Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Great Fire of London {BiblioPlan Week 10}

This week in our history studies we discussed The Great Fire in London.  It started in a bakery on Pudding Lane on September 2nd, 1666.  It burned for days and by the time it was over it had destroyed the homes of over 70,000 Londoners.  

The fire spread so rapidly due to the close proximity of all of the buildings.  London buildings were so close together that they said you could reach out of your window and touch the home across the street...  

To demonstrate this we built a London city-scape of paper and cardboard.  (You can find a template and more instructions for this crazy project in Story of the World Vol 3!)

Once our streets were assembled we added some trash since streets in London were often filled with garbage and other refuse.  Here is a forced perspective of our London street.  The bakery is at the end of the street on the left!

Oh dear!  The Bakery!

And poor London is reduced to rubble and ash... 

Lies Jane Austen Told Me {Book Review}

Ever since Emma read Pride and Prejudice, she's been in love with Mr. Darcy and has regarded Jane Austen as the expert on all things romantic. So naturally when Emma falls for Blake Hampton and he invites her home to meet his parents, she is positive an engagement is in her future. After all, Blake is a single man in possession of a good fortune, and thus must be in want of a wife.
I have enjoyed every single Proper Romance put out so far by Shadow Mountain Publishing!  This excellent novel, Lies Jane Austen Told Me by Julie Wright is no exception!  Our heroine Emma adores Jane Austen and is looking for the kind of romance that a girl can find in a novel like Pride & Prejudice.  She has been dating a handsome fellow named Blake for a while and when he invites her home for the weekend Emma is sure something is up his sleeve.  Excited at the prospect of meeting his parents, Emma is convinced that this is the weekend that Blake will propose.  After all, surely a man is on the verge of a proposal when he takes home is lady love to meet his parents!    Right?

To Emma's shock when she arrives at Blake's home she discovers that his parents are away for the weekend and even worse, she learns that a proposal hadn't even crossed his mind...and probably wouldn't.  Going home to lick her wounds and drown her sorrows by watching Pride & Prejudice, Emma steels herself and returns to work the next morning only to find that her boss has hired a consultant who is none other than Blake's younger brother Lucas!  Could things be any worse?  Surprisingly, Lucas is many things that Blake is not.  Selfless, caring, thoughtful, cares for the poor...  Emma is determined NOT to fall in love with him...  But then things are always complicated in love with Jane Austen...  

I loved this modern day spin on a regency novel!  It had all the feels of a historical romance in the modern day.  I had a tough time putting this one down!  I laughed in a few places and sniffled in another.  Emma is a perfect spunky heroine for this book!  

You can purchase Lies Jane Austen Told Me from your favorite bookseller!  It would make a great Christmas gift!  Hint Hint!

Disclaimer:  I received this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed here are my very own.  

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Forgotten Carols Family 4-Pack Giveaway!

I'm excited that I have been given an opportunity to share a great giveaway for TWO family 4-packs of tickets to Michael McLean's The Forgotten Carols!  If you win you will be a able to choose the location that is most convenient for your family.  Giveaway runs from November 6-10th.  Don't delay!  Enter using the rafflecopter at the bottom of this post!

Enjoy a fun Q&A with Michael McLean!

1. What is your favorite Forgotten Carol scene? 

I have so many scenes in THE FORGOTTEN CAROLS that are “favorites” for a variety of reasons. But I’m surprised, performance after performance, how often something touches me differently and teaches me something that I’ve missed in performances past. It’s the gift of doing this show for 26 years. I keep learning things, understanding things, and feeling things that bring me closer to the One Christmas is all about…the One who we remember…It’s about remembering what’s been “forgotten” when it comes to the meaning of Christmas.

2. Do you have a favorite snack you enjoy while traveling to each tour city? 

I'm a diabetic, so this is sort of a trick question. I crave chocolate cake donuts, but have to eat Kind Bars. That’s the reality, but the truth is, I cheat sometimes…and take a little bit more insulin to make up for it. Don’t tell anybody :)

3. What do you enjoy most when you’re on the road performing? 

The older I get the more exhausting it is to be traveling from place to place…but the joy of that travel when it’s with people I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to pieces. The cast and the crew make it a joy beyond measure.

