Thursday, July 30, 2015

MADE BY ME -- July Blog Challenge #bloggingthroughJuly #summerchallenge

I'm not a very crafty gal.  I don't sew, or paint, or draw, or knit.  I don't have a garden and I don't can fruits or veggies.  I don't make up new recipes (although I can follow one just as good as you please, thank you very much).  I don't even scrapbook although I tried way back in the day.  I may even be the first scrapbooking failure you've ever met.  It's not near as easy as they make out, you know?

I don't actually "make" much of anything special, and that's okay by me, because I'm the daughter of the greatest ARTIST around.  HE's the one who created us all, and that makes each of us pretty fantastic.

I am creative in my own way and I enjoy "making" other people smile.  This week has been a fun one full of messy art and laughter.  It's Camp ShadyRest -- our children's camp of crazy creativity -- and it's my task to keep the action going nonstop.   We make MESSES -- and love every second of it.

Here are a few scenes from the week that are "made by me" with a little help from others.  You'll have to let me know what you think.


Team Flags through the years.  This is the 6th year of Camp ShadyRest.

Tall Towers of Shaving Cream and Pool Noodle Pieces
Squish Art Sunshine
Yarn Painting, Salty Watercolor Prints, Solar Flares


And then, because I can . . .

I make a mean loaf of bread -- using someone else's recipe, or course.



Finally, my most prized "possession" . . . made be me, the MainMost, and GOD:

My absolute favorite people of all time.  I'm proud to call them mine.



Okay, it's your turn to share.  I can't wait to see what you've made.  Just how creative are we?






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Schoohouse Review: UnLock Math Pre-Algebra #hsreviews

Unlock Math Review

I'm all about helping my children reach their fullest potential (have you read the name of my blog?) and that definitely includes making sure they give their very best when it comes to math.  I've been looking for a program to help my daughter unlock her math potential -- you know, something that she will actually enjoy and want to use for quite some time.  Although it's summertime, we have still managed to do a bit of "summer school," as we continue on our quest to find the perfect math program.  I'm looking for a math curriculum that will not only engage her, but that she will want to use for the next year without complaint.  Am I dreaming here?  Seriously, I need to find a math program that will grab her attention and keep it.  There are deficits that we must overcome as we begin her high school journey.

We have had the opportunity to review an exciting new math program this summer called UnLock Math.  UnLock Math is an online curriculum specifically designed to reduce the stress that is math (the struggle is real, y'all).  Perfect for students in 7th - 12th grades, there are two courses currently offered -- UnLock Pre-Algebra and UnLock Algebra 1 which releases on August 3 making it perfect timing for starting your school year.  UnLock Algebra 2 is in development and will be available in 2016.  

The Princess has had the opportunity to utilize the UnLock Pre-Algebra course taught by Alesia Blackwood and it has been my prayer that this will simply reignite a love for learning in her.  Alesia says that a "strong foundation in Pre-Algebra equals a strong foundation in Algebra which equals a strong foundation for LIFE" and I couldn't agree more.  LIFE -- ah, the pressure!  Math matters.  We are setting the foundation for life.  As a result, it was with great trepidation that we began this review. Math is our toughest subject and the one that can most easily bring us all to tears.  Can you relate?

If you're like me, you often think that all math programs are alike . . . BORING.  Not so with  UnLock Math.  UnLock Math is different and our fear was unfounded.

So . . . what is different about UnLock Math and why would you want to try it out in your homeschool?  First of all, UnLock Pre-Algebra is video-driven.  And yes, I realize that there are plenty of video-driven math programs on the market, but Mrs. Blackwood is energetic and catches the attention of your student from their very first video "meeting."  Delivered in bite-sized chunks, Pre-Algebra seems to be more manageable and much less daunting when taught by an enthusiastic teacher -- and not a stressed-out momma.  Just ask my Princess.  She much prefers sitting down to the company of Mrs. Blackwood over me.  Mrs. Blackwood is humorous and patient and encourages her to keep trying.  UnLock Math is like having your very own private math instructor at home.

Unlock Math Review
Second, each lesson is broken down into 5 easy steps (you can see them in the graphic above) and the entire lesson takes only 15 - 30 minutes a day to complete depending on the concept being taught.  Students begin with a quick Warm Up to help them get into "math mode."  These 5 math problems help orient students to the keyboard and review what they've worked on thus far.  Comprehensive in nature, the Warm Up helps assess exactly what your student does and does not understand.

