Thursday, November 26, 2015

A Day of Thanksgiving...

"Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor– and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness." President George Washington, October 3, 1789, from the Thanksgiving Proclamation 

It doesn't matter whether you want to accept it or not, but history speaks for itself. We are a nation founded on Christian principles, founded by godly men who honored the Lord. We have drifted so far from that beginning, in such a short time, that it's no wonder the mess we are in today. But nevertheless, the battle is not over. Not so long as there are men and women out there who are willing to bow their knees, to humble themselves, to ask God to forgive us and to heal our nation. We can become a nation of thankful people once again.

There are so many things to be thankful for, and so many to whom we owe our thanks. But let us never forget the Giver of all good gifts. Thank you, Father, for my salvation, my family, my country, and so much more. You are so very good. I am so very blessed.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

TBT - SDC 2013

It's amazing how much can change in just 2 years. At this time, they were the bookends - oldest and youngest of our brood. The oldest is looking less boyish and more like a young man. This baby is about to turn 3 next week! :O And we've added another blessing to our clan. Pictures can bring memories back in an instant. And I love the memories of my little men enjoying a day outdoors together at one of our favorite places in the world. 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

GOOOOOO Chargers!!

This week a very special group of people are traveling to sunny Florida for the national homeschool football championships. Even though we don't have a player this year, I still know this is our family. We go through seasons in life. And I know we will revisit this season and rejoin this amazing family again someday. Maybe next year, maybe not. But I do know this - once a Charger, always a Charger. Go get 'em, boys! HIT SOMEBODY!!!

National Champs 2014

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A TOS Review: Grapevine Studies

Grapevine Studies Review

There is nothing more important in our lives than teaching the Word of God to our children. To share His love, His story, His gift of salvation, is the greatest privilege I have as a mother. But sometimes, I find it hard to teach the many ages we have in our family with one single bible study and make sure they are finding it applicable. That's why I was eager to check out Grapevine Studies and their multi-level guides. We were sent the digital downloads for their Old Testament I bible study in Level 1 (6-8 years), Level 3 (10-12 years) and Level 4 (12+ years).

Grapevine Studies Review

Grapevine Studies Review

Grapevine Studies Review

Grapevine Studies strives to give a family or Sunday school teacher the tools to teach children in an engaging, hands-on way that simplifies the planning, engages students, and grows disciples. Their method is to read the scripture, draw a stick figure picture to help you remember key points, and review together. They integrate color, character, timeline and symbols to teach the Bible to all ages. It has been a lot of fun!

So the Level 1 and Level 2 studies share a Teacher Guide, and the Level 3 and Level 4 studies share a Teacher Guide as well. We would sit down as a family with all the pages I'd printed out for each of them, my laptop so I could look at the Teacher's Guide, a wipe board easel and dry erase markers. We would take turns reading passages. I liked to have them guess what the picture should be, then I would draw it out for the younger kids to copy. All my kids were of the age to do the timeline sections, and the older ones would have word studies or more comprehensive questions. To do one lesson a day with 5 kids (Castle would watch and draw on a wipe board, too) took about 45 minutes to an hour. There was always someone losing a page of their lesson, or two would bicker over a certain color crayon. I took care of that issue by getting everyone their own box of crayons! I am not a big fan of digital downloads, simply for the reason above - we are a large family, and my kids lose things pretty easily...I have no idea where they get it from...LOL! But I think it would have been much more manageable with books - for us, at least.

I think the lessons were fun, and I enjoyed the simplistic technique to studying the bible. I don't know for sure if my kids learned a lot, since they are already very familiar with the passages we covered, but they definitely enjoyed the drawing aspect. I did appreciate the possibility for more in-depth study for the older students.

One thing I was a little disappointed in was that the older levels needed to purchase more books for more in-depth study. Grapevine requires Levels 3 and 4 to have a topical bible, a bible dictionary and a bible concordance on hand for their lessons. I thought these lessons would be a great asset, so I was glad to purchase some of these items. I didn't go through their site, but I found the titles on Amazon they suggested and bought two of them. The topical bible I received ended up being a completely different book than the one they recommended - the one they sell is a condensed version of what I bought. The bible dictionary I purchased was, in fact, the exact one they recommended. However, some of the words we were required to study weren't even in the book. They even had page numbers in the worksheets, and the word wouldn't be on that page. I appreciated the idea of the deeper study, but it didn't pan out very well for us.

