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


Not Planning

I usually go into major planning mode this time year.
I sit down and list out what we need to learn; how we are going to learn it.
I make sure everything is organized.
Because everything has it’s place.



Maybe this year is the year for my oldest son to get involved in planning out his learning course.

But then when asked what he wants to learn, he just shrugs his shoulders and says “I don’t know.”

He is thinking about it.


In the meantime I have books spread all over the house.

Books on animals; science and history. Geography.

Logic.  French. Hebrew and Greek. Bible stuff.

These things are all over the place.

We just hung up a new-ish world map. I pulled out two huge maps (one of the states and one of the world) that are just for kids and full of fun image and facts for every part of the world and country and state and body of water imaginable.


My kids all go “eh” and move on their way…..



I have always had a love of learning myself. And I have always been certain that whatever my kids learn, they need to learn how to love learning.


But I fear as I am planning and organizing things, I am taking away any chance of them really learning to love learning.


I am such a control freak. I know I am.

I expect things to go in a certain way, at a certain time.

I am not so controlling that we look like any kind of “formal school” in our home learning


I am controlling enough that I guess when I ask my kids to share what they want to know…they move along.



Perhaps its time to loosen the reins.


Some things just have to happen naturally.


Other things (math, reading, writing) need to happen regularly.

But what if I could find a way to allow those things to happen without controlling exactly when and exactly how?


I remind myself, there is no right way.


I watch my younger son outside, working on a handmade bow and arrow, and then look to see my older son. at work with pens and paper, sketching a very imaginative picture….they are so very different.

Yet too often I try to force them to learn this or that. Together. From this time to this time. In this manner.


What am I thinking? 😛


I think of the value of being home. At home all day. Every day. With all four of my children.


Its a blessing I do not always recognize. Its one I sometimes refuse to receive. 😦


Yet I am reminded often, its that relationship that matters most of all.
We cannot make them learn. We cannot make them love to learn.

In fact by making them learn, we can make them learn to not want to learn.

I want to love and learn WITH my kids.
Perhaps in all my planning and fretting, as I make sure everything is just so, I am taking away from the most important piece of home learning. My relationships with my children.


We need to build. The foundation right now, I know, is shaky (especially with my oldest, somewhat rebellious son).


I need to step back; just a bit. I need to give him time, let him unwind and find his way; patience and faith as he seeks and I simply wait for him to come alongside 😀


I cannot hover. I cannot continually nag.

Love and faith.

Justice and mercy.



We need to love our little ones; love them as our neighbors. As the persons that they are becoming.

We can walk faithfully with the Lord and be still and listen.

Without His lead, we just cannot succeed.

And with Him guiding our steps, lighting our path….


It’s amazing! Grace, ❤



Take Off with Doctor Aviation {Review}

There is something amazing about flight! Airplanes, birds, helicopters….My younger son actually used his allowance money to buy a fancy pair of binoculars because we live near a small airport and so there is always lots to see outside of our house. My husband has his own of course, although they are mostly used for hunting, that can help to watch and identify flying objects. 🙂
Things that take flight just fascinate my boys (that includes my husband) so I was really excited when I was asked to review with my husband, Doctor Aviation.  This is one of those amazing, who knew it existed but so glad that it does kind of programs – full of online training videos that cover all kinds of things related to aviation!

Doctor Aviation


They say with this program you can “Take your mind to flight” when you join Doctor Aviation, Daryl Smith. United States Airforce Academy graduate, he shares his 24 years of experience with you! This is recommended for ages 16 and up; my husband I received this one to review together; we were given a six month subscription. This program has fifteen lessons which are divided up into six sections. These include:


  • Introduction to Course
  • The Aircraft
  • Traffic Control
  • Maintenance
  • Operations
  • Aircraft II



Sound rather overwhelming? Don’t worry – Doctor Aviation does a great job breaking down the big stuff so it is easy to understand.  Each lesson is about 45 minutes long and there are downloadable PDF files as well. These include further reading suggestions, activities, movies, research topics, writing assignments and lots more!  While aviation may seem impossible to understand, this course breaks down those bigger things into small steps helping you clearly see the bigger picture. 🙂


