Monday, March 31, 2014

Review: Captivated The Movie

I am a part of that special generation of people who have witnessed the takeover of technology into our culture during my lifetime.  I remember when phones had cords, TV's had 3 or 4 channels, and you always carried a dime in your pocket in case you needed to call home from a payphone. I somehow managed to survive my teen years without a cell phone. In fact, I remember when the first ones came out!

Having known and lived in these two separate worlds, I admit to having many concerns about what I see becoming 'normal' in our tech saturated culture. It's not just the content of what we see in the media and entertainment industry, but the actual medium of it's delivery. So many questions I have pondered, and they were all addressed in this Captivated DVD that I reviewed from Media Talk 101 through The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew. 

Captivated the Movie was produced by Phillip Telfer, who founded Media Talk 101 to address the needs he saw in families who were becoming saturated with our modern media. Captivated has an award winning production team of people who truly care about families and the assault of modern media and the entertainment industry on the Christian families of our day. 

Captivated is 107 minutes long. There are also over 2 hours of extra features and interviews with experts in the media industry. Spanish subtitles are also available on the DVD.

Some of the awards that Captivated has won include:
2013 Gold Crown Award for Best Documentary at the International Christian Visual Media Conference
2013 Best Documentary at the GloryReelz Christian Film Festival
2013 Official Selection at the Midwest Christian Inspirational Indie Film Festival
2012 Best Documentary Runner-Up at the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival
2012 Best of Festival Finalist at the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival

Some disturbing statistics: As we watched the movie, there were some statistics that were brought out that I found startling! Did you know that by the time the average child graduates high school, they have absorbed 18-22 thousand hours of television in their lifetime? Or that the average teenager is directly involved in approximately 56 hours of media screen time per week? Given the number of televisions in place in American homes, there are more TV's than people in our homes! And how about this....There are more TV's than toilets in America! As was stated in Captivated, this means that "there is more sewage coming in to American homes than is going out!" 

How Captivated Addresses These Topics:  The movie is broken down into three main areas of focus: Media Consumption, Media Content, and Captivity. It addresses all areas of screen time, including TV, Hollywood movies, video games, social media, and cell phone use. When addressing consumption, the point is made that even "good" media can take over our lives and become a source of negativity that hinders our family relationships. While discussing content, much is discussed about desensitization, and the affects of viewing on our minds. Captivity addresses the control that media can have over our everyday lives, blocking out things that are good, and controlling our lives and relationships. 

My personal opinion: I think this movie is extremely well done! It is very creative. The graphics and interviews are well laid out, to keep the movie moving along. While it is a documentary, it does not have a 'documentary feel' about it. Also, because it is a Christian movie, it uses Biblical principles as the foundation for the statements that are made, encouraging the viewer to seek God and determine what is right for their family. It does not specifically "call out" certain movies or elements as evil, but instead tries to teach the principle for the viewer to make good choices. Because of the great balance between Bible principles and thorough research, this movie does not come across as "preachy" but as a helpful tool for families who are concerned about the influence of modern media in their lives. I was very much impressed with the abundance of good research, interviews, and quotes that are used in this movie - everything from Hollywood producers and companies, to preachers, to doctors who discuss the brain functions of media viewing. 
A challenge: At the end of the movie, there is a challenge issued to viewers to institute a media fast in their life. What I really liked about this is how they presented it, with real life people who shared their own experiences with a media fast and how it changed their perspectives. 

Very relatable: While many experts were interviewed and included, there was also a number of real life people just like you and me, whose stories were included in this movie. There were young people and older people who shared about their various addictions to TV, texting, and innocent online games. 

My recommendation: I highly recommend this movie to EVERYONE! And especially to parents who have to navigate our culture of technology with their family. Personally, we have tried to balance our involvement with technology in our own family, and are always striving to adapt to using what is necessary while maintaining a distance from the evil traps that it holds. It is a tricky balance, but like this movie says, it is a battlefield! This movie is a wonderful way to equip yourself with the tools necessary to fight the battle! 

Appropriate Viewing Age: I think that all teens and adults could benefit from watching this movie, and I didn't find anything inappropriate for younger viewers. Our entire family watched it. 

Price: Captivated the Movie is currently selling for $16.95 and there is also a special that is available now where you can purchase a second copy for $5. There are also quantity discounts available. 

