Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Language Arts- Homeschool High School Blog Hop

You might as well know right up front that Language Arts tends to be one of my least favorite subjects to teach in high school. (Aside from Biology, of course.  Oh, and maybe Chemistry!)  Which is a little weird, since I LOVE Language Arts.  All parts of it, really. The writing, the reading, and even the diagramming sentences.

BUT, and yes, that is a big BUT, it has been my experience that finding good, solid language arts programs for any age, but teens in particular, is just plain hard.

We have done many.  Just take my word for it.  Many!  But after 17 years of homeschooling (oh my word, that is a long time!) I think we have pretty much got it figured out.  For our current teens at least!

Let me start with a quick look at what I recommend, but then I want to talk to you about a few duel credit ideas.

Writing- IEW- If you are not familiar with the Institute for Excellence of Writing, now is the time to be.  Yes, I do use several other writing programs for younger ages, but by high school I believe every child should do an IEW writing course. At least one.  It is a great foundation for college writing.  I am going to admit to you that I am not a teacher who requires tons of papers and reports in my coursework, so I am thankful Mr. Pudewa is a great teacher that the kids actually enjoy learning from.  He is funny and funny just speaks to teens!

Sharon Watson's courses are also amazing and are great to add in after you have completed IEW coursework.  Look into Writing Fiction (In High School)

Literature- Lightning Literature- We have just begun this program in the past few years after having transitioned out of Sonlight.  I like that it spends more time on fewer books, I like the book selections better, and I like that you have more options in the areas of study you can choose.  It has been a huge blessing to us for 7th and 8th grade, and I look forward to the upper levels.
Most colleges want you to have American Literature, World Literature, and British Literature.  We also add in a year of Christian Literature.

Grammar- This is where it gets a little messy.  It is my belief that if your child does not have a strong foundation in Ggammar by now, you may have a bigger problem on your hands.  I also think that at some point it is time to stop diagramming sentences and put that knowledge to the test, which is where writing comes in.  So, no, we do not do formal grammar at this level anymore.

Vocabulary- This is where I DO think we should concentrate instead.  Because of that we use two different things.  We continue Wordly Wise because it is quick and to the point but very thorough.  We also spend two years using Vocabulary From Classical Roots.  Again, a simple format, but a great program!

And about those foreign languages!
There are lots of good ones out there, so the best advice I can give you is know the learning style of your child and find what fits them best!  Most colleges ask for two years of one language, but some prefer three so make sure you are aware of the requirements of colleges your child might be interested in.  Also note that sign language is a new one that some colleges are accepting, but that is still a new trend so be knowledgeable!

Some to look into are-
OK, so about Dual Credit.  It is my belief that you should not teach a subject that your child is just going to repeat at a college level.  Mostly.

Here is what I mean.

I have my kids dual-credit classes their junior and senior years to get a jump start on college and as a way to save some money.  If your child has the opportunity to take that American Literature class at a college level and can dual-credit it, then there is no reason for you to teach it and then them take it again.  Ask me how I know this!!  Lesson learned!  It looks ridiculous to have American Literature on your high school transcript twice.

Now consider the "mostly"- If your child is going to be an English major, there may be a need for them to take the course through you and then again at their college.  I certainly feel that way about Biology.  It can never hurt to be covered, just be careful not to create more work for yourself.  Plus, in many cases those college courses can be completed in less time and therefore allow your child to take even more classes.

That is how I have a high school senior that has no classes left to take with me, but is taking multiple classes online currently.  Yes, she is still a senior, but the classes she is taking online count for high school credits AND college credits.  Yes, she will graduate with more credit hours than she needs for highschool, but she will also have her first two years of college close to completed.

Please remember, there is more than one way to slay this dragon and every child is different. Hence the reason that all of my children's transcripts and course loads look different.  Above all, I suggest you know your child, ask for their input, and then help them to be successful!

Visit our Homeschool High School Bloggers this month-

Carol from Home Sweet life shares Homeschooling High School- Language Arts (&History!)
Tess from Circling Through This Life shares Teaching High School Language Arts: Resources
Wendy from Life at Rossmont shares Highschool Language Arts
Erica from Be the One shares Language Arts Resources
Kym from Homeschool Coffee Break shares History in the Form of Stories
Debbie from Debbie’s Homeschool Corner shares Teaching High School English
Laura from Day by Day in Our World shares How to Teach High School Language Arts Without Tears

Join us next month for "How Am I Going To Teach High School?"

