Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Bible Timeline (TOS Crew Review)

As a member of the 2009-2010 The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew, I received the Amazing Bible Timeline in the mail to use in our homeschool and review on my blog. This is that review.

I have to be honest, when I received the timeline in the mail, I was overwhelmed: it is so big, so detailed, and I am SO bad at teaching details in our homeschool. We focus so much on "big picture" stuff, the basics of schooling, and things that interest the kids specifically, and this timeline was way over my head! I didn't even recognize the names of half the people on the timeline (which is totally my problem, not that of Bible Charts and Maps, the creators of this timeline).

As a dedicated Crew member, though, I knew I needed to give the timeline a chance. I stuck it on the wall and studied it. I went on their website and read about it. I downloaded the Interactive Maps of the Holy Land that I was to receive as well, and I felt further out of my element.

I can certainly see how a family who is very structured in their homeschooling could really get a lot out of this timeline as it has so much information on it! I can also see myself using it in later years (my kids are 3, 6, and 9) as we learn more about the Bible. I think timelines in general are a great idea, and we did timelines of our family heritage last year. Although, admittedly, our timeline was much simpler than the Amazing Bible Timeline, we did enjoy putting people in perspective of when they lived in history.

Unfortunately, other than glancing at the timeline and pointing out when someone lived and how far after Adam or before/after Jesus they lived was about the extent of our use of the Amazing Bible Timeline. That part was cool, but I just didn't think we got any great benefit from all of the details at this stage in our homeschooling. Maybe other Crew Members had different experiences with this product. To check out what they had to say, click here.

* No monies were received in exchange for this product or this review. The product was provided to me for free (as a member of the 2009-2010 TOS Homeschool Crew) with the express intent that I use it to the best of my ability and provide an honest review of the product. This review is my own opinion, and I will not be compensated for the review in any way.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Therapeutic Thursday Continues!

I have offended my parents. Not my intention. I am not angry, resentful, or condemning at this stage of the process; the forgiveness happened years ago with the help of the Lord.

I just want to be able to break whatever chains are binding me to negative behaviors and unhelpful relationships. I want to look at my grandchildren some day and know i gave them the best hope for parents that i could. I want to use what God has brought me through to help others. I do not believe that God allows suffering for the sake of suffering; He has a purpose for this pain He has led me through.

I told my therapist a few weeks ago that according to statistics of my childhood traumas, i should be living on the streets, selling my body, and addicted to heroin. He asked me why i think i'm not. I told him that God carried me. I believe that with every fiber of my being!

This week has been hard: i have been down the paths of the past in the hopes of discovering places that i can change negative perceptions and habits and make them healthier. I have rediscovered the pain of abandonment, the shame of molestation, the fear of the adults in my life that i should have trusted. I have reconnected with the child who spent several nights in a strange bed, crying herself to sleep, feeling abandoned yet again. I have re-experienced the pain of an alcoholic parent who tries to commit suicide in my presence, the terror of hiding in a bathroom while a drunk man tries to break in to kill my mom, and the sadness of having the only person left that i trusted...turn her back on me.

As far as therapeutic, that remains to be seen, but it has certainly been exhausting.

I leave this entry with one final thought: if you are waiting to begin your journey to healing, i urge you to begin! This path may be painful, but it is the only way to cleanse the wounds that have been festering. And believe me, you may not feel it, but the wounds do fester.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Results Are In!

The Spring Hill area homeschoolers' Read-A-Thon benefiting the local public library was a HUGE success. We turned in our pledge sheets today and received certificates of participation - as well as a little bag of treats. The money collected will be used by the director of the Spring Hill Public Library to purchase homeschooling resources.

The group raised a little over $600, according to the director, and it looks like my kids raised almost half of that all by themselves!!! Way to go, kiddos!

And a BIG THANK YOU to all of you who supported their efforts - we have never seen Quin so motivated to read!!

We got to play at the park for a bit after handing in our stuff. Pictures are below!

Can you find the kids hiding in the trees?

Quin's crazy smile!

