Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Homeschool Planet (A Homeschool Crew Review)

Two years ago, I reviewed a wonderful product that really changed the planning of my homeschool. Prior to that review, I was a self proclaimed mess - I didn't have the first clue on how I wanted to plan my school year. I had tried using physical planners but always got frustrated when a day didn't go as planned and I was scratching out my neatly written entry for the day, trying to rearrange everything to get back on track.  That was before I was introduced to Homeschool Planet from Homeschool Buyers Co-op

Homeschool Planet is an online, browser based homeschool planner that offers a large array of tools to help make planning and tracking your homeschool year easier. During the course of this review, I've used the website on my PC using the Firefox, Chrome and Opera browsers as well as on my Kindle and Android phone, all without any problems.

As a member of the crew, I've had the opportunity to use and review various different planners that are marketed towards homeschooling, both physical planners and those online.  What I typically find that while each ones have their pluses and minuses, none of them combine the functions and the easy user interface that one can find with Homeschool Planet.

I am just as impressed with this planner now as I was 2 years ago when I reviewed it previously. Without a doubt, it has to be the most user friendly of all the planners I have used. The interface is clearly designed and straight forward, meaning that the user is not having to click through unnecessary pages or drop menus in order to complete simple tasks like adding or deleting assignments or planning holidays. And while many of the functions are self explanatory, there are many instructional videos to help new users (and even old users who are unsure how to accomplish something) navigate and use the various functions to their full abilities.

Most notable is the ability to add classes and assignments. Planning a class is a matter of just clicking on the time frame you would like and then entering the class information and the students who will be doing the coursework.  One the same screen you are given the options of selecting when the class will end and what days of the weeks that class will be held.  Once the class is added, individual assignments can then be easily added by simply typing them into the day.  Drop down menus on the sidebar allow for more options like adding addition assignment to the day. However, keyboard shortcuts such as Tab also quickly allows for you to add the next days assignment, while Control+Enter allows you to add a second assignment to the same day.  Using these shortcuts, adding several weeks of assignments at one time is very quick and easy, making a difficult task take only few minutes.

If during your school year, you've made plans to visit family and want to take that particular block of time off from lessons, Homeschool Planet makes planning time off quick and easy as well. By just clicking on the settings menu at the top of the screen and selecting "School Year and Vacations" you can input the day you plan to start school, the day you plan to finish and what days you would like to plan off during that calendar time.  To schedule those days off, you simply uncheck those days, switching from a green check mark that indicated scheduled class time to a red X mark for days off.  As you can see in the photo below, we will be taking a few days off from lessons in August because we will be heading to the Solar Eclipse.  Since we won't be having class on those days, I simply mark them and Homeschool Planet will then ask if you want any lessons current scheduled for that day to be shifted to accommodate the days off.   Homeschool Planet also uses this screen to allow you to keep track of how many actual class days will be attended during the period of times you select so that if you have State attendance requirements, you can easily see if your schedule fits those requirements.

Another feature that has been added since the last time I reviewed this product is the addition of lesson plans found at the Lesson Plan Marketplace.  For a variety of curriculum (with more on the way), you can have Homeschool Planet do the hard work for you.  These lesson plans are a "plug and go" option - you select the curriculum you are using and for a nominal fee, each lesson is already planned out and ready to go, including supplemental activities suggested for the curriculum.  We are currently using Mystery of History Book 2 which includes three lessons a week as well as a pretest, a post test and three activities each week.  Even using keyboard shortcuts, this would take a good amount of time to type out when planning, not to count flipping constantly through my book in order to keep track of each lesson.  With the purchase of the Lesson Plan for MOH2, planning the entire year was simple - selecting the plan I wanted to use, assigning which kids I wanted to use the curriculum and which days I planned on teaching MOH each week.  Homeschool Planet then fills in all the assignments for the days I specified.  The entire curriculum planning was done just like that, saving me a significant amount of time. I was given a free lesson plan to review, but I enjoyed the convenience of it so much, I personally paid for a few others.  However, for the month of June, if you sign up for Homeschool Planet, they will allow you to select any one of their lesson plans for free with your subscription. 