4. During the last song when the audience is hand-in-hand singing, what emotions do you feel from the stage? 

When the encore segment of The Forgotten Carols happens, I find myself focusing on the meaning of “together forever”. Is it something that we hope will happen someday, somewhere down the road, or is it something we can feel right now, this moment? Some nights I feel like I should sing a different lyric for families that can’t buy in to the idea of an eternal connection, for whatever reasons, and the appropriate lyric for them would be, “We can be together, whatever, today”. Some nights, thinking about my own family and the challenges we face, those words are a great comfort and a celebration of now. I believe that what happens to me, and many people who attend The Forgotten Carols, is that together in that moment, we feel the love and peace and comfort that comes at Christmas time to remind us that we are never alone, and the One whose birth we celebrate is ALWAYS with us. Here’s a news flash for you, my blogger friends. I’M ADDING A NEW CAROL TO THE SHOW THIS YEAR that I think will shine a beautiful light on that thought. Hope y’all come and hear me sing it!!!

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Thin Stix Creativity Pack {TOS Review}

It's times like this where I squeal with excitement over some of the fantastic review products we receive!  My girls LOVE art and we are always in the market for great art products that are mess-free and easy to use.  We were so excited to receive another great product from The Pencil Grip, Inc to review called Thin Stix Creativity Pack.

Thin Stix Creativity Pack
These are GREAT!  Thin Stix are a solid tempera paint set in a marker-like tube.  You take the cap off the top, twist it up and paint!  No water needed.  Recommended for ages 3 and up, Thin Six are non-toxic, egg, peanut, and gluten free, although I can't imagine they would taste very good.  Kidding!  Just kidding!  Please don't eat them.  LOL!
  The Thin Stix, "Kwik Stix" pack we received was huge!  24 colors total, 12 classic colors, 6 neon colors, and 6 metallic colors.  The packaging boasts that it "works great on poster board, paper, wood, cardboard and more."  We actually tried to decorate a pumpkin with these Kwik Stix and I wouldn't say it worked great, but it DID work!  And it turned out pretty cute!
We used the Stix to make several pictures on paper too.  My kids were amazed at how they could paint and right away they could touch the pictures and they would be dry!  Kwik Stix dries in 90 seconds or less.  After drying the paint did not crack or flake and I was excited to be able to add these to my girls school file without worrying that they would bleed or fall apart.  
What We Thought of Kwik Stix:

Maggie liked them because they are easy to grab and easy to cleanup.  She said she liked that she could get them out and use them anytime without using water...and it dries quickly!  
Kayley said, "I like them because they are very easy to use, they dry very quickly.  If you paint a picture that has lots of [Thin Stix] paint in it, it dries right away!  There is also so many colors that you don't have to mix the paint.  And they dry so quickly that you can paint on top of other colors without it mixing."
They were very mess free and any spots where my kids got paint on the counter wiped up easily.  They were so mess free that it was the first time that I didn't worry much about the girls getting paint on their clothing.  I would be curious to know how well it would wash out of clothing?  If I ever need to find out I will come back and update!
The sticks are relatively blunt, and of course as you color with them they continue to become more blunt, and it frustrated my older daughter a little because she couldn't be as detailed as she would've liked.  It would be great if there was a way to sharpen them!  
But, we all agreed that these sticks would be great for making posters!
And, another awesome feature is that they are transportable and can be taken to Grandma's house with ease.  Not to mention they take up a lot less storage space!  No more storing big jugs of paint when you can have the same thing in a neat and tidy little stick!
Thin Stix Creativity Pack
The Pencil Grip, Inc.
You can purchase Kwik Stix at BJ'
You can keep up with the latest and greatest from The Pencil Grip by visiting them on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest!
We enjoyed reviewing Thin Stix, Kwik Stix 24 pack and I know that many of my fellow crew mates did too!  You can read their reviews by clicking the link below!
Thank you so much for Swinging By!
Thin Stix Creativity Pack {The Pencil Grip, Inc. Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Even This {Book Review}

