Monday, January 31, 2011

Monday Memoir - Week 18

Yesterday was 65 and beautiful. Today it is supposed to be in the forties and rainy. What a difference a day makes! At least the nice day was on the weekend! Here’s Monday Memoir:

Where did you go on your first date?

Gosh, I’m trying to remember my first date. I remember going to a school dance with a boy when I was in Junior High – that might be my first “date”. His name was Matt Kerr. How funny I remember that since I can’t remember the name of most people I meet. Just popped in my head. He went to a different school and we met taking swim lessons together. We went for ice cream afterwards. I don’t remember if we even saw each other again after that…

Do you still remember your first love?

Sure. I think we all probably do. It was in high school - my senior year. He was a year behind me. We dated for a few months, and then he had to move out of town. I was devastated. We’ve stayed in touch over the years as friends. Sometimes we go years without contacting one another, but then we’ll end up emailing or making a phone call. Odd how that person, whether they remain your friend or not, always seems to stick with you.

How about you? Answer these questions on your blog then come on back and link up…

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Monday Memoir Sneak Peek - Week 18

This post is late. I’ve been hemming and hawing about whether or not to keep doing Memoir Mondays, but since I had a request and just returned from a wonderful date night with the hubby, these questions came to mind:

Where did you go on your first date?
Do you still remember your first love?

Come on back and link up tomorrow.

iShine Tween Boy's Bible Review

iShine NLT Bible
(Tween Boy Edition)

I was pleasantly surprised when the iShine Bible (boy’s edition) arrived. What a cool looking Bible! This is especially important because this Bible is made with tweens in mind. My youngest son, age 11, was excited as well. The cover feels like leather, is dark blue and has a “cool” young man on the front with a guitar in his hands. The cover just screams pre-teen to me.

Measuring at approximately 4.5 X 6.5 X 1, this Bible fits comfortably in the hand, can be carried around easily, and could be slipped into a backpack taking up little room, but providing plenty of comfort.

The Bible edition is New Living Translation (NLT) making it easily understood by the tween reader. Of course, the majority of the content is exactly what one would expect. After all, it’s a Bible! The print is quite small – I wouldn’t choose to read this copy with my old lady eyes, but my young man has no problems reading the smaller print.

In addition to the Old and New Testament, there are three sections: 1. You have Value, 2. You have a unique Identity in Christ, and 3. You have a Purpose to fulfill. Each section helps the tween understand that to God he is a VIP. The sections are incorporated with thicker paper and standout design/text making them easy to access. They include encouragement written at a tween’s level along with scripture to follow up what is being said. The most important aspect of these sections is they show how relevant the Bible is to each and every person yesterday, today and in the future. Sometimes relevance is where people get stuck – helping youth understand that this isn’t archaic jargon, but a guidebook for living is important.

Additional links are provided so that the tween who wants to explore more can get online and visit the iShine web site.

While my son already has a Bible, this one looks and feels like his own. It’s not mom’s or dad’s Bible – it was made for him. We’ll use this Bible in our homeschool studies as he learns that he was made by God as a special VIP for His kingdom.

*** I was given a copy of this Bible free by Tyndale for my honest review.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

It all Started with a Chair...

We finally did it – we bought new furniture!

Now, I’m nervous. The hubby wanted different, as did I, so we went, well, different… See, I’m a traditional kind of gal, and my current furniture is very traditional. We’ve had browns and burgundys and golds forever.

This time I fell in love with a chair.  Such a pretty chair - don't you think?  Organic, yet modern?  That led to the purchase of pale blue, beige and chocolate furniture with contemporary tables, lamps, etc. Yikes! I mean, it’s beautiful in the store, but at home? It’ll be a whole new house… I do love the chair.  It's a really cool chair.

I am excited. We needed a change. Now I just have to take a deep breath and realize a rut isn’t always a good thing and a splash of color won’t hurt anyone.

Right? I am right, aren’t I?

So, I’m starting with the dining room. The red in there has to go too. No biggie, a few pictures, a tablecloth and recovering two valences and wah-lah… All set for the color change. Spray paint will help me rid us of the golds. (I love spray paint!)

The new stuff arrives a week from Tuesday. That will give me time to begin the remodel.

I think we may have started something…

So, what do you think, do you love the chair?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Five Question Friday

Join me in a little Five Question Friday? When you are done visit the My Little Life blog to see what others had to say,

1. If you had $1,000 to donate to a charity, which would you choose?

St. Jude’s. Children suffering from cancer just breaks our hearts. We love St. Jude’s and all they do to help those precious angels.

2. Snow days: Do you welcome them happily or are they a pain in your butt?

Pain in the butt! I don’t like being cold. Period. My kids like it for about 30 minutes during which time they get tons of clothes soaked (mostly because we don’t really have winter gear due to not really needing it), freeze their fingers and toes, and demand copious amounts of cocoa. The public schools are always closed when it snows, so my boys automatically start asking for a day off. I prefer to bank those days for time off when we can really enjoy it. Besides, we live in the South. I don’t even own a snow shovel. Definitely, pain in the butt!

