Thursday, September 14, 2017

Beards, Susannah, Italy and Squirrel: A Carole P. Roman Books Review

Carole P Roman
I may be a terribly typical teacher when I say this, but the love of reading is one of the best gifts you can give a person!  Reading is more than just a brain exercise.  It takes you on adventures, it teaches you how to grow, and most importantly it helps you understand the people and world around you.  That is something we lack as a society.  I'm so thankful we are a reading family.  So you can imagine the excitement in our house when we received 5 books in the mail from Carole P. Roman to review!  
Books by Carole P RomanI wasn't familiar with this author before this review, but I'm not sure how.  She has written over 35 books (most of which are children's), received over 100 book awards and over 3000 online reviews.  Can you believe all of that came from her son daring her to start writing?  Her background in teaching combined with a spirit for discovery has turned out to be a great recipe for the job of an author.

Books by Carole P RomanThe first two books we received are from Roman's Captain No Beard seriesCaptain No Beard: An Imaginary Tale of a Pirate's Life and A Captain No Beard Story: The Crew Goes Coconuts! Cousins Hallie and Alexander explore the edges of the earth with their trusty imaginations and lively stuffed animals.  In the first story, we get introduced to all the key characters and the grand pirate adventure they are on together.  In The Crew Goes Coconuts! the crew learns to deal with bullying and the struggles it brings.  As Hallie aptly says, "No one is perfect! That's why we should look for something to like in everyone."  These were big hits with my kids (ages 6 and 4) who are big into imagination adventure right now.  After reading these, I'm interested in the others in the series that continue to address real life problems our kids will face.

Books by Carole P Roman
In a similar way, One To Ten: Squirrel's Bad Day seeks to demonstrate what really matters when life gets a little too overwhelming.  We had a great discussion together after reading this book because this is relevant to our life every. single. day.  Our household is full of strong personalities and children to boot, so EVERYTHING is a HUUUGE deal, even when it's not.  Learning along with Squirrel to evaluate just how bad this situation really is gave us all a tool that can be carried into any activity of life.  For a typical picture book it was a little longer than I expected, but the content was worthwhile.

Books by Carole P Roman

For the independent reader who is ready for a chapter book, the Oh Susannah series is a good place to start. Oh Susannah: It's in the bag walks us into the life of 3rd grader Susannah and all the things swimming through her head from breakfast to homework to a ripped bag.  As we read this together as a family (because I wanted my non-reader to benefit from the content too), I identified with the parents so much in the book.  They were trying to take care of their lives, but getting caught up in schedules and expectations.  Talk about calling me out!  Since the baby was born, we're still trying to find the normal without ripping everyone's head off! It didn't take long for my 6 year old to notice the resemblance either.  The mom character is constantly looking at the clock and more than once he glanced knowingly at me.  That kid!
Like the others, this book was full of relevant and encouraging content that successfully captured my kids attention.  Especially as the readers grow, I'm thankful for good books I can throw their way.
Books by Carole P Roman
When we were offered this review, we got to choose two books and then given some surprise books to go along with it.  This is one of my surprise ones that certainly didn't apply to anything we are learning right now, but turned out to be a great find for the future.  If You Were Me and Lived in... Renaissance Italy is part of the If You Were Me and Lived in...Series that explores all aspects of life in this different times and countries, especially through the eyes of children.  We learned about kids' names, clothing, art, geography, food, and history including famous people of the time and all of it was supported by a glossary in the back.  This series is extensive and could serve as a great addition to history and geography lessons. 
All of these books had fun artwork and good quality paper that sealed the deal of good quality literature.  If you are looking for some new books for your kids' needs, take a look at all that Carole P. Roman has to offer.
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All of the reviewers received different books so check out what others had to say:

Oh Susannah, Bedtime Stories, Captain No Beard, If you were Me ... {Carole P. Roman Reviews}

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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Bears on Hemlock Mountain E-Guide: A Progeny Press Review

Progeny Press

One of the benefits I appreciate about homeschooling is the opportunity to integrate my children's education with character building and development.  Even if I agreed with my child's public school teacher on everything, they are still usually limited in the topics and curriculum they are allowed to use in the classroom.  My review today is about The Bears on Hemlock Mountain E-Guide from Progeny Press, something that most public schools couldn't allow because, as the title indicates, is from a plainly Christian perspective.  

