Thursday, November 15, 2018

Let's Read a Story

We love to read in our family!  From a very early age we surround our kiddos with books and pray they will love them as we do.  Thankfully, we have raised strong readers and lovers of books.  It does this momma's heart good to see them snuggled on the couch deeply engrossed in their latest book adventure.
Reading is also one of our favorite subjects in school since it involves, of course, BOOKS!  Colby's current reading program has involved simply reading a book on the 6th grade reading list and writing a short paper after he finishes each one.  Not very inspiring, but it was just what we did.  When I had the chance to review a new-to-us reading program from Mosdos Press Literature, thanks to Timberdoodle Co., I was eager to see how we would do with a more classroom typical reading program.

We have been working through this program for over a month now and I am excited to tell you about it!

What is it?
Mosdos Press Literature is a Literature and Reading program that has 6 levels.  Each level has a unique gem name-   Opal, Ruby, Coral, Pearl, Jade and Gold.  We have been using the Mosdos Jade level which is intended for 7th graders.  The set comes with a hard back student reader, a student workbook and a spiral bound teacher's guide in two parts.

While not a specific Christian program..."Mosdos Literature is a complete literature program that does not glamorize evil, nor present subject matter that is not age-appropriate. Neither does it portray as normal a cynical disregard for positive values, but reinforces the universal ideals of courage, honesty, loyalty, and compassion."  Gotta love that!


The student book is beautiful!  A solid 652 pages, it has numerous full color illustrations in it.  The book is broken into 5 parts covering different types of literature-

  • Short Stories
  • Poetry
  • Nonfiction
  • Drama
  • The Novel
Each section then is further divided into several specific focuses.  For example, in the Short story section you will focus on-

  • Recognizing plots
  • Defining character
  • Exploring settings
  • Understanding themes
  • and Putting it all together
Each selection ranges from just a page to more than several pages long.

All of the stories begin with an Intro that gives you a summary of the story, the Focus which talks about the theme and gives you some questions to be looking for while you read, and a bit about the author.  After the story you will find questions that recall facts and then some that are interpreting questions that make the student really think.  There you will also find additional things to examine and think about, as well as a creative writing assignment you can choose to do.      

The student workbook then provides additional activities to further engage your student.  Each story has two vocabulary activities which include fill in the blank sections, matching, and occasionally a crossword puzzle.  Next you will find writing activities and then graphic organizing activities.  At the end of the workbook you will find a glossary for your student to use for quick reference.

The teacher's guide is pretty straight forward as well.  Each page of the student's reader in pictured so you can follow along, and additional questions labeled Guiding the Reading are listed for you to be able to guide conversations on the reading.  You will also find additional notes about the literary component you are currently studying to help you lead those discussions as well.  If there is a workbook section that ties in to that particular part of the story, it is listed for your convenience.

How we have used this and our thoughts-
Colby was very excited to try this program.  He is used to reading longer books and I think was excited to try some shorter selections.  We typically read one story a day, with me first reading the summary and additional information.  Sometimes we take turns reading but often Colby just reads aloud to me.

The following day we answer questions and discuss the story in more depth.  On the third day we do both vocabulary pages.  On our final day, we choose one more activity to do, whether a writing assignment or one of the literature/grammar based graphic organizers.  Because we are doing a separate writing program those are the activities we have chosen less often.

We have really enjoyed using the Mosdos program and are continuing to use it this year as our primary reading program,.  I have found that we enjoy the many different types of stories and reading together rather than Colby reading a long book for several weeks alone.  It has been a sweet time of togetherness as well and has exposed us to many different types of reading materials we may not have otherwise chosen.

A reading workbook is a new thing to us, but it has been a fairly easy transition.  The vocabulary activities have actually been his favorite part and I love that were expanding his vocabulary easily.  The activities have given him some new skills such as sequencing and character development.  The writing assignments are good and offer lots of space for creative thinking and writing, as well as the teaching of research and dictionary skills.