3. What talent did you wish you had and why?

I wish I could sing. I think music is a great way to share joy, praise, love, sadness. Unfortunately, I wasn’t given much of a voice. I can carry a tune – sort of. It’d be nice to really sing out without everyone cringing at my missed notes. :-)

4. Are you a news, politics or celebrity gossip junkie?

I do read too much news. I wouldn’t say I’m a junkie. If they ever start charging for the online newspaper, I’ll be out. If it’s free and fast, I like to catch up on what’s going on around here and in the world.

5. What is your favorite "cocktail"? (Are you a beer person, a kiddie cocktail junkie, or perhaps your more the "Cosmo" kind?! Anything flies...doesn't hafta be alcoholic!)

Hmmm… Drinking just isn’t my thing. I live and breathe Diet Coke, but that’s not really a cocktail. A good hot Chai tea with whipped cream is quite delicious… Does that count?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Avoiding Homeschool Burnout

This week's blog cruise asks: How do you avoid burn-out?

We’ve only been homeschooling for three years. I can honestly say that there hasn’t been a single morning that I woke up and thought – “I don’t want to do school today.” However, I cannot say the same for my boys. It’s not that they hate school; it’s just that they are kids and would much rather play all day than sit and do school work.

So, how do I avoid burnout for them? I can tell when they are to the point where the regular routine is stressing them a little. That’s usually when I try to mix things up. Either I take them out to lunch, or schedule a field trip, or find a new way to approach our topic using a hands-on project.

Throughout the school year we have planned activities. They are in something every day of the week except Friday. In addition to that, I try to incorporate learning experiences like trips to the symphony, opera, museums, science days, etc. to help broaden their learning experience. We just got back from a trip to the ski slopes for the first time! That was a blast!

To us, at least, burn-out happens when the routine gets old. Shake things up a little and then settle back in. That's how we do it…

How do you avoid burn-out?

To see additional interesting posts - hop on over to the Homeschool Blog Cruise...

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Monday Memoir - Week 17

As you read this, we should be gliding down the ski slopes.  Say a prayer it's gliding and not falling if you would please!  I'm looking forward to reading your posts!
Here are the two questions for this week.  Grab them, post them, then come on back and link up. 

What pets did your family have growing up?

Describe your best or worst experience with an animal.

What pets did your family have growing up?

When I was young, we had two main pets. A standard chocolate French poodle named Pierre and a cat named Princess. Pierre was my family’s pet before I came along. Princess was a stray cat that mutually adopted us.

As I grew older, Pierre died. That was very hard to take. We took in two more strays – a German shepherd we called Boots and a Pointer we called Betsy.

Then came the two bunny’s – Tiny and Tina.

Princess died from throat cancer, Tina from impacted hair and Tiny lived a long life before departing.

My mom is crazy about animals. Personally, I like having pets if they add value to the family, but I’m not overboard about them.

Describe your best or worst experience with an animal.

I used to love horses. Still do, I just recognize the time, money and effort involved in keeping them now. Trail riding is fun. Would like the opportunity to do that more.

My worst experience, however, would have to be with the dogs that lived down the street from us when I was in about third or fourth grade. The family kept the dogs locked in the garage day and night. As a result, they had turned mean. One day I was walking down the street and somehow they got out and attacked me. Luckily, it was during winter in Wyoming, so I was heavily layered. The owners ran out immediately and pulled them off. I ended up with just a bruised stomach. That was lucky! Makes me very wary of loose dogs, however.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Monday Memoir Sneak Peek - Week 17

This weekend we're headed to the mountains providing the snow doesn't stop us.  Why we are heading into snow when we just got out of it is beyond me...  Well...  That's not true.  We're going to see family and then going on a homeschool ski trip.  Should be lots of fun.  The boys have never skiied and I haven't done it in twelve years.  Hopefully we all come back sans injury.

Here is a peek at the questions for this week:
What pets did your family have growing up?
Describe your best or worst experience with an animal.
Won't you come back and link up?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Five Question Friday

Join me in a little Five Question Friday? When you are done visit the My Little Life blog to see what others had to say.

1. Where did you meet your spouse and did you instantly know it was love?

I went to work at the company my hubby works for.  I remember seeing him for the first time on the outdoor basketball court shooting hoops after work.  He has some great skills - yes, I was impressed.

We got to know each other through work and went on a few dates.  It didn't take long for me to know he was a keeper!

2. What is your favorite room in your house?

My study.  My computer is there, all of our books are there, my lizard and fish live there.  It's just a comfortable place to work and do school.  There are tons of shelves for books and two desks making enough room for the boys and I to work together in there, especially when it's computer work.  We have four Norman Rockwell prints on one wall and two windows on the other.  French doors open to the main part of the house.  I spend A LOT of time in here!

