and on each petal is a step toward explaining the Gospel to children. Each one is clearly numbered so you can go over the concepts in the “correct” order (although when talking about the Gospel, I think getting the information out is more important than doing it in a specific order). Step one answers the question, “Is there anything better than candy?” The answer, of course, is Yes! A relationship with our creator and savior is much better than treats. Petal two explains in a very simple way that God loves us and wants us to join him in Heaven. Number three tells why that’s just not possible through a very basic explanation of sin. The fourth bit of information covers the official Gospel – how Jesus came to Earth, lived a perfect life, died, and was resurrected so that we could be forgiven. The fifth petal tells of the ABCs of salvation (Accept, Believe, Commit). The sixth and final petal gives a short “sinner’s prayer” to help guide the grownup as they lead the child to Christ.

better than candy product imageWhen the box is all folded up, it’s quite small. (In the image above, my 5-year-old son is holding it, just to give you an idea of the actual size of the box.) You could fit only very tiny items in there, but there is room for small things. I think a Halloween sized piece of candy would be about the perfect fit, although based on the name and content of the tract, that’s probably not the best idea for filling it. Flexible things would also be really good. I’m thinking specifically a small beaded bracelet – the kind that children often make at church events in which they’re instructed to put colored beads onto a bracelet base in a specific order to help them remember the Gospel (gold for God’s perfect creation, black for our sin, red for blood and death, white for Jesus’s ability to wash away our sin, blue for baptism, and green for growth). Another thing along the same lines that might fit in there is one of those tiny “Wordless books,” which cover the same colors and concepts as the bracelet I just mentioned.

How We Used It

Small Fry is just the right age for something like this. We go to church, but because we’re the only native English speakers with children in our church, his Sunday School and Children’s Church classes are taught primarily in Spanish, so he doesn’t always get much out of them. So he and I built the box together and I went over the information on the petals with him. It was really rewarding to watch him move from “No, there’s nothing better than candy!” to understanding that “Oh, yeah, God is definitely much better than candy.” What a blessing to see your own child make that connection.

These Gospel Tract boxes come in a package of 20 for $15.95. There are bulk discounts if  you buy 11 or more sets. Because I received a whole set for review, but only used one of them in my family, I gave the rest to my mother-in-law, who runs the children’s department in our church. She is really excited about handing these out to children during the annual fall festival this year.

Blessings,

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Is There Anything Better Than Candy? {Let The Little Children Come Reviews}
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2017 Oregon State Fair (part 1)

We took the boys to the State Fair for the second year in a row, and it was really a lot of fun. This year, we did the real “fair” things and skipped the carnival rides. Today, I want to talk about Small Fry and one of his very favorite activities and how it related to the fair.

So, my 5-year-old just loves watching How to Cook That on YouTube. It’s a channel run by an Australian woman named Ann Reardon, and she makes all sorts of amazing cakes and other sweet treats. Small Fry especially enjoys watching the cake decorating tutorials. Until recently, his favorite was the Play-Doh bucket cake. In fact, I was going to make him that one for his birthday this year, but then we had to move and ended up not doing a party. How does an Australian woman’s YouTube channel relate to the Oregon State Fair? Well, front and center in the artists room was a whole series of elaborately decorated cakes! As you can imagine, this was really fun for us to see. We looked at all of them and each chose our favorite.

My favorite was this hot air balloon cake.

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Munchkin’s favorite was this turtle cake.

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And Small Fry, being the cake decorating “connoisseur” that he is, had a difficult time choosing. But in the end, he picked this Totem pole cake that was as tall as Will.

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His runners-up were the Princess Castle cake

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and the pirate cake.

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More on the State Fair early next week 🙂

Blessings,

ladybug-signature-3 copy

A Journey Through Learning (review)

I love creating lap books with my children. I think they’re such a neat way to showcase the things a child has learned,  but they can sometimes be cumbersome to try to figure out how to fill if you’re working from scratch. This is where companies like A Journey Through Learning Lapbooks come in. For this review, Munchkin and I worked on their lapbook entitled The Greatest Inventors.

I received a downloadable PDF from which I was able to print all the elements to create the lapbook (except the file folders, but I got a pack of 25 for under $4 at Walmart). Included in the PDF were not only a large variety of creative mini books as well as information on all the different inventors covered. These include:

  • Johannes Guttenberg
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • John Deere
  • The Wright Brothers
  • Louis Braille
  • Leonardo da Vinci
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Galileo Galilei
  • George Stephenson
  • Thomas Edison
  • Dr. Jonas Salk
  • George Washington Carver
  • Henry Ford
  • Alexander Graham Bell
  • Robert Fulton
  • Guglielmo Marconi and George Eastman
  • Eli Whitman

inventors coverIn addition to studying all of these great inventors, there are mini books for students to explore what an invention is, their favorite invention and inventor of the study, and to create their own invention.

