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Friday, October 28, 2016

Five Minute Friday - Eat



Eating.. It's something we all have to do to live.  But man, it's something I hate to love.

I love to eat. I honestly do. There's something to be said about a nice greasy cheeseburger or a platter of spicy crawfish.  Food is something that brings people together.

However, when your overweight, it's not something fun anymore.  We eat healthy and rarely go out, but when we do go out, I always feel like I'm being watched and criticized.   Like if I do eat a burger (which maybe happens once a month if that), people are laughing and thinking I should be eating a salad.

What they don't know is I suffer from an eating disorder.. I'm almost 42 years old now, and from the time I was 17 years old, I bearly ate 500 calories a day. Because of that, my metabolism has shut down.  My doctors told me to gradually bring my caloric intake up to 1200, I'm lucky even today if I get over 800 calories.

 It's 2pm right now, the kids have had lunch and I've only had 2 cups of coffee, no creamer.. And I still don't want to eat..

I wish people didn't worry so much about what other people are eating and would stop assuming that the burger I might eat once a month contributed to how I look when there's so many other factors at play.

STOP


Head on over to Five Minute Friday to see what other bloggers have written based on the word "Eat".

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

CrossTimber (A Homeschool Crew Review)


What is in a name??  When naming our children, we often put a lot of time and effort in finding the perfect name.  Does it sound good with the last name?  Do the intitials spell anything bad?  Will the other kids that my child goes to school with make fun of her if I name her after Great-Grandmaw Helga?   I know I spent much of the 10 months of pregnancy with each child worrying about the perfect name but I never gave much thought about the meaning of each name.  For all I knew, Alyssa Janine means "She who lives in the Slums",  Garrett Benjamin could have meant "Pigherder who smells like onions",  and Ashleigh Jordan could mean "Child who eats bad sushi".. I just never gave it much thought beyond how it sounded with our last name.

I recently got the wonderful opportunity to review a Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse from CrossTimber.  CrossTimber offers a large array of personalized gifts that features your name's meaning and origin as well as an inspirational verse from the Bible.   They offer a number of different gift options: Framed Plaques featuring a single name (in either 5x7 or 8x10 sized options),  Name Plaques featuring two names (in the 8x10 option), Coffee Mugs, and Music Boxes. They also offer Plaques that feature the Names of God.  For this review, I was offered a Framed Plaque in the name of my choice.   The hard part was choosing who's name to select. 

The first thing I did was email John & Katie, the couple who run CrossTimber together, to find out the availability of our names.  Granted, names like Charles and Alyssa are pretty common but our spelling of Ashleigh is a bit unique and not one you often see on personalized items.  John and Katie quickly responded to my email (even though I know they were getting flooded with emails asking the same type of questions) and were nice enough to list the meaning and origins for each of my family member's names, mine included.  



Turned out, the selection wasn't as hard as I originally thought.  With my husband's birthday falling in the same time frame as the review period, I ended up deciding that I wanted to make this part of his birthday present.    In addition to the review item, I also decided to purchase a personalized mug to go along with the Plaque.  

With the name narrowed down, I needed to narrow myself down to a specific design for my items.  Easy to navigate, the website gave me a drop down menu that helped me to narrow down the type of background I wanted. 



 CrossTimber offers HUNDREDS of various backgrounds to truly make your gift personal.   Each option from the above drop down menu takes shoppers to a webpage that shows each of the available backgrounds for that option.   Each image is in stunning full color and shows the font style and color that will be used with that particular image.  Whether your looking for a gift for Granny who likes kittens or for a son in Boy Scouts, there's sure to be an option for you.    


A Very Small Sampling of Available Backgrounds Offered By CrossTimber

For my gift, I was decided to focus on the fact that my husband's name (Charles) meant Strong or
Manly.  Strong was fitting for my husband as he is the strength behind our family.  I ended up selecting an imagine that I thought truly displayed strength in character but also represented strength in Christ.  I could only think of one image that would display both of these - a lion.    Even then, I had several choices on what image of a lion I wanted - I narrowed it down to two and finally decided on what I thought would be the one that my husband would like the most.   With my selections made, I placed my order.  Since I opted to order a coffee mug in addition to the Framed Plaque, I was very pleased when John and Katie emailed me to verify the order and asking if i would like to personalize the mug even further by including a message to be included on the back of the mug.   I thought this would be great to include, considering this was going to be a present.  

