Thursday, May 29, 2014

Review: Apologia Educational Ministries

Over the past few years we have really enjoyed using Apologia Educational Ministries for their lively and engaging hands-on Science curriculums.

Recently, I was introduced to the "What We Believe" series that Apologia offers, which is a complete four year cycle curriculum that assists parents in teaching Apologetics and a Biblical World View to their children. We had the privilege to review book four of this series, called "What on Earth Can I Do?" over these past seven weeks. Along with the beautiful hardcover 294 page book, we also received the "What on Earth Can I Do?" Notebooking Journal for Melissa to use, the "What on Earth Can I Do?" Junior Notebooking Journal for Kelly to use, and the "What on Earth Can I Do?" coloring book that both girls really enjoyed. Although this is the fourth book in the series, it can stand alone, and does not require that the user has completed the first three books in order to use this one.

Why teach a Biblical World View to children? It is very important, in fact, I believe an absolutely fundamental practice of parenting, to teach and instill a Biblical World View to your child. The responsibility of the parent, especially a Christian parent, is to equip their child with the means necessary to make good decisions for the rest of their lives. Today's culture is so self-centered that most people grow up thinking life is all about them, and they are at the center of their own universe. Many people make decisions solely based on how the outcome will affect their own life. This is not Biblical, and leads to failure on many fronts.  A Biblical world view will afford a person to have God in the center of their decision making, applying Biblical and Godly principles to their decision making. No longer is the decision about pleasing self, but rather it becomes all about pleasing God. When our relationship with God is right, our relationships with others will drastically improve and be satisfying as well.

To me, this course is all about learning our standing with God, so that we can learn how to take care of the gifts He has entrusted us with. 

What is the main theme of this book? "What on Earth Can I Do?" teaches a Biblical worldview of stewardship. The chapters discuss and teach such topics as how God is planning of our life's story, faithfulness, character, and managing our relationships, treasures, time, and talents. The stories are written in a simple (but profound) manner that a child can understand.

What is the purpose of the notebooking journals?  The Notebooking and Junior Notebooking Journals are meant for the student to use to write their own notes and stories about what they have learned from the lessons.  There are also some review pages, with questions and a word puzzle, to reinforce the new vocabulary words and terms learned in each lesson. Each lesson also contains a minibook for the student to make as well as relevant coloring pages and a Bible verse for copywork.  While both books have basically the same information, the junior notebooking journal is definitely simpler and geared for younger ages.

How are the lessons organized? The book contains eight lessons. The plan that is included calls for a student to work on one lesson over the course of three weeks, approximately two days a week. This would allow the entire book and accompanying journals to be completed in about 24 weeks. Of course, parents can adjust this workload to meet their own needs.

What does a typical lesson include?  Each lesson starts off with "The Big Idea" which introduces the concept of that lesson and sets the foundation for further exploration of the topic. Other key components are "What Will You Do?" that states learning objectives for the student, a "Short Story" to see how the lesson can relate to real life, using real people, historical events, and biographical sketches. There is also a "Hide It In Your Heart" page that gives relevant Bible verses, and a "Words You Need To Know" page that explains new vocabulary words that are learned in that lesson. There is an opportunity for prayer and for the student to set their own goals in the "What Should I Do?" section. Also woven throughout the lesson are various historical or scientific stories, as well as biographies of some famous people. Overall, the lessons are very diverse, weaving many different aspects of life (parables, art, history, science, music, inventions, literature) into the worldview lessons being taught, making them relevant and very relatable, and not some distant concept that cannot be grasped.

What ages can use this? The curriculum itself is recommended for grades 1-6. We used it with a 3rd and 7th grader. I don't think I personally would have used this curriculum with a student younger than 3rd grade though. I could see slightly older children still enjoying and learning from it, especially if it is being used in a family setting.

Real Life Topics discussed: The book started off in the first chapter with several stories from the WWII era, including Nazi Germany. This actually went along well with what we were studying in history at that time, so it was very complimentary. There are many historical features to the stories in the book. The beginning section of the book seems to rely heavily on WWII stories, while the latter section of the book uses many stories from the African plains.

How Did We Use This?  We have been progressing through the lessons, using the books about 3 days a week. We sit together, and I read the stories while the girls listen, color, or take notes in their journals. They complete the copywork, word puzzles, and minibooks on their own. I have found that they do better on the question and personal notes pages when we do them together following discussion. This seems to help them formulate the thoughts of what they would like to write down and remember about the lesson.

Coloring Pages
How about the results? The girls have really seemed to enjoy the time we have invested into this curriculum. They have thrived on our "worldview" discussions, which makes me a very happy mom. I enjoy watching them learn ideas, then see how it can apply to their life. Extracting the concepts from the history lessons really made them come alive to the girls. No longer were these just stories, but the people became much more real, and the girls seemed to be able to empathize much more with the situations that the characters were living through. We enjoyed the 'parables' which added fictional names and details to familiar Biblical parables. I saw the girls' eyes light up with an "I never thought of it that way before" type of look.

Personal Recommendation: I really think this curriculum is meant for a parent to use as a springboard for discussion and teaching a Biblical world view to their children. Personally, I would not just hand these books over for my children to read and work through on their own. I think the most benefit can be found by actually doing them together, giving the parent a golden opportunity to mold the child's thinking on various matters. Most of the learning we experienced took place during our discussion time. I viewed the lessons merely as a creative platform to get the discussion started, which I greatly enjoyed because these were concepts I have desired to discuss, but this book dropped the opportunity right in my lap, in a way that was enjoyable, profitable, and not boring to the girls.

