{Crew Review} Moving Beyond the Page

One of the best things about being a part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew is discovering new vendors and new curriculum. I prefer to educate using a literature based approach to learning so I was delighted to get to try two units from Moving Beyond the Page.

Logo Image for Moving Beyond the Page

Each crew member selected for this review got to choose a Language Arts Unit and could then choose either a social studies unit or a science unit. Tailorbear loves studying Greek Mythology so her first choice for a language arts unit was Greek Myths which uses D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths. She also loves all things ancient, especially ancient Egypt! Her face lit up at the thought of choosing Egypt and Mesopotamia, a semester 1 unit for social studies. This unit uses the Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia of the Ancient World.

Moving Beyond the Page (MBTP) is a literature based curriculum that integrates language arts, social studies and science.  Yes, each unit is labeled Language Arts or Social Studies or Science but even while studying social studies, the student would be developing language arts skills and while focusing on language skills the student might also learn social studies or science concepts. MBTP offers full curriculum programs or you can purchase individual units to supplement your current program. You can purchase packages with or without the books and manipulatives.  We were sent all the literature and some of the manipulatives that we needed for our two units. Look what physical products I received in addition to my Language Arts unit (online format)!


With MBTP, students interact with the material they’ve read by completing a variety of activities.  For example in lesson 1 of the Egypt and Mesopotamia Unit, Tailorbear participated in a virtual online archeological dig after reading about archeology in the Usborne Encyclopedia. In another lesson, this time from Greek Myths, she created a comic book cover for one of the gods. Some children need to experience the material in non-traditional ways in order to fully process and retain the information.  Tailorbear is one such student. She learns by doing.

Moving Beyond the Page offers two different formats: Physical and Online.  We received the online format for our Language Arts unit and the physical format for our social studies unit. I found advantages and disadvantages to both styles:

Physical Format


  • Spiral Bound; Pages ready to use
  • Includes all the pages for all the options so contains items you won’t use (See advantage for Online version)
  • Check off boxes for each activity
  • Pages for activities are at the end of the lesson. (See advantage for Online version)
  • I can read the parent/instructor sections easier in physical format
  • Must type in the included links (See advantage for Online Version)

Online Format

  • links are clickable
  • no check off box for each activity for each day’s work
  • Only need to print out the pages we are going to use and can do that as we go
  • Harder for me to grasp the teacher instructions.  I think I need to hold them, touch them, and read them in physical format. (This could be an advantage for someone else)
I still can’t make up my mind which I prefer. I think what I would really like is a combo. I’d love for a physical parent guide with online student access.  Tailorbear, however, has a clear preference for the online version. For her “skipping” optional things on computer was easier because she wasn’t having to rip them out of the book.  She just didn’t have to print the optional items. (A note about optional: some activities were optional.  Some activities had more than one option for completing.)

Using and Adapting MBTP in my home:

At the Age 11-13 level which is typically used by students in 6th through 8th grade students would complete one lesson (or one day of a multiple day lesson) in each of Language Arts, Science, or Social Studies.  You would need to add in your own math curriculum. The section “How to Use Moving Beyond the Page” suggests that a typical day of using the program as a comprehensive curriculum would include 4 hours on science, social studies, and language arts lessons. They also recommend 1 hour on a math curriculum of your choice. There are some other recommendations as well for vocabulary or spelling or physical activity, etc. 

We decided to start by following the recommendation of one lesson (or one day of a multiple day lesson) of both Language Arts and Social Studies. I could not imagine trying to add in a day’s worth of science as well. This curriculum is packed to overloading with activities that require thought and effort in addition to time. This is not a bad thing. But the structure of the daily lessons were too much for my daughter as written. For example in Lesson 5 (a 2 day lesson) of the social studies unit, the student is assigned to read 24 pages of text.  That’s 12 two-page spreads. From an Encyclopedia that crams lots of information in small text on each page.  This is a large amount of information to process in one sitting.  I do appreciate though that they implement methods to help process that information.  One skill taught in this particular unit is “pre-reading”.  She has questions to answer after pre-reading that need to be answered before doing a careful reading. In addition she is encouraged, but not required at this time, to write a short summary of each two-page section as she reads. This is only the first part of the day’s work. For my daughter and our home school, this is too much for one day. A later lesson assigns 33 pages!

What worked better for us was to slow down the pace of the reading. I required her to do the summaries. This allowed her the opportunity to savor and digest the content of the pages. The reading was no longer a chore to be endured. Once she finished the last of the reading she would answer the questions. So for the 12 two-page spreads she did 6 on day one, 6 on day two, answered the question.  Then the next day she did activities. In essence she took 3 days to complete 1 day as scheduled.

Thoughts from Tailorbear (finishing up 8th grade):

“I really enjoyed doing this. Some of the questions made me think. I especially loved the activities. I’m an activities person. As long as there’s something crafty to do, I don’t really mind questions. I think the reading was a bit much. I really loved reading about the Greek Myths, and Egyptian history! I really think this furthered my studies.”

100_7478 100_7481

My Bottom Line:

I first have to confess that I was little bit worried that this would be below Tailorbear’s level. It said ages 11-13 and she turned 14 this past March.  The website also said that it was typically used by students in 6-8th grade.  But I was still skeptical. I was wrong. This very full curriculum had plenty of meat for my nearly-finished-with-8th-grade daughter.

