Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Clued in Kids - A Review

Clued In KidsReview
This second journey we are on as a homeschooling family is rather different than the previous one we took.  One of the biggest differences is technology.  Clued in Kids is a prime example of a fun resource that we get to enjoy now that would not have been part of our homeschool experience 17 years ago.  This wonderful, educational resource came about as the realization of one mom's childhood dream.  How exciting is that?

The motivation behind Clued in Kids is to provide a fun and healthy way to educate our children while being reminded that life is a journey to treasure.  Mission accomplished!  Our family loves opportunities to share fun times with each other as well as other homeschool families.  This year we are gathering together once per month to share activities relevant to our current course of study with a nearby family traveling a similar course.  This month the gathering was at our home, and I was excited to tie in our Gluten-Free Treasure Hunt as well as our Soccer Treasure Hunt with our current studies in human biology.  I'm sure my three would have enjoyed the hunt on their own, but some things are are even more fun when shared with friends.

Our afternoon together went like this:

1 - Explain and execute Soccer Treasure Hunt.

2 - Make articulated hand.  (I'll share more on this another time.)

3 - Explain and execute Gluten-Free Treasure Hunt.

5 - Snack and Free Time.

6 - Dinner

Clued In KidsReview
Since we had already studied the importance of muscles and our need to exercise them, the Soccer Treasure Hunt was an easy tie-in.  The kids worked together to solve the puzzles and locate each clue.  I had everything set-up before they got here.  I created a treasure box out of an old shoe box and purchased a treasure for each child from the dollar store.  For this hunt everyone received a different game as their treasure.  The suggestion from the author on labeling each clue with a specific child's name was one that was very much appreciated on my end.  We did our hunts with seven children ranging in age from three-years-old to 14.  Even though some of the kids in our group were outside of the recommended Pre-K through elementary age range they still very much enjoyed participating in the treasure hunts.  Labeling the clues ensured that everyone got a turn, or two depending, and that skill level appropriate challenges were given to each child.  None of us were very familiar with the sport of soccer, so we all learned something new.

Some of the kids working on one of the clues.

The Clued in Kids website offers an abundance of treasure hunts on various topics including health, holidays, sports, and education related subjects.  Middle and high school level hunts are in the works.  You can even use their Puzzlemaker to create your own customized treasure hunts!  One feature that I really like is that you can purchase a treasure hunt in a greeting card.  Oh, the possibilities!  We are currently waiting for our 13th grandbaby to enter this world.  With raising three young ones of our own it is very challenging to be an involved Nana and Papa.  This is a wonderful way for me to be able to send a little love and fun through the mail to our grands.  I am very excited about doing that in the future.  Here is a video demonstrating the process of the treasure hunt:

Clued In KidsReview
Our second treasure hunt was the Gluten-Free Treasure Hunt.  Honestly, I chose this for personal reasons.  Our family has been directly impacted by the whole gluten madness, and this was a fun way to learn a little more about why some of us are sensitive to gluten in our diet.  Food allergies have become a norm in our society, and it seems we know many people that suffer due to sensitivities.  You can read about the Clued in Kids author's personal journey of discovery with autoimmune disease here.  It was exciting to have a fun way to educated the kids on gluten sensitivity and hopefully empower them to be more aware of the issue and why it is important for some people to avoid gluten in their food.  It was nice to watch the older kids get excited and help the younger kids figure out their clues.  At the end of this treasure hunt everyone received a gluten-free snack, and they all enjoyed it.  Some were amazed that the cookie included in their snack bag was gluten-free.  This treasure hunt was a nice prerequisite to the next topic in our biology book, digestion.

One of the older kids helping a younger one figure out a clue.

It was fun gathering together and being able to provide enriching activities for the children in such an easy fashion.  I wish I could download, print, and prepare all of the activities in my life in under 10 minutes.  Now, that would be the day!  (Maybe my house would actually stay clean.)  You can purchase your own treasure hunt download for $5.99 and instantly provide a fun and enriching activity for your children.  Sign up for their newsletter and receive a FREE treasure hunt!

The treasure!

