Sunday, April 29, 2012

Two Cups


Each spring our local homeschool support group hosts a Moms’ Tea.  Attendance is kept small and intimate – around 25 moms attend.  A theme is chosen to minister to the moms’ hearts - this year’s theme was “"What Cup Have You Been Given? (Seeking the Lord through Trials)”. 

I’ll admit when the e-mail announcing the tea arrived, I paid little attention.  That sounds like something a mom does for herself, and I don’t have time for those things these days.

Then a second, separate e-mail arrived – one asking me to be one of the three speakers for the tea.


My first instinct was to respond “No!”.  God has a sense of humor, though.  He reminded me that each week in co-op my girls are required to give a class presentation.  When they get nervous about it, I remind them that “it’s no big deal.”  Those words came back to haunt me. 

It did feel like a big deal to me, but I realized if I declined simply on the basis of fear of public speaking, my credibility with the girls would be damaged.

After much prayer, I accepted the invitation to speak, at least in my head – I didn’t officially notify the group until later.  And I began praying about what He would have me share.  I have many struggles, but one particular thing kept popping into my head.

No, Lord, I can’t talk about that without crying.  I don’t want to get up in front of a bunch of moms that I don’t really know and try to talk while crying.  Besides, who truly cares about how we’ve dealt with Sarah’s eczema?

Do it.  It will minister to more than you know.

So I began writing.  I sent a “prototype” of the first few paragraphs to the organizer of the event, who reaffirmed I was on the right track.  Secretly I think I was hoping she’d respond “that’s not at all what we wanted!”, but I took her approval as confirmation that my topic was what God wanted me to speak on.

I avoided preparing the rest of that speech for as long as I could.  I came up with every valid excuse I could find to postpone.  I found myself finishing the night before the speech.

Somehow, I found the writing process cathartic.  I had never fully communicated to anyone what the struggle was like.  People think, “oh, it’s just eczema”.  That can be said for kids who just have a little itchy patch behind their knee or in the bend of their elbow – but the degree to which Sarah suffered with eczema was extreme.

I intended to post a picture, but they hold such traumatic memories that I decided against it.  I don’t want a history of Sarah’s struggles out there in cyberspace.with

I volunteered to go first on the day of the tea. I knew if I sat and listened to the others, I’d compare my speech to theirs.  As I suspected, I couldn’t get through even the first few minutes of the speech without tears.  But as I looked out over those other moms, somehow I felt kindred spirits, and even saw a few others crying along with me.

And it turned out giving the speech wasn’t as bad as I feared.  Since that day, I’ve received several e-mails from moms in attendance indicating that the speech ministered to them. 

I’ve also received several requests to read the speech, so I’ve decided to post it here.   I pray it ministers to one of my readers.


We were asked to speak on our “cup” and how God has walked with us through our trial, and how we have sought God during it. My testimony is not only that I sought God during my trial, but also that God patiently sought me.  And just a fair warning – I may need to simply read part of it. Evidently I wrote too much from the heart, because I can’t seem to get through it without crying – so I ask for your forgiveness in advance.

We’re heard the verse a million times:

Psalm 23:5 : Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

We’re heard this one too:

Luke 22:42 "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done."

Two different scenes. Two different cups. One peaceful, the other filled with strife. One filled to overflowing with blessings; the other holding suffering and sacrifice.

I’ve had both cups.

For the most part, my cup has seemed (at least to me) to be the one filled with suffering and sacrifice. Not on my part, but on the part of my sweet, innocent child. I have a daughter with a chronic illness. Not a life-threatening illness, but one that affects the whole family nonetheless.

My cup runneth over.

My 11-yo daughter has suffered from severe eczema since birth. Eczema which covered her head-to-toe, to the point where even her eyelids would crack and bleed.

My cup runneth over.

I have watched my child being ostracized and avoided – by both children and adults. I have held her as she sobbed – gut-wrenching, body-wracking, heart-breaking sobs – because her soccer teammates called her “germy” girl and “eczema girl”, and laughed and pointed. A 7-year-old child should not feel such heartbreak.

My cup runneth over.

I have watched her in the shopping cart at the grocery store, head down, blonde hair hiding her face. I pushed her in the cart because the backs of her legs were flared so badly she couldn’t walk. She never peeked up and looked around. When I noticed and asked why, she cried and said she didn’t want to see everyone staring at her.

My cup runneth over.

I didn’t want the bad cup anymore. I wanted the good cup – the one with the sweet, refreshing, spring water. Not the one where my child had to suffer and pay the price.

I would guess that I poured that cup out and filled it a million times with my tears. My heart cried out to God, begging him to heal my baby.

The answer? “Not yet, my child.”