Calysta upside down on the geodesic dome.

Dania at the top of a big-kid climber!

The kids peeking out of the "castle."

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pocketful of Candy Corn

Today, while i was making lunch, i heard rustling in the pantry. Since that is always a sure sign that Senorita Self-Sufficient is helping herself to some tidbit or other, i peeked in.

I had to giggle at what i saw: Dania was sitting in the floor with a plastic box of candy corns in front of her, and she was picking the candy out one at a time and stuffing them into her pockets. She put away the box when her pockets were full to bursting, then ran over to sit on the couch and munch her treats while watching Word World!

Yeah, i love that little bundle of mischief!

Have a Sweet Day!

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Good Read, Pure and Simple

I received a book to read and review as a member of the 2009-1010 The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew. The book is Sarah's Wish, and it was written by Jim Baumgardner to offer his grandchildren an enjoyable way to learn about the history of some of the American people.

The main character's name is Sarah, and she is a 12-year-old girl living in the mid-1800s. The beginning of the story was hard for my kids because Sarah loses her mother in an accident. Once we passed the grief-stricken child to the story line, we recovered fine (especially since there is mention of a "secret" for a chapter or two before we learn what the secret is - nothing like a secret to keep a child's attention!).

Anyway, rather than spoil the story itself for you, let me tell you how much we enjoyed the writing style and story line. Sarah is a likable child with a big heart, and every girl could identify with her. In fact, my nine-year-old loves to play "back in the old days," so this story gave her more fodder for her imaginings! Plus, the book starts you off with a glossary of 19th-century terms that will help you understand the way the characters speak, so she has a new language, too!

The writing of Sarah's Wish is engaging and descriptive (which we recently learned is when writing paints a mental image!). The characters are real, the setting charming, and the plot unique. Reading a book like this is a real joy, and having Christianity and a faith in God woven into the tapestry of characters was a gem.

You can order Sarah's Wish from the author for only $9.99 right now, with free shipping and an autograph inside! What child (or adult!) wouldn't love to have a book with his/her name written inside by the author! If you want to see what other TOS Crew Members had to say about the book, click here.

* No monies were exchanged for this product or this review. This review is based on my own honest opinion of a product that was sent to me for free with the agreement that I would use and honestly review it as a part of our homeschool experience.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

My New Love & Passion!

Okay, so as a wonderfully blessed member of the 2009-2010 The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew, I received FOR FREE a package of handmade soaps from Virginia Soaps and Scents - with the agreement that I would use them and review them for you all.

Before my review of their line of soaps, here's some background information for you: I know just enough about modern soaps and cleaning supplies to be leery of them, but I haven't yet been ambitious enough to learn more or do much about it. I have stocked up on all that I need to make my own laundry detergent, but haven't actually made it yet. I have stopped using "drugstore" type of soaps and hair care products (actually I stopped this some time - and money - ago). And I clean my house with vinegar (except that stubborn stuff on the bottom of the textured shower) instead of toxic mainstream chemicals.

Enter Virginia Soaps and Scents.

They sent me a small "make your own" laundry soap kit. It came with everything but the water, including instructions for mixing it into laundry soap. (yes, God, I hear you)

I also received a Shampoo Bar (who knew shampoo could come in a bar of soap?), which incidentally, is a different shape than the body bar so that you can tell the difference in the shower (seems like they've been around the block a time or two).

Finally, I received three of their body soaps, each a different scent (I gave my 9-year-old first dibs on which scent she wanted - ain't I sweet?).

Okay, so now that you know why I am telling you about this product, what the product is, and how I came to know about it, let me tell you what you have been waiting for!

I love... no, LOVE, absolutely ADORE, am completely SOLD on Virginia Soaps and Scents!

The laundry soap forced me to try something I had been putting off, and it was so easy with their kit, so I may never actually get around to making my own from scratch! The clothes are clean, have no smell to irritate my husband's allergies, and have no chemicals in them to irritate my youngest child's sensitive skin. Incidentally, I no longer pre-treat any of them - just toss 'em in! Anyone want some of that in their busy life?? SOLD!!