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Sunday, October 26, 2014

Teaching Origins Objectively - A Review

New Liberty Videos Review

New Liberty Videos Review
New Liberty Videos presents a compelling collection of information, compiled from over twenty hours of recorded expert testimony, on the importance of teaching origins and evolution objectively in the public school classroom through the Teaching Origins Objectively DVD.  Many well educated perspectives are shared within the two hour compilation providing a thorough understanding of the importance, and glaring absence, of unbiased discussion within the public education system.  I found the discussion fascinating, compelling, and even disheartening.  Why is it that within such an "advanced" culture we are so closed minded when it comes to open discussion of origins and evolution?  This is truly a fascinating topic.  Why the dishonesty?  Why is it forbidden to discuss openly the evidence that both supports and challenges the theory of evolution?  This is highly intriguing to me.

As I viewed Teaching Origins Objectively the second time around I found myself noting many various, valid points presented by the attending experts.  My personal notes amounted to over ten pages of compelling information and fascinating resources shared by the  expert participants.  I will surely view the DVD a few more times as well as review my notes and follow up on some of the resources I noted.  The two times that I've already viewed this well put together documentary has sparked a desire for me to learn more on the subject of origins and evolution so that I can have a more rounded understanding of the science involved with this topic.

The only thing missing was expert presentation from the Theistic Evolutionists.  They were absent intentionally, barring an attorney that spoke at the end for two hours and forbid any questions in direct violation of the forum agreement, due to an orchestrated boycott of the hearings.  This behavior is eyebrow raising at the very least.  Personally, I find it rather alarming behavior.  When a group of professionals resorts to name calling and strategic, dishonest maneuvering we should pay even closer attention and seriously consider what the purpose of that group really is.

As a parent and grandparent it is more important to me than I ever discerned possible that the education provided our children be as unbiased as possible.  It is important to me that children be taught critical thinking and allowed to practice the process within the educational framework of which they are a student.  So much is to be gained from educated discussion, and so much is to be lost when valid and important pieces of information are missing and/or manipulated out of educational text.  If we were more educated as parents and grandparents perhaps the education of future generations would be provided on a more solid foundation.

One fascinating expert who testified was a Muslim journalist from Istanbul, Turkey.  He shared an Eastern perspective on the Western lifestyle, and why what we teach on origins and evolution has such vast implications on our reputation on the other side of the world.  Honestly, it never occurred to me that the widespread hatred of the Western World could be based on the perception that our society is completely materialistic and poisoned by the ideology of materialism.  He shared a quote that resonated with me, "In China you can criticize Darwin and not the government.  In America you can criticize the government and not Darwin."  Something IS wrong with this picture.

Through Teaching Origins Objectively one gains a more clear perspective of the challenge the public educator faces on a daily basis to provide an unbiased education in regard to origins and evolution.  When an educator's job is at risk by simply allowing students to discuss intelligently within the structure of the classroom the intricacies of evolutionary science we, the general public, should be concerned.  This compelling documentary is an excellent resource for anyone even remotely interested in learning more about origins and evolution and its role in the science industry as well as public education.  A copy can be purchased for $19.95 from New Liberty Videos.  For those of you, like me, that rely on subtitles there are none present on this DVD.

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Fall Walk

 Now that the kids are getting just a little older I am able to carve out small amounts of time for myself.  I am learning more and more to identify those opportunities and grab them quickly and without guilt.  (Why have I struggled so much with guilt over the years?)  Anyway, progress IS progress, and I am growing and learning each and every day.  It is a beautiful thing.

Speaking of beautiful things, my property puts on quite a show no matter the season.  However, there is something glorious about spring and fall.  It is hunting season here, and my hubby loves his time in the woods in search of the next years dinner.  I do what I can to assist in the process.  Part of that is programming the trail cam and the timed feeder.  For some reason the feeder wasn't working, so I was asked to head out and figure out why.  The kids were very engaged in their activities.  I grabbed my camera and headed out.  It's a rare treat this time of year to get to walk my property.  The hubs is very protective of his space for fear we'll scare all he's hunting away and ruin everything for him.  (As a homeschooling mom with three eager to learn children this is a very challenging time of year for me.  I want to be out there with them exploring everything.  Fall is the perfect time to explore the woods, but we will wait until winter and spring for our closer look.)