I have to say I was a little overwhelmed at first with the teacher's guide and the student workbook since those are not things we usually have.  I am also used to a day by day schedule, but have learned to appreciate the freedom one has to pick and choose without one.   I have been able to have Colby just do the worksheets I feel are beneficial to him and skip the others without the guilt.  It is freeing!  I also have found the value in the teacher's guide.  I admit I often ask pretty basic questions on our reading just to check for reading comprehension, but then stop there.  The questions presented in the teacher's guide are more in depth critical thinking questions and have been a good stretch for us to have.  The guide is very public school oriented but can easily be adapted for a homeschooler easily.

All in all, we are quite pleased with Mosdos Press Literature and are thankful we have had the chance to explore it.  It is a positive change to our year and one we will continue to use.

Mosdos Jade is part of the 7th grade curriculum kit from Timberdoodle, and can also be purchased separately.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Making Masterpieces

Art gets sorely overlooked in our house so when I get a chance to write a review on an art related curriculum I jump on it.  Such was the case with the Master Kitz- The Starry Night  from

What started off as a volunteer program at a local preschool, Kidzaw has turned into a growing business.  They also offer Master Scultpz kits, Art on the Go and Color on the Go kits,as well as Art Parties.  Reasonably prices and all supplies included, these art kits are a great way to teach about great artists and art history as well as art principles.

The Starry Night kit includes two large pieces of heavy art paper, templates, acrylic paints, pastel oils, two paint rollers and detailed instructions.  The front page of the instruction is dedicated to the instruction of who Vincent van Gogh was and what his art was about.  Consider it a mini history and art lesson all in one.  Facts include where van Gogh was born, how he became an artist, and how he created the style we now call Post-Impressionism.  Did you know that in 1990, one of van Gogh's painting sold for 82.5 million dollars?  Wow!

As for the instructions, these fold open to reveal a 12 step process to create your rendition of The Starry Night.  Each step is broken down in small parts and shown with words as well as colored pictures.  My son, age 11 and in 6th grade, had no problem reading them and following them himself though I did sit beside him during the process.

Our thoughts and experiences-

Colby is not much of an art kid either, so it took a little convincing to get him started on this project.  I finally just pulled it out and told him we would try and if he hated it I would finish it by myself.  Spoiler alert- I did NOT finish it by myself.  As a matter of fact, I did nothing- he did it ALL.  Yep, typical kid, huh?

As soon as he opened the kit box and saw the cool rollers he was all in.  Hey, whatever It takes!  We immediately taped down the paper to our kitchen counter ( the instructions advise putting paper under but I knew our counters would clean up easily).  We then opened all the bottles of paint and he began reading the instructions.  Step by step we worked our way through the instructions, pausing only to wash our hands once or twice.  All in all, the complete project took us about 45 minutes.  Drying time is mentioned a few times, but it seemed that each time we were ready to start the next step the paint was dry enough to proceed.

I thought Colby's favorite part would be the paint rollers, but as it turned out he loved using the pastel oils to customize the painting.  When you follow the instructions there is not much chance for much variation.  After all, you are trying to reproduce a famous painting.  But in steps 11 and 12 you are encouraged to add some finishing touches using the oil pastels.

We did take some time to talk about what we had learned about on the double page spread entitled The Style of Vincent van Gogh as we worked.  Things like how up close the work may look blurred and much different that when you view it from further away.  We also each took turns holding his finished piece further away to see if that was true in our case as well.  Yes indeed, up close very few details are visible.

We ended our project by hanging it proudly in our kitchen area where it can be seen by all who enter.  Colby even asked if we could possibly frame it to hang up.  Pride in his work-I would say that is a sign of a good art kit!

And funny story- his 16 year old brother came into the room later on in the day, saw the painting hanging, and called me over privately to ask the question- "How in the world did Colby paint that?  It is good!"  We might let him try the next one we do! ;)

You can watch demonstration videos and see more art from other kids on the website!

50 other reviewers took advantage of this great opportunity to have their kids create a masterpiece.  You can see their finished work and read their reviews by clicking on the banner below.

Master Kitz The Starry Night { Reviews}

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Monday, November 5, 2018

Let Me Tell You a Story

Moving is easy for this family.  The physical moving part.  Leaving friends and a church that have become family is not easy.  Never has been, never will be.  Leaving our last church family was a gut wrenching doozy!  Like, take your breath away, doozy.

We miss their faces, we miss their love, we miss worshiping with them, and while we have now found a church home here and love new people, it has been a challenging transition.

