Friday, July 31, 2015

Funtastic Unit Studies - A Review




I love unit studies!  So, signing up for this review from Funtastic Unit Studies was an easy choice on my part.  Life has been hectic around here.  We've been bouncing from event to event ever since the beginning of June, and we're still going strong.  My fantasy of a calm and relaxing summer is yet to be realized after 18 solid years of homeschooling.  I'm not so sure of those pictures we always see of people lounging poolside or ankles crossed in the sand.  You know the routine; a big summer hat, sunglasses, and a tall glass of fresh lemonade.  Um...yeah...not the case around here!

Believe it or not, we pulled off our unit study during fair week.  Anyone that's ever lived and breathed 4-H fair week knows exactly what kind of feat it is to do much more than keep you kids clean and fed during fair week, but school?  Funtastic Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers is awesome like that!  Everything is laid out for you from beginning to end.  You know ahead of time what you need and what to expect.  I planned ahead, and it was awesome.

During the previous school year we studied all about human biology.  Of course, part of that study included nutrition.  That's why I was excited to do the unit on health as a follow-up.  I really love the way the table of contents are set up.  This unit study book is geared for ages 4-13, and my crew falls right in that age group.  It can be challenging having kids with such a gap.  Five years can be tough to cross sometimes, and this helps us bridge the gap perfectly.  Each unit is labeled for either ages 4-7 or 8-13.  The unit on health is geared for the 4-7 age group, but my 10 year old enjoyed it just as much as the 4 and 5 year old.

Of course, hands on activities, especially those that involve cooking, are super appealing to my brood.  This particular unit went well with our current activities as well.  There is always some sort of information about germs and health available at the fair.  The kids get their eyes checked every year for free, too.  With the concern about the avian flu there was more literature available than normal from the local extension office.

We learned about how germs spread, the different types of food pyramids (there are MANY now), healthy eating, and exercise.  We made the recipes together and had a wonderful, healthy lunch all at their hands as the kids did most all of the work.  It was exciting for them to use the hand mixer.  Everyone had to take a turn!


While we ate our yummy lunch we had the opportunity to discuss what we had learned and how it applied to life.  I am so glad we had this experience when we did.  Part of me thought I was crazy for planning a unit study smack in the middle of fair week, but I'm glad I took the chance.  What better time to learn about health?  What I thought was a touch of insanity on my part turned into perfect timing thanks to the ease of using Funtastic Unit Studies.  It was exciting to have seen the cows at the fair, "milked" the model cow, and made cheese at home.  I never knew it was so easy, and neither did the kids!  Avery enjoyed stirring the milk until it came to a boil, adding the lemon juice, and watching the curds separate from the whey.

Harmony was our master carrot shredder for makig our Healthy Carrot Spread.  Bella has to get her hands in wherever she can manage, and she's proven herself to have quite the arm.  She stirred up our dip all by herself.  We were a little short on cream cheese so we combined some sour cream with the cream cheese, added shredded carrot and shredded cheese, and some salt and herbs.  If you know me at all, you know I cannot follow a recipe to save my life.  So, I just had to add a little zing to the spread.  I'm sure you understand.


When it was all said and done, we had a wonderful week learning about all things health.  The kids take washing their hands just a little more seriously now, and we created some great memories.  Then, we shared a wonderful lunch with our Navy son who's home on leave.  The kids were super proud to serve him food they'd actually made all by themselves.  We served up the Carrot Spread on local Rye Bread, the curds (which I seasoned with a little salt and dill) on crackers, and added some yummy red grapes.  It was a perfect lunch!



Getting a taste of using Funtastic Unit Studies has us excited about what's coming up for us this next school year.  Having this new resource at our fingertips is a true blessing.  There's nothing more likely than simple planning and easy to use instructions to earn a resource a spot on my actively using shelf.  Simply click here to access two PDF unit studies, and some other fun freebies, for your family to enjoy.