Being that one day, my husband would love to have the chance to get his pilot’s license, this was something he was happy to be a part of. Since we received this for our own use (our kids did pop in and out to watch here and there but this is definitely not meant for a younger audience) the lecture style format of these videos worked well for my husband. I admit, I had a hard time focusing on the videos (I was never one who  did well with this style of learning so I really appreciated the guided notes that came with each lesson. 🙂


There was some fun tech trivia for my husband and then some great resources to learn more. Some of these resources were links to click through to additional reading or videos, others were books or articles.  Being that my husband is from Michigan, he was quite intrigued and enjoyed learning more about the materials of the Wright Brothers that were located there. Personally, I found the history and construction of the airplanes to be fascinating! 

Each lesson also includes some lecture on Notable Innovators (think of Amelia Earhart or the Wright Brothers) and Legendary Aircrafts and/or Events (first powered flight; breaking the sound barrier). These are all about 15-20 minutes in length and while the presentation is nothing fancy, he certainly presents all of this in a way that shows his passion for all things flight related.




While we have a family full of aviation loving folks, we had no idea how much we would enjoy learning with this program! Even our four kiddos, who range in age from two to eleven, were interested in what we were learning. 


play button


There were many videos and resources that we read and listened to where they were just as interested in what was being taught as we were. Again, this is a very simple presented program, there is nothing to distract or take away from what is being taught. As the material being presented becomes more advanced, the instructor does a great job of relating aviation concepts to things like, the human body, that we can all understand and this relate to.



Doctor Aviation is a wonderful program for any adult that is looking to learn about flight and aviation. This is also a really fun and unique high school elective course; between the videos, exams and all the extra learning resources provided this could be a really unique program for any older student who loves aviation!  What better way to show and encourage a love of learning in your family, then getting involved in learning something new yourself! Certainly there is much to learn when you fly with Doctor Aviation!


Aviation Course {Doctor Aviation Reviews}

Facebook   @doctoraviation

Twitter   @draviationguy


Mapelle Films ~ Trust Fund {Review}

My family love to watch movies! And while I am not a fan of television (I go out of my way to not watch the screen) because of how much my boys love to watch stuff, I need to be on the look out for things that are “good food” for them.  Trust Fund, from Mapelle Films is one of those. We received the DVD, widescreen, for this film along with the book, Love Was Near.


     Want to hear something really neat about this film? One of the main reasons I was up for this review, is because Issac Alongi, producer and cinematographer, was a homeschooler back in the 80’s. Read his story in this article on Midwest Parent Educators. This was a time when homeschooling was not even legal in most of the country. That said, I always love to watch, and share with my family, the great things that many of these grown up home learners, are able to achieve today! What a great way to inspire our kids right? 😛





Remember the story of the Prodigal in the Bible? (Read Luke 15 if you need to review the story) Well, this is a modern take on that tale. If we aren’t sure exactly what that looks like today, this movie definitely helps us to see. Instead of a son though, this is the story of the Prodigal daughter. Reese is an aspiring, young writer. Her older sister, works for the  family business, responsible, faithful. Not at all like her carefree, dreamy eyed sister. Reese has a dream of her own to pursue. After learning a rather deep secret, she takes off and in Italy chases after love, seeking for her dreams to come true. Her older sister Audrey, as the story goes, is aghast at her father for allowing Reese such freedom; for his allowance of her adventures. And when Reese comes back heartbroken, lost and full of regrets, we see that anger and hostility in her older sister (just as the Bible story goes). Through it all we see the father, showing love and forgiveness, to his prodigal daughter, welcoming her home and celebrating her return.






For some there was an extra blessing in that we received the book, Love Was Near, along with this DVD.  Written by Sandra Martin, this is meant to be read after the movie has been seen and is recommended for girls ages 12 and up, as a way to help them understand the deeper meaning of this story. There is also a study guide that they put together, perfect for small groups. This is about twelve pages long and includes lots of reference to scripture; there are numerous references to clips from within the movie and then deep thoughts. What Do You Think? Compassion, condemnation, restoration and celebration. There is just so much that we can learn from the story of the Prodigal Son and you see this in action, within the film, then read Reese’s mindset within the pages of the book.