Come along with me as I travel my property and explore what the absence of leaves has revealed:

"The God who made the world and all things in it, since he is Lord of heaven and earth,
 does not dwell in temples made with hands;" - Acts 17:24

"Worthy are you, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power;
for you created all things, and because of your will they existed,
and were created." - Revelation 4:11

"The heavens are the heavens of the Lord,
but the earth he has given to the sons of men." - Psalms 115:16

From the rising of the sun to its setting
The name of the Lord is to be praised." - Psalms 113:3

"He is before all things, and in him all things hold together."
- Colossians 1:17

"The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,
And he who is wise wins souls." - Proverbs 11:30

"Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad;
for the tree is known by its fruit." - Matthew 12:33

"Moreover the Lord your God will send the hornet against them,
until those who are left and hide themselves from you perish.: - Deuteronomy 7:20

"While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, And cold and heat,
And summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease." - Genesis 8:22

"For they will wither quickly like the grass
And fade like the green herb." - Psalms 37:2

"Finally, brethren, rejoice, 
be made complete,
be comforted,
be like-minded, 
live in peace;
and the God of love and peace
will be with you." 
- II Corinthians 13:11

I hope you enjoyed our walk and that it revealed the beauty and peace that lies all around us if we only take the time to look.  The lessons of God are before us if we only allow the time to slowdown, be present, and open our soul to receiving the gifts of God through nature.  A peaceful walk alone in nature is sometimes all we need to nourish our soul and open our hearts to God.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Family Traditions

We have the most amazing Women's Ministries team within our region.  Our church camp is phenomenal, and the most wonderful programs take place there.  This past weekend Harmony and I got to visit Camp Au Sable for our first ever Mother Daughter Retreat.  They put on an amazing program.  The Women's Ministries ladies really have a talent for making everyone feel special.

As we walked up to the main building for registration we were greeted by a fun row of colorful pinwheels and a ladybug light lined roof adorned with those fun party banners with the little pointed flags.  We entered the lobby to a 1950's diner setting where we signed in, made fun, polka-dot themed name tags, crafted a picture frame, and entered our names into drawings for the opportunity to win prizes.

Upon entering the main auditorium we found ourselves in the audience of the set of a 1950's home complete with beautiful turquoise-blue kitchen appliances, old school black and white checker board flooring, and the type of sewing machine my grandmother used to use.  We chose our matching aprons and posed for a picture.  The stage had been set for the weekend very effectively.

As things unfolded we learned about the value of being a woman in today's family.  The mother and daughter speakers did a wonderful job of teaching about tradition and how the Jews celebrate various things throughout the year.  Their personal experiences were insightful and refreshing, and they did a wonderful job appealing to the vast age range of participants.  We were in the company of daughters, granddaughters, mothers, sisters, and grandmothers.  It was a beautiful mix of women and future women.

The big topic of discussion was tradition, and this is a subject dear to my hear.  I long for tradition and so regret that I've not done a better job of instilling the importance of tradition within my children.  Guess it's time to work on the next generation.  We are carrying on some traditions of old and creating some new ones within our family.  Since we get to participate in a round two of parenting, there's no better time for us to learn from the past.

Current Traditions in Our Family -

Special Birthday Meals and Dessert
One on One Lunch Out with Mom on Birthday - Kid's Choice
First Day of School Photo Shoot
Annual 4-H Fair Dollar Day
New Year's Eve Indian Fry Bread Tacos with Friends
Christmas Eve Music Service with Mom and Looking at Lights
A Whole Month Break from School for December
Sledding and Hot Cocoa in the Winter
Lighting Candles for Sabbath in the Winter Months
Christmas Dinner with Mom
Nacho Bar, Taco Soup, and Tres Leche Cake with the Family for Christmas
Make Ornaments for the Grandkids
Read Stories at Bedtime

Traditions I'd Like to Add -

Annual Family Campout at Our House
Annual Family Vacation
Jesus Tree
Tamales Christmas Eve
Thankful Tree or Thankful Box at Thanksgiving
Special Plate for Birthday Meals
Celebrate Baptism or Baby Dedication Day
Decorating a Tree for Wildlife in the Winter
Last Day of School Pictures
Visit a Tree Farm for Christmas
Attend a Local Fall Festival
Friday Night Supper - same each week
Family Night - popcorn and a movie or game
Annual Photo Book - view on New Year's Eve
Make Resurrection Cookies for Easter

