Home Education~Ministry Moments~Hearth and Home

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms (A TOS Book Review)

Flourish Book Review
   The name "Apologia" brings with it the confidence of quality education and instruction.  So, when I heard that Apologia Educational Ministries had published a book for homeschool moms, I knew it had to be good. 
Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms  is a brand new book written by Mary Jo Tate.
   Imagine, if you will, a flower.  It is washed out and a faded with drooping leaves planted in parched and thirsty soil. Now imagine a more vibrant flower--one that is bright red with moist green leaves planted in rich, fertile soil.  Which flower would you choose to be? I think we'd all choose the latter, the flower that is flourishing, much the same way we homeschool moms would rather flourish as we home educate our children than just barely keep our noses above water. That's what this new book, Flourish, is all about.
     What do we need in order to flourish in our homeschools?  No doubt you may have answered, "time!"  Well, Mary Jo Tate gives attention to that in several chapters.  She also covers topics like setting goals, planning, and boundaries.  The second half of the book gets a little more personal and specific.  She talks about attitudes, taking care of "you," training your children, making memories, managing your home, the ins- and-outs of homeschooling.  The books culminates with two very specific chapters: one just for single moms and one for moms who also run a home business.
     I have never read a book quite like Flourish.  There are how-to-homeschool books, how-to-manage your time books and how-to run a home books.  This book is unique in that it shares how to basically manage all of  life as a homeschooling family, not just certain aspects separately.  So much is included in the pages...all based on the fact that you, as mom, home educate your family.  Mary Jo Tate understands from years of experience that homeschooling really does affect most everything else in your life.  All of this advice and encouragement from Mary Jo is also based on God's Word. 
     The first time I sat down to just read "a little bit," and found that I had finished 3 chapters in no time.  Flourish is a very easy read in that it is very easy to follow and is so engaging that you just don't want to stop reading.  My book is full of underlined phrases and stars indicating parts I really, really liked or want to try.  I will definitely be re-visiting this book as a reference book and a source for encouragement to do better and to be better.

 Flourish Book Review

The Product:
The cost: $15
Paperback, 290 pages

Who would benefit from reading this book?
  • Moms thinking about homeschooling
  • Moms just getting started homeschooling (Oh, how I wish I had read this 8 years ago!)
  • Moms in the midst of homeschooling. (A good "shot in the arm" to get you going again!)
  • Single moms home educating their children
  • Moms with a home business and homeschooling
  • Anyone who loves a homeschooling mom and wants to better understand their needs.

Some of my favorite quotes from Flourish:
(I just love a good quote!  This book was FULL of them!)

  • "Develop the habit of asking yourself, 'What am I saying no to when I say yes to this choice?  Are there any hidden costs?'"  (I was able to put that into practice this week, saying "no" to something I knew would cost me time away from my family and added stress!)
  • "...commit your goals to writing."  (I did this for the first time in a long time...a great exercise for me.)
  • "'How do you do it all?'  I don't, and I redefine 'it all.'  Nobody can do it all.  (How freeing!)
  • "As you plan your week, be sure to include the important things, not just the urgent things."  (Oh, how easy it is to get caught up in the urgent when the important is so, well...important!)
  • "Inspect what you expect.  That's how you add accountability to independence."  

About the Author: 
     It is easy to get to know Mary Jo Tate as you read her book.  She is a long-time homeschool mama of 4 boys and even runs her own at-home business.   She is a radio host, author, international editor and book coach.  Mary Jo even makes time to teach high school literature at a co-op and blog at: http://flourishathome.com/blog/.  What's amazing is that Mary Jo does all of this as a single mom.  She is full of insight and wisdom. 
Flourish Book Review

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Big Reveal: House Exterior Before and After!

I'm so excited to share with you our new home!  We have a long way to go on the inside...but the outside is pretty much DONE!  After lots of paint and bush-trimming...TADA!

The before...as in before we even moved in!

Those shaker shingles really needed attention!

But we could see the potential!
Testing out the color!  (Crazy: The painter had some paint leftover from a previous job...it was the EXACT color I had already picked out!)  We used Knight's Armor by Olympic.

