Bessie’s Pillow ~ Review

I remember when I was growing up, being told that the one thing that made this country so great, was the variety of people who were here. Immigrants from far and wide came to this country wanting a better life. Our land was filled with people who had drive and desire to live in a place where they could be free. My grandparents were immigrants; I wish I could remember the stories that were told of life before they came here, and after. There is so much we can learn from those who came before. For that reason I have come to live historical non-fiction like Bessie’s Pillow published by Strong Learning.Inc.


Bessie’s Pillow – A Young Immigrant’s Journey (based on a true story) is written by Linda Press Silbery, who is Bessie’s granddaughter.  Throughout the book are actual photos from family albums, bringing to life the story that is told.

The story begins in 1906 in Vilna, Lithuania as Boshka (Bessie) travels to escape persecution.  Travel with her to Hamburg, then across the seas as she learns the English language, makes new friends, and begins a great adventure. Experience and read actual historical details about life as a Jewish, Russian, Orthodox girl traveling to a new life. Her challenges and struggles, love, courageousness and kindness will move you and draw you in to this story making Bessie a dear friend and companion.


Listen to Linda speak about and share beautiful photographs, bringing to life even more, this story. Explore Bessie’s Family Album and childhood in a Photo Gallery sharing moments from her life in Lithuania, New York, New Rochelle.

Historically, 1906 to 1936 was a time of great change and growth in America. Experience and explore a variety of interactive learning regarding:

  • Famous People
  • Food and Recipes
  • Radio
  • Movies
  • Music & Dancing
  • News
  • Presidents
  • Immigration (European specifically)
  • Housework
  • Health

What a fun way to explore and experience American the same way Bessie did!

You can even explore the stories of others who tell of their experience immigrating.

There is also a Teacher’s Guide to help guide and encourage use of this story to teach language arts and social studies. There are some great discussion questions and activities encouraging our own children to explore their own family histories, to explore the various situations and determine what they would do and why. There are character studies, research topics given, even a timeline of American history (download a full size one) and there are a ton of recommended reading materials too!

I have thoroughly enjoyed every page of this book and I definitely recommend this as one every one should read. While I read this aloud to my children, there were times and parts, which I skipped over due to the age of my children. This is a very honest and realistic book, portraying the good and the bad of the immigration experience so some situations can be difficult and sensitive for children to hear. However even with those moments and sometimes uncomfortable details within the pages of this book, it is all done in a way that makes it necessary but also understandable (sad too!).  So much of this book and the materials that are provided along with it, can be a great lesson to both ourselves and our children. Certainly this was a story that really gave my children and I a new perspective and a renewed appreciation for what we have and where we are.


Twitter:  @BessiesPillow



Art is such a important piece in my children’s education.  They just love to draw and paint; my oldest son has even begun to sculpt a bit. Just simple clay but how I love to see him work. He has always wanted to take classes, formal art training, something to really advance and strengthen his skills. But around here there isn’t much and what there is we just cannot manage right now. Then we were introduced to Sharon Hofer and her amazing online program, Creating A Masterpiece. This is just like a formal art course but online; she provides easy instruction in a variety of media, and it is suitable of for children of any age who just want to create their own masterpieces. We received the Monthly Plan for review and wait until you some of the masterpieces that have been created since we began!


This program offers such an amazing variety of media forms:

  • Soft Pastels
  • Oil Pastels
  • Sculpture
  • Watercolor
  • Acrylic
  • Block Printing
  • Ink
  • Silk Dyeing
  • Pencil
  • Bombay Ink
  • Conte’ Crayon
  • Portraiture
  • Colored Pencil
  • Copper Tooling
  • Charcoal
  • Glass Mosaic
  • Watercolor Pencils
  • Gouache
  • Balsa Carving
  • Wood Burning

There is a Beginner level, as well as additional levels 1-5; there is also an Art in History level which I thought was really neat!  You don’t have to complete one level at a time; my children bounced about on this one. We did some projects in Projects range within these from scenic drawing, to portraits, and landscapes – without a doubt there is an amazing variety to choose from! You can choose projects based on difficulty or you could find projects based on the medium being used. I think some days, if I allowed it my oldest son could spend the entire day just working on all the different projects here!

