Thursday, April 25, 2013

Kale Chips

Kale is one of the most power-packed, vitamin rich foods from nature you can eat!  But, just HOW do you eat it?

Among juicing, putting it in smoothies and sauteing, we decided to try our hand making Kale Chips.

First, rinse Kale well.  Break off the stems and either rip into smaller pieces or cut with a knife.

Next, toss with Sea Salt and Olive Oil.

Place it in your dehydrator at the lowest setting to preserve nutrients -or- use an oven on the lowest setting with the door cracked open until Kale is dry.  Drying times will vary!

This is what our Kale looked like when it was done.  Kale Chips met with mixed reviews at our house.  After experimenting with the amounts of Sea Salt and Olive Oil, it seems that the more palatable chips had more Olive Oil on them then the 'lighter' versions.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A Cause to be Thankful Book Review

A Cause to be Thankful is a bible study from the "Destined to Live, Despite Me" Series written by suicide survivor, Yolanda Shanks.

"By the time you have completed this book, we will have covered the principles of demonstrating and communicating thankfulness to God for who He is and for all He has done and is doing in our lives, which I pray will spill over into how we treat others."

This study on being thankful differs from others because it is built around the 10 lepers.

"So here we have an awesome example left on record for us oft the importance of remaining obedient to God despite our conditions or circumstances.  Oh how sweet the Word of God is!"
"Oh if only we would, like this one leper, recognize our blessed gifts from God, there is no doubt that we too would move in such a manner of urgency to render thanks to Him."
There are pauses for praise, prayer and the Gospel itself interspersed throughout the study.

My thoughts:
There's A LOT packed into 7 Chapters!  Though I do not doubt the author's heart and passion to follow the Lord, I didn't really enjoy this study.  I spent a lot of time re-reading sections trying to understand the focus in order to relate it to my own life.  Since I was so touched by the author's life story, I sincerely believe this study deserves another going through!

Disclosure: I received the above product to review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations. I am part of The CWA Review Crew.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Spanish For You! Review

Spanish For You  is an affordable foreign language curriculum that is taught with a specific theme.  Presently, choices are Fiestas or Estaciones.

From their website:
"Students learn HOW the language works. They learn key language components (i.e. vocabulary, pronunciation, syntax, verb conjugation, and grammar) as building blocks to be put together in different ways to communicate. They begin thinking in Spanish to develop fluency. They build knowledge of grammar so they excel in higher level classes.

Spanish for You! has a unique design where students learn to speak, read, and write Spanish through interesting themes. The books are designed to be done in any order rather than having to finish them in levels. As students complete books they become more skilled."

All Spanish for You! packages come with a paperback book or e-book, lesson guides (24 weeks worth for Grades 5-6 and 7-8.  30 weeks for Grades 3-4), worksheets, and audio files.

Lessons in Estaciones include:  Calendar & Weather, Fall & School, Winter, Spring and Summer.

Also included is a nice reference section highlighting:
The alphabet
Basic Pronunciation Guide
Common Words and Phrases
Ideas for making flashcards

Pricing is as follows:
Grades 3-8 Pkg $64.95
Grades 3-4 Pkg $39.95
Grades 5-6 Pkg $39.95
Grades 7-8 Pkg $39.95

Our Experience:

I've noticed that foreign language curriculum can be very pricey.  This curriculum doesn't have all the fancy drawings and doo-dads, but, what counts most is the format in which the lessons are presented AND the audio files.  For $64.95 you can teach a wide range of children all together.  That's a deal!

This program is easy to implement.  Just follow the lesson guide which has easy step by step instructions cueing you to do a worksheet or play an audio file.  Play the included games and HAVE FUN!

Our family tried Estaciones with our 4th and 6th graders.  The program was well paced and the kids were able to keep up without either being overwhelmed or bored.  The nice thing about this program is if your student if struggling OR needs a challenge you have the flexibility to choose the next grade level up or down.

I admit that since I'm a closet Spanish speaker, I had a leg up in working with my kids and this curriculum.  I can't comment on how easy this program would be to use if I had no prior knowledge of the language.  But I would think that a pre-lesson audio session with the general pronunciation of the alphabet would be very helpful.

As with learning any foreign language, a parent needs to be present while the child is going through the audio files in order to check pronounciation.  Otherwise, it's so easy to pick up bad pronunciation habits that will be harder to break later.