Considering these were custom made items, I knew that shipping would take a bit longer than simply ordering a premade gift from another company.  CrossTimber is located in Ohio, so my order would have to ship cross country to California.  I found the shipping and handling time acceptable (it took about 2 weeks from the time I placed my order until I received it) for items that would have to be custom made.   The items were shipped together and were packaged well to avoid damage in shipping. 

Yeah, he's going to hate me for posting these pics as he had JUST woken up!!  





First, let me discuss the Framed Plaque.

I was very impressed with the quality of this item and my husband was pleased with it.  He ended up placing it in a place of honor in our glass cabinet.

The frame itself was very nice and of good quality.  There were a few different options for frame choices and I opted for the Ornate Frame - a solid plastic frame made from 85% recycled material looks like dark wood.  The frame has a nice weight to it and didn't feel flimsy or like it would break apart in my hands from handling it. Hanging fixtures on the back of the frame allows for easy display on a wall if wanted.

The print inside displays my husband's name, the origin of his name (Teutonic - which was a Germanic people) followed by the meaning of his name (Strong, Manly: One who is Valiant and Honest).  Isaiah 33:15 accompanies his name (He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly: he that despiseth the gain of oppressions...and that shutteth his eyes from seeing evil:  he shall dwell on high) and I found that a fitting verse for him.  I found the print to be very vivid and sharp and found this to be of great quality to give as a gift for a loved one.


While I could have selected a different background for the coffee mug, I decided that I wanted the two to match.  My husband's previous F-22 coffee mug had seen better days as it was chipped pretty bad so I thought it was time for a replacement.  The mug is a standard sized white ceramic coffee mug with the same image as the Plaque printed on the front. On the back, CrossTimber indeed included the verse that I had send them to place on the back.  I'm not sure what method of image bonding CrossTimber uses for the mug, but both the image on the front and the writing on the back feel extremely smooth and of high quality.   My husband has used the mug ever day since he's opened the package and is enjoying it very much.


I should also mention that CrossTimber also included a matching bookmark card along with my order, which was very nice of them. Unfortunately, I didn't get a photograph of it and my husband has put it in his wallet and he's at work while I am writing this.

I am very pleased with both the plaque and the coffee mug but I also want to say how happy I am with the customer service I encountered with CrossTimber.  John and Katie were quick to answer my emails and to help me with the details of my order. In an automated world of "Push 1 for this", "Push 2 for that", you just don't see personal customer service anymore and it was very nice.  They made for a wonderful birthday for my husband and I couldn't have asked for better :)

#hsreviews #name #namemeaning #CrossTimber #gift #personalizedgift

Now through December 4th, CrossTimber is running a contest to win your own personalized name gift. Be sure to head over and enter at the CrossTimber Christmas Giveaway page.

CrossTimber 2016 giveaway

For more information about CrossTimber, be sure to visit their website. Also, visit them on the following social media sites:





Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse {CrossTimber} Reviews


Elementary Chinese 1 (A Homeschool Crew Review)


Last year, I had the opportunity to review one of the French courses from Middlebury Interactive Languages.  I turned out to be one of my least favorite reviews - it just didn't work with my family and we found the interfacing for that particular class to be extremely difficult to maneuver.  However, it seemed to be an issue only with the particular course that I was using - it was a new course and it still had some bugs in it.

When I was given the opportunity to review another one of their language courses, I wasn't absolutely positive that I wanted to do it - what if I disliked it just as much? Then I would have felt terrible writing a second review stating that they just weren't for us.  I decided to go ahead and try their Elementary Chinese 1: Grades 3-5 to use with Ashleigh and I am very glad that I took a second chance on this particular company.   Ashleigh has been learning a lot and she and her big sister have been spending more time together as they work through lessons together.


What is Middlebury Interactive Languages

Middlebury Interactive Languages uses an immersion approach to teach children of all ages foreign languages. Designed by Ph.D. level academics and linguistic experts, this online, browser based program is designed to teach students various languages from around the world. Whether Chinese, French, Spanish or German, this approach is said to be a full curriculum using the same techniques used by Middlebury College's language schools. 


