Friday, November 29, 2013

Together Again!

Well, if you know me, you just had to know that I could not go through this week without posting pictures of our family time!  You see, our college girl has been home for the week and we took the week off school here to just spend time together.  Family time!

Could there be anything better than being together again?

The house is full of noise and laughter!

The house is full of music!!

The house is full of sisters!

The house is full of game time!

The house is full of  snuggling! (yes, she let them get in bed with her!)

The house is full of baking!

The house is full of sewing! (this is a long story- They will have to explain it sometime!)

The house is full of creating blogs! (watch out friends!)

My heart is full!

We are together again!


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Pros and Cons of Homeschooling

A friend of mine and I were discussing the pros and cons of homeschooling, and it got me thinking.  I have answered many people on the WHYS of homeschooling, but never really thought about the pros and cons.

 What DO we get out of it?  What do we lose because of doing it?
Here's what I came up with from the top of my head -

I get to be with these kids every day, all day!  I cannot imagine it any other way.

I get to teach them God's word when I want and how I want.  No need to worry about stepping on toes here!

They get a teacher that LOVES them no matter what.

I know exactly what they are learning and how they are learning. I can alter things to fit their individual needs.

They rock state tests every year without me teaching to the tests!

When dad is home, they are home!  Flexibility is the name of the game when you live a military life.  We school in the middle of snowstorms, moves, and sicknesses. (OK, my kids might put that in the con category!)

When the school day is done, school is done.  No agonizing hours of homework into wee hours of the night.

If we are having a bad day we can decide to stop and cuddle instead.  Some days are just like that, right?

We create a lot of memories together.  Yes, I know you can do that while not homeschooling, but I know that some of our favorite family memories are centered around our school day - read alouds under blankets watching the snow fall, laughter at experiments gone bad, trips we never would have gone on if the kids had been in school, and even schooling in the RV for weeks in the middles of a move and across countless states!

Socialization!  Just kidding, mostly!  My well versed kids do seem to think that they are adults sometimes and therefore invited into my adult conversations.  hmmm, most of the time they are.

Lunch dates out with friends.  Well, that really only lasted a short season.  I took them with me when they were little since they knew how to behave well in restaurants, when they were elementary age I stayed home more often, and now that there is one of babysitting age, I leave them home!  Works for me!

OK, I admit, sometimes the house is not as clean as I would like it to be...we are busy doing science experiments and art sometimes!

Ummm, yep, that is about all I've got for cons!  And I know, they are all silly.  Want to know why?  Because, truly, our family has found no cons in homeschooling.  While it may not be right for everyone, it is clear to us that this is what God has called OUR FAMILY to do.  Every year we prayerfully consider our options and then we keep on going, resting in His provision and guidance.

As I tell anyone who will listen, not everyday of homeschooling is fun, but everyday is a blessing!

What about you? Why do YOU homeschool?


Simply Put: A Study in Economics- Review and Giveaway!

Does just the mention of the word Economics put the fear of God into your hearts?  It does for me!  Seriously, friends!  I do NOT remember talking about economics in high school.  If we did, my apologies to my teachers, I obviously was too busy making googly eyes with my, then boyfriend, now husband.  But I do remember Economics in college and it still makes me want to cry.  I loathed every minute of it.  I was confused every minute of it.  And it was the only proudly earned "C" I made in college!

That is why I have therefore avoided teaching it to my kids.  I do after all get to make those kind of choices as a homeschool mom.  But, yes, I admit, a little self-centered on my part.  Plus, as far as I have seen there are just not many Economics programs out there for homeschooling families that don't bore them to tears or lose them with fancy terms and diagrams. Which is exactly why Catherine Jamie wrote Simply Put: A Study in Economics- she wanted people with children ages 12 and up to have an alternative to what was currently on the market.  And exactly why I am excited to be on the launch team for this new curriculum.  I needed an alternative!

