Monday, December 31, 2012

Bible Reading Challenge

Out with the old....and in with the new.....

Yesterday at church we proposed a challenge to our youth group to really get close to God this coming year, by reading through their Bibles.  Many people have never read the Bible through from Genesis to Revelation. The Word of God is alive and powerful, and reading it will help you get to know God better, as well as learning what kinds of plans and purpose He has for your life! I have always found that the New Year - flipping the calendar - is a great time to reset yourself and start some new habits.

I compiled a list of Bible reading resources, and would like to challenge all who come in contact with my blog to choose one and make a commitment to God and to themselves to faithfully and daily read their Bible this year. 

There are several ways you can do this.....  I think the important thing is to pick a plan that is doable for you, and then stick to it! How many of us have started the new year with great intentions and gotten bogged down with life within the first few weeks??  I have heard it said that Genesis is the most read book of the Bible because of those 'good intentions'.

For those of you who have never read through the Bible, or find reading challenging, may I suggest that you commit to reading through just the New Testament this year?  (This is also a great plan for children! It is 'just the right amount' for a beginner to intermediate reader, or for a read-aloud program with your children)  Here is a set of printable bookmarks that you can use to help you.

Read through the New Testament this year!

Click here to go to website for printables

Audio Bible Online
If you are like some of the members of my family, and would like to "hear" as well as read along with the Bible, here is a great free site to help you do just that! It even keeps track of where you left off. One of my children used this everyday this past year, and had the benefit of not only learning to read through some of the harder words, but also of "hearing" the Word of God.

52 Week Bible Reading Plan

This next plan is for those who may have already read through their Bibles, and are looking for something a little different, or get bored with the tedious lists of genealogies and need to have their reading "mixed up" a bit.  This is a plan that gives you a little bit of Old Testament, New Testament, prophecy, poetry, etc. all week long - something different every day.

Other Plans:

Here is one more site that has nice printables to give you a little bit of Old Testament, New Testament, and Psalms/Proverbs everyday.  Bible Reading Checklists from The Teaching Home

One interesting and challenging way to read the Bible, and to really dig into it, getting a clearer picture of what events and people were contemporary, is to read through the Bible following a chronological plan.  Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Lastly, I found a 90 day challenge. Following this plan will allow you to read through the entire Bible in just 90 days.  I have heard variations, that it can take 30 minutes to an hour to accomplish this. I suppose it depends on how fast of a reader you are. Someday I would really like to do this!!  I am including it as a challenge and resource here too....  We have one young lady in our youth group who has committed to doing this, and I'm proud of her!

Here is the copy of the downloadable pdf from Back to the Bible that will give you the plan to read through the Bible in 90 days.  If you take the challenge and complete it, please let me know! I would love to share in your joy.

While I have included many different sites and links here - I do not completely endorse everything that these sites have to offer. Many use different versions, which I do not agree with, and many have opinions and editorials that I am not endorsing. Rather, please view this simply for what it is - a resource list of tools that you can use. Take the good, leave the bad, so they say. These Bible reading plans are very well done and I would like nothing more than to see them get a lot of use! May there be a revival of the reading of the Word of God in our lives this year!

I would love to share in your Bible reading success!! Each member of my family has chosen a plan and committed to it for this coming year, and I hope you will too!

Happy New Year!
May God richly bless you in 2013!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Gift Giving on a Budget

As we package up all the Christmas decorations, I feel a satisfaction in knowing that we were able to give to our children, as well as family, friends, and neighbors, without incurring all kinds of debt and without stressing over giving on a tight budget.

I have learned and put into practice a few things over the years to allow our family to be a blessing, and to be givers, while living on a "ministry" salary, and not being extravagant. The old saying "It's the thought that counts" really is true! Many times, we are dissatisfied with our giving because it does not meet our own expectations of what we would like to give, or how we want the gift to look.  A gift can be beautiful in it's simplicity. It does not need $10 worth of wrap, packaging, and ribbons to be "nice."

