Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Great Book Series for Middle Schoolers

I have just finished reading a very interesting book written by a home schooled high schooler! It is the first book in The Truth Seekers Mystery Series called "The Missing Link: FOUND". I began reading this book aloud with my 12yo and 14yo, but due to time and us moving this next week, I wanted to finish it in order to share about it with all of you before the Christmas holiday shopping is all done, because this would be a great gift!

First, I want you to know I really did enjoy this book, and look forward to reading the others. I think it is really cool that a 14 year old homeschooler, Christina Gerwitz, took this on, along with the help of her mother, Felice, and has accomplished such a daunting task as writing a mystery novel, let alone a whole series! Truth be told, there are times when you can tell that it is written by a "non-professional" writer, but that actually added to the novelty of the book. I am sure that her writing skills improve with each book of the series as she matured and learned more about writing. I am looking forward to seeing the growth along the way.

Another very interesting aspect to this book is the large amount of scientific information offered about Creation vs. Evolution. This author did a lot of research and provides many details that my children and I were not aware of regarding paleoanthropological research concerning Creation Science (obviously, there is a scientist in this family!)

The main characters are a homeschooling family, the Murphys, whose oldest two children are teenagers and accompany their father on a archeological dig. There is quite a bit of drama and suspense along the way as they work to solve a mystery surrounding "the missing link". I believe this series would best be suited to middle schoolers who love mystery and adventure books. Both boys and girls would like this series and it is also a fun read-aloud for the whole family. There are many interesting discussion topics raised as they learn about the theory of evolution and the missing link "myths" that have been manufactured over the years.

Felice and Jeff Gerwitz are owners of Media Angels, which is a publishing company dedicated to providing quality materials for parents and children. Media Angels publishes study guides on the topic of Creation Science and has accompanying activity packs. You need to visit their website and check out the great products they have. Felice's newest venture is Scholar Square where she hopes to encourage moms and dads to produce teaching videos for the home education and Christian world.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Since we are in the middle of packing up our belongings to make the move to Phoenix, I will not be able to make very many posts over the next two weeks. I just wanted to let you know the reason there won't be much activity here (and hasn't been the last couple weeks:-). In December, once we get settled, I intend to share lots of frugal ideas, holiday recipes, homeschool product reviews and more with you all. I may get a few things posted during this time, but not sure. So check back in December and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!

Hope House Update

It has been a while since we have sent out a newsletter, and we wanted to take this opportunity to bring you up to date on what has been happening here in Mexico.

A few weeks ago, we had an official opening of Hope House with a dedication and time of prayer and fellowship at the house. It was a very nice time and there were about 35-40 folks there from the church of our director, Maria Meza. Many of these women are helping out and working at Hope House and have provided many things for our resident family. Maria and her husband, Pastor Mariano, have been blessed and excited to see the fruition of their vision to minister to and help single moms and teen girls. They have taken on this project with all their hearts and energy, even though they were already busy pastoring their congregation and feeding about 100 children each morning Monday through Friday at a local school.

I would like to introduce you to our current resident family. The mom is Diana and she is 20 years old. She has two sons - Arturo who is almost 2 years old, and another baby boy (no name yet) who is about 3 months old. She came to Hope House from a very violent situation and is very timid. She has been hurt a lot and hasn't learned things we take for granted like basic personal hygiene for her and her children. The wonderful ladies at Hope House have been encouraging her and demonstrating proper care for her children, assuring that she feels safe and is learning and growing during her stay there.

Ricardo and the guys at Eliacim (men's rehab center) are doing well. We hope to get some blankets to give to them real soon since it is starting to get a little chilly here at night. We are hoping to begin supporting them financially on a regular basis real soon.Back in the summer, we felt God was releasing us from living in Mexico and bringing about a new season in our lives. After seeking His direction and discussing what He had laid on our hearts, we made the decision to move to the Phoenix area. Well, the time has come and we are making that move the beginning of December. Now that Hope House is up and running, we are only needed for oversight, direction and funding. We will be making monthly trips down here to do just that, as well as trouble shoot any issues that arise. We are hoping to be able to spend some time in the next year fundraising for Hope House in order to get a regular budget established that will cover all the costs as well as be able to pay some of the staff salaries. Right now, everyone is working there voluntarily!

We will also be working with Freedom Gate International Missions with Rick and Susan Bennett in Phoenix, helping in whatever ways we can be of assistance to them at their mission base. We will also be able to offer our assistance in outreaches to the Latino community in the Phoenix area, as well as begin to build relationships in other border towns where we can establish Hope Houses in the future.