Despite the hiccups we encountered, I was overall very pleased with Grapevine Studies. My kids enjoy drawing, and I think it helps solidify the concepts covered. It was a good time to connect as a family, and I hope to see more of their studies in the future - stick figures are awesome! :)

To follow Grapevine on social media, follow the links listed here:

More members of the Crew received other items from Grapevine for review. To find out more, check out the link below.

Grapevine Studies Review

Crew Disclaimer

A TOS Review: Critical Thinking

As homeschool parents, we have the responsibility and privilege of teaching our children from the day they are born, almost exclusively. They have Sunday School teachers, co-op teachers, and others in their lives through sports and activities, but the majority of their education comes from us. Sure, we study reading, writing and arithmetic. We teach them about our nation's history, and first and foremost, about our Lord and Savior. We make sure culinary skills and budgeting are touched on as often as possible. But there have been times when a child will come across a situation in real life and be completely unprepared. It is a natural skill that can be honed, or a skill they have to learn from the ground up. Many public schoolers I know don't even have a grasp of it. What am I talking about? Critical thinking. The Critical Thinking Co. sent me their book, The Basics of Critical Thinking, for my 9th grader to review.

The Basics of Critical Thinking ($22.99) was designed to teach middle school aged kids (4th-9th graders) the skills and concepts of critical thinking. The book defines critical thinking as "finding and evaluating evidence to try to make the best decisions". They emphasize looking at a situation or problem critically, objectively, and without emotion; they desire to teach using logic to come to the best conclusion. The book covers object lessons, activities, diagrams, and touches on argument forms and fallacies. One thing I liked very much is that you can move through the book in any order. The lessons covered in the book are:
  • What is Critical Thinking?
  • Decisions and Conclusions
  • Beliefs and Claims
  • Finding Evidence
  • Evaluating Evidence
  • Inferring and Inferences
  • Facts and Opinions
  • Facts and Probable Truths
  • False and Probably False
  • Facts, Probably True, and Probably False
  • Venn Diagrams
  • Logical Connectives
  • Advertising
  • Agreements and Contracts
  • Common Errors in Reasoning
  • Arguments
  • Valid and Invalid Arguments
  • Fallacies
  • Analogy Arguments
  • Using Critical Thinking to Make Better Decisions
Connor is a natural problem solver. He can look at a pile of LEGOs and envision what he's going to build. He can see puzzle pictures and quickly figure out what's wrong or what's missing. He is fairly intuitive when it comes to reading new acquaintances. He is mechanically minded, and very logical in his thinking. So why was I excited to see him use this book? Because I wanted him to see the importance of sharpening these skills and how it is such a benefit in the real world.

Quite often, Connor would tell me the answer before going through the basic techniques that the book was trying to teach. Most often he would be correct, and he would get a little cocky. However, when he would miss one, he could definitely see the benefit of how to work through the problems step by step. The sections about probable truths and facts and learning the difference was a great section for him to go through, specifically for this purpose. In my experience, I have found most teenage boys to be pretty set in their ways, certain their view is the correct one. It was good for Connor to see assumptions did not ALWAYS equal fact. He did made the observation that what he would assume would often be backed up with the critical thinking skills. I'm not sure everyone would have that conclusion, but it seemed to be true for him a lot of the time!

Connor had some fun with the fact and opinion section. In these assignments, you are given a picture, and you are to write a sentence that is fact and then a sentence that is fiction. One picture was of a man on the ground next to a motorcycle. His fact sentence stated, "The guy fell into the mud." His opinion sentence stated, "The guy is an idiot." Not very polite, but it was truly his opinion! ;) Another picture was of a mountain lion crouching. His fact sentence: "The cat is growling." His opinion: "He's about to be a dead cat." He is a hunter at heart, to be sure!