Linking up with friends!
I Choose Joy!

Hearts for Home Blog Hop


Monday, September 28, 2015

Ashton's Fall Capsule

Hello! This is Ashton, and I'm back with yet another capsule wardrobe to share with you.
First, I have a confession. When I first decided what months to put in each capsule "season," I had September, October, and November as fall and December, January, and February as winter. Well. You might have noticed that I'm posting this at the end of September. That is because I just switched my wardrobe over Friday. That is because it was still hot way back in the beginning of September. That is because...I honestly don't know. Anyway, after doing some thinking, I realized that SD is actually a fairly cold state compared to most places, including where we are moving next (see this post if you missed that announcement). So if it is too hot to wear fall clothes here, it is definitely going to be too hot to wear fall clothes elsewhere. Thus my confession. I made a mistake, and have decided to mend my ways. Thus, my new and improved capsule schedule looks like this:

Winter: January, February, March
Spring: April, May, June
Summer: July, August, September
Fall: October, November, December (as a reminder, mom does two capsules instead of four)

OK, now that I have that off my chest, let's get down to the actual capsule. This capsule is probably the most unique of my capsules in terms of how different it is from my "look." Mom actually said to me, "I like your fall capsule. There isn't as much blue or plaid." I'm still trying to decide how to take that but she is right, there is hardly any blue (I know, right?!) and only a handful of plaid pieces. This capsule will also carry me through the most varied season temperature-wise. Right now it very warm here (in the 70s and 80s) and I will still be wearing this capsule in December, when it is COLD. I will let you know how that goes.

So, for fall I have:
11 shirts
5 pairs of pants
9 skirts (4 church, 5 everyday)
3 dresses
5 sweaters
2 vests
1 jacket

Total: 36 items, my smallest capsule yet!
Again, this doesn't count things like exercise clothes, old sweatshirts I wear around the house, or accessories or shoes. It also doesn't count camisoles or the plain long-sleeved layering shirts that I wear under everything when it gets cold. I do have quite a few of those, but since I can't wear them as shirts by themselves I'm not counting them.

Let's talk numbers for a minute. I looked back and my spring capsule was 50 items, while my summer capsule was 37 items. Obviously there is no perfect number and everyone and every season is different. That being said, I live where it gets COLD in the late fall, winter, and early spring, and I am a firm believer in wearing more clothes then, especially because I am usually cold.

And finally, the least wordy part of this post! My friend Sarah and I put together some outfits for you to see!

Until winter, 

Linking up with friends-


I Choose Joy!

Friday, September 25, 2015

God's Dream! (Moving Announcement)

There have been times in our lives (like when we are on the road and living out of suitcases which is quite often don't 'ya know) that my mind wanders to the what-ifs and how-abouts!  Not sure if I just have too much time on my hands or if freedom from responsibility gets my creative juices flowing.


Maybe we should retire, buy a RV, and travel across the US.  I love doing school on the go believe it or not, and get excited thinking about all the places we could see and learn from.  What fun it would be to blog about life on the road with a family of 6 in an RV with two dogs, little space, but lots of love and laughter.  Hey, maybe I should pitch that to a RV manufacturer!

Maybe we should buy a piece of land, settle down and do the homesteading thing.  With the help of friends we have already learned how to butcher cows, pigs and chickens.  We enjoy gardening and the outdoors and there are times I can close my eyes and see the family sitting by a fire pit, relaxing after a hard day's work on the farm.

Maybe we should close our eyes and just randomly pick a place on the map to move to.

Oh, wait, that was just done for us! ;)

Yep, word on the street is that we are moving- this time to Omaha, Nebraska.

No details are in place.  No decisions of any kind have been made.  We just know that we will trust God and go.  His dream is undoubtedly bigger and better than ours.

So those other dreams will be put on hold while we allow a new dream to take hold in our heart.

After all, it is God's dream!


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Context of the Heart

During this very busy month a dear friend of ours offered to write a post for the blog, and I hastily took her up on it! We have known her for years and she is a fabulous writer. So, without further ado, here is Kelli!