We watched this with my boys, mostly because my 11 year old son recently became inspired to make movies (Stopmotion Animation style) and I thought he would appreciate seeing a movie made by someone who started doing this very thing, at his age. The film is rated PG and received the Dove Seal for ages 12+. Since the only time I am really willing and eager to watch a movie, is when I feel they are educational or inspirational, I was really very hopeful for this one. Also, since my oldest son often tugs at my heart strings (prodigal to be perhaps?) I was very hopeful that this would relay a strong Biblical message. While the storyline was easy to follow, there were many object lessons here for my children to learn from. I do believe that this was a good movie, however because it can be confusing with so many other conflicts within the storyline (immodesty, not being married but living together, overall childish behavior in some scenes) it is important to watch this with your children, whatever their age may be, as there are e things that perhaps we can use for discussion points on what exactly we ought to see in those who are living for Christ.


While it may be a bit hard to relate to Reese’s plight in this story certainly if we all look back we had a time in our life where we were unsure of who we were or what we were truly meant for. Although this is more dramatic, less realistic of a situation perhaps, if we focus on the overall lesson within this story, of love and forgiveness, it can be a worthy viewing for a family with older children. Certainly this can be a great launchpad for some gal discussion about life and gratitude and relationships. Consider taking some time to watch the trailer here. It’s a great way to encourage our own kids to see what home learning can be in their future and also to support what seems to be an amazing husband and wife team of movie and story telling. 🙂



Trust Fund Movie {Mapelle Films Reviews}


Facebook  @TrustFundMovie

Twitter    @TrustFundMovie

Pinterest   @trustfundmovie

Instagram  @trustfundmovie

It IS Learning!

I have determined this summer to see the learning. Instead of seeing them playing in the mud or sitting watching videos I am determined to see the learning.

I was reading earlier today about the value of having a vision for our home. I can admit but perhaps I have lost sight of that vision in the last few months. Where I have struggled to get those workbooks done and to complete all of those tasks which all of the experts say children need to do at his age I have lost sight of why we chose to be home educators in the first place.

I often tell my children that they need to find what they love and then seek after it. It occurred to me the other day that I often say this but then when they are seeking looks different than what I envision I said me take those words back.

I cannot deny it. When I think of active learning I think of books. Lots of books.  

For my four children it doesn’t always look like that. And that doesn’t mean that what we are doing is wrong.
It all begins with defining what we are doing and what we plan to do. Is it school? Is it work? Don’t throw it on the ground okay what is this thing that we do every day in our home?

The words we use make a difference.

When I think of school I think of a set time in which we are taught facts and figures. We are told exactly what to do and how to make it work. We don’t get to create and explore things for our self but there is a set time for each thing. And when that time is over so is that part of the day. 

I always find that to be so discouraging.  When I was a child I hated school but I love to learn. I couldn’t get enough of reading and writing.  I was always fascinated with language and art. I could easily get lost looking at maps and timelines.  and to this day reading a good book only causes me to want to read more.

There is much learning to be done. And for me and for my children there’s a big difference between learning and school. That said I strive to not use the term school. Instead I encourage them to follow their curiosity and their interests.

Even in the summer as we relax I learning a bit more I remind myself often but if we’re doing things right learning never really stops. 

As we visit with our summer exchange students and as we fly kites and collect rocks at the beach; as we enjoy planes landing and taking off and explore the many parks and museums and zoos nearby there is so much to learn.

So I remind myself that learning for our family is something that is living and breathing. Learning is something that is so personal. It won’t look the way I think it ought to look.  And that is just fine! 😃

Fascinating Chemistry {Review}


My kids absolutely love science! For my oldest son, it is hard to find a program that can both hold his attention and also teach him. You see he gets bored easily, he is my very reluctant learner. So most of the time we struggle to complete learning tasks each day. Since he has been very interested in chemistry after meeting a real life chemist awhile ago, he was very excited about reviewing Fascinating Chemistry from Fascinating Education.  Last year we were given the opportunity to review Fascinating Biology (you can read that review here).  We were quite impressed with their program; this time around it is even better!




