Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Familyman- Homeschool Review Crew Audio Drama Review

There is finally a chill in the air and yes, my heart has started yearning for Christmas.  Yes, I know it is only October and I promise I will not put up one Christmas decoration until December, but let's just say I am counting the weeks.

The Familyman's Christmas Treasury - Audio Collection {The Familyman} Reviews

It doesn't help that my family has been listening to The Familyman's Christmas Treasury- Audio Collection containing 6 CDs from The Familyman.  What a fun review!  In addition to the 6 stories that are included in the Christmas Treasury, The Familyman, whose real name is Todd Wilson, also blessed us with two additional stories to listen to.

Each individual story in the treasury is available in Digital Downloads, which is how we have been listening.  I just saved them to our laptop, and we pull them up to listen to when we have some extra time, when we need some quiet time, or as my youngest drifts off to sleep.  Additional stories, including ones with an Easter theme are also available.

The stories are a perfect way to wind down at the end of a busy day and can put you in the Christmas mood! Written by Todd, they all carry a beautiful theme of the real meaning of Christmas, focusing on Christ and what He has done for us.

The Familyman's Christmas Treasury - Audio Collection {The Familyman} Reviews
The 6 CD set includes-
Cootie McKay's Nativity
Captain Chaos and the Manger Blaster
Gladys Remembers Christmas
Harold Grubbs and the Christmas Vest
The Stranger and
The Bishop's Dream
We also downloaded It's Called Christmas and The Secret of Snow Village.

What do we think?
Fun, fun!  Quite honestly, audio productions are a little hard for me to follow.  I don't know if it is just that I cannot shut off my mommy brain or what, but I tend to zone out pretty quickly.  This collection was not as big of a struggle for me.  The voices are clear and strong and therefore easy to listen to and follow, and the stories are lively and engaging.  
Both of my boys, ages 9 and 14, are auditory learners, so audio dramas are the perfect fit for them.  As a matter of fact, they can easily listen to them and multitask as well, no problem. Me, not so much.  My 9 year old has been especially enthralled with these stories, his favorite being Cootie McKay's Nativity.  When I asked him why it was his favorite he replied- "It was fun! It made me laugh when I was listening to it!"  In his words, "Cootie McKay's Nativity begins when a older lady from town crashes into the town's Nativity.  Almost all the pieces are broken and they need to have a town meeting to decide how to fix it.  Someone suggests that Cootie should be hired to fix the Nativity, but most of the townspeople think he will ruin it.  Each night he meets with the family and begins to learn what the true meaning of Christmas is about.  His best discovery is that Jesus is alive!"  
The Stranger did have some suspenseful times in it and he did say it was a little scary, but it did not keep him from listening to it again!  I would recommend that if you have younger children, you may want to listen once by yourself to determine if your child is able to handle the suspense.  Every child has a different level of tolerance!  The Stranger tells of a town that is visited by someone they do not know on Christmas Eve.  All reject him except Sam' family, who has a lesson to teach them all.
Captain Choas was another favorite of Colby's.  This story tells of a boy named Jason who is determined to make the Nativity a more exciting story as he reinacts it.  He truly believes his story can be better than the Bible.  His sister tells on him and he is sent to his room.  Once there, he is "visited" by Captain Chaos, who shows him that by changing the story the world is quite a different place, void of God and love!
Even though it was the shortest of all the audios, I have to admit that Harold Grubbs and the Christmas Vest was my favorite.  This sweet story tells of a dad recounting to his son, how and why he aquired the bright red plaid Christmas vest he wears every Sunday between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  The Harold Grubbs in the story is a mean spririted old man who eventually comes to know Jesus as his Lord and Savior and the town who gets to witness that transformation. 
This collection would make a great addition to your family's Christmas traditions, as well as a fun gift for a special family in your life.  Each audio is about 13- 30 minutes in length.
Merry Christmas in October!

The Familyman's Christmas Treasury - Audio Collection {The Familyman} Reviews

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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Speekee Accelerate Review- He's back!