So here is my story, and if you read the abbreviated version on my oldest's FB page, bear with me.  It is worth the repeat, trust me.

One of our elders from our previous church posted a YouTube video of a father-daughter team in Omaha singing Sovereign Over Us,  a song that was not only sung often there, but is one of our family's favorites.  It has been a gentle reminder to us in some difficult times that God is SOVEREIGN and nothing takes him by surprise.  Nothing.

So we sat and listened in awe at the beautiful voices (who knew that sweet child has such an angelic voice?), smiled through tears, and missed our people.  And in that moment I voiced that I wished we could sing that song at our current church.

Don't get me wrong, I love our new church and the worship here is beautiful.  But it is different.  A bit louder and fewer traditional hymns.  I am here to tell you that you can teach an old dog new tricks and I am indeed learning to appreciate a different worship style.  But there are times, I must admit, when my heart longs to hear the quiet, worshipful voices of our friends in Omaha.

Anyway, we listened, commented, and moved on with our nightly family devotions.  This was on Saturday night.

And on Sunday- wait for it- the worship team opened their mouths and began to sing Sovereign Over Us!

Yes, they did.  Take a moment to just breath that in.  I know I did.
Ashton turned to me and we both beamed through our tears.

If that is not God speaking and showing HIS sovereignty, I do not know what is!  If that is not God saying I hear you and I care, I do not know what it is!  If that is God saying you are loved, I don't know what it is!

Let me share what Ashton shared...

"Chance? No, the workings of a sovereign God who cares so very much about us, who takes care of every little thing, and who turns everything for our good and for His glory. And who is sovereign over the worship team and their song schedule."

Oh friends,

If you feel unloved- He loves you.
If you feel alone- He is with you.
If you are in pain- He can heal you. 
If you are afraid- He will give you peace.
If you need answers- He has them!

He is God and he reminds his people he is sovereign.  Even through the singing of a simple, yet profound song.

Thank you, Jesus!


Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Math Whizz Review

I have four kiddos with varying levels of skill when it comes to math.  Each year is a guessing game as to whether or not it will be a good year in math for us, so the opportunity to review Whizz Education's 12 month subscription to Math Whizz was a quick YES for me.  Currently I have just one student using the program, my 6th grader.

Math Whizz

Consider Whizz Education your personal on-line math tutor.  With its artificial intelligence, it is able to adjust to each individual's pace and knowledge.  Since 2004 Whizz Education has serviced over 100, 000 student world wide and are now opening their doors to homeschool students with that same dedication and expertise.


With a quick registration and set up you are ready to begin.  Your child will take a placement test to determine what they know and what they do not know.  By allowing them to complete this test alone, you will have a more accurate view of their current level.  Let's face it, assessments are not the most fun but in this case it is essential, as the program will then adjust to your child's needs.

Once the assessment is completed and scored, you as the parent will receive an email letting you know what level your child is currently working at. 

You are then ready to have your child start the program.  Be ready- there is a lot to take in! 

A couple of quick facts-
  • The Math Whizz program is animated but not a silly mess of stuff, therefore it shouldn't annoy your slightly older users.  
  • You can change your profile character to one of 8 cute, animated icons.  Currently Colby is an ant man, go figure.
  • Weekly Activity Summary Goals pop up occasionally in chart form and you can "watch your forest grow" as you add more time to your work. There are bonuses that move you ahead quicker for extra time spent in study.
  • Math Whizz Buddies- You can enter your friends' user names in and be buddies online with fellow classmates or friends using the program.
  • In the My Study area, your child can decorate their area and  "buy" items with their points.  There you will also find the play area where you can interact with the things they have bought, such as feeding the animals or watering the plants.  You can also simply go to Explore the Study to see how many points you have or what games you have, as well as begin a lesson or see what is new on Math Whizz.  
  • The notice area will show your child how many kids are online and how many lessons have been completed, allows your child to send in jokes to be shared, and has occasional bonuses like posters to print off and holiday themed extras. You can also challenge kids around the globe from here.