Years pass. My plea remains the same. “Father, I’ll take her suffering. Please give the eczema to me so she doesn’t suffer anymore. She’s suffered enough. Heal her, Father.”

“Not yet, my child.”

I continue to knock on God’s door, pleading for Him to intervene. How much longer would He wait? How much more could my baby endure? WHY was he allowing this?

“Not yet, my child.”

I’ll admit at some point I simply stopped asking. I wish I could say I accepted God’s answer, but I stopped asking because I was angry. Angry that God would let a little one suffer like Sarah had suffered. Angry that he’d let her suffer so long. Angry because I felt He ignored my pleas for her healing. I’m not proud of being so angry with God, but at the time it was my coping mechanism.

Over time, with much prayer, my anger slowly turned to acceptance. Acceptance that I was stuck with this cup – and that there wouldn’t be a miraculous healing of my child.

That acceptance also eventually resulted in me not trying to “fix” it anymore – not trying every single new lotion and cream that came out; not taking her to this doctor and that doctor; not spending every possible moment reading about eczema and every little thing that might help; not constantly having my radar up in case I happened to overhear something that might help. I learned to treat it as a chronic disease – something that must be managed, not cured.

In other words, I took my eyes off the bad cup.

When I did that, little things started pointing to a second cup – one I either hadn’t noticed, or one that I had been purposefully ignoring. I noticed something glinting in the background behind the cup of suffering. What was that shiny thing back there, behind the bad cup? It was a different cup - one beginning to show signs of holding blessings.

And I started to notice those blessings.

I noticed that Sarah is a kid magnet. Little kids gravitate to her, and she to them. Little kids are safe – they don’t judge, they just take you as you are. I believe if there were little ones in our neighborhood, she could earn her college tuition through babysitting.

I noticed that she loves the elderly - another group that are slow to judge. One of her favorite service projects in Awana has always been taking trips to Garnet Hill Rehab Center in Wylie. She ministers to the residents, but at the same time they minister to her. Acceptance is good for the soul.

Sarah has a hearty respect for life for all creatures. She doesn’t even want me to kill bugs! You’ve heard of catch and release fishing? Our house is a “catch and release” zone for all living things. (Well, there may have been one or two bugs that I’ve flushed down the toilet without her knowing…)

She has a talent for ballet. We’ve been blessed by her ballet studio – it’s another place where she’s been completely accepted, no matter how much her skin was flared. Her ballet teacher doesn’t tolerate anyone saying anything to her. She is encouraged there to be her best – and she is flourishing - flourishing so much that she is going to NYC this summer to train for three weeks in a classical ballet studio on Broadway with a famous ballerina.

One of the biggest blessings of all is that her eczema and allergies are what led us to homeschooling – and now I can’t imagine our life without it.

Those are just some of the blessings I noticed at first.

More and more as I took my eyes off that bad cup, the blessings cup began to shine and sparkle – and start to overflow.

The Lord provides ample water, even in the desert. I had been in a desert. What I didn’t realize was that I didn’t have just one cup – I had two. I had the one filled with suffering and sacrifice, but sitting just behind it was the cup of cool, refreshing water, overflowing with blessings. While my focus had been on the one cup, it obscured my view of the second.

John 7:37-38 says: “Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’”

Let Him be your cup. You may feel like you are in a dry place, but the Lord can still quench your thirst.

The Lord can give you water even in the midst of a spiritual desert.

Jeremiah 29:11: For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

I don’t know what God’s plan is for Sarah, but God knows.

But what I do know is that He will use her suffering and sacrifice to His good. And the blessings will overflow her cup.

I’ll close with recommending that when you are focusing on the horrible thing happening in your life – your trial – take your eyes off that cup and look around, and you might be surprised what blessings surround you.

Psalm 23:6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Thank you for allowing me to share.

Friday, April 27, 2012

5 Days of Blogging with the TOS Review Crew!


Join the TOS Review Crew in May for 5 Days of Blogging!

With our family’s busy schedule with outside activities, it’s appropriate that I’ll be blogging about extracurricular activities.