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

"Give Up Your Small Ambitions"

That is the title of the book that we just finished reading. One of my kids hijacked my blog and wrote today's post - a critical book review of the book "Give Up Your Small Ambitions" by Michael Griffiths.

Give up your small ambitions, {An affiliate link to Amazon - the book is available for as low as $1.49)

Mr. Michael C. Griffiths explains what he believes to be the qualities of modern missionaries in his informational book Give Up Your Small Ambitions.  Griffiths uses examples from both personal experience and the Bible to explain a "missionaries' life", and how to get started on a life dedicated to foreign missions. 

The author sums up his work by giving a charge to the reader to be open to the idea of missions.

Personal Notes: I felt the book was often repetitive.The writing was at a very deep level for a high schooler. On the other hand, the author covered so many ideas and systematically gave every reason why God calls everyone into a ministry of missions no matter where you are located. The book is very challenging and compelling. 

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

March for Missions

Missions is a subject very near and dear to my heart, and I am trying to do my best to make it a priority in the lives of my children as well. We are very blessed to attend a church that places a strong emphasis on reaching the lost through missions, both locally and across the world.

Every March is Missions Emphasis Month at church, and we use this as an opportunity to develop a deeper interest in missions for our children.

This year, our family chose two countries: Colombia and Brazil. The girls made some recipes for their countries, contacted a missionary and got some firsthand pictures and information, and made a display to represent their country.


We included a prayer letter from the missionary that our church supports, as well as some current pictures and information that they sent. We found a vine at our local craft store that had plastic fruit that surprisingly resembled coffee beans, so we also included that.

Of course, we included real Colombian coffee beans:

And for a special treat, we included chocolate and chocolate covered coffee beans to represent Colombia's two main crops.

The other country we studied about was Brazil, specifically the orphans in Brazil. There are about 7 million orphans or homeless children living on the streets in Brazil. Many are not traditional orphans, but have been forced out of their homes because the parents cannot afford to care for them. The third leading cause of death of children in Brazil is the intentional killing of these street children, supposedly done as a way to prevent the crimes they commit. It is heartbreaking to read about, and motivates us to help the missionaries build orphanages in Brazil to reach these children for Christ and give them a chance at a good life.

For Brazil, we cooked Brigadeiros which are traditional chocolate truffles served at celebrations in Brazil. They were absolutely delicious and tasted like little hot fudge bites.

Several ways to enhance an in-depth study of a country is by doing an art project from that country, or by cooking and tasting foods native to that country. 

We made several dishes from countries around the world, and the girls enjoyed trying them. If you follow me on Pinterest, than you might have seen some of the dishes we made. If not, you can visit my recipes from around the world page.

I also did a review last year for a book called Global Art, which has been a really neat book to find projects to complete when learning of other cultures.

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I have invited some other homeschoolers to join up and link some of their favorite posts with lesson ideas to learn about other cultures and develop a love for missions in our children. Stop by to visit some of their pages for some more ideas!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

How Big Is God?

Here is a video that begins exploring how big the universe is. To think....God's hand can span this entire universe!

And I love the verse that is quoted on this video that says "He made the stars also." All this amazing handiwork, and it's almost as if God finishes telling about this day of Creation then 'throws in' this statement! No big deal for God!

And to think....that He loves and cares for each one of us. What a God!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Review: Mango Languages

Ever since we started Spanish lessons in our homeschool, there has been a lot of 'chatter' about learning languages. Two of the children were learning Spanish, one wanted to, and the other wanted to be totally different and learn French. As the mom/teacher, I had some mixed experiences: I took French in school when I was growing up, hung around with enough Spanish speaking people as a teen that I could recognize a few words, and had a secret desire to learn Hebrew!

When we were given the opportunity to review the Mango Homeschool Edition of Mango Languages through The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew I found myself extremely excited at the potential of covering all our homeschool foreign language needs in one program!

What is Mango Languages? You may be familiar, as I was, with Mango Languages because of it's easily accessible program available in public libraries. Mango Languages is a foreign language instruction program that uses real life scenarios to help students, young and old, learn to communicate in another tongue. It is recommended for ages 6 and up, and is very practical for adults to use as well.