Following the Warm Up,  students watch a short Video Lesson (4 - 10 minutes each) that introduces the daily topic and offers instruction and explanation.  Mrs. Blackwood is engaging and presents the instructional topic in an easy-to-understand way.  She encourages students to use the included Reference Notes -- a pdf file for each lesson that offers hands-on help and further explains what has been taught.

At the completion of the Video Lesson, students answer 10 Practice Problems.  These problems cover ONLY what has just been taught.  The Princess likes the fact that there is immediate feedback upon completing the practice problems and she can see exactly what she's missed and what the correct answer should be.  She shared that it took her a while to get used to the layout on the screen for submitting her answers (seems she accidentally exited the Practice Problems several times before successful completion -- uh-oh!).

After answering the Practice Problems, students learn to Stay Sharp with 10 or more additional math problems -- comprehensive in nature -- and then finish the lesson with a Challenge Yourself word problem.  The Princess likes to Stay Sharp, but finds that horizontal math sentences most challenging.  She much prefers vertical problems that line up "properly."  The Challenge Yourself problem is MY favorite part of each lesson -- I love the mental exercise -- but it is not always simple. Even I have missed a few of the challenges given and there is no re-do when you miss a problem.  That can be a bummer, for sure, but it serves as a reminder to actually read ALL of the problem you are being asked to answer BEFORE you submit your final answer.

The third thing that I find unique about UnLock Math is that it is easy to understand exactly what lessons and assignments have been completed (there is a visible padlock icon that is unlocked upon successful completion) and there is easy accessibility for students to get help when needed.  In addition to the Reference Notes provided, there is a chat option available when questions arise.  This is a great feature for moments when I am not immediately available to answer questions.

UnLock Math both challenges and encourages students AND homeschooling parents.  Reviews and Tests are built into the program and grades are assigned as work is completed.  There is no planning necessary as the Pacing Guide does all of the work for you.  I just have to be honest and tell you that I like that.  A lot.  Furthermore, I like that the Princess and I have separate log-in dashboards so that I can easily filter the information presented and transfer grades to my grade book.  It is super-easy to access her grades which makes it easy to identify her strengths and weaknesses.  I can also see exactly how much time she spends on every component of each lesson.  Talk about accountability

Unlock Math Review
Lessons are short, sweet, and to-the-point.  It makes it easy for my rising 9th grader to focus and finish.  Now that our summer is winding down and we begin to look to the beginning of the new school year, I am quite certain that the Princess will continue to work through the units of UnLock Pre-Algebra.  With 16 units from Whole Numbers to Probability and Stats, there is plenty of work to keep her busy for the entire school year.  I look forward to watching her self-confidence soar as she continues to unlock the mathematical principles that have eluded her.

You can find out more about UnLock Math by visiting the following Social Media sites:






Crew Disclaimer

I was given the opportunity to review UnLock Math 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.)

UnLock Math Review
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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

FAVORITE CHILDHOOD BOOK(s) -- July BlogChallenge #bloggingthroughJuly #summerchallenge

I fell in love with books at a very early age.  The written word took me to far off places and sent me on adventures galore.  Through the pages of my favorite books, I was able to dream, and learn, and explore.  Truly, I've enjoyed books as long as I can remember.

In elementary school, we made a weekly trip to the public library.  You could only check out a few books at a time then, but I still remember the day that the librarian changed the policy for me -- and let me check out 10 at a time.  It was a glorious day!

I quickly read through all of the books in the Children's Literature section and moved up to Young Adult Literature.  I vaguely remember my mom having to give approval for me to read books in that section.

One of my very favorite books was Charlotte's Web by E.B. Stuart.  The sweet story of Wilbur fostered my love of pigs and began a magnificent collection.  I had hundreds of pigs from glass to stuffed animals, and still keep a few of my treasures in my hope chest and a small curio.

I enjoyed S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders and Judy Blume's Are You There God?  It's me, Margaret., Blubber, and Deenie.  I climbed mountains with Heidi and escaped an orphanage through the pages of  Daddy-Long-Legs.

I've read all of the Little House books, thought The Littles were the cutest family ever, and enjoyed the antics of Pippi Longstocking.  But my favorite book of all time was a pink hardback book simply titled Little Girls.  It is a beautifully illustrated book from the early 60s that shows all the things that little girls love.  There are pictures of tea parties and dolls and picnics with friends.  I still have my copy and it still makes me smile.  What a happy book of calming beauty.

What are your favorite books from your childhood?  I'd love to read them.