I painted the shutters.  I took them to Home Depot and asked if I could paint them with a paintbrush and they said that would work...so I painted all 30 or so of them.  (With a little help from my son!)  Just took 2 days.

All done.  I painted them an "off black" color.  I didn't want jet black.

All done!  We were so pleased!  Bushes whacked, shutters like new, shingles painted, lights updated!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Pinned it/Did it! ~~~ Guest Book Alternative

     This past weekend our Sunday School class had a baby shower/fellowship by the pool.  We had a cookout and let the kids swim.  I didn't want the typical formal guestbook, so I found a few ideas on Pinterest that got me started.  All the guests were bringing children's books for gifts, so I thought bookmarks were the way to go! 
These were my supplies: Tiny punch, paper cutter, Behr paint chips (I chose the lilac/lavender colors since that is what the baby's room will be decorated in.), ribbon, card stock and glue stick.

I cut the paint chips so that you could not see any of the writing.  (These extra-large paint chips worked great!)

I had lots of fun with the punches.  Some of the bookmarks I punched into the paint chips, and the others I glued the punches onto them.  I put card stock on the back to give it more weight (and to cover up the writing).  I put a hole punch in the top and added the ribbon.  I put them all in a basket and the guests signed them. 

I hope baby and family will enjoy their keepsake bookmarks for years to come! 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Spray Painting Exterior Lights...Like New Again!

These ugly brass lights just won't do.  But we didn't want to fork over the money for new ones.  A few bucks for a can of glossy black spray paint will hopefully do the trick!

Here they are on the house before it or the lights were painted.  (And before the "spaceship" light was taken down!)

What to do?  Cover the glass with painter's tape or take it all apart and then spray paint?

We chose to take it all apart. 
Oh, my goodness...so many parts!  (Next time I'm covering the glass with tape...it was a bear to put all this back together!)

BEGGING to be painted!
SO much better already!!!  This took about 3 different paintings to get all the sides covered well.


I just love my "new lamps!"  And the spaceship light is gone!  Yeah!

Just a little bit of work and some spray paint! 

Coming soon...
Painting the shutters and the big reveal: house exterior!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

TOS Review: Moving Beyond the Page

Moving Beyond the Page Review

     Are your kids creative?  Do you want them to be more so? Are you bored with just books and worksheets?  Do hands-on activities sound like what you need more of in your homeschool?  Then Moving Beyond the Page may be right up your alley.  Moving Beyond the Page provides Language Arts, Science and Social Studies curriculum for ages 4-14.  Our homeschool received two of their individual units to review:  Language Arts Package: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (which came with an online guide and the physical book, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain) and Science Package: Health and Nutrition (which came with a physical guide and both physical books: Boy's Guide/Girl's Guide to becoming a Teen).  I will share with you how each of these worked in our home and the details of each, beginning with The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

How it worked in our homeschool:
     The online version of the Language Arts Package: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was so easy to use!  It was simple to access the online curriculum each time my son sat down for his next day's lesson.  We liked how that when we had completed a lesson we clicked "lesson completed" and it was automatically marked out in the Table of Contents.  This gave a sense of accomplishment and helped us keep track of where we were. On the Table of Contents page there is a button which allows the parent to turn the "parent overview" on/off (with a password).  This was very handy...I could turn it off while my son was working on the computer, and then turn it on for grading or instructional purposes. 
     Each lesson begins with an introduction about what the focus will be on that day.  It gives you "things to think about"/"things to know" as you prepare to read the assigned chapters from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Usually 3 chapters were assigned each day and there were 3 questions for the student to answer at the completion of the reading.
     Next came the Language Arts Lesson.  Topics like point of view, the 3 basic types of writing or irony were taught.  The student/parent was usually given 2 activity options to choose from in order to learn the topic for the day.  (I always like options!)  Most of the choices were hands-on or at least a thought-provoking writing assignment.  (At first, the activities seemed like so much work...like is is really important to build a raft from rolled-up newspapers?  But...as my son worked, I could see the value in the activities!  Problem solving, creativity and learning-by-doing all came into play.
     A note about The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: I realize that MBTP (Moving Beyond the Page) cannot take credit for the authorship of this novel, but I commend their choice in literature.  My son loved the book!  I read the first half aloud to him.  He read the second half to himself since I had a cold.  He could not wait to finish the book since it was so exciting.  In fact, once we were just a few chapters in to the book, he went and got The Adventures of Tom Sawyer from the library to read.
Getting started: One of the first activities was to map out the slave/free states during the time period of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. (I love the integration of subjects!)