My oldest son decided he was going to sculpt a turtle the moment he saw this lesson. I wasn’t sure about this but as he watched and worked with her instruction, it was amazing how the simple shapes they began with became a turtle! There were four video lessons for this one which also included helpful hints and highlights from each lesson too. It was quite impressive how something that looked so complex was so easily broken down into simple, manageable steps.  Her teaching style really ensures that our children can complete the project (for younger kids maybe will need a bit of assistance but it is definitely possible for them to create!).

Another lesson that my younger children really enjoyed was the sunflower. This lesson was meant to be done in pencil but my littler ones really enjoyed drawing and then painting, their sunflowers. There were six lessons included for this project which was a bit much for my younger ones but they still persevered to the end and had their very own sunflowers to proudly show off.

All three of my children really enjoyed a Lesson in Soft Pastel; pastels are definitely one of our favorite mediums to work with right now. So together, my oldest and his younger siblings sat and worked hard at this lovely landscape. Only three lessons this was one that each of my children really enjoyed.

I have to show off a bit here because my oldest son worked really hard on this one. He knows how much I Just love horses and so after he and I had an especially difficult day, I found him (frustrated but diligently at work) on a white stallion. This is one of the level 5 projects and is very involved. Only four lessons but this one requires quite a bit of slow work, steady hand and patience.

My oldest son (11) really appreciated her teaching style and how he felt like throughout the video she was “like a friend” with her camaraderie and banter. As she talked it kept him relaxed and at ease; he liked that he could just sketch or paint while she talked and how she wasn’t always “barking” instructions but encouraging in her words and her tone with each step in these projects.

My younger son (7) never wants to draw; art has always been something he does in a hurry so he can do something of his own choosing. But now he has his own drawing book and I can find him sketching at the breakfast table or in bed before he goes to sleep. This has really awoke a creative spirit in him that was not there before!

And my daughter (5) has just really been encouraged by this too! Even as young as she is, she has followed along with some of the simpler lessons and really enjoyed them! She loves drawing flowers and butterflies. Watercolors and pastels are her favorites; as she has completed projects alongside her brothers she has gained a greater understanding and confidence in her own abilities.

I love how each lesson is set up for our children to have success! Supply lists are provided for each project (with a link to purchase materials through Dick Blick – we got ours at our local craft store), downloads and lesson highlights and tips. We really thoroughly enjoyed this program (we still are actually!) and I highly recommend it if you have children who have a desire to learn and create. This has inspired every one of my children to see things in a different way and to try to capture some of what they see in a creative way, to share with others.


Connect to Create: Creating a Masterpiece


When the Dirt Shows

We have had some perfectly lovely day here in Wisconsin as of late. It is definitely a nice and welcome change. But with it I begin to see lots of dirt. 

Muddy Footprints through the house. Sand everywhere….
Unfortunately all the and the need for extra cleaning sometimes makes me a crazy mom. A cranky mom. And these are not any of the fruits of the spirit.

As it gets nicer out and as I have to cajole my children more can get some stuff done ( are you around home educators you know) I feel more pressure. A bit more anxiety and a bit more worried.

I forget kids learn by play. I forget brothers and sisters fight and need to learn sometimes how to work things out themselves. I forget that sometimes we just have to stop and be still.

I’ve been struggling for a while now to figure out how to move forward next. Now that my littlest one is not so little and is very mobile and active I need to switch gears. I need a way for us to all be learning together. 

So much to ponder. Our oldest has some sensory processing issues. It explains a lot as to why he always needs to have so much noise and why he is so drawn to screens and constant movement. How do I go about making our home a place where he can get enough stimulation and also be able to quiet himself enough to learn without driving us all crazy too? Lol

And again I think of all the dirt. I think of important it is for us to see the dirt. If I am totally honest I don’t always clean our floors until I can see something gross on them. Don’t get me wrong I try to keep a clean house but with four kids and 2 dogs and the fact that we are always around the home it certainly isn’t easy and so through the years I have resigned myself to the fact that our home is lived in and loved on.

But dirt… we don’t always see it I’m so sometimes we think it’s not fair. Sometimes we need all that dirt to show us what needs to get really clean. The same can be said of our spiritual life. 