I am very glad we got the chance to review The Basics of Critical Thinking. Connor is really enjoying working through this book. I plan to buy the book for Chloe and Canon to work through and the second level book for Connor for next year.

To follow The Critical Thinking Co. on social media, go to the following links:

The Critical Thinking Co. sent several other products to members of the Crew. To see their reviews, click on the link here:

The Critical Thinking Company Review

Crew Disclaimer

Friday, November 6, 2015

The Golden Rule?

The article Being 'left out' hurts: one mothers plea for other parents to stop from appeared in my newsfeed today. It truly struck a chord in me, as it is something we have been struggling with for a long while now.

For those who don't click over to read it - which I highly encourage you to - the author discusses scenarios that occur in middle school and high schools all over the country every single day, and how we as parents have the power to feed or destroy this monster we know as bullying. The emotional games these kids play with the exclusion and targeting of one child can go too far and have lasting effects.

So did you think my homeschooled kids would be immune to this monster?? Well, think again, my friends. I have encountered it many times over the years, to different degrees with each child. There is nothing more heartbreaking than to watch your child try to figure out what is wrong with him or her, why they have been so obviously left out, or why their once dearest friends no longer have time for them, when you KNOW that it has nothing to do with them.

I've tried so hard over the years to include others that seem to be on the fringes, to invite new kids to activities, to bring families into the fold at church or co op, and I've striven to teach my children to do the's extremely frustrating and hurtful when it isn't reciprocated. It even happens among the moms - sometimes, it may even begin with the moms.

I have one child who has been what many call a loner for the majority of his life. He insisted that he liked animals more than people, and he was usually more comfortable on his own than with a group. In recent years, however, he has had a desire to go do things and gain more friendships. But sadly, the kids he's known his whole life don't even reach out to him. In fact, some are meaner to him now, like he has no right to want to be included after all the years he did his own thing. He is rarely invited to parties or to a friend's house. He even tried a new sport to make some connections this past year, but the only real connections he made were with his coaches. Recently, a friend of mine was dealing with a similar situation with her son. Another mom, one I consider a good friend, mentioned that she knew my child seemed to have difficulties in this area, as well. So she encouraged this mom to contact me so our boys could be, in theory, I realize she was probably trying to help. She saw two boys that need a friend, so voila - problem solved. My problem with it was, why wasn't her son encouraged to be friends with one or both of the boys?? Her son is actually friendly with my boy - in certain, but not all, places. I know my son feels the difference and knows he doesn't get to play with this friend at one place, but can in another. THIS IS SO WRONG.

Some of my children have been excluded over the past few years by ones our family felt were very good friends. I saw it several times, but I ignored it, hoping it was just a moody moment or a misunderstanding. Unfortunately, it kept happening. I watched my kids try over and over, brushing off their hurts and keep wanting the friendships to work. To see kids you love like your own, ones you would do anything for, treat your own children in such a way is gut wrenching. One of my kids is super resilient and walked away, knowing that other friends were out there. But one has stopped bouncing back so quickly...and that was completely unexpected. Watching a child go from being a leader, a go getter, to sitting alone all too often texting friends just to find out they are all together or seeing friends do stuff together on FB and not having been invited is a terrible feeling.  Seeing him withdraw from activities he loves and ask us to stop going to places we used to just to avoid being left out (because it happened so many times) has absolutely broken my heart. He's in self preservation mode, and I have no idea how to help him thrive again.

I've tried to pinpoint when the changes came. There is no one place. I do realize that having two babies in two years seriously  slowed down our social lives. I haven't been able to have extras over like I used to. I haven't been able to plan get togethers with friends as often as I once did. That was to be expected. But I didn't realize exactly how many things would change because of it. It seemed like when I stopped being the one to organize or host, someone else stepped up to do that...but my kids were no longer included.

I do know that people change and gain different interests. I understand not everyone will stay friends with the same people forever. But it doesn't mean I will allow my kids to be hurtful to people intentionally. I won't allow there to be five girls standing in a group and four of them talking about coming to our house for a sleepover. My daughter KNOWS what the right thing to do here is. There is always room for one more. There will be times when we can only have two friends to an event, due to transportation or cost. But my children also know they aren't to go on and on about that event in front of other kids and make them feel left out. Making someone feel less about themselves to make yourself feel better is tragic. For the hurt one, and the one doing the hurting. Why would we as parents stand by and allow this? Or encourage it? Or even worse, just ignore it?

