Review: Brain Blox Wooden Building Planks

Like most of you, we’re constantly on the lookout for new resources which will add to our learning experience and encourage family adventures. We’ll be honest, when first given an opportunity to explore Brain Blox Wooden Building Planks we weren’t sure how these would fit into our routine. Would our big kids benefit from this? Oh, my friends; you have no idea! After one short month, our family can’t stop saying enough about this amazingly fun, educational resource.

Brain Blox is a family-owned company whose mission is to help families draw closer to one another and be purposeful in their time together. Every item available at Brain Blox Nation seeks to help them accomplish these goals. Available now, Brain Blox Wooden Building Planks develop children’s understanding of mathematic and engineering principles, develops problem solving skills, improves spatial awareness, and more.

Always up for a new adventure, our family gladly accepted an opportunity to review Brain Blox Wooden Building Planks. Our box included 200 natural wooden building planks, a lovely red canvas drawstring backpack, and a Brain Blox Building Ideas pamphlet.
In addition to our Natural Wooden Building Planks, we found we had access to the Brain Blox website, including a menu of “Free Stuff”. We were pleased to find a multitude of resources available:
•Let’s Build! Idea Cards – A digital set of building cards, organized by level of difficulty.
•Brain Blox World eBook – A visual display of building project ideas.
•IQ Brain Puzzles! – A digital set of thirteen challenges, incorporating spatial learning.
•Build Idea Videos – Links to engaging YouTube clips sharing fun building projects.
•Build Ideas Booklet – A quick list of building ideas which correspond to video clips.
•Brain Blox University – Lesson plans enhancing spatial awareness and offering more fun
•Conscious Kids Journal – A set of colorful journal pages including exercises in Affirmation, Weekly Kindness, Generosity, and more!

Once our box arrived we immediately began to explore. We were impressed with the wooden building planks. Brain Blox are 100% all-natural and earth friendly; chemical free and safe for kids. Made of premium New Zealand Pine, each plank is cut smoothly and perfect for little hands. They feel good in the hand, with no rough edges. The drawstring backpack is made of sturdy material; a cheerful color. And while the wooden building planks alone lend themselves to a world of possibility, the Brain Blox website has no end of amazing resources to encourage learning.

I was curious to test the building planks on my big kids, wondering what they might create first. Leaving the Brain Blox package out on our learning table, I gave no instructions, but left them to explore on their own. After a quick look at the included Brain Blox Ideas pamphlet, they decided to tackle the helix project first. It took several tries, but they finally got it. They quickly began to understand this might be more of a challenge than anticipated; creating a structure with the given height they desired.
Throughout the following weeks, we took out the Brain Blox when visiting with friends and their littles. It soon became a favorite, even amongst the dads! The men found great fun in building tall structures, encouraging the little kids to then topple their buildings; cheering them on.

To enhance my children’s learning, I chose to incorporate many of the IQ Puzzles into our routine. At the start of our day I would set out the puzzle, allowing the kids to approach the challenge at their discretion. The first few proved very simple for them; taking only a few moments. This was encouraging for me, knowing they could solve them quickly. Later puzzles took several minutes and occasional group effort, but proved equally fun.
On days we did not work on IQ Puzzles we focused attention on Let’s Build! cards. Given more simple structures, our kids were challenged with enhancing the original design; making it their own.

I would have liked to make use of Brain Blox University and the Conscious Kids’ Journal pages, but found these more suited to a younger audience. They are certainly lovely options, and perhaps might use them in the future while teaching classes. We did, however, make sure to spend time viewing the Brain Blox YouTube channel. The videos are amazing fun; engaging and clever! The videos are well-made and a joy to watch. Playlists include: “Get Inspired”, six separate projects including a pirate ship and more; “Build Ideas”, eight projects including everything from airplanes and a castle gage to a fishing dock and the Parthenon; and “Brain Teasers”, four challenges using Brain Blox to help enhance spatial awareness!

Thus far, we’ve enjoyed everything about our time exploring Brain Blox. Using the wooden planks has been great fun, and a learning bonus! They have quickly become a favorite amongst our little friends who enjoy visiting and hold a great deal of potential for future projects. One of our favorite Brain Blox project ideas has been the Build Ideas Character challenge, an art opportunity which involves painting our planks to look like any character we enjoy. It has been especially fun to view the many ways Brain Blox has chosen to paint their own planks, many of which are seen in their YouTube videos!
The only thing addition we would like to see to Brain Blox? While we love that their IQ Brain Puzzles and Build Ideas! cards are in digital format, it would be nice if these were also available for purchase; preferably on good card stock and laminated. We like the idea of being able to pull these out to use without having to use the internet. While we could print them ourselves, we confess, sometimes it’s just easier to purchase. It would be nice to have that option.