This time of year as I stress and as I fuss… my temper is somewhat shorter, I admit I have been yelling a lot more. This is Mike Derrick and if the impatience and the weariness and the frustration doesn’t come I wish we can be seen perhaps I will never truly be clean. 
I think of fire. I can actually smell our fire pit smoldering right now. SO2 can those things in our life that need to be removed all the way if we are willing to go through the fire.

We need those rivers of Living Water. We need them to wash over us. We need them to cover us completely so that when the waters go down we come out clean.

My grandmother used to say the cleanliness is next to Godliness. But I never really believed that. I never once saw them go to church and the one Bible they had was in a drawer, in a dresser, in a room no one ever used.

Yet even so I think of how God tells us that we cannot enter into his kingdom if we do not first put on holiness. He is Holy so shouldn’t we be also? Let us eat early put on those garments of righteousness and mercy and truth! 

Join the Adventures of Captain Absolutely {Review}

My oldest son has always enjoyed comic books. I admit I have not been as encouraging as I could be about him reading them. Then we received Captain Absolutely from  Focus On The Family. We absolutely love Adventures in Odyssey, so when we learned that there was a comic based on this, we were so eager to get our hands on a copy. My reluctant reader could not get this out of the package quick enough either, when it arrived!

How can we possibly discourage our children from reading this comic? Truth, justice, and lots more truth! lol

In this adventure, Josiah and his friend Darren are in the library.  Darren is updating systems, straightening books when there is an explosion in the library (oh my! those books.) and Josiah King ends up in a room full of Bibles. His friend ends up in the philosophy section (he becomes the evil Dr. Relative). It is here that, for the first time, he reads the Word of God. As he reads, strange radioactive fumes appear, transforming him into a superhero – He stands and battles evil villains, defending the God and truth!

We all loved this! I admit, I had to sneak it so I could read it. Both of my boys devoured this one though the moment it arrived.
My 7 year old son, is a struggling reader, but that didn’t stop him from grabbing this one and reading what he could.

“There were so many words!”

“Baron Von Confuser has a really cool plane. Like the Red Baron.”

“Who puts mustard on pretzels”

These are just a few of his comments. 🙂

My super reluctant reader (but comic book lover) who is 11 devoured this; two days in a row I caught him reading this!

“I like all the scripture references.”

“He is so right….if we follow God’s direction we won’t ever really be lost”

“I do not like those pajama bandits – bedtime is already too early if you ask me!”

“God is better than me, He loves even the bad guys. I should too. Even my brother.”

My favorite part? All the references to scripture within the pages of this comic book!

As I said before, I am not a fan of comics at all ut this one? I read this one front to back and enjoyed every word.

It wasn’t just a fun read but one that had the Bible woven into it – as you eat you learned truths without even realizing it.

A sermon in comic book form perhaps?
My oldest son even made a little video to share some of this awesome story and why all kids need to read it.

I never would have thought a comic could be such a great tool for learning, honestly! Amazing illustrations.; about 100 pages, this kept my boys completely captivated. Every page. And the Biblical lessons they learned from this story were good ones too! What a wonderful way to remind our kids of the real value and power of the Word of God. We absolutely love Captain Absolutely!

Captain Absolutely {Focus On The Family Review}

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Crew Disclaimer

Fear Not!

I admit…as summer draws near each year, I get a bit nervous.
I start to wonder … I begin to question …
Has this year been enough?
Did we do enough? Learn enough? Explore enough?
Fear creeps in …..



And then, as always, God speaks. He reminds me of how Goliath was defeated in 1 Samuel 17. And how even after he defeated him, still David feared them when he was captured by them years later. Then, he put his trust in God. He chose to stand in faith.





We will all get hurt. it is inevitable.  Something or someone will disappoint.

Yet Jesus tells us not to fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.

We ought, instead, to fear Him who is able to destroy body and soul.



It is a reminder that there is not one thing that happens to us, that the Lord doesn’t already know.

After all, He goes before us. 🙂

Tomorrow was already approved; we just need to be confident that the Lord’s plan is good and right.



Let us abide under the shadow of His wings.

Let the Lord be our hiding place.


Do not forget that HIs love, it is so very powerful.

His love is perfect and perfect love casts out fear.