Plus, the shampoo bar is amazing! To be perfectly honest, I was nervous about trying it since I have frizzy, dry, not-straight-but-not-curly hair and a dry, itchy scalp. I cautiously washed, then applied a bit of leave-in conditioner, but found my hair was actually a bit oily after 2 days (generally, I should go 2-3 days without washing my hair because it is so dry). So, I tried it again - only sans conditioner this time. Wow! I couldn't believe it: my hair was brushable, soft, and not too frizzy. In complete honesty, my hair actually did better with the shampoo bar after the 3rd wash (which makes me wonder what was on my hair from all my high-dollar salon products!), and now, my hair can be blown dry and brushed to be styled without headbands or pins - very unusual!

Okay, so on to the body bar soaps. (You sure you need me to tell you about this line? Can't you see the trend here?) My skin is clean, free of itchy, dry patches, and I do not smell like perfume. My husband's allergies thank us, our skin is happy, and I can use one soap for my entire shower - even my face! You ready for the really big deal?? That's right, I haven't even told you the most amazing things about Virginia Soaps and Scents yet! I used the bar soap on my face (the oatmeal one), and I had immediate breakouts. Now, for those of you who are thinking, "okay, no deal," let me tell you something you may not know: when you change cleansing products for your face or hair, there is a sort of purging session during which the new product gets the build-up and leftovers out of your system and off your hair/skin. So, I decided to wash my face twice a day for a week (by the way, I have never washed my face twice in one day - too dry - I thought my skin would flake off!). I got breakouts, they cleared up, I got new ones, they cleared up. After about that week, my skin was younger-looking, plumper (you know, more moisture), and was showing a minimizing of the fine lines I had been developing over the past year. I won't even tell you how much money this bar of soap is saving me in facial care alone.

Seriously, I plan on visiting their website for some Christmas presents so that my entire family can experience the freedom from detergents that I have been blessed with. As if their products aren't enough of a sell, this is a homeschooling, Christian family living in my home state of Virginia. Their soap making venture began as a part of their studies of Colonial times, which is where my kids and I are currently stuck - in complete fascination, mind you. I couldn't be more sold on the products, but the company itself - the family itself - also draws me.

If you want to see what other TOS Crew Members have to say about Virginia Soaps and Scents, click here. Enjoy!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Fun, Fabulous Friday

Today, the kids got to go to work with Daddy for an hour. {BIG smile} He let them eat breakfast in the cafeteria, work on their writing in his office, and hang out with him. Calysta says he doesn't really work, he just talks to people about computers... "and not just work computers, either!"

Then we raced home to walk all four dogs in the never-ending chilly drizzle, and off we went again! This time, we headed in the opposite direction to visit Grandpa and Grandma, who had the cousins over for the weekend. We made homemade scare crows (with newspaper and construction paper, if you can believe that!) and played in the yard with the cousins and grandparents. Yay, mud!! It was a blast, if a bit chilly!

I desperately needed that second cup of coffee that came far too late in the day, so i will probably pay for it late tonight when my eyelids refuse to shut! Oh, well, it was bound to happen. Still, it was a fun, fabulous day!

Y'all have a fun, fabulous Friday night!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Therapeutic Thursday

Okay, today is a day for therapy. As i take a break from our lessons and pick up the book i am reading for healing past betrayal, i am compelled to blog about my journey. Maybe God knows this will help someone else. Maybe God knows it will help me. Whatever the benefit... Therapeutic Thursday is born.

In the book The Betrayal Bond by Patrick Carnes, i have discovered some things about myself, not the least of which is that i am waaaaaaay better off than i could be.