I’m not so much a hands on crafty type of person, but Tailorbear is. Though I didn’t like the way the lessons were scheduled, I love the concept and I think this program is a wonderful choice for Tailorbear. She needs to be stretched and challenged but she also requires it to be fun. Once we adjusted the schedule to better suit us, it became the educational, but fun, challenge that she needs. This has been a good way to wrap up and finish 8th grade in preparation for the amount of time she will spend doing high school level work.

I like the inclusion of timeline work (which we adapted because we did not have their timeline materials) and geography/map work.  I also like the inclusion of art, drama, and poetry in both the social studies and language arts units. Tailorbear enjoyed writing an acrostic poem, writing a play, planning a menu, and designing a comic book cover.

I found that this curriculum could be easily adapted for our needs. We could slow it down and add more activities such as playing Go Fish for Ancient Egypt. Tailorbear decided to create a whole comic book rather than stopping at just the cover. We liked this program and I wish I had known about this curriculum several years ago.

Nitty Gritty Details:

  • Vendor: Moving Beyond the Page
  • Recommended Age: 11-13 (6th-8th grade)
  • Format: Physical or Online (access is for 90 days but MBTP will extend that access if needed)
  • Language Arts: Greek Myths $68.78

The Schoolhouse Review Crew reviewed units from all levels so be sure to visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog to read what others have to say about Moving Beyond the Page.

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Random 5 on Friday (June 28 edition)

It’s been so long since I’ve posted a Random 5 on Friday that I can’t remember when I did.

1. Our life has been far more affected by my husband’s heart attack on June 2nd than I could ever have imagined. I can’t seem to stop saying how grateful I am that it was such a mild heart attack and that I am so grateful he is still around with minimal heart damage and normal heart function. Sometimes I just have to hear his voice or give him a hug. It doesn’t stop me from still getting angry, irritated, and annoyed with him, but it does cause me to be quicker to stop, forgive and work it out.

2. This is an oxymoron thought to above.  Sometimes I forget he had a heart attack because he is doing so well.  Sometimes he forgets.  We both think “hey he’s doing great he should be able to do all the things he was doing before.”  Nope. He gets worn out if he does too much.  He still has to take it easy.  I think that frustrates him more than me, though.

3. Did you know that different canned tomato products have different levels of sodium and that sodium levels also vary by brand name! I didn’t know that either. We’ve decided that tomato puree will be a fine substitute for tomato sauce. It’s a little thicker but when making sloppy joes or my daddy’s spaghetti sauce, thicker is better. Tomato Puree was only 15mg of sodium.  Crushed tomatoes had 90 mg of sodium.  Diced tomatoes from one store was 180mg and from another store 220mg!


4. It really stinks to only have one vehicle but what makes it even more stinky is that it doesn’t have the remote to unlock the doors and the used car dealer only had one key. ONE KEY.  Now we know for sure that our auto insurance has road side assistance included and that one of the benefits is getting the doors unlocked so you can retrieve said single key.

5. I am the mother of an adult now.  BooBear turned 18.  And then she graduated from high school.  Who said she could do that? All of that deserves a separate post so I’ll just share this random thought “it’s weird to have an adult child. But I’ve got a new phrase ‘You may be an adult, but you still live in my house.’  We’ve been stepping back as parents and letting her take more and more responsibility but it feels so strange to know that she really is an adult.

The Pebble Pond


Different Types of Fears

My husband’s recent heart attack taught me something.  A life lesson that I think I could have done without learning.  The fear you feel as a parent when your child is facing a life threatening situation is completely different then the fear of losing a spouse.

Twice in my life I have seen a family member hooked up to a crash cart. Twice overwhelming fear has gripped my heart as I watched someone I love hooked up to a machine because their blood pressure is crashing.  Thankfully neither time was the machine actually used. I have no words to describe the emotions that course through me when I see doctors, nurses and assistants gathering around the hospital bed with a scary looking machine.

But, although fear held me tight in its embrace, it was different. I would not have believed how different.  For some reason, I thought I could relate to others who have experienced a near loss of a spouse because I have nearly lost a daughter. Both are family members right? Both are loved so it should be similar right?  Oh I know its different.  I knew it then but I thought it would be similar enough.  It’s not.  Not even remotely. 

It is as different as night and day or apples and oranges or any other cliché for opposites that you choose. I’m not denying that both are similar in that they are both fear just as both apples and oranges are fruit and day and night are parts of a day but having something in common doesn’t make them the same.

You see, nearly 16 years ago when I stood outside the CICU room and watched the crowd around my daughter, I had my husband with me.  He was my rock, my strength.  He was the other parent and we shared the fear and the burden of the stress. He was strong where I was weakest and I strong when he was weak. I wasn’t alone. And I knew I wouldn’t be alone. 

When I stood outside the ER room, all I could think was “I didn’t tell him that I love him.”  My thoughts went more like this “he didn’t say I love you. but that’s ok.  I know he does. Wait.  I didn’t say I love you.” It really bothered me that I had not said I love you before leaving the room.

I think what scared me the most about that day at the ER is how laid back and relaxed everything was until the blood work revealed the dreaded elevated enzyme. And then everything started happening. My husband had a reaction to the nitro which caused his BP to drop. Hindsight being so perfect and all, it wasn’t nearly as serious as my daughter. But it was scary and the reality is that at that moment we (the doctors too!) had no idea what was going on with my husband’s heart.