I would like to share a short list of ideas to help you be a giving family, while not breaking the bank or tearing up your budget. I think it is very important to teach our children how to be givers, even when they do not have a lot of money to spend. Actually, it is much more personal that way - anyone can go to the store and buy a card and put money or a gift card in it. Nothing wrong with that - I LOVE getting gift cards! But, what do you do when you have a birthday, a graduation, a wedding and a baby shower all in one weekend?  Who has an extra $100+ laying around to go buy gift cards? 

That's when creative gift giving ideas come in to play.....

First, I would like to link up to a nifty website I found on Pinterest, that has all kinds of ideas for gift giving on a budget. Money Saving Mom - 7 Ways to Give Generously   This link goes directly to a nice summary list, but if you look around on the site, there are all kinds of posts and listings that have a lot of neat ideas.

Next, in no particular order, are some ideas we use to be able to participate in gift giving without overspending.  In our budget, there is almost no extra space for "frivolous spending", so we have to be pretty creative!

  • Use a credit card that gives rewards.  We have an Amazon credit card that gives us "points" on Amazon. You can find almost anything on Amazon! Works great for gift shopping.  For years we have relied on a Toys R Us credit card, where we got "rewards" on all our spending, in the form of TRU gift cards.  This has provided countless gifts over the years!

  • Shop the Dollar Store for cards. We have two dollar stores in our area that have a beautiful selection of cards. All the cards are either 50 cents or one dollar. Packs of thank you cards are $1. It is quite possible for us to buy all our cards for birthdays and special occasions at these two places, and save quite a bit. OR....MAKE your own handmade cards! It could be as easy as using colored or scrapbook paper. You can find nice poems or sentiments easily online, and copy them into your card. If you involve the children in this, people enjoy it even more!

  • Shop clearance sales. I can't emphasize this enough! I have a section of my closet that I stash all my clearance finds in, and almost always have a gift on hand and available when the need arises! Often, I will see something that is 70-90% off, and is generic enough that I know it will be put to good use. At that price, for pennies on the dollar, it makes sense to use some money from the grocery budget if I'm able, and purchase the gift item.

  • Make handmade gifts! With the dawning of Pinterest in my life, I have found so many ideas of cute DIY or small handmade gifts that I can easily make. I'm not a real "crafty" person, but so many of the ideas are simple enough that I can make them. The bonus is that it doubles as quality time with the kids when we make something together!

  • Is it ever ok to recycle gifts? Personally, I don't have a problem with it in some very limited circumstances. There have been some categories of gifts, such as when my kids received several dolls, that I encouraged them to choose the one they liked best, and share the other with a friend. This is one area that I think we have to be very careful with, as it would never be a good idea to hurt the feelings of someone who gave to you.  But, if the gifts are generic enough and you feel you want to "share them forward" then it is a possibility.

  • Homemade baked goods or food gifts are always a welcome gift! Most people really enjoy the fact that you are sharing yummyness with them! Often, I will make a dinner to share with a family that could use some encouragement, just had a new baby, or is contending with some illness or stress. I will choose a tasty but simple dish, and just make twice as much, packaging half of it up to deliver to the other family. One hint here....hit up the dollar store for their cheap aluminum serving dishes and give your food gifts in those, so the family does not have the added pressure of remembering to return your dishes!

  • Recycle everyday items into new uses! This is where it helps to be a creative person! I don't have much originality or creativity, but I am a great copier. When I see good ideas, I can put them to good use! Perhaps you can take an empty can, paint or paper it, and make it into something new! Again, here's where google, pinterest, and other blogs comes in. If I see blogs that have great ideas for stuff like this, written by people who are much more creative than me, I will subscribe to them so I have a steady stream of good ideas to pick from.

  • Shop thrift stores. There are a few thrift stores in my area that even have 50% off days.... In the housewares section, there are often a lot of new items. There are also items that you can remake into something new. For example, our local thrift store had plain white plates for 50cents. With just a little paint, they become a beautiful personalized gift!

  • Use coupons! Every week our local craft stores have a coupon for 40% or 50% off one item. These can make great gift items. Sometimes, JcPenney or one of the other department stores will have a $10 off any purchase. I will always look for an item that is as close to $10 as I can find, so that I can get it for nearly no cost. The jewelry clearance section is one of my favorite spots to shop. Often I have found necklaces for 90% off, and the $10 coupon will cover the balance.