What the girls thought: Both girls have enjoyed using these books. They have also enjoyed flipping through the books and re-reading some of the stories. I have tried to make it enjoyable for them by doing some extras, like actually watching a Charlie Chaplin film after reading about him, or weaving threads together to make a tapestry such as was discussed in lesson one. I think their favorite thing though, was coloring while listening to me read the stories. The coloring book is lovely and very well done.

What the girls learned: I would like to share (in their own words) some of the notes that the girls wrote in their journals:
  • God is the Master Weaver and He is making a tapestry that will tell a story about you. He uses even the trials to make a greater and better story about you. 
  • If you know God and you are His child, you get special privileges that people who are lost do not have. You can go right to God and ask for His help and guidance.
Personal Preference: Naturally, the book uses a lot of Scriptures. There are several different translations used. The girls found this very confusing. Since we only use KJV in our home, we looked up all the verses in our own Bibles anyways. I think it would be better for the book to just list the Scripture references, and allow the reader to look it up and read it on their own, rather than switch between various translations and have all the Scriptures printed out.

  • "What On Earth Can I Do?" hardcover book: $39.
  • Junior Notebooking Journal: $24
  • Notebooking Journal: $24
  • Coloring Book: $8
All of the books have sample pages on the Apologia website. I would highly recommend taking a look at them if you are seriously considering this series. And let me say that the coloring book really does compliment the curriculum nicely, and I think it is well worth spending the extra to get it, if your children like that kind of thing. 

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Many Crew members had the opportunity to review this wonderful series in their homes. Click the banner below to read how they used it:

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Copyright 2012-2014 - "Be The One" -  All rights are reserved. No text, photos, or content may be reproduced without direct permission from the author.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Obscure Bible Heroes {Blogging Through The Alphabet - E}

E is for Eutychus

This week's hero struck me in a different way recently as I read through the book of Acts once again. Eutychus has always been the guy we joked about - the one who fell asleep during the preaching. Unfortunately, his sleepiness happened while he was perched in a window sill, so he ended up falling out of the window sill and dying. Now, that in itself is sad and not funny, but the story doesn't end there. Eutychus just happened to be listening to the Apostle Paul preaching when this happened, so Paul was able to raise him back to life again! The story has a happy ending!

This in and of itself certainly does not qualify Eutychus for 'hero status' but the Lord showed me something really neat about his life, and I would like to share about it here.

First, the verses where the story of Eutychus is found:

Acts 20:7 "And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.
8 And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together.
9 And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead.
10 And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him.
11 When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed.
12 And they brought the young man alive, and were not a little comforted."

I want to specifically point out verse 12. Once Eutychus was made alive again, and recovered from his tragic fall, the people were comforted. Paul and his traveling companions had just finished a lot of traveling. They were being persecuted and Paul was being hunted down. They were weary, hungry, and worn out. 

I am just picturing them feeling like everything was going wrong. They were working so hard to minister to the new believers, and follow Paul's Macedonian call to reach the Gentiles, giving of themselves wholeheartedly, often meeting in the night before moving on to the next location. I know ministers like this. They get worn out. When a person is tired, problems can seem so much bigger than they really are.

The men are holding a meeting, Paul is preaching, and it's late. The next morning they will be leaving once again. As they are altogether at this meeting, a tragic accident happens and a young man dies. I wonder if this was just 'the straw that would break the camel's back' for these weary ministers. How devastated they must have felt! Then God performs a miracle, and renews their spirit, giving them comfort and joy. MUCH comfort. In fact, I would say that Eutychus being raised back to life had to have ranked right up there with one of the greatest things they had ever witnessed on these miles and miles of missionary journeys! 

Why was God able to do such a thing? Is it perhaps because a young man was humble and willing to allow God to use him to make a difference? The Bible doesn't say much about Eutychus - in fact, this is the only time he is mentioned in Scripture. We don't know what kind of man he was, or if he had a family, or even if he was a devout or new believer. All we know is that God chose to use him by placing a physically hard health situation in his life. Eutychus did not choose it. He wasn't receiving "judgment from God".  It was really just a tragic accident. 

All along, God knew that there was a bigger purpose in allowing this hardship to enter the life of Eutychus, and God was going to use the situation for His own glory, and for the comfort and encouragement of others. 

To me, this makes Eutychus an unsung hero. I don't know that he had time to be brave and face his trial courageously, especially since it was accidental. But what a story he had to pass on to his grandchildren! 

What I do know is that many people are faced with hard situations, tragic circumstances, or health challenges that are not of their own choosing. We must look beyond the tragic and hard situations, and focus on the fact that God has chosen to use us for this time, to be a comfort and help to someone else. 

Like Eutychus, we can completely submit ourselves to whatever journey God chooses, and allow God to bless others through us, even if the situation is a difficult one.

Ben and Me

Copyright 2012-2014 - "Be The One" -  All rights are reserved. No text, photos, or content may be reproduced without direct permission from the author.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

A Day of Remembrance

This Memorial Day, I would like to honor those who have bravely served our country, as well as the courage of the families who stayed home and supported them. 

I am so very grateful for the opportunity to live in freedom, thanks to their sacrifice. 

Also, thank you to those who are currently serving, as well as their families. I know that Memorial Day is a day for remembering those who have paid the ultimate price, but I still think of those of you who courageously are giving of yourselves in the service of our country as well. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Review: Trident Case for iPad 2/3/4

Modern technology definitely has its benefits, and I have to admit that the iPad is one of the neatest things I have been privileged to try out. It's a great size, is able to do just about everything that I need, and is very portable and convenient.

My biggest fear with using it, or allowing the girls to use it, is that if it drops and breaks, we cannot afford to replace it, so it is in my best interest to make sure it is protected and safe! We recently had the opportunity to review the Kraken A.M.S. Case for Apple iPad 2/3/4 from Trident Case. 