Simply Put is a 136 page paperback book that is divided into 36 chapters.  By reading two chapters a week, one can finish this course in a semester, which is what many high schools require for graduation.  By taking one chapter at a time and adding a few resources that Catherine recommends, you can possibly make this a full year credit if you so desire.  For grading purposes there is a mid term and final test included.  I received a pdf Teacher's Key that has the answers to these tests as well as two additional activities to use with larger groups.  While the first activity is about the National Budget and can be done by an individual, the second is a Fair Trade in Action game and is recommended for a large group.  The cards used to play are included for you to print out.  Looks like fun, but since we do not currently do school with a large group, we have not attempted to play it.

Also included in the actual book are review questions for each chapter, a glossary for unfamiliar words and several appendices with additional information.  One of the things I found interesting about this particular book is that the chapters are short.  As in one- 4 pages each.  That alone made me relax!  The second thing I noticed right away was the lack of a million charts.  That is what I remember about my college class.  Charts and drawings.  And none of them could I explain to you.  Catherine does have some charts here and there, but she relies more heavily on careful explanation and lots of real life examples, which I highly appreciated.  Her information seems at first glance to be slightly on the simplified level, but she does indeed advertise this as a introductory level class.  Because of that, I like how it is written and that it simply introduces various economic concepts such as supply and demand, price gouging and government intervention.  For many high school students, this just the amount of information they need.  If those topics indeed spark an interest in your student to know more, they will have a good foundation level to further their studies.  Bear in mind, Catherine is a conservative and it shows in her writing.  While that did not bother me in the least, it was quite refreshing at times, if that is not your particular stance, you may be bothered by some ideas that she shares.

I like this book.  While it is not terribly in depth, I think it is a good solid introduction to the basics of Economics and I will be using it next semester with my 10th grader.

About the author - Catherine is a homeschooling mom of 12, ten whom have already graduated.  She graduated from MIT and has spent much of her time traveling and schooling her kids, as well as teaching economics and history classes to other homeschoolers.  She is the author of several books, a speaker, and runs her own homeschool resource center, Creative Leaning Connection.  You can also find Catherine on facebook!

Simply Put: A Study in Economics can be purchased on sale for $6.99 from CurrClick and will include the files for both books or from Creative Learning Connection for $25.00 for the physical set of student book and teacher's key.

I have been authorized to give away one set of ebooks- the student book as well as the teacher's key to one of our readers.  Just leave me a comment and tell me what subject scares you the most to teach and you will be entered to win!  Drawing will be next Friday, Dec. 6th.  

Our launch team is also hosting a mega giveaway with some great prizes!  You can visit Bow of Bronze for your chance to win!


Monday, November 25, 2013

Join us for- Oh Snap! Learning My DSLR Camera

After years of using a basic point and shoot camera and taking pretty lousy pictures I began to dream about better cameras.  Then my daughter got one for graduation and became a photography minor and I began to covet hers!  Then she told me that my blog looked pretty good ...except my pitiful pictures (maybe not her exact words) and I decided it was time to get serious.  So I did...I bought a camera! Well, really, my hero husband bought me a camera.  And I bought a cute little camera bag for it.  And that was as far as I got.

I do not understand one button on it.  Half of the time I forget to turn it off, much to my daughters' disgust.  I am intimidated by it.  And quite frankly, my pictures still are not that impressive.  So when my blogging friend Ellen over at Grace Tells Another Story mentioned doing a series on learning to use your DSLR camera, I decided now was the time to stop stalling and get busy learning.  So I am joining her in this series.  Not only that, but I, well, probably my daughter, am writing two of the posts.  Be looking for us on Dec. 2nd and 3rd!  I might actually have learned something by then.  And don't worry, while we are all learning together, there are LOTS of bloggers writing who are pros with their cameras and have LOTS to teach us!

A few details from Ellen-

So I wonder if the theory that announcing a resolution will make you more likely to keep it is true?

I don’t know for sure…but I do know that IF you are a blogger, and you tell the world you are going to do a 30 day series on learning how to do something you don’t already know how to do, that one of two things is true.