The suggested age range for Brain Blox Wooden Building Planks is 4-104, and we honestly believe that stands true. These wooden planks hold a world of possibility and may be enjoyed by all. We can’t wait to share these with new homeschooling families we often have the privilege of hosting and using them in future coop classes, in addition to keeping them an active part of our learning day. Both as a learning tool and family fun, Brain Blox are a wonderful addition to the household. We highly recommend taking advantage of this learning resource and would encourage making them a part of any learning routine.

If you’d like to learn more about Brain Blox Wooden Building Planks or Brain Blox, please visit them at their website and on FacebookYouTube, or Instagram!

To read additional reviews like this one, and gain more insight into this series, please visit The Homeschool Review Crew.

Review Crew Disclaimer

We’d love to know… How would you incorporate Brain Blox Wooden Building Planks into your homeschooling routine?

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Review: Fun Family Chess by Brain Blox

Major mom confession. I do not know how to play chess. I know, total failure, right? For years I kept telling myself that if I only had a cheat sheet to tell me which pieces moved where, perhaps I could learn. Then we discovered Fun Family Chess by Brain Blox. Excuses aside, it was time this mama learned the fine art of the game.

Brain Blox is a family-owned company whose mission is to help families draw closer to one another and be purposeful in their time together. Every item available at Brain Blox Nation seeks to help them accomplish these goals. Available now, Fun Family Chess encourages families to stop thinking of chess as too complicated and instead embrace this epic game.

Ready to finally learn this incredible game, our family was offered one Fun Family Chess set. Fun Family Chess includes a folding wooden chess board, thirty-two wooden chess pieces in pouches, a full-color chess book, two reference cards, and a chess cube. In addition to the game itself, we were encouraged to take advantage of the multitude of free resources available on the Brain Blox website and given a free two month Gold Membership at the ChessKid website, a family safe website where kids can learn and play chess online.
Once our box arrived, we immediately began to explore. We were pleased to discover the game board and pieces are well made and beautifully designed. The included reference cards are printed on heavy card stock, durable and beautifully designed. I would definitely be using these while learning the game. Our Fun Family Chess book shared everything from how to set up the chess board to tips on better game play. After familiarizing ourselves with the set, we took time to peruse the Brain Blox website; learning more about the free resources available and how they might better help mom learn how to play.

As everyone in my family already knows how to play chess, it was my turn to put aside any reservations I might have and learn the art of strategy. I immediately jumped on the Brain Blox YouTube channel and began their tutorials. My first video taught me how to set up the chess board; noting the chess board is bordered by images of game pieces to help beginners. The second and third videos explained how to play Fun Family Chess, a game which incorporates the rolling of a chess cube to determine which piece will be moved. Using the reference cards, I would then determine how that piece should be moved and learn to strategize. This would help me become familiar with each of the pieces on the board and practice moving around the playing field. Simple, straightforward, and easy to learn; without the rules of standard chess. My fourth video shared how to play a standard game of chess.

I spent several days playing Fun Family Chess, and have since proceeded to playing Standard Chess. I have not set myself up on a schedule of play, but do my best to incorporate this into my routine as often as possible, with the goal of playing several times per week. Each game can take anywhere from twenty minutes to an hour, depending on my ability to strategize and focus on the game. I have also taken a moment or two to try the ChessKid website but, as the purpose of my learning is to spend more time with family, found being on a website useful for personal practice when no-one else is available.
I didn’t want to miss out on anything, so I was sure to take a few minutes to explore “Free Stuff” on the Brain Blox website. I was pleased to find a free Conscious Kids Journal; a set of colorful printables designed to build character in our children. Journal pages include exercises in Affirmation, Weekly Kindness, Generosity, and more! I imagine these would be lovely to incorporate into a weekly routine with littles.

Thus far, I have truly enjoyed Fun Family Chess. The set itself is well-made and lovely. I found the chess book to be a helpful resource to have on hand, and appreciated that Brain Blox included this with our set instead of assuming we would prefer to learn online, all while reminding us that video tutorials are available for those in need. Fun Family Chess game play was very fun. As a beginner, it took the stress out of choosing which piece to move and instead allowed me to focus on learning the pieces, as well as strategy. Using the resource book, I enjoyed learning about Standard Chess. I was able to acquaint myself with terms such as “Check”, “Checkmate”, “Stalemate”, “Pawn Promotion”, and more!
Viewing the YouTube tutorials was amazing fun. Each video was entertaining and simple to follow. Their videos are very well made and a joy to watch.
Being OCD, the only observation I might make regarding Fun Family Chess, is that I wish the board and the pieces were not different colors. Silly, but true. The wooden board is black and white; the pieces brown and white. I am sorely tempted to paint my brown pieces black. But that is still up for debate. Other than my ridiculous need for things to match, I love everything about Fun Family Chess!