3. Can you wiggle your ears?

Not a chance!  I only know my ears are there because I see them in the mirror and hang earrings off of them.  Other than that, I can't feel them, and I definitely can't wiggle them.

4. What is your evening ritual?

After dinner, there is usually computer time.  I work on my online classes or something for homeschool or play an online game.  Then about bed time, my hubby tucks my youngest into bed, and we retreat to our room where we watch sports or a cooking show then off to sleep. 

5. How many hours of sleep do you need to function?

I need an inordinate amount of sleep.  In fact, there is almost no time in a day that I'm not sleepy and nap eligible.  Not fun, really.  I'd love to just be wide awake one day!  We usually get at least eight hours of sleep a night.  I can function on six, but I'm a grump to be around.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

My Child's an Adult?

My son turned 18 yesterday!

I was talking to friends today and one replied – “Wow! You’ve successfully raised two children to adulthood.” I’ve never quite thought of it that way. Wow! Adults. Now, I use the term loosely, of course. 18 is hardly an adult as we all have learned. I mean – I was an adult at 18, or so I thought, but now I look back and I was SO not an adult. There are days when I’m still not sure I’m an adult.

I wonder who decided that 18 signifies adulthood? My son pointed out that he can now be drafted, join the military, vote and buy a cigar. (I vetoed the cigar noting that in my house even “adults” can be grounded.)

He graduates in one week from high school and starts college in early February. Two college students – that does make my head spin.

So what does having an adult child mean? Am I still allowed to swat their butts when they get sassy, or tell them to change their shirt, or assign a curfew? I’m assuming the answer to all is YES! Well, as long as I am financing their adult lives anyway. When did parenthood boil down to bank accounts? I’ll take all the parental leverage I can get!

So – I’m going to take a nap. My head hurts from pondering the repercussions of raising children to adulthood. God says – “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” I’m going to hold onto that with both hands, tightly. Personally, I would have liked a pause button – get them to a good age and hit pause. Of course, then I’d have ordered a Mute button too. Wouldn’t that be fun.. :-)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

We have Winners - Congrats to Kyra, Morgan and Denise...

RelaxZen Shots

Congratulations to the winners of the RelaxZen Shots giveaway!  I will be contacting you via email to get your addresses so that I can mail you your RelaxZen Shots.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Guest Post: Lee Binz - The Four Homeschool High School Advantages

A few summers ago my two sons graduated together from homeschool high school. They were both invited to compete in an all day full-tuition scholarship competition at their first choice university. 108 students competed for those ten full-tuition scholarships, Two of the winners were homeschoolers. Both were mine. I found myself wondering, “How did that happen?” I believe we received scholarships because of four advantages: curriculum, SAT preparation, documentation, and character. These advantages are available to all families that homeschool through high school.

The Curriculum Advantage

Many homeschoolers have a very rigorous academic plan. It doesn’t matter if they choose to unschool, or if they follow a classical education model. Homeschoolers will succeed when they learn on purpose. They will succeed when they do the “next thing” – when they keep moving forward in their homeschool journey. They can invest their money and their time in their weaker areas, as well as their areas of strength.

Homeschoolers have the advantage with curriculum. We can make sure ours is tailor made to suit our students. We can make sure they are always challenged, but that they completely understand concepts before moving on. We can provide broad exposure to a variety of subjects. There is no quagmire or restrictive bureaucracy in your homeschool. There is no school board or teacher's union. With ultimate flexibility, we can make sure the curriculum will always fit our student. We can keep our curriculum challenging but not overwhelming in every subject all the time - or we can make a change.

The Testing Advantage

My sons had great SAT scores because we studied for the SAT test. I read that increased test scores meant increased scholarship money, so we studied two or three times a week. Each time we would do one section from the “10 Real SAT’s” book. It’s not a waste of time to study for the SAT. Students learn vocabulary, get a great math review, and learn essay writing skills. Halfway into his first quarter of college, my son said “I’m so glad you taught me how to write a quick essay! It really helped me on my midterm today!” Again with test scores, homeschoolers have the advantage. We can use SAT prep as part of our homeschool curriculum, and study it during school hours.

The Comprehensive Records Advantage

When we applied for admission, I gave the colleges a lot of information. Many homeschoolers prefer to keep their educational information private. It’s okay for colleges to ask us for our information because it’s an exchange. We give them information about our homeschool, and they give us admission and possibly scholarships.

The minimum information they need is a transcript. I chose to provide more information than the minimum, and it really helped. For everything on our transcript, I wrote a course description, listed the books we used, and documented how I graded the class. Homeschoolers have the advantage regarding educational information. We control our homeschool records and we can determine exactly how much information we provide to colleges. Our comprehensive homeschool records were so successful and so many homeschool moms requested help creating similar records, that for the next three years I worked on developing the Comprehenive Record Solution.