You’ve either lost your mind. Completely.

OR you had a really great idea, you got a lot of other people involved, and you’re going to have a ton of fun!!

I don’t know about you, but I’m putting my money on the fun thingy….

‘Cause I’m super excited about learning how to use my DSLR camera alongside a few of my other bloggy friends AND throwing a couple of our resident photog experts in the mix!

So…let’s start with letting you know what this is NOT:

It’s not in any particular order….

It’s not a complete 30 day guide to “everything you ever needed to know about your DSLR camera but were afraid to ask…”

It’s not a series with beautifully edited photos….’mainly because most of us don’t know how to do that, AND we’re gonna learn that in another series in 2014…’cause I’m a little crazy like that! Smile

BUT this series IS an opportunity for everyone to learn a few things along the way, share them with you, and have some fun! During the posts that I am personally responsible for, I will also be sharing with you a lot of the resources I have found online, and inviting you to follow our “Oh, Snap!” board on Pinterest!

We are all looking forward to sharing our learning process with you! And if you’re a bloggy reader that loves to snap pics, you’ll see a linky that will allow you to join us if you’ve got a post to share!

We will begin tomorrow with a little bit about the basics, and some recommendations on where to find the best resources for beginners like us! See ya then!

So, yep that is about it!  Excited to get started and hope you will join us!  You will find the Oh Snap! landing page a handy link to have!


$250.00 Timberdoodle Giveaway!


Have you heard of it?  It has long been one of my favorite catalogs for not only curriculum but just fun kids things.  As a matter of fact, just this year I told someone that their newest catalog should get the award for the BEST catalog out there for organization.  Not only do they have each curriculum kit separate and listed in a neat chart showing what comes in each package level (you all know I am an organization freak), but this year they have the kits components,  I mean every. single. piece included in a package, pictured with some cute kid!  VISUAL!  I love VISUAL!  It is great to read about all you will get with each package, but to see it?  Now,  that is my kind of catalog.  All I need to do is get them to put my kids in that catalog and it would be perfect!  haha  After almost 16 years of homeschooling, if I were to start over tomorrow, I would buy the graded kits from Timberdoodle.  Seriously!  I love that they have tried to pick what they deem the best in each subject and put it together for ease of ordering. I don't know about you but I have ordered stuff from 101 separate catalogs and it IS. NOT. FUN. AT ALL!

And the other great thing about the catalog- the rest of the catalog, of course!  You will find games for all ages, toys that are sure to be a hit in any home, children's books, puzzles, computer programs, and even books for the moms out there- homeschoolers or not!

Sold on Timberdoodle Company yet?

 As your holiday celebrations begin in earnest, how would you like to win $250 in gift certificates from Timberdoodle Co.? Our very own Bow of Bronze Launch Team has teamed up to bring you this very special giveaway to help celebrate the launch of Homeschool Encouragement. Timberdoodle Co. has long been a standing favorite in the Homeschool community, and with good reason! You can surely finish your Christmas shopping through Timberdoodle with this prize money, or you could use it for much needed Homeschool curriculum.

Homeschool Encouragement Giveaway

This giveaway has not been sponsored by the Timberdoodle Co in any way - rather this lovely team of bloggers has come together and each contributed towards the prize. We are so pleased to have the support of our amazing readers, and this is one way we can bless you in return.

 Amy at Homeschool Encouragement
Lisa at Home to 4 Kiddos
Lisa at Tales of a Homeschool Family
Laurie at Our Abundant Blessings
Jennifer at Thou Shal Not Whine
Becca at C Family of Six
Cynthia at Cynce's Place
Lisa at Golden Grasses
Tara at This Sweet Life of Mine
Michele at Family, Faith and Fridays
Marcy at Ben and Me
Gena at I Choose Joy
Ellen at Grace Tells Another Story
Lisa at Our Simple Kinda Life
Kim at Natural Beach Living
Heather at Marine Corp Nomads
Monique at Living Life and Learning
Penny at Knee Deep in Grace
Kristi at The Potter's Hand Academy
Amy at Are We There Yet?
Miranda at The Pebble Pond

To enter just use the rafflecopter below!