Some of the benefits of family traditions include fostering a stronger family connection, providing a feeling of security to the children, fostering a sense of belonging, imparting and reinforcing values, and helping children to become happy and generous adults.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Apologia Educational Ministries - Book Review

Apologia Review
We have had the honor of receiving three very interesting books to review as a family from Apologia Educational Ministries.  The books iWitness Biblical Archaeology, Old Testament iWitness, and New Testament iWitness are a real treasure and have been a wonderful addition to our history curriculum.  This iWitness trilogy is wonderfully written and holds the attention of children young and old.  I have personally found them very fascinating to read.

Since my children are well under the reading level of about 11 years and up, I was a little uncertain as to how they would respond to the material.  When I told Harmony, the resident nine-year-old, that it was time for me to write my review today she told me to make sure I mention that she loves the books!  Honestly, I was surprised.  Remember, I love the material and the way it is presented, but I wasn't sure what the kids really thought of it.  I mean it's like this.  I read, and they listen.  We discuss things here and there, and I explain words or ideas that they may be unfamiliar with, but I just wasn't sure what they thought of it.  The fact that they remain quiet in their activity while I read should have been a big clue, but it also could have simply been that they are such well behaved children.  (wink, wink)  The more likely reason, however, is due to the quality of the publication and its fun format.  The books resemble a scrapbook that one would put together after a cool vacation.  There are many tidbits to read, pictures to look at, and facts to find.

Apologia Review
To begin our journey of discovery of all things ancient we chose to start our reading with iWitness Biblical Archaeology.  Doug Powell does such a wonderful job of engaging the reader that when he told us to "...grab a Bible, a map, and a shovel..." Harmony asked if she should go get a shovel. Enter our first conversation of explanation.  The invitation was appropriate, though.  Mr. Powell does a wonderful job of transporting you through time all the way back to The Flood.  The pictures of the places traveled, the artifacts there, and the descriptions of the historical figures really draw a clear picture in your mind's eye as to the circumstances and historical events referenced within the Bible.  The value to history and the explanation of various perspectives completes the picture wonderfully.  You really do feel transported back in time.  From The Flood to The Exodus, through The Old Testament and into Jesus' World, within The New Testament and culminating with The Burial Shroud of Jesus, iWitness Biblical Archaeology pulls you in and takes you along on a fact finding journey of discovery.

Apologia ReviewTraveling on, we open the pages of Old Testament iWitness where Mr. Powell reveals the answer to many questions in regard to the origins of the Old Testament.  We learn about the manuscripts and the tedious process the Jewish scribes employed in the copying of scripture.  The detail of the specific criteria in which the content was required to meet in order to be included the Canon and exactly how the books were chosen for inclusion is fascinating and really brings the work of the Bible to life.  We also learn about the prophets and their importance in relation to the publication of the Bible.  Reading Old Testament iWitness really helps to take the Bible from being some abstract book that we read to a real piece of history with its own traceable history, real writers, and immeasurable significance.  This particular book and its implications excite me the most.  I remember really struggling with this aspect as a child, and my poor mother being at the brunt of my frustration.  I knew nothing of the history of the Bible or where it came from or who wrote it.  As far as I was concerned it could have just been some work of fiction that some random person wrote just to mess with all of humanity.  The facts and myths surrounding the Bible were never explained to me.  Oh the difference this book could have made for me during that personal struggle!

Apologia Review
Final destination, New Testament iWitness.  Here we learn further about The Canon and the criteria in which the writings faced before being included or dismissed as scripture.  I like that the topic of the books that were not included in scripture is covered along with the explanation as to why.  Having these materials on hand are a wonderful resource for answering questions as the children grow in their faith walk and discover more of their history as a member of the human race.  Knowing the origins in history, the scrupulous process of copying, and the time periods in history that these processes played out is a wonderful starting point for digging deeper and gaining an even stronger understanding of the origins of the Bible, the process in which it was written, and its importance in history.

