Monday, February 24, 2014


So this thing called homeschooling is hard some days, isn't it? Man, no one told me!! (Actually, I lived right next door to a lovely friend who did share her life and I did know how hard it was - and yet I decided to do it anyway!) Some hard things are worth doing, aren't they. Well, homeschooling is to me.

I don't pretend that I am an amazing teacher. I have subjects I really LOVE teaching (history and art) and others that are very hard for me (science and math). I struggle with teaching math and I actually understand a lot of algebraic content. Sometimes relating it to one child works one way and with another child it does not compute. Can you identify?

I was just relating to my friend which math programs I am using and I found, to my amusement, that I am using SIX different programs for four children. 

I am using each of these with different children and as of THIS writing, all are working in the way I need them to be. Each child is using at least two different programs and they are hitting different areas that need work. This is a little bit crazy, but I am determined to get math under control this year. Some of my kids really struggle with math and others are just not particularly motivated. I get that. I was not a very motivated student myself so I can identify with that. That is where, "Being the MOM," comes into play. Math is hard to get motivated to do so we are doing a lot of it to get us motivated. Makes perfect circular sense, right? :D

No one knows that we are doing an art project at co-op on Wednesday, but I am pretty excited about it. We are going to be learning about Edvard Munch and his painting, The Scream. We will also be reproducing our own versions of it with chalk pastels.

I like to spend a lot of time reading about the artists we study when we discuss their artwork. Edvard Munch was not a happy guy. So many artists were so mentally tortured in one way or another and that is such a sad thing to me. Now I don't think of The Scream in the same way I think of Rembrandt's work as I am entirely partial to particular time periods, but I think it is important to study different art periods and work even if I don't love them. I am no longer surprised though, that so many of the artists were unhappy. It is too frequent to be overlooked. It is also sad to me when the artist's religious parent seemed to show none of the true grace of God towards his child.

Munch wrote, "My father was temperamentally nervous and obsessively religious—to the point of psychoneurosis. From him I inherited the seeds of madness. The angels of fear, sorrow, and death stood by my side since the day I was born." (Wiki)

What a truly horrible thing - that faith in the Savior of the world, the glorious King of Kings, would be translated to him in that way. It keeps me mindful that I focus on that which is true from Scripture--and not add man's laws or rules. We can do nothing to make ourselves right with God! As Romans 5:8 states, "...but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." We were dead in our sin and Christ died for us. That's what studying art does for you - gets you going on all sorts of tangents. Some of them may change your life.

Have a blessed week.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Winter by any other name...

For those of you under many feet of snow, here is hope for you! Spring is coming! Winter hasn't been winter here so my winter garden has gone crazy. These were taken today:

With nothing on the trees yet except a flower here and there, this color brightens the whole yard. It makes me happy!

We celebrated birthdays this week and last. Like some of you, I have a Valentine baby. We don't celebrate Valentine's Day because of it, but my Dad sent me a sweet card and a Starbucks fun card! 

Thanks, Dad!

We took a short trip on one of the birthdays to our favorite local plant nursery, High Hand. More color--and glorious color at that (and my precious birthday daughter too)!

We also had a lovely walk in a neighboring area this week. Some of the area was burned last year, but that didn't stop the kids from exploring!

I appreciate seeing the green growing at the base of the tree. Beauty from ashes. :)

I particularly liked this photo.

Do you go exploring with your kids outside? We don't do it enough, but I am trying to change that. There is so much to see in our world! Rich beauty and color--and the time is fleeting. :)

Enjoy your week!

Monday, February 10, 2014

BiblioPlan, Year One: Ancients - My Review

This is a long time in coming, but here it is!

BiblioPlan, Year One: Ancients, Ancient and Biblical History from Creation to the Fall of Rome 
Julia and Rob Nalle 
BiblioPlan for Families 

Biblioplan, Year One: Ancients, Ancient and Biblical History from Creation to the Fall of Rome, is one of the most comprehensive and interesting Christian-focused history curricula available for the homeschool community. BiblioPlan, Year One, has every component you could possibly wish for in a history curriculum and then some you might not have thought of!