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Friday, November 22, 2013

Fun Friday! The LitClub- Review and Giveaway

I love a good book, don't you?  I love curling up underneath a blanket and getting lost in the words.  I love learning about history and people and places I never heard of or could ever imagine.  And I want to share that love of books with my kids!  That is why when I was contacted by author Ali Dent about reviewing her new book The Lit Club-Transforming Reading Into an Experience, I wanted to know more.  
Wow!  This 230 page paperback book has all you need to start your own Lit Club.  More than just a book club, Ali has spent years creating and modeling what I would call a book experience.   How is it different from your typical book club?  First of all, I don't know about you, but I have checked out book clubs at some book stores, but also libraries in the past and have not been impressed.  Thanks, but no thanks! Not only do I not care to read that junk, but I sure do not want my kids to!  The LitClub reads and discusses the classics.  You know, books such as The Hobbit, Hamlet and Great Expectations.  The LitClub does even more than just talk about the books though.  They share ideas, do projects together and even have a themed meal based on each book.  I told you this was a whole experience!

Overwhelmed?  No need to worry, because Ali has it all laid out for you in the book!

The Lit Club-Transforming Reading Into an Experience is carefully laid out in three parts. 

Part 1 tells the whys of a LitClub and how exactly it is set up.  Here you will find out why and how Ali started the very first LitClub as well as how it can build community and help develop critical thinking in your young people.

Part 2 goes into details about all of the particular tools Ali uses to make LitClub successful.  This is where she will explain each of the areas of your study, from the historical context to the lessons, projects, focus papers, word studies and themed meals.

Part 3 includes four of the classics she recommends with ready made notes and other materials to help you get started immediately in facilitating.  Yes, facilitating.  Ali stresses throughout her book that this is not simply a class taught by you, but a group of friends that you help facilitate through a book.  Though no two LitClubs will look alike, Part 3 is a great way to get started slowly.  Ali has laid out all of the details for 4 books, one in each of the following time periods- Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance and Modern.

And then there is the appendix!  This is actually over half the book.  There are book recommendations, resources, definitions of literary words, vocabulary links and then a whole print package.

What we think!
I have really enjoyed reading this book.  While the concept seemed a little overwhelming to me at first, Ali does a fantastic job at laying it all out step by step.  One of the things I love the most is the excitement she shares when she talks about her personal experiences.  Her vision is catching and will want to make you get stared right away.  After years of running these clubs she has obviously gotten it down to a science.  For any of us that are still unsure if it is something we are capable to doing, her website and personal blog continue to add resources and information.

Have we started a LitClub yet?  No. But I have had fun letting my imagination run wild with possibilities of a group of middle schoolers or high schoolers, along with their parents, gathered in my living room deep in discussion.  Building community and friendships, eating together, laughing together and learning together.

What a better way to spend an evening!  What a better way to read a book!

Make sure you check out Ali's website!  There are a bunch more resources, including fun activities for additional books and some great little videos- some made by Lit Club students.

The Lit Club-Transforming Reading Into an Experience is currently on sale for $35.96 at Amazon!

Ali has graciously offered a copy of The Lit Club-Transforming Reading Into an Experience to one of our readers!  THANK YOU Ali!  Enter the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win!
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Well folks, this ends our THREE months of Fun Friday Giveaways!  It has been loads of fun for us and we pray you have been blessed as well!  Keep an eye out for a December full of pictures and some thoughts on the holidays, as well as some changes on the blog starting in January!  

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A New Opportunity to learn!

Several times a week now I weed through proposals for reviewing homeschooling materials.  Some are great and others I let go by because they do not seem like a good fit.  The reason I started this blog, after all, was so I could have the opportunity to mentor homeschooling families- new and old alike.