It’s true. I didn’t know how to play the game. But, thanks to Fun Family Chess, that has all changed. Now if I could only manage to strategize a tad better… Oh, well. I’m sure it will come with time, right?

If you’d like to learn more about Fun Family Chess or Brain Blox, please visit them at their website and on FacebookYouTube, or Instagram!

To read additional reviews like this one, and gain more insight into this series, please visit The Homeschool Review Crew.

Review Crew Disclaimer

We’d love to know… Do you know how to play chess?

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The Fine Art of Independence

When my kids were really little, they required more hands-on assistance. I would stand at their side while they used scissors. I anxiously held out my arms as they tried the monkey bars or learned to ride a bike. As they’ve gotten older, I’ve come to learn my kids need a chance to be independent. Space to make mistakes, room to grow, and the ability to see for themselves they really can do this.

I am an organizational freak. I organize everything from my sock drawer, to the knives in the kitchen, to the cleaning supplies in the garage. Everything has a spot, a plan, and a purpose. Thus, allowing my children freedom of such areas can often kill my nerves. What if they don’t put things back properly? What if they bungle the whole lot and it takes me ages to put it back together again?

I also tend to be a worrier. Can you tell? What if my kids get skinned knees; scraped up elbows; cut themselves; or worse? I obviously need be right by their side to ensure they aren’t going to kill themselves or burn down our house in the process of their experimentation.

How are these things at all related? If I am not willing to set aside my worry and my desire to have everything just so, my children will never learn to do things for themselves. In order for our children to learn independence, I must relinquish some control. I must be willing for things to become messy so my children will learn to clean and organize better. I must be willing for them to have the occasional bump or bruise so they can learn to ride that skateboard.
One of the hardest challenges of parenting is understanding when it’s okay to let go and when you still need to hold on. My children must learn to do things for themselves, by themselves, without mommy standing over their shoulder. And, they want to. It isn’t they which are holding back, but I!

It starts with baby steps, giving them smaller projects. When they prove faithful in the little, we give them more. At some point, they are able to clean without my having to check their work. I can depend on them to organize as well as I do. Sometimes even better. Through trial and error, our children cook without my worrying about them being burned or cutting themselves needlessly. They are able to work on artistic endeavors without ruining the flooring or leaving messes for me to clean up.

In order for them to be ready for adulthood, their responsibilities and their independence must increase and my hand-holding must decrease. Does this mean we are never around? Of course not! We will always be here for our children. But, instead of doing things for them, we offer guidance and counsel. We wait for them to seek out wisdom, instead of interjecting at the earliest possible moment. We grow out of our initial jobs and gain new ones.

Am I there yet? Truthfully, no. I still hover, peeking around corners so my kids don’t see me, waiting to rush in and save them from disaster. But I am getting better. I am learning to let them try new things, gain new experiences, and branch out. I am also learning God has this under control. He loves my children more than I ever could; He will protect them, provide for them, and help them. My job is temporary, His is forever.

“All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children.”
Isaiah 54:13

We’d love to know… What is one thing your child has done, on their own, which at first caused fear, but brought about independence and growth?

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Letters of Love

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As I ready my children for school, I stand at my kitchen counter packing wholesome lunches all set to be tucked away into their boxes and carted off to school. Along with their balanced meal, I lovingly slip in a note of love which promises of homemade cookies and cold milk upon their return. –– WAIT!… Scratch that… How could I forget? I don’t send my kids off to school. I don’t pack them lunches in cute little boxes. I don’t give them milk and cookies when they come back because they never leave. I don’t send them little love notes in their lunch pails; there are no lunch pails.

When shopping for back-to-school supplies, I happened upon a set of adorable lunch note cards for parents. What a cute idea, I thought! In reality, I have no use for them. We homeschool, so I don’t pack meals for our kids. I don’t box a lunch for my guy; he works at home. I make our lunch at the stove and then we sit down to eat as a family But the idea behind the love notes was touching. Surely there must be a way for me to use them. Then an idea struck! Part of dating someone is writing love letters, right? So if I was “dating my children“, surely I would need to write them “love letters”. These little notes would indeed come in handy.
Now I needed to find creative ways to deliver my letters of love. Perhaps when we are on a field trip, I could attach them to their juice boxes or water bottles. I could tuck it into the front cover of their current read. I could stick them to the chairs at the kitchen table between breakfast and the beginning of our day. There are so many possibilities, I could go on forever.