When the case first arrived in the mail, we removed the iPad from the case we were using, and quickly assembled the Trident case. The only feature I liked about our prior case was that it had a built in stand. Other than that, it felt flimsy and the cover was constantly flopping around when not in use, getting in the way of picture and video taking.

This new Trident case, on the other hand, was lightweight, durable, rugged, and made some pretty lofty promises about offering military grade protection for our electronic device. Here, from the website, are the features offered by the iPad case:

While the packaging came with directions and initially looked a bit intimidating, my teenager was able to completely assemble the case in under 10 minutes, after looking over the directions. As you can see from the picture below, the case comes in three separate pieces, including an inside silicone layer that encases the device and functions as a shock absorber if (or should I when) it is dropped. This silicone layer is available in a wide variety of fun colors.

The silicone layer also has covers for all the ports and plug-ins, as well as covers for all the control buttons. The port covers open and close smoothly, and are easily accessible when needed, whether to plug in headphones or charge the device.

The outside layer consists of a hard black plastic front and back cover that has openings in all the right places for the silicone port covers, as well as the silicone hand grips.

The whole thing locks together tightly, sealing the iPad in, and making one solid handheld device with nothing "sticking out" that could get caught. One really neat feature is the front cover, which has a tight touch screen cover, protecting the screen on your device. I have to admit that I was skeptical that the device would function as efficiently with the screen cover in place, but we have not had one issue at all with it. It has worked like a charm.

The company has several claims - one of which is that the Trident Case can sustain a blow from an aluminum baseball bat and still protect the iPad inside. While I certainly didn't feel the need to test out this theory for my review, you can watch a video of a Trident employee testing it out:

The worst thing we dished out on this Trident case was one accidental drop of the iPad. After my heart skipped a beat, I picked it up and turned out it on, and found it that it functioned as if nothing ever happened! That was plenty of 'testing' for me. Maybe I'll just plan on leaving the rest of the tests up to the guys on Myth Busters!

As I mentioned, the only feature I really liked on my previous case was the stand. At first I was really disappointed about missing that on this case, until I realized that I can purchase an attachable tablet stand for $19.95. I will be ordering that very soon.

How much does it cost? Trident is currently selling this iPad case for $69.95 with free shipping to US and Canada. It is available in 8 color choices.

Who can use this? The Trident Case is a good universal fit for all ages. If you have a child who uses any electronic devices, you should be very interested in protecting those devices with a Trident Case.

My final recommendation? I absolutely LOVE this case. It gives me confidence that the iPad will stay safe when the kids are dragging it around the house and car. It allows me to give them a little more liberty in using it. Thank you, Trident Case, for blessing our family with an iPad case - we have really enjoyed using it.

Best of all - Trident cases are Made in the USA!

Trident doesn't just make iPad cases - they have a whole lineup of cases for smartphones and tablets, in a wide variety of colors and designs. To see what other Review Crew members tried out, click the banner below:

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Copyright 2012-2014 - "Be The One" -  All rights are reserved. No text, photos, or content may be reproduced without direct permission from the author.

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Obscure Bible Heroes {Blogging Through the Alphabet - D}

D is for Demetrius

3 John 1:12a "Demetrius hath good report of all men, and of the truth itself:"

The short books of 1, 2, and 3 John towards the end of the New Testament are some of my favorite books. They are full of gems. 

In 3 John several believers are mentioned by name, some for good things, and others not so good. There were a number of believers in the churches by now, so to have one specifically named and praised by Paul the author is especially meaningful.

This book only has one chapter. It is one of the shortest books in the entire Bible. It starts out mentioning another man, Diotrephes in a negative light. Apparently, in his proud state, he refused to receive Paul. But then a short verse is inserted with praise for a faithful man called Demetrius. Paul states that Demetrius has a good reputation, a good report, not only in his own body of believers, but also far abroad, where other believers are located. Paul has made the rounds, traveling to many churches, and has always heard a good report about Demetrius. 

Demetrius is a lover and seeker of truth itself. He is not proud in his pursuit of the truth, but well loved by all. What a tremendous example of a balanced life! Being true and right, but not offensive to others. 

As I studied for today's short devotion, I noticed a very interesting connection. This letter of 3 John is written to a faithful man named Gaius.

Gaius is also present at the first mention of a man named Demetrius in Acts 19. There, Gaius was Paul's traveling and preaching companion, and a man named Demetrius was mentioned as a silver smith who was very skilled in making and selling silver crafted idols. Following the preaching, there was a great conflict where Gaius nearly lost his life as a result of the anger of the people who worshiped the goddess Diana, the one of whom Demetrius was making a profit selling silver shrines.

Perhaps this Demetrius is one and the same! If so, salvation obviously had a great affect on his life, his vocation, and his reputation, taking him from a skilled silver smith crafting idols to a faithful helper of Gaius and the church. Where once he was part of the mob ready to kill Gaius, he then became his faithful companion. I can see where such a great change would have people watching and wondering if Demetrius was truly a changed man, and it is a great blessing to read Paul calling him out and giving him a good report.

From the life of Demetrius, we can be encouraged to live a balanced life, grounded in the pursuit of truth, and living as a faithful and consistent example of it to those around us. 

Copyright 2012-2014 - "Be The One" -  All rights are reserved. No text, photos, or content may be reproduced without direct permission from the author.

