2016-2017 Homeschool Curriculum Review

We haven’t yet moved into our next school year, but the planning for next year is coming along. This past year was our 7th homeschooling year. We had 4 official students and 1 who insisted on jumping into the fun with us. (Preschoolers do that from time to time. Sometimes they want to participate. Sometimes they don’t. Before age 6, we let them choose. Play time is learning time for that age, so I’m not comfortable pushing them toward rigorous studies just yet.) I figured I’d let you guys know what worked and what didn’t this school year. But I always like to give an update on what worked and what didn't, since my opinions may change by the time we get closer to the end.

Overall, we have used The Well Trained Mind throughout our schooling days. We’ve been a little more relaxed in the Grammar stage. Some of the suggested resources haven’t worked for us, so we have found alternatives that work.

I had two fifth graders this year, one third grader, one kindergartener, and one preschooler.

Math
We used Teaching Textbooks 5 and 3 for these guys this year. Teaching Textbooks has been the best math program for these guys. These two started with Singapore Math and then switched to Teaching Textbooks for fourth grade. We no longer buy the workbooks, because my kids only use the computer disc portion of the program. Each lesson is well explained, having them do practice problems as they go. If they don’t do well on a lesson, you can go in and delete the grade and let them try again. They get two tries at each problem, and the program explains how the answer is achieved. It gives immediate gratification, telling them if they are right or wrong on each problem before they move on. The kids do very well with this program. I have read some reviews that say the grade levels are off, but I have not found that to be the case. Each year starts off pretty easy, but builds back to more difficult concepts. So, a student may find it easy at first, but there is more challenge coming. My only issue with the program is the cardboard cases the CDs come in. I feel like for the price, they should come in some durable CD cases for long term use. I’ve had to move all our discs into a zippered CD case. That works, but for $99 a set (higher in the higher levels) they should come with something more durable than paper. The program keeps up with the grades and you can check them at any time. We don’t usually do grades, but since the kids were doing it all on their own, it helped me keep an eye on their progress.
We started the year with Essential Math K. He flew through it. It wasn’t a challenge for him at all. We switched to Life of Fred about halfway through the year. It introduced more complex topics and he liked the storytelling aspect. The preschooler joined us for these lessons, but will likely need to do them again.

Grammar
I signed the older two up for Wordly Wise Online through Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op. They didn’t like it. I didn’t like it. The program isn’t well laid out. It is very confusing and takes a lot of time per lesson. I also felt like they weren’t really learning much for the effort being put in. We stopped it mid-year and will not be picking it back up.
We also grabbed the new Writer’s In Residence program from Apologia. Each student needs their own book. And the books are hefty. While I like some of the content, overall, the program didn’t work well for us. For one, it isn’t well laid out. The grading rubric is confusing. Everything has to be graded, which is weird for us since we don’t really grade things. Some of the assignments were frivolous. Also, it got really messy. It is a huge workbook, so I expect all the work to be done in the book and fit in the book. But there were several times when things were cut out of the book (which annoys me greatly) or they had to paper clip extra pages into the book. I felt like they could have made it all work, but didn’t. If the kids are needing to use separate paper, I would have just liked it in textbook format with all the work being done on their own paper in a separate notebook. My kids did learn from the program, but it was far too parent intensive and far too convoluted. You will need at least one of the Teacher’s Guides. I won’t be continuing this program. Even if I wanted to, I can’t. They released Volume 1 of 4 last year but haven’t released Volume 2 yet. I have such mixed feelings on this program. Some of it is SO good. But then some of it is SO bad.

I kept my third grader signed up for Explode the Code online. I absolutely love that program. It has worked so unbelievably well for him. He enjoys it. It challenges him. He is finishing up the program now, so he won’t be using it next year. I’ll be looking at buying it again for our rising first grader, though.

History
Our history years aren’t lining up smoothly because we spent longer than a school year on Ancient history. We use Story of The World. This year, we started a history co-op with some other families in our church. That slowed us down considerably, so we didn’t finish a full year of history this year either. We finished up Story of The World 2 and then moved into Story of the World 3. We tried the audio version of Story of the World 2, but the kids hated it. They did not like listening to the CDs. So, we went back to me reading it to them from the book. When we started Story of The World 3, I added interactive notebooks. It would have worked well for just my kids, but in the co-op setting, it got a little hectic. We will be continuing Story of The World 3 next year, but these two will be moving into the Logic stage, so they will be adjusting how they do history. (Technically, the Logic Stage begins in 5th grade, but my kids needed an extra year of writing and grammar before they could really tackle outlines and summaries.)

Science
We found a really awesome Science curriculum that works alongside Story of The World so well. Berean Builders Science is chronological science, studied by scientist and discovery. That has made so much more sense to my kids and given them a better understanding of how we come to know what we know. I’ll admit, they watched a few too many documentaries that had distorted their view of science. Because each documentary presents everything as fact, not theory. Then the documentaries would contradict one another or come from an atheistic world view. My kids became super skeptical and I was having difficulty drawing them back into the subject. The Berean Science books have been perfect to hook them back in. We started using Science in the Scientific Revolution along with Story of the World 3. There are experiments to better understand the discoveries made. It has been awesome. The kids love it, they are actually engaged, and they better understand the scientific process and how new discoveries change the way we see the world.