Funtastic Unit Studies Review
Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

With Lee in Virginia - An Heirloom Audio Review



We have been so blessed by Heirloom Audio Productions.  My favorite thing about their audio dramas?  They make ME excited about history!  I grew up thinking I didn't like history.  It took me until I was nearly in my 30's to develop any real interest or enthusiasm for anything history related.  Now, I'm hooked, and I feel like I have a ton of catching up to do.  Honestly, with as much as I would love to read and learn I could spend my lifetime lost in books and barely scratch the surface.

With Lee in Virginia only serves to add fuel to my fire.  Heirloom Audio Productions is masterful in their interpretation of The Extraordinary Adventures of G.A. Henty.  The Zoo Crew has had the privilege of reviewing Under Drakes Flag and In Freedom's Cause prior to the latest release of With Lee in Virginia.  This new production certainly maintains the same high quality standard that we've grown to anticipate and enjoy.

With known artists such as Sean Astin, Kirk Cameron, and Brian Blessed as well as an expert sound effects team one cannot help but be transported to a different time and place in history reliving the event through the vivid picture that they so expertly lay before us.  I quickly get lost in the story as do my children, and they ask wonderful questions spurring great conversations between us.

We have not yet covered The Civil War in depth within our homeschool, so this is a relatively new topic for my children.  We've touched on it here and there and will get into it in more depth as they get a little older.  I am extremely excited to have this resource available to me.  The downloadable Study Guide is a tremendous resource that really takes the experience of listening to the story to an entirely new level.  The bits of history about the key players, questions to discuss that further cements what we've just heard into our memory, the questions that encourage us to think more deeply about what we are learning, the vocabulary words to define that may be new to us along with the other bits like historical pictures and recipes all work together to create a completely rounded learning experience.

With Lee in Virginia along with the accompanying Study Guide, just like the previous titles, is all one needs to easily share an actual historical event with our children.  It can be as simple as listening to and discussing the story or as in depth as completing every last bit of the Study Guide.  Other amazing bonuses include a printable copy of a famous Robert E. Lee quote, an MP3 download of the soundtrack, unlimited newsletter access, the original story eBook download, and a printable promotion poster.

Heirloom Audio and The Adventures of G.A. Henty come together in the most ideal way to both educate and excite families in the true stories of history highlighting the real Christian heroes that have gone before us.  The stories are wholesome and engaging.  It is completely evident the amount of dedication that has gone into creating these invaluable resources for us to use to educate our children for generations to come.

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With Lee in Virginia Audio Drama Review
Crew Disclaimer

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Living Hope - Pizza Ranch - A FlyBy Promotions Review & Giveaway




Adrie Groeneweg founded Pizza Ranch in Hull, Iowa with six original pizza recipes developed by his mom.  What began in 1981 as the dream of a 19 year old in Iowa has grown to over 180 locations in 13 states.  Michigan, where I call home, is host to three of those locations all on the west side of the state.  Unfortunately, I am an "eastsider" through and through.  So, this little gem is safely tucked in my back pocket to be pulled out on the occasion we happen to be on a road trip or vacation.  For my local friends you can find the three locations Hudsonville, Muskegon, and Holland.




Keeping with their vision "To glorify God by positively impacting the world." Pizza Ranch partnered with a dozen different artists and created the album Living Hope.  From Adrie Groeneweg, President and CEO of Pizza Ranch, Inc.:


"This album has a very special meaning for Pizza Ranch.  Although Pizza Ranch is not in the music business, many things have been happening, conversations have been taking place, and doors have been opening for this album.  Through these events, I believe it was obvious that God had been behind this for his specific purpose and putting it on our hearts to collectively create this project.  As such, we call this our miracle album, Living Hope."