As a child, i was abandoned by my mother. Not her fault, i have told myself, because she has always been a bit emotionally unstable. {incidentally, reading this book shows me clearly WHY she is emotionally unstable, and it truly isn't her fault} My sister and i were placed with our father by the judge (not normal in the 1970s), but he had us only by a thread, and he knew it. Not long after our upheaval, Daddy found us a new Mommy and went off to work. In his mind, he had replaced what we were lacking - because, really, what did a 20-something man know of raising daughters?? - and set off to show his love for us by providing for us. He was in sales much of my life, so he worked a lot. Yes, that is abandonment #2. Incidentally, this is when the preschooler who was me stopped attempting to bond with people. But let's keep going.

Sometime after my step-family was introduced, the molestation began. By a family member. I cannot be sure when it started because i have blocked most of those memories, but i am almost positive it began when i was 4 or 5 and continued until i was about 10. I have memories of being 9 or 10 and knowing that this was a normal part of my life, but actually having memories now... just a handful. As an adult, i have often told myself, "at least i wasn't raped" and "it could have been worse."

Anyway, the abuse was discovered during the summer i turned 11 (i think), and a new leg of the journey began. Kidnapping, police, social worker, foster home, courtroom, psychiatrists... yuck. {hard to believe that is my life i am calmly typing about, but that's just another sign of the trauma} Eventually, a plea agreement was reached because i was too traumatized (or manipulated - not sure) to sit in the witness stand and speak of it all in horrifying detail, and the offender went to a rehab facility of some sort. By Christmas of that year (i think), we were back to "business as usual" - only this time with secrets. We should attend the traditional Christmas Eve gathering at this person's home, but we should NOT speak of the abuse to anyone... never mind that there were female cousins i thought had a right to know. {you keeping up with all the betrayal?} We were to pretend we weren't afraid of the offending family member... act no differently toward him.

During all of this, my alcoholic mother, who was sexually and physically abused as a child by her father, had a major meltdown about how it was all handled, and the Battle of the Exes intensified for her. We got to listen to the verbal bashing of our father, stories that may or may not be true about how he wronged her, reasons our stepmother (the woman who has been raising us for years, mind you) was horrible, and all while dealing with stepfather #3 (i think) and the abusive situation between the two of them. Not long after that, my mother filed for divorce with strangulation marks on her neck, and i began to feel insanely afraid for her - her mental well-being as well as her very life. I think this is when i began to take on the worries of adulthood - with the coping skills of a child. {trauma, anyone?}

Sometime in my teens, i realized that my mother picked men who could be pushed to abuse, then she repeatedly pushed them there. {the Betrayal Bond book also explains this} I remember calming her down after such episodes, all while my older sisters were out partying because "she did this to herself." She even tried to commit suicide (maybe just a plea for help/attention) at least once that i remember clearly (swallowing a bunch of pills when no adults were around, then telling us kids about it and blaming us for her pain) - the time i remember clearly, we had to call 9-1-1 to have her stomach pumped. I also remember her sending me to hide in her bathroom one day when i was in my teens, then listening to her talk to the police on the phone while her current abusive boyfriend was trying to break down the door to "kill her." I remember trembling and wondering what i would do if i had to listen to him hurt her - would i stand there in that bathroom and pretend i wasn't there so he wouldn't hurt me? Or would i rush to defend her, possibly getting us both killed? To this day, i have no idea what i would have done since the police were fast enough to scare him off. What i do remember is that these stories became more secrets. Secrets that i couldn't share with anyone because that would cause my father to restrict my visits (if not revoke them altogether) - and then who would she have? I also wonder, as i work through this book, if the secrets were also kept because it allowed me to pretend it wasn't real... it wasn't my life... it didn't happen.

I am going to stop here for now, but i want to say this: if any of this reminds you of your life and you are feeling like you haven't healed, ask God to help you. I have been through at least 3 different Bible Studies and healing books, and i have received some amazing peace. However, i am finding the healing is not complete; the damage for me is so deep and the manifestation so extensive in my adult life. I have also discovered that i am likely to gloss over the pain because that pattern helped me deal with an unpleasant reality growing up.