Handwriting
I have never used a proper handwriting program. However, my kids really needed it. They were having a lot of trouble writing clearly enough to communicate their ideas. So, I opted for an actual handwriting book. I chose Patriotic Penmanship. I liked the selected quotes. I decided to keep my third grader in print writing because he was only 7 and he needed some reinforcement on the proper way to make letters. One of my fifth graders did introductory cursive and the other did her proper grade. The workbooks are great. I had them work on a two page spread, one lesson, each week. Day one they would just practice making a letter. Day two they would practice key words. Day three they would work on a full phrase or two. Day four they would write the entire quote. It didn’t take more than a few minutes each day and I simply asked for very hard work for those few minutes. All of them have improved their handwriting significantly with just a little work each day. I will definitely be ordering Patriotic Penmanship workbooks again this year. Each child needs their own workbook as they are consumable.

Bible
For our Bible study for the older kids, we used Herein Is Love: Genesis. This one has a lot more lessons in it than the Leviticus book. The kids really enjoyed it and I think they learned a lot. It does a great job of weaving the whole story into the beginning story.
For the Little Guys, we used the Jesus Calling Storybook. I was not as in love with this Storybook Bible as I was with the Jesus Storybook Bible. It has little notes from Jesus, but they are worded oddly and it makes it a little difficult to follow in a read aloud format. But the kids liked it and they did learn.

Geography
We used my Operation World geography plan. It went really well. It helped open my kids’ worldview and show them more than what is outside their front door. I was really happy with how it went and will continue it next year.

Kindergarten
I purchased Alpha Tales and Phonics Tales at Costco for the little guys. We did not get into the Phonics Tales. It will really be a toss up this year if we do that book or The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Reading. I’m not sure which will work better for these guys.
I also signed them up for ABCMouse.com mid year. They have loved it. They can use their tablets to play. I signed up for the assessments, as well, but found that portion pretty worthless.

Reading
I basically let the kids pick what they wanted to read this year instead of using the reading list from Well Trained Mind. Turned out, that was a mistake. Well, the kids really loved reading, but they essentially spent the year reading junk books. I did strongly suggest a few classics that they did read and enjoy. The third grader loved the Roald Dahl books we have and finished all the Magic Treehouse books we own, plus ventured over to the Imagination Station books. The fifth graders read Peter Pan and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. They also read some Judy Bloom. But they did read a bunch of Goosebumps books and other junk type books. Next year, I’ll separate the required reading and the fun reading a bit more.

I kept track of everything in a composition notebook that I used like a bullet journal for schooling. This helped the planning significantly. I’ll be doing the same again because it worked so well. Though I’ll likely opt for a real bullet journal this year. (I’ve been using a bullet journal for a class I am taking and another one for the upcoming 2018 year. I’m liking the customization so much more than a standard planner. I also have one that I’ve been using alongside my 2017 planner for notes and things. I do like having separate planners for each of those areas, since I feel like everything together just gets too cluttered.)

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Godbold Academy Geography

We are homeschoolers, as I am sure you are aware. This is the little geography program I put together this year for my kids. I do this for pre-k through upper elementary. I think it would work well for any age, though. I plan to continue this program forever.

My goal in geography was for the kids to know generally where countries are and for them to have a broader worldview. It is hard to fathom the world that isn’t right outside your front door. I want my kids to have the knowledge of geography along with a heart for the people of the world.

map trek

I start the school year going over the 7 continents and 5 oceans. We review this every single year. The older kids know it, but it gives the younger kids a chance to learn it every year. I use the Map Trek CDs to print out maps for the kids to color and label. This book and CD set is a little on the pricey side, but I use this so much year after year. Buy it. Use it. It is great. You can print out as many maps as you need. Historical maps. World maps. It is awesome. We’ll have some contests and such to learn all the continents and oceans with the older ones helping the younger ones. We usually only spend a week or two on this review. It is just an annual refresher.

operation world

Operation World is the next piece of our geography curriculum. Each week, we choose a country and commit to praying for that country for the week. I use my Map Trek CD to print out maps. Each child keeps a master world map in their notebook where they label each country we study that year. The Operation World book lists the basic stats for each country. Things like land size, population, climate, etc. We talk about those things and compare them to what we have here. Would we have more neighbors? Less? Would it be warmer? Colder? Operation World also gives a brief summary of the economy and politics of each country. Then you have a break down of the religions of each country. You’ll also find a prayer list for each country, including things to thank God for that are answers to prayer there.

We might make some food from that country this week. Or we might try some art that is known for being associated with that country. Or we might only do the map and pray for the country. Sometimes I’ll find and print out the country’s flag for the kids to color. The details change week to week, but the bones of the program remain the same.

(1) Locate the country on a world map.

(2) Label your master world map.

(3) Write the country name on the prayer wall and commit to praying for that country this week.

(4) Read about the country. What language do they speak? How many people live there? What kind of work do these people do?  What challenges does this country face? How can we be praying for these people? Do we know any missionaries in this country?