The Character Advantage

Character is the fourth reason I believe we were given great scholarships. My sons were invited to participate in the scholarship competition at Seattle Pacific University because of their comprehensive records and their SAT scores, but that’s not why they won.. I was nervous about them competing in something so intense, but the kids had fun. When the boys came home that day, they both said, “I don’t know if I won, but I had a great time! All the kids were so nice!”

Later I was told that the evaluators were looking for character. The students were observed when they walked between events. Were they friendly and kind to others? How did they interact with their peers? When character and socialization are evaluated, homeschoolers have the advantage. We can mold and shape the character of our children while they are at home with us, instead of allowing them to be conformed to their peers.

 So how did that happen? How did both our children win full tuition scholarships? Simple; we homeschooled them through high school!

Lee Binz, The HomeScholar, specializes in helping parents homeschool high school. Get Lee's 5 part mini-course, "The 5 Biggest Mistakes Parents Make Homeschooling High School." You can find her at .

Monday, January 17, 2011

Monday Memoir - Week 16

Yes, it is still cold here.  Well, cold for the South, at least.  There is still some snow on the ground.  If you're from around here, you understand that that is a big deal - snow sticking around for a week.  It's usually gone in a day.  I want to be warm - not hot, but warm. 

Here are the two questions for this week.  Grab them, post them, then come on back and link up. 

What types of inclement weather did you have to deal with as a child? Have you ever been through a monster blizzard, hurricane, tornado? How did your family handle it?

What states have you lived in? If you could relocate to anywhere in the U.S., where would it be? Why?

What types of inclement weather did you have to deal with as a child? Have you ever been through a monster blizzard, hurricane, tornado? How did your family handle it?

I’ve been through several blizzards living in Colorado and Wyoming, but nothing that was too big of a deal to handle. We would occasionally have a tornado out in the prairie areas. I’ve never been threatened by a tornado, but I have crawled on top of a roof to watch one way out in the distance. It sounds a lot more reckless than it is. You can see for miles and miles and miles (just like the song) in the flatlands of Colorado. Completely foreign to my Southern friends now. One viewing did manage to get me blown off a roof. Again, not as bad as it sounds. I was going to get down and didn’t anticipate for the wind. Ended up down a lot faster and a lot less safely than I originally anticipated. A few scratches and a big bruise on my pride, but other than that all was Ok. I’d probably still do it today – I’d always much rather see things for myself than read about them.

What states have you lived in? If you could relocate to anywhere in the U.S., where would it be? Why?

I’ve lived in Wyoming, Colorado, Washington and North Carolina. Right now, I’m in no rush to get out of NC. I still do love Colorado, but home is here. We’ve been here so long now. I would love, one day, to buy an old farmhouse and renovate it. So, I would relocate to someplace rural. I was thinking the mountains, but this cold snap has made me think twice about those frigid winters. Maybe just farther out in the county. I’m gonna have me some chickens one day!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Judgment Day: A Novel Review

Judgment Day: A Novel

Author: Wanda L. Dyson

I recently read a fiction book by an upcoming author and thought it would be neat to read another Christian fiction story since most of my reads are non-fiction. This time it is Judgment Day by Wanda L. Dyson. This is a story of intrigue, murder, relationships and a little redemption.

What I really liked about this book is that I didn’t want to put it down. Judgment Day is a cover-to-cover read. The chapters are fast-paced, engaging the reader in every scene and leaving him sitting on the edge of his seat wondering what will happen next. The characters are relatable. You feel you know them and yearn for their success or failure. I could go into detail, but spoilers are no fun! Dyson takes a frightening crime as the cornerstone for building a series of events that leave us both cheering and infuriated as the story unfolds. Some overly coincidental moments can be overlooked in order for the weaving to be complete. This book would make a great beach read. In fact, I’m passing it on to my mother-in-law to enjoy on her next beach trip.

What I didn’t find appealing were the Christian aspects of Judgment Day. Not because they were there, but because they seemed forced. The short comments alluding to faith or Christianity just didn’t fit in with the rest of the story. One could easily remove all references and the story would remain completely intact. I see no reason to force something like that – either it’s an integral part of the story or it isn’t. But, it shouldn’t be awkward.

However, these forced moments didn’t take away from the pleasure of the read. I would recommend the story if you like crime novels or mystery. There is plenty of both. I look forward to reading some of Dyson’s other novels.

***I was given this book free of charge through Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Monday Memoir Sneak Peek - Week 16

We just got to spend four glorious (actually monotonous) days iced in. Actually, my oldest son did since he’s in public school. They closed schools for four days with a two hour delay this morning. Frustrating for those of us from out west and used to dealing with snow.

I’m glad the thaw is well underway, and we will have no cabin fever for the weekend.

Here’s a sneak peek at Memoir Monday – come on by, grab the questions, answer and then link back up on Monday.