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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

ANIMALS -- July Blog Challenge #bloggingthroughJuly #summerchallenge

We are animal people.  Always have been, I guess.  Growing up, my family always had a cat and one or two Dalmatian dogs that lived inside our house.  Dalmatians were our breed of choice.  I think my brother was a fire department enthusiast and that's how we became Dalmatian lovers.  As a matter of fact, our first spotted girl was named Sparky.  How creative were we?

Fast forward more years than I care to share and we are still animal people.  Currently, we have one inside dog, Chaucer, and one inside cat, Sebastian.  There are three dogs outside -- Brownie (you'll never guess what color she is), Lucy, and Molly.   I'm not sure how Lucy escaped with such a "normal" name.  We inherited Molly so she was lucky.  Other dogs here have been named Ducky (because she had a duck-shaped patch), Skittish (I'll bet you can't guess his personality type), Goliath (he was HUGE), and then, of course, we had our loves Ferguson and Finleigh.  Quite sophisticated names, don't you think?

Through the years, we've also shared our home with Claude (a rescued cat that we had longer than any other pet), Rhett and Scarlett (dogs we rescued from the side of a highway on the way to a wedding), Sissy Nesserina, Cyclops (yep, a one-eyed cat), Bubba, Raven, Katrina (guess what hurricane she flew in with?), Anya, Daisey, Ellie, and Ellwood.  Did I mention we love animals?

What kind of animals tug at the strings of your heart?







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Monday, July 27, 2015

BEST THING/MOST FUN -- July Blog Challenge #bloggingthroughJuly #summerchallenge

Thus far, 2015 has been a very interesting year.  We've traveled to San Antonio, St. Louis, Chicago, New Orleans, and Talladega and we've had a ton of fun at each of those places.  Our hearts were filled to overflowing at Camp Sunshine and Camp ShadyRest begins today.  Life has been full.

It's hard for me to pinpoint the BEST THING that has happened all year.  It's just as hard to decide what we've done that's been the MOST FUN this summer.  There's just so much to be said for all of the times we've spent together.

Each and every memory of this year has had it's really awesome moments.  I've laughed a lot, cried a little, been filled to overflowing at every turn.  Watching the Blue Crew, Too do their thing in competition and demonstration was super-rewarding.  It was great to see the little LEGO team that could all grown up.  Walking up and down the streets of Chicago with the Eagle Scout and the Princess was phenomenal.    I loved playing tourist with the two of them and we squeezed every opportunity out of our week in the Windy City.  We did it all until we were exhausted and ready to fall into bed -- just to start over the next day.

Seeing middle schoolers swept over with the joy that is JESUS was heartwarming and reminded me why GOD called me into ministry 25 years ago.  There is nothing like watching GOD show up and seeing kids respond.  That will take the prize every time.

And when love explodes at SUNSHINE, life is good.  It gives me great joy to see my family interact with LOVE to even the least of these.  Because when you stop and look around, this life is pretty amazing.


Can you pinpoint the best thing that's happened to you this year or even the most fun you've had?








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Sunday, July 26, 2015

THANKFUL -- July Blog Challenge #bloggingthroughJuly #summerchallenge

In everything give thanks.    1 Thessalonians 5:18

I am thankful for beautiful weather and sunshine.  I remember this winter when I said I wouldn't complain at all about the summer heat.  I don't care for the cold, but warm rays are nice.

The MainMost and I spent the day working outside yesterday.  I am thankful that we could work alongside each other.  I am thankful for clean water and cool air.  I used both when we stopped for breaks.

I am thankful for 25 years of marriage.

I am thankful for children.  I am thankful for text messaging capabilities that allow me to check in on the OT1 as she studies for exams.  I am thankful that she loves her momma from far away.  I am thankful for conversations with the Bride-to-be as she plans her wedding and the life she'll share with her guy.  I am thankful for the gentleman my son has become and that others see JESUS in him.  I am thankful for the spunk and creativity that exudes from the Princess.  She is one-of-a-kind.

I am thankful for a certain Cocker Spaniel who has decided to be my friend.  He helps heal my heart when it aches.

I am thankful for friends who stick closer than a brother {or sister}, for encouragers who love me in spite of myself, for ladies who hold me accountable.

I am thankful for JESUS.  I have the promise of a future because of HIS sacrifice for me.

I am ever thankful.


What about you?  For what do you give thanks?







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Worship {Scripture & a Snapshot}



Youth Night Worship with Casey Darnell . . .

My soul longs,


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



Join us?  Link your Scripture & a Snapshot post below:



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