The kids have really enjoyed this program and we’ve learned a lot about many countries. I chose countries where we knew missionaries first or we were learning about in history. I don’t think the order of countries is so important. Operation World is set up by continent, so you could go in that order and learn all the countries of one continent before moving to the next. I just choose randomly, though might go back and do the continent route at some point. As the kids get older, there is more discussion about things. What is the difference in a monarchy and a republic? What about a democracy? Why does it matter how many people are in poverty? How does history effect the current economic and political issues in a country? The little ones seem to focus on the climate and number of people. You can really delve deeper or keep it to 15 minutes reading the info in Operation World and locating the country on the World Map. It is really up to you and your child(ren).

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Explode The Code Online- A Review

emery 2

This is Emery. He is a spirited little guy. He is very persistent. He is extremely passionate. He is very driven. He is a self-started. He is also not a fan of being told what to do. He dislikes workbooks. He has some super awesome qualities, but because of his independent and quite exuberant personality, he can be a challenge to teach.

Last year, we tried the Explode the Code workbooks. They were not a great fit. Emery and I butted heads for a month or two at the beginning of the school year, and then I just decided we’d wait a year for Kindergarten. Then something awesome happened. Emery decided he’d be his own Kindergarten teacher. He taught himself all his letters and letter sounds. He taught himself to count and do basic math. By the end of the year, he was reading. All without my involvement. The kid is driven. So, this year, it was time for first grade, since he mastered Kindy all by himself. I knew I needed something different. Then I saw it- Explode the Code Online!

It covers reading and spelling all in one online program. You pay per year and they progress through at their own pace. Each lesson awards them a badge. They get bees when they don’t do so well, ladybugs when they need a little work, butterflies when they do well, and paper airplanes when they do excellent work. I can log into my parent portal and see how Emery is progressing. It tells me how much time each lesson took. It tells me what areas need improvement. He is absolutely thriving on this program. He can do it completely without me and he loves that. He is proud of his badges and is progressing through first grade quickly. He may start tackling second grade material soon!

Now, some kids, you could help them in areas they struggle. Not so with Emery. What I usually do is leave books with the tricky words for him on the top of the book piles and highly visible for him so when he runs to grab a book to read, he will hopefully grab the book that will help him with his lacking skill. (Like bl- combination words or whatever it is that week.) I really could not have asked for a better reading program for this kid.

They do say you can use it on your tablet, but I have not tried. Emery sits at the computer in our kitchen to do his reading work.

Back To School Planning

education quote

We’re entering the fast paced beginning of the school year time. Homeschoolers, public schoolers, private schoolers, hybrid schoolers- whatever we are, we’re getting ready for the next year. The next year when we can make a difference in our kids’ lives. Will this be the year they find that thing that sparks them? Will this be the year they develop a love for reading, or writing, or math, or running marathons? The beginning of the school year always comes with such high expectations. And then wait, come April, we’ll just be hoping we didn’t mess them up too much this year.

I’m a homeschool mom. Our year here won’t start until September. In fact, we’re finishing up our last school year still. Testing has to be done this year. But the planning for next year is beginning. And I know I’ll overplan. I’ll want to do too much. There are just so many beautiful and awesome things in the world and I want to give all of them to my kids. I want them to be able to write all the wonderful thoughts that come into their heads. I want them to read ALL the books. I want them to see, love, and create art. I want them to see how the world works and watch it amaze them. I want them to hear the stories of our past as humankind and hear their take on things. I want them to learn languages to expand their horizons and not limit them to what is written or spoken in English only. I want to teach them to play ALL the instruments. I want them to understand mathematic concepts so they can create, understand, and develop the world around them. I want them to learn liturgy, theology, apologetics, and more about our Lord. And it is all so much.

But then I remember that I am still learning. They have their whole lives to explore this world. They have their whole lives to read. I’m still reading, writing, learning. I’m still creating, listening, exploring. And hopefully they will be too, when they are my age. I have to remember that I am teaching them how to do these things- how to learn, how to explore. And I’ll enjoy the wonder as they go along.

I’ll still overplan. I’ll try to be flexible. I’ll try not to be hard on myself come April when everything just didn’t pan out the way I wanted it to. I’ll still want to show them the whole world all at once and tell them what a beautiful place it is- to look for light in the darkness or better yet, be the light in the darkness. The weight of the task will still be heavy. But I’ll try not to be overwhelmed. I’ll try to let the weight inspire me. I’ll slow down enough to enjoy this time in their lives when the wonder comes naturally.

40 Holy People: Week Five

40 holy people

Day 23: John: Sharing The Story of Jesus

600-JohnWriting8874

John was a disciple of Jesus. We read in Matthew 4 of Jesus calling John and his brother James to follow him while they were repairing fishing nets with their father.  He wrote several New Testament books (John, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, and Revelation). He referred to himself as the Beloved Disciple, the one Jesus loved. He and his brother James are often called the “Sons of Thunder”. (If you and your siblings had a nickname, what would it be?)