Yes, Speekee is back!  Well, he has not really been gone, but now he is back with a new program called Speekee Accelerate.  If you follow our homeschool journey, you know that we love learning Spanish.  Colby was born in Guatemala, after all, and we really desire for him to be bi-lingual. You may also remember that we reviewed Speekee several years ago and Colby LOVED it.  As a matter of fact, he eventually found Speekee Play online and still plays on that site often.

Now that he is older, his needs have changed.  Thankfully there is a new program for ages 8 and up,  using Speekee Accelerate!

Here's how it works-

Each week we receive an email with the weeks' videos and lessons attached.

You can also access all 40 weeks from your Speekee Accelerate homepage, if you desire to repeat days.  I have a child who would work ahead and do several weeks in one day, so we really prefer the weekly email.  I have him access the videos through the email which slows him down a bit. In his free time after school he is always welcome to go back to the homepage and re-watch any videos he likes.  He finds the kids in the videos pretty entertaining so he re-watches a lot of videos!

I also like the email because it tells you what will be shown on each video and often will give extension activities to do.  Think of it as a mini lesson plan.  If you are a record kind of person, you could print out each week's lesson and date them to have a record of what your child has done.

Four days a week Colby clicks on that day's link and watches the video clip.  If there is a worksheet attached, we simply download it and print it out for him to work on after wards.  Some days there are also sound clips attached for your child to hear specific words or sounds that are being worked on.  He listens to each word being pronounced and then repeats the word for practice.

The worksheets do require a decent level of reading and writing, but Colby has been able to do them at age 9.  If more writing is involved, I will allow him to dictate to me instead.

We love that each week is themed and the videos are short in length, anywhere from just a few minutes to about 15 minutes long. So far, Colby has learned basic conversation, numbers, family members, directions, names, colors, and feelings. One thing to keep in mind is that this program is geared for a slightly older child, so the puppet Speekee does not make an appearance,  Instead, all the videos are live action with children of various ages interacting with the world around them and occasional graphics.  If you have a younger child who would enjoy the puppet, check out Speekee TV.

Also unique to the program is a feature you can choose that will put the English or Spanish subtitles on the screeen, or both, for you to read.  We use this feature the first time Colby watches the video clips, and then any addtional times they are watched we turn it off so we do not become dependant on them, but instead learn to lsiten to the native speakers for meaning.

If you desire the same format as Speekee Accelerate, but for younger students, Speekee FastTrack is geared for ages 4-7, and also has a 40 week curriculum that is emailed to you.

I highly recommend Speekee Accelerate!  Because of the combination of videos, worksheets, and audio clips, it is a great fit for visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners, making it a winner in my book! 


Monday, October 3, 2016

Avoid Contamination

Crazy title I know, but stick with me here.

On one of our recent trips (we have had many so they have all blurred together at this point) I saw a sign in a public restroom that said "Avoid contamination"...and then something about washing hands.  I wish now I had risked weird looks and taken a picture of it because for some reason that saying has just been stuck in my mind.

Maybe because I have not seen a hand washing sign with such strong words, or maybe because, well I do not know.  But every since, I have been mulling that phrase around in my mind.  And I starting wondering- just how do we avoid contamination?  Other than the obvious washing of hands.

Here's what I have been processing-

Our lives can be easily contaminated.  Let's face it, we do not live in a perfect world with perfect people.  Except for totally isolating ourselves (a very tempting option for me sometimes) our lives are eventually going to be exposed to things, situations, and yes, even people that can contaminate it.  Sad, but true.

So what are those things we must avoid and how?

Negative Talk- Gossip.  Glass half full mentality.  Whatever it looks like, it is bad.  It hurts not only you but the people around you.  Psalm 19:14 says, "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight."  We attended a church where the pastor recited that passage every Sunday before he preached.  It was seared into my brain and I have found it to be a good scripture to recite to myself on many occasions.  When we are tempted to say things we should not, share things we should not, or even think things we should not, we need to stop and reverse direction.  Literally walk away if you have to, but do not be a part of those types of situations.