Father and daughter now share more in common. Both have experienced being hooked up to a crash cart.  Both have experienced heart catherizations.  Both have spent at least one night in a Cardiac Intensive Care Unit.  Thankfully one doesn’t really remember her experiences. These are not the kinds of things you want to have in common with anybody let alone your parent or your child.

I’m just thankful though that both of them are still around so I can practice saying I love you about a million times a day.  (I’ve been reassured that he does not, in fact, get tired of hearing it.)


Little Steps to Eating Better

My husband’s recent heart attack serves as a clattering, clanging, wake up call. Lifestyle matters. I’m not necessarily learning anything new with my research but rather I’m confirming and affirming things I already knew but chose to ignore.

This alarm bell doesn’t have a snooze button anymore. Honeybear and I are fully awake now. This isn’t just his health.  It isn’t just my health.  It affects my children. I wasn’t motived to start taking the little steps to eating better for me but now, realizing the impact on my husband and children, it’s time. One Little Step at time.

Baby Feet

These Little Steps must be small and manageable because otherwise I’ll give up before we even start.  Just thinking of how far backwards we’ve gone overwhelms me.  How far backwards?  What does that mean?  It means that I used to do these things:

  • grind my own grains (mostly white whole wheat berries but also some kamut and spelt)
  • bake my own whole grain breads
  • made whole grain from scratch biscuits, pancakes and sweets such as cookies and brownies
  • made homemade pizza crust 100% whole grain (ok, Honeybear did that!)
  • did not use vegetable oil or shortening and avoided all partially and fully hydrogenated oils (think Crisco)
  • used butter and safflower oil to make “better butter”  so we used butter and better butter but no fake butter or margarine.
  • started experimenting with coconut oil.
  • used olive oil
  • avoided refined sugar using instead things like organic sugar (different levels of refinement), honey, and molasses
  • bought less cereal and the cereal I did buy was whole grain and from the “health food section” (hey Enviro Kids Peanut Butter Puffs may not really be any healthier but at least it didn’t have refined flour and sugar :D )
  • didn’t eat things like Doritos, Cheetos, Frito Corn Chips on a regular basis (not saying we ate all that much healthier because we bought Barbara’s Bakery Cheese Puffs and Bearito’s Corn Chips.  They didn’t taste better but they were made with better ingredients)
  • purchased beef from local farmers who did grass-fed, pastured beef with no hormones etc (as close to organic as possible but just not certified organic)
  • avoided processed foods like boxed dinners, boxed mac & cheese, American singles

But now I don’t do those things. Well, not most of them. It took time to get to the point that we were at above and I can’t just jump back to doing what we were doing.  It didn’t take as long to go backwards (going downhill is so much easier than going uphill!) and there are some things that we have continued to do or have started to implement before the heart attack:

  • using coconut oil.  Even before the heart attack we were using more coconut oil.  Turtlegirl makes awesome chocolate chip cookies using coconut oil instead of butter, margarine, or Crisco.

Photo of Coconut Oil

  • we still use olive oil as our primary oil (we have both extra virgin first cold pressing and light olive oil.  There is strong debate over the light olive oil *sigh* but it has to be better than vegetable oil made from GMO soybeans right? assuming it really is olive oil *sigh*)
  • buying whole wheat bread (no the store bought kind isn’t nearly as healthy and nutritious as homemade but I can pretend that it’s better than the store bought white bread right?)
  • making our own homemade marinades for chicken and beef
  • eating fish more often (we are not fish eaters so eating fish once a month is eating fish more often <grin> )
  • eating more fresh fruit and vegetables

I plan to post about our new journey of little steps to better eating. I’ll need the accountability as well as the ability to look back and see that however small the step, we’re still moving in the right direction.  Our first little step hasn’t been so little or rather doesn’t feel so little but for the last 3 weeks we’ve been working on sodium reduction but that’s a topic for another post.  Have you recently made dietary changes?  Do you take little steps or was it necessary to take a few giant steps as well?

Baby Feet Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


{Crew Review} Baker Publishing Group ~ Lily Lapp

We love books here.  Books allow us to take a virtual adventure or peek at a world new to us. The Adventures of Lily Lapp from Baker Publishing Group is a perfect series for exploring a new to us culture. Lily is an Amish girl, but in so many ways she’s just like any other young American girl. Intended for ages 8-12 we found that Life with Lily (book one) and A New Home for Lily (book two) make for a fantastic family read aloud for all ages.

Baker Publishing Group LOGO image

These chapter books read almost like a collection of short stories with each chapter being a self contained independent story, yet at the same time each chapter is linked chronologically and the reader experiences the passing of time. You can read a summary of book one, Life with Lily ($12.99), here or download an excerpt here. You can read a summary of book two, A New Home for Lily ($12.99), here or download an excerpt here.

Initially, I wanted to review these books because I intended to read them aloud to Supergirl. When they arrived, however, the books attracted more of my daughters. I started out reading aloud to Supergirl, reading 2 to 3 chapters at a sitting. When my husband had his heart attack and was home from work for awhile, he took over reading aloud. The grandparents have come to visit and now Granka (Grandpa) has been reading aloud. He reads only one chapter at a time but he reads more than once a day.

Daddy reads Life with Lily aloud to Supergirl

At times Tailorbear and Turtlegirl would listen in to the reading aloud but then Tailorbear started sneaking off with the book to read ahead.