 Maybe you're like me and you don't want a planner just for homeschooling when you also need one for your day to day activities.  It's difficult at times to keep track of each family member's appointments and activities and I don't like having to go to a second planner each day.   This has always been one of my biggest complaints when it came to other planners.  With Homeschool Planet, everything integrates perfectly together, including importing my Google Calendar into the planner, as well as that of my husband and my oldest daughter. In the screenshot below, you'll see that on Friday and Saturday, my Google Calendar has a reminder of the Homeschool Convention that I attended. Each family member can be assigned a designated color (in the case of my personal calendar, red) which allows you to quickly identify at a glance who the appointment belongs to, making it extremely easy to know what's coming up and for who.

 Some other functions I really like include being able to make a shopping list.  If, during lunch, I realize I am out of an item that I might need later for dinner, I can quickly add that item to a shopping list using the Shopping List Widget available.  This widget stays on the side of the planner so it's easily accessible, so whether I'm sitting on my computer doing meal planning or if I realize I used the last of the milk during breakfast, I can quickly add it. Even more so, I can email my shopping list to my husband while he's at work so that he can know to swing by the store on the way home from work.  I can also print the list so that I can have it on hand when I do my grocery shopping.  Other available widgets allow to users to customize their dashboard to include things such as weather, inspirational quotes, daily bible verses, keep track of books you want to read and a to do list. These come in handy for things like reminders of which library books are currently checked out and when they are due to be returned, for example.  Theme selection allows for you to change the look of your dashboard to fit your personality.

Resource Page showing my upcoming URLS for lessons as well as my current shopping list
Another function is the Resources screen, which allows you to plan ahead for supplemental books, videos, CDs, Youtube videos, music or other media that you want to use for lessons.  By adding these into the resource list for each lesson, you have a quick reminder as to which resources to pick up ahead of time.  It also makes for an easy "click" during the lesson to quickly go to the website you wanted students to visit, eliminating the frustration of searching bookmarks or navigating to a particular page of a website for the information you want.  This is very helpful in that many times, I completely forget to use my online memberships, with this list, I can go straight to it.  These resources can also be imported directly into the lesson plan. Purchase of individual Lesson Plans from the Lesson Plan Marketplace automatically enters any suggested resources for the curriculum and can easily be located on this screen. Above, you can see that websites have been added to my resources to reflect the Mystery Science curriculum as well as for the Virtual Field Trips Lesson Plan which is currently a free lesson plan available to Co-op members.

Another feature is the grading helper where you can set up your grading scale, assign different weights for tests, assignments, quizzes, ect, and set up a cutoff grade for passing/falling. You can also track class hours which again, is very helpful if your State requires proof of these types of things.  This is not a function we are using at this moment,  but is something I will take advantage soon, as my oldest daughter will be joining our homeschool in order to earn credits for three classes she needs before she attends university.

If you're one who likes to have a print out in hand, a print option is available which allows you to print out your planned schedule. Schedules for the day, the week or even the month are all possible, as well as reports for attendance/hours and any lists that you are making.  It is even possible to print out grade reports and transcripts for each student. Options are given for either economy (greyscale print) or for a color print, depending on the users preference.

So, what happens if you plan everything out and life throws you a curveball and you just didn't get to an assignment or took an unscheduled day off?  There are a few options available. First, Homeschool Planet automatically reschedules the assignment for the next day, shifting all assignments accordingly, allowing you to pick up where you left off without having to shuffle your plans around.  If, however, you decide you want to "double up" on a lesson to get back on track, it's very easy to just drag and drop the assignments already planned in the edit screen and then click to have the planner adjust the assignments.

Drag and Drop Assignments for quick rescheduling
Maybe the class wasn't exactly missed but an assignment wasn't completed, like we had happen today.  While we were finishing up with our reading curriculum, we had to unexpectedly stop school abruptly, meaning Ashleigh started her assignment but did not finish it. In that case, I can quickly mark the assignment as incomplete on either the planner or calendar page. This is done by simply clicking the box next to the assignment.  The first click will turn the box green, showing the assignment complete while clicking the box a second time will change the box to half yellow/half white, indicating that the assignment was started but not completed. Clicking the box a third time will return the box to white, just as if the assignment was not done at all.  As you can see below, Ashleigh read her chapter for her Readers in Residence assignment, but she did not complete the workbook assignment.  The yellow make it easy for me to remember that tomorrow, we will need to finish that assignment before moving on to the next assignment for that day.

