Saturday, May 23, 2015

Books that Changed My Life

I've been a reader for as long as I can remember.  Books have the power to take us to faraway places and they have the power to breathe life in parched places.  I recently read a list that a blogger-friend had compiled of books that changed her life and I started to think about some of the life-changers I've read over the years.  

Isn't it amazing how books can touch your heart and pierce your soul?  Aside from the Bible, some of my favorite life-changing, point-me-to-GOD books over the years have been:

The Friendships of Women by Dee Brestin
The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian

The Shack by William P. Young

Yes by Ann Kiemel Anderson

Wow!  Some of those reach W-A-Y back and there are even others that had major impacts on my life.  
The only book on my friend's list that I had not read was Own Your Life.  I need to remedy that because Sally Clarkson inspires and encourages me as a wife, a mom, a homeschooler.

What books have impacted your life?  Why should I add them to my list of must-reads?

Reading together for life change,
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Friday, May 22, 2015

Schoolhouse Review: Exploring Ephesus -- a FishFlix Movie #hsreviews Review

Did you know that you can actually walk through the streets where Paul walked and preached and ministered and that you can visit the isle of Patmos where John was exiled?  Many times as I read through the pages of my Bible, I forget to think about the time period in which it all takes place.  For some reason, in my mind I have often separated "biblical times" and "historical times."  Over the past few years, I have made a special effort to see the history of the Bible in connection with the history of the world.  My children and I have spent much time studying biblical history in context with world history.  It is amazing how much more the Bible comes to life as we realize "who lived when" and study the politics, culture, and characters of the times surrounding the chapters that we read in GOD's Word.
Modern Ephesus

A few years ago, my dear friend and sister-in -CHRIST had the opportunity to visit Turkey as part of an educational convention and she shared pictures and video with me each night via text.  I'll never forget seeing her pictures of the road into Ephesus and hearing the call to prayer that played out over the loudspeakers of the town in her video.  As the bells tolled, the city came to a halt and entered a time of mandatory prayer.  Oh, that we would be so faithful.  The video and pictures made quite an impression on me and my children as we had just been studying Paul's life and letters. Talk about bringing school to life!  While it may not be easy for us to visit many of these places that we study, we can certainly take a "virtual field trip" through video. offers the perfect travel documentary/spiritual insight film in Exploring Ephesus:  City of Apostles (58 minutes. Review
The apostle Paul served for 3 years in ministry in the city of Ephesus and the church at Ephesus receives great mention in the book of Revelation. Dr. Mark Wilson and Dr. Andy Jackson take us on a journey of those early years of ministry as we visit and explore together in their film,  Traveling throughout the city, we are able to see the major landmarks of history (including the Temple of Artemis and the Aegean Sea) and compare them to the written documentation in the Bible.  The views are simply breathtaking and affirmation of the truth found in the Bible is exciting to me.

Paul taught door-to-door and Exploring Ephesus gives us a first-hand look at the remains of terrace houses -- the actual places where the early churches met -- and a tour through caves that served as centers of worship.  What a difference when we compare the early church to our current churches! Beautiful frescoes further strengthen our understanding of the Bible as we stand together in the center of history.  Visiting the burial place of beloved John, seeing the ruins of the great colosseum, and knowing that men who penned the beautiful words that have both convicted and comforted me all of my life as I read and study my Bible walked these very streets touched my heart in a way that I find hard to describe.  Although I may never walk those roads myself, I feel as though I have been there and walked beside them in ministry, in compassion, in life.

Additional content (30+ minutes) on the DVD offers bonus discussions of the book of Ephesians, the Seven Churches of Revelation, and the impact that those seven churches have on us in modern times. This is a great resource to help bring GOD's Word to life trough fast-paced adventure.

Visiting Ephesus through Exploring Ephesus reminds us that we are overcomers through our faith. What a legacy we have as Christians as we watch history unfold.  FishFlix endeavors to bring quality family films into the mainstream.  Join me in supporting them by picking out even more great family-friendly movies to share in your home.   You can find more information about FishFlix:  Christian Movies to Inspire and Entertain on the following Social Media sites:

Crew Disclaimer

I was given the opportunity to review as a member of the Schoolhouse ReviewCrew.   You can check out the Crew Review and see what other members of the Schoolhouse ReviewCrew thought of this and other movies as well (or just click on the banner below.) Review

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Clipboard Fun! {virtual refrigerator}

My girls have been helping me get ready for the happiest week on Earth.  
Here's to art that makes everyone smile!

