C is for…Concert


I want to start by apologizing for the number of posts in a row that were reviews. There have been some things that I was working around and that just kind of happened. I try not to do more than one review in a row and seldom want to do two in a week. So, hopefully, that many review in a row won’t happen again. Now, onto the ABCs.

C is for Concert


C is for Concert

I chose concert for the letter C this week because L and I had a wonderful time at a concert last night. There are no pictures because it was a last minute opportunity and I forgot the camera.

The local symphony was performing and they had a guest artist. Jennifer Koh was performing with the symphony. Ms. Koh is a very talented artist and it was a treat for L to get to see a professional violinist. L wants to learn to play the violin. She has not gotten to start lessons yet and is continually letting us know that she thinks she is old enough for that. While we are reminding her that more goes into the decision than just how old she is, it is difficult for her to find the patience to wait until the time comes where she can begin to learn. So, for now, we will try to treat her to some special performances like this.

Ms. Koh played the Sibelius Concert for Violin and Orchestra. It was a nice piece of music and L enjoyed the performance a lot. While she really enjoyed the violin, I think the first two pieces actually made a much larger impact on her.

The first piece was the Stephen Chatman’s a cappella setting of the poem “In Flanders Fields” by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae (1872-1918), Canadian Army. It was beautiful and it really struck a chord with L. That piece was followed by the final section of the requiem Mass Requiem: In Paradisium by Maruice Durufle. Both of the pieces really touched her. So much that she wanted to learn more.

She wanted to learn the poem. She wanted to write her own poem and set it to music. She also wanted to write something about World War I and learn more about the poppies. So, we are creating a study related to this poem, the choice of poppies as the commemorative flower, and the memorial that has gone up this year at the Tower of London. It ought to be fun.

Concerts are a wonderful way to touch the soul of a child. Music opens worlds and ideas and thoughts that nothing else can. If I had suggested this kind of a unit, she would have participated and learned but she will fall in love with it all because it was her idea and the impetus was the music of the concert. She did fall more in love with the violin at the concert and it was a very special mother-daughter evening but more than that, she fell in love with something deeper, richer, and more capable of enriching her life – learning. At Home.


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A Review: Snake Oil

Snake Oil Title

Are you looking for some good ‘ol fashioned fun? Word games combined with card games? Snake Oil is it! Created by Out of the Box Games, Snake Oil is a fun word game that allows your “out of the box” thinkers to express themselves in a very fun, unique way.

I know what you are thinking – snake oil? Really? And the answer is yes, really. It makes total sense, if you get back to the origins of “snake oil.” Check out these words from the instruction sheet, included with the game.

origin of Snake Oil

So, how do you play? One person is the customer and picks a customer card to determine what kind of customer they are. For example, the card may say “diva” or “pregnant woman” or “kindergartener.”  The other players have a set of cards with a single word on each; we have been playing with six cards. Each player picks two of the word cards and imagines a new product based on those two words. The player then gives a sales pitch about that product to the customer. Once every player has had a chance to pitch their product, the customer chooses which one of the products he would buy. He gives the customer card to the player that created the most marketable product. The next person then chooses a customer card and play continues in the same manner until every has had a turn to be a customer.

L studying cards J working on cards E studying cards

We played one variation of the game with just two players because L really likes this game and asks to play it more often than the others like to play. So, she and I play and just take turns making the sales pitch. It is still a lot of fun.

Fun With Words

This game has been a great family activity. The words are varied. This gives opportunity for a vocabulary lesson at each and every game. The girls have learned quite a few new words and when we learn a new word, we also read the spelling of it a few times to help cement it into our brains.

The marketed age on this is 10+. However, we have found with our family, that J (age 5) can play by herself if someone helps her read the words. Independent play is possible for L (age 8).

That being said, there are some cards you might want to remove prior to play. Here are some examples of word cards we have removed and why: rumor (if we are promoting something good, it doesn’t need to include rumor which is not based in fact), greed (an emotion that is negative and can rule lives), bra (don’t really want that in the box with mixed company), revenge and murder (again, both negative, sinful things). There are some others as well, and your choices will be based on your family and the situation in which you are playing the game.  Some examples of the customer cards that might be problematic for someone include executioner (the job is not one I desire to get into with my 5 year old and the picture is somewhat disturbing to the girls), witch, zombie, gangster and vampire.