For older students who work well independently, Homeschool Planet allows for students to have their own separate login so that they can access their assignments and check them off as they complete them. All the resources that have been linked to those assignments are available for them as well. While this isn't a function I use with Ashleigh and Garrett, again, it is something that I will take advantage of once my oldest daughter joins our homeschool.

Homeschool Planet is one of the products that I highly recommend to others, both within my reviews as well as by word of mouth to homeschool families that I meet.  While very simplistic in design-which is a good thing,  I hate having to navigate to multiple pages to get what to what I want to do - it's design provides all the tools a busy family needs not just to plan and keep track of your homeschool work, but to help organize and run your household as well.

Homeschool Planet planning system offers all the tools you need to quickly and effortlessly plan and track your homeschool year #hsreviews #HomeschoolBuyersCo-op #savings #smartpoints #homeschoolplanet #freecurriculum

   Want to see if it's right for you? You can try Homeschool Planet yourself free for 30 days. You can also get more information by visiting the Homeschool Buyers Co-op web page or one of these social media platforms:
Homeschool Planet {Homeschool Buyers Co-op Reviews}

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Adventures of Rush Revere (A Homeschool Crew Review)

American history is one of those subjects that can be super boring to learn.  Yes, we are all familiar with the many key players in how this country got it's start, such as George Washington, Ben Franklin, and the midnight ride of Paul Revere.  Yet, as amazing as these people were, history for most kids, especially younger kids, is something that doesn't instill excitement or enthusiasm.

But what if you added a talking horse?  Not just a talking horse, but a horse that can travel back in time to take students to observe these pivotal moments in our country's history and interact with those well known historical figures?  And what if this horse has a sense of humor?  Well, then, what you would then have is the five books from the Adventures of Rush Revere Book Series from  Adventures of Rush Revere #1 New York Times Bestselling Book Series by Rush and Kathryn Adams Limbaugh.

For this review, we were given all five hardback copies of the Rush Revere series, tied up neatly with a bow.

The series currently includes 5 titles. In order, they are:

Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims: Rush and Liberty follow the voyage of William Bradford and the pilgrims as they make their way across the Atlantic ocean and journey to the New World as they experience the hardships that the pilgrims faced on the Mayflower where they have a run in with "Fish Breath", watch the signing of the Mayflower Compact, help with the building of the Plymouth Colony, come face to face with Squanto and participate in the first Thanksgiving.


Rush Revere and the First Patriots:  Rush, Liberty, Freedom, Tommy and Cam travel back to early Boston during the time of Sam Adams and Patrick Henry and the Boston Tea party. While learning about the hardships the early American's faced under the rule of tyrant King George III, they also deal with their own classroom tyrant, Elizabeth, who tried to spill the secret of the history class's Time Traveling to her father, the Principal. 

 Rush Revere and the American Revolution: When Cam's military father is deployed, Cam has to deal with depression and finds himself facing bullying from another boy on base.  To help Cam understand why his father has decided to serve his country even when it means leaving his family, Rush, Liberty, Cam and Freedom head back into history where they meet up with revolutionists Dr. Joseph Warren, John Hancock and the great Paul Revere.


Rush Revere and the Star-Spangled Banner: When Tommy's grandfather falls ill, Rush and Liberty take the students on a trip to the Nation's capitol.  But a field trip isn't just a field trip with Rush and Liberty as they travel back in time to meet up with James Madison and his wife Dolly, Betsy Ross and even Francis Scott Key as they take in first hand the battle of 1814. As they experience adventure and history, Tommy pulls together an exciting keepsake to bring back to share with his grandfather.

Rush Revere and the Presidency:  Cam has decided to run for student body President, but the duties and responsibilities of the title seem to elude him as all he can see is the popularity boost it can give to him as he hopes to win with empty promises that can't be accomplished.  To help Cam understand what the position would actual mean, they travel back in time to learn firsthand from Presidents such as George Washington, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson and learn about self sacrifice and their desire to serve others.

