Our Holiday Traditions


So our family is still getting ready for Christmas.  We have several traditions that we try to keep every year.  The first tradition is starting to decorate the day after Thanksgiving.  Usually, our tree goes up first.  Every year we try to buy the children a new ornament with significance to that particular year.  For example, this year I will be on the hunt for a saxophone for our youngest son and a baritone for our second son.  They have both started playing in our local homeschool band along with their father and me.

Another family tradition is going to a Candlelight Church service on Christmas Eve.  Being military, we have moved several times in the last eight years, so that does not necessarily work all the time.  Fortunately, this time last year, we found a new church that does have a Christmas Eve service.

Finally, another tradition our family enjoys is driving around to look at Christmas lights in the area where we live.  So of course, we have to put up Christmas lights outside ourselves.

What are some traditions your family enjoys at Christmas time?

This post is part of the Homeschool Review Crew’s look at our family traditions.  If you would like to check out some other posts, click here or on the graphic below.


Review of Writing with Sharon Watson’s Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis



For quite a while now, I have followed the blog for “Writing with Sharon Watson”, so I was thrilled when our family received the opportunity to review one of the literature products from “Writing with Sharon Watson”. I  have loved reading about all of the products from Writing with Sharon Watson so I was super excited to add Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis to our homeschool curriculum list!  Considering that I have a son who loves anything from Shakespeare, I was very excited to see “Much Ado About Nothing” was among the selections included in this course.

In addition to “Much Ado About Nothing”, a short story entitled “A Jury of Her Peers”, another assortment of short works, and the full works of “Frankenstein”, “Silas Marner”, “Sense and Sensibility” and “The Hobbit” are included.  The materials our family received include a Teacher’s Guide, text, Quiz and Answer Manual, Novel Notebook (downloadable from the website, and online quizzes (which may be accessed on the website).


Illuminated Literature: Characters in Crisis” is not grade-specific, but is instead designed for any high school student.  So the beauty of this program for our family is that all three of our high school students could use the same program.  On the website, you can download sample chapters, grading grids, quizzes on the course page.

The first component we received was the Teacher’s Guide, which recommends using the coordinating versions of the literature books that can be found on the Writing with Sharon Watson website.  This is because the textbook matches up with the page numbers in those versions.  This eliminates wasting time or becoming frustrated.  If using an e-reader or tablet, students should be able to use the search function proficiently.  The first pages provide a list of the books and short works that will be covered in the course.  A Grade guide and sample grading grid are also included.  This makes keeping up with requirements simple.  Course objectives are also included.  Suggested schedules, a book-of-the-month club guide and more are included in this guide.  This truly is a guide meant to direct the teacher in what students need to go along with providing an answer key.


The next component is the textbook, which is to be used by the student.  It includes an introduction to the course.  At the beginning of each lesson, there are certain activities the student is to complete prior to reading the assigned literature.  Some of these our children enjoyed, while other ones did not capture their attention as much.  A suggested reading and homework schedule is provided as well.  Information, descriptions and more are included for each lesson.  Our children felt the amount of work per lesson was reasonable – even if they did not always enjoy everything.  Then the students read the selection while reading the extra information along with activities.  Students complete additional activities along with a group of final selection of activities the parents or students can choose from.  For our family, I narrowed the number of choices down and then let the children select the ones that caught their attention the most.

Next, is the Novel Notebook, which is the only free downloadable component from the website.  Parents can select what questions the student answers.  Then during a discussion time, students share what they found. Or if a student is doing it alone, the teacher/parent may simply look at the novel notebook.

The final component of the program is the Quiz and Answer Manual.  Students may either complete quizzes on paper or online.  The benefit of completing the quizzes online is that feedback is immediate.  Plus, for our family, it saves paper and printing costs.  Each quiz contains approximately ten questions that demonstrate how much the student is retaining what they read.  Our children found them relatively painless to complete.


All-in-all, our family has been very pleased with Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis from Writing with Sharon Watson.  I encourage you to check it out for yourself.  You can read other reviews by other members of the Homeschool Review Crew by clicking here or on the graphic below.

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You can find Writing with Sharon Watson on social media at the following Links:
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/WritingWithSharonWatson
Pinterest:  https://www.pinterest.com/writingwithshar



Review of Forbrain from Sound for Life LTD





Even though our youngest is only fifteen-years-old and our oldest son is twenty-one years old, we have various ones in our family who have difficulty remembering things.  My husband is active duty in the Army Reserves and constantly has things he needs to remember.  Our four children also have times where they have difficulty remembering things.  On top of that, I have a desire for our family to memorize Scripture.  So I was excited for our family to have the chance to review this product. Over the review period, we found that our family could improve their attention with Forbrain from Sound for Life LTD.