I am thrilled to have these three books from the iWitness collection on our bookshelf, and I look forward to using them with my children for years to come.  It is easy to see them with their noses buried in the pages discovering things for themselves as it will surely have great appeal to them when they have reached the middle school age level.

To learn more about these books and how you can purchase them for $14.00 each, visit the Apologia website.  You can also find Apologia on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.

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Thursday, October 09, 2014


I am a huge fan of serendipity.  There's just something about it that I don't even know quite how to put into words.  Somehow it makes me feel comforted, driven; like maybe there really is real purpose to the things we do.  Even the little things.

Last year I was gifted a jar of green tomato relish that was purchased from a lady Up North at a garage sale.  It was one of the best things I've ever tasted.  Seriously.  I've wanted more ever since.  I even thought it would be fun to make.  Fast forward to this fall.  I attended a Fall Harvest Swap through our local homeschool group.  One of my friends made salsa and green tomato relish as her swap gift.  She even included the recipe.  I was so excited when I saw that it was green tomato relish!  This was my opportunity to get the recipe.  Never did I imagine that I would end up with her trade item as mine.  I found myself with a sample jar AND the recipe.  BONUS!

This past weekend, the hubby and I took the kids to a local, family owned orchard.  The best kind, right?  We enjoyed fresh donuts and cider, picked apples, and even took a hay ride.  The kids loved it, and it was a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  We even ran into the fellow homeschooling friends that recommended the orchard.  Plus, all of their apples were considered seconds this year, so I was able to get a bushel for $8.  Bonus, again!

It had been about five years or more since I last did any canning.  My last experience was when I learned that you must not ignore the advice of wearing gloves when processing jalapenos for salsa.  Yes, I still insist upon learning some things the hard way.  Anyway, I dug out all of my canning gear on Monday.  I never did find my canning rack, so I just made do without one.  The kids and I had a wonderful time making applesauce with the $8 bushel of apples, and green tomato relish with our abundant harvest of green tomatoes that we planted this year.  I planted late, so we just picked them the end of last week.  

It made for a long day Tuesday, but the kids loved the process.  They learned a lot about history, where our food comes from, and being self-sufficient.  We sampled the relish that night, and it is amazing.  This experience canning was important for me.  I planned our next school year around the growing season.  We are gong to put up as much food as possible as it comes into season.  By doing this small project, 49 jars total, I was able to see that I can do it.  Canning is hard work, and it is time consuming, but there is no greater reward than feeding your family good food that you worked to provide them.  I got 49 jars of food for $8 and about six hours of my time.  Not bad!  Granted, I did already have the canning supplies, so there was no investment financially there.  (Double bonus - They were all gifted to me!)

If you never have canned before, it really is worth the effort.  The key is to be prepared, have all your supplies set up, and the time set aside.  Make sure you have all of your ingredients before hand, and that you have read the entire recipe.  The relish I made requires part of the ingredients to sit 12 hours before you actually make the recipe.  So, I did it the night before, and just let it sit overnight until I was ready to actually do the canning.  I made the mistake of thinking I had all of the ingredients, and then finding out that I didn't.  Fortunately, it was easy enough to pause the recipe and have the hubby grab the ingredients on his way home.  It all worked out, but it did remind me the importance of checking ahead of time just to be certain.

I am so glad I grew up helping my grandma, aunt, and mom can food.  It still is nothing to talk to my 80 year old grandma and have her say, "I put up 60 quarts of pears yesterday."  Of course, she says it off hand like it was nothing.  Let me tell you it's something.  Real work goes into putting up our own food, but doing so is its own reward.  There is everything to be gained, and nothing to be lost.  Now is the perfect time to look online to see what is in season when in your area.  Sustainable Table has a nice Seasonal Food Guide.  You just select your state, and they provide you with a list of in season items as well as information about the food and even some recipes.

The next thing we plan to put up is pumpkin puree.  We will be freezing that.  The big item on my wishlist is a pressure canner.  I hope to have one before spring so that I can preserve low acid foods like carrots and green beans and such.  It is my goal to can as much as possible so that our food stores are not reliant on electricity to last.  However, in the meantime I will be freezing some things as we go along.  Fresh pumpkin is wonderful, and it is so versatile.  It's also affordable and easy to process.  Another bonus!


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