Picta Dicta {Roman Roads Media Review}



Recently we have begun delving into the meaning behind words with my younger son. As a struggling reader, as we have progressed in his abilities, he has begun  to question why a word is what it is. Why is this word assigned to that meaning? These are lots of great questions (I love how this boy’s mind works!) but it can be hard to keep up and get the answers he needs.When we were given the opportunity to review Picta Dicta Natural World from Roman Roads Media, I thought this might be a wonderful way for him to be able to have fun while while also learning so much more!


PictaDicta Natural World


There are two options available:  Picta Dicta Natural World (the subject of this review) and Picta Dicta Vocabulary Builder. In this course there are learn over 400 nouns, students learn the English and Latin of.  This is recommended for elementary-age students and there are varying levels for them to work with to challenge them at whatever stage of learning they are in.



We began at the very first level with my son (who recently turned nine) which is the Natural World Basic level. Since most of the vocabulary being learned in this is regarding animals and nature, my son was captivated almost immediately. Here there are great exercises for helping to learn the English/Latin vocabulary, along with simple sentences to read for understanding.




Each lesson includes visual images along with the vocabulary words. They also provide a short meaning as to what the word(s) mean. They do this first in English, then in Latin. Each lesson also includes the spelling of the vocabulary words being learned. My younger son did find it amusing when he learned that Latin is considered a “dead” language.




Back to this though: In Learn, they introduce vocabulary. Then in Choose, you match the image to the word. In Spell, you spell out the word that goes with the image presented. Then the Forms, gets more advanced asking for gender, plural, maybe even case if that is the case. ha-ha  There is also Test and Train. You can train as often as you like (I really appreciate that!) and when you do test, you will get stars based on how you did.



Back to the lessons, they do need to be completed in order. So no skipping around from here to there and back again. 🙂 What is nice though is that you can go back and do lessons again that have been completed. We did this a couple times because there is always a review before you can move forward. That’s a good thing. An amazing thing to see how well our kids are learning too! I love Latin but if I don’t just struggle with recall every time. Our kids though? They really are sponges soaking it all up.


As a family that really enjoys languages and learning the why’s behind all things, this is a wonderful program and one I hope we can continue to use throughout the years to come. I love how there is combination of methods used to help our kids, whatever their style of learning, whatever their level of skill, to learn and understand. Vocabulary matters. The words we use have meaning and even more when we truly see it for ourselves.



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Kingdom Files (Barbour Publishing Review)

We recently learned about this neat new set of books called The Kingdom Files from Barbour Publishing. These Bible based biography books are for ages 8-12. series by Matt Koceich. We were even super blessed to get Who Was Jonah? and Who Was Mary, Mother of Jesus? These are Bible based biography books recommended for ages 8-12. About a hundred pages long, give or take, these are such a fun way for our kids to get more personal with their Bibles.

These are some amazing books! And I was thrilled to receive them in what I considered a very God’s timing, kind of way. You see, my boys and I have been delving more and more into the Hebrew roots of our faith . Shortly before these arrived we read about how the children are not just raised learning the words and names in the Bible but they are taught these things, as a form of genealogy. As they read they are reminded that these are our relatives, this is our family history.

What a great way to really remember how personal and relational this is all meant to be. So anyway, receiving these, I thought was a great way to encourage my boys to get to know, to befriend, Jonah and Mary the mother of Jesus.

We started with this book because, my girls were actually more interested in these than my boys were. So I began with my daughters (who are 7 and 3) and my boys slowly got more involved with these as we went along. Since my daughter is still really a beginning reader we read this together; the chapters are short and simple though so as she could read, she did read. Shortly after we got into this my boys dug into Jonah because – we saw a most amazing musical about his story awhile back and it really made them want to know more. I think of how we are to come, and reason together. This is a fun way to do that because each book is put together as files. Facts, actions, power. And there are lots of Clue Boxes along the way to help you stay on track.

The fact file gives you some basic information about the character at hand, Were were they from; what years were they alive? What was the Kingdom Work they did anyway? There is even a mini-timeline to show you the significant events, in the order they occurred. My younger son really likes timelines!

