Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Westfield Studios ~ Biology 101 ~ A Review

There's something wonderful about reviewing a product you can wholeheartedly endorse. I was tickled to receive, Biology 101: Biology According to the Days of Creation, from Westfield Studios. If you have never heard of The 101 Series, you are in for a real treat. Westfield Studies is owned and operated by the homeschooling husband and wife team, Wes and Tammy Olson. In 2003, Tammy could not locate a program she was excited to use with her children, so her husband decided he'd make it for her! Wes Olson had "...15 years of corporate film production experience, and his natural love of science," so The 101 Series was born.

Designed specifically for the homeschool family, this four DVD set comes with a 114-page PDF Guidebook that helps you use and flesh out this study, as well as a 12-page PDF Course Accreditation Program. (More on those two later in the review.) In the study, you will find 11 segments that are divided into 27 individual weeks of study. With all the details done, let's get into Biology 101!

Based upon the six days of creation, we begin at the beginning of the third day, after the first two days of "setting the scene" or getting the "backdrop" ready for living creatures in Genesis 1:11-13:

And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.

Biology comes from two Greek roots, bio for life and logos for study. (Logos has other meanings, and the wiki on the word is very fascinating for word geeks like me.) Life is hard to define. He addresses this right at the beginning in the Introduction. Most of us don't think about the definition of the word life. We just live it. We often take it for granted--at least I know I do. It is really an indescribable, indistinguishable something that keeps us all alive - breathing, making and expending energy, developing, and reproducing. I'd say scripture is clear about the Giver of life. As Job 12:10 so eloquently states, In whose hand is the life of every living thing, And the breath of all mankind? God is the source of all life, and everything your family learns in Biology 101 flows from there.

In the Introduction, Wes Olson goes over the whole taxonomy (or laws of classifiying) system. I have always been fascinated with this! When our children were younger, we memorized the seven classes that he defines in the series: Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species. To give you an example of how this is used, he classifies an animal.

Source: Wiki
Kingdom: Animalia (all animals from insects to zebras are in this kingdom)
Phylum: Chordata (the animal has a backbone)
Class: Aves (birds)
Order: Passeriformes (birds that perch)
Family: Muscicapidae (birds that catch flies) 
Genus: Turdus (brown thrush)
Species: Migratorius (migrates)

So the Turdus Migratorius is what we commonly call a Robin. I find classification to be absolutely fascinating! He delves right into this in solid detail. 

The 37 minute Third Day lesson focus is, of course, the plants and vegetation that God brought forth on the third day. The first section is divided into Vascular Plants and Non-Vascular Plants. This is the breakdown of this section of the video:
Some of the things our family learned from this lesson were totally fascinating! Here are just a few:

* Vascular plants take in water and nutrients through what we'd call tubes or windpipes of sorts. Many of you have taken a stalk of celery with a fresh cut at the bottom, and placed it in a glass of water with colored dye. Wait a few hours and you will see the celery turn that color. These are the "tracheas" of the plants at work. A tulip is a good example of this. Moss is a good example of a non-vascular plant because it takes it moisture from the surface of the plant. 

* Most of us have heard the terms stamen and stigma, but do you ever remember how to tell which is the male or female? He gave the simplest way that I highlighted already: men = male and ma = female! 

* Did you know that algae played a role in the development of dynamite? That was highly fascinating and you will find the answer to that in this lesson!

* Did you know that without grasses, the world wouldn't survive? Wheat, oats, barley, sugar cane, corn, and rice are all considered grasses. Half the world's population relies on rice for a main staple. So even if you are a paleo enthusiast, all the meat you eat has to eat the grasses. It is quite a cycle!

* Did you know that trees are the oldest living things in the world? That the oldest tree still living is around 4,500 years old and was growing during the time the pyramids were being built and Abraham left his home in obedience to God? 

These are a *tiny* number of the many wonderful facts that you learn along with the definitions and photos or videos of whatever he's discussing. The facts systematically build upon each other and you end up with a very comprehensive understanding of the subject for each lesson.

The remaining lessons are: 

Aquatics (40 minutes)
Avian (44 minutes)
Land Animals Part 1 (22 minutes)
Land Animals Part 2 (28 minutes)
Mankind Part 1 (27 minutes)
Mankind Part 2 (24 minutes)
Genetics (40 minutes) 

These are broken into segments and the Course Accreditation Book explains how to do this.

The Guidebook (sample) is a fantastic resource. The videos provide the meat, and the potatoes and veggies are found in the Guidebook. You will find specific information on the lesson directly from the film, side bar trivia, commentary, biographical information, source footnotes, discussion questions, assignments, field trip suggestions, as well as Bible study suggestions on the topic here.