Ben and Me

Enhancing A Boxed Curriculum

Favorite Curriculum Choices

One of my favorite aspects of homeschooling is tailoring the schooling to fit the child and help them be a success. There is no reason in the world why a child should 'hate' any subject, or dislike learning. There is no end to the fascination of learning new things.
A long time ago when we first started homeschooling, we decided to choose a curriculum that would be something we could easily start with, and would be organized enough to cover all the subjects. We liked that the subjects were integrated in such a way as to reinforce concepts across the board in all subject areas. We also chose a curriculum that was based on classical learning, where the student first learns and memorizes facts in the early years, then revisits those concepts in middle school years, expanding on the meanings behind the memorized facts. In the high school years, the spiral of learning is enhanced by deeper study of those same subjects, adding more abstract concepts to the solid foundation. The science and history aspects of our boxed curriculum cycle through four stages, which means that every four years, a particular subject matter is revisited and layered down again in the child's mind. Core concepts in math and English are layered and expanded upon every year. 

Early on, based on our own experiences and examination of the available curriculum at the time, we decided to make A Beka our core curriculum. Our children started off with preschool materials, and we utilized the Phonics program to teach them how to read. Over years, due to various circumstances, we have dabbled with other curriculum, but have always fallen back on the continuity of A Beka for the foundation of our homeschool studies. It has been a great experience and we are very pleased with the outcome. Looking back there is not much we would have changed. We have graduated our oldest, and #2 is not far behind, starting her Senior year this fall.

The more I have gotten involved in homeschooling circles, and especially with The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew, the more I have seen various choices in curriculum that are available. Of course, there is about a thousand times more materials available now than there was nearly 20 years ago when we first started thinking about schooling for our children though! 

So what is a parent to do?  We have already committed financially and emotionally to a boxed curriculum, but also want to provide the best education possible to our children. As we have watched our children grow, we have noticed that four different children possess four different learning styles and personalities, and "one size fits all" curriculum is not always the most effective, even though it is a good education. 

To me, this is why homeschooling offers the best of both worlds. While we can "fall back on" our boxed curriculum, taking advantage of the great amount of research that has gone into making it a top notch program, we can also add in and enhance our daily routine with specialty items that round out the program well. Following the spine and spiral of our boxed curriculum ensures that our children stay on par with the necessary concepts that need to be learned each grade level. I don't panic when they take standardized assessment testing, because I have confidence in the material they have mastered. I also don't have worries that they will have gaps in their learning, or that I might miss something important.

Being with the children daily, and studying their learning styles, affords me the opportunity to also figure out ways to help them along and make sure they not only love their learning, but also can master their material well. I don't want them simply mastering facts to pass a test, but I want the material to become a part of the fiber of who they really are, and what they believe. 

I love being in touch with new materials that are available in the homeschool world. Often I see something that looks really neat, and that I think will work particularly well for one of my children. Being a part of the Review Crew has helped me to try out some new things, and find ways to really make our school interesting. I love reading what other homeschool moms think of various items as well. 

Here I have put together some of our favorites for enhancing our boxed curriculum. If you have chosen the path of using a boxed curriculum as your foundation, you have several choices. You can add extra curricular subjects to it to enhance it. You can also add in special materials that interest your child but are not included in your boxed curriculum. Lastly, you can swap out some of the activities or assignments of your boxed curriculum for materials that will help your child grasp or master the concepts more effectively. As each child is different, each path to success will also be slightly different. The beauty of homeschooling is making the curriculum work for you, not being a slave to it.

Here are some of our favorites that we have enhanced our A Beka core with:

We have found that extra review of math facts and English concepts are very necessary in the younger years, when these things are first being learned. Since we follow a traditional school year schedule, the summer is a great time to add in some extra review curriculum. To motivate the child to do extra work in reviewing, I like using something that is fun and more 'game like' in its approach, so that the child will enjoy using it, doing extra, and not really realizing that in the process they are reinforcing their schooling. 

One of our favorite, well loved and used programs for reviewing both math and English is IXL Learning. We also really like the free games at for fact review. Both of these sites are fun, interactive, and very easy to use. My youngest can log in herself and spend 10-15 minutes a day reviewing. IXL gives her little awards and certificates for completing levels as well. 

Spelling is  another subject that is always in need of extra help. The Spelling/Vocab program in A Beka is challenging. It is also quite dry, and based mostly on rote learning, copying, and memorizing. The lists are well put together, and reinforce words being learned in Language Arts, writing, Science, and History. In order to do well on them, we definitely needed to think outside the box to find a fun way to review them. This is where VocabularySpellingCity comes in. Every week, I enter the child's spelling and vocab lists onto the program, then the children access their lists on their own and use the multiple fun and interesting review games to review their own words. We actually replaced the daily copywork assignments with Spelling City review work, since we found it so much more effective. I have the girls do Spelling City for about 10 minutes a day typically 3-4 days a week. (more if they want to or as time allows). When I made this slight change, the girls weekly spelling tests scores improved from low 80's to consistent upper 90's or 100's.

Science is an area that is always challenging. Everyone seems to have their own area of scientific interest that they enjoy, and then they groan at the other things that have to be learned in Science. I always cringe when I hear a child say that they don't like Science. I truly believe that the study of Science helps us to know God better. A Beka Science is thorough but my children all thrive with a hands on approach to Science. They really need more than the book has to offer - they need the interaction of working on Science with mom or each other, and seeing it in action. We have really found some great ways to enhance their love and learning in Science, through the videos and experiments in Supercharged Science and the lively Apologia 
textbooks. In the elementary and middle school years, it has been very easy to swap in various science projects and programs while still following the spiral of core Science learning in our A Beka program. 