In the Action File we hear the testimony. What was their story? I always love hearing the stories of what the Lord has done, in the lives of others. This is a great re-telling with some simple, and fun illustrations along the way.

There are also clues scattered amongst the pages to share some important truths. In one they talk about how God takes care of His people and is always with us. In another we learn about the value of praise. In all seasons, God will hear our prayers if we seek His face, if we turn to Him. Everything is meant for God to get the praise and there glory.

Then there is the Power File. Simple lessons to recall: pray hard. Live by faith. Obey God. Here there are also memory verses. Since we are a family that is big on Bible quizzing we really like this sort of thing. It is always a good thing to hide His word in your heart. 🙂

There are also a few pages at the end for any notes; I always encourage my children to write down things that they think. Questions they may have. Even prayers they feel they need an answer to. Maybe a testimony even. There certainly is power in us telling of the good things that the Lord has done.

These are a great way to encourage our children to dig deeper; after all our God is one who is all about relationships and every one of those men and women in the pages of this good book are there for a reason. This really is a great way for us to get to know them a bit more ourselves; there are also so many great resources for educators on the Kingdom Files website, from trivia, to map work to word search. They have quite a few to choose from too, perhaps our next one will be David. Or maybe Esther. Two of my favorites that I would love for us to know even more. Whether for reading aloud or alone, or Bible study as a family, these are a wonderful tool to have on hand.




YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/BarbourPublishing1


GrammarPlanet {Review}

I love grammar. Language arts has always been one of my favorite things. My boys? Not so much. One finds it to be “impossible” and the other one just doesn’t see the point of it all. There are some things, no matter how we feel, that are needful. I find this to be one of them so when I heard about GrammarPlanet, I was excited to give it a try. This is an online language arts curriculum and I was given a one year subscription for my boys, for this review.

GrammarPlanet is an online program meant to be used with a variety of ages and abilities. I received a free basic subscription and the first six units; eventually this will be upgraded to a one-year subscription. Units are being added as we progress.

Each online unit contains video lessons, opportunities to practice and also includes tests.

Once I received the login information for this I set up both of my boys as students. My younger son just turned nine; my older son is soon to be thirteen.

At the start of each lesson we print out a couple pages of notes hopeful references as we proceed through each lesson. There’s also a video (about 5 minutes long) and a short quiz to complete.

There are a number of opportunities to practice what was learned on the program before they finally take a test.

If they do not pass the test they cannot proceed to the next unit. This is one of those things that I really like in a program. The student cannot move forward until we (the teacher) unlock the program for them.

If you have a somewhat reluctant learner who likes to just skate (or skip) through things this will ensure he does not. I know my oldest son well sometimes watch the videos try to move forward without really doing the work. this is a great way to make sure that they understand what they are learning. 😁

One thing that’s really nice is that this program is an interactive one. One lesson builds upon the other moving from simple nouns and pronouns to more complex diagramming sentences and parallel structures, active and passive voice and crazy modifiers. This sure covers a lot, right?

Overall this is a great program for helping her kids to better understand the purpose and use of grammar. The lessons are short and simple, no bells and whistles, just the facts. I know my younger son really appreciates that sort of instruction.

And this is definitely a great combination of online and physical instruction. My oldest son appreciates the online work and my younger son I appreciate having printouts to reference as we go along. I appreciate having paper trail to help me keep track of where we are too.


Reading Eggs! {Review}

We used this program a number of years ago with my younger son, when he was really struggling with letters and sounds. It made an amazing difference in his abilities and I think, is one of the things that gave him a love for reading, even when he was have such a hard time. So I was more than happy to review this once again, with my daughter. If you aren’t familiar with Reading Eggs, it is an online program that helps kids learn to read. It begins in the preschool years (ages 2 to 4) and continues on through the age of 13. As an added bonus they have now launched some amazing, and super fun, print workbooks for both reading and math. For this review we received the 200 Essential Reading Skills for First Grade.

Online Reading Eggs Suite

There are five essential pieces when it comes to successful reading: phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, reading comprehension and fluency. This program makes learning to read SO much fun by using lots of songs and games to teach letters and sounds as children learn to read. There are lots of fun and colorful printable to go along with the lessons and for us mommas, its so easy to follow our children’s progress as they go along.