A map of Huck and Jim's Journey.  The stops along the way were numbered in order as we read the book. All the worksheets were easy to print from the online site.
Building a raft.  This was made from instructions that we printed off the online curriculum.  My son was a little frustrated at first, but in the end really enjoyed this project.

A language arts activity.  MBTP has several activities that take time/effort...but most of them are well worth the effort.  My son was proud of all the hard work he put into these posters.  I was happy to hang them beside his school desk for future reference!
Product Cost/Similar Products:
$22.88 (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn online version, like the one my family received)
$26.94 (for the physical version)
Purchase a Full Year Language Arts Package (physical version) for $255.68
If you'd rather have the online version, that would cost $219.30.

Age Range:
12-14 years old  (new age range just added in 2014)

Health and Nutrition

Health and Nutrition

How it worked in our homeschool: 

      The curriculum, Science Package: Health and Nutrition was different in that my son had an actual notebook to work in, which was handy. Similar to the Language Arts unit, there are "ideas to think about"/"things to know" before beginning each lesson.  A reading assignment is given for the Guide to Becoming a Teen most days.   There are questions to answer and activities to complete.  There were several video links to watch online, especially for the Drug Abuse chapter.   The activities in this unit did not seem as hands-on/creative as the Huckleberry Finn unit. 
      We only needed the Boy's Guide to Becoming a Teen since I had a son completing the unit.  The guide was written by the American Medical Association. There are several worthwhile chapters in this book, like "Eating, Exercise and  Healthy Weight" or "Your Skin, Teeth and Hair."  However, I need to note that there are also sections in the book that our family, as Christians, disagreed with.  To be fair, most of these sections were not assigned, but they are there. (MBTP is a secular company.)  Our family made some modifications to the curriculum and still made it work for us. 

Filling in answers in the Health and Nutrition workbook.

My son discovered some scrapbooking tools of mine that came in handy with all the hands-on projects with MBTP.

Watching online videos about Drug Abuse and filling in a chart in his notebook. (The links were given in the workbook.)

Product Cost/Similar Products : 
Online $42.83 (This includes an online curriculum, Health and Nutrition and physical books: Boy's Guide to Becoming a Teen and Girl's Guide to Becoming a Teen.)  If you only need just the Boy's Guide or just the Girl's Guide, you could purchase the items separately and pay $27.88.


Purchase a  Full Year of Science for 12-14 year olds for $436.08. (Physical)
or the online version for $400.36

Age Range: 
12-14 years old  (new age range just added in 2014)

Note: The prices given in this post reflect the prices at the time of posting.  Prices are subject to change. 

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

FREE Digital Issue: July/August The Old Schoolhouse Magazine

     Whether you are taking a summer break or are continuing to homeschool through the summer, you will want to check out the July/August FREE Digital Issue
 of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine.  

I think the article, "My Best Friend" on page 77 in the Language Arts section looks particularly interesting.  I love the quote contained in the article: "Literature that is rich in vocabulary and truthful in content builds our cognitive skills, heightens our conscience, and awakens our moral imagination."

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

TOS Review: Veritas Press~~ Self-paced Omnibus 1 Primary


      For the first time in our 8 years of homeschooling, my youngest son is at a point in his history and Bible studies where he is "caught up" until high school.   We thought this would be the perfect time to to try out something new, like Self-paced Omnibus from Veritas Press.  We started at the beginning, with Omnibus 1 Primary.  Omnibus means "all encompassing" in Latin.  History, Theology and Literature are all taught together.  Omnibus 1 covers Ancient World Literature culminating with the first century.  (Omnibus 2 and 3 continue on into later periods in history.)