Snake Oil box


Snake Oil retails for $19.99. There is also another variation of the game, Snake Oil – Party Potion, marketed for ages 8+. It retails for $14.99. Visit Out of the Box Games to learn more and to view videos of each of the Snake Oil games in play.

This has been a super fun, creative way to add word work into our days. The girls have definitely had an increase in their vocabulary and their brains are making new word associations each time we play. We are happy to have this in our games closet and it will be helping the girls imagine all sorts of new things to sell. At Home.

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A Review: Purposeful Design

Purposeful Design cover

Creation is beautiful and inspiring. The giggly girls always enjoys studying about creation, no matter how many times we have done so already. When we were given the opportunity to review Purposeful Design by Jay Schabacker, we were happy to.

example of picturesPurposeful Design: Understanding the Creation is a beautifully photographed, coffee table style book. The full-color photographs, drawings, and images are interesting and have lots of details to study. The photographs combine with the words to highlight the design of the science principles that run our world and work together to be the perfect situation for human and animal life.

Beginning at Day One, Mr. Schabacker takes us through each day of creation and God’s work, all the way through Day Seven. He covers the basics of what God created on each day. He then discusses the ways in which God’s creation benefits us. From the light to the seasons to the way our body is designed, Mr. Schabacker uses the information to point out our Purposeful Designer – God.


While the information was very good, the number of typographical errors, editing mistakes, and awkward working made the book difficult to read. The frequency of these types of things affected my reading and understanding of the information. Reading it out loud helped quite a bit but I often had to edit the wording for the girls. The girls are excellent readers and the information was difficult for them to grasp. They would not sit and read this book alone. That is huge to me, since the book is beautiful and chock full of good information.

Young Explorer's Club

On the Purposeful Design website, there is a free, printable curriculum called the Purposeful Design: Young Explorer’s Club to go along with the study of the Purposeful Design book. The curriculum helps the student to think deeper about the information shared in each chapter. There are various thinking levels of questions for each day of creation. It works well for our 10 year old to do on her own, after I have read the chapter to her. The 8 year old needed some help because of the way the questions were worded and answers asked for. Also, a couple of words were left out of some of the questions and it caused a stumble for her. Our five year old was asked to participate verbally and write a couple of the words that she already knows, such as “sun.” The curriculum is pretty flexible and can be used, with discretion and adaptation by the parent, at a variety of age levels.

reading bookThe book is available for $18.95. The book can be used with all ages. The pictures are particularly engaging for young students. The information shared in the book varies in the level at which it can be understood. The information ranges from very basic to extremely in depth. An example of the basic information would be the Bible verses for each day with which the children are probably familiar and examples of things that were created on each day. Mid-level information includes examples of how the water cycle was put in place on Day Two and the descriptions of the various animals and their benefits on Day Six. Some of the higher-level information presented includes the 2nd law of thermodynamics, the tides, and blood clotting details. With some help, this works well with our 8 and 10 year old but it did not hold the attention of the 5 year old at all, even with the beautiful images.

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Jesus Calling review and sale announcement

Jesus Calling title
***Disclosure: I received this book free from Family Christian Stores through the Family Christian Blogger program. This post does not contain affiliate links.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.***


“Jesus calls us o’er the tumult of our life’s wild, restless seas.
Day by day His sweet voice soundeth saying Christian follow me.”

Any time I read the title Jesus Calling, this song runs through me head. Not at all a problem because don’t we all need to be reminded over and over that Jesus is calling us to Him?

Jesus Calling book

This book, Jesus Calling: 365 Devotions For Kids is doing just that for our children. Sarah Young wrote a book of daily devotional studies from Jesus’ perspective – Him talking to me, calling me to Him, calling me to know Him, calling me to study His word and learn more about Him, calling me to draw near to Him. In Devotions for Kids, Ms. Young’s work has been adapted for children by Tama Fortner. This book is calling our children to find out more about Jesus, to read His word, to come near to Him, to be stronger in Him.

Jesus Calling bird


The simple artwork is lovely and does not detract from the overall purpose and writing of the book. Each day there is a repeating image of a bird on a leaf that reminds me of Jesus in our daily life, right there, watching over me. I don’t know if this was intentional or not, but I appreciate the repeating element and the continuity it brings.