Whether it is a stack of silly little notes or a handmade card, I need to remember my family appreciates these demonstrations of love. To them, it is anything but little. I constantly am trying to find ways to show my heart and express my feelings. As homeschoolers, I have to be a tad more creative. I am learning to take advantage of an opportunity when I see it. I can’t use a lunchbox, but I can use other things. The key is remembering and doing, no matter how little or how silly.

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
~ Proverbs 22:6

We’d love to know… Do you write your children letters of love? What creative ways to do you find to deliver them?

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Review: HiGASFY Art History Video Series

Join us as we review HiGASFY Art History Video Series.

Is art history a portion of your homeschooling routine? I’ll be honest, until recently, I never gave it much thought. I can just imagine the collective gasp, but hear me out. I never taught ‘Art History’ as a school subject because… well… we LIVE art. Literally.
My husband is an artist by profession. Our children have been encouraged in this area since birth. Our home library is overflowing with reference books, art studies, and reproductions by favorite masters. We visit galleries on a regular basis. It’s just a way of life.

However, the teacher in me was intrigued. Perhaps we had missed something, maybe our kids would benefit from a more formal art education study. Always up for another learning adventure, we determined to take a closer look at what HiGASFY Art History Video Series has to offer. What we discovered was a world of fun!

Have I Got A Story For You!

HiGASFY Art History Video Series is a subscription based video series which takes viewers on an art history adventure discovering four artistic eras: Renaissance, Baroque, Impressionist, and Post-Impressionist Periods. In each of the four series, our host, Miss Beth, along with her friend GASFY, an animated green drop of paint, introduces three artists of the era and the paths their lives took in making them the greatest masters of their time. Through storytelling and engaging conversation Miss Beth shares key pieces of art created by each, as we get a closer look at their work. Each of the four series includes twelve YouTube videos for viewing, each approximately twenty minutes in length; a lesson plan; flash cards; and a “Name that Artist” Power Point assessment.

Ready to embark on a new adventure, our family was given a three-month subscription to the entirety of the HiGASFY Art History Video Series, along with access to all curriculum bundles. For our purposes we chose to begin with The Renaissance, which was afterwards followed by Baroque and the Impressionist Period; in that order.
To ensure we would be using the curriculum in a manner which best fit our family’s needs, I spent time reviewing the Renaissance bundle and what was included. The Renaissance introduced us to three artists: Leonardo da Vinci, Michaelangelo, and Raphael. In addition to the twelve videos in the series, more educational opportunities awaited us.

Within each curriculum bundle, we received access to sixteen corresponding lesson plans. Lessons Plans offered the ability to explore learning adventures in Study Objectives, Hands-On Activities, Critical Thinking, Vocabulary, Geography, and Group Activities.
Some suggested activities included resources listed on the HiGASFY Pinterest boards; including hands-on creations and art projects. Lesson Plans had scheduled breaks throughout allowing for opportunities in personal sketching, catchup on projects, and group activities.

HiGASFY Flash Cards were available for download via the website. Each set of flashcards reflected major pieces of artwork discussed in the chosen video series. The flashcards are intended to be double sided; with full-color illustrations portrayed on the front, the artists’ names and titles of the pieces listed on the back.
Ideally, the flashcards might be printed on cardstock and laminated; allowing for extended use and creating a more professional look to the cards. However, these could easily be adapted by printing each page singly; placing them in plastic page protectors, back to back. Either method would work well.

The “Name that Artist” assessment was a Power Point presentation; a review of the same pieces of art included in the flash cards. The assessment is full-color, with no sound.
Should printing full-color flash cards be an issue, or for those preferring an interactive learning experience, the assessment might be an alternative to using the flash cards.

Our family determined the best place to begin was with The Renaissance, given that it was the oldest era available for study. We would then work our way forward in time. After looking over the lesson plans for this bundle, we chose to focus our attention on the video series itself and the critical thinking portions of each section. As our students are mainly in high school, this would best meet our family’s needs.
Over the course of the month, we viewed one video per day. The exception was the first two videos in the series, which we watched in one sitting. While progressing through each video, brief pauses in viewing were taken to discuss critical thinking questions and embark on short geography lessons. At the end of the series, an assessment using the “Name that Arist” presentation helped us wrap up our lessons.
Following this routine, we were able to complete The Renaissance within a two week period of time. We followed this series up, as planned, with Baroque and then the Impressionist period. We applied the same routine to each of the series.