Bears on Hemlock Mountain, The - E-Guide
Progeny Press is a Christian company that strives to help students aptly understand literature through their study guides that cover literature of all ages.  The Bears on Hemlock Mountain was the appropriate grade for my son (1st - 3rd), but there were three other study guides that were reviewed by the Crew: 

 For this review we received a downloadable eBook that corresponds with the reading of the book.  We didn't have the text in our personal library so we obtained a copy of The Bears on Hemlock Mountain  by Alice Dalgliesh from our local library, but you can also purchase a copy from Progeny Press for $4.99.  The book is a short 10 chapters, a Newberry Honor Book and written in 1952.  The Hemlock Mountain E-Guide is 35 pages long complete with instructor notes, a synopsis of the book, author information, background information on the book, and over 25 pages of activities related to the book.  There is 2 pages of before-you-read activities all having to do with animal tracks, the outdoors, or hospitality.  For every two or three chapters, there is vocabulary work, comprehension questions and Bible verse application. 

What We Thought 

The instructor notes recommend reading the entire book first before beginning the chapter activities, but due to my son's age (6) I chose to have him read a couple of chapters and then do the activities.  While that worked fine, in retrospect I believe that reading the entire thing first would have benefited his comprehension a little better.  Sometimes it pays to trust the experts!  

Many of the questions are open or discussion-type in nature.  That initially was a great frustration for us, but only because my son would rather have a one word answer he knew was exactly right than come up with a couple of different sentences that would work.  Some doodling was certainly found in the margins.  

As we powered through though it proved to be a good learning experience in patience and qualitative work.  One of the best aspects of this study guide was the Bible verse application in each section.  Sometimes we would look up the verses in our own Bible to see how different translations read it and it always led to a spiritual application of principles found in the book.  As Christian parents, the training of our children always requires pointing out the spiritual aspects of life.  It's extra nice when their schoolwork lays it out for me!

Overall, we had a good experience with this product and I look forward to use more from this company as my children get older!

Keep Up With Progeny Press:


Read what other people thought about Progeny Press and the other E-Guides:

Study Guides for Literature {Progeny Press Reviews}

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Monday, September 11, 2017

Go Outside: Your Sanity May Depend On It

We took a walk the other day after breakfast and before we started school.  The weather was significantly cool for late summer so all of us were a little more motivated than usual.  The weight (physical and emotional) of the Race car's pregnancy and transitional months following had made motivation fleeting.  With three kids plus personal recovery, making anything (other than meal time) a habit is a big struggle.  But the chill in the air somehow gave us an extra spring in our step and a walking we did go.

There are a lot of scientific and biological reasons why being active outside and spending time in nature is terribly important to a healthy life.  But if those reasons matter to you, you're probably already doing it. For the rest of us - especially the emotionally driven - we need a little more than somebody telling us we're supposed to do something.  This morning walk gave me exactly what I needed in this arena.  Halfway through the kids wanted to rest and they sat at this bench on the edge of the pond.  They weren't terribly out of breath, but they just sat still quietly talking and taking in the view.  Little sister proved to be tired from then on out and then pouted about how tired she was once we got home.

When we got home, we started schoolwork and EVERYONE had such a good attitude, myself included.  It wasn't until I experienced this surge in energy and attitude that I was reminded of how important going outside is to so much - even morale!

It's easy to get busy and in a rut, but when you feel how effective that energy is, you will WANT to start a new habit!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Kwik Stix Now Available at BJ's!

One of my favorite companies has expanded their products and where you can buy them! The Pencil Grip, Inc's Kwik Stix are now available at BJ's Wholesale Clubs and Amazon

The Kwik Stix's original form was tempura paint in the form of glue stick containers.  Their new Thin Stix is the same paint but in pen or highlighter form.  We have tried both kinds and enjoy them both equally, depending on what kind of art work you are attempting.