Once the pages were printed, doing the actual study was quite simple. I would have Munchkin read the information page on the inventor and then work through the instructions on the mini book for that inventor. It was usually just answering a couple of questions about the inventor and folding or cutting/gluing the elements together and then pasting them into the file folder.

To keep this study light, easy, and fun for summertime, I had Munchkin work on about 2 inventors per week. At this pace, he’ll finish up in about two more weeks from now. If we’d been working during the school year, I imagine the pace would have been comparable, but we would have been a lot more intense in our studies; I would have had him learn more about each inventor than just what was included in the information page in the lapbook study itself.

It’s been a long time since we’ve done a lapbook in our homeschool, and doing this review has reminded me just how much I love them. I didn’t learn about lapbooks until the older kids were in upper elementary school, and they (especially Seahawk, who’s going into 8th grade now) already seemed like they were “too old” at that time. Due to this review, Munchkin now realizes that lapbooks are not only a great way to record your learning, but also a lot of fun to build. I specifically asked him if he liked this one, and I was pleasantly surprised when he said that he did. My last memory of lapbooking with either of the older kids was that they didn’t really enjoy it, which is why we haven’t done it. I’m thrilled that he’s become open minded to the prospect of them again.

IMG_0577[1]I also have the blessing of a second “set” of children with whom I can introduce to lapbooking at a young enough age that they’ll appreciate it. Even though this particular lapbook is geared toward grades 2-8, I’m thinking I might do it this school year with Small Fry (Kindergarten) in a more simplified manner. By having me read to him and then having him dictate the answers to fill in the mini books – or even have him answer them in pictures instead of words – I think this could totally work for him. 

Overall, even though I was unsure about requesting this review when the opportunity first arose, I’m really glad we got this opportunity. It reminded me just how much I enjoy lapbooks and that I want to start bringing them back to our homeschool.

A Journey Through Learning Lapbooks has tons of lapbooks to choose from. They even have several to go along with outside curriculum, including Apologia and Answers in Genesis. You can choose individual lapbooks for around $8 or bundles, which include between 4 and 7 lapbooks (I didn’t look at all of them, but I looked at a wide variety of the bundles and that’s the range I saw). These bundles range in price from $30 to $45 depending on how many they include. If you want several lapbooks on a single (but wide, such as “natural disasters”) topic, the bundle is definitely the way to go.

Members of the Homeschool Review Crew are reviewing a variety of lapbooks from A Journey Through Learning this week. Click the banner below for more information.

Blessings,

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Lapbooks for Classical Conversations, Apologia, Inventors & 20th Century {A Journey Through Learning Lapbooks Reviews}
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Everyday Cooking (review)


everyday cooking review

I’m always looking for new recipes, especially given our current living situation where there are tons of restrictions. So when the Homeschool Review Crew was given the opportunity to request Everyday Cooking from Everyday Homemaking, I said, “Yes, please!” I received a digital copy of the cookbook, which I printed out, hole punched, and placed in a binder for easy use.

Before I dive too much into the recipes, I want to talk about the introductory portion of the book. The author, Vicki Bentley, goes into a lot of effort to explain how to make everyday cooking as easy and time-budget-friendly as possible. For example, when coming back from the grocery store, make up a huge batch of meatloaf. Turn one portion of it into dinner that night by popping it into a loaf pan in the oven. Turn part of it into “Salisbury steaks” by making patties and placing them between pieces of wax paper in the freezer for another busy night. And use the last portion for a “ready to go” meatloaf, where all you have to do is put it in the oven and make your side dish(es).

Another idea she offers is to run a large pot of water full of vegetables and chicken pieces. Cook it all up, and when the chicken is done, debone and shred it, then package it up into meal-size portions (how much this is will vary from family to family). The cooking water goes in the fridge to let the fat harden, and then you can scrape that off and you’re left with homemade chicken broth. There are also loads of tips for making your meat (and therefore you grocery budget) stretch further.

After this section, there are a few pages of breakfast ideas. These are things that are easy to pull together without being full-blown recipes, including some that can be made the night before or put in the crockpot before bed so you have a delicious, healthy breakfast waiting when you wake up.