What types of inclement weather did you have to deal with as a child? Have you ever been through a monster blizzard, hurricane, tornado? How did your family handle it?

What states have you lived in? If you could relocate to anywhere in the U.S., where would it be? Why?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Five Question Friday

Join me in a little Five Question Friday? When you are done visit the My Little Life blog to see what others had to say.

1. What movie could you watch over and over again and not get tired of?

That’s a hard question to answer since I don’t really like movies or TV. I can watch A Christmas Carol every year and not grow tired of it. Does that count? I’ve seen Jurassic Park several times. I remember how astounding those dinosaurs were in the theater when it came out. It’s no masterpiece, but is fun to watch.

2. What's your biggest pet peeve right now?

Since my public school teenager just spent four days lounging around the house, I’d have to say the Southern fear of bad weather. Two days made sense, the third day seemed overly cautious, but day four was just crazy.

Starting February, my pet peeve will be people who still have their Christmas lights up. I swear one year I’ll start a non-profit dedicated to going around and extricating Christmas decor from the outside of people’s homes.

3. If you had to describe your best friend in five words or less, what would you say?

Godly, intelligent, determined, maternal, fun

4. If you did not have to worry about money or go to school what would you do for a living?

Travel. I’d love to be one of those people who test drives vacations and then writes about them. I’d go anywhere and everywhere.

5. What is your one "splurge" item, that you will always buy, no matter the cost?

No matter what the cost? Hmmm… I can’t think of anything… Wait! Diet Coke! Must have diet, and it must be Coca Cola brand. I’ll hunt high and low for a bargain on Diet Coke, but when push comes to shove (or the caffeine headache kicks in), I’ll spend the money to bring it home. Ahhhh… Pure refreshment! I’m pretty sure it’d be one of my “If I were stranded on an Island” must haves. I’d find a way to keep it cold, or drink it warm if I had to. In fact, I’d probably take it intravenously were it offered… Wait… Too much info. Yes, I have a VICE. I know; I need to work on that.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

RelaxZen Shots Review and GIVEAWAY

RelaxZen Shots

Ages: Adult

Being a busy mother of four who home schools, works from home and blogs, I was excited by the opportunity to try RelaxZen Day/Night shots. According to the web site, RelaxZen Day “works with your body to de-stress your mind, increase your focus and balance your mood.” While RelaxZen night, “help(s) you get the best night's sleep you have ever had.”

I can certainly use more focus and calm in my day and quality sleep in my nights, so I gave them a try.

RelaxZen Night was very effective in helping me relax. If you’re like me, when the head hits the pillow for rest, the brain starts running. I have trouble settling in and slowing my brain down so that I can sleep. I don’t want a sleeping aid because I wake up in the morning groggy and dragging my feet. That is no fun! After trying RelaxZen, I found it just helped me to relax. The next morning I awoke not feeling any after effects. This is huge! Something to help me sleep without ruining the next day.

The RelaxZen Day got the perfect test drive: the first week back to school (both homeschool and my online classes) after the holiday. It is typically hard for both me and the kids to focus the first day back, which leads to me not being entirely calm. I did feel calmer. Part of this might be psychosomatic, I knew I took something to be calmer so my brain decided I WAS calmer. Either way, it was good to get through the day without any hair pulled out, nobody was grounded, and my online classes got off to a good start.

Finally, what I liked about RelaxZen was that it didn’t taste bad. I will NOT take liquid medicine – something about that taste is a total turnoff for me. I’d rather suffer and drive to the store to buy pills than have to swallow liquid medicine. I was leery of the shots because of this. I would typically steer way clear of liquid. However, I was committed, so – bottoms up! They taste good! Like a fruity drink, not medicine-like at all. Big plus!

Overall, as you can read, I had a very positive experience. RelaxZen offers a whole line of shots – Day/Night, Flight Day/Night for travel (I’ll be trying this one), and Sport.

These shots can be found at several of the local pharmacy chains as well as other stores. The website will help you to locate them. Thank you to RelaxZen for the opportunity to try your shots.

You can get 10% off plus free shipping from with the code SMILE.

RelaxZen's new Facebook page can be found here:


NOW – if you’re interested, RelaxZen has generously given me three sample boxes to give away to my readers. If you could use a little more calm in your day and sleep in your night, do one or more of the following:

1. Leave a comment on my blog

2. Leave a comment on Facebook

3. Blog about this giveaway (leave me a link in the comments)

4. Follow my blog then leave a comment

You can have up to four entries. I’ll pick three entries at random to receive a sample.

Submit your entry by January 17th. I’ll notify the winners on the 18th to get shipping information.

Good luck!

***  This is a Mama Buzz review. The product was provided by: RelaxZen for this review.
**** As with any health product, be sure to consult a physician before using.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Fasting - Review


Author: Scot McKnight

Fasting is a ritual that I just don’t hear much about. I have friends who fast, but I can honestly say it hasn’t come up in any church I’ve been in. Interesting that this age’s old practice has been eliminated by many in this century.