John followed Jesus. He learned directly from Jesus. He saw the miracles Jesus performed. He even went out and performed miracles himself in Jesus’s name. John knew that just learning the good news for himself, seeing the miracles with his own eyes, that wasn’t enough. He had to share Jesus with others. He had to tell other what he saw and heard. So he shared. He wrote what he saw, what he heard, and you can read that today. After Jesus’s death, he traveled around, telling people about Jesus. It wasn’t enough that he knew the One True God- he had to tell others!

In Matthew 18:19-20a, Jesus says, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you.” And that is just what John did. You know about the life of Jesus today thanks to those first disciple writing down what they saw and heard. You know the good news because John did what Jesus commanded and shared it. Now it is your job to go out and do the same. Who will come to know the Good News because of you? Who will be introduced to Jesus through your life and your words?

Coloring Page.

Where in the world are you going to tell people about Jesus?

Day 24: Saint Patrick: Slave to Missionary

patrick_shamrock_0

If you’re doing these on time, today is Saint Patrick’s Day! Saint Patrick’s Day isn’t about luck, green eggs and ham, leprechauns, or green clothes. So why do we have a day to celebrate this man called Saint Patrick?

Born in England, Patrick (whose name wasn’t Patrick in those days) was brought up in church. He came from a Christian family that taught him about God. When he was still just a boy, he was captured and taken to Ireland to a life of slavery. During his slavery, he grew close to God through prayer as he worked as a shepherd. After six year in slavery, he heard a voice telling him it was soon time to go home. The voice came again and told him his ship was ready. Patrick ran to the sea, 200 miles away, where he found a ship with a captain willing to take him home.

Once back in Britain, Patrick studied Christianity. He had a vision about the Irish people asking him to return. So Patrick went to Ireland as a Missionary. Patrick shared God with the people of Ireland. As a result of his ministry, Ireland came to know God. (They previously knew nothing of Christianity.)

So, why the green? And why the shamrock? Well, Ireland is a very green country. (See the picture below.) So, on St. Patrick’s Day, we wear green, the color of Ireland. Patrick used the shamrock to teach the Druids about God. Remember learning about the Trinity in earlier weeks? Patrick used the shamrock as an example to teach people the Triune Nature of God. God is 3 persons, 1 God. Just as a shamrock has 3 leaves, but is one shamrock.

ireland

Patrick is recognized as a Saint by many Christian traditions.

Do you think it was easy for Patrick to go back to where he had been a slave?

Coloring Page.

Day 25: Cyril of Jerusalem: Feeding the Hungry

st_cyril_of_jerusalem

Cyril was a theologian in the early Church. (around 313-386 AD) (Theology is the study of or how we think of God.) In 351, Cyril saw a cross of light in the sky over Golgotha. (Golgotha was the hill where Jesus was crucified.) The entire city of Jerusalem saw the cross in the sky.

When the city of Jerusalem went through a food shortage, Cyril started secretly selling some of the items from the church to pay for food to keep the people from starving. This wasn’t allowed. But Cyril did it anyway, choosing to break the rules rather than see his people suffer. He was charged and lost his job in the church because of this, but was later reinstated. Though he was exiled twice by Emperors.

Cyril also wrote many things about the nature of God and of forgiveness. “The Spirit comes gently and makes himself known by his fragrance. He is not felt as a burden for God is light, very light. Rays of light and knowledge stream before him as the Spirit approaches. The Spirit comes with the tenderness of a true friend to save, to heal, to teach, to counsel, to strengthen and to console.”

Are there hungry people where you live? What could you do to help feed them?

Coloring Page.

cross in the sky

Day 26: Joseph: Doing The Difficult Thing

joseph

Matthew 1:18-24 introduces us to Joseph.

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ took place. When Mary his mother was engaged to Joseph, before they were married, she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband was a righteous man. Because he didn’t want to humiliate her, he decided to call off their engagement quietly. As he was thinking about this, an angel from the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the child she carries was conceived by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you will call him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Now all of this took place so that what the Lord had spoken through the prophet would be fulfilled:

Look! A virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son,

And they will call him, Emmanuel.

(Emmanuel means “God with us.”)

 When Joseph woke up, he did just as an angel from God commanded and took Mary

as his wife.

This was definitely not the easiest path for Joseph to choose. He knew people would talk about he and Mary. He knew people wouldn’t understand what had happened. (After all, even he didn’t really believe it until an angel came and told him it was true!) But he chose to marry Mary and become Jesus’s earthly father. Joseph was the man who taught Jesus the things he needed to know to be a man. Joseph taught Jesus scriptures and how to work with wood. Joseph cared for Jesus and protected him, as a father should. He didn’t have to, but he chose to.

Sometimes the things God asks us to do are not easy. Sometimes they make people think we’re weird, strange, or just unlikable. But God calls us to do it anyway. Joseph listened to God through the angel in his dream and ended up a part of the greatest story ever told. What will happen when you listen to God?

Coloring Page.

Coloring Page.

Day 27: Francis of Assissi: Caring for God’s Creation

saint-francis

If you are doing these on time, then today is the first day of Spring! It is only appropriate that we talk about Francis of Assissi on such a day.