About the Rush Revere Books

Many people are familiar with Rush Limbaugh, both as a radio talk host and as a conservative political commentator.  Some people like him, others may not agree with him or his political stance.  But regardless of which side of the fence one may stand on, there's no arguing that Rush Limbaugh loves his country and the history of it.  In order to share this with younger children and to help instill a love of American History with them, Rush and his wife Kathryn have written a series of wonderful books that draw children into the story.

Each story tells of the adventures of Rush Revere, a middle school history teacher who dresses a bit odd and who's sidekick, Liberty, a talking horse, might seem a bit out of sorts for a school setting. But Liberty is no ordinary horse.  After being struck by lightning in his own time during the American Revolution while just minding his own business being a horse out in the field, he entered our time with the ability to talk, to become invisible, and to open a portal of time between now and the past.  Together with Rush, they use these abilities to bring Rush's students to different places in America's past as they observe first hand how important events occurred. Whether it's the voyage of the pilgrims on the Mayflower, the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the historic ride of Paul Revere or the rise of George Washington as our country's first President, the students are given a front and center seat to how our country was founded.

Each book is a library quality hard cover that include full color illustrations as well as photographs of many historic documents and prints of artwork of historical events or figures. In addition to the books, parents can also print out study guides and worksheets that accompany the story as well as fun activities like Trivia and Memory Match games. There's also a link where students can email Liberty (and possibly get a response from their favorite time-traveling horse).

Our Thoughts

We used these books as a read aloud during our school day.  I have to say, the kids absolutely loved them.  From the very first chapter of Book 1 (Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims) and the encounter between Liberty and "Fish Breath", my kids were hooked.  Liberty, without a doubt, is the show stopper in this series (as I'm sure was the plan from the start).  My kids quickly picked up on his humor and wise cracks and looked forward to what was coming next, from trying on wooden shoes (and getting his foot stuck) to doing the moonwalk (which, btw, mom had to demonstrate since Michael Jackson was a bit before their time.. lol) in order to confuse the Redcoats during Paul Revere's boat trip beside the HMS Somerset before his famous ride.  This drew them into the stories, meaning they were listening to the history if, for nothing more, than to get more of Liberty. 

The kids took a particular interest in Rush Revere and the American Revolution, since this story really revolved around Cam. Like Ashleigh and Garrett, Cam is a "military brat" who's father is away on a deployment. Cam resides on a military base, just like they do, and so they found themselves relating to him pretty easily.  They also were able to appreciate some of the smaller aspects of this book, such as the gate guards not allowing Liberty on base because the gate guards are a part of life for us.  It's become a running joke for us now, passing through the gate and checking to see if Liberty is outside, chewing bubble gum and blowing bubbles.

I like that in each book, the students face a different obstacle that are things that my children might also face in their lives. Whether it's a sick family member, a deployment for their father (which is always a possibility), being bullied by others in class, or even being a bully themselves, these books not only teach about history but life lessons as to how to handle those types of  situations in a healthy manner. 

The kids show off their personal favorite book from the series

When asked what their favorite parts of the Rush Revere series was, this is how they answered:

Ashleigh (age 9) - "LIBERTY!  Because he's a horse and I love talking horses. I also like Freedom who is a beautiful girl who cares about others and wants to be a veterinarian like I do. We both like animals, especially talking horses."

Garrett (age 10) - " I really liked the story of the Mayflower. I really like Liberty too. He talks and he's funny. I liked when he kicked "Fish Breath", that was so funny. "

Like I said, Liberty wins, hands down. 

The books are written for ages 8-12. I did feel that as a read aloud, they worked very well for my kids but that they probably wouldn't enjoy them for independent reading due to the fact the chapters are rather long.  For reading aloud together, they worked very well and I think a ten year old would probably enjoy these for reading alone.  Younger children will definitely enjoy the story as a read aloud and even teenagers and adults could enjoy the story and the history contained in the pages. 