In our house they fall close in line with playdough in how long they will occupy the kids.  Kwik Stix are better because of the mess they don't leave behind!  Every classroom - especially large groups in public school - should have a couple of sets of these!  They are reasonably priced and easier to get all the time.

I will a FREE copy of this product in exchange for spreading the news of where to buy this product.  I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.  All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Growing Grace Is Hard

I was watching some friends' wedding video from earlier this year and couldn't keep the tears from falling a bit.  It was a beautiful venue and such a sweet reminder of our own wedding almost 11 years ago.  The excitement just starting out in your marriage is just one of the coolest things.  I wish so badly to tell my younger self a few things to save us from a few extra unnecessary fights.  I love my kids, but I can't deny the tiny longing to live that newlywed time over again - to do it better.  I think the perfectionist in me longs to keep the beautiful beginning to the marriage just as it is - beautiful and perfect.  We don't want the marriage to be stained by things like loss, fear, dishonesty, emergencies, weight gain, tempers, money problems, etc.  I just want that long, relaxed walk down the aisle to towards this guy who shared his heart with me.

Of course, that is the trouble with us perfectionists.  We have a hard time being glad and thankful in the imperfect moments.  The "life is about the journey" way of thinking is often lost on us.  Journey or not, things aren't the way we want them (aka RIGHT) so we're not yet pleased.  I had a baby in April followed by several large stress events in my life.  My body is extremely sensitive to stress, not getting enough sleep and change (so why did I have kids again? ha!) and the past month I've been working hard at solidifying a routine for school and housekeeping, despite having a 4 month old who hasn't mastered sleeping through the night yet.  My hormones have taken the long way to evening out, the battle between sleep and exercise isn't funny anymore, the extra weight is still hanging around and this introvert is finding it a lot harder with 3 kids to find true alone time than I expected.  Enjoying the journey feels like a joke or near impossible some days when the first bit of alone time I get (which still includes the baby of course) and before the rest of the family is even off of the property, my little race car dumps a bowl of (delicious!) homemade granola. While I'm cleaning that up he also manages to dump my water bottle on the ground too.

Sooo, whether it is enjoy the journey or enjoy them while they are little talk, my point is that it's way harder than a meme on facebook pretends it is.  Some moments it is pride that tells me I want to do everything or other times it is perfectionism that convinces me to be miserable until all the things are just right.  Neither of which are ever satisfied.  I don't have to rely on a ringer washer for clean clothes, my family's bellies are full at night, I have three of the most beautiful children (not that I'm biased) and I get to climb into bed at night with a handsome guy who just happens to be my best friend.  Despite the huge blessings we have in our life, sometimes it doesn't matter (the way it should) in the heat of the day.  Life is messy, heartbreaking and just hard.  There's always someone who has it worse, but there's also always somebody who seems to be doing it better that is hard to ignore.

One thing I really lacked as a newlywed - and still struggle with on a daily basis - is grace.  Grace for my husband, grace for my circumstances, grace for others opinions, and even grace for myself.  My passion and pride typically take me to one extreme or another, thus the name of this blog was born.  Sometimes balance is another word for the appropriate amount of grace.  Not overlooking sin, but not stamping out hope either.  The struggles of the middle parts of life seems to be where grace is being grown, if we'll let it.  It's so easy to judge others and congratulate yourself for doing it better (especially when you haven't yet).  Having kids certainly punches you in the gut some days.  But it seems to be for good reason.  Growing grace is hard.

Most everything feels better in the morning so maybe a good night's sleep is all you need to stay on the brighter side of things.  Or maybe you just need to write it down like I do to get the weight of it all off your shoulders.  Whatever you need to do, just be sure and do it.  And know that you're not alone. :)

Monday, August 28, 2017

A Great Day for {Frisbee} Golf

We celebrated Mr. Butler's birthday this weekend with some frisbee golf at a local park we hadn't tried out yet.  It sounds goofy at first, but it the sport really is a low key way to spend time together and get some exercise in as well.  The Racecar had a great time sleeping most of the morning. 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Everyday Family Chore System: An Everyday Homemaking Review