Francis of Assissi was born in 1181. He was the son of a wealthy merchant, and spent much of his youth living a very materialistic (putting importance on having things, buying things, and spending money) life. He did not think of others and lived only for himself and his own fun.

In 1204, Francis went off to war as a soldier for Assissi. He had a vision there, and lost his desire for worldly things. When he returned home, he gave up his wealth and treasures, began preaching in the streets, and developed a following. He founded an order of monks, who lived with no worldly pleasures. He cared for the poor, but also for animals and the world God had created. He saw the animals and plants as something good that God had created, and that we should take care of because it is from God. He often preached to animals.

When Francis died, it is said that birds came to be with him on his deathbed. Francis lived a simple life, but found that in the end, he was not alone. Many Christian traditions recognize Francis of Assissi as a Saint.

Activity: It is the first day of Spring! God for a walk in nature and look at the things God created. You can also plant some seeds in honor of St. Francis today.

Coloring Page.

Day 28: Elijah: Miracles, Even to The End

elijah

Elijah was a prophet during the 9th century BC. Elijah lived a life of miracles. God gave him messages for the people, which he delivered. During famine and drought, God fed Elijah by having ravens bring him food. (1 Kings 17.) Elijah raised a boy from the dead. (1 Kings 17.) Elijah challenged the followers of a false God and showed the nation that there was One True God. (1 Kings 18.) God fed him yet again in the wilderness. (1 Kings 19.) Elijah heard the still, small voice of God in the wilderness. (1 Kings 19.) Elijah pointed out the wickedness people tried to hide. (1 Kings 21.) He called down fire from heaven. (2 Kings 1.) When it came time for Elijah to die, well, he didn’t. A fiery chariot with horses came and took Elijah to heaven in a windstorm. (1 Kings 2.)

So, what made Elijah so special? Why was he at the center of all these stories? The truth is, that Elijah wasn’t at the center of the stories. Elijah wasn’t the main character in his own life. God was. Elijah did what God said and went where God told him to go. God was at the center, and that is what made Elijah’s life such a whirlwind.

Who is at the center of your story?

When God tells you to go, will you go?

Coloring Page.

Coloring Page.

2014 Books In Review

I’ll admit it, I did not read very much in 2014. I honestly don’t know what happened. I just had a slow reading year. I ended up reviewing a bunch of non-book products (crib sheets, stroller, baby carriers, vacuum, toys, etc.). But I did read, on average more than one book per month. Here they are:

revivalRevival: Faith As Wesley Lived It by Adam Hamilton

5 Stars

Written by a United Methodist Pastor, Revival is divided geographically. Each chapter focuses on a place in Wesley’s life and ministry and ties that back to Wesley’s teachings. You’ll find pictures of the author’s journey to these places. You could even use the book as a guidebook to a Wesley centered trip. He quotes Wesley’s sermons and relates them to modern life. This is a book easily understood by laity, and easily appreciated by clergy. You’ll find snippets of Wesley’s life, snippets of Wesley’s thoughts, and snippets of current Wesleyan perspective- all in one book. While not exhaustive, it is certainly a good peak into the life and mind of Wesley and into the theology of Wesleyans.

hereinisloveHerein Is Love, Volume 3: Leviticus by Nancy E. Ganz

5 Stars

I cannot tell you enough how much I love this book. I got it for homeschooling. We’d been going through the Old Testament and I found myself stumped when it came to Leviticus. This book is amazing. It ties the Old Testament to the New in a way that kids can understand. It is set up with lessons in the beginning and questions in the back. It can easily be used for Sunday School type curriculum, as well. This is understandable by grammar school age kids, but isn’t below middle or even high schoolers. My 5 year old was able to remember all the steps to becoming a priest! This book was a huge help and a huge blessing. I cannot recommend it enough!

soupclub

The Soup Club Cookbook by Courtney Allison, Tina Carr, Caroline Lasko, and Julie Peacock

5 Stars

At first, I just wanted this book for the soup recipes. And there are plenty of those! The range of the recipes is pretty wide, but if you’re not a foodie, not many of them are going to appeal to you. There are also some very difficult to find specialty ingredients in a lot of the soups. If you live near a large metro area, it likely won’t be difficult for you to acquire them. If you live in more rural areas, you’ll have a lot more trouble with a lot of the ingredients. (We’re talking about things like Marmite, specialty cheeses, fresh chestnuts, celeriac bulbs, sunchokes, masa harina, kombu, nori, etc.) There are also several non-soup recipes. I was thrilled with the recipes included. And the recipes are huge, which is a plus for this large family momma.
But what really surprised me is how much I actually like the idea of a soup club. I usually shy away from dinner clubs, mostly because they just don’t work for my family. But soup club is something I could really get used to. I look forward to finding a few friends to try soup club with me.
You’ll need a few things to make this cookbook work for you. You’ll need a huge stock pot. The soup recipes are intended to be split among 4 families. That means each recipe makes 8-9 quarts of soup. (And if you’re a large family mom, like myself, that means their might even be leftovers!) You’ll need an immersion blender for several of the soups. You may need a food processor for several soups. And if you’re starting a soup club, you’ll need quart sized jars, small jars for garnishes, and canvas tote bags for delivery.