Forbrain is a headset designed for anyone over the age of four years old to use.  However, the headset is not adjustable so I am not sure how well it will work for younger children.  It is important to understand this headset does not go into the ears.  Instead, it rests on the bone in front of the ears.


This product is designed for those with speech and language difficulties, those who need brain stimulation, those with auditory processing disorder, those will reading difficulties, as well as those with ADD or ADHD and more.  It is a bone conduction headphone as well as an extremely sensitive microphone.  It also has a dynamic filter designed to create a perceptive content.


One of my favorite things about this headset is the case it comes with to protect the headset as well to keep the charger and paperwork together neatly.  At http://www.forbrain.com, you can find exercises to assist in using the product correctly.  All that is required is to read aloud.  Proper posture is also required.  This means resting the head naturally, sitting up straight, feet placed flat on the ground, while breathing calmly.  My husband did not find this difficult to do at all.


Because his goal was improving memory, he concentrated on using the headset to memorize Scripture.  He picked out some of his favorite Scripture passages to use and then used the headset for fifteen minutes a day.  The case made it easy for him to take the headset with him even when he went to work.  Unfortunately, I did not remember to take any pictures of him wearing the headset while using it.


The training suggestion is either a session of six or ten weeks.  Younger children should use it for approximately ten minutes a day for pronunciation and speech difficulties.  For children five years old to fifteen years old should use it for fifteen minutes a day.  They can use it to improve concentration and attention. Also, it can be used for reading or memory problems or even pronunciation or speech difficulties.  For those who are teenagers to adults, Forbrain can be used for speech or oral problems, those needing confidence or energy.  and more.  It is great for preparing for oral presentations, homework, and preparing for exams. For seniors, it should be used for thirty minutes a day to help with energy, memory or speech issues.


All in all, my husband was very pleased with his results from using Forbrain from Sound for Life LTD.  I look forward to using it for our Family Bible Study and memorization efforts as well as using it for practicing speeches and more.  If you would like to read more reviews of this product, click here or on the graphic below


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Review of the Thin Stix Creativity Pack from The Pencil Grip, Inc.

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We have several children who love completing art projects of all types.  However, there are times when getting out acrylic paints and dealing with all the hassles of getting things set up and then cleaned up is not practical. Also, being a military family who homeschools, things that are portable and that can be used while we are traveling are fantastic.  I am always looking for ways for my children to do mess-free art so I was thrilled to receive Thin Stix Creativity Pack from The Pencil Grip, Inc. to review this time.

When I saw the opportunity to review the Thin Stix Creativity Pack come up, I instantly knew I wanted these for our family.  This is our second time reviewing a Thin Stix product, so I knew we would love them.  This set contains twenty-four tempera paint sticks. There are twelve assorted colors, six neon colors and 6 Metalix colors.  As soon as the package arrived, my daughter and I both instantly began to try them out.  Here is our first project, which was a joint effort.  We loved how easy the stix are to use and how there is no mess to clean up afterward.  We were able to simply open the package, select a color, take off the cap and then twist up the stix before starting to create.  If you would like to check out our review of the Thin Stix 6 Pack from The Pencil Grip, Inc., click here.

Another thing that I love about this pack is that our fifteen-year-old daughter, our seventeen-year-old son, as well as myself, were able to work on art creations at the same time.  We had fun creating together.  I love the way the Metalix stix showed up on our paper.  Since I wanted to use what we had on hand, everyone used mixed-media paper.  However, I would love to try this pack on wood such as Christmas ornaments as well as other mediums.  The colors are bright and vibrant.  Every color I used looked exactly the way I expected them to.  My daughter would still love to have something that allows for finer detail work.  But in the end, she was thrilled with the way her picture of a pillow turned out.  Now I just get the fun of trying to find or make a pillow in real life that reflects her creation.  Here are pictures of her working on her creation along with the finished product.


Our son loved how the colors turned out in his creation.  He felt like the stix were too fat to allow for a lot of control when he was working on his creation. Here are some pictures of him working on his creation along with his finished product.

I do not claim to be a world-renowned artist, but I had a lot of fun using the Thin Stix Creative Pack.  Here are some pictures of me working on my project along with the finished product.