Then she dives into the “official” recipes. They are split up into several categories (you could call them chapters):

  • Appetizers, Dressings, and Drinks
  • Breads and Grains
  • Main Dishes, Soups, and Sides
  • Desserts and Snacks
  • Low Carb/Gluten Free Pantry Helpers

Then at the end, she wraps the cookbook up with several sections of general kitchen guidelines:

  • Basic measurements and helps
  • Meal planning and shopping hints
  • Basic cooking skills
  • For Students: food and nutrition mini unit
  • Basic kitchen accessories
  • Kitchen equipment
  • Slow cookers vs. Pressure cookers
  • Pressure cooker tips and favorites (including recipes)
  • Index
Porcupine Meatballs recipes from Everyday Cooking

Porcupine Meatballs recipes from Everyday Cooking

Once I got my cookbook printed and bound, I started going through it to get ideas for dinners for the next few weeks. The first one I made was Porcupine Meatballs. This is a recipe that my husband grew up with, so I thought it would be interesting to try out a new version of it. Even though Vicki’s recipe was less sweet (it’s made with tomato sauce instead of tomato soup), it was a huge hit with my family – including my very picky step-mother-in-law and my father-in-law who has severe dietary restrictions (he’s recovering from cancer and chemo). We liked these meatballs so much that I’ve already made them twice. The second time, I was working on the fly and didn’t have the exact right ingredients (I had to puree up some canned tomatoes because I was out of sauce, for example), but it didn’t matter. They were still delicious.

Beef Pot Pie using the leftover "Mom's Roast."

Beef Pot Pie using the leftover “Mom’s Roast.”

A day or two after the success of the meatballs, I pulled out the two roasts I’d bought from the freezer (yes, two – I’m feeding eight people!). I popped them into the slow cooker with the ingredients for the Mom’s Roast recipe, and later that evening, I just had to heat up some frozen vegetables and we had a delicious, nutritious dinner ready to go. There was even enough leftovers from the meat (another reason I’d bought two roasts – I wanted leftovers) to make a beef pot pie for dinner later in the week.

Chicken Broccoli Braid

Chicken Broccoli Braid

The last recipe we’ve tried (so far) was the Chicken Broccoli Braid. Following the recipe, I made what turned out to be a chicken salad type stuff, then placed it inside a crescent roll crust and baked it all up together. This was definitely the most beautiful of all the recipes I tried. Beauty aside, though, we didn’t like it as well as the others. I’d tasted the filling before cooking it in the crust, and it was delicious. But once it was cooked in the shell and heated through, it was less impressive tasting. That said, I would definitely make the filling again and use it as a sandwich filler. That would be amazing!

Most of the recipes in this book don’t work for our current situation, unfortunately. My father-in-law can’t eat poultry; that eliminates all of the chicken recipes for dinners. (We had the Chicken Broccoli Braid one of the days when my in-laws were on vacation and it was just my nucleus family.) Beef is crazy expensive, so we don’t use it too often. And Everyday Cooking only has 3 pork recipes (our meat of choice for feeding 8 people on a budget). But… the recipes that I have tried have been slam dunks. I’m sure the rest of them (at least a large majority of them) will be, too. I can’t wait to find out!

Through September 5, use coupon code TOS10books to get 10% off Everyday Cooking or The Everyday Family Chore System. There are no limits with the code, so it’s a great time to stock up for holiday gifts.

Blessings,

ladybug-signature-3 copy

 

 

Members of the Homeschool Review Crew are reviewing two books from Everyday Homemaking this week: Everyday Cooking and The Everyday Family Chore System. Click the banner below for links to reviews of both books.

Everyday Cooking and Chores Systems for your Family {Everyday Homemaking Reviews}
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Eclipse 2017

We are fortunate to live in an area where there was 100% coverage during the solar eclipse yesterday, and we took advantage of that! (We’re right on the very edge of the totality zone; even just 18 miles NW of us, in the town we used to live in, was outside of it. They had over 99% coverage, but not quite the full 100 we got to experience.) Will took the morning off from work (one of the benefits of being self-employed), and all six of us headed outside for some eclipse fun and learning. We had just one pair of protective glasses to share, but it was totally fine. We took turns, and no one felt like they didn’t have enough opportunities to see the sun. It was fascinating to see the sky go dark as the moon got in the way of the sun, and to feel the temperature drop. Being in an area of totality, I loved looking at the eclipse during that one minute of full coverage. It truly felt like the experience of a lifetime!