In the directions, the author Debbie Annett points out that:

*To build listening and pronunciation skills use the audio as instructed.
*To build speaking, repeat vocabulary words when listening to the audio.
*To build reading, look at vocabulary words and say them aloud.
*To build writing make flashcards as instructed for new vocabulary and phrases.

For us, this program was a nice fit.  It helped that I had prior Spanish experience as well.  The only bad thing about it is timing.  Adding this into our already busy day was a bit of trick.  This would best be done over summer break or planning it into your school year at its' beginning.

Check out a sample HERE

AND, check out what other Mosaic Reviewers are saying about Spanish for You!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Mother India: Life Through the Eyes of the Orphan DVD Review!

Mother India  is a documentary showing life through the eyes of India's abandoned.  Numbering a staggering 31 million, these orphans have been left behind to suffer while India experiences a record growing economy.

Set in S.E. India, Tenali is an agricultural center that attracts orphans because of the location of a major railway junction.

As captured by Americans David Trotter and Shawn Scheninoha, they get a first hand, up close feel for this life of desperation when they befriend a group of 25 children living together near the railway.

Walking where the children walk, sleeping where the children sleep, the film makers hear and see how they survive and the realities of their street life.

The groups' "leader", Reddy, explains how the kids came to live in the group.  The kids take turns answering questions and sharing their heart breaking stories.

One such story is 2 young siblings, Polayya and Koteswari who were recently abandoned.  Trotter and Scheninoha realize these children don't have to suffer that same bleak future and take steps to try to get them rescued through Harvest India -- a safe haven in the darkness!

This was definitely an eye opening movie!  I would recommend it for mature audiences as there's discussion of the "red light district", HIV and needle use.

You can win a copy of this powerful movie!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


I received a copy of this movie free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Sounds of Letters DVD Review

The Sounds of Letters is a prequel to The Reading Lesson (review forthcoming!)

Recommended for ages 2 and up, this DVD showcases the alphabet using primarily lower case letters.  The authors also take care to give vowels and the consonants with more than one sound (like 'c' for example) sufficient attention with Giggle Bunny and other lively animated characters.

This DVD does rival my favorite, old-school Leap Frog Letter Factory video.  Though there aren't any catchy jingles, The Reading Lesson makes up for it by using both lower and upper case letter in a slower-paced, non-glittery environment.  This definitely earns a leg up and sets it apart from most other products!

My three year old REALLY enjoys this video - especially with a family member or two sitting with him practicing the sounds out loud.  It's the PERFECT preparation for The Reading Lesson!

I received a copy of this DVD free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Break Away Movie Review & Giveaway!

What do you do with only five loaves and two fish?

You give them to Jesus and watch what HE will do with them.

Break Away is an inspirational story of how God can use a hard situation for His good and glory.

Set in South Africa, the movie opens with Francois, who is a husband, father and business man, loosing his job along with his entire department.


Though he makes a gallant effort to take care of his now unemployed co-workers, it is the recession and jobs are scarce.

Through another misgiving, Francois discovers how God can turn what little he has left into a blessing that literally changes his life - and those around him.  Namely his ex-con brother and humorous bicycle shop owner.

This is definitely an all ages,  family-friendly film.  My kids really enjoyed the accents and scenery.  My husband noted that there were a few parts that moved a bit slow for his taste.  Though some of my ultra conservative friends probably won't appreciate the few shots of a shirtless Francois, the rest of the movie sends a positive, entertaining, inspiring and uplifting message!

You can enter to win a copy of this movie:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I received a copy of this DVD free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Returning to Tapestry of Grace - How to Make it Work for Our Family

Last post I shared WHY we decided to come back to Tapestry of Grace (TOG) after a year hiatus.  This post is the "how" I intend to stay ahead of the ball and not be running behind it.

To get in front of the ball, I am purposefully setting aside time to plan with realistic expectations and building in some wiggle room/grace each week.

For example:

It’s not necessary to do every activity in the curriculum!

Not every child needs to do a detailed geography lesson each week!

Not every child needs to do a fine arts project every week!

And so on…

For my 10th grader, his focus will be on History/Literature with critical thinking and Socratic Discussion.  He’s already strong in geography, so this won’t be a major component for him.  In addition, I'll only require   1 hands-on project from him per unit.

For my 7th grader, his focus will be on History/Literature as well.  We will introduce Socratic Discussion with some of the literature analysis sheets too.  We will do Geography as needed with a sprinkling of hands-on projects per unit.