We cannot forget this.


God does not want any of His children to live in fear.

Rather, He wants us to live strong and sure in Him.

Truly there is no place safer to be, than in God’s will.


❤ ❤ ❤


Homeschool Rescue: To the Rescue! {Review}

One of my favorite things about home education is also one of my greatest struggles. There issue much freedom. There are so many ways it can be done. And I admit to being one of those “all or nothing” kind of moms. So we go all in, and then after a few months…we crash.  Okay, I crash. I begin to worry, anxiety may kick it, I realize how “alone” I am in this.  And when that happens it sure is a blessing to have a resource like Homeschool Rescue by Only Passionate CuriosityIt is a breath of fresh air, enjoying coffee with a close friend… It’s life being breathed into these old, dry bones!




I think we have been home educating now for about 7 years; it is kind of hard to say since my goal is for our learning time to not feel like “school” but rather to have a real love of learning. Of course there are ups and downs.  We have some amazing weeks; then we have some weeks that I really do consider throwing them on the yellow bus as it passes our house.


I know that home learning is what is best for my children. I know that this is what God has called me to. But I also know that some days I need a bit more life. As our children grow their needs change; as do ours. She need to be able to remain fresh and encouraged in this journey we are on. Not just as a family but as individuals too.


Homeschool Rescue is a wonderful program, created by Heather, a mom of four and also a home educator. When you purchase this [program you receive lifetime access to over 20 videos (audio and transcripts available too); there are worksheets to print (this homework doesn’t stink!), lots of helpful resources and still lots more being added. There is so much can learn, not just from this course, but from ourselves. Because honestly, there is some really tough stuff in here. We need to reflect on our homes, our families, our lives.  If we really want to be rescued we need to be honest about some things. I know….Is anything that is worth doing ever really easy?



Look at all this goodness, at your fingertips! For a lifetime. If we are honest, we all need something like this at some point in time. When we struggle, when we are just feeling tired, stagnant and restless. When our children go from little ones we can snuggle and read to, to rebellious ones who “hate learning” and need a gentler hand.When we are brand new even and just aren’t sure what to do, how to inspire our children to learn.


This whole program feels like an old friend; so often I would grab my tea and my notebook as I sat down to listen to the videos and work through my course” for the day (or week).  There were many I listened to more than once. There were many I just kind of “got stuck” on and I was reminded again and again that it is okay to slow down. I love and appreciate every reminder. Slow down. Take your time. Reflect and reframe.



“I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning to sail my ship.” 



If we want to truly succeed in this thing, we need to understand that the winds will change; some days we will be blown totally off course. And we need to know how to sail our ship. In any weather. Buckle down. Accept, no embrace, who you are and where you are. We need to claim it all – the things that are going right and those things that are going wrong (maybe terribly wrong). Then we can truly being to sail!



(Do you feel the wind blowing in your hair?) 😛

It definitely wasn’t easy; not for the feint of heart. ha-ha. But it felt so good to sit down and clean out my brain and my home; to admit to those things I struggle with (perfection, follow through, yelling) and pinpoint those things I know I need to do more of (inspire, create, encourage, mentor).  It was a reminder that sometimes we need to inspire, not require, We need to calm down; we need to rest together. Sometimes, this is how the best learning  really happens. And I was reminded that I need to be honest (with them and myself) as to what they are truly expected to learn. A couple thoughts that really inspire me:


  • Does your child feel proud of the work they did today?
  • Did they think critically?
  • Did they see you learning?
  • What did you do in your home to help your children move forward?


These are wonderful questions to reflect on throughout the year. I know I tend to be a stickler for charts and planning (stick to the plan! I yell this often) but then when things fall apart; when there is resistance and a lack of love of learning….Sometimes we have to step back and be willing to admit that something isn’t working. Its what I love about home learning. We can move and change and we have so much freedom got explore and learn in whatever way works best for us.


Walk humbly, love mercy, act justly … Character, virtue. These are so important to me. It matters more, our children’s character and heart, than all the academics in the world. Can they learn? Did they know how to find those things they need to know? And most importantly do they know how to love thy neighbor as thyself?