To help us get a gauge on what was happening, we used a makeshift pinhole camera in the form of a colander we took outside. By aiming it just right, we were able to see the crescent-shaped shadows on the paper we laid out. The paper allowed us better visibility than the sidewalk did. It was also really neat to watch the shadows from the trees go from regular to crescent and back again.

My only regret was being unable to get a photograph of the eclipse itself, at any moment. Even when I put the eclipse glasses over my camera lens, all I could get was a bright circle of sun – never any blockage from the moon. Despite that, I have the memory of seeing it in real life, and that’s pretty awesome.

Here are a few pictures from our time outside.

Seahawk aiming the colander at the paper.

 

 

 

The crescent shaped shadows due to the eclipse.

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Seeing a full solar eclipse was an absolutely amazing experience, and I’m really glad we got to have it.

Blessings,

ladybug-signature-3 copy

Visiting the Phonics Museum (Veritas Press review)

When my oldest son was small, I made a mistake in teaching him to read. I used a book which said to tell the child that “reading is hard, but it’s very important.” As soon as he heard that it was going to be difficult to learn to read, he essentially gave up in that moment. (Now, at age 13, he’s a competent reader, but he doesn’t enjoy it and definitely doesn’t do it unless he has to.) Seeing that happen made me vow to never use those words with another child again. And I haven’t. My second child (now almost 11) practically taught himself to read and was reading novels by age 6. My third child, Small Fry (5 years old), is at that magical age now where he’s excited to learn to read. We’ve been working on it here and there for several months now, and with the help of a new iPad app from Veritas Press, he’s having fun in the process.

Phonics Museum review

The Phonics Museum App is a fun, homeschool phonics app for kids in preschool or kindergarten. It teaches letter names and sounds, how to write them, listening for the sounds, and more… all in the super fun setting of an art museum. The teacher in the Phonics Museum is Miss Biddle, and she’s a delight. The actress playing her is full of energy, and you can’t help but enjoy watching her.

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phonics museumEach letter is represented by a famous work of art (the “museum” part of the Phonics Museum), and children move through the museum just like they would a real museum: on the elevator and through hallways. The elevator takes children to different “floors,” and each floor focuses on a single set of letters. Floor 1 teaches the letters A, M, and B. When your character gets off the elevator, you find yourself in a hallway with paintings of apples on the wall. By tapping on the first painting (they’re all the same for a particular letter, but the lessons that you don’t qualify for are grayed out until you complete all the previous ones). Tapping on the painting pulls your character into the painting where a set of easels sit. Each easel represents a short piece of the lesson. There are between 9 and 13 easels per lesson (that I’ve noticed – those numbers might be a little off). The easels alternate between videos of Miss Biddle and activities for the child to do, making this a multi-sensory learning experience.

phonics museum collageIn the early lessons, there are three types of easels in the Phonics Museum: videos, songs, and games. Later on, a fourth is added: books. (Small Fry is on the fourth floor of the museum so far, and just added his first book. I’m not sure if more types of easels are added past this point or not). The videos are Miss Biddle explaining about the letter, interacting with other characters, etc. The songs are variations of the alphabet song (so far, we’ve come across three different versions). The games are the most fun. They include drawing the letter, listening for the sound at the beginning of words and tapping the painting if you hear it, locating the letter in a group of other letters, matching up a picture with the correct word, and more.

After we got through the initial “how does this work?” period, Small Fry was able to do a lot of these lessons on his own. I would sit with him here and there to make sure he wasn’t skipping over stuff that was “hard.” Imagine my surprise when I worked with him during one of these times and he was able to quickly and easily match up the picture of a father and child with the word “dad,” a flying mammal with the word “bat,” and a diagram of roads with the word “map.” I was so excited for and proud of him!

veritas pressWhen the opportunity to review this app first came up, I had a hope for it: that it would become something he requested more than his other favorite iPad activities of nonsense games and movies. This was borne out beyond my expectations. He absolutely loves it, and asks to “play Phonics Museum” several times a day. He will happily do several lessons at once – I have to make sure he doesn’t move too fast and miss out on full comprehension. But so far, that’s not been an issue. I’m so glad we got the opportunity to review this app, and highly recommend it for students who are ready and excited to learn to read.

Just for fun, here’s a video of Small Fry singing along with the ABC song on Phonics Museum.

 

The Phonics Museum is available in the iTunes store for $9.99 per month or $99 annually.