  • Use reward programs! Again, I think of the local craft store. I faithfully use my "rewards" card every time I make a purchase. About twice a year, I receive a $10 gift certificate from the store to reward my efforts. This almost always goes towards gift items.

  • Give the gift of yourself and your time. Maybe you can just sit and visit with someone. What are you good at? Can you use that talent to help someone? Maybe you can clean their car or house, or give them an evening of free babysitting. Be creative and think about the needs of the other person, and you just might surprise yourself about how much you can give!

  • Don't wait till the last minute! If you shop all year round, you won't be bound by the pressure of NEEDING to leave the store with something! Like I said previously, I have my gift stash in my closet, and usually always have a small selection of items available to be wrapped and given away.  I also shop year round for Christmas! If it comes to my attention that there is something my family members are interested in that would make a great gift, I will stalk it on ebay until I find an auction where the price is right, and then make the purchase. Or I will wait until coupons become available to make the purchase.... It's always fun when we start to wrap gifts at Christmas time. Usually there are always a few 'surprise' items at the bottom of my pile that I forgot about, since they had been sitting there for months!

These are just a few ideas that we have put into practice. I think it's so important to teach our children to be givers. When they are giving and tasting of the joy that comes with giving, it will reinforce the lesson to them, and spur them on to be generous and overcome the selfishness in their own lives.  Many times I will come up with a gift, but pass it on to my children and have them do the actual giving, to give them more opportunities to experience that joy.

As the new year comes, may you be blessed as you remember and practice what the Bible says:

 Acts 20:35 I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.

Check out the TOS Review Crew Blog for more frugal living ideas!

Living Frugally

This post is linked to a series called "Frugal Family 2013" at "Ben and Me"
Frugal Family 2013

Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Daughter's Christmas Gift . . . With Love : Downloadable Video Illustrations at Bluefish TV

A Daughter's Christmas Gift . . . With Love : Downloadable Video Illustrations at Bluefish TV

PLEASE take a minute to click this link and watch this short video!

This video is a great reminder to us parents, to take the time to enjoy the precious everyday moments that our children bring to our lives. Let's take the time to look beyond our selfish ways and enjoy simple life through the eyes of a child! Let your children know how much they are loved and valued.

"Enjoy the little things everyday, for one day you will look back and see that they were the big things!"

Homemade Christmas Gifts

One way we bless a lot of people at Christmas time, while on a tight budget, is to make a wide assortment of cookies and fudge and package them up in cute presentations, either on plates wrapped in cellophane or small tins.  I love it when people feel so special because they received a gift of homemade baked goods.

While on the subject of being on a budget, I clip coupons and watch the baking sales all throughout the fall, and spend about $5 a week of my grocery budget every grocery shopping trip on baking supplies. In this way, I am able to gather all the ingredients necessary for our big cookie baking extravaganza. One store puts bags of flour for 99 cents, and bags of sugar for 1.99! There is a limit of 2 so I just added 2 bags to every shopping order for a few weeks! Chocolate chips always go on sale at one point, and there are always coupons to be had on the internet.... Then another week I buy extracts and spices.... By the time mid-December rolls around, I have everything I need!

For the tins and packaging supplies, I take a quick run out after Christmas and shop the after-Christmas clearance sales. While the best selections are all picked through, I can usually find enough tins, plates, wrappers, and treat boxes at 75% off. After purchasing, I will pack them up in my attic for storage till next year, and always have more than enough packaging supplies for the cookie plates!

Cookie trays waiting to be delivered

This year, we made two new cookies that were a huge hit - melted snowmen and Cucidati.

The melted snowmen cookies were from a recipe I found on Pinterest.

As far as Cucidati, my husband loves them, but I have never made them before. I am not Italian, and have never seen them made. So I searched out a recipe and gave it a try.  It was pretty amusing. My first few attempts looked funny, and my family had all kinds of opinions of what they resembled.... from scones to pizza bites! I finally did have some success and had a few that turned out looking halfway decent. No matter what they looked like....they tasted wonderful! I think I might have to find some Italian grandma to give me some lessons before next year!

