Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Familyman's Review

I can't believe how quickly this year is going. We're nearing the end of October. Soon it will be Thanksgiving season. And then the Christmas festivities begin. In fact, I purchased several Christmas gifts this past week since I found some really great deals. The kids were singing Christmas songs this morning and were already talking about our big cookie-baking day. It's easy to get caught up in the the joy of the season. The music, the decorations, the treats, the time spent with family, the presents--it's an exciting time. But while there are many things to love about the holiday, we always want to remember the true meaning of Christmas. We want to teach our kids that the reason we give gifts is because God gave His greatest gift to us when He sent His Son to Earth. The reason we sing those beautiful songs is to remember the miracle of Jesus coming as a baby, born of a virgin. Yes, we enjoy snowmen and candy canes, but we make sure to keep the focus of Christmas on Christ.

We always appreciate when we find books and other resources that reinforce the true meaning of Christmas, just like these stories from The Familyman. We incorporate audio books into our schooling quite often, so it was a special treat to receive the Digital Downloads version of The Familyman's Christmas Treasury - Audio Collection. This set, written by Todd Wilson (and read by master storyteller Jim Hodges), contains 6 books that not only teach the true meaning of Christmas, but also provide many hours of entertainment. There are also 2 more books in the collection.

Cootie McKay's Nativity
This story takes place in 1956 and is a page out of the author's past. It starts when an elderly lady drives her car directly into the town's nativity set, nearly ruining Christmas for everyone. The people reluctantly depend on an eccentric man, Cootie McKay, to build a new nativity. Along the way, Cootie learns about the Baby in the manger, how He came to pay for our sins, and trusts in Him as his Savior. But what do the people think of his nativity set that was made with broken junk like aluminum cans, fishing lure,s license plates, and typewriter keys?

Captain Chaos and the Manger Blaster
Jason and his sister are playing with the nativity set when he decides that the Christmas story is boring. As a typical 10-year-old boy, he adds a superhero to the story and pretends to blast the manger to bits. After being sent to bed early because of his bad attitude, Jason comes face-to-face with Captain Chaos himself, and learns what the world would be like if there had never been the manger. He learns a valuable lesson and finds new excitement in the Christmas story.

The Stranger
It was Christmas Eve and the members of a small-town church were fearful of The Stranger that had been visiting their homes. Dirty, foul-smelling, homeless--no one wanted this man around. When he knocked at their doors, they hid and prayed that he left them alone. Sam and his family went home that night in a snow storm. They had plans to enjoy the evening, but things start to go wrong. The tree won't work, they lose power, and eventually, the dreaded stranger knocks. The family shows the man pity as they invite him in and share their hot cocoa. By the next morning, they learned the true identity of the Stranger and the importance of loving all men.

The Bishop's Dream
This is a story of the original St. Nicholas who loved orphans--poor, dirty children, clothed in rags. He and his donkey Jonathon went from town to town delivering food, clothing, and love to these little ones. He believed that "helping others brings joy, not only to oneself, but more importantly, to God." The bishop dreams that he travels to the future, where he learns of a big man in a red suit. He's chocked to learn that this man has taken the priority at Christmastime and even more shocked to learn that the man is him. He wakes with the prayer, "It's all about You, not me. Help them to remember that."

Harold Grubbs
Isaac is a little embarrassed when his dad pulls out the ugly red and green Christmas vest that he wears every Sunday in December. It's not until he hears the story behind it though, that he understands the importance of it. When his father was a boy, Harold Grubbs, a cranky old man who disliked children visited their church. Harold sat by himself with a scowl on his face. After many weeks, the man softened and accepted Jesus as his Savior. He was a changed man. He went from being the meanest man in town to the nicest; from hating children, to loving them. From then on, he wore that ugly vest in December.When Isaac's dad grew up and Mr. Grubbs died, he learned why the vest was special and how a nail and straw man reminds us that Jesus still changes people.

Gladys Remembers Christmas
There were two things Gladys hated: Christmas and her name. She was 6 years old when her mother died and her life was forever changed. Christmas was a depressing time as it reminded her that everyone else was happy, while she was not. When she grew up and moved her 90-year-old father into a nursing home, she revisits her childhood home to look for a box that he requested. It was while she was there in the attic that she receives a visit from her deceased mother. The home is transformed back to when she was young. Through this experience, Gladys understands that God loves her more than anyone else and why He allowed her mother to die. She gains a new love for Christmas and her name.