                    
The kids and I have really been enjoying our time listening to this CD since we received it.  It's a fun combination of songs.  Some we recognize, and others are brand new and especially written for this album.  My personal favorite is A Little Hope by Bart Millard of Mercy Me.  Here's a little word from him personally:



Stay tuned after his introduction for the Official Lyric video!  I really enjoy listening to this song.  It's got a fun and happy feel, and who can't use a little more fun and happy in their life?  




Pizza Ranch released the CD Living Hope on June 2, 2015.  It contains 12 songs written by some of their favorite artists such as Colton Dixon, Michael W. Smith, Kevin Max, Sidewalk Prophets, and Ellie Holcomb.  The CD will be available for purchase for $5 plus tax exclusively in Pizza Ranch restaurants or for download on the Official Pizza Ranch Website through August 31, 2015.

If you would like a chance to win your own copy of this CD please leave a comment sharing your favorite place to listen to music.  Be sure to comment with a contact that I can reach you if you win.  A random winner will be chosen on July 31st.

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"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”





Friday, July 24, 2015

Passport2Purity - A FlyBy Promotions Review




Honestly, I just don't want to think about this right now.  We're literally just three years off from having yet ANOTHER teenage girl in our charge.  Just in case you haven't already heard the hubby and I have already ushered FIVE girls into adulthood, and it didn't resemble the Brady Bunch.  It was a bit more like Roseanne.  In fact, we almost threw a celebratory party when we learned Avery was a boy.  Seriously!

Neither of us have ever been known for doing things the easy way, so I'm sure none of our parenting hurdles have come to any type of surprise to anyone.  I mean who blends together two families consisting of four girls nearly all the same age just at the onset of puberty?  Well, us.  That's who!  Apparently we like a challenge.

Today marks Harmony's 10th birthday.  It was a monumental year in our family.  After nine years of uh-hem "courtship" (aka playing house) we officially joined together in holy matrimony.  My father passed away in April, Harmony (our first grandchild) was born in July, and we married in September.  There was a lot going on in our lives.  Things really haven't changed since then.  It's always something, or rather a lot of somethings.

With all the unique challenges we face in our life I am more than grateful for the products that are created that help us with the tough things we face.  Passport2Purity by Dennis & Barbara Rainey is a tool that gives me a little more confidence knowing I have it tucked in my back pocket.  I'm not sure there are too many parents that get excited about the tough topics of conversation that we need to face as our children begin traveling the turbulent waters of adolescents.

Fortunately, we've had some experience in this regard.  At least we know a little of what to expect.  I mean, we're not so lucky as to have the assurance of predictability, but at least we have learned that open dialogue is essential, and relationship is key.  Passport2Purity is a foundational tool that opens the doors to the tough topics of the challenges our children face in the years ahead.  It doesn't take too much effort to see that at least some of the hurdles are different for them than they were for us.  We live in an age of sexting, bullying, online stalking, and moral defiance.  Sometimes we may wonder if there is even such a thing as innocence in today's culture.

Passport2Purity is designed as a combined listening experience that facilitates the tough, heart to heart conversations that need to take place between parents and their budding adolescents.  There are object lessons and guided conversations all packaged up nicely in a Passport2Purity weekend getaway.


About the Getaway Kit:

1 - tour guide for the parent
1 - travel journal for the pretten including 25 follow-up devotions
8 - CDs containing 5 sessions, scripture memory songs and downloadable MP3s

Session 1 - BEGINNING THE JOURNEY - Challenges, Traps, and Choices
Session 2 - RUNNING WITH THE HERD - Friendships and Peer Pressure
Session 3 -  READY FOR AN UPGRADE? - Changes in Him, Changes in Her
Session 4 - DESTINATION: LE PURE - Setting Boundaries
Session 5 -  CROSSING THE DATE LINE - Seeing Dating Differently

Your child begins the journey into adolescence in a world of sexting, bullying, online stalking and moral defiance.  Innocence is under attack, and you cannot win the battle with a single awkward talk or a strict set of rules.  The primary defense for your child is a strong relationship with you and with God.  FamilyLife developed Passport2Purity (P2P) to assist you in building heart-to-heart communication with your preteen while laying a foundation of purity that will prepare him or her for the turbulent years ahead.  Through the shared listening experience, object lessons and guided conversations of a P2P weekend getaway, you can set your son or daughter on a journey of moral integrity - and strengthen the bond between you.  It is designed to be used by a mother and daughter or a father and son when the child is a preteen.  It is suggested that the materials be completed over a weekend away from home, as the child may be more open to discussing the topics away from his or her normal environment.  If this isn't possible, the material can be completed over a period of four or five weeks.