Tailorbear reads A New Home for Lily

Thoughts from Turtlegirl (age 15):

I enjoyed reading the first book, and I am enjoying reading the second. They’re fun to read by myself, but they’re more fun to be read-aloud as a family. The characters are very real. I think when I was around 5 or 6 and reading above my grade-level, these would have been excellent books for Mom to give to me to read. Lily is a very believable character, one I think I could’ve identified with when I was younger. I like how each chapter is like an individual story, and yet they’re all part of a whole. It’s fascinating to be given a look at an Amish lifestyle through the eyes of a child.  

Thoughts from Tailorbear (age 14):

I enjoyed book one and book two! I think I would have liked them better if I was younger and ESPECIALLY if they were read aloud! I enjoyed listening to my mom read to my sister, Supergirl. I really loved how real the characters felt. Especially Mandy Mast, and another one that I don’t want to name! Another thing I loved was Aunt Susie. Supergirl is special needs, like Aunt Susie (who has Down Syndrome) Only Supergirl has DiGeorge Syndrome and had a stroke. What my worry (kind of silly at my age) is if I got married and had kids,what would they think of my sister! Seeing Lily’s reactions to Aunt Susie and seeing how much they got along has really lifted that! I think that these books are excellent family books!

  Thoughts from Supergirl (Development age 6ish):

Lily is so nice. I mean she is and so pretty, I think. Her brother Joseph is nice kind of and funny.  He tried to fly like a bird. Mandy is kind of mean to Lily.I like the book. It is fun.  I want Grandma and Granka to read it aloud to me. Daddy and mama have been reading it aloud to me. Reading aloud is fun.  It’s fun looking at the pictures.


My Bottom Line:

These are adorable chapter books that are as enjoyable to read aloud as they are to listen to aloud. Turtlegirl was an early and advanced reader and finding material that was suitable for her age yet appropriate for her reading level was a challenge. I wish these books had been around then because they would have been perfect for her. I admit that I think these books work much better as read alouds than readers. The stories cry out to be shared. We’ve had some fantastic discussions about Lily’s antics.

For more fun and for more information visit The Adventures of Lily Lapp. You’ll find games, puzzles, information about the authors, and even a recipe for Mama’s Enormous Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog to read what others have to say about The adventures of Lily Lapp books from Baker Publishing Group.

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Blog Tour! Dead Lawyers Tell No Tales {Book Review}

I love legal thrillers and after reading just one Randy Singer book several years ago, I quickly decided that Randy Singer ranks as one of my most favorite authors. I am pleased to review another great book from Mr. Singer.

Dead Lawyers Tell No Tales Cover image

From the Publisher:

Landon Reed is an ex-quarterback convicted of organizing a points-shaving scheme. During his time in prison, he found forgiveness and faith and earned his law degree. Now he longs for an opportunity to prove his loyalty and worth. Be careful what you ask for.

Harry McNaughton is one of the founding partners of McNaughton & Clay—and the only lawyer willing to take a chance employing an ex-con-turned-lawyer. Though Landon initially questions Harry’s ethics and methods, it’s clear the crusty old lawyer has one of the most brilliant legal minds Landon has ever encountered. The two dive into preparing a defense for one of the highest-profile murder trials Virginia Beach has seen in decades when Harry is gunned down in what appears to be a random mugging. Then two more lawyers are killed when the firm’s private jet crashes. Authorities suspect someone has a vendetta against McNaughton & Clay, leaving Landon and the remaining partner as the final targets.

As Landon struggles to keep the firm together, he can’t help but wonder, is the plot related to a shady case from McNaughton & Clay’s past, or to the murder trial he’s neck-deep in now? And will he survive long enough to find out?

As with past blog tours I’ve participated,  Tyndale has a Q & A with Randy Singer. I love reading these interviews because we get a glimpse of the author’s heart and intent.  Maybe it’s the theater person in me but I love “behind the scenes” dvd extras and this particular set of questions and answers gives some “behind-the-scenes” information about Dead Lawyers Tell No Tales.  You can read all 10 questions at the media center.  I’m going to share 2 of my favorite questions:

Photo image of writer Randy Singer.

1. What was your inspiration for this book, Dead Lawyers Tell No Tales?

Two things worked together to inspire this book. First, the scandals that rocked college football in the last
few years. Have you ever noticed that when a player gets in trouble and is kicked off a team or sent to
prison, we never hear from him again? What happens to him? Are there some inspirational stories of
redemption out there? Do these young men ever discover a meaningful life beyond football?

Second was a friend of mine with a real-life story of redemption. He had committed a felony as a college
student but had become a believer while serving his time. Everyone who knew the man verified that his
life had dramatically changed while in prison. He was not just a model prisoner, but he became a spiritual
leader and a catalyst for change in others as well.

When he was released from jail, he went to law school, where he was respected by all his peers and
professors. After graduation, he applied for a license to practice law. His dramatic turnaround raised
societal questions about the restoration of rights for those who have served their time and demonstrated
that they’ve changed.

That’s when the what-ifs started happening. What if a college quarterback got caught up in a pointshaving scandal in a major football conference like the SEC? What if he went to jail and turned his life
around? What if that man became a lawyer determined to prove his integrity and loyalty to the firm that
hired him? And what if somebody had a vendetta against that firm and started killing its lawyers one by
one? That’s where this book started—on a football field, in a courtroom, in a small and dysfunctional law
firm in Virginia Beach (not mine—the one in the book!), a firm that believed in giving a changed man a
second chance, a firm fighting for its very life

5. As a writer, what did you particularly enjoy about crafting this story?

There is an axiom that writers should write what they know best. I’ve added a corollary: Writers should
write what they know best and what they love most. That’s what I did with Dead Lawyers Tell No Tales.