I think the funniest moment was when Kelly asked what was in them....and called them Cuci.."mommy's" instead of cucidati's!

First attempt at making cucidati

I love the memories I make with the girls as we bake cookies together. I hope as they grow older, they will continue our tradition of blessing others with the labors of our hands.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Significance of Jesus

Merry Christmas! Have you ever wondered about Christmas? I mean, really taken in the wonder of what happened? Consider this short essay:

One Solitary Life

He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in still another village, where He worked in a carpenter shop until He was 30. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a house. He didn't go to college. He never traveled more than 200 miles from the place He was born. He did none of the things one usually associates with greatness. He had no credentials but Himself. He was only 33 when public opinion turned against Him. His friends deserted Him. He was turned over to His enemies and went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. When He was dying, His executioners gambled for His clothing, the only property He had.. . . on earth. When He was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend. Nineteen centuries have come and gone, and today He is the central figure of the human race, the leader of mankind's progress. All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man on earth as much as that One Solitary Life. Do You Know Who He Is?

Dr James Allan Francis in “The Real Jesus and Other Sermons”

© 1926 by the Judson Press of Philadelphia (pp 123-124 titled “Arise Sir Knight!”).
Here is another video from Dan Stevers that talks about the Mystery of Christmas. PLEASE take 2 1/2 minutes to watch this video.  It is worth it!!
Wishing all our friends a very Merry Christmas! Thank you Jesus for being born, living, and dying for us!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas Cantata Live Streaming

"The Richest Family In Town"

I would like to invite all our friends to sit back and watch our Christmas Cantata tonight. It is being live streamed at 7:00 pm on Friday, December 21, and will feature a heart warming story set in Caldwell, NJ in the late 1940's.  The story is called "The Richest Family In Town" and has a large choir, orchestra, and a reader's theatre. Most of our family is involved, either in the cast or in music.

Click here to go to the live stream!  You can choose either Windows Media Player or Flash - click on which one you have and it will take you to the live stream.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Virtual Christmas Cookie Exchange

Since I recently posted about Christmas cookie baking, I thought I would link up a favorite recipe to a virtual cookie exchange! I am always on the hunt for new Christmas recipes to add to our tried and true favorites. Every year, I try to include at least 1 or 2 new recipes into our Christmas baking day.  If the recipes turn out well, they get written down in the Christmas book, but if not, we 'lose' that recipe and try something else next year!

This is a very easy favorite. It's dangerous to have around. All I'll say is that it's a good thing I only make them at Christmas, and give most of them away quickly. It would not be good to have a lot of them sitting around the house!

Here is the basic recipe:

Oreo Truffles
1 package of Oreos, crushed
1 8oz. block of cream cheese, softened
1 tsp. vanilla extract
12 oz bag of semi-sweet chocolate or white chips

First, crush all the cookies either by hand (in a bag with a rolling pin) or in a food processor. The smaller the better - if you can get it into a powdery texture, that's best. Next, in your mixer or food processor, combine the cream cheese, cookie crumbs, and vanilla extract until mixture resembles paste - it will still look and feel 'wet' but should be very moldable. Form the mixture into small balls and chill them for at least an hour. Melt the chocolate and dip the cookie balls into it. Place on a wax paper lined tray to harden. Before they harden, you may shake sprinkles or colored sugar or crushed peppermints onto the tops. Or after they harden, melt a different color chocolate and drizzle over the dry truffles. Keep chilled for best results.


Here are a few variations:

Low Fat Oreo Truffles

Follow the recipe above exactly, using the following ingredient substitutions:

Use 1 package of reduced fat Oreo's in place of regular.
Use low fat or fat free cream cheese.

Making them in this way cuts down the calories and fat. While they are still not the healthiest thing in the world, by following the low fat version you can get them down to 2 WW points+ each!

Flavor Variations:

Mint - substitute mint Oreo's and peppermint extract. When dry, drizzle melted green wafers over the tops of the truffles.

Golden - Substitute golden Oreo's for the regular ones. Use vanilla extract, and definitely dip in white chocolate!

Gluten and Dairy Free Version:

Of course, we have to make this version for those in our household to whom it applies:

We substitute the Kinnikinnick K-Toos GF/DF Oreo's for the cookies.

