Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Review: Bessie's Pillow by Strong Learning, Inc.

I tend to stick to romance novels and my daughter likes science fiction type books. Bessie's Pillow is one of those books that sounded good, but when I started to read I struggled a bit. I think honestly my mind was on other things and not the book at hand. A few days later I grabbed the book and started reading again. Wow, was I blown away!! Strong Learning, Inc. has given us an AMAZING book. This is one that I will not forget and I will read again over the years. I do enjoy reading historical fiction books, but they really need to allow me to feel like I'm right there with the characters.  Linda Bress Silbert has done just that with her family story.  It was her grandmother, Boshka Markma aka Bessie, that this wonderful story is written about. Boshka Markman, aka Bessie, is one of those women that has dealt with adversity in her life and risen above it! She was sent from the only home she'd ever known, Lithuania, in 1906.  Imagine being 18 and leaving your entire family to go to a new country.  Imagine having to do that because you are Jewish and it's no longer very safe for you.  What would you do and how would you handle it? I'm not sure I would have handled it as well as Bessie did. She was suppose to live with her sister, but that didn't work out for her. She moved on to a friend's house and that was more comfortable for her. She took a job that really wasn't the best job for her, but it gave her life experiences that we see her falling back on later in the book. 

What I like best in a book like this is to be able to feel like I'm right there in that time period. How would I have felt if my family put me on a ship bound for America? What if I didn't like where I was to stay? Couldn't find a job? Missed my family? Those are all things that Bessie deals with and I love how we see her grow through dealing with these issues. So many people had to do what Bessie did, including some of her own family members. Imagine leaving your home and NEVER seeing your parents again! That is something that was fairly common many years ago, but today we couldn't imagine living a life like that. There were lots of people that left their homes and came to America for a better life. It's hard for us to even begin to imagine how many of these people lived during those times.  Check out Bessie's America to get some great info that will help you relate. We really enjoyed reading about the ship and what type of food they would have eaten. We also really enjoyed this photographs of Bessie and her family.  Check out Ellis Island to see if you can discover any of your family members.

I feel like this book could easily be enjoyed anywhere from 5th grade and up.  Depending on the type of reader the 5th grader is would be the determining factor. My son's attention wasn't kept in the same way that mine was :) I would have loved this type of book as a child. I think all ages can enjoy it. I truly think most adults would be the ones that enjoy it the most. For older readers it might bring back memories from their childhood and stories they heard. For those my age it really makes me realize how fortunate we are to be born in America. I'm not sure the younger readers will really grasp that concept. They may read it as more of a fictional story than a book written based on Bessie's life.

This book is available for just $15 through the site or just $3.99 for the Kindle version. For more information follow their social media sites:

Twitter:  @BessiesPillow

Also, check out what my fellow crew members thought of the book. 

Bessie's Pillow {Strong Learning, Inc. Reviews}

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Review: Creating a Masterpiece

I'm the first one to admit that I think art is important, but I often put it on the back burner for what I call the "core" subjects. I know it's wrong when I'm doing it, but it just happens (LOL) We recently found a great online art program that really walks you through the steps.  Sharon Hofer has come up with Creating a Masterpiece to make art easy for everyone.  She has a Monthly Plan that gives you access to several levels of art instruction ranging from beginner up to Level 5. There are a few other options as well :)

There are some amazing projects from pencil drawings, watercolors, acrylic and even wood burning. I was most excited about the wood burning and am planning to work on that when I get some time to myself :) There are specific supplies that you will need for each project, but they have already taken the guess work out of that for you. Every project has a list of each and every item that you will need to complete the project.  Here is a complete list of the types of mediums your family can chose from.

Block Printing
Conte" Crayon
Copper Tooling
Glass Mosaid
Mixed Media
Oil Painting
Oil Pastel
Silk Paining
Soft Pastel
Wood Burning

Here is a sample that is very special to those at Creating a Masterpiece.  