I have really enjoyed every book I have read by Emily Belle Freeman.  She has written some amazing  devotional books that I love reading again and again, especially during the holidays.  A few of our favorites are: A Christ-Centered Home, A Christ-Centered Easter, and A Christ-Centered Christmas.  They have been fantastic and I have used the Christmas book 2 years in a row now for planning my Christmas lesson in Relief Society!  So, I was excited to get another Emily Belle Freeman book to review called Even This: Getting to the Place Where You Can Trust God With Anything...

Even This invites readers to make room for daily personal experiences with God. From the very first page readers will walk down a spiritual path meant to remind each of us that God will meet us in the unexpected, bringing His goodness, giving us cause to trust, reminding us of His capacity. Filled with deeply personal stories about holding onto belief, daring to trust, and longing for understanding, Even This chronicles one woman's quest to find God in the everyday moments-with one of the most powerful experiences taking place as she searches for sea shells while walking on the beach-and provides many opportunities for individual introspection. -Yes, God is good and He can be trusted, - Freeman concludes, -and it is the daily discovery of these truths that has the potential to become the greatest journey of a life and lead us closer to Him.-

In Even This, Emily Belle Freeman shares stories her time as a newlyweds when she and her husband  discovered that he had a large, fast growing, brain tumor.  Hospitals, biopsies, surgeries...  It was a time where she felt terrified and prayed fervently to God...  But, through her prayers, she heard nothing.  She felt completely abandoned by God and the feelings of desperation that stemmed from her unanswered prayers left her faith shaken.  She wondered, in anguish, "Where is God" in her time of trial?  Where is He when bad things are happening to good people?  This book is filled with personal stories and inspiring messages that answer this big question.

This book also answers the question of how you can get to the place where you can trust God with anything...even your worst trials.  This book is also a bit different than most of Freeman's books and does not have the hymns, recommended scriptures to read, and a challenge to consider.  I have come to love the format of her previous books that I anticipated this to be similar and was a little disappointed.  What she does have is what she calls "The Reflecting Place" throughout the book and while not a devotional or challenge per se, it does give you some insight into how she conquered her fears and gathered strength to face her weaknesses.  It includes scriptures that helped her through and a mantra to help you focus on your journey.  It still gives you points to ponder and a personal challenge to focus on, which is something I have come to love about Freeman's books.  

Even This would make a great Christmas gift or just an anytime gift, especially for someone who is struggling with one of life's biggest questions: Where is God in my times of trials?

Disclaimer:  I received this book, free-of-charge, in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed here are my very own.   Thank you for swinging by!


Sunday, November 5, 2017

Halloween 2017 - The one with the Candy Buy Back...

This year for Halloween we had a Spanish Dancer and a Pirate!
We had a great time attending our church trunk-or-treat.  The kids played games, we ate chili, too much candy...and hot dogs...more candy...and desserts, of course, with candy.

On Halloween the girls ended up having dentist appointments too where they dentist gave them... 
a toothbrush!   They said, "have fun tonight, get lots of candy...but DON'T eat it!"  Haha!

And they did trick-or-treat a few houses... 

Of course we also did our annual Candy Buy Back.  We pay 10 cents per piece.  Can you believe we shelled out $17 and $13 respectively?  Goodness!  But, that's less candy in my kids so it all works out in the end I think...

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Magic Stories {TOS Review}

We have been given an opportunity to do a review of a product called Magic Stories from Allsaid & Dunn, LLC, publishers of The Reading Game and authors of the Wordly Wise series!  We received a digital download for our review and we are please to share our thoughts with you concerning this great beginning reading program filled with fantastic moral stories.