We have probably most enjoyed enhancing our History curriculum. It helps that History is one of my favorite subjects, so it is easy to really make it come alive. Now all my kids are huge history buffs as well. There are several things we have used and really enjoyed, which really help the girls understand, relate to, and experience their history lessons. We have really enjoyed the character studies in a recent review of Golden Prairie Press. There have been several lapbooks we have enjoyed making, from both Homeschool In The Woods and A Journey Through Learning. We have also been exposed to some really great Literature, living history, and historical fiction books, including great biographies from YWAM Publishing, Baker Publishing, current events from God's World News, and living history from Knowledge Quest. This past year, we have used Portraits of American Girlhood to study American History through the eyes of young girls. We have been able to integrate so many different things into our History studies, including arts & crafts, cooking, sewing, writing, and even some photography. 

For World Geography, we have plans to use Around the World in 180 Days from Apologia next year. 

There are always extra areas that need investigation outside what the boxed curriculum offers. Younger children need lots of hands on activities to help them learn about their world. As they grow older and learn more things, extra activities help to reinforce lessons learned. High School students can follow their own particular interests by adding electives to their core curriculum. 

For younger grades, we have found a really neat foreign language course in Mango Languages. It teaches conversational language skills. My high schooler has really enjoyed continuing her Spanish studies through the online course with a real live native speaker at Homeschool Spanish Academy. 

There is also music and art, which are pretty much essential to an enjoyable homeschool experience. So far, some of our favorites in these areas are Adventus MusIQ which is an interactive piano keyboard course, Artistic Pursuits which teaches actual art instruction, (we worked on sculpting and are interested in doing painting next), and Gryphon House, which we have had some fun with in the past, but are actually integrating into our World Geography course next year. While we didn't get the opportunity to use this yet, many of our fellow Review Crew friends really enjoyed MacPhail Center for Music with its online interactive music lessons, and its something we are considering. 

Home Economics is always being learned hands on around here, but we have also greatly enjoyed using Rosie's Doll Clothes Patterns and the video lessons from You CAN Sew. to really enhance our sewing lessons. 

An extra benefit to homeschool parents is resources available to help navigate the high school years, making sure that they are complete and fulfill all the requirements to prepare your child for whatever direction they follow after graduation. A few books and programs we have found to help us along this path are: High School Prep Genius (and their companion SAT prep course), PeopleKeys Learning Style ReportsVictus Study Skills, and MicroBusiness For Teens. For organizational help, Donna Young's Website offers all kinds of helpful tools, including high school transcript templates. 

As you can see, there are loads of options available to enhance your homeschool experience. The choice is up to you! Don't be a slave to your curriculum, but use it as a tool to figure out what you want to do, where you want to go, and then launch out! If you find something along the way that really makes learning come alive to your child, then use it. You hold the keys to your child's positive homeschooling experience right in the palm of your hand. 

Copyright 2012-2014 - "Be The One" -  All rights are reserved. No text, photos, or content may be reproduced without direct permission from the author.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Review: Micro Business For Teens

Our family is certainly no stranger to business ventures! I mean, this IS America, the land of free enterprise, after all! This past year, my husband started an auto repair business, and our family, including the children, have always had "a little something" going on to earn some extra income, whether it's to fund 'wish list' items, pay off debt, support our homeschooling efforts, or just help with needs. Our children have all made commitments at church to support various missionaries for a small amount every week. This means that they have to come up with money to fund their promise - not "mom and dad" money, but money of their own.

The children have all come up with various creative ways to earn some extra cash, but they are always interested in earning more. They are all good savers, thrifty shoppers, and generous givers, so we encourage them in any way we can to keep on earning. We were recently given the wonderful opportunity to review a course called Micro Business For Teens that included three books for the girls to read and study. These books are:

  1. Starting A Micro Business
  2. Running A Micro Business
  3. Micro Business For Teens Workbook
What is Micro Business For Teens? This is a complete course that inspires young people to take their good ideas and turn them into profitable business ventures, at a level that they easily manage. The three books listed above work together to take teens through the entire process.

What age is this for? The intended age range is 10-18 years old. 

What is a Micro Business? A micro business is a small scale business endeavor that is typically sole proprietor led, has an owner-operator, has low risk because of little to no start up investments, is easy to begin or close, allows the owner plenty of flexibility, and is usually home-based. 

What are some Micro Business for Teens ideas? Examples are given in the books of young people who started and grew businesses doing pet sitting, babysitting, lawn mowing, landscaping, computer repairs, small engine repairs, car detailing, cleaning, and tutoring, among others. 

How are the lessons taught? The books are self-paced and easily read and worked through by young people in the recommended age range. They are designed to be used by a young person in conjunction with the advice of a parent or mentor to guide them in the planning and starting stages of their micro business. In fact, some business ideas might even require some initial parent investment to launch the business, which can then be paid back when the business starts generating an income. The website is also FULL of extra information and videos that can enhance the lessons in the books.

What types of concepts are taught? The books begin with a lot of motivational thoughts, which seem to be intended to build some confidence in a young person, as well as arrest their attention to what comes next. They get the idea that "Hey, I think I could do this too!" after reading some of the many real-life examples of other young people who have successfully launched a micro business. The author then takes the readers right into the next practical stage of devising and fine tuning a business plan. Along the journey, chapters are included on different types of businesses, tax liabilities, governmental requirements, insurance needs, health and safety laws (for food related businesses), record keeping, budgeting, advertising, marketing, customer service, and time management. The workbook is designed to give the reader a place to write down their plans as they are learning. 

How can I know the tax and financial information is correct? The author, Carol Topp, is a CPA with many years of experience. She worked for 10 years as a cost analyst for the US Navy. She has been a licensed CPA since 2000, with many speaking engagements and professional memberships on her resume. Of course, specific tax advice is not given, with the intention that specific situations call for a personal accountant, but overall, the tax and business information in the books is very sound. 