HiGASFY proved to be a fun adventure in learning! Miss Beth was engaging and clearly has a passion for art. GASFY was a cute addition to each video lesson, asking questions one would expect from a typical young person learning art history for the first time. The art lessons themselves were thorough and never boring.
We enjoyed being introduced to many pieces of art; Miss Beth pointing out various aspects of each painting one might miss if viewed too quickly. As particular pieces of art corresponded to Bible stories, we appreciated Miss Beth taking a few moments to review the Bible passages before moving forward. All artwork consisting of nude figures were carefully manipulated so parents need not be concerned with inappropriate material. Miss Beth introduced art styles such as Chiaroscuro and Etching. Students learn art concepts including landscapes, portraits, and still life. She did a fanatic job of continually reviewing lessons learned throughout each series.
We learned a great deal about each of the chosen artists. – Who knew they could be so temperamental? – We found we preferred Michelangelo to other Renaissance artists. In regard to Impressionists, Monet’s earlier work was appreciated more highly than later projects, especially his caricatures. We loved Monet’s garden and all the work he put into it. We really liked Pissarro’s works; they have a great mood. When studying Degas, we preferred his sculpts to his paintings; Little Dancer is incredible. Mr. van Gogh? He was… an unusual man.

While we did not choose to make use of every aspect of the lesson plans, we did research each option thoroughly. While viewing the helpful HiGASFY Pinterest projects, we noted listings are not titled according to lesson plans and we look forward to this organization perhaps being put into place in the future. All other aspects of the bundles flowed beautifully. The lesson plans are very well organized and include a great deal of learning opportunities.
We should note we did have issues with accessing lesson plans on our iPads. Apple devices have issues with Flash files, and thus all lesson plans needed to be viewed on my desktop or via printing. Not a major issue, but something to consider all the same.

For the purpose of our review, and because of our family’s current needs, we progressed through HiGASFY at a much quicker speed than I would honestly recommend. There is truly a wealth of information and possibility available using this curriculum. Ideally, I would recommend using one curriculum bundle per quarter of the learning year; covering all four eras over the course of a single year. You could easily stretch each course to a sixteen week study, using one lesson plan per week. Whichever best meets your students’ needs.

All-in-all, HiGASFY has been a fascinating aspect of our routine. I feel like we’ve learned a great deal. As we write this review, we are currently in the middle of the Post-Impressionist series and loving every moment. We will be sorry to finish the last of the series, but hope there might be more to come! And… we can always start over and slow down!

If you’d like to learn more about HiGASFY Art History Video Series, or to view a FREE lesson, please visit them at their website and on FacebookPinterest, YouTube, or Instagram!

To read additional reviews like this one, and gain more insight into this series, please visit The Homeschool Review Crew.

Review Crew Disclaimer

We’d love to know… Is art history a portion of your family’s learning adventure?

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In This Alone

“This is what the Lord says: ‘Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,’ declares the Lord.”

Jeremiah 9:23-24

I admit, there are times when my vision becomes skewed. It is in these moments, the Lord must remind me it is in Him alone I am satisfied.

How often do we start idolizing the things around us? Our spouses, our children, and our family can become the focus of our lives. Our jobs, our homes, and our financial status can start to define us.
What about our homeschooling? Do we boast in our ability to homeschool or to homeschool well? Has homeschooling itself become the very center of our lives, instead of the values upon which homeschooling was built? Has progress, for the sake of progress, become our goal?

May we not make an idol out of homeschooling itself. May we focus less on the act, the daily progression of lessons. Instead, let us rejoice in our children’s ability to draw closer to the Lord. May our homeschooling be a means of helping our children understand Christ better, and may we boast in this alone. That our children walk with God.

Please share with us… Take a moment to brag about what the Lord has been doing in your homeschooling. How is He working in your lives?

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Waiting for ‘Real’ Ministry to Begin

Do you ever feel as if you’re not moving forward in ministry? You desire to serve the Lord, but where would you find the time? There’s learning which needs to be done, a house which needs to be cleaned, meals which need fixing, and a world of responsibility sitting at your feet the moment you open your eyes each morning.

The ministry which surrounds us daily might not be glamorous; no one outside our immediate family may ever know our name or see the impact we make on the world around us. This does not make our ministry less real. The roles we are currently playing are vital and as real as it gets.

The Ministry of Marriage – The Lord is constantly reminding me that marriage is more than a relationship, it is a ministry. We are connected, but it is a bond which requires work and a call to serve the Lord together. Done right, our marriage will point people to God and His saving grace.