Negative Words-  You know what I mean here.  Words like always, never, you don't, you can't, you won't.  If you are a fan of the Love and Respect book, you already know that those words are not good in a marriage.  They are not good in any relationship.  They tear people down, disrupt communication, and build walls.  When we use negative words, especially to words of affirmation people like me, we wound hearts sometimes beyond repair.  We need to purpose to use kind and affirming words to each other, not only the people we are closest to but to anyone we made contact with.  Can you imagine what a nicer world this would be if everyone spoke kindly to each other?!

Negative People-  There are just some people who can suck the life out of us if we allow them to.  It is my firm belief that we try to minister to those people, but at some point if things do not change you need to free yourself from those types of relationships.  Always focusing on the negative will drain you, as will the people who encourage you to do so.  They can suck you dry and eventually you can become the very thing you are avoiding.  "Do not be deceived. Bad company ruins good morals."  1 Cor. 15:33

Negative Thoughts- This one may be the hardest for me.  I am too often my own worst enemy.  I let fear, worry, and life overwhelm me at times.  Then, all you need to do is add the outside voices of others and THEIR fear, worry, and yuck to my brain and I can easily succumb to contamination.  The Bible says we must "...take every thought captive..." ( 2 Cor. 10:5)  Do you see that?  Every thought!  That means the fear. And the worry.  And the yuck stuff too.  We need to take those thoughts captive and speak truth to ourselves.

Negative Media- It is no secret that we are pretty strict around here about what movies we watch.  With the addition of VidAngel to our life we are venturing out with more movies these days since we can censor them to fit our convictions.  Regardless of your convictions though, the Bible tells us in Phil 4:8, "whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."  Seriously, friends, there is some not lovely and pure stuff out there.  The less we fill our hearts and minds with that kind of stuff the better.  As my husband tells our kiddos, trash in, trash out!

Contamination comes in many forms.  It is a daily, sometimes hourly, battle to separate ourselves from it.  But separate we must.  You will be blessed by your efforts, I assure you!

Avoiding contamination right there with you, my friend!


Tuesday, September 27, 2016 Homeschool Review Crew Review

I cannot even begin to tell you how much my 9 year old likes getting mail.  Seriously, it can make his week.  But in this world of technology, snail mail is slowly becoming a thing of the past.  We have been hesitant to allow him on email because of all the potential doors we felt it could open. And open doors we wanted to avoid-

Like security
and strangers
and spam
and p*rn
the list goes on and on unfortunately.  Let's be honest, the world of computers and technology can be a dangerous place for little people these days.

Enter!  When I saw this vendor on our Homeschool Review Crew vendor list I knew I wanted to see what they were about.  The Annual Subscription we have been using is amazing.

Let me start with a WOW!!  We love this concept.

An email account for children with all the benefits of email and all the protection you as a parent can want.  Yep, I am sold.  And so is Colby, but more on that in a minute.

Let me tell you about

It is such an ingenious idea and simple to use.  You simply sign your child up for an account using their hosting system which will add a tag to your account.

And then the fun begins.  YOU get to choose all kinds of filters for your child!

Things like-
  • Email monitoring-
          Yes, I want to see all outgoing emails.
          Yes, I want to see all incoming emails.
  • Yes or no to attachments
  • offensive word filter
  • yes or no to pictures
  • the power to choose your child's contacts
  • the power to choose when a child is able to access their email
  • the ability to block senders
  • GPS tracker
  • activity logs
  • advanced modes for older kids and teens
In addition, there are no ads for your child to view!

Micromanaging?  Maybe!  But frankly, so what? I have been charged with the responsibility of raising the kids God has blessed me with and I take that responsibility seriously. So no, I do not mind micromanaging their world while they are young.

Our experience!
This has been such a blessing in our home.  Colby, age 9, has turned into an emailing monster.  But in a good way!  When we first began with the program, he emailed as many people as I gave him access to!  Some may have even been blessed with multiple emails in one day.  (sorry friends!)  Let me tell you, they were not impressive emails.

So we regrouped and laid down some ground rules.  Like, you can check your email and email people ONCE a day!  And if you are going to email, you must make sense and use complete sentences! Score one for mom!  It has worked.  His emails have gotten a bit longer, not as random, and slightly more understandable.

In addition, we have been able to learn a bit about the keyboard and what the different symbols mean that are on the email form.  Things like font, bold, text size, how to add color, etc.  It has been a mini word processing lesson with some fun in between.