The process of healing takes time.
Don't wait to begin yours.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Guardian Angel Publishing (TOS Crew Review)

As a member of the 2009-2010 The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew, I received a few e-books for free from Guardian Angel Publishing to use and review. The books we received were Earthquake, The Sum of Our Parts: No Bones About It, and Andy and Spirit Go To The Fair.

The books are easy to read and interesting, with illustrations that catch even the youngest child's attention. The kids (and mom!) really enjoyed the book, The Sum of Our Parts: No Bones About It! I adored human anatomy in college, and with all of my well-developed language skills, all those parts' names were fun to learn (mostly) - and I love teaching the kids about our bodies because of my fascination with the topic. The Guardian Angel Publishing book had a lot of great information inside, with eye-catching images and a fun rhyme about the body's bones. In essence, if you read the book, then memorize the engaging rhyme, you could actually know the major bones in your body by heart! How fun and easy is that?!?! {smiling big}

We also enjoyed the other books, with Andy and Spirit Go to the Fair being our second favorite. This book is a touching story of a child with a disability, some insecurity, and an opportunity to rise above his handicap. My daughter especially loved this book, and both of my [school-age] children commented on the detailed pictures. At the end of the story, there is some information about wild horses and the programs dedicated to ensuring a quality life for them. There is also information about adopting the domesticated horses that are brought out of the wild when the population gets too large. If you or your children are horse lovers, this book would be a great read for sure. And if you enjoy exposing your children to the "differently-abled" people in the world (as I do), this is a MUST have for your home library.

Check out the Guardian Angel Publishing website for more books, as well as a section for free downloads!

To read what my fellow TOS Homeschool Crew members thought about Guardian Angel Publishing, click here.

{I have diligently checked this blog entry for grammatical and typographical errors, but I have found myself typing "Angela" so many times instead of "Angel" and I do not think my brain recognizes the error very easily, SO if you see those mistakes, I apologize.}

Monday, October 12, 2009

When there is no death...

... there is God.

When someone who knows Jesus is no longer with us on earth, we mourn our loss, not theirs. Because of the unique relationship with Christ, we do not die... we merely pass on.

The phrase "pass on" is maybe overused to some, but it has great meaning to people of the Christian faith. People with a relationship with our Savior, Jesus Christ, do not die because Jesus, himself, overcame death and conquered the grave. Therefore, to be absent from the body is to present with the Lord! [2 Corinthians 5:8]

Let's look at what "pass on" means.

We pass on from a mortal life on a wounded earth to bigger and brighter things.
We pass on to a place that is more wondrous than we can imagine.
We pass on to forever worship our Lord.

We pass on suffering.
We pass on loneliness.
We pass on anxiety.
We pass on sorrow.
We pass on regret.
We pass on anger.
We pass on pain.

Answer this question today: does your spiritual belief give you comfort in knowing that you will be released from suffering and free from death's anxiety, all based on a personal relationship rather than personal effort?

I choose to pass on things of this world and embrace the tender mercies of the Lord.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Calysta, the Creative Preschool Teacher!

This morning, i gave Calysta the responsibility of helping Dania with her alphabet puzzle (we have started exposing her to letters). I simply reminded Calysta that learning should be fun for Dania and left her to it.

You will never guess what she did! I am so proud!!

She "hid" each letter somewhere in the house for the younger kids to "find," which is fun in itself. But the amazing part to me is that she hid the letters near or with an object that started with that letter! For example, she hid "C" in the candy dish, "N" in the napkin holder, and "L" in the lamp. She's so creative!


I am so proud. Future preschool teacher... future homeschooling mother... Did i mention how proud i am?

Have a creative day!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Be a Friend of Nature! (TOS Crew Review)

As a member of the 2009-2010 The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew, I received a couple of issues of Nature Friend Magazine for free in exchange for using and reviewing them. (Wow - those writing skills have come in handy!) This blog entry is my review, and before you skip it because you don't homeschool, let me assure you this review applies to anyone with children.

When we received our first completely beautiful issue of Nature Friend Magazine, I was enchanted! We sat down immediately and read through the first half of the magazine together. The photography was so amazing, it was dazzling to the eye! Imagine: having a gift that allows you to capture so beautifully God's creatures in their natural habitats - in action! My kids began carrying their own cameras around outside not long after our perusal of the magazine.