The author of Fasting, Scot McKnight, points out readily that the Western world has seen a decline and an increased confusion about when and why to fast.

McKnight, throughout the book, places emphasis on the WHY of fasting. His illustration is an A – B – C approach. A is the why, B is the Fasting and C is the desired result. He contends that many fast with an end result in mind. His goal is to change that mindset to fasting being the result of a “grievous sacred moment” rather than fasting being a device used towards an end goal. As he rightly points out, God cannot be manipulated. Just as prayer shows our reliance on and desire to draw nearer to God, so does fasting. In either case, God can say no.

McKnight walks us through the many reasons to fast: body talk, body turning, body plea, body discipline, body calendar, body poverty, body contact and body hope. Throughout each, he continually emphasizes the A – B – C approach.

I enjoyed the read of this book, even though it was confusing at times. McKnight’s own admission that he has not focused on fasting both aided and detracted from the read. It aided in the sense that he could understand some of the reasons why it is not followed today. The detraction comes in the feeling that he may not be authoritative enough on the topic to be a good read for a person investigating fasting. While he uses considerable resources and scripture, it did feel like his preaching of the formula was a little excessive. As a person who has never tried fasting, I was looking for reasons to start. I found myself wondering what qualifies as a grievous sacred moment enough to prompt me to fast. Perhaps because I have never felt a desire to fast, I cannot recognize that “moment”?

I was interested to read that Christians fasted regularly on Wednesday and Friday in ancient times. I found myself desiring to attempt this connection with God and looking to Lent as a time to put my thoughts into action. Not wanting to seek a result, but rather a connection, Lent seems an appropriate time to remember Jesus’ sacrifice for us and fast to honor that.

*** I was sent a copy of this book by BookSneeze free of charge for my honest review.

Virtual Nerd Review

Virtual Nerd

Ages:  Middle/High School

Price: $49 per month (3, 6, 12 month packages available at a discount)

Virtual Nerd is an online tutorial system for math and science. From the website, “Virtual Nerd gives students a new option to turn to when they need help. For a fraction of the cost of private tutoring, students gain access to hundreds of interactive step-by-step video tutorials that match up with the practice problems in their textbook.”

Currently, Virtual Nerd offers tutorials in Math (Pre-algebra, Algebra 1 & 2) and Science (Intro to Physics). They anticipate adding extended Physics, Chemistry, Pre-calculus and Calculus.

My son and I were both very impressed with the quality of the tutorial videos. The instructors and the visual layout make the learning experience excellent. Each instructor does a great job of connecting with the audience and clearly describing the principle being illustrated.

The videos are short allowing one concept to be clearly discussed. I chose to go through the Physics videos because it has been a long time since I have taken physics. I wish I had Virtual Nerd back when I was in high school. The way the concepts are delivered and the mapping to learn the next step or next concept is clear and easy to understand.

My son watched the Algebra videos. He liked how simple it was to select the topic he wanted to learn about. He also commented on how clearly the topic was discussed so that he could understand and then practice the concepts in his math text.

The one drawback to the program at this point is price - $49.00 per month. I thought this was high given there are no worksheets, assessments, or ways to seek additional assistance if the concept is still unclear.

*** However – the site notes that “Early in the 2010-2011 school year, we will be launching an innovative tool to allow students to work on practice problems, take quizzes and get feedback. Two-way connections between our tutorials and our practice problems will allow students to progressively test, reinforce and troubleshoot their learning process in ways never before possible.”

I would gladly reevaluate when this is implemented and feel that these additional tools would make the price worthwhile.

To see additional reviews by the Homeschool Crew click here.

****  I was given access to Virtual Nerd free of charge in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Monday Memoir - Week 15

In theory, we’re supposed to be in for another snow storm today. Since I'm writing this the day before, I’ll have to update on the outcome. Here in the South, we have gone entire winters without so much as a flake of snow. This year, we have the first Christmas snow since the 1940’s. We’ll see if we are getting our second hit already.

Here are the two questions for this week.  Grab them, post them, then come on back and link up. 

1. Did you go to college? If so, how did you decide where to go? If not, why did you decide to go a different route?

2. How important was education in your home growing up?

1. Did you go to college? If so, how did you decide where to go? If not, why did you decide to go a different route?

Yes, I went to college. The first college I attended was Colorado State University. I went there because it was in the town I lived in, and I had always envisioned going there. In fact, it’s the only place I applied.

After attending for a year, I transferred to Colorado State University, Pueblo. My parents got divorced the year I started college. I decided to move here because it was where my dad was an administrator. I earned my BA in English.

It wasn’t until 2005 that I decided to go back to school to get my Master’s degree. This time, with four children and a job, I decided to earn it online through Eastern Carolina University. My MA in English was earned in 2007.

