Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Pray-ers (Homeschool Review)


The Pray-ers / Book 1 Troubles, written by Mark S. Mirza, and published by CTM Publishing, Atlanta, is a novel that follows the lives of three Christians, Epaphras, a first century contemporary of Paul, a nineteenth century preacher, and a modern-day new believer. As the reader follows the lives and struggles of these men, she “meets” the angels and demons that are assigned to respectively encourage and to tempt each man.

The purpose of The Pray-ers is not only to entertain, but to give the reader explicit instruction in the art and practice of prayer. As one character teaches another about prayer, about discerning God’s will, and about leading lives that honor Him, the reader also learns the lesson, and witnesses the characters growing in their faith. As Mirza states in his Preface, “I want you to learn prayer. I don’t just want you to learn ABOUT prayer.”

The book is also a look into spiritual warfare. The three demons refer to God as the “Holy Enemy,” follow their human charges around, and strategize how to tempt them into sin or how to distract them from practices such as sincere prayer that will cause the humans to follow God rather than practice sin and selfishness. The demons fight and compete among themselves, demonstrating the results of rebellion against God. This aspect of the novel reminds me of C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters. Meanwhile, three angels encourage the lead characters, occasionally even appearing to them. The appearance of the angels strikes fear into the demons because they realize that they cannot effectively fight God or His messengers. I find it fascinating to think about the spirit world around us and enjoyed this aspect of the novel.

Throughout the novel are footnotes for scripture verses that reference the stories, passages, and principles that are being taught. The reader could use the book as a Bible study by looking up each verse or could easily ignore most of them, just researching the few that provoked more interest.b

I found The Pray-ers to be both imaginative and instructional. Unfortunately, it was also in need of some serious editing. I found the wording to be awkward and repetitive and the book was littered with punctuation errors, spelling errors, and incorrect word usage. Because of this, I found it difficult to read and found my self frequently either editing passages in my head or rereading sentences that didn’t make sense the first time through. It was also a bit too preachy. I felt that the characters did a lot of “lecturing” each other in order to convey the message to the reader and this felt awkward in a novel. I was best able to follow the story by skimming, which certainly wasn’t the author’s intent. Perhaps with some revision, the story could better reach its potential.

Connect with Mark S. Mirza and the Pray-ers:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ThePrayersNovel/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ThePray_ers @ThePrayersNovel


The Pray-ers / Book 1 Troubles
Crew Disclaimer

Monday, September 19, 2016

CurrClick Fall into Savings Sale

CurrClick started their Fall into Savings Sale today, featuring hundreds of e-products for homeschooling at 80% off.

My printable learning games are included in the sale, most at only 70 cents! If you’re studying American history, geography, ancient civilizations, planets, animals, or plants this year and are looking for a fun way to supplement your studies, be sure to grab a few games this week at their lowest price ever!

Galloping Through Ancient Greece GameAll About Animals gameExplorers of the World Matching Game

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Yellowstone Adventure


Roosevelt Arch—the original park entrance


Morning Glory pool




We encountered quite a few bison bulls wandering along the roadsides.

















It’s fun taking a vacation with a cousin!



    The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

(My niece was quite indignant that they copied the title “Grand Canyon” from the real Grand Canyon.)

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Notebooking and Human Anatomy

This month, Emily is working on  Human Anatomy and Physiology as a block-style course in which she’ll complete a 0.5 high school credit in just four weeks. She’s spending an intensive 2-3 hours a day on the subject, but will have the class completed by September.

We’re not using a traditional textbook for this class.  Her primary curriculum is the Great The Human Body Book (Second Edition) / Edition 2Courses “Understanding the Human Body” series. We recently got a membership to thegreatcoursesplus.com, which is a streaming service that includes hundreds of courses.  Each day Emily watches a lesson or two and writes a summary of the topic in her notebook. I found pages at NotebookingPages.com that are perfect for this. The graphics make the pages so much prettier and provide some guidance on her topic for the day. She’s also using The Human Body Book for reference.