So if you are looking for a great product that dries quickly, gives the texture of actual paint but in the disguise of a marker, check out the Thin Stix Creative Pack from The Pencil Grip, Inc. for yourself.  If you would like to read additional reviews from other Homeschool Review Crew members, click here or on the graphic below.

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Review of Abby Ludvigson’s Sex by Design


As a homeschooling parent, some decisions and even some conversations I need to have with my children are easier than others.  We have three sons whose ages are 21, 19 and 17, plus a daughter who is 15-years-old.  For example, I can talk about mathematics, literature, and history all day long with no problems.  However, one subject seems like a mine-field to navigate.  That topic is purity and anything to do with sex.  Yes, I just used the word “sex”. Although I don’t particularly like to discuss certain subjects with our three teens and our twenty-one-year-old son, Abby Ludvigson has made this a lot easier with her DVD-based program, Sex by Design. This product is endorsed by Josh McDowell, you can check out what he has to say about the series here.

With this program, we received the teen edition workbook, the parent edition workbook and access to the seven videos. Our plan for this curriculum involved my husband and I reviewing the videos first and then watching them again with our children.  As I watched the videos, I was impressed with how willing Abby Ludvigson is willing to share regarding her own life and her own experiences.  I also appreciated how realistic her message is and the fact she is willing to discuss hard topics, such as the actual results of having sex outside of marriage.

The series covers seven major topics:

  1. Plan Ahead: Living Pure in a Sex-Saturated Culture
  2. Counting the Cost: Every Decision Has a Price Tag
  3. Dating:  Doing Relationships God’s Way
  4. Sex: God’s Purpose & Plan
  5. Modesty: God Cares What I Wear
  6. Pornography: Its Deception & Steps to Get Out or Stay Out
  7. Secondary Virginity: Running Back to God

Also included in the Parent’s Edition is an appendix which contains Bible Studies, The 1st Peter Principle, and Endnotes.  I love how the series aims to be a springboard to deeper conversations between teens and their parents.  I could see this being a terrific resource to use in a Teen Youth Group at a church where parents and teens can have honest, meaningful conversations about purity, sex and navigating those stormy waters in days where the opposite message permeates our culture and society.

Each of the video segments is approximately twenty-five minutes long.  The videos consist of teens talking about their experiences and thoughts which is followed by Abby Ludvigson presenting her message on the given topic.  I love how she includes Bible verse passages in each segment.  I also love how in the workbooks there is a place with guided text to help the viewer take notes as they are watching.  I feel like this is one way to help ensure a meaningful conversation takes place.  Also in the workbooks are sections for the film outlines, Scripture verses. to examine, Truth Statements, Follow-up questions, a section to personalize it, a section to apply it and key terms to review.

It is clear this program is designed to get parents and teens talking in depth about the subject, rather than a subject to fly through quickly.  I feel the videos and workbooks were carefully designed to be easy to view or navigate.

In addition to the video segments and workbooks, online resources are available as well.  These online resources include suggested books to read, articles to read, downloads – such as a purity pledge, and other helpful resources such as places to buy purity rings.  Here are some screenshots of some of the resources for the first segment.

My husband and I were both very impressed with the depth and breadth of this series.  It has definitely provided a way to encourage our family to have what could be difficult or potentially embarrassing discussions.  I encourage you to check it out for yourself.  If you would like to read more reviews of Sex by Design by Abby Ludvigson, click here or on the graphic below.

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Review of The Pencil Grip, Inc’s “The Ultra Safety Scissors” and “The 3 Step Pencil Grip Training Kit”


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The Pencil Grip, Inc. sent us two of their products to try out: The Ultra Safe Safety Scissors and The 3 Step Pencil Grip Training Kit.  I was really excited to get these products.  Since our youngest child just turned fifteen-years-old, the scissors were not a necessity for our family.  I really was looking forward to getting the pencil grips.  For the purpose of this review, I had our daughter use the scissors, while I used the pencil grips.

These scissors are designed for children 3-years-old and up.  Once our daughter understood the scissors were designed for younger children, she understood why they were made the way they were.  She found them easy to use.  I drew several curvy lines for her to follow for cutting.  I think if her fingers were smaller, they would have worked much better.  The guard on the scissors did make it somewhat awkward to place the paper in that was being cut.  Once again, for a child around three or four years old, I think these would be perfect.  The ergonomic design is made so clean cuts are achieved.  Also, the blades are covered with the guard to provide absolute protection.  There is a training lever that automatically opens once the scissors are squeezed closed and also automatically opens when the scissors are opened.