crochetwithoneCrochet with One Sheepish Girl by Meredith Crawford

5 Stars

I am a very beginning crocheter. This book has the basics in the beginning of the book, though crochet is a little hard to grasp in book form, so you may want to watch some YouTube videos to help with the beginner basics. There are several patterns in this book, all of them pretty unique. (I hate it when I buy a craft book and can find every single pattern for free on the internet. This book isn’t like that.)
Patterns include: Granny Square Infinity Cowl, Color Block Ribbed Turban, Bow Brooch, Striped Bow Clutch, Sweater Makeover (Adding crochet hearts to a sweater, not the pattern for the sweater), Collared Shirt Makeover (Adding a crochet trim to a button up shirt), Scallop Stripe Cowl, Home Cozy Home Pillowcase, Crochet Edge Frames, Yarn Bag Makeover (Adding Crochet touches to a ready made canvas bag), Ombre Basket in Three Sizes, Crochet Hook Organizer, Heart Pocket Apron, Teacup Coasters, “Enjoy” Place Setting Placemat, Cottage Tea Cozy, Diana Camera Purse (looks like a camera, doesn’t hold a camera), Tablet Case, Gift Boxes, Chocolate Latte (crochet to go coffee cup, doesn’t actually hold coffee), Blueberry Muffin (again, a “play” muffin), Party Hat Garland, Snow Cone Garland, and Crochet Edge Cards and Tags (cards are printed in the back of the book so you can make copies of the cards she has or add the trim to your own).

charcuterieThe New Charcuterie Cookbook by Jamie Bissonnette

4 Stars

This is a well laid out book. There are plenty of pictures, even step by step pictures helping you wade through the unfamiliar territory. You’ll need more than the average American kitchen contains, though. You’ll need a meat grinder. For many recipes, you need a separate meat curing fridge. You’ll need a sausage stuffer. None of these recipes will make your kitchen more efficient or save you money. This is more of a hobby cooking type endeavor. (Telling you his first few hams didn’t turn out, so don’t worry if yours doesn’t won’t fly when you’re counting on that ham for dinner.)

You should also be aware that this book, particularly in the introduction, is quite crude and contains a few profanities. I wouldn’t usually expect that in a cookbook, but think it is pertinent info, particularly for those giving the book as a gift.

Overall, a beautifully laid out, well explained book. Just not something the average American home cook is going to necessarily employ.

goodadvice
Good Advice from Bad People by Zac Bissonnette
4 Stars
This makes for an interesting coffee table book. Organized with a quote on one page in large print and then the story of why the quote is so humorous coming from that person follows on the next page or two. Some of the quotes and stories are not so amusing, some are. Makes a great conversation starter, for sure.
afterworlds
Afterworlds by Scott Westerfield
3 Stars
This book is two books in one. You have the book, “Afterworlds”. Then you have the story of a young up-and-coming author writing “Afterworlds”. Chapters alternate between the stories. The timing between the stories is very well done.
“Afterworlds” by Darcy Patel would have gotten a 5 star review. And I would sit anxiously awaiting “Untitled Patel”. It was the second story of Darcy Patel flowing through the pages that brought the rating down. Don’t get me wrong, the book premise was genius, the timing of the stories flowing together was nothing short of epic. The characters in the Darcy Patel story just lost their fizz and definition as the love relationship in that story began. The plot took over and left nothing for the characters themselves to be. Darcy began acting not like Darcy, but by a pawn of the plot. Huge bummer because this book could have been epic. Darcy was just all wrong from the beginning. (She should have been a dude- that would have made so much more sense because she didn’t ever feel like any girl I have ever known. The soul of the character felt like an insecure boy.) Read it, because you have to- this is Scott Westerfeld we’re talking about. Enjoy the genius in the premise and in the Afterworlds story. But know that the Darcy Patel story is just a flat, soulless blah once you get beyond the perfect timing, insightful industry look, and innovative idea.Parental blurb: (This book is YA. Recommended for 14 and up. So I am dutifully including the info parents might want to know.) This book contains the following:
-terrorism
-cult in minor detail
– violence, but nothing excessively graphic
– violence against children
– cursing, not excessive, but a few f-bombs
– underage drinking
– sex in vague passing references, nothing graphic
– homosexual relationship is one of the main stories in the book

breastfeeding
5 Stars

I have breastfed all five of my children, so I am not new to this, nor was any of the information in the book really new or unheard of to me. However, this made me heart just sing reading about the beauty God created in the mother and child dynamic shared in breastfeeding. I will go back and read this again and again. And I highly recommend it!