I’ve been impressed with how much she is learning from these very detailed videos and she is enjoying the notebooking style of documenting what she learns.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Spiritual Circle Journal (Schoolhouse Review)

The Spiritual Circle Journal is a journal for adults that helps guide their devotional time, record prayers, and see where God is moving in their lives. The pages include nine circles to represent different ways to talk to God and to listen to God, providing direction and focus for daily quiet time. 

The Spiritual Circle Journal for Kids & Teens is similar. Each page includes nine fun shapes (a car, light bulb, heart, shoe, etc.) that represent different areas of of focus. As the child has his devotional time, he writes notes in each shape to record prayers, insights from scripture reading, thank-you’s to God, favorite verses, concerns, and so on. There aren’t any rules, or any order to the process. The shapes are there to remind the child of the different topics he may want to think or pray about that day. As he prays, thinks about his day, or reads the Bible, he is free to skip around the page writing comments, notes, and prayers as they come to mind. Some of the journal entries will be introspective; others will hopefully inspire the child to action, creating a link between time with God and his relationships with others.

This is a unique way to introduce a child to having a quiet time or to offer a different approach for a devotional time. It’s not a Bible study, although it could be used as a supplement to one. It doesn’t teach or provide pre-written prayers. Instead, it unleashes the child or teen’s creativity, providing gentle guidance in developing a relationship with God and encouraging them to look for how God is working in their lives. The pages are a heavy weight, slightly glossy paper that would work well with colored pencils, markers, or even watercolors. An artsy child could have a lot of fun with this journal.


The journal instructions suggest that the child start by using the book once or twice a week at first. That way, there isn’t a feeling of failure if the child misses a day. Emily has been using her journal every morning, though. She begins with her usual Bible and devotional book reading, then follows up by recording her thoughts in the Spiritual Circle Journal. She says that she enjoys using it because it helps her get her thoughts and feelings out and that writing her thoughts helps to organize them instead of keeping them jumbled in her head. The Spiritual Circle Journal is helping her focus on God and her feelings about life.


I like this approach to journaling. While a blank page may seem intimidating to a child or teen, the smaller writing blocks are much less so. The suggested themes for each shape give direction on topics to journal about. Children and teens can choose to simply write their thoughts in the shapes, to color or paint the shapes to add color, or even to draw symbols or pictures that will illustrate their thoughts. If you are looking for an open-ended introduction to journaling for your child, this is a product you might enjoy.

Connect with Spiritual Circle Journal:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LizLassa/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/spiritualcirclejournal/  @spiritualcirclejournal
Twitter: https://twitter.com/liz_lassa  @liz_lassa

Spiritual Circle Journal

I received this product free in exchange for my honest review.


Friday, August 26, 2016

Friday Freebie! Planets Game


Studying astronomy? This week’s freebie is a trivia game that will test your knowledge of our solar system. This game is best for older elementary or middle school aged students, although if your first grader is a whiz with the planets, he might love it as well! Planets, Moon, and Stars

This is one of 15 games that I designed several years ago to reinforce our geography, history and science studies.


This week’s bonus deal…buy The Inventor’s Game for only $1 (reg. $3.50) Or buy all 15 of my learning games for only $15 at CurrClick.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Starting a New School Year!

Emily is ready to start 11th grade! And my baby’s kindergarten photo. We’ve come a long way in our homeschool journey!



Wednesday, August 17, 2016

FlipStir Puzzle (Schoolhouse Review)

FlipStir Puzzles Reviews

Recently, Emily and I had the chance to try out a fun and unique type of puzzle, the FlipStir created by Enlivenze LLC.  We received the FlipStir Statue of Liberty Puzzle to try, but there are several more variations: Rainbow Pencils, Tyrannosaurus Rex, and Solar System. The Statue of Liberty puzzle is a Level 2 puzzle because the picture itself is harder to solve and the edges of the pieces are wavy rather than straight.


How do you play with FlipStir? The directions are simple. Shake. Stir. Solve. That’s it! Well, the solving part is not terrible simple, but that’s where the fun is! A FlipStir is a 10 piece puzzle. Each piece is a semicircle and the pieces stack to create a picture. The catch is—the pieces are inside a plastic canister and the only way to manipulate them is with the attached stir rod. There are two skills needed to solve the puzzle—figuring out the order of the 10 pieces and actually moving them around inside the canister.