We, as a family, are really looking forward to being part of Freedom Gate Church and participating in many areas of their ministry. We have lived in Mexico for the last 5 1/2 years, and the things we missed the most were being part of a vibrant church family and being able to host friends and family at our home on a regular basis. We also felt a great burden for our children. They have sacrificed many things during our time in Mexico, and we feel it is time for them to live in the states and have some of the opportunities that they have missed out on these past 5 1/2 years. They are entering their teen years, and being part of a great church family is very important to us for them.

Last weekend, God led us to a great house to rent in northwest Mesa and Joe is going to be able to transfer to Phoenix with WalMart, thus giving a continuity of income for our family. Then, when we get settled, he will find a better job with more income and consistent hours. Joe has worked at WalMart since January, riding his bicycle 6 miles each way to work in order to free up more monies to support Hope House as it was getting established. His hours have been inconvenient and he has had to work most weekends, but God has provided.

Please keep us in your prayers as we make this move. We are trusting that God will provide all that we have need of and more! He has opened all the doors and provided all that we have needed over the past 5 1/2 years. He has taught us, more than anything, to wait on Him and see His hand at work. And He is in the process of working out all the details for us in this move.

As we approach this holiday season, we are overflowing with thankfulness to Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, for always keeping us, providing for us, loving us and growing us! He is truly awesome!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

An Internet Resource for Teachers, Parents and Students

Help Me To Teach is a subscription-based internet directory of online educational resources designed to aid teachers, parents and students with searching for appropriate and safe websites. In just the few weeks that I have had access to this site, it has grown and increased its number of links tremendously! Elaine, the creator of this site, has over 40 years of teaching experience and has spent a tremendous amount of time finding, checking out and adding these links to her site. She has taken time to find sites that are safe for children to search, as well as a tremendous amount of lesson plan and unit study links to aid in teaching, whether in the classroom or at home. And there are currently over 2,300 safe educational links ranging from PreK through High School. There is a brief description for each link to help you decide if it is what you are looking for, as well as coding for age appropriateness so you can eliminate those not suited for your children.

For those of you who do not like to spend a lot of time searching the internet or weeding through thousands of sites, this would be a great resource and time-saver. It is also pretty reasonably prices, since it is $29.95 for a year and right now you get a second year for free! That is less than $15 per year for a helpful and growing resource for your homeschooling! There are also shorter subscriptions, as well as a 3-day trial for $4.95, so you can check it out for yourself to see if it would be a benefit to you.

Occasionally, I would search for something that did not bring many or any results, but those topics are also more difficult to find links to in Goodsearch. I looked up many things for our upcoming U.S. History study and found many lesson plan pages and unit studies, as well as links for online adventures, state study, etc.

If you would like to save time finding resources for your homeschooling, or like to use all online resources for your curriculum, you will find this a helpful and inexpensive resource.

Black Friday Specials...a Little Advance Notice

The other day when reading The Happy Housewife, I learned about two different websites that will be posting details on Black Friday specials ahead of time. Now, you have to know that I am really a newbie when it comes to shopping on Black Friday, but last year I took my 74 year old great aunt out for a morning of "fun" (i.e. standing in lines:-). It was her first time ever, as well as mine. But the incentive was a Sony camera for my hubby for a Christmas present and I only paid 1/2 of the normal price. To me, that was worth a few hours in line (and the rest of the day dead to the world:-). I found out that I don't do well on 3 hours of sleep, especially at 4:30am!!

However, both of my children want electronics this year, so I have already started keeping my eyes open for sale where I could afford to get them what they want. I am hoping for both at one store - much easier to do first thing in the morning. Also, add to that the fact that I have to cross the border into the U.S., either the evening before and camp out, or VERY early in the am.

You better believe I will be checking out and Black Friday 2008!

They will be posting the ads as soon as they get them. They both already have some of them online like Lowes and KMart.

So, do you shop on Black Friday? Is this a tradition? And have you found it is worth the hassle? I would love to hear your experiences and ideas!

Homeschool Library Builder...Fill Your Bookshelves without Emptying Your Wallet!

I really think their slogan says it all, "Fill Your Bookshelves without Emptying Your Wallet." This is a great resource for homeschooling families! The Homeschool Library Builder is a Christian family-run book business dedicated to providing great literature at affordable prices.

"We stock new and used, hardcover and softcover titles. Most of our new titles are publisher’s remainders and overstocks. Our used books are rated by condition and priced accordingly. Most of our used titles are in very good or better condition. Additionally, we are always on the lookout for hard-to-find or out-of-print titles."