Note: I am not Catholic, but I found the book amazing nonetheless. I am Protestant/Methodist.

hyperbole
Hyperbole and A Half by Allie Brosh
4 Stars
I don’t read the blog, but I bought the book anyway. I wasn’t exactly aware of how much the author likes the F word. I found the book amusing. I would caution readers that it does contain a lot of profanity, so if that is something that bothers you, skip this book. There is no getting around the profanity.
fallout
The Fallout by S.A. Bodeen
4 Stars
I did not think The Compound really needed a sequel. It was a great stand alone story. I wish authors would rebel against this new trend toward making everything a series. With that said, I liked this book. I didn’t want it tagged onto The Compound, but I did enjoy it.
baked
Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito
5 Stars
If you know me, you know how much I love baking. And I love the premise of these recipes- decrease the sugar where you can, add more chocolate where you can. There are recipes for cookies, cakes, pies, tarts, and more. If you’ve never baked a cake before, you might want to start with something simpler, but for those that know their way around a mixer, you’ll love this book!
lectures
Lectures in Old Testament Theology by Dennis Kinlaw with John Oswalt
5 Stars
As I was preparing to teach the kids about the Old Testament this year, I found myself with a lot of questions. So, instead of trudging along blindly, I picked up this book and began to read and help answer some of those questions. This book was undoubtedly a blessing to me. It helped me understand the Old Testament, helped tie it to the New Testament, and gave me more insight into the Bible than I have had before. While this book was written for academia, I find it very easy to understand with no theological or Biblical degree. I would recommend it for clergy and laity, alike.
bibleamongthemyths
The Bible Among Myths by John Oswalt
5 Stars
In addition to the previous book, I picked up this book to help further answer some of my questions. Living in a time where everyone spouts “truth” as it is known to them, it is easy to find yourself a bit confused on what is and isn’t actually true. This book helped frame the world when the Bible was written. It helps you understand the concepts of myth and history and how the Bible fits into that. It is a little more difficult to read than Lectures in Old Testament Theology, but readable nonetheless, for those with an interest in the subject.
Note: Dr. Oswalt was one of The Pastor’s seminary professors.
holdon
Hold On To Your Kids by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate
5 Stars
I read this book at such an opportune time. My kids have just started playing with other kids around the neighborhood and I was able to see a lot of what the authors were discussing playing out in the early stages. And I was really surprised how quickly the kids’ attachments went from our home to homes around the neighborhood. It has definitely given me more to think about and more of a leg to stand on when certain relationships my children have make me uncomfortable. (And usually, it isn’t a matter of the other kid being a bad kid. It is just how much emphasis and how much of themselves they throw into the relationship, even at relatively young ages.) This is definitely a book to read, particularly for those entering the world of raising kids who have their own friends and relationships outside of the family. It is easier to foster healthier relationships from the beginning than to be scrambling to fix them when things go bad. (Though if you’re in that second camp, this book will help, too.)
angryconvos
Angry Conversations With God by Susan E. Isaacs
4 Stars
I really couldn’t relate to Susan’s story at all. I don’t know what it is like to be a single adult searching for your mate. I don’t know what it is like to move across the country while single. I don’t know what it is like building a career while searching for Mr. Right. I didn’t do those things. And that life is so foreign to me, I just couldn’t relate. I know nothing about church hopping and trying to find the perfect church. (I’ve always been of the “grow where you are planted” variety and try to make my church better and take the things that I dislike about it to make myself a better person. I’ve never moved to a new city and had to shop for churches. In every move, I had a church home waiting for me, and I made that the best I could.)
This book is funny and snarky. And I enjoyed it, despite the author being nothing like myself. I like peeking into the spiritual journey’s of others. It gives me more insight into choices they make and why they tick. So, I did enjoy the book, though I didn’t necessarily find it personally edifying or touching.
handsfree
You’ve already seen my review of Hands Free Mama and all the ways I dislike it. If you haven’t, go read it. I gave it 2 out of 5 stars, and I think that was being pretty generous.
protecting
Protecting The Gift by Gavin de Becker
4 Stars
I really liked Gavin de Becker’s book, The Gift of Fear. That book really should be read by all parents. This book, had its great points. If I was in a different situation in life, needing childcare providers on a regular basis or something, this book would have likely gotten 5 stars. There are screening questions for daycares, schools, and babysitters. There are tips on things to look for, things to ask that you may not think about, and just the general word to trust your gut. Parents today need to hear that. Trust your gut. We get so bogged down in the lists and the comparing that we often try not to listen to ourselves, even when we should. This book also helped me navigate some personal parenting issues that had come up in my life, which was invaluable. I just found that I really liked about half the book and then just kind of got through the other half. It isn’t a topic we usually like to dwell on, but Gavin de Becker does such a great job of getting right to the heart of the matter that it immediately deals with our anxieties and then leaves us with nothing but newfound strength.
makingafamilyhome
Making A Family Home by Shannon Honeybloom
2 Stars
The book is full of beautiful pictures… of the author’s perfect home and perfect kids and perfect life. Of course, likely all taken on the same day and likely not quite as perfect as projected. (I think we’ve all seen similar on social media.) It was seriously just room by room of her house and how to make your house like her home. I didn’t find it all that helpful or inspirational, it just felt pretentious. But the pictures were pretty.
lovingthelittleyears
Loving The Little Years by Rachel Jankovic
4 Stars
Overall, I enjoyed this book. There were parts that were very encouraging. Parts that had me tearing up. Parts that I felt convicted to do better for my kids. I think her views on how children change a mother’s body are amazing and could read an entire book just on that subject.
I did conclude that Mrs. Jankovic and I are very different parents. And to me, that is okay. However, I wish she wouldn’t have talked so much about discipline in her book since that is where she and I would majorly disagree. I also didn’t find it helpful to the overall grounding and encouraging tone of the book. I also found it humorous that a mom whose oldest child is 5 is talking about long term discipline approaches. She really should have left that part out, added a few more uplifting and encouraging chapter, and called it a five star book.
mamarazzi
Mamarazzi by Stacey Wasmuth
4 Stars
This book is overall a good help to taking great pictures of your kids. It contains tons of pictures along with the camera settings uses to take each picture. There are tips on how to make handmade photography helps, like diffusers and reflectors. It is a very good resource for the technical aspects of photography, explaining aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. There were tips and tricks for photographing newborns through teens. It also has info on how I choose a professional photographer when you need one.
The downsides of this book are small, but keep it from being a 5 star book. The book was copyrighted in 2011, so many of the website and specific products recommended are gone. Including websites in a book is helpful, but certainly dates a book. All the photo editing is specifically geared to Adobe Photoshop. There are recommended iPhone apps, which only scratch the surface of what is currently available. The advice on choosing a camera is really limited to Canon and Nikon. There are plenty of other options available. It also recommends a dSLR because of previous limitations with digital cameras. I own a dSLR myself, but there are plenty of digitals that are blowing folks away these days.
I think my favorite quote from this book is, “Buying a fancy camera does not make you a photographer.”
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Fruit of The Spirit Family Devotional: Week Six: Goodness