So what are our goals? What is our priority? Is it to ace those exams so they can go to college? Is it to walk closer to Jesus? Is it to just be a young man or young lady of great Godly virtue? This is such a simple course and yet, so deep at the same time. I am nowhere near done with this course, but it changes so much for me already. I count this such a great blessing because it came in a time of great need. And while there were times I wanted to just deny it all, when that light is allowed to shine, oh how truth sets us free.

Homeschool Rescue will be available to groups of parents how and then, so be sure to visit the website and purchase, or sign up for your spot. The next class will run from June – July and gives you lifetime access to all of the goodies for life! There is also a VIP access option which includes one on one coaching. I really do encourager you, especially as summer is so near, to consider this. Wherever you are when it comes to home learning, this course has something to ignite that fire within you. No matter how many years we have been in this, there is always something for us to learn; there is never a bad time to hit “reset.” It is never to late (or early) to start over. Come and refresh yourself, your family and your home. 🙂



Homeschool Rescue {Only Passionate Curiosity Reviews}

Only Passionate Curiosity:






Crew Disclaimer

Algebra for Breakfast? {Review}

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day or so they say. Lately we have been enjoying Algebra for Breakfasttaking a bite of math each day. With Bob Hazen’s program, you can start even your youngest ones learning algebra. It might be hard to believe but that is one of the main reasons I was so eager to review this program. And sure enough my 7 year old son (who loves math and is great with numbers) really enjoys having Algebra for Breakfast! Such a fun math enrichment program for Grades 3/4 and 5/6 levels.  For our review, we received 6 months access to both levels of the program and we also received a download of skip counting songs.




This is a really neat program! The brain child of Bob Hazen, this is the online version of the Summer Algebra Institute.  You can read about his math journey here. Designed to teach 3rd through 6th graders algebraic functions this program is simple, easy to use and super fun! There are only a few aspects to this program:

  • Online Video Lessons: These are short lessons presented by Bob himself.
  • Manipulatives: This includes math dice (12-sided and three traditional 6-sided) as well as math blocks to reinforce concepts being learned (We purchased these to use with the program).
  • Skip Count CD (download)
  • Printable Worksheets: Each lesson contains a worksheet to be completed to review what has been learned.


We received access to both levels of this program to use with my boys who are 7 and 11. Each level includes 40 lessons (there are lessons still being added) and the lessons typically are able to be completed in about 15 minutes. This was a huge bonus for my oldest son (he hates math) and my younger son couldn’t get enough of this program some days!


Since my boys really enjoy being able to work together (and a competitive spirit encourages them both to work harder sometimes) we began in the 3/4 level. I hoped that this way my oldest son (who has lots of math anxiety) would not feel too intimidated by this. 🙂 And my younger son (who was pretty wary initially) would be encouraged seeing his older brother excelling in this program too. I did take a look into the 5/6 level for myself (because I am a mathematical dunce) and there is a bit of materials that is repeated in that level; each teaching is focused on that specific grade level however so perhaps the content for a lesson is the same but the teaching may be more advanced, going deeper into a concept. When I can understand this stuff, I know its good. 😛


There was quite a bit of excitement when the box of manipulatives arrived! My boys love using physical materials when they work; they especially dice.  Our package came with a wonderful introductory letter which helped to explain a bit more, their program and process. In the early lessons they begin “at square one” to lay the foundation.  Isn’t everything better when we have those basics down pat? They recommend doing two lessons per week; this is meant to be a supplementary program. This is a very multi sensory approach to math and that being said Bob really desires for this program to inspire and encourage our kids to “sleep on these concepts” so that they are more likely to see and understand the connection between arithmetic and algebra.

One of their favorite things about this program was math dice. This is SO fun; a fast paced game to encourage mental math. This was a very humbling experience for me; I certainly don’t think as fast as I once did. Especially with math. But they had lots of fun playing together competitively and cooperatively. Some days  I would even catch one boy off playing a solitary version of the game. Either way I was thrilled to see them taking an interest in math!

 Each video lesson is recorded with Bob Hazen teaching a group of students in a classroom setting. This is kind of neat but also somewhat of a distraction for my oldest son who tends to lose focus very easily. Thankfully the videos are pretty short and often he would play with the manipulatives as he listened to the lesson. 