My oldest son is soon to be twelve; he is both gifted and also ADHD with Sensory Processing Disorder. The combination of these things makes learning, for him, a bit of a challenge. We struggle with materials that are not engaging and visual enough. In some cases programs teach at a higher level but they are program itself doesn’t teach to his learning style. Because my son really needs both audio and visual for his learning to be most successful, Fascinating Education is a perfect fit for him!



There are nineteen lessons in all. For each lesson there is a script that can be printed out to read along with each slide. There are about 20 slides in each lesson (sometimes a bit more). There is also a glossary available to see and review terms that are used. What you Know So Far is a great little wrapping up, of the details learned in each lesson. Of course you can always go back and listen again if you need to. This is one of my favorite things about this program.

There is also a test to complete at the end of each lesson. In order to pass the test a score of 80% is required; once the test is completed they can go back to review their answers. They are also able to retake the test as needed in order to get a passing grade. One really neat thing about this program are the “question helps” that are provided along the way. Not sure of the correct answer? There is a “help” for that. A short summary to read and guide them to the answer. They also offer the option of printing a hardcopy of the tests to complete offline, along with answer keys. 🙂


Since my son is still younger than the recommended age (this is a high school level course) we went a bit slower. For each lesson I would have him print out the script so he could follow along as he watched the video. At times, I would catch him highlighting something on the script; he used a binder to keep all of the printouts together.
One of my son’s favorite things about this program is the variety of labs included. Of course it is highly recommended that there be adult supervision for the experiments that are provided. These experiments include fun activities like growing salt crystals, determining if air has weight, sugar in soft drinks, viscosity, how barometers work.  There are eleven projects in all to use with this course.
I cannot believe how much my son has learned from this (and really, I did too!). Having never been a fan of science myself, I was so pleasantly surprised to find my son as involved and engaged as he was in this course.
While this is not a program that teaches from a Biblical perspective (and I tend to shy away from things that don’t line up with the Word of God) this was one that really did manage to teach without stepping on any toes. And my son is very aware and cautious of anything that he feels goes against what the Bible says, but he was very pleased with how and what this program taught. It was both a wonderful introduction to chemistry while also going deeper into properties of water, heat, molecular geometry, polymers…..There is just so much to learn here!




They also have a number of other programs which we are interested in trying in the future, some you can even read about in other Crew member’s reviews. Just click on the banner below. There is Fascinating Biology, Fascinating Physics, Fascinating Medicine. They also offer a Chemistry Pre-Course for Biology in case you are taking chemistry but have not yet taken a biology course. These are all quite affordable too; there are even combination packages so you can enjoy multiple courses. We have our eyes on one of them right now (first to finish chemistry).  😀


Perhaps one of the best things about this program is that Dr Margulies believes in teaching kids in a way that brings the information to life; instead of teaching dry, boring material, he strives to help kids learn by giving them tools that they can use for themselves, as they learn. This makes even those tough scientific concepts so much easier to learn. And that makes our kids more eager and excited about learning. Too often, my kids will complain that what they are learning doesn’t matter. What does this have to do with my life? Why should I care? As you go through the lessons in these courses, Dr Margulies makes sure that our kids know why it matters.  When it matters to them, there is no limit to what they can learn!

Biology, Chemistry & Physics {Fascinating Education Reviews}

Because of Jesus

The Fourth of July – a time for celebration. A time of remembrance.


Its about life. Freedom. Liberty.


My family took our visiting “daughter” from Spain to see the fireworks last night. We spent an hour or two just enjoying the lake; kids playing around the rocks. On the rocks.


And then the night became a very somber one. Quickly. Unexpectedly.


There  was a child who fell from the rocks, into and under the water.


My family and I were present watching as the coast guard came, as the divers went down again and again until they found this child. In the dark. So darn; cold and dark. My husband stood with our kids. Praying all together.



What can you do but pray? But reach out (a moment I am so grateful for my cell phone) to gather those who can pray powerfully together? That precious, powerful name of Jesus. It works when nothing else does. His strength in a time of weakness. When you know the name you have to pray, you have to intercede for these situations. And there is a peace, there is a knowing that comes over you.