Earlier this summer, I was in my room studying for the Pharmacy College Admissions test I am preparing to take soon. I opened up my study book to an impossibly long vocabulary list and a section that might as well be entitled, "Memorize the Dictionary Until You are More Literate than Merriam Webster Himself." My eyes wandered down the list.  I came upon the word "cavalier."  It was a word I was already somewhat familiar with.  It was used as the mascot of several small, rural towns as an alternative to the cliché "Roughrider" (a reference to our 26th President who my home state of North Dakota has claimed like a native). Like Roughrider, the word cavalier also conveyed the rugged, cowboy gallantry that had, through history and tradition, become our state's trademark.   After reading the concise definition in my study book, "carefree, happy" but underneath "lordly disdain," the word's complexity prompted me to cross-reference it further using an online dictionary.  I found that cavalier used as a noun referred to a knight or gallant but when used as an adjective it was defined as "haughty" or proud.  The same word acts like its own antonym depending on its part of speech.

 I suddenly felt the prick of my conscience that I was no stranger to.  God, these words are written black, not red! I thought. Besides, I am trying to study for a test, not be tested by You.  God didn't listen.  As I have learned, He does not provide conviction at convenience.  I put down my pencil and reflected on my own shortcomings.  I had been moping around the house all that week with a cavalier attitude.  I had made a sacrifice for others and was having to forfeit my own plans on their behalf.  The gift was given willingly, no one forced me to do it but when it came to giving it up, I didn't want to let it go.  My offering was not made directly to God and yet I was treating Him as if He owed me restitution for a tithe as recorded in Malachi 3:10-11, when the Lord promises,"'Test me in this," says the Lord Almighty, 'and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.  I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,' says the Lord Almighty."  (NIV)

 My mind then turned to a different passage from Luke chapter 21:1-4 when Jesus saw the gifts of the rich but chose to acknowledge the offering of the widow.  In the last verses of Luke 20, Jesus touches on the authenticity of actions beginning in verse 45.  "Then, in the hearing of all the people, He said to His disciples, 'Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, who devour widows" houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.'"  There may be a chapter break in this section, but God is making the same point.  The focus is less on the amount and more on the attitude.  

I have read this passage before and noted that the treasury was public place for the rich to pour in money ostentatiously but I had never really considered the humility of the widow.  We don't know much about her but in the word "widow" we find two significant cultural offenses.  Being an unmarried woman would have reduced her to a plight of society.  Reexamining this passage makes me wonder, why didn't she wait?  She only opened herself up to ridicule.  I believe it's because her need for internal glorification was greater than her desire for outward gratification.  She trusted that, although she didn't have much, God could still use her offering. 

My sacrifice was more like that of the scribes and the rich than the widows.  The deeds that I had done, even in His name, had come from a heart full of the wrong reasons.  Like the rich, I knew how to outwardly look good.  I'd say to my Christian friends, "Look at what what God is doing through ME."  While I may have put God first in the sentence, the emphasis in my heart was still on me.  The people that I sacrificed for had received the gift, oblivious to my selfishness.  I prayed that God could still use what I had given to the benefit of others.  

 So today are you a cavalier or do you have a cavalier heart? Because the word, like good deeds, is the same but it is the context that makes all the difference.


Monday, September 21, 2015

Schooling With Games

Games have come a long way since I was a kid.  Be ready, I am going to age myself here. Candyland, Mousetrap and Sorry may still be around, but these days games seem to be evolving to keep up with the ever growing mania of computers, iPhones and social media.  Not that that is a bad thing. As a matter of fact, I am slowly learning to use games to my advantage.  Teaching school just got easier!

Yep, we are schooling with games!

Not every day, mind you, though I have one child who would jump on that bandwagon.  But certainly more often than I used to.

Let me show you how to school with games!

Let's start off simple here since most families can dig out a pack of cards from somewhere.  Our favorite game is 10 Facts.  Yes, I made that name up, but I did not make the game up.  I am pretty sure it came from one of our math curriculums years ago.  The concept is simple.  Remove the face cards, deal each player seven cards, and have a discard pile.  When it is your turn you ask for a card that would make a ten fact in your hand.  You know- 1+9, 2+8.  If the opponent does not have the card you asked for, they draw a card and then play goes to the next player.  Think go fish, math style!

Also, remember that just having littles play simple games with cards increases their recognition of numbers.

We also use cards for memory games in a pinch, but love having separate memory games in our arsenal!

Board Games!
There is no better way to teach cooperation than a board game.  It also teaches life skills like how to be a good loser and a gracious winner.  In addition, problem solving skills learned in some board games are immeasurable!  We often break the suggested age rules and challenge even our 8 year old to play strategy games.  Even at 8 he can hold his own in games like Coup and Love Letter.