Because my daughter (she just turned seven) has continued to struggle with her letters and sounds we decided to start at the very beginning and skip the placement test. I saw this as an opportunity to firm up that foundation, confidence in our abilities makes such a difference.

The work book covers lesson 61 through 120 of the Reading Eggs program for first grade. There are quizzes to test what is being learned and certificates for children to celebrate their achievements. Every page is colorful and fun! I swear, the day this book arrived my daughter did at leat ten pages. On her own, in one sitting. I had to slow her because I really want her to still be excited about it tomorrow.

I love how it started out simply tracing lines and then worked towards writing the sounds, filling in missing letters and reading and coloring familiar words. My daughter especially loved all the colorful images on every page. she thought it was great seeing a caterpillar read a book.

Since she loves puppies she was happy to read simple little stories all about this puppy. Of course there are many more fun, easy to read tales for our early readers to enjoy too.

I honestly don’t think I have ever come across such a simple and fun tool for helping our little ones to read. This doesn’t just teach them but it engages them. I often find when working with my children that they may go through the lessons but they aren’t always really learning. They follow the steps without understanding.

This program however, requires our children to interact, it challenges them, it requires more of them. As a result at the completion of each lesson they truly have mastered their material.

For a new reader, or one lacking in confidence, this is a real step towards becoming a lover of learning and reading. I know I have watched my daughter really blossom using this program. She is now excited to read and write each day.

Not sure yet? You can get a FREE trial of Reading Eggs, complete with a free placement test to make sure they start out in the best place for their current abilities. This gives you access to everything they have to offer so you can see how well this really does work.

Social Media Links for Reading Eggs:

• Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/readingeggsUSCA/
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Do We Know?

I want to have yadah. Da’at Elohim. Don’t you?

Hosea 6: 6 Says that we should Delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

It is so easy to rest in “knowledge”. We know information. But do we ever really “know”?

We have information. What do we do with that information? It is acting on that knowledge, knowing something from experience and in relationship.

We can care for someone in need and thus, know them.

What about the knowledge of God ( da’at Elohim) ?

Do we have a life that is truly in relationship with him? So often we hear about how important it Frost and I just know of God but to truly know him for ourselves. And for him to know us.

In hebraic thought knowledge is more than just knowing but it is a devotion as well. Intimacy with God. It is sharing and showing in a way that causes others to also know the Lord personally.

The more we know him, the deeper our love and devotion will be until the Earth and all therein are: filled with devotion to the Lord, as water covers the sea. (Isaiah 11:9)

Blogging Through the Alphabet (The Letter M )

It’s been awhile. So much to do this summer. Fun and not so fun but I am determined to catch up and share some of the things I have been learning this summer.

When I began with this I determined to block my way through the alphabet using the many names of our God.

For this one there are quite a few. I couldn’t really decide so I just simply right as I feel led.

These names are strewn about within the Psalms. As we pray we call upon Him who will protect, defend, shield and cover us.

In Hebrew we see God dwelling with His people. First in a tent in the wilderness and today in us.

In scripture we can even see God as our dwelling place or Maon.

God is our refuge or Machseh. This is in connection with the cities of refuge, in Israel (miqlat) where people could flee for safety. Each city was strategically located so no one was unable to reach one when in need.

He is who we run to for strength and safety.

A shield, Magen, is another image of God’s care. He is our shield.

Fortified cities also had a fortress or, Metsuda, for protection. He is where we go for safety.

God is our strong tower, Migdal-Oz, defending. Keeping us safe within the walls

We can rest in Him. Safe and with no reason to fear.

My God!

To Shema

This summer has been one full of surprises. Shortly after my father-in-law passed away, my husband went in for a heart surgery.

Not long after that we got into a rather nasty car accident. The officer on duty proclaimed that it was a miracle no-one was hurt in the accident. I have to agree.

God’s hand upon us all.

I have found much comfort in slowly studying the Hebrew scriptures in the season we are in. And one of my favorites, even before I truly understood it, was the Shema.

Listen and obey ….

Too often isn’t it true that we focus on the thought more than the activity?