Everyday Homemaking
The hardest part of my job as a mom/teacher/wife/house manager is keeping up with household chores.  I know they are necessary, but in my heart they aren't nearly as important (or fun!) as the relationship and educational stuff.  The cleaning and ordering of a house with three kids just goes on forever which makes me even less motivated to be a slave to the to-do list. So, chores.  Not my strong suit.  My latest product to review, The Everyday Family Chore System from Everyday Homemaking, is something I needed to review.  My kids are good helpers, but they certainly weren't better than the (mediocre) example I set for them.  After the race car was born, I have had a lot to recover from and needed a lot of help to do it.  This short ebook really set me straight on my goals for household management and the tools to get there! 

The Everyday FAMILY Chore System
Part One, Laying a Foundation, discusses child training in general and how important it is to everyone's success.  Part Two, Implementing the Plan, breaks down how you go about teaching skills and motivating attitudes.  Part Three, The Actual Chore System, is filled with printable cards and a discussion of how the system can work for you.
The author, Vicki Bentley, begins by sharing a story about when she had to leave her husband and children at home for several days while she cared for a sick parent.  Most of us would expect things to fall apart pretty quickly and come home to a mess, but her kids had been trained so well in the daily tasks of caring for a household that they simply continued on as normal.  The oldest sibling knew very well what mom would expect and she guided in her absence.  When I read that all I could think of was "I want that!"  My children are 6, 4 and 4 months old.  As I continued reading, I grew in confidence that it wasn't too late for this ship to change directions!  

Teaching kids to do a job and do it well is sometimes so overwhelming and seems much easier to just do it yourself.  What this book highlights is the goal of producing an adult who is proficient in household skills AND working myself out of a job as a mother/teacher.  To that end, there are age appropriate jobs, a box full of How-to-do-it cards, zone approaches, and a few different ways of assigning jobs.  There isn't one hard and fast way of doing it, but several options suggested depending on your household needs.  We have begun implementing the card box and job assignments in conjunction with the new school year beginning.  The methods are very useful and versatile.  The availability of all the printables pushed me further into organization than I would naturally go. As with most things, anything new is exciting and motivating to J, at least for a while.  He has certainly thrived with more responsibility the last few weeks and that makes me hopeful for more success down the road. 

However, as good as all these things are, the greatest impact from this book originated from the beginning discussions about the heart of the matter.  One of our main purposes in homeschooling is guide our children intentionally so that their hearts and minds are equipped to serve God and serve others with success, self-discipline and joy.  This Everyday Family Chore System is a way to keep their hearts focused on Him instead of getting burdened down with tasks that will be necessary their entire life.  How many fights in your house result from someone dragging their feet or all out refusal to complete a task?  Too many in our household I'm afraid. I'm happy to say we're working on changing that!

If you would like to get this handy book or one of the other books Everyday Homemaking offers, my readers can get 10% off until September 5th using the code TOS10books. 

Keep Up With Everyday Homemaking on Social Media: 

Everyday Cooking and Chores Systems for your Family {Everyday Homemaking Reviews}

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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Special Day Sickness: Do You Have It?

The last couple of weeks my news feed has been packed with "Back to School" photos and parents scrambling to make the appropriate preparations.  The new normal of cute pictures and mountains of school supplies is regularly being discussed and rehashed.  What struck me most recently was the anguish many parents (moms) feel about making the last days of summer special.  Full disclosure, I, like my mother before me, feel compelled to make anything from presents to field trips extra special just because.  Things like holidays, milestones and anything iconic, it is not only fun to document, but it almost feels like you're a bad parent if you don't.  It is a bizarre reality we have with social media giving us constant information about how others are living, but even that is filtered usually to show only the best.  Honestly, no wonder mental illness is such a burden in this country.

As I was thinking about the moms who feel like a failure or a 'bad mom' if they didn't have time to go above and beyond this time around, I couldn't stop this thought:

Your mundane is so much more important than the special.

Like the characterized parent who is gone 90% of the time, but comes around once in a blue moon with an over the top present or something.  That present might be cool in the moment, but that special thing is pretty insignificant to that child when they think about all the days that parent is absent.