We sub in Tofutti Soy "Better Than" Cream Cheese for the cream cheese.

Be sure to use a gluten free vanilla extract!

Then dip them in melted scrumptious Enjoy Life 'Chocolate' Chips to complete the process.

No matter which version you make, I can guarantee that they won't last long! And if you give them away as gifts, everyone will love them, and at least several people will ask for the recipe. And really....they couldn't be easier!

I am linking this to a virtual cookie exchange over at "Treasuring Life's Blessings".

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

National Homeschool Cookie Baking Day

That's what my kids called yesterday! Every year we take one day, put all schoolwork away, and turn the kitchen into a complete bake shop, turning out cookies, fudge, and candies by the dozens. This year was no different...except that by the time the afternoon rolled around and we had cookies stacked everywhere, there was a knock on the door. When we answered it, we greeted the homeschoolers from across the street, who had done the same exact thing and were bearing gifts of truffles and cookies for us! They came in and laughed when they saw our big mess....

So my kids officially named the day "National Homeschool Cookie Baking Day"!!!

I think it's important to not only make good memories, but to teach the girls that Christmas is not all about spending lots of money you don't really have on meaningless gifts. While we do exchange gifts, we try to not have that be the focus. Taking a day to do baking, and packing up the cookies to take and deliver to friends and family is very rewarding because the kids know they had a big part in it. I have been watching sales and using coupons and stocking up on baking ingredients for a couple months now. We were able to turn that small investment into a big yield of treats! It was great to know that we now have gifts from our heart and hands to share with a lot of people. The girls proudly packaged some up already, and enjoyed filling out the little cards that said "Baked by..." with their own names.

There's a lot of little life lessons that you can teach your children by baking with them. You can show them the value of doing things right, even the smallest details, because it really does matter in the end when you have a good product to show for it. You can also learn a lot about working together and not scolding each other when a mistake is made. As my older ones have learned, if you clean as you go, the mess at the end of the day is not so bad! There is also great satisfaction in seeing the recipient of your gift enjoy the fruit of your labors.

And when you have students who are equally as interested in photography as they are baking, can do double duty by not just having a "home ec" day but also photography practice!!!  Here are some "foodie" pictures from our cookie baking day, taken by Laura! Enjoy!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Review of Schoolhouse Teachers Website


For my first assignment with The Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received a membership to the Schoolhouse Teachers website, which is a division of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. This was my first time ever on a homeschool curriculum site that had a paid subscription, and I had no idea what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised at the wide variety of subjects and items that were available! There was a very good balance of viewpoints and skill levels, ranging from pre-k through high school and college, as well as plenty of extra goodies for the adults!

There are two options available for purchasing a membership. A full year membership typically costs $64.26 but is currently on special for $49.  Or there is an option to purchase a month-by-month membership to try out the site, for $5.95 a month, with the first month’s fee for only $1. I was surprised at the amount of extras and freebies that are included in a purchased membership. (If you are thinking of purchasing a membership, please use my affiliate button to the left of my blog!)

Just a few of the freebies that come with a membership!
Since we already have a full curriculum, I don’t need to use the site in that way. Personally, I don’t think the lessons on there are intense enough for a complete curriculum, but I think they would make excellent fillers, supplemental work for troubling areas, or used as elective courses.  I also think the site would be excellent for a parent whose child is in school, but struggling in one or more areas. They could use the lessons and worksheets on this site to target those areas for a little extra help at home.

There were so many areas to choose from, that I had a hard time narrowing it down to a few choices that I could look at more in depth for this review.  I picked a few that would be of interest to my family:

·         Microbusiness for teens – The information taught on this lesson is geared towards high school students. It is laid out in a very well organized manner, and completely takes the student through a master plan of starting their own microbusiness. I thought the philosophies and training offered were excellent! There are links to the author’s website where other materials are available for purchase that are not included in the Schoolhouse Teachers paid subscription, but there definitely is enough material included on Schoolhouse Teachers that the students can be well on their way to starting and running a successful microbusiness. In fact…stay tuned because my high schoolers are in the process of starting one! Look for an announcement soon on the blog here!