The biblical cultures are so very different. We often consider listening to be just hearing sounds but it is so much more.

When we really listen the Bible says we understand, we are obedient, we take heed.

Throughout the Bible we see the word obey. Did you know that this word was translated from the word Shema?

This is also the name of the prayer that Jesus said every morning and every evening. Even to this day observant Jews speak this prayer.

This prayer is another way that we say, “Take heed, listen and obey…love God with all of your life!”

It is a Daily Commitment to follow the Lord and do as will.

This is how we put our words into action and become doers of the word and not hearers only.

Let us all Shema!

God Schooling {Review}

I have long believed that there is a way that God intends for our children to learn. God Schooling: How God Intended Children to Learn by Julie Polanco is a not just a guide but a lesson in how God intends for our children to learn. My oldest son flat out says right now, “learning is not fun”, so we have been off the rails as of late. As we delved into what many consider rather unconventional methods of learning, this book was a timely reminder that this is not really so.

We are all taught about the value of the wisdom that comes from the Word of God. Seek God’s way in all things. We say it but do we really mean it?

Let me tell you a bit about Julie because I find her so amazing and so inspiring. She’s just a homeschooling mama just like many of us; she is in the Chicago area (hello from SE Wisconsin) so she is almost my neighbor. Ha-Ha This book is written from within the trenches and honestly, from the very first page I was hooked. She spoke to her search for those perfect teaching materials, her struggles with her children who just didn’t want to do the work. I thought of my own son who refuses any lesson I ask him to do as of late (I take that back, he did draw me a lovely image of Paddington Bear the other day).


Within the first few pages I already realized that I needed to re-examine my goals and my relationships. I need to emulate more and more the patience in the love that God shows me, with my own children. If there is one thing I am reminded of, it is that we need to take care of the relationship. I just saw something the other day that spoke of how, “In this world where we can be anything we ought to be kind.”



The pages of this book are her own personal journey; to a place of peace and joy. I don’t know about you but right now I definitely need more of that!


This is not just a personal memoir though. In my humble opinion this is also a Bible study. This must be read with an open mind. as you read through the pages of this book it is important that you read putting off all that you think you know right now how about education. These pages are full of scripture meant to guide us and show us the freedom God offers us in this way (the early Christian Church was The Way…by the way).



There are also other resources to review. Some of these speak to motivation; others speak to the identification of character traits us to understand and encourage our children. I recently added to my collection a few of the materials she mentioned in the pages of this book.

This book is divided into two parts. In the first section we work to dispel the myths. I mean, there are just so many things that we are taught, things that we “know” that really aren’t so. We have to get to the place where we acknowledge that what we know may not be before we can truly embrace the freedom in the way that God has for us.

In part two she talks about the practice; this is broken up in two different age ranges. it also helps give some tips on getting started, keeping track of things and maintaining some form of structure. This is the perfect spot for those of us how to get started for our wondering how we can support our kids who may all be different ages.

And what book for us mama’s isn’t complete without a couple study questions? At the end of each chapter there are questions to help us think more deeply. This helped us really start thinking about how to incorporate service into our homeschool (we start doing this next week by the way at a local little farm).



She is also the author of 100 (no and low cost) Ways to Motivate Kids (anyone else excited about that? I need SO much help motivating or her two of mine as of late).  You can also
get the first chapter of God Schooling FREE when you sign up for her newsletter. Or if you are as excited about this book as I am, you can get your copy of the ebook now; on sale for half price, through August 22nd. I highly encourage you to get a copy if you are struggling in your homeschool. Or even if you were just looking to bring some new life into things. This is a challenging and encouraging read; so much so that I will be reading this one again.


Follow Julie’s Journey:

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Branch Out World {Paddington Bear Review}

Who else just loves orange marmalade? I know ever since I first met Paddington Bear as a child, it was one of my favorite things! And because this little guy was such a delight to me when I was a child, I was eager to share him with my own children so they could experience him as well. You can imagine how excited I was when I learned that I had the opportunity to enjoy a literature study unit for Paddington Bear from the Picture Books Explorers series created by, British based, Branch Out World. These are downloadable studies and are great for those between the ages of 5-10 (although I love these as does my older son who is almost thirteen).