The Ministry of Parenting – We have a unique call to train and disciple the next generation of adults. Positively a full-time role in ministry. Never let anyone tell you otherwise.

The Ministry of Education – As we teach our littles, we have the unique ability to reach their hearts, souls, and minds for Christ. Every lesson builds and strengthens, helping our children increase for God’s glory.

The Ministry of Friendship –We thank God for the few people He has brought into our lives who minister to us in this capacity. That girlfriend who just stops by to say hello? You just made our day. The gentleman who calls to encourage my husband and ask how His Bible study is going? Love that! Where would we be without awesome friends who take time just to ask how we’re doing, and occasionally stop in for a visit.

The Ministry of Edification – We might not have physically met, but our goal here at A Homeschool Mom is to edify everyone who reads these pages. While we’re perusing your thoughts, questions, and helpful tips, we’re often edified. Together, as brothers and sisters in Christ, we use this community to edify one another, encouraging closer relationships with Christ.

The World of Outside Ministry – As our children have gotten older, our ability to serve in other areas has become available. In the right context, time and place, this too is important. I want to example a well-balanced ministry for my children to see. Not a mom who is so busy she can’t take of her family and not a mom who never serves. Balance. This too ministers, trains, and educates my kids.
So we openly discuss church and community opportunities as they become available. Together we pray, list the pros and cons, and finally come to an agreement on managing our time and resources. Sometimes the ministry opportunity is only for one member of the family (e.g. A daughter helping other teens sew pillow cases for missionaries.) and other times we serve as a family. Always, the ministry opportunity is led by the Lord and intended for His glory.

Whenever I start feeling as if I’m not doing enough to serve the Lord, I remember a line from Francesca Battistelli’s song, “He Knows My Name“. It’s not important that my name be in lights. I am not living for applause. The God of the universe knows my name and loves me; just as I am, just where I am. He has me here for a reason, and He’s asking me to be faithful with what He’s given.

‘Real’ ministry is here and now. It’s not ten years down the road, it’s not ten minutes down the road. It’s right where I am. The real question is, what will I do with the ministry He’s given?

“But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.”

~ Acts 20:24

Your Turn!: Show of hands… Have you read The Ministry of Motherhood?

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Review: Britfield & The Lost Crown

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We may have mentioned a time or two that our family loves books. Not just a little. A lot. There is always room for one more great read, and this month we added to our growing library with the first book in a spectacular new series, Britfield & The Lost Crown.

“Tom continued to think about the day as he stared at the peeling paint on the ceiling. He thought about Mr. Grievous’s threat, the file about his parents locked in the office, six more years at this miserable place and his friend Sarah. It was a long night, but Tom knew at that moment it was time to leave Weatherly.”

~ Britfield & The Lost Crown

Britfield & The Lost Crown is the first book in a new series by C.R.Stewart released by Devonfield Publishing. Britfield & The Lost Crown is an adventurous story taking readers through a discovery of prominent English landmarks as they uncover the mystery of young Tom’s past. Aided by his best friend, Sarah, and a slew of amazingly helpful acquaintances, Tom will do everything in his power to uncover who he really is and remain free of their hateful orphanage forever.

Already the winner of several awards, our family was eager to review the first book in the new series and excited to explore the multitude of learning possibilities. Our family received a signed paperback copy of the book, access to the Britfield website, and a link to download the Britfield Study Guide.

As I prefer previewing reads before passing them off to our children, I made sure I was the first to sit down with the book. Being a quick reader and given the reading level of the story, I found I was able to complete the book within one evening; finishing in approximately four hours. Afterwards, I made the book available to my children and took time to explore the possibilities of the Britfield study guide and website.

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I found the Britfield Study Guide to be well thought out and thorough. Available for free to teachers and homeschoolers, the study guide includes learning opportunities focusing on vocabulary, comprehension and “Going Deeper” exercises which encourage learners to think beyond the story. Portions of the study guide also include “Learn More with Technology” which assists learners in becoming familiar with online research.
For our family’s purposes we chose to focus our attention on the “Going Deeper” portions of the study guide, preferring to approach the questions openly in group discussion. We found this worked best for our family as the other sections of the guide would have been a review of skills already learned by my students and I wanted to spend a greater amount of our time on the Britfield website.

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Upon visiting the Britfield website, we were immediately impressed by the amount of options available to us. Readers can learn more about not only the series itself, but the author, various awards, opportunities for teachers to explore the Britfield Classroom Creativity Experience, and the upcoming Explorer’s Club.
For those ready to jump into a learning adventure inspired by the book, a series of seven options are also available for exploration: Yorkshire, The Midlands, Oxford, Windsor, Richmond, London and Canterbury. Selecting any of these subcategories will immediately launch you into a fresh study of this English landmark. Depending on which landmark you choose to focus on, readers have the option to examine maps, peruse beautiful photographs of the given area, learn a bit of history and geography, and more.
We explored every aspect of the website. We found the resource too good to pass up, and eagerly studied each landscape thoroughly.