The story takes place in the legal community in Virginia Beach. In fact, the law office that Landon joins is in
the same building where my firm is actually located. How’s that for writing about things you know?
Moreover, I had some great mentors in the practice of law (I dedicated this book to them), so I gave
Landon a colorful and affable mentor as well—a crafty old lawyer named Harry McNaughten.

But ultimately this is a book about what matters most: family relationships, loyalty to our spouses, and
being changed by our faith. I loved crafting this story not just because it hit close to home but because it’s
the story of an underdog battling the giants in his life—both those of his own making and those on the
other side of his cases. And I love underdogs!

When lawyers start dying in Landon’s firm, he finds himself in way over his head with only his faith, his
family, and his best friend to help him. For me, crafting that type of David and Goliath story never grows

One of the things I really love about Randy Singer books are the very short chapters.  I don’t know why but it feels easier to read.  I think it hooks me so that I want to keep reading more and more.  The short chapters do make it easier to get to stopping point when I am trying to sneak reading in and have to do mundane everyday things like laundry, cooking.

Another thing I really appreciate about his books: real characters. Yes, there will be Christians in the book.  Often the main character, such as Landon Reed in Dead Lawyers Tell no Tales, but these are not dressed up, unrealistic “saints.”  These characters have their struggles. They even sin sometimes. They aren’t perfect and I like that.  It means that maybe I can do good even if I am not perfect and struggle some times, too.

I love how Mr. Singer uses law stories to weave themes such as redemption, forgiveness, and loyalty with moral dilemmas and causes his readers to ponder, reflect and perhaps investigate questions. Perhaps, just maybe, reading Randy Singer novels has helped me to be more thoughtful and less judgmental of others.

But really, the reason I keep reading novels by Randy Singer is that he tells a gripping story. You can read the prologue and first chapter and see for yourself how Mr. Singer lures you into his latest novel.

Some links you may want to check out:

*************Disclaimer: Tyndale House Publishers  provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my participation in this blog tour.  All opinions expressed are my own. *********

Read my other reviews of Randy Singer novels: The Judge and The Last Plea Bargain


18 Years Ago Today!

Do you remember what you were doing 18 years ago? Admittedly, I have trouble remembering what I was doing last week let alone a year ago.  Forget multiple years ago! But I do have some recollection of 18 years ago.

It was a Sunday.  Unusually hot for Duluth, MN.  And it was Father’s day.  I was waiting for my husband to get in from Fort Lewis where he was Cadre for the ROTC Camp.  He was flying in on leave in anticipation of the birth of our first born daughter.  She wouldn’t make her appearance though until the next day.

My doctor had scheduled an induction for June 19 which allowed us to contact the Red Cross and arrange for my husband to be home.  He had a well meaning Captain try to comfort us by telling us that his wife was in labor for something like 32 hours and that he had plenty of time to fly around the world and make it back in time for the birth.  The thought of a 32 hour labor was most emphatically not comforting especially not the thought of going through that without my partner!  However, hypertension, pre-term labor and other risks prompted my OB to schedule an induction.  She was actually surprised I had not gone into labor yet and did not expect that I would actually make it through the weekend to the induction.

Anyway, the captain was wrong.  My husband’s flight from Fort Lewis was longer than my labor and it’s um only 6 hour flight including changing planes at MSP.  But that wasn’t June 18, 18 years ago.  That would 18 years from tomorrow.

I don’t remember if I went to church that morning, 18 years ago.  I might have.  It would have taken my mind off waiting for my husbands evening flight.  We had not been attending this church for very long before my husband left for his temporary duty. We only had a couple of friends at that church (they were wonderful people who gave me lots of support while Honeybear was gone both before BooBear arrived and the 2 months she and I were alone.) I do remember however some of the older ladies (I think of them as the little old ladies) who would look at me and smile.  They gave me that look.  The “at least she is in church even though she is alone and pregnant” look.  I admit I must have looked like a single woman.  My wedding rings didn’t fit and I always attended church alone. Kind of hard to attend church with your spouse when he is 2000 miles away helping train ROTC cadets! I started wearing my wedding rings on a chain around my neck. 

I remember it being so hot that we slept in the living room rather than the bedroom because it was cooler. That was not the summer to be pregnant in Duluth.

The next day we welcomed our first born daughter.  She looked so much like her daddy.  I wish I had a scanner or a least a digitized photo from then but you’ll just have to settle for this one from her senior picture set.



{Crew Review} Birdcage Press: Go Fish for Ancient Egypt

If you have ever been to my house, you might have noticed that we have a lot of games. We enjoy having a family game day or a family game night every so often. I like sneaking a bit of education in with our games. If a game is fun enough, the girls don’t seem to notice if it’s school.


Go Fish for Ancient Egypt from Birdcage Press is just one such game.  With two levels of playing our whole family can play. Well, we can take turns playing but no one is too young or too old! This “go fish” style card game comes with 36 cards and a little booklet of information.  There are 6 sets of 6 cards. You need all six cards in your hand to lay down the set.  The object of the game is to collect the most sets.