Some of the quiz questions for the lesson include:

* Chlorophyll is the chemical responsible for ______________?
* Why is the stamen considered the male part?
* The division name of vascular plants is ______________?
* Penicillin is an antibiotic made from _________________?

Some of the Discussion Questions include: 

* How is eating a plant the same or different than eating an animal?
* What did Jesus believe about creation and the Bible? Why is it important to believe what He believed?
* How do we know the Bible is a reliable document?
* God made all vegetation on the day before He made the sun. How could the plants have survived this?
* Discuss a few of your favorite ways plants are talked about in the Bible.

The Course Accreditation Booklet (sample) shows you how to use the Biology 101 course as a base and to build from there. Suggestions in this PDF include:

Creating a Biology 101 Notebook, Utilizing Discussion Questions, Activities, Quizzes, Labs, Reports, Field Trips, Essay Suggestions, and much more. This 12-page booklet can flesh out the videos and build upon them for further study and course accreditation.

Other Resources from The 101 Series:

As a family, we have already used Chemistry 101, and are in the midst of using their new Physics 101 too. You might be able to tell that we like The 101 Series! I was excited to read that General Science is in the works for 2017!


Final thoughts:

Biology 101 is easy-to-use, content-rich, and truly a feast for the eyes. The visuals Wes Olsen uses to explain his subject matter are lush and beautiful. This is the visual guide to biology that you've been looking for. Every single one of these courses have produced the results I wanted - children interested and engaged in the subject matter!

Want to follow them on social media? You can find them here: FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.

If you'd like more information from families that used this with their children, click the link below and explore the different reviews of all three courses!

Physics, Chemistry & Biology 101 {The 101 Series}

Crew Disclaimer

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Family Verses

So do you have a verse or verses that you consider your "Family Verses"? We do. Slowly, over the years, we have memorized some scripture. Not a lot because I am a lame mom, but I love scripture and it fills me with Christ's peace when we read it or memorize it. It is something every family should do if they claim the name of Christ, but if you are like me, you don't always do what you should be doing.

Recently, we started memorizing verses again, but Colossians 3:12-14 has been our "Family Verse" for as long as I can remember. It is how scripture tells us to be in a family - and really how we should be to all, as those chosen by God. We strive for this, though often fail.

What are verses that mean something to you as a family? 

Do you memorize scripture? 

What are some of your favorites?

Monday, October 24, 2016


So my sister in law got married on Friday. The happiest rest of their lives to them!! 

My children and I spent two days helping get things ready for their big night. Among other things, I helped with the flowers, making boutonnieres and corsages. The wedding had two themes, music and science fiction (and their love for Jesus was shared during the service). :) My husband, Amy's brother, was given the perfect thing to wear - a Star Trek ComBadge! I'd post a photo, but I don't have one. You can see it at the aff link in the name. It is such fun, and all the important men in the wedding had one. The groom wore a commander badge. Since my husband is a tech geek, he wore the engineering badge. 

These were the flowers for the mothers that I made. :) 

I wish them both the joy of Christ, a deep walk with their Savior together,
and much laughter and love in their marriage. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Galations for You - New Reading Material

(Affiliate links included in this post.)

I am starting a new book this week. I just finished reading a fictional account of part of the life of Mary, Queen of Scots, and this week, I will begin a non-fiction book, Galations for You, by Timothy Keller. My friend recommended it, so here I go.

I opened it up to the Introduction, because that often states the heart of the author. This is no exception. 

Part of it reads:

"But in this short letter, Paul outlines the bombshell truth that the gospel is the A to Z of the Christian life. It is not only the way to enter the kingdom; it is the way to live as part of the kingdom. It is the way Christ transforms people, churches and communities.

"We're going to see Paul showing the young Christians in Galatia that their spiritual problem is not only caused by failing to live in obedience to God, but also by relying on obedience to Him. We're going to see him telling them that all they need--all they could ever need--is the gospel of God's unmerited favor to them through Christ's life, death and resurrection. We're going to hear him solving their issues not through telling them to "be better Christians", but by calling them to live out the implications of the gospel.

"We're going to watch Paul challenge them, and us, with the simple truth that the gospel is not just the ABC of Christianity, but the A to Z--that Christians need the gospel just as much as non-Christians."

I am excited to read this. What are you reading right now? What is on your bookshelf that is bringing you encouragement in this life? What have you loved that you have recently read?