Jesus Calling months





Each month has a theme. That theme is shared on a page with a Bible verse. After that page, the daily devotions begin for each day of the month.





Jesus Calling page

Each day’s devotion has similar elements. There is the key verse for the day, which is written out at the top of the page. After that follows a few short paragraphs that invite you to spend just a few minutes contemplating the verse and how Jesus would have your children apply it in their lives. The writing is done as though Jesus is speaking directly to the kids. It is simple and clear, yet the words are powerful. Each day’s reading ends with one or two more Bible verses that the child can look up and read on their own or you can look up and read with them. The day’s readings take no more than five minutes yet that can be the most powerful five minutes in your child’s day.



My two oldest girls are using this in the mornings to do some personal Bible study and get their days going right. They are 8 and 10 and are able to find the verses in the Bible without any trouble, so this is completely independent for them. Well, except that I have to remind them to do so, but they are young and daily personal study is, unfortunately, a difficult habit to establish.

Family Christian sponsored this post by providing us a copy of Jesus Calling: 365 Devotions For Kids by Sarah Young. But there is a spectacular sale coming up that you will want to know about! Beginning Friday, November 14, 2014, and running through December 24, 2014, Family Christian Stores will have all Jesus Calling products on sale for 50% off. Everything Jesus Calling. 50% off. If you are looking for a gift to help draw a child closer to God, may I suggest that you head over to Family Christian and look at their materials? May I suggest that you do that if you are looking for an encouraging gift for anyone? I have not personally looked at the Jesus Calling books for adults but if the book for kids is any indication, I will like them.

Are you on Twitter? If so, you will have the opportunity to win some fabulous Jesus Calling prizes, including a copy of the beautiful 10th Anniversary edition of Jesus Calling. There will be a Twitter party on November 14th at 1-2 pm EST. It will use the hashtag #JesusCalling . There will be 10 prizes including 5 copies of the anniversary edition and 5 $50 appreciation certificates. Make sure you join in on November 14th for your chance to win.

Hope you are able to join in and maybe you will win one of the wonderful prizes! At Home.

A Review: IXL


IXL Review

IXL has been an interesting program to review because the girls have liked it. All three of them. A lot. So much that they ask to be able to play on IXL. So much that J’s “children” – aka dolls – get set up to use IXL whenever J is working on the program. So much that it has ended up on the lesson plans for every single day.

IXL is online learning designed as a supplement to a curriculum of your choice. There are two subjects available on the website and we have been using them both: IXL Math and IXL Language Arts. There are skill levels available for PK – 12th grade in math and 2nd – 8th grades in language arts. It is designed as practice in math and language arts. It is so well designed, in my opinion, that it can work as a base for your curriculum if you are conscientious about the way in which you use it, at least for the elementary levels. This is what we are doing right now with our 3rd grader and 5th grader, but I’ll share more on that later.

happy with IXL

What The Student Sees:

Let’s just start with how much I love the ease of the login and the selection of students. Each child gets their own icon. To change between students and/or the parent account, you don’t even have to log out! Now that is awesome.

topics listsOnce logged in, the student selects math or language arts and the grade level. Then the student chooses a topic (skill). Because this is designed as a practice program, the topics do not have direct instruction. If a question is missed, there is a short teaching sequence to help them see why they missed the question.

The variety of questions is a big bonus with this program. IXL does a great job of covering the topic in just about every way possible. When E was working on graphs, she would have numbers to interpret, graphs to interpret, graphs to create, word problems to work through. You name it, she probably had to work on it. I really liked the thoroughness of the program.

Each question answered correctly brings the student closer to 100, the final score that must be achieved to master that topic. At 70, 80, and 90, the student gets a new ribbon and at 100, they are finished. Those ribbons are great motivators for the girls and they are part of both the language arts and the math. Once they have mastered a topic, they get a gold medal on the topics board. It looks like this:

Kinder completion example

However, the math has another motivator that is not yet available for the language arts – a prize board! As the student achieves various goals (100 questions, 5 skills, an hour of practice, etc.), a square on the prize board is awarded. The student gets to click on the square to reveal what the prize is. Here is L’s prize board for 3rd grade math:

3rd grade prize board

What The Parent Sees:

Apart from the cheerful, excited desire to work on different topics and skills, there is a lot the parent sees that is super helpful. Once I have changed over to my account, I can see the prize boards for each student and each grade level. This is done by clicking on the awards tab at the top of the page.