The cards are 2 3/3” x 4 3/4” and made of sturdy laminated card stock.  Each card has a picture, depicting something from one of 6 categories: Gods, Goddesses, Symbols, Pharaohs, Mummies, Afterlife. So a “God” card would have a picture representing the god, a “definition” and a brief explanation.  At the bottom is a list of the other 5 cards in that set.


The game can be played with 2 or 3 players. The game includes instructions for two levels.  Being able to read is helpful but not necessary for the young ones when you play the version for younger children because in addition to the category name and the specific card name, each card has the category number! This means that Supergirl can ask “do you have any 6’s” instead of asking “do you have any ‘afterlife’ “

The regular version, though played in similar fashion to the age old popular Go Fish, requires you to ask for a specific card in the set. This makes the game more challenging. For example in a 3 player game you might guess that the person to the right has at least one “afterlife” card because on his last turn he asked for ushabti but you don’t know which ‘afterlife’ cards he has. You can only ask for one specific card at a time.

Different Ways We’ve Played:

We’ve played with 2 players and we’ve played with 3 players.  We’ve played the easier younger version and we’ve played the more challenging regular version.  We played for fun, meaning we didn’t take the time to read the information on the cards or read the information in the booklet, but we’ve also played for education.

When we’ve played the game as a supplement to our current Ancient Egypt studies, we would stop to read the booklet and the cards whenever someone completed a set. Yes, this makes the game longer but it does help you to get to learn the information.


Unfortunately, we had an opportunity to take the game on the road so to speak.  On June 2nd my husband had a mild heart attack.  The girls threw the game in the back pack to play while hanging out with Daddy.  It’s much more fun though to play with daddy now that he is home.


Thoughts from Tailorbear (finishing up 8th grade):

I really like this game! I get to learn another perspective on facts I already know, and I also learn new ones as well! 

Thoughts from Turtlegirl (finishing up 10th grade):

I really enjoy playing this game. I love all of the different facts featured on the cards. I also like that it comes with a little booklet, as well. I like how I can play the harder version if I want a challenge, or the easier version if I just want to have fun. Plus, I love how simple the rules are and how similar to regular Go Fish it is.

Nitty Gritty Details:

  • Product Name: Go Fish for Ancient Egypt
  • Vendor Name:  Birdcage Press
  • Price: $10.95
  • Recommended ages:  Age 7 and up
  • Format: 36 Colorful playing cards + 34 page booklet





Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog to read what others have to say about the different games from Birdcage Press.

All information is correct and accurate as of the date of this review.

You can read my other Schoolhouse Review Crew Reviews by clicking here.

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Our Backyard Visitor

Earlier this afternoon, I peeked out the window and noticed an unexpected visitor.  I don’t know if this is the creature who visited last year. The type of creature isn’t really strange or unusual.  No, rather it is the animal’s timing. Daytime is sleep time and nighttime is hunt time.





Last year I did a little bit of blogging about some our backyard wildlife.  I think I’ll have to keep the camera close by and see who else comes to visit this summer!


{Crew Review} Math Mammoth ~ Make It Real Learning

I think I read somewhere that the purpose of math is to be able to use it in real life. We should be able to apply mathematical solutions when necessary to every day tasks like deciding which cell phone company has the best deal, or how much flour do I need if I 4 1/2 times that recipe.

Because I want my daughters to be able to make connections between the math they are learning as part of school, and the math they sometimes unknowingly use as part of every day life, I jumped at the chance to review  Math Mammoth with 3 e-books in the Make It Real Learning math series.

We chose Graphing and Other Algebra Skills for grades 7,8 and high school ($4.99), Linear Functions 1 for Algebra I and Algebra II ($4.99 ) and Quadratic Equations 1 for Algebra I and Algebra II ($4.99). Each of these eBooks explores math skills using real life situations. A situation is described such as comparing portable music players. A series of questions related to the real life data follows. These questions often build on the previous question and in some cases, such as choosing the best cell phone plan, the two-page sections may build on each other. Following every section is the answer key. Sometimes we had to use the answer key to help us backtrack to figure out the problem.

Using Make It Real Learning:

We set aside our regular math curriculum to focus on these short eBooks for the review. Ideally though, I think I would use these as a weekly supplement throughout the school year. Each two-page section is enough for 1-2 class periods.  With each workbook containing 10 activities, 3 workbooks would be enough, in my opinion, for a full year’s worth of supplements by assigning 1 activity each week.

Some Features I love:

  • Each activity has a little quote box that answers the question “When am I ever going to use this?”  One answer: “Using the concepts in this worksheet, you will be able to interpret graphs of real world data sets and explain their practical meaning.”
  • The problems on the worksheet cause you to think.  Unlike traditional math workbooks, the student will not be able to just regurgitate word problem formats with different values.
  • The answer keys contain the entire text of the problem.  This means I don’t have to flip back and forth to get the context for the answer.
  • With the eBook format, I only have to print the pages we need. I don’t have to print the answer keys.
  • Some of the eBooks use a type-it-in feature so the student can use typewriter or drawing tools available in Adobe Reader 9 or higher to type or draw answer at the computer. (Note: we didn’t use this feature but I love that it was available on the Graphing eBook!)
MIRL_Graphing_Other_Algebra_Skills_I-s mirl-linear-functions-1-s


Thoughts from Turtlegirl (finishing grade 10):

 “I kind of bit off more than I could chew with the Quadratic Equations. However, when I did the graphs, it did me a lot of good to practice using the math in a real life setting. Word problems are my weak point in math, and this helped solidify it. I like how they use actual statistics. I also like that they have you use your answer in one question to solve the next sometimes. (However, it does make it difficult when you can’t solve the first, and thus you cannot solve the next!) I like that with the graphs, you don’t always have to make the graphs but instead most of the time, just extrapolate information from the graph to form your answer.” 