Learning Games!
Have you ever played Sequence?  Did you know there is a states and capitals version?  Yep, that is how we learn our states and capitals!  Why not try monopoly in a theme for learning?

Online Apps!
I am not a huge fan of online games, and we are pretty strict with our screen time around here, but, yes, I will admit there are some good apps out there.  My kids have learned amazing history from Dig-It! games, and reading skills from apps like Reading Eggs!  Just pick a theme your kids are interested in and explore the app store.  So many are free these days so it is a win- win situation.

If you haven't noticed, printables make the world go around these days.  They are everywhere- from dedicated web sites to bloggers looking to pull you in.  And many make great games to further your child's learning.  We found this one recently on Super Teacher Worksheets that teaches facts about states and capitals.  Ask me how many times we have played it!

Imaginative Games!
Blankets can turn into forts and brooms into muskets.  Especially after particularly interesting history lessons, a good game of pretend can help to solidify the things you have studied.  Trust me, things played out and repeated (over and over and over again) will stick in a child's head much more easily. When that Civil War history shows up on a CLEP test, guess whose child is going to remember it. We also love games that just make you think outside the box and stretch the creative side of you. Logic type games allow kids to use a side of their brains not used as often in straight book learning. Plus, do not forget that kids learn through play!  Let them play! The days of play are fleeting, take it from one who knows all too well.

Can we play all day?  According to moms everywhere- no!  But let me encourage you to make time to play and learn with games more often than not.  Your kids will thank you and learn along the way!

Linking up with friends!


I Choose Joy!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Did I Ever Tell You?

Did I ever tell you the story about the family who was going to hear about where they were moving in March?

No?  How about April?

Make that August.  Nope, September.

Well, now, why the rush?  It's not like you will be moving in December.  Let's make it October.

Hopefully.  (And yes, we are moving in December- somewhere)

Oh my word, just hang me by my toenails now!  Seriously.

Did you know that I am a little anal retentive?
A planner.
A worshiper of all things calendars and schedules.

I have told many a people, I do not care where we move  just tell me where in advance.  Like, way in advance.

Obviously I have not told enough people because my way in advance plan is slowly going down the drain.

I am pretty sure God is giggling.
Actually, I think He is laughing hysterically.

I am not.

I am eagerly, albeit not so patiently, waiting for His plans to unfold
I am praying for Him to prepare our hearts for a new location.
I am praying for the new friends we will meet and the dear ones we will say see ya later to.
I am praying for His perfect will to become our wildest dreams.
And I am praying I have a great story to tell you about it all.

Maybe sometime in October!


Prayers and a giveaway!

Yes, the movie War Room is getting a lot of press these days.  That is great.  But even more important is that prayer is getting a lot more press because of the movie!  I haven't seen the movie yet, but I have read these books and they are good!

Peter's Perfect Prayer Place, by Alex and Stephen Kendrick, is a sweet book geared for ages 4-8. This hardback book is about a little boy named Peter who is searching for a perfect place to pray. Written in a simple rhyming fashion, the story tells of a young child named Peter who goes from place to place looking for the right place to pray.  With the help of his parents, he eventually finds that ANYPLACE is a perfect place to pray to God.

We have already read this book more than several times and are thrilled to have added it to our library.  My 8 year old is at the top of the age range but still enjoys it.  The beautiful illustrations keep him engaged and it has been a good conversation starter for us about the ins and outs of prayer. As an extra bonus, a prayer poster can be found in the back.  This is a place for your child to record their prayer requests and God's answers to those prayers, with stickers included so you can note each time you pray for that request.  This is an especially great tool for visual learners to use to show them how God is working in their lives.

This Means War, written by Alex and Stephen Kendrick with Troy Schmidt is a "Strategic Prayer Journal" intended for preteens and teens.  This book is meant to be written in!  Each brief chapter hits upon a specific topic related to prayer, includes questions for your child to answer in short journal form, and ends with a section called Go To War, which gives them a specific thing to focus in payer on.  Chapters address why should I pray, who should I pray for, is God really listening and more. Also in the back of this book is a prayer list where your teen can record their prayer with the date, whether the answer is yes, no, or wait and date answered.  After looking through this myself, I have decided that my 13 year old will be using this beginning in January as part of his personal devotion time.  This 218 page paperback book would also make a great gift for the teens in your life.