The Secret of the Snow Village
Katherine is staying at her grandmother's house with her whole family. She spends time by herself staring and the elaborate Christmas village scene, longing to be a part of it. That night, she's awakened by the sound of a bell chiming and kids giggling. She's drawn to the sounds and follows them, letting her curiosity guide her. As she walks out the front door of the house, she's surprised to see so many people on the streets. They all seemed to be walking in the same direction, following the sound of the bell. She gets caught up in the crowd and find herself by a Baby in a manger and discovers what she's been looking for all along. 

It's Called Christmas
What might the future look like?  Hover chairs, hydrated lasagna, and life without Christmas? This letter is written from the future when one boy is told, "It's called Christmas," from a man at the mall. When he can find no information from his parents, history teacher, or any historical documents and books, he becomes determined to learn why the word has been erased. He heads back to find the man and through a series of events, learns that Christmas is "not so much about what it is, but Who it's about."      
We have loved listening to these stories! They are all so different, yet all point back to the true meaning of Christmas. Each story puts the focus on Jesus, while bringing in different aspects of the holiday. I started the first book as the kids were playing with Legos. They were immediately absorbed in the story. When it ended, they begged for another. They sat for hours building with bricks and enjoying the quality books and story-reading. We all enjoyed them so much in fact that we've listened to them twice already. This Christmas stories collection is perfect for any family and would make a wonderful gift. These are stories that we will cherish for many years. 

You can connect with The Familyman on the following social media sites:

If you'd like to read more reviews of this collection from other homeschoolers, please visit the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

Crew Disclaimer
Pin It

Friday, October 14, 2016

Things That Make Me Smile 9/2/16

Jake (10½), Alyssa (8), Zac (6½), Tyler (4), Nicholas (1½)

1. Me: "Nobody said inventing was a clean profession."
Jake: "That's why we almost always have Legos out."

2. Jake: "I like the smell of baby."

3. Leighton, asking a review question: "What's another word for change?" (metamorphosis)
A child in our class at church: "Money!"

4. Round Up Sunday at church

5. Alyssa, making card houses: "Whoa! Look at Dad's!"
Me: "Your dad is good at everything."
Tyler, incredulously: "Mostly good at everything."

6. Zac: "I need to say 'good night' again and give you one more kiss and hug 'cause you're beautiful."

7. Jake, cleaning the bedroom: "Everyone slowed way down once you walked out."
Me: "Yeah, that always happens. Why is that?"
Jake: "Because you're like the propeller that keeps us going."


9. Jake: "Tyler, don't touch that!"
Tyler: "Why? I won't get electricicuted."

10. Jake: "I don't understand how a P can be silent, like in pterodactyl. I mean, you take a perfectly good P and make it silent. That doesn't even make sense." 

What made you Smile this week?

Pin It

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


As a homeschooling mom of 5, my life is busy. Days are filled with cooking, cleaning, schooling, caring for my little ones, along with various other responsibilities, so I appreciate when I can review a product that makes my life easier. And MyFreezEasy is designed to do just that--make my life easier.

I've been using the premium annual Freezer Meal Plan Membership to get meals in the freezer for those too-busy-to cook days. I've always been one to make freezer meals--whether it's doubling what I'm making for dinner or preparing recipes specifically to freeze--but I've never followed a plan that does all the legwork for me. This plan by Erin Chase & $5 Dinners offers a collection of quick-prep freezer meals that will "help ease the pain and stress of getting a delicious, wholesome dinner on the table."    

Using this plan, you can get 10 meals (2 meals each of 5 recipes) in your freezer in 1 hour. There are 8 meal plans available:
  • Traditional
  • Gluten-Free
  • Slow Cooker
  • Clean Eats
  • 20 Meals
  • All Chicken
  • All Ground Beef
  • All Pork Chops
All you have to do is choose a plan and print off your recipes. All the necessary information (ingredients, assembly directions, freezing & thawing tips, cooking directions, dairy-free and gluten-free modifications, side suggestions) along with a shopping list and other tips are written out for you. If you don't want to take advantage of the ease of the pre-chosen plans, there is even an option to build your own plan using the collection of recipes. Also, the default amounts are written for four servings, but can be changed to feed 2, 6, or 8.

This month, I opted to build my own plan in order to get a feel for multiple types of meals and cooking processes.