Over forty crew members will be blogging on topics such as: 

  • Character Training
  • Home Organization
  • Motivational Tools
  • Tutorials and How-To's
  • Hands-on Science
  • Favorite Freebies
  • Adoption
  • Fine Motor Fun
  • Gardening
  • Living History
  • Kids in the Kitchen
  • Raising Teens
  • Curriculum Evaluation
  • Farm Babies
  • Music Making
  • Living from my Pantry
  • Classic Books for Girls
  • Homeschool Technology
  • Creative Notebooking

and many, many more!  There’s something for everyone.  Join the TOS crew during the week of May 14 for our 5 Days of Blogging event!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Mathematical Reasoning Level F by Critical Thinking Co. (TOS Review)


Teaching critical thinking sounds kind of intimidating, doesn’t it?  Take heart – The Critical Thinking Co. makes it  fun and easy!  So far we have loved everything we’ve ever purchased from this company (admittedly we haven’t done enough of this, but it’s on my list this year to remedy that), so I was elated to learn we’d be reviewing their new Mathematical Reasoning Level F!  I intended to use it with my 6th grader who is a little behind on math, but when I told her, her response was “but I like doing math with ___________” (insert our current curriculum in the blank).  Far be it from me to take her away from her enjoyment of a math program, so I decided to let my 4th grader give it a try (and she was thrilled!).


One of The Critical Thinking Company’s core curriculum products for math, this huge, gorgeous book includes student content and answer guide and provides a complete year’s math curriculum (but can also be used simply as a supplement).  The book, written by Carolyn Anderson, is targeted to 5th graders, but can also be used with younger or older students, depending on their math proficiency.  

Normally priced at $42.99, as of the date of this post it’s on sale for $37.99!

This is a gorgeous book, inside and out – visually appealing and colorful,  it makes getting kids interested in the book simple.  May I repeat – simple

orderofoperation average riddle

This book is written to the following standards of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics:

  • Number and Operations
  • Algebra
  • Geometry
  • Measurement
  • Data Analysis and Probability

It covers a wide variety of topics – again, a full year’s curriculum:

  • Analyze
  • Angle
  • Area
  • Calendar
  • Capacity - customary, metric
  • Concept - addition, subtraction, multiplication, division
  • Congruence
  • Coordinate System
  • Count
  • Critical Thinking
  • Data Analysis - bar graph, line graph, survey, table, picture
  • Data Collection
  • Decimals - concept, add, subtract, multiple, divide
  • Draw - parallel, perpendicular, by definition
  • Equations Expression, Vocabulary
  • Equivalence
  • Estimation - addition, subtraction, multiplication, division
  • Exponents
  • Factors
  • Fractions - form/vocabulary, add, subtract, multiply, divide
  • Graph, Table, Chart, Figure - analyze, represent
  • Inequalities
  • Length - customary, metric
  • Likelihood, Probability
  • Mean, Median, Mode
  • Money - add, subtract, multiply, divide
  • Multiple
  • Negative Numbers
  • Order
  • Order of Operations
  • Patterns - geometric, numeric
  • Percent
  • Perimeter
  • Place Value - expanded notation, number form, word form
  • Polygon
  • Prime/Composite
  • Properties
  • Reflection, Translation, Rotation
  • Rounding
  • Shapes - 2D, 3D
  • Signed Numbers
  • Symmetry
  • Temperature - customary, metric
  • Time
  • Variable as Unknown - in addition, in subtraction, in multiplication, in division
  • Volume
  • Weight - customary, metric
  • Whole Numbers - addition, subtraction, multiplication, division
  • Word Problems

Wow – what a list!  Since Hannah is only 4th grade, she needed extra help with some of the topics, but overall I thought she did great.

Using the spiral method, it is, of course, meant to be done in page order – no skipping around!


It’s a workbook, but it’s such high quality that it doesn’t seem like a workbook.

The books are reproducible for use within your family, so you could use this with each of your children.  My girls, however, want their own books like this, and I’ll admit that a copy of this wouldn’t seem nearly as neat as an original (at least not to my girls).  To get them to willingly do this program, it’s worth having to buy two copies!  Read the Use of Copyrighted Materials Policy.

No lesson prep for me!  Literally, you just pick it up and begin.

The company claims that using these books will increase standardized test scores – and I believe it!

My 4th grader loves puzzles and riddles – so she enjoyed those pages (after she encountered the first, it was hard to keep her from going through and finding the rest) – but it was motivation to work through the other pages to get to the next puzzle!


It truly is a spiral approach – meaning, if you’re used to a master approach, the jumping around with topics might seem odd at first. 

Depending on the student’s math proficiency, you may want to sit with him/her as he’s doing the work.


If you’re not familiar with The Critical Thinking Co., you must (must!) go check them out.  They offer products (both core and supplementary) for reasoning/problem solving, math, science, and language arts.  And if you’re interested in this particular product, the levels start at Mathematical Reasoning Level 1 & 2 (for preschool) and go through this level, with more (I believe) to come!

Request a catalog HERE.

Read about the company’s 50-year history HERE.


By phone:

By Fax:

By Email:

By Mail:
P.O. Box 1610
Seaside, CA 93955-1610

Or submit questions/comments online HERE.