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We found Britfield & The Lost Crown to be a wonderful book. The story was clean, well-paced, had beautifully developed characters, was filled with adventure, and encouraged a desire for deeper study. We found the book to be enjoyable for even our adults readers, while easily manageable for younger listeners. The book would be a perfect Morning Basket read for families to explore together, giving plenty of opportunity to incorporate both the Study Guide and website learning adventures.
If the front cover – beautifully illustrated and incredibly soft to the touch – doesn’t immediately grab you, within minutes the story will pull you in and have you wanting more.

From what we are told, movies for each of the books in this fantastic series are in the works! No news yet as to when they will be released, but we’ll definitely be keeping our ears open for any new developments. Until then, there is still plenty to explore while we wait for the next installment in the series.
I am so glad we took the time to review Britfield & The Lost Crown and add yet another amazing read to our home library. Don’t you just love a good book?

If you’d like to learn more about Britfield & The Lost Crown please visit them at their website and on FacebookTwitteror Instagram!

To read additional reviews like this one, and gain more insight into this fantastic read, please visit The Homeschool Review Crew.

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We’d love to know… Do you have a favorite historical fiction series you enjoy?

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The Right Fit: Choosing the “Perfect” Curriculum

I wish I could be one of those parents who is blessed in picking the perfect curriculum right from the get-go and using it all through their children’s learning. Those people do exist, right? While we’ve been pretty lucky and only had a few changes over the years, it still irks me to know I’ve wasted a precious dollars.

How does one pick the right curriculum? Does such a thing even exist? If it works for one student, does it have to work for all our learners, and does it last for their entire learning experience? All great questions! I’m not an expert, but here’s what I’ve learned:

When Not to Buy – Knowing when to buy is good, knowing when not to buy is just as important. Don’t buy on impulse, out of stress or because someone else says you ‘have to’ have it. Learn what works best for your kids, pray, and buy when you’re ready.

Is it For Them or You? – Sometimes we have a tendency to pick curriculum which gets us excited, but we don’t stop to think if it fits our kids’ needs. We need to look at this curriculum from their perspective and determine if it’s the right fit.

All or Nothing – Are we buying one type of curriculum and then forcing all our children to learn the same way? If we can, we try to meet each child where they are. We’ve been blessed that most of our curriculum works for everyone, but there have been times when I’ve needed to adjust to fit a particular need. This is just one of the joys of homeschooling.

Can it Wait? – Being a planner, I like buying things in advance. One mistake I’ve made is in buying items way too early and then realizing I didn’t need them after all. While I’m all for a good deal and planning ahead, I’ve learned to bookmark or ‘pin’ items I might want, instead of buying immediately. As time progresses, I will come back to those and reevaluate as needed.

Pray Always! – As always, pray about this issue. When the Lord is at the center of your life, you can trust He will be faithful to direct you to the curriculum that best fits your family’s needs. Be open to what He is going to do. You’d be surprised at how often He will take you down a path you would never have dared on your own!

Be In Agreement – I don’t recommend tackling this obstacle all by yourself. Make sure your spouse is included in curriculum and course choices. Sometimes we stress over areas our other halves could work through in moments. We were created to work together, so plan a date night and hash it out. Figure out what you both are looking for and make it happen.

Bend a Little – So, you prayed over the curriculum, talked to your spouse, bought it, and somehow it just isn’t quite working out. That’s alright! Sometimes we have great materials at our disposal, we just need to tweak them a little. Other times, the particular curriculum is only good for a period of our learning experience before we move on.

The Curriculum Graveyard – This one is the hardest for me, I admit. However, sometimes curriculum just isn’t the right fit. What happened? Who knows! It might be that I’m not using it properly. It might be I wasn’t following God’s instructions and was using my own wisdom in making the choice. It might be God was using this experience to teach us a lesson which had nothing to do with the curriculum what-so-ever; the curriculum was merely a catalyst for a greater lesson. No matter; if it isn’t working, drop it! Donate it, give it to a friend, set it on fire (just kidding), or whatever else you can think of. Life is too short to waste on lessons which aren’t being learned. Don’t be afraid to admit what you’ve got isn’t doing the trick, then readjust.