If I click on the reports tab, I get my choice of different types of reports to view. I select the student I want to view a report on. Some of the reports include:

  • reports exampleoverview
  • proficiency assessment
  • news flashes
  • report card
  • usage
  • performance
  • trouble spots
  • progress


As the parent, these reports are done in graphs and charts that make sense without a lot of work and can be printed off easily. There is also a tab that correlates everything to the state standards for me, in case I need to keep track of that sort of thing.

I get a weekly email updating me on the usage of the girls with the program. It gives me time spent, skills, and questions answered for each of the girls and for both math and language arts. It is a nice, quick overview of the past week. My inbox is also filled with news alerts regarding the progress the girls are making. Each time they meet another awards goal or get a new square on the prize board, I get one of these in my inbox:

award E

If I click on it, I have a printable certificate that looks like this:

certificate 2


How We Are Using IXL:

MATH – IXL is designed and intended to be a practice program. J, age 5, is using it that way. She has a core math book that she is using. She goes to IXL for math practice.  E and L are using it differently, though. We have been building our own math program as we go along because we have not found anything that puts math together in a way the girls understand and we all enjoy. IXL has changed that quite a bit. The girls may never love math but they are enjoying working with this program. So, we have begun to use it as the core for those two. We choose the topic and teach the girls. Then we direct them to the topic on IXL. If they come to a point where they are struggling, we are right there to assist them and teach them through each question. It is working well for our family this way.

LANGUAGE ARTS – Again, IXL is intended to be a practice program for language arts. The topics should be already known. We have never used a dedicated language arts program so this has been an interesting part for us. We are seeing what we need to work with the girls on and what they innately understand. There is much that we are having to take a step back from and teach the girls. Then we send them back to IXL to practice that topic.


IXL on KindleFor the most part, J and L prefer to work with IXL on our desktop computer with internet access. It is easy, the screen is large, and they really enjoy it. E, however, prefers to access it on the Kindle Fire using the app. The only drawback to this is that the Kindle app does not currently have language arts on it so she has to go to the desktop computer for language arts. I definitely recommend that anyone using the app be a bit older and understand how to use the app, as well as the program itself. L was not able to use it easy enough to make it through an entire topic. She quit and waited her turn at the desktop computer. To use an app, you must have access to the internet. There are apps available for iPad, Android, and Kindle.

Obtaining The Program:

IXL can be purchased through their website. It is available for the United States but is also available with customized math content for Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, or the United Kingdom. Here’s the breakdown of the pricing in the US for one child:

  • Math: $9.95 per month or $79 per year
  • Language arts: $9.95 per month or $79 per year
  • Both math and language arts: $15.95 per month or $129 per year
  • To add another child, it adds $2 per month or $20 per year.

There is an excellent FAQ available.

I don’t know about you but we are constantly telling the girls that to get better at something, they have to practice, practice, practice. IXL is doing a pretty good job of making practice fun, at least for math and language arts. So for now, we aren’t getting too many grumbles about practice, practice, practice. At Home.


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B is for…Bible

B is for BibleThe Bible. The Word of God. Important. Encouragement. Strength. Hope. Love.

The Bible gives us so much. We are blessed in America to have easy access to the Bible. To the truth. In any number of different ways, we can access what God has to say to us. And I am so thankful.

I have an NIV Study Bible that my parents gave to me for Christmas in 1987. It is the Bible I would need for my classes at Abilene Christian University. It has been well loved and used. It is still in fantastic condition.

I was sent a different Bible the other day to review for Family Christian. This post is because I wanted to share that Bible with you. I was not required to share this with you through a blog post but I am going to. I was pretty impressed with the Bible. (The link included in this post is not an affiliate link but I am linking to Family Christian because I received the Bible from them to review.)

The NIV First-Century Study Bible is edited by Kent Dobson. He edited it to help us explore the scripture through the culture and history and mind-set of its Jewish and Early Christian context. When we understand more about the culture in which scripture originally existed and the time in which it was set down, we got a more full understanding of God and why He gave us His word.