  • Lazy Lasagna Bake -- ground beef meal cooked in the oven
  • Sloppy Joe Sandwiches -- ground beef meal cooked on the stove
  • Spanish Rice Skillet -- ground beef meal cooked on the stove
  • Honey Mustard Shredded Chicken -- chicken meal cooked in the slow cooker
  • Chicken Cacciatore -- chicken meal cooked in the slow cooker
Since there is much information included with each recipe, there are many pages that will print. I chose to print just the actual recipe pages. I found that the grocery list pages didn't help me anyway, as I always have many of the listed ingredients at home, like spices, condiments, and other pantry staples.

Making the grocery list was more of a hassle than I anticipated. The grocery lists are given on separate pages divided by individual recipes. So, I had to swap back and forth to determine what I needed.  Lasagna--3 lbs. ground beef, sloppy joes--3 lbs. ground beef, spanish rice--3 lbs. ground beef, so a total of 9 lbs. . . . And it was that way for each ingredient. No, it's not difficult, but it is time-consuming, and if we're talking about a system that is designed to save time, it can be frustrating. A program that would combine like-ingredients and allow to print an interactive grocery list would be a huge plus.

The directions are thorough and easy-to-follow. There are a few discrepancies though. For instance, the directions shown in the picture above are for the Spanish Rice Skillet. The ingredients for single meal sections lists 3 cups of white rice, but the cooking directions for single meal says 2 cups of white rice. Another example is for the Sloppy Joes, the amounts are given for a serving of 6, yet the ingredient list shows only 4 sandwich buns are needed.

I am a cook-from-scratch girl and love to be in the kitchen. One of my favorite things about cooking is making a recipe my own, not necessarily following directions or amounts, but adding as I see fit. That aside, I kept to the recipes exactly in order to review this plan. My family liked the meals ok, but unfortunately we found them a little bland. The sauce for the chicken cacciatore tasted practically like plain tomato sauce. Not bad, but didn't give us that wow factor. Next time, I will change ingredients and add spices to our liking, like normal. That's not to say anything was wrong with the recipes themselves, but that they just weren't perfect for our family.   

Over all, I think this program has great potential. So much work has been done to gather recipes, organize them, and make it easy to purchase the ingredients and prepare the meals. The concept is wonderful and can be adapted to fit any and all needs. With a few tweaks, MyFreezEasy could be the perfect freezer meal program.

You can connect with MyFreezEasy on the following social media sites:

If you'd like to see how this membership worked in other homeschooling families, please read the reviews on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

Crew Disclaimer
Pin It

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Things That Make Me Smile 8/26/16

Jake (10½), Alyssa (8), Zac (6½), Tyler (4), Nicholas (1½)


1. Tyler, in the van: "Mama, how fast are we going?"
Me: "Forty-five miles per hour."
Tyler: "Hmm, that's cool. How many is the speed limit?"
Me: "Forty-five miles per hour."
Tyler: "Oh, so we're going the speed limit? Yay!"

2. Alyssa, about Nicholas: "He has the most innocent face ever, but he's so much trouble."

3. Jake, about a tomato fresh off the vine: "I don't think I can't eat it. It's too beautiful." 

4. My son, husband, and grandfather sang together in church.

5. Tyler, the morning after he spent the night at my parents' house: "I wanted to stay with Gramma . . . but not forever."

6. Alyssa, after Nicholas threw a fit about not getting candy: "Do you want an apple? It's nature's candy."

7. Tyler: "My eye smells like steam."

8. The kids helped me skin 1 1/2 bushels of tomatoes and can them.

9. Tyler: "Mama, I think I need some lipstick. My lip hurts right here."

10. Alyssa: "I wish we lived in Wisconsin."
Me: "Wisconsin? Why?"
Alyssa: "So I could be around cheese all the time! Wisconsin is known for cheese. Michigan is just known for cars."
Jake: "What's our family known for?"
Me: "Legos!"
Zac: "And love."

What me you Smile this week?

Pin It

Friday, October 7, 2016

Perfect Reading, Beautiful Handwriting Review

For the past 13 years, I haven't had to fill out many forms. Oh, it's not that we haven't needed to. I mean, we bought a house, had 5 kids, purchased vehicles, and experienced other times when paperwork needed to be filled out. You see, my husband does the majority of the writing. It's not that my handwriting is poor, but that my husband's can be nearly perfect. In fact, in college, our friends used to tease him that his writing looked as if he printed it directly from the computer with a Comic Sans font. It's unusual for men to write so clearly. And it's not that it just magically came naturally to him. He worked to make his handwriting better.