The Battle Plan for Prayer has been on my bedside table for a few weeks now.  Also written by the Kendrick brothers, this book for adults focuses on the basics of prayer and then goes deeper into specific strategies for prayer.  Covering 35 chapters, this book covers a lot of ground.  While I have not agreed with everything that has been said, I am enjoying the book.  It has caused me to go back and look at what the Bible specifically says about prayer and examine what I believe to be true.  Let's just say there are a lot of notes in the margins these days!  One of the neat things about this book are the appendices.  There are several pages of scripture verses listed for praying for your wife, husband, children, pastors, government, non-believers, fellow believers, missionaries, and your city.  There are also verses for themes such as anger, depression, and worry as well as a wonderful section of the names of God.  At the very end are discussion questions listed by chapter if you wish to use this book in a group setting.

Other War Room related books published by B&H Publishing Group  include Prayer Works, for ages 8-12 and Fervent by Priscilla Shirer.

As with all books you read, especially ones regarding faith, I would encourage you to hold them up to God's Word.  Man can be fallible, but the word of God never is. Seek His will for your life, pray to Him and Him alone, and know that He will answer according to His will.  Prayer is communicating with God- may you be ready to hear His answers to your prayers!
To learn more about these resources and others, visit

Icon Media Group, together with B&H Publishing Group, is allowing me to give away a copy of each of these three books to one reader.  Just leave me a comment and a random name will be drawn next Friday!


Thursday, September 17, 2015

Super Teacher Worksheets- Schoolhouse Review

I love when we are blessed with a review product we did not even know we needed.  Sometimes, I am simply intrigued by a product and ask for it just to satisfy my curiosity.  Such was the case with Super Teacher Worksheets.  We were blessed by a year long Individual Membership (a full 365 days!) and I am pretty sure I have found myself a new toy! This is a GREAT teacher resource, whether you are a homeschooler or a public school teacher!  Super Teacher Worksheets is an amazing website that gives you access to over 10,000 worksheets of all sorts.  Yes, you read that correctly- over 10,000.  I haven't printed that may yet, but boy could I! The cost of an individual membership is $19.95 per year for unlimited access to the worksheets.  School memberships are also available.  You will find FREE printables on just about every page, but trust me, you are going to want a membership.  It is worth every penny and for the price of what you would spend on just one workbook elsewhere, you will have every subject at your fingertips.
Worksheet categories include-
Reading and Writing
Phonics and Literacy
Spelling Lists and Worksheets (Grades 1-5)
Social Studies
Puzzles and Brain Teasers
Teacher Helpers
Pre-K and Kindergarten
Make Your Own Worksheets

Within each of those categories are sub-categories, so you can see how your choices can multiply quickly.  You just sign up for a membership, choose a category, find a worksheet that fits your needs, and then print.  So easy and so much fun!

For each worksheet you see you may print the file, preview the file, choose to see it in another language if applicable, or put it in your file cabinet.

If you are like me, one of the most important features on the home page is the My File Cabinet part. When you find something you like while you are are searching for something else (just saying because it happens, trust me), you can click on the picture of a file and it will automatically be added to your file cabinet for quick access at a later date. I tried to anticipate our week and print pages that fit into our school work on Sundays, but I found myself going back throughout the week to find an extra something, often just for fun.

Another great feature is the Worksheet Generator Tool which will help you create just about any worksheet you can dream up- from standard worksheets to puzzles, flashcards, and quizzes. Templates help you choose the format and parameters you desire and are quite easy to use to better fit the subjects or concepts you are working on.

On the home page you will also find fun featured pages.  When we began this review there were tons of back to school pages, like this one that had Colby write his name, age, favorite book, friends, and more.  We mounted it on colored paper and taped it to our school cabinet where he could see it throughout the year.  I love the idea of doing this at the beginning of each year as a fun keepsake for each grade.  Currently, you will find a ton of Autumn printables.

Another area we used and really enjoyed was the Social Studies area.  One of the sub-categories is the 50 states.  Since we spent 5 weeks this summer learning the states and capitals, I printed off a games of state facts to add to our knowledge.  You print the game board, instructions and cards and you are ready to go.  Colby played this a lot as you can see from the wrinkled board, and beat me frequently! Next time we will make sure to mount games on cardboard or at least print them on card stock!