Online courses are broken down by both Grade and Level.  Starting with Elementary levels for either K-2 or 3rd -5, Middle School and High School, Middlebury makes it very easy for students to start with a language early on and work throughout their grade school education to obtain both mastery and fluency of a foreign language using stories, artwork and songs as they learn to speak, read and write their chosen language. 

How We Used It

I decided to allow Ashleigh to be the student for this particular review.  Garrett has been learning Spanish with another program, and while Ashleigh has been learning Latin, she hasn't actually started learning a foreign language.   Ashleigh was the one who picked the Chinese language over the other three options.


Student Dashboard with Table of Contents
 We have been working through the Elementary Chinese 1 for Grades 3-5 which consists of 16 units that cover topics such as Numbers, Greetings, Animals, Food, and Places.  Each of these units breaks down into 6 lessons where the students begin to learn and practice what they are learning.  Activities such as speaking labs, matching English to Chinese, and recognizing Chinese characters as well as reviewing previous material is included with each of the lessons. 



Ashleigh has really enjoyed working with this program, more than I have seen her enjoy other online curriculum that we have used.  I think one of the real draws to this program for her is the cute drawings in the lessons as well as the ability to record and then listen to herself speaking the language in the Speaking Lab activities. 



 I have to say, I am honestly surprised at how quickly she has learned and how well her pronunciation is, considering Chinese is a fairly difficult language to learn.  Because of this fact, however, we have taken a very slow approach with using this program and we tend to repeat lessons to make sure that she has full mastery before we consider moving on to the next lesson.   


Ashleigh practices writing her numbers in Chinese characters

While the general format of this class is much the same as the previous class we reviewed, this one "flowed" much easier at the dashboard level.  Our biggest complaint previously was that we actually had to select specific slides in the table of contents to continue with each lesson.  It was hard to navigate and was frustrating for both myself and for my kids. I believe this was because the class was a new class and possibly was not finished as looking at other reviews for other courses, their menu looked much different than mine did.   I was so glad to see that this time around, the flow of this class worked much better for us, we simply went to the table of contents, selected the lesson we were working on and the program did the rest - instead of making us each individual slide.    
I am very glad that we decided to give Middlebury Interactive Languages a second chance.   Ashleigh has been enjoying the learning using the program and I really like the idea that if we choose to continue with it, I can continue with Middlebury until she graduates.   
#hsreviews #foreignlanguage #bilingualism #languagestudy
To learn more about Middlebury Interactive Languages, visit their website or one of their social media sites:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/MiddInteractive   @middinteractive


Spanish, French, German or Chinese {Middlebury Interactive Languages}

Why We Don't Mind Halloween (Throwback Thursday)



With Halloween right around the corner, there's much debate about whether or not we as a Christian family should we participate in Halloween.   Many people believe that as Christians we should not participate in Halloween as it represents witchcraft, the devil, demons and whatever..

I admit it - my kids participate in Halloween.  We absolutely love Halloween.  They get dress up, they go to house to house and they eat as much fun sized Snickers, Kit Kats and Whoppers as they can possibly sneak into their mouths before they get home and Mom takes the candy away to be rationed out.    We  decorate out  house with lots of spider webs, spiders, tombstones, skulls and blacklights each year, including a huge 9 foot tall inflatable Grim Reaper/Pumpkin guy. Each year our display gets bigger and bigger.





I

I do not worry that my children will suddenly start worshiping the devil or sacrificing the family pets to him, nor do I bother worrying about where the origins of the holiday derive from.  For us, it's just a fun day to look forward to in fall where they get free candy, we get to enjoy seeing all the kids costumes as we give them free candy and watch as they get excited over our inflatables.




In the book of 1 Corinthians 10:25-30 , the Apostle Paul tells us to feel free to take part in meals with unbelievers and not not even question anything about it.  Why? Because when you have the faith of God in your life, nothing matters. The Halloween holiday is just a day for getting dressed up and getting free candy, nothing more, because when we have Christ, the history of the holiday does not matter.  Paul specifically says "the Earth is the Lords and everything in it".. What does this mean?? It means as long as my children have the Lord in their hearts, the history of Halloween doesn't matter.  It means even if my son dressed up one year as a lil devil (because we couldn't find any other costume he liked that year and this one was given to us for free.. lol), it doesn't matter. As cute as a lil devil he was, he's still a child of God and satan has no hold on him.