Monday, October 03, 2016

Free Magazine and Awesome Homeschool Resource

Hi all! Just a note to say - did you see the new FREE fall issue is out from The Old Schoolhouse Magazine?! It's gorgeous, digital, amazing, and free! :)

I am excited about fall - can you tell? 

What else is new from TOS?

Have you seen SchoolhouseTeachers.com? There are upwards of 300 courses available for students and no per-child fees!

Don't know what ST is?

Read their Scope and Sequence to see just what they offer homeschool families. 

You won't believe. it. :)

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Recipe for Almond Butter Skinny Chocolate

So some of you are trying to lose weight - and so am I! I have done the research on the keto diet and really do believe there is something to it, however it is hard to miss some of the best things I have always loved. I have purchased a few cookbooks to help me with that, and I will share some of those at another time. Today though, I want to share what I concocted for us. I received two delicious jars of  Organic Alive Almond Butter from Living Tree Community Foods, and I decided to put it to good use.

I did cheat one day and made almond butter toast and ate it with a cold glass of milk. Oh my heavens - it was so good. Almond butter is a wholly different flavor from peanut butter, but it is versatile and interchangeable with peanut butter in recipes. It is softer so it will melt faster once made, but the flavor is worth the licking of the fingers that may result. :) The New Lighter Life posted three recipes for skinny chocolate, and I modified the peanut butter one to make this. I had a recipe that I modified that used peanut butter, and this is the Almond Butter Skinny Chocolate recipe:

Almond Butter Skinny Chocolate

1/2 C Coconut Oil (melt if not already in oil form)
1/4 Heaping C cocoa powder
1/2 C Almond Butter
1/4 C Truvia, blended to powder form (I use a second coffee grinder that I keep for this purpose. I don't like gritty chocolate and this smooths that out.)
1 T vanilla - make SURE you include this or it will simply not be the same
1/4 t salt

Mix all together and place in a rectangular pan; freeze. I use the container below that's about eight inches long. You can put them in mini-cupcake tins or double the recipe and pour it into a 9x13 pan. Once frozen, you can easily cut with a knife and leave it, closed, in the freezer. It is quite good right out of the freezer and melts in your mouth.

If you make this, let me know what you think!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

16 Years and yet...

So I had to use math to figure out that I have been homeschooling for 16 years. That seems crazy to me, but when I look at my children, I see that most of them are either adults or very close to being there. I have two graduates, and three in school this September. They will be in 8th, 10th, and 12th. I can't believe I am going to have another senior, and I can't believe I am almost done homeschooling my third child. I simply do NOT know where the time went. It feels as though it flew away so quickly.

I wonder, as most homeschooling mothers wonder, did I do enough? The answer (to me anyway), is probably not, but God is able to do more than we ask or think, and His plans are perfect. I regularly feel like I am not doing enough, but I know that most homeschool mothers think this way. I know that most of us struggle with the time that is given to us - and those of us (like me) that work from home, it is doubly so. I am *so* grateful for my ability to work from home, but it is still hard, and does take its toll. I am not complaining, just being honest.

I have a hard time looking at old photos as I see the changes that have so swiftly taken place. I have become that mom that shares with her younger mom friends, "Love those babies! Enjoy this time! Don't worry about the laundry!" The older I get, the faster it goes. So I resolve to have a good year, but I feel that I don't really know how to do that very well. I am struggling to get it all together even though I have some really awesome curriculum to use this year. I am so blessed with what we have. I wonder if *I* am able. Do you ever wonder that?

I know that God is able. I know that He is able to come along beside me and help me to be who He needs me to be.

"If we must come to Him for the small things and can be assured of His wise provision, how much more can we bring to God the "big" things and be assured that the same wise Father is at work?"

I read that today, from this article. What a powerful message - that we are dependent on God for every single thing - every single day!

This really hit me:

"On the journey through the wilderness from Egypt to the Promised Land, daily dependence on God's provision was the way of life of God's people.

What the Israelites -- about two million men, women, and children continually on the move for forty years -- needed for each day, came that day, and was enough for that day. No Israelite could hoard the leftovers, because as they soon learned, they would be stinking and worm-infested the next day."

I get worried that I won't be enough; that I won't be able to plan in the right way, or do the right work. But maybe it isn't supposed to be planned out every day. Maybe I need to trust that God has us well in hand, all the time, each and every day - just like He has for the last 16 years.

I want to remember that this last year is a gift. That I will never have this time again. I don't want to waste it.

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning."
(James 1:17)

I saw this on Facebook the other day, and saved it. I don't know who created it, but I loved it. I hope it helps you too. God is able. Always.