Additionally, the stories were so engaging, the kids could actually read them to themselves! I cannot tell you how big a feat it is to have a nature magazine speak to children. We have seen lots of magazines for kids, some about nature, and none of them "talk" on a kid's level quite as well as Nature Friend does.

As if that is not enough reason to be sold on this magazine, let me add to the positive components: the overall magazine was free of advertising and other objectionable material! That's right, this is a conservative magazine, with ideals about gentle exploration of God's creation (no crazy-looking, frightening creatures that will give your child nightmares), child-friendly content, and interactive concepts (like a monthly drawing contest). I could actually leave it out on the coffee table, let the kids take off with it, and allow our kids' friends to look through it - all without fear of what they will be exposed to! (In fact, both of the issues that we received for free are MISSING at this moment! Probably in the kids' bedrooms!) That is a BIG deal for me.

On a side note, you can obtain a Study Guide for each issue for an additional fee ($2 per issue, and it comes in the magazine), and we did receive this Study Guide to try and review. The Study Guide is great for children who can read and write as it allows you to draw out what your children have learned from the magazine - and it actually uses information from each segment! Although the Nature Friend Magazine is a bit pricey by some magazine standards, it is chock full of incredible photography of God's creation, contains NO advertisements, and is free of any objectionable topics or images. You really do get what you pay for.

BONUS: You win, too! Until November 30, 2009, you can use the code BLOG93 to get $3 off a new subscription.

Okay, if you still aren't convinced, check out what my fellow TOS Homeschool Crew Members had to say about Nature Friend Magazine here.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Happy Birthday, Dania!

My littlest angel, Dania, is turning three today! She was such a surprise 3-1/2 years ago that I confess to a bit of crying, panicking, and whining (yeah, i regressed momentarily to the terrible-two's). Now, however, it is hard to imagine I was ever anything but grateful to have her!! She sure puts us through our paces, but life would be pretty boring without her.

She is energetic, funny, full of dramatic displays and funny faces, demanding, sure of herself and her place in the world, and fully in touch with the Spirit of God. She keeps us laughing, keeps us trying, keeps us working on ourselves, and she keeps us honest. Life is hard. But anything worth having is worth working for.

Happy Birthday,
Dania Rose!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Important Food For Your Brain!

We all know there are categories of foods we should eat that benefit our bodies the most, right? Well, there are also categories for proper brain development: Roots & Fruits. No, I'm not actually talking about eating root vegetables and healthful fruits for proper brain development, but rather a vocabulary curriculum (stay with me, here) created by Educational Diagnostic Prescriptive Services (EduDPS).

Roots & Fruits is an amazing vocabulary program that I received free as a member of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine's Homeschool Crew. I have to tell you, I am learning right along with my children - because even though I had a great education (and have no shortage of words), there is so much to this program that I never even knew we could learn!

Okay, so let me break this down for you so you can truly appreciate what I am talking about. You know those programs that you can use to learn "a word a day" - calendars, websites, etc...? This curriculum actually goes WAY beyond learning a word - it teaches you the root of the words first, which maybe isn't so incredibly novel to some, but here is what I find quite unique: it teaches you the actual root word, not the list of vocabulary words of which you have to learn the root. Did that make sense? So instead of learning the words "apathy" or "atheist" and learning about the root word "a," you are taught the root word "a," it's meaning, and the examples, "apathy" and "atheist," which you then define with a dictionary on Day 1. Then, at the end of the week's various lessons to help cement the root word for you, there are mastery games to play to make sure you know the material - while having fun!

Roots & Fruits is also labeled for younger children so that educators like me with children in upper elementary grades as well as lower elementary grades can help differentiate which words to teach the younger children. I just can't wait to get through the whole list!

To see what my fellow TOS Homeschool Crew Members thought of the programs by Educational Diagnostic Prescriptive Services, click here.