Many Christians want to tell you their whys and wheres..  Why eggs are associated with Easter.. Why trees are associated with Christmas... Where the Halloween traditions came from.   They're quick to get on facebook and tell you " My family doesn't do this because it's a pagan tradition and...", or "I can't believe you allow your children to participate in something that derives from pagans".. Who cares!!   It doesn't matter and Paul tells us it doesn't matter, don't even ask..  If I hide eggs in my yard on Easter, I do it because my kids will have fun looking for them, not because pagans believed it was something to do with fertility.    If I find a whole bunch of fun things to have my "Elf on the Shelf" do between Thanksgiving and Christmas, so be it.

Basically, Pagan influences have no power over my chidlren and yself and so they are completely meaningless.  And, because of that fact, they are completely harmless as well.

Christians are not subject to evil days, icons or superstitions. Jesus gave his followers all power over the enemy.

Now, granted, the Bible says we should avoid the appearance of evil.. My daughter dressed up as Elsa from Frozen is not the appearance of evil.  My son dressed up as a Storm Trooper is not evil either.   Yes, he will probably be carrying a plastic gun. Big deal..  If you've seen the Star Wars movies, you'll know that Storm Troopers can't hit anything anyway.



Now, if you don't believe in Halloween and feel its against your beliefs, that's perfectly fine.. Don't participate, that's your prerogative.   Turn off your lights. But don't ruin it for others by condemning others for their participating.

Halloween is not a threat to the Church..  Women who gossip.. men who watch porn.. those who are committing adultery? Those are the threats to the church.  Kids getting free candy while dressed up as Rapunzel,  Tinkerbell,  Ninja Turtles and Transformers? Not so much...

And as my Pastor says?  "Satan doesn't have a holiday.. He tempts and leads astray people everyday, not just on Halloween."

And as my Pastor also says "Too bad Halloween is only one day out of the year.. Free candy is always good"..

Well said, Pastor Mark.. Well said :) 

Monday, October 24, 2016

Things We Do When We Are Sick (52 Lists)



I've been very fortunate that my family, for the most part, is pretty dang healthy.  Alyssa is 17, Garrett is 10 and Ashleigh is 8 and I an count on ten fingers how many times all three of them have been really sick. None of them have ever had to be hospitalized knock on wood!!!   Charles is the only one who has had to have any sort of surgery and recovery but it was for bunion, so I doubt tat counts.. LOL

But, there have been times that one or all of us are just feeling under the weather and I get to play nurse mommy..


52 lists with Chasing Slow

For week 42 of the 52 Lists blog challenge, we were asked to list what happens in our house hold when someone gets sick.


  • relaxing baths 
  • essential oils 
  • lots of liquids
  • homemade soups (type depends on what illness is going around)
  • lots of cuddles and kisses
  • piling up in the living room with pillows and blankets
  • watching fun movies to try to take our mind off being sick
  • lots and lots of mommy love 
  • constant hand washing

Friday, October 21, 2016

Five Minute Friday - Park



Trying a new challenge this week - the Five Minute Friday.  Surely I can write for 5 minutes each week, right ;)     Jumping in, this weeks challenge was the word Park.   So I'm setting my timer for five minutes and here we go.



When I think of the word Park I think of all our family vacations that we have taken to the National parks here in California.. Yosemite and Sequoia come to mine immediately.  I can't help but think of camping with the kids, watching them getting downright filthy and not caring because they are having fun.  I think about the smiles on their faces while they roast marshmallows over an open campfire.

We love teh great outdoors but most of all, I love how being in the wilderness of the parks makes us unplug from all the electronics and distractions and allow us just to be a family. How instead of watchign TV we are instead out hiking and observing the beauty God has laid out before us and really appreciating his creations.

Granted, we love going to Disney World and places like that, but there's a very special quality to the family time we've spent in National Parks, something that can't be found in the land of the Mouse.  And the memories will be just as vivid in their mind.