#hsreviews #history #AmericanHistory

For more information about the Adventures of Rush Revere book series, visit their website or find them on the following social media platforms:

Adventures of Rush Revere Book Series {Reviews}

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Great Homeschool Convention - Ontario Part 2 (Vendor Hall Haul)

If you read the first part of my Convention blog, then you're here to learn about my Vendor Hall Haul.  If you haven't read the first part about my trip to the Great Homeschool Convention in Ontario this weekend, be sure to read part one, which can be found here

One of the fun parts of going to convention, any convention, is the vendors hall.  I've gone to MANY conventions in the past, mostly the National Respiratory Convention that's held throughout the country each year. We always joke that going to convention is the cheap way of keeping yourself stocked in things like pens, koozies, tshirts and other gadgets and gizmos.  They use to give up beach bags to put all our freebies into and I often left after a full weekend with three of those full.

Well, the homeschool convention is a bit different.  You're not going to leave there with tons of free Tshirts and pens (although, I did pick up a few pens, to be honest)..  But the highlight is actually putting your hands on curriculum and products.  Where a medical convention knows your not going to walk out the door with a $380K piece of equipment so instead gives tons of freebies to get their products name out there, homeschool vendors know your looking for product in hand and that's what they cater to.  Bring lots of cash, there's plenty of things to spend it on.

As mentioned in my first post about the convention, I didn't get to spend near as much time as I would have liked browsing the offerings at well over 200 tables.  That saddened me, because so many tables I just gave a glance to as I made my way through the hall because I just didn't have the time.

I did walk through the entire hall to see what was available and what tables I wanted to return to.  And when I walked out, I had a pretty nice haul.

First, I had to hit the YWAM table.  They had their books on sale for 8 dollars each, or 10 for $55.  I ended up picking up two of the books that I had my eye on for a while, although my husband said afterwards that I should have went ahead and picked out ten.. haha   First, I picked out the biography about Milton Hershey.  Others on the crew have reviewed this book and have said so many wonderful things about it, so I thought it would be a good one to get the kids as well.  The second book was on Nate Saint, whom I first became familiar with while working on my review for Walking with the Waodani. This one I wanted for my own reading, but I'm sure the kids will read it too.

We spent so much time browsing through Rainbow Resources table and I have to admit, most of our money was spent there.  I could have easily spent double or triple what I spent there. LOL

First, I picked up a HUGE book of Mad Libs for the kids.  I love these things because the kids like the silly stories but don't realize they are practicing parts of speech as they fill in nouns, verbs, adverbs and adjectives.  This book has over 125 stories inside and was a steal at only $4.45.

Second, I was super thrilled to find Apologia's Anatomy and Physiology.  I had ordered a used copy of this book a few weeks ago for $25 dollars plus shipping, but my money was refunded because they had sold it before I had bought it and didn't realize it until they went to ship.  So you can only imagine my excitement when I found a brand spanking new copy for $27.95, which is normally $39.99.  I also picked up the Junior Notebooking workbook for Ashleigh for $19.45 (normally $27.00)..  I couldn't pass them up.

Next I snagged a copy of Ticket to Ride, a board game I have had on my Amazon wish list for a while now.  It was priced at $35 which is about the same as Amazon, but when I was showing it to Charles, he showed interest in it and told me to go ahead and pick it up now. LOL

Each kid (originally) was told to pick out one fun item.  (It turned out to be two items, I'll explain in a few)..  Ashleigh chose this pillow making kit and she had it completely finished by the time I woke up this morning.. lol We paid $14.99 for the kit.

Garrett decided on a can of Crazy Aaron's Thinking Putty, which turned out to be really neat.. It's a really sturdy putty that glows in the dark and is also black light responsive. It came with a small black light that causes the putty to react and change colors when you use it on it.  This helped to keep the kids entertained during the Apologia lecture and we decided to get Ashleigh a can of it as well.  These set us back $14.99 each but was well worth the price.

Charles could have spent a ton at Rainbow Resources himself. He thought there was so many neat things there.  But he did pick up a couple of things astronomy related for him.  First  he picked up a new star chart as his last one got to wore out.        

And he thought these playing cards were really neat.. Not that he plays cards, but he thought they were neat. These were $4.95.