A third area we frequented was Puzzles and Brain Teasers.  My kids love games, so anytime I can combine that with learning I am thrilled.  This game involved trying to see how many words you could make from the word "scarecrow."  Colby started by himself but as you can see on this one, visiting Grandparents and a great aunt and uncle got in the act as well.

One of the areas I most recently was able to explore was the Reading and Writing area.  Under the section "chapter books" are alphabetized books and corresponding activities.  I was excited to find a few Magic Tree House books on the list and printed the chapter questions out for us to use next week for reading.  Other activity pages are available including word searches, vocabulary, and more.

Reading comprehension pages, according to grade level, have also been popular here.  I like using these on Fridays for a break from our regular school, but also for practice for standardized testing.

Super Teacher Worksheets Review

On that note, if common core is important to you, any worksheets that are aligned with CC are marked with a special icon for quick reference.  Common Core standards are also listed for your ease of use.

For all of my teacher friends out there, the Teacher Helpers tab is one you do not want to miss! You can print things such as desk tags, lesson plans, letters to parents, permission forms, calendars, newsletters, and more! An area I will use often is the awards section, including a fabulous behavior award! I don't know about you, but I love fabulous behavior!!

Don't know where to start?  A section called Top Picks might be the place for you!  Just be forewarned, you will not want to stop there.  This site is addictive!  Whether you use it for fill-ins when you need to give your child a little something to do, for review when your child just needs a little practice, for fun when they have earned game and puzzle time, or as a resource for yourself as a teacher, Super Teacher Worksheets will supply all that and more.

Super Teacher Worksheets Review
Crew Disclaimer

Monday, September 14, 2015

Gift someone with 621 Gifts!

I love blessing people with gifts.  Which is actually funny, because gifts are not really my love language.  Yes, I am always thankful when someone thinks of me with a special something, but really, I would rather bless them instead.  Because of our nomadic lifestyle, we have friends all over the country and so it can be hard to keep up with the gift giving.  The post office is just not my favorite place to frequent, and I am not good at ordering stuff I cannot see and touch.  There are just too many variables and things that can go wrong.

I have found a solution though, thanks to a friend of mine!  Let the gift giving resume!

Meet Tonya and her husband Dan!  Together they have dreamed big and created a new business called 621 Gifts.  This online shopping and gift giving experience is amazing.  It is a simple idea really.  Pick from a variety of local to the Midwest area products or let them help you pick by choosing their themed boxes, and they will ship these products to anyone you wish. Products range from soup, cookie and muffin mixes, to meat sticks, jams, sauces, and pasta.  Themes include things like For the Men, Sizzlin BBQ and Weekend Breakfast.

They have taste tested each of the products to assure you that they are all the best of the best and keep supplies on hand for a quick turn around.  The items are stylishly arranged in a pretty box and at your loved one's door step pronto!

And how does one pick?  You can view all of the products available, with new ones being added on a regular basis, on the website.  Once you choose how many items you wish to send, from 4-7 items, you can use the drop-down menus to pick your items.  There is even a tutorial if I have confused you! Graciously, Tonya offered to let us try five items of our choice.  I did make her promise not to laugh at ours, because let's just say, if you had received our box you my have thought....ummm, random or what, Michele? ;)  Yes, I promise to send more organized theme to you, my friends!

With 5 pages of items to choose from you are sure to find something perfect for anyone on your gift list.  Be on the lookout for handcrafted items to be added in the future as well and items such as homemade soaps and lotions.

That being said- I did pick winners, if I say so myself.

First up (and eaten for dessert the day the box arrived) were the Sugar and Spice Pretzels and caramel dipping sauce. Best things ever!  Everyone liked it and even our wheat free daughter got in on the action by dipping apples in the caramel.  A box of just five of these might be a good idea!  Just saying.

We also played fair and tried the Buckaroo Brownie Mix, which is Gluten Free, so said daughter did not feel left out.  Yummy as well.  We served them at a get together and even non gluten free friends said they passed the test!

Since fall is coming, I KNOW it is, I also ordered two soup mixes.  I think these are always good gifts to send people who are home bound or sick and even make good housewarming gifts.  We had one a few nights ago, the Veggie Chicken Noodle Soup and the kids loved it.  Next up is the Cheesy Broccoli Soup. 