I decided to ask both of my younger kids, 9 & 15,  which projects they would be interested in trying. I figure if we did one that was picked by each child that would work:) Several choices were discussed and in the end we went for one drawing and two watercolors. One that we worked on was the Lessons in Pencil: Sunflower.   I do NOT consider myself to be artistic at all, but I felt my drawing turned out pretty decent. Sharon really does give good instruction and we just paused and worked on our project and then started again. I felt like my 15 year old daughter and I had an easier time with the instructions than my 9 year old son. He seemed to be working more on the level that Sharon said most kids do, but you try to instruct them to move ahead further. He honestly wasn't getting exactly what she said  and became very frustrated. He felt because ours looked better than his that we were "showing off." I explained to him that we were all doing the best we could and that we can use this as a learning tool for the next time. I personally think he was rushing a little bit and her instruction just wasn't specific enough for him. I think if she had slowed down a little with each step that would have helped. He might just need more specific instruction.  One issue when we were doing our drawing was there were times that her markings on the paper seemed so light that we weren't sure what she was doing. It would be great if there was a little better closeup while she's working.  

We also tried two different watercolor projects.  We did Lessons in Watercolor: Floral Medley and Lessons in Watercolor: African Sunset.  Even though these were both watercolor they each had different techniques and you could really make them your own. I think some of the directions my son and I took more literal and you can see it in our work (LOL) My daughter seemed to take the directions and somehow turn it into what it was suppose to be :) All three of our projects were unique and different which I enjoyed. I think one of my favorite parts was in doing Lessons in Watercolor: African Sunset because we got to use coffee straws to make our trees. Again, my daughters looked much better, but overall I was happy with what we achieved. We worked in the beginner and Level 1 sections. I really feel that unless your child is gifted in art that some of the projects will frustrate them. My son just kept saying that his didn't look anything like Sharon's work. We told him she's an artist, so hers will look better than all of ours. I feel this really would work better for about twelve and up unless they are really artistic. I just didn't feel that really young kids would do well with the projects. 

The lessons range in amounts of time. Some lessons take up to an hour and others you can do several lessons in one sitting. What we discovered when doing the watercolors is that you often need to let your work dry before you can move on to the next step. Sharon mentioned you could use a hair dryer to be able to move on quicker, but we just let our dry and worked again on another day. 

I really have enjoyed trying out the Monthly Plan from Creating a Masterpiece. It has given my children and I some precious time together creating art. While I don't think most of our work looks like the pictures on the site I do feel that we were able to do some things that I didn't think we could :) I personally feel now that there are things I can do IF I'm walked step-by-step like Sharon Hofer does.  Even though my youngest got frustrated at times I still think he enjoyed doing the different types of art. 

Go check out some of the beautiful art and see what they have to offer on Facebook as well as read what the other crew members thought!

Creating Beautiful Art at Home {Creating A Masterpiece Reviews}

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Week Ending 3/18/2017

It's been a crazy week, but then again I say that EVERY week (LOL) After a week with my mom the previous week I tried to get caught up last weekend and get ready for the new week! Monday we tried to get a full day of school in since it seems those days have been lacking recently:( We also had our 4-H A.C.H.I.E.V.E banquet that night. The kids get recognized for being in 4-H, doing speeches and project books. It's also a time to thank our leaders for all the time they give to our kids. It was a nice evening and we got to see a few people we haven't seen in a while.  Tuesday was one of the only days we didn't have to go anywhere (LOL) I had planned on us working on our art project from Creating a Masterpiece, but we just didn't get to it. We've got lots of things we are working on right now and honestly laundry and dinner were some of the biggies for that day :) Wednesday is Gavel Club. Brianna is really enjoying this group even though the two previous years she didn't want to join. I think she often enjoys things more once she's into them:) I feel like I'm the same way. After we went with some friends to look at the venue for the formal next month and graduation in May. Time is coming too quickly and it seems there aren't enough hours in the day! Thursday Issac and I went on a field trip. He had a good time, but I wished we had stayed home (LOL) I personally felt the person doing the trip wasn't prepared or ready to talk to a group. She didn't have much of a plan and honestly couldn't really answer any questions that she was asked.  Issac had a good time, so I tried to just remember that :) So thankful for Friday! The end of the week and hoping we are done with enough school:) I feel like lately there has just been too much going on. We are getting our basics done, but not the other stuff I want to get done too! I'm planning to do a little work this summer. Issac is just getting his multiplication tables and being ready to move on to division. He's actually been ahead in math for some time, but remembering the tables has proved difficult for him:( I think that since we used Math Mammoth-Blue Series he has really started to get it. We were given the chance to review the Multiplication 1 & 2 as well as the Division 1. I have to admit when I first looked at it I didn't like it. I've realized it doesn't matter how I'd learn them, but this works for Issac and that's what matters.  We'll continue on these through the summer and doing review, so he doesn't backslide. I'm also planning to keep working in art and maybe some music history.  I hope you all had a great week!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Review: Circle C Stepping Stones Book