I read this morning that when they brought this child out of the water they proclaimed the child dead.





BUT then at 12:45 they pronounced this child alive. Impossible? All things are possible WITH Jesus. 




Jesus brings the dead to life. He really does. SO grateful for this miracle for this family, for this child. And SO thankful for the prayer warriors who were able to agree in prayer for this situation last night! Its all because of Jesus this child is alive.



Summer Break Without a Break? 

I never really look forward to the arrival of Summer. Does that sound just awful?

Mostly I admit that I kind of dread it because my oldest son needs constant direction. If there is not a ton of structure there is tons of trouble.
The last couple months have worn me out and made me so very tired. We are hosting to students for the summer who are from Spain and France. One boy and one girl. In our little house my husband wonders what I could possibly have been thinking when I agreed to it.

We also have a trip to St. Louis coming up in a few weeks because both of our boys qualified this year for Nationals in Bible quizzing. 

I guess it all sounds exciting. I wish I had enough energy to be excited like my kids are!

Don’t get me wrong I am definitely looking forward to these things but I also know that where my kids have lots of free time there are a lot of struggles that on our way.

My oldest son is in this brooding stage I guess you could say. Whenever he is corrected or asked to do something other than what he wants to do… I don’t even know how to describe the drama that ensues.

Now we do homeschool all year round. This is simply one of many efforts to try to keep things consistent and to have some routines in place for each day.

Because it’s summer and because we will have students visiting from far away we are mixing things up just a little bit. Hoping to find a couple fun things to do. Places to explore and character and life skills to focus on.

We are planning a trip to see some caves and another trip or two to see some local farms and petting zoos. There is the beach under the local museums. There’s a space museum even about an hour north of us and an amazing little garden called The Bookworm Gardens. There is even an observatory that opens up to the public for free one night a month so we can gaze at the stars.

That sounds like a lot doesn’t it? Maybe too much.

But as I prepare for summer I have to stay focused and I need to be consistent and simple but also intentional.

 There really are so many things that we can do. Well I know that there are things that we just cannot do I have to intentionally focus on all these things that we can do!

Perhaps one day in the future we will have the ability to have a totally wild and free summer but for now we are going to Joy in the one that we have.

Hewitt Homeschool {{Speech}} Review


I don’t know about you but I absolutely dread anything related to public speaking! I get nervous just thinking about it. My oldest son on the other hand loves to be on the center stage.  Our family has actually been a part of a local homeschool Speech and Debate group for a couple years now; its that thing we really look forward to every year. Needless to say we were totally happy to have the opportunity to use Hewitt Homeschool’s Lightning Literature & Composition Speech Pack (Gr 9-12) program to help us get ready for the fall.




Hewitt Homeschooling



If you aren’t familiar with Hewitt Homeschooling, I definitely recommend you check them out sometime. Founded in 1963(64) by Dr Raymond Moore and Carl Hewitt, what began as an organization offering consultation to educational institutions, has since shifted and is not focused on flexible, home education. They strive to combine akamdeics with character and service for our younger ones, all the way to our oldest ones. They not only offer high quality materials for all ages but they also graciously provide a paper evaluation service; a great way to encourage and strengthen our writers.






I was in awe when this package arrived. My oldest son (he turns twelve in September) was a bit overwhelmed. Lend Me Your Ears is one BIG book. My son commented on the notation on the cover that said “updated and expanded”, something about people need to stop giving “great speeches in history” for awhile. “There can’t be that many “great” speeches can there really? He had no idea he was going to have to read them, slowly, to find out! haha  My husband thought this was an amazing compilation; one of those books that makes you want to run away for a week so you can read in from cover to cover. Inspiring, encouraging material from cover to cover. 🙂