I've noticed recently that my own handwriting seems to be getting sloppier. Maybe it's because I rarely use an instrument to write across a page anymore, but instead rely so much on typing on a computer (hey, my WPM has improved, ha). Or maybe it's because I don't have to write neatly. Or is it because I'm just not taking my time to write properly? Whatever the reason, I've decided I want my handwriting to look nicer. So when we had the opportunity to use a product from Everyday Education, LLC, I chose  the digital version of  Perfect Reading, Beautiful Handwriting. For myself.     

Perfect Reading, Beautiful Handwriting is a simple program that teaches a child step-by-step how to read and write well. The 60 lessons teach phonics-based reading and italic handwriting. It's not solely for young children starting school though. There are 4 different ways to use this book.

  • To teach young children to read and write.
  • To teach children with reading difficulties to read effectively.
  • To teach children to have fast, legible, attractive handwriting.
  • To teach yourself to have beautiful handwriting. 
As I mentioned, I chose to use this myself. After I downloaded the book and started to scroll the pages, I thought, "Oh, man, what did I get myself into?" I took a calligraphy class in 6th grade and struggled through it. Since I have a type A personality and therefore don't enjoy doing things that I'm not good at, I have stayed away from calligraphy ever. Sad, but true. Perfect Reading, Beautiful Handwriting teaches italic writing, a form of calligraphy. I was concerned.
The letters in italic writing are formed much differently than typical manuscript writing. Instead of making the letters round and curved, they are more jagged and asymmetrical. After 34 years of knowing that you write an O as a perfect circle, it seemed wrong to write it like an oval. The author describes why italic is a better choice though. "It is the easiest style to learn, the fastest to write, extremely legible, and beautiful to look at." She goes on to explain that the typical style of printing that children are taught now is very difficult to write and is discouraging because of it. It's more natural to write those O as ovals, and will therefore encourage a sense of self-confidence in the child and promote good writing.

The book suggests starting at Chapter 6: Handwriting Practice for those choosing to simply improve their writing and not needing the reading instruction. The first 5 chapters teach letter formation and reading, along with handwriting practice. Since the italic style of writing is very different from what I am used to, I figured it would be best to choose some practice pages from the beginning of the book, in order to get a grasp of the proper formation. I felt like my 4-year-old working on a handwriting page, ha. Trace. Write. Trace. Write. Trace. Write.

It was definitely strange starting out, trying to change my brain into making my hand form the letters differently. I haven't practiced nearly enough, but, as with all things, it gets easier over time. I appreciate how the author states that everyone will have his own style of italic. Manuscript printing gives no margin for difference, so this acceptance of variables is nice. She explains some of the differences like upright versus slanted, joined compared to separated letters, wide as opposed to narrow letters, edged pen in comparison to a regular pen, and the difference of adding serifs. Of course, there are example of each style along with practice pages, making it easy to duplicate.

Perfect Reading, Beauitful Handwriting is easy-to-follow and written in a conversational way. I plan to continue working through the pages myself and also switch to using this with my children. I already see characteristics of this style in their writing and have been trying to correct it. Now I realize that I may just need to change my own thinking, instead of my kids' writing.  


You can connect with Janice Campbell and Everyday Education, LLC on the following social media sites:

If you'd like to read more reviews of this book or of one of the other resources used by some of my crewmates, please visit the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

Crew Disclaimer
Pin It

Thursday, October 6, 2016

If You Were Me Books

This review is brought to you by Carole P. Roman and

Reading is a huge part of our lives. With literature being the foundation of our schooling, I depend on living books for the majority of our learning. Textbooks have their place, I suppose, but a book that puts you in the story and teaches without feeling like work is much preferred in our home. My kids enjoy history especially in this manner. We were able to study 4 different time periods and locations with the following books:

As soon as the books came, the kids were excited. They enjoy the other If You Were Me books by Carole P. Roman that we own, and they expected these to be the same. They are similar in that the books are written in second person format. Each book places you, the reader, in that location during that time period. What we didn't expect was that these book, which are part of the Introduction to Civilizations set, are so much more in depth. The books are substantially longer and contain much more information.