Social Corner:




video


Especially for my readers:  Receive 25% off your purchase using the code PASSPORT on their website.  Discount is good through August 31, 2015.





Thursday, July 23, 2015

Experiencing 4-H





This past year was our second year in 4-H.  The first year we joined an official club, but unfortunately we didn't learn a lot about actually participating in a project and entering the fair.  It was a great year filled with fun activities and interesting learning experiences, but we left still not knowing how to prepare for and enter the fair.

Our second year was much different.  A fellow homeschool mom and myself formed our own little "farm group" with our two families.  The kids chose the meeting topics, and we planned the lessons.  Our meetings were run by the kids in a fashion very similar to an official 4-H club.  We chose to remain unofficial, and it seems to have been a perfect choice for us.

Anyone can enter the fair, so we spent the year facilitating the process of preparation for each child.  All in all five of our children entered the fair, and it was an amazing experience all the way around.  Bella and Avery are both looking forward to participating next year.  It was difficult to rope them in this year, but they are much more interested having seen Harmony go through the full process.  We also took some time in the still exhibit barn exploring what others entered in their age groups since they would be Clover Sprouts.  There were some pretty interesting things to behold.

Initially, Harmony was interested in entering two projects in the fair; drop cookies and photography.  Ultimately, we decided to go with one project; drop cookies.  She found a recipe via my vast Pinterest collection that sounded good to her, and she set about making it her own.  Beginning in February she started practicing her recipe and altering it to her liking.  The most challenging part for her was learning to make the cookies all a consistent size despite using a cookie scoop.  After a little concerted effort she's pretty well got it down.

She was super nervous about the interview process, but it went wonderful.  I'm glad she had the experience.  I'm sure she won't be quite as worried next year.  The judges are super friendly, and it really isn't an intimidating process at all.  The two comments she got on her recipe were "very, very good" and "good job knowing the recipe".  She worked on it so much that she pretty much had it memorized by the time she made them for the judges.

Here's a little scrap book of her experience:

















She is super proud, and so are we.  I don't think any of us expected anything like this.  What a wonderful first time experience it was for us.  If you've been thinking about 4-H for your family, I cannot recommend it enough.  Whether you join an official club, meet with some friends, or do it on your own it's totally worth it.  We are fortunate to live right near the fairgrounds in our county, and fair week is much anticipated in our family.  Now that we're actually part of the program it will bring even greater anticipation and excitement.  So glad we finally did it!
















Monday, July 20, 2015

Transforming Tiaras - An eBook Review




Our 10-year-old is a self-proclaimed girly girl.  She's a reluctant farmer that tries to be a tomboy, but at heart she likes all things girly and can't find a lot of fun in getting dirty.  Transforming Tiaras: 18 Fun-filled, Bible-based, Girl-inspired Devotional Activities by Vanessa Small is right up her alley!  When we read the book together she was instantly inspired and knows exactly how she plans to use this resource.

A couple times per year she enjoys hosting a girls devotional complete with corresponding snack and activity.  Transforming Tiaras became her instant go-to resource for planning her next girls devotional gathering.  This is such a simple resource, and I love the idea behind it.  In Transforming Tiaras normal, everyday items are transformed into tangible reminders of God's love and His transforming power in our lives.