At the end of each lesson there are worksheets to download, to further practice what was learned. My oldest son completed then when he remembered (sometimes he downloaded them and did them with me orally) and my younger son was studious about those worksheets.  I have to admit, it would be much easier, and less likely for us to miss one or two, if we were able to download all of them at once instead of one at a time. I actually went through at one point and just downloaded the worksheets (they are in a folder together) to try to help encourage my oldest to be a bit more studious with this. Plus it helped my younger son who just isn’t there yet (download, open file, print…it gets a bit messy).

I also want to mention the Skip Counting songs because – they were so much fun! And my daughter, who is only 5, really learned quite a bit from these. If she can sing it, she will learn it. But all of my boys had a blast with the songs; my younger son loved the crowing rooster. That got him cracking up every time. And then he would sing and dance and walk about like a little old hen. The topic for every song was just too perfect! Baseball cards and monkeys in the jungle; gloves and tricycles. These were all things that all three of my older kids love and so, skip counting became that much easier and so much more fun!


One thing I really appreciate about this program is how the lessons are unlocked over time (you gain access to all the lessons after 60 days) to help encourage kids to learn “In segments”.  I like knowing that they cannot rush through a ton of material but rather are “forced” to take their time, marinate on the lessons, and really master a concept before they move on to something new. As our kids learn the concepts being taught they need to “sleep on it” to allow for better understanding and for connections to be made. This is what makes it possible for our kids to say that “algebra is easy” (words I never thought I would hear – to this day I have a bit of math phobia).



We really like Bob Hazen and his approach to teaching. My oldest son especially enjoys his “class”; as we have progressed through this he has commented on how much easier math seems to be. He is finally starting to really “get it”! I am hopeful that perhaps one day Bob Hazen will have a couple other math programs he can share because he is definitely our favorite math teacher!

Bob Hazen's Algebra Lessons {Algebra for Breakfast Reviews}You can have Algebra for Breakfast too: Disclaimer 



What’s Missing? 

I tend to be one of those people who is obsessed with having everything in order. 

I like things to be planned out in advance.

I do not like surprises and doing things in the moment really stresses me out.

Its funny I admit because with four kids it really is impossible. And shouldn’t I know that by now? Lol

And yet I continue to set myself up each day.
And then when things go the way they always do I get mad.
So as I was reading this afternoon I found such a truth within the pages of the book and I just had to share:
“I had to admit to myself that there really wasn’t all that much to get worked up about. With some better planning many of the little problems could be avoided. What stared back at me was the fact that I had come to love so much having all of my ducks in a row everything organized and it just so that I was willing to get all bent out of shape when perfect didn’t happen. I had to ask myself did Jesus suffer die on the cross and rose again so I could have a Flawless organized picture perfect life with no bumps? Taking on stress in a million small ways I allowed stress to narrow my vision to a very small world one word I got to be in command. Jesus came to bring Salvation to a vast world of Sinners caught in the chains of addiction to self and here I was all an emotional despair because one of my children didn’t wear good shoes and comb his hair. My heart’s Focus was off the riches and fullness of Christ and settled onto the temporary.” (Pitching A Fit, Israel & Brook Wayne)

I think of the glass of water that got spilled. How bent out of shape I was having to pick up ice cubes and mop up the water from off the kitchen floor….the hot dog the dog got to eat when my little one just couldn’t sit still at the table….the mess in our downstairs bedroom which was really just a sign  of our kids joyfully playing and creating together.

How many times does something so small get blown up? That little mole hill isn’t the mountain until we choose to make it so. We take something so simple and shake it around and turn it upside down. We are the ones who make the mess. 

It’s about our perspective. It’s about knowing what matters most. Our house may not be neat and tidy and perfectly organized but it is a place where we are learning and creating and growing. It is a warm place. It is a place that is real. A place that lives and breathes sometimes quite loudly.

How often do we allow stress and anger to overtake us? How often do we overreact and forget to see the blessings where at first glance there seem to be none…

Life isn’t meant to be easy. I am the first person to admit that I will do whatever I can to avoid any stressful and chaotic situations.  I will plan things months in advance so I know what each day has in store for me. Get along, those curveballs and suddenly life is full of everything that I wasn’t expecting. 
How many times are we reminded in the scripture to fear not. How often are we told that if we just keep our eyes on Jesus and Trust his plan it will all be okay. We will have peace because his burden is light and he gives Grace and strength whenever we need it. 