The BiblioPlan Family Guide for Ancient History is the framework to the whole the program. It gives parents detailed information on how to use it in its most thorough way—and how to integrate the many options and choices you have to work with. This is the book that has detailed reading lists, directions, explanations for use, schedules, mapwork suggestions, other history resource books (with page numbers), writing ideas, and hands-on activity suggestions. This is a highly valuable book and is truly the key to the whole of the program. The reading lists are one of the best aspects of this book. Broken down into age/grade range, the literature selections are detailed and complete. You will find reading lists for grades K-2, 3-5, 5-8, 7-8, high school, family read-alouds, movie suggestions, hands-on activity books, audio resources, general books on the time period, and other online resources. If there are any possible concerns with a title, they are kindly noted. A hardcopy is $42.95, and the e-book version is $32.95. It is entirely usable as an ebook.

While the BiblioPlan Family Guide gives detailed page suggestions for each weekly topic from other homeschool-friendly history books, the program is best complemented when paired with The BiblioPlan Companion, Year One: A Text for Ancient History. This 354-page softcover resource is your go-to book for the stories behind all those history dates. It is hard to explain what is covered in each lengthy lesson because they are so thorough. Blending the best of secular ancient history and biblical history, your family will not only read about the prophets and Kings of Israel, but you will also come to understand Israel’s place in the history of the ancients. Do you know the tie in between the Assyrians and the Samaritans? You will find that out in the Companion! This is just one example of the many you will discover when you dive into this blended history resource. It brings to life the work of God and helps us place His people and events in their proper setting for better understanding, and growth in faith! This is a comprehensive work that covers, as noted, Creation to the Fall of Rome, in 34 meaty chapters. To see several of the chapters of the Companion, you will definitely want to download the sample for Ancients. The hardcopy is $59.95, and the e-book version is $29.95. This book has many full color photos and maps that are likely to be lost on a hand-held reading device. If you are considering this resource for your homeschool, I recommend that you spend the extra $30 and buy the hardcopy.

The third “must have” component is BiblioPlan’s Family Discussion Guide. It is the very best way to see if your children have gleaned what they should have from their history lesson. With detailed questions and discussion topics, along with the answers included for mom and dad, you will talk about:

Discuss civilization’s progress from Stone Age to Bronze Age. Explain that as the sciences of mining and metallurgy advanced, technology and civilization advanced along with them. Make sure your students know that bronze is an alloy of copper and tin, and that bronze weapons were superior to stone ones. Also, make sure your students know that iron weapons were superior to bronze ones.

* Discuss how these advantages might have played out in battle—for example, how an iron sword might have shattered a bronze one. Remind your students that Israel’s King Saul offered David rare iron armor when David faced Goliath.

* Make sure your students understand that the Mycenaeans were the first great culture on the Greek peninsula—in other words, the first Greeks—and their language and heritage were different than the Minoans’.

Aren’t those wonderfully thorough? If you are reading the chapter and are not sure what the most important aspects are to the many sections you are learning from, this book helps immensely. This softcover book has a one to two page spread of questions for each chapter. I highly recommend this resource. The hardcopy is $11.95, and the ebook is $8.95.

So what if you are looking for more than oral or group discussion? BiblioPlan’s Cool History resources will answer that! There are Cool History books or ebooks for each developmental level: Littles (grades K-2), Middles (grades 2-6), Upper Middles (grades 6-8), and Advanced (grades 7-12). The Cool Histories work in tandem with some of the other resources sold separately by BiblioPlan: the Ancients Coloring Book, Ancients Craft Book, Ancients Hands-on Maps, and the Ancients Timeline. For example, the Cool History for Littles for each week will include: reading suggestions for this age level from the Companion, questions pertaining to that reading, a specific recommended coloring page (not found in the Cool History, but in the Ancients Coloring Book), and "Globe Fun" where your child will use a specific map found in the Ancients Hands-On Maps resource (sold separately).

The Cool History for Middles includes questions like:

* Which Pharaoh restored the Great Sphinx after he had a dream while lying between its paws?
* Which Pharaoh remains one of the richest people in the history of the world?
* What does “monotheistic” mean?
* What does “polytheistic” mean?

Upper Middles goes a little deeper with its questions:

* What is the era of Egypt's New Kingdom sometimes called? Why?
* Why did Amenhotep separate his tomb from his temple?
* Where was Thutmose I buried?
* What did Hatshepsut do to convince the people of Egypt that a woman could be pharaoh?
* As soon as Thutmose III came to power, he did something that showed his resentment of his stepmother Hatshepsut. What was it?