Hannah really liked this but, despite how thorough it is, I’m undecided whether I’d be comfortable having it as my only math curriculum.  I will probably use it as a supplement, though, as any extra math practice is great, especially when there’s not a war involved to get the girls to do it!


To see other reviews of this product, click HERE and look for the linky tools list at the bottom of the post. For giveaways, other product reviews and other fun things, follow the 2011-2012 TOS Homeschool Crew blog at:


**Disclaimer: As part of the 2011-2012 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I received the product referenced in this review at no cost in exchange for my fair, honest and unbiased (and not necessarily positive) review. No other compensation was received.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Amazing Science (TOS Review)

My girls are always excited when we get something science-related to review.  This time we received Volume 1 of Amazing Science! by



A 2-DVD set, Amazing Science! includes 23 experiments: 

DVD #1:

  • Color Changing Milk
  • Egg in a Bottle
  • Exploring Air Pressure
  • Build a Lemon Battery
  • Inverted Cup of Water
  • Candle Suction Power
  • Amazing Magnetic Force
  • Lift an Ice Cube with String
  • Unburnable Money
  • Matchstick Speedboat
  • Cloud in a Bottle
  • Reversing an Image with Water

DVD #2:

  • Floating Eggs
  • Keeping Paper Dry Under Water
  • Dry Ice Bubbles
  • Balloon in a Candle Flame
  • Ocean in a Bottle
  • Build a Motor with Lights
  • Simple Lava Lamp
  • Invisible Ink
  • Density Tower
  • Soda Can Fizz
  • Build a Motor #2


The lemon battery!


Of the experiments we’ve done so far, my girls’ favorites have been…well, they can’t really pick.  They have liked everything we’ve done.

The 2-DVD set is available HERE for $19.95 (list price is $24.95), or you can download all the experiments for $17.99. 

Want a sample?  Here’s the movie trailer and one of the experiments:



I like that Jason and his DVD make doing science experiments simple and fun.  In the past, experiments have gone by the wayside.  Not anymore.

The science experiment use materials that are easily found – no hunting all over town for a mysterious component.  We had many of the supplies on hand already.

The conversational tone of the DVD plus the other information he throws in, especially what happens if you alter the science experiment slightly, use different materials, etc.  And the fact that he reminds them of the necessary safety precautions!


I wish he’d make more DVDs with experiments!

I wish there was a printable list containing the supplies for every experiment.  Could be sent by e-mail when someone purchases.  Sure, it’d be easy enough to make – but what busy mom has time (or would think about it when she did have time)?


If you use these DVDs, there’ll be no getting out of doing experiments.  Your kids will pester you until you get the supplies to do them.


Check out the other DVD course offerings from – everything from Basic Math to Physics!


By phone/fax:
Phone: 1-877-MATH-DVD (1-877-6284-383)
Fax: 1-877-383-0444

By e-mail:  :
jason.gibson (at)

By regular mail:
PO BOX 1165
Seabrook, TX, 77586

Or contact them through the web HERE.


The girls love watching these DVDs, and I’ve been impressed with how much they’ve learned from them.


To see other reviews of this product, click HERE and look for the linky tools list at the bottom of the post. For giveaways, other product reviews and other fun things, follow the 2011-2012 TOS Homeschool Crew blog at:


**Disclaimer: As part of the 2011-2012 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I received the product referenced in this review at no cost in exchange for my fair, honest and unbiased (and not necessarily positive) review. No other compensation was received.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

God’s GREAT Covenant, New Testament 1 (TOS Review)

I love all things Classical Academic Press.  Everything I’ve seen from them is top-notch.   So, when I was chosen to review God’s GREAT Covenant, New Testament 1: A Bible Course for Children, I was beyond excited.   Given the great quality of their other products, I expected this one to also be wonderful.


When the package arrived I basically ripped it open from excitement.  Inside I found two very large books – a student book,  plus a teacher’s edition.  I peeked inside the books, and almost immediately I could tell I would not be disappointed with this study.


God’s GREAT Covenant, New Testament 1:  A Bible Course for Children is a study of the Gospels.  From the Classical Academic Press website and from the description on the back of the book (because they say it best):

In God’s Great Covenant, New Testament 1: A Bible Course for Children, students will follow the story of Jesus, the Messiah and King, as He is born and fulfills all God’s promises. But Jesus does not arrive as people expected. The people were looking for a mighty warrior to deliver them from the oppressive Roman government. Instead, He came as the suffering Savior, who would die as the sacrifice for sin and death. He was building a kingdom that was not of this world—it was the kingdom of God. He is the Son of Man, God’s Servant, the Messiah, and the Son of God. Each of the four units in this text emphasizes one of these names of Jesus. God’s Great Covenant, New Testament 1 teaches the Gospels to students in fourth grade and up, using stories, worksheets, memory verses, devotional guides, quizzes, and a little boy named Simon. In the introductions to the text, students will also learn about the historical, cultural, and geographical setting of the New Testament. This book is a most comprehensive and heartfelt study of the Gospels, and many parents and teachers will find themselves learning along with their students.