STOP!!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Familyman's Christmas Treasury (A Homeschool Crew Review)


My family loves the holidays.. From early October until the start of the new year, we are in holiday mode, gearing up for Halloween, followed by Thanksgiving and then heading straight into the Christmas season.  The colored lights start getting untangled, the Christmas tree is set up and decorated and Christmas music begins to be played soon after the turkey is served.

Even though it was a bit early, we were able to have a bit of Christmas early in Sept/Oct when we had the opportunity to review the digital download version of The Familyman's Christmas Treasury - Audio Collection from The Familyman.

The Christmas Treasury Audio Collection includes 6 stories written by Todd Wilson (The Familyman Podcast) and read by Jim Hodges.  Available as a 6 CD collection or by downloadable digital MP3 files, the collection includes the following stories:


  • Captain Chaos and The Manger Blaster -Ten year old Jason is bored with the manger. The Nativity Story would be so much exciting with a Superhero and a blaster to blast that manger to bits.  Will Jason feel the same once he sees how life would be without the baby in the manger?
  • Cootie McKay's Nativity - It's the Christmas that almost wasn't when the nativity scene is destroyed.. Until Cootie McKay comes to save the day...  Only Cootie doesn't know anything about the Christmas Story.  
  • The Stranger - When a stranger comes to town, he finds very few friendly faces at Sam's church. But as Sam's family shows this stranger kindness, Sam starts to realize that this is no ordinary stranger they've let into their home. 
  • The Bishop's Dream - How would  St Nicolas feel if he knew how much focus is given to him as "Santa Claus" during the holiday season instead of the focus being on the birth of Christ. 
  • Harold Grubbs and the Christmas Vest - Issac's dad drags out that UGLY sweater every Thanksgiving and wears it to church.  Issac hates it - it's embarrassing to be seen with his dad when he wears it. Until his dad tells him the story of Harold Grubbs. 
  • Gladys Remembers Christmas - Gladys hates Christmas almost as much as she hates her name. Her name reminds her of her mother who died when she was a child and Christmas reminds her that everyone is happy - except her.   
We were also given the MP3s to two additional Christmas stories which are not available with the CD set but are available on the Familyman website as digital downloads:
  • It's Called Christmas -  Nook, a young man from 300 years from the future who has traveled to our time to give us a warning of what will happen if we take Christ out of Christmas.  
  • The Secret of the Snow Village - Who doesn't love looking at those tiny decorative Christmas villages? Catherine loves looking at her Grandmother's village and finds herself envious of their "perfect Christmas". 

Each story runs between 15 to 30 minutes and is suitable for all ages, from the very young to the very old.

What We Thought:

Since we were reviewing the digital download version of the Treasury collection, we downloaded the 8 MP3 files and uploaded them to our Amazon account.  This worked very well for us as we could then just use the app on our phone or tablets to listen to them as well as to play them on our Amazon Echo.

Jim Hodges has a very smooth voice and is easy to listen to.  These are stories that can easily become a Christmas Eve tradition of listening with the family while sipping on hot chocolate.

My personal favorite out of the 8 stories was "The Stranger".  The Bible says that we should always keep the lamp lit and prepared for the master's return and this story really made me think about that . What if Christ knocked on your door tonight, would you let him in?  I love the idea of Jesus being a guest in my house.

The kids really liked "Captain Chaos and The Manger Blaster" - they thought Jim Hodges robotic voice of Captain Chaos in this particular story was funny.   Garrett loved it!!

One of the things I absolutely love about these stories is that they focus on the true meaning of Christmas - not the presents or the Christmas tree. Not the man in the red suit with white trim. Instead, these classic stories bring the listeners attention to the fact that Jesus is the reason for the Season. Todd Wilson is a great story writer.  


All of these stories are available in MP3 format and the first 6 are available when purchasing the 6 CD set.  If listening to audio readings isn't your style, each story is also available in book format on the website, perfect for cuddling up on the couch and reading as a family each night leading up to Christmas.


#hsreviews #christmas #Audio #audiobook #digital #familymanministries


To learn more about the Familyman Ministries and the Christmas Treasury Audio Collection, please visit their website or visit any of their social media websites at:





The Familyman's Christmas Treasury - Audio Collection {The Familyman} Reviews

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Educeri (A Homeschool Crew Review)




If there's one thing that I really enjoy, it's having access to online services where I have lessons and handouts already prepped and ready to teach.  I really do stink at trying to throw together my own lesson plans and I do so much better when I'm told what to do and how to do it than trying to plan it out myself.   So I was pretty excited when I was given access to more than 1000 Ready to Teach lessons with a 12 month subscription to Educeri Lesson Subscription Service from Educeri .......  Educeri a division of DataWORKS .