So here is a new opportunity I am excited to blog about in a few weeks!

K5 Learning has an online reading and math program for kindergarten to grade 5 students. I've been given a 6 week free trial to test and write a review of their program. If you are a blogger, you may want to check out their open invitation to write anonline learning review of their program.

CJ, my 1st grader took the assessment a few days ago and I am already impressed!  Can't wait to share the details with you!


These Are A Few of Our Favorite Things

We are starting to wind down school for the about you?

Our oldest is headed home for a week from college so we will take all of next week off to just spend time as a family, then we will hit the books for three more weeks in December before we take a Christmas break for a few weeks- or three! ;)  This crew needs a break, and honestly, so does this momma.

We have been super busy since we moved here and it is time to slow down and enjoy the holidays and some quiet family time.  It is also time for me to reevaluate our school schedule and what has been working for us and what has not.  Because I had the awesome opportunity to review for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine this past year, much of what we do comes by way of reviews.  Not surprisingly, you will find most of our favorites there!  (Did I mention I love reviewing?)

That being said, here are a few of our favorite things!

Homeschool Spanish Academy- I will just tell you that I was VERY nervous about starting this one.  The idea of Skyping with someone in another country took me way out of my comfort zone.  The idea of keeping an appointment each week did as well.  haha  WE LOVE IT and it is the highlight of our week now.  After our review period was over, we signed up again, and again, and have no plans to quit anytime soon.  It certainly eats a little more from our monthly homeschool budget, but it is worth every penny.  CJ is learning so much!  We love the teachers and cannot recommend this program enough.

Flip Flop Spanish- Yes, another Spanish product and another review item.  And yes, we use both! I loved this the minute it arrived at our door.  It comes with everything you need to pop into a 3 ringed notebook and you are off.  Because my oldest son is an auditory learner, he loves the CDs and is doing very well with this program.  Plus, because it can be used with multiple ages together, it is convenient to do with both boys.  After lunch each day we work for about thirty minutes- a little friendly competition to see who can remember the most words or who can make the best sentences is a plus!

ABeCeDarian- When we reviewed this reading program, we used the Level A and really enjoyed it.  At the time I did not feel my then 5 year old was ready to tackle the second book.  Now that he is six and his reading has taken off we have begun book B and I am reminded of why we liked the program so much.  It has a great combination of writing, listening and reciting, and tactile activities to keep my spirited child on task.  Enough said!

Notgrass- America the Beautiful-  We were doing another History with my 6th grader we have used for years, so our plan was to do this just for the eight week review period.  Oh well, plans change, right?  We love this curriculum- for its beautiful pictures, well written chapters, and numerous activities that can be added to it.  If you want, you can use the suggested activities to incorporate writing, bible, literature and geography.  My son liked it so much he asked to abandon the old stuff and keep using this, so we have.  Looking forward to using their Uncle Sam curriculum next year.

Apologia- Need I say more?  They have our hearts with Science AND Bible!  For science we are using the Exploring Creation Series.  Actually, two separate levels- Their newest Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics and Exploring Creation with Zoology 3- Land Animals.  Both boys enjoy the reading (the 6th grader does his alone) and they LOVE the experiments.  As I have shared with you before, experiments are NOT my thing, but I learning to be bold and try new things.  If you haven't read the links to either book, I encourage you to- lots of fun experiment pictures are included.

As for their Bible curriculum- after reviewing the Who AM I? series I fell in love with it.  I  bought the two others we did not have and are do are currently going through Who Am I? And What Am I Doing Here? with my 6th grader.  We plan to finish the two remaining books in consecutive years.

Bible Study for All Ages-  This is also a program I was not sure we would stick with, and even stopped using it for about two weeks after our review period ended.  Then I saw a difference in my 6 years old's behavior throughout the day and decided to try a little experiment.  We started each morning with this bible curriculum and things improved.  hmmmm.  I am not THAT slow of a learner!  I ordered the next two sets of worksheets and we begin each morning studying the word of God.  Oh what a diffeerence it makes when we start out day focused on God!

