Thursday, October 22, 2015


Sometimes life throws you curveballs. Sometimes you are ready for them. Other times it hits you so hard in the face, that you can't see straight. You can't even tell if it's painful at first because of the shock of the impact. Then the pain comes. The tears. The confusion. The anger. All of them mingling together until you just don't know what you feel. This is where life finds me today. Waffling between sadness and shock, anger and confusion. I just don't know...what to feel.

A friend took her life yesterday. She'd been struggling for a very long time with physical ailments, as well as emotional issues. She left behind two very beautiful, incredible teenage girls. When I found out, I felt like I'd been punched in the gut. The emotions were deep, but I didn't know what to do with them. I still don't. So many thoughts went through me, I couldn't even keep track.

My bible study this morning was on Joseph. How he met the cupbearer and the baker in the prison. He interpreted their dreams, and he asked the cupbearer to remember him when the dream came to pass...but the cupbearer didn't remember. In his elation to return to the king and his life, he didn't remember Joseph and his assistance, his unjust imprisonment. Here is an excerpt from my study:

"We forget others. Others forget us. But God never forgets us. Sometimes we forget that God never forgets us. But He never does. At precisely the right time, God would cause the cupbearer to remember Joseph."

God never forgets...but my failing of forgetting is haunting me today. I didn't see her. I forgot. I knew she had many issues, and I saw her failing. I would try to be there for the girls, to fill a gap, to mentor them. But, I admit, I was angry with her. I have thought to myself many times, why can't she just get her act together and take care of them? Aren't they what's important? And even now, they never saw it that way. Through all of it, they saw the best in her and were fiercely protective of her. I stopped reaching out to her. I even blocked her on Facebook because I was sick of seeing her complain and only think of herself. Last night, I went to her page. I saw she'd been reaching out. She had posted some stuff about suicide. Said things were really tough. Tuesday night, her last post, asked if anyone out there wanted to talk...nobody responded. I have to live with this for the rest of my life. I forgot her. I didn't see her cry for help. But I will do best to learn from this. To reach out more. I will be there for her girls. I pray that they will be Josephs, not letting this world's troubles embitter them, but empower them. That they will seek Him, love Him, trust Him fully.

God's word is there for us. He teaches us and comforts us. One nugget from my study that gives me hope on this dark day is this: "The amazing life-giving news in all of our forgetfulness is that God never forgets us! He is always working in our lives for our good and His glory, no matter our circumstances." Amen and amen. I will hold to that encouragement today, and in the many days and weeks to come.

Friday, October 16, 2015

A TOS Review: FishFlix Review no 2

In today's world, we have so many choices on how to spend our time and money - especially when it comes to entertainment. Going to the movies or renting a video is a common family activity. But how often do you feel like your money was wasted or your time could have been better spent? And how often do you feel like you should have set a better example for your kids in the movie choices you make for your family? I know I have had that dilemma many times, and sometimes I think I'm ready to swear off Hollywood and the movie industry completely. Then recently, I had the opportunity to do a review for, Christian movies to inspire and entertain. I was happy to get to watch the DVD When Calls the Heart, Heart of the Family with my kids.

FishFlix is striving to give families a wide range of entertainment possibilities that are appropriate and enjoyable for all ages. They believe the media industry is a gift from God that should be used as a way to spread His word. With this goal in mind, they have chosen to compile the best and highest quality movies and TV series that honor Christ. Review no 2

When Calls the Heart, Heart of the Family is the adapted rendition of the popular series from famed author, Jeanette Oke. The story focuses on wealthy young schoolteacher Elizabeth Thatcher who breaks from tradition and heads west to follow her dream of making a difference in the lives of those less fortunate. Along the way, she makes new friendships, learns much about herself, and grows in her relationship with God. 

In this movie (one of many in the Hallmark series), Elizabeth has just returned to Coal Valley from spending time with her family back east. She immediately volunteers to care for a neighbor's children while he travels out of town, only to be surprised at the difficult and abundant way of life of this small, motherless family. Her friend and would-be suitor, as well as Canadian Mountie Jack, comes to her rescue and assists her with the outdoor chores. More storylines of the eclectic citizens of small town Coal Valley make this an entertaining and very family friendly movie.

I was familiar with the book series by Jeanette Oke, but it had been years since I had read them. I did not remember many of the characters or storylines, so I had to re-familiarize myself with Coal Valley. I think there were many changes and adaptations to make the movie series work, but I still enjoyed it very much. I also didn't realize how far into the series I was when we watched this. I believe this was probably the 10th installment of the Hallmark series, so I would love to watch the others and see what I missed. 