  • Occasional company emails.  About three weeks into the program I received a second email to check on our progress and to remind me of a few areas in the program that we might want to explore.  I actually appreciated that, as I had not seen the replay button which allows your child to go back over a previously learned section!
  Getting to the meat of the program-

By beginning in the Topic bank your child can choose from multiple math topics such as problem solving, multiplication, and percentages and ratios.  Within each topic are numerous activities for your child to complete.  Once your child chooses a topic there will be a short tutorial on that subject.  The tutorial is not only in written format but also auditory, covering many learning styles.  You do have the option to turn off the sound as well if your child finds it a distraction.  You will also find a dictionary icon on the bottom left of the screen so that your child can look up any words they are not familiar with.

Additionally, you can begin in the tutor section that will direct your child from one subject to another, again going through instruction tutorials and then having them work similar problems.  By finishing a section your child will earn points and progress on their forest path.  If your child has had a difficult time in a particular area, that area will be revisited within a few lessons for more instruction and review.  In contrast, there is a skip button that will be unlocked if your child has answered enough questions correctly, allowing them to move ahead at a quicker pace.

Our experience-

 Not all "review" or "tutor" programs work well, but this one I am impressed with.  What I love most is that it adapts to your child's needs by having them taking the pre-assessment first.  Not wasting time on things we already know is a BIG bonus in our book!

Game-like programs are also not my favorite, but I feel that this one is very balanced and I will say my son has spent more time on the lessons than anything else, though working on adding point credits to buy a dragon has been a motivator for him, for sure!  Doesn't every child need a dragon as a pet?

Colby does have a tendency to just type in an answer and move on (percentages, anyone?) when he doesn't understand a new concept, but found out quickly it would not just make that particular lesson go away!  MOM WIN!  Yep, you do it until you master it.  Isn't that, after all, the homeschool way?

I also like that the Math Whizz can be done independently.  So much so that now Colby chooses on his own to hop on the program for a few lessons after our formal school time.  Admittedly, he did this several times day at first and had to even be told a few times to be done, but now has settled into more of a routine with a few times a week.  When we were in a more hurried schedule a few days, we substituted Math Whizz for his regular math which would have taken much longer to do.

*One caution, it seems here at Halloween time, the company automatically added extras to your child's "space" such as pumpkins and cob webs and eyes in a container.  I would love if that was an options you could delete if your family wanted to.

One of the reasons I like having this type of "tutor" program available is that they often become self checks for us.  Has my child been exposed to that?  Does he understand that?  Can he still work those problems when presented in a different way?  Math Whizz has allowed us to identify a few weak areas in our current 6th grade math knowledge and catch up a bit in a fun and fairly easy way.

Let's face it, if they are having fun while they are learning, they seem to learn faster and retain more.  What more could you ask for?

Over 30 additional reviewers have been using Math Whizz this past month- you can find their reviews by clicking on the banner.

Math-Whizz {Whizz Education Reviews}

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Thursday, October 25, 2018

Indivisible- A Military Wife's Perspective

Movie theaters are not really my thing.  My family loves them, but me, not so much.  On the other hand, when I can watch a movie, especially one for review, in the comfort of my house, I am usually game.  After I heard about Indivisible being a "military" movie but more about the family and not just a shoot 'em up type movie, I was intrigued.

Indivisible is a faith based movie based on the true life story of Army chaplain Darren Turner and his wife, Heather.  Shortly after basic training, Darren is sent to Iraq to support a unit deployed there and is separated from his wife and three young children. Heather is left behind at home to "support" the spouses there. While the movie does depict the experiences the chaplain has while in Iraq, it is primarily a movie about his relationship with his family prior to and then following his deployment. It is also a movie about a crisis of faith, of questioning God, and fighting for a marriage that has been strained by the separation and stress of a war.


If you have been around Family Faith and Fridays for any length of time now, you know I am pretty careful about recommending movies.  I know everyone has different tastes and tolerance levels, therefore, I try to give you just the facts and a quick personal thought or two.  Unless a movie is just horrible, I do not ever want to assume what I like or dislike would be how you would feel as well.

That being said, I think Indivisible is a solid movie.  It is well done, has solid acting in it, and is not your typical sappy, faith-based movie.  The scenes are believable and the story is good.  It is based on a real life person, after all.