In "Starting A Micro Business"  a good foundation is laid to teach the students about money management. The emphasis is not so  much on "money making" but it's more about learning valuable life lessons while earning a profit, and not being a 'slave' to a job or to your money making venture. There are many things that are important in the life of a young person, and while money making is not the number one goal, it does provide some valuable lessons.

"Running A Micro Business" really delves into the nitty-gritty of what the student needs to know in order to get their business up and running. It includes so many aspects of business that the average inexperienced teen (or parent, for that matter!) would have no idea that they would need to consider! Some of the questions that are explored are whether the business has a higher risk factor that would need extra insurance, what kind of online presence is needed for marketing, how much business can a teen comfortably manage, is software necessary for bookkeeping, and many more legal factors, such as naming and reporting earnings. 

The "Micro Business For Teens Workbook" has all the worksheets and pages to write on, where the student can, after reading the material, actually write down ideas, work out their plans, and do some basic cost analysis. There is a valuable block page for working a schedule out.

So what do the teens in our family think of these books? Both of my teens that read them, 16 yr old Laura and 12 yr old Melissa, already are running small micro businesses (and they didn't even know it!). They do cleaning, bake cookies and sell them to their friends, and do babysitting regularly. After reading these books, they have learned so much about how to take their business to an organized new level. I think it has really changed their outlook on their money making efforts. No longer are they just doing 'odd jobs'. They have really seen the potential of allowing these jobs turn into a means of some serious wage earning just by being organized and having a plan.

Melissa mentioned that she really liked reading the examples of other teens who have successfully turned their ideas into profitable businesses. She found their stories inspiring, and it made her think that "if they could do it, then so could she". 

Laura enjoyed the fact that the really complicated subject matter was explained in a very easily understood way. She did not feel that the books were condescending in any way, like books written for young people often are. She felt that the writing was written in a mature way, which made her take it seriously. She really liked how the author explained legal and business terms. She understood everything, and did not have to ask what it meant. She felt the books instilled confidence by completely equipping her to actually start and carry out a small business plan. 

What Mom liked: There is so much to like about this course! I feel it gives a great foundation by including things like time management, budgeting, and solid money principles (don't start your business on credit). The author is a Christian, and includes Bible verses on finances sprinkled throughout the material where appropriate. I love how the emphasis is on allowing a business to enhance the student's life, not on pursuing money for the sake of being rich. I truly feel that my children are only children for such a short time, and while I want them learning how to earn their way, I don't want that to be the main emphasis of their life right now. I want them to be able to learn how to manage finances, and earning money as a teen is a great way to do that. But I don't want them to be so hard on chasing money that they neglect their schoolwork, church ministries, youth group, family, or even their own health. I think these books really emphasize that balance well. 

A really neat extra: On the website, besides the really helpful videos, I found a page for teachers that includes a syllabus for using this course in a classroom setting, as well as a free teacher's guide that a home school parent can use for guidance and discussion of the course. 

How much does this cost? "Starting A Micro Business" and "Running A Micro Business" are both available in an ebook format for $4.95 or a paperback book for $9.95. They are also available in a Kindle version. "Micro Business for Teens Workbook" is available in pdf format (handy for printing out the pages needed) for $9.95 or paperback for $14.95. Other products or sample pages including a guide to "Teens and Taxes" are also available on the website. 

Final thoughts: I am very grateful for the opportunity to review this course. I know it will come in handy as the girls expand their ideas for earning money. In fact, as they read through the books and discussed ways to enhance their current micro businesses, 9 yr old Kelly was trying to get in on the action by asking "What can I do? When can I start a business?" I am so glad the girls are receiving this training right from the start of their business ventures. It can only help them be a success later on down the road!

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Copyright 2012-2014 - "Be The One" -  All rights are reserved. No text, photos, or content may be reproduced without direct permission from the author.
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Monday, May 12, 2014

Obscure Bible Heroes {Blogging Through The Alphabet - C}

This week's post was written by a guest writer - 11th grade daughter, Laura.

The Children of Korah

When someone asks me who my favorite Bible character is, I promptly respond, "The children of Korah".

At this time period in history, Moses was leading the children of Israel out from Egypt, through the wilderness, and into the Promised Land. It was a very difficult time for the Israelites.

Korah was the man introduced in Numbers 16 as the leader of a group that stood against Moses, and ultimately against God. Also mentioned with Korah are two other leaders: Dathan and Abiram.

In Numbers 16:23-24, God told Moses and the congregation to separate from these men.

"And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the congregation, saying, Get you up from about the tabernacle of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram."

As per usual, Moses obeyed the words of the Lord, pleading not only with the children of Israel, but also with the households of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. In a sense, Moses drew a line in the sand for the Israelites, causing them to choose which side they would be on.

This is where the children come in. In verse 27, the Bible states, "So they gat up from the tabernacle of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, on every side: and Dathan and Abiram came out, and stood in the door of their tents, and their wives, and their sons, and their little children."

Notice that Korah's children were not mentioned!

Sadly, those who stood with Korah, Dathan, and Abiram were swallowed up by the earth. (vs. 31-32) However, in Numbers 26 (where the genealogies are recorded) Moses recounts the story and states an interesting fact. He said in verse 11, "Notwithstanding the children of Korah died not."

This short, simple verse clearly illustrates the decision these children made after Moses drew the line in the sand. These children decided to stand with God's man, even though it meant they would be going against their father. 

I can only imagine the verbal abuse and ugly stares they received from their own family! Imagine the persecution for standing up for what was right!

Amazingly, the story does not end there. In 1 Chronicles 9, the jobs assigned to the Levites are written out. Verse 19 says: "And Shallum the son of Kore, the son of Ebiasaph, the son of Korah, and his brethren, of the house of his father, the Korahites, were over the work of the service, keepers of the gates of the tabernacle: and their fathers, being over the host of the LORD, were keepers of the entry." 