While I was a little lost due to coming into the series so far in, I liked the movie immensely. All of the kids really enjoyed the movie as well, and they loved the "city girl gone country" storyline. We look forward to watching more of this series in the future. 

FishFlix prides itself on providing quality, Christian family entertainment, including today's top new releases in Christian film. I plan on looking through their inventory this holiday season and making some gift purchases. This DVD was only $9.97, half off the retail price. Movies from the first season are only $5 - I suggest you look here for your Christmas list, as well!

To follow FishFlix on social media, check them out here:

Many of my fellow reviewers received different movies from FishFlix. Check out their reviews here: Review No 2

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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Crew Blog 2016 about to set sea!

Have you ever wondered how I get my hands on all the things I review? Have you ever thought you'd be good at it, or would like a chance to try it? Well, here is your chance! The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew 2016 is about to begin the application process, and I wanted to give YOU the chance to get in on the fhn! Here is the link with much. More information. Good luck!!

Friday, October 9, 2015

A TOS Review: Reading Kingdom

Reading Kingdom Review

For many children, reading can be a difficult task to master. For others, it seems that they just pick it up without any problem. As of now, I have taught four children to read, all using the same technique and program. That is one reason I was glad to review Reading Kingdom's program, Reading Kingdom Online, a new online Learn to Read program for ages four to ten years old.

Reading Kingdom Review

Reading Kingdom teaches reading proficiency up to a third grade level. According to the Department of Education, only one out of three children is considered a proficient reader. It is the most important skill that we can teach our children, and yet so many are falling short. Reading Kingdom is dedicated to teaching children to read in a nonthreatening, entertaining environment that makes learning this necessary skill seem like fun and games. 

While most reading programs are phonics based, Reading Kingdom rounds out the learning with the other 5 skills necessary to achieve reading proficiency. Those skills are: sequencing, writing, sounds, meaning, grammar and comprehension.

The most interesting thing about Reading Kingdom, in my opinion, is how the program adapts to each child. First, the student takes a Skills Survey. Once the assessment of the student's reading and writing skills is complete, the computer places the student exactly at the point that the student needs to be. There is no relearning information they already have learned, and there is no frustration with being introduced to skills he or she is not ready to learn.

Caleb is a second grader, and a fairly good reader. However, he is definitely all boy, and taking the time to sit down to read for fun has not been on his radar as of yet. So when we found out he would be reviewing this, I wasn't sure if it was going to be a very good fit. Well, Caleb has been using Reading Kingdom for a month now, at least 4 days a week. He is loving it! The Skills Survey placed him, and on he went. There is a key word to each lesson, and I admit, this had me wondering what exactly we had gotten ourselves into. It seemed so basic, and I felt like he was doing more to improve typing skills than reading. I felt he was placed in a level much too low simply because his typing wasn't quick enough, and I thought he'd be very frustrated. But as I watched him progress through the "games", I saw how much content he was absorbing, such as:

  • letter recall
  • word recognition
  • phonemic awareness
  • capitalization
  • punctuation
  • and so much more!

While, yes, being placed on a lower level was a bit of a frustration, I can now see that it was for the best. He can read words much more difficult than what he is working through. But since he isn't bored and is thoroughly enjoying the program, I haven't deemed it necessary to manually move him up a level. I believe that the content reviewed has been excellent, and the skills being taught will serve him well. And he is definitely getting more familiar with where the letters are found on the keyboard!

We have a lot more to learn about this program, but what I've seen so far has been excellent. I am happy we had the chance to review Reading Kingdom. It is not something I would have looked at for Caleb, simply because I would have thought a program that taught reading wouldn't be necessary for a child who is already reading well. But I am so glad he is able to sharpen his skills, improve  upon what he already knows, and even progress in other areas. I am looking forward to seeing how much more he learns on the next levels of the program.

To follow Reading Kingdom on social media, check them out here:

To read what other TOS Reviewers thought of Reading Kingdom, see more reviews here:

Reading Kingdom Review

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Monday, October 5, 2015

Saturday, October 3, 2015

It's Fall, Y'all!

I love fall. The sights, the smells, the crisp cool air. We went apple picking last week, and while it was great fun, I knew something was just off. I couldn't get into the baking mood because it was just too dang warm! Well, Thursday was our first cool day, and I am ready to cook some awesome apple treats this week!