I grew up LOVING Little House on the Prairie, but sadly my two older kids didn't enjoy them. My heart was broken when my daughter didn't like them (LOL) Recently we had the opportunity to review the Circle C Stepping Stones books.  We were blessed to receive both Andi Saddles Up and Andi Under the Big Top.  These books are written by Susan K. Marlow and published by Kregel Publications,  When I first looked at the website I was hoping Issac would enjoy these.  These books are geared towards boys and girls in the 7-10 range. Issac, being 9, fit right in that age range.  The books are about Andi, a 9 year old girl, living in 1877.  In the first book Andi is turning 9 and her horse, Taffy, is turning 3.  Andi is hoping for a new saddle for her birthday, but at her birthday breakfast she gets an unexpected surprise. She later makes a new friend and they have wonderful adventures as well as a few not so wonderful ones.  In the second book it is summer and Andi is excited that the circus is coming to town. She doesn't ever remember attending the circus before, but her family says she did. She can't think of anything else until she gets there. Both of these books are great, wholesome stories that have good values intertwined.  Several times we see Andi thinking of doing something she shouldn't or actually doing something wrong.  Her family members are right there to help her understand why what she did was wrong and how she could have better handled the situation. Her family is also there to show her how to treat others.

There are a few things about these books that we don't always see. The first is that any words the child might not be familiar with are located at the beginning of the book. There are definitions, so they can get familiar with these words before reading the text. There is also a wonderful pdf study guide for each book. I wasn't sure how my son would feel about this (LOL) I worried he would think it was "work" verses just reading a good book. I printed about half of each study and we did those pages. He enjoyed every one that we did. There was lots of information and fun activities. Here are a few pages we did from Andi Saddles Up:

These books will be a wonderful edition to your child's library.  The books appeal to so many different children. If you have a child that loves the Old West or horses they will love these books.  If your interested in more information about these books check out their social media sites:

Twitter (Kregel Books):  
Twitter (Susan K Marlow):
Facebook (Kregel Books):
Facebook (Susan K Marlow):

Andi Series {Kregel Publications and Susan K. Marlow Reviews}
#hsreviews #oldwest #horsegirls #fictionforgirls

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Review: In the Hands of a Child International Geography Quest Note Pack

My son LOVES anything related to geography. This is such a love for him that we can be doing ANY other subject and he'll blurt out geography questions (LOL) I love that he loves the subject, but it can be frustrating at times :) I was excited to try out the note pack because we've never done one of those before. There were so many different things to study in this pack. We did vocabulary, the science & themes of geography as well as studying the actual geography of earth. One thing that I really thought was cool was that the information was given for the child to do a lapbook of ANY country they chose. I liked that the choice was given to the child. There is a schedule given telling you what you can do each day. Here is just a little peak of the first few days:

We started out following the schedule and just adjusted as needed. I liked how large the pages were for the child to write. However, it seemed overwhelming to my son:( I think he felt he had to fill the entire page out. I ended up doing some of the writing for him and just letting him narrate to me the information. 

I think for my son that the note packs would work better than the traditional lapbooks. He needs larger spaces to write and I think he'd get over feeling overwhelmed after a while. My one "complaint" if you could call it that is that I wish the activity pages were right after the information pages. I felt like I was constantly flipping back and forth to get my pages. That's just my own personal issue :) If you haven't done a note pack before go check International Geography Quest Note Pack and make it your first. 

** I received this item free for my honest review. 

Thankful Tuesday 3/14/2017

So thankful for the women in my family! My mom is an amazingly strong lady.  She was a single parent for a large part of my life.  She worked, came home made dinner, graded papers, but still had time to give us attention. She helped us with our homework and read to us at night. I don't ever remember feeling like she didn't have time for me growing up. She was loving as well as strict, but it was a good mixture.  I'm not sure I could have done such a good job.  She has the total opposite emotional tank that I have :) She's super strong, doesn't cry and keeps you in line. I cry at the drop of a hat and I let things slide with the kids.  