The Korahites oversaw the work of the service and were keepers of the gates of the tabernacle. Special mention is made in verse 31 of a descendant named Mattithiah. "And Mattithiah, one of the Levites, who was the firstborn of Shallum the Korahite, had the set office over the things that were made in the pans."

Just a few generations before, Korah perished because of his sin and rebellion, but his children chose to do what was right, in spite of his bad example. Years later, Korah's great-grandsons were faithfully serving the Lord with special assignments in the tabernacle!

Through this story, I am reminded that no matter what everyone around me is doing, I still need to stand up for what is right, even when it is difficult, and even if it means standing alone.

Psalm 19:7-8 "The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes."

Copyright 2012-2014 - "Be The One" -  All rights are reserved. No text, photos, or content may be reproduced without direct permission from the author.

Ben and Me

Review: Golden Prairie Press

This year, all the girls have been studying American history. Typically we alternate years between ancient history, world history, and American history.  It has been fun and interesting to have three different levels of study examining the same topics. About six weeks ago we were given the opportunity to review the Digital Heroes & Heroines of the Past: American History Curriculum from Golden Prairie Press.

What is Golden Prairie Press? This company, owned by homeschool graduate and historian Amy Puetz, has many fascinating history products available for homeschoolers. There is a definite emphasis on 'experiencing' history, not just studying it from a book.

What about this new American History curriculum? "Digital Heroes and Heroines of the Past" is, as the title states, a completely digital book that is instantly downloadable as soon as it is purchased. It consists of multiple files, including:
  • Two digital books, totaling about 800 pages, that contain 150 daily history lessons.  It is set up to last for 30 weeks of schooling.
  • Historical Skits ebook
  • Videos to coincide with many of the lessons
  • Sound clips of great moments in American history
  • Popular music of American history
  • Craft lessons, patterns, and samples
  • Popular artwork samples of American history
  • Various paper games
  • Important American documents
  • Timelines, both filled in and blank for the student to fill in
  • Maps
  • Historical American recipes
  • Lists of Literature and book recommendations for further study
  • Copy work including famous quotes or character building statements

Special for the teacher: There are daily lesson plans, coordinating which pages and files are to be used together on what days, as well as highlighting items that the teacher needs to prepare before class time.

What grades are covered?  This curriculum is geared towards grades 1-6. Each lesson starts off with a simplified summary in larger print, that is specifically written to grades 1-2. There are a variety of writing assignments and activities connected to each lesson, that the parent could choose to assign to older students. Of course, 5th and 6th graders will be responsible for completing more of the in-depth reading and writing assignments and accompanying projects. The combination of materials and assignments makes this curriculum well suited for a family that has multiple grade levels studying together.

What time frame is covered? The first lesson begins with discussing native North Americans, their origins, and their lifestyle. It then picks up with Christopher Columbus and the Age of the Explorers. The last lesson includes such recent topics as President Obama, the recent financial recession, the IRS scandal of 2013, and the Tea Party movement.

How is the history presented: The History lessons are definitely presented from a Conservative and Christian perspective. Each lesson contains an applicable Bible memory verse for the students to learn. While most of the history lessons remain very objective, I did notice a much more conservative perspective in the modern American history lessons. 

The history is taught using a "living history" approach, where the student mostly studies the lives of great Americans, and how those people fit into the important events of American history.  Each lesson is geared towards using all the senses, and actually placing the student into that time frame, allowing them to experience the history by hearing it, seeing it, tasting it, and doing it. For those students who need or want even more, there are lists of suggested videos and books that can be downloaded or borrowed from the library to round out their learning.

The emphasis of this curriculum is to help the students understand the culture of each time period through the eyes of real people.

How did we use this curriculum?  Since we have already been studying American history this year, I decided to start this curriculum right at the time frame that we were currently at in our studies.  For the duration of the review, Kelly studied the Civil War through World War II, and Melissa studied the turn of the century through the Post WWII era. 

What is a typical lesson like? A section covers a certain time frame in history, and contains 5 lessons. Each day there is assigned reading and comprehension questions, as well as different activities. The curriculum is very flexible, and the teacher can maneuver activities around to fit their own personal schedule very easily. For example, each day Melissa would complete her assigned reading, and also listen to any audio files that were assigned. Depending on our schedule for the day, she might also complete the map work, a writing assignment, or the timeline. Bigger activities such as crafts or recipes were done at some point during the week we were studying them, but not necessarily on the day that they were assigned.

Each week, for each section, we could expect the following: a Bible memory verse, some type of map study, at least one video or audio clip, some type of art appreciation, daily comprehension questions for the reading assignment, an interesting writing assignment, and an extra activity that coincided with the lesson - either a recipe, craft, or game.  As time permitted, we also utilized the extra suggested books and videos.

What the girls thought: The girls enjoyed this curriculum very much. Reading about the lives of real Americans seemed to make the history lessons come alive.  Melissa thought the comprehension questions were very good, because they didn't just ask "black and white" questions about the facts, but made her think more about what was happening to the people.  We all really enjoyed the audio clips.

Service flag, fighter jet, and nurses' hat - a few of our craft projects 
Mom's favorite: Definitely the compilation of so many different interesting items! It took all the work out of planning history lessons, and allowed me to just enjoy reading, discussing, and doing the lessons with the girls. There were so many creative 'extras' that I would have never thought to add to our history studies. I have spent so much time this past year pulling together recipes, crafts, and audio/video clips to enhance Melissa's American History studies. This curriculum has it all organized already, and has saved me so much work. 