What about the homeschool program? For this review, we were given one year access to a beta version of the Mango Homeschool Edition. A highlight of the homeschool program is that multiple learners can access the program. It is available to the entire family if you wish. Mom or Dad can learn a language on their own, as well as learn alongside their children. Families can study multiple languages at one time. There is also a built in communication system in the program where family members can write and leave messages for each other, either as a teacher giving an assignment, as practice using the language, or as the student asking a question.

How many languages are available? The Mango Homeschool Edition currently has 60 languages available to choose from.  Here is a small screenshot of a section of the "Commons" area of the website, where you can go to choose a language and get started.

How we used the program: 

Let me say first that I loved having a program with so many choices! When we first signed up, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed with all the language choices available. Oh, for more time in the day!!!

Kelly (3rd grade) signed up for Latin American Spanish. This is a continuation of what she has been learning. I had her start right at the beginning, even though many of the words and phrases being taught were already familiar to her. She has enjoyed being able to log in on her own, and complete a lesson. She can easily do one lesson per day, which takes her about 15 minutes. She enjoys repeating back the phrases that are said. While I don't think she has remembered everything, she has absorbed quite a bit of it, and does refer back to it in everyday life. The Spanish course has review 'tests' after each 5 lessons, and Kelly did fairly well on them!

Melissa (7th grade) signed up for French. She has enjoyed a very limited amount of French instruction so far, so this program seemed like a perfect fit for her. She wanted to be able to actually say conversational phrases in French, and her Mango lessons have helped her to do just that. Melissa has also been working on a French notebook, writing down the words and phrases she is learning. While this is not a requirement of the program, we found that it helps her to remember them better, and also allows for easy review.

Laura (11th grade) has already taken two years of High School Spanish. Her strengths lie in grammar, reading, and writing Spanish, but her conversational Spanish practice has been very limited. She also signed up for the Latin American Spanish. The Spanish lessons come with a built in assessment test to place the student at the spot in the program that suits them best. Laura was frustrated that the assessment test placed her at the beginning, even though she already has quite a bit of Spanish training. I feel that it's likely because her conversational comprehension skills are weaker than her grammar skills.

Mom signed up for Spanish, French, and Hebrew. My desire was to keep up with the girls in their language learning, as well as explore learning Hebrew a bit on my own. The Hebrew lessons have been fascinating! It thrills me to be able to say a few rudimentary phrases in Hebrew. I plan on continuing throughout our year of Mango access to complete the Hebrew lessons.

What is included in the lessons?  I found through exploring the website that there are variations within the different languages. As I mentioned before, Spanish includes an assessment test to place the student at the right spot in the lessons. It also has three "journeys" or sections of material available, which is much more than is available with Hebrew. Spanish also had student review tests. I did not find assessment tests on the other languages we sampled.

When the student signs up for a language, they begin a "journey" through that language. After logging in, the student clicks through a series of 'slides' that contain words and conversational phrases. They learn to say these by repeating back after the native speakers. The student can also connect a microphone and use the voice recognition tool to check their pronunciation. By clicking on various parts of the slide, the student can have the words repeated slower, or even spelled phonetically, so they can be sure they are getting the exact pronunciation needed.

To make it easy to pick up where you left off, chapter selections are included:

Mango also includes slides throughout each lesson that explain various grammar and cultural applications to the current lesson:

The languages also provide a "passport" that includes all the words and phrases learned in the lesson organized onto one easy-to-read page. This works great for reviewing, and can be downloaded and printed out.

What I have really liked about this program:  Hands down, it has to be all the pronunciation helps. Not only are there options to repeat the speaker's phrase in regular or slow speed, but there is also phonetic spelling of every word, complete with emphasis and accent marking. In the absence of a live teacher, this has to be the most efficient substitute. The other huge plus is the flexibility that allows a family to have multiple students learning multiple languages at one time. I also thought the cultural notes were interesting, well placed, and very relevant to the lessons.

In the near future: While we are testing out and reviewing the beta version, Mango has been working on some improvements that will be coming over the next few months. All of these updates address areas that we felt could use improvement, including a way to track student progress, the answers to the review tests, and a way for the student to see what they got wrong. While there is opportunity on the Mango site to communicate with other students that are learning the same language, Mango is still working out the most appropriate way for homeschoolers to use this in a safe setting.