Other members of the Homeschool Review Crew are reviewing Phonics Museum this week too; click the banner below for more information.

Blessings,

ladybug-signature-3 copy

Phonics Museum App {Veritas Press Reviews}
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Back to Homeschool 2017

The Homeschool Review Crew spent last week doing a blog hop all about getting back to school. I really should have participated, but I wasn’t at a place to be ready for “back to school” yet, so I sat out. But I want anyone who reads here to have the opportunity to read those posts, so I’m going to link back to them from here. I hope some (or all) of them are a blessing to you!

b2s hsrc

Curriculum Choices for 2017-18

School Supplies

Planning and Record Keeping

Learning Outside the Home

Dear Homeschool Mom

Blessings,

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Simply Algebra (Math Essentials review)

Math Essentials review

I recently reviewed a Pre-Algebra program with Seahawk, and he’s done really well with it. When the opportunity to review No-Nonsense Algebra from Math Essentials presented itself, I thought the early chapters would make a good supplement to his current pre-algebra course, and then when he finished that, we’d have the Algebra 1 program set aside ready to dive into.

No-Nonsense Algebra is a softcover math textbook, and as its title suggests, it is just Algebra. There are absolutely no frills, lessons are short and self-contained, and there are loads of examples and practice problems. And to make a good textbook even better, author Richard W. Fisher has created video instruction to go with every single lesson in the book. The access passcode is printed right in the book (on the first title page), so you don’t have to ever worry about losing it.

No-Nonsense Algebra covers all the topics you’d expect in an Algebra 1 course:

  • Necessary Tools for Algebra
  • Solving Equations
  • Graphing and Analyzing Linear Equations
  • Solving and Graphing Inequalities
  • Systems of Linear Equations and Inequalities
  • Polynomials
  • Rational Expressions (Algebraic Fractions)
  • Radical Expressions and Geometry
  • Quadratic Equations
  • Algebra Word Problems
The very first lesson. Note that there's nothing on the page except the actual information needed and practice problems. That's what I mean by "no frills." Click to enlarge.

The very first lesson. Note that there’s nothing on the page except the actual information needed and practice problems. That’s what I mean by “no frills.” Click to enlarge.

As I mentioned before, Seahawk was the main beneficiary of this math book. He wasn’t thrilled with this (he really likes his online math program), but after the very first lesson he was a convert. He was having trouble wrapping his mind around adding and subtracting negative numbers, and Mr. Fisher’s video lesson explained it much more clearly than anything we’d come across previously. After that one video lesson, Seahawk was able to do all of the practice problems (15 of them) in record time. From then on, doing this book in conjunction with his regular math lesson has been just fine – which is a real testament to the effectiveness of this program, considering it’s summertime and my energetic 13-year-old would rather be spending time outside with his friends.

In addition to doing this with Seahawk, I decided to have Munchkin (almost 11, going into 6th grade) sit in on the first lesson, just to see how he did with it. While I won’t say that was a complete failure, it was definitely clear after just a few minutes that it was way beyond him. He got very frustrated, so I quickly let him off the hook and continued on with just Seahawk. However… we’ve had such great success with the older son that I’m seriously considering getting the Math Essentials Middle School book for him to use this school year.

One of my favorite things about this text is that it provides constant review for the student. I think this is absolutely vital in helping them to remember what they’ve learned. Without frequent review of the material, it’s too easy to “learn the test,” and that’s not what we want for our students. We want them to actually know what they’re learning so they have the skills they need to succeed long-term. And while not every algebraic concept is useful in the “real world” (I don’t even remember the last time I needed the quadratic equation was – probably when I was taking high school math classes!), many of them are. For this reason, I’m so glad to have the opportunity to use such a solid math book with my boys. And because this is a textbook as opposed to a workbook, I’ll have it on hand for all of them. I’m really glad about that!

There are 60 reviews on No-Nonsense Algebra from members of the Homeschool Review Crew this week. Make sure to click the banner below to find links to the rest of them.

Blessings,

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No-Nonsense Algebra {Math Essentials Reviews}
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Ladybug Sighting: August 8

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We recently learned that there is such a thing as “print your own temporary tattoos.” How fun is that?! So Will bought a sheet of the tattoo paper from JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts (it was about $10 for a single sheet) and printed some tattoos up for us. He used about half the page for Casey and Kyle tattoos (his comic), and the other half he put my ladybug logo on. These tattoos are good quality; they last much longer than any mainstream varieties our kids have had before. 

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Blessings,

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