I don’t know that we’ve ever come across the ‘perfect’ fit, when it comes to curriculum.  Honestly, I don’t know if one exists. What I have learned is to pray about the choices we make, be one with my spouse on this matter, and to be flexible with whatever we finally go with. No matter which curriculum we’ve chosen, we’ve always learned valuable lessons through using it. Just not always in the way it was intended.

We’d love to know… What is the shortest amount of time you’ve spent using a particular curriculum? What made you relegate it to the curriculum graveyard?

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Review: Library and Educational Services LLC

Despite recently given, well-meaning advice, one can never have too many books. And thanks to Library and Educational Services LLC our investment in our children’s love of literature and learning just became easier!

“Library and Educational Services is a wholesaler of books, CDs, and DVDs. We have been selling primarily to Christian schools, churches, specialty stores and resellers for over 40 years. We specialize in materials for children. All of our prices are 30% to 70% (or even more) off publishers’ list prices every day. We give homeschools the same discount other schools receive.
 
We carefully review all items we carry so that they are not contrary to Biblical standards and values.”

Recently, our family was given the opportunity to review Library and Educational Services LLC and learn just how easy it was to find literature for our family’s learning adventure. We were offered a first-hand look at their vast selection of reinforced hardcover library binding nonfiction book series. With over two hundred titles to choose from, in a wide range of age categories, we were excited to explore. In addition to an assortment of reinforced hardcover books, our family was offered a book from the best-selling paperback series Who Was…, Who Was Jim Henson, and a CD, Trapped in Aesop’s Fables!, from the Lifehouse Theater series.

Given a link to Library and Educational Services, our family was able to immediately access their website and begin exploring the multitude of titles available for purchase. Browsing was effortless. Resources could be found by topic, grade, medium, or simply by searching for specific reads. Having been offered a book from the Who Was… series, our family began by choosing a title from this category first; selecting Who Was Jim Henson. Afterward, we took a moment to choose our CD from Lifehouse Theater and selected Trapped in Aesop’s Fables! Finally, we moved on to exploring their range of reinforced hardcover library binding nonfiction books. With so many titles to choose from it was hard to narrow down our choices. We decided to order World War II: Essential Histories (a set of six books covering the war) and Awfully Ancient (a set of three books which comically explore various aspects of ancient history).
Our order totaled eleven items with an invoice of approximately seventy dollars, listing a savings of over a hundred and fifteen dollars on the resources themselves. We completed the process of checking out and awaited the arrival of our books. Within a week and a half, our box arrived and we were ready to explore our chosen resources.

Our books arrived in a single box, packed carefully. After taking a moment to unbox them and share a few photos our new finds on Instagram – Yes, I am that kind of mom. – I determined to not force the books on our children, but instead strategically place them in a prominent location and see how the kids responded. My efforts were well rewarded. Our second oldest daughter quickly discovered our books had arrived and promptly began reading aloud portions of the Awfully Ancient series to her siblings. Thus far, all of the resources have been a hit.

This was our family’s first experience using Library and Educational Services and it was lovely. We were impressed with the wide variety of materials offered at great prices and the ease of the ordering process; in addition to being pleased with the quality of the materials we received.
Who Was Jim Henson is of the same quality as other books we’ve previously viewed in the series and an enjoyable read. Trapped in Aesop’s Fables! is beautifully recorded. All of our selections of reinforced hardcover library binding nonfiction books lived up to their description. The binding is sturdy, offering longevity to families who might have young hands holding books, without the frustrating habit some reads have of binding which is too tight to properly read the marginal text. World War II: Essential Histories proves to be a handy resource for deeper studies on this topic, while Awfully Ancient has by far been our favorite choice. Our students found the series engaging, funny, and educational. They were an instant hit.

With so many resources available through Library and Educational Services it will be a challenge to determine which books to explore next! We were quite pleased to find a large selection of MasterBooks homeschool curriculum available, and you KNOW how much we love MasterBooks. In addition, Adams’ Chart of History, Writing Strands, and the Blast Back series – just to name a few – are all certainly worth a closer look. Library and Educational Services even lists coloring books amongst their catalog, as well as games and crafts. There is so much to enjoy!

I am so glad we had an opportunity to review Library and Educational Services LLC. I would highly recommend this resource to anyone looking to build their home libraries and supply their children with good, clean materials. The selection available is remarkable and the prices just can’t be beat. Now, if only I had the budget to buy everything I want…

If you’d like to learn more about Library and Educational Services LLC please visit them at their website and on Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, or Instagram!

To read additional reviews like this one, and gain more insight into this fantastic read, please visit The Homeschool Review Crew.

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We’d love to know… What was the last book you purchased?

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