For high school credit: In my opinion, I do not think this program, in its current state, would be appropriate to earn high school credit on its own. Its main purpose seems to be teaching conversational skills for each language, and it is not heavy on the grammar or written skills of that language. I think it is a great program to put alongside book learning though, to round out a student's education and give them the practical feel for their language studies.

My final thoughts: I think the most appropriate target audience for this program would be someone who might be preparing for a short trip to a foreign land, and needs to be able to communicate in that country's native tongue when they arrive. Perhaps someone going on a short term missions trip could utilize this program to learn some of the language before they arrive. I think this is a really cool and interesting program, that would be a wonderful addition to any homeschool! 

How much does it cost: 
The current pricing is as follows: 
1 subscription is $18/month or $125/year total  
2 subscriptions is $28/month or $175 /year total                      
3 subscriptions is $38/month or $225/year total                     
4 subscriptions is $48/month or $275/year total                 
5 subscriptions is $58/month or $325/year total

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Saturday, March 8, 2014

Apologia Anatomy & Physiology Lesson 7: A Drop of Blood

While studying Anatomy & Physiology Unit 7, I came across a neat idea to illustrate a drop of blood, and show the basic proportions of the cells. Of course, it uses candy, which always makes school projects fun!

The four main components of blood are:
  1. Red blood cells
  2. White blood cells
  3. Plasma
  4. Platelets
As we learned, red blood cells FAR outnumber white blood cells! In fact there is only 1 white blood cell to every 700 red blood cells!

We learned that plasma is a thick liquid that all the blood cells 'float' in.

And platelets are sprinkled throughout the cells to help clotting.

First we gathered supplies. For our blood model, we used a quart sized canning jar, a bottle of corn syrup and yellow food coloring to represent the plasma, colored sprinkles to represent the platelets, Red Hots to represent the red blood cells, and mini marshmallows to represent the white blood cells. 

After pouring the corn syrup into the jar, we put a few drops of yellow food coloring in to give it a more realistic hue.

Next we added only a couple mini marshmallows for the white blood cells, but poured almost the entire bag of Red Hots into the jar!

We added our "platelet" sprinkles, and stirred it all up.

The finished product was really neat to look at, and the kids had a great time explaining all the facts that they learned about blood. (and eating the leftover candies!)

It stayed on our kitchen table for a few days and held up pretty well, generating many interesting conversations! 

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Thursday, March 6, 2014

"Birds on the Wires" Musical Melody

This was taken from an article I recently read. We found it so fascinating that I wanted to share it.

One morning while reading a newspaper, Jarbas Agnelli saw a photograph of birds on an electric wire. He cut out the photo and was inspired to make a song using the exact location of the birds as musical notes. He was curious to hear what melody the birds created.

He sent the music to the photographer, Paulo Pinto, who told his editor, who told a reporter and the story ended up as an interview in the newspaper. It ended up Winner of the YouTube Play Guggenheim Biennial Festival.

Just have a listen below at how incredible this sounds.
You can check out Jarbas Agnelli’s live presentation of Birds On The Wires

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Review: Motivated Moms Housework Planner

I am constantly chasing the elusive "perfect system" to keep my house in order. As a busy home school mom juggling many responsibilities, there are many times that very important tasks 'fall through the cracks' and do not get the attention they deserve. I am big on 'list making' and checking items off as I accomplish them. When I heard about the Motivated Moms chore planning system, I was excited to review it. I have tried many different systems of planners, charts, notebooks, etc. to keep me organized, and the Motivated Moms iOS App really seemed like it might be a good fit.

What is Motivated Moms? It is not just a planner or a chore chart. Motivated Moms is a complete lifestyle system designed by real moms who are trying to balance the completion of housework, chores, and mundane tasks, while building in scheduled time for personal development, including private devotions, time to pursue hobbies, and quiet time.

Is it just for Moms? No, this app can be used by anyone who cares for a home, has children or pets(or plants!), and would like to organize their life. Tasks can be divvied up and assigned to various family members as well.

How does it work? Once I downloaded the app onto my iPod, I was able to go in and view the pre-loaded tasks for the day, daily tasks, or all tasks, sorted by rooms in the house. Since the tasks come pre-loaded, I was able to go in to the settings, and 'hide' the tasks that were not applicable to my household. For instance, I don't have pets to feed or plants to water, so I removed those from my daily task list. I was also able to remove rooms from the house that I do not have, and add rooms or tasks that I needed to make a part of my daily housecleaning routine.