I couldn't resist these "Instant Critters".  The kids have never seen these before, so I know they will have fun dropping them in the water and seeing what "grows".. Basically they are a sponge cut out in the shape of an animal inside each capsule. lol  Yeah, I wasted $1.95 but it will be worth it.. lol

Finally, since Ashleigh got a second item, I went ahead and picked up a Tshirt that Garrett really liked at the table for Fossil Maker Tees.   This shirt glows in the dark and was only $10.  While I personally don't adhere to the Young Earth theory, Garrett liked it and I can deal with the design.. lol

That's the haul and I think we did pretty good.  Got some great deals, got some fun stuff to play around with, Garrett got a new shirt and Charles even got some stuff.  Not too bad if you ask me :)

Great Homeschool Convention - Ontario (Part 1)

I've been homeschooling for over 4 years now and I have to admit, I've never been to a homeschool convention.  I've wanted to go for the past few years but for whatever reason, usually my husband's work schedule, it just hadn't happened.  Well, this year, I was determined to go to our first convention.  Every year they have the Great Homeschool Convention in Ontario, California and I was determined I would be there come hell or high water!!

I bought my family pass back in Feb (and then 60 dollars later found out I could have gotten it free because we are military.. lol) along with tickets to view the two key speakers for that day.  We knew we would only be able to attend one day this year, because, again, my husband's schedule, but that was okay by me.. One day was better than no days, right??

Well, the weekend before we were to go, we got an email stating that due to unforeseeable circumstances, one of the speakers we were going to see was being moved from Saturday to Friday.  I got to admit, I was pretty disappointed that we were not going to get to see Michaal Franzese, the mob boss from the Colombo crime family.  But, I was still getting to go to the convention, so I was okay with that.

Everyone went to bed early the night before, knowing we were going to have to get up by 8am and start driving.  It's roughly 90 miles from here to the convention center, so we figured we would leave by 830 and hopefully be there around 10ish.

You notice things NEVER work out the way one plans??  We did indeed get up before 8.. And we indeed got loaded up in the car and headed out before 830.  But on the way into the gas station to fuel up, a man pulled up beside us to let us know that our break lights were not working on the Forrester.

I'm going to admit, I lost it..  I'm awake way too early in the am and I have yet to have any coffee, as I was planning on grabbing a very large cup from the gas station.. lol  I usually don't get up until 830 to begin with and I'm not functional until around 10 when I've had two cups of coffee.  For the last few years, I've wanted to go to convention but never could and there was NO way we were driving 90 miles without break lights. And while we have the brand new Challenger with break lights that work sitting in the drive way, I know my husband wasn't about to drive it to the Los Angeles area (he has yet to drive it off base since we brought it home.. lol)..   So, yes, I cried..

And my husband, who I have to get props for being such the wonderful man that he is, knew that he had to do something to make this right.  So, sitting outside the NAPA auto parts on base at 9am, he purchased two replacement bulbs in the hope that maybe, by some miracle, both bulbs decided to blow out at the same time, even thought the likelihood of that being the case was pretty slim.  The temperatures were already rising but there he was, replacing those bulbs while the kids and I sat in a AC cooled car.

And God delivered that miracle.  Sure enough, both bulbs somehow went out at the exact same time and all that was needed was the replacement bulbs.  (I was certain one of the many squirrels running around chewed the line and my husband was going to spend the next few days in the heat tracking down where the electrical line needed to be fixed.).

Behind schedule but not having to cancel, we were finally off to Ontario.

These cool rock formats are called the Mormon Rocks and are located in the Cajon Pass.  In 1851, a group of Mormon settlers traveled through the Cajon Pass in covered wagons on their way from Salt Lake City to southern California. These rock formation in the pass were named for them and is where the Mormon trail was located.  I thought they were really neat.

We arrived at the convention center a little after 11am.  We knew we weren't going to get to see the first speaker that we wanted to see, but we had arrived in time to make the 1pm talk with Dave Stotts from Drive Thru History, so we were happy with that.  We opted to spend that time walking around the Vendor Hall, getting an an idea of what we might want to purchase (I never buy immediately, just in case I find a better price or something else I like more at another table).  Then we decided to grab lunch (and coffee!!!)