I don't have all the answers. I'm not a perfect parent - so very far from it. But when I see my child not being compassionate toward one who may desperately need a friend, I strive to remind them of the times they've been hurt, and to remember to never make someone else feel that way. I can't protect them from every hurt. But I can teach them to learn from that hurt and be better people because of it. And sometimes, I guess that has to be enough.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

A TOS Review: The Brinkman Adventures

A few years ago, I received a cd with the first three episodes of a new audio adventure series with the purchase of my curriculum. The series followed a homeschool family with a passion for spreading the Word and a desire to serve the Lord in their home and all over the world. Their missionary stories inspired us, the exploits of the younger ones tickled us, the concerns of the parents touched us, and the entire family drew us into their lives. The family and the episodes were The Brinkman Adventures.

Brinkman Adventures Season 3 Review

We loved the first three episodes so much, I went ahead and bought the rest of the first season. We'd listened to the stories many, many times - so many, in fact, that our first cds are so scratched that they don't play well anymore! :) So when we had the opportunity to review Season 3, I knew the kids would be thrilled!

The Brinkmans are an all American family. The parents are deeply committed to the Lord and to each other. The kids are intelligent, insightful, and full of mischief! They have adventures wherever they go, whether it be Alaska or their own back yard. Now you may think that audio adventures are for long road trips, but you woud be mistaken! We popped the first cd into the player of the van and listened every chance we got! It takes us 15 minutes to get to church and at least that long for everywhere we go, so we would listen to a little at a time. It's funny how I'd have to pry my kids out of the van, or they would beg for me not to turn the ignition off just yet! ALL of the kids are captivated by the Brinkmans! Season three contains 12 episodes, giving you over 5 hours of entertainment. The list of episodes are:

  1. God's Mule
  2. Mountain Mover
  3. The Silent Ambassador
  4. Translating Trouble
  5. Man-up
  6. Acorns and Oaks
  7. A Saint's Story Pt. 1
  8. A Saint's Story Pt. 2
  9. Untouched
  10. Busy Bees and a Bullhorn
  11. Missionary Tourist Pt. 1
  12. Missionary Tourist Pt. 2
Brinkman Adventures Season 3 Review
    Now we were surprised with the format of the adventures this time around. The first story went straight into a missionary story, with no Brinkman involvement. We were a little confused at first. We were looking forward to hearing about the family and what they were up to. However, we were drawn in very quickly. Tomas' story, the first missionary we met, was very impactful. Once we got into it, we loved it. I was very intrigued with how they wove each story into the Brinkmans' lives. Every missionary we heard from somehow had interactions with the family further down the line. It was very cool.

    The younger boys loved Man-up. Ian's coming of age story and his adventure on an iceberg with Mr. Brinkman was nail-biting at times! They wouldn't want to get out of the van that whole day! Connor's favorite story this time was Missionary Tourist. Hearing about Isis and relating it to what we see and hear in the news every day really touched him. Chloe enjoyed Translating Trouble the most. She was pulled to the character of Mikey and was so happy to see him reappear later in the episodes. I couldn't tell you which I enjoyed most, but I will tell you this: to see my children so engrossed in stories about people dedicating their lives to Jesus truly blessed my heart. No matter what path my children take - whether it be to the mission field, the business world, or their own little community - I pray that they be bold for Christ. Having them hear these stories that captivate their imagination while touching their hearts and souls will have Kingdom impact. Bringing these missionaries' stories to life not only blesses them, but it inspires the next generation of missionaries. I am thankful for the direction the Brinkman Adventures took this time around.

    ...but I'm really excited to see what happened to Aunt Sarah - what a cliffhanger!!

    You can follow the Brinkmans on the following social media:
    Wanna see what the rest of the Crew thought of the Brinkmans? Check more reviews out here:

    Brinkman Adventures Season 3 Review
    Crew Disclaimer