2.  How important was education in your home growing up?

This is a good question. My father always worked on university campuses while we were growing up. I wouldn’t say there was a big emphasis per say on education at home, but, since we grew up around education, it was a given.

I always expected to go to college. My parents didn’t push me one way or the other. However, I’ve always been OCD, so grades were something that compelled me. Both my sister and I did well in school, earned our bachelor’s degrees, went back later and earned our Master’s degrees, and we are now educators. I guess it’s in our blood.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Homeschooling Schedule

This week's blog cruise asks: Do you follow a traditional school day/time/schedule/year?

No, No, No, Mostly Yes

Well, that's the short answer, anyway.

We've been homeschooling for three years now.  My two youngest are homeschooled; my two oldest opted not to be.  My daughter was a senior, so that made sense.  My son was a sophomore when we started.  I wish we had pulled him out of public school, but we didn't.  He's graduating in two weeks - decided to graduate early and take college classes.

That being said, when we started, I had more of a public school mindset.  As we have progressed, I've realized that flexibility is one of the blessings of schooling from home.

Do we follow a traditional day?  If that means having a set time for each subject and following it, the answer is no.  We take as long as it takes to complete our objective in each subject for that day.  Sometimes it's longer than a traditional class and sometimes it's shorter.

Do we follow traditional time?  Not really.  We start at 8:30.  If they were in public school, they would both start at 9:00.  However, again, we go however long it takes to meet our objectives.  That means we get done between 1:30 and 3:30'ish depending upon the day.  Every now and then we go longer, but not too often.

Do we follow a traditional schedule?  I guess this could be interpreted many ways.  Do I make sure the boys are learning exactly what they would be learning in public school?  No.  I mean, sure, they are learning all they should be learning, but I don't limit them to that.  In most cases, we are ahead of where they would be.  Ben takes high school classes even though he's not in ninth grade yet, and Noah has been taking middle school level classes in several subjects since fourth grade.  In some cases, we are right on par, but I don't see a reason to limit them.  We move at their pace.  If something needs more emphasis, we do it.  If they understand a concept, we don't belabor it.  The nice thing about small class size (2) - I can cater to their abilities. 

Do we follow a traditional year?  Here I would have to say, mostly yes.  Since my oldest son, up till now, has been in public school, we have taken vacation time when he has it as well.  We don't take off for teacher workdays - they just put us behind.  We do, however, bank those days we don't take giving us wiggle room to take a longer Thanksgiving, Christmas, or even spring break.  We break for summer when the public schools do.  We start back with one or two subjects a couple of weeks ahead of them, but we don't get into full swing until they do as well.  It's what the boys were used to and what my son's schedule was like, so we did it.  I'm not sure if it'll stay that way now that he's in college as well.  We'll just play it by ear.  We usually exceed the 181 day expectation of the state.

The flexibility is one of the most wonderful aspects of schooling my boys at home.  Some days I'll tell them they need to hurry up, and they'll say, "Mom, we don't have a time we have to finish.  Relax."  Other times, they are telling me they want to hurry and get done. 

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Monday Memoir Sneak Peek - Week 15

Our first week back to school went pretty smoothly all things considered. I envisioned it being a lot harder to get back into the groove than it actually was. Yay!

Here are the Monday Memoir questions – pop by, check them out, and link back up on Monday…

1. Did you go to college? If so, how did you decide where to go? If not, why did you decide to go a different route?

2.  How important was education in your home growing up?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Let's Do Lunch Winner

And the Winner is…

Congratulations to Michelle for winning my first giveaway – Let’s Do Lunch.

Michelle – please post a comment with your address so that I can send you the book. I won’t publish the comment.

Have a wonderful Friday All!


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Clever Girls Collective and Heart of Haiti

January 12 is the anniversary of the Haitian earthquake. The Haitian government reported that an estimated 230,000 people died, 300,000 were injured and 1,000,000 were left homeless. Today, many still struggle to provide their families with the basic necessities of life.

Macy’s has partnered with Willa Shalit’s for-profit company Fair Winds Trading to bring the works of Haitian artisans to the public. Each purchase returns 22% of the profit to the artisan. In addition to offering these artists the opportunity to sell their products to a wider market, they are given the opportunity to interact with U.S. designers creating a global effort.

Visit the Macy’s Heart of Haiti site to see the beautiful collection of affordable prints, plates, bowls, sculptures, candle holders and frames. The unique design and flavor of Haiti makes each piece a beautiful addition to your home. While there, view the brief bios of the artists. Seeing their faces and the pride they have in their craft is uplifting.

The holidays have just passed. It’s easy to forget the suffering that went on just one year ago in Haiti. People are still suffering. This is one way you or I can help make a difference in these people’s lives.