Of course, we do study other subjects, and have been blessed with many other books and fun products,  but- these are a few of our favorite things!

Want to see some from others?

Each year the TOS Review Crew votes for our favorite products we have had the privileged of reviewing. These Blue Ribbon Award winners are then announced and today is the day!  I would encourage you to check out the winners and see what other people are recommending.  I was excited to see that a few of my favorites won!

Oh, and did you hear the news?  I was accepted back onto Crew for 2014!  I am so excited to once again be a part of this amazing blogging and reviewing team and cannot wait to share new products with you starting in January!


Monday, November 18, 2013

Everybody Needs a Box!

This is my box!  It sits in my kitchen and hides my wheat mill.  I love it.

It was made by my talented father-in-law for me last Christmas.  He has made several things in our home like my daughter's hope chest-

And her writing desk-

And our bookcase for holding piano books.

hmmmm, now that I type all of that I realize all those things belong to the oldest.  She will take them with her in a few more years.

But NOT my box!

I saw one similar in a catalog and coveted wanted one.  I sent my order to my father in law.  He made it even better than the one I had seen.

Everyone needs a box!

For several years we have been grinding our wheat.  We do it daily, sometimes even several times a day for the freshest flour.  That meant taking the mill out from under the counter once a day, at least.  That sucker is heavy!  I am old and my back was getting tried of lifting, but I did not want it sitting open on the counter. For looks or sanitary reasons. OK, mostly for looks!

Now I have a beautiful oak piece that sits on the counter to hide the mill.  It swings open and I can use it just where it is since the plug goes out the back and stays plugged in.  Then I shut the door and everything looks nice and neat again.

Love it!

Everyone needs a box!

And a super talented father in law!

How do you hide the appliances in your kitchen?


Friday, November 15, 2013

Devotions From the Torah Group Giveaway!

Just consider this a two for one Fun Friday!  This is a giveaway you will not want to miss!  I am currently reviewing the first of  two books in the series Devotions from the Torah- Devotions from Genesis, and will have a review up for you soon.  I cannot wait to share with you all that author Nicole Halbrooks Vaugh is teaching me!  I think you will be blessed.  Devotions from Exodus Part One looks equally as good.

  While you wait, here is a chance for you to win a $160.00 value book basket with copies of these devotionals and more!

The Devotions from the Torah Launch Team is excited to help Nicole celebrate the release of the first 2 books in this series -- Devotions from Genesis and Devotions from Exodus Part One -- with a special giveaway of incredible books, several of which will enhance your study of the Torah! This giveaway is a $160 value!

We would like to thank the following companies for their generous sponsorship of this giveaway! Be sure to stop by their websites to say thank you!

Home School Adventure Co.
Knowledge Quest
Great Waters Press

To enter the giveaway, use the Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post. One winner will be selected and announced by noon ET on December 5, 2013. U.S. residents age 18 and older only please. Other Terms and Conditions can be found in the Rafflecopter.

Here's what you could win!

Devotions from Genesis by Nicole Halbrooks Vaughn
See for yourself how Genesis, the book of beginnings, is not just ancient history and that the Word of God is still alive and timeless. Nicole Vaughn’s Devotions from Genesis will take you on a journey from the garden of Eden to the courts of Pharaoh in Egypt, allowing you to see your own hurts, struggles, and joys through the lives of patriarchs from Adam to Joseph. You will gain insight into your heart and more importantly, insight into the very heart of God. One day at a time, you will be reminded that you are not alone with these Devotions from Genesis.

Devotions from Exodus Part One by Nicole Halbrooks Vaughn
Devotions From Exodus Part One will take you from the bondage of the children of Israel to their freedom. The children of Israel were set free from their bondage in Egypt, and they had to learn how to live in this new freedom. As you study through these first twenty chapters of Exodus, you will see that after God delivered the children of Israel out of Egypt, he still had to get Egypt out of them. Our deliverance in Christ is no different. God delivers us from the world, but he still has to get the world out of us. We, like the Israelites, are learning to live in this freedom.