I'm joining the Virtual Refrigerator Blog Hop to share creativity unleashed.  
Be sure to visit and check out some of the other neat projects by some pretty great kids.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Schoolhouse Review: Homeschool Legacy #hsreviews

It's no secret that I like history.  It was my favorite subject in school and it's definitely my favorite subject to teach at Long Leaf Academy.  Our recent trip to Chicago made it even more clear that I've passed the history buff gene on to my children.  We visited all of the big museums and were in complete agreement that while we enjoyed both the Aquarium and the Planetarium, you could give us more of the history museums any day.  They were where we spent the most time -- walking through the halls, reading the information provided, soaking it all in.  Fish and stars were interesting for a short visit, but history grabbed our attention for hours on end.

Homeschool Legacy Review

Homeschool Legacy Review
Homeschool Legacy Review

I have always enjoyed adding living history lessons to our school days.  It's fun to share readings together, but it's even better to be able to include hands-on activities, movies, and projects to the learning environment.  Unit Studies make it possible to bridge textbook learning and active engagement.  I was a late arrival to the unit study, but I have embraced it wholeheartedly with my youngest two children.  We've recently had the opportunity to utilize Westward Ho! Part I (a five week study) and Westward Ho! Part II (a four week study) by  Homeschool Legacy.   Each can be used as a stand-alone study, but you'll want to study them together for a phenomenal adventure.  Trust me on this one.  Both are written for students in 2nd - 12th grades, so my 8th and 10th graders were perfect candidates for these all-inclusive learning tools.

Now, over the years we've read Little House and Tom Sawyer books, watched videos about America's expansion out West, and tasted our share of homemade hardtack; but studying through the pages of Westward Ho! Parts I and II pulls together all of these resources and more -- offering an in-depth study of American pioneers through a multi-subject approach that includes reading, utilizing maps, creative writing, science projects, oral presentations, music and art appreciation, life skills, ideas for real-life field trip, and more.  These biblically-based unit studies are perfect for the busy homeschool family as they can be done as little as once a week with no prep work.  There are family-friendly games and movie suggestions with each unit and a wide variety of additional resources to choose from that make for a tailor-made study for each student.  Each of the Homeschool Legacy titles offer substantial credibility for all students, regardless of grade.  Elementary and High School students will each be challenged as they learn.

How It Works at Long Leaf Academy

Westward Ho! Parts I and II are available as print or digital versions.  For purposes of this review, we received the digital version.  We read portions of the unit study together off of my laptop or iPad and I am able to print the pages that I want my children to work on (with actual pen or pencil).   The digital version is hyperlinked for easy access to websites that further explain concepts and provide a more in-depth look at historical figures.

Our mutual love of history typically finds us spending quite a bit of time in study together.  We prefer to work through the unit study daily -- and often spend hours delving deeper into the material presented.  It has been fun to re-examine many of our favorite read-alouds through the years as we fit them into the historical timeline.  In the pictures below, you can see my Princess and the Eagle Scout hard at work writing their original tall tales.   Even more fun was sharing them with one another.
Creative Writing

Public Speaking -- Sharing their Tall Tales
Westward HoPart I is a 69-page ebook that covers Frontiersmen, Pioneer Life, the Lone Star Republic, the Life and Times of James K. Polk, and the Oregon Trail.  Of course, our favorite section was studying the Lone Star Republic since we visited San Antonio this year.  We were able to stand on the grounds of the Alamo and discuss the events of history that shape our lives today.

Remembering the Alamo

Westward Ho! Part II is a 63-page ebook that covers the Gold Rush, Life on the Prairie, the Great American Railroad Race, and Cowboys and Cattle Drives.  The Princess has been reading a series of books that complemented this unit study perfectly.  She has been able to share insights about the Gold Rush and her excitement is contagious.  I LOVE this kind of learning, don't you?  Learning to make a business plan helped reinforce concepts learned this year in robotics and our studies of prairie life had us looking out the window more at large farms as we recently traveled through Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky.  This is why we homeschool.  My children are most excited and retain more information when learning becomes a part of who we are -- not just what we do.  We completed our study of the "Great Migration" by creating personalized cattle brands.  This led to a discussion about how to come up with the best names for a ranch if we ever own one and a reminder that GOD owns the cattle on a thousand hills.  (Psalm 50:10)