I was selected for this very special “CleverHaiti” opportunity by Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Timberdoodle Review - The Critical Thinking Company

Building Thinking Skills Level 3 & Editor in Chief
The Critical Thinking Company

Age: 12+ & 14+
Price: $29.99 & 18.99
I was thrilled when Timberdoodle asked me to review critical thinking books for them. Critical thinking is one of the areas I have always felt is lacking in today’s college aged students. My experience in the college classroom is that students are not used to being asked to think for themselves. Perhaps this is due to the prevalence of multiple-choice tests?

In any case, I want my kids to think critically. I hope you do too.

The first product I am reviewing is Building Thinking Skills Level 3 Figural by the Critical Thinking Company.

As noted on the Timberdoodle web site, the “activities are sequenced developmentally. Each skill (for example, classifying) is presented first in the semi-concrete figural-spatial form and then in the abstract verbal form. Children learn to analyze relationships between objects, between words, and between objects and words as they:

Observe, recognize, and describe characteristics.
Distinguish similarities and differences.
Identify and complete sequences, classifications, and analogies.

My boys really enjoy this book. They actually look forward to the time of day where we pull out our critical thinking to do exercises. Typically, we do between five and ten pages per day depending on how extensive the exercises are. You can view sample exercise pages here.

What I like is that they are being asked to be aware of what they are viewing and then look deeper to complete the exercise. At first, my younger son will tell me, “Mom, this is hard.” Then, shortly thereafter, a light bulb will come on and he’ll get busy working through the problem. The more he sees that he can take on the challenge and use his brain to discern the answer, the more excited he gets.

I would encourage all homeschool families to incorporate critical thinking skills into their schedule.
The second book I was asked to evaluate is Editor in Chief also by the Critical Thinking Company. I loved the concept of this book when I saw it. I teach English online and grade numerous papers every semester. There are common errors that students typically make. One way instructors try to help students develop editing skills it through peer feedback: students providing feedback on one another’s papers. This concept helps students see errors they make by finding them in other’s work. Sometimes it’s easier to find the errors when the content isn’t yours.

Editor in Chief is the same concept. Students are asked to edit papers with numerous errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, capitalization and formatting details. The student is told how many errors there are and then must go through the piece to find them. I find this to be excellent. The boys enjoy the hunt and end up helping one another if there are errors they just can’t seem to spot. In addition, the book provides great detail on where the errors are, what they are and how they should be corrected.

I believe this will help them not only improve their own editing skills, but to help them become better writers. They will be asked to peer edit when they get to college. Providing strong feedback is an asset to their peer, for their own benefit, and demonstrates to their instructors their ability to recognize strong writing.

I plan to continue to incorporate these exercises into our home school and to have the boys use those skills to peer edit each other’s work.

As you can see, I was very impressed with both texts. I’m grateful for being able to review the books and look forward to using other products by the Critical Thinking Company.

*** As a member of Timberdoodle's Blogger Review Team I received a free copy of these books in exchange for a frank and unbiased review.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Monday Memoir - Week 14

I think we're finally on the mend from our holiday bug.  Just in time for school adn work to kick back in.  I do feel it's a blessing we all go sick when we had the luxury to deal with it rather than having to try get things done while feeling yuck.

Here are the Monday Memoir questions – pop by, check them out, and link back up on …

1. How did your family spend New Years Day?  How do you spend it now?

2.  Do you make New Year's Resolutions?  Which ones were you able to keep?  Which ones do you find you make, but don't follow through on?

1. How did your family spend New Year’s Day? How do you spend it now?

I don’t remember my family doing anything special for New Year’s Day. We always stayed up until midnight to watch the ball drop, and then went to bed. The next day, however, I don’t remember anything special.

New Year’s Eve we got a bunch of chips and drinks. We’d play games and then make noise to ring in the New Year. I remember buying my mom new aluminum bowls for Christmas one year. We took them outside to bang on with spatulas. Then came back in all dented up. Doh!

Our family does pretty much the same thing now except for the making noise part. I'm excited to see Dick Clark still ringing in the year, even if it's clearly hard for him.  Bless him.

2. Do you make New Year's Resolutions? Which ones were you able to keep? Which ones do you find you make, but don't follow through on?

A couple of years I’ve made the resolution to lose weight. Fortunately, OCD works very well for me here. When I get my mind set on something (like only eating so many calories), I’m good at sticking to it. That is until I reach a plateau. OCD people need results. When the results stop, so does the motivation.

This year – I resolve to have no resolutions. I’ll take the year as it comes and figure out what needs doing when it hits. At least, that’s the plan for now. :-)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Monday Memoir Sneak Peek - Week 14

Christmas was wonderful!  I hope yours was as well.  We've managed, however, to have five of the six of us sick ever since.  Urgh!  Hoping we're getting it all out of our system for the New Year.
Here are the Monday Memoir questions – pop by, check them out, and link back up on Monday…

1. How did your family spend New Years Day?  How do you spend it now?

2.  Do you make New Year's Resolutions?  Which ones were you able to keep?  Which ones do you find you make, but don't follow through on?