Philosophy Adventure: Pre-Socratics (digital download) by Stacy Farrell
Philosophy Adventure™ is designed to help students 6th-12th grade cultivate and defend a biblical worldview by teaching them how to write skillfully, think critically, and speak articulately as they explore the history of ideas.

Philippians in 28 Weeks (digital download) by Stacy Farrell
The Bible is banned in many countries. Countless believers have sacrificed their freedom—and many, their lives—to spread the message of God’s love and salvation contained within its pages. Are we exercising our freedom responsibly. Memorize the entire book of Philippians in 28 weeks!

A Child's Geography: Explore the Holy Land by Ann Voskamp
Iraq, Jordan, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Turkey...your family probably hears or reads about these names frequently. In an increasingly complex world, it is vitally important that children learn to see the world through their Creator's eyes. As we explore the Holy Land you and your family will delight in incredible, mysterious landscapes, hidden wonders and beautiful peoples - all created in God's image.

A Cry from Egypt by Hope Auer
Have you ever wondered what life was like in ancient Egypt? As an Israelite? And a slave? Want your children to understand the Bible is history? Adventure, excitement, love, and faith come together when Jarah and her family fi nd themselves at the culmination of four hundred years of history.

Purposeful Planning eBook by Phyllis Sather
Do you need a plan to keep your family moving in the direction the Lord is leading you? Perhaps you don’t know where the Lord is leading you. Phyllis takes you step-by-step through the process of planning a time together for your family to help determine the path the Lord is choosing for each area of your life. Her family has followed this format for over 12 years and has found that it provides the compass they’ve needed to plan and stay on course.

There!  That should keep you reading for a while, or at least make some great Christmas gifts!
Hope you win!


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Christmas Book Review and Giveaway- The First Christmas Night

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

OK, maybe not quite yet, because I refuse to decorate until December 1st, BUT I have been known to sneak in a Christmas book or two a few weeks early.  When we began our lives with children I started collecting Christmas books to read to them.  Each year we try to add at least one new one to our basket which sits in the living room.  Our goal is that each night in December we read one of those books together.  Usually we end up reading more than one!  Each one holds sweet memories of Christmases past.

The First Christmas Night is our new book this year and I could not be more pleased!  Written by author Keith Christopher, this 32 page, hardback book is a gem.  Remember the old "Twas the Night Before Christmas?"  Well here is a new twist, centered on the birth of Jesus.  Written in short rhyme, it is easy and enjoyable to read.
"Twas the very first Christmas,
when all through the town
not a creature was stirring- there was not a sound."

From there the author takes you from Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem to the birth of Jesus and the visit of the wise men.  Each page holds a new verse of poetry that is sure to become a favorite for young children.  Who doesn't like a rhyme?  The target ages for The First Christmas Night is 4-8 though I have no doubt older children will enjoy it as well.  The pictures alone will captivate them. That brings me to illustrator Christine Kornacki.  Wow!  The oil paintings she uses are stunning and are one of our favorite parts of this beautiful book.  You can see our favorite picture of the wise men below. Depending on your understanding of the birth of Jesus, some of the pictures may or may not match up to your beliefs.  Questions like did the wise men visit Jesus as a baby or slightly older child, were there only three, and what would people in Bethlehem have looked like, or even what would Jesus have looked like, were raised in our family, but we looked at those as a discussion and learning opportunity and certainly not anything that distracted or displeased us with the book.  On that note, the author ended the book perfectly in my opinion, with the Biblical story of the first Christmas- right from Luke and Matthew!  

We love this book and highly recommend it to you, friends!   It is a keeper!

About the Author
Keith Christopher is a composer, arranger, orchestrator, and educator, and he has served as editor and producer for several major music publishers. In addition to writing and studio producing, Keith served on the faculty at the Blair School of Music of Vanderbilt University in Nashville. He lives in Hendersonville, Tennessee, with his wife and two children.