The Product (what you get)
     Self-paced Omnibus is an online teaching curriculum. Once purchased, you will have access to the lessons.  The lessons are done in a video format.  Each lessons lasts about 30 minutes.  The lesson is broken up into segments.  Generally a lesson includes:  a teaching time, an interview with an expert, on-location talks, interactive games, quizzes and more. (No lesson is the same thing twice.  This helps keep things interesting.)  Each student will need an Omnibus Student Text.  (You can purchase either the hardback or the e-book version.)  The program will keep track of your child's grade average.  This is very easy to access, simply click "my grades" on the student page.  Once you complete a lesson, then the next lesson is available.  (Thus "self-paced.")
*You will need to purchase the literature books (Like Gilgamesh, Code of Hammurabi, etc.) for the course. These can be purchased separately or from Veritas.  You will also need a Bible.  

The Instructor
     The instructor for the course is Bruce Etter.  He is a very easy to follow and understand teacher.  Mr. Etter is very personable and relates to the students as their teacher and doesn't just lecture.  He is obviously well-versed in this field of study.  Mr. Etter begins and ends each lesson with a review.

$295 for access to the online course.  ($100 sibling discount is available.)
Omnibus Text: $75 (or purchase within 7 days of ordering the course and only pay $50) 
 The e-book is $37.50.  Literature books that go along with the course can be purchased from Veritas as part of a kit.  The kit without the ebook is: $137.63; with the ebook is $151.32
A teacher answer CD is available for $30.  (Gives all answers to the questions in the Omnibus Text.  It also includes the Omnibus Text.)
Age Range
7th-9th grade
(Minimum of age 12 on the day you begin the course work.)

How Omnibus 1 Primary worked in our Homeschool:
     I sat and did the first 2 books (Genesis and Exodus) of the course with my son.  We watched the videos together and read the Omnibus text together.  My son read the reading assignments in Genesis and Exodus on his own. (I am still trying to catch up with him on my Genesis and Exodus reading.  Let me tell you, this course will make you want to dig in deeper to God's word!)
     This curriculum involves sitting in front of a computer and listening.  At times this can be a bit tough for a 13- year-old boy, but I was amazed at how much information he remembered.  A lot of reading is also required.  In a 5 day period, a student is expected to read the entire book of Genesis or Exodus, for example.  This may seem daunting to some...but it is also doable!  (What an inspiration it was for me to see my son read that much of God's word in one sitting without complaining!)  There will be reading assignments both for the Omnibus Text and the piece of literarture that is being studied. The videos and the reading assignments work together as layers of learning, which helps to both review and solidify ideas and facts.
     Within minutes of beginning this curriculum, I felt as if I was in a first year seminary class.  I was so  impressed with things my son (and I) were learning.  My husband (a seminary graduate) had the same response.  Topics like covenant theology, differing views on creation, freewill vs. predestination are all talked about during the first two books.  It was all explained in such a way that my son was able to keep up and understand the concepts. The course work is not too overwhelming, but the concepts are much "deeper" than I had expected.
     It is important to note that Veritas Press is a Christian curriculum that follows the classical teaching model.  Even though my children have never gone by a classical model, it has always intrigued me.  I found it to not be a problem to jump right in and not feel like we had missed something.  The Bible teaching is wonderful, though a bit more reformed than we are.  This really is not a problem, though, as the instructor is very even handed and generous in his openness to discuss other biblical viewpoints.

What I didn't like as much:
  • During much of the videos there is music playing.  This was distracting at times.
  •  A few questions that my son got incorrect on the online quizzes, I was unsure why they were incorrect.  I wish there was some short explanation at the end of the online quiz.
A few notes: 
  • A high-speed internet is very important to run the videos.  
  • I consider art appreciation/education  to also be part of this curriculum.  For example, my son and I really enjoyed the lesson on the art in the Sistine Chapel during the study of Genesis.
  • The guests speakers are top notch!  Professors, a rabbi, experts...
  • Veritas Press has excellent customer service.  Twice I have had to call for help. (Once my video was "stuck" and once I just had a question.)  Both times, I was speaking with someone right away and my question or problem was answered/fixed within less than a minute.

There's more to learn about Veritas Press!  Check out my fellow TOS Review Crew bloggers and what they had to say:
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