About Educeri



Educeri is an online subscription service offering a large variety of lesson plans for a large range of subjects created for teachers by other teachers for grades K-12.

Subjects included are:

Math
Science
History
English Language Arts
Art
Physical Education
Music
Spanish



Just a Small Sampling of the Lessons available for 3rd Grade

Using Educeri is very easy.  Simply browse the available lessons, which can be sorted by grade or
Summary Page
by subject and select the topic that you wish to teach.  You are then brought to a summery page that gives a brief description as to what will be covered by the lesson.  There is also a comments page on the summary page where you can read comments left by other users in regards to the lesson (if there has been any left) or you can leave your own.  

This summary page will also list if any additional resources are available for the lesson, such as quizzes or handouts.  Also listed are what recommended browsers would work best for viewing the lesson.


By clicking the "Teach Lesson" button, you are then brought to a simple but effective slideshow style lesson that walks you through teaching the lesson.  Lessons are completely laid out for, including a script to help you instruct the students properly through the given concept.  CFU questions are given to use to check the students understanding on each section of the lesson as well as a breakdown of vocabulary and speaking points that might be used to really help illustrate the topic.


Periodic Reviews are also given on adjacent slides to reiterate the previous slides points and to make sure of student comprehension before moving on to the next topic of discussion. 


Printable PDF files are available for most lessons which allows students to follow along with a paper in front of them as well as to record the answers to questions asked through the lesson. Each lesson seems to have 3-4 handouts that accompany the lesson, and some lessons also have printable quizzes.


This is not a program that you can just sit your students in front of and allow them to work independently.  This is far from passive and does require time and effort from the "teacher".  But it is nice to have the entire lesson plan laid out, along with speaking points, ready to go, just print the handouts and quizzes, load the lesson and get started.

My really big complaint about this subscription is that the math lessons are all common core aligned.  While not an absolute deal breaker for me, I prefer to avoid common core teaching, especially when it comes to mathematics (I tend to be a bit more lenient with language arts or science).   For this reason, we used more of the Language Arts lessons than we did anything else.

A secondary complaint is lack of content for younger grades.  While there were tons of math and language arts lessons for 2nd and 3rd grade, there were absolutely no lessons available for either grade in any of the other subjects.  This limited our ability to use the subscription service as there just wasn't anything beyond the math/English we could use.

Overall, I really like the concept of having full lesson plans laid out for me to just run with.  But the limited selections and the common core alignment just really limited what I wanted to use.  I do have a list of language arts and a few math lessons I plan to use, but I would like to see much more added to the other subjects to include the younger grades.

To learn more about Educeri and their subscription service, please visit their website or any of their social media sites at:


Twitter: https://twitter.com/teacheduceri   @educeri




Educeri Lesson Subscription Service

Monday, October 17, 2016

What Being on the Crew Means To Me....



As you know, I've been a member of the Homeschool Review Crew  for the past two years and it has been a wonderful journey for me in so many ways.  I wanted to take a few moments to share with you what a wonderful blessing the crew has been for me and encourage you to consider applying yourself. 

If you're like me, you've probably read many of the reviews the Crew posts on various curriculum. There have been many times I'm googling a particular curriculum for information before putting my hard earned money down on it and I end up on a crew member's review. Prior to being on the crew, I never knew how people got the opportunity to do reviews on curriculum but I couldn't help but be a bit envious. I mean, come on, they get free curriculum to try, many times curriculum that I was either spending big bucks on or having to skip entirely because I just couldn't afford it. 

Two years ago, on an October day much like today, I just happened to come across a posting on one of the many Homeschool Facebook groups stating the Review Crew was accepting applications for bloggers. You've probably seen the one posted here to the left this year inviting you to submit an application.  I'm not even sure what possessed me to apply when I saw the same ad back then, other than maybe just the desperation of being a financially strapped military family and the idea of getting curriculum for free.  I had a blog that nobody read (I was lucky to get 5 hits a month and those were probably my own), no followers whatsoever, and I was honesty failing pretty miserably at my own homeschooling journey at that time.  I knew even filling out that application that never in a million years would I be selected for something like the crew - but I had always been taught that the only sure way to guarantee something is to not try in the first place.