For my 4th/5th grader,  her focus will primarily be on Reading/Literature and History will be secondary.  We will forgo a good deal of the worksheets in favor of narration, spending more time on geography than her siblings.  Hands-on projects will prevail throughout the unit!

In coming back to this curriculum, I gave myself the freedom to pick and choose activities/emphasis per child.  I also gave myself freedom in evaluating the book selections for Rhetoric (high school) level, picking and choosing as needed, and stretching some weeks out over a longer time period.  (Schooling year around affords us this luxury!)

Next time I'll talk about the actual scheduling of TOG.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Don't Forget to Pack the Kids: Short Term Missions for Your Whole Family Book Review!

"Five years ago, few would have picked up a book about taking the family on a short-term mission. Now, more and more of us 30 and 40-somethings with kids are asking―

Why can’t we do something meaningful for others with our kids? 
Why do we have to wait until they’re teens and then and pack them off on a youth group trip?
  Why can’t we let them experience using their gifts in ministry now? 
And why can’t we discover those gifts alongside one another in an experience they’ll never forget? Well, you can. With some planning specifically geared toward making a family mission trip successful, you can. And you should."

Don't Forget to Pack the Kids: Short Term Missions for your Whole Family is a wealth of knowledge detailing almost every aspect of short term missions planning a family could need.  Written in warm, conversational tone, this book is an easy read which answers the "why", "how" and "what now" questions all within 11 chapters.

I love the sensibility and wisdom in which author Jill Richardson details their mission trip to China.  Starting from the 'where should we go' to 'adapting to life once returning home', the reader's eyes are opened to the possibilities and encouraged that yes, it IS possible! I know it's gotten our household thinking too.

I highly recommend this gem to those considering family missions!!

Disclosure: I received the above product to review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations. I am part of The CWA Review Crew.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

WHY We Are Returning to Tapestry of Grace

Last year was a most interesting year in our pursuit of History and Literature.

Leaving our well-loved Tapestry of Grace (TOG) curriculum, my children went their own ways.

My oldest to My Father's World 9th grade Ancient History
My 6th grader to Critical Thinking's’  World History Detective 
My 3/4th grader to Creek Edge Press Geography Task cards.

The year went smoothly with these mostly grab and go curricula, but something was missing.  Namely the plethora of living books, multiple activities and the collective learning of the same time period but at each individual’s level.  Mostly we missed the unity TOG provided our family.

.....So while the pre-made schedule of My Father's World was heavenly, there wasn't enough reading for my 9th grader.

.....And The World History Detective was challenging for my 6th grader and wonderful to just pull off the shelf, ready to go, it was still 'just' a workbook.

.....The Geography Task Cards were a wonderful find for my wiggly, kinesthetic learner.  But we were still learning separately.

What we ALL missed was being “on the same page” in history, sharing meaningful discussions on the time period, its' literature and creating family activities with purpose.

To understand a a little more about TOG, it’s a 4 year program spanning 36 weeks for each year.  This program enables you to teach all your children, K-12, all together.  History, literature, geography, writing, hands-on, and fine arts are broken down into 4 approximate levels with a Biblical Worldview.  These levels can overlap and need to be followed by the child’s ability:

Lower Grammar K-2
Upper Grammar 3-5
Dialectic 6-8
Rhetoric 9-12

The strengths of TOG is also its’ weakness:
(-) There’s no pre-made schedule

(+)There’s so much to choose from   
(-)Choices can be overwhelming

(+)Utilizes living books                      
(-) Hunting down/buying books can be time consuming/costly

Last year, we made the decision to leave TOG after an exhausting year of continually being behind the ball, searching for library books and then praying they’d be there when I needed them.  Couple this with a very demanding baby…and it wasn't pretty.

Though our original reasons for leaving TOG hasn't changed, I feel more confident to deal with these challenges by purposefully scheduling this curriculum ahead of time in order to get in front of the ball instead of running behind it.

In part 2 I'll share how I went about this.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Weekly Wrap Ups: Mexico, Butterflies & Working Out Kinks

Painted Lady
Greetings!  Another end to another busy week.  While we are resting, here's a recap!

This week's geography moved us to Mexico.  Putting the Mexican flag in our 'passport', my daughter and I were off and reading stories of missionaries serving in this country, more about general life AND making tacos for dinner.