If You Were Me and Lived in...Ancient Greece takes you back to 350 B.C.. It teaches where the country is located and its capital and other cities. It describes that Greece is "the Cradle of Western Civilization" because it created the foundation for many countries for their government systems, literature, and philosophy. It talks about the Ancient Greeks' clothing, like a chiton, peplos, and toga. Almost every page spread talks about a Greek god, describing their names, appearance, and traits.

If You Were Me and Lived in...Renaissance Italy focuses around the year 1483 in Tuscany. Popular names were Lorenzo and Cosimo for boys and Dolce and Lisabetta for girls. This was an important period of rebirth and inspired many famous artists, like Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Donatello. Because Florence was the birthplace of the new movement and became known as "The Athens of the Middle Ages." The book gives a good understanding of how the people lived with a detailed drawing of a typical house and explanation. Common seasonings during that time were cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, saffron and pepper, along with oranges and lemons. It was a time of sporting events, festivals, and dances.  

If You Were Me and Lived in...Elizabethan England describes life in 1578 during the reign of Elizabeth I. This was the golden age for art and literature and saw an increase in exploration. The narrow, cobblestone streets were filthy as people threw dirt, garbage, and waste out the windows. Houses were half-timbered and made of wattle and daub and the floors were covered in straw. Middle class people ate mutton, sausage, cheese, stew, and bread. No one drank water, but chose ciders and ales instead. The clothing consisted of many layers, and laws stated what color each class of people could wear. The religion was determined by whomever was on the throne.

If You Were Me and Lived in...the Middle Ages focuses on 1072 in a small town in London, England. This book, at nearly 100 pages, is double the length of each of the other books. so there's a ton of information. It talks about names, like Geoffrey, Roul, Melisende, and Aalis, and explains how they determined surnames. It's written as if the reader is the daughter of a knight. It describes life in a castle with wealth, servants, a large family. It mentions the Crusades, the importance of the church, the classes of society and their occupations and how they lived.

I used these books as read-alouds with the kids. We spent days cuddling together on the couch, traveling back in time reading these stories. We talked about the pictures and compared to how differently people lived back then. The books contain a brief overview of each period and leave it open for further study. We spent much time discussing the information. The author, Carole P. Roman, offers many free printables and worksheets to accompany the books and lists other resources, as well. We haven't started the Middle Ages book yet, as I know that one we can easily spend weeks working through with all the details included.   

The back of each book contains a glossary of people, places, and things that are pertinent to that time and place. Each one also has a section about important or famous people and a description for each. These resources can be used as a spring board for further study.

Here's what my kids had to say about the books:

"I liked learning how people used to live."

"I liked learning what foods they ate and what they did. I liked learning their names."

"It was cool seeing how they dressed."

We learned some interesting bits of information like where the phrase "it's raining cats and dogs" originated, who once considered  tomatoes poisonous, that chicken cost a penny at one point, and what was called "white gold." If you're looking for a way to teach your children about time periods in a fun, easy manner, these books will meet that need.

You can connect with Carole P. Roman on the following social media sites:

If you'd like to read more reviews of these books or of some of the other titles offered, please visit the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

Crew Disclaimer
Pin It

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Things That Make Me Smile 8/19/16

Jake (10½), Alyssa (8), Zac (6½), Tyler (4), Nicholas (1½)

This week we baked 8 batches of zucchini bread, Tyler cracked first egg, and we had many reasons to Smile. 

1. Jake was cleaning up toys, but leaving some sitting on the floor, because he was "being like Boaz and leaving extras for Ruth (aka his siblings) to glean."

2. Watching the kids act out I Love Lucy's "Vitameatavegamin" episode. 

3. Tyler: "Mama, may I have an apple, please?"
Me: "Yes. A red one or a green one?"
Tyler: "A red one. Actually, a green one because I'm wearing a green shirt."


5. Jake: "Are you older than Legos?"
Me: "What?! Nooo."
Jake, shocked: "Really? Oh."

6. Tyler, watching track and field during the Olympics: "Mom, how come the people can cut?" (cut in line)

7. Zac, before tasting my marbled zucchini bread: "I know it's good. If you make it, it's always good." 


9. Me: "You're so adorable."
Tyler: "I'm not horrible!"

10. Alyssa, watching the Olympics: "I didn't know Gingerbread was a country!" (GBR=Great Britain.)

11. Tyler: "Where are we going on vacation?"
Me: "Tennessee"
Tyler: "Tennessee? I love that world!"

What made you Smile this week?

Pin It