Written by Claire A. Larsen and written for 4th grade and up, this study consists of four units, with nine chapters (eight new lessons and one review lesson).  At one lesson a week this would constitute a full year’s Bible curriculum (assuming you don’t homeschool year-round).  The books and set of audios can be purchased individually or as a set:

Student book - $26.95
Teacher’s edition - $29.95
Mp3 audio files - $9.95
Set of both books plus audio files - $56.95

The units are:

Unit I:  Jesus, the Son of Man, Has Come…To Live Among His People
Unit II;  Jesus, God’s Servant, Has Come…To Proclaim the Good News
Unit III: Jesus, The Messiah, Has Come…To Teach About God’s Kingdom
Unit IV:  Jesus, the Son of God, Has Come…To Conquer Sin and Death

Before delving into the units, you’re provided much introductory information: 

Basic introduction
Historical and Political Introduction
Chronological Introduction
Geographical Introduction
Religious Introduction

In addition, there is a “Daily Life Introduction: Welcome to Simon’s World”.  Simon is a fictional kid who lives in the village of Jareh, and serves as a sort of tour guide through the study. 

Each chapter begins by giving a theme, scripture passages, a memory passage, and key facts .  The lesson, referred to as Story Time, follows (can be read or listened to on the audio), and the chapter ends with review worksheets.  The last lesson in each unit is itself a review unit containing more review worksheets, a memory passage worksheet (more than just memory work here – a true examination of the passage and its meaning), a devotional guide and, of course, the Simon’s World story.

Appendices/extras follow the last lesson: 

Appendix A – Fulfillment of Prophesies/Covenant Pictures/Sabbath Principles
Appendix B – Jesus as Prophet, Priest, and King
Appendix C – The Lord’s Prayer (not just the prayer itself, but an examination of its meaning)
Quizzes for each chapter!
More maps (maps are also sprinkled throughout the lessons)

A quick note about the Teacher’s Edition – it’s fabulous!  It’s a complete copy of the student book - the student pages are shrunk to provide room for notes and teacher helps.  Answers to the questions in the lessons are provided, along with answers to the quizzes in the back.


Everything.  Seriously.  My search for a complete Bible study for my girls is over.

This study is meaty – it is not a watered-down kids’ Bible study.  I want my girls to hide Scripture in their heart, not simplified stories - so this is perfect.

The girls loved Simon’s World!  I think somehow they related more to his “kid’s view”

The books are beautiful, almost begging to be opened.  Although done in black/white text (with plenty of graphics and pictures), the books are visually appealing – you can tell that a lot of time was spent in the design of layout.  It’s something the girls enjoy using.

I have been learning new things with this study.  We are going fairly slow because, honestly, I don’t want any of us to miss anything!

I’m a chart person – I love the ease of looking at charts.  This study is filled with them, which makes comparisons and learning new facts easy.


We sort of plodded through the introductory material.   While we learned a lot, I wish this also could be included in the audio files, as I’d honestly like to review it again.


Don’t put this in the “homeschool curriculum” category.  While this study is right up a homeschooling parent’s alley, it is a fabulous study for all children.

As I said, this is meaty stuff.  I believe my girls are getting more out of it because we’re doing it together.  I suppose you could have students do it independently, but this study is so great I’m not real sure why you’d want to.

Don’t overlook the quizzes in the back of the book – there’s one for each chapter!

I would be sure to purchase the Teacher’s Edition, not just the student book  - there’s a wealth of information in the Teacher’s Edition!


View the complete table of contents, a portion of the introductory material, plus the first THREE chapters HERE.

Hear a sample of the audio files HERE.


Classical Academic Press
3920 Market Street
Camp Hill, PA 17011
Toll Free: 866-730-0711
Phone: 717-730-0711
Fax: 717-730-0721

Or contact them through the website HERE.


This is a thorough study for children of part of the New Testament.  Highly recommend it for all children, not just those who are homeschooled.  It is my intention, when we finish this study, to purchase NT 2; and then we’ll go back and also do both OT volumes.


To see other reviews of this product, click HERE and look for the linky tools list at the bottom of the post. For giveaways, other product reviews and other fun things, follow the 2011-2012 TOS Homeschool Crew blog at:


**Disclaimer: As part of the 2011-2012 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I received the NT1 bundle (both books and the audios) referenced in this review at no cost in exchange for my fair, honest and unbiased (and not necessarily positive) review. No other compensation was received.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Now WHERE did I put that?