I think of how easy it is to slip into that spirit of fear. How easy it is to forget to fan into flames the gift of God. God gave us the spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. How important it is for us to respond with prayer and to turn our eyes upon Jesus.

High School Essay Intensive {Review}

While I do so love to write, I admit that I really struggle with helping my children really gain a love and a strength in this area. My oldest son really enjoys writing; he can spend hours sketching and writing his own stories and comics. He enjoys a speech and debate group every fall; still we can always benefit from learning how to write stronger and be more confident in our writing. This is exactly why I was so thrilled that we were given the chance to review the High School Essay Intensive from the Institute for Excellence in Writing.



One thing I really love about the Institute for Excellence in Writing is that their programs offer teacher training and lessons that you can use with just about any grade level (this is awesome when you are home educating more than one child!).


From the moment I first learned of Andrew Pudewa, I have just sought to learn as much as I can from him. I love the heart and drive he has for our kids; his passion for home education is so clearly seen. He is fun, and funny, yet also serious, engaging and is a teacher that really holds your attention and helps you to see the value of what is being taught. His passion as he teaches in contagious too!


hse-d_thumb_zps8bhsnfsm  This is a DVD course; it is intended to be used by high school students in order to gain confidence in essay writing. While my son is not yet in high school technically, he does love to write and so I try to take advantage of his desire to help him along the way. Since this is a program that can be used as quickly or as slowly, as you like, this is a wonderful fit for my very active son.


We also received the Portable Walls for the Essayist. This is a folder, with three parts to it, which contain helpful suggestions, specific models, types of essays, the writing process and lots of other great tips for the writer. My son keeps this close to him at all times right now so I can attest to the value of this myself.

There are four parts to this program. My son is currently working on Part One (which begins with a timed essay) and continues teaching: writing strategy, planning for length, development and structure. My son has really been enjoying this part especially since he sees the value of this for himself! He also really appreciated the Five Canons of Rhetoric; I think this helped him to see more clearly the importance of each piece in writing an essay.



Part Two is related to the ACT; this helps the student to understand the examiner, how things are scored.  This is definitely interesting; I wish I would have had something like this when I was preparing for this test. It definitely helps a student to understand how to plan and develop your essay in the time allowed. I remember myself, all to well, how much I struggled with this myself so this is greatly appreciated and will quite likely be used in the future by my children.



In Part Three Andrew Pudewa talks about essay portion of the SAT. He teaches the value of annotating as you write (I sure appreciated that!) as well as planning and editing your writing. I found it interesting that “How to Read a Book” was mentioned here. That has been on my list of books to read for sometime now. Perhaps this was the inspiration I needed to pick that one up.



At Part Four we are taught how to write a personal essay for university application (again, where was this when I was younger?) and how to really write in a way that shows and impresses the readers. Again, this is something that will certainly be of great value to mine, as they get older, and prepare for higher studies. I do so love the value within each portion of teaching on this program!




This is such a wonderful program! Even though so much of it is not where we are, I can definitely see a great benefit from this to students who are preparing for SAT and ACT and the process of applying for university. You do not just hear but also see what is being taught. And it is all done in a way that is clear and concise and engaging too. I think this is a wonderful way to help our students to prepare and succeed as they enter into this stage of life and learning. ❤


High School Essay Intensive {Institute for Excellence in Writing Reviews}



Twitter: @IEW

The Secret Bridge ~ Crew Review

We absolutely LOVE the books we have from Lamplighter Publishing! So as you can imagine we were all more than happy to review The Secret Bridge when we were given the chance. If you do not know about this amazing company, you have got to get to know them. Started in 1994 by Mark Hamby this is a treasure trove of good, virtuous, Christian literature that all ages can enjoy. They have over one hundred titles to choose from … I need a bigger house! 🙂



One of the things that makes me really love this company so much, is the care that they put into their books. Every story they publish is carefully reviewed and edited to ensure that there is a Biblical framework present. Biblical truths are woven within to every page, reflecting God’s character and teaching those important and valuable virtues of character. Hope, love, mercy, justice, kindness.