·         Home Economics. Generally, whenever I see a Home Ec course, I look at it for a few minutes to see if there is anything there that will spark my attention. Having four daughters definitely brings up the need for good Home Ec training! Besides, I enjoy all the various aspects of homemaking and am always open to better and more creative ways to run my own household.  This Home Ec course was very different than any I have seen before. Typically, you can expect the basic cooking class, along with the customary ‘sew your first apron or pillow’ project.  Sometimes there will be some cleaning, budgeting, and organizing tips thrown in. Not with this course! It was not a cooking and sewing class, but an ECONOMICS class for the home! It dealt with the philosophy behind homemaking, and hit on areas such as de-cluttering and attitudes! WOW! That definitely got my attention, and I saw several lessons that I will use with my girls as we discuss various aspects of womanhood and keeping a home.

·         Voice Lessons – Since our family enjoys singing together for fun, and the girls are all involved in music, I decided to zero in on the voice lessons. I was a little disappointed that there was not more detailed training. It was very basic, and not a lot of information they could use. They found it very repetitive and simple, and definitely not challenging enough for high school level. Perhaps if an elementary student wanted to do some of the exercises and learn some of the foundational aspects, this would be a good course for them to look into.

·         Elementary math lessons – My 2nd grader is a great student and loves her work. She gets done much earlier than the others, and enjoys computer games, so I thought I would look into some of the math lessons and let her try them out. When I saw that there were short videos, I was excited. I thought she would get a kick out of watching a short (6 minute) video and then doing a worksheet about it. We watched it together, and she quickly lost interest. The video seemed more geared toward the teacher, showing them how to teach the student a particular math concept. I guess I was expecting videos geared towards the student. The worksheets were either below or above her level, so even though I printed them out, we were not able to use them. (Although my 6th grader thought they looked fun and asked if she could do them!) I do have to say though, that the worksheets were very clear, easy to read, and had great sets of repeating problems that would really work the concept in and get it grounded in the student’s mind.  There was also a very nice teacher key included with the worksheets. It was easy on the eyes too!

·         Chemistry experiments – We enjoyed watching some of the science projects on short videos. It really motivated the kids to want to try it out for themselves, after seeing what happened.  We have several different experiments lined up for this week! I love that many of the experiments had a short video. It’s very helpful to see it being done first before attempting it yourself. It pretty much ensures that we’ll be able to do it the right way the first time!

Overall, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by what I found on Schoolhouse Teachers.  It is very affordable and would be a good investment for a family that has multiple age groups. It is also inexpensive enough that you could use it alongside your main curriculum to enhance your schooling experience. There is enough variety on there, that you can really ‘spice up’ extra curricular activities. If you have older students who want to study something unique, there seems to be a lot of extras that could really meet that need, such as filmmaking, foreign language, art, and music. There is also a lot of college prep material.

Lastly, the site is loaded with enough freebies, e-books to download, and extras, that a membership would more than pay for itself in no time at all. The site is well organized and it is easy to find what you are looking for.  I am very glad to know about Schoolhouse Teachers and hope to continue to bless my family with this one-stop shop of helps.


Disclaimer: I received a free membership at through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions expressed are that of my own and my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Thoughts of Christmas

Stationery card
View the entire collection of cards.
I saw an idea that I really liked, and decided to try this year - combining our annual family letter with a picture card! Sometimes it is hard to come up with a letter....if I am in a 'detail-oriented' mood then I can't seem to fit it all on one page! Or I have a hard time picking out what was 'newsworthy' and interesting, and what was just typical family stuff. Combining them into one item gave me a way to list some of the highlights and memories of the year, while also including some real life, everyday pictures, as well as some Christmas sentiments.

Plus..... anyone who has a blog AND uses Shutterfly.... if you embed your finished project onto your blog, they will send you a $10 gift certificate! Since I still have a Christmas present to make on Shutterfly, I decided to take advantage of this great deal and share my family Christmas card with you!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine

This post will be my very first 'review' of a homeschooling product, so please bear with me while I 'practice'!
There is a really neat resource that I have been looking at for quite a while now. I first heard of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine several years ago through some other homeschooling friends. Now, with the advent of electronics, it is easy to look at the magazine online from my computer, and refer back to the digital past issues, gaining a world of homeschool ideas, websites, and information with just a few clicks. For those with mobile electronic readers, there are apps that can download the magazine for those devices. Those are available at The Old Schoolhouse to Go.
It is possible to have a giant homeschool resource center without any clutter!