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

TOS CREW Review- At Home in Dogwood Mudhole

It makes my heart smile to get to say my last review for this TOS Review season ends with a book! Seriously!  You all know how I love books, right?  And At Home in Dogwood Mudhole Volume One: Nothing That Eats?  What a book to end on!

 photo Franklin_Deal-300x451_zpsb3f59745.jpgMeet author Franklin Sanders!  Father of seven, husband to Susan (who I am pretty sure has the patience of Job), and writer turned agrarian.  For 17 plus years, Franklin has written The Moneychanger Newsletter, telling stories and teaching his readers on everything from money to history to farming. Now those published articles have been collected into three volumes for your reading pleasure. I had the honor of reading the first in the series-  At Home in Dogwood Mudhole Volume One: Nothing That Eats, which sells for $22.95. Volume two, Best Thing We Ever Did, will be available to order on November 15th, just in time for Christmas.

It would be a fair assessment to say I begged for this review because I dream of farm living!  I know, I am crazy like that.  I tend to read everything I can get my hands on to learn about that way of life so when the Good Lord takes me to the farm, I will be ready.  It is also fair to say this book has given me second thoughts! ;)

OK, not too many second thoughts but a few.  (Farming is HARD ya'll!)  Firstly, this is NOT a how to book.  Instead imagine yourself sitting down with a friend who tells you all about their day to day adventures.  That is what the book feels like to me.  A chat with an old friend.  A funny friend!  I found myself laughing out loud on more than one occasion, sometimes every other paragraph, and have made my poor family listen to me read aloud several times.  Franklin's witty, dry sense of humor is not only fun to read but I am sure has been what has gotten he and his family through a few rough spots- like being put in jail for not taxing the exchange of silver and gold.  (Crazy tale!)

The threat of Y2K drove Franklin, his wife, children and their spouses and grandchildren to the farm, but it is not what kept them there.
"...just behind the edge of every minute lurks some glorious surprise..." Page 378

Don't you love that?

Let me tell you what else I loved-

This book has animals- Franklin has a love- hate relationship with chickens.  He keeps buying them, the dogs keep eating them.  Easy for us to laugh because the stories he tells are funny, after the fact, I am sure. But funny, none the less!  And dogs...well let's just say that he may be more of a sucker for dogs than I am. Some not so smart ones either.  And horses!  And cows!  And pigs! "I named them 'Pork' and 'Chop' to give everybody the hint that their residence with us was not a permanent arrangement.  I'm not supporting a petting zoo."  p.172

This book has restaurants- The man likes to give credit where credit is due.  When he talks about a meal they had while on the road he will describe it in great detail and then give you the name, address and phone number of the restaurant...some all over the country!  You could take this book on a sightseeing adventure and be guaranteed good food!  Some of his descriptions had my mouth watering.

This book has History-  One of the things the Sanders family enjoys in their free time, not sure when that is exactly, is historical reenactments and history.  Sprinkled throughout the book are tales of their ancestors and tales of the south- and trust me Franklin knows how to tell a story!

This book has family- Family is obviously precious to Franklin and you can tell.  Stories about his children and grandchildren will make you smile and warm your heart. "There may be something better than being a grandfather, but I haven't yet figured out what that might be. " page 132  Did I mention that Franklin and his whole family moved to the farm? Together? For a while in one house?  Yes, they are a brave and devoted family.

This book has God- Franklin is a Christian and it shows.  Occasionally he asks for prayer, occasionally he shares a prayer and throughout the book his faith is woven in. "The best part of  living in the country is that daily the mighty works of God are played out before your eyes." p. 211

No, it is not, but it sure sounds like a place I would like to visit!  If you yearn for a simpler life, love history or just want to snuggle under a blanket this winter and giggle, ponder and relax, then I recommend you get this book and join Franklin Sanders and his adventures at Dogwood Mudhole!