They offer a FREE membership which entitles you to emails notifying you of upcoming sales and specials (they had a Bargain Bin sale a few weeks back with $1 and $2 books!), an account where your purchases earn you points that go toward future purchases, and an opportunity to earn more points when you refer your friends.

If you are using a curriculum that is literature-based, they have a search feature that includes such curricula as Sonlight, Tapestry of Grace, Beautiful Feet, Five In A Row, and much more. They even offer fundraising opportunities for your group by giving 20% of the proceeds during the designated time on the orders placed by members of your group.

I have found this store to be an excellent resource for our literature-based unit study (Learning Adventures) even though they don't have this curriculum as one of their special searches. Their prices are great and they have an excellent selection of "good" books (vs. "twaddle":-). They also have many out-of-print and rare books that I have had difficulty finding elsewhere.

Take some time to check out this website/store and see if they have some of those books you have had a hard time finding elsewhere. And I am sure the prices will be pleasing to you, too!

Recycle Old Electronics and Earn Gift Cards

Thanks to Money Saving Mom, I learned that Sam's Club has a recycling program for computers and other electronics where they will give you gift cards in exchange for your old computers. What a great incentive to recycle and also to make a little spending cash for the holidays!

They take LCD Monitors, Notebook PCs, MP3 Players, Camcorders, Desktop PCs, Printers, Game Systems and Digital Cameras. If you have one of these (or more) lying around, check it out and maybe it will be worth your while to recycle and receive a gift card.

Costco has the same type of program, so you can also check that out to compare or if you don't have a Sam's near you.

Also, has a program through FlipSwap where you can trade in old cell phones or iPods for gift cards - and they pay the shipping!

I am looking around the house to see what old electronics we have to recycle. Let me know if you try this and how it works for you.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Kinderbach - Piano for Your Little Ones

I have had the opportunity to spend some time looking over this online program for teaching 2-7 year olds music foundations and to play the piano. First, let me say that I am a pianist and have taught piano lessons from time to time, so I know a little about this subject and was a little skeptical of an online, web-based program to teach piano. However, after spending some time engaging in several Kinderbach lessons, and browsing through the whole first half of this program, I am convinced this is an extremely delightful and effective method for teaching very young children to play the piano.

Here is what Karri Gregor, creator and founder of Kinderbach, has to say about this program:

KinderBach is piano lessons for 2-7 year olds taught by DVDs, Activity Books, and CDs. Children learn the notes on the piano and staff by characters rather than letters. I have taught hundreds of students, and I know that your child does NOT have to be able to read to learn piano.

KinderBach not only teaches piano, but other factors of music. Music theory, note reading, rhythm, ear training, hand position and much much more!

KinderBach was designed to give your child the over all music foundation. Your child can take everything they have learned from KinderBach and apply it to another instrument or continue further with piano. KinderBach was designed to be a spring board, taking this information and just going to endless bounds with what they have learned!

My children at too old to be interested in Kinderbach, so I had to look at it from the perspective of how I think my children would have liked it when they were little, as well as from a teacher's perspective. I was one of those teachers who required children to read before beginning piano lessons, but I can clearly see that if you engage children in a different way than "traditional" piano instruction, it is very possible to teach them at a much younger age. Both of my children are very musical, but it came about more through listening and desire, than through my instruction (it is difficult to teach your own children a musical instrument:-).

As a homeschool family, I can see that Kinderbach would be a TREMENDOUS asset and addition to the very early education of our children. I believe they learn SO much more than just music, since they are following instructions, learning colors, and so much more. There are wonderful activity pages that go along with most lessons. And it is so much FUN for the little ones! I can imagine it would be difficult to limit them to just one session per day.

If you choose to use the online Learning Center with over 300 sessions included as well as PDF files for the printout activity pages, it will cost you $14.95 per month, billed monthly. That is a HUGE savings over paying a piano teacher about $60 per month (an average rate of $15/hour for 4 lessons each month). And if you choose to pay all of it up front, you can save over 50% of that. It is just $85.95!!! That is 60 weeks of lessons - about 2 years of instruction for just a little more than one month paid to a piano teacher! And don't forget the extra games, songs and coloring pages that are available, too! Ok, that savings is definitely worth it and this program is really great for 2-7 year olds. There is also a choice to purchases DVDs, CDs, and songbooks so that you don't have to use this on the internet, but that is a little more expensive.

Take advantage of their free trial of the first two lessons (weeks) and check it out for yourself. If you have children from 2-7 years old, I believe you will be truly delighted with this product, as will your children. And they will learn in such a fun and engaging setting!