Art Project -- Creating Personalized Brands

And that may be my very favorite part of Homeschool Legacy Unit Studies.  We are able to enjoy a quest for knowledge together and explore a variety of topics and ideas as we learn.  We have laughed and enjoyed each other's company more through this review and that's a blessing for any family.
Homeschool Legacy Review
We were first introduced to Homeschool Legacy two years ago when the Eagle Scout was working on his Citizenship in the Nation badge and we had the opportunity to review the We the People:  Getting to Know Your Constitution unit study.  I was super-impressed that Sharon Gibson (veteran home educator and creator of the unit studies) had included so many of the specific Boy Scout badge requirements in each study.  There were only about 10 studies available then, but lucky for us that number has grown over the years.  We've had the privilege to add Horsing Around and Christmas Comes to America to our list of completed unit studies and we've enjoyed them both.  It's exciting that there are even more for us to choose from over the next few years.

You can learn more about Homeschool Legacy, choose a great study to share with your children, and find some really cool information about all sorts of things that helps make serious learning fun on the following Social Media sites:

Crew Disclaimer

I was given the opportunity to review Homeschool Legacy as a member of the Schoolhouse ReviewCrew.   You can check out the Crew Review and see what other members of the Schoolhouse ReviewCrew thought of this and other products as well (or just click on the banner below.)

Homeschool Legacy Review
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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Singing in the Shadow {Scripture & a Snapshot}

Because of HIS help at all times,

I'm joining with my friend Jennifer over at a glimpse of our life as we give glory to GOD through our photos.
Scripture and Snapshot

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Monday, May 18, 2015

Schoolhouse Review: FishFlix's UNBROKEN Legacy of Faith #hsreviews Review

I can think of no better way to kick off the Memorial Day Weekend than by watching a film that honors a soldier who lived a life of inspiration.  There are a ton of war movies to watch, but finding family-friendly content is not always easy. offers Christian movies that will both inspire and entertain your family.  There are movies of all genres available for purchase on the website, so there really is something for everyone.  We've recently had the privilege to watch and review the legacy of faith edition of the movie Unbroken.  This 2-DVD Unbroken Legacy of Faith Edition contains the movie itself and an additional 90-minute video entitled, The Story Behind the Film. Review
Unbroken  tells the true story of Louis Zamperini -- Olympic athlete, Soldier, Prisoner of War.  Directed by Angelina Jolie, the 2+ hour movie chronicles his life as captive in World War II while sharing his overwhelming will to survive and shares an underlying theme of faith in GOD.

 **Please be advised:  THIS IS A WAR MOVIE.  Scenes of combat and torture are realistic and made us cringe, but were not so harsh that my 14- and 16-year-olds could not handle watching them with me.  It is my personal opinion that we must watch those horrific scenes to even begin to grasp the gift of freedom  that we currently share.  For the most part, as Americans we are enemies of the world that we live in and brave men and women have fought hard and given their lives so that we may hold our heads high today.  We must remain UNBROKEN together.  That said, I found the language to be extremely family-friendly.  There are no curse words (although I'm certain there would be in real-life combat and prisoner situations).  There is one scene where prisoners-of-war are stripped and tortured with water, but it is as tastefully portrayed as torture can be and naked bodies are blurred.**  This movie is a must-watch for generations to come.

I have been moved to tears several times during our viewing of the movie as we see resilience and survival played out repeatedly.  The faith of Louie Zamperini is more than extraordinary.  The strength of the man behind the uniform was a blessing to see, but the statement at the end of Unbroken showed an even greater strength that so many of us never gain:
"Louie made good on his promise to serve GOD, a decision he credited with saving his life.  Motivated by his faith, Louie came to se that the way forward was not revenge, but forgiveness."

What we find is that FORGIVENESS is the KEY to healing.

In the second part of the Legacy Edttion, you can hear Louie's personal testimony first-hand as he explains how he was brought full circle in his relationship with JESUS CHRIST at a Billy Graham tent revival in Los Angeles, CA.  As you watch, you will hear Louis discuss his lesson of faith and how he was sustained through the years of torture.  By accepting JESUS as his personal LORD and SAVIOR, Louie dscovers HOPE and is able to dimiss the demons that have chased him ever since his days as a POW.  He was eventually able to return to Japan and speak forgiveness and life over those who held him captive and share the LOVE of JESUS with them.  I find this to be both very telling of a life well-lived and very convicting as I hold tight to the wrongs I have endured.  My prayer is that I, too, will be willing to be a living sacrifice as we are called to be in Romans 12:1-2.