For this review, I received and read the The Old Schoolhouse Magazine's December 2012 Issue
I need to point out right away that the magazine is FREE! As I read through it, I was impressed by the quality of the publishing, graphics, and layout. One thing I really enjoyed is that articles are laid out in their entirety. If they don't fit on the page, they are continued right away on the next page. I always get so distracted when articles are 'continued' halfway through the magazine at some other point. I am the type of person who likes to read magazines from cover to cover in order, not skipping all around! The other thing I really appreciate is the magazine's strong Christian virtues and Conservative values, without apology. It is easy to tell where the worldview of this magazine is centered! I love that many of the writers incorporated Scriptures into their articles.
The magazine was 132 pages long, which took me awhile to get through. Not all the articles were applicable to our particular situation, but I was particularly blessed by this issue, as it had quite a bit of information, articles, and resources geared towards parenting and homeschooling teenagers, as well as the transition from homeschool senior to college.  This hits home right now, as we are right in the middle of the graduation/college application process for our oldest. I found myself taking notes, looking up links and bookmarking websites, and even printing out an article for my senior that listed 3 helpful hints for college success.
I think the magazine has tremendous balance, as there were not only articles pertaining to every age group, but also an article for special needs homeschooling. I really like the articles that delved into specific subjects, and I appreciated that the advertising that went with that particular subject area could be found on the same or next page! This makes the magazine very well organized, so it is easy to go back and find advertisements or articles. There is also an index in the back that lists advertisers by alphabetical order to help in finding what you are looking for.
Another positive note that I appreciated was that the articles and reviews are written by real, authentic, "in-the-trenches" homeschooling families. There was a good balance of older veteran authors, both men and women, as well as articles by young people.
One article in particular, right in the beginning, "The Gift of Everyday Moments" really spoke to my heart. I felt like it was written "mom to mom" and it was a great reminder that I don't need to be a supermom always searching after those elusive super powers to make everything happen and run smoothly in my household. Instead, I need to focus on handling the daily little moments properly, and realize how precious they really are. This was a great reinforcement to my Sunday School lesson for this week, which is on "Mary and Martha." It was pretty clear to me that the Lord was speaking to my heart about this subject!
This magazine is very advertisement heavy. That's wonderful if you are looking for a virtual homeschool convention at your fingertips on a monthly basis, or are in search of a particular curriculum or source to fit a need in your homeschool or family. Personally I found the advertising a bit overwhelming, but I am also not in the cateogry of seeking out curriculum right now, so that is understandable. I tend to run off on rabbit trails chasing after good ideas when I see them, so I need to always keep a good balance. While I enjoy looking at "what's out there", I don't want to let it become a burden to me, where I will feel the need to "do everything" that I find just because it is a good idea.
Overall, I think The Old Schoolhouse Magazine is a tremendous resource, and I am so thankful to see such a great publication available to assist homeschoolers and Christian families that are trying to do their best and raise Godly families in this present day.
Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

Friday, November 23, 2012

A Few Thanksgiving Projects

This year we tried a few new things to make Thanksgiving a bit more festive. It's fun as the children get older and are able to take on more complicated projects. They can see an idea and run with it, and it doesn't require as much preparation and work on my part. It does make for interesting projects sometimes.... but it is also nice to show them a picture of an idea and see them take off with it.
For the table, we made place cards for everyone, using white cardstock, colored ink stamp pads, and fingertips! A sharpie marker and white out added on some details, and the names of those dining at the table.

Someone got creative and tried a different perspective.

Then the girls got the awesome idea to add some games and things to do on the inside of the cards, to give some entertainment at the dinner table. They found some fun Thanksgiving Mad Libs and printed them out and glued them on the inside.