Based on Numbers 15:37-41 Transforming Tiaras takes us on a journey of discovery using inexpensive items that we likely already have around the home and transforming them with simple supplies that you will also likely already have most of in your craft stash.  Each transformation is prompted by a biblical text and a short devotion.  The girls read the text and the devotion.  Then they create their transformation and are left with a tangible reminder of the truth they learned.

Transforming Tiaras is such a simple approach to learning biblical principles.  Through these short devotions and simple spruce ups we are given the opportunity to get into our bibles with our daughters, and their friends, in a fun and hands-on way.  In the end we learn more about our Creator, more about ourselves, and gain a greater understanding of our own value to our Creator.

If you would like a simple way to share the Word of God with your daughter or granddaughter this is the perfect resource.  Transforming Tiaras can be used one-on-one, independently, or as a group study.  It can be a simple, stand-alone resource, or you can use it as a starting point for creating a fun group study.

Transforming Tiaras has earned a prominent place in our stash of resources and is sure to be consulted first and foremost whenever we need a fun activity for Sabbath afternoon, when we are planning a study with other girlfriends, or when we need an object lesson to accompany something else we're working on.  The potential of this book is limited only by your own creativity.  Why not grab your own copy via Small Publishing, and begin your own transformation?


Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the Transforming Tiaras e-book from Small Publishing in exchange for my honest review and this blog post. I received no other compensation. All opinions given in this post are my own.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

All Work, No Play

I've been pushing myself pretty hard the last several weeks, and it's starting to show.  June started out with two weddings, one of them for our daughter.  Then, our oldest at home ventured off to summer camp for the third year in a row.  Right after that the hubby took a week off of work to work at home.  LOL  That's life married to a work-a-holic.  We did accomplish a lot here on the homestead though.  We've got 38 chickens and four sheep now.  Our new wood shelter is just waiting to hold our winter heating fuel.  The felled tree is still begging for our attention, but the bobcat is up and running and being useful.

Now, we're in full swing for our first time participating in the 4-H fair.  We're blessed in that the St. Clair County Fairgrounds are "just around the corner."  Attending every day of the week has quickly become a family tradition.  The kids spend all year looking forward to Dollar Day, the only day they actually get to ride the rides.  There is so much to see and enjoy, and it's a much anticipated event for us.  This year Harmony will be entering her Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Pecan Drop Cookies.  I can tell you first hand that they are wonderful.  We've been her test subjects for a few months now, and we will surely miss our weekly batch of cookies after her cookies have been officially entered.  She's both excited and nervous, but who wouldn't be.

In the meantime I have been laboriously re-purposing FIVE ROOMS in our home.  Talk about a HUGE undertaking!  I'm exhausted, but does it ever feel good to finally be reclaiming our space after all the changes our family has faced these last few years.  So many people moving in and out in such a short time, adding two children to the family, and plunging head first back into homeschooling has taken a tremendous toll on the state of our home.  We've still got a lot to do, but the dust is finally settling in the rooms...thankfully!  The next big project will be going through ALL of the closets.  I say, "BRING IT!".

The major reorganization of our space will have to be put on hold for at least a couple weeks while we enjoy our 4-H week as well as the company of our Navy son before he leaves for his next deployment.  Some things are just more important than projects.

Today, we took a much needed break from all the work around here.  We slept in, listened to Pam Rossi and Sunday Morning Overeasy while cooking a big breakfast together, played a round of the old board game LIFE, relaxed a while, took the kids out for pizza, stopped by the park, and watched them play in the sprinkler.  It was a much needed remedy for two very overworked parents.






Now, the evening is coming to a close.  We introduced the kids to The Dick Van Dyke Show, and now we're watching M*A*S*H, another family tradition.  The time has come for teeth to be brushed and kids to be tucked in.  Wonder what stories they'll choose tonight.

What have you been up to this summer?  Are you looking forward to any traditional activities this year?  Have you already honored some?  We'd love to hear all about it!

For now, sweet dreams!

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