Have you ever  done that?  Placed something in a “safe” place so you wouldn’t forget where it was, and then forgotten?

That’s been my afternoon.

The lost item? A Hobby Lobby bag containing the girls’ wooden cars for the Awana Grand Prix.  The cars that they designed, tirelessly worked to sculpt (with Daddy’s help), and lovingly painted, awaiting Daddy’s assistance with the final touches for the Awana Grand Prix race this weekend.

My dear  hubby searched this morning to no avail, and reluctantly broke the news to the girls that the cars were lost. 

This is the last year Sarah can participate.  Hannah has two more years, but early on she adopted the attitude of not caring how fast her car traveled, and only desired to design a memorable car.  What’d she choose?  A car in the shape of a Narwhal  whale.  (Have I ever mentioned the girls are science-obsessed?)   I was determined to find the mysteriously missing bag.

My house is now a wreck, because I pulled everything out of its place during the two-hour-long search.  I moved sofa cushions; looked under beds; looked in drawers and closets; checked their (admittedly) messy room; combed  through bookshelves; searched the crafts closet; everywhere I could think to look I looked.

Before I gave up, I chose to make one last-ditch effort to locate the bag – by praying.

Wait - why was praying my last-ditch effort?  That question both puzzles and distresses me.  Praying should have been my first action in the search.  

Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.  Luke 12:7 (NAS)

If God takes the time to number the hairs on each child’s head, shouldn’t He care enough to help find a missing item to prevent a child’s disappointment?  Of course He does.

Then He said, “Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you’ll get some!” So they did, and they couldn’t haul in the net because there were so many fish in it.  John 21:6 (NLT)  

If God cares about which side of the boat we throw our nets, why wouldn’t He care about where the missing bag is?  Our Father cares about the little things.

If only we’d simply ask. 

So I asked. 

Father, my sweet girls have their hearts set on racing their cars this weekend.  Would you please help me know where to look so that I don’t have to disappoint them?  Amen.

I opened my eyes and thought for a moment.

Hmm, did I look behind the big comfy chair in the living room?  Stuff tends to accumulate there, close to the kitchen.

Turns out I didn’t look there, because there was the bag, covered slightly by a blanket.


Thank you, Father, for caring about the little things.  My little ones will be excited that their cars have been found.

Just ask.

Christian Kids Explore Biology (TOS Review)



If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know my girls are obsessed with science.  When the opportunity arose to review one of the books in the Christian Kids Explore series for Bright Ideas Press, I jumped at it.  I allowed the girls to choose from the four books, and they asked that I request Christian Kids Explore Biology.



The Christian Kids Explore series began as a homeschool mom’s desire to find a science curriculum which somewhat followed the classical mode of education plus taught science from a Christian point of view.  There are four books in the series:

Christian Kids Explore Earth and Space – geared toward grade levels 3-6
Christian Kids Explore Biology – geared toward grade levels 3-6
Christian Kids Explore Chemistry – geared toward grade levels 4-8
Christian Kids Explore Physics – geared toward grade levels 4-8

The biology book is available from Bright Ideas Press for $34.95.  The book includes 35 lessons in eight units:

1.  Biology Basics

2.  Plants in God’s World

3.  Birds of the Earth

4.  Mammals in the Wild

5.  The Human Factor

6.  Reptiles All Around

7.  Insects High and Low

8.  Water Creatures

Each unit begins with a vocabulary list, a list of materials needed for the unit, and a coloring page.   Each lesson includes Teaching Time (the lesson) and Hands-On Time (an activity or experiment).   Review questions and quizzes are built in, and memory work, puzzles and and creative writing assignments are also included.  The author suggests teaching one lesson a week, and using two days to cover it.

A digital download of the activity pages is available.  Instead of copying from the book, you can print the pages you need.  At the time  of this review, the download is on sale (an April special) for $7.95 (normally $12.95).



I love that Scripture is sprinkled throughout.  It is “unabashedly Christian.”  Even the “trivia” included on some of the pages is associated with Scripture:


(Sorry about the color on this picture – my camera was evidently set weird.)

I like that each unit is broken up into smaller parts, and there are hands-on activities for each lesson.

I love the appendices in the back - 100+ pages that include:

Reproducible Forms and Maps
Memorization or Reference Lists
Scripture Memory cards
Instructions and Art for ABC Book (a year-long project where the student learns  
     about one animal for each letter of the alphabet
Additional Coloring Pages
Recipes and Supplemental Activities
Answer Key
Suggested Further Reading (a/k/a the beloved book list!)