But I did fill it out and a few weeks later I received an email from Kate Kessler from the Old Schoolhouse Magazine saying they were interested in my blog and me.

After a "practice review", I officially became a member of the 2015 Review Crew and it has been such a wonderful journey since then.  This year was my second year on the Crew and it's been an amazing blessing for my family and myself.  Before the crew, I was piecemealing a curriculum together the best I could, hoping to find something on my budget that my children would respond well to.  Through the Crew, I have now had the opportunity to review various curriculum that wasn't even a possibility being on an already stretched thin military budget, such as Apologia,  IEW, Horizons, and CTC Math.

A Very Small Sampling of Some of the Vendors We Reviewed in 2016 - These were some of our Favorites This Year
But we've also been introduced to some vendors that we were completely unfamiliar with that have turned out to become favorites in our household. Companies and products like Here to Help Learning, Foreign Language for Kids by Kids, and Science Shepherd who might not be as well known or are just starting out, but who offer top notch curriculum that our family has loved.

I cannot even begin to tell you what a blessing our review for the Forbrain bone conductive headset ( a review item) has been to our household with us living at a very remote military base with very little access to services such as speech therapy.  It has been a game changer in my son's speech and reading but is something that I never would have been able to afford on my own.

But There's So Much More!!

Yes, the curriculum is wonderful and of course is probably the biggest draw when considering joining the crew, but I want to tell you, there are so many more blessings to be had beyond just what comes to your mailbox throughout the year.

The Homeschool Review Crew is made up of over 200 homeschooling families, much like yourself.  These members come from all walks of life, with different backgrounds, beliefs, teaching styles, and family sizes.  (We even have a homeschooling father - so if you're of the male gender, don't let that stop you from considering applying- we would love to have you join us too!!).  We have families who have very large families (10 or more) and we have families who are teaching their own child.  There are families who have very small children and we have families who have already graduated a few of their children from High School and have seen them move off to college. We have families who know the difficulties of homeschooling a special needs child and we have families who know the struggles of being a mom working outside of the home while homeschooling each day.

Yet, regardless of the various differences, you will never find so much camaraderie as you will find among the members of the Review Crew.  We all come together as a family - a family who is extremely supportive of your homeschool ventures and who wants to help you succeed in all aspects of life:  from your family, your faith, your career, your relationships, your parenting challenges and your homeschooling. The crew is there to listen, give advice and help support you throughout your journey.

You have over 200 members who are there to offer you advice or support when you are struggling with issues at home, members who will pray for you when you need it, or who want to celebrate with you when your children accomplish learning their ABC's or Multiplication tables.

I mentioned at the beginning of this that when I actually applied for the crew two years ago, my homeschooling journey was a mess.  That's putting it nicely..  I was very frustrated and was second guessing my decision to keep my children home.  I was at my rope's end.    But through the blessing of the crew and it's members, I began to learn that there were other ways than just trying to replicate public schools at home..  Today, the kids are doing so well with their school, a complete 180* compared to where we were two years ago in October and I have the crew to thank for that.

For me, this has been one of the greatest benefits, especially as a SAHM on a pretty isolated military base with a Special Needs child. There are days I feel completely isolated, only having two ankle bitters at home and no real adult interaction. I might want to pull my hair out, lock myself in my bedroom, hide under the covers and have a good cry. Instead, I find myself connecting with my crew friends, sharing a laugh with them while I drink my coffee or reading how they used a curriculum that we are reviewing in a way that I didn't consider. I've gotten to know some very wonderful people and developed many friendships that will last a very long time.

And guess what?? There's room for you in our little family too!!

If you have a homeschooling blog, I urge you to take the chance of filling out the application and joining our Crew.  Come for the free curriculum - but I guarantee - you'll stay for the bonds you'll develop with your Crew Family.  For more information and to find out the requirements that are asked of crew members,  click the banner below or visit the information page here. .. And be sure to take a chance and fill out the application.  


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What being on the Crew means ...
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