Isn’t this the most beautiful thing ever? I love books!

I especially love them when you can see the care put into the creation of them.

I mean, I was so excited (even my husband who isn’t really a reader commented on this one). It’s beautiful, it feels and smells…..DO I sound crazy? LOL


When we begin reading, we meet Bridget Channing, a young woman with nothing. No money, no family, no friends. Nothing. Doesn’t that sound like the perfect broken vessel?


We see strength within this young woman, who travels to England. We experience and feel her struggles; we applaud her perseverance and we become hopeful, excited for her when she meets Godfrey Bullingham. This stranger (do we notice) he shows ” kindly interest in others” (as we ought to also).  He is kind, humorous, honest and trustwothy. We know he is a good man. We were not made to be alone but woman was made for man and man was made for woman. Are we not to be known for the love we have one for another? Are we not called for those in need? To joyfully and willingly lend a hand.





Each day I strive to have time where we read aloud. Sometimes I read to them, other times my older boys who are 7 and 11, will read to us. Many days we all just read together; a page or a paragraph, sharing the story and fun of reading as a family. My girls, who are 2 and 5, curl up next to us and listen (sometimes acting the story out with their baby dolls).



Honestly, this is one of those books that you could read again and again. You could study this one. Use it to show yourself approved. Because the characters, the wisdom, it can all be found within the Word of God. To study, reading beyond the story, making ourselves into souls that are so warm and kindly affectioned towards one another. Let us read and become more like Christ!


This very thing has been so powerfully on my heart and mind; this story further reminded me of the need to know Him. Really know Him. Taking the time to to learn of Him, to love Him more. Shall we willingly, eagerly, patiently wait on our bridegroom? Far too often do we not rush into things? Do we not sometimes believe that we know enough? It is good for us to always remember how priceless love truly is. Does our character preach to others, God’s goodness and love?


While this was written by Amy Le Feuvre in 1899, this is one of those stories that we can all relate to today. Full of challenges, examples of humility, serving and loving one another and being patient as we wait…Certainly these are lessons, and skills, every one of us needs and ought to exercise daily alongside sweet Bridget. This story is a precious reminder of how important it is for us to “Aquaint ourselves with Him”.


Read together, read alone, but real slowly.


Enjoy and savor the words: hymns and scriptues, poetry within the pages. All powrfully, yet gently, reminding us of our one true love. Let us long for and love more!



I do so love being able to support and use materials from a place that has a mission like our own: “To make people prepared for the Lord, buildng Christ like character, one story at a time.”  ❤


Please do not miss out on all of the goodness and beauty that is here!

The Secret Bridge {Lamplighter Publishing Reviews}

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I Need a New Thing

For many years Bible Quizzing has been, the thing we do, in our family.

This past year though I have begun to see how I need a new “thing”.

Please hear me…I am not speaking against Bible Quizzing itself.

I believe this is a wonderful way for our children to learn and hide the Word of God in their hearts.


But what happens when quizzing becomes our thing….

Not Bible….then quizzing…but quizzing…then Bible?

It can happen!

We can become so wrapped up in learning the Word we forget to love the Word.

it can become something so routine, we lose the desire, we lose the joy.

It is just one more thing we “have to do” each day.

And that is a bad place to be in.

How I love thy law! So says the Psalmist.

We need that desire

Is the Word like a fire shut up in our bones?

Are we hungry for more?

Are we content or discontented with what we have been so blessed to receive?


Can we say that same thing the Psalmist said?

Oh, how I love thy law?

Do we truly mean it?

We are told we will have great peace when we love Hs law.

Naturally, when we lose that love for His law…we also lose our peace.

How important it is for us to hard ourselves.

Our hearts and our minds.

We cannot afford to get lost. In all things, may we decrease so that He may increase.

Whatever we do, let it be out of a love for God alone.

Let us seek to be holy, as He is holy.

Strive to be blameless before Him.

And in all things may we grow in love for Him and for the body.

More and more.

We are Bible Quizzers.

We will always be Bible Quizzers.

And as we learn these precious Words God has given unto us

We will focus not on the quizzing but on the Bible.

Eyes on what is eternal. ❤