If you choose to have your student read the lessons independently, I’d recommend at least reading the first one together, as it deals with creation vs. evolution, and discusses the big bang theory.

I’d also recommend reviewing Lessons 22  in the Humans Unit before allowing your children to read it independently.  This lesson covers human reproduction.  Despite this book being geared to 3rd grade and up, there are many homeschoolers who have delayed “the talk”, me included.  While not providing explicit information, there are still issues covered and vocabulary used that might prompt questions.  Call me odd, but a science book is not the thing that I personally want prompting questions from my girls.

Don’t worry about the shortness of the lessons – there is plenty of information in each, plus many suggestions for additional learning activities.



Check out samples and Info

  • Table of Contents
  • Sample Week
  • Materials List by Unit
  • Sample Lesson Plans
  • Sample Reading List


    By mail: 
    Bright Ideas Press
    PO Box 333
    Cheswold, DE 19936

    By phone: 
    toll-free at 877.492.8081

    By fax:

    By email
    general inquiries: 
    or use the
    online contact form.


    My girls have enjoyed the lessons we’ve done in this book, and I plan to continue using it.  The 35 lessons can be considered a full year’s curriculum, and a full year of science for $34.95 can’t be beat!


    To see other reviews of this product, click HERE and look for the linky tools list at the bottom of the post. For giveaways, other product reviews and other fun things, follow the 2011-2012 TOS Homeschool Crew blog at:


    **Disclaimer: As part of the 2011-2012 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I received a pilot version of the product referenced in this review at no cost in exchange for my fair, honest and unbiased (and not necessarily positive) review. No other compensation was received.

    Friday, April 13, 2012

    Write with WORLD (TOS Review)


    Often I think I should have become a dentist, because at times it’s like pulling teeth to get my girls to write.   We haven’t been doing a formal writing program for very long, so maybe this is just a stage to be expected.  Both my girls are resistant, one moreso than the other.  Our current writing program is a great one, but I keep hoping for that magic program to come along that will  make writing fun or them.  When I was chosen to review Write with WORLD, I waited with great anticipation for it to arrive – would this be the “just right” thing to encourage the girls in their writing?


    Write with WORLD is a new middle school writing program being produced by the publishers of God’s World News and World Magazine.   A two-year program geared toward grades 6-9, Write with WORLD is still in the pilot stage.  The program appears to be fairly easily adjustable for younger/older children.

    For this review,  I received the Student Book and the Parent/Teacher Book (each containing 200+ pages) for the first year. 

    Final versions of the curriculum are due to begin shipping in the summer of 2012.  Purchased separately, each year will cost $95; both years can be purchased together for $165.  This price includes access to a user website which will provide opportunities for being published online as well as additional writing subjects.  Order HERE.

    This first year of the curriculum is broken down into four units of four lessons each.  

    Unit 1
       Lesson 1 Reading Images and Advertisements
       Lesson 2 Comparative Reading: Sentences
       Lesson 3 Comparative and Critical Reading: Paragraphs
       Lesson 4 Developing Critical Readers: Essays
    Unit 2
       Lesson 1 The Paragraph
       Lesson 2 Composing and Linking Sentences
       Lesson 3 Creating Focus and Arrangement
       Lesson 4 Linking Paragraphs: Transitions and Logic
    Unit 3
       Lesson 1 Writing Autobiography: Reporting Facts
       Lesson 2 Writing Autobiography: Creating Character
       Lesson 3 Writing Autobiography: Developing Ideas
       Lesson 4 Writing Autobiography: Composition
    Unit 4
       Lesson 1 Crafting Narratives: Developing a Point of View
       Lesson 2 Crafting Narratives: Showing Versus Telling
       Lesson 3 Crafting Narratives: Narrative With a Purpose
       Lesson 4 Crafting Narratives: Writing a Fictional Narrative

    Each of those lessons is further broken down into “capsules”.  For instance, Unit 1, Lesson 1,  is broken down into:

       Capsule 1 – The Story Behind the Image
       Capsule 2 – What a Photojournalist Sees
       Capsule 3 – The Story Behind the Image (uses a different picture than Capsule 1)
       Capsule 4 – The Message Behind the Advertisement
       Capsule 5 – Style, Diction, and Revision

    This additional break-down gives the child bite-sized pieces – a reluctant writer is somewhat able to ease into the process.  You can view Lesson 1 HERE.

    The Parent/Teacher Book is basically a copy of the Student Book, but includes teaching suggestions/notes, plus a four-page overview at the beginning of each unit which includes a general overview of the purpose of the unit, plus a lesson-by-lesson detailed overview.  You can read the General Introduction to the Parent/Teacher Manual HEREpay particular attention to the section titled “Distinctives.”