B First Century Bible
The First-Century Study Bible is chock full of material. Some of what you will find:

  • NIV Scripture: The newest NIV translation is used.
  • Book Introductions: There are extensive introductions to each book that cover the title, author, date, themes, and an outline, as well as other information about the culture and the time of the writings.
  • Word Studies: Greek and Hebrew words are examined for their root words and meanings. A cultural setting may be covered as well.
  • Maps, Charts, and Models: There are a number of full-color maps, charts, and models to help understand more about the first century and Jewish traditions. These are listed in the Table of Contents.
  • Articles: Textual articles address passages that we will understand better if we know more about the first century culture. Day In The Life articles discuss the lives of various kinds of people from the first century, such as a shepherd or a midwife or a priest or a Sadducee.

This Bible has been a great joy to go through and learn with. It will definitely complement my study and be a helpful resource. The First Century Christian Bible will not replace my NIV Study Bible but it will be a well used companion to it. The First Century Christian Bible has a lot to enrich Bible study with. At Home.


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A Review: If He Had Not Come

If He Had title collage

“If…”  It is a really big word to have so few letters. We so often try to tell our girls not to “what if” things. It can send your heart in the wrong direction so easily and lead us toward discontent.

But, “what if” it could also lead us to greater understanding and appreciation? This is just where David Nicholson takes us with his wonderful retelling of Nan Weeks’ classic Christmas story If He Had Not Come, originally published in 1938.

If He Had Not Come

David Nicholson reintroduces the story of Bobby after hearing it himself over thirty years ago. The story had such an impact on him that he wanted to share it with the world once again.

Mr. Nicholson brings us to Bobby’s home on Christmas Eve. Excitement and joy fill the air as the family reads the Bible together. After going to bed, Bobby reawakens to find a world in which Jesus had never existed. So much changed and so much gone, Bobby realizes that the best presents are not found under trees or in pretty packages. Jesus is a wonderful gift that changed the world.

sisters together

This enchanting story captivated the girls. I often found them reading this story or studying the pictures in the book. It has been read a number of times already and I have plans to incorporate it into our Christmas book traditions. It fits right in with our goals of being servant-minded Christians.

The illustrations by Charles Jaskiewicz are sure to become classics, as well. They are beautiful and do a lovely job of supporting the text. The girls noticed right away that as Bobby entered the world without the light of Jesus, Mr. Jaskiewicz muted the colors of the world. It added a lot to the reading of the story.

Included in the book are discussion questions about the story. These are appropriate for families, teachers and Bible class teachers and help highlight the purpose of the story. There are also some thought provoking ideas that help you dig deeper into the meaning of the book and ways in which you could allow the book to impact you.

sisters together

The title of the book and story come from the Bible, from Jesus’ words in John 15:22. While it was never suggested in the discussion section to look up the verse and read it in context, and the verse was not shared fully in the story anywhere, I believe it is highly imperative that you look it up and read it. The context of these words in the verse and the broader context of the words of Jesus make the purpose of His words here more important. It makes sin, illustrated in the book, more obviously a choice people make and Jesus coming to earth to redeem us from those sins a choice He chose because He loves us. This is important for children to see and understand.

Jesus came to redeem a lost world and we see this lost world illustrated in the story. He doesn’t want anyone to be lost. He gave us His word in the written form of the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16-17) so that we could more fully know Him and understand what we must do for salvation. Mr. Nicholson includes a page titled “The Gospel Message” at the end of the book and on his website. It shares a simple plan but it is not scriptural salvation. To receive salvation from God, it is clear in God’s word that we must be baptized for our sins to be washed away, removed (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16). Mr. Nicholson leaves out this very important step. Praying a prayer for Jesus to remove your sins is a step toward acknowledging your sin but it does not fulfill what God tells us in His word is required of us to be given His gift of salvation. It is necessary for anyone reading this book or visiting this website to recognize that this incomplete plan is included so that they are not steered wrong and can act accordingly when sharing this book with others.

Book Cover

If He Had Not Come is a beautiful, hardback book. It is available for purchase from http://www.Davids-Treehouse.com/ for $18.95. It is also available in ebook format for $3.99. While the vendor suggests age 6 and up for this book, I personally feel that it is appropriate for all ages. Some of the discussion may need to be modified for a younger family member but I cannot see any reason to not include all ages with this magnificent, vivid story. It will certainly be wrapped for our Christmas tradition this year. At Home.


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