Friday, August 29, 2014

Creative Freewriting Adventure: a FUN journey into writing

In my English Comp class in college, our instructor had us begin each class with a simple writing exercise. Once the roll was called and we had settled into our desks, she would write a topic or phrase on the chalkboard, set the timer, and have us start writing.  We could write about anything that came to mind and were instructed not to stop writing until the timer dinged.  There was no penalty for misspelled words, poor punctuation, or crazy sentences.  The whole process was designed to get our creative juices flowing and helped us to learn how to get our ideas on paper.

It was a fun and freeing way of writing.  When I didn't have to focus on grammar and punctuation, I found that it was easy to share the thoughts in my head.  The prompts she gave us were really just a starting place and I often journeyed far away from where I started as I loosened up and allowed my ideas to run free.  It was a liberating feeling to write without abandon.

Journey into FUN

Fast forward almost 30 years and you'll find a homeschooling mom searching for something to help her children fall in love with writing words and sharing ideas.  That's when the MOST PERFECT resource fell into my lap.  Stacy Farrell (of Philosophy Adventure fame) has written Creative Freewriting Adventure:  a journey into freewriting (CFA) and it is pure joy.  This 52-page book helps your student "imagine ~ capture ~ and share" the fun that is writing.  Even better than my college writing class, CFA is beautifully written and offers step-by-step instructions for improving writing skills over ten assignments that allow students the opportunity to step inside stories and interact with the written word on a personal level.  Through  creative and engaging prompts, students are given permission to write what they see, hear, feel, smell, and taste without worrying.

The only way I know how to explain how wonderful this curriculum is is to simply start at the beginning. After a supremely hectic summer, we've taken a little bit of time to breathe.  I decided to slowly ease the Princess (8th grade) and the Eagle Scout (10th grade) back in to school mode.  I asked the princess to come in first and told her I had something for her to try.  She knew I wanted to really focus on writing skillls this year and she was NOT excited.  Actually she said, "This is dumb.  It's going to be stupid.  I don't want to do it."   And generally she just grumbled and complained.  But I didn't let that phase me at all.

She read the first lesson that I picked for her.  Once she'd read it and read over the assignment, it was time to begin.  She's a "paper and pen" girl, so she collected her notebook and sharpened her pencil.  We set the timer on the stove for 15 minutes and I told her to begin writing.

Writing doesn't come easily for everyone and the Princess was still insisting that she had nothing to write. She read through the assignment once again and pondered the questions on Background, Dialogue, and Incorporating Your Senses into your writing.  She thought for a long time before she could begin and told me that she just knew "something wasn't going to be right or something would be spelled wrong."   She fretted that it would just not be good. 

With this, I realized I had failed my daughter.  I had not made writing fun and I had put too much pressure on getting everything correct.  I determined to right that wrong and I explained how free writing actually works and suggested that she began by just writing.

We set the timer once again and she finally started.  It was a slow start but soon there was a smile creeping across her face. She asked me some questions on how to spell a few words and the pencil began moving faster and faster across the page.  At the end of her 15 minutes, she kept writing.  

And writing.

And writing.   

She really didn't want to stop.  She explained to me that she HAD TO finish her thoughts.  Of course, I loved this but my very favorite thing was that when she had completed her first freewriting assignment, she asked if we would continue working with this curriculum.  I told her we would and she was thrilled.  It seems she has details to add to her story and wants to name the horse and title the assignment.  For the first time ever, she can't wait for tomorrow's writing time.

She admitted that writing turned out to be pretty fun.  She even got a new notebook out for "all of the rest of the writings we're going to do."  On the way home from her orthodontist appointment this week, she asked if I wanted to “do some more creative writing today.”    She was quick to point out that Creative Freewriting Adventure should be a daily part of school and not just a weekly part.. I assured her that it could be whichever she preferred. J  Her response was  “good, because I don’t want to stop.  I have so much more to say.”

THIS, my friends, makes this momma’s heart smile . . . I would definitely call that a success.  Thanks, Creative Freewriting Adventure -- now it's the Eagle Scout's turn.

I thought for sure that it would be a little more difficult to get him to sit down and write for me.  Not a problem at all with CFA.  He prefers typing his assignments directly into the PDF file.  He's excited about writing which excites me, too.  What I really love about Creative Freewriting Adventure is the timer goes off and my children keep writing.  That's a WIN.

We truly LOVE Stacy Farrell's Creative Freewriting Adventure:  a journey into freewriting and are pretty sure you will, too.  It's really that good.  You can pre-order your copy today in either the digital edition ($18.95) or print edition ($21.95).  Make sure to order before 9/22/14 and use the code is cfa-ships-free for free shipping.  You'll be so thankful that you did.
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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Holy Ghost DVD Review

Years ago, in the very early years of our marriage before there were even children, the MainMost and I visited a church prayer meeting with friends from work.  The prayer meeting was held in an upstairs room of the church and was unlike anything we'd ever experienced before as a couple.  It was strictly a meeting for prayer and we spent several hours that night in the "upper room" on our knees before the FATHER.  I will never forget the power I felt that night in the presence of the HOLY SPIRIT.  It was unmistakably real as HE moved throughout the room and Heaven reigned down. Bold words of faith were spoken over my husband and I cherish what I heard that night.