Mundane: A baby sleeping, a little girl coloring on the floor, a boy playing with a ball and glove, and my cluttered work space.  It's probably not going to be a memorable day, but the safety, security and love that (I hope) is present here will mean much more.

Or the 80/20 rule.  Whatever you do/eat/think about 80% of the time is far more important than the less than perfect 20%.  Life isn't those extra special moments 80% of the time.  It's full of grocery store trips, clean towels, struggling with self-control and learning what to do with those hurt feelings.  A good parent is built in these mundane activities that will happen over and over again.  Of course, we all remember that one birthday or 3rd grade program that was extra special because of something  someone did for us, but without all of those mundane building blocks, the special thing might be pretty empty.

So, frenzied mom, are you meeting the physical needs of your children, teaching them to obey God and showering them with hugs, kisses and encouragement? Then know you are a good parent and let the special moments come and go as they wish.  I love social media for many reasons, but to live a mentally healthy life with it, we need safe guards and that includes not believing lies.  Goodness is not determined in the extra special (that's just icing most of the time).

Your mundane is so much more important than the special.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Butler Weekly News

My little race car is 4 months old this week and I'm trying to act like a mother of three who isn't several months behind on her life.  He's doing well and we are so thankful for his sweet smiles and his strength.  

A couple of weekends ago, my brother put on a mini Singing School for our congregation and J had a great time.  I am certainly biased, but those piano lessons sure do help song leaders!

Pocket Poetry

Not actually, but the feeling.
Brick walls in place of the exits.
Outnumbered.  Over-touched.  Crowded  and out of space.
And it is Wednesday.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

In the Reign of Terror: An Heirloom Audio Production Review

Heirloom Audio Productions

Our technological advances of the day are pretty amazing and have much to be celebrated.  However, they come with a price tag that really takes it's toll on our imaginations and educational experiences.  When looking at a screen is the only way our brains are used to taking in information,  we are really hindering the growth possibilities of our brain.  My latest review is something we can use to pull our brains out of screen mode and let exercise our imagination muscles!  We're talking about the latest Audio Adventure In the Reign of Terror from Heirloom Audio Productions.   

In the Reign of Terror

G.A. Henty was a large man who lived an adventurous life complete with boxing, yacht racing and being a war correspondent.  More importantly for us, he was a master storyteller who wrote 122 books in all that were eventually required reading in many English schools.  We received the latest story from Heirloom's series,  “The Extraordinary Adventures of G.A. Henty,” a 2-disc audio set of In the Reign of Terror with access to Heirloom Audio's new Live the Adventure Club.   It takes place in the midst of the French Revolution and, like all of the adventures, explores history in a unique and engaging way.  That is one of those periods of history that I think I spaced out on a little mostly because it was just so violent and harsh. These audio adventures, akin to the early days of radio dramas, do a beautiful job of bringing the humanity to light and highlighting good people doing good in the midst of very difficult and dark times.  Without a screen to lead you, you are left to explore these events with your ears and your imagination.  That's a wonderful day at school, if you ask me!

Some familiar faces are featured in this Audio Adventure!

This was our first time to listen to one of these adventures and I was a little hesitant because of the age of my children (6 and 4), especially with the title being In the Reign of TERROR!  Still, the lack of pictures or video seems to allow your brain to bring the extreme emotions to your level of understanding, making it more palatable in many cases.  Another great thing Heirloom has done is provide some fantastic bonus material in through their Live the Adventure Club including a detailed Study Guide and Discussion Starter (over 50 pages worth), a Soundtrack, Posters, a downloadable Script, and the original In the Reign of Terror ebook with a few fun graphics.

If you used only the audio story and none of the extras, you will find a great form of family entertainment.  When you incorporate things like the Study Guide and aligning it with other historical curriculum, you have a wonderful resource for feeding the fire of learning!

There are several other stories in this series that may interest you as well.  To find out more about those and any new ones in the future, follow Heirloom Audio on social media:

Instagram: @HeirloomAudioOfficial

Read what others had to say about In the Reign of Terror:

In the Reign of Terror {Heirloom Audio Productions Reviews}
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