Thoughts from Tailorbear (finishing grade 8):

“I have had a lot of trouble with linear functions. I don’t really understand them. So I had a lot of trouble doing my problems. Plus I don’t like word problems that much. I have trouble translating and other things (Although these were easier then others). I like graphs! Graphs are simple and understandable. Unless you don’t know what horizontal asymptotes are! I really think that if I knew more about the subject I would do better with the problems!

My thoughts:

I confess my math skills are very very rusty. These three e-books in the Make It Real Learning series teach application of specific math skills. I found myself reading and re-reading a problem and not comprehending what I needed to do.  I lacked the vocabulary and the math skill to be able to use thinking and reasoning to set up the problems. Both Turtlegirl and I believe that Graphing and Other Algebra Skills was an appropriate level for her but even that level stretched Tailorbear a bit too far.

I recommend using the Make It Real Learning series as a supplement choosing books with skills below the current working level. I wish I had chosen levels below the Algebra 1 level such as Fractions, Percents , and Decimals I (or II) or maybe even Arithmetic II for Tailorbear.  I love the concepts and philosophy of this series.  Math needs to be meaningful. These are short, inexpensive e-books that show math in real life context and I think they make an excellent supplement.

This is not the Schoolhouse Review Crew’s first time trying Math Mammoth. I loved Math Mammoth’s 6th Grade Light Blue Series. The Blue Series is wonderful as well. You can check out past Crew run’s of Math Mammoth as well the current crew’s opinions.

Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog to read what others have to say about Math Mammoth.

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All information is correct and accurate as of the date of this review.

You can read my other Schoolhouse Review Crew Reviews by clicking here.

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{Crew Review} Motherboard Books: Let’s Make a Webpage

Since you are reading this blog, you must be at least a little bit familiar with the internet and the idea of web pages. Maybe you are a web designer and you know more than just a little bit or maybe you’re like me and you can toddle around using blogger or wordpress, but that’s about all. What about your children? Or your teens?  I am certain that my oldest daughter, a fellow blogger, knows more about creating and editing blog pages than I do or ever will! And my 14 and 15 year old daughters are certainly eager to learn programing and want to design web pages.

Phyllis Wheeler of Motherboard Books has several resources to help you teach your children computer science skills. The Schoolhouse Review Crew had the opportunity to review their choice of Logo Adventures or Let’s Make a Webpage.

We reviewed Let's Make a Webpage. This program uses Visual Site Designer (available in a free trial version)which writes the HTML code in the background, so you do not need to know HTML to create a website. Ms. Wheeler, the Computer Lady, walks students step by step through the process.  The student will design a website that includes a background, images, animations, text, links, and even sound! She even includes how to use your webpage as your home page in your browser. You’ll find a table of contents by clicking here and scrolling to the end.

For young students, this program might take a few days to work through.  I’d keep the sessions shorter only working as long as the student does not become frustrated.  Older students could work through the program in an afternoon or two. Ms. Wheeler does encourage the students to experiment, explore, and create more than one page.

I had two of my daughters read through the e-book following the instructions including doing an interview. Turtlegirl interviewed me and created an “about me” page for my blog. We need to do some playing with the html code to get it compatible with my blog.  She’s also working on another page to be the home page of the browser.  That one asks her “did you complete your schoolwork?” She’s on the hunt for animated turtles to include.

Tailorbear was uncomfortable with the idea of interviewing someone. I suggested she “interview” a favorite character. This idea got her creative juices flowing and she created a website for her favorite “fire bender”.  She even found animated dragons.

Thoughts from Turtlegirl (age 15):

The instructions were clear and easy to follow, although it was a little too babyish for me. For example, when we were supposed to look on the internet for backgrounds and such, she took a tone that might be more suitable for 6-7 year old when explaining what not to do. Other than that, it was well-written. I enjoyed working with it.

Thoughts from Tailorbear (age 14):

I think the instructions were clear. I just had trouble doing them.  I felt like the book talked down to me. I think it would probably work very well with 7 or 8 year olds. I liked designing my website. It was fun, and I learned something too! I think my favorite bit was “interviewing” my person! I had a little difficulty transferring my sound stuff. I think I would have liked the book more, if the tone was not so young. Even though I had some trouble doing the instructions, I was able to figure it out without asking my mom for help.


The Nitty Gritty Product Details:

  • Product Name: Let’s Make a Web Page
  • Vendor Name: Motherboard Books
  • Author Name: Phyllis Wheeler, The Computer Lady
  • Format: E-book
  • Price: $19.95
  • Recommended Age Range: The cover says ages 8 and up, the crew age listed: ages 8-14. 
  • My suggested Age Range: Because of the style of writing, I think children over 12 would feel “talked down to” and so I think ages 7-10 would be good with a 7 or 8 year old needing more parental help and the 9-10 year old fairly independent. I would still use this with an 11 or 12 year old if she had no prior computer or designing experience.
  • Requirements: In order to follow the instructions in the eBook and create a web page you will need Visual Site Designer from CoffeeCup.  There is a free 30 day trial which is sufficient for using this eBook.  The software is $49.  You do NOT need to purchase the software in order to view or edit your page.