The ergonomic design is made so clean cuts are achieved.  Also, the blades are covered with the guard to provide absolute protection.  There is a training lever that automatically opens once the scissors are squeezed closed and also automatically opens when the scissors are opened.

When our youngest son was three-four years old, he was diagnosed with motor skill issues.  As a result, he had to attend. physical therapy and eventually had to attend occupational therapy as well.  I feel these scissors would have been a tremendous blessing during that time in our lives.

Our family also received The 3-Step Pencil Grip Training Kit. The first step is the Crossover grip for training.  This training should occur under the supervision of an adult.  The design of this grip provides maximum structure and reinforcement to ensure proper placement of the fingers.  I love how the product description on Amazon states, ” The “super hero cape” design of the grip,  I can see that description catching my attention easily.

The second grip is designed for transitioning.  This grip is to be used on all writing instruments.  The description on Amazon states, “the unique partial “wings” allow for both structure and freedom”.  Finally, the third grip is designed to be used on all writing instruments, with the idea of providing a lifetime of comfort and control” according to the product description.

Once again, I would have loved to have used these grips when our youngest son was learning to write.  I truly believe it would have made things much easier for him.  Our daughter used the grip on a pen to create an amazing drawing in just a few minutes.  I can see me using the final grip for a long time to come because it truly is comfortable.  I also appreciate the fact the pencil grips are available either as a set or can be purchased individually.

Once again if you are looking for a terrific pair of safety scissors or pencil grips I recommend you check out The Ultra Safe Safety Scissors and The 3 Step Pencil Grip Training Kit for yourself.  These will become valuable kids school supplies.  Click here or on the graphic below to read more reviews of these products fromThe Pencil Grip, Inc..

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Review of Brinkman Adventures Season 4



One of our family’s favorite ways to pass time on road trips is listening to audio dramas. Have you heard of Brinkman Adventures?  We were introduced to their missionary stories when we received Brinkman Adventures Season 4 to review.  This was the first time we had heard of this audio drama series.  And I have to say, we loved the stories. For the purpose of this review, we received the audio drama as a download.  However, they are also available on audio CDs as well.  Personally, I found the downloads perfect.  I was able to download them to my computer and then use iTunes to listen to them on my computer.  However, I also have the option to listen to them on my iPhone or iPad as well.   This season contains 12 episodes full of missionary stories, adventure and more.

These adventures are in many cases based on real people and the events that happened to them.  Also, as a parent, I love how at the beginning of episodes containing intense stories, children under ten-years-old are instructed to get their parents to listen along with them. This shows the creators have a genuine concern for their listeners.  At the end of each episode, listeners are instructed to visit the website for more information regarding the real-life characters and situations.  Here is the link to the website where you can find the real stories behind the episodes.  Here are some screenshots of the stories behind the episodes.


Each episode is about twenty-five minutes long.  The stories engage you in the drama and keep you on the edge of your seat in many cases.  The background music is incredible and helps set the mood of the stories.  The stories themselves are engaging, inspiring and moving.

Our family loved how the episodes build upon each other.  Characters frequently reappear.  Another feature our family really enjoyed was listening to the snippets in between episodes, such as the one where the creator of the Brinkman adventures introduces his family who actually provide the voices for the characters in the show.

Our family tended to listen to these episodes together, however, there were a few that I listened to alone.  I can guarantee the next time we get in our van to drive somewhere, these episodes will be playing.

Even though our children are twenty-one, almost nineteen, almost seventeen and almost fourteen, they all enjoyed listening to the stories because the children are span such a large age range.  I also appreciated the time and care provided to the idea of grown children finding their own place in the world and respecting the ideas and concerns of their parents.  Over the course of several episodes, the story of Michelle and the young man she wants to marriage developed.  Mr. Brinkman does an excellent job of showing the struggles parents go through in this situation.  As a mother, I could totally relate to the struggles Mr. Brinkman faced.

Our children really enjoyed the episode with RD, the Koi fish and the adventures that the computerized RD had when armed with a paintball gun.  Of course, listeners were informed at the end of the end of this episode, that it was not based on real life.  Plus, they were instructed to never try doing this at home.  However, I could see my sons (especially our oldest) trying something like this himself.

So if your family is looking for wholesome audio dramas, check out Brinkman Adventures Season 4 for yourselves.  If you would like to read more reviews, click here or on the graphic below.

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