Note to others, food at conventions is expensive.  We spent 50 bucks on three very small turkey sandwiches, two bananas, two coffees, two drinks and a salad.   But, you're a captive audience so what can you do, right?  We grab a table behind the small cafe and get settled.

My little monkey's with their bananas

I love to people watch. Also, being a survivor of abuse, I always pay attention to those around me at all times and I always tend to sit where my back is facing a wall and I can scan my surroundings.  As I looked around, you can only imagine my delight when I noticed none other than Dave Stotts sitting at the next table, relaxing with his computer.    I'm not one of those who wants to take that "sneaky" picture of someone so I did approach him and ask him if he would be okay if I took his picture to send to Alyssa, since she wasn't able to come but she is a huge fan of his.  He was very nice and was glad to take a quick picture for me.  Then we let him be while we enjoyed our lunch and the kids enjoyed the very cool pattern on the wall where we were sitting.. LOL

You can kinda see the wall behind Mr Stotts.  Garrett loves patterns like that, so it was indeed a primary focus for him. I might try using CD's and a ruler and see if maybe he and I can't somewhat replicate that design as a project for him, since he thought it was so cool.

After our encounter with Mr Stotts and a healthy (albeit pricey) lunch, it was time to head over to actually see Mr Stotts talk.  I kinda felt terrible for him as I expected MANY more people to be at this talk. I think the planners of the convention expected a larger audience as well, as they put him in the combined AB Ballroom, which seemed as if it could easily hold well over 600 people.  There were maybe 30 in attendance :(   But that was okay with us, as it meant that we had a good seat, it allowed him to come down off the stage and allow for a more personable experience between him and those who had come to hear him speak.

We got to watch clips from each of the three available video series (Ancient History, American Revolution and The Gospels) as well as have a preview of the production currently in the works, which will focus on the book of Acts.   We also got to learn about their upcoming project in conjunction with The Museum of the Bible which is located in Washington DC.  Together along with his production manager (which I feel really bad because I didn't catch his name) told us about a new online project that they are currently working on, that will be a subscription that allows access to curriculum, a library of videos that are not included in the series and a whole bunch of other tools that would be valuable to homeschool families. Afterwards, he took questions from the audience.

After Drive Thru History's presentation, we opted to return to the Vendor Hall to finish looking around at all the tables and make some purchases. It was so neat to see so many of the vendors that we have written reviews for, like Apologia, Veritas, Memoria Press, and Here to Help Learning, just to name a few.  I hated that we didn't have as much time at the convention as we would have liked, because one could easily spend a day alone wandering from table to table and talking to the different vendors.
The kids were on the lookout for Mrs Beth Mora, the founder and face behind Here to Help Learning.  We had used this program for a while last year and the kids loved it. They wanted to ask how Captain Knucklehead was doing.  Mrs Mora was absolutely enchanting and just as energetic and enthusiastic as she is in her videos, with a contagious voice that just makes you want to smile.  She invited the kids to pose for the "Pencils Up" (those who have used HTHL will understand) and take a few pictures with her.  She was an absolute sweetheart and obviously loves kids and teaching them to write so much.

The kids got to meet up with Dave Stotts a second time as we were making our way through the vendor hall.  He took the time to sign a few autographed pictures for the kids and pose for a photograph. I really hate that Alyssa wasn't able to attend with us, as she's still in Houston right now, as she absolutely LOVES Dave Stotts (and thinks he's a cutie)..  But Alyssa, if your reading this, Dave sent you something special and it will be waiting when you return home next month.

There were so many wonderful vendors, I can't say enough about them and I do wish I had so much more time to talk to many more of them, especially the colleges.  (And thank you to my wonderful husband who had enough brains to snap some pictures - I was in curriculum overload and completely dropped the ball.. lol).