I was also able to add family members to the app, and color code and assign some of the tasks to those family members. Another feature I enjoyed was being able to sort the tasks. There are several sorting options - by priority, by location in the house, or by family member who is responsible for them.

When you open the app and see your tasks for the day, you are able to check them off as you complete them. Tasks can then be 'hidden' so that your list grows smaller as you work through it.

What if I have more chores than what's already pre-listed? The app comes with the ability to add tasks to the daily list. No plants? No problem! Hide the task that tells you to water the plants, and add something a little more practical for yourself.

Can the App be used on multiple devices? Yes, the app can be purchased once, an account set up, and then synced between multiple iPod/iPad/iPhone devices. This is a great feature to take advantage of when you assign tasks to other family members - especially teens who will likely be spending time with those devices on a daily basis, and who enjoy any kind of tech friendly ways to go about their business!

How much is the App? The iOS app can be downloaded from the Apple Store (I did mine right from my iPod). The cost is $1.99, which includes 2 months of service and daily task lists. Additional months can be purchased for $.99 or an entire year may be purchased for $7.99.

But I really like a paper planner! Although I did not review the paper planner, many of my Crew mates did, and all their reviews can be found on The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew Blog.  Motivated Moms also has a paper planner that can be purchased, downloaded, and printed. The paper version includes all the same tasks and chore systems, but with room to write in and add your own chores. It utilizes the same "check off" routine. The Motivated Moms website has a sample page of the planner available on their website.

How did the Motivated Moms app work for me? I have always been a paper planner type of person. I like being able to write down my to-do list, and then tackle it. Seeing things checked off my list motivates me. While I do accomplish a lot during my days, I find that daily housework chores are often 'put off' and not given the attention that I would like them to have. They have a tendency of moving down my priority list as the day moves on. Things like "cleaning out the microwave" tend not to make it onto my planner. I thought that loading this app onto my iPod might be a good way for me to stay on track with keeping up on the housework, while keeping my planner for all the other responsibilities I have.

At this point in time, I am working out of two planners, one for schoolwork only, and the other for daily life and family responsibilities. I have an app that I have successfully been using for scheduling, calendar, and shopping list. Adding an additional App, even though it was different than what I already have in place, didn't work out too well for me, I am sad to admit. I did my very best at checking my "MoMo" app everyday, and trying to make sure I completed tasks and checked them off. I assigned tasks to the children from it as well. It turns out that the system I already had in place for the children (chore charts/whiteboards hung on the wall) was working very well, and they had no interest in checking off their chores on an App. They were more interested in just doing what they had to do and moving on, using the iPod for more fun pursuits.

It wasn't a complete fail though!  While I just was too overwhelmed to keep up with yet another system, I did check the Motivated Moms tasks on my iPod daily as part of my review. I found many really neat ideas that I would not have thought of otherwise. For instance, thanks to my Motivated Moms task list, in January I was reminded to order my free annual credit reports and check for errors. I was reminded regularly that the microwave and inside of the dishwasher needed attention, and was able to keep them in much better shape than I would have if I had just waited to notice that they were dirty. I also dusted and cleaned out several areas of the house that I wouldn't have thought to take care of, had they not shown up on my task list for that day.

The best thing I can say: The designers of this system are very creative and very thorough. It must have taken them a long time to think of all the different tasks that are included. There are clever tasks, such as clipping the children's fingernails, sorting coupons, and changing the dish rag, that most people don't think to include in their regular routines.

An interesting addition: The App includes built in times for daily devotions and Bible reading, as well as times scheduled throughout the week for a mom to have some quiet time or work on a hobby or craft. I even saw regularly scheduled times to work on photos and family memory books. What a great reminder to give moms a built in time to refresh themselves! This is the first time I have seen such a concept written into a daily planner.

Recommendations: I think this App (or planner) would work great for someone who did not already have a working system in place, and was looking for a way to organize their household chores and responsibilities. I think it is very creative, and has great concepts and ideas. Although using it exclusively as my household manager was just too much for me at this point in my life, the app remains on my iPod and I do plan on consulting it regularly to help me stay on track with the level of cleanliness I would like to see in my home. I am grateful for the opportunity to give it a try!

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