In case you are worried, it has been fun, I promise.  Having an email has given our sweet boy an opportunity to connect on his own with friends and family across the miles.  We are a military family, after all, so we have people we love both near and far.  Emailing them has allowed Colby to be in touch without the dependence on me or dad.

There are also template options that allow your child to change the look of their account and make it more personalized to fit their style.  A drawling board is also included that allows your child to draw pictures to include on his or her email. Annual Subscription

Final words!
This is an easy product to gush about.  We simply have had a great experience using it and can't say enough about what we feel is value added to our son's day.  By giving him the freedom to communicate with friends, under the protection of the service, we are allowing him to better communicate with friends and family, while picking up some valuable skills as well.  Can't beat that!

Still on the fence?  You can try KidsEmail for free!  Give it a try! Annual Subscription

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Monday, September 19, 2016

Love at First Fight- book review, giveaway, and thoughts on marriage

Marriage is a big topic in our house these days.  My husband and I have been married for over 24 years now and our oldest daughter is getting married in January.  Then we have three more children that, Lord willing, will join the ranks of happily married couples all over the world someday.

I say happily married couples because that is our desire for them.  Let's face it, two random people who fall in love, get married, and decide to spend their lives following each other and Jesus is a beautiful thing.

But it can also be a difficult thing as well.

No relationship is easy all of the time.  It takes hard work, a lot of patience and forgiveness, and a lot of sacrifice. It is laying down our selfish desires daily, sometimes hourly, and pursuing holiness.  A little dose of humor mixed in certainly doesn't hurt!

While I believe that the Bible is the ultimate rule book for marriage, I do know that there are also some good books out there, written by Godly men and woman, that can help to encourage and teach couples on their marriage journey.

Love at First Fight- 52 Story based Meditations for Married Couples is a book that does just that while adding in that dose of humor!   Authors and Christian speakers Carey and Dena Dyer have taken personal, and often times hilarious, stories from their own 22 year marriage, and written a book that is worth adding to your library!

Each of the 5 book sections is related to a stage in their marriage-
  • Coming Out Swinging
  • Treating Our Wounds
  • Retreating to our Corners
  • Needing a Referee
  • Still Standing
Each chapter begins with a scripture and then has a He Says and She says section.  He says is from Carey's point of view, and She Says is Dena's side of the same story with a few more details added in usually! ;)  Their laid back story telling mixed with whit is sure to pull you in.

Following the story-based meditation, there are a few questions in a Taking Your Gloves Off section to get you thinking, but more importantly, facilitate discussion between couples.  In some instances there are actions suggested such as journaling, going on a date, or looking back through old pictures together. 

My favorite part of the book actually comes at the end of each chapter called Tips From the Pros, which has a quote from a fellow married couple.  Some made me giggle and some made me think, but all challenged me to ask the question "How does that apply to me?"  

My thoughts-

This 174 page softback book is a gem, but not just for married couples in the trenches of life.  Yes, these meditations are great reminders for the "married pros" out there, but they are also a great challenge to those newly married or about to be married.  In fact, our daughter and her fiance have begun reading one meditation a day together and answering the questions.  It has been a great time of reflection and allowed them insight into a Godly marriage, outside their immediate realm of influence.

Yes, it is great to watch and learn from those closest to us, but I also believe that anytime you can hear from people about their marriages, both the joys and the heartbreaks, the better prepared you can be for the realities of marriage.

Can one ever be fully prepared?  Of course not, but when you read the Dyers' stories of different backgrounds, challenging seasons, and what spiritual leadership looks like,  you can simultaneously laugh while learning the lessons they have gleamed from 22 years of experience, hard work, and relying on the Lord!

A million little adjustments?  Yep!  And sometimes many more!

Hard work, but worth the effort!  And maybe a little easier to do with some well said, Godly advice the Dyers offer in Love at First Fight!

If you would like to enter to win a copy of Love at First Fight, just leave me a comment here on the blog!  Tell me how long you have been married, share your best marriage advice, or just say hi!  A ramdom winner will be chosen on Friday!