I have no doubt whatsoever that the TRINITY is real.  I know GOD as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost in my own life and I understand the different roles of each.  Several years ago, we had the distinct privilege of hearing William Paul Young speak at a conference about his book, The Shack.  It was a particularly difficult time period in our life and the MainMost and I knew that we wanted to read his book.  A beautiful testament to GOD as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, we found the book to be a healing balm and letter of love in trying times.

I recently had the opportunity to review the new documentary, HOLY GHOST, which explores the idea that we can and should allow GOD to direct every aspect of our lives.  How wonderful to know that GOD is alive and well and loves us enough to want to be a part of what we are doing.  This is not a quick-watch movie.  Instead, it is one that you will want to watch, ponder, pray over, and think about.  It has been interesting hearing from others such as Michael W. Smith and William Paul Young as they explore their GOD-given adventure.  Having viewed it, I am taking time to process what GOD would have me learn.

About the film:

Can the HOLY SPIRIT Direct a Movie?

In this fast-paced documentary from the director of the popular films Finger of GodFurious Love, and Father of Lights, Darren Wilson sets out to make a movie that is completely led by the HOLY SPIRIT.  No plan, no script, no safety net — just go wherever he feels the SPIRIT leading him to try and discover the adventure GOD has for him. Whether it’s the riches of Monte Carlo, a heavy metal concert, or the oldest city in world, the result is a film that not only challenges and excites, but also reveals a GOD who is far more alive and active than you ever imagined.

The movie features big names such as Lenny Kravitz, Brain “Head” Welch, Bill Johnson, Michael W. Smith, Todd White, Meredith Andrews, DeVon Franklin, William P. Young, and Phil Vischer.

Check out the official website here: 

On September 6th, Wanderlust Productions will host the FREE worldwide premiere of the film at this site —>  You can check it out then and share with me what you think.  I'm interested to hear back from you.

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Schoolhouse Review: UberSmart Math Facts #hsreviews

UberSmart Math Facts Review

Do your children struggle with fast recall of basic math facts?  Mine do. Although they KNOW the multiplication tables, they often have to THINK about them before they can answer questions and work problems.  And that just won't work.  I knew that we really needed to up the ante on multiplication fact speed around here as we enter higher level maths, so I was excited to have the opportunity to review UberSmart Software's digital flashcards and timed tests.

Do you remember how we learned math facts way back in the day?  Flashcards and timed tests.  I remember writing down all of the multiplication facts each day and taking short timed tests first thing each morning in math class.  It was tedious work, but it drilled those math facts into our heads so that we didn't have to THINK, we just KNEW.  The just KNOWING is my goal for my children and it is what I like most about the UberSmart Math Facts program -- how it takes the old tried and true ways of learning from the past and turns it into something new and relevant for the present.  My children are thanking me (they had both expressed a genuine desire to make real improvements in math this year) and yours will thank you, as well.

UberSmart Math Facts ($24.95) is downloadable software geared for students in K - 6th grade, but a nice tool for any students who need math facts reinforcement.  My rising 8th grader found it to be a fun way to keep sharp on multiplication and division facts this summer and says it has not only helped her brain to "think quicker" but that it has also helped her fingers to "type faster."

UberSmart Math Facts Review

With UberSmart Math Facts, students can learn and practice addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division math facts.  This program is purchased and downloaded to your computer (Windows based computers only) so that you do not have to have an internet connection to continue its use.  Up to eight students can work with the program at one time -- and each student receives individualized training as they study to master basic math facts.  Students learn one number group at a time (all the way through the 9s in addition and subtraction and up to the 20s in multiplication and division). A memorization program, UberSmart Math Facts encourages students to excel by self-adjusting timing and by allowing students to filter out the math problems they have mastered.  This leaves them free to focus on what they are unsure of without distraction as they drill to increase speed.

This is a simple "no bells and whistles" program that focuses on learning math facts.  There are no distracting characters, crazy music, or flashing lights.  There is no mountain to topple or bridge to blow up.  Instead, students have fun while focused on math improvement.  They practice to "beat" their own recall time and the prize is found in the lifetime of continued learning.

While our main focus was on the flashcards of multiplication and division (because we are determined to build speed), students who need help with addition and subtraction can choose to use domino-like dot cards, keyboard entry, or flashcards as they develop speed.  My daughter was easily frustrated when she began because she needed "more time to think, mom" but working with this as a daily warm up helped her to develop confidence as the speed of recall improved.  She enjoys seeing improvement in her test scores and takes pride in herself as she whizzes right through the multiplication tables.  She asked me to make sure I share with you that she is doing MUCH better.  :)  And she really is.

We are definitely not done with UberSmart Math Facts and will continue using them daily.  Just 10 minutes a day this summer has made a HUGE difference.

Crew Disclaimer

I was given the opportunity to review UberSmart Math Facts 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.)