I would love to see Ms. Wheeler write an e-book to teach the html coding, perhaps using another one of CoffeeCup’s product.  Though the girls enjoyed creating a website, both were disappointed that they didn’t real get to learn html coding.

This e-book is a great way to introduce children to the fun of designing webpages, especially if they are too young for, or too inexperienced with html coding. Neither students nor parents need to be an html expert to utilize the instructions in the e-book.

Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog to read what others have to say about Motherboard Books.

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All information is correct and accurate as of the date of this review.

You can read my other Schoolhouse Review Crew Reviews by clicking here.

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Post Number 500!!!!!

I know that is such an original, creative and superior title to any other title I have done, right?  Oh well, this is my 500th post on my blog.  I wanted to have a HUGE celebration.  Maybe even a giveaway to celebrate how talkative I have been in the 5 years (give or take) that I’ve had this blog but in the blink of an eye or rather the beating of a heart, everything changed and my 500th post plan didn’t happen.

This past Sunday, June 2nd specifically, my husband had a heart attack. So this 500th post is to celebrate the many praises we have related this life changing event.  I’m using my “Random 5 on Friday” format but these aren’t really random thoughts since they are all related.

The Praises:

1. The heart attack was mild. Most likely caused by a clot. There’s a name for the type of the heart attack he had: NSTEMI.  Ok that’s not a name it’s a list of initials. The MI stands for myocardial infarction the medical name for heart attack.

2. Our pastor had perfect timing.  He arrived at the ER just as we got the confirmation of the blood work that it was indeed a heart attack. And that meant that I was NOT alone when my husband’s blood pressure began to crash from the nitro they gave him.

3. Though they called for a crash cart, they didn’t have to use it!

4. For our church family who has loved on us in countless ways such as sitting with me while Honeybear had the heart catherization, visiting at the hospital, visiting us at home, bringing us meals, keeping the children occupied on Sunday and in general praying, supporting, and encouraging us.

5. For friends and family who have supported, encouraged, prayed and just loved us.

Honeybear is recovering nicely.  He’s going to be ok but things are going to be different. The past few days I’ve just had to stop and get a hug. I think I’ve said I love you about 80 million times. He’s assured me he isn’t sick of hearing it.

I suspect I’ll be blogging more about moving back towards a more whole/real foods diet. I imagine that this heart attack will influence my blog in many ways.


{Book Review} Fortress of Mist

** I received a copy of the book Fortress of Mist in exchange from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group’s Blogging For Books program in exchange for my honest review**

Do you like historical or period fiction?  Do you like series?  Adventure? Science? Intrigue? If you answer yes to those questions then I have a book series that you’ll want to check out.  A while back I had the opportunity to review The Orphan King, book 1 of the Immortal Series by Sigmund Brouwer.  We loved it.  I didn’t even hesitate to request book 2, Fortress of Mist.

If you have not yet read The Orphan King, stop right now and go read that one. This review may contain spoilers because Fortress of Mist is the second book. Can you read Fortress of Mist without having read The Orphan King? Yes.  Yes, I do think you could still get enough from the book to have an enjoyable read but you don’t want to read them out of order!

In this gripping fantasy novel set in 14th century England, Thomas, who has reclaimed his throne at Magnus must win back the hearts of the people or he will lose Magnus. With deceit and betrayal all around him, Thomas has no one he can trust. Who is friend? Who is foe?

Fortress of Mist cover image

From the Publisher:

The throne is redeemed, but the battle is just beginning.         
In the dark corners of an ancient land, evil lurks in the shadows. Powerful druids haunt the spaces of their lost territory. Double-minded noblemen fight for domain and influence. Invaders from the north threaten the kingdom of Magnus. This land of promise and redemption is mired in deceit and corruption.

The Orphan King, once victorious in conquest, appears to be losing his grip on his seat of power. Thomas rules Magnus, but does not know whom he can trust. His enemies anticipate his every move, thwarting him at each turn. Something is not right.

Under attack, both in the supernatural and natural worlds, Thomas must reach back into the secret layers of his past to find the strength and wisdom to fight his battles. When the mist clears, who will stand with him?

I loved this book. Just as with Orphan King, Mr. Brouwer grabbed hold of my attention and would not let go. And just as with the first book, I had to keep reading and reading and reading. I had to know to the answers to the questions, and again just like before, for every question answered 3 more seem to pop up to take its place. A boy becomes a man as he learns courage and gains wisdom.  He must learn lessons the hard way, alone and through betrayal.

After finishing Fortress of Mist, all I could say was “I need book three.”  Need. Not want. There’s just one tiny problem. I have no idea when book 3 will be released.  For the sake of sanity and to keep me from dying of curiosity I do hope it is soon! 

My recommendation: Read this book, but only *after* you’ve read the Orphan King and you might want to keep an eye out for when book 3 will be released.

WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group has made a sneak peak of Fortress of Mist available here.  I warn you though, don’t read it unless you’re prepared to purchase and read the whole book.

You can visit WaterBrook Multnomah Press Author Spotlight to read Sigmund Brouwer’s bio and see what other books WaterBrook Multnomah has published. The publisher also provides a podcast

Sigmund Brouwer has a website.  Check it out for more information about him and about his books for teens. He even does school presentations.