Obscure heroes: Because I am a history buff, I was familiar with nearly all of the names that were studied. I love how Amy Puetz puts the spotlight on some very obscure heroes, who were very important to the "big picture" at the time they were alive, although they seldom get much attention now in regular American History courses. 

Kelly's favorite character: This had to be the study of Roy Rogers with the corresponding music clips of his singing. 

Melissa's favorite character: Melissa really enjoyed the story of the "Hello Girls" of WWI. We learned a lot about these ladies who stayed close to the front lines and aided the Allies in their communications.  

We branched out: Some of the topics we covered more in depth were: Depression Era cooking, Eleanor Roosevelt, German aggression against the Jews, and the WWII battle maps. Melissa also wrote a pretend newspaper with articles about the Great Depression and the start of WWII. 

The older student chimes in: This year for American History, Laura (11th grade) wrote an extensive research paper about Eddie Rickenbacker, the ace WWI pilot. She was intrigued by the lesson about Rickenbacker, and after reading it, gave it two thumbs up, stating that she thought the level of information included was excellent, especially for an elementary age history lesson.

Wish List: While I thought that the lessons covering WWI and WWII were amazing, I was very disappointed with what I perceive as a lack of good, solid modern American history. Once WWII is over, the lessons are almost over as well. The last section, section 30 with its 5 lessons, covers the Post-War era to Barack Obama (roughly 1945 to present). The main character study for this last week of lessons is Ronald Reagan. After working through WWII with the girls, and enjoying it so much, I was really looking forward to a great closing to the 20th century, and I was greatly disappointed. I would have really loved to have had more 'meat' for this era, including more in-depth study of modern technology and the rise of the internet, (as that has so profoundly affected American culture), the Korean War, President Kennedy, Watergate, the removal of prayer and Bible reading from public schools, the Space Race, the Gulf Wars, and the changes that have taken place in our lives post-9/11.  As a mom, I have lived through some really amazing history these past 30-40 years, and I find myself constantly explaining things to my children about how different things were just 20+ years ago, before cell phones and the internet. All my children know is a post-9/11 world, where we have always been fighting terrorists, and looking up things on Google, and I really long for them to understand the culture of our country these last few decades that allowed these changes to take place. Perhaps one day Amy Puetz will update this curriculum to broaden the studies of the last half of the 20th century, for I would surely consider purchasing that update!

Final recommendations: If you are looking for a comprehensive study of American history that will allow you to really explore the people and culture, and not just learn dates and events, then you will definitely enjoy this curriculum. Having this curriculum has saved me hours of scouring Pinterest for interesting history projects to coincide with our lessons.  It is creative and thorough, and I am so glad for the privilege to be able to use it in our home school! We have been delighted with it, and will definitely use it again from start to finish!

Cost: The digital curriculum package can be purchased  for $98.99. If you prefer to have actual books and CD's rather than digital products, those are also available on the website.

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Copyright 2012-2014 - "Be The One" -  All rights are reserved. No text, photos, or content may be reproduced without direct permission from the author.

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Thursday, May 8, 2014

More Than A Memory: The Candace Kate Story {Book Review}

This past month I have had the privilege to read a book that has touched my heart in a very special way, like no other story has in a very long time. This book, written by Nancy Fileccia, is a compilation of journal entries that the author recorded during her family's journey through special needs
adoption and the world of complex medical care.

Author Nancy Fileccia
Nancy begins the book by introducing the readers to her family. We learn of her 'ordinary' days being a wife and mother to two lovely daughters, and eventually adopting a little boy and homeschooling as well. In 2003, the Fileccia's were led to pursue adopting a girl from China. As far as they knew, the only hardship was that this little girl was blind. They welcomed the opportunity, and Nancy threw herself into acclimating young Candace to family life in America, as well as teaching her braille and how to read.

A few years later, Candace began experiencing an accumulation of various health problems, and was ultimately diagnosed with a rare and fatal disease called Batten's Disease. Nancy journals through the hospitalizations, the home care, and the numerous trips to specialists. She details the hope that she held out for answers and a cure, and the devastation she felt when she could not "fix" the hardships that Candace faced. Through it all, though her faith was challenged, she did not turn her back on the Lord, but rather clung to Him. The grace He gave is evident in the writings. They are filled with a hope that cannot be explained, other than acknowledging that the Lord carried her through.

After Candace's death in 2009 at age 13, Nancy realized that the Lord had a special purpose in sending Candace to them. She wished to share Candace's life and story as an encouragement to other families, and the seeds of this book were planted.

When I first began reading this book, I was interested in it because of shared experiences with the author, namely learning to navigate the world of pediatric complex medical care. As I was reading, though, I found that the Lord had led me to this book to encourage and strengthen my heart. Nancy shared her heart in such an open and honest way, that I could not help but relate to the words she wrote. She shared the struggles and the victories, and how her relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ was affected and ultimately deepened. It's a very real book. I found myself laughing one moment, and crying the next, as I grew to know and love Candace and her family.

Nancy writes in a conversational tone, and I felt like I was sitting and listening to an old friend by the time I was done reading the book. Once I started, I had a hard time putting it down, staying up way too late to finish!

I enjoyed this book very much. I highly recommend it, especially to mothers who are struggling through the daily challenges of caring for chronically ill children, or families who have experienced the loss of a child. This book is filled with so much love and hope. It will definitely be an encouraging read.

"More Than A Memory" is currently available for purchase as a paperback ($13.95) or a pdf download ($5.95). It is also available in a Kindle version: More Than a Memory: The Candace Kate Story or on Kobo. 

To share this story with my readers, I would like to offer an opportunity for you to win a free pdf version of "More Than A Memory: The Candace Kate Story" by entering the giveaway below.

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