Kelly was up and ready to head to Farmfest with the boys bright and early. I love that they can share in a beautiful fall day in the outdoors, climbing on tractors and whatever else they decide to do. Chloe, Caleb and I went to, but we had Class Act rehearsals. I am glad we got to enjoy the day outdoors, as well, just not for as long.



I think Cadie is going to love fall, too! She loves being outside, and getting the big kids to take her to the swing is a big treat. I am so excited to spend more days at the park this fall and watch her explore and gain new skills. This is even more amusing when she has her own cheer squad for every new achievement! This girl will NEVER lack confidence.

We have several field trips planned for the next few weeks, and they are all outdoors - YAY! Yesterday kicked off our round of trips. We went to The Springfield Conservation Nature Center for their "Just Like Lewis and Clark" event. There was so much to see and do! We visited with a "soujourner" who acted like he'd traveled with the adventurers and learned about the predators they encountered on the journey. We saw all kinds of plants and animals they came across for the very first time. The kids got to make nature journals, get out on the trail, and draw what they observed. They petted snakes and bunnies; they watched demonstrations on the golden eagle and the great horned owl. They painted on buffalo hides and practiced mapping skills. It was a great day filled with fun and learning.

It's going to be a busy fall between schoolwork, field trips, and popcorn sales. I hope to make some great memories with the kids through it all. How will you be spending the first few weeks of fall in your area?

Thursday, October 1, 2015

A TOS Review: Middlebury Interactive Languages

 Middlebury Interactive Languages Review

Did you take a second language in school? Do you feel the need to teach your child/children a second language? Do you feel overwhelmed by all the types of programs and learning styles out there? I have been, as well. I have wondered also when is the best time to begin teaching a second language. Middlebury Interactive Languages gave me the opportunity to look over their elementary German level one curriculum, and I chose to let Caleb give it a try.

 Middlebury Interactive Languages Review

Middlebury Interactive Languages offer digital language courses for grades K-12. Level one is recommended for grades 3-5, but I wanted to see if Caleb would be able to manage it with me assisting him. He was very excited to give it a try. MIL is an immersive program, starting the student out right away plugging in clues from the context of the lesson to figure out what is being said. The lessons were broken down by theme/subject material, such as family names or numbers. There are also classic fairy tale stories made into videos, completely told in German. I thought these were great fun! The course works on reading, writing, listening and speaking activities to give the student a very well rounded lesson.

The first lesson was a little challenging for Caleb. Not so much that he couldn't handle it or learn a lot from it, but he was slightly overwhelmed by the first story being told in German. He figured he'd never understand any of it since he'd never heard German spoken before! But when we got half way through the lesson, I could see he was engaged. When we got to the questions, even he was surprised that he could figure out what they were asking him about! From then on out, he was thoroughly enjoying it.

We had some trouble with a few of the videos. I am not sure if it was more the website having issues, or our internet being difficult. Either way, there were times when we would have to skip the story portion of a lesson. I couldn't tell that it made a difference in what Caleb was taking away from the course. I felt like he was getting plenty, and he was definitely picking up on the language/words. It was just a little disappointing to miss out on the stories. There is a great link in the introduction that had all the stories in English and German, so I could read them aloud to Caleb as we had time. Unfortunately, we lost a lot of time trying to get videos to load, so I didn't do this often.

While I believe Caleb enjoyed all of the lessons, his favorite portion by far was the Speaking Lab. Every lesson, the student is required to go through several activities to reinforce the vocabulary for the day. In Speaking Lab, you have a picture of a vocabulary word. Underneath it is a button with a speaker and a button with a microphone. He can tap the speaker to hear the term if he can't remember it. Then (or without tapping the speaker) he can tap the microphone and speak the word himself. He clicks the microphone again when he is finished, and the microphone becomes a play key. When he taps play, he hears what he sounds like saying all his vocabulary words! It is a lot of fun, and he was meticulous about it. I think hearing himself made him more aware of enunciation than I ever could. I really was surprised at how much he cared that it sounded correct.

While we only have been doing this for a short time, I am seeing the benefit of starting languages young. Caleb is already pointing things out and spouting off words in German. It is by no means fluency, or even full sentences most of the time. But I am seeing his confidence grow in his new ability, and his excitement for learning something completely different is a joy to watch. I am excited to continue watching his knowledge base of German grow, and I hope to see him continue this far into the future!

Want to keep up with MIL on social media? Follow these links:

If you are interested in seeing what others thought of other courses from Middlebury Interactive Languages, check out more TOS Reviews here:

 Middlebury Interactive Languages Review

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