I am always looking for some type of project to remind us of the many blessings we have and things we have to be thankful for. This is what makes Thanksgiving one of my favorite holidays. I love the fact that we have a whole day set aside to help us adjust our focus and ponder on how good God has been to us, and how blessed we truly are.
On Pinterest, I saw an idea for a "Thankful Tree".  We set up one on our coffee table, and the girls cut out some colored leaves.

We put fresh cranberries in the vase that we used as a base for the branches, which added a pretty touch.

Everyone in the family was able to write something that they are thankful for on a leaf, and then those leaves were taped onto the tree branches.

Even the grandparents got into it!

I really enjoyed looking at all the different things that the girls thought of to put onto the tree. They definitely have some really neat ideas, and it made my heart glad to see what they think of when pondering on the blessings in their life.  They keep asking to leave the tree up for awhile and not take it down! I suppose we'll leave it there till the Christmas decorations come out!
Happy Thanksgiving and I hope it was a blessed one for you!

Pinned Image

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Hands on History

My girls absolutely love the American Girls series of books. They get them from the library and read the same ones over and over again. The books have a doll and a story line from each era of American history, and we all have enjoyed studying and learning about these major historical events through the eyes of a fictional girl. The books are chock full of facts and true names, dates, and places that really bring the stories to life, and helps the reader learn and remember key points of the history lessons.

This past few months, we have been studying North American history, and of course, the Native Americans who lived here. The corresponding American Girl we studied was Josefina. We got all the Josefina stories out from the library, and decided to build some adobe houses from real clay. It was a lot of fun, and the girls learned a few Spanish words (from the Navajo tribes of the Southwest).

Set up paint in sections of an old egg carton. Leave a few sections empty for mixing colors!

Painting the inside of a 3 sided box (shoebox would work too!) to make it look like the Southwest. Lots of shades of brown!

Terra Cotta Clay - (Buy it at AC Moore with the 40% off coupon!)

A few strategically painted cactuses on the sides of the box, and a wall made of terra cotta clay bricks. Simple to do, yet very authentic looking!

Terra Cotta stained the hands, which just added to the authentic feel of the project. One of the girls commented that the Navajo Indians must have had permanently stained hands after building so much for their homes with clay!

An almost finished setup, complete with a fire ring out front of the adobe house!

The building of an inside model of an adobe house, complete with the picture of a floor plan from the Josefina book. Still working on this one, and hopefully will add a picture of the finished product soon!

Rainbow Resource carries an American Girl Curriculum called "Portraits of American Girlhood" that has an entire year of North American history laid out in 6 units, utilizing the American Girl doll stories and materials. Our local library carried most of the items, and we were able to order in the ones that they didn't have. This curriculum plan is full of great ideas and creative, fun ways to learn American history the hands on way! I have gotten a lot of great ideas from it for my little "American Girls".

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Homeschool Honor Society

This is a special program that I learned about for high school homeschoolers. It is called Eta Sigma Alpha  and is the homeschool equivalent of the National Honor Society. 

There are many local chapters, and the website has all the information about them, with the contact information for you to check into to see if there is a local chapter near you that your high schoolers can join.

We did not have a chapter that was local for us, so my two high schoolers were allowed to join the "Omega" or national chapter. They had to submit standardized test scores, letters of recommendation, and a personal application letter. Annual dues cost $40. They are required to submit documentation of volunteer or community service hours each year, although the amount is ridiculously low - 10 hours total.  Most high achieving students can maintain that many service hours in a month, and would have no need for worry in that area.

I am a firm believer in striving for excellence when it comes to our home schooling. I want my children to have all the advantages available to help them achieve their dreams, and follow God's leading in their life. I don't want there to be anything that hinders them that could have been avoided.  My high schoolers work hard, and I thought this membership would recognize the efforts that they have dedicated to their education.

Once their application, transcripts, test scores, and letters of recommendation were approved, they received in the mail a beautiful certificate acknowledging their membership. They are both proud of this certificate! I also listed their membership onto their high school transcripts. Membership also makes them eligible to wear an "honors" shawl for graduation!

When students work hard and ethically on their studies, this dedication should be openly recognized and rewarded. The National Homeschool Honor Society provides a great way to do this and I am glad we are a part of it!

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