I was able to share a portion of The Story Behind the Film with my middle school students at church.  The 6th - 8th graders remained spellbound (and silent -- remarkable in and of itself!) as we listened to the clear, strong voice of a 96-year-old hero that pointed to an amazing GOD who loves us in spite of ourselves.  The challenge has been issued.  Will we accept the call to be less selfish and more giving like Louie Zampirini?  Will we remain UNBROKEN in our faith?

Middle Schoolers watch the Captured By Grace testimony of Louie Zamperini

This film speaks to the heart and reminds us to hold on in times of trouble.  I am proud to recommend it to your family and am thankful that FishFlix endeavors to bring quality family films into the mainstream.  Make sure to stop by and pick out a great movie for your family to watch today and spend some time finding out more about FishFlix:  Christian Movies to Inspire and Entertain on the following Social Media sites:

Crew Disclaimer

I was given the opportunity to review as a member of the Schoolhouse ReviewCrew.   You can check out the Crew Review and see what other members of the Schoolhouse ReviewCrew thought of this and other movies as well (or just click on the banner below.) Review
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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Schoolhouse Review: S is for Smiling Sunrise #hsreviews

Smiling Sunrise Review
Some of my all-time favorite memories are the ones spent cuddled with my children looking through the pages of books together -- smiling at beautiful pictures, sounding out letters and words, pointing to interesting things that would encourage and inspire for years to come.  Like all children, mine had favorite books.  We have spent countless hours reading and re-reading certain books and now that my children are practically grown, they still recall the pages of their favorites.  Books become old friends that escort us throughout life.  (True story:  I actually have MOST of the books from my own childhood on bookshelves in my garage.)  There are books I like and books I love.  My kids speak fondly of chunky little hardboard books from preschool years and thin-paged leather-bound books from current days.  We like books and we like to read and I firmly believe that that can be traced all the way back to times we cuddled together with books long before my children even understood how to communicate effectively.  I know that a love of learning comes from quality time spent together living and that early introductions to the beauty in the world promote a lifetime quest for knowledge.

Smiling Sunrise Review
The Crew recently had the opportunity to review a beautifully illustrated picture book that lovingly introduces children to the alphabet while seeking to share positive values and ideas.  S is for Smiling Sunrise is a 30-page hardback book by first-time author Vick Wadhwa that offers a new take on the typical ABC book.  Published by WordsBright, an independent publisher dedicated to learning and committed to nurture and inspire children while "giving back" to those less fortunate, S is for Smiling Sunrise can be used in a variety of ways.

Children learn the letters of the alphabet while looking through photos and illustrations of beauty, goodness, and wonder.  Now, I don't know about you, but I am thrilled that there are positive books that show the world as beautiful and good while pointing out the wonder that surrounds us all. Special words are chosen for each letter of the alphabet that allow children to dream, and think, and act.  Words like "artwork" for A (what a great way to encourage creativity), "park" for P (Isn't it refreshing that children are reminded to PLAY?), and "moon" for M (sparking an early love for science) enhance learning and engage children on an entirely different level than many books published today.

Written in poetic style that sings to children,  S is for Smiling Sunrise will resonate with those you love.  You can take an inside look at this labor of love from a daddy to his daughter on the website, print out a beautifully illustrated Words Poster to look at and discuss, check out the Teaching Tips to be used with both Preschoolers and Elementary students, and even download the free MP3 so that you and your children can sing along together.  Each of these resources offer additional learning opportunities for your family -- and give you suggestions for spending quality time together.

Make sure to peruse the website for more of the story behind the book and check out author Vick Wadhwa's Facebook page for a peek inside the heart of the man.  I'm super impressed with a dad who is willing to share his love in such a tangible way.  This scientist-turned-author has opened his home to us through rhymes written for his own child.  We should all be so brave.

Crew Disclaimer

I was given the opportunity to review S is for Smiling Sunrise as a member of the Schoolhouse ReviewCrew.   You can check out the Crew Review and see what other members of the Schoolhouse ReviewCrew thought of this and other products as well (or just click on the banner below.)

Wordsbright Review
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