fruit of the spirit verse

 

Read Galations 5:22-23 at least once during the week. Read it daily if you’d like! We’re wanting the kids to memorize The Fruit of The Spirit.

goodness weekly erse

Psalm 23:6 is the memory verse this week. Read the memory verse at the beginning of each devotional time. The goal is to have each member of your family memorize this verse to the best of their ability this week. I also use the weekly memory verse in our handwriting lessons. You can print out the image above or make your own- just try to get the written verse up on your wall this week. (Image is sized to print 5×7.)

Day One: Goodness Today

Everyday may not be good, but there is something good in each day. Even on our worst days, we can find something good in that day. Think about your day. Was today the very best day of your life so far? Chances are, it wasn’t. What good has happened today? If you woke up, that is the first grace given to you today- and  very good thing! Every cloud has a silver lining. And rain is not all bad, in fact, it can be very good.

Activity: On a paper plate, glue cotton balls and make clouds. Clouds often represent trouble in our lives. Add some silver glitter to your clouds to remind you that there is good, even on our cloudy days.

Activity 2: Make a list of all the good things that have been in your life today. When the bad days come, it helps to remember the good around you, too.

Day Two: Be the Good

“The deeds you do  may be the only sermon some people hear today.” – St. Francis of Assisi

When someone does something good for you, it makes you feel bright and hopeful. It makes you think, not necessarily of that person, but of the goodness that exists. These things can point us and others to God. We can do good for others and give them light and hope. In the first Willy Wonka movie (the old one, with Gene Wilder), Charlie Bucket gives back his everlasting gobstopper, refusing to sell Willy Wonka out to Slugworth, despite seeing that Wonka isn’t the man Charlie thought he was. Willy Wonka says, “So shines a good deed in a weary world.” Charlie did something good, despite the circumstances. Willy Wonka saw hope for the future of his life’s work. Good deeds never go unnoticed, even if not rewarded now. So, be the good for someone else.

Activity: Think of something good you can do for someone today. Now do it! Be the good!

Image to print if you’d like.

Day Three: Good People

Good people bring out the good in people. Have you ever encountered someone who was mean and nasty? Have you ever done a good deed, or shown kindness to that person? Sometimes mean people just needed to be reminded of the good in the world. You want to be a friend who makes your friends better people, not worse. You want to be the sister or brother who makes their brothers and sisters better. You want to be the partner that makes the other person better. So be good to people, remind them of the goodness of God, and help them become good people themselves. Read Proverbs 12:25.

Activity:  Copy me! Make someone “it” and everyone else has to copy what they do. Take turns being “it”. Talk about how you can copy good deeds.

Day Four: Why Be Good?

So why should I pursue goodness? What makes something good? Books could be written answering those questions, and they have been, but to answer simply, we pursue goodness because God is good. We were created to be like Him. Remember back in the garden, when God made man in His image and then breathed His life in them and called them good? Then remember that pesky snake coming along and Eve taking that forbidden fruit and sin entering the world? Things just haven’t been the same since. Our world is a bent and twisted place, and we’re in in trying to live straight like God. We’re letting God transform us into those people He created us to be, when He breathed His life in us and said we were good. He’s bringing us back there. Back to being like Him. He is good, so we strive for goodness. But what if I’m not good enough? C.S. Lewis said, “The Christian does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good, because He loves us.”

Activity: Coloring page 1 and 2.

Day Five: The Lord is My Shepherd

Read Psalm 23. Listen to “The House of God Forever” by Jon Foreman

Activity: Did you learn your memory verse? Share it! What did you learn about Goodness?