We also received the Speech Student Guide, as well as the companion Teacher’s Guide. I believe very much in my children gaining the ability to both write and speak, clearly, powerfully, and with a great depth. Writing is, after all, a craft. It can be learned; there are tools and techniques that can assist us in building better speeches and greater papers. The focus of this course, specifically, is speeches, from ancient to modern times, from around the world. I see this as a wonderful opportunity to get some extra geography lessons in as we go along. Maybe even some excellent history lessons as we go along ~ I tell you, this is so much more than just a “speech” class. 🙂



There are a couple Appendix’s in the back of the student guide. These include lots of great discussion questions! There are also sample schedules: one for a semester schedules, one for the full year. We of course are following the schedule for a full year since my son is younger and while excited and enjoying this, also a bit overwhelmed with some of the material.  But this is a great opportunity for us both; working together and learning together! A chance for him to see momma being enthusiastic about learning;  a great read aloud opportunity too. Some days he rads them out loud, other days I read them out loud. Regardless, so many of these are just a wealth of information and often become rabbit trails – leading us into a greater exploration of Gandhi or Gettysburg, Homilies and historical trials. Great speeches by African Americans and Native Americans; there is a great list of additional reading in the appendix too for any who are looking for even more! (like me)


Since my oldest son is a very reluctant reader and writer, I mean it really feels impossible, some days, to get him to read one page of something, I loved that there was a section on How to Read Literature, also on Why Read Literature, and Why Learn How to Write. This portion not only encourages our kids to develop an appreciation for and understanding of literature, it also shows them the benefits of reading and ways to really get so much more out of what you are reading. There are aids throughout the book as well as tools recommended:


  • learning about cultures and times
  • expands view of the world
  • rhetorical tools and figurative language
  • vocabulary notebooks
  • reading journal (similar to commonplace books in my opinion)
  • discussion/comprehension questions


Each lesson has a couple different sections. Of course, the Opening, is where you find the speeches that will be read. There is also an introduction to each one (setting the stage if you will) to help us understand the times and situation in which the speech was written for. There are key aspects for you to focus on As You Read; does the introduction make you want to read on? Are you bored and restless? How and what is it that makes you really lean in and attend more closely to what is being spoken (or read in this case)?  There are Comprehension Questions which require you to consider the topic of the speech; remember key statements within the speech. And sometimes its simply recognizing which statement was a part of the speech you read. Each lesson ends with a Writing Exercise to allow for practice writing an opening or a toast or eulogy.



I love the variety of speeches presented to students in the book that is included with this program. I also love that there is such a range of speech types; from memorials and war/revolutionary speeches, to debates, trials, gallows/farewell, sermons, instructive speeches.  I could go on and on! 

Every unit covers key pieces from the audience to visual aids and research, how to look and sound your best when presenting. While my son is a bit younger than this is recommended for, we really do enjoy this program and are certainly going to continue using this in the years to come. I was even telling the group we are a part of about these materials since they have so many students, much older, who could really enjoy this I am sure! What a wonderful way to learn and grow while also reading so many amazing speeches!

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Most Blessed

It occurred to me this afternoon that it is so easy for us to take our struggles and focus on them. To forget about those little blessings that come our way and focus instead what we think we ought to have instead.

Because I can so often be guilty a focusing in on all the siblings squabbles and messes.  I can focus too much on the fact but I lost my temper or I didn’t manage to organize that one room. Perhaps my attempt at decluttering haven’t quite worked out.

In all of the mess sometimes we forget about the lessons that are being learned and the character that is being built. In those sibling squabbles we have the opportunity to teach kindness and patience. We have the opportunity to model humility and love. When we are in the middle of a mess we have the opportunity to look and see memories being made lessons being learned and life happening!

Today I think about all the challenges we faced together. A couple skinned knees and a couple bruised egos. Our oldest son came back from camp to tell us about the girl he liked the last year and how she didn’t like him anymore. We made donuts together we walked along the lake spotting fish and baby ducks. We got to visit friends of ours who recently opened their own coffee and juice bar downtown. Italian sodas! 

It is a blessed week. The ups and the downs the messes. Gardening with the kids and fixing up the yard. Sure inside and outside our house is kind of a mess right now but we are having so much fun. We are learning so much more. And the blessings? There are so many I know not where to begin. But I thank the Lord for every moment and I pray but I will always use each moment for his glory.