Click to read Crew Reviews
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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Hawaiian Chicken = Summer Goodness

Summer Goodness
I'm trying a new recipe tonight in honor of hot summer days.  Straight from the crockpot comes Hawaiian Chicken that we'll be serving over rice.

Hawaiian Chicken

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 can (29 ounces) Mandarin Oranges, drained
1 can (20 ounces) Pineapple Chunks, drained
4 Tablespoons dark brown sugar
4 Tablespoons corn starch or self-rising flour
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 Tablespoon pineapple juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Place chicken breasts in crockpot.  Combine all other ingredients and mix well.  Pour over chicken breasts and stir.  Cook on low for 6 - 8 hours (depending on how fast your crockpot cooks).  Serve over rice.  (We used the rice cooker and made it a little "sticky" for this meal.)

Here's how it looked before I pushed start:

In the Crockpot, ready to cook

I am serving with a fresh loaf of crusty bread.  We thought coleslaw would make a nice side, too.  It was a successful meal.  I recommend that you try it.

I'm linking up with my friend Lisa over at Home to 4 Kiddos.  Stop by and check and grab a new recipe to try at your house.  Yum . . . Pin It Now!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Fishers of Men

I snapped this picture last weekend of the shrimp boats on the Gulf.  I thought it was the perfect view of boats come home to rest before heading out to "fish" the next day.  GOD provides rest so that we can fish away.  Oh, that we all would follow . . .

I'm joining with my friend Jennifer over at a glimpse of our life as we agree to FOLLOW HIM.  We're learning to be good fishermen.

Scripture and Snapshot
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Friday, August 22, 2014

The Struggle is Real Y'all . . . My Random Thoughts

  1. There are 6 people in my family and only 5 live in my house.  I have bought at least 10 hairbrushes and there is never one (no, not ONE) in the bathroom when I get ready to do my hair.  Ever. 
  2. Same thing with my deodorant.  How does that stuff always disappear from MY bathroom cabinet?
  3. After spending the weekend away with dear lifetime friends, I feel refreshed.  There's no place like home and I'm glad to be back among my family, but it sure was nice to spend a few days with my girls.  We didn't do much of anything -- eat, lay out by the pool, shop, and talk -- but it was good for the soul.
  4. Sometimes waffles really are manna from heaven. 
  5. I love homeschooling.  I really do.  Now, I must get to planning this year.

I'm linking up with my friend Miranda over at The Pebble Pond.  Be sure to visit and be inspired by some other random thoughts today. Pin It Now!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The IDENTICAL Soundtrack Review and Giveaway

My toes are tapping and my fingers are snapping as I listen to the sampler soundtrack of the about-to-be-released movie, The IDENTICAL.  This sampler soundtrack features great music -- some with a blues-y feel, a few ballads, some foot stomping county rock songs (is that called rockabilly maybe?), and a really cool bluegrass number featuring a banjo and fiddle.  It's an easy listen with a wonderful message.  This truly is a soundtrack like no other and there are songs that everyone in your family will love.

Have you heard about this movie yet?  Hitting theatres on September 5, The IDENTICAL reminds us that if GOD is in our dreams, nothing can stand against them.  It is directed by Dustin Marcellino a former homeschooler who now finds himself overflowing with vision, creativity and a passion to bring "redeeming value" through music, film, and video.  That just makes me smile big.  I'm thrilled to support fellow homeschoolers and Christians as they seek to bring positive change in the entertainment industry.  I can't wait to take my family -- and I look forward to sharing it with my middle school students at church.

About the movie:
The IDENTICAL tells the compelling story of twin brothers unknowingly separated at birth during the Great Depression. Drexel Hemsley becomes an iconic 50’s rock ’n’ roll star, while Ryan Wade (played by Blake Rayne) struggles to balance his love for music and pleasing his father.  The Reverend Wade (Ray Liotta) and his wife (Ashley Judd) are sure their adopted son has been gifted and called by GOD to be a preacher.  But Ryan challenges his parent’s vision for his life, and unflinchingly chooses to launch his own music career with his best friend (Seth Green). Encouraged by his wife (Erin Cottrell) and employer (Joe Pantoliano), Ryan embarks on an unpredictable, provocative path -- performing the legendary music of Drexel Hemsley in sold out venues all across the country. 
As the brother's destinies tragically collide, Ryan discovers that Drexel is his identical twin which leads him to question everything he’s ever believed about GOD, family, and his own identity.

More about the Soundtrack Sampler:

THE IDENTICAL ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK SAMPLER features 12 of the 20 original songs by Jerry Marcellino and Yochanan Marcellino from the film. Including “Your Love’s Keepin’ Me Tonight,” “City Lights,” “Angel of Mine,” “Everybody Knows It” and “Nashville Tonight."  But MY favorite song is "I Was Born for a Reason."  What wonderful lyrics as I listen to my son humming along to the words "I was born to be a man."   

For more information and to see if this movie is a good fit for your family, you can visit the following places:

Check out the official movie website here:

And make sure to watch the movie trailer, which can be found right here:

Music and a movie with a motivating message?  This day DEFINITELY has Great Potential.   Enter on the Rafflecopter form below for your chance to win a Soundtrack Sampler of your very own.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

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