    I love this quote from the website, which sums up the underlying purpose of this new curriculum:

    Christians in particular should try to be the best communicators. They possess the truth and need to articulate a biblical worldview.

    We have used pictures to write stories in our other curriculum, but never went into a “behind the scenes” review of what the picture really stands for.  The first lesson in the book covers images – and that first lesson hooked my girls right from the get-go.

    Love the lesson overviews.

    We found it very easy to stop and start – meaning if we didn’t get all the way through a capsule or lesson, it was easy to do part and finish the rest later.

    Love that the curriculum also works on grammar.  Also love the journaling,  grammar exercises, and vocabulary work included in each capsule.

    I love the point of view that the publishers have in developing this curriculum.  From the introduction to the Parent/Teacher Manual:

    Write with WORLD will train students to look for "worldview clues" in writing so that they become discerning readers. The curriculum also aims to help them discover their own voice as writers with a worldview of their own which they know how to articulate. We want students to learn to join the thinkers and writers of our day, with, in the words of the Apostle Paul, "conversation . . . full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that [they] may know how to answer everyone" (Colossians 4:6).


    Note that because the Parent/Teacher manual is a copy of the student manual with teaching suggestions added in the margins for most pages, it is several inches wider than the student manual.  We didn’t find this bothersome, but just wanted to make you aware.

    The curriculum is loosely tied to the two magazines (God’s World News and World Magazine), but it is not necessary to have these magazines in order to use the curriculum.


    Be heard!  The publisher is gauging interest in having the curriculum available in electronic format rather than printed books.  An electronic version would allow for use on not only your home computer, but also on e-readers.  They are also trying to determine interest in a high school curriculum.  Please give the publisher your thoughts at

    View the TABLE OF COMMENTS for both Year 1 and Year 2.

    If you’re not familiar with God’s World News and World Magazine, they’re worth checking out.  Both magazines are monthly publications with the goal of using current events to teach critical thinking skills from .


    By Phone: 1-800-951-KIDS (5437)
    Monday - Friday
    9:00 am - 7:00 pm ET

    By Email:

    By Mail: God's World News
    P.O. Box 20001
    Asheville, NC 28802-8201


    The girls really enjoyed using this curriculum.  While they didn’t ask to use it, they certainly weren’t resistant – and once we got going they truly seemed to enjoy it.  !


    To see other reviews of this product, click HERE and look for the linky tools list at the bottom of the post. For giveaways, other product reviews and other fun things, follow the 2011-2012 TOS Homeschool Crew blog at:


    **Disclaimer: As part of the 2011-2012 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I received a pilot version of the product referenced in this review at no cost in exchange for my fair, honest and unbiased (and not necessarily positive) review. No other compensation was received.

    Thursday, April 12, 2012

    Before…and after…

    Even after almost six years, the pain is still fresh.

    I remember standing in a quiet room looking at my Mama – except I gazed at her as she lay still, cold to the touch, in a casket.  Could she really be gone from this earth?  She appeared peaceful, while inside my sorrow churned despite the shock.

    Only nine days after the diagnosis, she was gone.  Technically, with both parents gone, I had obtained orphan status.

    Sing to God, sing praise to His name, extol Him who rides on the clouds — His name is the LORD— and rejoice before Him. A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling.”  Psalm 68:4-5

    I tried to cling to this verse.  Valiantly, I tried.

    Over time I have learned to deny the ever-present pain of the loss of my Mama.  Certain events bring it rushing back.  Christmas, birthdays, Mother’s Day…

    …and funerals.  I’ve been to my fair share of funerals in my life, starting fairly young.

    There was my uncle’s funeral as young  child – the first I remember - where I wore for the first time the beautiful new, soft grey coat that Mama had just given me.  The coat I promptly threw up on during the funeral.

    There was my Daddy’s funeral just before I turned 10.   I remember it, but recall few details other than my beloved cousin Sheila sitting next to me.

    Many others followed, including Mama’s…the one by which I measure time.

    Today I attended the funeral of a sweet friend’s brother.  The moment I entered the chapel, arm-in-arm with another precious friend, all the emotions I daily ignore overflowed.  On the outside I appeared calm, with no tears - on the inside, the opposite emotions raged. 

    In my mind’s eye, I saw Mama’s casket. 

    It was a lovely service.  My friend welcomed the friends and family in attendance, and spoke eloquently of her brother.  Movingly, the pastor spoke of living water.  The soloist sang with the voice of an angel.

    In my heart, I mourned for my friend, and for myself.

    You see, my time is now divided into two segments:  before Mama’s funeral, and after.