A New Favorite Saying

For many years, my favorite saying and life motto was:
That which does not kill us makes us stronger.

This was quoted in the beginning of the Conan the Barbarian movie that I saw way back in the 80s!

Well, last night I heard a new saying that I really liked - and it was quoted in Kung Fu Panda (funny how movies seem to be where I get inspiration for life:-).

Here is my new favorite saying:

Yesterday is history,
Tomorrow is a mystery,
But today is a gift
And that is why it's called the Present.

How cool is that? I really like that and think it would be really great to remember and apply to my life.

I would LOVE to hear some of your favorite sayings. Share them here.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Review: A Great Nativity Play Set

I recently received this 17 piece Nativity Play Set from One2Believe. Their description is as follows:
Children can make this story come to life with our interactive “Nativity” play set, featuring everything you need to help your child learn about this fascinating Tale of Glory. Set includes a “Birth of Baby Jesus” mini-storybook and 17 PVC pieces (Joseph, Mary, baby Jesus in manger, King #1, King #2, King #3, Angel #1, Angel #2, Shepherd #1, Shepherd #2, male camel, male donkey, male sheep, female sheep, stable, tree, and a barrel of hay). For ages 3+.

Since my children are a little old to "play" with this Nativity Set, we spent some time together looking at the figurines and handling them to see how they are constructed. This set also comes with a little booklet with the Birth of Baby Jesus story in 3 different languages - English, Spanish and French. This would be great for those studying one of these languages to read and learn the Christmas story in Spanish or French.

I love the fact that this Nativity set was made specifically for children to play with and re-enact the birth of our Savior. My children always wanted to play with our Nativity set, but I couldn't let them because it was breakable. So, for even just this one reason, I think this is a fantastic gift! And the price of $24.99 is not bad for so many pieces. The characters are cute - some even have surprised expressions (which made me think that they were probably really surprised to have angels visit and talk to them).

You could keep the Baby Jesus out of the manger until Christmas morning and surprise your kiddos with the Baby that morning. And you could have the wisemen far across the room (or house) traveling the great distance to see the new King. There are so many ways you could use this set to teach your children the great story of our Savior's birth!

This company also has many other Tales of Glory Bible figures depicting stories from the Bible that would be great toys for your little ones, like Noah's Ark, Moses, Daniel, David & Goliath, Jonah and the fish, and more! What a great way to teach your little ones the great stories of the Bible and let them re-enact them time and time again!

You Could Win This New Book!

I am hoping to be 1 of 15 winners for
The Quest for Thunder Mountain
on the HSB Company Porch!
You don't want to miss out on this
great new give-away from the author of
The Terrestria Chronicles!

Readers of the popular Terrestria Chronicles allegory series will be thrilled to learn that Ed Dunlop has just released The Quest for Thunder Mountain, the first book in his new Tales from Terrestria series. The Quest tells the story of a young minstrel whose life is shattered when his career comes to an abrupt end. The book was written to help young adult readers experience the wonder of finding and doing the will of the King. You can see the TOS review of the Terrestria Chronicles at: .

The Quest for Thunder Mountain cover

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Sorry for the Unexpected Break...

Well, it wasn't planned, but I haven't had the time or energy lately to get this blog updated. I apologize for those who have been checking in and wondering what in the world happened to me. We have been very busy - several trips to Phoenix, 2 interns here for a month, preparing to move, working on homeschool products reviews (look for those coming up here soon;-). Whew! It makes me tired even thinking about it all!

But the good news is that things are settling down for a little bit (if you don't count packing in preparation to move at the end of the month:-) and I am hoping to get some posts caught up in the next couple of days.

Just to let you know, two weeks ago we went to Six Flags Magic Mountain and I rode EVERY roller coaster there!! My kids and one other friend joined us, while my hubby and another friend sat and watched (roller coasters are just not their thing:-). It made my head spin sometimes and there were a few times I thought, "Are you CRAZY?", like when they suspended us face down for the start of one ride that swung you around and upside down - all face downward (Tatsu). And then there was X2 - the first and only roller coaster where the cars flip around and throw you into positions you just can't imagine, all the while riding a breathtaking roller coaster ride. There were even flame throwers (but my eyes were closed) and loud music and taunting voices in speakers just behind your head. The worst part was the jarring of your neck - thought I might have whiplash! But the pain went away pretty quickly and I was very proud of myself for making it through every one along with my kiddos. There weren't very many "older" folks like me in those lines:-)