Last up is the  Cinnamon Streusel Muffin Mix.  Well, not really last, as we ate those last week!  If you have been around Family, Faith and Fridays long enough you already know that this crew loves muffins, so yes, I had to include a box!  They were yummy and Salem asked if we could make more like that.  Next box, I guess!

Why the name 621 gifts?  Tonya and Dan took from Romans 12:6-21 in which spiritual gifts are talked about as well as how we should behave towards one another and then  Matthew 6:21 - For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

In continuation of the gift giving theme, Dan and Tonya have partnered with four organizations to bless.  When you buy from their site, you are able to choose one of the four organizations to bless and a portion from the sales will go to that organization.

AND, to bless my readers, Tonya and Dan are allowing us to give away one- 5 item box to a reader!  Just fill out the rafflecopter below and a winner will be selected next Monday!  Yay!

A BIG thank you, Dan and Tonya, for allowing us to review your fabulous new business venture and for blessing us and a reader with your wonderful products.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Biggest Story

This is a review that almost did not happen.  I was not part of the first call for it, but got picked up when a few spaces opened up.  It was a book I almost passed up until I saw the author named.  But with the book Just Do It under his belt, I figured it was a book worth considering.

I was right!

The Biggest Story: How the Serpent Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden, by author Kevin DeYoung is a gem!  Really it is.  

The story behind the story- Kevin wrote this book from a sermon he preached to his congregation around Christmas.  He eventually expanded his sermon and wrote it down in story form.  While it may look like a simple children's book, it is oh so much more.  Woven through a book written in simple story form is the story of redemption.  The story of sin and the One who conquered sin.  The story of the first Adam and the second Adam.  

For 132 pages, The Biggest Story goes beyond the familiar stories we all learned in Sunday School. Yes, inside you will find mention of Adam and Eve and Abraham and Noah.  But instead of just the typical story book fashion of many little tales from the Bible, Kevin has woven one continuous story of God's love for his people- from beginning to the end.

Is it serious?  Yes!  Will your kids like it? Yes!  Because tucked in between the powerful message  and colorful pages, Kevin inserts humor that will also make you giggle.  

My kids' favorite line-

 "When David wasn't sinning (which he did in some really big ways), he was a good, wise, merciful king. "  p 83
Yes, trust kids to focus on the humor.  But, hey, focus is good regardless and if it draws them in and holds their attention without taking away from the story in any way, I am game.

My favorite line-

"God's promises never fail and the Promised One never disappoints."  p.123

There are 10 amazing chapters in this book.  The plan was for our family to read one chapter a night during our devotion time.  Didn't happen.  We ended up reading the book in three nights because no one wanted to stop with just one.  Honestly, you could easily read the book in one sitting- it is just that good.  Just be ready to read it again.  And again!

At the end is a two page Note to Parents from Kevin that I would recommend you read FIRST!  It will give you ideas of some things to look for while you are reading and some topics to expand on and discuss with your kids.  

Just a quick note about something else that really stood out for our family.  The illustrations in The Biggest Story are brilliant!  I will admit that modern art is not really my thing, but wow, these pictures will knock your socks off.  It is quite frankly one of the most beautifully illustrated books I have seen in a very long time.  Every time I read a two page spread I turned the book around to show the kids the pictures and we have since had many conversations about several in particular.  In addition, people who have walked in our house and seen it sitting on our coffee table have also picked it up and commented on it.  

The pictures alone would hold the attention of younger kids who may not yet be ready to grasp the story and it makes for a beautiful book to keep out.  Who knows, maybe it will be the book that sparks conversations in your house that open doors to sharing the Gospel.  God can use anything and anyone!

As usual, Fly By Productions is graciously allowing us to share a copy of this beautiful book with one of our readers.  Please leave a comment here and one winner will be randomly selected next Friday!

"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 a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

About Kevin DeYoung:
Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor at University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan.  He blogs at the Gospel Coalition and has authored or coauthored numerous well-known books, including Just Do SomethingThe Hole in Our HolinessCrazy Busy, and Taking God At His Word.  He lives with his wife and their 6 children in Central Michigan.

About Don Clark:
Don Clark is an artist and the cofounder of Invisible Creature, a widely respected and award-winning design studio in Seattle that has worked with clients such as Target, Nike, LEGO, and WIRED magazine.  He lives with his wife and their 3 children, 4 goats, 12 chickens, and 1 crazy dog on a farm just outside the city limits. 


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