The Magic Stories {Allsaid & Dunn, LLC. Reviews}

The Magic Stories is a series of 6 fun and engaging readers recommended for children in 2nd - 3rd grade.  They are designed specifically for usage on iPad or a computer screen, but can also be printed.  While it is set up as a follow on for the popular activity The Reading Game, it is not a necessary prerequisite for using The Magic Stories.   Each story comes with its own set of 40 challenging word flash cards called the "Naughty 40" that are designed to introduce challenging words to the student that they will encounter in the story.  These Naughty 40 are words that don't follow typical spelling rules or are just a difficult word that cannot always be sounded out.  Six sets of worksheets, 4 pages each, also accompany each story and give your child an opportunity to engage with the reader in a variety of ways.   Mazes, Finish the Sentence, Imagine, and Finish the Story teach reading comprehension, creative writing and encourage the student to complete either written or oral narratives of what was read.  The worksheets are black & white and work great as coloring pages too!   A word assessment sheet is also provided allowing you to keep track of the known and unknown Naughty 40.

The Magic Stories {Allsaid & Dunn, LLC. Reviews}
How we used Magic Stories:
Instructions for using Magic Stories is on their website in the top toolbar...  
Here is how we used them in our homeschool:

Day 1.  Read through the Naughty 40 and use the assessment to keep track.  If we knew most of them we moved on, but if we didn't we reviewed the cards until we felt pretty confident we knew most of the words.  This usually only took 1 or 2 days.

Day 2.  We read the story.  We reviewed any of the words from the Naughty 40 that tripped us up.  We also did Exercise 1, the Maze.  It is a true or false worksheet that helps the child recall the story.

Day 3.  Read the story again.  Complete exercise 2 - Finish the Sentence.  The child is asked to fill in the sentence in their own words.

Day 4.  Read the story one last time.  Complete exercise 4.  This is a fun Complete the Story activity where we are given the opening paragraph and then we get to finish the story!  The instructions say to write the story, but we did this orally...  We also completed exercise 5 - The Running Record and a repeat of the assessment to see how we did at learning the Naughty 40.  

What we Thought of Magic Stories:
We thought it was a very simple and easy way to encourage learning more difficult vocabulary in reading.  The stories were cute!  We decided not to do it on the iPad because we are just a paper kind of family and printing them off worked really well.  I printed the stories front-to-back and stapled them along the sides creating booklets...

Another thing we really liked was that the lessons are short and bite-sized!  Maggie also enjoyed coloring the pictures and she learned a lot of vocabulary from her study of the Naughty 40 words.  Even though it is recommended for 2nd - 3rd grade, some of it was more writing than my 2nd grader was capable of still so we did do several of the worksheets orally.  I didn't feel that this tweak upset the program in any way.  

It would have been very helpful to have some instructions, or a parent guide, offering suggestions on how to teach using Magic Stories.  Like I mentioned earlier I had to wing it to get a feel for the best way to use the program.  It was likely designed to be spread out over 5 days, but we only school 4 days a week so I combined the last 2 activities together...  It was still a snap to implement and we enjoyed reading through the stories.  

To learn more about Magic Stories or to make a purchase you can visit!  To keep up with the latest and greatest you can also follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube.
Also, The Magic Stories would like to offer a coupon code to my readers!  You can enjoy 25% discount when you order The Magic Stories.  To receive the discount enter "raisingreaders" in the coupon box upon checkout!
Many of my fellow crew mates enjoyed reviewing The Magic Stories.  
To read their reviews click the link below.  Thank you for swinging by!
The Magic Stories {Allsaid & Dunn, LLC. Reviews}

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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Science Experiments with Water {The Good & The Beautiful}

One thing we have really been enjoying about The Good & The Beautiful - Water science curriculum is the hands-on components.  We have wrapped up our study of water and looking back there have been some really fun experiments.  Here are a couple of our favorites!

We used a pipette to determine exactly how many drops of water you can fit on a penny. 
It was in the 30s!  

We also learned about erosion by spraying several different types of dirt with water to see how each was affected...  This made a little bit of a muddy mess but was worth it. 

We also did this experiment to show how salt water is more dense than regular water.  

We also assembled a terrarium.  Sealed tightly, all the water the plant needs will stay inside and consistently complete the water cycle and keep itself alive and healthy.  Our plant has been surviving in the terrarium for several weeks now!


Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Pencil Grip, Inc {TOS Review}

We got another great review product to try out from a fun company called The Pencil Grip, Inc.  They sent us The 3 Step Pencil Grip Training Kit and The Ultra Safe Safety Scissors!

The Pencil Grip, Inc.

Let me begin with the 3 Step Pencil Grip Training Kit:
Learning correct pencil hold is a skill that often gets overlooked in the preschool years.  As a homeschool Mom I am guilty of missing this and allowing my younger daughter to hold her pencil however she wanted to.  What I am finding now is that her hand fatigues faster and her ability to write is slower due to poor pencil posture.  In the last year or so I have consistently tried to correct the poor pencil behavior with little success.  As soon as I stop watching, she is back to holding her pencil in an improper way.  I have considered trying one of the pencil guides I've seen at the store, but just wasn't convinced it would actually work.  

The 3 Step Pencil Grip Training Kit

Using The Pencil Grip's 3 Step training kit is really simple.  First, The Crossover Grip is for training.  This is the green one on the far left.   The Pencil Grip, Inc describes it as having a "super hero cape over the fingers."  This squishy flap helps children keep their fingers in the proper placement and consistently encourages proper positioning.  From there, children can move on to Step 2, (the red one) called The Pinch Grip.  This grip serves as a transition since the super hero flap is gone and replaced by smaller wings.  It serves as a reminder to continue using proper finger positioning.  The last step is the original or Graduation grip (the blue one).  Use this one as long as you is pretty comfy and I may, or may not, have this one on MY pencil right now!  

What We Thought About the Pencil Grips
They are very squishy and rubbery...  In fact, they are borderline "sticky" and because of this they tend to get hair and other little goobers attached to them.  I haven't quite figured out the best way to clean them yet.  They feel very fascinating and can be a little distracting on the end of your pencil for children who are easily distracted.  I suppose that is the point though and once the newness of the squishy tool wore off I had Maggie set to try to get the proper positioning.   The only thing that really frustrated us is that, learning the proper positioning has been so hard.  We have not managed to graduate from the Crossover Grip yet.  In fact, I literally have to manipulate my daughters fingers into the proper position every time she goes to pick up her pencil.  The plus side: the super hero cape keeps her fingers neatly tucked where they need to be until she has to set her pencil down and we start all over again.  An interesting note:  We are relearning proper muscle positioning now too and we are revisiting writing fatigue all over again.  I really feel this will be worth it in the end and I wish I had made more of an effort to correct the pencil posture a year ago.  I really encourage you, if you are needing to work on this with your child, don't delay.

The Ultra Safe Safety Scissors:
We were also given these interesting little safety scissors to try out!  They look a little strange and bulky but it is pretty neat how The Pencil Grip, Inc has managed to hide the sharp blades behind a plastic safety shield offering protection for little fingers.  

The Ultra Safe Safety Scissors
Another nice aspect of the scissors is what they called the "training lever."  It is an optional little lever that works like a spring to help the scissors bounce back after squeezing.  This is great for little hands who just don't have the coordination and/or hand muscles to open AND close the scissors.  If you don't want to use the lever it folds in out of the way.

What We Thought of the Ultra Safe Safety Scissors:
Your view from the top of the scissors isn't hampered by the plastic shield at all allowing for precise cutting.
But, they are a bit bulky and sliding the paper into the little slot and getting the scissors lined up was a little frustrating.  Of course, my kids are bigger and used to using sharp scissors but we wondered how well a preschooler would do at manipulating the paper into the slot, holding it in place and cutting.  I will be curious to read other reviews to see what my crew mates thought of them!

We have enjoyed reviewing for The Pencil Grip, Inc!  If you are interested in learning more about what The Pencil Grip, Inc has to offer check and keeping up-to-date with what's new, find them on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest

To find out what my fellow crew mates thought of the pencil grips and safety scissors check out their reviews at the link below!  Thank you so much for Swinging By!

Ultra Safe Safety Scissors & Pencil Grip Training Kit {The Pencil Grip, Inc. Reviews}

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