Geography from Creek Edge Press

In order to work the kinks out of the schedule, I went ahead and started my middle and high schooler's on their next year's history/literature work.  I'll go into more details next week - but, let's just say an extended dry run was prudent and helpful!

Trial run for my middle schooler and high schooler!

While the older kids were busy dissecting frogs for Biology, the younger kids took a trip to the local Butterfly Encounter for some winged fun!

Butterfly Encounter

Along with several varieties of butterflies, we enjoyed gorgeous flowers and birds.

Butterfly Encounter

Butterfly Encounter

Butterfly Encounter

Butterfly Encounter

Butterfly Encounter

And, a banana plant too!

Butterfly Encounter

In the 'feeding room', they had 'synthetic nectar' (Gatorade) to feed the Painted Lady butterflies.  Just dip your finger in the cup and voila!

Butterfly Encounter

Butterfly Encounter

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Verbal Math Lesson Level 1 Review!

Verbal Math Lesson Level 1 ages 4-7

Verbal math = mental math

"This course is designed to make math fun for your young child.  As in learning to read, where children need to develop a basic vocabulary for fluency, the verbal problems in this course also build a basic mathematical vocabulary that your child needs to progress further......

Written math makes simple arithmetic tedious for young children, particularly for those who don't like to write.  Often, an insistence on worksheets that require more writing effort than math leads to a dislike for math in general.  We want your child to like math, and learning math as a game helps this process.

In our household, this particular level was too easy for my oldest 3 kids (ages 14, 11 and 9) and too hard for my preschooler.  But, looking through it I can see that this book would have been helpful and fun for them when they were at this stage.

Your child is ready for this course IF he or she can:
  • Count up to 100 (occasional errors are acceptable).
  • Can identify written numbers (single and double-digits)
  • Understand the concepts of "same as", "more than" and "less than" when referring to numbers and quantities.
  • Knows the difference between right and left and, hopefully, between right and wrong.  
  • Recognizes basic shapes
  • Has a basic, conceptual understanding of measurement of length and weight."

Starting with the simplest concept of 'nothing' ("If my feet are bare, that means I am wearing zero socks.") and working through verbally subtracting double-digit numbers ending in 0, there are enough practice exercises to get those brain cells snapping without overwhelming the child!

In using this book, you should move only as fast as your child can go without becoming flustered.  Generally, 15-20 minutes a day or until they are no longer getting the problems correct.  Just go back to the point where they starting missing the answers and repeat.

Since I like the layout and philosophy behind this book, I'll be hanging onto it for my 3 year old!  And in the meantime, I'll be trying out Level 2 with my family mathematicians .  (Review forthcoming)

Check out a sample for yourself!

I received a copy of this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Jerky Direct Review and GIVEAWAY!

Jerky Direct
Our samples of Beef & Turkey Jerky before
the taste testing begins.
I love jerky.  My kids love jerky.  Who doesn't love jerky?

What I don't love is the MSG found in the vast majority of commercial jerky.

Yes, I could make my own....but....who's got time?

Enter my friend Heather, her hubby and Jerky Direct.

Jerky Direct

It all started with Heather looking for a healthier kind of convient, protein snack for hubby to take on the road.  After reading more about Jerky Direct's non-MSG (except for the beef sticks), minimally processed products AND taking a taste test, they we were both hooked.

Jerky Direct
What's left of our samples of Beef & Turkey Jerky minutes later!

The Organic Beef Slab Jerky was mouth-wateringly FANTASTIC!!!  I've eaten a LOT of jerky and this was hands-down the best!  The kids thought so too, because it was gone before you could say, "Pass me another piece!"

Jerky Direct Beef Jerky

The BBQ Turkey Jerky was also good.  I envisioned it being tough and dry, but, it wasn't.  The kids even enjoyed this one.  My only complaint is that this particular jerky does contain high fructose corn syrup.

Jerky Direct Turkey Jerky

Did I mention that Jerky Direct also carries other organic and gluten-free varieties - AND - you can get them delivered right to your door!  For only $14.27/month you can sign up to receive a Jerky twin-pack.  OR for the same price enjoy those two pouches of jerky and work a business too at no extra cost! What other business can you start for $14.27? Great for teenagers and those who'd like some residual income!  Interested?  Click here.

Now for the exciting part.  You can enter to win a Jerky twin-pack in the flavor of your choice!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I received 2 pouches of Jerky Direct Jerky free of charge in exchange for an honest review.