If you are not familiar with literature studies, if you love to read, I strongly encourage you to give these a try. This is an amazing way to bring any story to life! I encourage you to dig in to all that is offered within the 60+ pages that make up this literature guide. There are lots of activities to do, but don’t be overwhelmed. Designed by a homeschool mom, these are the perfect way to really explore the stories you read. Each day has a specific focus: geography/history, math, science, creative writing and art. The goal isn’t necessarily to do it all, but rather to enjoy exploring some of those things within a book that we may otherwise gloss over. Just one example: we read how Paddington’s first question to the family is, “how can I help?” Do we read over that or do we linger upon those words? Here is one opportunity that, perhaps, we may not use as we could. This is just one of many amazing learning opportunities within the story, that this guide draws our attention to as we go along.

Since we have an old friend who was once in Peru, my kids were pretty interested in learning more about this faraway place; because older brother loves to talk “in a British accent” his sister and brother were curious to learn about this place as well. I was excited to see that there was a list of recommended resources for further learning including some very old cartoons of Paddington Bear which I had never seen before (I was delighted, my daughters too!). Since it was, I guess, stop motion animation, my boys were curious to watch an episode or two. These were so much fun, I think we spent most of a day just watching them all together.

We began this study by looking at maps and doing a bit of coloring and labeling. It is good to know where thing are and fun to see how this little bear traveled from the “darkest Peru” to the station where he was found in England. Imagine that journey! How exciting. How scary for a little bear, all alone/ My daughter was so impressed with “how brave he had to be” to go so far”. My younger son really enjoys map work and so this was something that drew him in. It also led us to watching some documentary type videos to see. This also introduced, just a bit, the concept of immigration (quite a topic for discussion with older kids I think). As a whole this led us to talking about languages and customs both there and here. How do we fit in? Do we fit in at all? A great way to discuss the value of community and of the importance of curiosity and being friendly to those who are different or seem to get lost in the crowd.

What would have happened if no one ever reached out to Paddington in that station? We can imagine how different this story could have been if there was no one kind enough to reach out.

We did a lot of narration as we completed this book! The second day is full of activities to help grasp and identify grammar concepts; this also talks about the themes that run through this book. Creativity, inquisitiveness, helping others. There are so many to identify and discuss. Since we have been really starting to look more closely at good character, virtue training, there were so many good things to share and show one another as we looked at the adventures of Paddington Bear.

Following this portion of the study we move on to pictures, or illustrations, for some other fun opportunities. All of my children love to draw; my oldest son has quite the talent for this and so he definitely enjoyed this part. In this section we learned more about the illustrator; we explored the various images within the story book and how they work together with the story itself, to give us more insight. Perhaps they help us to enjoy a silly portion of the story, or to see a bit of expression whether sorrow or joy or fear. There is a great deal of power that can be told with a picture.

And what study would be complete without a section of science? Who doesn’t love science? The opportunity to get our hands dirty- to explore for ourselves. This is always a favorite part of our day (okay, their day – I admit, I struggle with the mess part of all this some days!) Here we learned more about different kinds of bears (what kind is Paddington anyway?) There were experiments with shaving cream and soap – My younger son just loves to say, “ Cream and jam all over me coat!” There are opportunities to explore nature.

Nature study is always good! My older son is in a photography class this summer so we appreciated the opportunity to get out and photograph some of those most interesting things we see. It’s another great way to encourage these guys and gals to get outside and really take their time to see all the amazing things around them! Slow down 🙂

There really are so many wonderful things we can learn from a book! I know there are so many others stories out there, like this one, that are full of goodness. I think it is so important to share these sorts of things with our children to help them learn and grow thinking on those things that are good and right and pure.

One nice thing about studies like this one is that they also help to provide direction for other books to enjoy and learn from with your kids. There are certainly plenty other resources to enjoy once you have completed this one. I know when I am choosing books to enjoy with my children, it is so important to me that they have value; that they somehow come alive and teach us, in the way we should go, perhaps providing examples of right and wrong, so that we may see and know the way to go.

Help Your Home School Branch Out :

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