The Advanced level progresses accordingly with fill in the blank questions, but also short answer as well as essay questions:

Short Answer:

* If the Bible/Egyptian history overlay presented in the Companion is correct, who was the pharaoh whose dreams Joseph interpreted?
* What group of foreigners seized power in Lower (northern) Egypt and ruled as the Fifteenth Dynasty?
* Which Eighteenth Dynasty pharaoh recaptured Lower Egypt and reunified Egypt at the beginning of the New Kingdom?

Short Essays:

* Describe how the pharaohs’ tombs evolved over time.
* Why did the ancient Egyptian pharaohs build such enormous tombs for themselves? Why were they forced to add such elaborate protections for their tombs?

They also have a Cool History Classic that is a simplified version of the other Cool Histories that can be used as a family guide for grades 1-6. This runs $21.95 for a hardcopy, and $13.95 for an ebook. The Cool History for Littles and Middles are each $21.95 for a hardcopy, and $13.95 for an ebook. The Cool History for Upper Middles and Advanced are $24.95 for hardcopy, and $16.95 for the ebook. These need to be printed, and each child will need one. Consider whether or not you will want to use these with subsequent children of the same age and buy accordingly. The Cool History copyright is perfect for families:

Families who purchase these materials may make as many copies of the Cool History assignments, Maps, Timelines or Coloring Books as they need for use WITHIN THEIR FAMILY ONLY.

I loved the Cool Histories and felt they were excellent in every way and as thorough as I could want. They cover every topic comprehensively and in an age-appropriate way. If you desire to have your children truly understand what they are studying, these are excellent resources to use.

BibloPlan offers Hands-On Maps for each level. These are done by the authors and include black and white maps with instructions on how to use them. They correspond to the lesson and will help your child understand the geography of the area they are studying. Especially in the Mesopotamian area, there are many changes of “ownership” of the land and the maps help us see how people moved in and out of the land by choice or by force! Maps are an integral part of the program and I recommend them.

The aforementioned Coloring Book and a Craft Book are available for purchase separately. The Craft book is color-coded with a different color per craft. It comes with a list of supplies for each craft and written directions with a photo of the finished product. While I appreciated the complete package aspect of these items in that they add hands-on projects and coloring fun to the curriculum as a whole, I was less impressed with these two products. I would like to see more photos in the “how-to” section of the crafts and I do think the coloring book could use a complete overhaul. I definitely think it would be worth the publisher’s time to redo these two books to make them as top-notch as the rest of the program.

Lastly, BiblioPlan offers an Ancient Timeline and Timeline Figures. These are an inexpensive way to buy and create a timeline with your family. For only $13.95 in ebook or $21.95 for the hardcopy, you can make a complete timeline for the ancients. I received the ebook and each page has two parallel yellow lines that go across the page. The top one says Biblical History and the bottom one says Ancient History with the approximate dates included. Underneath each yellow timeline you will find events and people written out in the correct place. You affix the appropriate photo, graphic, or drawing created for that person or event right where it is supposed to be. There is no guesswork with this product and that is my favorite part of the timeline! You are not going to glue something down in the wrong spot and regret using glue (the very thing I have done with other products!) There is a wide variety of graphics, photos, and drawings and all are great choices. Someone spent a lot of time finding these things for our use and this is a real treasure if you want to do a timeline with your children while using BiblioPlan. If I was going to use this with more than one child, I would definitely buy the ebook version so that I could print out the timeline as we studied it and print as many as I wished for my children. This is a valuable resource for a whole timeline.

BiblioPlan has one of the most thorough and engaging history programs I have ever seen. History is my favorite subject to teach and the one with which I am the most familiar. Because of this, I have seen and used a great many different history curricula. This is one of the very best. The “sweat and tears” put into BiblioPlan and the love with which the authors have poured into the program is evident in the Family Guide, Companion, Family Discussion Guide, and Cool Histories. If you are looking to dig into history, desire to explore the time of the Bible and the fascinating stories of our ancient forefathers, definitely give BiblioPlan, Year One: Ancients, your earnest consideration. Download the sample for Ancients and see if you look any further!

This review was written for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, LLC, and can be found here.

Monday, February 03, 2014

What's Ten Years?

This is three of my children - with ten years in between.

Yeah, I know! Amazing, right? :)

Mamas, I say this over and over - the time goes SO fast. Enjoy your babies when they are babies and don't stress about so much. I love my older amazing children, and am incredibly blessed in who they have each become. 

Some of you are in the midst of the mom fog - the busyness of parenting that feels like it will never end. It does end and years pass. Enjoy each and every day you have.