It was also hard for me to watch at times.  As a military wife who has had a husband deployed several times, it hit pretty close to home.  While I cannot tell you about my husband's experiences, I can tell you about mine.  The loneliness, the fear, and at times, the desperation Heather felt, I have experienced.  The way your heart skips a beat when your doorbell rings at odd times and the heartache of standing by a friend who has lost a spouse has been my reality.  So while the war scenes did not tug at my heart as much (yes, I did close my eyes during one intense part), the scenes back at home gripped my heart.  I can tell you the things you see the wives talk about and think are indeed things many military spouses through the years have thought about and said. 

Because of my perspective as a military wife, it is those scenes that I identified with the most.  But this movie also allowed me to see deployment from a different perspective- through the eyes of a man who is also experiencing the same separation but with different stresses and realities.  It opened my eyes to a whole different side of the husband wife relationship that is affected by war.  It also reminded me that my faith in God has undoubtedly carried me through our deployments.  God has used them to stretch us and grow us and ultimately pull us closer together.  May he get the glory!

Yes, my retired military husband watched the movie with me.  While he enjoyed the movie, he did have several critiques about it to include questionable uniform details as well as military protocol details.  Several times he said, "they would not have done that."  Trust me when I say this is not the first time I have heard that while watching a military movie.  

I would encourage you to go see Indivisible.  But I would also add this disclaimer- those who are sensitive to war issues need to be aware there are a few intense battle scenes, a scene with an injured child, and a death of a squadron member.  I would be concerned for anyone with PTSD to see it.  As a family who has lived just a tiny part of this life, I would be hesitant for my 16 year old son or my 20 year old daughter to watch it.

If you are looking for a faith based movie, minus the fluff, but big in the reality of war and military life, Indivisible will be one you enjoy.

Starring Sarah Drew, Justin Bruening, Jason George, Tia Mowry, and Madeline Carroll, INDIVISIBLE opens in theaters October 26. 

In case you haven't seen the trailer, here you go!

I have two Fandango movie codes to give away to a Family, Faith and Fridays reader.  Just leave me a comment here on the blog and tell me what is the last movie you saw in a theater.  A random winner will be chosen next Monday!

“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 on the same blog, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again.  Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Our Legacy Library

For years it has been my dream to have a "library" in our house.  I pictured wall to wall books surrounding us, but more important to me were the things of Clarke's military career.

The military spouse community has a phrase they use often- the "I love me" wall.  Ok, I know that sounds harsh, but it is not really used as a mean term.  Instead it just refers to all the little (and big) things the military member has picked up along the way during their career.

Think pictures.  And plaques. And medals.  And certificates. And awards. And paraphernalia.  And more and more pictures.  

It can take up a lot of space, and quite frankly though I love much of it and it is quite meaningful to us, I did not always want it front and center in our living room.  So for much of our career it has been spread out between his work office and boxes in the garage.  Sad but true.

One of the must haves for me when we began to house hunt here in Arizona was an dedicated office space, which I choose to call a library because it makes me happy.  I knew it would be a blank space but I was ok with that.  After all, I have had pictures in my head of this room for years, just waiting to be made a reality.

OK, so sometimes our reality looks different than our fantasies, but that is alright.  Long story short, we did get a library and I did get some book shelves.  And I learned that my fantasies are VERY expensive so I did have to compromise and come up with a new fantasy. That is ok, too.

In the end, we spent two weekends together building bookshelves and then Ashton worked her magic and "staged" the shelves.  And we hung all those pictures and put out all that stuff.  It reminds me of a museum and I LOVE it!!  I may even spend more time in it than Clarke does, just saying.  And the boys can often be found in it doing school or just reading a book.

Shhh, don't tell I sneaked a picture of Ashton!
Almost every item in it represents some aspect of the last 26 years of our lives.  It speaks to who we are and what we have done, not just Clarke, but as a family.  There is something comforting almost about that, especially since we are still trying to figure out what it means to be a "civilian."  (Who knew that transition would be challenging?!)

Yep, a favorite dog space too!

As I type, here I sit once again in the library, and smile as I take in all the memories and realize what a legacy my dear husband will leave to our four children.  He has taken us on an adventure.  Some of those times were certainly more challenging than others, but all have been experienced together by a family that loves each other with our whole hearts and was willing to walk through the journey hand in hand.

I am thankful God allowed us the adventure, and is with us for this new chapter!