We had time for one more talk for the day, and we elected to listen to Apologia's presentation entitled From Microscope to the Telescope: : Observing God's Perfect Design and Our Special Position in Creation.   This turned out to be an extremely interesting lecture presented by Sherri Seligson about how asinine it is to assume life same from a "primordial soup" when we observe patterns in creation, such as how the structure of an Atom and the structure of a galaxy is very similar in appearance. My husband was pretty impressed with this lecture, not expecting to get to sit in on a real science lecture (it's a homeschool convention - he was expecting talks about homeschool lol). We both found it extremely interesting.

I should mention here, that I'm pretty blind.  Technically I am near sighted, so I can read things in front of me but once something is about 5 foot away, it starts to blur out for me.  I wear glasses, which helps with my far sight, but I tend to take them off if I need to focus directly around me. So I did not realize that Sherri Seligson was the very same Sherri Seligson that I had watched on a video conference earlier this week when Hip Homeschool Moms had a Facebook part to discuss Apologia's new Marine Biology high school curriculum. It wasn't until she started talking that I recognized the voice. LOL   Now that I've heard her speak about both Marine Biology and Molecular/Physical Science along with Astronomy, I can tell ya, the girl knows her stuff and presents pretty advanced information in a way that's easy to understand.

Sadly, that was the last of the lectures.  I would have liked to have gone to more, as there were so many wonderful presentations through the three days of the convention that I would have loved to have attended.  :(

But that didn't mean our day was over.  We had tickets for the final event and so we got in line to see Nick Vejucic.  While both myself and Alyssa knew who he was, the kids and Charles had never heard of him prior to my telling them that I was going to get tickets for us to see him speak. I did, however, show the kids photographs of him so that there wouldn't be a shock when they finally saw him for the first time.

If you are unaware, Nick Vejucic was born with what is called Tetra-amelia syndrome, which resulted in him being born with no arms or no limbs.  He does, however, have a small flipper shaped foot (with two toes, as he points out) that he has learned to use to his advantage, allowing himself to be mobile and to do things like operate a mechanical wheelchair and type on a smartphone.  He's also the founder of "Life Without Limbs", a non profit organization and ministry that teaches others to learn to live without limits.

To a full ballroom, Nick told us about the difficulties he faced in school from bullies, to some of the hardships he had to overcome (like breaking his foot while playing soccer and not being able to use it for 6 months). He told us about how he at one point tried to commit suicide and had give up on life but then discovered that the Lord had another purpose for him.  He talks of his failures and his successes.  And the entire time, all eyes were on him as he "strutted" back and forth across the table, even hopping like a jackrabbit (his description, not mine lol).  And all the while, he really put things in perspective for you.

There's something about Nick that just draws you to him, especially for my children.  Whether it's his personality and his sense of humor, or maybe seeing a grown man who's smaller than they are makes him appear less threatening, my kids absolutely loved him.  Ashleigh wanted to give him a hug.  The entire drive home, they would talk about him.

There's also another quality about Nick that you won't realize til after the fact.  When he first comes out, you're going to notice he has no arms and no legs.  Basically, he's a torso and a head with a small flipper. But after about 5 minutes of him talking, you start to see well beyond that fact and you begin forget that there's a torso jumping across the table, looking a lot like Larry Cucumber, at least until he says something funny to remind you of the fact. As you spend that hour with him, you really see the man that God has made him, a shining example of courage and love of life and it makes you realize just how shallow you have been when you turned your eyes from someone "different" that you saw on the side of the road.  At least, that's how I felt. Finally, it makes you realize if someone with no arms and no legs can accomplish all he has, writing books, going golfing and surfing, traveling the world and sharing his faith and his story, how much can we accomplish if we also set our minds to it, knowing we are advantaged with 2 arms and 2 legs?

What will these two be able to accomplish?

We left the convention feeling amazed and uplifted.

And my husband and said that next year, he's taking time from work so that we can attend all three days, as he enjoyed it that much and wished he could have also attended all three days.

OOH, and I can't forget the part everyone wants to know about.. Our Vendor Hall Haul, right?  Well, I'm happy to report, that my husband gave me a fair amount of money in which to spend and I didn't come close to spending it all, although I could have.. I was just so grateful to have been able to make the convention in the first place.. But, yeah, I came home with a fair amount of stuff ;)

But you'll have to read about it in part two of this post :)

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