It wasn’t difficult to figure out the order of the pieces. Sometimes we had to put one in place before we could tell for sure if it was a match, but that part of the process wasn’t difficult. We found it a bit harder to figure out how to manipulate the puzzle pieces with the stick and Emily declared it “frustrating.”  She did enjoy it, though, and it took her a while to complete the process. It took me 15-20 minutes or so to put the puzzle together, although one of Emily’s friends picked it up and assembled it in 5 minutes! If we had more than one FlipStir puzzle, it would be fun to have races to see who could finish first.

The FlipStir puzzle is great for taking in the car or carrying in a purse because there are no pieces to lose. It’s a great tool for practicing fine motor and perceptual skills as well as for developing patience! Other crew members tried out some of the other FlipStir puzzles, so be sure to read about their experiences on the Schoolhouse Review Crew Blog.

Connect with Enlivenze and FlipStir:

Product Accounts
Facebook: www.facebook.com/flipstirpuzzle
Twitter: www.twitter.com/flipstir
Company Accounts
Facebook: www.facebook.com/enlivenze
Twitter: www.twitter.com/enlivenze


FlipStir Puzzles Reviews

I received this product free in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Planning Out Our School Year

This is the time of year when I work on scheduling out our new school year and writing lesson plans. If I used a “boxed” curriculum, this would be quite easy, but my eclectic approach to school and curricula requires a bit more planning ahead. Fortunately for me, planning and organizing are some of my favorite things to do!

First, I look over all the books and materials that I plan to use for the year. (These have already been purchased over the past few months.) Some will be used for the entire year. Others might be used for a semester, or for just a few weeks. Others might be used for a few weeks, then alternated with another resource.

Although I have a general plan of what will be used when, I need to narrow down that plan and record it. For this, I use a grid that shows each subject with a block for each week. I find that the Quarterly Planner pages from the Schoolhouse High School Planner are perfect for this.


Once I have my big picture in place, I can get to my weekly planning. I’ve used a variety of paper planners through the years, including simple grids that I just made up myself to commercial planners like the Schoolhouse Planner. Since last year, I’ve been using Homeschool Planet and just love it. I can put assignments in quickly using its sophisticated scheduling features that allow me to repeat assignments using sequential lessons or page numbers. I can easily shift assignments to another day, keep attendance, and record grades for each subject with the software.


This year, I’m actually using a combination of online and paper planning. On Homeschool Planet, I am planning assignments by the week. Emily will look at the weekly assignments and fill out her personal planning grid as she plans her own schedule day by day. This will not only streamline my planning, but allow her to become more responsible for her schedule and assignments. College is only two years away and I won’t be around then to make a schedule for her!

Having a plan is important to me and helps make our school year successful. I’d be lost without it!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Find Your Brave (Review)


Are you a brave person? Do you have the courage to stand strong, or even just to survive through life’s storms? Life can be tough. Difficult relationships, illness, death, financial troubles… the list goes on and on. And if you are like me, you don’t always handle these trials well.

I just finished reading, Find Your Brave: Courage to Stand Strong When the Waves Crash In, by Holly Wagner. As we know, trials are a part of this life, but Wagner’s book is a source of encouragement while facing hardship. She addresses letting go of baggage, like disappointment, forgiveness, and fear, that holds us back. She teaches that courage is a choice, how to anchor ourselves in a storm, and gathering our strength from God rather than our own power. There is even a chapter on dealing with storms that we create ourselves (and we are good at that!)

I found this to be an inspiring book that would be especially helpful to women who are under a lot of stress or who are going through difficult trials. I appreciated the reminders of truths that I know, such as God is in control and found some new ideas as well for dealing with difficult times and people. Stories and verses from scripture as well as personal anecdotes illustrated the principles well and kept it interesting.

The author, Holly Wagner, is an author, international speaker and the co-pastor of Oasis Church in Los Angeles, California. She is also the founder of GodChicks—a thriving organization devoted to encouraging and equipping women around the globe to rise out of their darkest moments and live with intentionality, hope and divine purpose. Her previous books include GodChicks, Awakened, Love Works, and WarriorChicks.

I received a free copy of this book from Waterbrook Multomah and Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest opinion.