My aunt, my mom's sister, is also an amazing lady. She has dealt with more medical issues than ANYONE I've ever met.  She's also emotionally strong like my mom. I'm not sure that I've ever seen either of them cry before.  My aunt has probably dealt with more pain in her life than anyone I've ever met. She looked at it like it was the cards she was dealt and she moved forward. I've very rarely heard her say that she's in pain. If she tells you she is then you know her pain level is off the charts. Due to a bone disease she's had over 20 surgeries in her life. She's also dealt with cancer and then issues because of the radiation. She's now dealing with pancreatic issues. I think she's over 30 surgeries/procedures at this point. I'm thankful for her time in my life.  I have wonderful memories of being with her and lots of laughs to think about.  

I think my mom and aunt are such wonderful ladies because of their mother! My grandmother passed away when I was younger, but I was thankful for the time I had with her. She taught me how to knit, do rug hooking and gave me a love for tea. When I was too sick for school I stayed with Dee, my grandmother.  We would play games, have soup and hotdogs, drink hot tea, take naps and knit.  I wish that she had lived long enough to see me get married and have children.

Here is one of my favorite pictures from when I was a child. My mom, Dee and Aunt Mary Lou.  

One of the best days in my cousin Kelly's life-her wedding to Michael. 

In the last few years I have developed a stronger relationship with my cousin Kelly. When we were younger we played together, had fun at holidays and I even would babysit when the adults went out. For many, many years Kelly and I didn't really talk. We were at different places in our life and might see each other at Thanksgiving. When I lived in California for 12 years I'm not sure I even saw/spoke to Kelly six times.  In recent years we have gotten so much closer and I'm thankful. She has found the love of her life and thankfully I was able to attend their wedding. We have a strong bond now and are trying to be more supportive of each other as we realize that one day our moms will no longer be here:( I wish I loved closer to these wonderful ladies, but I know that 4 hours is MUCH better than over 3,000 miles :) If something happens to any of them I can be there in a few hours.  So thankful these ladies are in my life!!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Review: Creative Freewriting Adventure

I'll have to be honest that I've heard of Home School Adventure Co. before, but really didn't have any idea about their materials. I recently had the opportunity to review Creative Freewriting Adventure that also includes Creative Freewriting Adventure Coloring Book Edition. I was pretty excited to check this program out.  Over the years creative writing has been one of the things we've seemed to have dropped the ball on teaching :( My middle child has a flair for the arts and I thought this program would be right up her ally.  She's got a very vivid imagination. She's great with creative writing because of all the ideas she has, but sometimes needs help bringing it all together.  She's my only girl as well as the only child that has ever enjoyed coloring, so I chose the coloring book edition.


This was a downloaded item and right away you get the gist of the program.  The table of contents lets you know what you are going to be learning and writing about!  There are 10 exercises that when complete your student will have one large assignment.

Each exercise has the same basic setup.  There is 1-2 pages to setup each exercise. They give what I call the history. This information helps setup in the students mind what is going on. Then they give the assignment, for example in this exercise it was to imagine yourself in the scene and tell what happened.  The student is setup for success because of all the clues and suggestions that are given for the writing.   Here's an example of one of the exercises:  

Here is what my daughter wrote as well as her coloring page for this exercise:


I was overall happy with this item.  It took my daughter a few lessons to really get into it and use the helpful suggestions in her writing. She really LOVED that she was only suppose to write for fifteen minutes! She colored about 75% of the coloring pages and I was totally ok with that. I think coloring can be very calming and relaxing. She just didn't need to do that part every day. We used this item 2-3 times a week. Most weeks it was three times, but one week was super busy :) The item is $21.95 for the digital coloring set. You can also order the set without the coloring pages.  That item is $18.95 for the digital version or $21.95 for the print version.  I would buy other writing programs from Home School Adventure Co. because I think this was a quality item, easy to use and not a bad price! They have many other items, so check them out at any of the following social media sights.

Twitter:  @HomeSchoolAdven

Go check out what other members of the crew thought about this and other programs from Home School Adventure Co.

Resources with a Biblical Worldview{Home School Adventure Co. Reviews}